Sunday, November 28, 2010

Completely painless holiday shopping that also benefits the library!

Whether you visit in person or shop online, Los Angeles Public Library's Library Store should be your go-to for painless holiday shopping. I hate malls and love libraries so its the perfect solution for me. They have Los Angeles-centric gifts (including a nifty Los Angeles map totebag that is ironically made in Brooklyn), autographed books (including the great Los Angeles in Maps written by LAPL's own Glen Creason and based on the exhibit he curated in late 2008/early 2009, L.A. Unfolded: Maps from the Los Angeles Public Library), library-centric gifts (including t-shirts, magnets, buttons, mugs and totebags that profess 'Libraries are cool, check it out!', banned book bracelets, the Bookopoly and Liebrary board games, etc.) The only drawback is that I fall victim to the classic 'one for you, two for me' and tend to overspend on gifts for myself. Of course, I don't feel TOO bad - all sales from the Library Store support the Los Angeles Public Library. I recommending checking it out in person so you can marvel at the awesome bookworm that beckons all to the store.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Los Angeles Library Tour - Acton / Agua Dulce Library

Over the last year, we've seen the Los Angeles Library Public Library System drastically cut hours, staff, and services. So, it was amazing to hear that the Los Angeles County Library System has opened a new branch in Acton. The Acton / Agua Dulce Christopher Colombo Brevidoro Library opened on September 29, 2010. According to their website, the library is named in honor of Christopher Colombo Brevidoro, an Italian immigrant who founded the Colombo Lilac Ranch with his wife Ida Brevidoro. Their sons, John and Robert Brevidoro, donated the land in 2003 to the County of Los Angeles for a new library.
This library is new. Really new. Everything inside was purchased new for the collection. We did speak to a librarian who said that some older books that had been donated from other locations would soon be making their way over. It is kind of an amazing thing to browse the shelves of so many new books. Most have never been opened before. They've filled the collection with a little bit of everything. Kudos to the Photography/Music section where I found a bunch of punk rock books.
They have a large children's area seperated from the rest of the library, about two dozen computer stations, and a nice selection of dvds and cds. Each cd is labeled on the spine with an easy to read black text on white sticker. Amazing! Why don't more libraries do that?
Everyone we came in contact with, both the librarians and patrons, had a sense of excitement and wonder. People were really interested in what the library had to offer. It was a good feeling.
And keeping with the tradition of local artists providing pieces to libraries, we find two great examples inside. Above the main desk hangs David Baker's "Reading Gives Your Imagination Wings". Two vibrant metal wings guard a scroll with this inspirational message. Across the library is Anne Marie Karlsen's "Frontier". It appears to be five patterned discs, but as you look closer, you see the patterns are made up of images from the Antelope Valley.
We took the 14 up to the library, passing the "Oak of the Golden Dream" (supposedly, where gold was first discovered in California). We passed by Vasquez Rocks and did our best Star Trek impersonations. We stopped in for breakfast / lunch at Crazy Otto's, home of the world record holding "World's Largest Omelette".
To summarize, head north out of town. Eat a big breakast at Otto's. Walk it off at Vasquez Rocks. Relax at the Acton / Agua Library.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Los Angeles Library Tour - Norwalk Regional Library

This weekend, we made it back to the Norwalk Regional Library (see previous Norwalk post). They were open this time and it was definitely worth the wait.

At 39,000 square feet it was the largest library ever built in the county public library system when it was dedicated in July 1969, The exterior almost has a museum-like quality to it. Windows are adorned with gold metal screens. As you walk toward the entrance, you are greeted by two mosaics designed by Ben Mayer. They each depict events and industries that have shaped California - such as agriculture (orange trees), transportation (trains and ships), aerospace (jets and rockets). These mosaics alone are worth a trip to Norwalk.

Inside, the grand touches continue. There are many giant gold light fixtures which compliment the screens outside. Additional mosaics form what almost appears to be a UFO hovering over the children's section.

This branch of the Los Angeles County Public Library system held many books we had never seen at any other libraries we've visited. We've been to a lot of libraries, and after awhile the same books seem to pop up from one branch to the next. But here, the aisles were filled with rare books waiting to be discovered. I found this in the arts and crafts section: Pop Topping!. And in the Los Angeles history section, we found Previews of Coming Attractions: Scenes and Faces from the Permanent L.A. Fun Game. Haven't seen that in years.

