History of the Ocean Beach Library

by on January 22, 2015 · 5 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Environment, History, Media, Ocean Beach

OB Library repair 2012

Renovation of the OB branch in 2012.

Editor: The following is primarily based on a short paper by the Friends of the OB Library.

The original Ocean Beach branch library opened on Abbott Street at Santa Monica Avenue in 1916. It was in a one-room storefront location. Margaret Rankin became the librarian in 1921, and immediately began campaigning for funds for a new and larger branch.

Seven years later, she was successful, and in October of 1928 a new library did indeed open – and it’s been there ever since, at the corner of Santa Monica and Sunset Cliffs Blvd. Smaller than the current branch, the original building had classic proportions and more windows than what we have today.  The ceiling was built with supports made from cedar. The roof was covered with wood shingles and copper eaves. It won an award from the American Institute of Architects as an outstanding example of civic architecture.

Behind the library, a small park was set up, with shade trees, a decorative sundial and a play area, Inside, the decor was for leisure reading rather than studying, with rocking chairs and subdued lighting.

Incredibly, Margaret Rankin remained to manage the library until she retired in 1959 – a total of 38 years!

In 1961 work was started on expanding the original building; a workroom was added, along with an enlarged reading area and a rear entrance, and it reached its current proportions – 4,000 square feet. Critics today feel that the construction then was of a much lower quality than the original structure; there were fewer windows, the ceiling is “popcorn” and does not have wood beams. The roof is tar and flat.

In a failure of the city’s follow through, fewer windows were installed in the early sixties construction as the re-modelers expected air conditioning to be put in. It never was even to this day. Whatever was left of any garden in the back was removed, paved and a parking lot developed.

Fifty years pass and not much has changed. Along with no A.C., central heat was never installed. To this day, heat is provided by 2 aging gas units on the ceiling. Electrical outlets originally put in for easy vacuuming are today inconvenient for laptop users.

Until it was re-shingled in 2012, the roof leaked continuously even with all the patching. Fortunately, there have no leaks since. The 2012 renovations included re-carpeting, repainting, updated window treatments and a new linoleum floor.

However, there were other threats to the OB branch besides leaks and no AC. Due to budget cuts, the Ocean Beach facility was placed on a list to be closed by then-Mayor Jerry Sanders in 2008-09. Several times residents rallied to save the library and it was removed from any closure list. But it’s hours were drastically cut, and were only recently replaced this past Fall of 2014.

Over the  years the city has promised to enlarge and make serious upgrades to the OB library, and in 2005, the city purchased the next door property in anticipation of the expansion. But it never came. HUD funds specifically for the cultural/educational purpose of expanding the OB library were used, and the building was paid off, but “re-mortgaged” in the downturn. It’s still within the assets inventory of the library. The city backed down from its pledge and the recession took any discussion such as that off the table for years.

Today the Friends of the Ocean Beach Library are busy with a campaign to get the branch back on the expansion list.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Old Hippie January 22, 2015 at 4:05 pm

Libraries are important places, even small ones like the OB branch. And it’s not just books or mags, it’s kids programs, DVDs, computer access. The OB branch is a center of the community. Go inside soon and thank a librarian. San Dieog has totally underfunded the library system for decades – yet we have pricey hotels, convention centers, world class zoos, upgraded air port. And a new Central Library – which if you haven’t already seen it, you must go downtown and visit it. It’s more than a library.


nostalgic January 22, 2015 at 6:38 pm

And check out a book while you are there. Or more than one. (Turn it in on time, of course). They have computers that count circulation downtown. This is something you can do that benefits the library and you. And nobody knows if you read the book or not, of course.


Kathleen Blavatt January 23, 2015 at 3:44 am

Maybe there is a reason the OB Library is not on the expansion list? Remembering history can teach us things…in this case recent history. Remember the 90th Anniversary of the OB Library celebration, then several months later Mayor Sanders putting the library on the closure list. The deal had a very bad smell. It’s starting to smell again. Learn from the past as Pat Flannery followed that 2008 smelly trail on his Blog of San Diego Website. “Are the library closings really secret land deals?” 11/22/08 http://www.blogofsandiego.com/BlogArchives/2008-4th-Quarter.htm#11/22/08
Excerpt: Mayor Sanders made an abrupt proposal to summarily close down several libraries. Here is Andrea Tevlin’s much more thoughtful budget cutting proposal. Hers shows a wider perspective and allows for community input.?

Tevlin’s recommendation is: “keep these facilities open until a more deliberate and comprehensive plan for facility closures is developed and presented to Council.” She notes that a number of libraries are on Sanders’ closure list and also on his expansion list. Is this just incompetence or something else? If it is incompetence it is really gross incompetence.??Take the Ocean Beach Library for instances. Is Sanders aware that:?”In 2005, the City purchased land adjacent to the Ocean Beach Library for an expansion. According to Council reports at the time, this property is collateral for a HUD Section 108 loan of $2.0 million garnered for the Ocean Beach Library. Loan payments are approximately $223,000 annually through FY 2017 and are being paid from District 2 CDBG allocations.”


Tom Cairns January 23, 2015 at 5:56 am

One important thing you can do at the library, is if you look at a book or item of media, place it on the return shelf, not back in it’s original location. They track every item, and it is used to justify keeping or getting rid of it. It gives them important information about what people are interested in. It’s something I learned while on a visit there in November.


sean M January 23, 2015 at 11:19 am

Call it a city computer room or internet access area, just not a computer lab.


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