Dream Library…in Huntington Beach

Aug 05, 2010 by Sandy Schroeder

As you enter the Central Library in Huntington Beach, your eye and body are drawn to to an open three story circle of fountains and live plants.

Up and down the open staircase, people, plants and fountains abound, and make Neutra’s theory of applied architecture timeless–the throngs of students, retirees, moms, children, and everybody in between, happily drift about, and eventually settle into comfortable chairs or sit at tables with plug-in free Wi-Fi. The entire library opens onto a back wall of glass with a sweeping view of the 350 acre Central Park beyond. A large reflecting pond combined with a major waterfall surrounds two sides of the library.

“Architecture is an applied art"

Richard Neutra, widely known as one of the ‘LA heroes of architecture,’ envisioned this placing of man in nature. He said, "Architecture is an applied art. It only works if man works better in it and because of it." (See Thomas S. Hines’ new book, Architecture of the Sun: Los Angeles Modernism 1900-1970, for more on Neutra’s work.) The original building was designed by the firm of Richard & Dion Neutra. Shortly before the agreement signing, Richard Neutra passed away, and his son, Dion, completed the building in 1975. Expansions and restorations were completed in both 1994, and 2007.

Architectural notes from Dion Neutra

The interior plants and water were situated to create an atmosphere that would at once be healthy for plants, books and the human beings that would inhabit the space! It turns out that an atmosphere of 50-percent relative humidity is perfect for books and plants, which do not do well when it’s too dry. Neither do humans, for that matter, so this was a happy marriage.

We also found out that books would prefer a temperature of 60 degrees or so, down from the 70+ of the usual human habitat. By favoring a lower temperature in the stack areas, I was able to encourage the browsers to move out to the reading areas with their selections rather than block the narrow aisles in the stack areas. The sound of the interior water features is such that it is possible to converse in a normal tone of voice in the reading-room areas instead of having to be reminded to whisper, which is so often the [very unnatural] situation in a library.

The best spot of all, is next to its towering ficus

On the lower level, a giant fiddleleaf ficus plant flourishes center stage, ringed by tables. It must have been planted when the building opened, sharing the years with countless readers. As a gardener and an avid reader, I applaud the Neutras. They captured contentment.

Of course, the thriving gift shop, used book sale area, cafeteria, computer media center, movie videos for checkout, and the largest Children’s Library west of the Mississippi, add to the magic. Not to be missed, is a bird’s eye view of baby owls sitting in eucalyptus trees in the children’s area. Authors’ guest lunches, summer reading programs, and live tutors are typical of the library events..

But wait, there’s more

Genealogy: The Library’s collection of over 18,000 genealogical books is maintained by the Orange County California Genealogical Society (OCCGS). The Genealogy collection is housed at the Central Library and is reference only (items cannot be checked out). You can access the Huntington Beach library system by clicking on H.B. Public Library.

Databases: Business research tip – having a library card lets you access the Reference USA database, which is almost as good as Hoover’s and unlike Hoover’s, it’s free. The Library has purchased other database subscriptions, making them free to patrons.

It hosts an impressive online database menu encompasses information and full-text articles for a wide-range of subscription based news services including journals for business, literature, history, science, health, auto repair, politics, language, and so much more. They have an extensive newspaper and magazine database of well known and specialized publications. Anyone can use these resources in the library and cardholders can access most of the databases from home. The Windows Art Gallery houses paintings and art by local artists to browse and purchase. A Corner Art Gallery room does hold non-private exhibits. For information on upcoming shows, or membership, visit the Art League’s website at www.hbartleague.com.

A 300-seat Huntington Beach Playhouse, stages productions and comes with 7 meeting rooms, videoconferencing and a kitchen for weddings and receptions.

Access: Free to the citizens of Huntington Beach, out-of-town guests may purchase a library card for $25 a year. A Media Only Card is available for no charge. This card lets nonresidents use fee-based services in the Media Center only (videos, CD’s, DVD’s and audiobooks).

For a Christmas inspiration: Share all of this with a non-resident or surprise friends with $25 gift certificates for one year library cards.

Directions: The Central Library is located adjacent to the Huntington Beach Central Park and Sports Complex at 7111 Talbert Ave, CA 92683. The closest cross streets are Talbert Ave and Goldenwest St.

Hours: Monday: 1:00 – 9:00pm; Tue, Wed, Thu: 9:00am – 9:00pm; Fri, Sat: 9:00am – 5:00pm;
Sunday: Closed

Photos by Scott Schroeder and Sandy Schroeder

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2 Responses to “Dream Library…in Huntington Beach”

  1. David LaRue says:

    Another great article. Sounds like this is a library that I’d love to visit and stay awhile. But how can one concentrate with all the beautiful flowers and water displays. I’d just sit and dream.

    Great job.

    [Reply]

  2. michael says:

    I grew up going to the HB library and it is indeed at treat. SO much to do and see sometimes I would never make it to the books!

    Kind of out of the way and hard to get to for kids but if you’ve got a car it’s no big deal. Also it is surrounded by a wonderful park system with miles and miles of trails and paths.

    It seems like it’s not a park at all it’s os big, I’ve even camped there as a Boy Scout. Great Frisbee golf courses there too.

    There just is a ton to do around the library even if you never go inside.

    [Reply]

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