Thursday, December 29, 2011


The Coronado Public Library concluded 2011 commemorating the Centennial of Naval Aviation (CONA), an anniversary that it had observed throughout the year with special exhibits, lectures, programs, film-showings, and other special activities. Such a year-long series of events had not seen its like at the Coronado Library since  its own centennial in 1990. The commemoration was especially significant for us due to the number of groups and institutions that were drawn together to plan the San Diego and Coronado-based observances. And the planning meetings were hosted by the Coronado Public Library. Planning began in late 2009, with the U.S. Navy eager to enlist local institutions and organizations to help expand the promotion of CONA throughout the region.

The Library Exhibit Gallery with the model of the Curtiss A-1 Pusher on loan from
the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

The Navy had already established a CONA Task Force when the Coronado Library began planning an exhibit  to commemorate the Centennial of Naval Aviation. We established contact  in 2009 with LT. Kevin Ferguson of the Task Force, and subsequently with Capt. Rich Dann, the Naval Aviation history expert on the Centennial Task Force. Since the Coronado Public Library had only a very small collection of artifacts and photographs covering Naval Aviation, we also made contact with the San Diego Air & Space Museum and the U.S.S. Midway to inquire about possible loans of artifacts. Learning that the Coronado Historical Association was also planning a special exhibit, a local "CONA Committee" was formed consisting of the Navy Task force representatives, the CHA with Susan Keith and Susan Enowitz, Karl Zingheim the Historian for the Midway, and representatives of the S.D. Air & Space Museum. We were very fortunate to have Doug Siegfried, archivist for the Tailhook Association, to not only join the committee, but to volunteer his time to the Library to provide his expertise on Naval Aviation history. He also offered to loan material from the Tailhook Association and from his own collection for our exhibit. 

It is customary for the Library's exhibits to run for two months at a time, each with a completely different theme. Karl Zingheim suggested at one of our early meetings that we run the exhibit all year long in 2011, this because the Centennial observance was lasting all year. Since unlike a museum we have frequent repeat users and visitors, we felt we needed to change the exhibits periodically in order to hold interest. The story of Naval Aviation over 100 years is very complex, and we could see how six exhibits, each lasting two months and covering a different chronological time period in the 100 year span, would be needed to do justice to the achievements of Naval Aviation. But this now made it even more challenging for us to plan for and to borrow artifacts and to find images and to place them in context, while at the same time presenting a narrative history of Naval Aviation. We would also need to describe the importance of each individual object, document, or photo.


As planning continued in 2010, vital new players joined in the Library-based meetings. Library Trustee and retired  VADM. Ed Martin, who had headed the national commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of Naval Aviation, joined in. Lloyd Parthemer and the Naval Helicopter Historical Society came aboard, eager to tell the story of  helicopters in Naval Aviation and with exhibit materials to loan. Ret'd Capt. Jim DiMatteo of the 100th Anniversary of the Naval Aviation Foundation also joined, an important player in planning major CONA celebratory events here and across the country. City Council Member Mike Woiwode, a retired Naval aviator, served as liaison to the City Council.  Major Kendro, USMC, joined in , and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary was represented by Angie Ginn.

Candice Hooper at the Library began methodical plans to lay-out six time periods and to borrow the items and images necessary to do justice to the compelling story of Naval Aviation. She formed several important relationships with private donors to borrow precious family artifacts and documents, and likewise with the curators at the San Diego Air & Space Museum for the loan of significant artifacts. Another vital group was enlisted, the San Diego Chapter of the International Plastic Modeler's Society. Candice attended their meetings and recruited members to loan or make scale-models of significant historical aircraft. The members became enthusiastic supporters and provided the volunteers for a Make-and-Take model event at the Library. And to complement the exhibits, programs were planned such as documentary and movie showings, author talks and lectures, and other events. The Library also made arrangements to bring in a travelling exhibit of WW II era original paintings depicting scenes of Naval Aviation from the Naval Heritage and History Command in Washington D.C. With support of the many parties, and especially with the help of Doug Siegfried, the six Library exhibits were planned: The Birth of Naval Aviation and its Early Development, 1910-1922; Naval Aircraft Go Around the World, 1923-1941; Naval Aviation in World War II, 1942-1945; The Navy and Aircraft Manufacturing in San Diego; New Challenges for Naval Aviation, 1950-1975; and Naval Aviation in the Modern World. Each exhibit had its own timeline of historical events told in text and pictures. The Naval Helicopter Historical Society also contributed a video screen with an on-going slide-show of historical helicopter images.

