Champion of Literacy, John Arcos
John Arcos joined the Library Foundation Board of Directors in 2017 to support our work to provide crucial educational and literacy resources to those who depend on the City’s 12 public libraries. During his time on the Board, John led important initiatives as Vice President of Programs and Vice President of Fund Development. His support as VP of Fund Development was especially crucial in 2019 when the Library Foundation launched the highly successful New Main Campaign which raised more than $3.3 million for the technology, programs, and resources at the Billie Jean King Main Library. John and his wife Janet Leonards also underwrote our Books for Brews young professionals’ events which introduced a new generation of literacy patrons to the Library Foundation. And the two donated generously to support various Library programs. But what makes John’s service particularly special are the years he spent volunteering in the Main Library.
John has called Long Beach home for nearly 40 years and worked in aerospace software development during much of that time. As he neared retirement, John decided he wanted to apply his knowledge of technology to a good cause. He visited the Long Beach Public Library to explore volunteer opportunities and discovered the Library’s important role in bridging the digital divide. 1 in 4 Long Beach households lack a reliable internet connection and, according to a 2019 report by the Long Beach Technology and Innovation Commission, 45% of those residents rely on the Library to connect to the Internet. John began volunteering every week in the Main Library’s Information Commons, which houses dozens of computers for public use, as well as the Information Center for People with Disabilities, now known as the Center for Adaptive Technology.
John helped people use the Library’s computers to do their homework, apply for jobs, and learn about resources like low-cost housing. His support was especially helpful to those who did not know how to use a computer. Many in Long Beach lack basic computer literacy skills which is why the Library’s computer classes and support from volunteers like John is so helpful. John also generously donated countless reading glasses, ear phones, and flash drives to library visitors.
A self-described “computer guru,” John shared the following story about his service:
“One day, Mary, a recurring patron approached the help desk. She was writing an account of her experiences caught in a fire that swept through an area in Tennessee she’d been visiting. Found and sheltered by some friendly neighbors, Mary was writing a letter to the local newspaper about how grateful she was. Her written English was a somewhat second language, keyboard skills came late in life, word processing skills even later, so the guru role was to help with the writing, and then the word processing. When the document was done, I helped her to email her letter to the target newspaper. Then came the part so uniquely characteristic of online customer service interactions. After emailing the letter, Mary received a reply from the newspaper, ‘Thank you for your submission. We will be publishing your letter on…’ with a date and issue number.”
This is an account of just one of the countless people that John helped in his role as a volunteer. We are honored to have had his support and first-hand knowledge of the needs of library patrons on our Board. While he will no longer serve on our board as a director, we will always consider John a dear friend to the Library and welcome him as a Director Emeritus. Thank you, John and Janet, for all you have done to champion literacy in Long Beach!
Champion of Literacy J.P. Shotwell
As new technology emerges and informational needs change, libraries evolve to better serve their communities. Long Beach Public Libraries are no different. They now house 3D printers, virtual STEAM camps, laptop and Internet hotspot checkout programs, music recording studios, state-of-the-art adaptive technology for disabled patrons, and a wide arrange of e- and audiobooks. Much of these changes have been supported by the Long Beach Public Library Foundation and championed by J.P. Shotwell.
In 2012, J.P. joined the Library Foundation’s board of directors as a philanthropic representative for Southern California Edison where he is the Director of Corporate Compliance and Information Governance. His colleague, Les Stark, previously served on the board and invited J.P. to one of the Foundation’s exclusive “Miller Lunches,” during which guests enjoyed a meal in the chestnut-walled Miller Special Collections Room. They dined among a collection of unique treasures donated by the Miller family, including rare texts dating back to the 15th century, Chinese and Japanese art and ceramics, and American and European art and photographs. The room, located in the Main Library, was made possible thanks to a generous gift in 1974 from Loraine Miller Collins in memory of her late husband, Earl Burns Miller. The original room was modeled after a room in the Miller home. When it moved to the new Billie Jean King Main Library in 2019, the architects worked with the Earl B. and Loraine H. Miller Foundation to redesign the room to adapt to the more modern design of the new Library, and the programmatic needs of the community.
