Over the past few weeks or so the history of libraries on the Mendocino Coast has been explored in this Kelley House column. Here is the last segment on library growth on the South Coast.
Given that there were reading rooms before there were libraries it seems likely they existed, however briefly, in Little River, Albion, Greenwood-Elk, and perhaps Manchester. The Little River Improvement Club’s meeting house, which is now a museum, had a library at one time.
Greenwood Elk had a Civic Club a century ago and a Mrs. Sweet formed a library with adventure stories to encourage youth to read. It was Point Arena, however, that went after library development in a big way.
In this day and age, it is truly unusual to find a group of folks forming a “Friends of the Library” organization BEFORE a library exists, but that’s what happened in Point Arena. John Rose, in July of 1989, gathered local readers in St. Paul’s Community Methodist Church to start a library. It was to be a free library, no subscription fee, and from the start plans were started to make it become part of the Mendocino County Library system.
In the 1930’s the Point Arena Civic Club had a library, but it was leveled by fire in 1946. The 1989 attempt at a library started with $100, donated books, volunteers, and shelves in the church. The library outgrew the church and moved to 280 Main St. and later the Friends were able to buy the old Point Arena Mercantile storefront.
Extensive remodeling of this building took place in the early 2000’s and a human chain of book movers was used to re-install the collection. Julia Larke, librarian since 2010, said the only thing that held up transfers on the human chain was people wanting to look at the books in their hands.
With the history of the current site of the Coast Community Library comes interesting facts.
The first brick building was built in 1886 as a company store for lumber companies and shook down during the 1906 Earthquake. Rebuilt with new brick and wooden structural reinforcement designed to be fireproof it burned down in 1927. Rebuilt again it functioned as a mercantile until 1995, then sat empty waiting for its next use, which turned out to be as a library.
The Coast Community Library joined the county system in 2000. It hosts some of the most diverse activities of any library in the county. They have a seed library, loan Do-It-Yourself tool kits, have poetry readings, host a “Sunday at the Library” lecture series, teach crafts and cooking, show films, and serve the reading public.
So, library services now exist from Westport to Point Arena along the Mendocino Coast. The Bookmobile serves all the small towns lacking a library building. Check the county website for its schedule.