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A Modest, Magnificent Exhibition Of Our City’s History

January 27, 2012 in Art, Downtown, Entertainment, Events, History, LA

You’re probably not like me and are able to cope with the scope of the massively collaborative and on-going Pacific Standard Time exhibitions that fall under the ambitious region-wide initiative’s banner. Me, not so much. With so many institutions involved, I suffer from something of a paralysis when trying to decide whether I should go to the Getty or the Hammer  or LACMA or wherever. Case in point: I literally became immobile when I just now went to the Pacific Standard Time website and a banner popped up that told me there are 42 events taking place right this moment of 10:28AM — and that may even include a Big Gulp Cup retrospective at my local 7-11.

A few weeks ago I did manage to brush my intimidation aside and pay a first-time visit to MOCA to see the cool exhibition of Weegee’s Hollywood period photographs, but — pardon the digression — then I wandered around the museum’s permanent exhibit and found this piece of crap stuck to the wall, which reinforced both my abject disdain for “contemporary art” and my urge to punish whoever curated it with an extended indian-burn session to the forearm of his or her choosing.

So instead of getting all wound up trying to eenie-meanie-miney-mo to which big box the next I’d go, instead I brought along my inner map geek and together we ventured yesterday to the first floor galleries of the Central Library downtown where I spent an extended segment of the afternoon marveling at the selection of kick-ass cartography displayed as part of  its “As The City Grew: Historical Maps of Los Angeles” exhibit.

The 34 maps arrayed go back to the mid-1800s and offer an awesome and up-close glimpse back into our city as it was and as it became. Unlike the aforementioned contemporary bullshit I encountered, some of the maps are true and intricate works of art, and I would highly recommend paying them a visit whether you just find yourself in the library’s vicinity or are in between far better-decided visits than mine to the myriad Pacific Standard Time venues.

WHERE: Los Angeles Public Library, Central Branch, 630 W. 5th St, 90071
WHEN: Through November 4, 2012
COST: Free

Blogging.LA Holiday Giving: The Library

December 21, 2011 in Holidays, Seasonal, Social issues

This is not the first time I’ve written here about supporting your local library, nor will it be the last.  I say this because this post might sound a little repetitive now, and it really will be a grand day when we all can move on to other things because this problem has been solved, its coffers full.  But it’s unsolved and the treasure chest remains empty and looted, so here, again, is just another two cents about why it is you should care about the continued existence of local institutions that make you smarter with or without you knowing it.  Or, at the very least, keep you entertained.

One of the best gifts I ever received for Christmas was a book.  The Missing Piece, specifically.  I first read at the library when I was a kid, the whole thing, in the children’s section, S aisle.  I checked it out, then again, then again again, so many times that my mom eventually just got it for me for Christmas.  That book made my soul smarter, and I likely wouldn’t have read it otherwise.  Certainly not at the bookstore – partly because we didn’t go to bookstores very often, and partly because I was afraid of new books.  Too new.  Too nice.  We had nice things, but not very often new things.  So, the old, used ones in the library were more approachable.  I read those.  Everyone read those.

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Sweet Charity: Blogging LA’s Guide to Giving – The Library Foundation of Los Angeles

December 21, 2010 in Books, LA, Social issues

“I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that American society has found one more way to destroy itself.
- Isaac Asimov, in his book, “I. Asimov: A Memoir”

Sometimes when I get really angry at people for being whatever negative adjective they are being at the time, generally, I remember the library.  The library, to me, is the epitome of human goodness – there’s just so much trust required in order to make the whole system work.  I check out a book, and you trust me to return it in a timely(ish) manner so that you can read it later, too.   I trust you to not tear out pages from old issues of Real Simple (because you can check out the back issues of magazines at the Los Angeles Public Library, something I just discovered, to my amazement) so that I too can learn all about repurposing dental floss into a cheese slicer.  You trust me not to spill (too much) oil or flour on Baking: From My Home to Yours, a gorgeous book by Dorie Greenspan (CIRC 641.71 G8147-1) while I decide whether I would reference this enough to justify its purchase.  I do appreciate your marginal notes, though.  I trust you to not mark up Louise Erdrich’s fantastic Shadow Tag (FIC ERD), because she writes, extremely well, about the critical importance of space and privacy even within the confines of an intimate relationship, thoughts that more than one person I know, myself included, wanted to highlight and send to our ex’es.

And then there is the trust we have in our local governments to use our tax dollars and funding to support this resource.  One of the funniest/saddest things that happened all year happened during the horrific heat wave that saw downtown roasting at somewhere between 105 and 115 degrees.  The city’s Emergency Management Department urged the public to seek out cooling centers to be safe.  The city also suggested that they seek refuge at one of the LA Public Library’s branches. It was a very good suggestion, except for one thing: on the day the suggestion was made – a Monday that saw downtown LA registering a record-shattering 113 degrees, the hottest day in September since 1877 – all of the city’s libraries were closed.  The Central Library and its 72 branches were closed pursuant to the City Council’s decision earlier in the year to close the library on Sundays and Mondays.  To save money.  Or something. Currently, the library’s homepage is very, very excited to announce that its branches, including the Central Library, will be open on two Mondays this month.  That is sad.

