my library

The Smiley Brothers

Entering 'my' library is like stepping back in time and you almost feel as if you are in a home instead of a public library.  There are beautiful works of art, carved wood moldings, fireplaces, stained glass windows, oriental rugs, soft lighting and books, lots of books.  What follows is a brief history of the library and my attempt to capture how truly lovely it is through photographs.  But first, a little history of the joint...

In  December of 1891, several of Redlands prominent citizens joined together to secure a public library. Alfred Smiley, one of Redlands' winter residents from the East, became a prime mover in the crusade. After two years of effort, prodding the city trustees, and with detailed studies completed, a vote brought forth a public library in Redlands.

The A.K. Smiley Public Library was designed in Moorish style by T.R. Griffith. When completed, the Smiley featured walls of solid brick with hand-cut stone trimmings and a roof of heavy red tiling. Albert Smiley also furnished the entire building with desks, chairs, tables, and stacks-all fashioned from oak. Gargoyles, griffins, and other carving adorned the library interior. The stained-glass windows feature symbolism associated with learning and libraries.  Unique in its architecture and an official point of historical interest on the National Register of Historic Places and a California State Landmark, the A.K. Smiley Public Library has been fortunate through the years to enjoy the support of many friends, especially its many patrons.

Before we go inside the library, I thought we'd take a look around the grounds.  Smiley library sits on 16 acres which includes the Lincoln Memorial, the only museum dedicated solely to Abraham Lincoln this side of the Mississippi.  

Here is the Lincoln Memorial (this deserves it's own post too.)

The charming homes that line the street surrounding the library.

The entrance to the library is always planted with pansies, as they were A. K. Smiley's favorite flower.
let's go inside...

The Entry

a view looking toward the entry

Gargoyles and Griffins are used throughout the library

The main Reference Library

A softly lit place to study

The Heritage Room
Where people like me can research their old homes.

I love the oriental carpets and stained glass windows used throughout.

The conservatory

More oriental carpets, beautiful lighting and a view of the garden.
Over 150 magazines and periodicals to read while sitting in wicker chairs and enjoying sunshine.
If only they served coffee and tea!

There are several of these little fireplace niches that were built to curl up with a book and warm your feet at the same time.

The children's wing - a replica of the main library...

complete with it's own stained-glass windows...

and artwork. 
These two oil paintings by Dorothy Dowiatt (c. 1920) were donated by the family of Margaret Finch an avid Smiley supporter.

stacks of books...

that sit on huge slabs of white marble.

gorgeous staircases

detail of woodwork

one of the outdoor reading gardens

It truly is a beautiful place that I am so fortunate to be able to enjoy.
I hope you were able to get a feel for the place and that you enjoyed the tour.

edited note:  for my international friends, yes this library is free.  with all the recent budgetary cuts due to the wretched economy the library has cut a few hours a week but remains open 7 days a week.  generous patrons also keep new books flowing in and the redlands horticultural & improvement society help with the gardens.


  1. Truly one of the most beautiful libraries I have ever seen, Janet. Each photo is more beautiful than the next. The detail is extraordinary.

    Love the photo with the reflection on the table of the ceiling and lights above.

    I think those little fireplace/bench nooks are called Inglenooks. They were very big in Arts and Crafts style houses.

    I think I would want to hang out there all day - surrounded by beauty and books.


  2. Hi Janet - What a beautiful and inviting library. The architecture is incredible. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  3. Good i don't live there. I spend too much time at the library as it is. this one i would never want to leave.

    If they ever put a kitchen in let me know...

    I'll be in the outside reading room.

    xo Jane

  4. Truly a jewel! You are fortunate to live where the old is sustained and appreciated and not imploded. I would love to be the "Library Mouse" and live there. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Wow, Janet, what a gorgeous library! I would hang out there all day long! Wonderful photos! Thank you for sharing.

  6. OMG that is my dream place, I love libraries even our nasty 1960s thing, your library is sublime, i could escape from the world in there for hours!! Is it free like our public libraries?? But bad luck, it does not look like it smells of wet dog and baby singsong group, but you can't have everything. Do you live anywhere near San Ysidro Ranch? I went there for a work conference a million years ago, it's where the Kennedys went for their honeymoon, it's now a posh hotel with individ chalets, it was divine except I was there with 70 odd (very odd) other lawyers, oh the fun (not) xxxx

  7. You live in such a gorgeous part of the country. (Pansies in December? Honestly!).


  8. That isn't a free library is it? It is so immaculate and gleaming - one of those places that is so serene it imparts it to those who visit I'm guessing?Wierd how some buildings can do that.

