10News takes look at hidden treasures in off-limits section of San Diego Public Library

Library to close June 9

SAN DIEGO - With the San Diego Public Library weeks away from closing, there is little time left to see a part of the library the public isn't allowed to go that is filled with hidden treasures.

The two basement floors of the downtown library are dark, but there are some historic gems to be found.

Library Director Deborah Barrow pointed out one of them to 10News: "Anti-malaria poster from 1943 and just a real treasure in our library."

It is a treasure because of the artist -- Ted Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss.

While his name isn't seen on the poster, you see Geisel's talent, which he lent to help the war effort at the time.

Also in the basement is an 1837 publication of the writings of George Washington.

"This is so fascinating to see maybe what was on his mind at that time," said Barrow.

The San Diego Public Library is a federal depository, an officially designated site to hold and make accessible historic U.S. books, maps, documents and posters. It's been doing that since 1895.

There are also stacks and stacks of historic newspapers. Paging through the Daily San Diegan from May 2, 1887, shows something unusual on the front page -- nothing but classified ads and no news stories.

"Well, how else are you going to get anybody's attention?" joked Barrow.

Some 750,000 items have been stored in the basement because the main floors started to run out of room beginning in 1960.

Some of the materials have been in the basement for more than 50 years, but once they move to the new library, the public will be able to access them.  

So what happens to the current building? They're not going to close the book on it because it's historic, but until the city figures it out it may go dark.

Darkness can help with preservation, which has been a big issue. Many of the historic books and other materials are showing the deterioration of time.

"This is a preservation method we're using now," said Barrow, lifting up a sealable plastic bag.

It's not the only method they use.

When asked if she would miss the old building, Barrow said, "We are going to miss this building, but for a good reason. It's been our home for a long time (since 1954)."

The library will close on June 9, and the massive move of its collection will begin mid-June.

The new downtown Central Library just blocks away is set to open September 28.

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