The local history section is amazing. They had a giant selection of magazines (three different publications on libraries and two on restaurants. How often do you see that?) Plenty of government and reference material. A small but functional audio/visual department. They also had a lot of nice exhibit cases to show off the summer reading programs.

After loading up on books, we drove down the way to Bellflower for a lunch at Fronks. Giant sized burgers topped off what turned out to be an epic trip to the Norwalk Regional Library.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Los Angeles Library Tour - Whittier Central Library

Wow. The Whittier Central Library is one of those places that you walk into and it is the library of my nostalgic dreams. Beautiful design inside and out. It truly is a destination library.

Designed by William H. Harrison, the library was opened in 1959 and still feels futuristic and functional. Inside it is inviting and open with a nice lounge area near the front, a huge children's section, large fiction section, lots of hard to find titles as well as new releases. Numerous internet stations and aisles of deep shelves. A large parking lot faces the rear entrance of the library but the front entrance on Washington Avenue is not to be missed.

The first time we visited, the audio/visual department was upstairs. It was almost like an independent record store! There were record albums decorating the information counter and they even had a painting of Janis Joplin on the back wall. When we stopped in on our latest visit, we found out that they had to close the top floor due to budget cuts. Hopefully they can reopen it soon. Two ways you can support the library - add to the donation box across from the circulation desk or participate in the silent auction of rare books in the lobby.

When I was a kid, I could spend hours browsing the library shelves and come away with a load of books on a variety of topics- anything I found remotely interesting. As I grew older and the 'leisure hours' of the day lessened due to school or work, I narrowed my reading topics and mainly hit just those particular sections of the library. The Whittier Central Library brought me back to that childhood way of browsing the aisles. I went up and down every aisle and found more books than I can possibly get through in the alloted time. Adult practicalities returned to me before I moseyed up to the circulation desk, I narrowed my selection for the day and wrote down the books I put back so they can be easily pulled on the next visit.

While we did make the Whittier Central Library our main destination, thats not to say thats all we did in Whittier. We made a stop by our favorite supplier of all things tiki, Oceanic Arts. We had delicious puffy picadillo tacos at Arturo's. Cruised Greenleaf toMonte's Camera. Found some cool thrift stores. Dropped some cash at Lovells Records and The Little Old Bookshop. It was a full day. Get to Whittier early. And often!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Who's Got the Book? Top 10 cookbooks of all time according to The Guardian

The Guardian website published a feature on the 50 best cookbooks of all time and the same curiosity that found me clicking on their list also pushed me to check the catalogs of the Los Angeles Public Library system (LAPL), the County of Los Angeles Public Library system (COLA), the Pasadena/Glendale libraries (PPL), Santa Monica Library system (SMPL) and the Whittier libraries (WPL) to see if they carried the UK website's 'Top Ten'. I've listed who had them available to check out. If they are only available as a reference copy I've marked them with an 'R' after the appropriate library.

10. Great Dishes of the World by Robert Carrier- LAPL; COLA
9. Sichuan Cookery by Fuchsia Dunlop- LAPL; COLA; SMPL; WPL; PPL
8. The Classic Italian Cookbook by Marcella Hazan- LAPL; COLA; PPL; WPL
7. Thai Food by David Thompson- LAPL; SMPL; PPL
6. English Food by Jane Grigson- LAPL (R)
5. Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson with Lindsey Bareham- LAPL; SMPL; PPL
4. Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater- LAPL; COLA
3. The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden- LAPL; COLA; SMPL; PPL; WPL
2. French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David- LAPL; PPL; WPL
1. The French Menu Cookbook by Richard Olney- LAPL; COLA

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Norwalk Regional Library

Curse you Los Angeles County Library! You tease me with the prospects of uncharted library terrain. But today, alas, I will not browse your aisles.

