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Apparently the Reading Room is for both the living and spirits!


library-paranormalEach of the three branches of the California State Library system has a specific purpose, and all are open to the public.

The first, smaller branch, The Sutro Library, is still located in San Francisco and is now found on the 5th Floor of the newly renovated J. Paul Leonard and Sutro Library, on the San Francisco State University campus. The Sutro Library is home to the private collections of entrepreneur Adolph Sutro, San Francisco Mayor and land owner, mover and shaker, and first generation American from Prussia who had a great love for “book collecting, libraries, the arts, and architecture.” It is still a much valued library for researchers, genealogists, art enthusiasts and architects.

The second branch, The Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building, is described as a stunning neoclassical structure with lovely features inside, including murals. It is home to extensive collections, and The State Librarian’s Office. With the opening of The California State Library central branch, The Stanley Mosk Library, which was restored and renovated recently, is just the right size now to continue to share the building with The Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, and the California Supreme Court. Gillis Hall Reading Room, Witkin Law Library, Information Services, and Government Publications are also located in this building.

The California State Library central branch is described as the state’s central reference and research library, offering non-partisan research for state government; mainly the Governor, and the Legislature. The California State Library also “preserves, generates and disseminates” a variety of information and preserves California’s irreplaceable historical items from the past through the present day, including on-line texts. The public is also welcome to come in and use the vast resources as well.

Thanks to the hard work and vision of the past 122 State Librarians, The California State Library also benefits all California public libraries by providing advise, consulting with them, and offers technical assistance. It also has the duty and responsibility of directing and funneling both state and federal funds to support statewide library programs and services and for general support of these public libraries as well.

One very happy customer, in charge of training state investigators, describes this resource library as being “A dynamic and vital resource to creating effective and in-depth training.”

The area of interest for this story is on the second floor of the California State Library central branch on 900 N Street. It is the home to The California History Section and Reading Room, where anyone is welcome to come in and do research.

The California State Library’s website gives a pretty good description as to what can be found there. “The California History Section holds a major collection of documents from and about California’s rich history. The documents range from books, maps, newspapers, and periodicals, to pictorial materials (including daguerreotypes, lithographs, stereographs, and paintings) and ephemera (such as posters, programs, pamphlets, and sheet music). Materials from our special collections — including photographs, manuscript materials, maps, vertical file materials, ephemera, and rare books — must be viewed in our Rare Materials Reading Room. Researchers of all types — authors, historians, reporters, legislators, filmmakers, genealogists, historic preservationists, graduate students, teachers, and California citizens — visit the California History Room to use these resources.”

It seems this invitation applies to both the living and those in spirit form! Being alive apparently isn’t a requirement to enjoy the reading room and the many volumes of books!



On January 24th, 1850, the California Legislature decided to form a California State Library, to be managed by the Secretary of State. It was located in the Capitol Building itself. The books were to be kept in the office of the Secretary of State and were to be considered the collection of the State Library. It was not a public library, but intended only for the use of government officials.

After 1861, the Library was put under the control of a Board of Trustees who had the responsibility of hiring the State Librarian. Since then it has had 122 State Librarians, truly dedicated individuals who each did their part to create the Library System we enjoy today. Each State Librarian built on the accomplishments of his or her predecessor, adding improvements of their own.

For instance, Frank L. Coombs, who served from 1898–1899, came up with a better organizational system for the books, and was able to get back volumes that had been long overdue – sometimes by as late as five years! Coombs was also the first State Librarian who “did not like the fact that use of the Library was limited to state officials. He dreamed of seeing the Library become an institution whose collections where available to all citizens of California.” He planted seeds in his assistant, James L. Gillis, who became his successor.

Gillis not only expanded on Coombs’ idea of reorganizing all of the books and materials, and making the State Library’s collections more available to Californians, but also set in motion the dream of developing a library system that would build and support community libraries for all Californians.

The next department that ran the Library system was the Finance Department, as it was an efficient way to get funding for new buildings. When it became apparent that the State Library central branch was going to be the lightning rod to create and support future community libraries, it was transferred to the Department of Education.

In 1914, the Legislature funded the construction of a new structure for not only the state courts, but also for the growing and expanding State Library, which was outgrowing the State Capitol building. Because of WWI, construction for this handsome building was put on hold. Though it was the first to be planned to have a building of its own, it wasn’t the first to be established.

A second, smaller branch of the California State Library was created in 1917, to house the immense collections of Adolph Sutro in San Francisco, his beloved city. Sutro’s heirs had donated all of his mass collections of priceless books and materials to the State of California.

