By Karen Billing
The Carmel Valley Library’s exterior upgrade is nearly complete, just in time for the celebration of its 20th anniversary with a community party on Saturday, July 27. It will be a big fete for what is considered one of the best, most-loved libraries in San Diego.
In 2012, the library’s circulation was 394,083, one of the highest circulations in the city other than the central library downtown.
“The fact that it is so well used is really a testament to what a great asset it is to the community,” said Marion Moss Hubbard, the city library system’s senior public information officer. “The city is really proud of that branch, it is one of our shining branches.”
The library is also tops in the city in patron count of people who come through the door with 239,588 counted in 2012. Proof positive is the crowd that shows up to the baby and toddler story time on Friday mornings — 100 to 130 people in a room with a 142- person capacity.
“We’ve hit max capacity a couple of times, it’s crazy,” said children’s librarian Emily Derry.
The July 27 celebration will be held from noon to 2 p.m., with speeches from City Library Director Deborah Barrow and District 1 Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, who made a contribution toward getting the library’s exterior a fresh coat of paint.
Following the speakers, the library will serve up two big birthday cakes. In addition, children can get airbrushed tattoos and information tables will be set up where people can learn more about all the library has to offer.
The library’s doors opened in young Carmel Valley on July 10, 1993. The 13,050-square- foot building was designed by Rusty Coombs and featured lively artwork inside —“hot coral, watermelon pink, lagoon blue, regal purple and dusky yellow friezes frolicking on the walls” by Philip Matzigkeit.
Matzigkeit also created the mosaic tile animals on the walkways and artist Mary Buckman created the bronze courtyard sculpture. The library is expecting artist Philip Matzigkeit to pay a visit during the birthday celebration.
The centrally located land cost $975,000.
“It’s the most beautiful, well-designed library I’ve seen,” then-branch librarian Susan Roberts told the Carmel Valley News in 1993. “The vibes are infectious for our patrons and it’s a wonderful place to work. All of us on staff are caught up in the enthusiasm of the volunteers from the community that have come forth to help us get ready.”
There have only been four branch library managers over the 20-year life span of the library: Roberts was the founding librarian, followed by Carolyn Demoray and Vy Tu.
After Tu left, because of budget shortages, the city wasn’t able to replace the position so for awhile the branch was without a manager until the current manager, Brenda Wegener, came aboard in April 2012.
Wegener had been at the central library from 1995 to 2004 and spent time as a librarian in New York City before returning to San Diego.
Staff members say they enjoy working at the busy Carmel Valley branch and they appreciate their dedicated patrons.
“I really love the pace. There’s just so much interest in so many different programs and everyone’s excited about the library here,” Derry said. “I don’t have to worry about getting people into the library as much, they’re just here.”
Wegener said that Carmel Valley is a strong family community and the demographics of their visitors reflects that — younger families, both parents and kids.
“At 3:02 p.m. the school kids pour in,” Wegener said of the large numbers of youngsters who frequent the library after school, “We have a lot of teenagers using the library, which is somewhat unusual. They’re always in here doing homework or mentoring younger children in the chess and science engineering club or in the arts and crafts program.”
The teens have their own closed-in patio where they like to hang out; children have their own big section with a cozy reading nook; and many people take advantage of the “quiet area” of the library that offers free wireless and has shelves fully stocked with the latest periodicals.
Just inside the library’s entrance, the Friends of the Library’s Friendly Finds book store also sells donated used books to raise money to support the library’s various programs. They have a quarterly book sale in the community room where patrons can find great deals — a bag of books will go for $2.
Since 1993, the library has become much more high tech. Back then, when the library opened it was touting its “new Macintosh computers and audio-cassettes, video tapes and laser disks.”
The library has a full collection of DVDs that people can rent for free; a self-checkout machine where people can check out materials without the assistance of library staff; and they are also one of the few city libraries to offer rentals of e-readers, downloadable e-books and audio books.
A patron can download an e-book or audio book to their device for three weeks — they don’t even have to come to the library to check it out or return the rental, it just shows up on their device once they rent it and it is taken off their device after 21 days.
Even with advances in technology, the Carmel Valley Library’s circulation is proof that people still enjoy holding a book in their hands. The library has a 40-book check-out maximum per card and Wegener said so many parents were coming in to load up on the 40-book maximum for their kids that the library had to buy baskets to hold books while people browsed.
“It’s a great library,” Wegener said. “It’s so nice to work in a library where people love books and love to read and are happy about being here.”
The library is located at 3919 Townsgate Drive, 92130 (Carmel Valley). For more information, call (858) 552-1668; www.carmelvalleylibrary.org.