FOSPL was founded in 1978. The organization began its fund-raising Annual Book Sales in 1996 on the lawn of the El Gabilan Library. Books were divided into 'fiction’ and 'nonfiction’ and left in boxes on the ground. That first sale raised about $300. The Annual Sale has grown enormously and moved to the Salinas Recreation Center. Over 20,000 books in 36 categories are sold in the 2-day sale, which usually raises over $10,000.
In Fall 2000, FOSPL nearly disbanded; a number of key officers and active members had either died or moved out of the area. Dave Nordstrand, a member and columnist for The Californian, wrote a feature article on the impending demise and called for new members. FOSPL was revived and began its current phase of activity.
FOSPL was a leading supporter in the fight to defeat Measure O, a November 2002 ballot measure that would have repealed the City’s utility users tax, thus cutting the Library’s budget by a third. The organization sponsored a local seminar on "Nonprofits and Elections" which was attended by many local nonprofit groups. After the session, FOSPL voted for the 501(h) election, which will allow it to lobby on behalf of the Library without losing its nonprofit status.
FOSPL also helped lead Measure V, a half-cent sales tax, to passage in November 2005. A citizens' oversight committee, the Measure V Oversight Committee, is actively making sure that the funds collected are spent on libraries and other vital services for Salinas.