New manager finds ‘joy every day’ in leading Ocean Beach Library
In combining her love of music, reading and helping people, Christy Rickey Meister has found harmony as the new branch manager of the Ocean Beach Library.
The library — part of the San Diego Public Library system — reopened in May after being closed for more than two years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rickey Meister said she has loved libraries since she was a child, but working at one wasn’t always part of her plans.
“In a former life, I was a classical clarinetist,” playing with groups in Santa Barbara, she said. With master’s degrees in musicology and clarinet performance from UC Santa Barbara, she taught music theory and clarinet courses for many years.
“I got into library studies through studying music for my degree,” she said.
A music library is filled with musical recordings, books, printed music and more, and “being surrounded by all these wonderful things I was interested in at the university’s music library was heavenly,” she said.
But a large library can be overwhelming, especially for visitors who don’t know how to find what they need. Having librarians on hand who could answer her questions was a game-changer, Rickey Meister said.
“The idea of being a steward of such a place — of being able to open the door and giving other people that feeling of being surrounded by all these wonderful things — it feels really good,” she said. “So I kept thinking the library was the place to be.”
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Her passion for libraries led Rickey Meister to a master’s degree in library and information science from Florida State University. She has since worked in many aspects of the field, including acquisitions at the UC San Diego Library, youth services at the Mountain View/Beckwourth and Rancho Bernardo libraries, and art, music and recreation at the San Diego Central Library.
“I love that moment of helping patrons get what they need, whether it’s the book they want, access to a computer or just a recommendation,” she said.
Rickey Meister started the Ocean Beach job in January and spent the first few months in training and preparing the library for reopening. After having so much time to prepare, she said it’s been “a joy every day” for the library to be open again.
When people visit, “they have smiles on their faces, they’re having fun and everyone is just so pleased; it’s delightful,” she said.
Judy Collier, secretary for Friends of the Ocean Beach Library, has lived in the OB area since the 1970s. She said she believes Rickey Meister’s musical background shows she has what it takes to handle her new role.
“I met Christy a few months before the library was open,” Collier said. “I did piano teaching and know how hard her majors were. It takes a very persistent person with dedication beyond the ordinary to achieve what she did.”
Laura Dennison, membership chairwoman for Friends of the OB Library, has been an Ocean Beach resident for about a dozen years and has volunteered with the group nearly all that time.
“Since the library had been closed for so long, I’ve probably had more interaction with Christy than anyone,” Dennison said. “She has a very welcoming disposition and she brings out the best in the people she interacts with.”
Having filled in as a branch manager before — and being a huge fan of OB — Rickey Meister said she’s “thrilled” to be part of the library’s changing tempo.
For more than 20 years, a chorus of voices — including Friends of the OB Library — has been advocating change. And an ambitious $11 million plan is in the works to expand the library by more than 80 percent.
The project would include demolition of an adjacent two-story building known as the Annex, remodeling the existing 5,095-square-foot library and building a 4,205-square-foot, 22- to 25-foot-tall extension.
There would be a teen area, an outdoor courtyard, a community room with a kitchenette, study and storage rooms, office space, an expanded book collection area, new restrooms and new landscaping.
“OB doesn’t really have a community room, and the idea is that the public can have their own events and meetings, as well as the library’s events and programs,” Rickey Meister said.
The project has a $3 million anonymous donation and $4.5 million from the state in hand, and an effort by U.S. Rep. Scott Peters (D-La Jolla),
whose district includes Ocean Beach, to get $4 million from the federal government would secure the total amount needed.
A survey conducted by the San Diego Public Library on which conceptual design Ocean Beach residents would prefer to see in the planned OB Library expansion is nearly complete, and results will be presented at the OB Planning Board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 7, according to Laura Dennison of Friends of the Ocean Beach Library.
Rickey Meister has plenty of ideas for use of the new space.
“Before the COVID closure, there was a lot of music here,” she said, describing performances ranging from folk to jazz to rock and more. “I want to bring it back, along with an educational element. My interests and passion lies in music education and not just performances.”
She said residents also are interested in local history and the beaches and surfing culture.
“We have a little section of OB history with local authors, and I would love to expand that and bring in local historians and authors to give presentations,” Rickey Meister said.
She also would like to expand the seed library program that was started right before the pandemic shutdown. The program enables residents to donate and grow plants from donated seeds, resulting in plants tailored for the local microclimate.
“Although we didn’t invent the idea, our seed library was the first one in San Diego, and we would love for it to spread,” Rickey Meister said. “And I would love to get back to programming around it, such as seed saving, soil preparation, a lending library of garden tools and more.”
She also wants to make more resources available to help the local homeless population.
“The library is a safe place to be, and we have a population of patrons who use our computers, charge their electronic devices and access our Wi-Fi. Our computer access is so important to them, as it provides them with things such as job applications, health care, family connections and more,” she said.
“The library is one of the only places you can go with no expectation of spending money; you can just use our stuff and be here.”
“The idea of being a steward of such a place — of being able to open the door and giving other people that feeling of being surrounded by all these wonderful things — it feels really good.”
— Christy Rickey Meister
“Christy has such a positive, problem-solving nature,” Dennison said. “It is really great that she is the branch manager and will be able to deal with any issues that might arise because of the new construction. I imagine that she will be very happy when we start resuming the concerts. And I can see her working to get really fun music programs started. I just think she’ll be great.“
Rickey Meister is married to Adam Rickey, and the two have a full house: their 10-year-old daughter, Violet, and a menagerie that includes Rilo, a 5-year-old Great Dane; Rumcake the cat; Eggs the kitten; Redwood the Southern alligator lizard; Moo the Kenyan sand boa and several African cichlids (a type of fish).
“Rilo is a big fan of [OB’s] Dog Beach, as we all are — it’s the happiest place on Earth,” Rickey Meister said.
When at home, she enjoys crafting, music and reading (her favorites are horror, literary fiction and young-adult books). She tries to do something outdoors with her family every weekend.
And she’s jazzed about the future of the OB Library.
“I think Christy is going to be an ideal fit for the OB Library,” Collins said. “I find her personality really appealing. She’s very enthusiastic about OB and she really likes it. She seems very professionally grounded, very capable and very compassionate.”
The Ocean Beach Library, at 4801 Santa Monica Ave., is open from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays and 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays. For more information, visit bit.ly/3PduMBZ or call (619) 531-1532.