The San Diego Public Library formally opened for business on July 15, 1882. In its first few years, the library was housed in donated space in the rooms of different local businesses. By the end of the decade, the new library was doing quite well, according to the book, An Illustrated History of Southern California, published in 1890, which included a report on the library as part of its chapter on San Diego City and County.
“During the year 1889 this institution has been installed in new and commodious quarters in the Consolidated Bank building. The quarters are comfortably furnished, and well lighted and heated. There are reading rooms for ladies and gentlemen, and in this department alone the record shows the use of 4,717 books during the latter seven months of the year, since these rooms have been opened.”
That’s not a bad figure in a city with, at that time, a total population of around 16,000 people.
The book noted, diplomatically, that one of the features of the library’s new headquarters was “the presence of attendants to issue the books, instead of the old system by which the patrons were allowed access to the shelves for that purpose, which was most conducive to the loss of books, now stopped almost entirely.”
“Fiction is the branch most sought by the patrons of the library,” the report concluded, with historical and biographical works holding a good second. The present number of volumes is 7,000, or 1,500 more than last year, and this library supplies more reading matter in proportion to its size than any other in the State.”
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