Today’s libraries are more than just homes for books. Reading, activities, learning and even friendships happen between the bookshelves.
With its beautiful setting, unique building and welcoming personnel, the Earl and Birdie Taylor Library in Pacific Beach is essential to those rely on it for everything from internet service to the most recent book releases.
And having recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, the library has also played a role in developing the character of Pacific Beach.
“Our PB Library has changed and grown so much because our community has changed and grown,” said Christina Wainwright, PB Library branch manager since 2007.
The original PB Library, established in 1914, was not much more than a few bookshelves in the lobby of the former PB Woman’s Club at 1721 Hornblend St. It remained at the site for 30 years.
As the need for a library grew, in 1944 a rented facility at 4516 Ingraham St. became the next location.
The passage of a library bond issue in 1949 lead to the groundbreaking for construction of a permanent building, which opened on Sept. 18, 1951, at 4606 Ingraham St., Wainwright said. The building’s original 2,880 square feet was enlarged to 7,210 square feet in 1965.
When Martha Farnum Elementary School closed in 1987, the Taylor family donated $1.25 million towards the city’s cost of $3 million for a new library site on the city block that housed the school. In 1995, the Taylor family donated an additional $2.5 million to build the Earl and Birdie Taylor Library. Located at 4275 Cass St., the 12,484-square-foot building opened on May 3, 1997.
“Earl and Birdie Taylor were the parents of Vern and Erma Taylor, who purchased the land the building is on and made this wonderful gift for all of us to enjoy,” Wainwright said. “Their parents had been early developers involved in PB real estate. They used to take their children to the tiny library on Hornblend.”
One of 35 branches in the San Diego Public Library system, the PB/Taylor Library includes five full-time and eight part-time staff, as well as numerous volunteers.
“During the pandemic no volunteers were allowed in the building,” Wainwright said. “We’ve just started bringing our volunteers back. Some help with library work, such as pulling the holds list, which is typically more than 100 items a day. Other volunteers may help at a special event or other one-time things.”
The nonprofit, all-volunteer Friends of the Pacific Beach Library also plays a huge role by helping with fundraising through book sales and other events. The group has been in existence for at least 30 years, according to President Sylvia Wackerman.
“If you love books, you want people to have them, and our little shop is like a rescue place,” she said, referring to the used book store operated by the Friends.
“Our store is open two days a week, Mondays and Wednesdays, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Volunteers work in 2-hour shifts. We sell whatever books and related items the community donates, such as magazines, calendars, cards, DVDs and even vinyl records on occasion,” Wackerman said.
The store is also open Saturday mornings, on the plaza facing Cass Street.
Wackerman described the PB community as “very generous,” with a lot of donations of books in really good shape.
“The fun part is that whatever we get is what we process and sell and it is totally random. We want people to read, so typically we price our books very minimally,” she added.
Many books are $1 and coupons are often available for children to receive free books.
Wackerman said the Friends would love to have more volunteers so the store could be open more hours. For details, visit pblibraryfriends.org.
From the money generated from book sales and other fundraisers, the Friends help fund the library’s summer concert series, donating $500 for each event. They also provide refreshments and other items as needed.
Want to visit?
Pacific Beach/Taylor Library
Address: 4275 Cass St., Pacific Beach
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays; 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; closed Sundays and Mondays.
Having been involved with the Friends for about five years, Wackerman said some volunteers have been involved for 10 to 15 years.
“If you want to be in your happy place with volunteers who love books, this is a really fun place to be,” she said. “It’s a good place to connect and talk about books, authors, what people are reading and find out what people are interested in.”
The Taylor Greene Park, east of the library, is nestled in a landscaped plaza with stone seats and trees. There concerts and other programs are held during the summer.
The park is the only one managed by the San Diego Public Library, which allows the Taylor Library to plan indoor and outdoor programs and events.
From mid-May through September, monthly concerts will be held outdoors on the second Saturday.
“In June, we will host the Martin Luther King Community Choir of San Diego — they are incredible,” Wainwright said. “In the past, their choir was so big we could only host a limited number of choir members. Now that the concert will be outside, we are hoping all their members can attend, as well as a larger number of guests.”
