Centennial celebration opens new chapter for Del Mar branch library

The Del Mar Library was established in 1914. That same year, just a few blocks away, St. James Catholic Church opened its doors.

The two institutions eventually came together in 1996, when the library found its permanent home in the former church building at 1309 Camino del Mar. On Nov. 1, the local branch celebrated its centennial, along with the 100-year anniversary of its building.

“This is a perfect place to have the library,” Mayor Lee Haydu said. “I think it’s wonderful, and I’m very proud of the city for backing this. … I know we’re all proud of our community and our library.”

Sitting atop a hill with ocean views, the church building became a community landmark. Parishioners included Hollywood stars Bing Crosby, Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball and Jimmy Durante.

Meanwhile, the Del Mar Library was headquartered in several spots over the years, from area homes to storefronts, including what is now Del Mar Plaza on 15th Street and Camino del Mar. In 1975, the library moved into the trailer behind City Hall.

When the church was relocated to Solana Beach, the building was sold and became a restaurant in 1966. A few decades later, it was home to an insurance company before the city bought the building for $1.2 million in February 1994 to house the library.

The library officially opened in the former church in October 1996.

“Thank you very much for the whole community’s support for this library,” said Pat Freeman, president of Friends of the Del Mar Library, who noted Del Mar resident Chiquita Abbott initially suggested the city use the former church as a library. “It just wouldn’t be here without you.”

The library has undergone a few transformations through the years, yet the original church lights still hang from the ceiling.

There used to be an open patio on the building’s south side. When the building’s roof needed to be replaced, library officials decided to also enclose the patio.

Since the project was completed in 2009, the Community Room has been used for a variety of activities, from baby yoga and Zumba classes to bridge and Friends of the Del Mar Library meetings.

A joint effort among the county, city and the Friends of the Del Mar Library, the branch was also refurbished in the last two years. The library installed a new service desk, a laptop bar, mobile shelving units and new carpet. It also purchased new chairs and tables for the roughly 5,000-square-foot branch.

A new branch manager has also come on board in the past year. Having worked for the San Diego County Library system for 15 years, Polly Cipparrone was appointed library branch manager after longtime branch manager Gretchen Schmidt retired in January.

“I’m so happy that we’re all here today celebrating two special events that occurred 100 years ago,” said Cipparrone at the event.

About 60 community members marked the branch’s 100-year milestone, including Haydu, Councilman Don Mosier, Councilwoman Sherryl Parks and Councilman Terry Sinnott.

Encinitas Councilwoman Teresa Barth, who grew up in Del Mar, was also in attendance, along with San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts, who presented a proclamation. He and his fellow supervisors declared Nov. 1 “Del Mar Library Centennial Day” throughout the county.

“We just love this building, love this community and want to do all we can for it,” Roberts said.

Celebrating its 100th year, the Del Mar Library stood as strong as ever.

Last year the local branch had the second-highest circulation per capita in the county library system, which includes 33 branches and two bookmobiles. The branch’s 80,172 visitors checked out 166,396 items.

“You check out a lot of books — you’re readers,” said County Library Deputy Director Donna Ohr. “And a community of readers is a strong community.”

For more about the Del Mar Branch Library, visit

For more about the Friends of Del Mar Library, visit