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Monrovia Library Gets Super-Rare Book From Historical Society

The Monrovia Public Library is now the only public library in the world to own a copy of a book so rare that only five other libraries in North America – all academic libraries – have a copy.

The book, The March of Progress, was recently donated to the library by the Monrovia Historical Society after it was found tucked away among its possessions. In her organizing efforts, Historical Society board member, Jan Pack, found a box marked “Monroe School PTA,” donated by Joanne Spring, former Monroe School Principal, and a founding president and still a leading force behind Monrovia Reads. Inside were books of minutes, treasurers’ accountings and newspaper clippings. But with these was something she wasn’t expecting, a large but slender work called The March of Progress. The volume had seen better days – the cover was water-stained and the spine was torn – but its inside pages were pristine.

Joanne said she found the PTA box in the basement of Monroe School in the 1990s when the school was being renovated. She took it home to get it out of the way and for safe-keeping, but when she wanted to return it to the PTA executives, they didn't want it. She thought, "'Uh, what shall I do with it now?' I didn't feel comfortable just pitching it but I didn't want to keep it." So she gave it to the Monrovia Historical Society. Therefore, she said, she really didn't "donate" the materials because they were never hers. She said, "I just made sure it wasn't thrown away and if it was going to be thrown away I didn't want to do it."

So anyway, as Jan thumbed through the pages, she found illustrated vignettes highlighting Los Angeles history and saw that the book was published by Times Mirror in 1935. But what really jumped out was a printed notation on the back page: the volume was stamped no. 25 of 500 total copies printed.

The Historical Society Board agreed that the book should be offered to the library, and within a few days of being contacted, Rebecca Elder, the library’s supervisor of adult services, phoned to say she was interested.

Then, within a week, Rebecca reported that The March of Progress is indeed rare, found in only five academic libraries in North America, three in California, one in Arizona, and one in Alberta, Canada. But it is in no public library anywhere in the world.

So, very shortly, The March of Progress will be available among the other books in Monrovia Public Library’s Heritage Room collection.

- Brad Haugaard

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