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The L.A. Times Festival of Books moves to USC

After 15 years celebrating books with the community of Los Angeles on the campus of UCLA, the Festival of Books will move to USC, the Los Angeles Times announced Wednesday. The weekend-long celebration will take place from April 30 to May 1 on the USC campus south of downtown. Our sibling blog L.A. Now explains:

"After 15 years on the Westside, we are very excited to move the Festival of Books to its beautiful new home and have the opportunity to work hand in hand with USC to ensure we grow bigger and better in the future," Times Publisher Eddy Hartenstein said in a statement. "Attendees and exhibitors can expect more to see, do and experience in addition to great access and a refreshing change of scenery."

USC President C.L. Max Nikias said he was delighted to provide the festival a new home.

"The festival is a great fit for our world-class faculty authors and writing programs, as well as for our literacy work in the community," Nikias said. "USC and the Los Angeles Times are two of the oldest institutions in Los Angeles, and it's fitting that we would be joining together for this event that is so important to the intellectual life of Southern California."

Last year, more than 140,000 attended the Festival of Books, the nation’s largest public literary festival, along with 400 authors, hundreds of booksellers, publishers, literary and cultural organizations. 

Admission to the Festival of Books will still be free; the USC campus is accessible to more public transportation routes. There will, as last year, be a small fee for ticket processing for panels. More information about the 2011 Festival of Books will be posted here soon, and we'll try to answer any questions you might have below.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: The center of USC's campus, in 1999. Credit: Perry C. Riddle / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (27)

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Very sad that UCLA & the LA Times couldn't come to terms to continue there. I believe the Westside is the natural setting for this type of event, and certainly having it in South LA will make it much less appealing and convenient to consider attending.

David, why sad? As an eastsider who has driven west for many years to attend the festival, I can assure you, it's the same distance in both directions. Hope to see you at USC in the spring.

Finally moving to a less elitist location. UCLA handled this event poorly for years.

The festival should have stayed at UCLA. I have no intention of driving across town to USC.

Clearly the sight of books on the usc campus will be something new for that school....

It might be more convenient, but I don't really want to drive to SC. I guess I'm an elitist.

@ Siamese cats: Less elitist? If anything, USC is the more "elitist" school. The tuition at USC is several times more than that of UCLA, one that only the rich can afford.

Awesome for me, considering I am an aspiring writer and a USC student

Does this really have to do with SC offering to pay for more of the cost to host the Festival? After all, SC is a private institution whereas UCLA is a public one whose funding keeps getting cut due to the state's budget issues.

What a ridiculous decision. The USC neighborhood is unsafe and the campus isnt nearly as attractive and welcoming as UCLA. USC is surrounded by a high wall to keep the local community out...for good reason. I wouldnt want to bring children to USC if the crowds will be the same 140,000 as they were at UCLA because of safety concerns. Would anyone feel safe parking a few blocks away from SC and walking to the event?

What an absurd decision by someone at the Times probably unfamiliar with local conditions. The Festival of Books was awesome while it lasted.

This will be the end of the great Festival of Books. This is also the L.A. Times big "thanks for nothing!" to the years of loyal customers who went, and won't be going to a gang-infested ghetto to attend the new one. I'll never subscribe to the paper again, that's for sure. Good luck to the merchants who will have to hire around the clock protection from gangs of theives and drug dealers. Should be fun! NOT!

UCLA elitist? LOL! No doubt USC paid off someone to move this to the most elitist school in town. Holding it in this gang-infested neighborhood should ensure the thousands who went will now be reduced to a couple of hundred. And I'm with David - I wouldn't drive, and CERTAINLY wouldn't take a bus there! I know that area very well. Bars on windows, cars on blocks, posse's on every corner. Good luck with that! What a crime this happened.

@ Mark - "I wouldn't drive, and CERTAINLY wouldn't take a bus there!"

Seriously - I find it hilarious (and very sad) that public transportation was one of the 'considerations.' Please. This was not a well-thought-out decision at all.

Funny that there are some posts here accusing USC of being elitist but I couldn't really tell from the comments posted by UCLA fans, they sure sound elitist and spoiled. How ironic!!!

