Skip to content

County of Los Angeles Public Library
twitter  facebook  instagram pinterest  flickr 
career online high school
100 Years of the County Library - All the Facts
100 Things Challenge
Favorite Books

100 Years of the County of Los Angeles Public Library

On September 5, 1912, the Board of Supervisors of the County of Los Angeles voted to create the Los Angeles County Free Library. In September 2012, the County of Los Angeles celebrated our 100th birthday!

We look forward to another 100 years (and more) of service to the residents of Los Angeles County. Check out facts about the library along with historic photos.

1912 - 1929  |  1930-1949  |  1950-1969  |  1970-1989  |  1990-2012  |  1912-2012: All Facts

  • 1912 - September 5, 1912 - The County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors established a "free public library," made possible in part by James L. Gillis, the State Librarian, who had previously secured the passing of the state's County Free Library act in 1911.
  • 1912 - The first County Librarian was appointed: Miss Celia Gleason. (1913-1924). During the first five years, Miss Gleason established a total of 165 branch libraries!
  • 1912 - The Headquarters for the Library was opened in a small room on the 10th floor of the Hall of Records, in downtown Los Angeles.
  • 1913 - The first branch of the County Free Library was established on April 23, 1913 in one room of Mrs. Belle Jenks' home in Willowbrook, with a collection of fifty books.
  • 1914 - In 1914, a Teachers' Library was established at Library Headquarters open to all members of the teaching profession. It was maintained until 1957.
  • 1915 - The trustees of sixty elementary school districts passed a resolution to contract with the County Library for supplementary book service. (On June 30, 1937, the Library carried 85 contracts with elementary school districts, most of which had joined the library in the early years).
  • 1916 - Although Civil Service was established by the County Charter, and adopted in 1913, it was not applied to the Library Department until January 1916.
  • 1917 - These were the years of War Camp Libraries. Miss Jones and Miss Vogelson were assigned to help organize the work at the Camp Kearney Library near San Diego.
  • 1921 - Library Headquarters moved to 204 North Broadway, the old Zahn Building, which was named the Hall of Records Annex. This move doubled the Library's floor space.
  • 1923 - First community library opened in a County-owned building (Lancaster).
  • 1924 - Miss Helen Vogelson was appointed County Librarian (1924-1946).
  • 1924 - The Book Order Division, a department that purchased books for the library, was established.
  • 1926 - A large silk "Flag of the United States" with cord and tassel, mounted on a standard, was provided for each branch library except for those located in schools where a flag was already provided.
  • 1927 - By the end of the Library's first 15 years on June 30, 1927, population served had more than quadrupled from the 1912 figure of 100,000 to 410,000; circulation had reached 1,701,088 and the book collection had been built to 258,914 volumes. Registered borrowers numbered 91,945 and 166 branches and outlets were operated.
  • 1927 - Miss Claire Nolte was appointed the first Children's Librarian.
  • 1928 - The Claremont Branch was moved to a beautiful library building erected by the City on a lot donated by Mrs. Helen Renwick, a local resident.
  • 1929 - First Regional Service Started - a significant development, which pointed the way of the future, occurred in 1929 with the establishment of a regional operation in the Antelope Valley with the Lancaster branch the headquarters for 23 small outlets in an area of more than 900 square miles.
  • 1930 - The City of Montebello approved a $30,000 bond measure in 1929 for a municipally owned library building which was dedicated on July 25. It is operated as a branch of the County Library.
  • 1931 - Summer Reading Program inaugurated.
  • 1932 - The Board of Supervisors, on recommendation of the County Librarian, changed the Library's name, dropping the word "free" and replacing it with "Public": Los Angeles County Public Library.
  • 1933 - The Long Beach earthquake destroyed the Compton branch and damaged others.
  • 1935 - The Burbank Public Library, established as a branch of the County Library ranked as one of the largest branches in the County system.
  • 1936 - Three library buildings were opened through Federal grants: El Monte, Torrance, Compton.
