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.