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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

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In Support of Libraries and Librarians

The Arroyo Seco branch library via Google maps’ street view.

Wednesday’s story by Maeve Reston
on a proposal to cut hours in the Los Angeles Public Library system mentioned several branches that could be affected, including the Arroyo Seco Regional Branch Library in Highland Park.

One might assume, given the Daily Mirror’s emphasis on history, that I would rely exclusively on the Central Library. Not so. Although I have already written in support of the Central Library, I would like to add my voice in support of the regional branches, specifically Arroyo Seco. A library official has defended closing Arroyo Seco on Sundays, citing relatively light patronage. Although the figures may be accurate, they don’t tell the entire story.

Because I live in South Pasadena, which has a small, single library, I regularly request books on interlibrary loan to be delivered to the Arroyo Seco branch, just across the border in Highland Park. When I began using Arroyo Seco, it was in an old, 1950s-style institutional building that was worn, tired and unappealing. Several years ago, the library built a wonderful new building on the site.

The Arroyo Seco branch may be near South Pasadena, but this area of Highland Park is a world away. On the other side of the Arroyo Seco, the upscale homes and boutiques of South Pasadena give way to the muffler shops, discount stores and fast-food restaurants of Highland Park.

It is no exaggeration to say that the Arroyo Seco library is an outpost of learning – a essential gateway to a bigger world -- in this gritty, urban neighborhood. Many of the patrons are Spanish-speaking and are at the library not merely to study or check out books, but for classes and programs offered by the staff and visiting teachers.  For example, “Cómo Utilizar el Internet” and “Songs for the Very Young / Canciones para Niños Chicos.” 

And I must express my strong support of interlibrary loan, which allows any patron to request local delivery of any book within the library system. For example, as part of my research I’m reading “The Girl With the Swansdown Seat,” (welcome to the quirky Daily Mirror reading list) an obscure book that would be difficult to obtain on the open market but is easily available via interlibrary loan.

And interlibrary loan is free.

I would like to remind people weighing cutbacks that the regional branches are an essential part of the library system and offer far more than is reflected in patronage numbers.

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Comments (2)

Hear, hear for your support of libraries. I haunt the Palm Springs library which has a Koi pond in the middle of the library (inside, not outdoors) and great vibes plus great books, magazine section, films on DVD and music CDs. There needs to be some way of fully funding libraries and not have them at the mercy of the political winds. The old Carnagie library in my hometown in Iowa saved my life. It was my window out of the small town world.

Regarding "The Girl With The Swansdown Seat" -- I had a grandmother was born in 1875 and she always maintained things were not nearly as Victorian back then as everybody thinks. One of her favorite stories was about relatives of newlyweds who would dust the carpet between the couples' twin bedswith talcum powder to see the next morning which way the footprints led -- from his bed to hers or from hers to his.
Swansdown sounds like an interesting book.


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