Last week Seattle hosted the 2019 Midwinter American Library Association Meeting. Thousands and thousands of happy librarians arrived to be impressed by the latest books, info-gadgets, and literary comers.
But, what town wouldn’t want to host thousands of happy librarians?
I just finished reading Susan Orlean’s The Library Book, which I highly recommend. Reading it gave me hope in the form of the endurance of libraries. They persist all over the world. They survive through war, poverty, fire, technological revolutions.
Going to the library with her mother when Orlean was young left a lasting impression on her. Reading her descriptions of those visits reminded me of going to the Hunt Library in Fullerton with my parents when I was little. The Hunt Library left a lasting impression on me. I could still lead you today to the Dr. Seuss shelf in the picture book section (it was always a mess), and the Greek Mythology books.
The Hunt Library was Norton Simon’s gift to the city of Fullerton. It opened in 1962 next to the Hunt Foods Corporation campus where Simon had made the fortune that funded his art collection. The library was designed by William Pereira, the architect known for the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco and the Disneyland Hotel.
Simon exhibited works from his art collection on the Hunt grounds and in the library. I grew up taking it for granted that all libraries had Giacometti sculptures outside and Picasso prints inside (I liked the Giacometti, but I was not impressed by Picasso’s later period works).
In 1964 Simon proposed replacing the library with an art museum, but Fullerton officials turned him down. He went to Pasadena and opened the Norton Simon Museum there instead.
While still on the high of renewed Library Love from reading The Library Book, and believing that libraries will live forever, I learned that The Hunt Library closed its doors in 2013.
Lack of funding. Poor location. Concerns over a growing number of transients.
It is hard to compare my memories of the library with the recent photos.
Last November the library was designated a local historical landmark. It will not be torn down. It may be sold.
Where does a library go when it dies? It becomes a church. Or maybe a homeless shelter. Or a community center. Or an art museum. But it will not be my library ever again.
Dear Hunt Library. You will always be the library closest to my heart, even if you have ceased to exist.