Paradise Library Perseveres: Its Journey From a Single Bookshelf to the Library That Survived

Everything You Need to Know About the Library’s History, Resources, & Current Events

A fire that burned part of the building—and half of the books.

Snowfall so heavy the roof collapsed.

Financial troubles that threatened to close it for good.

These were all threats the Paradise Library faced in its early years. But residents of Paradise banded together to help keep it running, just like they did after the Camp Fire and continue to do today.

The original 1976 building survived the 2018 Camp Fire and is now open to the public once again.

The Library’s Humble Beginnings…On a Bookshelf

Emma Blackburn had a dream. One that involved books—lots and lots of them. An Ontario native by birth, Emma was a true pioneer. At the age of 18, she set up her own homestead in North Dakota and lived there for five years on her own before marrying a visiting lawyer from San Francisco. Together, the Blackburns moved to Paradise in 1913 at a time when the population was less than 500 people. 

That same year, the Butte County Free Library had been set up in Oroville, with librarian Ida Reagan at the helm. Back then, a journey to Oroville was no quick jaunt, so Emma decided she wanted to open a more local branch right in the town of Paradise.

In April 1914, she accomplished what she’d set out to do. Borrowing 100 books from the Oroville library, newly-titled Branch Librarian Emma Blackburn set up Paradise’s first library on a bookcase in her very own home on (Black) Olive Street. In the first month alone, 65 books were loaned out.

When it Rains, It Pours…But Instead of Raindrops, It’s Flames and Snow

For a while, things seemed peachy. People loved the library, and Emma loaned more and more books. Until one day, when things quite literally went up in flames when the Blackburn home caught fire. Fortunately, Emma and her husband survived—but half of her book collection did not. However, the people of Paradise weren’t going to abandon their library or their librarian. Instead, they worked together to remodel a small display building not far from the railroad station. This became the new location for the new library.

But the obstacles didn’t end there. Several years later, in 1929, a heavy snowfall crushed the library’s roof. Instead of giving up, a group of helpers took books to an empty space on the opposite side of the street, next to the barber shop. The library resumed operations once again.

Growing Pains—But the Good Kind

Business was booming—so much that the library kept relocating to larger and larger spaces. In 1976, the Butte County Board of Supervisors decided it was time the library had a place of its own. They authorized building a larger facility on Clark Road, where the Paradise Library still stands today.

When the library experienced financial difficulties, the Paradise Friends of the Library, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the library, stepped in to help with everything from promoting the library to raising money. With all hands on deck, they were able to prevent the library from shutting down. Thanks to helpful residents, generous volunteers, the Friends of Paradise Library, and Emma Blackburn herself, the Paradise Library isn’t going anywhere. It’s here to stay.

Booksale with the Paradise Friends of the Library

A Library is Crucial for Economic Recovery

One of the few buildings in town to survive the 2018 Camp Fire, the library is important in helping the Town rebuild. Libraries are such important elements of communities because they provide free resources for so many people. For example, people can use libraries to:

  • Utilize the internet from everything for applying for jobs to finishing homework
  • Gain knowledge for themselves and their children
  • Integrate into communities, such as meeting others and connecting with local events
  • Send their kids after school if both parents work

And they can do all of this for FREE. Libraries play a crucial role for everyone in the community by providing these free resources to everyone and anyone. When one person benefits, we all do.

Image courtesy of Chico ER

The Library’s Resources & Classes

Today, Paradise Library offers many different resources for adults, teens, and kids.

“Our hope for the library is to not only get the community back to being a part of the library but also to promote the programs in our libraries.” said Amy Sperske of the Paradise Friends of the Library. “We have kids and teen programs, we have adult programs, we have the REACH program (Reconnect, Engage, Adults, Creating, Hope), and we have Lunch at the Library.”

Here are a few more of the programs available:

Adults can participate in:

  • Book clubs, in which participants can join a group, read a book together, and meet to discuss it.
  • Social events, like bubble-making classes, coloring hours, Meet n’ Greets, or movie nights.

Teens can benefit from:

Kids will love:

And so many more! You can view opening hours, see all of the current events, quench your thirst for knowledge, and more on the Paradise Library’s website. “We hope,” said Amy, “that you will visit us online or in-person today!”

Make it Paradise Newsletter

This newsletter is designed to keep you informed of the ongoing recovery efforts as we rebuild Paradise.  Each week you will receive a newsletter with events, current numbers (building permits, etc.), current topics and a weekly Q&A.

Occasionally, we may send out an extra newsletter pertaining to an upcoming event or important information.