Yorba Linda History

Historic Documents

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close this bookYorba Linda - Its History
View the documentDedication
View the documentAcknowledgments
View the documentPreface
View the documentChapter 1 - The Indians
View the documentChapter 2 - The Hacienda Era
View the documentChapter 3 - Carlton
View the documentChapter 4 - The Pioneers
View the documentChapter 5 - The Business District "Down Town”
View the documentChapter 6 - Recreation and Celebrations
View the documentChapter 7 - Water
View the documentChapter 8 - The School Story
View the documentChapter 9 - The Library
View the documentChapter 10 - The Churches
View the documentChapter 11 - Organizations
View the documentChapter 12 - Incorporation
View the documentChapter 13 - Richard M. Nixon
View the documentChapter 14 - Famous Citizens
View the documentChapter 15 - A Forward Look
View the documentChapter 16 - Yorba Linda - What Now?

Chapter 9 - The Library

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The year 1913 saw the inception of one of Yorba Linda's most important cultural institutions — our library. In the new school house on School Street, was a still vacant, small office off the entrance hall. In the community was a bright young woman by the name of Gertrude Welch, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. T. B. Welch, prominent Yorba Linda people. Gertrude had been an assistant librarian in New York and had developed a great love for books. She felt that with the nearest public library being in Fullerton, eight miles distant and nothing speedier in the way of transportation than the traditional horse and buggy, it would be well to have a library in Yorba Linda.

Miss Welch interviewed a number of local citizens about her wish and found it to be a very popular idea. Meetings were held. Representatives were chosen from three organizations, the Woman's Federation, The Chamber of Commerce and the Parent-Teacher Association. These people organized as a Board of Trustees and so were ready to make plans and transact business. Permission to use the office space in the school house mentioned above was granted by the school trustees.

The first meeting of the new Board of Trustees of Yorba Linda Library was held on April 28, 1913. Present were Mr. Graves (pastor of the Friends Church), Mr. Plummer Stewart, representing the Chamber of Commerce, Mrs. Gage, representing [75] the Woman's Federation and Mrs. Compton, acting for the Parent-Teacher Association. Miss Welch attended the meeting and offered her services as librarian for a term of six months without salary, which offer was gratefully accepted by the board. Volunteer labor was used to build shelves in the office-library room and the accumulation of books began.

Miss Welch took sixty-three volumes from her personal book shelf and placed them on the shelves of the miniature library. Her sister, Mrs. Frederick Norlock, lived in New York City, and, when appealed to, sent twenty-five books monthly to the new venture. The members of the Federated Women donated books from their personal collections and held "Teas" to raise money which was given to buy books and materials for processing them. The sum of five dollars was given as an initial donation from their club treasury.

Acting with their usual precision and caution, the new board of trustees and librarian Welch drafted a set of rules to govern the fledging venture. It is interesting to note that most of them were so sound as to continue in force for many years and some right to the present time. The librarian was to "have charge of the library and reading room and be responsible for the care of books; classify and arrange all books; keep accounts of all money received from fines and other sources."

A fee of fifty cents a year was charged for a borrowers card. Cards were issued to any person over fifteen years of age who could produce the necessary fifty cents. Only two books could be withdrawn at one time, one fiction and one non-fiction. A fine of two cents a day was charged for overdue books. Books could be kept but one week. The library was open two days a week, Tuesday and Friday from 3:00 p.m. until dark. Strict account was kept of all transactions. Reports were compiled and filed for each month. The report for May of 1913, the first month the institution was open, was as follows:

Days open for lending: 8

Total circulation for month: 31

Largest daily circulation: 8


Smallest daily circulation: 2

New books: 67

Magazine circulation: 9

New cards: 12

Readers in reading room: 26

Fines: 27¢

From such small beginnings, a business or an institution can grow and remain solvent for a long, long time when it is founded on resourcefulness and integrity.

When the city of Whittier dedicated its new library in 1958, Jessamyn West, the author, was its main speaker for the occasion. She told of the excitement she experienced as a girl in Yorba Linda when the library was first opened in the school house. She said that she raced home and asked for the necessary fifty cents with which to purchase a library card and having wheedled this from her father, she flew back to the library and completed her first transaction there by returning home triumphantly with a borrowed book.

I visited with her for a few moments at the close of her speech and told her we had grown some since the days she described and were in the process of building a new 6,000 square foot building. I invited her to visit us which she did at a later date.

