Montana Branch Library Showcases Its History in 58th Anniversary Celebration

Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, California hosts many coffee shops, restaurants, and boutiques to visit, but one neighborhood staple that brought the community together for decades has been the small library on the corner of Montana and 17th. Its warm interior, while having been remodeled for a more modern look, still brings one back to the older days of the city, where the surf was high, and Elvis Presley and Chubby Checker ruled the radio.

On March 1, the Montana Avenue Branch of the Santa Monica Public Library celebrated its 58th anniversary. The event was held in the library's outdoor patio from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., with cupcakes and pictures of the library when it relocated here in 1960, showing a comparison to the library today. Award-winning movies and best-seller books at that time were also on display.

Stephanie Archer, the branch manager for the past two years, said that this event was created in part due to the celebration for the Ocean Park Branch on Main St., having celebrated its 100th anniversary early this year in February.

“We’re celebrating its past and we’re also looking forward to the future, and we want to create life-long library users and readers [and] to help the community stay informed and learn different things,” Archer said.

One of the patrons of the event was Tomas Peres, 9, who comes to the library for studying and tutoring with his friends.

“I think it’s a really cool library for everyone. People don’t like to study [but] if they tried here then it’ll be fun. It’s just really peaceful,” Peres said.

Parents such as Deanne Ozaki briefly attended and compared her experiences to the main branch on Santa Monica Boulevard and 6th Street with this one, and preferred the smaller setting where you can recognize familiar faces.

“It’s my favorite. It’s smaller, intimate, and convenient for residents. It’s in a good area and you can find parking and things like that,” Ozaki said. “I think it has everything that we could need. It feels more like a community branch.”

The library offers a lot of different services to the community for younger and older generations. One of the more popular events is dedicated story times for infants and children, which is offered in multiple languages. Traci Keiser has worked at this branch for 30 years and likes seeing the variety of people who not only take advantage of what they offer but keep coming back to it.

“It’s very much a family-orientated library,” said Keiser. “The community really appreciates the library and uses the services well. It’s a wonderful place to work. I think this little branch is really trying to reach out to our community.”

Kathy Marshall is another employee who has been working in the branch for 23 years and really enjoys the work the library does with children, mentioning that by getting people interested in the library at a younger age, they’ll be more likely to use it later. One of her favorite programs is where they bring in therapy dogs that the children can read to.

“We have kids who started going to the story times when they were babies and then they came here all through elementary school, and then stopped when they got into middle school,” said Marshall. “When they get into college, a lot them come back because they know how to use the library and then they need it again.”

The first Montana Avenue branch opened in 1952 before moving to its current location in 1960. The building was designed by the architect Weldon Fulton, who also previously designed the Fairview Branch on Ocean Park Blvd., hence both sharing similar facades. The youngest branch is the one on Pico, which opened in 2014 several blocks away from Santa Monica College.

The library offers many programs that could be beneficial for adults or seniors. Previous ones have included learning how to prepare for retirement, using the internet efficiently, and helping with a variety of electronic devices. It also hosts monthly book clubs, author talks and more which are listed on the website,