Long Beach Public Library History and Memories

Long Beach Public Library History

Beginnings            The history of Long Beach Public Library began in 1893 when the Reverend Sidney C. Kendell came to Long Beach as head of the First Congregational Church.   He found the nucleus of a library in the church, consisting of a small collection of miscellaneous books, belonging to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.  There was unmistakable evidence that none of the volumes had been opened for years.  Reverend Kendall called a meeting of a number of patriotic citizens, told them what he had found, and urged that steps be taken toward founding a public library and reading room.  From this first meeting the Long Beach Library Association was formally organized.             Local resident J.W. Birt agreed that starting a circulating library in Long Beach was a good thing; after all Los Angeles had just gotten one underway, and it looked like Pasadena would soon follow.  Birt helped spearhead a fundraising campaign and convinced the Long Beach Dramatic Club to hold the first library fund raiser on September 7, 1894.  They gathered at the town’s major meeting place, the Tabernacle, to perform the play, A Widow’s Heart.  There wasn’t any mention in the newspapers as to how much money they raised, but the idea of starting a library in Long Beach caught on.            Not to be outdone, the community of Alamitos Beach Townsite also decided to start a library.  On July 6, 1895, they held a hay ride and dime social to raise money.  Nearly 40 people turned out with wagons, carts, carriages and bicycles and rode to the Thornburg residence at 338 E. First Street, where Humphrey Taylor played piano, Miss Willard recited poetry, […]

Margaret Durnin – Library Friend & Supporter

Favorite Long Beach Public Library Memories  If you’re reading this, chances are that libraries hold a most important place in your heart. Many of you may have worked there, but for some of us they simply are reminders of a favorite childhood activity; or provide a quiet place to study; or they offer computers for school work, or rows of mysteries or biographies.  For others they offer a safe haven after school or from life on the street, or even just a warm hello and a smile.  For Ray Bradbury the library offered a free university, for others a chance to learn English or read the latest news, receive help with homework, find a picture book to share with a little brother. Perhaps that’s why the FRIENDS of the Library show up at City Council meetings to remind City leaders that there is a large contingent of Library lovers who appreciate our libraries and librarians and don’t appreciate budget cuts;  who raise funds via the FRIENDS Book Store and donations; who march in parades and attend park festivals to raise awareness of our libraries. And perhaps that’s why the board members and staff of our Long Beach Public Library Foundation spend energy and time writing grants and raising money to help build and support  library programs such as the Family Learning Centers, the 3-D printer, Dictionary Day, and many needs in our newest city libraries:  the Mark Twain Library, the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library, and now the new Main Library. A few of my own specific memories include: Serving on the FRIENDS board with Harriet Williams, Margo Herman, Kaye Briegal, Bernice Van Steenbergen, Aaron Day, Marie Treadwell, Jack and Carol Feeney, Duane Kuster, Lorna Kruger […]

Aaron Day – Library Friend & Supporter

Celebrating National Library Week/Month My first experience with a Library began many years ago, when I was in grade school. I was so happy when I was eight years old, and finally able to get a library card. It was a wonderful learning experience. As a teenager, I continued to use the Library, for class assignments, research, and my own personal enjoyment. It was during that period that I began to read and enjoy some of the Classics such as, Black Beauty, Tom Sawyer, Little Women, Paul Bunyan, Robin Hood, and others. I also enjoyed magazines such as, Popular Science, National Geographic, True Detective, Life, Ebony, and many others. I learned about so many different cultures. Throughout the years, no matter where I have lived, the Public Library has been a very special place for me. Over the past several decades, I have found my way to an unbelievable number of Libraries in the Southern California area. One of my favorite Libraries is the Long Beach Public Library (LBPL). When I began searching my father’s Family History years ago, I found the Genealogy section at the Main LBPL an excellent place to do research. I have been able to locate ten generations of my Day ancestors. No, not all at the Library, but, I have had tremendous success there. The shelves contain the histories and stories of our past generations, just waiting to be located, and explored. With the aid of Support Groups, the LBPL ranks among the top within Southern California. These Support Groups include; The Friends of the Long Beach Public Library, The Questing Heirs Genealogical Society, The Long Beach Public Library Foundation, and The African-American Heritage Society of Long Beach. I am […]

