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.
Technical Services staff, 1967.
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 overdue notices. Once in a while, a person who was sent a notice would come into the library waving their overdue notice in our faces saying “I don’t know why you sent me this overdue notice, I returned this book on time!” We would check the shelf and sometimes the book would be there and sometimes not. We had a book drop outside the library where patrons could return books, and sometimes the book would be returned the next day in the book drop so we learned to be patient. Trudi Mullen, our reserves clerk, would send postcards to people who had overdue books, because we didn’t have time to call everyone. I also remember Juanita Deswick who was a very special lady. She wore her hair in a bun, and was always nicely dressed, and was very nice to work with.
When branch library clerks were ill or on vacation, I would substitute for them, which was nice because I got to know where the other branches were, and got to meet some of the staff of the other branches. Now I could identify the person behind the voice I was talking to on the phone. Working at the Main Library was quite an experience. You never knew from day to day where you would be working. One thing I had to learn was how to drive because if we were sent to a branch to work, it was sure quicker to get there by car. So at age 30, I learned to drive.
A couple of my special friends were Eva Parks, who married Charles Parks, who was a policeman. He had 6 boys, and Eva had 1 girl, who was very short and petite, and she married a big, tall basketball player. Eva, became a Clerk III at North, and I eventually worked as her Clerk I for some time. Eva was very pleasant to work with and when she moved to El Dorado I got her job at North as head clerk.
I also worked with Loretta Sundstrom at the Circulation Desk and she later became a Clerk III, in the Social Science Department at the Directory Desk. Loretta was one of my special friends and every once and awhile we would go to dinner and go to a movie. She had one son, and a very nice sister whom she was very close to.
Sylvia Schrubbe & Adelma Lauer c. 1973
Another good friend was Adelma Lauer, who became the supervisor of the Bindery. Zelma Lipscomb and Connie Hernandez were her two clerks, and when one of them was ill or on vacation, I got to work in the Bindery, and learned how to mend books, put spine labels on new books, jacket new books, and process the gift books. This helped me when I went to North Library and repaired and jacketed our books. Another project I worked on in the Bindery was processing gift books. I would check the shelf list catalog to see who owned a particular book and would circle on a form what branches owned the book. When librarians had their meetings they could check the sheet I had prepared to see if they had a particular book. This helped them decided whether they wanted a gift copy. It saved a lot of time not having each librarian check the shelf list catalog. As clerks we also took turns working downstairs in the processing room with a young man (I forgot his name) who would reproduce catalog cards. But this was only done when all branches needed catalog cards for the same book, otherwise cards were typed by hand.
Zelma Lipscomb, 2001
It was amazing how much went on in a big main library. I worked with Olivia Hicks who ended up working at the Information Desk and Jim Jackson was her boss. I believe this was a Clerk 3 position. What a lovely lady, so elegant; she was always professionally dressed, her hair always neat and stylish, and she wore the nicest suits with hose and high heels. A lot of people went to the Information Desk and she was the perfect person for this job. Another lovely lady was Dorthea Tillman, who was the Clerk 2 at the library on the West Side (but can’t think of the name of the library). I enjoyed working with her when I was sent to sub when her clerk was on vacation or ill.
I also substituted in the Newspaper and Periodicals Department now and then. Newspapers were saved for a long time and then put on microfilm for those interested in genealogy and reference work. Most of the work involved retrieving the older magazines and newspapers. Vincent Galante was the clerk for many years, and then a tall dark haired lady named Diane Erdelyi took over. Periodicals was an interesting place to work. Besides all the variety of magazines, we had quite a few newspapers, even some from New York. We kept the magazines and newspapers for years for use as reference tools. Many were sent to the commercial bindery and archived for future research.
Another interesting department was the Record Department. In the 1960s and 1970s we had long playing records and sheet music we checked out. When the records were returned, we checked every one of them to make sure they were not cracked, and then we cleaned then with a special spray and cloth. Helen Kennedy was the supervisor and Helen Murphy, was her clerk. Both nice ladies. I didn’t know a lot about music, but I learned how to find what patrons wanted if we had it.
During this time, while I was working at the Main Library, I took up my favorite sport—tennis—to get some exercise and have some fun. Since I worked a lot of 12 to 9 pm shifts, I joined a group of tennis players who played every weekday morning. I became an experienced player and good at the sport. When an opening became available in the Catalog Department I asked for a transfer. The hours were 8 to 5. This gave me an opportunity to play in tennis tournaments with my friend Rosie on weekends. We were successful in winning some tournaments and when Helen Fuller heard about our success, she asked me to bring some trophies into the Order Department to display.
