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Library needs a little sprucing up

August 27, 2004

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

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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

afforded.

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.

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