Helen Webb 1959-1975

I interviewed Helen over the phone in 2017. She was living in San Clemente. This is what she had to tell me. Helen Webb was born in 1919 in Oklahoma and moved to California in 1940 when her husband got a job in one of the war industries in Long Beach.  Helen went to work at the Firestone Tire Company but in 1959 decided to take the library page test along with her son Ralph. Both were hired.  Ralph went on to work at Bret Harte. Inspired by the librarians around him, he decided to become a librarian, earning his library degree in 1962. He later worked as a librarian for the Peace Corps in Venezuela.  Upon returning to the United States, he  followed Connie Johnson, who worked at North, to Palos Verdes Public Library. Helen was soon promoted to Library Clerk. She first worked at Main, then went to North as head clerk and later became page supervisor under Jean Covall.  Gracia Clark also worked with her. Helen remembered that  Gracia asked that she be given Saturdays off, and switched her day off, Monday, with Helen.  Gracia later changed her mind, but Helen wouldn’t switch back. Helen was great pals with Trudy Mullen, the staff artist (who died at age 102), and Dorothy DeWeiss in Reserves. Helen remembered notes left at the library in the late 1960s stating that the library was going to be bombed.  Helen remembered the Fire Department coming through with their long hoses, looking for the bomb. Helen recalled that North Library used to be called “Northeria” (like Siberia) because no one wanted to work there under Violet Fell. Beulah Nelson also worked as a librarian at North as a […]

Sylvia Schrubbe/South/Hodges 1964-1980, 1986-1990

I started working at Long Beach Public Library at the Main Library in Lincoln Park in October, 1964. It took 3 interviews before I was hired. Helen Fuller, who was Assistant Librarian and in charge of Children’s Services called me a fourth time and told me the job was mine if I wanted it.  I did!  I was thrilled to finally get a job in a big    library. I had volunteered at my local library in Dominguez, California, on Saturdays shelving books, and filing library cards so I had some experience, but Dominguez Library was very small. During the week, I babysat my three nieces for $15 a week for ten hours a day plus my two children. I thought it would be nice to have a job 8 hours a day and make at least $100 a week. My wish came true. The first thing I noticed when I started working in the Circulation Department was how quiet it was compared to being around 5 children. What a dream job I thought, especially since I loved to read books. I started in the Circulation Department. My duties included charging and discharging books, typing library cards, sending overdue and reserve cards and filling in at the switchboard with all those cords going this way and that. I finally caught on, and enjoyed the switchboard and getting off my feet. Sometimes, when a page was ill, I would shelve books.  Juanita Deswick was supervisor of the pages, Ruth Bader (or Baty) was Supervisor of Overdues, and Trudi Mullen was supervisor of Reserves. Ruth Bader (or Baty) had been at the library for quite some time, and she did a thorough job teaching us how to send […]

Jim Jackson – 1965-1985

Compiled by Claudine Burnett, following a conversation with Jim Jackson 12/22/2017   Jim Jackson was head of the Science/Social Science Department at the Main Library for many years.  Jim, the youngest of 7 children, received his degree in Education from Auburn University. In 1956 he left Alabama and began teaching English and History in Tehachapi, California. In 1960 he left and moved to Long Beach to pursue a degree in Library Science at USC. He started at USC  in 1961 and graduated in 1965. For a while he did substitute teaching to support himself, but was later hired by Blanche Collins to be a substitute librarian, without a degree, substituting at Bach, Burnett and Main as a substitute librarian. Upon receiving his degree he became head of the Bret Harte Library where he worked for several years with clerk Olivia Hicks.  He later moved to the Main Library and became Government Publications Librarian, which was part of the Science and Industry Department.  When Alice Titus retired as head of the department Jim took over and remained head of that department at Carnegie Main, Atherton Main and New Main. He well remembers the battle fought by Blanche Collins over the attempt by John Birch Society members to remove the book The Last Temptation of Christ from library shelves. He also remembers Blanche Collins refusing to let the FBI have access to books checked out by library patrons during the Nixon Administration (1969-1974). He retired from LBPL on December 13, 1985. Many librarians got their start working under Jim’s supervision—Chiz Boyea (now 98), Mary Hegdale, Doris Soriano, Dennis Okuji, Barbara Quinn, Charles Vestal, Barbara Davis, myself and many more. It was a difficult department to work in […]

Ruth Brillault 1965-1996

I started at North Branch in 1965 as the Young Adult Librarian. I went to Bach in 1968 as the Branch Librarian for almost 20 years. I was sent to Dana as Branch Librarian in 1988, and retired from Dana in 1996. LBPL was a great place to work. Memories of the Main library Claudine asked me to cook for the Easter brunch held at Main.  She learned I only had a stove because it came with the house!  I never cook, we eat out. Another time Claudine and I ran out of gas after a book meeting and I had to walk with her to a gas station in my high heels. Then there was the time we came out of a book meeting at Main to find that a fence had been placed around the parking lot where we had parked Claudine’s car. We were learning the Internet. I shared a computer with my dear friend, Lynda Fritz. All of a sudden porn appeared on our computer. The instructor could not believe how we did that! Also going to Main meetings was an event. If I couldn’t get a ride with Karen Cressy or Claudine, I drove. My driving is like my cooking—not good. It is hard to get to Main when you only make right turns! Memories of North             I was doing a display case out front with our head clerk, Helen Webb. Suddenly the book cart rolled down Orange Avenue with us trying to stop the traffic. Memories of Bach             Our head clerk, Wanda Brummond, heard a noise in the trash can out back. She found a kitten. She went to Taco Bell for a burrito for the cat. […]

