The History of the El cerrito Library
Compiled by Friends of the El Cerrito Library and El Cerrito Historical Society
In 1913, when local citizens walked into the Post Office they found a
new service. The Contra Costa County Library, established in Martinez
in 1913, was setting up branches throughout the county. County
Librarian Alice Whitbeck had announced that anyone could start a
library and Faye Breneman, a teacher at Fairmont school in Rust (as
the area was known in those days), had taken up the challenge. Space
for two locked cases of 50 to 100 books was obtained on shelves in
the post office and the Rust Branch Library opened. As Librarian, Faye
spent three afternoons a week serving 93 library cardholders. Because
she could not receive another county salary in addition to her teacher’s
pay, her Librarian’s salary of $5.00 per month was sent to her mother.
In 1915 the library was moved to the Breneman home on San Pablo
Avenue, where Faye’s
mother and sisters volunteered to help with the growing collection.
The local community was beginning to use the name El Cerrito and in
1916 the Rust Branch Library became the El Cerrito Branch Library. The
advantage of being part of the county system was (and still is) the access
to the countywide collection of books, which can be requested and
borrowed through any branch.
By 1946 the need for a larger, more modern library had become obvious
and the City Council established a committee to plan for expansion. A
site at the corner of Stockton and Lexington was selected, Mr. Harry A.
Bruno was named architect, and the City arranged financing. The new
library was dedicated on February 27, 1949.
Rose Vainstain, a graduate of Western Reserve University School of
Library Science, was appointed the first professional librarian. The
County Librarian’s goal was to have every branch headed by a person
with a master’s degree from an accredited school or college of library
science. Faye Breneman remained on the staff as Children’s Librarian.
By the late 1950s the library, which seemed so spacious when it
opened as the first post-war library built in the Bay Area, was clearly
too small for the growing city. In October of 1959 a bond issue of
$100,000 was passed for enlarging and remodeling the library.
Dedication of the upgraded facility was held on November 12, 1960.
Unfortunately, in more recent years the picture has not been so bright.
As a result of state funding cuts and failed county library service
El Cerrito Library on Stockton Ave. in 1948.
ballotmeasures over the last twenty-five years, the El Cerrito Branch
Library’s open hours have been cut from 63 hours to 35 hours weekly
and the budgets for both staff hours and the purchase of books and
other materials have seen similar reductions.
In spite of the cutbacks the branch maintains a large collection of books,
periodicals, tapes and videos. The El Cerrito library circulated 179,600
items in the year ended June 30, 2011. Shelf space and study tables
are at full capacity and computer access has to be limited. The staff
workspace is terribly overcrowded and the need for a larger and more
up to date facility is again obvious. The citizens of El Cerrito, the library
staff, and the many volunteers who contribute their time looked forward
the day when they wouldhave an upgraded, larger, and more modern El
El Cerrito Library on Stockton Ave. in 1960.
El Cerrito Library at the Breneman house in early 1900s.
El Cerrito Library on Fairmount Ave. in 1925.