Lake Forest's branch of the Orange County Public Library system held a birthday party Monday to honor the library system's 90th year of serving bookworms.
With cake and a balloon artist, employees at the Lake Forest library on 24672 Raymond Ave. commemorated the opening of the county's first library, in 1921.
Before a crowd of about 30 to 60 children and adults, Garden Grove balloon artist Buster Ballon did magic tricks, told jokes and created balloon objects: a space alien, a clown fish, and, of course, a birthday cake in honor of the library system.
That last one he created while escaping from a straitjacket.
Balloon—yes, his legal name is Buster Balloon—had this to say about the Orange County Public Libraries.
“Happy birthday. You don’t look your age,” he joked.
Later he said, “Actually, I grew up in Orange County, and it’s because of these libraries that I get to travel the world now [performing]. I’ve been to Japan, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Korea.”
“And it’s all because of books I read when I was kid,” he added.
After the show, Lake Forest Mayor Peter Herzog spoke to the crowd in the library’s community room.
“I’m glad you’re all here,” he said to the children, “because libraries and books are magical. They can take you any place you want to go.”
The Orange County Free Library (now called the Orange County Public Libraries) officially opened its doors in Santa Ana in 1921 and later that year opened its first eight branches in Brea, Costa Mesa, Garden Grove, Laguna Beach, La Habra, San Juan Capistrano, Seal Beach and Westminster.
During its 90 years, it has grown to 33 branches and an outlet in the Orangewood Children’s Home, according to the library website.
Lake Forest's branch, El Toro Library, has been open since the early 1980s.
Before the show, children’s librarian Mary Smith led attendees in singing happy birthday for the county's public libraries.
“I think it’s a wonderful milestone, and it’s a tribute to our county that we’ve had public libraries here that long,” said Smith, who has worked at the El Toro branch for five years.
In addition to the balloon cake, attendees received real cake, with the words “Happy Birthday OCPL” on it, baked by Grace Barnes, senior branch manager for the El Toro and Laguna Woods libraries.
During the show, Austin Adams, 2, explained his favorite thing about libraries:
“Eating cake,” Austin said, holding a balloon sculpture shaped like a green space alien. His mom added that he likes the story of Clifford the Big Red Dog.
Eight-year-old Maile McMillan was eager to share her thoughts about the library.
“They have cool books to read,” Maile said. “It opens my mind a lot, and I write more, and I read more.”
Irene Bauer, a 32-year resident of Lake Forest, helped hand out the cake and said she loves libraries because she loves to read.
“I’m just glad that we have them still around, because so many of them have closed over the years,” said Bauer, who has volunteered at the library for at least eight years.
“And it’s just ... without a book I would be lost.”