Posted by: Brad Nixon | April 25, 2020

National Library Week: Why a Library?

National Library Week is drawing to a close in the U.S. I began the week stating what many of you literate and curious readers already knew: Libraries offer a rich variety of information digitally, although most of them are physically closed, world ’round, for the current pandemic.

In the past ten years, I’ve written about several dozen libraries. Sometimes I’ve limited myself to descriptions and photos of current and former library buildings — from impressive to workaday — as I did most recently about this 1927 building in Wilmington, California.

Wilmington library Brad Nixon 8325 680

Libraries, of course, aren’t simply structures, however elaborately imposing some are. Their worth abides in the information they make available, the services provided by dedicated librarians, and one more thing: They represent the pride of place communities have. Every town needs roads, water systems, a city hall, stores, a pharmacy, perhaps a lumber or grain mill. In addition, one of the first things to which citizens gave attention as their settlements grew to villages, towns, cities, was to establish a library.

That’s what happened in rural Beaumont, California in 1913, which I wrote about here.

Beaumont Carnegie Library historical 6005 (640x413)

The original Carnegie library building still stands. The library has expanded, and serves a burgeoning population in the town on the edge of the desert.

Beaumont Carnegie Brad Nixon 6356 (640x478)

More to Discover

Looking through my files, I’ve found three libraries I’ve visited, about which I’ve never written. I’ll start close to home: Redondo Beach, California.

I did write about the 1928 Redondo Beach library, which is now a community center.

Redondo Beach historic library Brad Nixon 3305 640

Redondo has a new library, its much larger footprint reflecting the growth of the city from a scruffy seaport to a thriving coastal city of 67,000.

Redondo Library Brad Nixon 0126 680

Redondo’s is a “special library district,” not part of the Los Angeles Public or L.A. County library systems, a point of pride for many communities, willing to fund and maintain their own library. Redondo also maintains a branch serving the North Redondo area.

The first Redondo library was in a wooden shack on a wharf, part of the busy shipping port in 1895. In 1909, the library moved into the new city hall (which no longer stands). By 1928, the library occupied half the space in city hall, and that’s when the city built the old structure pictured above.

In 1995, 100 years after that first building on Wharf No. 1 was the library, the city opened its new Main Library.

Redondo Library Brad Nixon 0133 680

Where Next? Inland

Gardena, California is, like Redondo Beach, one of more than 70 incorporated cities within the greater Los Angeles area. Originally a farming community — hence its name — it now has about 60,000 residents, and includes a mixture of extensive suburban streets, light industry, and some vestiges of its original downtown, where the 1939 post office building still serves.

Gardena PO R ext Brad Nixon 8530 680

Not far away on Gardena Blvd. is an extensive civic complex, built in a consistent low-slung style of the 1960s, with city offices, safety and emergency departments and — yes — a library.

Gardena library Brad Nixon 4940 680

The Mayme Dear Library, built in 1964. is one of 87 branches in the Los Angeles County Library system. Fittingly enough, Mayme Dear was a librarian.

Gardena library Brad Nixon 4941 680

Notable is the mural.

Gardena library Brad Nixon 4942 680

Public art can be uplifting, inspiring, tepid or … less. I like this one, designed by Livio Napolitani, depicting writing, printing and books throughout history.

Farther East: 800 Miles

With 580,000 residents, Albuquerque, New Mexico has had a public library since 1901, when the desert town had slightly more than 6,000 residents. Since then, the local system has expanded to include 18 branches serving the city and surrounding Bernalillo County.

The sprawling Main Library, built in 1975, is downtown, not far from the original 1901 building.

ABQ Main Library Brad Nixon 4605 680

Three Amongst Tens of Thousands, Worldwide

A former lumber shipping port. A farm town. A desert way station along the Santa Fe Trail and the Southern Pacific Railroad. All grown up in different ways. Cultures, lifestyles, scenery, climate, all different. Income levels and occupations run the gamut. One thing in common: They have libraries. It costs them money and effort, especially when it’s time for that bond issue or tax levy. Everywhere, communities think libraries are worth it.

As you know.

All these libraries offer a variety of digital services, accessible now while their physical locations are closed, and thereafter, as well.

Is there some local library history your town’s proud of? Please leave a comment.


Click on the links below to access the websites for the libraries mentioned in this post.

Beaumont Library District, 125 E Eighth Street, Beaumont, CA

Redondo Beach Main Library, 303 N. Pacific Coast Hwy., Redondo Beach, CA

Gardena Mayme Dear Library, 1731 W Gardena Blvd.; Gardena, CA

Albuquerque Main Library: 501 N. Copper Ave. NW; Albuquerque, NM

Licensable, high resolution versions of some photographs in this post, and select images from other Under Western Skies posts are available on Click on the linked photos, or CLICK HERE to view the Underawesternsky photo portfolio.

© Brad Nixon 2020. My appreciation to librarians at these and dozens of other libraries I’ve visited.


  1. I wandered all over the Mayme Dear library and couldn’t find an answer to my question: how was her first name pronounced? Is it an alternate spelling of ‘Mamie,’ as in Mamie Eisenhower? Or a variation of ‘Auntie Mame’?


    • I failed in imagination — assuming it was pronounced “Mame.” But you’re correct. I’ll call the library and ask. I’ll let you know. LA County has some librarians working the phones. Thanks for being ever curious.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was a library trustee in a town I lived in 17 years ago. Most people don’t realize all that goes on in their local libraries. Everything from children’s reading hours, movies and public meetings all kinds.
    And of course all the resources in those books! Not to mention the music CDs and videos.
    I wonder what percent of the population has a library card and how many of those people use it at least once a year?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agreed, that the percentage of at least library users may be be considerably lower than it might, despite the value libraries represent. Trustees, library boards, friends-of-the-library groups all do a great deal to keep these crucially important resources going. Perhaps the current crisis will result in at least a slight uptick in awareness of what public libraries offer. Well done. Keep running!

      Liked by 1 person

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