"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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.