Long Beach Public Library History and Memories

Kathy Proffit 1969-1979

How I became a librarian I graduated from college in 1967 with a major in English. My first job was with Continental Airlines as a stewardess. I didn’t like it and I wanted to quit, but I had no idea what else to do. My father, who always wanted me to be a teacher or a librarian, told me that if I wanted to go to library school he would pay for it. Since teaching didn’t interest me, I took him up on his offer of library school. As it turned out, a library career was the perfect fit for me and I worked as a librarian for almost 40 years. I quit the airlines and was accepted into USC Library School in 1968 where our one “computer” class was a lecture on Fortran and Cobol. My early library career I graduated from USC in the Summer of 1969. My husband and I lived in Long Beach so I was hoping that I could get a job at LBPL. I interviewed with Mildred Snider in Administration. I remember that she brought Florence Powers into the interview because Miss Powers was the head of the Literature & History Department and there was an opening which might be perfect for an English major. I was hired in September 1969. One of Miss Power’s requirements for her librarians was to read (whatever we wanted) for an hour a day. I remember sitting in a comfy chair in her tiny office in the basement of the Old Main library and reading Agatha Christie, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Wolfe, dozens of romance and mystery novels, and whatever appealed to me. As a librarian working in L&H we were expected to be […]

Barbara Quinn – 1970-1979

How I Became A Librarian I grew up in an Iowa town of 800 people who were all Catholic (except for two people) and attended the local Catholic school that housed the elementary grades and high school in the same building. There were 18 students in my senior class with some of them coming from the surrounding smaller farming communities. The youngest of four children, I was encouraged to graduate from college (both sisters married before they completed college and my brother did the same.) Having spent much of my youth in 4-H Clubs (cooking and nutrition, home décor, and sewing) I followed the footsteps of my sister Kate and majored in Home Economics in college, graduating from the College of St. Benedict, St Joseph, MN, in 1962. During my last year of college, my Mom died, so I was intent upon staying with my Dad. It took one summer for me to see the old daughters ( who stayed and cared for their parents) walking past my house to the post office at the same time each day and realize my staying would not help my Dad in the long run nor me. But my teaching credential was from the state of Minnesota and I now lived in Iowa; I decided to return to school and obtain my Iowa teaching credential while adding minors in art and literature. I planned to visit my dad on weekends and I did until a girl friend entered the picture. When that year ended, I applied for jobs in Iowa with credential in hand. I taught Home Economics and English for two years in West Branch, Iowa (Herbert Hoover Presidential Library). If I could get 2 years of […]

Judi Cameron – 1977-1997

I started working at the library in November 1977. The new building had opened that spring and was still new enough to be having tours to show off its modern facilities. Having been a stay-at-home mom, I had no work experience to declare but had been volunteering in junior highs for several years. I listed the libraries I’d helped in but thought my tutoring work wouldn’t be of interest. During my interview I happened to mention having helped in the class for disabled students. Jean Buckman’s eyes lit up and she said she had just the position for me – as page in Handicapped Services. I knew of this section of the library as my mother had been getting Talking Books from them at the temporary Main at Ximeno and Atherton. She was always raving about Judy Fraser and Chris Burcham so I knew I was joining a friendly group. As it happened, Chris was on maternity leave and Carol Reese had taken the clerk’s position. Martha GaRey was the page and transferred to Rancho Los Cerritos just as soon as she had trained me. Mary Kay Pitts ran the Bookmobile from our office so the room was crowded and busy. We had several walk-ins every day, people exchanging their Talking-Books and stopping for a visit. Judy set the friendly tone, even serving herbal tea to our guests. She was also setting up the library at the new Senior Center on 4th Street, and I remember taking cartons of large print books over there. Things changed after Prop 13 passed the next year. The Bookmobile – and Mary Kay – were gone. Judy was low on the seniority pole and was let go. She spent […]

