Stacking the Books: A Look at 5 of Our Favorite Long Beach Libraries • Long Beach Post

Graphics by Baaktash Sorkhabi.


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The Bay Shore Library was initially established in 1929 at 194 Corona Avenue before moving to its current home at 195 Bay Shore Avenue. As part of the Selover Building, Belmont Shore’s oldest building and has been home to everything from the Bay Shore Inn to the Triangle Nightclub, Bay Shore was an essential cog in the civic and social function of the early Shore. Come 1958, construction began on people now associate as the Bay Shore Library: the sleek, mid-century modern building—a testament to the likes of Cliff May and Edward Killingsworth—opened in 1959.

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Probably the most charming of any city library, the Alamitos Neighborhood Library was originally a wooden structure that formed Long Beach’s oldest library: the Alamitos Library Association, formed in 1895 and given a building in 1897 through the kindness of Jotham Bixby, Sr. That structure was then given to the city via a $1 deed in 1910. It’s current look—the not-so-subtle Spanish architecture, iron-decorated windows, and painted ceiling beams—was designed and built in 1929, largely replacing the former structure. Come 1933, an earthquake destroyed much of the facade—but not to the fastidious work of citizens, who immediately worked to fix the building to the beautiful standard it stands at today.

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We’ll be frank: the outrage from part of the community to name this library after the former First Lady Michelle Obama was somewhat baffling. “She never lived here!” the pundits decried. Should we then strip the name of Harvey Milk from the park dedicated to him in DTLB? Should we avoid recognizing figures from the outside the city that influence our youth within the walls of our city? Nah. The power of recognition—especially amongst black youth and their admiration for Mrs. Obama—should never be underestimated.

This incredible addition to North Long Beach has seen an enormous amount of success. Following its opening and Vice Mayor Rex Richardson’s reading challenge, readership at the library has surged 175% since it was renovated.

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You have only a short time to see this late modern masterpiece before it is fully demolished as the new Civic Center begins to slowly but surely come to life.

When legendary architects Don Gibbs and Edward Killingsworth approached their design to what is our current City Hall, they drew from many influences—including Killingsworth’s love of clean lines and glass—but drew most from the style that was dominating the times: late modernism, or the beginning of brutalism. Of course, the Main Branch has almost always been attached to City Hall: the first in 1896 was a room adjoining the City Council office before moving to City Hall three years later near the then Pacific Park, or what is now Lincoln Park. 1909 welcomes the Carnegie library, directly near the current Downtown Main Branch.

When it began construction in 1973, Gibbs was particularly ambitious, wanting to tackle mass—the library’s volume was becoming extremely large—and innovation—its rooftop garden was intended to have people explore and experience a new form of architectural living. Of course, as is infamously known, no drainage system was created for the rooftop, leading to years of troubles, cracks, floods, and destruction in the current library.

See it before it is fully destroyed to make way for the new library.

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CSULB’s architecture is a testament to Long Beach’s father of architecture, Edward Killingsworth, whose post-and-beam style mixed with brick has become the iconic aesthetic of the campus since it opened in 1949. CSULB—what was then called the Los Angeles-Orange County State College—had 169 students attend its first year opening, sitting in classes in a converted apartment complex at 5381 Anaheim Road. Its first library was a mere 25’ x 35’ wooden structure that sat roughly 48 students with about 5,500 volumes and 250 subscriptions.

The CSULB libraries morphed: in 1957, a new, 74,000 sq. ft., three-story structure broke ground. Come 1966, it grew by an additional 30,000 sq. ft. and by 1960, had seen the collection pass the 100,000 volume mark. The current library opened in 1972 and was the largest library facility in the entire CSU system and remains Long Beach’s biggest as well. Seating nearly 4,000 students, the six-story structure received a massive remodel in 2006-07 and now sits at 1M volume with access to an additional 7M volumes.

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