A Tale of Two Cities’ Libraries

img_0806-wince.JPGIn the midst of the worst of times for the Los Angeles Public Library system, some West Side libraries still feel like they are thriving. In particular, the Santa Monica Public Library is a large, bright, inviting indoor/outdoor space surrounding a central courtyard featuring the Bookmark Cafe, where patrons can sit in the sun or the shade, go online, and enjoy some pretty good food. The Santa Monica Public Library also boasts dozens of computer terminals, private reserved study rooms, underground parking, and free WiFi.

About five miles to the South sits the very different Lloyd W. Taber Marina del Rey Library. It is a quaint one-room schoolhouse of a library. Its minuscule parking lot fits a couple of dozen cars at most. The Taber has no cafe. It doesn’t even have a website. Hell, I’m not even sure it has a water fountain.

What the Taber does have, however, is location and charm. The front entrance is just a few steps away from the South Bay Bicycle Trail. From the Taber’s reading room in back, one has a spectacular view of the boats in the Marina. Yacht owners can check their navigational charts — or their gold futures online — while peering out the window to make sure their crew isn’t goldbricking it. The rest of us can get on the same Internet, look out the same window and dream.

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While the Santa Monica Public Library has all the amenities of a five-star hotel (albeit one that admits some rather motley guests), sometimes we just want a comfy little B and B. It’s nice to have that option.

5 Replies to “A Tale of Two Cities’ Libraries”

  1. Actually, the Marina Del Rey library is a county facility, not city.

    The city libraries are actually doing better than the county in terms of infrastructure because of city bond measures in the past few years have led to upgrades. It’s just that the city libraries are hurting on soft costs: staffing (i.e., shorter hours), programming, and book purchases.

  2. Santa Monica is a relatively small city that manages to have a lot of tax-generating businesses and attractions. All those car dealerships along Santa Monica Blvd.? Cha-ching.

    Check out the Cerritos library (http://www.ci.cerritos.ca.us/library/photos/library.html) for a similar illustration of how important tax revenue is. It’s almost obscene how much money they spent on that, on so many things to get people going there besides the books–a giant aquarium, flat screen TVs, kitschy architectural flourishes (the faux Pan Pacific Auditorium entrance to the Young Adult Room). All of that thanks to the Cerritos Auto Square.

  3. With all the money they spent opening the new library, I guess Santa Monica doesn’t have the money to keep its branches open. All four Santa Monica branch libraries are closed on Fridays and Sundays.

    At LA county libraries such as the Marina one talked about above, you can request any media systemwide to be delivered to any of the other county libraries, greatly expanding the audio and visual selections available. LA city library only allows books to be shipped from one library to another.

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