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‘L’ is for Learning at the Library: Pacific Beach Taylor Branch grows with the community

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Branch Manager Christina Wainwright, Youth Services Librarian Rebecca Smith, and Friends of the PB Library President Connie Mason
(Roberto Rosas)

Opened in the spring of 1997, the Pacific Beach/Taylor Library incorporates the graceful design of the nautilus shell. It’s been reported that architect Manuel Oncina chose the design as a reflection of and tribute to the surrounding beach community. The interior is natural, light and airy, with high ceilings, rounded walls and floor-to-ceiling windows that open to the sky and trees outside.

According to some myths, the nautilus shell is a symbol of expansion and renewal. As the mollusk living inside grows, so do the numbers and size of the chambers inside the shell.

Likewise, the PB Library has also grown in its current location for 22 years, continually expanding its role in the community with new services and programs.

Christina Wainwright, PB branch manager for 12 years, said she sees guiding this expansion as her major responsibility.

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“As a librarian and branch manager, my job is to offer what the community wants,” she told PB Monthly. “Whatever is most popular is a reflection of the community.” She went on to explain that she enjoys reaching out and meeting people. Her efforts have paid off with more programs and staff.

“In 2007, we offered programs maybe twice a week. Now there are only a couple of days a month without an activity,” she said. The reach of programs is wide, she added, appealing to people of all ages.

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Youth Services Librarian Rebecca Smith and Library Assistant Cari Edwards lead the Dance Party for toddlers on the second Thursday of every month in the library’s Community Room. Thursday mornings feature a variety of activities for young readers.
(Courtesy)

To help her, Wainwright oversees a staff of 17, including a full-time youth librarian and a Sunday librarian. She also works closely with the Friends of the Pacific Beach Library (FOPBL). The volunteer organization has approximately 200 members and raises funds for the library with onsite book sales (about $50,000 a year), oversees special events such as concerts and lectures, and offers supportive feedback.

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“We are supremely lucky with Christina’s guidance,” said Connie Mason, current FOPBL president. “She has such a positive outlook, with a smile on her face all the time.” According to Mason, Wainwright regularly obtains grants, attends conferences and brings back ideas to discuss with FOPBL members.

A former librarian at PB and Crown Point elementary schools, Mason shares Wainwright’s vision of the library’s role. “Our goal is to make the library the centerpiece of the community,” she said. Mason was the library’s Concert Series chair for 20 years.

The library works closely with St. Andrews by the Sea Episcopal Church across Thomas Street for community events, such as the annual National Night Out scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 6. Neighbors are encouraged to bring potluck dishes, socialize, listen to music and meet police and firefighters. “We are stronger when we stand together, even with differences,” said Wainwright.

Other regular events include the Sunday music concerts, cooking lectures, art shows, Friday films, a book discussion group and outdoor book sales three days a week. For the first time this year, the library is working with the City Parks & Recreation Department to host some of the Summer Movies in the Park.

Regular classes for children of all ages include storytelling, dance, toddler yoga, arts and crafts and many more. Classes for adults include chair yoga, qigong, photography and health lectures.

During the school year, the library offers Do Your Homework @ the Library, with free tutoring for students K-8. During the summer, the Summer Reading Program encourages both children and parents to keep up with reading, offering prizes for reading a certain number of books or hours. (Reading to children counts, too.)

To download a printable monthly event calendar, see pblibraryfriends.org

By the numbers

The PB Library shares an annual $56 million budget with the 35 other libraries in the San Diego system. They also share a “floating collection,” with about one-third checked out at any one time, explained Wainwright. Popular fiction authors are David Baldacci, Louise Penny, Lee Child and Michael Connelly.

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Dr. Seuss is the children’s favorite author, Wainwright added.

The PB Library is the only one in San Diego that manages its own adjacent park.

The 12,484-square-foot building includes a meeting room, children’s area, a reading area for magazines and newspapers, stacks for fiction and non-fiction books, DVDs, CDs, audiobooks, 16 computer stations and an Express Collection section where patrons can find popular books.

Branch history

The PB Library is named for Earl and Birdie Taylor, early Pacific Beach residents and developers, whose son and daughter funded the building. Originally, the square block of land on which the library sits was surrounded by eucalyptus trees. In the 1920s, as traffic began traveling between downtown San Diego and La Jolla, the lot on Cass Street was turned into an auto park.

By the 1940s, it was the DeLuxe Trailer Park. From 1953 to 1983, it was the site of Martha Farnum Elementary School (opened during the Baby Boom years and named after a San Diego educator). After closing, the building housed a Montessori school for two years and then stood vacant until the library was built 12 years later.

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Exterior shot of today's Pacific Beach Library at 4275 Cass St.
(Christina Wainwright)

Since opening, the Taylor Branch has won architectural awards for Oncina, who is based in La Jolla and has designed several other libraries including those in Alpine, Cardiff, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Fallbrook and Ramona.

Pacific Beach’s first library was started in the Pacific Beach Woman’s Club on Hornblend Street in 1914.

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Eventually, it moved to the northwest corner of Felspar and Ingraham Streets, current site of the Beach and Bay Family YMCA.

When the library celebrated its centennial in 2014, Wainwright said she was inspired by how the small beginnings had evolved.

“We don’t always see what’s going to come, how the seeds you plant can make a difference in lives.”

Wainwright grew up in Otay Mesa. She volunteered in her local library, earned an undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley and then a master’s in Information Science at the University of Michigan.

By then, she said, she saw how the Internet was being made available to all neighborhoods through their libraries.

She joined the San Diego library system 20 years ago and worked in Logan Heights before transferring to Pacific Beach, where she was already living.

IF YOU GO: The PB Library is at 4275 Cass St. Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday; 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday; 12:30-5 p.m. Sunday. (858) 581-9934, pblibraryfriends.org and sandiego.gov/public-library/locations/pacific-beach-taylor-library


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