It was on April 12, 1909, that the California legislature approved the Library District bill. Gertrude Welch, having been informed of this legislation, investigated, and then apprised her board of the possibility of a tax supported library district for Yorba Linda. The board immediately set about to take action by informing themselves and contacting the county supervisors and district attorney in Santa Ana. They met with and overcame the usual frustration of red tape and delay, much of which was caused by the newness of the project and the lack of precedent.

A petition was circulated in the area to be served by a district library and sixty-eight signatures were obtained. Having this document, the county supervisors held an election in the area on October 1,1913 and the vote was 62 to 0 in favor of the [77] library district. Mrs Gertrude Selover (early librarian Gertrude Welch) wrote a letter to the Library Board in December of 1963, when they were preparing their fiftieth anniversary celebration. We quote from that letter, "Looking backward, I know that one of the happiest days of my life was the one on which the final election returns were announced and we knew we had a district library to serve the area and its 200 residents."

On March 3, 1914, the Yorba Linda Library District was duly established and a board of trustees was appointed by the county supervisors. They were H. P. Turner, chairman, Mrs. G. W. Corbit, secretary and Theodore Stanley. This was the first library district established in California. In our Scrap Book History we have a copy of the exact delineation of the library district area from which maps of the district have been made. The Board of Supervisors authorized the work done which resulted in this document.

The room in the school house continued to serve as a library for over three years. In December of 1916 a lot was purchased at the southeast corner of Valencia Street and Lemon Drive. A building was erected and was ready for occupancy by the library in late summer of 1917. This building was later sold to the school district and the library was moved to the building on Olinda Street which had housed the post office for a number of years, and now is owned by the water Company. The library district purchased this building and the library remained there until November, 1959.

A library is somewhat like the camel in one of Aesop's fables. The camel, when invited into a tent to warm himself, began to spread himself about and finally took up so much room that he pushed the owners out in the cold. If a library is to keep alive and be of service to its community it must continually expand. New and current materials must be added and the best of older materials kept for reference, and some times the older the material the more valuable to the library.

This writer was librarian during the final eleven years in the old building on Olinda Street. We tried hard to cope with the [78] increasing size of our collection wedged into the tight confines of the structure. We built a second store room at the back but it soon was filled. The school was constantly asking for bond issues for more school rooms and we feared the tax payers would not vote a bond issue for a new library building, but we were wrong.

Our first help came when the Rotary Club appointed a committee to meet with our library board and librarian to draft plans for a campaign for a new building. The Woman's Club immediately threw its strength into the effort. The Service League, P. T. A. and Chamber of Commerce were ready with help and then it seemed that everyone began pushing.

When election day, July 8, 1958 came, the $80,000 bond issue was voted in by a vote of 280 to 39. The trustees of the library at the time of the building program were Valdo Smith, chairman, Mrs. David Crist, secretary, and Mrs. Nelson Allison. Charles Wickett of Fullerton was chosen as architect and the contract was let to E. J. Tyreman of Anaheim, whose bid was $69,355. Furniture and shelving cost was approximately $10,000.

The site upon which the library stands belonged to the Yorba Linda Water Company which traded the five lots to the Library District for the old library building, which had been condemned, and the triangular lot at the intersection of Imperial Highway and Olinda Street. The Water Company had the old building strengthened and made into a drafting and chart room. Ground was broken for the new building on Saturday, March 7, 1959. Hurless Barton, acting as Honorary Mayor, turned the first shovel of earth.

The mural on the north wall of the library has an interesting story back of it. In August, 1958, Robin Paul, a little Yorba Linda girl was killed in an automobile-bicycle accident. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Paul, requested that memorial gifts be given to the new library. Almost $700 was given and kept in a separate library account as the Robin Paul Memorial Fund. At a meeting of the Pauls, the library board members and the librarian, it was decided that the gift should be used for a mural in the new building. [79]

Allan Hall, a Yorba Linda man, graduate of School of Fine Arts at U. S. C, a commercial artist and winner of four national awards, a founder of the Orange County Art Association and member of a National Art Fraternity was consulted and agreed to paint the mural. He used muted colors which would blend with the color scheme of the interior of the library. His design is semi-modernistic and yet he has used a conventional depiction in symbolic reference to Yorba Linda's history.

