BooksBooksCentennial EventsBooks 100 Years of Stories Stories History of the Library San Diego County Library

By Brenna Ring

The Creation of the LibraryThe Early Years: 1913 - 1929The 1930sThe 1940s
The 1950sThe 1960sThe 1970sThe 1980sThe 1990sThe 2000sThe 2010s

The San Diego County Library was founded on February 15, 1913 to allow everyone to have access to the riches of the library. The library system began with nine branches, a small school collection, and 700 books. Early library collections were placed in stores and private homes.

By the 1930s, the library system had grown to 150 branches and collection centers and offered books, periodicals, maps, prints, pictures, globes, victrola records, stereographs, and stereoscopes. During the World War II era, library staffs contributed to the war effort by sending donated books to the soldiers.

After World War II, some of the older branches were expanded or replaced by newer buildings, although the additions did not keep up with the rapidly increasing population of San Diego County. During the 1960s new technologies, such as the teletype and the photocopier, were discussed. An Outreach department was established in 1972 to serve historically under-served populations.

By 1977 the card catalog was replaced by microfilm or microfiche catalogs that listed all holdings by author, title, and subject. Before this time, each branch had card catalogs that only listed the titles held at that branch. The population of San Diego County had increased so much that many new additions to library buildings were planned for the late 1970s. These plans were postponed by the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978. The initiative to limit property taxes greatly reduced the amount of money the libraries received. Branch hours were cut by 50% and many staff members were laid off.

However, the County Library continued to find ways to offer innovative services. With the help of grant money, the County Library became involved with adult literacy programs in 1984. Also in 1984, the County Library began to automate their circulation and request system. In 1987, the County Library helped to set up libraries on six Indian reservations.

The 1990s saw both times of financial crisis and times of relative plenty. Many of the expansions planned in the late 1970s occurred in the 1990s. The microfiche catalogs were replaced with online catalogs and the Internet opened up doors to still more information.

The first two decades of the new millennium brought even more challenges. Despite a soft economy, the County Library continued to remodel and build new libraries, introduce new technologies, and collaborate with the community to bring innovative programming to the public. The San Diego County Library was honored as "Library of the Year" in 2012. In 2013, the San Diego County Library system turns 100.

The Creation of the Library

The San Diego County Library was founded to provide library service to remote and isolated populations of San Diego County. The dream began in 1898 when James L. Gillis, soon to be the California State Librarian, conceived of the idea of bringing library service to everyone in the state of California. In 1898, only a few cities in San Diego County had libraries. The city of San Diego opened their first library in 1882. By 1898 Coronado, Escondido, National City, and Ramona had also established their libraries. Some communities, such as Campo, Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Dulzura, El Cajon, Encanto, Fallbrook, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Nestor, Otay, Poway, and West Fallbrook, were served by a traveling library sent out by the State Library.

James Gillis decided that the only way to bring equal, economical, and complete library service to all Californians was to work through the counties. There were too few municipalities in California to depend on city libraries for state-wide service and townships were too small to use as an economic base. Laws in 1909 and 1911 allowed county supervisors to establish county library service in areas not covered by city libraries. Cities could choose to join a county system, but they were not automatically included in county library service . The San Diego Board of Supervisors received many petitions from County residents asking for library service. Harriet Eddy, a County Library Organizer, traveled tirelessly by stagecoach to the various communities in San Diego County to talk about library service.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors soon took action. On April 5, 1912, the Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution stating, "Whereas, it is fitting and just for the best interests and welfare of the people of San Diego County that they be given every proper privilege for education, culture, and pleasure, and whereas the establishment of a county free library in San Diego County would offer such means for advancement and improvement, therefore be it resolved that a county free library be established."

The Early Years: 1913 - 1929

On January 9, 1913, Jennie Herman, the former librarian of Tulare County, was appointed as the first librarian of San Diego County. She began work on February 15, 1913 with a budget of $5,284.54. In 1913, Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States and Willa Cather's O Pioneers was a new, popular book. The funds for the library came from a five cent tax on County residents. Fines for late materials were set at two cents per day. The collection started at seven hundred books. Each branch received a small, rotating collection. Books returning from the branches were fumigated and repaired before being sent to another branch.

