History of The Rancho Santa Fe Library Guild 

As remembered and written by Eleanor Johns


It was 1963 and Ranch Residents wanted a real library that would be open at least several days a week. The only space found acceptable to the County Library System was the Ewing property, formerly the old school rooms, the space the Pantry and Deli recently vacated.

The rent was more than the San Diego’s County’s budget could manage. Mrs. Alice Ewing, with her generous heart and civic spirit, lowered the rent from $300 to $175 a month. This was still too much for the County. At this juncture, the Rancho Santa Fe Library Guild was formed in order to supplement what the County Library System was unable to provide. An organizational meeting was held December 13, 1963. A Board of Directors with Mrs. Helen Weddell as president was elected. The first board members to serve where Mrs. Edward Creutz, Mrs. Edward Hujsak, Frank Cantwell, and Mrs. Samuel Johnson. The directors elected where Mrs. Hans Amtmann, Mrs. Albert Day, Mrs. Hugh Stewart, Chief Fox, Lambert Baker, Roger Rowe, and Harold Harris.

A rare administrative regulation was worked out by County Supervisor Cozens with the County Board of Supervisors permitting the Library Guild to purchase and accept books as gifts, to remain the sole property of the Guild. volunteer assistance in the library was also granted by the Board of Supervisors. The Rancho Santa Fe Library was the only branch to be granted these privileges.

Other methods of financing the rapidly expanding library guild were developed with annual membership dues, donations in the form of memorials, and an annual book fair.

The first membership drive was held with a luncheon at the end on June 4, 1964. The chairman where Mrs. Robert Corlett, Mrs. George Stewart, Mrs. Frank Maxwell, Mrs. Louise Badger and Mrs. Hans Hans Antmann. Ms. Francis Hahn, head of the San Diego County Libraries was the guest speaker. Her talk included the aspects of the library problems, and in particular how they affect a new and growing branch, touching on censorship, vandalism, and pornography. This was quite a social event and was written up in several newspapers.

Newspapers also reported that the circulation of books it increased dramatically and the Summer Reading Program was established. Floral arrangements were furnished by the Garden Club and artists showing their work included Jane Merrill, Virginia Shaw, Miriam Ames,and Dorothy Millard. The McNaughton plan for leasing books was also inaugurated.

With high hopes, no assets and an obligation to pay $900 over the three-year lease, as the Library Guild’s share of the rent, the Rancho Santa Fe Library opened its doors on February 1, 1964. Fran Johnson was the first librarian, keeping the building open half a day, five days a week. The new library became a reality through the efforts of the Rotary Club’s Community Services Committee under the leadership of Chief Jim Fox and many volunteer hours by Rotarians Ray Griset, Harold Harris, Don Dickinson, Howard Wiffen, Harvey Parmalee, Dave Berger, Bruno Koch, Herb Hall, Gary Davis and Bert Teagle. They sanded and refinished the floors, each of the walls, and installed plumbing, heating and light fixtures. A rotary contribution of $600 was added to the County’s appropriation for the remodeling.

The next job undertaken by the new Library Guild was to recruit Charter Members. 450 residents gave voluntary contributions of from $5 to $100 to become charter members. This was done by way of word-of-mouth. No letters were sent. No telephone calls made. Bylaws were drawn by William Schofield and through his efforts the new Guilt became a nonprofit organization on July 18, 1964. He and John Thomas volunteered to provide continuing legal guidance.

Longtime school Board President, Dr. Neil Randol, and elementary School Board members David Berger and John Ables, with principal Roger Rowe were acutely aware of the students need for an adequate library. By unanimous agreement they made available to the Library Guild one third of an acre of school property for the sum of one dollar, with the stipulation that the new building be leased to the County Library for a branch library. The Association allocated $10,000 for a new parking lot that would be used by library patrons.

With this cooperation and his own conviction the library would be an ever increasing benefit to the community, Arthur Lindberg assumed chairmanship of the building fund with Bill Evans as co-chairman. Fifteen of their personal friends contributed $75,000. This achievement made front page news. With this robust start, local residents contributed additional funds.

Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on February 23, 1967. The building was designed by Harold Abrams, and built by the Trepte Construction Company. Mrs. Lindbergh persuaded John Thiele of La Jolla to design the interior decor.

