Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Los Angeles Library Tour- Grant R. Brimhall Library (aka Thousand Oaks' main library)

Close your eyes and imagine the library Buck Rogers visits. Its likely that the Grant R. Brimhall Library in Thousand Oaks might be a close proximity. I would even describe my initial impression of the library as 'breathtaking.'

A quick zip around the fiction and non-fiction section revealed a nice selection and the library definitely has little touches that show they have the customer in mind.

Things like:

*A sorting shelf at the end of each row that indicates the newly returned books that are waiting to be reshelved but available to be checked out.

* Signage is plentiful and informative but not overwhelming.

* Fliers for events are strategically placed throughout the library (and again, not overwhelming).

* The placement of the public computer stations allows a greater amount of room between you and the neighboring computer.

* They have an honor system coffee cart and vending machines with bottled water.

* Their library foundation runs a gift shop.

* There are lots of spaces to sit and get lost in a book.

*It is quiet without being oppressively quiet.

Aside from the architecture, there are several things that make this library unique. They have a huge children's section (easily larger than any other Southern California library I've been to) which has a large fish tank at its entrance (similar to the Cerritos library), is well-maintained, and has an incredible selection of puppets that are available to check out. PUPPETS!

If at all possible plan your visit to coincide with the hours that the Special Collections room is open (currently Tuesday and Wednesday 1 to 5pm, and Thursday 5 to 8pm). Besides being a remarkable repository of local history, the Special Collections librarian, Jeannette Berard, can show you the library's piece de resistance- the American Radio Archive. Established in 1984 to preserve and document the history of radio. What started as a collection of radio history, it has grown to include all of broadcasting. They have sound recordings, scripts, dvds, and a whole lot of books on every aspect of broadcasting. Its very easy to while away a few hours at this library.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Los Angeles Library Tour - Inglewood Public Library + UPDATE

The day started off innocently enough, we were heading towards Inglewood to see Helen Lundeberg's WPA mural "The History of Transportation." I only had a vague idea of where it was located and we did our usual 'lets hit up anything that looks interesting along the way.' After the obligatory stop at Randy's donuts we headed east on Manchester and passed by a very cool intaglio piece snaking up the side of a building. We circled the block to get a closer view and discovered signs pointing us to a public library.

Highlights included:
The largest(circa 1972)poured-in-place intaglio sculpture known in the world by artist Tom Van Sant.

The ability to check out Criswell Predicts From Now To the Year 2000 (1968), in which the Amazing Criswell prognosticates computers ('education and newspapers which will be available through your TV') and same-sex marriage (though he did think it would happen in England by 1972). Its been a fun read.

They have artwork available for circulation!

Inglewood's former Library Director John W.Perkins (1962 to ?)must have been a hell of a guy. The collection developed by the library during his tenure is amazing. There are so many volumes here that I haven't seen in other systems. We'll be sure to check out their online catalog before our next visit, similar to LAPL's Central Branch they have more material in a depository downstairs, but are happy to retrieve the items.

The parking lot was metered and unfortunately we didn't have enough change in the car for more than an hour of browsing but the quick tour we made, and the new library card we acquired, ensures that we'll be back.

*** UPDATE ***

The above blog post has been sitting in my drafts file for a year (our original visit was May 24, 2013). Aside from the fact a year flies by in the blink of an eye, here is what else I learned within that year.

Inglewood's former Library Director John W. Perkins was indeed a hell of a guy who amassed an amazing collection, AND wrote or commissioned many books on library service and administration (take a look at them on Worldcat). I was able to get most of these books through interlibrary loan and found them interesting and forward thinking -- they even published Library of Congress Classification Adapted for Children's Library Materials! Another fascinating read associated with the Inglewood Library was a report documenting their decision to break free of the Los Angeles County Library system and become a municipal library. Perkins was hired on following the split and did a remarkable job of building a research library in Inglewood.

Sadly the collection has undergone heavy weeding within the past year, so get down there and check it out NOW!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Los Angeles Library History - Happy 100th birthday to the Vermont Square branch of the Los Angeles Public Library

Check out this beautiful view of the children's room from the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

According to the Hand Book of the Branch Libraries, Los Angeles Public Library (1928), the Vermont Square branch celebrates it's 100th birthday today. It was the first LAPL library built using Carnegie funds and flung open its doors on March 1st, 1913 with a beginning collection of at least 2000 books. The building, landscaping, and equipment for the 8000 sq ft branch cost $38,466 (a little over $880,000 today). The Hand Book also adds that the Assembly Room "is equipped to show stereopticon views and motion pictures."

Read the history of the branch here.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Los Angeles Library History: Building library service to the San Fernando Valley

The city of Los Angeles began annexing the San Fernando Valley in 1915. There were three Los Angeles Co. Free Libraries (present-day County of Los Angeles Public Library) which became city/LAPL branches post-annexation. They remained in rented spaces until standalone branches could be built. The Owensmouth (present-day Canoga Park) and Van Nuys branches opened in 1927, followed by the Lankershim/Sidney Lanier branch (now North Hollywood Regional) which opened in 1929.