The meetings held at the Library served as a vital conduit of information to the various entities planning events. The meetings also served at a crucial time to emphasize the importance of having a public celebration of the centennial at North Island itself, where Naval Aviation began one hundred years previously. Thus the Navy planned an Open House for February 12, 2011 at Naval Air Station, North Island. As planning for this major event became a reality, other entities joined, including Naval Region Southwest MWR, Coronado Mainstreet, the Coronado Chamber of Commerce, the Coronado Tourism Improvement District, and the Coronado Police Department. Meanwhile, LT. Kevin Ferguson was replaced by LT. Harriet Johnson on the Task Force and as liaison to the committee.

The Open House held at North Island with its spectacular aerial review and static aircraft display was attended by tens of thousands. Thousands more viewed it from aboard the Midway and around the bay. The Library's exhibits were among the best it has ever had and were seen by hundreds of visitors. The Library programs too brought an added dimension with their diversity and range of presentation types and subject specialties. As the centennial year progressed, the U.S. Navy was very pleased with the support it garnered from all of these organizations in celebrating the anniversary. The year is reviewed in the slide-show below. It was a great year, and Coronado and the San Diego region can be proud.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Art graces a public library, where all may come to enjoy the artworks freely as they use the library for a host of purposes. Being surrounded by art brings these pieces into close contact with  our everyday world. This not only adds culture to our endeavors as adults, but puts youth in regular contact with art as well. While some people may come to the Coronado Library just to tour the building, the art does not need a dedicated visit to be seen - it is part of the Library's host of services. Over the decades the Coronado Library has been given, or has acquired several notable pieces of art. These include the Donal Hord sculpture of The Mourning Woman, the Donal Hord-designed tapestry The Fruits of the Earth, the "Village Church" pastel by Alfredo Ramos Martinez,  the War Hounds watercolor by Arthur Beaumont, the "Hotel del Coronado Boathouse" by Monty Lewis, the "Wizard of Oz" glass portal, and several others. None of these is more famous or more artistically significant, however, than the murals painted by Alfredo Ramos Martinez for the La Avenida Cafe.

The 48 feet long El Dia del Mercado mural by Alfredo Ramos Martinez

The fresco mural El Dia del Mercado (Market Day) is a major work of art by one of the preeminent Mexican artists of the 20th century. Ramos Martinez spent many years studying art in Paris at the turn of the last century, in the company of artists such as Picasso, Matisse, and Braque. He then became director of the National Academy of Fine Arts in Mexico City, where he launched a national "open air" art education program that counted Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros and Rufino Tamayo among its students. He was proficient in several styles of painting but ultimately rejected these in favor of an indigenous style that reflected the rural scenes of his native Mexico.

Alfredo Ramos Martinez was commissioned to paint the fresco murals for the La Avenida Cafe in 1938. He was already 74 years old, having come to the United States seeking intensive medical care for his young daughter. Ramos Martinez painted five murals at the La Avenida Cafe in different rooms. Three of the murals survived, and the story of how two of them were saved, moved, acquired, restored, and installed at the Coronado Library is more fully  told in The Story of the Ramos Martinez Murals 

The Canasta de Flores mural

In brief, the murals were painted on plaster that were part of several walls in the restaurant. After the restaurant closed the walls were slated to be torn down. At the 11th hour the three surviving murals were removed in sections from the restaurant and ultimately separated for various reasons. The largest mural, the 48ft. long  El Dia del Mercado was first offered to the Coronado Library, but due to a lack of space to mount it, was donated to the City for future use. One large mural was sold. Years previously, the smaller mural had been wallpapered over, and was only found by accident by new La Avenida owner Gus Theberge. This mural, the still life Canasta de Flores, was also put up for sale after significant restoration by Nathan Zakheim. After securing the El Dia del Mercado mural, the Coronado Library used a bequest from June Muller to fund its extensive restoration.

