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Bookless in Long Beach: City considers closing downtown library

August 4, 2008 | 12:29 pm

Acres of Books - Crates

What would Ray Bradbury say? First, Long Beach loses its landmark Acres of Books. Now, the city is considering closing the main downtown library because of budget cuts. The Press-Telegram's John Canalis says there is a backlash to the library shutdown plan:

Mayor Bob Foster and City Manager Pat West are recommending that the council close the downtown library and beef up the schedules at the 11 branch libraries citywide so that they can operate seven days a week, and in some cases, for longer hours. In the meantime, they said, the city will save money while it looks for a new downtown library location. Also, they would establish a temporary center for computer users and downtown patrons to pick up books ordered at other branches or through the library Web site. But Main Library supporters have already said they won't back that plan. "It would mean such a devastating impact for our city," Sara Pillet, executive director of the Long Beach Public Library Foundation, said before the budget recommendations were formally announced. "We have 27,000 children in the downtown area, and for them this is their neighborhood library. I am confused with the strategy here."

Acres of Books is closing in part because of the revitalization of downtown Long Beach. But soon, finding that first edition is going to be harder. The Times' Esmeralda Bermudez checked out Acres over the weekend:

Acres of Books opened on Pacific Street in 1934 and moved into the current building in the 1940s, taking over from a country-western bar and dance hall. Back then, Long Beach Boulevard was a hot spot for the Navy, packed with bars, tattoo parlors and mom-and-pop shops. Founder Bertrand Smith and his son, E.P. Smith, worked more than a year to move into the site, shuttling hundreds of thousands of books in the back of a pickup. Over time, the downtown strip, starting from the shoreline, has given way to an arts renaissance and a 21st century economy of condos and Starbucks shops. "We knew eventually it would catch up with us," said Jackie Smith, 68. She and her husband, Phil, plan to retire and travel. They've had time to say goodbye to the store, after selling their building to the city for $2.8 million three months ago.

Photo: Acres of Books. Credit: Don Barletti / Los Angeles Times