A Storied Endurance
Learning / The Library of Hawaii opened its doors as the first public library in the Islands in Feburary, 1913. This year, it celebrates its centennial with exhibits and programs that look back on the evolution of the building from the Library of Hawaii to the Hawaii State Library (HSL) and its flagship enterprise, the Hawaii State Public Library System (HSPLS).
The Honolulu Library and Reading Room Association, a men’s-only club for relaxing and socializing, predated the library by 30 years; the Library of Hawaii was born from a public demand for an all-inclusive public library.
The community and royal family members (including Queens Kapiolani and Emma) donated books to the Reading Room’s collection, and with the inclusion of women in their membership, Governor Walter F. Frear asked philanthropist and bibliophile Andrew Carnegie to fund a new building.
“It shows how libraries endure,” says Diane Eddy, director of HSL. “People always look to libraries as a source of information. The format has changed,” from a card cataloguing system to its electronic equivalent, “but the content has not changed that much.” Eddy adds that though the Internet may have altered the way people look up data, “there’s so much more information out there in the world; it’s hard to determine if what you’re getting is accurate.” With a library, you can trust it to be vetted.
“It’s a very charming building,” Eddy says of the Classical Revival-style structure, built by architect Henry D. Whitfield. “People enjoy coming here to work on projects, pick up leisure reading; some do programs. It’s nice to have a building to go to.” Some programs the library offers include weekly story times for children, music series and arts and crafts.
HSL, the largest library in the state with more than half a million books available, is also the seat of the only statewide library system in the United States (HSPLS includes 51 libraries and more than 3 million books).
To celebrate this occasion, special monthly exhibits and programs will take place throughout the year, as will a history of the library exhibit, Hawaii State Library’s Centennial Scrapbook. Highlights include the Eyes of Hawaii Photography, Tongan lei making, Queen Liliuokalani’s birthday celebration, a yearbook collection (with pictures of a young Barack Obama) and more.
The Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus’s Kuhookahi ensemble will perform “Na Mele o Hawaii” with the adult ensemble Ka Waiola o Na Pukanileo on March 21 at 6 p.m.