In addition to a Main Library, the city of Long Beach, California, has eleven branch libraries serving close to a half million residents. Of course not all city residents have a library card. Long Beach joined other libraries in September, celebrating National Library Card Sign-up Month, encouraging those who do not possess the “Smart Card” to get one. Long Beach libraries also celebrated 100 Years of Books on Saturday, September 25, 2010.
The Alamitos Neighborhood Library opened in 1910 becoming Long Beach’s first library. The library had its start in 1895 when the Alamitos Library Association was started by a group of women. Funds were raised, land donated and the first Alamitos neighborhood library was built. The association deeded the property to the city of Long Beach in 1920 with the stipulation that the city would maintain the property indefinitely.
When I lived on Broadway in Long Beach, the Alamitos Neighborhood Library was my neighborhood library. Although I still went to the much larger Main library downtown, I loved the quaint Spanish castle style building, located a few blocks from home. The backyard patio garden with fountain was a peaceful place to start reading a book before checking it out and heading home. It was not until the 100 Years of Books celebration that I learned its history.
The original building was replaced in 1929 only to be lost due to a devastating 1933 earthquake. Because of heavy building damage, library service was moved to the property’s yard. After repairs, made possible by President Roosevelt’s Public Works Administration funding, the Alamitos Neighborhood Library re-opened in 1938. There have been some changes to the library since its humble beginnings. For one, it is now wheel chair accessible and there certainly were no DVD movies or CDs to borrow in 1910.
Census data from the year 2000 show 53,536 residents living in the Alamitos Heights section of Long Beach. The Alamitos Neighborhood Library checks out 58,396 materials yearly. Students and adults not only use the computers to access the library card catalogue, they use Word and Excel programs as well. Connecting to the World Wide Web for research, to check emails, apply for jobs is a popular activity. There is usually a waiting list for computer access, especially at small branches like the Alamitos Neighborhood Library. People with or without library cards visit to read magazines or newspapers.
Another thing that changed: Second District Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal would not have been allowed to vote in 1910. Lowenthal and Mayor Bob Foster were among guests arriving at 10:00AM to celebrate 100 Years of Books. Friends of the Library provided refreshments. Visitors were greeted with an oversize photograph of the Alamitos Library Association ladies*. Inside, more old photographs were on display. One photograph caused me to look up at the ceiling. The colorful wood beams are part of the Alamitos Neighborhood Library’s charm.
Gazette Newspapers mentions ghosts being seen among the shelves.
Press-Telegram elaborates on library history.
1910 photograph of Alamitos Library Association ladies*
Alamitos Neighborhood Library
American Library Association