HSPLS timeline


Governor George A. Carter asks Andrew Carnegie for a grant to build a new library in Honolulu, but is turned down. Andrew Carnegie was a steel tycoon who eventually gave over 43 million dollars of his own money to build 2,509 public libraries in the English-speaking world.


The Honolulu Library and Reading Room Association ask Carnegie for a grant to build a new library in Honolulu. Carnegie agrees to give money, but the Association has to turn him down because the conditions that accompany the grant are too strict.


Governor Walter F. Frear persuades the Territorial legislature to make the financial commitments necessary to comply with Carnegie’s guidelines. As a result of these guidelines the Honolulu Library and Reading Room changes from a private subscription library into a public library.


Carnegie signs an agreement to give a $100,000 grant to the library. This was the first time that Carnegie gave money to build an American library outside the continental United States. This was not the first Carnegie library built in the Pacific, however. A library paid for by Carnegie was previously built in Suva, Fiji.


The new library is designed by Henry D. Whitfield (Mrs. Carnegie’s brother) of New York. An additional $27,000 is appropriated by the legislature and construction begins. Honolulu architect H.L. Kerr directs the construction. The site chosen (on the corner of King and Punchbowl streets) is occupied by Paoakalani School, which relocates to Kakaako.


The Library of Hawaii opens to the public and Governor Frear is issued the first library card. The library is 20,000 square feet, contains 30,000 books, and has shelving capacity for 100,000 volumes. Books come from the collections of the former Honolulu Reading Room Association and from the Hawaiian Historical Society. Miss Edna Allyn (whom the children’s section is named after) is the first librarian, and she oversees a staff of eight.


The Honolulu Medical Society uses space in the library. They eventually move to Queen’s Hospital in 1923.


The library outgrows its building (the staff increased from 9 when it first opened to 35 by 1920) so there are plans to enlarge. The legislature allocates $300,000 and purchases land behind the library to expand it. Hawaii architect Charles W. Dickey adds two wings and two stories enclosing a courtyard. Construction is completed in 1929. The new library is 64,000 square feet.


After the library addition is completed, the governor and his staff, the attorney general, and the territorial budget director occupy the new space. They stay for two years while their offices in Iolani Palace are being renovated.


Juliette May Fraser paints murals of Hawaiian legends in the children’s room. This project is funded by the Works Project Administration and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration and takes one year to complete.


The Prince Fushimi Memorial Scholarship Society donates 4,000 books on Japan and China (mostly written in Japanese and Chinese), forming the Oriental Library. Formerly, there were only about 24 books in the library’s collection in Japanese. This special collection was later dismantled during World War II, and most of the books were given to the University of Hawaii library.


Japanese airplanes attack Pearl Harbor on December 7. Among the dead is a library staff member. During the following four years, the library serves as a place of recreation for the over 400,000 soldiers and military-related civilians who are stationed in Hawaii.


The Hawaiian Historical Society moves to a new location on Kawaiahao Street.


The Aloha Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution dedicates a plaque in remembrance of the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor. The plaque is placed in the front right corner of the library and reads – In Memory of Those Civilians Who Lost Their Lives in Hawaii as a Result of the Japanese Attack on Hawaii, December 7, 1941.


Hawaii becomes a state and a statewide Department of Education is created. A newly created State Librarian, who reports to the Board of Education, heads the library system.


The Extension Department (which served the outer islands) and the Library for the Blind move into a building of their own, next to the Waikiki-Kapahulu Public Library. The Processing Department relocates to a building in Kakaako.


State Librarian James R. Hunt reorganizes the Hawaii public library system. The Library of Hawaii becomes a library serving the patrons of Honolulu as well as a flagship state library, providing in-depth resources and services to the entire state.


The Library of Hawaii officially changes its name to the Hawaii State Library (HSL).


The library is added to the National Register of Historic Buildings.


The first computer is made available for public use. It is an Apple IIe microcomputer donated by the Friends of the Library of Hawaii.


Five art students from the University of Delaware complete their restoration of Juliette Fraser’s murals, which they began in 1984.


The first computerized card catalog and circulation system is installed. It is called OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog).


The library closes for renovations and expansion. Aotani and Associates are the architects and the G.W. Murphy Construction Company is the contractor. Portions of the library are temporarily held at the former Kapiolani Community College, on Pensacola Street.


The Hawaii State Library reopens after the $15 million renovation. The library is now about 107,000 square feet, with the creation of a new rear wing, the extension of floor area in the basement and two floors, and the addition of a new third floor. Central air conditioning and handicapped access are added. Asbestos is removed, termite damage is repaired, electrical and plumbing work is done, and the building is re-roofed.

Telephone Reference service is started to provide better reference services statewide.


Telephone Renewal services begins. Patrons statewide can renew items via telephone.


Library store opens in HSL lobby. The store offered pens, paper, books, t-shirts, bookbags, notecards, postcards, bookmarks, and Hawaiian crafts to raise funds for the library system. (The store is no longer in operation)


Hawaii artist Hiroki Morinoue completes his “Ocean Current” porcelain tile floor mural in the library courtyard.

Computer terminals offering free access to the Internet are introduced.


A new computer is made available in the Federal Documents section where one can research a database of patents and trademarks. The computer and database are provided and maintained by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.


The Library of Congress approved a proposal from the Hawaii State Library for the creation of a Hawaii Center for the Book that will be affiliated with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

Public Internet access increases from 9 to 29 Internet computers. Computers are now located in all HSL sections. 7 of the new computers were acquired through a Gates Foundation grant and includes Microsoft Office applications.

The Edna Allyn Room for Children is remodeled and a new computer center is installed. A ceremony to celebrate the improvements is held in September.

The Hawaii Library Consortium (includes HSPLS), purchases Ebscohost which will allow access to 20 of the largest full text reference databases.


The Federal Documents Section begins processing U.S. Passports.

In State observance of the King Kamehameha I Day holiday, all public libraries will be closed on Tuesday, June 11, 2024.

In State observance of the Memorial Day holiday, all public libraries will be closed May 25 to 27, 2024.