Mendocino’s Community Library

The latest chapter in the library history of Mendocino began back in 1974, when the Mendocino Study Club, keeper of the community’s lending library, was faced once again with the task of finding a new home for its club rooms, and also for its ever-growing collection of books.

As we covered in an earlier column, the Club rooms in the much loved Kellieowen Hall, on the corner of Lansing and Ukiah Street, had to be vacated when Daisy MacCallum’s heirs sold the property. 

Club members came together to work out a solution. Meetings were moved to The Woods community in Little River, the furnishings were sold, and other items, like the china and silver, were stored in members’ homes. Importantly, a housing fund account was opened in anticipation of some future date when a permanent home could be found for the Club and its library.

After much shuffling and many difficult storage challenges, the library was re-opened at the old grammar school on School Street. But within a short time, it again had to move, this time to Eidsath House, or the Manse, at the Presbyterian Church.

Over the years, housing the library continued to be a problem, and in 1987, after ten years in the Manse, the Club was notified that the Church needed the space for expanding programs. By this time, rental property in town was not only scarce, but expensive.

Then, Jack and Jeanette (Mendosa) Hansen offered the Club a small house at 10591 Williams Street, on the corner of Little Lake Street, across from the Mendocino Art Center. (This building had achieved some notoriety as a “brothel” in the 1954 film, “East of Eden” starring James Dean). The new library nonprofit, formed in 1987, could purchase it by paying interest only on the existing note. With the support of the Study Club, the offer was gratefully accepted, and the move completed that year. 

The transition from residence to library required major repairs and remodeling. After the building permits were approved, the first priority was to install new plumbing, a new furnace, carpet, and electrical wiring. The former bathroom became the reference section, and the kitchen became the new office.

The Club paid the closing costs, legal fees, and most of the remodeling costs, while community volunteers and service organizations donated time and labor. On May 7, 1988, the Mendocino Community Library opened in its permanent home.

In 1990, with funds from savings, a Study Club gift, and donations from the community raised by Bob Burns and Sam Shelton, an eight hundred square foot addition replaced the dilapidated garage. Named the Study Club Room, it completed the present facility.

The Mendocino Community Library, like most businesses and organizations, is dealing with new challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are meeting them, just like earlier booklovers who, since 1883, overcame obstacles and developed new solutions so that reading rooms and libraries could always be a part of this community. 

Taking this difficult time and turning it into opportunity, the library’s all-volunteer staff has now made it possible for patrons to have online access to its large and diverse collection of books, tapes, and DVDs Curbside pickup will start soon. Check it out at https://www.librarycat.org/lib/MendoLibrary

Next week, we’ll tell the story of the South Coast Libraries.