Margaret Durnin – Library Friend & Supporter

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Favorite Long Beach Public Library Memories 

Margaret Durnin

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:

Friends of LBPL.

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 among so many others.  When I became President we began to meet at the 12 different libraries:  Alamitos with its beautiful Spanish tiles; Bret Hart where I saw Karol Seehaus throw the copy machine key over the throng of kids to the clerk ready to help those waiting; seeing a child, clutching a book, climb into the Reading Bathtub.  Both our sons loved picking out books in the Children’s section, attending Summer programs such as the Reptile Show at Main.  Doris Gylseth, Madeline Pratt and Suzanne McMillan helped me vet children’s books for a PTA project.  The reference librarians were a huge help with another research project via micro fiche and the historical photo drawers.  I thought I’d gone to heaven when I discovered the huge collection of books on tape; got shivers with the guided ghost tour of Main; and loved watching Aaron Day work his magic with the Jr. Friends of the Library.

And then Cordelia Howard approached me to help form a Library Foundation.  It was a challenge but lots of fun with touches of serendipity.

Bob Kilpatrick, with his legal background, filled out our 501c3 application; our family accountant filed it pro bono, which saved lots of money.  We received temporary status.

Charley & Margaret Durnin.

My husband, Charley, soon came home with a $5000 check for our infant foundation, passed to him by former Children’s Librarian Jane Bradley, who lay on a hospital gurney ready to be wheeled into the operating room for a hip replacement.  With the generous amount of money Ken Slaybaugh  had given earlier in memory of his wife, Ruth,  it suddenly seemed we might be a true entity!

Wonderful people such as Diane Jacobus, Indira Hale Tucker, Bill Marmion, George Murchison, Bob Kilpatrick and Tom Clark gave counsel and helped find people to form our first board.  People graciously agreed to serve.

We met in a room at Main Library, the agendas typed up in my kitchen and run off on the library mimeograph machine by Ruby Sobieski’s office.  The probation period for our 501c3 lasted nine months and Mayor O’Neill hosted a special reception for us in January, 1997, which added to our legitimacy.  There the  Press asked Cordelia and me what amount we hoped to raise.  She and I gulped and agreed on $1 million, a sum that seemed humongous, but necessary.

One of LBPL’s Family Learning Centers.

I remember when Burnett’s Librarian Mary Hopman mentioned that many of the nearby families lived crowded together which didn’t allow any space at home for the kids to study.  However, luck again happened.  I was talking about these needs to a friend who worked for Honda.  He agreed to walk a grant application into the office of the person whose job it was to choose recipients for their $50,000 awards.  Nancy Messineo pulled it together and I dropped it off at Eric’s house.  Our foundation’s first Family Learning Center, an idea presented by our wonderful Executive Director, Gene Richey, who originally helped us for months on a pro bono basis, became a reality.  It featured computers, paid Homework Helpers who could speak several languages, and necessary materials.  It was available to the younger kids, and also to parents  trying to learn English or type up resumes, or for those in high school or college.

Lots of other memories include Ladies Who Library teas, Tom Mayes dressed as Mark Twain for an opening event; the amazing work that Mary Hinds and Rick Alsagoff did to raise money for the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library;  friends who banded together to present Phantom of the Library, a fundraiser at Main;  Doug Otto and other local attorneys acting out the court scene of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD at a Long Beach Reads One Book event.

It’s time to bring this to a close, but our Foundation efforts continue.  Cordelia and I are happily amazed.  The Foundation has now passed the $21 million mark.  Who would have imagined?!

Margaret Durnin
Long Beach Public Library Foundation Board member and Endowment Chair