After years in the planning and building, the Crescenta Valley boasts a library that establishes a true town center.
With a crowd of community members and public officials and the cutting of a ribbon, the La Crescenta Library was officially opened last Friday, Jan. 29.
“It is our hope that this library becomes the heart of this community,” said Margaret Donnellan Todd, Los Angeles County Librarian.
Although the community has been enjoying and using the library for the past few weeks, Friday’s ceremony was a chance to thank those who had been supportive throughout the long process of designing and building the facility.
Todd thanked the many volunteers and the Friends of the La Crescenta Library and the La Crescenta Elementary Korean Parent Club for their donations.
“Libraries really do represent faith in the future,” Todd said.
But faith is not enough; the effort required funds, $14.5 million in fact, to complete. Todd thanked Supervisor Michael Antonovich for his leadership, the faith he had in the project and finding the funding.
The county stepped in with $13 million, Congressman David Dreier brought in $1.5 million and $350,000 was found through the sale of surplus library property. Together the effort allowed the La Crescenta Library to grow from 4,300 square feet to 15,000 square feet.
The facility was a community effort with community input, Antonovich said.
He formed a committee that oversaw the design, building and completion of the library.
“The library is the crown jewel of [the committee’s] hard work,” he said. “There were many meetings that took place.”
He had praise for his staff for monitoring the funding that was set aside for the building.
“They made certain that the funds were not siphoned off like [what happens] to other funds in Sacramento,” Antonovich said.
The library’s design was the result of many, many discussions.
“We had a lot of meetings with community and library departments. We used local material and gave it a local ambience,” said Scott Carde, lead architect from Carde Ten Architects.
During the ribbon cutting ceremony Carde told the story
how his mother made him read three books a week. At first this was not something he enjoyed but soon came to love the assignment. He spent a lot of time at his local library.
“Libraries are in fact a magical place. They influence us. They animate us. They add to our lives in ways that are mysterious. Sometimes in a conscious way, sometimes not,” he said.
As visitors enter the library they will first notice the stained glass artwork that borders the front door. Within the glass are hand drawn portraits of significant historical buildings in Crescenta Valley. The old school bell at La Crescenta Elementary and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church are just some of the local landmarks represented. The artist, Timothy Gibbs of RD Gibbs & Co. in the Glendale/Montrose area, grew up in the community. It was his task to bring the feel of La Crescenta to the stained glass medium.
“This is the old La Crescenta Woman’s Club,” he said as he pointed to a stained glass drawing.
Gibbs has been working with glass for about 30 years. He said he liked the colors that play with the light as it streams through the doors. From design to completion, though, takes a long time.
“It is time consuming. We have to carefully plan and do a lot of research,” he said. “But I am pleased with the results.”
Murals adorn the walls of the library. Artist Evan Wilson was chosen by the committee to paint the murals in both the adult and the children sections of the library.
“I wanted to give a feeling of history,” Wilson said as he stood in front of the murals of a woman with her hand reaching to the sky and another of a man resting in the foothills.
“The original plan was not to have any people [depicted in the mural] but at some point that changed,” he said.
The man and woman are symbolic of people who contribute to knowledge, he said.
Symbols that border the top edges of the walls represent free flowing knowledge. Evans said the process of creating this type of work is difficult in the beginning because he was looking at black and white technical drawings.
“It is hard to get the feel of the building [at first],” he said.
But he worked closely with the architect and incorporated the Craftsman style of the building into this artwork.
Artists Geri and William Gould were responsible for creating the bronze plaque installed in the foyer floor of the building. William was raised in La Crescenta and Geri is a descendant of the local Indians, the Tongvas. Their artwork has been displayed in the Smithsonian and the Vatican. The library’s medallion is a star-compose overlaying a circle with symbols of the three ages in the center. The Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley commissioned it. The piece depicts the history of Crescenta Valley by highlighting three ages of human habitation set with the background of the San Gabriel Mountains. Toypurina, shaman of the local tribes, represents the Native American period. Don Jose Verdugo represents the Spanish period and the father of modern La Crescenta, Dr. Benjamin Briggs, represents the American era. In a ceremony that followed the ribbon cutting, descendents of each of the three ages were honored.
For a video view of the library, interviews with the artists and the historical society’s ceremony visit the website the Crescenta Valley Weekly website at www.cvweekly.com.