Long Beach Public Library Foundation

Long Beach Leaders are Readers — Mayor Robert Garcia

Long Beach Leaders are Readers is our new series in which leaders in our community share recommended reads. In celebration of LGBTQIA+ Pride Month, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia has shared the following reading recommendation.

SupermanSon of KalEl (Volume 1) by Tom Taylor, art by John Timms

I’ve loved comic books ever since I was a kid and Superman has always been my favorite character. As an immigrant to this country, seeing the story of someone who was also born somewhere else — on another planet — grow up to protect people and make the world a better place was something that really spoke to me. In this new series, Superman’s son takes up his father’s mantle and I think really takes the story in an exciting, progressive direction. One of the main ways this happens is through Jon Kent coming to terms with his LGBTQ+ identity. Even as an adult now, it still feels really impactful to see this kind of representation — especially through a medium I grew up with. I am excited to recommend this comic as a part of the Leaders are Readers program, and I hope people enjoy this heroic journey and new direction for such a classic franchise.

Glenda Williams, Champion of Literacy & Education

In November, the City of Long Beach announced that Director of Library Services Glenda Williams will retire with her last day as the head of the Long Beach Public Library set for December 30, 2021. We at the Long Beach Public Library Foundation are honored to have worked closely with Ms. Williams since her appointment to her current role in 2009. As a true champion of literacy, she has led the Library as it has become an innovative center of education. Under her direction, the Library evolved significantly to meet the many changing needs of the residents who depend on its services.

Director of Library Services Glenda Williams addressing the crowd at a graduation ceremony for the Career Online High School program at the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library on August 18, 2018. This program was introduced under her leadership.

Ms. Williams has worked at the Long Beach Public Library for 40 years. Her incredible tenure began when she was hired as a page, one of the Library’s entry-level roles. Through the years she held various positions and worked at all of the City’s 12 public libraries before she was ultimately appointed Director of Library Services. One of the Library Foundation’s first major projects with Ms. Williams came in 2014 with the grand opening of the Studio at the Main Library. The new makerspace featured 3D printers, design software, and other design tools funded by our donors. With the Library Foundation’s support, the program would expand through the years with new advanced technology for additional STEM and arts educational opportunities. The Long Beach Public Library was one of the first library systems in this region to introduce a facility with advanced technology for patrons to learn in and enjoy. It was indicative of Ms. Williams’ determination to create a library system for the 21st century.

Under Ms. Williams’ leadership, two new world-class libraries opened in Long Beach; the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library in 2016 and the Billie Jean King Main Library in 2019. These libraries are outfitted with the latest educational tools and technology for all members of the community, no matter their age or abilities, to enjoy all that the Library has to offer. The Library Foundation is proud to support programs and resources at these libraries, by raising more than $1 million in a campaign for the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library, and more than $3.3 million in a campaign for the Billie Jean King Main Library.

Director of Library Services Glenda Williams (center) pictured with then Library Foundation Executive Director Kate Azar (right) and library volunteer, Bryant Ben, at the Insitute of Museum and Library Services award ceremony at the National Archives Museum in Washington D.C. on July 17, 2017.

In 2017, the Long Beach Public Library was awarded the National Medal for Museum of Library Service, the nation’s highest honor for museums and libraries. The Library Foundation is honored to have been a part of making this award possible and helping to bring Ms. Williams’ vision for the Library to life.

We will miss working with Ms. Williams and wish her the best. All that she helped create at the Library will benefit Long Beach residents for generations to come.

Champion of Literacy, Vice Mayor Rex Richardson

Vice Mayor Richardson and his wife, Dr. Nina Richardson, (center) with Library Foundation Directors Emeriti and Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library Capital Campaign Co-chairs Rick Alsagoff and Mary Hancock Hinds (left), and Library Foundation Board President-elect Ryan Ballard (far right).

