Ocean Beach ‘s biggest draw — to both insiders and outsiders — is its beach, but another big part of this tight-knit and friendly town is its library. The Ocean Beach Library is small, at just over 4,500 square feet, but it’s mighty in its impact and significance to the community.
The original Ocean Beach Library was located on Abbott Street across from the Ocean Beach Lifeguard Tower. The building that now houses Newbreak Coffee was, back in the early 1900s, the library and Ocean Beach jail! However, what was right next to the library and jail was the town carousel, which proved to be a distraction to library-goers who didn’t want to hear the sounds of the carousel. So, the library moved to its current building at the intersection of Santa Monica and Sunset Cliffs in 1928.
It was expanded to its current size in the 1960s, and new roofing and carpeting was installed in 2012.
The roof, a slanted Spanish tile, proves to be of good quality, according to branch manager Matt Beatty, who says it is the only library he’s worked at — and he’s worked at more than 27 locations in San Diego and Philadelphia — that did not have a leaking roof.
“It’s an old building, but it’s in good condition. The original construction is much better quality than the new renovations,” Beatty said, adding he has worked at the Ocean Beach Library since 2002.
Adding space for the future
Currently, the library has plans for an expansion that is still in its design phase.
“They’re looking for what to do with this building and the building next door,” said Beatty, “and we are expecting an announcement sometime this year” on the next phase of the renovations.
Preserving the past
One of the iconic pillars standing at the library’s outdoor entrance are the two large urns. Inside the urns are time capsules that were installed in 1993 at the library’s 65th anniversary event. The capsules are set to be opened again in 2043.
Not many residents know what’s in these time capsules, though Ocean Beach native and vice-president of the Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association, Mike Akey, was one of the leaders of the installation ceremony, who, along with the City librarian, unveiled the urns. “It was a lot for me as young as I was then,” Akey said. “I used to look up to those urns as a child, and now they’re even bigger.”
Inside the time capsules, he says, are items from the elementary school and Ocean Beach businesses, as well as a fake leg that belonged to the artist who designed them, who was inspired by the 1920s artist Maxfield Parrish.
OB’s family demands
In May 2018, the library had just over 17,600 users, which averages out to about 200,000 a year. The most popular book for adults — asked for year after year — is “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. Popular among children are books about marine life and holidays. “Self-help and water sports are really big here, too,” Beatty said of the nonfiction books users want to read.
He pointed out that a noticeable trend in the area is the Ocean Beach “baby boom,” and the library is trying to cater to the influx of the number of young families with children.
“We try to have programs that link and attract those users, and they need a place where they can meet and run into people in their same life situation,” Beatty said. The library hosts programs through the summer for them, such as Children’s Yoga, Baby and Me Yoga, Children’s Storytime, and more.
“We didn’t use to have a lot of children here — we were second from the bottom (by city-wide standards) — but now that’s changing,” said Beatty.
Got books to donate?
The library is always looking for gently-used books. If they’re not in good enough condition to add to the collection, they can be sold or given away to those who may not be able to afford books. Monetary donations are always accepted, as well, and are tax deductible. The staff at the Ocean Beach Library said they are incredibly grateful for the donations from the OB Women’s Club, the OB Town Council, and Friends of the Library.
• Ocean Beach Library Info: (619) 531-1532. sandiego.gov/public-library/locations/ocean-beach-library