Cutting city investment in an institution that does all it can to invest, educate, and empower its citizens is one of the meanest and most counter-intuitive things you can do.  Take your we-are-in-a-recession argument and shove it back where it came from: the recession is exactly the reason why cities in general should commit tenaciously to their libraries, schools, and other sources of public education.  Tellingly, for all the cuts made this year with surgical imprecision, the police department’s budget was not similarly manhandled.  I suppose this makes sense: if people aren’t going to the library, surely they’re committing crimes on the streets.  On the bright side, we haven’t privatized our libraryyet.

’Tis the season, then, to give a little to our library system.  There are a few ways to give: there are, for example, a number of Friends of the Library groups that support specific branch libraries.  The Library Foundation of Los Angeles (LFLA) is the umbrella non-profit support organization for the LAPL.  Donations to LFLA benefit the Central Library and its 72 branches; they also support the library’s amazing ALOUD series – the same series that delivered Jonathan Gold to the foodies, John Waters to the quirkies, and Natalie Merchant to the children of the ’90s.  Your donations also fund amazing exhibits like “Forty Years of Sesame Street Illustration.”

So, this is me, trusting you, again.  Thanks for returning that book.   And thanks for investing in the library.

Beautiful photo of a wedding reception at the Central Library courtesy bhampton1963 via the Blogging LA Flickr pool.

This post is part of our Sweet Charity: Blogging LA’s Guide to Giving series, just in time for the holidays.

Sesame Street at the Library. Go.

October 28, 2010 in Art, Downtown, LA

When I heard about the KCET-PBS split, the very first thing I thought was, “OH NO, how will I watch Sesame Street?!”  I’m 28 years old, but on weekday mornings, I don’t care what’s going on in my neck of the woods.  I don’t care how George Stephanopoulos is balancing his storied political career with tips on dieting.  No, my morning television ritual is empathasizing with Cookie Monster; wondering who else Bert and Ernie are fooling; and assessing whether, and to what extent, Elmo is annoying, or was it just those darned toys that made him seem that way?  Oh, and seeing what else they’ll spoof: the All Spice commercial; True Blood; 30 Rock.

Starting January 1, 2011, we’ll have to find our way to someplace else where the air is sweet.  The LA Times has a great summary of why KCET decided to break from PBS (it’s sad, and, like most things, it has to do with money).  For those still feeling nostalgic about the beloved children’s program, head out to the Central Library for the “Forty Years of Sesame Street Illustration: Selections from the Publishing Archive of the Sesame Workshop” exhibit, on display from now until April 30, 2011.  I stumbled upon the exhibit when I was there last week to check out a few things, and I don’t think I’ve ever had such a great time at the library.

Wonderful pieces from Sesame Street publishing history line two small exhibit halls right near the Popular Library section on the library’s first floor.  Over the course of the show’s 40 year history, there have been Sesame Street-themed coloring books, children’s books, pop-up books, flashcards – if it was an educational tool that could be reduced to the printed page, it was done.

There also are great, simple illustrations and artwork on display, including a piece from Mad Magazine‘s Jack Davis.

KOCE (channel 50 for proud owners of the bunny ears) and KLCS (Channel 58) are KCET’s little siblings that will carry Sesame Street on their public channels come January 1, 2011.  And you can, I suppose, always catch the show on the Internets, which seems odd to me, but only because I’m old and can’t platform jump as high as kids these days.

It’s fitting that an exhibit showcasing a public education show like Sesame Street is curated by the most public of all educations, the library.  This is one, of so many, reasons why libraries and other forms of public education should not be first on the budget chopping block – you’d think we would want to encourage kids and adults alike to learn all they can – but alas.  The exhibit – like borrowing books from the library – is free.  Until they privatize the library, anyway, which may be coming faster that you think.

Consider Saving the Library

March 19, 2010 in Social issues

A few weeks ago, I somewhat Venn diagrammed the differences between the various library cards in my wallet.   Given the massive cuts to our public education system, these library cards represent an exceedingly rare acknowledgment from our government that having an educated populace is indeed a desirable goal.

… or not.  As if throwing up barriers to getting a decent education in this state weren’t enough, our fair city now is contemplating enormous cuts to our local libraries.  In light of everything else, this seems to be particularly cruel: it’s not enough that you have to contend with less (public education, social services, etc.), you have to contend with less of the already few things that feed your mind and soul.  If the LA City Council’s proposal to slice into the library’s already stretched budget goes through, we’ll be looking at shortened hours, branch closures (probably in the communities that need the library the most, but I digress), fewer new books – the list rambles on and on.  Save the Library and Los Angeles Public Library supporters* both are organizing petitions on their respective websites to encourage those of us who like access to our books to protest the cuts.  In addition, attend the City Council meeting on the 24th – not only do you get to use one of those cute golf pencils to complete a speaker card, you can give those members a piece of your bookworm mind.

Photo courtesy dogwelder via the Metblogs Flickr pool.

* Kim Cooper points out in the comments that the site is not actually an official site of the LAPL.