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Hastings Branch History

HASTINGS BRANCH LIBRARY HISTORY up to 1982
(from an unknown source, possibly compiled for the 100th birthday of the Pasadena Library in 1982)

Hastings Ranch

In 1882, Charles Cook Hastings purchased 1100 acres of land between Pasadena and Sierra Madre for the grand price of $7 per acre. Hastings had arrived in California in 1849 during the height of the Gold Rush and made his fortune by operating a string of general stores which sold supplies to miners. He named his ranch 'Mesa Alta Rancho' and began the planting of 300 acres with grape vines and the construction of a mansion.

Soon after he died, and his son, Charles Houston Hastings, assumed responsibility for the land. Charles Houston Hastings imported unusual specimens of plants and trees and populated the ranch with peacocks, pheasants, cats, dogs (32 collies) and champion horses. Hastings had a passion for horses. Colorful riding and hunting expeditions originated from his ranch, and the Tournament of Roses, from the time of its inauguration, regularly featured a Hastings entry.

The Hastings mansion was never fully completed. Hastings believed that since he inherited his house unfinished, so it should remain - resulting in walls being torn down before a room was half built. On February 16, 1928, the Hastings mansion caught fire and burned to the ground. After that, the ranch fell into a state of disrepair, and its operation was left to managers.

Homes, Families, Needs

Following the death of Charles Houston Hastings in 1942, the ranch was sold by the Hastings Foundation to a syndicate for over $1 million. The land was subdivided into luxury housing tracts. In the late 1940's about 600 homes were built in lower Hastings, in the early 1950's eight hundred houses were constructed by Coronet Homes, Inc., and in the early 1960's the top northern portion of the ranch was developed.

In 1951, immediately after the City Board of Directors had authorized constructing three new branches - Linda Vista, San Rafael, and a Brigden Road branch in East Pasadena - the City Manager announced that he had already acquired property for a fourth branch. The land, located on E. Orange Grove Boulevard and Sierra Madre Villa Boulevard, had been used by the Water Department for reservoir purposes, and it would now be used to build a Hastings Ranch branch library. Hastings was ranked fourth in priority of the branches to be built when funds for construction became available. In 1956 a city bond issue provided money to build three, instead of four branches, with Hastings designated as the third to be completed.

There was a great need for a branch in the Hastings Ranch area. With the development of subdivisions in the Hastings Ranch and Coronet sections, the population in the northeastern section of Pasadena had increased rapidly. Young couples with growing families had moved in, and new schools in the area were built (Field and Don Benito Elementary Schools and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary school). The Lamanda Park branch was inundated with trying to serve the entire eastern portion of the city, circulating about 1000 books a day. Yet many residents were not being served, because of the distance of the Lamanda Park branch from the Hastings Ranch area.

The New Branch Library

The Hastings branch opened its doors on February 17, 1959. It was the eighth and last Pasadena library branch to be built, completing the plan to bring library service within a mile of every home in Pasadena. Designed by the Architect, Robert H. Ainsworth, the 4,600-square foot brick building had a total capacity for 18,000 volumes, a meeting room, ample parking, and was expected to circulate 500 to 600 books a day.

The new Hastings branch was in the center of activity. The Foothill-Rosemead Shopping Center had just opened and a new high school to the west was being built. A golf course to the north and a major park-recreational area along Eaton Canyon were in the planning stages. Employees from nearby offices and plants were anxious to use the new library and arrangements were made to open it at twelve o'clock, one hour earlier than usual. The many young families in this affluent area were ambitious for their children, wanting them to use the library. During its first two weeks of businesss, the branch circulated over 3,000 books.

Demand for books, particularly in the Juvenile section, exceeded the supply, even though books were borrowed from other branches and central. Fifth and sixth grade classes from Eugene Field and Don Benito Schools visited the library monthly, and Assumption and Hale schools hoped to be added as soon as the book collection was adequate. Students flocked to the library for help with their assignments and on some evenings, every seat in the library was filled. The average attendance at pre-school story hours was 34 children.

Expansion

By June, 1962. the book collection had doubled from 7.251 to 15.197 books. The branch continued to be heavily utilized. The passage of a bond issue in 1964 made possible expansion for added space for books, readers, and parking. The new addition, which increased the library area from 4,600 to 7,800 square feet was completed in April, 1967. It provided a new section with an entrance facing north. The amount of parking was doubled.

In 1970, the Hastings branch was a busy and thriving branch with the highest circulation. Now that many of the children in the neighborhood had become teenagers, a special effort was made to appeal to young adults. New paperback racks for young adults were purchased and the branch sponsored film programs, a macrame club, a motorcycle demonstration, and other activities. For senior citizens, large-type books were purchased, and books on black studies were acquired to meet the needs of children now being bussed to nearby schools. The branch sponsored a series of successful programs in the early seventies, including a Tai Chi Chuan demonstration, music concerts and a popular international cooking contest that was held for several years.

Hastings branch received a gift of $3,259 in November, 1972 from the Upper Hastings Ranch Association. The money had been collected ten years earlier for the purpose of suing the telephone company for poor service. However, service improved and the suit did not materialize. The branch used the gift funds to start a cassette collection, with racks and a listening post, and also purchased a movie projector and furniture. Hastings Branch was the first of the Pasadena libraries to have cassettes and the collection was heavily utilized by the community. It was also the only branch to have an inter-filed adult and juvenile nonfiction book collection, which was initiated in the mid-70's.

After the Boom Years

In 1975/76, branch usage began to decline. The new 210 Freeway opened in March, 1976, providing easy access to Central Pasadena. Orange Grove Boulevard, which runs in front of the branch, was no longer a major east-west route. The public schools were unable to bus classes to the library, and since nearby schools were not within easy walking distance, the number of class visits to the branch were few. The Hastings Ranch Lariat, a local newsletter which had featured an article about the library in every issue for years, carried a story asking residents what they wanted in terms of programs and hours. There was no response in two months.

Throughout the seventies, attempts were made to reach out to the community. The Hastings Branch Library worked closely with the new Victory Park Recreation Center when it opened in 1975. Nearby businesses were contacted, the children's librarian visited classes at the schools, a Teen Book discussion group was held at the branch. With the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, branch hours, staff and book budget were reduced. Seventeen hours were cut from branch service. That year, circulation fell by 22.461. It has since stabilized.

The Hastings community has remained educated, affluent and mobile, with a large number of professionals. However, the age of the population has changed - the children have grown and there are fewer young families and more adults. Despite this, the Hastings Branch has continued to be the busiest branch in terms of circulation and the number of walk-in patrons, showing that Hastings Ranch is indeed a reading and library-oriented community.


Hastings Branch Librarians

Lillian Strickland 1959-1970
William J. Tema 1970-1973
Margaret Bender 1973-1974
Charity Kirkpatrick 1974-1976
Elaine Zorbas 1976-June, 1978
Charmian Guarino June, 1978-December, 1978
Elaine Zorbas January, 1979-1980
Charmian Guarino March 1980-1984
Pam Groves 1984-1985
Geni Sowell 1985-1988
Donna Watkins 1988-1991
Thelma Watson 1991-1994
Donna Watkins 1994-2001
Thelma Watson 2001-2006
Robin Reidy 2006-2008
Michael Pierce 2008-present


Facts

Date Library Established: February 17, 1959
Building Constructed: 1958-1959
Area of Building: 7,800 square feet
Cost of Building: $81,185
Size of Collection: 64,069

Circulation (2005-06): 187,139

Visitors (2005-06): 138,527
Seating Capacity of Meeting Room: 35

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