The original Burbank campus library building, erected in 1950, was the chapel for the Villa Cabrini Academy, a school for girls founded by Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini. Mother Cabrini was the first American canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. She lived and performed some of her work in the Verdugo Mountains above Burbank at a "preventorium" she started for poor girls. She died in 1917, was beatified in 1938, and in 1946 was canonized as the Patron Saint of Immigrants.
In 1906 Mother Cabrini bought 120 acres of Burbank land dotted with olive trees and grape vines. Over the years, structures have come and gone according to the needs of the various entities occupying the property, such as the Villa Cabrini Academy, The Lutheran High School Association of Southern California, Chiropractic Associated Practices Educational Foundation, and California Institute of the Arts.
Woodbury University purchased 22 acres of the property in 1986, and renovated the former chapel to house the library. The dark wood ceiling was sandblasted and stained white to lighten the room. As you enter the library from the circulation area, the closets to the left and right were originally confessionals. The rooms on either side of the chapel housed the ranks of pipes for the organ. These rooms are now used to store microfilm and archive materials. The upstairs loft area of the library, now used as a study area, was the choir area. Left in place during the renovation were the original Italian chandeliers which were refinished to their original brass and steel, the terrazzo tile flooring and the upper level stained glass windows.
The annex, formerly used as a dormitory for elder nuns and candidates entering the convent, was converted into offices and stacks to house the library collection. Alumni Carlos and Darryl de Falla of de Falla and Dawson Design Group donated their time to design the new interior, including the glass enclosed corridor connecting the chapel and the annex.
Donations made available through the Library Associates (friends of the library) group have helped fund the remodeling of the front entrance lobby, provided new carpet, and the remodel of the annex building which included the creation of the electronic classroom/study hall.
The history of the San Diego Library at Woodbury University is intertwined with the satellite campus’ hands-on approach to design. It was originally conceived as a collection of 3,000 volumes donated from the main library in Burbank to be housed at nearby Mesa College. The agreement between Woodbury University and Mesa College gave students at both institutions reciprocal borrowing privileges, an agreement that still exists today. In 2001, the San Diego campus moved to a new location at 8th and C, and staff offices were converted to an onsite library. The 3,000 volumes housed at Mesa College were transferred to the onsite library and the collection grew to 5,000 volumes. In 2008, the campus moved to its current location, a faculty-designed renovated warehouse in the Barrio Logan neighborhood that includes a 1,300-square foot library. The library was student run until 2010 when the first professional librarian, Cathryn (Ziefle) Copper was hired. In 2011, a design build studio led by Christopher Puzio adapted the library space, which now includes a circulation desk, materials library, group study area, and film editing station. A major contribution the San Diego Library makes to the community is through the Library South Series that launched in Fall 2013. The first event was a discussion panel on art and architecture criticism with panelists Christopher Hawthorne (Los Angeles Times), Leah Ollman (Los Angeles Times, Art in America), and Robert Pincus (University of San Diego).
The San Diego Library continues to pursue initiatives that shape it into a fully-functioning, boutique-style library, in coordination with the main library at Woodbury University. Today the library collection is approaching 7,000 volumes and grows by about 250 volumes each year. Its resources and programming maintain a focus on architecture, landscape architecture, and real estate development.
(San Diego Library, Barrio Logan, circa 2010)