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!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Los Angeles Library Tour - Fontana Lewis Library & Technology Center

Ok, not technically Los Angeles, but its not too far down the road. As we often do when we're out driving around, we made a turn when we saw a sign that said 'Library' with an arrow pointing towards parts unknown.
We weren't expecting to find the huge 'bright and shiny' Lewis Library & Technology Center. According to a plaque out front the library was dedicated April 19, 2008, with 'funding in the amount of $14,900,000 from the California Reading and Literacy Improvement and Public Library Construction and Renovation Act of 2000'. Overall the library is light, airy, and spacious. The teen section looks like a cross between a Matchbox slick track and an amusement park ride, and was being well-used on the day we visited. There's a coffee bar attached to the library and a nice Friends of the Library bookstore (word of warning- they only sell FOTL books to library cardholders).
Our favorite part of the library was definitely the Fontana Historical Society room on the second floor. Open whenever volunteers are available (call the library before you visit 909-574-4500), we enjoyed a leisurely hour learning about Fontana's Woman's Club (and seeing a photo of the men who were members), the Kaiser plant, and the Fontana Speedway. We also got directions to nearby historical buildings and a couple good places to eat. We'll definitely be back to visit.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Los Angeles Library History: Library Bond of June 1923

Reading through a program for Los Angeles Music Week May 19-26, 1923, I was surprised to find an ad to 'Protect Your Library Site Vote Yes on Library Bonds June 5th, Proposition No. 2'. The ad featured a ditty:

It's up to you to see it through,
Ye voters, one and all.
Don't let our Library fine and new
Be hid by buildings tall.
Then vote for bonds the plot to buy,
The plot that hides our view;
This be our constant battle-cry,
"It's up to you! It's up to YOU!"

I was not a fan of the ditty but I did wonder what the story was, so I did some searching on the Los Angeles Times via LAPL.

By May 1923, the site of the State Normal School on 'Normal Hill' had been acquired and cleared, ready to commence building the Central Library. The Flower Street frontage needed to be purchased still (hence Proposition No. 2), because it was 'covered with unsightly shacks' according to the May 20, 1923 edition of the Los Angeles Times. The article went on to point out that the Flower Street frontage was necessary as the new library would be overshadowed on all other sides - the Bible Institute on the south side, by a hill on the north side and the Biltmore Hotel on the east side.

The Library Bond had many supporters including the Los Angeles Stock Exchange, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, City Planning Commission, and Sons of the Revolution. According to a May 27, 1923 Los Angeles Times article, three thousand Boy Scouts canvassed door to door to 'vote yes!', and small lunch wagons operating on the east side of the lot 'have printed library slogans on their menu cards.'

The June 6, 1923 edition of the Times lists:
YES - 10,880 votes
NO - 2,484 votes

Another interesting bond passed that day. Should a subway under Pershing Square be approved?
YES - 11,645
NO - 3,373

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Los Angeles Library Tour - Lennox Library (CLOSING for remodel June 29, 2012)

We stumbled upon the County of Los Angeles Public Library's Lennox branch recently and were amazed and charmed by both the building and the staff.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the library is part of the Lennox Civic Center that was dedicated May 14, 1948. The then $328,000 (approximately $3,380,000 today) Civic Center also housed a Sheriff's substation, the Los Angeles County Building and Safety Department and the County Charities Department.

Designed by architect Adrian Wilson, the brick building with its rounded corner entrance, and 'County Library' sign, are eye-catching as you drive north towards the intersection of Hawthorne Blvd and Lennox Avenue. Projects Adrian Wilson worked on include the New Chinatown Los Angeles Master Plan (1938), Los Angeles County Courthouse, the Anaheim Convention Center, Ship of the Desert house in Palm Springs, and the recently renovated Casa Verdugo Library in Glendale.

The other offices in the complex are boarded up and appear to have been closed a little while, but we were happy to see the library was open.

On our first visit, Library Manager Peter Hsu couldn't have been nicer or more helpful. He showed us around the library and pointed out the plans for an upcoming remodel the library would be undergoing. I returned some books today and found out that the last day the current library would be open is Friday, June 29. The remodel will take two years to complete.