Inspired by the American Library Association’s Center for the Future of Libraries which worked to identify emerging trends relevant to libraries, librarians, and communities, J.P. was charged with answering the question, “What will the Library be in 2025?” He co-chaired the Library of the Future Committee with Mary Lamo-Putnam. The committee traveled to new libraries in San Diego, Santa Monica, Newport Beach, and Cerritos to tour the modern buildings and observe innovative service delivery models. This research would inform the Library Foundation’s involvement in the development of two new libraries in Long Beach—the Michelle Obama Neighborhood and Billie Jean King Main Libraries.
In addition to his roles as Co-Chair of the Library of the Future Committee, J.P. served as Treasurer, provided his guidance on the Finance Committee, Public Affairs Committee, Board Development Committee, and served an extended term as Board President.
In September of 2016, as board president, J.P. spoke to a crowd of more than 5,000 people who had attended the grand opening of the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library. J.P. announced the results of the Foundation’s most successful fundraising campaign to date, which raised more than $1 million for programs, technology, and enhancements at the new library. Less than a year later, the Foundation would launch a similar campaign that raised more than $3.3 million in funds for the new Billie Jean King Main Library, which opened in 2019.
While JP served on the board during some of the Foundation’s most headline-grabbing accomplishments, including the Library’s acceptance of the National Medal for Museum and Library Services, the nation’s highest honor given to libraries, J.P. is most proud of how he helped the Library Foundation itself evolve. When J.P. became President in 2016, the Foundation had just hired an entirely new staff. In fact, J.P. sat on the committee to recruit current Executive Director Kate Azar who, in turn, rebuilt the staff to its current levels. J.P. and Kate worked together to advance the Library Foundation to a more sophisticated operation modeled from some of the nonprofit industry’s best practices. This included better financial reporting, board term-limits, and more professional systems and procedures. Because of these accomplishments, the Foundation’s impact has grown exponentially, its board better reflects the Long Beach community, and it has become known as a model nonprofit organization.
The Library Foundation has benefitted greatly from J.P.’s personal generosity, his tireless advocacy for libraries, his countless volunteer hours, his expertise, and his friendship. While J.P. was the strongest proponent for board term-limits, his involvement on our board will be sorely missed. We know we will continue to see J.P., his wife, Kimberly, and their three children, James, Harry, and Juanita, at their neighborhood branch— the Bay Shore Library.
Champion of Literacy, Mary Lamo-Putnam
Mary Lamo-Putnam frequented Long Beach Public Libraries all her life. During her childhood in Long Beach, she and her friends would ride their bikes to Los Altos Library. Little did Mary know, she would go on to make an incredible impact on the City’s libraries.
Mary was first introduced to the Long Beach Public Library Foundation through its signature fundraising event, Grape Expectations. Kim Neipling, then a Board member, invited Mary and her late husband, Russ, to enjoy the event and learn more about the Library Foundation. From there, her involvement with the Library Foundation grew and Kim nominated her to join the Board in 2012.
In 2013, Mary joined the Grape Expectations planning committee, which she would go onto Chair or Co-chair five times. Thanks to the dedication of the Committee and Library Foundation staff, the Foundation’s largest annual fundraiser has grown into a premier gala that hundreds of literacy supporters look forward to every year. Mary’s IT project management background is of great value to the event planning process. Most notably, she developed a detailed project plan, which is still used today to keep the event on track. Since she joined the committee, the event has raised more than $1.4 million.
Mary also played an instrumental role in campaigns for two new libraries. In 2016, the Library Foundation raised over $1 million for the newly opened Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library, and a couple of years later, the New Main Campaign raised more than $3.3 million for the Billie Jean King Main Library which opened in 2019. In addition to advising staff on the campaign and helping to raise funds in the community, Mary made a generous donation in honor of her late husband Russell Putnam. A plaque dedicated to them both can be found in the photography section of the Main Library.
