The idea to establish a public library in Dixon was first proposed by the Women's Improvement Club. They learned of the philanthropic endowments for libraries offered by Andrew Carnegie that made it possible for qualifying communities to afford new library buildings. Money would be granted only when the citizens could first obtain a plot of land and prove that they could support the ongoing maintenance and operations of a new library. Although interest for obtaining a library stayed strong, the town’s population of 1000 residents could not provide the necessary resources to erect a library building nor to operate it.
In 1905, J.H. Peterson a State Assemblyman and resident of the area, wrote to Andrew Carnegie’s private secretary, James Bertram, and asked for grant money. He explained that the city would like a library added to the high school property. Since the citizens of Dixon would not be able to afford the conditions of the grant, the request was denied. The Dixon Women’s Improvement club was persistent however, and Peterson sponsored a bill that would allow a library to be supported by a special high school district rather than just the city alone.
As a result, in 1910 the sought-for bill was signed by the Governor, and in 1911 the voters approved a tax measure that would contribute support for ongoing library services. With that vote, the Dixon Union High School District Library District of Solano County, California came into existence. The Library District served residents in a 196 square mile area of eastern Solano County. The creation of special library districts was a solution eventually copied by more than 15 other small, rural communities wanting to provide library service to their citizens.
Women’s Improvement Club member Mrs. O.C. Schulze donated a parcel of land on East B Street for a new building. In addition to providing a location for a new civic institution, it was Mrs.
Schulze's intent to force out the houses-of-ill-repute in the vicinity of the B Street location. The Women's Improvement Club and the Library District Trustees then petitioned philanthropist Andrew Carnegie for a grant to construct a building, and proved that Dixon met all of his stated requirements: civic determination, ongoing financial support and a plot of land for the building. After several letter writing campaigns, Mr. Carnegie's reply came in the form of a check for $10,000.
An architectural firm from San Francisco was hired, and the new building was designed to meet the Carnegie standard guidelines; a single-story over a raised basement which was favored for its practicality. The large open room had to include a children’s area and would make the supervisory duties of the one librarian more manageable. Taking a cue from the architectural design of the neighboring Post Office building, the Classical Revival style with Mission elements was used for the exterior. Construction began early in 1912, and was finished by December 1912. In large, raised letters over the original entrance door the words "CARNEGIE LIBRARY" proclaim the building’s legacy.
A grand ceremonial event-including music provided by the town band-was held to dedicate the new building in February 1913. Ever since the Dixon Carnegie Library first opened its doors it has served as the community's public library.
From 1913 to 1957, the town of Dixon as well as the surrounding farms and ranches in the District were well served by the Carnegie building. By the mid-fifties additional space was needed to better serve the expanding community. In 1957, the Trustees agreed that a new addition which would provide separate areas for Children's and Reference services should be built onto the Carnegie and a bond measure was subsequently approved by the voters. Construction work was completed in 1958, and library space grew to 5700 square feet.
In November of 1987, the city taxpayers approved Measure L, a five-year parcel tax that provided the funds necessary for rehabilitating the aging historic Carnegie building. Some of the revenues of this bond were used to construct a new wing that now serves as the library’s main entrance on North First Street. The addition was completed in April of 1990 and the library was expanded to 8,000 square feet. By 1992, the exterior of the original Carnegie Library had been renovated with new paint and landscaping.
The Dixon Carnegie is one of the few remaining Carnegie Library buildings still operating as a library in the United States. In February of 2011, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places; in honor of its cultural and educational significance and service to the citizens of Dixon.