In 1894, only 14 years after Salida was incorporated, a group of eleven townswomen formed the Tuesday Evening Club. One of the cultural objectives of this organization was to found a city library. During the first year, the few books purchased from club dues were kept on donated shelves at Central school. In 1896, the growing collection was moved to a small room on West second street, near the old opera house. In 1898, the library was relocated first to a small one-story brick building at the corner of “F” and third streets, and later to a large second story room in City Hall. To supplement the early book purchasing budget, the Tuesday Evening Club sponsored numerous public benefits. The members also took turns serving as librarian and custodian, except when the collection was at Central School.
The campaign for procuring a site and raising funds to build a public library started in 1905. That year, Mrs. Ruth Spray wrote, “For years, some of us had looked longingly on the vacant place by Alpine Park, corner of “E” and Fourth Streets, as the only site that was perfect for our library. Whenever we would speak of that location, we were met on all sides with ‘But you cannot get hold of those lots. People have tried in vain to reach the owner of them.'” The Tuesday Evening Club determined to find the owners of the vacant land and purchase the lots for the public library. The location was ideal: across from beautiful Alpine Park, between the two principal schools, and near the downtown business area.
Only a few months later, they located owners S.G. Stein in Muscatine, Iowa and A.M. Barnhart in Chicago, Illinois. In late 1905 correspondence began and, by November 10, 1906, they had obtained the lots. Mrs. Mary Ridgeway was the first president of the Tuesday Evening Club, and she and her husband, Carl (A.C.), donated the generous sum of $1,200 to pay for the lots.
While the land campaign progressed, the club began to correspond with millionaire Andrew Carnegie of New York City. He had decided as a young boy that if he ever became wealthy, he would use his wealth to help establish free public libraries. The club was able to convince Mr. Carnegie that the community of Salida would faithfully support a public library. On December 23, 1905, he said he would provide $9,000 toward the construction of the library building if the club had a site for the building. The entire Carnegie donation was received by November, 1908. The community was to provide $6,000.
Many Salida citizens were interested in the efforts of the Tuesday Evening Club to build a public library. One of the most staunch supporters was Colonel William Penn Harbottle, a Civil War veteran and highly respected citizen. Upon his death in early 1906, it was learned that he had willed his personal library and his home at 546 “G” Street to the Salida Library Association, an organization within the Tuesday Evening Club. His will stipulated that it be known as the Juliana Reference Library, for his mother, and that it be a non-circulating library wherever it might be housed . The Juliana Reference room remains an important part of the library today and the Harbottle Estate continues to provide part of the funding for this part of the collection.
The eagerly awaited ground breaking ceremony took place in October, 1907. The handsome Salida-granite cornerstone was laid in May, 1908, and the deed to the library transferred to the city. In February, 1909, the library was dedicated and opened for service. Total construction costs were $15,000.
The Tuesday Evening Club planned meeting rooms into the lower level of the library. The club leased this area until the 1970’s, using it as a place to host various money-making events for the benefit of the library or subleasing it for the same purpose. In the 1970’s, the library board determined that the library needed the space and the insurance company no longer allowed subleasing, so the Tuesday Evening Club lease was discontinued. The library gradually become more crowded over the following 20 years and storage consumed an ever greater portion of the meeting rooms. This trend continued until the library addition was completed in 1998 and the meeting rooms returned to their original purpose.
In November, 1974, the voters approved the formation of the Southern Chaffee County Regional Library District. This resulted in a broader tax base beginning in 1976 and thus provided more operational funds. The Salida Public Library name was changed to “Salida Regional Library” to represent the larger area now served.
Voters approved additional funding for the library in two subsequent elections. In the early 1980s, the mill levy was increased to 2.5 mills. In 1995, the levy was increased again to 3.5 mills, plus a bond was approved for construction of the addition to the Carnegie building.
In 2012, both the 1995 addition and the Carnegie building were remodeled to increase space for shelving and work space for patrons and staff.