Sunday, April 3, 2011

Los Angeles Library Tour - Hawthorne Library

Hawthorne's first library was established in 1913 and the current branch was built in 1962. The new branch quickly proved popular - in it's first six months circulation numbers jumped from a ranking of 26th place (for the previous branch) to 5th place. By 1965 the branch was the most used regional branch in the county system with Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights being the busiest. Shortly after the library opened, a group of 'young folks', ranging in age from 10 to 14, formed the Junior Friends of the Hawthorne Library. The ambitious group of approximately 50 had committees for arts and posters, children's book week, school co-ordinating, ways and means, refreshments and special services. In 1964, the (adult) Friends of the Hawthorne Library began a program of creating 'talking books' for the visually handicapped. Volunteers read from such classics as Dickens Christmas Carol and Goodbye Mr. Chips and were recorded on a reel to reel machine donated by the Hawthorne Lions Club.
Community programs during their first decade included art exhibits, film series and investment lectures. During the mid-1970s they also circulated 8mm and super 8mm for 10 cents each.
You learn something new everyday! A 1970 article in the Los Angeles Times on the cookbooks of the Hawthorne library has a librarian explaining that each county library concentrates on one of the 10 Dewey decimal classifications from 000 to 999 and their specialty is the 600s "and that includes cooking, dogs, data processing, gardening, carpentry, cats and winemaking."
In 1978, as part of Hawthorne Library's 65th anniversary celebration, children were invited to submit artwork depicting what they thought the library looked like in 1913 or what they think it will look like in the year 2000. I wonder if they saved any of those?

Today the library is an excellent resource for car buffs (with a whole aisle populated with Chilton manuals) and crafters (more craft books than you can shake a bejeweled stick at). Every Wednesday night a group of local residents, known as the Hawthorne Knit Wits, meet at the library to work on their knitting and crocheting. Evidence of their handiwork, in the form of bookworm bookmarks, can be purchased at the front counter for $1.00.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Los Angeles Library Tour - LAPL Panorama City Branch

San Fernando Valley’s Panorama City began life in 1949 as a planned community, the brainchild of industrialist Henry J. Kaiser. The same Henry J. Kaiser behind Kaiser Shipyard, Kaiser Aluminum, Kaiser Steel and Kaiser Permanente. The Valley has grown by leaps and bounds since then and in the middle of this urban sprawl, on the corner of Roscoe and Lennox, is a great library.
Designed by Glendale architect Graham Latta, the original branch of the Panorama City Branch Library was 6,000 square feet and cost $146,805 (including construction and books). The brick building featured exposed steel trusses, a covered walkway/entryway, air-conditioning and a whopping 18-car parking lot. Click here for a photo of the original library's exterior from the LAPL's photo database. Opened to the public on May 25, 1959, it was the first library branch in an area that was previous serviced by bookmobile only. Other branches that also opened in 1959 include West Hollywood, El Sereno and Canoga Park. That year, the Los Angeles Public Library had its busiest circulation year in two decades. By 1964, the Panorama City Branch was the fourth busiest branch in LAPL’s (then) 61-branch system. (In order, the busiest branches were: West Valley, West Los Angeles, North Hollywood, Panorama City, Granada Hills, Westchester, Canoga Park, San Pedro, Van Nuys and Sherman Oaks).
By the mid-90s the library had outgrown its 6000 sq ft. A new 12,500 sq ft branch was built on the site of the ‘old library’ and opened in March 1999. There is a modest-sized selection of English and foreign language books, magazines, newspapers, and other media (including a large selection of Mexican pulp novels).
This branch had an amazing cookbook selection, including my ‘go to’ bread-baking cookbook that I would check out annually during the coldest months. Sadly, over the last several months, almost all of the cookbooks have been stolen. By moving them to a more visible location behind the reference desk, the thefts have slowed but the selection is incredibly sparse. There were less than two dozen cookbooks on the shelf on our most recent visit. It amazes me that people would steal something they can borrow for free. If you have any new or gently used cookbooks lying around that you aren’t currently using the Panorama City Library might be a perfect repository for your excess.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Los Angeles Library Tour - Pasadena Central Library

This weekend we visited the Pasadena Central Library, the first of three stops we had planned for Saturday. The other two being the Scenic View Ahead: The Westways Cover Art Program, 1928-1981 exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of California Art and the China Modern: Designing Popular Culture 1910-1970 exhibit at the Pacific Asia Museum. Both are walking distance from the library!

