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Main Street Branch Library: Part 1 -- History of the Huntington Beach Public Library

Part One -- The History of the Huntington Beach Public Library

The first library in Huntington Beach was opened by the Women's Club on May 22, 1909 as a "library and reading room", and was located on the corner of Walnut and Main Streets.  The library's first home was a formerly roofless old office building purchased by Board of Trade member A.L. Reed for $50.  After the library was turned over to the city, its formal opening was July 27, 1909.  The gala event, which  featured music and talks by members of the Board of Trade, was attended by Mayor Ed Manning, and the first official librarian was a young lady from Long Beach named Edith Brown.  Ms. Brown's salary was $25 per month.  In January of 1911, the building was moved to the corner of Walnut and Third Streets, and soon after local native Bertha Proctor was appointed librarian. This is an interior shot of the first Huntington Beach library in its "second" location.  In addition to book donations by city members and sharing books owned by the local high school and the State Traveling Library,  amenities included a stove and festive, sometimes patriotic decorations!    

The population served by the library in 1913 was between 3500 and 4000 people, not including the influx of visitors to the city during the summer.  At the request of librarian Bertha Proctor, four lots of land were purchased on the corner of Walnut and Eighth Streets.  After sending a letter requesting a grant from the Carnegie Corporation, the City received a gift of $10,000 towards the erection of a new library building on this newly acquired property.  The new building was opened on May 7, 1914.  It was made of red brick, trimmed with light gray bricks, a mission tile roof, with battleship linoleum on the floors inside.   It had a basement with a lecture room and furnace, and upstairs housed the adult reading room and children's department.  Despite all of these amenities, inspection of the original floor plan did not reveal a "gentleman's toilet" , although it did have such facilities for children and ladies.  Ms. Proctor remained librarian until 1934, a year after the Carnegie Library suffered major earthquake damage on March 10, 1933.  Over the next seventeen years, the library was run by Margaret Kemp, followed by Floyd Jorgensen, and in 1951, the building was closed when the library outgrew the facility.  At the time, it had 42,000 volumes.


Before the closure of the Carnegie Library, a preliminary set of plans to build a new library was submitted to the Library Board by Architects McClelland, McDonald, and Markwith of Los Angeles.  However, the start of the second world war delayed construction until 1949.      Finally, opening day for the next Huntington Beach Public Library was on September 30, 1951,  The building, located on the corner of Main and Pecan Streets, was dedicated by Mayor Vernon Langenbeck, and was built at a cost of $140,000.  Lylyan Mossinger, who took over when librarian Floyd Jorgensen left for the military during the war, continued on as the librarian at the new library, and retired in 1959.  Over the years, the 8000 square foot building has seen its share of both functional and physical changes   For example, when the library first opened, the Children's Library was located in the rear wing found at the end of the hall.  However, over the years, this room was used as both an art gallery and an outreach and resource center for the homeless.  It was most recently re-converted into  the "Blue Room", and is now used for storytime, book clubs and other community activities as needed. The library also features an Auditorium and Lecture Room that, up until a few years ago, was used as the offices for a local architect.  A major renovation to the one of the "storage" areas of the building resulted in an ADA Bathroom and a Friends Book Sale workroom.  The building now located at 525 Main Street became known as the Main Street Branch when the new Central Library was opened in 1975.  Walter Johnson was the last librarian to work at this location.

The new Huntington Beach Library started its existence in 1967 when the Librarian Walter Johnson brought up the need for a new library to serve the growing community.  The library board selected a site on Talbert Avenue.  The site was selected because of its centralized location, both geographically and by population, and because of the natural beauty surrounding it.   A 10-acre  plot of land was purchased for the site, including part of Talbert Lake, and the ground breaking ceremony took place on October 28, 1972.  The firm of Richard & Dion Neutra was asked to design the library, and construction on the 73,000-square-foot Central Library was completed on February 14, 1975 at a cost of $2.7 million, plus $300,000 for furnishings. The dedication ceremony was held April 5, 1975.  Mr. Johnson resigned in 1985, and was replaced by Ron Hayden.  By the early 1990s,  plans were underway to expand its services. The city hired the architectural firm of Anthony & Langford to design what became a 43,000-square-foot expansion., including the enclosure of an outdoor spiral ramp and fountain area.   The new wing, which opened in 1994, included a new Children’s area with its own story time theater, and.a lower level featuring seven new meeting rooms and a beautiful 319-seat theater. In 2008, Mr. Hayden retired as librarian and was succeeded as library director by Stephanie Beverage.  After Ms. Beverage retired in 2020, and the Library joined forces with the Community Services department, Jessica Framson took over as the Library and Cultural Services Manager in 2021.

Huntington Beach Public Library
7111 Talbert Ave. Huntington Beach, CA 92648
Phone 714-842-4481