Friends of the Poway Library

The History of the Poway Community Library
By Ginger Brown
LT 100

"The meeting place of the valleys" was how the Indians of long ago described the heart of the valley 20 miles from San Diego and 10 miles as the crow flies to the ocean at Del Mar. Those who live there today still know it as the Indian word Poway.

The San Digueno Indians roamed the area for centuries until the Spanish claimed the land in the 1700's. However, it wasn't until 1859 that Phlllip Crosthwaithe actually settled in the valley and took up cattle ranching. The valley was also ideal for farming with grain and fruit crops said to "grow without irrigation due to moisture from the ocean."3 Eventually the cattlemen moved their herds to Mexico and the economy of the valley became primarily based on agriculture.

Settlers into this area firmly established a prosperous, good and satisfying life. These people were stable, hardworking and conservative who built community institutions such as schools and churches. There were also many civic organizations such as the International Order of Good Templers.

At this time, with approximately 800 residents in the area, many of the factors necessary for the development of a library were present in Poway. There was a literate population, a good economy, peacetime, and a stable society. Even though all of these factors existed it was not easy to get approval for a library system in San Diego County and without some strong lobbying from Sacramento none of the branches would have gotten a start according to Nancy Saint John, public relations director for the San Diego County Library in 1988.

Harriet Eddy, a representative of the California State Library, was sent to San Diego in Feb.1912 to persuade county supervisors that a library system was needed. The approval of all five county supervisors was necessary and the word was that there was one hold out vote. Harriet Eddy learned that there was one person who could talk the lone supervisor into changing his vote, John D. Spreckles, a powerfuSan Diego businessman. He was happy to help and invited the supervisor to lunch. No one knows what was said at the lunch, but the supervisor did cast the deciding vote, after which he looked at Eddy and said, "Well, Miss Eddy, you've got your county library."

In February of 1913 San Diego County became the l3th county in California to establish a County Free Library. The Poway library was officially established May 19, 1913, the second branch in the county.

A few examples to help put in perspective what was happening in the world 87 years ago are: Woodrow Wilson had just been elected President of the United States, New York's Grand Central Station opened, the Titanic sunk on its maiden voyage, the foxtrot was the "in" dance, Sons and Lovers bv D. H. Lawrence was being read along with Willa Cather's O'Pioneers. It was indeed time that San Diego County had libraries! In 1913 the beautiful libraries we think of today did not exist in Poway. The community was thankful for Mrs. E.B. Flint who graciously converted her front parlor into a place where the townspeople could select books. This arrangement continued for 11 years. In 1924 the library moved to Mr. Harry Tassell's ranch for 30 years. This must have been interesting because according to Mr. Tassel's widow, Mrs. Victoria Michaels, no one was allowed in the library unless they had a library card. "They had to have a library card-absolutely- because they were using county property," said Mrs. Michaels.

Approximately every two months a truckload of books would arrive which was unpacked and put on bookshelves. How fun it must have been to go through the new selections and get first pick. In the 1950's Poway had a tremendous surge in population growth due to the formation of several water districts that made a variety of new services available. Now not everyone knew one another as in the old days and people were hesitant to house the library in their homes, yet the cost of renting a building was prohibitive. The library, without a home, was forced to close in July 1955. However, where there is a will there is a way and the people of Poway had great determination to see their library continue. The problem was solved by the purchase of a second hand house trailer (white with red shutters) which was remodeled to suit its purpose-a library. The trailer was parked at a home until it was no longer welcome there and then rolled on to a new location. There would be no need for strangers to go into a home to check out their books. The first farnily to give the trailer a home was that of Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Trumbo. All was well until their fourth child was born and gave Mrs. Trumbo less time, so the people of Poway saw their library trailer roll on to yet another location.

The library trailer moved around for a few years before settling permanently by the home of Mr. And Mrs. Gordon Carter. In 1988 Mr. Carter stated that when the library sat in front of his house from 1958-1962, it was a "pretty popular place". However, the Poway library trailer became a slice of history in November 1962 when the library moved into rented quarters in the heart of Poway and boasted a collection of 10,000 books.

The population of Poway continued to grow along with the needs of the library. In ten years time more shelving, a charge desk, children's programs, adult programs, and films were added. The staff increased by three people which allowed the library to be open six days a week instead of five days. By February of 1975 this branch moved to a larger facility where the hours, staff, programs and collection continued to increase to meet the demands of the growing community. By 1986 it was clear that the Poway library again needed more space.

The Friends of the Poway Library was instrumental in garnering support from the community to build a new structure for the library according to an interview with Joye Davisson, the President of the Friends of the Poway Library (Nov.2000). For twelve years the Friends and community leaders worked tirelessly for a new library. They attended countless meetings with County Library staff, with County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, Poway City Council and Poway City staff. They sought funds from businesses, service organizations and members of the Friends of the Poway Library. All of their efforts came to fruition with the opening in June 1998 of the beautiful new Poway Community Library. The library features a flowing courtyard with a fountain sculpture which is enticing to children of all ages, a community meeting room, a children's wing where a beautiful 300 gallon aquarium keeps little ones fascinated, a reading room, state of the art computers and a collection of approximately 75,000. This is indeed a library any community would be proud to call its own. It is a testament to the ideals of the people of Poway and a model for county-city co-operation. San Diego County actually operates the library and initially provided $50,000 per year with the City of Poway providing $300,000 per year.

Poway and its library have been evolving throughout the twentieth century from a farming community of 800 in the surrounding area in 1913 with the library in a front parlor, to a thriving community covering 39 sq. miles and 48,393 people with a 20,000 sq. foot new library. The San Diego Association of Governments predicts the population of Poway will be 53,338 by 2020. If the pattern repeats itself; Poway's library will continue to evolve in order to accommodate the ever changing needs of the community.


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Millican, Anthony. (No title available) San Diego Union Tribune 14 June 1998.

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Shawl, Kathy. "Annual Report." Open Book Mar./Apr. 1994.

Unsigned article. "County Library Celebrates Seventy-Fifth Anniversary!" San Diego County Connection Spring/Summer 1988: pg. 1,4.

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Van Dam, Mary August. As I Remember Poway. Poway: Poway Historical Society, 1985.

Wiesman, Dan. "'City in the country 'grapples with growth." North County Times 16 Oct. 2000: A4