Mary is always thinking about the future of the Long Beach Public Library. Perhaps the strongest example of this is her membership of the Carnegie 49 Society, a group of supporters who have included the Library Foundation in their estate plan. She also co-chaired the Library of the Future Committee in 2014 and 2015 alongside J.P. Shotwell. The Committee was inspired by the American Library Association’s Center for the Future of Libraries which sought to identify emerging trends relevant to libraries, librarians, and the communities they serve. Working to answer the question, “What will the Library be in 2025?” Mary and her fellow committee members traveled to new libraries in San Diego, Santa Monica, Newport Beach, and Cerritos to tour the modern buildings and observe innovative service delivery models. Having previously worked in information technology, Mary understood the great value of increasing digital resources in libraries.
Mary has dedicated countless hours of volunteer time to literacy in Long Beach. In addition to her roles on the Library Foundation’s Grape Expectations Committee and Library of the Future Committee, Mary served as VP of Programs, Liaison to the Friends of the Long Beach Public Library, and joined the Grand Literacy Committee and Librarian Appreciation Committee. She was always one of the first board members to volunteer at community outreach invents such as Dictionary Days and the ACO7 Literacy Fair.
While she will no longer serve on the board as a director, we will continue to benefit from her expertise as a member of the Grape Expectations planning committee. We are excited to toast to her success at next year’s gala, and we will likely run into her among the bookstacks of the Los Altos Neighborhood Library.
Champion of Literacy, Nancy Merrill
For nearly a decade, Nancy Merrill has supported the Long Beach Public Library Foundation’s mission at all 12 of the city’s public libraries as a Board member.
Nancy has served on the Board during a time of great evolution for the Library. On October 25, 2014, Nancy attended and helped break ground on a much needed new library in North Long Beach. The Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library opened on that site on September 10, 2016 and is the largest and most visited neighborhood library in Long Beach. Nancy joined the Library Foundation Board of Directors in raising $1 million for technology, programs, and resources that continue to create learning opportunities at the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library.
Nancy also served on the Board as the plans for what became the Billie Jean King Main Library first materialized. The new central hub of the Long Beach Public Library system opened on September 21, 2019 at a ceremony in which the Library Foundation presented a check for over $2 million to support enhancements at the new library.
Together with her husband, Charles, Nancy has been a great supporter of the Grape Expectations gala, the Library Foundation’s largest annual fundraiser. Nancy and Charles Merrill have served as gala sponsors multiple times and donated generously to the gala auction.
During her tenure, Nancy took on several roles including Secretary and positions in the Executive, Endowment, Programs, Librarian Outreach, and Advocacy Committees. The Library Foundation is forever grateful for her support.
Champion of Literacy, Renee Simon
National Friends of Libraries week gives us the opportunity to celebrate some of the most dedicated volunteers and supporters of our country’s public libraries. As the 14th annual celebration begins on October 20, we would like to take the opportunity to recognize a founder of the Friends of the Long Beach Public Library and member of our Library Foundation Board of Directors, Renee Simon, for her incredible service to the City of Long Beach and devotion to the Library.
Renee’s work in Long Beach is one that has made a difference for so many who rely on city services. Renee and her husband Harry first moved to Long Beach in 1950 after Renee earned her master’s degree in science from Stanford University. Although she worked as a chemist, Renee has always had a deep love of literature and writing that guided her and her family to the Long Beach Public Library. She would go on to become one of the founders of the Friends of the Long Beach Public Library during a trying fight against censorship.
In 1962, The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis was challenged at the Long Beach Public Library. The Director of Library Services at the time, Blanche Collins, spoke before the City Council of the importance of not censoring the Library’s collection. Literacy supporters, including Renee, joined Blanche at this meeting and the book was not removed from shelves. These library supporters mobilized and on December 8, 1963, the Friends of the Long Beach Public Library held their first formal meeting. The Friends have grown exponentially since then and continue to advocate and fundraise for important Library programs to this day.