Nine branches and a small school collection were established in the first year with more added each year. Early collections were placed in stores and private homes. The Campo branch began in the United States Custom House, El Cajon's began in W. L. Crabb's pharmacy, Fallbrook's began in Jess Hardy's drugstore, Julian's in a high school, Lakeside's in Lakeside Hall, La Mesa's in the Woman's Club, and Poway's in Mrs. E. B. Flint's front parlor.

The addition of a branch at the Pala Mission made that mission the first one in California to have a County library branch. A special branch was put in the Panama California International Exposition Women's Headquarters in the California building from 1915 - 1916. During 1917, branches with reading rooms were established at Imperial Beach, Camp Kearney, and North Island to meet the needs of soldiers. As new branches were added, others were absorbed by the growing City of San Diego. Within three and a half years, the County Library was circulating 127,059 items a year.

As the collection and need for books increased, the County Library staff bought a car to transport books to the branches. The first car, bought in 1925, was a Buick touring car called "Betsy." New Buick sedans were bought periodically until 1935, when the need had grown so much that only a truck would suffice.

A unique feature of County Library service at that time was that schools could receive collections from the County Library. In 1915, the Office of the County Superintendent of Schools turned over the 3000 volumes of the County Teachers’ Library to the County Library. By 1917, 25 schools were being served by the County Library.

The 1930s

By the 1930s, the unincorporated areas of San Diego County had just over 42,000 residents. Approximately 30 per cent of the area's population had library cards. To serve the people, there were 150 distributing centers of the San Diego County Library. Of these, 69 were community branches, 79 were small distributing centers in elementary schools, and two were in high schools. Each community branch was run by a custodian, while school branches were run by teachers. Salaries for the custodians ranged from $8 per year to $55 per month, depending on their duties. The average salary was $12 per month.

Thirteen of the largest branches (defined as those with 1000 – 4000 books) had reading rooms with reference books and periodicals. Many branches were located in private homes, post offices, and stores. In 1938, one was established at Vauclain Home, a County Tubercular Hospital. Other branches were placed in government offices, such as that of the Farm Advisor and the County Probation Officer.

The Headquarters staff sent out rotating collections of books every few months. Periodicals, maps, prints, pictures, globes, victrola records, stereographs, and stereoscopes were also available. Popular topics included travel, biographies, politics, gold mining, well digging, frog farming, and how to build rural free delivery post boxes.

The 1940s

At the end of the 1939-1940 fiscal year, the Library had 137 different stations. Of these, 74 were county school stations, 51 were community station, and 11 were community branches. The Library owned 138,997 books, as well as pamphlets, maps, pictures, music records, stereographs, stereoscopes, charts, globes, and scrapbooks. All branches were visited by a truck every other month.

The 1940s continued to be a time of growth for the County Library. In February 1940, work began on building a new headquarters for the County Library at 3532 Meade Avenue. The construction workers came from the Work Projects Administration (WPA). Approximately 30 men were employed for eight months to build the $30,000 one-story structure.

During World War II, library staffs across the nation supported the war effort with the Victory Book campaign. The campaign was sponsored by the American Library Association, American Red Cross, and the United Service Organizations and was designed to collect books for the soldiers. The first San Diego County Library campaign ran from January 12, 1942 to February 12, 1942 and raised 2826 books. A second campaign ran in March 1943.

Libraries became an important source of information during the War. When sugar was rationed, people became interested in books on bee-keeping. The demand for technical books, such as books on agriculture and home economics, also increased during the war years. The rationing also affected the level of service the Library was able to provide. When the gas allowance was cut by 25 per cent, the number of trips Headquarters staff made to the branches to bring new books was reduced. Residents in remote areas were sent books by mail.

In that era, certain jobs were segregated by gender. Only women could apply to be book repairers. The beginning salary was $80 per month. The position of junior librarian was also only open to women. Junior librarians were paid $120 per month.