It is definitely worth the drive to see inside the original library now while you still can. Complete the trip with a stop at the beautiful Chips restaurant nearby, designed in 1957 by architect Harry Harrison.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

LAPL's Westwood Branch teams up with the Hammer Museum

I stopped by the Westwood Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library on Saturday and was excited to see a great promotion with the Hammer Museum. There were posters displayed upon entering the library, and repeated several times throughout the building, which read 'You're only 5 books away from FREE ART.' If you check out five books from the Westwood LAPL branch, and ask a librarian for details, you will receive free admission to the Hammer Museum around the corner. The free pass features a clever library theme and includes Hammer's pertinent details.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Glen Creason on Central Library's 1986 fire

Glen Creason, Los Angeles Public Library's Map Librarian and author of the great book Los Angeles in Maps, remembers the April 29, 1986 arson fire at the Central Library. I loved his article in the Los Angeles Downtown News.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

National Library Week in Los Angeles - Check Out a Librarian

Today is the last day of National Library Week 2012. Libraries deserve more than a week of recognition. We should realize how valuable they are now and always have been. Every day, libraries and the people that work in them, are putting information into the hands of people that didn't have it when they entered. That is an incredibly powerful gift to give, and its given free and freely. Even when the library is not open their online databases can be accessed and many have 24/7 Chat Reference. I've met some incredible people that work at the library, thank you for the job you're doing. You are making a difference in people's lives daily.

I remember a day at the library book sale at the La Canada Flintridge branch of the Los Angeles County Library. I picked up a book titled Check Out a Librarian by Johanna E. Tillman. I bought the book, took it home and proceeded to read it that night. It was an amazing tale of Ms. Tillman's of librarianship: graduation of Berkeley's School of Librarianship in 1937, part-time job at UCLA's School of Librarianship, assistant librarian at San Marino Public Library, working her way up at the Los Angeles County Library to become the Technical Reference Librarian, creating the Engineering Library at UCLA and finally Director of Libraries for Caltech. Her tale, and the way she wrote it, was inspirational and practical. Its not easy to find a circulating copy at the library but definitely worth trying.

Friday, April 13, 2012

National Library Week in Los Angeles - Pre-LAPL libraries

The Los Angeles Public Library was established in 1872. According to Ludwig Louis Salvator's 1929 book, Los Angeles in the Sunny Seventies: A Flower From the Golden Land, the membership fee to join was $250, plus 50 cents per month or $5 per year. Members were allowed to take out two volumes at a time. If the membership fee was still charged today it would the equivalent of $6000 to join, and $125 per year dues. Thankfully they went 'free' in 1891.

Bernadette Dominique Sotter's 1993 book, The Light of Learning: An Illustrated History of the Los Angeles Public Library,lists three earlier attempts at libraries in Los Angeles. In 1844, a group known as Los Amigos del Pais opened Amigos Hall, a dance hall with a reading room on the side. Donated books and magazines could be read there for free. It wasn't long before funding gave out. In 1856 it was the Mechanic's Institute that opened a small reading room which lasted until 1858. A Library Association was formed in 1859 and opened a reading room in the Arcadia Block. There was a $5 initiation fee and dues were $1 per month. The money collected funded the library and assured it a longer life than the previous efforts by Los Amigos del Pais and the Mechanic's Institute. That was until the Civil War killed it. Read all about it at a library near you! **UPDATE: I think there was a typo in Salvator's Los Angeles in the Sunny Seventies, other sources cite the membership fee as $2.50.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

National Library Week in Los Angeles - Theosophical Library Center

Its still National Library Week!

Thanks to the fact that the Los Angeles Public Library digitized some of their Los Angeles city directories, I can browse library history in Los Angeles. And thanks to the late 19th and early 20th century city boosterism, Los Angeles attracted a lot of 'seekers' of all sorts of things.

The city directories of 1909 through 1929 yielded libraries devoted to religion and the metaphysical, including: the Metaphysical Circulating Library and Free Reading Room, Christian Science Reading Rooms, Brotherhood of Light Library, Christian Science Church of the New Generation Library, Church of Divine Power Library and Reading Room, Rosicrucian Fellowship Study Center Library, First Church of Christ Scientist Reading Room, Vedanta Centre Library, and the Theosophical Library and Lecture Hall.