Renee earned her master’s degree in library science at UCLA in 1966 while continuing to support the Library. She also chaired the El Dorado Park Development Committee and played a big role in the creation of the park as it exists today. The committee worked with several organizations to place a tax on the ballot to develop the park. Voters approved a small increase in their property tax for ten years to fund the development of the park, golf course, and the Nature Center.
Renee’s next move in service to the City of Long Beach would be her election to the City Council in 1972 representing the 3rd District. Renee was only the second woman elected to the Council and the only woman on the Council during her terms. As a Councilmember, Renee’s work in land use helped shape how our city developed in many different areas.
At the last City Council meeting in the previous City Hall on July 23, 2019, Mayor Robert Garcia recognized Renee saying, “(She) is an incredible advocate to this day of education and our libraries. And (she) is always, not just here, but behind the dais speaking to those of us who have built friendships and mentorships with Renee.”
After her City Council service, Renee accepted a teaching post in Public Policy and Administration at California State University, Long Beach and then served as Deputy Director for Transportation Planning for the Southern California Association of Governments. She has been involved with several nonprofit organizations besides the Library Foundation and the Friends of the Library, including the Long Beach Arts Council, the Long Beach Symphony and International City Theater. One her most dedicated roles as a volunteer is her services since 1991 on the Archstone Foundation Board of Directors. Renee was instrumental in the process of that Foundation changing its focus to meeting the needs of the aging population and helping elders live safe, independent lives.
Renee has also authored the following books, all available at the Long Beach Public Library: Destination Long Beach: The Queen Mary Story, The Long Beach Water Department: A Historic Perspective, 1945-2000, Music Looks Forward: The Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, 1934-2009, Long Beach Transit: 50 Years Of Moving Our Community Forward, and her latest book, Our Own Big City: Long Beach And Its Decade Of The 1970s.
Forever a friend to our libraries, we thank Renee for her nine years of service to the Library Foundation Board of Directors and the difference she has made in the lives of countless Long Beach residents.
Learn more about the Friends of the Long Beach Public Library at
Honoring Victor and Patricia McCarty
On June 9, at the 16th annual Grape Expectations gala, we were proud to honor Victor and Patricia McCarty with the 2019 Durnin Family Award for their dedication to libraries and literacy.
Vic is one of the earliest members of the Library Foundation Board of Directors, joining in 1999 and serving in several positions where he was instrumental in many Foundation projects, most importantly the Family Learning Center program. After retiring from the Board he has continued as an active member of the Finance Committee since its founding in 2005. As a retired CPA, Vic brings decades of expertise in accountancy to advising the Foundation.
Vic and Patty share a long history in Long Beach. Vic was born at the former Seaside Hospital and Patty moved to Long Beach from Minneapolis with her family when she was in the eighth grade. Both frequently visited the Long Beach Public Library growing up and recall a small former branch on Roswell Avenue across from 4th Street. They married in 1956 and their children, Lindsay, Kelley, and Victor III, frequented the Los Altos Library in their youth. Everyone in their family graduated from Wilson High School.
Vic and Patty’s dedication to education in Long Beach has taken them into local classrooms as volunteers. As a member of Assistance League of Long Beach, Patty would bring the group’s educational puppet program to elementary schools to teach sign language and deaf awareness to children. As a Long Beach Rotarian, Vic helped organize a program known as Adopt-A-School to support reading instruction. Vic and Patty volunteered for several years reading with students at Franklin Middle School.
Vic and Patty have generously supported the Library Foundation’s many projects throughout the years and have given generously to campaigns for new libraries, including Mark Twain Library, Michelle Obama Library and the new Main Library opening this summer.
For Vic and Patty, community building and early literacy are two of the most important functions of our libraries. They are amazed at how the Library has evolved through the years and made a difference for so many families and children in Long Beach.
Advocating for Literacy and Libraries
Margaret Farwell Smith inherited her love of reading from her mother. As a physician, her mother led a busy life, but she enjoyed reading under the shade of a tree in her spare time. Growing up, Margaret loved books in school and college, but it wasn’t until she retired from her career in healthcare that she became a strong advocate for literacy and libraries.
