Laguna Beach Library Celebrates its 50th Anniversary

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It may have been a grey and rainy day last Saturday, but the Laguna Beach Library’s 50th-anniversary celebration made the dreary weather an afterthought. 

Six-year-old Meissa Herring meets with Laguna Beach Fairy Garden’s Ellis Adams during Laguna Beach Library’s 50th-anniversary celebration. Photo/Clara Beard

Around 450 people left their umbrellas at the library door to attend the Jan. 14 event, including Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf, Councilmembers George Weiss, Alex Rounaghi and Mark Orgill, LBPD Chief Jeff Calvert, several police officers and K-9 Cooper.

The day’s events included cookies and cake with cops, a live guitar performance, live tidepool animals, face painting, a fairy scavenger hunt, which more than 100 kids completed, a puzzle with the painting of the library and garden by local artist Liz McGhee and displays of historical photos and articles related to the opening of the library in the Fred Briggs building 50 years ago. The Friends of the Library beautifully decorated the garden in front of the bookshop for a special book sale.

Bella Matteson, 6, checks out the live tidepool tank during the library’s 50th anniversary celebration last Saturday. Photo/Clara Beard

Attendees Sarah Pavlik and 6-year-old daughter Bella Matteson said the library was an essential part of their lives.

“I had just moved to Laguna and living with another single mom, and on the weekends, you want to get out,” Pavlik said while her daughter visited the live tidepool tank. “But Bella was still too little to do sports or anything like that. So we would come here to the library, and they always would have like some local activity or different books to check out. It is always so nice to have a little retreat that doesn’t require planning. Now we live just across the street, so it is perfect.”

Joan Evans-Fay has her face painted by Tracy Kiggen of Artovator. Photo/Clara Beard

Visiting with her mother, 6-year-old Meissa Herring said the library was one of her favorite places.

“In her Mother’s Day card, Meissa wrote that the library was one of her favorite places to go,” Meissa’s mother, Jayne Herring added. “Every Saturday morning, we come to the Laguna Beach Library, walk around the fairy garden and pick out some new books. We love coming here. The librarians are so sweet and helpful. It’s our favorite place in Laguna.”

The Laguna Beach Library’s 50th anniversary included live music. Photo/Clara Beard

A 50-year History

The current Laguna Beach Library was designed by renowned local architect Fred Briggs and was dedicated on Jan. 12, 1973.  

It’s the third library building at the same location. However, the footprints of the three were significantly different. The first library in Laguna Beach was built in the 1920s, and the second was dedicated in 1954. In the early 1970s, it became evident that the 2,200-square-foot library building was too small, and various ideas were explored in discussions between the County of Orange, the City of Laguna Beach, and the citizens. The library building was vacated and made available for moving, but its relocation was not feasible economically. A plan was devised for a new 10,000-square-foot building to use the previous site and to cobble together additional adjacent lots.  

In 1987, the County added the bookshop operated by the Friends of the Library.

(Left to right) Laguna Beach Police Department’s Nicole Rice, Trisha Ngo and Steven McDowell. Photo/Clara Beard

Two times in the history of the building, renovations were possible after Laguna Beach residents left money to the library after their passing. The first was from America C. Griffith in 1979, which allowed an enclosed patio to create the current picture book room. The second was from Elsie Morris in 1989, whose bequest was added to larger County funds to undertake a more general renovation, which included the creation of the adult fiction room, the local history room, and the reconfiguration of office space. 

In 2018, the collection of local newspapers on microfilm was digitized to increase access significantly. This collection is used by local researchers, as well as those from far afield. 

“While the library’s mission has remained constant over the last 50 years, OC Public Libraries has adapted to respond to rapidly changing community needs, such as providing access to highspeed internet, state of the art technology, and a diverse collection that supports personal, professional, and academic enrichment,” Laguna Beach Library Branch Manager Hickam said. “Looking forward, the Laguna Beach Library will continue to offer resources, services, and programs to empower and enrich the local community. The OC Public Libraries’ theme for the year is sustainability.”

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