November 28, 2012

History of San Leandro's Library

The following history of San Leandro was prepared by Marie Tinsley in 1950. Tinsley was appointed Librarian in 1938.


Prepared by Miss Marie E. Tinsley, September 28, 1950

(From Standard-Observer, April 26, 1919). In 1892 a circulating library club was organized with dues fixed at $.50 per month. Funds thus realized were used to buy books in popular demand. The association had headquarters at office of San Leandro Standard on Davis Street where Editor Truesdale acted as librarian. After several months, interest flagges, dues were hard to collect and the collection of books remaining passed into hands of librarian in lieu of salary unpaid.

Next concerted effort was a benefit entertainment by a group of local young people, a dramatic performance on April 12, 1902, which netted $39.00. Sum deposited in Bank of San Leandro.

From 1902 - 1905 Library spirit waned. During these years O.J. Lynch had a small collection of books in his store (now Ortzow's Drug Store ), consisting of volumes donated by various persons, and loaned without charge. The Ebell Club of Oakland heard of his efforts and in 1903 supplemented his stock with a case of books from their circulating library. The considerable demand for these books aroused interest of Daniel McCarthy and at his suggestion an application was made to the then recently organized circulating department or California State Library at Sacramento. 50 volumes were obtained, with bookcase and charging system.

On May 3, 1905, O.J. Lynch, L. D. McArdle, L. B. Critchlow, Dr. C. H. Miller, and Dr. K. B. Smith, met and organized the San Leandro Public Library Association. Mr. Lynch was elected President and Mr. McArdle, Secretary-Treasurer and Librarian. Books were removed to the office of the San Leandro Oyster Company, where Mr. McArdle gave an hour a day to library work.

After a few months Mr. McArdle left San Leandro and the library was once more placed in charge of Tony Thomas and Mr. Lynch in the drug store of the latter, where it remained for several months.

Near the close of 1905, Dr. Miller and Mr. Lynch, sole remaining representatives of the Library Association, petitioned the City Trustees that they should assume charge of the rapidly growing institution. Board of City Trustees gave the matter their enthusiastic support, and besides appointing a Board of Library Trustees, made a 5 mill increase in the tax levy for the support of the library.

San Leandro Free Library, 1907
San Leandro's first free library was located on E. 14th Street near Ward Street (Now W. Estudillo Ave.). Note the watering trough in front.

The San Leandro Free Public Library began its existence on the evening of January 31, 1906, when the newly appointed Board of Library Trustees met in the office of Judge Frank. There were present, A.B.Cary, Mrs. J.H. Garcia, Mrs. R.D.James, Dr. C.H.Miller, and A.A.Rogers, and the board organized by electing M. Rogers, and President Dr. Miller, Secretary.

The new board immediately appointed Miss Mary Brown to be Librarian and petitioned the City Trustees for permission to remove the library to the City Hall. In its quarters in the general meeting room, the popularity of the library increased by leaps and bounds, as evidenced by the fact that the daily circulation doubled each month for the first three months.

About the middle of the year the library was forced to seek new quarters on account of the necessity for more room for the Citizens Relief Committee caring for refugees from the San Francisco earthquake.

[The rest of the history is after the break.]

A room in the Borman Block leased and fitted with shelving and tables, answered the requirements for many months.

Toward the end of 1907 it was proposed that application should be made to Andrew Carnegie for funds to erect a suitable library building, and Talcot Patchen Cary made an unsolicited offer of the site on Estudillo Avenue, this offer on condition that citizens of San Leandro subscribe a sum of at least $2000.00 to be used in the purchase of books and furniture, before February 1, 1908, and that the building be erected on the property as expeditiously as possible.

The San Leandro Board of Trade, the Alta Mira Club, and the City Trustees went to work at once and secured the needed subscriptions.

(*A list of donors of gifts from $100 to $5 is given in the San Leandro Reporter, Feb. 8, 1908)

(From San Leandro Reporter, February 8, 1908.) Gift of Mr. T. P. Cary was given under the following conditions:

1. That upon said described lot a building be erected to be used as a Free Public Library.

2. That said land be not used for any other purpose except for the erection of library building, as aforesaid, including reading rooms, assembly hall, and kindred purposes.

3. That no less than the sum of $10,000 be expended for the library building only.

4. That said library building be completed wi thin eighteen months from date hereof.

5. That the sum of $2,000, at least, be collected from the citizens of San Leandro and held at the disposal of the Board of Library Trustees to be expended for furnishing the library building when completed.

6. I reserve the right to remove the barn now upon the premises.

Mr. William H. Weeks of Watsonville was the architect who prepared the plans for the building.

Word was received from Andrew Carnegie on May 11, 1908, that $10,00 was at the disposal of the library trustees. Bids were called for and Ernest Anderson secured the contract to erect the building for the sum of $9,200. The painting cost $300.00 more.

However, before the building was completed, the trustees realized that on account of the increase in the size of the city by reason of the annexation of the large territory on the the Oakland side of San Leandro Creek, more accommodations would be needed. They petitioned Mr. Carnegie for an additional $2,000.00 to finish the basement for men's reading room and auditorium, which was granted, and March 1909 saw the completion of the new library.

Miss Mary Brown as librarian and the Board of Library Trustees: A.B.Cary, President; Dr. C.H.Miller, Secretary; Mrs. J.H. Garcia, Mrs Josephine Russell, and C.A.Harwell.

The dedication of the new building took place on May 14, 1909.

San Leandro Carnegie Library, 1908-1909
San Leandro Carnegie Library, 1908-1909

In 1936-1937, by an addition to the building, the capacity was doubled. This addition, made possible by the fines accumulated through many years, and through the aid of W.P.A. funds and workers, was called the "Mary Brown Addition" to honor the years of untiring service of the librarian, Miss Mary Brown, who resigned in 1938 because of ill health.

Miss Marie Tinsley, who was appointed Librarian in 1938, has held that position up to the present.

Even with the additional space and equipment, the library has been pressed to keep up with the phenomenal growth of San Leandro. In 1940 the Broadmoor Branch Library, formerly a County Library Branch, was taken over as a branch of the City Library for full support and administration.

In 1940, July 16th, a new Children's Room was formally opened to the public. The Auditorium in the basement had been remodelled and redecorated and shelving added. With its own outside entrance, it provided an ideal home for the youngsters from four to fifteen.

In 1947-48, extensive changes were made in the basement. The book-mending room, removed to another part of the building, became a staff and board room. Storage and toilet facilities were added, a dumb waiter for moving books was installed, and the Children's Room was redecorated and fluorescent lights replaced the outmoded ones.

A few statistics may show quickly the growth of both city library. How soon the "seams" will have to be "let out" once more remains to been seen. The present library board are deeply interested in all questions concerning the welfare of the library and devote many hours to consideration of needs, problems, and their solution.

Posted by Mike Katz-Lacabe at November 28, 2012 10:29 PM | TrackBack
Post a comment

Remember personal info?