Prompted by community requests, delivery stations soon began springing up in the Valley. Stations carried between one hundred and one thousand books for circulation, and were meant to extend borrowing service to those that could not easily reach a branch or the Central Library. Only open a few hours during the week, stations were set up in stores, fire stations, nursing homes, churches, summer camps, clubs, etc. (The stationery store below housed the Reseda station at one time). In most cases they were staffed by paid or unpaid volunteers that did not have library training. Use patterns were monitored and some lesser-used stations were discontinued while others flourished and provided a base for later branches.

In 1948, when their current space needed to be vacated, the Reseda Woman's Club and the Reseda Chamber of Commerce began looking for a new space to rent for the Reseda Station. They were allotted just $25 a month for rent, and it was noted that Los Angeles Public Library Assistant City Librarian Roberta Bowler made the suggestion that the Library Commission was looking into the purchase of a mobile library (aka bookmobile) that could carry 2000 to 4000 books to various parts of the San Fernando Valley on a regular schedule.

The Los Angeles Public Library began bookmobiles service in 1949. Dubbed the Traveling Branch, it was a cost-effective way to expand library service to the rapidly growing San Fernando Valley.

In May 1949 Sherman Oaks received its first library service in the form of a 2-hour bookmobile stop in a vacant lot at Ventura and Vesper. The stop was such a success plans were soon made for a Sherman Oaks Station. Basilone Homes, a low-rent housing community for WWII vets created on the site of the present day Hansen Dam Golf Course, also received a bookmobile stop. Stops for Victory Center (approx. Lankershim and Victory), Encino and Studio City followed. Reseda Station's circulation had risen quickly at their location (18555 Sherman Way), enough to elevate it to full branch status with daily hours and additional staff and books.

Spring of 1950 saw the addition of a second 'Traveling Branch' with stops in Granada Hills, Panorama City, Tarzana, and Winnetka. A depot, not open to the public, was set up on Vanowen Avenue near Tujunga Avenue that would serve as a hub for the loading and unloading of the bookmobile. In October 1950 an Encino-Tarzana branch was created to replace two popular bookmobile stops.

The 1951 Los Angeles Public Library Annual Report indicates Stations will gradually be eliminated and replaced by bookmobile service.

The Sunland and Tujunga stations were closed and replaced with a joint Sunland-Tujunga branch library. By 1956 there are four Traveling Branches from which half-a-million books are circulated annual. One bookmobile, known as Little Toot, catered strictly to children and made stops to San Fernando Valley elementary schools during the school year.
City Librarian Harold L. Hamill notes a survey has been completed by the Library Department that indicates a need for 17 public library buildings to meet the growing needs of San Fernando Valley residents. One step forward is the move of the Reseda branch into a space at the new West Valley Municipal Building, with hopes that with funding secured, a regional branch could be built nearby. (The Reseda branch became the West Valley Regional Branch with the opening of its new building in 1960).

A $6,400,000 library bond passed in May 1957. This allowed for the creation of branches in Chatsworth, Granada Hills, Northridge, Panorama City, Studio City, Sylmar and Woodland Hills. Branches currently in rented quarters would get their own city-owned building, this included Encino-Tarzana, Pacoima, Sherman Oaks and Sun Valley. Canoga Park (previously Owensmouth) and Van Nuys would receive new buildings.

It couldn't come soon enough. For the 1958-59 fiscal year the nine San Fernando Valley libraries circulated more than 2.7 million books, almost one-fourth of the total LAPL circulation that year (which was 11 million across all 52 LAPL branches).

A MAP OF LOS ANGELES PUBLIC LIBRARY SERVICE TO THE SAN FERNANDO VALLEY THROUGH THE YEARS (branch locations are dark blue, known stations are turquoise, and known bookmobile stops are green) Click the link below the map to see dates associated with the locations-
View San Fernando Valley library service history in a larger map


Los Angeles Public Library. Annual Report, various years.

Los Angeles Public Library. Hand Book of the Branch Libraries. Los Angeles: LAPL, 1928.

Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

Los Angeles Times

Van Nuys News and Valley Green Sheet

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Los Angeles Library History: Happy 100th Birthday to the County of Los Angeles Public Library

Today is officially the 100th birthday of the County of Los Angeles Library system. They have been counting down the days to the Centennial Celebration, which will take place at all the branches on Saturday, September 8, by publishing a new library fact daily on their website. Check out their facts here, and don't forget to check out the countywide birthday parties on Saturday!

To read an interesting and personal history of the library's origin you should check out County Free Library Organizing in California 1909-1918 by Harriet G. Eddy. Ms Eddy was the County Library Organizer for the California State Library from 1909-1918.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Los Angeles Library History: Pershing Square book cart

While reading through the 1936-37 Annual Report from the Board of Library Commissioners of the Los Angeles Public Library I came across a section called 'Books Outdoors' that drove me to see if I could find an accompanying photo in the LAPL Photo Collection.

