In 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.
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.