During the early ’20s, under the watchful eye of James L Gillis, the new library and court building funded in 1914 was finally constructed, and finished in 1928. The beautiful Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building then opened their doors, becoming the home of the central branch in their own space, sharing the building with the state courts as well.

By the 1990s, the collections and material of the The Stanley Mosk Library had again grown immensely, and needed a bigger space. A new building was constructed, under the leadership of State Librarian Gary E. Strong. It opened its doors to great acclaim. The Mosk Library is still used as a place to for research, and to hold collections together. The Sutro Library in San Francisco is still very popular, valuable, and highly prized.



While no one knows exactly who in the spirit world is still enjoying or studying the books and materials in the California History Section and Reading room, here are some possibilities that may be the reasons or reason for this haunting.

Some people while alive develop a real love for precious objects, and still enjoy them or visit them after they have passed from this world. Such people love their jobs so much that they wish to continue in their work, not letting the fact that they are in spirit form stop them. Libraries have long been a place to learn, read, and relax, providing great entertainment and a respite from the world, to say nothing of the realization that death has come and it’s their reality.

Sometimes people are in the middle of an important project, or may be about to take part in an event, when they suddenly experience death in an unexpected or inopportune time, frustrating their goals.




One spirit has been reported often.

A Male Entity

Described as being an older man, with glasses.

Two people witnessed the closing of the then-open glass door found in the California History Section and Reading Room.

While this door has been known to open on occasion due to natural causes, it doesn’t shut easily. Some force is needed to shut this door. Natural causes aren’t strong enough to do so.

In the book stacks, staff have heard the sound of Mylar rustling, though most of the time it sounds like someone shelving or pulling out books, when no one else is nearby.

Staff’s Experiences

An odd occurrence that happens on a regular basis begins with a missing book that is supposed to be on the shelf. When the staff member who is looking for it, calls for help, the helper looks where the book is supposed to be and also can’t find it. Finally, a full-scale hunt ensues, with up to four people looking for the same book. After awhile, one of the staff members will look once more in the place where the book is supposed to be, and there it will be.

(Perhaps the spirit responsible for this decided to help the staff find it, or was using it himself and returned it. Perhaps he is letting them know that he is still there, ready to help.)

His see-through form with distinguishable characteristics has been seen looking over and studying old books in the reading room.

Early one morning, before 7 AM, a staff member who was alone in the California History section, working in the office area, with the entrance door locked, heard the wooden shutters on the door leading into the copy machine area rattle, as if someone entered the copying room. No one of this world was there when the staff member checked.


Probably so. There is the quandary though of having many reported experiences, with no hard evidence to back them up, as nothing has been published, or perhaps even gathered here. The California State Library accepts both the living and people in spirit, and wouldn’t dream of disturbing anyone who comes to do serious research. They know that whoever is here just wants to do research and enjoy the material, and even help find books when they go missing. Why upset them by letting people come in and investigate when they are closed? They can’t come during the day either and disturb serious researchers.

It sounds like someone has attached himself to the books in the California History Section and moved from the old building into the new one.

Perhaps it could be a deceased staff member, or a former State Librarian / State Representative / Government Official who was connected in some way to these books.

It could also be the former owner of the books, or a past patron who loved to study California history.

Perhaps such a spirit is still working on an important research project to be presented to a committee or hearing, because he was interrupted by his own sudden death.

These manifestations began being reported after the new building was opened. They have continued throughout the following years. It is not known if similar occurrences happened in The Stanley Mosk Library.

As far as I can tell, no official paranormal investigators have been allowed in to gather hard evidence. There could have been a private investigation, perhaps to give the staff some peace of mind, but nothing has been made public if this is the case. Staff members have talked to the media about the male spirit, but no one has written a story or book about it yet. All of these manifestations have been gleaned from the online sources listed below.




900 North Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

The California History Room is in the California State Library central branch building that is located at 900 N Street between 9th and 10th Streets at Capitol Ave, just across the street from the beautiful California State Capitol, in downtown Sacramento. The California History and Reading Room is on the second floor in Room 200.


Our Photos are copyrighted by Tom Carr


  • California State Library on Yelp
  • California State Library website
  • “The Ten Most Haunted Places in Sacramento, California” by Paul Dale “The Ghostwriter” Roberts
  • Sacramento News 10: Sacramento’s Haunted Hot Spots
  • Profiles of State Librarians of California 1850 – Present
  • Thoughts of the Day From Sacramento Blog: Paranormal Daily Thoughts

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Haunts in Sacramento Haunts in California