  9. I'm speechless at the beauty...I wish every building these days was built with such detail and craftsmanship. I love the inglenooks, the marble, the rounded staircase...all really but I could totally live in the conservatory! My favorite is the children's area - those paintings are gorgeous.
    You are so lucky to have such a beautiful place to escape to - I would settle in for hours and get lost with all those lovely books. Old libraries and churchs are my favorite places.

  10. That's the most beautiful library I've ever seen. I had no idea there was such a place in Southern California. Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

  11. beautiful photos did the old place justice

    the other Janet

  12. WOW! That is such a beautiful library!!!

  13. Ohmyword. Swoon. Dead faint. (coming to now). Wow! I am incredibly jealous. What a beautiful gift for the community. I would be there all the time.

  14. Janet,

    Thank you for this lovely tour...I feel like I am there with you.

    The architecture is divine and the interiors are so well decorated and maintained in keeping with the buildings' heritage. I love the inglenook and all the woodwork...and imagine sitting reading in the conservatory!

    And to think the 16 acres that the building sits on are still intact!
    I applaud the California Registery of National Places for preserving and protecting Heritage Buildings like this gem.

    Having seen this and glimpses of homes in your area I feel that I need to know much more about must have been an important city to have so many large homes and the people living there must have had enormous wealth.

    How fortunate for you that there is such beauty where you live Janet...and so nice of you to be our tourguide!

    Hugs :)

  15. Thanks for sharing. I'm so jealous. My library is a place I run in and out of, nothing like yours at all. I would want to move in. And then you add in the pansies and gardens... I'm looking at snow now, and soooo jealous.

  16. wow what a beautiful place & the garden to go & sit in. BEAUTIFUL.
    Thanks ever so much for sharing.

    Love Leanne

  17. So beautiful!!! I think I want to live in your town just to use your library! - Tracy

  18. Oh Janet!
    I spend so much time at my local library. I would feel so blessed to spend time at yours! Thank you so much for taking us on a tour.

  19. Who says California has no history!!!! So classic.

  20. That is the most beautiful library I've ever seen. Lucky you to be able to go there!

  21. I loved the tour! I used to go study there on occasion. So peaceful. But yeah, it wasn't my favorite study spot due to the lack of coffee. Haha. And I didn't know about all the history - thanks for the info!

  22. What a heavenly space. I love my library but it ain't that pretty...I would never emerge.
    xo Terri

  23. Hi Janet,

    What an enchanting place your library is. It's a very special building. It almost looks as if it was destined to be used for something else. All the wood carvings remind me of a church and sometimes even a castle. What I like best is the conservatory. It has a very exotic touch!

    Enjoy your evening!

    Lieve groet, Madelief

  24. What a magnificent library! Thanks for the tour. Wish our library had a garden.

  25. Dear Janet, What a splendid building your library is and what a marvellous resource.Libraries in the UK are very much under threat at the moment and many are closing. I noted that your library is also making some cuts but you are fortunate indeed that it is still open on 7 days per week. I am sure that you cherish this lovely place and hope that there are sufficient other like minded individuals who will do so too. Use it or lose it.....

  26. Gorgeous, you are lucky. My local library is a kind of depressing 1970s concrete horror with 1/2 empty shelves... plus the germs on communal books revolt me I have to admit. meanwhile J I've been up since 4am decluttering- I wish people would stop giving me STUFF. I am going to have a nice big declutter this weekend I think. Accumulating excess unecessary products=The Devil's Work xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  27. Oh and something else- got rid of my annoying word verification- finally x

  28. Janet,

    Thank you for posting these pics! The library is flipping gorgeous!!!! My husband and I are library freaks, we are there probably once a week. While ours is fairly new and more modern, I love, love, love the old architecture of yours. Its so cozy...I showed hubby the photos and he wants to move to Redlands now... :)


  29. - -
    wow! I think this is a sign that I need to read more....

  30. Goodness this is the most beautiful library I have ever seen. The only public libraries I've ever known (and worked in - I'm a librarian) are modern horrors.
    You are so very lucky Janet.
    We are worried that our local library will suffer due to the recent Spending Review here in England.
    Long may libraries remain free.