County Library service to schools ended in 1947 when the County school library functions were transferred from the County Library to the Superintendent of Schools. With this change, the County Library had 54 branch libraries or stations. Of these, ten were in post offices, seven in community buildings or clubhouses, twelve in stores, and the rest in rented quarters and institutions. A housing shortage led to fewer homes being able to house library collections.

The 1940s saw many improvements in the County Library buildings. The decade started with the building of the new headquarters. Encinitas received a new library building in 1944 and Lakeside in 1946. In 1947 new County Community buildings in South Bay and Lincoln Acres included library rooms. The El Cajon Library received an addition which doubled the floor space and Vista received a new library in 1948. In 1949 plans were drawn for a new garage and storage building at library headquarters.

The 1950s

At the start of the 1950s, circulation of the County Library books reached the half-million mark. Reaching this mark had been the long-time goal of the County Librarian, Marjorie Kobler Sloan, who died just months before it was announced that the goal was reached. The new County Librarian, Frances Hahn, said that circulation had improved because of the business recession that affected California before the Korean War. Circulation always improved during times of depression and war because people depend on library books to take their minds off their problems. During the fiscal year 1949 – 1950, the 98,000 books of the County Library were checked out 528,480 times.

At that time, the library system had 15 branch libraries, 41 stations, and 24,213 patrons. In 1950, branches existed at Alpine, Campo, Del Mar, El Cajon, Encinitas, Fallbrook, Julian, Kensington, Lakeside, Lemon Grove, Lincoln Acres, Ramona, San Ysidro, South Bay, and Vista. Most of the library stations, such as those at Banner Queen, Borrego Springs, Boulevard, Descanso, Dulzura, Escondido, Imperial Beach, Jamul, Rancho Santa Fe, and Valley Center, were in stores. Pauma's station was in a motel. Others were in post offices or post office-store combinations, such as those at Grossmont, Miramar, Mount Laguna, Pala, and Palomar. Still others were in homes, such as Harbison Canyon, Japatul, Potrero, Poway, and Witch Creek.

The salaries of the branch library assistants were based on the circulation of their branch or station. Branch staff at La Mesa earned between $181 and $232 per month while Campo workers only earned $7.50 a month. The Campo branch was only open four hours per week while El Cajon and La Mesa were both open 45 hours per week. Staff at the stations earned from $77.95 per month at the Escondido station to $3.38 per month at the smaller stations.

In the 1950s most library books checked out for two weeks. Books could be renewed for another two weeks if there was no one waiting for them. New books that were less than a year old checked out for seven days and could not be renewed. All patrons, adults and children, were charged two cents per day for late books and magazines. A replacement library card cost ten cents. Patrons who forgot their library cards were charged five cents to have their record looked up on the alphabetically-arranged patron file. All information, such as patron information, fines, and requests, were noted manually on card files.

One issue that affected library staffs in the 1950s that no longer troubles people today is the question of what to do with books that had been in quarantined homes. A Library Assistant's Manual from the 1950s indicates that, per the County Health Department, books did not have to be destroyed if they had been in quarantined houses except in the case of smallpox. In the case of polio, spinal meningitis, scarlet fever, and diphtheria, books were to be wrapped, labeled with the name of the disease, and sent to the Library Headquarters where they would be decontaminated. In most cases, decontamination required that the books be placed upright and the pages opened to the sun for a period from two days to a week. Books that had been in homes that had been quarantined for smallpox were to be destroyed by the borrower. No replacement charges were required. When applying for library cards, patrons in the 1950s were asked if they owned property. If they did not own property, they had to write down the full name and address of someone who would know their address for the next five years.

The public's reading tastes also changed over the years. Russia's success with Sputnik in the late 1950s led to a tremendous interest in science.