Mr. Judson Voyles was the head librarian of the Acquisitions Department which included the Order Department, Bindery and the Catalog Department. I first worked in the Catalog Department. Betty Arnett? was our supervisor and she worked there over 40 years. Soon after she retired she passed away. Betty was a very good supervisor and checked all our work to make sure everything was done accurately. We would type catalog cards (there were 4 of us) for books and in the mornings file all the Main catalog cards upstairs in the public catalog. The catalog cards for branch books were placed inside the books that went to the branches; the clerks at the branches would file the catalog cards in their library catalog.
One of my best friends in the Catalog Department was Toni Welch. She and I would go to some of the Dodger games together in her little white Volkswagen car. After a few years, an opening came up in the Order Department. Grace Bentley was our wonderful supervisor. I worked with a very nice lady from Australia, Joan Anderson. We both checked in all the new books for the Main Library and branches, looking at the invoices to make sure the orders were correct. We also would check the incoming books to make sure all the pages were in the book, none upside down, or too marred for reading. We would then give the invoices to Ruth La Fond who would double check the invoices, and make corrections if needed. We had two sisters, Fran and Lillian, working in the Order Department who would type the book orders from Main and branches and send them to the publishers to be ordered. They were excellent typists and really fun to work with. All the ladies in both departments got along extremely well. While I was working in the Order Department I was the Social Chairman for the Staff Association parties we usually had when someone retired or for a special event. Two other ladies that I worked with and were very nice to work with were Meryl Rademacher and Charlotte Fox.
Sylvia and her tennis trophies.
Working at the Main Library gave me more experiences than I would ever imagine. What a learning experience and a wonderful career was launched.
Rancho Los Cerritos
While working in the Order Department at the Main Library an opportunity came up for someone to live at the Rancho Los Cerritos (built in 1844) which was a part of the City of Long Beach and run by the library. Besides being an historic adobe it housed a special California history reference collection which could only be used at the Rancho. The position was for a caretaker, to protect it from burglaries or vandalism. I thought my husband , Harold, would be perfect for the job as he was a homebody. He got the job and his duties were to open the various rooms of the Rancho in the mornings and lock them when the Rancho closed at 5 pm His work hours outside the Rancho worked well with this schedule. Our family was very happy living in such a beautiful historic ranch house. The previous caretaker was Mr. Toy, the library’s supervising custodian, who left the Rancho when he retired. He did warn us of of one thing—there were ghosts at the Rancho.
We soon heard more about these ghosts. Before our family moved in and after the Toy family moved out, a young library custodian was asked to fill in. Though he was told there were ghosts at the Rancho, he didn’t seem fazed… he didn’t believe in such things. However, one night he heard footsteps in the hallway. He got up to see who it might be. He saw no one, but he soon changed his belief about the possibility of ghosts. Another custodian came forward and told us that while working early one morning at the kitchen sink, he heard a voice say to him “take it easy buddy.” He dropped his bucket,, and never went back to the Rancho again. It scared the heck out of him.
Well, when we finally moved in, the first thing we noticed was strange occurrences in the hallway. We would turn the hallway light on, and someone would turn it off. We thought this was strange. We decided to have a psychic come to the Rancho to find out what was going on. The psychic had never been there or knew anything about the Rancho. She walked through our apartment at the Rancho, and then through the rest of the building. After she said she felt that there were 2 ghosts. One was the owner Don Juan, who was a good man and a good ghost, and the other was the foreman that used to be there. And he was the bad one. There was a rumor that the foreman years earlier had murdered someone. And my son whenever he helped his father close the Rancho at night would feel uneasy whenever he had to lock the foreman’s room. He would do it quickly as the vibrations were not good. So to us , maybe this could really be true.
We had a seance with a psychic. It proved interesting. I had several people come, most out of curiosity, and some who were unbelievers. One was a college professor, a good friend of ours, and another a restaurant writer for the LB Press Telegram, Tedd Thomey, who also played tennis with me. Tedd wrote about his experiences at the seance and about my family living at the Rancho in several articles.
Rancho hall where footsteps were heard.
During the seance the big heavy table in the California History Room of the Rancho was raised from the floor. It astonished everyone. Messages were given by the psychic to some of the visitors that night, and the one I got absolutely floored me. My mother had passed away and she had a message for me. “Why did you bury me with my glasses on?” Now, you tell me how anyone would know this except my mother. Wow! I remember I couldn’t decide what to do about the glasses so I decided to have her keep them on. The psychic even described the color of my mother’s dress which was pink. How would she have known this? I had never met Rose, the psychic before. Rancho Los Cerritos sure has a lot of interesting history to it. That’s for sure, and it was quite an experience being part of that history.
