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Mayor’s Column: Cerritos Library Shapes Development of Cerritos

 

By Cerritos Mayor Mark E. Pulido

As part of the columns I will be submitting during my term as Mayor, I will be focusing on the history of Cerritos. For this column, I would like to  focus on the history of the Cerritos Library. I have fond memories of walking to the Cerritos Library with my mother as a young boy. It was there that my love of reading began and my imagination was sparked by all of the wonderful books and resources that were offered at the library.

Cerritos set its course in the early ‘70s with a series of high-profile developments that would shape its character. A new library was the first major development. The Friends of the Cerritos Public Library, Inc. encouraged the City to build its own library facility, independent of the county library system.

Bloomfield Avenue and 183rd Street was selected as the location for the new library, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held in June 1972. Attendees celebrated with a 15-foot long strawberry shortcake, which was fitting for the site that was home to a strawberry field. 

 

 

A.J. Padelford & Son constructed the library, which was designed by architect Maurice Fleishman, AIA. The library was officially dedicated on October 13, 1973, and was the first building added to the City’s Civic Center. The library boasted 18,000-square-feet of space and more than 45,000 volumes. It featured the latest technology at the time, including 16-mm sound films and projectors, magazines on 16-mm microfilm cartridges, record players with headphones, coin-operated electric typewriters and copy machines. The library also included a children’s area, theater and law library. 

The Friends of the City of Cerritos Public Library, Inc. was established in 1972 to mobilize support for the library and its programs. 

Annette Creasy, one of the founders of the Friends group, recalls, “We established the Friends group before there was even a library. In 1971, the ‘library’ consisted of one shelf of books at a location on Pioneer Boulevard. 

“Our group wanted to establish a municipal library for children,” continued Creasy. “In order to convince the City Councilmembers at that time, we went to talk to their wives. The City Council meeting at which the library was approved by a 3-2 vote lasted until 1 a.m.”

 

 

The Friends were also instrumental in making the Cerritos Library the first public library in the United States to be dedicated to the First Ladies of the Nation, in honor of former first lady Patricia Nixon, one of the area’s most notable residents. Creasy and the Friends came up with the idea at the time after realizing that there were no libraries or buildings dedicated to the first ladies, although there were plenty of structures dedicated to the presidents. Creasy recalls receiving a purse from First Lady Mamie Eisenhower for the library’s special collection, and also obtaining a quote from First Lady Bess Truman for the First Ladies wall at the library.

In 1981, an expansion project was launched to better serve the growing number of library patrons. Approximately 21,000 square feet was added to the library. The expanded library included more room for materials; a large multi-purpose room and bigger little theater; a saltwater aquarium; spacious adult reading room; computers that replaced the older card catalogs; and a split-level area for the circulating collection. A groundbreaking for the expansion was held on November 17, 1984. 

 

 

 

In 1989, the enlarged library was honored with the National Award of Excellence from the American Library Association and the American Institute of Architects, as well as the Award of Honor from the Southern California Institute of Architects.

As the 21st century approached, the Cerritos Library was one of the City’s most popular attractions. By spring 2000, the west half of the library was being demolished to make way for the new Cerritos Millennium Library. The new $40 million, 82,500-square-foot library was designed by Charles Walton Associates and would become the first titanium-clad public structure in the United States. It was built by C.W. Driver Contractors of Los Angeles and included space for 300,000 books, a conference center, museum-quality displays, a Hi-Tech Training Lab and 200 computer workstations. The children’s area featured a 15,000-gallon saltwater aquarium, a model of the space shuttle, a fossil replica of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a rainforest display. The expanded library was dedicated on March 16, 2002 with a celebration that attracted more than 9,000 visitors.

Today, the Cerritos Library is a monument to lifelong learning, featuring an outstanding selection of books and electronic resources as well as educational programs for patrons of all ages. More than 1,500 children, teens and adults join the library’s summer reading program each year, and more than 26,000 patrons participate in its various other programs. In total, the library serves more than 1.2 million patrons each year. 

The library continues to remain on the forefront of technology and library services. Over the past few years the Cerritos Library has introduced new digital services such as Hoopla media streaming and the cloudLibrary™ digital book service, and it is currently upgrading its radio frequency identification (RFID) system, which includes the installation of new self-checkout stations, security gates, RFID tags, circulation desk equipment and system software. 

Throughout the decades, the City Council, Friends, Volunteens and staff have worked together to ensure the Cerritos Library provides patrons with exceptional services. Originally designed as a source of community pride, the library remains so to this day.

 

 

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This is a great story walking down memory lane. Remember when Bloomfield Avenue was a two-lane Country Road, todays Towne Center was home to cows, there was no curbs and gutters, there was no center Meridian strip, all there was were ditches on both sides of Bloomfield, and there was manure sacks for sale along the lane for $0.25, using a coffee can for depositing moneys. Distinctively remember seeing the construction of the library framework, it was a very eerie feeling at night time, that area had no lights around it, and you could see the dark Construction through the… Read more »