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. (http://www.culinaryhistoriansofsoutherncalifornia.org/). 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'.