Use of the Canby Public Library has grown steadily over time. When the current library opened in the late 1980s, the library circulated about 77,000 items annually. Two decades later, circulation now exceeds 340,000 items a year. Over a thousand children and youth participate in Summer Reading annually. Thousands more attend programs and view library exhibits.
Before the Library
In the first decades of the twentieth century, Canby’s efforts to establish a free public library advanced in fits and starts. Between 1896 and 1916, several local merchants hosted small libraries within their storefronts, but these lasted only briefly. During World War I, Canby hosted a free traveling library from the Oregon State Library, but this too faded away after only a few years. It was only when the Canby Women’s Civic Club got involved that things started to really happen.
Library Founded in 1924
Founded in 1924 by over 100 Canby women, the Canby Women’s Civic Club was formed by “ladies interested in a better community and a clean and attractive city.” In addition to civic projects such as tree planting (many of which still grace downtown Canby), the Canby Women’s Civic Club began a small volunteer library in 1925, but soon realized that the community deserved more. In 1935, the group endorsed a “proper library for Canby” and three of its members led the way towards making this dream a reality. In 1937, Portia Shewey, Mabel Gabriel and Edna Johnson went door to door to ask for the community’s support, gathering 643 books and a “tidy sum of cash” to start a public library.
Move to City Hall, First Librarian
In the meantime, with financial support from the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) Canby’s City Hall was completed in early 1937. That June, the city council voted to provide a room in the new building for a library, and Canby’s first librarian, Doris Wilbourn, was hired with WPA funds. On September 16, 1937, the new library opened in what is now city’s hall meeting room. In the decades that followed, Canby’s library moved to several other downtown locations as its need for space grew. In 1989, voters approved a bond measure that converted a downtown hardware store into the current library.