Celebrate Libraries

Celebrate Libraries

Have you heard of National Library Week/Month? It’s a celebration of books and reading that has been held nationally since 1958. Perhaps you or your children remember going to your local library for special events that celebratory week, which runs this year from April 7-13, 2024. However, in Long Beach it’s celebrated the entire month of April!

                                  Los Altos Library moving in, February 1957


The week had its beginning in 1957, when a joint committee of the American Library Association and the American Book Publishers Council, recommended the establishment of a National Library Week.  The first was observed May 16-22, 1958, with the theme “Wake Up and Read.” It has continued every year since, though in 1974, the American Library Association became the sole sponsor of the event.

Although the current National Library week originated in 1958, the idea to promote libraries was not new. Toledo, Ohio, promoted a Library Week in 1916. Hawaii sponsored what it called National Library Week in in the early 1940s. Through the years, several individual California libraries endorsed a week celebrating the valuable role of libraries, however, it wasn’t until 1952 that a California Library Week emerged.  The idea was launched for the week of March 10-16, 1952, with a proclamation issued by Lt. Gov. Goodwin J. Knight: “… hunger to learn through books, transmitting their precepts and lessons into actuality, continues today and is a principal fulcrum in the progress of our American civilization….” (Independent 3/16/1958)

With the theme “Something for Everyone at Your Library,” Long Beach Public Library joined the rest of California March 8-15 1953, to celebrate the event.  City Librarian Edwin Castagna saying “the library distributes what in many ways is the most valuable commodity in a busy city – books, enlightenment, facts, information and new ideas.” (Independent 3/8/1953).

In the mid-1950s, research showed Americans were spending less on books and more on radios, televisions and musical instruments. In 1947, 257,000 televisions were sold nationally; 37 million in 1956. Though TV antennas were blooming faster than flowers in Long Beach, books continued to be a sought-after commodity. Long Beach was growing and expanding, its population had risen from 255,000 in 1947 to 326,000 in 1958.  “No one realized ‘how book hungry’ new areas of Long Beach had been until Los Altos branch exploded into being in February 1957,” Castagna remarked. “In its first full month of circulation it loaned 24,800 volumes as compared with 38,400 circulated by the Main Library. In the same period North Branch circulated 17,698 volumes.” The 1947-48 library circulation year saw 1,236,965 books go out to readers; 1956-57, a record 1,674,863. (Press Telegram 3/16/1958).

The library of today has changed with the times. No longer does it need to compete with just radio and television, which had 7 channels in 1958 – KNXT (2), KRCA (4), KTLA (5), KABC (7), KHJ (9), KTTV (11), KCOP (13) – but social media, streaming services, phone texting and more.

Long Beach Public Library continues to offer programs geared to children, young adults and adults, not only during National Library Week/Month but throughout the year. It has digitized materials and on-line reference data bases, to name but a few of the services now offered.  Long Beach Public Library remains a valuable service to the community as 2023 statistics point out: E-book circulation 289,772; print material 1,036,637; total programs 1,905; along with 299,413 library card holders. In 2024 the library eliminated overdue fines, joining the numerous public libraries across the country that are fine free. (https://www.longbeach.gov/library/news/fine-free/).

To quote Library Director Cathy DeLeon: “Long Beach Public Library is proud to stand with other public libraries across the country in upholding people’s right to read freely. While it’s wonderful that we’re taking the week to focus on our libraries, every day is a day to celebrate public libraries and what they mean to our community.”

So, “Ready, Set, Library!” the slogan used as National Library Week is launched April 7-13. However, remember in Long Beach the celebration lasts all of April.  Your library has much to offer. Check it out.

And don’t forget the Summer Reading Program coming soon!