The Theosophical Society still maintains the Theosophical Library Center in Altadena, which is open daily from 2pm to 4:30 p.m. and closed during the month of August. Although mostly a reference library they do make some material available for circulation. Learn more about their fascinating collection on their website.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bookmobiles in Los Angeles

Today is National Bookmobile Day, which is part of National Library Week.

I wondered about the history of bookmobiles in Los Angeles. A trip through history via the Los Angeles Times did not disappoint. The Los Angeles Public Library unveiled the first bookmobile that catered exclusively to children at the Los Angeles Children's Show at the Shrine Auditiorium in September 1949. Little Toot, as the bookmobile was affectionately known (the LAPL Photo Collection has a photo here), could carry 2500 books and initially made stops to 20 elementary schools in congested areas of Los Angeles.

Little Toot's big brothers were busy as well. By 1953, three of LAPL's four bookmobiles serviced the San Fernando Valley, an area growing so fast in the post-war years that library branches couldn't be built fast enough. LAPL's 'Traveling Branch' bookmobile service made 28 stops a week and, by 1957, were circulating almost 500,000 volumes a year. A 1961 article mentions that bookmobile librarians don't bat an eye when a patron rides up on horseback in a rural part of the Valley, but do object to patrons leaving books on the street before the bookmobile's arrival.

In 1959, according to the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles County Library had six bookmobiles in addition to it's services in 88 communities. By 1972 (and with a budget of $13 million for the year), the County Library had 94 community libraries, serviced 21 libraries in jails and hospitals, and operated nine bookmobiles!

The Los Angeles Public Library has a great collection of their bookmobile photos, which you can find here. This bookmobile photo from LAPL's 1972 centennial celebration is my favorite, check out the Peanuts-esque booth that reads 'Mind-Bending' with the 5 cents sign crossed out.

You should also check out Library History Buff's bookmobile homage which contains links to Pinterest and Flickr.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

National Library Week in Los Angeles - LA Law Library

National Library Week has me thinking about special libraries in Los Angeles, both past and present, that I don't know much about. Today I chose the Los Angeles Law Library. According to their website they have been around since 1891 and are the second largest public law library in the United States! Their main library building, in the Los Angeles Civic Center, is nearly 175,000 square feet. In addition to the main building they have branch collections in courthouses in Long Beach, Norwalk, Pomona, Santa Monica and Torrance. Its also interesting to note they have public library partnerships with the Van Nuys branch of Los Angeles Public Library, the Pasadena Public Library, the Compton Library, and the Lancaster Regional Library. An individual can pay a security deposit of $140 and check out up to seven items for five days. Late fees are $2.00 per item, per day, with a cap of $60. The details of their circulation policy can be found on their website.

I did a little digging in the Los Angeles Times and found a notice of incorporation for the Law Library of Los Angeles which took place on August 5, 1886. It's first location was in the tower of the County Courthouse (a photo of which can be found in the LAPL Photo Collection). That must have been a separate law library, as the Times on April 11, 1891 announced that an ordinance had been passed to establish a county law library. Litigants would be charged an extra dollar for every case, suit, or appeal filed with the County Clerk to fund this new library. I'll continue to dig when I have more time.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Welcome to National Library Week!

Thanks to Los Angeles' Metro Library & Archive I learned there was a Los Angeles Railway employee library. Check out this link to a nifty ad on their Flickr stream.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A visit to a library off the beaten path - Laton

Normally when we say 'off the beaten path' on this blog we would mean 'not near Los Angeles'. Whenever we travel, wherever we go, we're always checking out the local libraries. Laton's library is a case of 'off the beaten path' as in not (too) near Los Angeles and also, if-you-didn't-know-to-hunt-for-it-you-might-not-find-it.

Fresno County Public Library's Laton branch is easily the smallest branch I've been to in quite a while. But what it lacks in space (and books) it more than makes up for in charm.

We were pointed in the direction of Laton by a family member that knows our love for libraries and mentioned that a Carnegie library had been lovingly restored about 10 years ago. We got in the car and drove to Laton's 1.9 square mile of town. Luckily for us the library was open. They are currently only open four days a week, for four hours on each of those days.

When we pulled up I hoped aloud for two things -- that something/someone would tell me the branch history, and I also wanted to know how old their beautiful oak tree 'neighbor' was. A library fact sheet we picked up told me a little of each. As did the helpful librarian on duty, who was proud to show off the library and it's historical artifacts.