The late 1950s saw many changes. In 1958 the County Library tax was increased from seven cents to ten cents per $100 of assessed property. The increase was necessary to make up for revenues lost through the City of San Diego’s annexation of the South Bay area and because of dramatic increases in circulation. Circulation was expected to reach 929,111 that year. As a result of the increase, extra staff would be hired and Lemon Grove would receive its promised new library. In fact, circulation exceeded expectations and reached the million mark in 1958. The County owned just under 200,000 volumes. July 1, 1959 would see the beginning of bookmobile service in Vista. Also in 1959, the fines increased for the first time since 1913. Adults would now pay four cents for every day a book was late. Children's fines remained at the old level of two cents per day.

The 1960s

In 1960 Frances Anna Hahn, the County Librarian, stated that the County Library existed because: "Only through informed citizens can the United States maintain its position as a leader and it is the duty and function of the libraries to contribute to the education of all. Work with young people – the coming citizens – is part of this, but so also is contributing to the knowledge of adults. The average American attends school 8-1/2 years; only through the libraries can he continue informally and freely to educate himself both in specialized lines and in general knowledge." Towards this goal, the San Diego County Library answered 14,564 research questions and circulated 1,350,420 books.

Planning for additions or new library buildings began in the early 1960s for the areas of El Cajon, Encinitas, Fallbrook, Fletcher Hills, Imperial Beach, Lakeside, North La Mesa, Poway, San Marcos, Spring Valley, and Vista. The Lakeside branch was then in half of a World War II army barrack and the Fletcher Hills branch was in the den and living room of a cottage. The Imperial Beach branch was new but was in a rapidly growing area.

The beginning of the 1960s was a time for exploring communication and duplicating technologies, such as the teletype, the multilith, and Xerox machines. Teletypes were touted as shortening the length of time required to request material from a distant library or to tell the library that the requested material was not available. In two eastern libraries, the time to process requests went from eight or nine days to one hour with the use of the teletype. The teletype also allowed for greater accuracy when placing requests. Xerox machines were recommended for tasks that previously were completed through mimeographing and offset presses.

At that time, the 36 branches only had card catalogs of the titles available at their particular branch. Only the Library Headquarters had a complete author catalog. There was no subject catalog. Staff eagerly looked into ways to place catalogs of all library holdings at the individual branches.

Additional funds were required to move new projects forward. In 1963, fines for adult books rose from four to five cents per day. The fine for children's books remained at two cents per day. The fine was determined by the level of the reading material, not the age of the borrower. In 1964 the library tax was ten cents and the per capita expenditure for libraries in the county was only $1.62 per year. The national average was $3.50. The library tax was the lowest for any library system in the United States.

The late 1960s saw plans for a new $428,345 Library Headquarters to be built at the County Operations Center in Kearny Mesa. The building would replace the old headquarters, which were now twenty five years old and, at 9,776 square feet, too small. The new headquarters would be 20,000 square feet.

By 1969, the County Library consisted of 22 branches and stations, plus a bookmobile and the Library Headquarters. The branches were located in Alpine, Campo, Cardiff, Casa de Oro, Castle Park, Del Mar, Descanso, El Cajon, Encinitas, Escondido, Fallbrook, Fletcher Hills, Imperial Beach, Julian, Lakeside, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Lincoln Acres, Poway, Ramona, Rancho Santa Fe, San Marcos, Santee, Solana Beach, Spring Valley, Suncrest-La Cresta, and Vista. Stations were located in Banner Queen, Borrego Springs, Dulzura, Palomar Mountain, and Witch Creek. One station was at a trading post, one at a post office and store, two were in private homes, and one was in a Laundromat.

The 1970s

The 1970s were a time of highs and lows. Highpoints included the establishment of an Outreach department in 1972. This department was charged with reaching out to historically underserved populations, such as the Spanish-speaking community, and encouraging these populations to turn to the library for their informational needs. By 1977, a second bookmobile had been added to the system of 33 branches and a headquarters. The card catalog had been replaced by microfilm or microfiche catalogs in every branch. The computer-produced microfiche catalog listed the complete holdings of the Library by author, title, and subject. The County Library owned a total of 704,000 books, magazines, cassette tapes, art prints, and 750 16-millimeter films. The County Library also owned Spanish-language books, magazines, and films for adults and children. Bilingual aides worked at branches in Castle Park/Otay, El Cajon, Encinitas, Imperial Beach, Spring Valley, and Vista to help the Spanish-speaking public.

