Chula Vista Public Library’s photographic archive may languish following Donna Golden’s retirement on February 23. After 39 years of serving as a reference librarian and as the local history librarian since 2005, her position will be left unfilled due to lack of funds.
Golden is a native of San Diego who started as a theater-arts major and went on to library school at Rosary College in Illinois. She began her career in 1973, indexing Chula Vista's Star-News during the days when librarians had to read through the entire newspaper and type individual name and subject cards. The card catalog is still inside the John Rojas Local History Room of the library.
John Rojas, a local historian, donated many photographs to the library. Some date back to 1897 and depict ranches, schools, and businesses throughout old Chula Vista. The photographic archives have grown, thanks to many locals who have donated their old pictures. In order to protect these items, Golden stored them in archival sleeves and metal cases. She was awarded a grant to digitize the images for online access, which began with 226 photos and has turned into a collection of more than 5000. She added many of the written descriptions for the photographs.
“It was almost like a treasure hunt," says Golden. "Sometimes you’d get a photo and you didn’t know the location, you didn’t know what year it was, and sometimes you were guessing the date of a photograph by the age of the car, the clothes, or the name of a building.”
Golden has helped preserve a 3-D collection that exists in a locked storage area of the library basement: donated items include plows and old milk bottles. She also helped preserve items in the library’s vault, where you can find tiles from the front entrance of the now-demolished Carnegie Library and a collection of original cartoons once created for the Star-News.
As local history librarian, part of Golden’s duties included organizing an annual exhibit at the Chula Vista Heritage Museum a few blocks away. Her exhibits included photographs of the Rohr Aircraft Corporation, the biggest employer in the city during WWII, and an exhibit about the citrus industry from when Chula Vista had many lemon groves and packing houses.