Michael Martin – 1980-to date

Life as a Library Page I started as a library page on November 1, 1980.   It was my first job, and I remember being very nervous.  I had just graduated from CSULB about six months earlier with a BA in Liberal Studies but had no idea where to go from there.  I thought I would become a teacher, but couldn’t decide if that was really what I wanted, I had taken several courses at CSULB, including Storytelling and Survey of Children’s Literature.  So I decided to apply as a library page because I enjoyed spending time in the college library. At that time the library page was a classified employee, so I took the civil service test and barely passed with a score of 74—70 is passing. When I started Jean Covall was the head of Circulation.   This was a few months before the first online circulation system was implemented and the library clerks were still using microfilm to scan the due date slips and library cards for checking out books. They were also manually typing   library cards.    A few months later in March 1981, they promoted a library clerk named Helen Enriquez or better known later as Helen Fried, to Page Supervisor.  She was my page supervisor for the next two years before taking over as head of Circulation, when Jean Covall retired, and then Laurie Wills was promoted to the position of Page Supervisor. I had only been a library page for a month, when my supervisor asked me to go to Alamitos Branch to cover for the library clerk while she goes on her lunch break.   That meant that I would be alone at the checkout desk for an hour, with the branch librarian […]

Debbie Johnson – 1980-2017

The library decided to convert the Card Catalog into digital records shortly after I started working for the library.  This was long before computers became a part of our daily lives.  Using OCLC, The Ohio College Library Center, staff members Kay Shadwell, Joan Anderson, Kathy O’Rear, Charlotte Fox, myself and other staff transferred the holdings of thousands of materials that were in the library collection to the computer.  This was done as overtime and was done on weekends and took several months.  The City also contracted out for additional clerical help from The Kelly Girls, which was a very popular Temporary Agency at the time. This was all done in Technical Services, which is now called, Automated Services.  I worked in Technical Services for 17 years before being transferred to The Circulation Department in 1997.  We were classified as Clerk Typists then and before the change to the digital format, each Clerk in Tech Services would file a stack of catalog cards before the library opened every morning.  We gradually discontinued maintaining the Card Catalog.  Switching from the Card Catalog to computers is one of my happiest memories working at the library and being a part of the process, one of my most proudest. In 2003, Verizon National Literacy Champion Al Jarreau read the story “Charlie Parker Played Be Bop” to a group of children at Main Library. The Long Beach Library Foundation was presented with a $250,000 grant to fund a school-readiness program for preschoolers and a parenting class for their parents.  Debbie had her picture taken with him.

Gale (Waterman) Tweedt – 1982-to date

            I saw an advertisement in a newspaper in 1982 for Substitute Librarians. The ad showed the salary was $10 an hour. Since my job as a school librarian at Lennox High School was being eliminated due to budget cuts, I thought it would be fun to be a substitute librarian while I was teaching high school. It was only after I received my first paycheck that I learned that I was not getting $10 an hour. When I checked with our payroll clerk, I was told that $10 was the middle of the range. Oh, well…            My very first day working at LBPL was at Los Altos in August 1982. For the next 5 ½ years, I subbed at every branch except Mark Twain. In 1984, I was asked to work at Ruth Bach Branch as the (substitute) children’s librarian during the Summer Reading Game. It was the summer of the Los Angeles Olympics, and the Reading Game revolved around the Olympics with children who read 20 or more books earning a red, white, and blue ribbon from which hung a reading medal. All the medals for all the children were attached to the ribbons by hand by super children’s librarian Karol Seehaus who had designed that year’s reading game. (Karol was the librarian who first trained me to use the library’s online catalog back when I was a substitute. We all have Karol (and Steven Quinney) to thank for her years as our union shop steward. From the first time I met Karol, she reminded me of the late actress, Lee Remick, with her beautiful smile and red hair. Karol had a real mission-she wanted the children in the Bret Harte area […]

Hilde Lu – 1982-2006

My years at LBPL were divided between the Alamitos Branch and the Main Library. I worked as a children’s librarian at the Alamitos Branch and as an adult librarian in the Arts and Music Department, and later at the Reference Desk at Main. I always enjoyed interacting with our patrons – young and old – and colleagues. When I started at Alamitos, I tried to reach out to schools and youth groups in the neighborhood. I contacted Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, who then came to the library on a regular basis. The upstairs staff room with kitchen lent itself to a special program with the girl scouts: recreating Marcia Brown’s Stone Soup. The girls had fun taking turns reading the book aloud while the soup, started with just well-scrubbed stones and gradually added more ingredients, simmered. To our delight it turned into a tasty vegetable soup that we all enjoyed. Even the branch head pronounced it surprisingly delicious. Thinking about our Saturday morning get-togethers before the Main Library opened still fills me with a warm feeling. This was a time when the librarians from all departments got together to bond, exchange library and personal news, thus creating a camaraderie that set the tone not only for the day, but also for our working environment in general.