From the library's fact sheet I learned that the library was officially opened on June 18, 1904. I also learned it was not a Carnegie library (the community could not meet eligibilty conditions for Carnegie) but was gifted to the community by the city's founders, L.A. Nares and W.E.G. Saunders.

A quick search through the Los Angeles Times and I discovered Nares and Saunders were real estate men selling land from the old Laguna de Tache Spanish grant (in Laton), I'm sure a library would have been a nice draw. Nares was also a bit of a daredevil. He established many records for quickest automobile trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The fastest time I found for him making the trip was twenty-four hours and fifty minutes in 1905 and driving a Pope-Toledo. Soon after he was vowing to do it again and make it in twenty and a half hours!

Back to the library - one of the neatest features of the libary is a three-sided fireplace, that was a new one on me. Another neat feature was the beautiful oak tree out back, which, according to the fact sheet, is 150 to 200 years old. Another helpful handout they have is a four sided guide to Laton History Sources, all available in some manner at the Laton library. I wish we would have looked at it closer before leaving, I would have loved to have seen two of the boosterism items - the 1919 Chamber of Commerce's Where would you like to live? If you can live where you like, it is likely you would like to live in Laton and Nares and Saunders 1899 A different California. Laguna de Tache grat: something more than climate and scenery: a place for the small farmer and man of moderate means. If you're ever near Laton, California, on the right day (check their website for hours), and have an interest in libraries and/or history I wholeheartedly recommend the Laton library.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Los Angeles Library Tour - Moorpark Library

An intriguing invitation came across the Calix listserv on January 26th inviting people to visit the Moorpark Library for their 100th anniversary celebration on January 28. We quickly switched up our plans and headed to Moorpark.

Moorpark is a small town off highway 23 west of Simi Valley. The library was warm and inviting and so was the staff. I was glad to see a few displays up in the library which gave a bit of history.

One display was a copy of the Moorpark Enterprise newspaper dated Thursday, August 1, 1912. There was an article announcing that a Ventura County Public Library was being opened at the Women's Club and would be staffed by Mrs. E.C. Graham every Friday from 2pm to 5pm. The list of books that could be found at the library when it opened (about 50-60 titles) seems pretty progressive - Wireless Telegraphy, When Patty Went To College, Women Wage Earners, Dominant Dollar and Some Famous American Schools. It was interesting to see that topics of relevance today, including timely gadgetry, were equally relevant then.

This was the first celebration event of their centennial year with more events each month, leading up to the big day, August 1, 2012. The next event is at 2pm Sunday, February 12 and will feature memories of Moorpark with the Moorpark Historical Society. They are also having a big Friends of the Library used book sale through February 15.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Neighborhood Library - How Do I Choose?

Growing up in Clovis, California, we had one library. By default, that was our neighborhood library. Now that I live in Los Angeles the lines dividing neighborhoods and communities are blurred. I’ve got three libraries that qualify as ‘my neighborhood library’.

The Northridge Branch has been our go-to library since we moved to the Valley. Located near the intersection of Reseda Blvd and Nordhoff Street, it’s a great little library. The staff is always friendly, there is a nice selection of new books near the front, and a fair number of computers available for the public’s use. There’s even a Wienerschnitzel right next door when I’m in the mood for really good fast food fries.

The Mid-Valley branch in North Hills is slowly taking over as our go-to. It’s a regional branch so it is much larger, and it used to be open on Sundays before the cutbacks. It’s also right off the 405 and has a large parking lot. They have a nice sprinkling of everything – magazines, new books, huge children’s section, decent-sized foreign language sections (Korean, Chinese and Spanish), and a great selection of music cds. They also have a Friends of the Library bookstore and a great book sale several times a year.

Our third ‘neighborhood’ library is the West Valley Regional Branch which is on Vanowen near Wilbur in Reseda. It has a nice children's section, public computers, comfortable places to read, and an impressive display case in the entry. It’s also just a hop, skip and a jump from Las Fuentes!