Let me explain:
We had just finished another amazing visit to the Whittier Public Library on Washington Avenue (it never ceases to amaze). Afterwards, on the trip back towards home, I found a comic book store we hadn't been to before, Comic Cult on Imperial Highway. Across the street was an amazing building. It looked gold and concrete from the distance. It seemed to exist
on an empty grass field. Was it an auditorium? It must be some sort of civic
building. It wasn't apartments.
We drove around to the front, it turned out to be The Norwalk Regional Library, a library we have not visited. And there were two amazing tile mosaics flanking the entrance.
The parking lot was kind of empty as we entered. Hmmm.... Are they a victim of budget cuts forced to close on a Saturday?
We walked up to the entrance, and to mixed emotions, we find out they are
closed due to a staff meeting. Whew! They will be open the next time we come back. And we can't wait to get back.
Once we were back at home base, we discovered that the Norwalk branch is in
the Los Angeles County System. Plus there are more mosaics inside.
While researching the library, we came across this great site about public art in Los Angeles County, spurring additional places to add to our long list of future trips.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Gotta go to Libros Shmibros!

Until we got a new computer system at work I was an avid reader of LA Observed, since then I've been rebuilding my 'daily read' links and recently powered through a whole lotta posts. Luckily this site was linked to on the day I was getting reconnected. I'd never read LA Eastside before (I've since added it to my list) but this post and especially it's subject are amazing! Similar to David Kipen's mission, I dream of the days when the LAPL had a cart in Pershing Square where passersby could idle away the hours reading a tome in the sun!

Friday, July 30, 2010

As if you need reminding

The Frugal Diva wants to make sure you know that free dvds/your cheapest movie and tv entertainment can be had at your local library. I'm just jumping on the (you already know this) bandwagon. Anything from your favorite TV shows like 'I Love Lucy', 'Hawaii Five-O' (the original series), 'Dark Shadows' all the way up to 'Entourage' and 'Breaking Bad'- to films from silents to present day. All for two days free! Documentaries give you even more bang for your buck at 7 days for free.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Los Angeles Library Tour - LAPL Central Library

Lets start with the mothership of L.A. public libraries, LAPL's Central Library. If you're a library lover, and likely you are if you've stumbled across this blog, you've know doubt been already. But if you haven't, get going! After a devastating fire at this branch in 1986 that destroyed 20% of the collection, the 'new' (and larger) library rose from the ashes with the hard work and dedication of its staff, a throng of volunteers and the support of Angelenos. One trip is not enough time to take it all in but if you are looking for an elusive book (or magazine, newspaper, telephone book, CD, DVD, etc), chances are you'll find it here.
The first floor of the library houses the library store, a cafe, a Panda Express, lockers, the main circulation desks, an auditorium, a courtyard, International Languages, Popular Library and computers to access the library's catalog. If you only have a few minutes to browse the Popular Library will be your best bet. Besides shelves and shelves of the most recent books the library received you’ll find an impressive collection of dvds, cds, audio books and magazines, all available to check out. There are six more floors of books available, each floor houses specific subjects. Signs and maps are positioned throughout the library to help you find your way and the catalog lists the department you'll find your book in (for example, along with the call number it will say - Central Library - History Dept. or Central Library - Science & Tech. Dept). The second floor UP houses books, magazines, VHS and DVDs on Art, Music, Recreation, Children's Literature and Teen'Scape (aka Young Adult). A word of warning- Central Library houses their Reference and Circulation books side by side on the same shelves. If there is an 'R' on the spine of a book it is available for library use only and can not be checked out. The second floor is also home to two galleries - the permanent Annenberg Gallery and the Getty Gallery which has rotating exhibits. The second floor rotunda is a thing of beauty. The original location of the card catalog and the main circulation desk, the Lodwrick M. Cook Rotunda is the site of Dean Cornwell's beautiful mural depicting California history and the bronze globe/astrological chandelier which is nine feet in diameter and weighs one ton. The third floor up houses Fiction & Literature.
Descending back down the escalators to the first floor you will walk down a hallway passing the First Floor Galleries (which also have rotating exhibits) and into the skylit atrium where you'll find the bank of escalators that leads to the lower levels. Lower level 1 houses the Business and Economics section. Lower level 2 houses Science, Technology and Patents along with the most impressive array of culinary history and cookbooks I've ever seen. Ever. If this is a favorite subject of yours too please check out the Culinary Historians of Southern California. They have fascinating lectures on food topics in the Mark Taper Auditorium at the Central Branch. ( Lower level 3 houses Social Science, Philosophy, Religion and the Computer Center. You can sign up here to vie for space on one of the Central Libraries 63 computers available for public use. Lower level 4 houses the History and Genealogy section, with the most impressive collection of California history books I've seen in Southern California. As signs scattered throughout the library remind you, what you see on the shelves is just a small portion of their holdings. If you don't see what you're looking for by all means ask, their staff is friendly and helpful. Tired of riding the escalator? You will find an elevator back near the genealogy books - hop on and check out the creative re-use of the library's card catalog.
A favorite trip to Central involves an all day ticket on the Metro Rail (currently $6) with a stop at Union Station along the way for breakfast, lunch or dinner at Phillipe's. If you've never been you've got to try their world famous french dip - make sure to ask for it double-dipped. If you've got nothing but time do yourself a favor and walk up to New Chinatown or over to Olvera Street and stroll the shops, enjoy the sites and soak in some of the city's history. When you're ready to hit the library climb on board the Red Line at Union Station and head towards Pershing Square. From the Pershing Square station its just a three block walk north on Fifth Street to the Central Library on Fifth and Flower. (If its a Saturday and you choose to drive parking can be found under the library for just $1.00 for the whole day with validation). If we only want to spend an hour or two we'll limit our trip to Arts, Music and Recreation (Level 2) or History (Lower level 4). By then our bags are filled with more books than we can reasonably carry (there is a limit of 30 books per card) which equals at least two weeks of enjoyment and brain-filling opportunities. A fine finish to the day trip should involve dessert at Clifton's Cafeteria on Broadway. Opened in 1935, Clifton's Brookdale (as it was originally known) is about a ten block walk from the library and I can guarantee you've never seen anything like it (unless of course you've been there before). The only words that come close are 'Disneyland in cafeteria form'.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The sort of positive library story that puts a spring in your step

