Laguna Beach Library, which marked a major milestone this year, goes far beyond books in connecting with the community.
By Tanya A. Yacina
Since 1921, the Laguna Beach Library has been an institution empowering and enriching the community. Its current location, at 363 Glenneyre St., was constructed by local architect Fred Briggs and officially dedicated in 1973. Today, the library is home to more than 50,000 books, as well as magazines, DVDs, board games, Chromebooks, Wi-Fi and even hot spots that can be checked out for internet access at home. Earlier this year, the library officially celebrated its 50th anniversary in this location.
“A library is a powerful tool for the promotion of learning,” says Karyn Philippsen, president of the Friends of the Laguna Beach Library. “While it’s true that in today’s world, information is accessible at the touch of a button, this comes with a few drawbacks as that information can be inaccurate—and even accurate information can become lost in the sea of dubious search results. … It will always be important to have a place for the community where answers are not given at the speed of a single search result.”
A Library for All
Part of the Orange County Public Libraries system since it opened, the Laguna Beach branch serves all ages and connects patrons with resources to meet their needs, whether that’s for research, reading for pleasure or borrowing a DVD to watch a favorite movie. Others come to the library to take part in events, to seek out a quiet place to study or simply find some solitude.
“We provide informational and technological assistance to support their pursuits of lifelong learning, health and wellness, job seeking and career development, all free of charge,” says Laguna Beach Library Branch Manager Nadya Hickam. “The library continues to offer weekly story times for preschool children. We also offer Baby Lapsit Story Time followed by music activities. The library provides enrichment programs such as math club, art and music classes, and a 3D printer with frequent demonstrations.”
Hickam says this year, the library has scheduled monthly gardening programs through the University of California Master Gardener Program, and also offers an English as a second language conversational program, which meets twice a week. A Lego club also convenes at the library and a birthday party complete with cupcakes was even held there for the city’s newest police dog, Cooper. Meanwhile a poetry contest is accepting submissions through April 30 with the winning entries to be read June 3. Patrons can learn about these and other programs by visiting ocpl.org.
The Laguna Beach Library also houses a local history collection, which includes past Laguna Beach school yearbooks, newspapers, programs and other archives. Books on California art, old phone directories, digitized newspapers and oral histories often used by architectural historians can also be found in the library’s collection.
“The Laguna Beach Library has an impressive local history collection that contains several primary sources, such as letters, photographs and genealogies, that all comprise the real history of Laguna Beach,” Philippsen says. “It is an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to research our town’s past. The librarian assistant, Nelda Stone, maintains impeccable records and is a wealth of knowledge should a patron need guidance.”
A Friend Indeed
In the early 1970s, the Friends of the Laguna Beach Library was established to protect the legacy of literacy and create a funding arm beyond the scope of what the county budget provided to support programs and equipment for all ages within the library. According to Philippsen, the Friends of the Laguna Beach Library organization raises funds to help enhance the programming and promote educational, interactive programming for all ages, ranging from providing a puppet show to cookies and treats, crayons and puzzles, as well as the use of a 3D printer.
The Friends of the Laguna Beach Library board comprises “15 committed residents that range from 22 to 94 years of age with expertise in many professions, [including] teachers, educators, retired business leaders and owners, city government executives, catering [company] and restaurant owners, poets, artists, lawyers, accountants and parents,” Philippsen says. “The key to the success of our library is the collaboration and cooperation we all have for each other, the staff, the board and all the volunteers.”
In 1987, the Friends opened the library’s bookshop. The Friends of the Laguna Beach Library provides an important community service by accepting and making use of donated books while also raising funds to support library programs through the sale of those books; they’re also less expensive for community members to purchase than new ones.
“The Friends Book Shop is an important part of the library support. People donate books, CDs, books on tape, puzzles, magazines and DVDs, which we resell at a great price. Everything in the shop is donated, including furniture and shelving. It is solely run by volunteers,” Philippsen says. “This allows us to support the local art students as they purchase books for school projects. … Literacy is especially important to us as well. We sell children’s books for very little money, [and] these funds pay for any expenses the library has.”
The Friends also sponsor the Butterfly and Fairy Garden, which Philippsen describes as a “magical haven” nestled on the southeast side of the library with meticulously curated gardens, as well as fairy houses and scenes for patrons to enjoy. The garden has mature shrubs and trees as well as drought-tolerant plants that attract pollinators, and the majority of the visitors are children accompanied by their parents, grandparents or caregivers.
“The whimsy and the beauty of the garden lends itself to butterflies and visitors of all ages. The local community congregates in and around the garden from sunrise to sunset,” Philippsen explains. “Everyone delights in discovering the new monthly theme and decor in the garden.”
Hickam says the community as a whole can continue to support the library as it has been doing over the years simply by visiting the local branch, checking out materials, attending programs, donating books to the bookstore and spreading the word about the value the library brings to the community.
“We were grateful for the support of the community in favor of preserving library services in Laguna Beach,” Hickam says of the recent controversial discussion about potentially moving the library location. “It is under the city purview to investigate and decide what they wish to do with the building going forward.”
Last April, the City Council approved a $4.29 million purchase of the land under the library building and promised the library would remain in its current location for now. The council also directed staff to negotiate with the county for a 25-year lease of the building, which is now in place, with the purchase money earmarked for reinvesting back into the library.
“The local library is where anyone can come, receive guidance from the librarians and set out on a personal journey of research and discovery,” Philippsen explains. “A passion for learning is the kind of thing that arises from serious engagement with books, and it is this passion that cultivates a discerning and passionate community.”
Get involved by attending one of these community events at the Laguna Beach Library.
May 10: A reading group will discuss the novel “Horse” by Geraldine Brooks from 5:30-6:30 p.m.; copies are available at the library service desk or may be downloaded as an e-book or e-audiobook.
May 18: Read aloud to specially trained dogs in a calm environment from 3:30-4:30 p.m.; this event occurs on the third Thursday of each month.
June 3: Reading of winning entries from the 25th Annual John Gardiner Community Poetry Contest at 11 a.m.
June 12: Summer Reading Program Kick-Off and Ice Cream Social begins at 3:30 p.m. At 4:30 p.m., The Ben Band, a family-friendly musical act, will entertain the audience with quirky, original songs.