  • 1937 - September 5 marked the completion of the County Public Library's first 25 years of service. By this time the Library served a population of 543,801; circulation was 3,050,697; there were 135,282 registered borrowers; and the book collection was 470,945 volumes.
  • 1937 - The Library Headquarters moved to 322 South Broadway. It occupied four floors with nearly 34,500 square feet of floor space.
  • 1939 - The start of World War II found the Library still reeling from the effects of the depression. Circulation had fallen to 3,007,556; book collection had virtually stood still at slightly above a half million, but population of the service area had increased to 678,415 from the 1937 figure of 545,801, and the number of registered borrowers stood at 164,272 the highest number to that time.
  • 1940 - Under wartime conditions, the County Library was coping with serious problems. The book collection was worn out and depleted, less funds to renew or expand the collection, and less staff. Los Angeles County was one of the nation's major defense centers with huge shipbuilding and aircraft plants employing thousands of people who had been desperate for work.
  • 1942 - Annual Library Book Breakfast began.
  • 1943 - During the first year of the war, there was a 49 percent turnover of library staff; by June, 1943 it had jumped to 78 percent. Gas and tire rationing, the blackout, the dim out, and other wartime restrictions made it more difficult for most citizens to visit library branches.
  • 1944 - The County Library was doing what it could to assist with the defense effort. Many branches served as community civil defense and information centers, as collection points for war relief clothing drives and other activities associated with the defense program; book drives to provide reading for men and women in the service and for patients in military hospitals.
  • 1945 - The Library contributed to the war effort by responding to the public's changed reading habits. For many patrons the most important reading was "how to" books - many new skills were learned with these library books! Men and women read and studied for defense jobs or learned about building, photography, metalworking, electrical engineering, mathematics, radio, machine shop, and welding. "Do it yourself" books dealing with home nursing, child care and nutrition were also popular. Many young men used the County Library to study for the service examinations.
  • 1946 - In May 1946, Miss Vogelson wrote to the Board of Supervisors urging that a million dollar bond issue for construction of branch libraries in County unincorporated areas be place on the ballot. With the exception of the Lancaster branch library, none of the community branch libraries in unincorporated territory were housed in County owned buildings; all were in rented or leased quarters. The policy had been not to invest money in buildings for branch libraries located in the unincorporated territory. Cities included within the system were encouraged to provide their own building to house County branch libraries, and many had done so with the assistance of federal funds.
  • 1947 - John Henderson appointed County Librarian (1947-1963).
  • 1948 - Second County-owned library building opened - Lennox Library.
  • 1949 - Mobilibrary service began in the Antelope Valley making it possible to discontinue 11 small branches while still continuing to serve the residents at much lower cost.
  • 1950 - During this period the County Public Library system produced increased revenue, (although far from sufficient to meet all demands), which made it possible for the County Library to make many improvements in the community branches and strengthen the system's book collection.
  • 1951 - Torrance and Lennox joined Lancaster as "regional operations" (Bellflower became the fourth in 1953).
  • 1952 - The incorporation of a number of new cities had a tremendous effect on the County Library. Cities in the County increased from 45 to 73. New cities withdrew from the County Public Library system to form municipal libraries.
  • 1953 - First book catalog released - a children's catalog.
  • 1953 - The Library was a pioneer when its card catalog was converted to microfilm which could be read by microcomputers.
  • 1956 - Book stock reached one million volumes.
  • 1957 - First Friends of the Library group founded at Claremont.
  • 1961 - First Regional Headquarters Library dedicated - West Covina.
  • 1962 - Fiftieth Anniversary. Library headquarters moved to the new Hall of Records, 322 West Temple Street.
  • 1963 - William Geller appointed County Librarian (1963-1973).
