MARTINEZ -- Libraries are more than buildings filled with books, and on Saturday the Contra Costa County Library system invites the community to join in its centennial kickoff celebration at the Martinez Library.

"It's the first of six kickoff events," said Karen Hansen-Smith, senior community library manager.

The program titled "Bringing People and Ideas Together," begins with a presentation by Andrea Blachman, director of the Martinez Museum, in which she will reveal the history of Martinez, some of its illustrious residents and the parts each played in building a countywide library system.

Although most of the director's lecture topics -- including visual aids -- have been kept under wraps, Hansen-Smith said she would be discussing Dr. John Strentzel and his wife, Louisiana Erwin, who were instrumental in the first library opening in Martinez in 1885.

"That very first reading room was in a building owned by John Strentzel," Hansen-Smith said.

Portraits of the couple most known for being John Muir's in-laws, was painted by noted California artist and Muir friend William Keith, and hangs in the entrance of today's library.

In 1895, Muir's wife Louisa (Louie) and her mother donated a lot on the corner of Main and Estudillo streets for what was then called the Martinez Free Reading Room. A year later, the building was completed and in 1917 the Martinez Library Association agreed to become part of the Contra Costa County Library.

"All through the history of the Martinez Library, the community has supported improvements and building libraries," Hansen-Smith said.

Many people know Martinez is home to national heroes such as John Muir, and baseball great Joe DiMaggio, but many don't know the city is home to Maurice Benard, 2003 Emmy Award-winning actor for his portrayal of Sonny Corinthos on the daytime soap "General Hospital."

Nor do many people know that while the city became the Contra Costa County seat in 1850, it could not incorporate until 1876 because it lacked the necessary 200 registered voters.

The city boasts many historic buildings and landmarks, along with a rich history in California's growth, including ferrying gold-minors across the Carquinez Strait and being a relay station for the Pony Express.

It also is home to many regional parks and trails, and is one of the only two places where the Bay Area Ridge Trail and the San Francisco Bay Trail converge. The other is the Golden Gate Bridge.

Tales of the city and county history and people are only part of what is offered at the library. In addition, the library provides computers, Internet, Wi-Fi and "a steady supply of new materials in various formats," said Hansen-Smith.

Following Blachman's presentation and comments from Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, there will be refreshments and entertainment by the Spinning Wheel, a bluegrass band, whose participation is through Friends of the Martinez Library.

"It's a good reminder (the library is here)," said Hansen-Smith. "People still use the library. Our mission is to help them find information and books."

Centennial kickoff
What: Contra Costa County Library centennial kickoff celebration, with presentation by Andrea Blackman, Martinez Museum director, and music by Spinning Wheel
When: 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9
Where: Martinez Library, 740 Court St.
Cost: Free