Santa Ana Public Library
Santa Ana Public Library: The Hidden Biblioteca in the Big Orange
Clayton Gediman
LIBR 220 –Fall 2006
Santa Ana Public Library
The Santa Ana Public Library is in the heart of Orange County. Serving a predominately Latino
community, the staff and services reflect, not only the community but the mixed message of
Orange County. While the library itself is very nice and very used, the city of Santa Ana seems
not to put much effort in support of it as I would expect.
Santa Ana Public Library
Santa Ana Public Library: The Hidden Biblioteca in the Big Orange
Santa Ana Public Library is located in the heart of Orange County, downtown Santa Ana.
The public library reflects the past and future of Orange County. It is located in the civic center
next to the county courthouse. Orange County as a whole is experiencing an extreme cycle of
growth and, showing clearly in the area the library is.
In a brief history, Santa Ana was discovered and named by Don Gaspár de Portolá, a
Spanish explorer on July 26, 1769. He named the valley and the river running through it for Saint
Anne. An expedition soldier, José Antonio Yorba, and his nephew were given a Spanish land
grant for the area and developed a huge cattle ranching operation named Rancho Santiago de
Santa Ana. Later, in 1869, William H. Spurgeon purchased land from the Yorba family and
plotted a town site, what is now Santa Ana. The city has become the foundation for government,
the largest city in the county and ninth largest in the state. (Santa Ana, 2006) While the city
history website is minimal at best, it does give a brief outline of the city and some very good
facts and figures about it.
The city population is not reflective of Orange County as a whole. While the population
of the county shows a Latino population of about 30%, the city of Santa Ana shows 62% in the
2000 Census (U. S. Census, 2000) and even higher in the newest Fact sheet from the U.S Census
(79% Latino). This concentration is highlighted by the fact that it has the highest density and
lowest average income in the county. And interestingly, an average age of 26.5 (U.S Census,
2000) As a librarian interviewed pointed out, these population numbers are probably not
accurate, given that much of the local population is undocumented and tends to move a lot, so
accurate numbers are hard to come by.
Santa Ana Public Library
Orange County Ethnicity
Indian, Eskimo,
City of Santa Ana
Pacific Islander
American Indian
Pacific Islander
American Indian
Indian, Eskimo, Aleut
(U.S. Census, 2000)(Fact Sheet, 2005)
What does this mean for the library? Well, the library itself is located in the downtown
area, very close to local public transportation and the seat of government for a very large county.
There are at least 2 schools I saw within a block of the library and several parks. The library
itself seems to be a fairly new building with a very ornate front entrance that is not used. As with
many libraries, there seems to be a disconnect between the architect and the employees of the
library itself. There are two main entrances, one near the circulation desk and opening into the
civic center area and a very ornate entrance on the main street. That main entrance is far from the
circulation desk and closed, since, according to a librarian, the city doesn’t want to supply a
security guard. Both entrances would be better off opened since a lot of traffic has to come from
the street, since it near to the public transportation drop off and more prominently displayed as a
library there.
Santa Ana Public Library
Front main entrance
Street Main entrance (not used)
This brings me to sore spot I have in the Santa Ana Public Library. I got lost finding the
library and it took me well over ½ hour circling the area trying to find the library, with a map.
There is no signage on the streets anywhere around that area showing where it is. However, the
court house had signs everywhere showing where that was. When I mentioned the lack of
signage, the staff I talked to seemed similarly upset but resigned to it. Apparently, the topic was a
regular point of contention with the city. Parking is just the civic center parking, which is $1 an
hour. I didn’t see any free parking in the local area. My guess is that much of people park on side
streets around the area. So, while the public civic center lot was pretty empty on the weekend I
went, I don’t see that being the case during the week.
It is a nice library. It is bright on the outside and inside with floor to ceiling windows
along a building length wall. I wasn’t able to find the square footage of the library, but has a
budget of about $5 million, or about 1/5 of the County Library, which isn’t bad (City Data,
2006). The library is made up of 2 floors above ground with the main first floor containing the
bulk of the collection. The ceiling is open and the second floor circles the first. There is also a
basement with the young adult collection and archives. The book collection was kept neat, well
labeled, and I saw a volunteer, probably in high school, dusting the tops of the bookshelves. The
shelves were very full, however, and didn’t seem to have a lot of room for expansion.
Santa Ana Public Library
The library has a extensive Spanish collection for both non-fiction and fiction. Most of
the collection is English but the Spanish collection was prominent and got a lot of use. All the
staff I talked to was helpful and friendly. While many of them were Latino, the entire staff is
required to be bilingual. The library offers workshops in the internet, photo editing, and basic
computers in Spanish on a regular basis and are well attended.
There are some interesting problems that the library has had to face. One is that with a
mobile population, the Spanish materials and history texts tend to disappear or not returned
often. This maybe, primarily, because of the mostly non-native Latino population living there not
used to the public library system that is available here. The library seems to be understanding
toward the problem and make a point to try to acclimatize the patrons to this different system.
While making the website, library catalog, and signage bilingual, they have also taken an extra
step in creating almost a duel collection in the high use materials that tend not to stay. They buy
an extra reference copy that is available for in library use, this creates an always available copy
of materials.
As a final note about the library and staff, it is a well used community-oriented library
that has a staff that enjoys not only their work, but their workplace. I have interviewed librarians
at other libraries before (the California Film Commission, as an example) that were very
negative of their library, patrons, and job in general. I didn’t see any hint of that there. Not only
that, but they seemed to want to improve what they could, and make do with what materials and
resources they have. In contrast, by just looking at the location, lack of signage, and lack of
parking, the city doesn’t seem to give the library as much support as it could. The community
does, but its difficult to get support for population numbers that may not be accurate. Finally, I
Santa Ana Public Library
would like to thank librarians Rodger Jones, Cheryl Eberly and librarian-in-training Milly Lugo
(during the interview I found out she was in the SJSU MLIS program) for their help.
Santa Ana Public Library
City Data. (2006). Retrieved October 15, 2006, from
History, Facts and Figures - Santa Ana. (2006). Retrieved 10 10, 2006, from City of Santa Ana
Web site:
Orange County Fact Sheet. (2000). Retrieved October 6, 2006, from