The earliest mention of a public library in Los Alamitos goes back to Feb. 13, 1922 [ref]News Notes of California Libraries, Oct. 1922 , p.608-612; p. 613, Laurel [/ref]. A state directory listing for the new Orange County Free Library System, says it serves the entire county except Anaheim, Buena Park Library District, Fullerton, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Orange and Placentia Library District. The County Library had 38 branches. 19 were community branches and 19 were school districts which had joined the system. Among the latter was the Laurel School District.
LAUREL SCHOOL DISTRICT (P.O. Los Alamitos)
LAUREL SCHOOL DIST. BRANCH, ORANGE CO. FREE LIBRARY. Mrs. Mary Gilmore, Custodian. Est. Feb. 13, 1922
Total vols. 147. Added 158 (94 special requests); ret. 11. cardholders 181. Circulation 220.
Apparently, at this time the county was only providing minimal library service at Laurel School. William Kirkwood, in his Orange County Free Library, 1921-1965 says:
Although the County System had given library service to the Laurel School as early as 1921, it wasn’t until January 1, 1935 that a community branch was established at Laurel School. The first librarian of the Los Alamitos branch was Mrs. Grace Green. He also notes that “this branch was opened in direct response to the increased reading requirements of the depression…”[ref]William Kirkwood, Orange County Free Library, 1921-1965, p.44[/ref]
This Orange County Library branch operation was reportedly closed down 1939 [ref] Chamber of Commerce 2967-68 Directory, p.10[/ref]. Exactly why it closed — whether due to lack of interest or a facility — is unclear.
However in 1941, perhaps because of the expected influx of Navy families at the new base which would open in mid-1942, the county reopened a site Los Alamitos with Mrs. Lea Randolph as the new librarian. The town’s new postmaster, Loren Cloud, built a unit of two stores across from Laurel School and designated one of the stores for use as a library. During World War II, the library was also used for the distribution of Sugar and Gasoline ration coupons.
Mrs. Randolph oversaw the library’s operations at a number of other locations over the next two decades, including operating out of a narrow storefront on Green Street. Finally, in April 1962, with a large majority of the community’s population now being south of Katella, the library relocated to a 5,000 square foot facility at the recently opened Rossmoor Center. (Ironically, this Los Alamitos-Rossmoor Library would become part of Seal Beach when the shopping center was annexed in 1965)
Randolph passed away in 1967 and Mary Miller was the acting librarian for a short time before Gladys Lorenzo was assumed directorship of the branch. Many of items in the library are not furnished by tax monies but by contributions from local groups. Over the years these groups have principally been the Literature Section of the Rossmoor Women’s Club and the Friends of the Library. The latter was formed in 1961 with Louis Gross as President. Other officers were Toni Newman, 1st VP; Lea Randolph, 2nd VP; Rush Labourdette, 3rd VP; Dr. Sher, 4th VP; Frances Brown, recording secretary; Dr. Richard Leno (Los Al Supt. of Schools), Corresponding Secretary; Jo Goldman, treasurer.
Renamed the OC Public Libraries in 2008, the OC system now operates 34 branches, including two technology branches.
- Chamber of Commerce directory – 1967-68
- History of Los Alamitos, Mause
- Orange County Free Library, 1921-1965, William Kirkwood
Beginnings of the Orange County Free Library
[taken from News Notes of California Libraries, Vol. 16, Oct. 1921 , p.602-03;]
(Tenth class.) County seat, Santa Ana. Area, 780 sq. mi. Pop. 61,375. Assessed valuation $128,569,920 (taxable for county $115,729,185).
Orange Co. Free Library, Santa Ana. Miss Margaret Livingston, Lib’n. Est. under Sec. 2, Co. F. L. law, Sept. 9. 1919; work started Aug. 1. 1921. Includes entire county for tax and service except Anaheim, Buena Park Library District, Fullerton. Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Orange, Pl’aeentia Library District, Santa Ana and Yorba Linda Library District. 2 employees. Open daily except Sun. and holidays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Located in Farm Adviser’s office.
QUARTERLY NEWS ITEMS.
During the quarter branches were established at Alamitos [note: this is Alamitos School in Garden Grove, not Los Alamitos], Harper-Fairview, Katella, Westminster and Yorba and in the following school districts: Alamitos, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove Union High, Harper-Fairview, Katella, San •Tuan, San Juan Capistrano Union High, Savanna and Westminster.
Margaret Livingston, Lib’n.
Miss Arline Davis, formerly librarian at the Riverside City Girls High School, is assistant in the County Library.
The tax rate for 1921-22 is .2 m. on the dollar, which will raise about $13,000
Luncheon In honor of County Librarian.
“Once upon a time, a long time ago,” some seven and one-half years to b( exact, it occurred to a little woman ir. Orange County that this spot of wonders was lacking one thing which nearly all the counties of California were enjoying and which Orange County might have for the asking if it so desired. Slip, with others like-minded, set about to get signatures to a petition asking for the establishment of a county free library; but their many hours of labor were not rewarded with success at that time. However, the seed was sown and nearly four years later began to grow in the minds of the members of the Fourth District (Orange County) California Congress of Mothers and Parent-Teacher Associations. These women, after a careful investigation of the kinds of county library service, decided in favor of the plan under Section 2 of California County Free Library Law, appointed a County Library Committee with Mrs Charles Harvey of Brea, chairman, and began an educational campaign in their associations throughout the county. Over a year later they with other organizations petitioned the board of supervisors to establish the County Free Library, which was done December 9, 1919. It was not until July 5, 1921, that a librarian was appointed and the library put into operation September 15. It was with great rejoicing that we welcomed our librarian to Orange County and made this the occasion of a luncheon in her honor, October 4, at St. Ann’s Inn, Santa Ana.
Invitations were extended to all Orange County friends of the library and to a number outside of our county who had been interested in the efforts put forth for the success of the library. As the quests entered the foyer of the hotel a card, with a miniature library engraved in the corner and writh name of guest, was pinned to each so that during the reception hour our new librarian became icquainted with many from all parts of the county where her work would soon liegin.
The tables were gay with stately zinnias, asters and cosmos: covers were laid for one hundred twenty guests, including Miss Margaret E. Livingston, the ?uest of honor, Mrs May Dexter Henshall, state organizer of county libraries; Miss Celia Gleason. County Librarian of Los Angeles County and her assistant, Miss Helen Voglesou; Miss Mary Lean of the Library Bureau of Los Angeles and nearly every librarian in Orange County.