All Booked Up : Chapter 1: Guests Fill the Opening Night Party of the Newport Beach Central Library

Libraries are supposed to be quiet places, but nobody complained when 650 party-goers noisily celebrated the opening of the Newport Beach Central Library.

Guests got their first look inside the mammoth 54,000-square-foot library Saturday when the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation held a black-tie gala opening at the contemporary stone and stucco building overlooking the Pacific. The $200-per-person event netted about $300,000 to support programs and services at the library.

Checking It Out

Dressed in their best evening wear, guests took a champagne tour of the library, some wandering through stacks of books, searching for their names on the large donor wall and testing the state-of-the-art equipment. Women in drop-dead slip dresses sat down at computers and gingerly pecked at the keys.

For many, the opening of the library was the culmination of a longtime dream.

"A remarkable number of people use the library. They really love it," said Barbara Glabman, event chairwoman. "Libraries add to the life's blood of a community."

Library trustee Lucille Kuehn, who was a Newport Beach City Council member 20 years ago when she launched the project, was misty-eyed at the sight of the library:

"When I saw them putting the books on the shelves I broke into uncontrollable sobs," she said. "I knew then it was really true."

James Pirdy, architect of the modern building, pointed out its special features, including an exposed steel frame, marbleized plaster walls and the children's story-time room with its dome-shaped ceiling inset with lights to simulate the constellations.

"To me it looks 30 years ahead of its time," said T. Jefferson Parker, one of nine writers on hand, including Irwin Gellman, Raymond Obstfeld, Jack Smith and Theodore Taylor.

Bookworms and Dreamers

"Impossible Dream"--with the "im" crossed out in red--was the gala theme, which Bugs Bunny creator and guest Chuck Jones illustrated by drawing Bugs reading a book and dreaming of the new library. A poster of the illustration was given to each guest.

A tent that looked as if it could cover a football field was set up outside the library to accommodate the crowd for dinner. There guests dined on petite filets of beef and grilled shrimp and chicken prepared by the Four Seasons hotel in Newport Beach. On each table were stacks of books and pots of fresh herbs and flowers.

Emcee Peter Ueberroth, author, former baseball commissioner and president and CEO of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee in 1984, welcomed guests with a quip about the tent:

"The real reason the tent is this shape is Brazil and Italy are going to play World Cup here tomorrow afternoon," he said.

A Child's Sanctuary

Ueberroth introduced a panel of authors to talk about their love of libraries. The panel included: Parker, author of "Laguna Heat"; Nancy Taylor Rosenberg, author of "Mitigating Circumstances"; Charles Champlin, Los Angeles Times arts editor emeritus, and biographer Peter Collier.

"With books, I didn't need friends. (As a child) I used to sleep on the playground with my coat over my head," Rosenberg said.

For Collier, who has written about the Rockefellers and Roosevelts, the library was a "sanctuary" he discovered at age 9 in 1950 when his family was "coming apart."

"The library was an emotional demilitarization zone where I could get away from feuding parents," he said.

The $8.2-million Newport Beach library was funded by a public-private partnership between the City of Newport Beach and the nonprofit library foundation, which raised nearly $2 million from private donations. John and Elizabeth Stahr, who headed the original capital campaign, received a crystal star as appreciation for their efforts. The Irvine Co. donated the four-acre site at 1000 Avocado Ave.

Other faces in the crowd were: David Carmichael, foundation president, and his wife, Beverly; LaDonna Kienitz, city librarian; Robert Wynn, Frank and Marilyn Lynch, Richard and Lynette Berg, Milton and Peggy Shedd, George and Phyllis Drayton, Jack and Jerri Dwan, Tom Johnson, Shari Esayian, Robert and Jean Hilchey, Don and Dorothy Koll, Jack and Belle Lindquist, Kevin Murphy, Donald and Lynn Osen, William and Barbara Roberts, Theodore and Ginny Robins and Catherine Thyen.

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