Sue Palmer with Liz Ajuzie will perform in July, the Allison Adams Tucker Trio performs in August and The Benedetti Trio closes out the series in September. For the schedule and times, visit pblibraryfriends.org/concert.htm.
As part of National Night Out, “Encanto” will be shown as a free Movie in the Park on Aug. 2.
Other events include the Halloween Spooktacular and the annual Beachfest.
The library building itself resembles a giant nautilus shell.
Although the shell motif is best seen from above, the open and airy design of the building and the many windows help create a natural feel that ties the library to its setting among the park and to the overall beach community. Architect Manual Oncina designed the building with its unique shape.
“There are nautilus shapes all over,” Wainwright said. “Although not as obvious from inside the building, the shape is repeated several times outside, from the parking lot to the grounds.”
The main circular-shaped indoor area includes the adult reading, audiovisual, reference and children’s areas, as well as the stacks and circulation desk. The remainder of the building includes a large patio, community meeting room/art gallery and a staff wing. It houses the lounge, office, work area and Friends of the Library room.
Bookshelves are filled with everything from fiction and nonfiction to biographies, large print, reference, foreign language, children and adult tomes. The New Books section is especially popular.
In addition to traditional books, patrons can check out and download eAudiobooks and eBooks, as well as audiobooks on CD and MP3. DVD movies are available, and the library’s databases can be accessed by library card holders.
“With our online catalog, people can search for items; request things to be sent; download movies, books and documentaries; take both academic and fun courses and more,” Wainwright said. “If you’ve just been using the library to check out books, you often don’t realize there is so much other stuff to enjoy.”
The Express Collection is a browsing collection of popular book titles and DVDs. These items are not listed in the library’s catalog, but can be checked out for free just like regular books; holds are not allowed.
The Meeting Room holds up to 95 people. When not in use for events, the Taylor Gallery rotates art exhibitions every couple of months.
One of the biggest groups hosted by the library is the PB Library Book Discussion Group. Designed for adult readers, the informal forum meets once a month to discuss a chosen book.
The group is unique in that members select the books and vote on the most interesting titles, Wainwright said..
“Everyone is welcome to join the group,” she said. “We choose titles that people can get from the library without having to buy them. The discussions are held in a hybrid format, both in-person and virtually.
“What I love about the group is that I often read books I wouldn’t have picked for myself,” Wainwright added. “Usually after the discussion, I have a great appreciation for the books and it really helps me relate better to the books.”
The Quiet Area features the library’s magazine and newspapers collections. In addition to physical magazines, online versions can also be downloaded and checked out.
Computers are often necessary for home, school and office these days, and the library’s computer area hosts 16 internet-connected computers which can be used for up to an hour each turn. There is free Wi-Fi access for user’s personal devices. Youth can access three computers in the Children’s Area for homework or games.
The Children’s Area also has books, paperbacks, magazines, audiobooks and DVDs. Children’s Librarian Rebecca Smith leads children’s events outdoors on Wednesday mornings, such as toddler dance parties and storytime.
Clowns, music and animal shows have all been enjoyed as part of the children’s events, while math, science and other programs with an educational component are held for older youths.
Events such as the Summer Reading Program are popular with all age groups.
“The Summer Reading Program has been part of the library offerings for years,” Wainwright said.
The program runs from June 1 to Aug. 31, with prizes such as museum passes for kids, teenagers and adults. The theme is “Read Beyond the Beaten Path.” Those of all ages, from infant through adults, can earn prizes when they log they’ve read (or had read to them) 10 books or for 10 hours.
“We want people to keep reading during the summer, and not just kids; it helps keep everyone sharp,” she said.
New to the library is the ability to check out Wi-Fi hotspots for up to three months. Wainwright said all of the spots are currently checked out, but she hopes to purchase more.
Another new feature is statewide free parking passes at State Parks, while the ability to reserve specific time passes for attractions around the county, such as the San Diego Zoo and various museums, is also available.
The enthusiasm Wainwright and Wackerman have for the PB library and community is contagious and both women encourage residents to stop by and see what’s new.
“Many of our PB residents have moved away, but they still come back to our library whenever they are in town,” Wackerman said. “They always ask us what we have now and what is new.”