Pasadena City College, Home of the PCC Lancers

History of the Library

Pre-College Days, 1906-24

The present Library of Pasadena City College is a direct descendant of the Library of Pasadena High School.  This Library was organized on a formal basis in about 1906, but annual reports of the Librarian exist only for the school year 1909-10 onwards, with the year 1912-13 missing. The annual reports for the years 1909-11 and 1911-12 were written by the Librarian, M. Ethelyn Wakefield, and are purely statistical in nature.  They reveal a picture of the Library of those early days serving as both a study hall for the students and a repository for books which were to a large extent supplementary textbooks.   (The reader will recall that high school students in California supplied their own textbooks until 1920 at which time the present policy of “free” textbooks supplied at taxpayers’ expense was adopted).

The collection of 2,050 books and eleven periodicals, supplemented by 360 books and eleven periodicals borrowed from other sources, primarily Pasadena Public Library, at the close of the school year 1909-10 grew to 3,348 books and eighteen periodicals, supplemented by 344 books and three periodicals borrowed from other sources, at the close of 1911-12.  Also the report for 1911-12 states that almost half of the 371 books acquired that year were in sets of duplicate volumes to be used as supplementary texts, of which the Modern Language Department obtained more than half of the total, partly by means of a book fund to which students contributed.  During these three years, the number of cardholders averaged about 500, while average daily circulation grew from thirty-five to fifty books.

Commencing with the Annual Report of the Librarian for 1913-14, there exists an unbroken sequence of reports through the year 1963-64.  Those covering the thirty-four year interval terminating with 1946-47 were written by Miss Winifred Evelyn Skinner, who became Librarian of Pasadena High School in 1912, holding that position (which became in 1924 Librarian of the combined High School and Junior College Libraries) until her retirement in 1947.  Miss Skinner’s reports were never merely statistical, even from the first, but frequently show evidences of her strong literary interests and perhaps some unrealized talents in this direction.

In any event, the long period of Miss Skinner’s tenure was one of drastic and sometimes violent change in the status and operation of the High School, later Junior College, Library.  The degree to which library service was maintained during many long and difficult years in the face of almost insurmountable obstacles is a manifestation of the devotion to duty and high idealism of Miss Skinner and her staff.  Although the history of librarianship may well offer examples equal to this one, in these respects it is doubtful that many exist which would surpass it.

The first eleven years of Miss Skinner’s ascendancy, prior to the founding of Pasadena Junior College in September 1924, may be characterized as a period of

  1. steady growth in the size of the collections, from 3,200 volumes in September 1913 to 13,800 volumes in June 1924;
  2. steady expansion of service, from a total book circulation of 13,860 in 1913-14 to 62,400 in 1923-24, or a daily average of eighty-four vs. 339 volumes;
  3. development of an educational program in the use of the library and its reference materials, including a regular class in library work and many lessons in bibliographical technique given to English classes.

This steady growth in size and service resulted in the relocation of the Library into larger, better-equipped quarters in October 1918.  Miss Skinner reports, “Under the direction of Miss Cooper, Commander-in-chief, with the officers of the military organization, students from the classrooms marched up to the old library on the third floor, picked up an arm-load of books, marched down to the new rooms [on the first floor] and deposited the books on the shelves in regular order.  The whole library [over 9,000 volumes] was moved in a few hours with true military precision and dispatch and the Library opened for use the next day.  It was an interesting example of cooperation and of the old adage that ‘many hands make light work’”.

From 1913 to 1920 Miss Skinner conducted all library activities with no help except from student volunteers.  During this time the daily circulation grew rapidly and even exceeded that of the two branches of the Pasadena Public Library combined in 1916-17. By 1924 the Pasadena High School Library had an annual circulation of 62,400 books and 42,100 textbooks, or a grand total of over 104,500 books processed in one school year. The Library was then serving a school population of about 3,000 students.  The responsibility for handling the “free” textbooks supplied by the state placed upon her in 1920, to her initial dismay, had resulted in her acquiring first one and later two clerical assistants (paid), one of whom was able to devote some time to cataloging which had fallen in arrears.


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