The San Diego County Library system celebrated its centennial last year. Now, Del Mar is marking its 100-year milestone.
The Del Mar Library opened in 1914 in a strip mall that is now Del Mar Plaza. That same year, just a few blocks away, St. James Catholic Church began serving parishioners, which once included Bing Crosby, Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball and Jimmy Durante.
The two institutions eventually came together when the library found its permanent home in the former church building at 1309 Camino del Mar in 1996.
“It was definitely an undertaking by the community,” recalled Gretchen Schmidt, who served as branch manager of the Del Mar Library for more than 15 years before retiring after the start of 2014. “They really wanted to have a nice library. They loved this building and they really wanted to have it belong to the city.”
After the church 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 purchased it in 1993 to house the library, which, at the time, was located in the portable that is now City Hall Annex.
The new Del Mar Library officially opened in October 1996.
“It’s a beautiful building,” said Jacqueline Winterer, who served on the Del Mar City Council for four years, from 1988 to 1992, and as mayor in 1992. One of the reasons she ran for council was so she could help find a permanent home for the library, she said. “It has even more significance to me because one of my daughter’s was baptized there.”
The library has undergone a few more transformations through the years, yet the original church lights hang from the ceiling.
“We saved this historical building,” said Pat Freeman, president of Friends of the Del Mar Library. “It’s right downtown and it fits the community.”
There used to be an open patio on the south side of the building. 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.
The library 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.
The renovation project was a joint effort between the county, city and the Friends of the Del Mar Library.
“It’s because of the Friends that we have this building and that we’ve made changes to this building,” said Freeman, who has been with the group since its inception in 1982. “And the Friends represents community support.”
A new branch manager has also come on board within the last year.
Having worked for the San Diego County Library for 15 years, Polly Cipparrone was appointed branch manager of Del Mar Library after Schmidt retired in January.
She said she is looking forward to continuing the branch’s relationship with its customers and growing the library programs.
“A lot of it is building on the legacy of all the things that Gretchen put in place,” said Cipparrone. Through the branch’s relationship with the Del Mar Foundation, she noted the two institutions launched a new book club over the summer.
“I’d like to keep those strong bonds and just find new ways to re-imagine relationships.”
Entering its 100th year, the Del Mar Library stood as strong as ever.
In the 2013-14 fiscal year, the local branch had the second highest per capita circulation in the San Diego County Library system — 33 branches and two bookmobiles. The branch’s 80,172 visitors checked out 166,396 items, including digital books.
“The Del Mar Library has been many things over the last 100 years, but never has it gone forgotten,” said San Diego County Library Director José Aponte. “On the site of an old church, and former restaurant this dynamic library is open, accessible and remodeled for success. With a little help from our partners in the city, community, and most importantly our Del Mar Library Friends, the library has been reroofed, expanded and, most recently, redesigned for customer satisfaction. We embrace our continued reputation as bona fide signature building and library sanctuary at heart of this dynamic city with a view.”
The community is invited to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Del Mar Library from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Nov. 1. The event will feature a noon concert and an appearance from Sparkles the Clown. San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts, Del Mar Mayor Lee Haydu and County Library Deputy Director Donna Ohr will be among those in attendance.
For more about the Del Mar Branch Library, visit www.sdcl.org/locations_DM.html.
For more about the Friends of Del Mar Library, visit friendsofdelmarlibrary.org.