Burlingame library marks a century

The Burlingame Public Library has come a long way in the hundred years since it opened as a 20-square-foot room at the former City Hall building.

It’s now a full information center with computers, meeting places and classes for residents.

To commemorate the library’s century of service in the community, city and library officials held a celebration Sunday, exactly 100 years after it opened Oct. 18, 1909.

The library “is one of those gems [we’re] fortunate to have for so many years. I think it will be there forever,” said Mayor Ann Keighran said. “A library is extremely important to have.”

City Librarian Al Escoffier may not have been there for its original opening, but he’s had a long history with the library. He started his career there roughly 40 years ago as a page stocking books as they were returned. 

Escoffier said the library not only has grown in size, but also in use and purpose.

Three years after the library opened, patronage swelled to include 60 percent of city residents and 785 cardholders, and it housed 2,561 books. By 1931, a new library building opened at the current location, Bellevue and Primrose roads, where it remains today.

By the 1930s, the library continued to expand to include 45,000 items in its collection and 10,000 cardholders. In spite of an expansion paid for with bond money in the 1920s, by 1942, the city still needed more room. It opened the Easton Branch in north Burlingame in early 1942.

Then in 1984, the library went “online,” allowing cardholders to borrow and return books to any library in the county. With the 1990s came computers and the Internet.

Today, the Burlingame Public Library serves as a town square of sorts, offering online catalogues, study spaces and, of course, books.

Escoffier estimates the library currently has 240,000 print volumes, along with online media and e-books.

And although it took him more than 20 years to become the city librarian, Escoffier said he’s pleased with his career choice.

“We have a very dedicated staff that gets excited about delivering service,” he said. “As I’m out in the world I realize we do deliver a wonderful level of service.”

akoskey@sfexmainer.com

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