As part of the Coronado Library building expansion and renovation planning, the installation of the El Dia del Mercado was given primary consideration. Separately, the Canasta de Flores mural was up for sale in Los Angeles and was on the verge of being lost to Coronado. The Friends of the Coronado Library came to the rescue and made a significant investment by buying the mural for installation in the remodelled library. The story of these combined projects can be told in the following pictures:

The Alfredo Ramos Martinez murals at the Coronado Public Library are a rich legacy of Coronado's past. They have found a permanent home thanks to the dedicated support of many people who made the current Library building possible, where they anchor many other fine works of art. 

The City of Coronado has launched a new Cultural Arts Commission. That Commission will liaison with the Coronado Library as it establishes its mission and develops its programs and activities. We look forward to more opportunities for art to flourish in Coronado, and to enrich the surroundings and programs of the Coronado Public Library.

Monday, November 14, 2011


The recent National Citizen Survey conducted of Coronado residents was very positive about how highly Coronadans view their city and its services. These results have already been reported in the media. Nonetheless, we would like to brag a bit about how the Coronado Library fared, since this information could be overlooked amidst the many other statistics. The public's opinions about the Coronado Public Library rank it among the very top city libraries surveyed across the nation. Consider these opinions and findings provided by Coronado survey respondents:

* 98% of respondents considered public library services good or excellent, and of those, 74% considered library services excellent.

* The 98% "excellent or good" rating for the Coronado Library placed it the second highest (Number 2) of the 245 cities included in the National Benchmark.

* The Coronado Library ranked the highest (Number 1) of the 31 cities in the "resort city" National Benchmark.

* The Coronado Library  has been used "much more" than the national comparison benchmark, ranking Number 27 among the 177 benchmark cities.

We are very fortunate to have many positive factors working for us at the Coronado Public Library. We have tremendous community support, a dedicated staff and volunteers, vital financial support from the Friends of the Library and private donors, the dedication of the Library Board of Trustees, and the support of the Mayor and City Council. Thank you all.


This question pops up in the media and in conversations. Sometimes the assumption is that they don't matter - that libraries have been replaced by the vastness of the Internet and the immediacy of social media. From our point of view, and in seeing how libraries are used, we see things differently. Yesterday or today, public libraries are a public good. They are one of the anchors of a viable community. This debate has actually been around for the last 15 years - but still people come, and they still find something very special and very unique about their public libraries. One reason is that the people who work in libraries are committed to them, and are committed to helping the people that come through the library's doors. Today, the personal service found here is far more endangered than libraries. Where else will you find someone to help you navigate not only the library's collection, but the world wide web itself? The library is a portal. It is not just a library goal that we hold the best thinking of the best minds from centuries of knowledge on our shelves. Today we extend the reach and the grasp of that knowledge through our electronic connectedness to vast resources scattered around the world. Such knowledge and information may be in print or it may be in electrons. The point is that we are here to help you navigate the path to find it. And digitization not only takes us far and wide - it helps us explore, preserve, and disseminate our own local and community heritage. Libraries will become more and more relevant because of these factors.

So a public library is used for its friendly staff and its organized collection and and for providing access to knowledge and library materials freely. At the Coronado Public Library, we also offer a range of special cultural programs such as lectures, concerts, film showings and exhibitions. We offer story times for toddlers and pre-schoolers, crafts and reading programs for teens and tweens, Summer Reading Programs for youth, unique events like the Mother-Daughter Tea, Harry Potter Day, and Winnie-the-Pooh Birthday Party. We hold a Summer Festival of programs, and host the Holiday Store Front Animated Window. We celebrate the centennial of Naval Aviation. We are graced with a beautiful building that generations have helped to develop. We have art - some of it like the Ramos Martinez murals - is world-class. We believe that the Coronado Library building and its interior  furnishings and fixtures should attract people, and it does. Here you can have free wireless access, you can read or study at a well-lit table in a quiet area, you can study alone or in groups after-school, you can come with your family for a program, or you can come by yourself and enrich your mind. As long as today matters, as well as yesterday and tomorrow, the public library should be here to help make things better.

Christian Esquevin, Director

The Coronado Library: a path to your potential.

The Alfredo Ramos Martinez mural at the Coronado Public Library