820. Monterey Public Library in the 21st Century

By the late 1940s, the Monterey Public Library faced a new challenge - and opportunity.

The library on Van Buren Street had been designed to serve a population of 5,000 people and to hold 3,500 volumes. It now served a population over 17,000 people, and its 46,000 books and other materials far exceeded the Library's capacity.

In 1950, the voters of Monterey passed a bond measure to build a new, modern library. Now, the noted California architect William Wurster faced his own challenge. How do you design a library on an awkward, odd shaped lot on the corner of Pacific and Madison streets?

Wurster believed that a building should be unique, modern in its use of space, materials, and technology, and that the design should be in harmony with the building's location and surroundings. So Wurster designed a building with five sides of glass, exposed steel and concrete with airy high ceilings. The outside cream-colored stucco walls were reminiscent of a Monterey Mexican-era adobe. The new Library opened in 1952 to resounding approval from residents and visitors. It received national attention for its innovative design.

In the late 1970s, it was obvious that the library needed even more space. A redesign added features, including a climate controlled room for the California History Room collections. The new interior was characterized by the comfortable and efficient use of space, and it highlighted the Library's fine art collection featuring works by Francis McComas, Gene Frances McComas, Ferdinand Burgdorff, Abel Warshawsky, Henrietta Shore, and many other well-known California artists.

Today, the Library has entered the 21st century. With its renowned Second Bay Tradition building, bookmobile and online library, the Monterey Public is providing people and communities with greater access than ever before. Residents and visitors from around the world enjoy materials and programs for various ages and interests, including Books, DVDs, laptop computers and an array of resource databases.

The Monterey Public continues to provide new sources of information, education and enjoyment. It continues the mission and vision of the first public library in California during the Gold Rush: To provide education and enjoyment to an ever widening world of people and communities.