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100 Years of the County of Los Angeles Public Library

In September 2012, the County of Los Angeles celebrated our 100th birthday.
Check out facts about the library along with historic photos.

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

  • 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.

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