In 2009, as Margaret Smith was looking to be more involved in her community, she attended a seminar on nonprofits in Long Beach. After the seminar, then Library Foundation Board members Tom Reep and Darrell Cannon approached her in the parking lot and asked her to join the Library Foundation Board of Directors.
It was a perfect fit. Margaret was elected Board President for 2012 and started to flesh out the advocacy function of the Library Foundation. Although her career was in healthcare administration, she could see there was a need to organize and advocate for the Library to prevent further budget cuts and less access to library services.
Proper advocacy requires strategy and guidelines. It’s important for the Library Foundation’s Board of Directors and staff to stick to a singular message that resonates with city officials and the public. The Library Foundation’s main advocacy message emphasizes the value of the library system to the City. The educational and technological resources provided are available to all residents with a library card. For many residents who cannot afford services like preschool or a home internet connection, the Library’s resources are crucial and provide paths out of poverty.
Much of Margaret’s work as a Board member has focused on the new Civic Center. When the City was planning the new development, an idea was proposed to eliminate Main Library from the new Civic Center. Margaret and the Board rallied the community’s support and attended several City Council meetings to advocate against this. Their efforts were successful and a beautifully designed and modern new Main Library will open in 2019.
Margaret was elected as the Library Foundation’s first Vice President of Public Affairs for 2014 and has led advocacy and public relations projects ever since.
One of Margaret’s favorite memories from her time on the Library Foundation Board was getting to sign the first steel beam of the new Main Library at a special ceremony on September 19, 2017. She knew then that had it not been for vocal supporters of libraries, this moment would not have happened.
Margaret’s focus as a Board member has also been on philanthropy. As a member of the Board of Trustees for the Earl B. and Loraine H. Miller Foundation, she has helped maintain a partnership between the Library Foundation and the Miller Foundation to host the city’s annual Dictionary Days program. Since the program’s inception in 2003, more than 120,000 new dictionary/thesaurus have been gifted to Long Beach 3rd graders. For many of these students, this is the first book they are given. The program includes annual events at several libraries to teach children how to use their new dictionaries through fun games and activities. This is all possible thanks to the shared focus of supporting youth literacy of the two organizations that Margaret helps lead.
During her time with the Library Foundation, Margaret has realized the importance of nonprofit organizations. So much is accomplished thanks to those who donate their resources and time to causes that matter.
Supporting Education to Transform a Community
Over 5,000 people attended the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library grand opening ceremony on September 10, 2016. It was an exciting day for the community of North Long Beach which went from having a small neighborhood library to having the largest library branch in the city with more resources and newer technology than any other Long Beach library branch.
This was an especially proud day for Rick Alsagoff who co-chaired the Library Foundation’s fundraising campaign which raised over $1 million for programs at the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library. Together with his co-chair, friend and neighbor, Mary Hancock-Hinds, Rick raised awareness and funds for the new library and helped rally community support for this much-needed resource.
It was Mary who first invited Rick to join the Library Foundation Board of Directors in 2009. Rick first became involved by donating books to the Library. Learning about the Family Learning Center program was what ultimately inspired him to join the Board. The Library Foundation funds staffing and resources for the Family Learning Center program. The program serves children, job seekers, older people, and families with one-on-one support for homework, research projects and computer use.
“I feel education is a way out of poverty and a way to change your whole life,” said Rick while discussing what inspired him to join the Library Foundation’s Board of Directors.
Rick was born in Singapore and graduated from the National University of Singapore with a degree in Business Administration. Rick spent his early years in merchant banking in Singapore, and lived in Taipei, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Jakarta. He began travelling to Long Beach in the 1970s because his nephews and mother lived here. While it was not his original plan to become an American citizen, he finally moved to Long Beach in 1990 to take care of his mother.
Getting a Long Beach Public Library card was one of his first acts when he moved here. He had one of the older yellow library cards before the system was digitized.