In 1927, the firm of Myron Hunt and H.C. Chambers completed the Central Library which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is grand and spectacular to look at, yet completely warm and functional inside. We parked in the large (free) lot and entered through the north entrance, which was once the service entrance. From here, the library seems like a crazy maze of display cases, shelves, books, and stairways. By contrast, the entrance through the front courtyard into the main hall (off Walnut Street), feels as though you’ve walked into a dark wood-paneled library from a hundred years ago. Maybe that’s why location scouts have frequently cast the Pasadena Central Library as Library #1. (My favorite being the ‘San Francisco’ library Goldie Hawn works at in “Foul Play”.) The Main Hall acts as the heart of the library. Not only does it contain the check out and reference desks, it leads you to the children’s wing, the business wing, the humanities wing, the centennial room (which includes a great Californiana collection), and the four levels of circulating book stacks. The staff was extremely helpful - I loved the addition of someone with a headset and a giant pin that said 'Ask Me' wandering the stacks.

I urge you to visit the library’s website. It gives a detailed description of the architecture and interior accents that make the library so unique. Next time we visit, a guided tour is in order!

The library went through a major restoration in the late 1980’s. Great care went into bringing the library into the computer age without destroying the look and feel. Computers were imbedded into walls and desks while maintaining the dark oak wainscoting.

The Metro Rail Gold Line has a stop at Memorial Park, just southwest of the library. Old town Pasadena is walking distance, as are a bunch of great restaurants, like Russell’s (‘famous since 1930’ -definitely try their hamburgers) and the ever popular breakfast destination Marstons.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Los Angeles Library Tour - Brand Library and Art Center

If The Brand Library was just a library, it would be exceptional. The fact that it was once the home of Leslie Coombs Brand, one of Glendale's early banking and business pioneers, makes it historic. The fact that it has an amazing art center makes it a showcase for arts of all sorts. The fact that it is located in Brand Park overlooking Glendale, makes it one of Los Angeles' most interesting and beautiful attractions.
According to the city of Glendale's website, the Brand Library and Art Center was once El Miradero. Completed in 1904, El Miradero was the home to Brand and his wife. Mr. Brand died in 1925, followed by Mrs. Brand in 1945. Leslie Coombs Brand's will provided that the property be turned into a park and library upon his (and his wife's) death. The Brand Library opened in 1956 and in 1969 the arts center was added.
The entire complex is almost one of those "only in Los Angeles" locations. The entrance to the park has a Moorish feel which mirrors the former residence/current library. Look up the hill, past a row of palm trees, and you'll see El Miradero. It is such a beautiful and photogenic locale, there always seems to be a wedding party posing on the lawn in front (perhaps second only to the Mulholland fountain outside Griffith Park).
The Brand Library houses the Arts and Music collections of the Glendale library system. The Glendale library system moved all of their music collections to this branch, so it is quite extensive. They've got records. Actual vinyl records. There is a good selection of VHS and DVD on the arts. I asked about the 16mm films that were once in circulation at the main Glendale library branch. They are now gone. I'll always remember checking out "Skater Dater" on 16mm and screening it in our backyard on an old Bell & Howell projector.
The Brand is inspiring in so many ways. Just browsing the aisles, there is so much eye-candy. The library is a great resource for enthusiasts of all the arts. On the pages of over one hundred thousand volumes you can find Indian movie posters, product graphics, matchbooks, comics, photography, pattern books, furniture making, interior design, fashion, music, painting, drawing, architecture. Where do I stop?
If you're still looking for a little more, there is a gallery showcasing local artists, lectures on an array of fascinating topics, and a recital hall for your listening pleasure.
When the relatives visit from out of town and they want to get some local flavor you can always pack a picnic lunch (or stop by Glendale's Mario Italian Deli and grab some sandwiches). Head up to The Brand. Spend the day wandering the grounds. Browse the aisles. Enjoy the view.
Surrounding the library is a 31 acre park which offers hiking and biking trails, a basketball court, softball field, children's playground, the Whispering Pines Teahouse and Friendship Garden and the Doctors Museum & Gazebo. And if you've been there all day don't forget to stop by Foxy's for dinner.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Who's Got the Book? Los Angeles Times 'Reading L.A.' project