In the scene is a group of Spanish conquistadores, two of whom are on horseback, one representing Portola, head of the expedition. Another is on foot walking with a common soldier, representing Jose Antonio Yorba, who was a soldier escort on the expedition. The friar represents Fr. Junipero Serra, who travelled with the group looking for sites on which to establish missions. The various industries of the town are pictured such as grape growing, citrus and avocado industry, and oil well drilling.

The three racial groups of the town's history are represented by three children, an Indian boy, a Spanish youth and a modern American girl. Partially obscured and mist-like is the dome of the capitol building in Washington, D. C. A native Yorba Lindan, Richard Nixon, was a candidate at that time for President of the United States. At the election, the following year he lost to John F. Kennedy by a very narrow margin. At the 1968 election, however, he was successful.

Running through the scene horizontally in the mural is an irregular blue area, representing the Santa Ana River, for many years the source of Yorba Linda's water supply. A young tree with a single green leaf makes a vertical line to right of center, representing the youth and potential growth of the town.

To prepare the wall for the mural, Mr. Hall consulted the artist who did the magnificent mural at Forest Lawn. The concrete wall section at the library was given a coat of waterproofing. It was then covered with plywood with ventilation panels at top and bottom. The plywood was sanded and given a special treatment, and then covered with canvas, which in turn was given an undercoating of paint. The expense of this treatment was paid [80] with library funds. Much of Mr. Hall's time was donated after the memorial fund was exhausted by expense of paint and canvas and time used.

The landscaping of the grounds around the new building was done in a manner typically Yorba Lindan. The Garden Section of the Yorba Linda Woman's Club took the assignment as a voluntary service to the community. Its committee, Mrs. Miles Wagner and Mrs. P. B. Livingston, joint chairmen, and Mrs. R. L. Isbell, Mrs. J. W. Murray and Mrs. M. V. Stewart did a professional job and won the gratitude of the library people as well as that of the entire populace. They prepared themselves by enrolling in landscaping design classes at Cal Poly. They traveled about, photographing landscape work on various buildings. They consulted with Walter Husband, a professional horticulturist and nursery man and met with Robert Hamilton, who was versed in landscaping. Allan Hall, art coordinator of the library worked with the women on design and color effects.

Mr. Husband, a local nursery man, sold plants and trees to the library at cost and donated a rare species of dwarf flowering eucalyptus (eucalyptus preissiana), a hybrid he developed. The Union Oil Research Center contributed $75 toward the project. Jerry Steffes with his ground moving machinery helped with the moving and leveling of ground surrounding the building. Dave Crist and Miles Wagner installed the sprinkling system.

When all was finished and the plantings became established, the result was truly a beautiful sight and the library was saved at least three fourths of the normal cost of the work. The Home and Garden Section of the Woman's Club, received the coveted Richfield Award given for conservation of civic beauty by California garden clubs for its work.

Moving day came at last and again, with the assistance of the resourceful people in the various organizations of the town, we were able to accomplish the gigantic task in one day. Grocery carts were loaned by the two grocery stores in town, the Yorba Linda Food Center, operated by Paul Gibbs and Fay and Wilda's Market. [81]

We chose November 11, 1959, for our moving day as the schools would be closed and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts would be available. Members of the Service League manned the shelves at both old and new buildings. Books were loaded into the carts and kept in proper order as the Scouts trundled the carts the half block between the entrances of the two buildings. The Girl Scouts kept the walkway swept clean for the boys so as to prevent dirt being tracked onto the new floor. Service Leaguers at the new stacks shelved the books in proper order, helped and directed by members of the library staff.

Members of the Junior Woman's Club served refreshments to the Scouts throughout the day as they worked in ninety minute shifts. They also served lunch at noon to all day workers.

By 4:30 p.m. all books were moved and in order on the shelves of the new library and those concerned wearily congratulated themselves on a job well done. Approximately fifteen thousand books and periodicals were handled that day.

The library was closed from November 9, to December 10, to allow time to get re-organized and the many finishing jobs by painters, cabinet maker, air conditioning people and sidewalk pavers done. On opening day, December 10, many people came to view and admire their new library, which was a satisfaction to all who had worked so hard during the four weeks of preparation.

