Thursday, January 13, 2011

Carlsbad Public Library

Right after leaving the LA Regional Family History Center (yesterday’s post), I drove down the coast to Carlsbad in Northern San Diego County. The contrast between my feelings for each of these facilities was very striking. I was reminded of a story I heard when I was in graduate school.

At an esteemed university several renowned scholars got together for a drink each Friday afternoon. Each occupied an endowed chair in his own discipline. When one arrived one Friday he asked his colleague on his left, “Could you make up a list of the indispensible resources that should be in our campus library to support research in your discipline?” The professor answered very assertively, “Yes, of course.” In turn the questioner repeated his question to every person at the table and got similar answers from all. Then he asked, “Would your list be the same if you were at Harvard?” The responses were all positive. “What about Yale?” “Columbia?” “Urbana?” “Berkeley?” In each case the answers were uniformly positive and increasingly emphatic.

Then the questioner made a profound proposal. He suggested that each of them make up such a list and give it to the University Librarian with a request that all the items on it be removed. Why should their library have what everyone else had available elsewhere? By removing this duplication, it would be easier to get access to the unique research materials in the collections.

Libraries like the one proposed above could well be worth travelling to in order to find unique resources not commonly available on the Internet or even through the network of Family History Centers such as the one in West LA. In my brief visit, it appeared that the Carlsbad Public Library might have such items in its collection. It also has a wide array of programs and at least one very helpful and pleasant staff member. I found a few useful items in the hour I had before I needed to leave to pick up a friend at the San Diego airport. While I was there I had the feeling that research was going on around me. Maybe it was 20th century research but it felt very comfortable. The displays of current genealogy periodicals and ambiance made me want to return and spend much more time there.

Please post a comment below and describe a library that gives you a similar feeling.


  1. I've wanted to visit the Carlsbad Public Library for several years, but haven't had the chance. Seems like every time I'm looking for a book in WorldCat, it turns up in Carlsbad! Thanks for your review of this library.

  2. Thanks for your comments Elizabeth. In an ironic twist, I found one that is in their collection right after I made the above post. Unfortunately, I am now almost 300 miles away.