Library service for the Watts community began in 1913 when space in the local City Hall was provided for a librarian and a collection of 120 books borrowed from the County Library. The quarters were temporary and designed to meet the immediate needs of the community while a Carnegie library building was under construction at 9901 Grandee Avenue. One year later, the library moved to its new building and operated under the auspices of the City of Watts. When Watts was annexed by Los Angeles in 1926, the library became the Watts Branch of Los Angeles Public Library. The library established itself as an important educational and recreational component of the community.
In 1957, voters approved a Branch Library Bond Issue, and money was made available for the construction of a new facility. Three years later the Watts Branch opened its new 3,600 square foot building at 1501 East 103rd Street. Circulation more than doubled in the first year, and in time it became evident that additional space was needed.
In 1991, with the support of the Friends of the Watts Branch Library and the Fifteenth District Council Office and the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) of the City of Los Angeles, the City Council approved a proposal to construct a new and larger facility as part of a planned 1.3 acre Watts Civic Center office complex. The branch was funded by 1.3 million dollars from Proposition #1, the 1989 Branch Libraries Facilities Bond Issue, and a 1.5 million dollar grant and property exchange from the CRA. The 20,724 square-foot development will feature branch offices of American Savings and Loan and minority-owned Founders National Bank; various Los Angeles city departments including the CRA's Watts site office; and a family sit-down restaurant. Also provided is a landscaped courtyard and a 49 space parking lot.
The new building, opened on June 29, 1996, was designed by James C. Moore, AIA & Associates.
On June 25,1996 the Los Angeles City Council voted to name the Watts Branch the Alma Reaves Woods Watts Branch. Ms. Woods has been active in the community encouraging literacy, reading and library use since the 1950s.
Photographs from the Los Angeles Public Library Security Pacific National Bank Historic Photograph Collection.