@ madsircool and @ Mark I know right? God forbid the festival be moved to a more central location, though I doubt most Westwood residents realize that South LA and East LA are literate, let alone that they exist. Maybe some students at Cal State LA and LA Trade Tech who can't afford UCLA want to attend. As for security, tens of thousands of people attend USC games in the Colesium and seem to be safe enough.

@ Siamese cats You forget that USC is a need-blind institution and UCLA is not. Need-blind means that income has no bearing on admissions and the full financial needs of students are met. This is reflected in that 60% of USC students recieve need-based aid (from the USC financial aid website). I myself grew up below the poverty line and USC invests in me with via a private grant that more than covers my tuition. Given this, and that USC now ranks above UCLA in the US News ranking, I never even considered going to UCLA. Why spend more money on an inferior education?

Also, if you are too scared to attend a book festival at USC, too scared that a man straight out of an exploitation film will pick you out of the tens of thousands of attendees for violence and robbery in broad daylight, then you do not understand this city at all and should not consider yourselves citizens of Los Angeles.

Could there be more explanation why it's been moved?

As a USC alumnus, and current grad student at UCLA, I am very happy to hear my undergraduate school will be hosting such an awesome event. Unfortunate for UCLA? Of course, but it should come as no surprise given the fact that, as someone has pointed out, UCLA is strapped for funding.

To the people who say USC is not safe and has high walls to keep people out: not true. While areas south of Exposition and west of Vermont may not be ideal, and sometimes downright creepy, USC is anything but the crime-ridden school outsiders say it is. In all my time there I never once had any problems. Overwhelmingly, the people who did tend to fall victim to crime were those who decided to walk down dark alleys under the influence during the middle of the night. New York wouldn't be safe to walk through drunk at 3 AM, so why would any other big urban place? I'm not blaming the victim entirely, but keep in mind the actions of individuals.

As to the comment about the walls, USC, like UCLA, is surrounded by a barrier. UCLA makes use of hedges and tall trees on its Hilgard border, for example, whereas USC uses a fence (wrought iron atop a brick base), which does not even surround the entire campus (the north side of campus, for example, is left almost entirely open). So, it's certainly not a "high wall" a-la-Berlin, and it certainly does not keep people out any more than the nice little shrubs at UCLA. If anything, USC takes great strides to incorporate the local community and reach out. Whether it's through the JEP program, Troy Camp, or other initiatives, I think USC has taken many strides to being aware of its surrounding and reaching out in a positive way.

So, give it a chance. To all you people who have lived in the Westside your whole lives and shudder at the thought of going outside of that bubble, maybe it's time that you open your eyes to the larger world and the larger Los Angeles. Life and civilization do not begin and end once you go as far south as Melrose or as far east as La Brea, so loosen up.

The perceptions of USC's neighborhood voiced in the comments certainly come off as elitist. The festival will somehow be ruined by being moved from an affluent neighborhood to a working-class one?

USC is more centrally located and is better served by public transit. Except for westsiders, everyone else had to drive across town to attend the festival at UCLA. Now they'll be driving or taking public transit to the center of town.

Are the Natural History Museum and California Science Center too "ghetto" and "gang-infested" for westsiders? I hope the commenters afraid of working-class minorities aren't representative of the typical festival patron.

Jon....the difference between visitors to the NHM and the LA Times Book Festival is the difference between a few hundred visitors and 140,000.

In Westwood, one may park several blocks away and safely walk to UCLA. Not so at USC. Its simply a matter of personal comfort and safety.

Yea!!! I'm happy! It will be closer and public transportation will be easier!


How is that different from what families already do for USC football games? If anything, shouldn't the increased foot traffic for the festival make you feel safer relative to the quieter museum-only trips?

Indeed, it does seem a matter of personal comfort. Some folks aren't comfortably in working-class minority neighborhoods.

Reading these comments makes me wonder how many of you Westside elitists have actually visited the USC campus. Are you all so ignorant that you actually believe that every working class (yes, working class, not "ghetto", "poor" or "unsafe") resident of the USC neighborhood sits around all day waiting for an event to wreak havoc on? Any location that has been deemed suitable enough to host the Olympics, LA Marathon, Primetime Emmys, and countless sporting events can surely stay safe enough for the pretentious snobs of the Westside to enjoy a few books panels and signings.