  • 1963 - In February, the Library bought its two millionth book (and 200,000th title) - Ray Bradbury's R is for Rocket.
  • 1963 - In cooperation with the Saugus School District, an additional mobillibrary service was initiated to serve the Saugus area.
  • 1964 - Library received first Library Services and Construction Act (LSCA) funding.
  • 1966 - Federal Government publications program began at depository libraries.
  • 1973 - Carol Moss appointed County Librarian (1973-1981).
  • 1973 - The new North Enterprise Library is named in honor of Mrs. A C Bilbrew, who, according to Kenneth Hahn's motion, was the "first Negro woman to sing on radio in Los Angeles, pioneering the opportunity for young people to get into music, stage, radio and television."
  • 1976-79 - Four Resource Centers were opened during this time: The Chicano Resource Center located at the East Los Angeles Library (1976), the Black Resource Center located at the A C Bilbrew Library (1978), the American Indian Resource Center located at the Huntington Park Library (1979), and the Asian Pacific Resource Center located at the Montebello Library (1979).
  • 1979 - Community Access Library Line (CALL) was established. This telephone reference and referral service of the Los Angeles County Public Library served the Southern California area (10 counties from San Luis Obispo County south to the Mexican border) from 1979-1993.
  • 1981 - Linda Crismond appointed County Librarian (1981-1989).
  • 1982 - Book stock reached five million volumes.
  • 1982 - Books-by-Mail, a mail-order service which offered books to residents unable to travel to the library, was established.
  • 1982 - Language Learning Centers established to provide independent study programs to help adults to improve their reading and language skills. In 1984 Federal Library Services and Construction Act allowed the Library to expand the number of Language Learning Centers from 6 to 17.
  • 1983 - County Library Headquarters moved to Downey which combined five separate administration locations into one new administrative building.
  • 1983 - The Los Angeles County Public Library Foundation was established. A benefit performance of "Zorba," starring Mr. Anthony Quinn, launched the fund raising effort.
  • 1984 - Point Dume Library opened in Malibu as the 92nd library on April 12, 1984.
  • 1984 - The Los Angeles County Public Library participated in the spirit of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and joined four adjacent library cooperative systems to plan a Children's Summer Reading Program.
  • 1985 - Actor and sculptor Anthony Quinn made a substantial gift of his memorabilia, books, and paintings to the County Librarian.
  • 1987 - To enhance service to customers, the Library replaced the microfilm catalogs with compact disc (CD-ROM) equipment providing more reliable and easier to access information about the library's materials.
  • 1987 - 75th Anniversary: County Library's Diamond Jubilee. ABC Television's "Good Morning America" captured the event with a rousing staff cheer.
  • 1987 - Reflecting the public's shift to technology, the Library transitioned its collection from 16mm film to videocassettes, and phonograph records to compact discs and audio cassettes.
  • 1987 - After 75 years of manual service, the Library installed a computer-based system for checking out library materials and statistical recordkeeping. Brakensiek Library was the test library for the Automated Circulation System and began registration for new library cards, known as "KeyCards."
  • 1989 - Sandra Reuben appointed County Librarian (1989-2001).
  • 1989 - The Library's name changed from Los Angeles County Public Library to County of Los Angeles Public Library.
  • 1990 - The new computerized Automated Circulation System (ACS) was inaugurated system-wide.
  • 1990 - First Lady Barbara Bush and California State Librarian Gary Strong visited our Community Access Library Line (CALL), the Southern California Literacy Hotline.
  • 1991 - The Begin at the Beginning with Books service, which targeted expectant mothers who use public health clinics and encouraged the habit of reading and learning as an important parenting tool, started.
  • 1992 - The Library celebrated its One Millionth cardholder, five-year-old Robert Miller at the Clifton M. Brakensiek Library in Bellflower.
  • 1992 - The Lake Los Angeles Library was dedicated. This leased facility replaced the High Desert Mobilibrary which the community had outgrown, and at the same time helped estabish equitable service to this unincorporated community in the Antelope Valley.
