Library needs a little sprucing up

Steve Kawaratani

"Oh for a book and a shady nook ... "

-- John Wilson

"When I step into this library, I cannot understand why I ever

step out of it."

-- Marie de Sevigne

My first library card was the most treasured possession of my

sixth year. It was worth more than my Duke Snider baseball card or my

lost, front tooth, which I was saving for the tooth fairy. In

retrospect, it was more important than even the driver's license that

I would earn ten years later.

The trip to the Laguna Beach Library, during my second-grade

school year, was the highlight of my week. There were so many books

to borrow and read each visit -- I could travel to far away places

and there were famous people to meet. My lifelong love of reading can

be directly traced to the discoveries that first library card


The exact year Laguna's library was founded is shrouded in "myth

and fact," said present branch manager, Marianna Hof. However, while

gleaning through library archives, two notable headlines from Laguna

Life's Oct. 28, 1921 issue, caught my attention. The first discussed

the planning for a new sewer system in town (some things never

change), and the second bemoaned the lack of a library. The editor

added, "Anyone who subscribes to the paper will be entitled to borrow

books from the new library, and have the additional pleasure of being

able to disapprove with our review if so minded."

The "little wooden library" began with 150 volumes, 100 being

donated by Laguna residents, on First Street (now Glenneyre) near

Forest Avenue. Located on city property, it shared space with the

Chamber of Commerce. In 1954, the library moved to its present site

in a then spacious 2200 square foot building.

By the late 1960s, library demand had outstripped facility size.

The library has always been about Lagunans, and William Wilcoxen,

Laguna historian, noted, "Long before Jim Dilley started the

Greenbelt, he had an active interest in town planning. Jim wanted all

cars out of the Downtown area, (which hasn't quite happened yet), and

he also wanted a new library, which is something that did happen."

Hof recalls that the new library had to overcome many hurdles, the

Chamber of Commerce had to deed its property to the County of Orange,

with the understanding that the building would include a permanent

home for the chamber. The owner of an adjacent property, Jim Schmitz,

agreed to sell his property at cost to the county. Finally, the city

had to abandon a section of Park Avenue as the final piece for the

library site.

On Friday, Jan. 12, 1973, Rev. Robert Cornelison recited the

invocation and benediction of the opening for the Laguna Beach

Library (18 years later, Father Bob would marry Catharine and

myself). In attendance were Supervisor Ron Caspers, Mayor Charlie

Boyd, architect, Fred Briggs and of course, 100s of Lagunans.

The current landscape dates back to the '70s, and is dominated by

specimen rusty leaf figs, eucalyptus and black pine. The remainder of

the landscape has deteriorated over the years from undistinguished to

plain unattractive. The library and the city deserve and should

expect a beautiful landscape on this site.

A new landscape scheme is currently being initiated by the Friends

of the Library, the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, the city of

Laguna Beach and myself. City Manager Ken Frank, has proposed that

the city will participate with a portion of the re-landscaping.

However, additional funds are necessary. Please contact Martha

Lydick, president of Friends of the Library at (949) 497-7115, and

Verlaine Crawford, director of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce

at (949) 494-1018, to inquire how you, faithful reader, can help. See

you next time.

* STEVE KAWARATANI is the owner of Landscapes by Laguna Nursery,

1278 Glenneyre, No. 49, in Laguna Beach. He is married to local

artist, Catharine Cooper, and has two cats. He can be reached at

(949) 497 2438 or e-mail to

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