As a financial services professional for New York Life, he has helped arrange for significant contributions from the New York Life Foundation and the Lloyd & Lauretta Dyer Family Foundation to support the Library Foundation and Family Learning Center program.
Rick considers fundraising the life blood of the Library Foundation and is proud to have made a difference and supported programs that have helped transform the Long Beach community.
From Visiting the Library to Supporting Family Learning Centers
Lance Adams was born and raised in Long Beach. Los Altos Neighborhood Library and El Dorado Neighborhood Library were his closest libraries where he would seek out books about sports history and Family Circus comics as a child. Today, Lance helps create educational opportunities for children attending the Long Beach Public Library.
When Lance joined the Long Beach Public Library Foundation Board of Directors in 2008, he immediately took up the role of treasurer previously occupied by one of his partners at Windes, an accounting firm which has been serving Southern California since 1926.
During that year, the Library Foundation’s fundraising campaign for the Mark Twain Neighborhood Library was just ending and Lance was impressed with the new library’s modernity and popularity. The Library Foundation raised close to $1 million in donations for programs at the Mark Twain Library. Those funds are still making an impact at the Library’s Family Learning Center.
As a CPA he has helped the Library Foundation manage endowments, prepare for audits and establish governance policies. Setting up important procedures has allowed the Library Foundation to grow through the years and fund learning opportunities for hundreds of thousands of patrons every year.
Lance was elected president of the Board of Directors for 2015. During this time, he brought on Kate Azar as executive director who currently leads the Library Foundation. For Lance, it has been exciting to see the Foundation evolve and accomplish so much in the last couple of years with his guidance.
As a father living with his family in Long Beach, Lance takes his kids to the Bay Shore Library just like he attended the library in his youth. There they participated in the Library Foundation supported Summer Reading program.
“It’s exciting to see the City building a new library and to think about the impact it will have on future generations. Libraries are great public spaces which engage and educate our community,” said Lance.
A Library and a Family
For many, a library is a home away from home where they can find a quiet and friendly place to study, research and read. For Lorrie Hutton, this goes one step further. When talking about how she joined the Long Beach Public Library Foundation Board of Directors, she talks about how much it was like joining a family.
“I had never seen that type of camaraderie before. That’s not to say we didn’t have our problems but it was truly like family.”
Family is very important to Lorrie. She grew up Oklahoma and Texas and her mother placed great importance on libraries, researching and looking up words in dictionaries. Lorrie remembers when the bookmobile would come around her neighborhood in Oklahoma and how fun it was to pick out her next read.
A job with American Honda Motor Company prompted a move from Texas to California about 30 years ago. Her first home was near the ocean in Redondo Beach which convinced her to stay and live close to the beach.
After moving to Long Beach, she became friends with one of the founders of the Library Foundation, Margaret Durnin. Lorrie was originally asked to join the Board of Directors in 1996 when the Library Foundation was first formed, but turned down the offer due to her busy work schedule.
In 2005, Margaret asked her again to join the Library Foundation Board. This time Lorrie was looking for a way to branch out and meet other people in the community and she agreed.
Some of Lorrie’s favorite memories from serving on the Library Foundation Board are of the Booked event series. One of her favorite guests was Jeffrey Weaver, Curator of Sculpture & Decorative Arts at the Getty, who spoke about the book, Gods of Angkor: Bronzes from the National Museum of Cambodia by Louise Allison Cort and Paul Jett. Jeffrey was co-curator of the exhibition that was organized by the Getty, the Smithsonian and the National Museum of Cambodia.
In her 13 years on the Board, Lorrie was elected to the roles of President, Vice President, Secretary, and Vice President of Finance. She has helped guide the Library Foundation through exciting times like the fundraising campaigns for the Mark Twain Neighborhood Library and Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library, as well as challenging times like the campaign to keep Main Library open when the city considered shutting it down.
She looks forward to the opening of the new Main Library and treasures the memories that brought the Library Foundation to the success it is today.