  • 1993 - Westlake Village Library was dedicated despite chilly weather and threatening clouds.
  • 1994 - The Maywood Library is renamed the Maywood Cesar Chavez Library to honor the late Cesar Chavez, crusader for the California farm worker.
  • 1994 - A new Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) was introduced. The new online catalog had up-to-the-minute information about the over 6 million items in the Library's collections.
  • 1994 - The 6.7 Northridge Earthquake on January 17, closed 35 of the County Library's 87 facilities. Valencia Library was badly damaged and closed for the duration of the Library's fiscal year, reopening on November 10.
  • 1995 - The County Library introduced public computers with access to the Internet at 35 libraries, thanks to grant funding. They were an immediate hit.
  • 1995 - The first Homework Help Center opened at the Clifton M. Brakensiek Library thanks to a grant from Kaiser Permanente Medical. The Productivity Investment Fund of Los Angeles County provided a grant which funded 5 more Homework Help Centers.
  • 1995 - Self-Check Out Stations were installed in the West Covina and Culver City Libraries; the customer-operated circulation equipment allowed customers to check out their own library materials.
  • 1995 - Dedication and opening of the Edmund D. Edelman Public Policy Collection at the Norwalk Library. This collection honors 35 years of County service by the retired Supervisor.
  • 1996 - The new 48,721 sq. ft. Lancaster Library opened
  • 1996 - The County of Los Angeles Public Library's web site was launched. The extensive site included access to the Library's fee-based services.
  • 1997 - Public Internet access was made available in every County library building.
  • 2000 - The Library had a smooth Y2K transition into the new millennium. The County Information Technology Investment Fund provided $4 million for updating wiring, telecommunications, network equipment and computers. Over 250 new computers were installed in County libraries, 161 from the Gates Foundation.
  • 2000 - A new Urban Outreach Bookmobile expanded service to areas in Los Angeles, Whittier, Compton, La Puente, Valinda, Rosemead and Azusa.
  • 2000 - The new San Fernando Library was built and opened, funded by a local developer, with assistance from the County and County Library.
  • 2001 - Margaret Donnellan Todd appointed County Librarian (2001-Present).
  • 2001 - 3 new libraries were opened: Agoura Hills (replacing Las Virgenes Library - city funded); Canyon Country Library (funded by city and developer); Westlake Village Library (new building - city funded).
  • 2002 - The Library piloted an online homework program,, at 6 sites. Kids logged on and worked with live tutors in real time.
  • 2002 - SAM, an Internet management program, was introduced to help in scheduling use of the popular public computers.
  • 2004 - Thanks to funding from Gloria Molina, Supervisor of the First District, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the East Los Angeles Library moved into its new location in September.
  • 2005 - Downloadable audio books from NetLibrary, now OneClickdigital, were added to the online catalog. Later, downloadable eBooks were added from OverDrive.
  • 2005 - In collaboration with the Los Angeles Opera, Youth Services launched "Opera Tales" at ten County libraries. The program featured performers from the LA Opera and music by Mozart, in honor of his 250th birthday.
  • 2005 - The Family Place program was launched as part of the Library's Emergent Literacy services.
  • 2008 - The library debuted a new Integrated Library System and online library catalog allowing easier placement of holds, checking of accounts and email hold notifications.
  • 2009 - New Lawndale Library, featuring beautiful glass artwork "Subdivisions" by artist Anne Marie Karlsen, opens.
  • 2010 - County Library app is launched to renew books, place holds, and find library events on smart phones. "Ask a Librarian" chat reference begins.
  • 2010 - New Acton Agua Dulce Library opens on land donated by John and Robert Brevidoro.
  • 2011 - The new 32,000 square foot, LEED-certified West Hollywood Library opens in October.
  • 2012 - New Topanga Library opens in January. Refurbished Malibu Library celebrates grand opening.
  • 2012 September - Happy Birthday Library! All libraries celebrate the library's centennial today. Here's to another 100 years of library service!

1912 - 1929  |  1930-1949  |  1950-1969  |  1970-1989  |  1990-2012  |  1912-2012: All Facts