Mission & History



Our Mission

main libraryTo acquire, organize, and administer collections of books and related materials and to provide access and services that best meet the needs of our patrons for information and enjoyment.


Our Vision

We shall be a primary public source of information in the central Arkansas area and shall provide access to that information to all who want it. Our circulation will continue to rise as our holdings grow and as we refine and keep current our collections. We shall be a leader in increasing the research resources necessary to assist in the community's economic and social development, and shall ourselves stay abreast of developments in information technology useful to our patrons and the community. Our public programming on regional history and culture will draw broad participation. The Library will be recognized by people in our service area as a lively, accessible, expert, user-friendly source of information.


Our Core Values

We believe free public libraries are essential in a democratic society.

We respect the dignity of our patrons and the diversity of their needs.

We nurture the basic human attribute of curiosity and support the pursuit of adventure, discovery, knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.

We defend vigorously the principles of intellectual and artistic freedom.

We invest in our staff to enhance their abilities and encourage their enthusiasm to better serve the public.


Our Strategic Goals

To preserve the heritage and history of the communities we serve, and to provide information on the governance, economic activity, and cultural opportunities of those communities.

To stay abreast of the best of information technology and to make it available to our patrons and their communities.

To add to and refine the library's holdings, facilities, and operational capacity in pursuit of our mission.

To collaborate with other institutions in the interest of building strong communitywide information resources.

Our History

the original little rock libraryIn 1975, the Little Rock Public Library's Board of Trustees and the Trustees of the Pulaski-Perry Regional library agreed to a merger of the libraries in Little Rock, Jacksonville, Sherwood, and Perryville, and the bookmobile services of the Little Rock Public Library and the Regional Library into one library system. The new system adopted the name The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS). The North Little Rock Public Library declined to join the system.

In 1999, the central Arkansas cities and counties comprising CALS' individual entities initiated a new "Agreement for Joint Cooperative Action" for the purpose of constructing, operating, and maintaining public libraries, and providing library services for the citizens of central Arkansas. In addition to the purposes set forth in the original agreement, the new agreement allows CALS to take full advantage of the revised Interlocal Cooperation Act (Ark. Code Ann. §25-20-201 through 207), makes CALS a Public Corporation, allows CALS to own property, broadens the representation of the parties, gives CALS eminent domain power, and generally expands CALS' authority.

CALS, headquartered in Little Rock, serves a local population of 317,457 and is the largest public library system in Arkansas. Its thirteen libraries are located in the City of Little Rock (Main Library and eight branches), Pulaski County (Jacksonville, Sherwood, and Maumelle, AR), and Perry County (Perryville, AR). CALS serves an additional state-wide population of nearly one million users through the Gateway Project. The system contains over 850,000 volumes and is the largest research collection in central Arkansas. In 2010, there were over 2 million visits to CALS, and users checked out over 2.4 million items.


From Carnegie to Cyberspace

From Carnegie to Cyberspace, by Shirley Schuette and Nathania SawyerIf you would like to learn more about the history of the Central Arkansas Library System, check out From Carnegie to Cyberspace: 100 years at the Central Arkansas Library System, by Shirley Schuette and Nathania Sawyer. Detailing public library efforts from the earliest private lending libraries to today’s 13-branch system, From Carnegie to Cyberspace is the story of how one small public library grew into a major regional system and how its libraries evolved to meet the demands of changing technology and a growing population.

The book also explores the personalities that have helped shape CALS – from Mary Maud Pugsley, its first librarian, to Vera Snook, who “angered every mayor since she had been in Little Rock,” to Dr. Bobby Roberts, who has led the system since 1989 through a period of unprecedented growth.

You may also purchase a copy from Butler Center Books.