Known for: As state librarian beginning in 1899, James L. Gillis led the movement to establish a county library system in California. He also extended the use of the State Library to the general public.
Background: An Iowa native, Gillis and his family moved to Sacramento in 1870. In 1894, he became chief clerk of the Assembly Committee of Ways and Means. He was also keeper of the archives of the secretary of state. In 1898, he was appointed a deputy in the State Library, then became state librarian. In 1909, the Legislature passed a law allowing each county to install a tax-supported library controlled by a board of supervisors and managed by a qualified librarian.
A highlight: In 1899, the State Library was in the Capitol and had more than 100,000 volumes. Its use was restricted to state officials, legislators, clergy and press. Gillis opened it to the general public. He also helped create the first union catalog in the country -- the California Information File -- and the Books for the Blind department at the State Library.
In History's Spotlight profiles of Sacramento newsmakers were originally published in 2007 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of The Sacramento Bee. They were written by Anthony Sorci. Look for them every Sunday in Sac History Happenings.