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Blogging.LA Holiday Giving: The Library

1:29 am in Holidays, Seasonal, Social issues by Queequeg

Courtesy sjd52878 via the BloggingLA Flickr pool

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

6:15 pm in Books, LA, Social issues by Queequeg

“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.

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Consider Saving the Library

12:21 pm in Social issues by Queequeg

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.

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Win Tickets to Steve Martin’s “Big Bad Banjo” with Dave Barry

1:51 pm in Contests, Events, Music by lucindamichele

This is a hugely special treat for us to be able to offer one pair of tickets to one lucky winner. Steve Martin isn’t only a world-famous comedian and actor, but he’s a Grammy-winning banjo player. Seriously.

stevemartinOf course, that’s not the only thing serious about next Monday’s performance. This is a fundraiser for the Los Angeles Public Library, and is presented by the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. From the Goldenvoice website:

“Martin’s banjo playing kind of took a backseat during years of movies, books and more movies. That is, until he played second banjo on Earl Scruggs’ Grammy-winning recording of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” in 2001, holding his own against country stars like Vince Gill and Marty Stuart.”

Martin will be joined onstage by humor writer Dave Barry, who said “In today’s economy, we need to support our public libraries. And when you say ‘public library,’ the phrase that immediately comes to mind is ‘banjo music.’ So I’m really looking forward to asking Steve Martin probing questions about his new album, such as: ‘WHY?’”

Here’s all the info on the show. To win tickets, leave your favorite Steve Martin quote below either in text form or using Seesmic to record a video quote. The winner will be chosen before Friday.

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Human “books” can be checked out of the library!

6:36 pm in Books, LA, People, Social issues by lucindamichele

In a unique & creative response by by a group of young people in Copenhagen, Denmark, in the 1990s after one of their friends was stabbed during a night out, “Living Libraries” have been created to bring together people of different backgrounds and ideologies. And now the Living Library concept has arrived at the Santa Monica Library!

This Saturday you can “check out,” for up to a half-hour, all sorts of people you might know little about. Like a Buddhist, a vegan, a nudist (for better or worse, the nudist will be clothed at this event), formerly homeless “living books,” a feminist, a fat activist, a celebrity publicist,  a Oaxacan-American and a bunch more. Like a library’s usual holdings, the “living books” cover a wildly diverse range of subjects and ideas.

Swing on by, check out a “living book,” and peruse it for your allotted half-hour. Like any book, it promises to open your mind to new ideas.

h/t to Markland for pointing this out to me.

[Note: I can't find this event in the library's web site. It may be worth a call to make sure you're heading to the right library.]

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How The LA Public Library Is Like Netflix

12:00 pm in Books by Julia Frey

los_angeles_-_schild.jpgBooks are my drug of choice. But as there has been quite a bit of belt-tightening in our household this year, I’ve spent more time at the library than at the bookstore and have given up Netflix. The coolest part is that I’ve spent most of my library time online, reserving books and having them delivered to my neighborhood branch. A la Netflix!

Okay okay, it’s not quite the same as there is sometimes a wait if the book is new and popular, and you do have to pick up and drop off the books. But it is free. And if you live close enough to your local branch, you don’t even have to drive.

For those of you who are already versed in the Library’s online services, you rock. For my fellow library n00bs, join me after the jump to learn more about this Netflix-like service.

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