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Laguna Beach

 Volume 12, Issue 95  |  November 27, 2020

Barbara’s Column

Era ends at Laguna’s library


Laguna’s library has come a long way since Mrs. Bafford opened a library in 1919 in a storefront on Cedar Way and Jasmine Street and lent books, charging borrowers one or two cents per book, per day.

For more than 50 years that progress has been supported and partially financed by the Friends of the Laguna Beach Library, and for 32 of those years, Martha Lydick presided over the group, following in the footsteps of the late Charleton Boyd.

An era ended this month when Lydick retired as president. She remains a member of the Board of Directors as immediate past president. Her son, “Chip,” joins her on the board.

“Mom told me she had been interested in books since high school,” said her son. “She said she showed a teacher a list of all the books she had read, and he wanted book reports on all of them.”

Lydick moved to Laguna Beach in 1967 with Chip, then three, when she married attorney Lawrence Lydick, who was appointed to a federal judgeship in 1971 by President Richard Nixon.

Their Mystic Hills home was a casualty of the 1993 fire. 

She recalled driving her 1967 Shelby Fastback down the hill that dreadful day.

“The Shelby was not meant to be driven six miles an hour,” said Lydick. “It overheated, and I had to pull into almost every driveway along the street.” 

But she made it to the highway. Her Baccarat crystal Christmas ornaments were gone. So was her cherished collection of cookbooks, but she, her beloved cat, Damon, and her ailing husband, who was driving their other car, were safe. 

Era ends Martha and Chip

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Scott Brashier

Outgoing President Martha Lydick and her son Chip

She vowed their home would be rebuilt before he died. They moved back in July of 1995. 

That same year, the Judge arranged to have a poster made of a newspaper article praising the fundraising efforts of the Friends to prevent budget cuts by the county from reducing the hours the library would be open. 

A photograph of Martha Lydick is featured, posed in front of a painted tree with ceramic leaves naming donors to the library, created by the late Beverly Mosier.

The poster arrived after the Judge died December 15, 1995. It hangs in her grandson Vaughn’s room. 

However, books and the library were not Lydick’s sole interest. 

Lydick loves all animals, including horses, and began attending races at Santa Anita in 1967. She became such a familiar sight that she was greeted on arrival by “Call to the Post” by bugler Jay Cohen.

After years of feline companions, she now shares her home with two dogs. 

Lydick also was the longtime president of the Laguna Beach Republicans and the Laguna Beach Taxpayers Association.

As the Taxpayers president, she rebutted a ballot argument in favor of a parcel tax in 2012, quoting President Thomas Jefferson: “It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes.” (Still an issue in Laguna.)

She also personally has supported a variety of nonprofits, ranging from the Laguna Beach Community Clinic to the Performing Arts Center. She served on the Board of the Laguna Playhouse. 

Lydick has been succeeded as president of the Friends of the Laguna Beach Library by Karyn Philippsen, a member of the group for 20 years. 

Also recently elected: Vice President Justin Myers (website), Secretary Angela Irish, Treasurer Susan Kent and directors Jackie Hall (bookstore liaison), outgoing Vice President Sandy Hovanesian, Ellen Girardeau Kempler, Karl Koski, Ed Peterson, Jessica deStefano (garden), Randy Ray, on leave of absence, and both Lydicks.

Era ends Karyn and Justin

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Photo by Scott Brashier

(L-R) Martha, Chip, incoming President Karyn Philippsen, and incoming Vice President Justin Myers

The Friends’ Board regularly meets the first Tuesday of each month at 3 p.m. at the Library. However under COVID-19 restrictions, the most recent meeting was held in Heisler Park. 

“Depending on COVID guidelines and limitations, the 2021 calendar is in limbo, but the board is anxious to return to a productive schedule,” said Philippsen.

The Laguna Beach Library was organized in 1920 when representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, PTA, Community Club, Woman’s Club, and the Art Association created the Library Board. 

Leota Woy was named the first volunteer librarian and the first-ever fundraiser was held in 1922. Guests were required to come dressed as popular literary characters. More than 60 books were donated, a tradition carried on at the Friends’ annual Membership Dinner.

The library acquired a 1,000-square-foot space near the current library in 1925. It cost $2,500. 

Business was humming. By 1939, when a reading room was added, circulation had reached 60,000 books a year. More room was needed and in 1953, a new 2,200-square-foot library was built on the original site. 

Two years later, the Laguna Beach Building Association became the Friends of the Laguna Beach Library. 

In 1986, a 10,000-square-foot building was constructed on the corner of Glenneyre Street and Laguna Avenue, and the Friends opened the bookstore, operated then as now by volunteers.

When the county went bankrupt in 1993, the Friends subsidized library staff and services.

The next year, they helped fund an addition, dubbed the Fiction Room. 

Besides donating money to buy books, the Friends have funded technical equipment, new front doors to the building, new lighting, a remodel of the Children’s Library, painting the original wood exterior gray, and the Butterfly Garden, created and tended by deStefano.

Era ends Butterfly Garden

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Lyla enjoys the beauty and wonder of the Butterfly Garden. There are fairy houses hidden throughout the garden.

Additionally, deStefano has written a book about the garden: Where Fairies Dance.

The garden is a special treat for children, who leave messages in the fairy houses. The messages are answered. 

The nonprofit organization has paid to reframe historic watercolors exhibited in the library, and for a mural in the children’s section, not to mention children’s programs. 

The annual Children’s Reading Program culminates with a picnic at Bluebird Park and the awarding of medals by Laguna Beach firefighters to youngsters who have completed the program themselves or with the assistance of their parents.

But none of this would have happened without the dedication of the members of the Friends of the Library and its leaders, with Martha Lydick at the helm for more than three decades. 

Donations of used books to the bookstore when it reopens are the best way to honor her contributions. Volunteers also will be essential.

In the meantime: Be safe.

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