For his dedication to libraries and literacy, the Long Beach Public Library Foundation was delighted to present Vice Mayor Rex Richardson with the 2021 Library Leadership Award at the 18th annual Grape Expectations gala on September 19. In the early 2010s, North Long Beach’s stunning Michele Obama Neighborhood Library was just a dream. Community members met with Library staff in the Jordan High School cafeteria to share visions for their neighborhood’s new library. By 2016, those visions had become a reality with the opening of the new Library’s doors. A significant key to that transformation was our honoree, Vice Mayor Richardson.

From those first meetings, Richardson was deeply involved, sharing ideas, resources, and, most importantly, his leadership skills, as demonstrated by the naming of the new library. Throughout the city, there was a wide range of ideas about what to name the new library. Its predecessor was simply called “North Library,” but this spectacular new structure needed a name to match its magnificence.

Many names were suggested with no consensus until Richardson came up with the ideal solution: ask the area’s young people what name would inspire them to visit and use this new resource. Jordan High School’s students resoundingly selected the First Lady.

With a new name in place, the Library Foundation was tasked with fundraising for enhancements such as the Family Learning Center, the Studio, furnishings, books, and technology. Richardson supported this effort with energy and enthusiasm as one of the fundraising campaign’s honorary co-chairs. The campaign raised more than $1 million, which will continue to benefit the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library for many years to come. Richardson has remained a steadfast supporter of the Library and the Library Foundation.

Champion of Literacy, Joseph F. Prevratil, JD

Joseph F. Prevratil, JD, (center) accepting the 2021 Durning Family Award from Margaret and Charles Durnin.

On September 19 at the Long Beach Public Library Foundation’s Grape Expectations gala, we were proud to honor Joseph F. Prevratil, JD, with the 2021 Durnin Family Award for his dedication to libraries and literacy. His leadership and guidance has been key to the Library Foundation accomplishing many goals and developing a sustainable future.

From 1995 to 2019, Joe led the Archstone Foundation in its mission to contribute toward the needs of the aging population as President and CEO. He was instrumental in moving the Archstone Foundation from a focus on general health to its longstanding focus on aging. During this time, the Archstone Foundation awarded over 1,100 grants totaling more than $117 million to many nonprofit organizations, including the Long Beach Public Library Foundation. These grants have supported the Library Foundation’s work on behalf of the 12 public libraries and the Library’s Homebound Readers delivery services for library patrons confined to their homes. Joe is also a founding member of Grantmakers In Aging (GIA).

Joe served on the Library Foundation Board from 2003 to 2014. During his term as President in 2013, the Library Foundation strengthened its endowment to lift the organization to a higher level of sustainability. The Library Foundation also raised funds for the Library’s first makerspace Studio stocked with the latest in digital learning resources. During this time, the Library Foundation took an active role in advocating for what would become the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library and Billie Jean King Main Library. In 2013, Joe was one of 25 leaders across the country invited to join a prestigious national Libraries, Museums, and Early Learning task force convened by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Through the years, Joe has helped strengthen Long Beach through his many leadership roles, including Chief Executive Director for the Port of Long Beach, President and CEO of the Queen Mary, and Chairman of the boards of the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, the Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Downtown Long Beach Associates. He was a founding member of the CSULB Board of Governors and continues to be a member of the CSULB Research Foundation Board of Directors.

As a Director Emeritus, Joe has remained engaged in Library Foundation activities and serves on the Legacy Committee, bringing our organization to the attention of those who care deeply about the future of Long Beach’s public libraries. Through his leadership and generosity, Joe has provided crucial resources for the many who depend on the Library.

Champion of Literacy, John Arcos

John Arcos joined the Library Foundation Board of Directors in 2017 to support our work to provide crucial educational and literacy resources to those who depend on the City’s 12 public libraries. During his time on the Board, John led important initiatives as Vice President of Programs and Vice President of Fund Development. His support as VP of Fund Development was especially crucial in 2019 when the Library Foundation launched the highly successful New Main Campaign which raised more than $3.3 million for the technology, programs, and resources at the Billie Jean King Main Library. John and his wife Janet Leonards also underwrote our Books for Brews young professionals’ events which introduced a new generation of literacy patrons to the Library Foundation. And the two donated generously to support various Library programs. But what makes John’s service particularly special are the years he spent volunteering in the Main Library.  

