It all started because we wanted to go to The Mud Park. You know, the Huntington Beach Adventure Playground where you can play in the mud, slide down black plastic into a giant puddle, raft across a swampy pond and hammer nails into plywood and make tree houses? Have you head of that place? If you’re local, you should definitely check it out. However, before you go, you should really check their schedule and not google’s schedule because The Adventure Park is officially closed as of August 15th this year. You can imagine our disappointment after we’d talked about it for weeks, packed a special non-perishable picnic lunch and worn our officially designated *mud clothes* for this great occasion. Comments from the peanut gallery went from You are the best mom ever! to This is the worst day EVER, rather quickly. Boo, hiss, etcetera… But wait! There is this great big wilderness park (aka Huntington Beach Central Park) sitting right next door to explore! And guess, what? It even has mud! Off we went with a bounce in our step. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Well, more like: leaves and branches and ladybugs, oh my! But that’s enough for my little charges. They were off and running. After about twenty minutes of exploring, somebody (ahem, me) had to go to the bathroom so I dragged the girls back up the hill to the Huntington Beach Central Library. Have you ever been to the Huntington Beach Library? It’s probably my favorite library in Orange County which says a lot because I’ve been to a lot of libraries around here and they are all gems in their own way. The first and most impressive thing about this library is the giant water structure INSIDE the building. That’s right. Three stories of open air water falls right next to books. Only in Southern California could you get away with such craziness. I asked about mold or too much humidity for the books and the helpful reference staff assured me that it’s never been a problem.
The fountain was originally built (in 1974) outside of the library but when they added the expansive children’s wing, they enclosed the waterfall and it’s massive spiral (wheel chair access!) ramp. This also cut down on skateboarders jumping and injuring themselves on the ramp which was apparently a real problem. I can see why! How fun would that have been?!! There is so much to share about this library I could seriously take up a week researching it. But for sake of time and brevity, I’m just going to gloss over a few things I picked up in my mad dash visit.
As you probably gathered, my quick trip to the bathroom turned into a high-speed journalistic investigation. The librarians were more than happy to answer all my questions and they didn’t even seem to mind the two little girls wandering behind me, getting into mischief. I’m thinking it’s quite common. With the very loud waterfall, talking doesn’t seem to be a problem in this library.
I should have guessed by the many levels, the low ceilings, the criss-cross grids of lines everywhere and the groovy 70’s architectural details that this building was designed by somebody noteworthy and cool. Of course it was!
It was designed by Richard Neutra and later finished by his son Dion. Neutra as in one of my favorite typefaces that I may or may not be guilty of over-using on every graphic design job that crosses my desk. There is an extensive article about his work here. (Somebody desperately needs to hook them up with a better web designer. Or maybe it’s just me.)
If that didn’t impress you enough, you might like to know that this library has a coffee shop in it’s lower floor. (I wanted to say basement but there is actually a basement and it’s not open to the public. I wonder what lurks down there…) So, yes, you can order a latte and sip it while you read your books and listen to the white noise of water cascading by your cafe table. Sadly, the barristas are not trained in latte art. I asked! But feel free to give them a hard time about it and tell them Secret Agent Josephine sent you. Of course a big tip might help too. The girls loved the children’s section, of course. I’ve actually taken Bug here before a long time ago for a show in their theatre. Yeah. There’s a theatre and about eleventy-seven rooms you can rent out for parties and weddings. It’s just an amazing building all around. Fishtanks and bubble walls, pencil machines (the girls’s favorite — bring quarters) a geneology room and an old fashioned conveyer belt that sorts books…wait, what?!! Yes, you read that right. The Huntington Beach Library was cutting edge at one time (a long long time ago) and they had a conveyer belt that would automatically bring books from the outside of the building into the center of the library and sort them into their right sections by robotics.
Unfortunately, since the library was such an early adopter, the machine was one of the first of it’s kind and it broke down constantly. As you can see by my photo in the top right, it was quite big and clunky. It annoyed patrons with it’s irregular noises of books thunking and thudding along. The library finally shut it down for good about ten years ago and now they must use human power to carry the books wherever they go. Since it’s too costly to disassemble, there the wonder-conveyer-belt-of-yesteryear stays in the middle of the library like a dinosaur forever nodding to the inventions of yesterday.
Personally, I think it makes for the coolest story ever, right next to the story about the library being haunted by Mrs. Talbert (It’s true! Ask the friendly reference desk!) and the fountains outside that are not working because there is a leak in the moat.
A library with a moat. Now you can see why this place fascinates me. And I didn’t even check out one book. After my little exploration of the library we finally went back outside. I found a spot to plop myself down for a picnic and their girls were off on their own exploration. We didn’t even scratch the surface of this park. We could have explored for days. The girls played, I relaxed in the shade… Mud Park Schmud Park. We didn’t even care about it anymore.