Library service in Carmel began in 1906, when the Carmel Free Library Association
began lending books from a little redwood building. For a fee of one dollar per year,
people could borrow any one of 500 books from the Association's "Reading Room" heated by
a wood burning stove.
Ida Johnson was President of the Library Board in 1906. She also worked as a librarian
in the little redwood building that then housed the library's 500 books. Like many of
Carmel's early residents, Ida was an artist, who supported herself in part by hand
painting china. She was an accomplished water colorist and painted over 100 watercolors
of California native plants. In recognition of this creative woman, the library named its
computer system "IDA".
The current Main Library building was designed by the renowned California architect
Bernard Maybeck and financed by a bequest from Ella Reid Harrison as a memorial to her
husband, California Supreme Court Justice Ralph Chandler Harrison. The Harrison Memorial
Library opened in 1928 and services were expanded with the addition of its Park Branch
facility in 1989.
Community support of free library service was strengthened in 1992, when the library
began to rely totally on private gifts for books, supplies, electronic resources and
computer equipment. Today, private support has become the foundation of the library's
free public services.