John has called Long Beach home for nearly 40 years and worked in aerospace software development during much of that time. As he neared retirement, John decided he wanted to apply his knowledge of technology to a good cause. He visited the Long Beach Public Library to explore volunteer opportunities and discovered the Library’s important role in bridging the digital divide. 1 in 4 Long Beach households lack a reliable internet connection and, according to a 2019 report by the Long Beach Technology and Innovation Commission, 45% of those residents rely on the Library to connect to the Internet. John began volunteering every week in the Main Library’s Information Commons, which houses dozens of computers for public use, as well as the Information Center for People with Disabilities, now known as the Center for Adaptive Technology.

John helped people use the Library’s computers to do their homework, apply for jobs, and learn about resources like low-cost housing. His support was especially helpful to those who did not know how to use a computer. Many in Long Beach lack basic computer literacy skills which is why the Library’s computer classes and support from volunteers like John is so helpful. John also generously donated countless reading glasses, ear phones, and flash drives to library visitors.

A self-described “computer guru,” John shared the following story about his service:

One day, Mary, a recurring patron approached the help desk. She was writing an account of her experiences caught in a fire that swept through an area in Tennessee she’d been visiting. Found and sheltered by some friendly neighbors, Mary was writing a letter to the local newspaper about how grateful she was. Her written English was a somewhat second language, keyboard skills came late in life, word processing skills even later, so the guru role was to help with the writing, and then the word processing. When the document was done, I helped her to email her letter to the target newspaper. Then came the part so uniquely characteristic of online customer service interactions. After emailing the letter, Mary received a reply from the newspaper, ‘Thank you for your submission. We will be publishing your letter on…’ with a date and issue number.”

This is an account of just one of the countless people that John helped in his role as a volunteer. We are honored to have had his support and first-hand knowledge of the needs of library patrons on our Board. While he will no longer serve on our board as a director, we will always consider John a dear friend to the Library and welcome him as a Director Emeritus. Thank you, John and Janet, for all you have done to champion literacy in Long Beach!

Champion of Literacy J.P. Shotwell

J.P. Shotwell speaking at the September 2017 “Start of Steel” ceremony for what would become the Billie Jean King Main Library.

As new technology emerges and informational needs change, libraries evolve to better serve their communities. Long Beach Public Libraries are no different. They now house 3D printers, virtual STEAM camps, laptop and Internet hotspot checkout programs, music recording studios, state-of-the-art adaptive technology for disabled patrons, and a wide arrange of e- and audiobooks. Much of these changes have been supported by the Long Beach Public Library Foundation and championed by J.P. Shotwell.

In 2012, J.P. joined the Library Foundation’s board of directors as a philanthropic representative for Southern California Edison where he is the Director of Corporate Compliance and Information Governance. His colleague, Les Stark, previously served on the board and invited J.P. to one of the Foundation’s exclusive “Miller Lunches,” during which guests enjoyed a meal in the chestnut-walled Miller Special Collections Room. They dined among a collection of unique treasures donated by the Miller family, including rare texts dating back to the 15th century, Chinese and Japanese art and ceramics, and American and European art and photographs. The room, located in the Main Library, was made possible thanks to a generous gift in 1974 from Loraine Miller Collins in memory of her late husband, Earl Burns Miller. The original room was modeled after a room in the Miller home. When it moved to the new Billie Jean King Main Library in 2019, the architects worked with the Earl B. and Loraine H. Miller Foundation to redesign the room to adapt to the more modern design of the new Library, and the programmatic needs of the community.

Inspired by the American Library Association’s Center for the Future of Libraries which worked to identify emerging trends relevant to libraries, librarians, and communities, J.P. was charged with answering the question, “What will the Library be in 2025?” He co-chaired the Library of the Future Committee with Mary Lamo-Putnam. The committee traveled to new libraries in San Diego, Santa Monica, Newport Beach, and Cerritos to tour the modern buildings and observe innovative service delivery models. This research would inform the Library Foundation’s involvement in the development of two new libraries in Long Beach—the Michelle Obama Neighborhood and Billie Jean King Main Libraries.

