100 years and counting… Library Celebrates Centennial

Woodrow Wilson was president, comedian Charlie Chaplin launched his film career at Keystone and the New York World published the first crossword puzzle (with 32 clues).

That was in 1913 and San Diego County marked a milestone of its own. The doors of the County’s Library headquarters opened for the first time on Feb. 15, 1913.  

Three months later, the first branch opened in Fallbrook. Ten more opened in quick succession that year ranging from Julian to Bonita, La Mesa to Campo. The library’s overall book collection came in at about 700 volumes.

Fast forward to today. The library now boasts 33 branches and two bookmobiles.  Customers can  access more than 33 million books, movies and music CDs. Free classes, and health and wellness programs drew more than 475,000 people last year and the San Diego County Library was proclaimed “Library of the Year” by Library Journal magazine and Gale Publishing.  

There were a whopping 5.9 million visits to the branches and bookmobiles by residents and 751,000 people are card holders. Once upon a time, you had to hitch up your horse before entering the library, now you can stay home and visit the Virtual Branch open 24/7 at

The library will honor its past and celebrate its centennial with the theme 100 Years of Stories. An art contest is already underway and events are planned for branches throughout the year. You can see which novel was popular for each of the last 100 years and check them out or visit a photo gallery of historical pictures.

For many of us, a book, a poem or one of the many programs at the County library changed our outlook on life.

“Everyone has a library story. Everyone remembers that one time, that one book, that one paragraph, that one teacher that was transformative, said Library Director Jose Aponte. “That’s our job here. It’s to have that book, to have that CD, to have that DVD.  We will touch somebody and make their life better and possibly affect them to make other lives better.”

If you have a special story about how the library made a difference for you, the library would like to hear from you. It’s compiling a collection of 100 Years of Stories, one for each year the County library has been in existence. Some have already been posted on the website and show how libraries inspired San Diegans to improve their lives.    

Do you have something to share? What’s your story?   


Tracy DeFore is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact