Chula Vista's first elementary school, c. 1900
  • Chula Vista's first elementary school, c. 1900
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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.

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AnneSteinberger Feb. 26, 2013 @ 5:30 p.m.

Chula Vista Library and Recreation Director Betty Waznis plans to fill the library position. Service in the historical and photo archive area will not languish. Another librarian currently on staff has been trained in Donna’s responsibilities, has already completed some historical projects, and is ready to step in. Donna was budgeted for 5 hours a week for local history work and we have allotted the same to her successor. We will continue to provide service to the public in local history. Donna is a knowledgeable and dedicated librarian – and we will miss her. To lose a staff member with 39 years of institutional memory is always hard, but we trust we will find a librarian who can carry on Donna’s passion for knowledge, history, and learning.


VigilantinCV Feb. 27, 2013 @ 10:56 a.m.

As a long-time volunteer in the Chula Vista Heritage Museum, and on behalf of my fellow volunteers in the Museum, I want to acknowledge how important Donna Golden has been to the life of the Museum. Without her extensive knowledge of the Library's collection of photographs and the exhibits she designed, we would have been hard pressed to put on much of an exhibit.

When Frank Roseman and I decided to write the "Chula Vista History" pictorial book in the Arcadia series, I struggled with the outline. I wanted to do the chapters in chronological order. But with the photographs we had, we could not have had equal-length chapters. Susan came up with an organization of the chapters by function, instead, and that saved the day. I thought the finished product was very nice.

When I first found about about Donna retiring, that led to a panic meeting with Betty Waznis, the Head Librarian -- what do we do now? Betty assured me that life would go on, and that we had full access to what we needed, and a person had been trained to know the photograph collection

Still, I will miss Donna very much.

Peter Watry


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