In addition to his roles as Co-Chair of the Library of the Future Committee, J.P. served as Treasurer, provided his guidance on the Finance Committee, Public Affairs Committee, Board Development Committee, and served an extended term as Board President.

In September of 2016, as board president, J.P. spoke to a crowd of more than 5,000 people who had attended the grand opening of the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library. J.P. announced the results of the Foundation’s most successful fundraising campaign to date, which raised more than $1 million for programs, technology, and enhancements at the new library. Less than a year later, the Foundation would launch a similar campaign that raised more than $3.3 million in funds for the new Billie Jean King Main Library, which opened in 2019.

While JP served on the board during some of the Foundation’s most headline-grabbing accomplishments, including the Library’s acceptance of the National Medal for Museum and Library Services, the nation’s highest honor given to libraries, J.P. is most proud of how he helped the Library Foundation itself evolve. When J.P. became President in 2016, the Foundation had just hired an entirely new staff. In fact, J.P. sat on the committee to recruit current Executive Director Kate Azar who, in turn, rebuilt the staff to its current levels. J.P. and Kate worked together to advance the Library Foundation to a more sophisticated operation modeled from some of the nonprofit industry’s best practices. This included better financial reporting, board term-limits, and more professional systems and procedures. Because of these accomplishments, the Foundation’s impact has grown exponentially, its board better reflects the Long Beach community, and it has become known as a model nonprofit organization.

The Library Foundation has benefitted greatly from J.P.’s personal generosity, his tireless advocacy for libraries, his countless volunteer hours, his expertise, and his friendship. While J.P. was the strongest proponent for board term-limits, his involvement on our board will be sorely missed. We know we will continue to see J.P., his wife, Kimberly, and their three children, James, Harry, and Juanita, at their neighborhood branch— the Bay Shore Library.

J.P. and his sons, James and Harry, at the grand opening of the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library in September of 2016.

Champion of Literacy, Mary Lamo-Putnam

From left to right: Mary Lamo-Putnam, Susan DeLand, Mayor Robert Garcia, Mary Hancock Hinds, Rick Alsagoff, Dee Abrahamse, and Director of Library Services Glenda Williams at a ceremony to celebrate the spire raising at the soon-to-open Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library in March of 2016.

Mary Lamo-Putnam frequented Long Beach Public Libraries all her life. During her childhood in Long Beach, she and her friends would ride their bikes to Los Altos Library. Little did Mary know, she would go on to make an incredible impact on the City’s libraries.

Mary was first introduced to the Long Beach Public Library Foundation through its signature fundraising event, Grape Expectations. Kim Neipling, then a Board member, invited Mary and her late husband, Russ, to enjoy the event and learn more about the Library Foundation. From there, her involvement with the Library Foundation grew and Kim nominated her to join the Board in 2012.

In 2013, Mary joined the Grape Expectations planning committee, which she would go onto Chair or Co-chair five times. Thanks to the dedication of the Committee and Library Foundation staff, the Foundation’s largest annual fundraiser has grown into a premier gala that hundreds of literacy supporters look forward to every year. Mary’s IT project management background is of great value to the event planning process. Most notably, she developed a detailed project plan, which is still used today to keep the event on track. Since she joined the committee, the event has raised more than $1.4 million.

Mary also played an instrumental role in campaigns for two new libraries. In 2016, the Library Foundation raised over $1 million for the newly opened Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library, and a couple of years later, the New Main Campaign raised more than $3.3 million for the Billie Jean King Main Library which opened in 2019. In addition to advising staff on the campaign and helping to raise funds in the community, Mary made a generous donation in honor of her late husband Russell Putnam. A plaque dedicated to them both can be found in the photography section of the Main Library.