Sue Clay Taylor – 1967-2012

The day my mother suggested I apply for the page position turned out to be the beginning of a very long career with Long Beach Public Library.  I was hired on Nov. 7, 1967, as a part-time page.  I worked mornings, delivering the mail to all departments at Main (carrying an old fashioned mail bag over my shoulder).  I met everybody, went up the inside staircase to take administration their mail. Mrs. Henselman was the city librarian at the time and a great gal she was!  Miss Helen Fuller*, head of Children’s Services and assistant city librarian, was my mentor…and what a mentor she was!  She suggested that I take the clerk’s test that was coming up soon.  I did and was soon placed at Los Altos (before El Dorado was built).  Los Altos was so busy that they had 3 full time librarians, 1 part time librarian, 3.5 clerks, 3 pages, and a full time custodian. I stayed there for about a year and a half.  Then, I returned to Main for a while until Miss Fuller had me moved down to Children’s as the full time clerk 2.  Children’s then was in the basement, a complete separate place…just like another branch…we did our own cash, processed our own reserve books, had our own outside entrance for the public.  I continued in working in the Children’s Department for almost 10 years…all the while learning from Joan Jordan, librarian, and wonderful Miss Fuller.  As I was about to graduate from Cal-State Long Beach, Miss Fuller asked me what I was going to do next….I said…“not sure.”  She said (and I quote)….”You want to be a children’s librarian, don’t you?”  I guess she was right. During […]

Doris Newell Soriano 1968-1996

I spent 29 years working for the Long Beach Public Library, and I enjoyed my time there.  I came to LBPL because my mother was a college roommate of Alice Appell, and I wanted to move to California after I spent the required 2 years working in Iowa (Fellowship for Iowa Native who would go back to Iowa for 2 years.  I actually spent 4 years) I was hired as a Young Adult Librarian and worked At Los Altos for Mildred Snider when Los Altos was the busiest Branch. My second job was Branch Librarian at Bret Harte followed by doing that job at North, Bay Shore, Brewitt, and Dana.  I was also a Department Librarian at Main Library for the Science and Technology Department.  When Prop 13 was passed and the Library had to lay off employees I was demoted to Branch Librarian again,  I loved all of the libraries and the people I worked with.  I had wonderful Children’s Librarians like Jane Bradley, Lorna Kugler, Susan Taylor and many more .I had terrific Clerks like Thea Tillman and Helen Webb who taught me a lot about the Library. I was dragged into Administration by Carolyn Sutter, along with Cordelia Howard, when she needed to replace her assistant Director.  It was supposed to be for 6 months while she did a nationwide search.  Both of us were happy being Branch Librarians, but we told each other we can do anything for 6 months!  Carolyn did not find anyone she wanted, and she convinced the City Manager to allow 2 positions and talked us into applying for them.  I missed the contact with the patrons but I found I liked the Manager of Main Library […]

Cordelia Howard – 1969-1998, City Librarian 1983-1998

Long Beach Public Library Foundation Memories of the founding 1994-98 Some background: In 1983, after 14 years with Long Beach Public Library, I was appointed Director of Library Services. At that time the department was made up of the Long Beach Public Library (Main Library and 11 branch libraries) and the Historic Sites (Rancho Cerritos and Rancho Los Alamitos). The Telecommunications Bureau which managed the City’s cable franchise and cable TV channel joined the department in 1986. In 1994 the Historic Sites were transferred to Parks, Recreation and Marine because it would give them access to more bond money than the DOLS could provide. The Telecommunications Bureau moved to the General Services Department in 1996 so, during the 15 years I was Director; I had the library alone for only two years. Early on, as Director, one of my major goals was to establish a non-profit foundation for the library that would serve as a fundraising arm. Much easier said than done! The Library had suffered some very rocky times during the ’80’s and ’90’s. The Library had lost more than $1 million of its budget and the material budget had been decimated. The majority of our money had gone to Police and Fire. Interestingly, both department Chiefs apologized to me repeatedly for having the Library’s money transferred to their departments. Dark times: The Library budget had been drastically reduced and as a consequence, staff, public hours of operation and the book budget were painfully cut. Fortunately, help came in the person of Margaret Durnin. Margaret had been president of the Friends of the Library twice during the 1980’s. She had a background in education and was especially interested in children’s services. With her experience […]