Most library materials could be checked out for 28 days with no renewal period. Films had to be returned one hour before the branch closed. Overdue fines for most adult materials were five cents per day. Art print fines were ten cents per day. Late films were $1.00 per film for the first hour it was late, then $.25 for each succeeding hour. Children’s materials were two cents per day.

Branches with 15,000 books or more used a photographic book charge-out system. The largest branches were open 62 hours per week. Medium-sized branches, which had at least 15,000 books, were open from 43 to 58 hours per week. The smallest branches were open 12 to 30 hours per week.

The County Library had many plans to expand its branches in the late 1970s. Bonita-Sunnyside and Crest received new branches or expansions in 1976 as did Alpine in 1977. Other openings were to include Del Mar, Imperial Beach, Lemon Grove, and Solana Beach in 1978, El Cajon and Vista in 1979, San Marcos in 1980, and Fallbrook in 1981. Still other branches were to be considered for expansion.

Many of these planned expansions never happened. On June 6, 1978, Proposition 13 was passed in the state of California. This initiative to limit taxes reduced the amount of income public libraries received from local property taxes by 62%. In San Diego County, the Board of Supervisors provided the County Library with approximately one million dollars in bailout money and reduced the budget by 17%. All branch library hours were cut by 50%.

Even by 1998, the Library had not fully recovered. Where a large library would be open 62 hours per week before Proposition 13, in 1998 only one branch, Poway, was able to be open as much as 58 hours and that was only possible with outside funds. A total of 80 to 90 employees were laid off. The Del Mar, El Cajon, and Vista projects were canceled and the number of County Library branches was reduced.

The 1980s

Despite financial setbacks, the County Library continued to provide library service to diverse and distant populations and kept up with technological innovations as much as possible. No branch expansions were made during the 1980s, although community donations and insurance funds allowed for the new Fallbrook Library, which replaced one destroyed by an arson fire, to be twice as big as the original.

The early 1980s saw the beginning of County involvement with adult literacy programs. Experts believe that there are between 150,000 and 400,000 functionally illiterate people in San Diego County. Functional illiteracy is defined as reading and writing below the fifth-grade level. People who are functionally illiterate were born and educated in this country but dropped out of high school or who graduated without knowing how to read and write well. Some literacy students are presidents of companies who have hidden their lack of reading ability. Others are not as financially successful. All have difficulty with common tasks, such as filling out job applications, reading their mail or the Bible, or even reading a menu.

To help people who can not read or write well, the San Diego County Library formed Project SURE (later Adult Literacy Services) in 1984 . To help adults learn how to read, students are paired with trained tutors who use specially written materials that are of interest to adults to help them learn how to read.

Also in 1984 the first County branches began using an automated circulation system that allowed staff to check out items, request materials, and track materials for patrons using the speed and efficiency of a computer. Universal Library Systems (ULISYS, pronounced Ulysses) helped the Library automate and re-label every item over the course of two years. Imperial Beach was the first branch to use the new system. Fletcher Hills and Solana Beach were next. Automated terminals were not yet available to the public. The microfiche catalogs continued to be used in the public areas.

Some branches also made microcomputers available to the public. Coin-operated Apple IIe microcomputers were available at Lemon Grove, Santee, Poway, and Valley Center for $1 per every twenty minutes. Accounting, farm management, language, and word processing programs were available.

In 1987 the County Library set up six libraries on local reservations under the Indian Library Services Project. The residents of the Viejas Reservation received the first library, a one-room library with 3,000 books on American Indian culture, history, current issues, how-to books on plumbing and mechanics, and other topics. The library shared the room with the Viejas Indian School. Rincon, Pauma, Campo, Barona, and Santa Ysabel reservations also set up libraries. The libraries were not branches of the County Library because they were run by sovereign nations. Library cards were not issued. Instead, patrons wrote their names down in a notebook and returned the books in a month. Since the libraries were also often community centers, people came in and drank coffee and chatted as well as browsed for books. The libraries were open to the public.

