In April 1914, the Paradise Library was born in a bookcase in the home of Emma Blackburn. This lady had lived a life that would have been lonely indeed except for the companionship of books. She had gone from her native Ontario at the age of 18 to homestead her own little farm on the frigid plain of North Dakota, sticking out her five years in spite of the isolation.
Emma married a San Francisco lawyer whom she had met when he visited nearby Bismarck, and from a metropolitan environment the Blackburns came to Paradise in 1913, a little town of fewer than 500 in the wooded foothills of the Sierra.
The Butte County Free Library had just been established in November 1913. Emma Blackburn made a trip to Oroville and discussed her plan with Ida Reagan, Butte County Librarian. As a result, one hundred library books were transferred to the Blackburn home on (Black) Olive Street near the Railroad station. Sixty-five books were loaned the first month.
Trouble stalked the enterprise. The Blackburn home burned and half of the books were lost that first summer. A small display building near the station was remodeled to hold the library and Emma’s husband’s courtroom. Julian Blackburn had been elected Justice of the Peace of the Township.
For years all went well, and Emma earned $5 a month salary as a Branch Librarian. In 1929, an unusually heavy snowfall crushed in the roof of the library and a brigade of helpers carried the books to a vacant room across the street next to the barber shop until a tiny building on Olive Street, that had once served as a post office, was vacated.
As the need for a larger space grew, the library was moved to the area near the Railroad station. Mrs. Blackburn began recruiting volunteers to relieve her in the library work. When the library was in the building at the S.E. corner of Birch and Almond streets, Mrs. Frances Easley, wife of the township constable, took over as librarian. Mrs. Blackburn was 74 years old and tired out. She retired in 1947 and she died in 1956.
When a County building for court offices was built on Elliott Road behind the Veteran’s Hall, a large room was provided just for the library. The books kept accumulating until nearly 40,000 volumes were being shelved, and over 600 books loaned per working day, while others were reference materials to be used in the library. It has continued to grow.
It was in 1976 that the Butte County Board of Supervisors authorized the building of today’s facility on Clark Road. The Friends of the Paradise Library were organized to assist in promoting the work of the library, in raising money for the purchase of books, and indeed, in saving the library from closure at the time when Butte County was in difficult financial straits.