Firehouse Libraries


Members of the New York City Fire Department relax with books on loan from the library

Police stations and firehouses were among the turn-of-the-century workplaces that were loaned crates of books from women’s groups and public libraries. The Newark Free Public Library gave its engine houses collections containing 20 volumes, half fiction and half nonfiction, starting in 1897. 46 fire and 6 police stations received them in Philadelphia starting in 1899. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh reported supplying  21 Companies from 19 collections, each averaging 25 to 30 books, in 1911. Seattle, Buffalo, Brooklyn, New York, and Cincinnati were among the many large cities to supply its firemen with their own library book collections.

Normally these books were solely for firefighters, but sometimes they were general deposit stations the public at large could use. A unique relationship between fire departments and libraries can be found in Orinda, CA, near San Francisco. In 1935 the library was moved into a renovated building that it shared with the fire department. Very likely it was the only firehouse/library anywhere. This odd couple split up in 1944, when Contra Costa County sold the building and the library relocated to a church.


The firehouse library of Orinda, CA.

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