What makes Benjamin Library a wonderful place

By Kathryn Johnson

A bit of history

Many people in our community know that the library is a place for books, movies, information and free programs, but few actually know the history behind this amazing branch of the San Diego Public Library system.

Allied Gardens/Benjamin Branch Library (San Diego Public Library)

Allied Gardens/Benjamin Branch Library (San Diego Public Library)

In 1963, an unassuming, quiet man by the name of Edwin A. Benjamin left a monetary gift to the library system in the amount of $500,000. While $500,000 may not sound like much of a legacy by today’s standards, according to one source, it would be the equivalent of over $3 million today. A portion of the funds were used to build the branch which was later expanded in the 1980s to include a community room, new entrances and an office.

Present-day library supporters

With building and books in place, the library was well-prepared to reach out to local residents and become an integral part of the community. Many libraries successfully meet this challenge with the help and support of a Friends of the Library group. This volunteer organization raises funds to support the library’s collection, equipment needs and programming. Over the years, the Benjamin library had such groups who helped to meet the needs of the library and the larger community.

In 2004, local community member Sheila Padgett took it upon herself to revitalize this necessary organization. Thanks to her efforts, the group grew into a dynamic team of local women who are committed to the library and its mission to meet the needs of the community. In honor of National Friends of the Library week, celebrated Oct. 16–22, I would like to introduce you to a few of the elected officers of our amazing Friends of the Benjamin Library.

Joan Curry, the current President of the Benjamin Chapter, grew up on the East Coast. She received her doctorate from Boston University in Reading and Language Development. She is a Professor Emerita from San Diego State University after having taught there for 25 years. She is the Immediate Past President of the Corporate Friends of the San Diego Public Library System.

Sheila Padgett, the individual responsible for re-establishing the Friends group, worked for the Department of Defense for 40 years. Shelia has been a resident of Allied Gardens for 43 years and has served with the Friends group as president, treasurer, membership and book sales chair. She states that it has been a very rewarding experience working with the Library Staff and other members of the current Friends of Benjamin Board and seeing all of the programs and activities that the Library is able to present to our residents because of our fund raising events.

Susie Gretler, has acted as the membership chairperson, secretary and is the current vice-president and book sale chairperson for the Benjamin Friends. Interestingly, her grandmother was a librarian in the 1920s. This appreciation for books and reading is shared by Susie who worked as a SDCS elementary school secretary and read in classrooms to the delight of eager students. Upon retirement, she joined the Friends of Benjamin Library since her family had enjoyed visiting it for 43 years. “It is hard to imagine life without a book,” she says.

Over the years, the Friends group has funded quarterly Oasis classes, the annual Summer Reading program, weekly yoga, Fitness Fun, Teen Scene, story time programs and large events such as the 50th anniversary celebration and our recent Open House. In order to accomplish this, they put together large book sales on a quarterly basis. In fact, mark your calendars for the 2017 book sales to take place on Jan. 28, April 22, July 29 and Oct. 28.

On a personal note, I cannot sufficiently express how grateful I am for the Friends of the Benjamin Library. They are extremely supportive of all of our efforts to better serve our patrons and it is a joy working with such a committed, hardworking group. The library is so fortunate to have this dedicated group assisting us in our work.

Decoding the ballot

Are you finding the 223-page Voter Information Guide a bit overwhelming? Would you benefit from an in-depth analysis of some of the more complicated ballot measures? If so, please join us for an informative presentation offered by the League of Women Voters on Saturday, Oct. 29, 10 a.m.–noon.

Language and Presidents with Richard Lederer

Join us for a joyride through the glories and oddities of our marvelous English Language at 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 4. Then at 3 p.m., Mr. Lederer has graciously offered to present his timely talk about the feats, firsts, families and foibles of our American presidents, including the patterns of their elections.

The San Diego Public Library recently adopted a new vision for accomplishing our mission to inspire lifelong learning through connections to knowledge and each other. This vision is to be the place for opportunity, discovery and inspiration. I strongly feel that the Benjamin Library is very much in line with this vision as we offer a wide variety of programs and services to our community. This would not be possible without the support of our Friends group and patrons who combined make us such a wonderful place.

See you at the library!

—Kathryn Johnson is managing librarian of the Allied Gardens/Benjamin Branch Library. Reach her at

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