Dedication program for the new library was held on February 7, 1960, at 2:00 p.m. Flag Salute was given by Girl Scout Troop 258. The Rev. Paul Shugart of the Friends Church gave the prayer of dedication and the Rev. Wimp Kurz of the Christian Church, the closing prayer. Valdo Smith, as President of Trustees, gave the welcome. Introductions and acknowledgements of gifts were made. Allan Hall unveiled the mural and Mr. Harry Rowe, Librarian of the Fullerton Library gave the address. We had asked Vice-President, Richard Nixon, to give the address but he was unable to come which he explained in a two page telegram. Mr. Rowe cleverly stated in his opening remarks that he was honored to be acting in place of the Vice-President of the United States. [82]

Reginia Gallienne offered several numbers on the harp during the social hour after the program. The Garden Section of the Woman's Club did the floral arrangements, members of the Junior Woman's Club acted as hostesses and the Service League served refreshments. A better example of the way citizens of a community work together for a cause cannot be found elsewhere in all the world than that which happened in the building of the present Yorba Linda Library from inception to dedication.

Many gifts were given, such as the large Flag and standard from the American Legion post, a small piece of marble statuary from the Lloyd Julians for the children's area, a gift and guest book, made especially for the library, and a travertine table from the Service League, many floral pieces, a fine book on decorative plants from the Woman's Club, a lighted globe from the Corbits, a museum piece, hand made early map of Orange County from Mildred Yorba Serrano, and many other gifts for which we lack space here, but are recorded in our guest and gift book.

Twice in recent years our board of trustees and librarian have joined other libraries in the county in a fight against State control of libraries. In 1959 Assemblyman Richard T. Hanna introduced Bill A. B. 2498 in the Assembly to the effect that when cities made annexations containing library land, they would be allowed a share of the property of the district as well as unencumbered funds, to be used for library purposes within the annexing city. With Placentia and Anaheim both trying to gobble us on three sides, imagine our alarm over this measure.

We met with Mr. Hanna on May 11, 1959, together with delegations from Placentia and Buena Park District Libraries. Mr. Hanna, realizing he had tapped a hornet's nest assured us that the bill was dead and we need no longer worry about it.

In April, 1960 we represented Yorba Linda at a meeting in Santa Ana to fight A. B. 1985, under which the state would control all libraries and classify them as part of the state educational system and would subsidize them with state money. Your librarian was asked to speak and stated that we were proud of our library and of the people of Yorba Linda who had cheerfully [83] paid for it and that we had written to Governor Brown so stating and insisting that we did not want state funds for we couldn't afford them. The bill was eventually killed and the threat passed but it was an example of how easily we can lose our independence if we are not vigilant.

Looking back over the years I think of the exhibits of the work of people in our community we have shown in the library. Even in the little building on Olinda Street we had a shelf where we showed the model cars made by Duane Foster, and the incredibly good plastic sculpture done by Chris Miller, then five years old. When we moved to the new building how gladly we filled the glass cases in turn with Chinese embroidery and costumes, doll collections, shell collections, knot ties, gem collections, sewing, hand painted china, Girl Scout work, Boy Scout work and many other fine things done by children or adults of our city. The first art show in May of 1966 held in the library, was a huge success and demonstrated the extent of artistic talent in the area.

Mae Barlass became librarian in 1961 when this writer retired, and continued for two years. A collection of phonograph records was begun during her tenure and the reference section was strengthened.

Katherine Citizen was appointed librarian in 1963. She has been outstanding in all phases of library work and a number of worthwhile innovations have been established. The record collecton has been greatly increased and films have been added, with projector. Copying machines have been installed and have received much use. The McNaughton Book Service Plan has been adopted, which is a rental and/or purchasing system saving the library some shelf space and giving readers earlier access to newly published books.

A Friends of the Library organization has been in action for about four years. It has been a great asset to the library and its members have presided at such functions as National Library Week observance and Book Week observance. They have done book [84] mending and have organized sales of used books as a fund raising help and service to the community.

The Orange County Cooperative System has been established during the past year with Yorba Linda co-operating. Twenty-three libraries are involved throughout the county, twenty of which are under the County Library System. The Huntington Beach, Placentia and Yorba Linda District Libraries are all a part of the huge system which makes 500,000 books available to all the card holding readers of any of these libraries. Copies of the listings of the entire collections are kept in each library.

The Fiftieth Anniversary open house was held at the library on December 15, 1963. It was a delightful celebration with the usual Yorba Linda cooperation.