One great thing about living in the San Fernando Valley is that I have a dozen libraries to choose from in a ten mile radius of my house. This includes Los Angeles Public Libraries, a Los Angeles County Library, and CSUN’s great Oviatt Library. No worries if you aren’t a student at CSUN, you can gain checkout privileges (with a few restrictions) by joining their Friends of the Library group.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Los Angeles Library Tour - LAPL Granada Hills Branch

The Los Angeles Public Library website indicated that the Granada Hills branch would be closed from January 8, 2012 to approximately February 6, 2012. Intrigued, I hopped in the car to check out what was going on. I really like the Granada Hills branch, it's a nice little library with a solid cookbook section. Turns out that they'll be closed for plumbing repairs during that time. And their book drop will also be unavailable. The closest LAPL branches (in case you'd like to visit or return some books) are the Mid-Valley Regional branch on Nordhoff and the Panorama City branch on Roscoe.

This recent visit made me curious about the branch's history so I did a little digging through the Los Angeles Times, with some sightseeing via LAPL's photo collection thrown in.

Post-WWII San Fernando Valley was filling out thanks to new housing developments and the G.I. Bill, which allowed returning soldiers to purchase homes. In 1956 Granada Hills was still being serviced by a bookmobile which was stationed at the corner of Chatsworth and White Oak for three hours every Friday afternoon. During April of that year, Helen Jenks, head of the Valley Traveling Branch of the Los Angeles Public Libraries, met with the Granada Hills Woman's Club book group and suggested that Granada Hills might be a good location for a library if there was community interest. A site was chosen and after many years of back and forth eminent domain negotiations, the land was finally acquired in September 1960 for the purpose of a city park and a public library. The slow moving process continued and an architect was finally chosen in mid-1961.

Burbank architect, Joe B. Jordan, was appointed by the Los Angeles Board of Library commisioners to build branch libraries for both Granada Hills (corner of Chatsworth St. and Petit Ave.) and Northridge (corner of Nordhoff St. and Darby Ave.). According to the Los Angeles Times, the board requested one design that could be used for both locations as a cost-cutting measure when accepting bids from contractors. LAPL's photo collection has some great photos of the 6000 sq ft 'twin libraries' - click here for Granada Hills and here for Northridge.

In July of 1962, a check in the amount of $6,787 (the largest donation LAPL had received for book purchases in twelve years) was given by the community to set up the Mabel Ross Memorial Fund. The money was used to purchase young adult books for the new Granada Hills Library, which would now have the largest YA section of any LAPL branch in the city.

The library opened on November 28, 1962, with more than 300 people in attendance. The branch was so popular that within two weeks so many books had been checked out the shelves were almost bare and library officials alotted an additional $9,000 to buy more. In April 1963, due to their high circulation numbers, the library implemented a policy that only allowed five childrens books to be checked out at one time. For the first time in LAPL's history circulation numbers reached over 14 million books checked out system wide in 1964. Outside of the Central Library, Granada Hills was the fifth busiest branch library (West Valley was the busiest branch). By 1965 it was the second busiest branch library (behind West Valley). By 1974 the Granada Hills branch was sorely in need of expansion. It served a community of nearly 60,000 residents, of which 52,000 are library card holders. With the prospect of the expansion project taking up to a year to complete, the library temporarily moved to a leased store in the shopping complex on the northeast corner of Balboa and San Fernando Mission. The expansion doubled the size of the library. And its still always a buzz of activity when I go in there. Good to see!

If you make a visit to the Granada Hills branch (pre- or post- plumbing repairs, there are some great restaurants nearby. The Sinatra Room at Casa de Pizza on San Fernando Mission is a must-see and their food is really good. You can't go wrong by beating a path to the Safari Room's door either. Champagne taste on a beer budget! And the service is impeccable (thanks Bobby!).

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Thank you Southern California libraries!

A hearty THANK YOU to Southern California libraries. We've had the opportunity to visit so many this past year and look forward to visiting (and re-visiting) so many more this year. I am optimistic we'll have more time this year to give each that we've visited the love and attention their individual posts deserve.

Thank you to the friendly, helpful and knowledgable staff we've encountered at your reference and circulation desks.

Thank you to the reference librarians that took the time to answer our many questions, we never felt 'rushed' and always received the help we needed.

Thanks to the libraries for keeping us informed of their events, classes, new book section, Friends of the Library book sales and maps to their other locations.

Thank you for the entertaining exhibits and displays. Los Angeles Public Library's Central exhibit, 'As the City Grew: Historical Maps of Los Angeles' has already been a must for repeat viewings.

Thank you for making your library an inviting place to visit over and over.