Like the thunderous feet of Santa Monicans hitting the pavement to get to the beach before it’s a swath of bodies and Birds, inspiration overtook Jeff Kaplan.

In 2015, Kaplan, the reference services librarian for the Santa Monica Public Library, came across a blog post detailing a pop-up library on a beach in the French Riviera. A self-proclaimed beach fanatic and librarian, the “wheels started turning” for Kaplan, knowing Santa Monica’s “famous coastline, throngs of visitors and perfect weather” were ideal for an imported, local version. Years later, the Santa Monica Library’s SMPL at the Beach event is still going strong.

Now in its fourth year, the annual event is back with more locations, more days, and armed with stats and visitor feedback from last year used to fine-tune the event.

Activities this year range from library mainstays like books (“a curated collection of beach reads”) to sun-soaked activities like yoga, a marine life show-and-tell with the Santa Monica aquarium, and Brazilian dancing. These options aren’t typically associated with the quiet, serene space associated with a library, which Kaplan says is by design.

“I wanted it to be a memorable, immersive, interactive experience,” he said. “Not just a canopy with a few folding tables, stacks of flyers and some books.”

While the event runs concurrent with, ya know, everything the beach, Pier and city of Santa Monica has to offer, Kaplan says SMPL at the Beach complements these options providing visitors of all ages with something to do. While the public gets a lot from the library out of this event, what does the library get back? Greater awareness and engaging with the community and, well, the intangible benefits.

“Many of the people we talk to have never set foot in our libraries before and don’t know about the vast range of free services and programs we offer. A lot of people we talk to are still shocked that the library has eBooks and apps, so it’s a great way for us to get the word out and spread our love of reading throughout the community,” he said. “On a purely selfish level, it’s also nice to get outdoors and get some vitamin D while on the clock.”

Last year, SMPL at the Beach hosted over 850 visitors to our pop-ups, with almost 200 attendees participating in the Seaside Story Times event. Additionally, the library signed out 184 books. This year, 247 attendees are confirmed thus far with 69 (nice) books already signed out.

SMPL at the Beach is brought to you by Community & Cultural Services and the Santa Monica Public Library, with funding from Friends of the Santa Monica Public Library. For more information about this free public program, visit smpl.org/beach or call the Reference Services Department at (310) 434-2608.

Here’s a look at the dates and activities for SMPL at the Beach:

  • Saturday, 7/14/18 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Dorothy Green Park, where Ocean Park Boulevard ends
    • 10 a.m. Seaside Storytime
    • 10:45 a.m. Nautical Crafts
    • 11:15 a.m. Yoga
  • Friday, 8/10/18 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Annenberg Community Beach House, 415 Pacific Coast Hwy
    • 10 a.m. Seaside Storytime
    • 10:45 a.m. Nautical Crafts
    • 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. Ukelele Lessons with Heidi Swedberg
  • Saturday, 8/25/18 10 a.m.-3p.m. Dorothy Green Park, where Ocean Park Boulevard ends
    • 10 a.m. Seaside Storytime
    • 10:45 a.m. Nautical Crafts
    • 11 a.m. Brazilian Dance
    • 12 p.m. Marine Life Show & Tell with the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
    • 1 p.m. Steel Drumming
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