Mary is always thinking about the future of the Long Beach Public Library. Perhaps the strongest example of this is her membership of the Carnegie 49 Society, a group of supporters who have included the Library Foundation in their estate plan. She also co-chaired the Library of the Future Committee in 2014 and 2015 alongside J.P. Shotwell. The Committee was inspired by the American Library Association’s Center for the Future of Libraries which sought to identify emerging trends relevant to libraries, librarians, and the communities they serve. Working to answer the question, “What will the Library be in 2025?” Mary and her fellow committee members traveled to new libraries in San Diego, Santa Monica, Newport Beach, and Cerritos to tour the modern buildings and observe innovative service delivery models. Having previously worked in information technology, Mary understood the great value of increasing digital resources in libraries.

Mary has dedicated countless hours of volunteer time to literacy in Long Beach. In addition to her roles on the Library Foundation’s Grape Expectations Committee and Library of the Future Committee, Mary served as VP of Programs, Liaison to the Friends of the Long Beach Public Library, and joined the Grand Literacy Committee and Librarian Appreciation Committee. She was always one of the first board members to volunteer at community outreach invents such as Dictionary Days and the ACO7 Literacy Fair.

While she will no longer serve on the board as a director, we will continue to benefit from her expertise as a member of the Grape Expectations planning committee. We are excited to toast to her success at next year’s gala, and we will likely run into her among the bookstacks of the Los Altos Neighborhood Library.

Mary Lamo-Putnam and her friends Karin and John Maligie enjoying the 2018 Grape Expectations silent auction and wine tasting.

Champion of Literacy, Nancy Merrill

Nancy and Charles Merrill at the 2017 Grape Expectations gala.

For nearly a decade, Nancy Merrill has supported the Long Beach Public Library Foundation’s mission at all 12 of the city’s public libraries as a Board member.

Nancy has served on the Board during a time of great evolution for the Library. On October 25, 2014, Nancy attended and helped break ground on a much needed new library in North Long Beach. The Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library opened on that site on September 10, 2016 and is the largest and most visited neighborhood library in Long Beach. Nancy joined the Library Foundation Board of Directors in raising $1 million for technology, programs, and resources that continue to create learning opportunities at the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library.

Nancy Merrill (far left) with Library Foundation Board members and staff and Mayor Robert Garcia (center) at the ground breaking ceremony for what would become the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library.

Nancy also served on the Board as the plans for what became the Billie Jean King Main Library first materialized. The new central hub of the Long Beach Public Library system opened on September 21, 2019 at a ceremony in which the Library Foundation presented a check for over $2 million to support enhancements at the new library.

Together with her husband, Charles, Nancy has been a great supporter of the Grape Expectations gala, the Library Foundation’s largest annual fundraiser. Nancy and Charles Merrill have served as gala sponsors multiple times and donated generously to the gala auction.

During her tenure, Nancy took on several roles including Secretary and positions in the Executive, Endowment, Programs, Librarian Outreach, and Advocacy Committees. The Library Foundation is forever grateful for her support.

Champion of Literacy, Renee Simon

Renee Simon with Mayor Robert Garcia at the last City Council meeting at the previous City Hall on July 23, 2019.

National Friends of Libraries week gives us the opportunity to celebrate some of the most dedicated volunteers and supporters of our country’s public libraries. As the 14th annual celebration begins on October 20, we would like to take the opportunity to recognize a founder of the Friends of the Long Beach Public Library and member of our Library Foundation Board of Directors, Renee Simon, for her incredible service to the City of Long Beach and devotion to the Library.

Renee’s work in Long Beach is one that has made a difference for so many who rely on city services. Renee and her husband Harry first moved to Long Beach in 1950 after Renee earned her master’s degree in science from Stanford University. Although she worked as a chemist, Renee has always had a deep love of literature and writing that guided her and her family to the Long Beach Public Library. She would go on to become one of the founders of the Friends of the Long Beach Public Library during a trying fight against censorship.

In 1962, The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis was challenged at the Long Beach Public Library. The Director of Library Services at the time, Blanche Collins, spoke before the City Council of the importance of not censoring the Library’s collection. Literacy supporters, including Renee, joined Blanche at this meeting and the book was not removed from shelves. These library supporters mobilized and on December 8, 1963, the Friends of the Long Beach Public Library held their first formal meeting. The Friends have grown exponentially since then and continue to advocate and fundraise for important Library programs to this day.

