by Liz Ruhland, El Cerrito Library Manager
On March 16, 2013 the El Sobrante Library hosted a regional celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Contra Costa County Library, with a focus on the history of West County Libraries.
The program began with comments from County Supervisor John Gioia, who posited that while hard-bound books are still important, in the 21st century libraries are changing and offering new tools for learning, such as wireless access and public computers. Libraries also function as the gateway to community and a place to improve ourselves. His closing comments included a statement that it is “…great to see efforts at a new library in El Cerrito.”
County Librarian Barbara Flynn described how at the Contra Costa County Library, a recent recipient of an Institute of Museum and Library Services award, staff work to meet people where they are 24/7 through the innovative provision of mobile services.
Representatives from four local historical societies spoke on their libraries’ histories. El Cerrito’s own Tom Panas gave an engaging talk accompanied by a slideshow of many historical photos. He described how the El Cerrito Library was established in the town post office in 1913, when El Cerrito was still called Rust. El Cerrito has the distinction of having built the first new library in the Bay Area after World War II, in 1949. An addition was added in 1960 to create the current building. Mr. Panas will be giving his presentation again at the birthday party in honor of the 100th anniversary of the El Cerrito Library, on Friday, June 14, at 7 p.m.
The celebration ended on a high note, with a presentation by John Mills, the Historian for the Friends of the Hercules Library, who showed time-lapse images of the Hercules Library being built from the ground up. This award-winning building is testament to the power of community involvement in creating and maintaining libraries.