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.