1950s. After a series of annexations and subdivisions, the north side of Costa Mesa grows rapidly.
1960. The city purchases a 1.35-acre lot on the corner of Mesa Verde Dr. and Baker from developer Walter Gayner for the express purpose of building a library. The location is chosen for its proximity to schools and 10,000 homes.
The Friends of the Costa Mesa Libraries forms. Volunteer groups like the Friends and Mesa Verde Home Owners are vocal advocates for the new branch.
1961–early 1962. The city and county deadlock over funding. The city considers establishing its own library system, following the example of Newport and Huntington Beach, but ultimately rejects the “library business.”
February 1962. In a meeting with MVHO, OC Supervisor and library committeeman Cy M. Featherly tells Mesa Verde residents their library must wait until after the needs of other communities are met. He also claims the county’s library district is already spending more money in Costa Mesa than taxes warrant.
March 19, 1962. Thomas Thompson, president of MVHO, presents a compromise plan to the city council. Under this plan, the city would pay to construct the building while the county would lease it back, stock it, and staff it. The city council approves the plan.
Featherly also likes the plan, saying cities should shoulder library costs “wherever possible.” He warns, however, the city may have to pay higher operating costs than before.
Summer 1963. It is announced the library will be built within 3-4 months for $78,000. “Complications arise” with the county and ground is never broken.
July 6, 1964. The city council unanimously approves architectural plans for a 6,500-sq. ft. library and a 250-seat auditorium. Building both at once is estimated to save $1 per square foot. The architects estimate the cost at $169,500.
September 29, 1964. The county finally agrees to lease the library for $738 per month.
December 1964. A “lengthy pause without comment” fills the chambers when the city council learns the lowest construction bid is 25% over the initial estimate. The council quickly eliminates the auditorium along with $27,000 worth of “frills”.
February 9, 1965. Ground is broken for the library in a ceremony attended by city and county officials. The building is projected to be finished by September, but construction delays ensue.
November 20, 1965 — Opening Day. A dedicatory luncheon organized by the Friends and the OC Book Club is held at the Mesa Verde Country Club. LA Times literary editor and columnist Robert Kirsch is guest speaker.
A formal ceremony is held at 2:30 pm. Robert Wilson, mayor of Costa Mesa, calls the library a “milestone in the city’s effort to provide worthwhile public facilities. It is the first one the city has constructed, but I assure you there will be more.” An optimistic Featherly predicts a third library will be built at the Costa Mesa Civic Center. “It is not definite yet, but it probably will happen,” he says.
Thompson, now a city councilman, delivers the keynote address. He reflects on the 5 years it took to build the library and declares it “well worth the effort.”
Alvin Pinkley presents the library with an American flag that had flown over the US Capitol. 83-year-old Richard W. Katerndahl, a former lieutenant governor of Idaho, receives the first library card. MVHO and the Bridgettes present $400 in checks to the Friends for the purchase of more books. At opening, the library carries around 12,000 volumes, roughly half of which are children’s books. Esther Branch serves as the first librarian.
Following the ceremony, the library begins a long tradition of art exhibits with a tour of 40 serigraphs by pop artist, nun, and social activist Sister Mary Corita.
December 1965. The library begins its preschoolers’ story hour with readings from Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham and Sesyle Joslin’s What Do You Say, Dear?
1966-1970. The library becomes a community gathering place. Programs include social coffee days for “listening, questioning, and sounding off,” a Bruce McIntyre closed-circuit TV art course, and great books discussions for adults and teenagers. In 1967, a 4-meeting course “designed for women who hate to keep house and want to find faster, easier ways to do it” draws hundreds of attendees.
The library earns attention for its rotating exhibits, many of which are drawn from members of the Costa Mesa Art League (now OC Fine Arts). The works display a wide variety of media and styles, ranging from landscapes, sea-scapes, and abstracts in oil to mosaics, collages, stitchery-weaving, and even bread sculpture. Other popular exhibits include collections of flags, Mesa Verde resident Richard Bale’s handmade model trains, and 100 Hopi kachina dolls.
Summer reading programs draw hundreds of participants each year, enrolling 600 children in1967 alone.