Los Angeles Times Architecture critic, Christopher Hawthorne, has given himself a project this year. He will read two Southern California-centric architecture and urbanism books a month throughout the next year and post brief essays on each to the Los Angeles Times Culture Monster blog. Here is a list of the books he currently has on his list, followed in parentheses by the local library systems that carry them in case you'd like to read along.

The library acronyms used below are 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 Beverly Hills Public Library (BHPL).

January: "The Truth About Los Angeles," by Louis Adamic (1927) [none] and "Los Angeles," by Morrow Mayo (1933) [LAPL, PPL, SMPL].

February: "Southern California: An Island on the Land," by Carey McWilliams (1946) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL] and "Five California Architects," by Esther McCoy (1960) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL].

March: "Eden in Jeopardy: Man's Prodigal Meddling With the Environment," by Richard Lillard (1966) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL] and "The Fragmented Metropolis: Los Angeles 1850-1930," by Robert M. Fogelson (1967) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL].

April: "Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies," by Reyner Banham (1971) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL] and "Guide to the Ugliest Buildings of Los Angeles," by Richard Meltzer (1980) [PPL].

May: "L.A Freeway: An Appreciative Essay," by David Brodsly (1981) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL] and "Richard Neutra and the Search for Modern Architecture," by Thomas Hines (1982) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL].

June: "Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water," by Marc Reisner (1986) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL] and "City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles," by Mike Davis (1990) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL].

July: "Heteropolis: Los Angeles, the Riots and the Strange Beauty of Hetero-Architecture," by Charles Jencks (1993) [LAPL, PPL, BHPL]; "Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir," by D.J. Waldie (1996) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL]; and "The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory," by Norman M. Klein (1997) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL].

August: "Blueprints for Modern Living: History and Legacy of the Case Study Houses," edited by Elizabeth A.T. Smith (1999) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, BHPL] and "Magnetic Los Angeles: Planning the Twentieth-Century Metropolis," by Greg Hise (1999) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL].

September: "Eden by Design: The 1930 Olmsted-Bartholomew Plan for the Los Angeles Region," edited by Hise and William Deverell (2000) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL] and "The Drive-In, the Supermarket, and the Transformation of Commercial Space in Los Angeles, 1914-41," by Richard Longstreth (2000). [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL]

October: "Glitter Stucco and Dumpster Diving: Reflections on Building Production in the Vernacular City," by John Chase (2000) [LAPL, SMPL] and "Landscapes of Desire: Anglo Mythologies of Los Angeles," by William Alexander McClung (2000)LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL].

November: "Reluctant Metropolis: The Politics of Urban Growth in Los Angeles," by William Fulton (2001) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL] and "Form Follows Libido: Architecture and Richard Neutra in a Psychoanalytic Culture," by Sylvia Lavin (2005) [LAPL, PPL].

December: "Making Time: Essays on the Nature of Los Angeles," by William Fox (2006) [LAPL, COLA] and "Reinventing Los Angeles: Nature and Community in the Global City," by Robert Gottlieb (2007) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL].

I'll be reading along - revisiting some old favorites and (hopefully) finding some new ones!

UPDATE- Two additional books have been added to Hawthorne's project- The Provisional City: Los Angeles Stories of Architecture and Urbanism by Dana Cuff (2000) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL, BHPL] and The Los Angeles Plaza: Sacred and Contested Space by William David Estrada (2008) [LAPL, PPL, COLA, SMPL]