In 1965 a bill was passed in Sacramento changing the number of trustees of district libraries from three to five. The two trustees added to the board in May of 1966 were Harold Van Patten and Stanley Ireland.

The board purchased a 75 by 150 foot lot adjoining the library on the south in 1965 for $30,000.00 after a successful bond election for the purpose. Plans are being made at the present time for enlarging the library with a three level addition which would add 17,425 square feet to the library's present 6,000 square feet of floor space and would provide a community room, reference and work rooms and a children's room. When we contemplate this expansion in comparison to the many years we functioned in the small building to the south of us which contained 636 square feet of floor space we wonder if it can all be true.

We cannot leave description of the present facility without telling of the story hour program which has been of value to young children in introducing the delights of reading books. Cooperation from various organizations in the community, as Girl Scouts, Junior Woman's Club and staff members has added to the value of the work. The summer reading program has been carried on since we were in the old building.

Since the new library was built, until Miles and Yvonne Wagner moved to Bishop, they headed a Christmas decorating [85] project for the library each Yule season. The interior of the building was made beautiful beyond description. Unforgettable are the Christmas scenes portrayed in the lounge area of the east section of the library. A huge Christmas tree of tumbleweeds, sprayed white and decorated, delighted and puzzled viewers one year. A nostalgic scene of the 1890's, at one time, with borrowed mannequins dressed in styles of seventy years ago decorating a huge Christmassy scented spruce tree with father on the ladder and mother being helpful, children holding stars and angels and grandmother observing from her rocking chair near the old pump organ was my favorite. Running a close second was the year they portrayed an outdoor scene with forest trees and paths, and one large evergreen, all frosted with snow. Stuffed squirrels and other animals graced the scene with mannikin children busily enjoying things. This scene represented the legend of The Little Fir Tree and a beautiful little bird was sheltered in small fir tree in the scene, with script of the story on an easel at one side.

The story of the library has been a long one which I have been unable to shorten because of my love for the institution and all that it means to Yorba Linda. A list of the librarians from the earliest to the present and the trustees so far as I am able to record them follows. Gertrude Welch (Selover) started in 1912, followed by Claire Amstutz (Shook), Mrs. Calvert, Mrs. Dool, Mrs. Theis, Bertha Hale, Blanche Bemish, M. McFadden, Clara Mae Janeway (Stephens), Mrs. Smalley, Mrs. Cochran, Nancy Martin (Butz), March Butz, Mae Barlass and Katherine Citizen.

The first trustees are listed in the early history of the library. The ones serving for the longest periods were Ruth Munger, Olive Crist and Valdo Smith. Kay Allison succeeded Ruth Munger, and the following people came on the board in more recent years: Yvonne Wagner, Gladys Goss, Harold Van Patten, Stanley Ireland, John Hyma, Doris Knauft, Robert Mitchell, Maxine Middleton, Charles Wardman, and Patricia Shook.

Present staff members are Katherine Citizen, Librarian, Carol Jones, Assistant Librarian, Claudia Hablett, Jr. Librarian, Elva Stewart, Helen Young, Larry Griggs, Bess McKenzie, Anne [86] Salzar, Marlene Canavello, Frances Buckner, Janice Vettese, and March Butz. Our custodian is Jack Ross.

A comparison of the statistics of the library for the fiscal year 1946-47 and the fiscal year 1966-67 shows the growth of library usage.

Circulation for 1946-7 2098

1966-7 95,559

Book stock 1946-7 9,839

1966-7 29,148

Registered Readers 1946-7 1,700

1966-7 7,500

Periodicals 1946-7 approx. 50

1966-7 125

Newspapers 1946-7 2

1966-7 9

Records 1946-7 0

1966-7 620

Films 1946-7 ................0

1966-7 several hundred

My story is overlong but I cannot close it without a bit of reminiscence. I think of the rainy winter evenings in the little old library back in the late 1940's and early 50's. The library would be lonesome, for only true book lovers would venture out in the rain to come to the library. And then would come, sometimes, Charles Heinze who loved to read history and especially Civil War history. We would have a good discussion about a mutually admired subject and the evening came to life. Perhaps it would be young Donald Valenzuela who, needed to work out a problem [87] in geometry, or Vie Malo whose hobby was natural history, especially marine life, and good fiction. The circulation for the day would get a boost and the evening would not be wasted. O well . . . "hasta manana." [88]

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