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.