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 these years I had the opportunity to hear and see the Queen Mary make its way into Long Beach harbor, experience the Main Library fire, look out the window on the mezzanine floor in 1968 and see Bobby Kennedy waving from the back seat of an open topped car as he was making his way down Pacific Avenue during his presidential campaign, change in library administration, and a change for me as I was admitted to USC library school. Still working at Main, which had been moved to a “temporary” building on Atherton and Ximeno while the new Main was being built. Miss Fuller was retiring, new librarians were coming on board, and the tide was beginning to turn.
I started my “professional career” working as the part-time teen librarian at Dana…then when the legendary children’s librarian, Jane Bradley **, retired from Bay Shore, I was transferred there full-time. Main opened in 1977. I helped with some of the shelving…El Dorado opened (1970), Burnett opened (1969)…a lot was going on! Mrs. Henselman gave a really fun back-yard party for all staff! We all had fun there. I went on from Bay Shore to Main (long term subbing)…going to Brewitt for 10 years, then ending my career at Mark Twain (14 years). The biggest change, of course, was the introduction of the computer and everything that brought with it. Mostly good.
Staff picnic at Rancho Los Cerritos
My happiest memories are wonderful lifelong friends, staff summer picnics at Rancho Los Cerritos, summer staff parties at Alamitos Bay, backyard storytelling in Jane Bradley’s backyard, movies being filmed at Bay Shore and other library locations, riding in the Bookmobile on Saturdays with Jo and Bush serving Navy Housing and other out laying areas, working on Sundays, learning from the experts in the fields of Science and Technology, Literature and History, and the Performing Arts department (that was when the library had real subject departments) and let’s not forget “rolling closures.”
Going from being at the smallest library to the largest (with the building of the New Mark Twain) was truly a magnificent experience…especially working with the Cambodian community. Serving our patrons is the most important thing that we do…that is why I feel that the Khmer book buying trips I took to Cambodia to be my absolute most important thing I have experienced…or maybe, that would be a tie to working with the kids…they make up “library memories” of a long career.
*Helen Fuller was a native of Wichita, Kansas, who graduated from Friends University, a Quaker school in Wichita. She began her career at Long Beach Public Library in the 1940s after receiving her library degree from USC. In 1947 she was National President of the Children’s Library Association (part of the American Library Association) and responsible for determining the winners of the prestigious Newbery and Caldecott medals for children’s literature. In 1965 she was honored by receiving the Children’s Librarian Award presented by Pepperdine College. She retired from LBPL in 1971 spending time bird watching, traveling and volunteering for Meals on Wheels. She died in February 1993 at the age of 91. The Helen Fuller Cultural Carousel, part of the Friends of the Library, is named in her honor.
**Jane Buel Bradley‘s uncle, Ernest Thayer, was the author of “Casey at the Bat.” Her grandfather, James W. Buel, a well known author of history. She told reporter Don Brackenbury (IPT 3/30/1975) that her family was full of great storytellers. Because of asthma, she wasn’t able to start public school until she was 9. In the meantime, her mother taught her her to read and write and taught her French – which ultimately became her college major at Bryn Mawr. During the Great Depression she got a job as secretary to the children’s editor at Dodd, Mead and Company where she also read manuscripts and wrote reviews. During World War II she worked for the Office of War Information, then with the U.S. Book Service. Finally, convinced by a friend who had become a children’s librarian, Miss Bradley enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley to study library science. For most of her 20 years with the Long Beach system she had worked at the Bay Shore library (however she served at Burnett from 1965 to 1970, before returning to Bay Shore). She retired in April 1975. She wrote two books, World Alive (1997) and Tree of Life (1999). She died in 2002 at the age of 93.