The plans drawn had the unusual feature of the children’s wing in equal importance and size with the adult portion of the library. Residents continued to contribute so many important books that the original plans were expanded by 550 ft.² for a total of 3200 ft.

An 18th-century sofa table and a bowl for fresh flowers were purchased by the Guild in memory of Alice Ewing who had passed away. The table is now in front of the memorial plaques, holding fresh floral arrangements in her memory, and in memory of Dorothy Stimpson, and all those who have contributed so much to our lovely library.

The very first book fair was held on the patio in front of the library-where The Bistro restaurant is now. Committees were formed to telephone all Ranch residents and trucks were dispatched to pick up book donations. More than 3000 were collected and a number of them were important enough to be added to the Guild’s book inventory. The book fair netted $763.60 and was considered very successful with most ranch residents participating.

About this time Rue Harris began writing a weekly column in the Rancho Santa Fe times titled “Library Lore”. And Viva Francisco began keeping the scrapbooks.

Two factors impelled the Library Guild to consider building its own library. A raise in rent was imminent at the end of the three-year lease period, and it was evident that to maintain the dynamic growth and interest, and to improve level of service, larger quarters were necessary.

Major contribution was given to the children’s wing by Mrs. Phillips Davis of Beverly Hills in memory of her parents Blanch and Hilliard G. Lyle, former Ranch residents. The furnishings of the Guild room were given in memory of the late George Davis Bailey by Mrs. Bailey, his family, and friends all over the world. Mr. Bailey was Nancy de Woody’s uncle.

The new Rancho Santa Fe Library was completed and dedicated on April 25, 1968 with Arthur Lindberg and Bill Evans cutting the ribbon held by Helen Weddell. The cost of the new library was $85,000.

Librarians were hired by both the County and the Guild to provide complete service to the community. When proposition 13 came into effect the County withdrew three of the County paid librarians. In order for the Rancho Santa Fe Branch to remain open from 10 to 5 six days a week, the Guild determined to pay the salaries of the three needed librarians.

There are still only two County librarians who work five days a week and one who works three days a week. The Guild pays the salaries of the rest of the nine part-time employees. In a recent cost-cutting measure the county has withdrawn the services of a part-time page and the library is making do with volunteers. The county has also ordered all the other libraries in the area to be closed on Mondays. Because of the Guild, the Rancho Santa Fe Library is open on Mondays.

The entire community continued to support the library. Robert Oliver gave a large sum of money making it possible to double the size of the library with two more rooms, the Garden Room and the first Children’s Room. Mary Sundkvist gave the seed money for the community room and new downstairs Guild office. In 1985 tunnel was made between this office and the bookstore which was remodeled into the Book Cellar. This was paid for out of regular income. George von Rosen gave the Guild the first computers and printer making it possible for the Guild to move into the world of automation. In 1986 Howard Glasgow gave $300,000 to enlarge the library, doubling the size of the Children’s Room and making a large new room downstairs for the Guild office. Space is given thereby the Guild for the operation of the Senior Center. The donation included new furniture for the two rooms.

Catherine Ellis has been very generous with money for computers for the Children’s Room and other needs. Howard Glasgow has given another large donation to be used for the purchase of a CD-ROM. A fundraising drive is now being held to collect a total of $20,000 per this addition to the library. $11,000 has been donated so far.

It might be of interest to you to know that it now takes a great deal of money to provide the present high-level of service to the community. For instance, the 1993-94 Guild budget allocates $55,000 for the payroll plus $5,850 for payroll taxes, and $16,500 for newspapers, magazines, adult and children’s books. The Guild pays for all the utilities plus gardening and maintenance. The electric bill is over $800 a month. The County rents only part of the building at about $.28 a square foot, giving the Guild $24,984 a year. Other expenses include accounting services, insurance, Workmen’s Compensation, postage, office supplies, telephone, repairs, and security.

Library operations became automated 1989, Rancho Santa Fe being the last branch to go online. Improvements are constantly being made by the County with new equipment and new methods of operation. The librarians are always learning new ways to better serve the library patrons. Automation has made it possible to track the books and to instantly order your requests from other branch libraries to be delivered by truck to our library.

We have come a long way from the shelves in the closet of Mrs. Badger’s Fountain Lunch.

So what you, the Book Club, started with a request for a Bookmobile, became a wonderful first full-service library for all those who live in the Rancho Santa Fe area.