@madsircool & @mark - thousands of USC students walk multiple blocks to and from campus around the USC neighborhood and survive. I did for the past four years and don't have a scratch to show from it.

If USC were so unsafe and "gang-ridden" why would so many residents continue to send their children to the superior Los Angeles school "in the ghetto"? These comments make me ashamed of the city that I call home. Some of you need to pop your white Westside bubble for a day or two, hop on a bus and see how the working class live (the ones that make sure your city is up and running everyday). You'll be surprised to find that most of their lives lack gangs and violence (much like your own).

The Festival is simply catering to its clientele with this move. UCLA's academic credentials and prestige are nothing to scoff at --- but please put aside your Westside snobbery to also recognize that USC has made a place for itself amongst elite universities over the past 10 years, too. USC, and the surrounding neighborhood, is not the same as it was in the 80s and 90s. Admission is highly selective and most students pay for their education through scholarships and financial aid --- not the school of stupid, spoiled children UCLA lovers always make us out to be.

USC has been working with neighborhood residents to decrease crime, improve the look and feel of properties surrounding the school and opening the campus to children of local residents. USC students often host carnivals, concerts and faires for these children, exposing them to art, music and culture. University students also tutor local children in the elementary schools surrounding USC. The Festival will surely become a welcomed addition to the families of University Park; do you really think the residents around USC ever made it to Westwood for the Festival? I think they have a right to experience it just as much as Westsiders do!

Someone said it right when they pointed out the increasing number of empty storefronts in Westwood and near UCLA; the area around USC is thriving and changing! Downtown is slowly but surely evolving. If only you UCLA nuts would pull yourself out of your homogeneous, privileged neighborhoods, maybe you'd see that Los Angeles is much more culturally rich, diverse and vibrant than you've experienced.

Oh! Boo hoo! I'm a silly little Westsider and my festival is going away. You will never see me get in my Lexus and drive 20 minutes to the war-zone ugly campus of USC. The whole point of the BOOK FESTIVAL is COMPLETELY gone!

Some of the posters here really need to grow up! Have you all even been to USC recently? Hundreds of millions have been invested into new buildings within the last 5 years. The new campus center they built is gorgeous! Don't believe me, check it out at next years book festival. Plus, although it is obviously a lower income area, more crime incidents were reported last year on UCLA than USC.

And it is more central; just look at a map of LA. Only 1/20th of LA county's 10 million people live on the Westside. Now, I would naturally expect the first year at USC to have less attendees because a change in venue almost always will do that, but I bet it'll be atleast the same number of people attending last year's after a year or two, especially once the Expo Line opens sometime within the next year or so.

USC has a serious writing program that includes an American genius, Marianne Wiggins, but the fact remains... there's something unappetizing about SC and its campus and its unwarranted uber attitude. Face it... this place has had a serious image problem for generations. On the other hand, UCLA is way cool, always has been, always will be, even strapped. So, yes, this is sad, very sad.
From a reader who's equally distant from both.... on a distant island.

UCLA is a fine academic institution, but hardly the proper venue for a Festival celebrating the arts and humanities. When have you ever heard of UCLA being a thriving center for artists, musicians, writers or filmmakers? The Bruins' strengths lie in the research sciences --- not that this is a bad thing, it's rather admirable --- but USC is renown for its humanities programs. How does a literature Festival help a science-weighted university?

Thousands of USC students will benefit directly from this move --- students majoring in English, creative writing, teaching, screenwriting, journalism, communications, film, public relations, advertising, business, musicology, MPW (Master's of Professional Writing), theatre, architecture, playwriting, fine art, history, law, social policy, anthropology. USC's programs in these fields of study are among the best in the nation. Conversely, UCLA does not even offer degrees in journalism, let alone undergraduate degrees in business! The UCLA film school is nothing short of a joke, the writing programs leave much to be desired --- again, why is a school like this fit for a literature festival.

Thanks, LAT!

Now that USC is ranked the 23rd best university in the nation, according to the prestigious USN&WR, it is only fitting that the Times book festival be relocated to the academic heart of Los Angeles. Further, both the L.A. Times and USC are probably the two oldest institutions in the city, so history supports this move. And who can disagree that USC -- arguably one of the most gorgeous urban campuses in America -- is a fantastic venue for such a major event? With easier parking and accessible public transportation, this move makes eminent sense.


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