Renee earned her master’s degree in library science at UCLA in 1966 while continuing to support the Library. She also chaired the El Dorado Park Development Committee and played a big role in the creation of the park as it exists today. The committee worked with several organizations to place a tax on the ballot to develop the park. Voters approved a small increase in their property tax for ten years to fund the development of the park, golf course, and the Nature Center.

Renee’s next move in service to the City of Long Beach would be her election to the City Council in 1972 representing the 3rd District. Renee was only the second woman elected to the Council and the only woman on the Council during her terms. As a Councilmember, Renee’s work in land use helped shape how our city developed in many different areas.

At the last City Council meeting in the previous City Hall on July 23, 2019, Mayor Robert Garcia recognized Renee saying, “(She) is an incredible advocate to this day of education and our libraries. And (she) is always, not just here, but behind the dais speaking to those of us who have built friendships and mentorships with Renee.”

After her City Council service, Renee accepted a teaching post in Public Policy and Administration at California State University, Long Beach and then served as Deputy Director for Transportation Planning for the Southern California Association of Governments. She has been involved with several nonprofit organizations besides the Library Foundation and the Friends of the Library, including the Long Beach Arts Council, the Long Beach Symphony and International City Theater. One her most dedicated roles as a volunteer is her services since 1991 on the Archstone Foundation Board of Directors. Renee was instrumental in the process of that Foundation changing its focus to meeting the needs of the aging population and helping elders live safe, independent lives.

Renee has also authored the following books, all available at the Long Beach Public Library: Destination Long Beach: The Queen Mary Story, The Long Beach Water Department: A Historic Perspective, 1945-2000, Music Looks Forward: The Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, 1934-2009, Long Beach Transit: 50 Years Of Moving Our Community Forward, and her latest book, Our Own Big City: Long Beach And Its Decade Of The 1970s.

Forever a friend to our libraries, we thank Renee for her nine years of service to the Library Foundation Board of Directors and the difference she has made in the lives of countless Long Beach residents.

Learn more about the Friends of the Long Beach Public Library at
http://www.longbeach.gov/library/connect/friends-of-the-library.

Honoring Victor and Patricia McCarty

(Left to right) Margaret Durnin, Vic McCarty, Charley Durnin, Patty McCarty

On June 9, at the 16th annual Grape Expectations gala, we were proud to honor Victor and Patricia McCarty with the 2019 Durnin Family Award for their dedication to libraries and literacy.

Vic is one of the earliest members of the Library Foundation Board of Directors, joining in 1999 and serving in several positions where he was instrumental in many Foundation projects, most importantly the Family Learning Center program. After retiring from the Board he has continued as an active member of the Finance Committee since its founding in 2005. As a retired CPA, Vic brings decades of expertise in accountancy to advising the Foundation.

Vic and Patty share a long history in Long Beach. Vic was born at the former Seaside Hospital and Patty moved to Long Beach from Minneapolis with her family when she was in the eighth grade. Both frequently visited the Long Beach Public Library growing up and recall a small former branch on Roswell Avenue across from 4th Street. They married in 1956 and their children, Lindsay, Kelley, and Victor III, frequented the Los Altos Library in their youth. Everyone in their family graduated from Wilson High School.

Vic and Patty’s dedication to education in Long Beach has taken them into local classrooms as volunteers. As a member of Assistance League of Long Beach, Patty would bring the group’s educational puppet program to elementary schools to teach sign language and deaf awareness to children. As a Long Beach Rotarian, Vic helped organize a program known as Adopt-A-School to support reading instruction. Vic and Patty volunteered for several years reading with students at Franklin Middle School.

Vic and Patty have generously supported the Library Foundation’s many projects throughout the years and have given generously to campaigns for new libraries, including Mark Twain Library, Michelle Obama Library and the new Main Library opening this summer.

For Vic and Patty, community building and early literacy are two of the most important functions of our libraries. They are amazed at how the Library has evolved through the years and made a difference for so many families and children in Long Beach.