In 1988, the County Library system celebrated 75 years of service to the public. The first eleven branches to open marked the occasion with open houses.

By fiscal year 1988/1989, the County Library served 800,000 residents in a 3,822 square mile area. The total library budget was $8,738,131 and the book budget was $920,000. There were 299,477 people holding library cards. The County and City of San Diego shared a circulation system which could access the combined library holdings of over eight million items. Of these items, one million belonged to the County’s circulating collection. These items included books, magazines, newspapers, government documents, large print books, audio and video cassettes. In the 1980s, the Library still circulated art prints and 16 millimeter films. Library staff could see the holdings of the City system, although they could not place holds on City-owned materials. The public used microfiche catalogs to access the library holdings.

The 1990s

In the 1990s, library supporters continued to work on library expansion. The city of El Cajon finally received their new building after coming close to receiving a new building in 1978. The new branch opened August 21, 1991. The 30,000-square foot branch was four times the size of the former branch and had room for 200,000 books. It featured a drive-through book drop and a large video collection.

The expansion of the Descanso branch seemed imminent. At only 192 square feet in size, the Descanso branch was currently the second-smallest free-standing library in the country, a distinction it had owned since 1987. Only a 96-square-foot library on an island off the coast of North Carolina was smaller. The standing-room only branch was the size of a large closet and lacked running water and a restroom. Supporters of the Descanso branch hoped that their community would soon break ground for a new 1,800-square-foot library.

But soon the County Library was facing massive financial woes. As book and magazine prices continued to soar and as local governments had less money to parcel out, branches had to cut the book budget and make do with fewer staff and fewer open hours. The price of fines on books was doubled to offset the problem. Fines on adult-level books increased from 10 cents per day to 20 cents per day, up to a $10 maximum. Children’s book fines increased from five cents per day to ten cents per day, with a $5 maximum.

Despite all efforts to deal with the financial crisis, the San Diego County Library faced a $500,000 budget shortfall in fiscal year 1991/1992 and the San Diego County faced a $48 million shortfall. The County Library reluctantly proposed that branches with low circulation or that were near other branches be shut down or consolidated. This proposal would have led to the closing of seven library branches, Cardiff, Crest, Fletcher Hills, Jacumba, Lincoln Acres, Pine Valley, and Potrero. The proposal was rejected and other solutions were found. In 1994, for example, a $5 fee for transferring materials from other libraries (Interlibrary loans) was initiated.

The County Library continued to press on and to take advantage of new technologies. In 1994 the El Cajon, Fallbrook, Poway, and Vista branches received grants from the InfoPeople Project of the California State Library to offer Internet service to the public. In 1996/1997, Adult Literacy Services, Borrego Springs, Descanso, Fletcher Hills, Imperial Beach, Lakeside, Lincoln Acres, Rancho Santa Fe, and San Marcos branches received similar grants. A third round of branches, Alpine, Encinitas, Julian, La Mesa, and Valley Center, received grants in 1997/1998.

Although some predicted the Internet would replace libraries and library buildings, the need for new and larger buildings continued. The continuing increase in population in San Diego County and the expanding role of libraries to include literacy services and cultural programs led to a building boom for libraries not seen in San Diego County since the 1960s. Vista received its new library branch in 1994, Del Mar in 1996, Jacumba in 1997, 101 Descanso in 1997, and Poway in 1998. The Crest branch library was expanded in 1996101. Many of these branch projects had been postponed by the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978. The completion of these building projects did not indicate a sudden increase in funds for the County Library. Rather, the County Library partnered with other entities, such as school systems and city governments, to multiply the meager funds into workable budgets.

In 1998, the County Library had 31 branches, a Headquarters, 2 bookmobiles, and the Adult Literacy Services. Branch sizes ranged from 31,000 square feet (El Cajon and Vista) to 400 square feet (Lincoln Acres). The County Library offered access to books, magazines, local newspapers, large-print books, and video and audio cassettes, all in a variety of languages. Some branches also had compact discs (CDs). The Library also offered access to the World Wide Web for all adults and children with parental consent.

