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Verdugo Views: Effort to build a new, larger library in Glendale took time, dedication

In the late 1960s, a group of determined women revved up their campaign to help build a new library for this city.

The old one, the 1914 Carnegie on Harvard, was worn out, too crowded and lacked adequate shelving for books, they said.

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When appeals to the City Council didn’t produce results, the women, all members of the Tuesday Afternoon Club, took action.

Myrtle Andersen, project chair, saved newspaper clippings, letters and other pertinent items from the endeavor in a binder that her son, Dave, inherited.

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He passed the binder on to me when he and his wife relocated to Northern California a couple of years ago. All of the following information comes from that binder.

The first thing Andersen and her committee did was to invite the Glendale News-Press to tour the old library.

Staff photographers Salvador J. Felix and Louis Deisbeck documented the aging library’s lack of storage and its safety issues.

Writer Dick Clever interviewed chief librarian Jack Ramsey, and writer Betty Preston also weighed in.

The stories, published in late August 1967, roused the public — and the City Council.

Shortly thereafter, Mayor Kenneth R. Stephens proposed a bond issue.

“We have discussed the need for a main library for many years. The time is ripe now to take this project out of the talking stage and implement a plan of procedure,” he said, according to the Los Angeles Times, San Gabriel Valley section, Oct. 27, 1967.

A few months later, on Jan. 30, 1968, a News-Press headline trumpeted: “Wanted: Glendale Site for Library.’’

Written by staff writer Martha Thayer, the lead paragraph read: “Wanted: A block of land near the Glendale Civic Center for future construction of a multi-storied library and parking complex. Contact the Library Site committee.”

The following August, Ramsey suggested that the new structure should be large, possibly 85,000 square feet instead of the proposed 20,000, with off-street parking for at least 300 cars.

Much time was spent exploring the possibility of a new building to house both a library and the board of education offices. That proposal was eventually set aside.

Many sites were considered, including Central Park on Harvard. This had been the site of the 1909 high school that was torn down after the 1933 earthquake.

However, some residents objected to that location because it would take away a large portion of the park area.

In October 1968, a News-Press headline proclaimed that a site for a new central library had been selected on East Broadway between Jackson and Isabel, near the Civic Center.

The architectural firm Welton Becket and Associates was selected in late November. Meanwhile, city manager C.E. Perkins prepared for a bond vote.

On Jan. 1, 1969, the News-Press headlined the news that a $4.3-million library bond issue would be on the ballot in April.

The plans called for a three-level structure “accentuated by an acre-sized main floor and a soaring two-story high, hollowed central area” as conceived by Welton Becket and Associates.

The “85,000-square-foot library with room to house more than 400,000 volumes,” would front on Broadway, according to the News-Press, Jan. 23, 1969.

In March, high school students and college students canvassed the city to spread the word about Proposition C, the library bond, on the April 1 ballot.

But the April 1969 bond issue failed.

Learn what happened next and why the library was built in Central Park and not on Broadway in a future column.

To the Readers:

Email from Chris Warheit, Sept. 12: “Your column on Josephine Dillon [Verdugo Views Sept. 8, 2018] was interesting. So many links to Glendale. Have you done a column about Nell Shipman? She lived in the Doctors House for three years, circa 1918, and was one of the first women to write screen plays, direct, act and do stunts in her own adventure films in the 20s.’’

“Nell Shipman was born in British Columbia, moved to Seattle, and then to Hollywood. The Seattle Women in Film have named an annual award after Nell. The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, Toronto, awards “Nellies” in honor of Nell Shipman.”

This from an Aug. 27 email from Tom Gilfoy, who provided information regarding Henry Mingay [Verdugo Views Aug. 25, 2018]. “While walking in Descanso Gardens this morning a friend from Glendale handed me a copy of Saturday’s News-Press that included your article about Mingay. Just finished reading it and wanted you to know I thought you did a terrific job.’’

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