Books and Pamphlets


The book collection forms a major component of the California Section's collection. It numbers over 80,000 volumes and ranks as one of the largest such collections in the Far West. Subjects range from accounts of early explorers to the latest books about history and social trends. Geographically, all 58 counties are represented, as well as works relating to Baja California and neighboring states such as Nevada and Oregon.

Important parts of the book collection include:

  • county and local histories, many written in the 1800's and featuring biographical sketches of notable residents
  • biographies of famous and infamous Californians
  • diaries, many describing travel to California by land or by sea
  • guidebooks
  • cookbooks dating from 1872
  • novels set in California
  • business and institutional histories
  • trade catalogs
  • city and county directories from as early as 1850
  • telephone directories starting in 1899
  • George Wharton James Collection
  • Western Overland Trails Collection
  • American Haiku Archive


The State Library Catalog can be used to explore the book and pamphlet collection. New additions can also be viewed. Some components of the collection, including city directories and telephone directories, must be identified using specialized indexes located in the California History Room.


All books can be used for research by visiting the California History Room. Books and pamphlets in the rare collection must be viewed in our Rare Materials Reading Room. (This room is climate controlled to protect the collections housed there, and it can be chilly.) Cameras may be used, without flash, to make reference copies. The use of scanners is not allowed.

Books from the circulating collection can be borrowed, directly by current State employees and through interlibrary loan by other researchers.


A self-service photocopier in the Reading Room can be used to make copies from books that are not in the rare collection. Rare books and telephone books older than 10 years can be copied by photographic reproduction or microfilming only.

We also have book scanners. These scanners do not provide print copies but you can email scans to yourself or copy scans to a flashdrive free of charge. You may wish to bring a flashdrive with you for these machines.