Stop 6: Outdoor Art Club

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Lucretia Hansen Little speaking at the OAC, December 1, 1963Hi, I'm Julieanne Randolph and I'm a Reference Librarian at the Library.

The Library has a very large folder on the history of the Outdoor Art Club. It is full of beautiful invitations, breakfast menus, poetry and songs written by club members, as well as annual reports, and newspaper articles highlighting the wonderful and impressive work of this organization over the years.

The Library and the Outdoor Art Club have long shared a strong interest in reading and promoting good books. Both organizations are also known for the architecture of their buildings, the Outdoor Art Club designed by Bernard Maybeck, and the Library by the highly regarded midcentury architect Don Emmons. But perhaps the most important bond is that the Library is indebted to the Outdoor Art Club for its first collection. Between 1900 and 1908, a number of reading rooms had been set up around the community. In 1904, members of the Outdoor Art Club established a library for townspeople at its Club House. The original library was one small room behind the stage. Bookshelves were built and the Library was staffed first by volunteer members, and later by a paid librarian. The library continued in the clubhouse until 1908 when it outgrew all available space. That collection of 750 volumes is considered the original Mill Valley Library collection, and was moved to the new Carnegie Library when it first opened in 1911.

Outdoor Art Club members, c. 1910Today, our Library's collection numbers over 129,000 volumes. In 1915, the Librarian's Report stated an average of 55 books were loaned each day. Pre-pandemic, the Library's daily average was closer to 1400, which also includes eBooks. Today, patrons can request items from any of the MARINet libraries, and pick them up in 2-3 days, one of our most popular services. During the pandemic our hold shelf grew from an average of about 500 holds waiting to be picked up on any given day, to at the height of the pandemic, an average of 1400 books, when patrons could not browse the shelves on their own. The average today has stabilized at about 800, indicating that patrons who learned who to place their own holds during the pandemic, now continue to do so regularly.

One of my responsibilities is to oversee the Library’s book club programs. The Library has six active book clubs that meet monthly. During the pandemic, our book clubs transitioned quickly to using Zoom to meet virtually. We even added a new True Crime Book Club, which I facilitate. We're working on developing new services to local book clubs, including helping them more easily get the books they want to discuss. We look forward to creating new connections amongst local book clubs so they can share recommendations and experiences. We hope to work with local organizations that sponsor book clubs. We wouldn't be surprised to find ways to support the Outdoor Art Club's reading community, much like the Outdoor Art Club helped cultivate a collective reading experience in Mill Valley over a century ago.