Stace Aspey – 1982-to date

One of my favorite memories is of the old Carnegie Library downtown—the 2nd one that was renovated in 1937 after the 1st one was damaged in the 1933 earthquake. It was the 1960s, I was a music-loving teen, and I went there to check out record albums. The music department was downstairs, which was really more of a basement. There was little natural light, a musty smell, and the albums were shelved upright on metal shelves that rattled a little when touched or brushed against. The whole place felt apart from the many rooms of books overhead, like a secret archive below the Vatican, and I loved going there. Record albums were pretty inexpensive back then and the more I listened to the more I bought for my personal record collection, which grew over the years to almost 3,000 titles. Eventually each album was replaced by a CD and every time a swap was made I donated the album to the library. I’m sure most ended up in a dumpster, but maybe others made it to a book sale where another patron discovered music that the library had introduced me to so many decades ago. Editor’s note: Stace is a fun loving guy. Staff members have reminded me of  how he loved April 1—a day to fool us all!  I’ll never forget how he led the chase to capture feral cats that were living in the window well of the Main Library.  He succeeded, and one cat (Miles) was adopted by Madeline Pratt, another (Henry) by Mary Cominsky. Be sure to read Rubi Sobieski’s memories of Stace and the photo she shares of Stace in “one of his moments!”

Debi Gurley Vilander – 1986-to date

  I started at LBPL the first time in 1986 for 9 months on the suggestion from Terry Brand. Terry Brand was a Library employee and a longtime friend and mother to one of my best friends growing up. She suggested that it would be a great place for me to work between traveling gigs. I was and am a traveler of the world and at that time working for the library as a Page (a page puts the books back on the shelves). It was easy to work with an unpredictable schedule and also the chance to work with an eclectic group of people. The library employed diverse people with interesting backgrounds. After I stopped traveling and moving back to the USA from Sweden, Terry again suggested I apply to the library. This time I returned to the library to complete my education and receive my BA. Luckily the page supervisor, Jeannette Valdavino, at the time was still in charge and because I had been such a good employee I immediately was placed into the Film Department as a Page/Clerk. That was June 1990 and I am still an employee of LBPL after having worked in the position of Page, Clerk, General Librarian and my current position of Department Librarian/Senior Librarian in charge of the Bay Shore Neighborhood Library.

Virginia Sanchez  – 1985-1992 again 2006-2014

I started as a Page at the Main Library in 1985, working for Laurie Wills, then Page Supervisor. Glenda Williams, then a Page, showed me how to sort and shelve. After a couple of weeks I, along with Helen Bati, Glenda, and a couple of others were offered promotion to “Clerk-NC”. I was thrilled. $7.21 an hour still seems like a lot of money. I learned how to operate the old switch board, process ILL requests, as well as all things needed at the Circulation Desk. After a year or so I took the Clerk’s exam and passed. I competed for and received the posting to Los Altos Branch, working with Lynda Fritz and Dannette. I worked there for over six years, and Lynda was a second mom to me. I was working for the State of California, managing the Resource Center Library for the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs when I was accepted into San Jose State’s library school. I called Lynda and told her. She said, “It’s about damn time.” Lynda was a wonderful mentor, allowing me to branch out beyond the Circulation Desk and take on genre collections and other duties. It was while working at LBPL that I met my ex-spouse, Mark Mayfield, who decided to pursue law school, which led to our move to Sacramento and the rich experiences in Libraries I had there. I left LBPL as a Clerk in 1992, but came back as a librarian in 2006. I worked in the ICPD for a few months, then at Dana for Jennifer Songster until I got called up to Afghanistan in October 2007. Jennifer was a fantastic supervisor, and I am so glad she got Mark Twain […]