On the corner of Lincoln Street and Ocean Avenue, two blocks from the Pacific Ocean, resides the historic Harrison Memorial Library. Rustic and cozy, the library is home to thousands of books, but locals know that its character goes far beyond the pages it holds.
Built in memory of California Supreme Court Justice Ralph Chandler Harrison, the library has been his legacy since it was founded in 1928, according to Harrison Memorial’s website.
Originally, the Lincoln Street location was the only branch of the library, but in 1989, the Park Branch facility has allowed Harrison Memorial to expand and specialize. While the Lincoln branch rents young adult and adult literature, the Park Branch caters specifically to young children.
Library-goers reveal that checking out books is not the sole application of Harrison Memorial.
Carmel resident and writer Frank Salcido explains as he sits at one of the work tables, typing away on his laptop, that he uses the library for its tranquil environment. “I love to walk through town to get here, and I just like it because it’s quiet and private. I can simply write.”
Salcido comes to the library six days a week to get away from the chaos of daily life, and upon further analysis, it becomes clear he is not alone in his fondness of Harrison Memorial.
Another library-goer, former Carmel High School teacher Mary Alice Osborne, uses the library for its traditional purpose: checking out books. Two or three times a month, Osborne will visit the library to pick up her next read, from nonfiction to fantasy.
Examining a bookshelf crowded with fiction, Osborne says, “I can find anything I want usually, and if I can’t, I have good helpers. I know the librarians well.”
And know the librarians she most certainly does. As it turns out, one of Osborne’s former CHS students, Renee Martine, currently works at Harrison Memorial as a circulation staff member, accompanied by her supervisor Amy Rector.
Rector works at the library full-time, dealing with paperwork, scheduling and payroll along with overseeing and assisting the library’s occupants.
In order to determine how many people come to the library in a day, Rector pulls out a small spiral-bound book where the working attendant has logged by hand every time someone walks in the door. The book reports that in a given day, about 215 people will walk in Harrison Memorial’s front door.
Rector goes on to divulge that the library is a destination for people looking for books, a quiet place, Internet access and more.
“We are a very nice, comfortable, quiet place,” she says, “and we’re in the middle of everything here on Ocean Avenue, so we have a whole lot of visitors come in here who are tourists. People come here to use the Internet, print their boarding passes, read the newspaper and just hang out.”
What’s remarkable about Harrison Memorial Library is the distinct sense of community it exudes. All kinds of people, all kinds of demographics use the library for the wide variety of services it provides. Harrison Memorial has programs for senior citizens, young adults and teenagers.
The lower level of the Lincoln branch finds a brightly-colored room complete with bean bags, tables and a plethora of books. This is the teen lounge, where teenagers are free to go at all times to read and relax.
Though Osborne points out that the library hasn’t always been so adolescent-friendly: “I went to the library when I was a child, and there was no Park Branch, and we weren’t allowed to talk at all. I’m very glad to see that we now have a place where high school students can come, so you have a spot that belongs to you.”
With free books, free WiFi, comfortable chairs and a hot beverage-tolerant policy, it is undeniable that the Harrison Memorial Public Library is a destination, a home away from home to the residents and visitors of Carmel since its founding, and will continue to be so for generations to come.