LEGACY OF A LIBRARY AND A HISTORY OF A LIBRARY'S FRIENDS
by Patricia A. Gazin, 1991
THE HERMOSA BEACH PUBLIC LIBRARY EARLY HISTORY
Hermosa's library is older than the city itself. Before incorporation of the city in 1907 there was a nucleus of a mothers' reading group. A circle of women friends took turns weekly to read to the assembled offspring of the several parents. These informal reading sessions were offered at Ocean View school, located on Manhattan Avenue at Fourteenth Street, now the site of a city parking lot, earlier the site of the first St. Cross Church. This maternal reading group also formed a circulating library which was mostly run by Mrs. Mary Montgomery, volunteer. This first library was also located at the school.
In 1913 Hermosa Beach became one of the earliest branches of the Los Angeles County Library System. That very first county-appointed librarian was Alice McDonald. The first shipment of books from county headquarters to the beach book center numbered fifty-four volumes. Hours of available library service in Hermosa were 2:00 to 5:00 P.M. and 7:00 to 8:30 P.M., Monday through Saturday. Within one short year the collection grew to 632 volumes, regular borrowers numbered 392, and the library enjoyed subscriptions to twelve popular magazines. Circulation that year totaled 4,427.
AT THE PIER
In 1923 the library acquired a new home on the north side of the new municipal pier. In 1927 the library was moved into larger quarters on the south side of the pier. It was a banner year for the library in several ways: a new locale and new heights in circulation. As one of 160 branches in the county system, Hermosa library ranked sixth in usage with a circulation of 50,859, a tribute to the active minds at the beach.
During the years between 1927 and 1957 readers shared the pier facility with pigeons and gulls, swimmers and sun worshipers: a motley scene, but everyone adjusted and assimilated. Circulation of books grew apace as parents waited in the cool shadows of the library's reading corners while their youngsters frolicked in the sand and surf. In 1938 a fire in the library was heroically contained by Kathryn Kerber, a teen-aged page. Years later she was to serve as Librarian, Kathryn Ditmar.
By 1957 conflicting demands on the use of the pier, crowding, smells from the neighboring aquarium and other factors, plus a need for more shelf space, inspired the county to move the Hermosa Beach branch closer to the center of town. The new location was the old post office at 1006 Hermosa Avenue, later to be Vaupel's Liquor Store. Expanded storage space proved a boon, but library users complained about lack of adequate space and time for parking. An off-street parking district was soon to come, but it was determined that placing the library in the developing civic center would be more graceful and appropriate for readers and would release more parking space downtown for the convenience of merchants and their customers.
Though a member of the county system since 1913, Hermosa was not high on the priority list for new construction. In 1959-60 Los Angeles County was booming with an influx of newcomers. John Henderson, chief county librarian, canny and foresighted, was already anticipating an expansive program for new library buildings throughout the county. Hermosa was expanding too, but not at the rate the newer communities were experiencing; hence other communities received preference.
Meanwhile, the city had a special source of funds, hitherto untapped. In 1958 an oil consortium paid the city $500,000 to hold an election to determine if the voters would permit drilling for oil within the city limits. The voters were adamant and voted against drilling, but the city got its reward just the same. At the suggestion of Councilwoman Patricia Gazin, a plan was developed to finance a new library building by borrowing some of this tidelands oil money. City Attorney Paul Loveridge was instructed to seek a declaratory court judgment to certify that Hermosa Beach might use the money thus. Upon approval, the city council proceeded to do just that with enthusiastic support of the Friends of the Library and the community. Later this loan was repaid when the county purchased the library building from the city, and the recovered oil funds were used to build a new municipal pier and other shorefront improvements.
OUR PRESENT LIBRARY
Ground was broken for a new library at the civic center, facing Pier Avenue, on November 17, 1961. Designed by Savo Stoshitch, also architect for the civic center, it is built of brick, concrete, and stucco to harmonize with other civic center buildings. The completed building was dedicated on August 10, 1962. The city council which had made this possible included Patricia Gazin, Mayor, and Councilmen Pat Anderson, Jack Belasco, John DeGroot, and Frank Sasine. Adding luster to the dedication ceremony were the late Supervisor Burton Chace, the late Assemblyman Charles Chapel, Hon. Mayor of Manhattan Beach Robert Beverly, Chief County Librarian John Henderson, and Dorothy Olney. The incumbent librarian had her new building!
FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY
In September 1959, a founding meeting was convened at the home of Myron and Patricia Gazin, 615 Twenty-Fourth Place. A special guest was Dorothy Olney, who had been the Hermosa librarian for eight years. She had started service in 1951 while the library was still at the pier. Mrs. Olney was a missionary librarian: she felt the librarian's purpose in life is to bring books and people together. She felt the community needed to be more aware of and sensitive to the presence of the library, the availability of its stock, and the accessibility to the riches of the Los Angeles County system.
Library angels present at that first organizational meeting included Bea Bond, Susan Behrman, Mmes. David Burt, John Hales, Frederic Flake, Kay Etow, Marguerite Russelle, Willa Rogers, Helen Tracy, Ruth Treadgold, Mary Tyson, and Naoma Valdes. They all are founding members, as are other early joiners: Mary Edgerton, Vivian Bordelon, Gloria Fredericks, Hisako Miho, Carol Tanner, and Kenny DeGroot. During this founding meeting, a consensus developed that the city did indeed deserve a new library. The site on Hermosa Avenue had no parking privileges to encourage readers to linger at the library; the only parking available was on-street, chiefly for shoppers on short visits.
The first formal meeting of the group was convened February 1, 1960, at the library. Helen Tracy was elected president; Naoma Valdes, treasurer; recording secretary, Barbara Dennis; and corresponding secretary, Kenny DeGroot. President Tracy had the pleasure of knowing Hermosa's was the largest Friends group in the county library system.
The Friends quickly proved a catalyst for the library, themselves donating and attracting gifts from the community. The Friends supplied a large globe, a giant dictionary, reference series on American history, books, and gift subscriptions. They also focused energy and public opinion on a successful crusade for a new building at the civic center to house the Hermosa Beach Public Library.
Through the years the Friends of the Library support never flagged. Children's entertainments, art and writing contests, reading awards, special events, holiday decorations, and retirement recognition for librarians have all been underwritten by funds supplied by the Friends. In recent years the Friends provided funds for the purchase of LePac computer catalogs and several public access computers to usher the Hermosa Beach library into the twenty-first century. A sustained program of regularly scheduled book sales has provided the chief source of income which makes possible the Friends' gifts to the library of more than $500,000 in gifts to Hermosa readers to date. The continued success and wide recognition of the sales are due to a core group of volunteers who sort and price incoming donations, set up book sale tables, manage the sales, and distribute the remainders to schools, nursing homes, and various charities.
PAST PRESIDENTS OF THE HERMOSA BEACH FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY
(an asterisk denotes the person is deceased)
1959, 60 - Helen Tracy*
1961 - Bea Bond
1962 - Mary Edgerton
1963 - Kay Pontius
1964, 87, 88, 89, 90, 96, 2001, 02, 03, 04 - Charlotte A. Malone*
1965, 68 - Lorraine Hales*
1966 - Beverly Corben
1967, 71, 77 - Patricia A. Gazin*
1969, 70 - Dorothy Olney*
1972 - Mary Tyson*
1973, 74, 2006, 07, 08 - Betty Ryan
1975, 2005 - Naoma Valdes
1976 - Evelyn Belasco*
1978 - Delma Peery*
1979, 80 - Clyde W. Malone, Jr.*
1981, 82 - Joan Greenwald
1983, 84 - Stephen Izant
1985, 86 - Curtney Harris
1991, 92 - John Hales*
1993, 94, 98, 99, 2000 - Al Valdes
1995, 97 - Tim Ferguson
2009, 10, 11 - Dorothy Yost
2012, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 - Howie Seeb*
2013 - Robert Luthhart
2019, 20, 21 - George Ceman