Hidden in Plain Sight: The Ella K. McClatchy Library


mcclatchy library 01

Along 22nd Street between U and V, among the fine homes of Poverty Ridge and beneath the beautiful canopy of trees, a small neighborhood treasure lies almost hidden in plain sight.  The Ella K. McClatchy Library, at 2112 22nd Street, occupies the former home of a local newspaper publisher, C.K. McClatchy, and his wife Ella, and was built around 1910.  After Ella McClatchy’s death in the late 1930s, her daughters Eleanor and Charlotte donated the house to the city of Sacramento for a library for young people; and since it opened in 1940, the Ella K. McClatchy Library has served Sacramentans of all ages with the help of its special home-like charm.

Joann Severson, the McClatchy Library Supervisor, tells me that when the Library opened in 1940, it was dedicated strictly for teenagers – or as they were called at the time, “young moderns.”  McClatchy High School students were allowed to use the Library upstairs rooms for club meetings; they could also use the downstairs kitchen (yes, this Library has a kitchen, though it now doubles as a staff room).  The Library’s adolescent patrons were able to choose many of the books selected for its collection, rather than just the ones adults thought they should read.  In many ways it was a unique library for its time.

A patron browses the stacks at the McClatchy Library.

A patron browses the stacks at the McClatchy Library.

Later, the McClatchy Library became a library for small children as well; and finally, after about 15 years of being a young people’s library, it became a library for patrons of all ages.  The Library’s historic focus on young people can be seen, however, in its large children’s and teenager’s book sections, and in its special programs, many of which are for children and teens.  The programs include story times for pre-schoolers on Wednesdays; monthly programs for school-age children and their families (weekly in late June and July); and even a recent “Rock Band Competition and Party” on July 18, which was strictly for teenagers only!

By the way, the Library also holds special programs for adults, such as last year’s series of programs on “Art in the Neighborhood,” and an upcoming series called “Going Green in the Neighborhood,” with topics such as using solar cookers, sustainable landscaping, and weatherizing old windows.  Dates and times for the programs are still being worked out, so please stop by or contact the Library for updated information.


Stained-glass window next to the staircase to the second floor.

Stained-glass window next to the staircase to the second floor.

In a house that’s nearly 100 years old, naturally time has taken its toll, and the McClatchy Library is currently engaged in what Severson describes as a long period of renovation and restoration.  In 1969, the entire upstairs was closed by the Fire Marshall; and only in the past few years has the Library been able to restore one of the upstairs bedrooms (it is now a small meeting room), and install a lift for disabled patrons.  The next phase, she says, will be to paint, plaster, and clean up the other three rooms upstairs. 

Eventually the goal is to make the Library a working two-story structure; though this will require adding a new fire escape, among other improvements.  (Readers interested in assisting the work of restoring this beautiful building should contact the Ella K. McClatchy Affiliate of the Friends of the Sacramento Public Library; contact information can be obtained at the Library.)

The Ella K. McClatchy Library is open:

Tuesday                10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Wednesday          12 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Thursday              10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Friday                    1 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Saturday               9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Closed Sunday and Monday.

For more information about the McClatchy Library or its special programs, please call them at (916) 264-2700.  Or just stop by!  You’ll find it really is a small neighborhood treasure, hidden in plain sight.


2 Responses to “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Ella K. McClatchy Library”

  1. Alice Levine Says:

    Thanks for this informative and accurate piece! I’m President of the McClatchy Friends, and I’ll make sure our entire Board sees the blog.

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