Our History2019-10-16T14:20:49-07:00

A Brief History of the Desert Foothills Library

From our humble beginnings in February 1954, to our present day establishment … come take a stroll with us through our historic timeline.

May 1957

1957 – 1960

The Library found its first long-term home in Nelson Hall, the parish hall of the Good Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church.

September 1960

1960 -1970

The Cave Creek School was home to the Library for the next ten years in different rooms and buildings as needed.

October 1966


The first used book sale is held.

April 1969


The library is renamed the Dorothy E. Smith Branch of the Maricopa County Free Library.

March 1975

Early 1975

The Cave Creek School gave notice the Library had to move! There was not enough room anymore and an anonymous couple stepped forward to pledge $30,000 to a free standing library; The Desert Foothills Library Association was formed, incorporated, and a Board of Directors appointed to see this crisis through.

February 1977

February 14, 1977

The Board chose the current location of the library on top of Saguaro Hill for the proximity to the school and the beautiful views. The grand opening was exactly twenty-three years after the first signed contract with Maricopa County. The Library was 2,000 square-feet. The Library is renamed the Desert Foothills Library.

July 1980


Over 43,200 materials circulated that year!

May 1984


Growing again! A new 1,000 square-foot children’s wing was built to incorporate the growing needs of the community.

November 1986


Arizona House Bill no. 2372 was passed by the Arizona Legislature enabling the counties to form ‘library districts’ with taxing authority and requiring towns to either join or withdraw. On June 10, 1987 the Desert Foothills Library Association unanimously voted to leave the Maricopa County Library System to become an independent public library.

April 1987


Since the Desert Foothills Library’s independence from Maricopa county Library System it has remained unique in that it is the only public library in the county that is privately funded. Unlike the county’s other twenty-five libraries, the DFL does not have its own tax district.

February 1990

Early 1990s

The Library’s specialized Southwest Collection was born to offer a separate reference and reading room.

April 1994


Time for another remodel! The space for DFL would be doubled. This remodel would add a larger children’s area, move shelving space, a modest multi-purpose room, computerized card catalog, three Macintosh computers, and access to the Internet.

December 2009

Late 2000’s

True to fashion, the library was due for another expansion! The Library was open seven days a week, even in the mess of the remodel. With this new space the Friends of the Library were able to move into their own book sales room. Other new features included: increased shelving space, a storytime room in the children’s section, study rooms, state-of-the-art conference room, enhanced adult programs, WI-FI throughout the building, passport processing office and photo services, patios for quiet reading, and a botanical garden.

July 2017


Added parking is created by building a large parking garage south of the Library building, hosting more than a hundred parking spaces!

September 2023

“Looking Back”- New, Original Play for Living Library Project to Debut at Desert Foothills Library!

Tickets $25 at www.dfla.org (see links below) or call 480-488-2286.

“Looking Back,” a new, original play inspired by a true story about Cave Creek ranchers Dick and Evie Engel, kicks off Desert Foothills Library’s exciting new Living Library oral history program November 17. The Engels purchased Cow Track Ranch in 1950, intending to strike it rich by subdividing the land. But unintended consequences forced the couple to choose between living in prosperity or Paradise.

“I knew their story would fascinate today’s audience the moment I dove into the newsy letters Dick wrote to his mother,” says playwright Andrea Markowitz, who found the letters in the Cave Creek Museum archives. “Dick chronicles the couple’s trials and triumphs as they search for their place in a changing world.”

The play also showcases historic characters such as Manfred Cartwright, who owned the famous Cartwright ranch at Seven Springs, and Bud Miller, who rode the local Pony Express and was Harold’s Saloon Bar’s official greater.

A recorded interview with Evie’s daughter accompanies Dick’s letters.

“When we began to interview locals in the 1980’s, some of them had lived in Cave Creek for more than 50 years,” says Evelyn Johnson, Cave Creek Museum’s Executive Director. “The play’s inspiration is based upon listening to the actual voices of Cave Creek pioneers.”

“Our Living Library program will continue to feature and preserve stories of people who shape our community, and teach families how to preserve their stories,” says Debra Lay, Desert Foothills Library’s Executive Director.

Library volunteers have been interviewing a new generation of locals who represent everyone from cowboys to artists, conservationists, and politicians. Together, the Library and Museum will offer a treasure trove of oral interviews on the Arizona Memory Project’s online platform.

The Library is partnering with Desert Foothills Theater to produce “Looking Back.” “I’m delighted to participate in staging another play by Andrea, who is our Playwright in Residence,” says the Theater’s Producing Artistic Director, Sandi Carll.

Desert Foothills Theater previously produced Andrea’s musical, “Fair Game,” which received the ariZoni Award of Excellence for best new script, 2021-2022.

“Looking Back” will be the second play developed under the Theater’s “Desert Playlights” program, which incubates new plays by local playwrights.

“I’m delighted about the collaboration between the Library, Museum, and Theater,” says Lay. “Combining our talent and resources augments our ability to serve this wonderful community.”

“Looking Back” runs Nov. 17 – 19 at Desert Foothills Library, 38443 N. Schoolhouse Road, Cave Creek, Arizona, 85331.

Friday, November 17th @ 2pm: https://desertfoothills.librarycalendar.com/event/looking-back-living-library-play

Saturday, November 18th @ 2pm: https://desertfoothills.librarycalendar.com/event/looking-back-living-library-play-0

Sunday, November 19th @ 2pm: https://desertfoothills.librarycalendar.com/event/looking-back-living-library-play-1

VIP Mix & Mingle Experience Add On for Saturday, November 18th @ 4pm: For ONE EVENING ONLY, Saturday, November 18th, after the play concludes you can mingle with the performers AND the playwright herself, Andrea Markowitz, in this one of a kind “talk back”.  Enjoy a glass of bubbly on Desert Foothills Library’s scenic Waterfall Terrace.  This is your chance to truly immerse yourself in a wild story that took place in Cave Creek, AZ!  Hurry, space is limited for this unique experience.  Register below to upgrade your GA ticket for this VIP afterhours event for only $25!


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