Signal Hill Public Library makes grand debut after years of setbacks, Signal Hill opens doors to state-of-the-art library

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Lissette Mendoza | Signal Tribune
Kids play in the dinosaur-themed children’s area at the new Signal Hill Library Aug 10.

The City of Signal Hill can finally celebrate the arrival of the new Signal Hill Public Library after a 20-year journey.

[Pictures from the event can be seen by clicking here]

On Saturday, Aug. 10, a crowd of people gathered to witness the grand opening of the long-awaited library and explore the new facility. The Free to be Me Performing Arts Academy kicked off the event with live music.

Signal Hill Mayor Lori Woods welcomed the crowd and local officials to the event and described the new building as the “crown jewel” of Signal Hill.

“It has taken over two decades to realize this dream. All the years of love, sweat, creativity [and] ingenuity, it has taken to open these doors today will pale in comparison to the future benefits, opportunity and connections, our community and our children will enjoy. The possibilities are endless,” Woods said.

The new building has 12,000 square feet, which is three times larger than the previous library. It features state-of-the-art technology, a learning center and dedicated areas for kids, teens and adults.

Woods continued her speech by welcoming family members of former librarian Kathleen Brady, who traveled from Seattle, Washington, to attend the event.

The podium was turned over to Pastor Gregory Johnson, founder of American University of Health Services (AUHS), who led the event in a prayer.

After the prayer, Signal Hill Chief of Police Chris Nunley and the Police Honor Guard led the flag ceremony, which included the American, state and city flags. After the National Anthem, Free To Be Me performed the song “The Cover Is Not the Book”, from the movie Mary Poppins Returns.

The ceremony continued with councilmembers who spoke about what the library means to them.

“It will be a place to share the story of our community and a fantastic place where we can continue to write our own personal and community history,” Vice Mayor Robert Copeland said.

Councilmember Edward Wilson complimented the state-of-the-art facility, but asked audience members to look beyond the physical building.

“Libraries are a space of exploration and fantasy,” Wilson said. “Libraries are a partner providing tools to support research. Libraries are sort of a sanctuary of home away from home. Libraries are a place of freedom and a wealth of knowledge. Libraries are a place where you know the rules.

“A library is a place of a community. As impressive that this building may look, it is the future memories that will be made that makes this place so unique and special.”

Councilmember Keir Jones continued by praising the library’s eco-friendly features and children’s reading room.

“Our city has made a huge commitment to build the best library, and I think we’ve got it,” Jones said.

“It’s really exciting because we’ve created something that has a reflection of our history, but provides all these spaces for us to utilize going forward,” Jones told the Signal Tribune. “So, there’s a lot of flexibility as technology changes to add more, but it really creates this great community space that we can all share and enjoy.

Forty-seventh District California Congressmember Alan Lowenthal and 33rd District California Senator Lena Gonzalez also gave their thoughts on the library. In his speech, Lowenthal told the audience about the first time he met Councilmember Tina Hansen, who was the keynote speaker for the event.

“I was elected to the Long Beach City Council in 1992, a long time ago, and I had a partner– and that was Tina Hansen– who was elected to this city council in 1994, and all I can remember about Tina Hansen from the first day I met her is ‘we’re going to build a library and I need your help,’” Lowenthal said.

Hansen, who was a major proponent of the campaign to build the new library, took the stage last. In her speech, she spoke about growing up as a shy kid and how libraries helped provide a safe place for her and the long journey to reach this point.

“Sometimes it only takes one person who believes,” Hansen told the crowd. “I’m certainly not the only person who has believed in this library or wanted this library or worked for this library, but it’s been there in my vision since I got on the council in 1994.”

“I’m excited to know that the community is this excited about [the library],” Hansen told the Signal Tribune after the event. “They turned out in this number. It makes all the work worth it.”

After a ribbon cutting by city officials, the library was opened to the public. Attendees were invited to explore the new building, as well as enjoy live music and lunch.

In the Children’s Area, kids found a dinosaur-themed room with a large Brontosaurus statue built into the wall. Surrounding the room was a mural that incorporated elements from prehistoric times, huts from the indigenous people, the Puva, and the history of Signal Hill.

The mural was done by artist Tracey Moloney, who completed the mural over three weeks.

“We tried to incorporate all of Signal Hill,” Moloney said, “From the oil rigs, to the water tower, the Roughnecks, the Model-T car, the cannon for the military school [and] Jesse Nelson for her school.”

The event also featured the unveiling of the Legacy Wall, which is visible as residents enter the library. The wall celebrates donors who helped fund the library’s construction and features their names engraved in glass.