The Descanso Library
1914 - Present
On April 24, 1914, fifteen members of the Descanso community and the Descanso Improvement Club petitioned the San Diego County Board of Supervisors for a branch of the County Library at Descanso. Following approval by the Supervisors, the Descanso Branch Library was housed in the Oak Grove Store with Mrs. Inez Gorton as its first Librarian.
Over the years the Library was moved and housed in the Descanso Tavern, returned to the Oak Grove Store, then to the Jobes Store in the Descanso Tavern, a watch shop in the home of H.A. Falconer, and the home of James Barkley. In 1961, the Library moved to the 192 square foot building across from Perkins Store on land leased from the County Public Works department. It accommodated 1500 books and was called the “Little Library.”
A new library, built in 1997 with funds raised by the Descanso Community and the Friends of the Descanso Library (“the Friends”) opened its doors near the Descanso School with the “Little Library” moved to the same site, and later the Friends and the community raised funds to construct the community and teen rooms of the Library.
Descanso is proud of and committed to its Library. The Library serves as the hub of the community. a site of social interaction, learning by students and adults, a resource for civic, economic and health information and a source of entertainment for all citizens. The citizens of Descanso celebrate its 100th anniversary.
Descanso is a small community, nestled in the foothills forty miles east of San Diego and surrounded by state park and national forest lands. There is little commerce or industry to help support civic needs. In 1984, a small group of citizens met to form the Friends of the Descanso Library. Today, we list 76 families. As we talked enthusiastically about programs and projects, it soon became apparent that we really couldn't do much to expand library services in Descanso without a larger facility to work from. The 12-foot by 16-foot building serving this tiny community of 3000 had no room for study or browsing or even a restroom. The steep climb from the road made use by seniors and the handicapped difficult. We decided to launch what became a twelve-year effort to secure a new library.
We acquired tax-exempt status, scouted for potential sites, explored building programs. Our first major fund-raising project resulted in two original histories of the Descanso area. We researched the archives and the literature, interviewed old-timers, and eventually produced two publications. The sale of these volumes has been a slow but steady source of income for our projects. You can purchase these books at the Descanso branch library.
We continued to hold book sales, raffles, and yard sales; we sold notepaper and tote bags with our historical themes; we sponsored old-time western movie showings in a local landmark barn. We sought grants from foundations and gifts from local citizens. The children of the Descanso Elementary School, in two separate drives, raised nearly $2000 to help furnish the library. All told, we acquired $62,473 in foundation grants and major donations to augment our fund-raising effords. A supportive community twice named the Friends of the Descanso Library as its "Citizens of the Year."
After many successes and disappointments, our efforts were rewarded. In August of 1990, the Mountain Empire Unified School District Board, recognizing the advantage of having the library's resources readily available to its students, granted a cost-free lease for a site on school property. In April, 1995, through the efforts of the San Diego County Library staff, we received a grant of $74,500 from the California Library Services and Construction Act Fund. This grant matched the $74,500 contributed by the community to make our library possible. Additional State and County funding helped pay for the total cost of the project: $211,591.00. The combined efforts of the Friends of the Descanso Library, the community, the San Diego County Library staff and officials, and State resources had enabled us to build an attractive, well-equipped library, ten times larger than its predecessor.