Friday, August 10, 2012

Los Angeles Library Tour - Pomona Public Library

The plaque at the entrance reads:
Built by the people of Pomona for the preservation and advancement of the intellectual, cultural, and social life of the community.
There has been much talk in the past several months about the possible closing of the Pomona Public Library. Pomona has been on my short list to visit for awhile and we were finally able to make it out there. With our trusty copy of Cruising the Pomona Valley by Charles Phoenix, we headed towards Pomona with the idea of making a day of it, maybe topped off with a period appropriate meal at Vince's or Grinder Haven.

I can't emphasize too strongly that it was well worth the trip. And we never made it further than the library. What's not to love? The Welton Becket designed building, the amazingly nice staff, the Laura Ingalls Wilder room, the quality book collection, the Pomona statue, the indoor patios, and most of all the lovingly prepared history of the library that currently lives downstairs. I was like a kid in a candy store, snapping away with my camera, perusing their stacks, and marveling at their reference and genealogy sections.

We had already steeled ourselves to the fact that it might be a tad foolhardy to get a library card at a library that was about an hour away from our house. That self-imposed rule quickly went out the window after browsing the aisles. The Pomona Public Library has books I've never seen on the shelves at other libraries. Dozens of books in my 'favorite' sections were new to me, I HAD to check them out. It took us years to finally visit, but we'll be coming back frequently.

If you've made it this far I'm sure your eyes may be glazing over so I'll hit the highlights-

Pomona Library is the third oldest system in all of Los Angeles County (only Los Angeles Public Library and Pasadena Public Library are older). It began life as a subscription library (at $3 per year) in 1887.
In December 1901, the Pomona Library Board petitioned Andrew Carnegie for funds to build a public library. According to a February 18, 1902 Los Angeles Times article, the letter read in part: 'The population is largely composed of people of the middle class, highly appreciative of educational and literary advantages, but not able to gratify their tastes and inclinations except as they are furnished the opportunity through public libraries." Carnegie agreed to pony up $15,000 if the City Council agreed to provide a site and support the library 'at a cost of no less than $1500 a year'. Sadly the resulting Carnegie Library was demolished in 1966.
The statue of Pomona, goddess of fruit and trees, was given to the Pomona Library for safe-keeping in 1889. Its featured on the Pomona city seal and the city flag! [The sign at her feet noted that it was a gift to the city by Rev. C.F. Loop. According to Los Angeles Times articles from 1889, it was shipped from Italy to New York, and finally on to Pomona. It was given to the city by Loop during the 1889 July 4th celebration. According to his March 1900 obituary in the Times, Loop was a successful horticulturalist and an expert on olives.] The library website has photos of the statue over the years. I especially love the one of the guy cleaning her with a dustbuster.

When the library re-opens on September 4, 2012 after a two-week shuffle to close off the bottom floor, I hope the exhibit of the library's history makes it upstairs. It deserves to be a highlight.

The much loved Laura Ingalls Wilder Room (her books are still in the top five best sellers on Amazon for children's American historical fiction) has an amazing wall sized wooden map based on Wilder's books. Clara Webber, Pomona's children's librarian from 1948-1970, began a correspondence with Laura Ingalls Wilder, information about the collection can be found here on Pomona's website.
Welton Becket & Associates (in this case Randall Tozier) designed the 57,000 sq ft building, which was officially dedicated on September 13, 1965. An interesting letter regarding their collaboration can be found here. Becket's better known buildings include: Capitol Records, Cinerama Dome, (original) Pan Pacific Auditorium, Beverly Hilton Hotel, and the Los Angeles Music Center.
I've come across former city librarian Raymond Holt's name over and over during my research. He seems to be a real mover and shaker, I'll have to delve deeper into his career.

While we were there we saw the Library Director Bruce Guter leading a tour of people through the building. I saw David Allen's post about 35 reasons to rescue Pomona's library on the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin website the next day. Mr. Allen, thank you for spreading the word, the library is definitely worth rescuing!

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