Hawaii State Library

The Hawaiʻi State Library is a historic building in Honolulu, Hawaii, that serves as the seat of the Hawaiʻi State Public Library System, the only statewide library system and one of the largest in the United States. The Hawaiʻi State Library building is located in downtown Honolulu, adjacent to ʻIolani Palace and the Hawaiʻi State Capitol. Originally funded by Andrew Carnegie, the building was designed by architect Henry D. Whitfield. Groundbreaking took place in 1911 and construction was completed in 1913. In 1978, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places, as a contributing property within the Hawaii Capital Historic District.[1]

Hawaii State Library
Front facade
Location478 S. King St., Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
Coordinates21°18′21″N 157°51′27″W / 21.30591°N 157.85746°W / 21.30591; -157.85746Coordinates: 21°18′21″N 157°51′27″W / 21.30591°N 157.85746°W / 21.30591; -157.85746
ArchitectHenry D. Whitfield
Part ofHawaii Capital Historic District
NRHP reference No.78001020
Significant dates
OpenedFebruary 1, 1913
Added to NRHP12/01/1978

The building holds over 525,000 cataloged books. The entire Hawaiʻi State Public Library System has a collection of over 3 million books. Nearby is the Hawaiʻi State Archives which holds book collections of historical significance to Hawaiʻi. The Edna Allyn Children's Room houses murals by artist Juliette May Fraser depicting Hawaiian legends while the garden courtyard features a mosaic of ocean currents by Hiroki Morinoue. Barbara Hepworth's cast bronze sculptures, named Parent I and Young Girl, greet visitors at the lawn in front of the building.


Before the Hawaiʻi State Library was constructed, library facilities were provided by the Honolulu Library and Reading Room Association, founded in 1879 by the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. Prior to this, the site was the location of Hāliʻimaile, the residence of Boki and Liliha and later, Victoria Kamāmalu and her father and brothers before they ascended Kamehameha IV and Kamehameha V.[2] Hawaii’s royalty (King Kalakaua, Queen Kapiolani, Queen Emma, and Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop) gave both financial support and their personal book collections to the association. King Kalakaua also provided tax exemptions and a land grant for a permanent site in downtown Honolulu.[3]

The Hawaiʻi State Library was funded by a grant from Andrew Carnegie. The Library met the government-related requirements for the grant with the cooperation of Walter F. Frear. Edna Allyn was the head librarian when it opened in 1913.[4]

In 1921, the County Library Law established separate libraries on the islands of Kauaʻi, Maui, and Hawaiʻi, under minimal supervision by the Library of Hawaii, which restricted its services to Oʻahu. Even so, the latter quickly outgrew its quarters. In 1927, the Territorial legislature approved funding to expand and renovate the building. Construction was completed in 1930. Architect C.W. Dickey tripled its size by new wings to create an open-air courtyard in the center.[5]

After statehood in 1959, the Hawaii State Legislature created the Hawaii State Public Library System, the only statewide system in the United States, with the Hawaii State Library building as its flagship branch. Throughout the 1970's and 1980's, the library continued to outgrow its facility. In 1990, it funded a second major renovation and expansion, which was completed in 1992. The renovations addressed air-conditioning, roofing, asbestos removal, plumbing, better access for the handicapped, and landscaping, while the expansion added a large wing to the rear of the building that blended well with the older wings.[5]

Library development in HawaiiEdit

The library system of Hawaii State Library, which was established in June of 1965, called for a new concept of organization that had to be created by the state librarian.[6] This system would provide complete service to all aspects of society. Ideas were sourced from other established libraries and organizations, then integrated to create best practices for the library system.[6] Although the Library System is an independent State agency, the state librarian is appointed by the Board of Education,[7] and reports directly to the Superintendent of Education. Other government agencies that the state librarian reports to are the seven appointed School Advisory Councils, the four Library Advisory Commissions, and others that are engaged in education. The state librarian is responsible for the operation, planning, programming, and budgeting of all public libraries within the State;[7] however, there are no local funds in Hawaii, and as such, the governor and legislature approve the funding and budget of the State Library.[6]



  1. ^ "National and State Register of Historic Places" (PDF). State Historic Preservation Division. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-16. Retrieved 2009-04-30.
  2. ^ Mary Kawena Pukui, Samuel H. Elbert, Esther T. Mookini (1974). Place Names of Hawaii. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 39. ISBN 0-8248-0524-0.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ "History of the library". Hawaii State Public Library System. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  4. ^ Tachihata, Chieko (1981). The history and development of Hawaii public libraries: the libraries of Hawaii and Hawaii State Library, 1913-1971 (PhD). University of Southern California.
  5. ^ a b "Hawaii & Pacific Section: History of the Hawaii State Library". Retrieved 2010-05-15.
  6. ^ a b c HUNT, J. R. (1968). Library development in Hawaii. Wilson Library Bulletin, 42, 810–811.
  7. ^ a b "Hawaii State Public Library System".

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