C E R R I T O S L I B R A R Y H I S T O R Y: P H A S E I
The city had changed its name to Cerritos and its focus to suburban development in 1967. A new General Plan moved the civic center site to its present location on the corner of Bloomfield Avenue and 183rd Street. Fleischman and Associates were picked as architects in January of 1972.
Friends of the Library By February, the Friends of the Library organization was formed. By-laws and action committees made plans to inaugurate interim library service. Book sales earned funds, and a collection of international children's books was begun. A "First Ladies” theme was chosen in recognition of the fact that former First Lady Patricia Nixon’s girlhood home was located in the community. In 1969, Mrs. Nixon had attended the groundbreaking for a city park on the site where her home stood. A letter-writing campaign produced a collection of memorabilia from the former Presidents' wives that would be displayed in the new library.
Groundbreaking Ceremony Groundbreaking for the new library was set for April 1972, but was delayed until the last crop of strawberries could be harvested. Cerritos had been the fastest-growing community in the county for several years. The Los Cerritos Center shopping mall had opened with great fanfare the previous year. Cerritos High School was under construction on the southwest corner of Bloomfield Avenue and 183rd Street. Housing tracts filled the acres north and west of the civic center, but it had been a prime farm site for years. At the time, it was leased to a grower whose prize berries were destined for European markets--and the lease wasn't up until the last crop was picked.
At last, on June 17, 1972, Cerritos' "First Lady" Jean Rabbitt, wife of Mayor Barry Rabbitt, set aside a few clumps of berries and lifted the traditional shovel full of earth during a groundbreaking ceremony. Refreshments were served by the Friends of the Library -- appropriately, 15-foot-long strawberry shortcake.
Opens to the Public At last the building was completed and the Cerritos Public Library opened for the public on September 17,1973. In the first two weeks, 8,000 registration cards were issued. Seventeen full-time employees and numerous part-time assistants, clerks, and pages were trained to help residents find whatever they needed among 25,000 circulating volumes, motion picture films (and projectors), and record albums. From the beginning, the seven-day-a-week schedule was popular.
The formal dedication was October 13, 1973. Congressman Del Clawson and Assemblyman (and former Cerritos Mayor) Joe A. Gonsalves presented flags, and speeches were given by Mayor Frank D. Lee, Cerritos "First Lady" Katherine Lee, and president of the Friends of the Library Judy Lancaster. A portrait of Patricia Nixon was unveiled.
The lines of the 18,000-square-foot building were long and sleek. The exterior surface had rough gray concrete half-bricks set vertically from ground level to ceiling level, with smooth white stucco above. A long portico supported by stucco columns led library visitors to the modest entrance. Inside was a sunlit atrium, planted with exotic shrubs and trees. Unintentionally, it became an aviary. An enclosed patio off the lobby gave pleasant additional reading space. The 7,000-square-foot adult reading room contained both reference and circulating collections and periodicals, with seating for 90 readers at individual and group tables. An audio-visual section, conference room, 75-seat theater, and a children’s room with a carpet painted with games to play -- from hopscotch to checkers -- were also included.
A New Model for the Future In the 1990s Cerritos' leaders recognized the emergence of the Internet as a tremendous information resource. They also saw the value of providing residents with access to the Internet and guidance on how to use this new tool. Library patrons also had an increasing need for access to more computer workstations with the latest information technology. Rather than just filling a room with computer workstations, the City pondered what the library of the future should offer. City staff studied the work of futurists and gathered information about cutting-edge library services.
As plans for the Library began to take shape in 1998, City leaders emphasized the need to include strong educational components. This led to the development of an experience-based concept of interactive learning centers that would entertain as they informed.
Direction from elected officials, staff research and suggestions from the community led to the idea of building a great library that would honor the past while embracing the future. A photograph of the spectacular Guggenheim Bilbao rising above the ancient streets of the Basque town provided the inspiration for finding the future in the past. This concept would guide the development of the Cerritos Library's collection, floor plan and architectural design. It also addressed the concerns about how to integrate new technology with traditional print material.
A detailed building program was developed and refined from 1998 through 1999. The program was influenced by the themes of education and the future, and with practical suggestions from front-line employees. On October 14, 1999 the City Council approved the architectural design. The design included the addition of 42,000 square feet, bringing the Library's total area to 82,500 square feet. Plans also called for the addition of 100,000 more books, hundreds of computer workstations and ports for high-speed Internet access.
As the Second and Third Floors of the Library are future-oriented, the exterior of these levels were wrapped in a skin of titanium. The Library was the first titanium-clad structure in the United States. Titanium expresses the concept of change as it has subtle color shifts from reflecting the angle of the sun and atmospheric conditions. Titanium also allowed for a fluid design with compound curves. The material complies with the Library's "Save the Planet" theme as it does not have a negative impact on the environment.
The highly anticipated expansion of the Cerritos Library was dedicated to the community on March 16, 2002.