Community Spotlight: The History Room at the La Jolla Library

history_of_ath The La Jolla Riford Library has been around nearly as long as the village of La Jolla itself. It has changed locations and names a few times, but its endeavor has remained the same – to provide the community of La Jolla with free and easily accessible literature, history, and archived information. The Blue Book got the opportunity to speak with Susanne Hayase, a volunteer at the History Room in the Library, to check out the archives and learn a little bit more about the library’s background. 


In 1894, a small group of nine women formed the “Woman’s Literacy Club of La Jolla,” which was intended as a safe space to openly discuss current affairs and literature. Among the founders were Ellen Browning Scripps and Florence Riford, who are now incredibly well known for their involvement in the early development of La Jolla. Later in 1898, Ellen Scripps became president of the club and the name was changed to La Jolla Woman’s Club; the same year, the ladies founded The Reading Room as a small cottage on the corner of Wall Street and Girard Ave (location of the present-day Athenaeum) with the motto “for the mutual advancement in literary work.”

In 1899, the group was incorporated as the Library Association of La Jolla and Ellen Browning Scripps was elected as the first president of its Board of Trustees.
By the 1920s, the library had outgrown its space. With generous support from Ellen Browning Scripps and others, a new library building was designed and opened to the public in 1921.

Susanne Hayase and the La Jolla Library The space looks quite a bit different than it did back then and even a few years ago – the Joan & Irwin Jacobs Library Annex to the La Jolla-Riford Library began remodels in 2002 and had its grand opening on March 27, 2004. The expansion more than doubled the size of the original library and included additions like the La Jolla History Room and the Reading Room, named for the cottage that started everything in 1898.

The History Room at the La Jolla LibraryThe History Room was actually built for the purpose of housing an archival collection dedicated to the library by Patricia Schaelchlin, an author and historian who took a personal interest in the history of La Jolla as a community. The collection is a series of articles, documents, and photographs that date back to the early 19th century and the early foundation of La Jolla. Schaelchlin collected these artifacts for years, and in 1986 – La Jolla’s celebrated centennial – wrote weekly articles in the La Jolla Light that focused on a unique aspect of the town’s heritage. Patricia lived in La Jolla until her death at the age of 90; at that time, the library inherited the rest of her historical collection and included it with everything else in the History Room.

“These women [Scripps, Riford, etc.], very intellectual, strong-willed women, would just get together and talk about what they wanted to do to improve their little town. They made decisions because they could – the men were off working or doing other things, and because they had money, the power to create and change was in their hands,” said Susanne. “We are incredibly fortunate that they took such an interest in improving and preserving La Jolla. This very room exists today because of their efforts.”

Community Spotlight: The History Room at the La Jolla Library

The History Room also houses an entire collection of Blue Books, the earliest of which dates back to our first year in business – 1937! The top row of gray boxes in the picture to the right is a lineup of the yearly directory from 1937 to the present, all of which have been carefully maintained and beautifully preserved by the library staff.

Here are a few photos we snapped of some of the older Blue Books – it was interesting to see how the aesthetics, text, and business models have changed throughout the years. Take a step back in time and check them out! 

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The La Jolla Library is located at 7555 Draper Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037.

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