There were two library clerks who worked at the Rancho before I did. One was Roberta Nichols, and she used the typewriter a lot. The majority of the time she would use the black ink cartridge. But when she would come in mornings she would often find the ribbon on red. After a while she thought this kind of odd. Another clerk that worked at the Rancho was Kathy Huffman, but I never had much contact with her to find out if she had any interesting “ghostly” experiences there. After Kathy went on to another job, I applied as part time clerk at the Rancho and since I lived there it was very convenient. I worked the other half of my day at the Main Circulation desk. As clerk, I would welcome the visitors to the museum and give them brochures describing the history of the Rancho. Often I gave tours to groups, but normally individuals just did a self guided tour which was laid out in the brochure. On two different occasions, two different people asked me the same question and the question was “Do you know that there is a ghost at this Rancho”? I said I had heard there was. One said to me. “The ghost tells me that he is happy with the way the Rancho is being run.” The other said: “There is buried treasure in the gardens. but the time is not right yet for it to be discovered. ” Also, I would assist visitors in using the California history collection and answer questions.
Rancho Los Cerritos where Sylvia lived.
The Rancho was an interesting place with rooms furnished in the style of the late 1800s. There were mannequins dressed in clothes of the Victorian era in every room. The dining area had dishes and glassware of this period. The gardens were very beautiful. Los Cerritos Ranch House, is a National Historic Landmark, and it is a very special place for visitors to see. During the seven years my family lived there Keith Foster was the curator and Jim Crowell was his assistant.
My Library Career Continues
Karen Cressy, North Branch librarian, with 10 year volunteer Flo Rich.
After a few years, my husband and I decided to move to Seattle, Washington. I was very fortunate to get hired at the University of Washington as a Library Clerk in the Natural Sciences Library. I was in charge of the library in the evenings and would help the students find books, type overdue notices and file catalog cards. Then I transferred to the Undergraduate Reserves Library where I worked on reserve books for the students. My husband got tired of the rainy weather and cloudy days, so we moved back to California. There were no openings at Long Beach Public Library so I worked at the Long Beach Fire Department for one year until an position came up at one of the library branches. I worked at Bay Shore Library as their head clerk and then I transferred to become head clerk at North Library when Eva Parks went to the El Dorado Branch. I worked for a couple of years at North library when Lynda Fritz was the librarian. I lived across the street from the library so that was a plus. After a while, Linda went to Los Altos Library and our new librarian was Karen Cressy. Karen was a delight to work with, and we had one volunteer, Florence Rich, who had volunteered at North for ten years. I had a friend, Lois Jensen, who also volunteered at North. She took care of all the paperback books, relabeled them and put tape around the ones that needed it, so our paperbacks were the nicest looking paperbacks ever. One thing I did when I worked at North was to clean every book cover when they were returned so our books were the cleanest in the system.
In 1990, we decided to move to Colorado, and North Library gave me the nicest, most wonderful goodbye party. Many of my friends from the library system came to my retirement party, and many pictures were taken, which I hold dearly in my memory. When I look at them, I remember all my wonderful years at LBPL and the wonderful people I had the good fortune to work with for 21 years. God had surely blessed me for giving me a wonderful career of working at something I really and truly enjoyed.
Life After Leaving LBPL
I couldn’t find a library job in Colorado, so I worked at J.C. Penny. Then our son wanted us to move to Wyoming with his family. I couldn’t find library work so I worked at Wal-Mart for five years before I finally decided to retire. But retirement bored me so I volunteered at Sheridan County Public Library. After one year, four openings became available at the library and I applied for all of them. I took a part-time job in the Wyoming Room, which was very interesting because it involved genealogy and Wyoming history. I was the librarian on Saturdays and Monday and Tuesday evenings. Since this was where I had been volunteering, I continued with a special project that involved starting a baby file on all the babies born in Sheridan County from 1889 to the present. This was gathered from information published in Sheridan newspapers. It took me six years to complete the file. We also had files on all the obituaries from 1889 on, so the birth file was my contribution to the Wyoming Room.
Then it was time to move again. We decided to move back to California where our son and daughter were living. After we settled in again, I decided to volunteer at our church in Sun City and was there for five years. Then our son got a promotion which involved moving to Georgia and wanted us to move with them. Once we got settled, I started volunteering at our church library in Georgia for one year, and just got finished putting 4,000 books onto the computer, when we decided to move to Colorado where our other son was living. When I went to our new church I asked the priest if they had a church library and he said they did , but they needed someone to reorganize it, so my husband and I and one other volunteer organized the church library. Now I am hoping to find someone to train so I can finally retire. I just gave a talk about the library and I got two interested people, so maybe this time, I can really retire. Amen!