I woke up this morning to a great article about the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library in the Los Angeles Times. Looks like we'll be heading to Jefferson Park soon! As it's only open during the week we might have to play hooky from work but I think it'll be worth it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


We are not affiliated with the folks at Save The Library but I definitely think its a great resource and a terrific way to let us know what we individually can do to help the Los Angeles Public Library system. In light of the recent decision by the Los Angeles City Council not to include the library tax measure on the fall ballot we need to show our support and dedication now more than ever.

Countrywide, we as library patrons, need to make our voices heard as loudly as they were recently heard in New York and hopefully reinstate hours and jobs.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Read about this great job for a lover of libraries

There are so many ways the library can help you get a job, keep a job and excel at your job. Above and beyond the ways a library traditionally manages to do all these things (books on job hunting, resume writing, interview nailing and the access to computers that allow you to do these things), there are also dream jobs for book lovers and knowledge seekers.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


When Chris and I moved to Los Angeles we quickly fell into a tradition we've had since childhood: A trip to the library. As children we were encouraged to learn something new everyday and as we grow older we still subscribe to that wise advice. At first, it was our local branch (Will & Ariel Durant, when it was still on Gardner), mostly because we had not explored the vast terrain that is Los Angeles. But as we tripped further through the city, and we realized that most communities had a branch all their own, each with their own unique character.
Those trips served as inspiration and have become the Los Angeles Library Tour.
As we rambled through the city in search of old books, we also enjoyed finding 'new to us' restaurants, drive ins, coffee shops, used book stores, record stores, etc. that had stood the test of time. In one weekend we ventured towards downtown and ate french dips from the inventors (Philippe's), visited the cavernous, incomparable Central Library, ate dessert in a rainforest (Clifton's Brookdale) and we were hooked.
For many years it was a birthday treat for each of us- 'what part of town and library branches do you want to hit this year?' but lately its become a monthly (and sometimes weekly) obsession. We typically start early on a Saturday and map a route that avoids freeways whenever possible, choosing to see the sights along surface streets and get a feel for the different areas of the city. We always grab a meal somewhere along the way, either by chance/love at first sight, or thanks to Yelp and stop where ever the mood strikes us. In our travels thus far we’ve been moved by the sense of community pride we’ve experienced in so many of the branches. Through the local history they are preserving, the great architecture that remains… With over 200 libraries in Southern California alone we never have to be bored.

When was the last you drove 50 miles to check out a library you’ve never been to just to see what it has on its shelves and what else did you find along the way?