The Library’s Story | Portola Valley, Past and Present.

For those who are interested, click the above link for a wonderful historic vignette of “The Library’s Story” by Nancy Lund.

Below is our Friends’ recorded history


One Native American leader, William Least Heat Moon, suggests that recounting history is a resurrection of sorts. The local history offered below tells of grassroots efforts that resulted in a small but representative institution of our local democracy. To “resurrect” the people and the details in the founding of our library is also a way to honor the best of who we’ve been, collectively and singularly, and to pass on to posterity the rich and revered traditions we enjoy.

The Friends’ website is the ideal place to publish the history of the group responsible for our town’s library services. For those in the community who enjoy the library in its current incarnation but know little of the legacy it represents, we hope to offer a taste of the civic-mindedness and devotion that underlie its proud reality today. For all website and library visitors, we celebrate an appreciation for the townspeople of this tiny community, past and present, whose dedication to quality civic life and free access to lifelong education brought forth one of the town’s finest and most enduring traditions.

-Lenora Ferro, FOPVL Board Member


The many-storied past of the Portola Valley Library is rooted and bound in the history of the Friends’ group that founded it. Consisting of no more than a handful of local bibliophiles, the group decided to act on the growing community’s need for a library of its own. Until that resolve was made and put into motion, the town’s library needs were met in patchwork ways and means. The one constant in the years that led to today’s proud building (“the jewel in the crown” of the Town Center) was the popular belief and ultimate determination that our community – small but with an intellectual bent – deserved a free, public institution to reflect and represent a commitment to civic life in the unique ways that free, public libraries do. It was as much for ourselves (citizens past, present, and future) a gift of hope and belief in the concept of the greater good as it was an institutionally grounded amenity of civic life and discourse. Today’s incarnation stands as testimony to the vision and labors of these town forebears. The civic-minded spirit that drove them is carried forward in the mission of the current Friends of the Portola Valley Library.

Some History Highlights

~ In the 1940s, a small collection of books was supplied to Portola School.
~ Until 1967, the community’s library needs were met by a Bookmobile, and supplemental privileges were contracted with both the Woodside and Menlo Park Libraries. 
~ In 1964, Eleanor Boushey, Town Council Membern, was appointed to form an ad hoc committee to study the possibility of establishing a public library in town. A year later, at her suggestion, the Town Council formed a Library Study Committee, led by Lexie Nall.
~ During National Library Week in 1965, the Friends of Portola Valley & Community (including Ladera, Los Trancos Woods, Vista Verde, and part of Woodside) was formally established.

The all-volunteer FOPVL Board of Directors sets and oversees the budget, maintains and oversees the organization’s finances, and manages fund-raising and fund distribution to the many library programs underwritten and regularly supported by the Friends. Some of the amenities and services we fund are programs for children and adults, the Annual Poetry Celebration in collaboration with local schools, events honoring our library staff, and ongoing updates of equipment and furniture. The Board meets regularly to discuss business, to interface with library staff and administration, and to provide representative community oversight of library operations. At various times in our history, Board members have voted to alter the group’s mission to meet unforeseen exigencies, but it consistently focuses on the welfare, well-being, and enrichment of our local, free branch as it serves the community.

The library’s affiliation with the San Mateo County Library System, which itself is under the Peninsula Library System, provides infrastructure (books and materials) and staff as well as the benefit of economies of scale due to the widespread connections and buying power flowing from both governmental arms.