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Friends Of The Library: The then and now of Costa Mesa’s libraries

A pair of great holiday programs is scheduled at our Costa Mesa libraries in the next two weeks, in addition to the regular children’s programming.

At the Mesa Verde Library branch, Preschool and Pajama Storytimes are scheduled from 11 to 11:30 a.m. and from 3 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Dec. 13, and from 7 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Dec. 14.

Craig Newton will be a special guest and bring his Holiday Program of Song and Music at the Dec. 14 storytime.

Also at Mesa Verde, families with children aged 5 and younger can enjoy OC Read Family Story Time from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday. Then, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Dec. 15, holiday craft tables will be set up for school-age children who wish to participate.


The Mesa Verde Library is at 2969 Mesa Verde Drive East, Costa Mesa. For more information, call (714) 546-5274.

Meanwhile, at 11 a.m. Monday at the Costa Mesa Donald Dungan Library, Ken Frawley’s Christmas and Hanukkah-Themed Show will celebrate the holidays with stories, songs and lots of energy. The other children’s storytime for the month will be at 11 a.m. Dec. 12.

For adult readers, the Costa Mesa Book Club will be discussing Ted Gup’s “A Secret Gift” at 6:30 p.m. on Monday.

Later in the month, at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 27, the Costa Mesa Mystery Book Club will read a book from their Small Town Mystery Series, “A Fatal Grace” by Louise Penny. Those who wish can check out these books at the library’s Loan Desk.


The Costa Mesa Donald Dungan Library is at 1855 Park Ave. For more information, call (949) 646-8845.


Essay Contest Display

As part of the 2011 Essay Contest recently sponsored by the Costa Mesa Library Foundation, Orange Coast College architectural students created posters inspired by the books selected as favorites among fifth- through eighth-grade students. Those posters are currently on display at the Costa Mesa Donald Dungan Library.


More Library History

In recounting the history of our community’s libraries, I left off with the retirement of librarian Sarah Conant, who had served from 1924 to the end of 1948.

This was a period of rapid growth in Costa Mesa.


World War II was over, and many of those men who had served in the area’s military bases decided to return here with their families.

In 1940, the population was 4,692. By 1950, it was 11,844 and in 1953, 16,185.

In March 1949, Elizabeth Bliss was hired as Costa Mesa’s librarian. Mrs. Bliss became engrossed in her job, spending as much as 12 to 14 hours a day at her job, even while library hours had again been reduced to 1:30 to 6:00 p.m. on weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

She loved working with children and introduced programs for children’s participation. One of these was a project in which the children designed and constructed puppets and sets, and put on a complete puppet show for the community.

In December 1951, after 26 years in a corrugated metal building, the library moved into a new stucco building at 526 Center St. I am not sure how large the old building was, but the new one was said to be larger — at 1,500 square feet, it had separate alcoves for the children’s and reference sections.

The collection had grown to more than 10,000 volumes. Patronage had increased and involved about one out of every six Costa Mesans.

The library’s annual report noted, “At last the library had become respectable and moved out of the alley!”

In the spring of 1952, Mrs. Bliss made the headlines in Orange County by disappearing after an Easter week outing.


A statewide search was instigated. Six months later, the Bliss family was discovered living in Reno. No reason was publicly given for their abrupt departure.

Nell Grant, from San Gabriel, was appointed the new head librarian.

MARY ELLEN GODDARD produced this column on behalf of the Friends of Costa Mesa Libraries, the Costa Mesa Library Foundation and the three Costa Mesa Libraries in the Orange County Public Libraries.