The San Rafael Branch’s victorious opening

Pasadena Star News, November 4, 1945

When Doris Hoit became the city librarian in 1936, the Pasadena Public Library consisted of the Central Library and four small branches.  She envisioned a library system in which no resident would be more than a mile away from a library.

In 1945, she proposed to City Manager C.W. Koiner the construction of three additional branches. She was pleasantly surprised when she got a bit more. The Board of City Directors approved four new branches rather than the proposed three.

Her vision came to realization with the opening of the Allendale Branch in 1951, and six years later Linda Vista and San Rafael opened in 1957, and Hastings in 1959.

Opening a new library is always a special occasion for the Pasadena Public Library and for its communities, but the San Rafael Branch’s opening was particularly significant in that it almost didn’t happen because of opposition to where it was to be built. It wasn’t because the San Rafael community didn’t want a library but rather that a group of residents didn’t want one in their back yard, so to speak.

Pasadena Star News, December 4, 1951

It all started in 1951 when the Board of City Directors approved the construction of a branch library in the San Rafael community. The City chose the property on Nithsdale Road and Avenue 64 as the ideal location, but residents in that area opposed a library in their neighborhood, claiming that it would lower property value and increase traffic in the area and make it unsafe for children walking to school.

A long legal dispute between the City and a group of residents delayed planning of the San Rafael Branch, with the homeowners

Pasadena Star News, June 21, 1954, p. A1

pooling their own money to buy the lot on which the branch would be built and the City filing a condemnation suit in return to acquire it through eminent domain. When the Pasadena Superior Court made a decision to allow the City to buy the lot for $2,250 cheaper than what the residents had originally paid, the residents filed an appeal and the dispute thus dragged on for many months.

The matter was finally resolved in June 1954 when the courts upheld a judgement in favor of the City. It was not until early 1956 that plans for the new branch were approved and construction began.

Pasadena Star News, January 31, 1956

On July 31, 1957, the San Rafael Branch opened its doors on the corner of Nithsdale Road and Avenue 64 to a crowd of excited residents and city officials. Its completion fulfilled Doris Hoit’s vision of bringing library services to the southwest section of Pasadena, which hitherto had been completely cut off from library service.

This photo may have been taken around the time of the branch’s opening. c. 1957 (PDHC)
Dedication ceremony program. 1957 (Library Archives)
The San Rafael Branch was widely used by the local residents, who for a long time had petitioned the City to build a branch in the San Rafael community. It was popular with families and students in the nearby schools. In 1967 a meeting room for story hours, film showings, and community meetings was added to accommodate the growing needs of the community. This photo shows the addition of the new room. March 1967 (Library Archives)



Cain, A., & Zorbas, E. (1982). 100 years of service: A history of the Pasadena Public Library, 1882–1982. Pasadena, CA: Pasadena Public Library.

City to get library site, Court rules. (1952, November 11). Pasadena Star News.

Court battle looms over library site. (1952, April 6). Los Angeles Times, p. G24.

Library site appeal due. (1953, February 9). Pasadena Star News.