  31. Thank you for the absolutely LOVELY tour of your library. EXCELLENT photography, and your voice and tone is very soothing--and polite. You pay respect to detail--precise--concise--Very professional.
    Job well done!!!! What a gorgeous library-- What a TREAT to read! Your post needs to be made into a PR brochure for the Public Smiley Library. The library should host Sunday afternoon tea parties in the conservatory, charge admission, give a brochure--all to keep funds generating. You'd be the perfect hostess for the event. :-)
    -Suzanne in Illinois

  32. Janet your library is absolutely beautiful.
    How fortunate the citizens of Redland are to enjoy this unique facility. I'm pleased to notice someone had the good sense to install attractive wood panel secruity thingamys to blend nicely and not stick out like a sore thumb against the gorgeous interiors!
    If I ever return to California J I'm visiting you AND Redlands library.
    Thanks for sharing

  33. Hi Janet,

    What a beautiful library. I have lived in Riverside most of my life and love visiting Redlands, but I have never been to the A.K. Smiley library. I think I will be going there soon.

    Thanks for sharing it. Love your blog.


  34. Hi Janet, thank you so much for that wonderful post. Can I say "TAX $$$ WELL SPENT"!!! Allegra

  35. In a word completely STUNNING. You are so lucky to have this facility and the fact that it is so beautiful. I love the outdoor rooms too. Thanks for showing us Janet... you do live in such a lovely area. x

  36. So beautiful. The Conservatory and The Childrens Wing are my favourites. It must be a wonderful place to completely lose yourself. Thank you for sharing it.

  37. Beautiful. The first week I moved, I found the library and got a library card. Libraries are like home to me, I find so much comfort among the books.

  38. phantastic posting, thank you for taking the effort and taking and uploading all the photos!

  39. Janet,
    Looks EXACTLY like how a library SHOULD look! Lovely photos - thanks for sharing.

  40. I don't know how I missed this post. I swear it was not in my reading list yesterday morning.

    What a place! I'm ready to move in the conservatory. They must have thought you were an incredible weirdo taking all those photos. The only photo missing is one of the shoes you were wearing.

  41. steve - yes i thought the same thing but no one cared. i guess they are used to people taking pics there. my shoes and jacket were missing. shoot.

  42. What a fantastic place, quite the best library that I have seen. And it looks warm and dry and sunny as well. How lucky are you!
    From your shivering English friend.

  43. Oh my goodness, I agree with "Share My Garden", that is the most beautiful library I've ever seen! It reminds me of the mansion from the board game Clue! Haha!

    I am envious ... our library is stuck firmly in the 1970's!

  44. I just found your blog over the weekend and am completely charmed by it. I have already sent your link to two like minded friends who will appreciate it.

    I am also in awe of the library in Redlands as well as Redlands in and of itself. I live in Huntington Beach (charming, historic Main Street which morphs into a tattoo'd, surfer wasteland at Main and Pacific Coast Hwy). I can't wait to take a day trip to Redlands. I am thrilled to find another little known historic area of Southern California. So much of our state has little pockets of gracious, old communities that have been overlooked which may not be such a bad thing; perhaps this enables the preservation of them! Thank you for sharing this jewel of a community!

  45. beautiful. i love this area of redlands and don't appreciate it enough. thanks for the history lesson.


  46. Janet,

    What a gorgeous paradise of a library. I love the conservatory and the winding staircase the most.

    Thank you for writing this post and giving us all this special tour.


  47. Dear Janet, My goodness! Who could ask for anything more! Hugs, Joyce

  48. Such a beautiful library. You are so lucky. Thank you for the tour.

    My library is a modern and small building but I am still grateful every time I enter the doors to pick up my latest reading, free of charge. Libraries are a wonderful service which too many people ignore.

  49. What a gorgeous library Janet. A true work of art. I would absolutely love to see it in person one day. There's nothing more beautiful than gorgeous architecture filled with inspiring books.

  50. Beautiful, beautiful!Oh if I had a library like that, I'd set up shop there! We have a nice enough library, but it is newer and doesn't have the character of Smiley! I hope your community knows how blessed they are!

  51. I had to come back and look at it again (I think this makes 6 times). The I think the only thing my library is conserving is the water flow on toilet flushes--and we aren't allowed to take books to read in there : ). But that's OK, I still have one (library), right? (my new mantra)


kindness is never out of style.

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