VISTA — From humble beginnings to a cat to mohawks, the Vista library has become a staple in this city for the past century.
Principal Librarian Ceci Rincon and her staff will engage the community in the library’s 100-year anniversary celebration from 1 to 4 p.m. Sept. 26 at the library, 700 Eucalyptus Ave.
The event will include music, classic cars, an animal show, free food, crafts and a historical photo exhibit. In addition, many of the library staff will dress in costumes representing different decades in recent American history.
“We love to have parties for our customers,” Rincon said. “We have a lot planned. We also want a relationship with our customers.”
The library, meanwhile, has a storied history growing from just 50 books after opening Sept. 28, 1915, to reaching the 1 million-circulation landmark for the past two years.
But it was a group of women who brought one of Vista’s lasting legacies to the forefront. The Women’s Club of Vista opened the library in 1915 in the home of President Nellie Aker and it soon was integrated into San Diego County Library system.
From there, the library became nomadic, moving from Aker’s home to the Current Events club, Vista Inn, Vista Bank Building, Vista Arts Studio, Regional County Center and finally settled at its current location in 1994.
But in the late 1970s or early ‘80s, Rincon and Librarian Kris Jorgensen aren’t sure, a stray cat wandered into the library at the county center and became the unofficial mascot.
Prudence was his name, and he became beloved by the staff. He was fed and cared for and due to his infectious personality, a painting of Prudence hangs in the library.
In 1981, though, a lot was purchased on Eucalyptus Avenue for $160,000 and in 1994 the current 30,000 square-foot facility opened.
“There is a picture of him (Prudence) sitting on this open encyclopedia,” Jorgensen said.
In the past several years, however, Rincon has taken an aggressive approach to keeping the library relevant and engaged with the community. Currently, she said, the library has an average of 24,000 to 25,000 customers per month.
She has instituted numerous programs outside of what many would consider the function of a library.
In addition to homework, reading and education programs, Rincon has created and been pitched ideas such as Zumba, music, fitness, citizenship classes, developing programming for adults with disabilities, serving summer meals to children who rely on school lunches during each semester and much more.
She said the role of libraries have changed over the past decade with the growing influence of technology making it easier to find books. As a result, Rincon, who came to the Vista branch in 2012, said libraries must be proactive to survive.
“If libraries don’t evolve with the times, they’ll disappear,” she added. “We host the most programs in the county and have the largest footprint. It has become more of a community hub, not just to check out books but some sort of service.”
In addition, the Friends of the Vista Library, an all-volunteer group average about $35,000 per year in donations to the library.
And in the race to 1 million in total circulation last year, Jorgensen, several of the staff and even San Diego County Library Director Jose Aponte shaved mohawks into their heads in the final push to reach the milestone.
“We were at like 900,000 the previous year,” Jorgensen said. “We put our hair on the line and bunch of us did. We pushed, and pushed and pushed and we made it on the final day.”