SEASIDE — It will be time to sing “Happy Birthday” to a grand old lady, who’s turning 100 Saturday.

There will be balloons, cake and a presentation, and, yes, even the “Happy Birthday” song. The state librarian will be there, too, because the birthday celebration is for the Seaside Public Library.

Festivities will run from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday at the library, 1131 Broadway.

Seaside Library Director Esther Moberg is the first to admit that 1935 is really the official year for the library’s anniversary as a public library.

But before it “went public,” it began as a private library by the Seaside Improvement Club July 10, 1913.

“As far as I can tell, the library has been in five different places,” said Moberg, who has done some research on the library’s beginnings.

The first location, she said, appeared to be in what was then the Dresser Building, on the northeast corner of Holladay Drive (then Seventh Street) and Broadway. A one-room “reading room,” the library was adjacent to the public restrooms, also located inside the Dresser Building.

Described by the Seaside Signal as having a “tasty appearance” and decorated in brown, cream and yellow, the reading room measured 1,200 square feet and contained a library table, writing material, an easy chair and drinking fountain.

The library matron also supervised the restrooms, but the first librarian was George E. Shaver, who also was the president of the Seaside Civic Improvement Club.

The reading room also acted as a visitors information bureau where the “city’s guests may learn of available rooms and their rates and in fact any information desired,” according to the Signal. A business directory also was hung on the wall, and a directory of summer residents was kept on file.

A nursery was set up in the back of the room with cribs for children. “Opening from the nursery will be found the rooms for women where the best of plumbing has been installed,” the Signal said.

In 1919, the City Council took over the library, even though it was still considered at least quasi-private. The council moved the library to the Soldiers and Sailors Club Building.

In 1921, Librarian Sophia Johansen earned $50 a month in the winter and $75 a month in the summer, when more visitors used the library.

“I’m glad they don’t do that now,” Moberg said.

Finally, in 1935, the City Council passed a resolution establishing the library as a public library, subject to state regulations governing Oregon libraries. This time, the library was moved to the City Hall/Fire Hall, where it remained for 27 years, Moberg said. Some of those who still remember that location recall that the library had spaces upstairs and downstairs.

Longtime Seaside resident Claire Lovell remembers in her Seaside Signal column this week that librarian Elizabeth McKay “kept a watchful eye on book choices for all of us.”

“In those days, one had to be quiet in the building, too, with occasional signs to that effect,” Lovell writes. “In some places, whispering was in order.”

After voters approved a $35,000 bond election and other funds were raised, a new library was built on Roosevelt Drive in 1963. Despite a remodel in 1985 that doubled the library’s size, the library collection and services had outgrown the space by the early 1990s.

Beginning in 1998, a search began for a new library location, and fundraising efforts started. But the potential move – and the money required to make the move – proved somewhat controversial, and it wasn’t until a private donation of $500,000 was made that the project began in earnest.

During that time, the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District became the beneficiary of a house on Broadway that a local resident had willed to the district. The recreation district sold the house to the city, and enough land was available for a new library.

On Sept. 20, 2008, Mayor Don Larson and then library Director Reita Fackerell cut a ribbon to the new library. Larson declared the cool, fall day “very special.”

Instantly, the new library had increased in size from 5,200 square feet to 13,700 square feet. There was a children’s room, a community meeting room, space for the Friends of Library to sell books, a cozy area around a fireplace and enough space for 20 people at a time to work on computers.

In 1936, the library had a circulation of 1,214 books. Library patrons signed up for 282 cards.

With a circulation of 130,777 books, DVDs, e-books and other items, today’s Seaside Library is second only on the coast to the Bandon Library for checkouts per capita. Seaside’s average is 19.71 items per capita, while Bandon’s is 20.4 items.

Seaside Library cardholders number 5,800.

The library’s budget has also grown – from $1,000 in 1919 to $573,566 this year.

It has become more than a reading room. It has become a place to hear authors speak, play in monthly trivia tournaments, participate in arts and crafts, watch movies, hear lectures about the local environment, laugh during puppet shows, share writing projects with other writers and learn about a variety of topics through numerous presentations.

Displays of the former libraries and photos of those who founded the original library will be available during Saturday’s birthday party.

“It will be low-key,” Moberg said. “There will be a short program, but anybody who wants to talk is welcome.”

And when talking in a library is permitted, who can resist? 



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