The New Millennia

At the start of the new millennia, the San Diego County Library continued to work on building new, larger libraries that better met the needs of the communities around them. In 1999, money was set aside for new libraries in Cardiff, Spring Valley, and Valley Center as well as a new branch in Rancho San Diego. Rancho San Diego had never had a library before. In May 2000, the county Board of Supervisors voted to fund a $2.9 million Spring Valley branch. The new, 13,500-square-foot library would replace the old 4,354-square-foot branch, which had been built in 1972. Conceptual designs began for a new Julian branch in 2000. In early September 2001, a site was chosen to replace the 2,628-square-foot Casa de Oro branch library. The old library had been built in 1973. It opened on January 2, 2002. In addition, the Fletcher Hills branch was remodeled in 2002.

The Rancho San Diego branch library, the 32nd in the County Library, opened on April 20, 2002. Unlike almost other branch openings, the Rancho San Diego library was a new library; it did not replace an earlier building. The 19,500-square-foot branch cost $5.1 million. It included an Incredible Cheesecake Company cafe/coffeeshop as well.

But the Rancho San Diego branch did not remain the newest branch for long. Cardiff, which had had a library since 1914, opened their newest branch on March 22, 2003. The new Spring Valley branch opened August 14, 2003 next to Kempton Elementary School and La Presa Middle School. The old library was 4,354 square feet and was over 30 years old. The old branch had been so small that customers spilled out into the parking lot during popular Summer Reading programs. The new library ultimately cost $3.5 million and had three times as many Internet stations as the old library, a large Spanish-language collection, and a community room. The Lakeside branch was remodeled in 2003.

The Julian branch, one of the 11 original San Diego County Library branches, opened in a new facility on September 14, 2004. The Imperial Beach Branch, which had celebrated its 75th anniversary on October 5, 1990, was extensively remodeled in 2004.

More new libraries followed. Campo, which had had a library since December 30, 1913 and had been at the present location since 1974, opened its new 2, 480 square foot branch in November 2005. Bonita-Sunnyside received its new branch in December of 2005. The 4S branch, like Rancho San Diego, was a new library that did not replace an earlier building. Groundbreaking was on May 25, 2006 and the branch opened on April 26, 2007. The Casa de Oro branch moved to its current location in a 6,308 facility in 2007.

In 2008, Encinitas opened a new library with a great ocean view on February 23, 2008. The $5.8 million La Mesa branch103 opened on June 16, 2008 and had a grand opening on July 19, 2008. New features of this branch included wireless Internet access and express self-checkout machines. Borrego received their new 3,787 square foot branch on October 25, 2008. Fletcher Hills received a lovely mural that focused on local history and landmarks in 2008.101 Meanwhile, work continued on building new libraries for Alpine, Ramona, Fallbrook, and Lincoln Acres.

A Banner Decade: The 2010s

Fallbrook’s long-awaited branch opened to the public on Sunday, January 16, 2011. The formal ribbon-cutting took place on January 22, 2011. Festivities included a presentation by noted author, Ann Patchett. Innovative library features included a “green roof” that was covered with trays of native and adaptive plants. The branch received a silver LEED rating for being environmentally friendly. It also received a 2009 design award of merit from the California Council of the Society of American Registered Architects.

In 2012, the 99-year-old library system received the highest honor in the library world; San Diego County Library was proclaimed "Library of the Year" by Library Journal magazine and Gale Publishing. The Library was recognized for serving the community by offering innovative programs, increasing circulation, and automating services.

And in 2013, the San Diego County Library turns 100! Numerous celebrations will take place in each branch. Check the Calendar of Events for more information.

What's coming in the future? Branch projects that plan to open during 2013 include the Lemon Grove joint use facility, which hopes to open in the Spring of 2013. In addition, the Library continues to be in the forefront of new technology. Who knows what else the future will bring!