The 1936-37 Annual Report reported that in July 1936 an outdoor 'Reading Station' had been set up on the Central Library lawn, complete with a 'big sun umbrella, a book truck, table and benches.' Soon 1500 books and magazines a month were being borrowed from the Reading Station. A photo of this Reading Station is part of LAPL's recently digitized Herman J. Schultheis Collection.

Apparently the Park Commission was so impressed they asked the library to set up a reading corner in Pershing Square. WPA men were in charge of the corner when it opened in December 1936, its hours were Monday through Saturday 9:30am to 3pm. Herman Schultheis photographed the Pershing Square reading area also. Within ten months nearly 26,000 books and magazines had been borrowed from the two outdoor reading areas.

Would a reading corner be as popular in Pershing Square now?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Los Angeles Library Tour - Pomona Public Library

The plaque at the entrance reads:
Built by the people of Pomona for the preservation and advancement of the intellectual, cultural, and social life of the community.
There has been much talk in the past several months about the possible closing of the Pomona Public Library. Pomona has been on my short list to visit for awhile and we were finally able to make it out there. With our trusty copy of Cruising the Pomona Valley by Charles Phoenix, we headed towards Pomona with the idea of making a day of it, maybe topped off with a period appropriate meal at Vince's or Grinder Haven.

I can't emphasize too strongly that it was well worth the trip. And we never made it further than the library. What's not to love? The Welton Becket designed building, the amazingly nice staff, the Laura Ingalls Wilder room, the quality book collection, the Pomona statue, the indoor patios, and most of all the lovingly prepared history of the library that currently lives downstairs. I was like a kid in a candy store, snapping away with my camera, perusing their stacks, and marveling at their reference and genealogy sections.

We had already steeled ourselves to the fact that it might be a tad foolhardy to get a library card at a library that was about an hour away from our house. That self-imposed rule quickly went out the window after browsing the aisles. The Pomona Public Library has books I've never seen on the shelves at other libraries. Dozens of books in my 'favorite' sections were new to me, I HAD to check them out. It took us years to finally visit, but we'll be coming back frequently.

If you've made it this far I'm sure your eyes may be glazing over so I'll hit the highlights-

Pomona Library is the third oldest system in all of Los Angeles County (only Los Angeles Public Library and Pasadena Public Library are older). It began life as a subscription library (at $3 per year) in 1887.
In December 1901, the Pomona Library Board petitioned Andrew Carnegie for funds to build a public library. According to a February 18, 1902 Los Angeles Times article, the letter read in part: 'The population is largely composed of people of the middle class, highly appreciative of educational and literary advantages, but not able to gratify their tastes and inclinations except as they are furnished the opportunity through public libraries." Carnegie agreed to pony up $15,000 if the City Council agreed to provide a site and support the library 'at a cost of no less than $1500 a year'. Sadly the resulting Carnegie Library was demolished in 1966.
The statue of Pomona, goddess of fruit and trees, was given to the Pomona Library for safe-keeping in 1889. Its featured on the Pomona city seal and the city flag! [The sign at her feet noted that it was a gift to the city by Rev. C.F. Loop. According to Los Angeles Times articles from 1889, it was shipped from Italy to New York, and finally on to Pomona. It was given to the city by Loop during the 1889 July 4th celebration. According to his March 1900 obituary in the Times, Loop was a successful horticulturalist and an expert on olives.] The library website has photos of the statue over the years. I especially love the one of the guy cleaning her with a dustbuster.

When the library re-opens on September 4, 2012 after a two-week shuffle to close off the bottom floor, I hope the exhibit of the library's history makes it upstairs. It deserves to be a highlight.

The much loved Laura Ingalls Wilder Room (her books are still in the top five best sellers on Amazon for children's American historical fiction) has an amazing wall sized wooden map based on Wilder's books. Clara Webber, Pomona's children's librarian from 1948-1970, began a correspondence with Laura Ingalls Wilder, information about the collection can be found here on Pomona's website.
Welton Becket & Associates (in this case Randall Tozier) designed the 57,000 sq ft building, which was officially dedicated on September 13, 1965. An interesting letter regarding their collaboration can be found here. Becket's better known buildings include: Capitol Records, Cinerama Dome, (original) Pan Pacific Auditorium, Beverly Hilton Hotel, and the Los Angeles Music Center.
I've come across former city librarian Raymond Holt's name over and over during my research. He seems to be a real mover and shaker, I'll have to delve deeper into his career.

While we were there we saw the Library Director Bruce Guter leading a tour of people through the building. I saw David Allen's post about 35 reasons to rescue Pomona's library on the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin website the next day. Mr. Allen, thank you for spreading the word, the library is definitely worth rescuing!