Thursday, May 22, 2014

Santa Fe, New Mexico

The Santa Fe, New Mexico Main Library is located in downtown Santa Fe. As with most public buildings in New Mexico, there is art, sculpture, murals and mosaics every where you look.
This charming figure reading a book is in the main entry way.

Here is a link to learn more about this library:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hermosa Beach Public Library is part of the Los Angeles County Library system. This charming little library is located at 550 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach. I was surprised at the personal touch of being greeted by a librarian as I entered.
The building appears to be a large square that is well laid out. Large windows high above the shelves plus ample ceiling lights, make it a bright and cheery room. This building has been open since 1962. The very first Hermosa Beach library opened in 1913. More about the entire history can be found here.

Entrances are on the north and south sides of the building. Entering through the southern doors, there was a vestibule where I found plenty of community information on bulletin boards and brochures and fliers to take away. Many helpful and relevant literature was found throughout the building.

The first image to hit me was a bright and colorful children's section which includes a large area on the west side. A remarkable hand-painted mural covers two walls of this section. The mural depicts art in the style of Maurice Sendak and art depicting Babar the Elephant, by author and illustrator Jean de Brunhoff. Below this unique mural is an equally colorful rug made up of large letters and numbers. This space is a magnet for young readers of all ages.
A Dad and his young daughter were curled up in one corner on the floor with a pillow, reading books together. A welcoming and wonderful kid-friendly space.

At least eight computer workstations are in place for public use as well as two substantial laser printers for output. It appeared as though you would have to input your library card number and coins to get a printout. Every station was occupied at mid-day and other people were at tables with their own laptops. Free WIFI is offered to anyone with a library card.

The periodical section, from what I could see, was a bit limited. A sign indicated those most of the magazines were made available by the Friends of the Hermosa Library. The Friends also had space for the sale of used books to benefit the library. Without these volunteer groups, many libraries would be operating even leaner than they now do.

In another corner was the Teen Section, with cool chairs and a chess/checkers/Chinese checkers wooden game table. Signage indicated: For Teens Only at all times. The library had a good amount of books, DVDs and audio CDs to borrow for children, teens and adults.

Given the limited space, this library has been maximized to its best use.
Small, quiet, friendly, well-equipped. A delightful little library serving the lucky 19,000+ residents Hermosa Beach!!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mar Vista Library
Front of the Mar Vista Library. Photo by Devin Kelly / Venice-Mar Vista Patch

It was a sunny Saturday morning when I visited my neighborhood library, the Mar Vista branch of the Los Angeles Public Library system. Sitting on the corner of Venice and Inglewood Blvd. across the street from Fire Station 62, the library is a bright and welcoming building surrounded by greenery with the humming front door shaded by a pale turquoise rounded overhang. Making it especially welcoming for this bibliophile were the large white banners announcing a Friends of the Library book sale. Swept up by a desire for book bargains, I cut my outdoor observations short, and headed inside.

"...a pale turquoise rounded overhang"
It is easy to see that the Mar Vista Library is well used. The automatic glass doors showing the remnants of graffiti removal, the entryway wall speckled with evidence of old flyers and, perhaps, relocated bulletin boards. But the wear to the facility is one thing, it is a whole different proof of the branch's vitality to walk in and see a building teeming with people of all ages.

The history of a library is typically tied tightly to the development of a region, and the branch in Mar Vista is no different. Library service in the area was probably first established around 1912 by the County of Los Angeles in a storefront at 12117 Venice Blvd.
Mar Vista Library ca 1954
The new Mar Vista Library ca. 1954 where patrons could grab a book, and then a burger at the joint next door (image from the LAPL Photo Collection).
In March 1927, when Mar Vista was annexed by Los Angeles, the City took the storefront over, renaming it the Mar Vista Station.

It remained in that location until 1950 when the City merged two branches into the Mar Vista branch at 12310 Venice Blvd. Quickly, however, the community expanded and the City responded in 1962 by moving the library from its storefront home to a beautiful new mid-century building designed by Stoshitch and Russell at 12006 Venice Blvd.

Mar Vista Library ca 1962
An artist's rendering of the 5,450-square-foot Mar Vista Library (image from the LAPL Photo Collection).

41 years later, on March 6, 2003, a new library, more than double the size of the old one opened in the same location. That building, designed by Mahmoud Gharachedahi and Neil Hagigat, is the one I visited today.

If the purpose of a library is to bring people together, this one does. Strolling through the main reading room (the building is one large hall separated into sections primarily by shelving), I saw a couple of teens with their heads together over a paperback, several tables of people studying together or being tutored, and a few individuals on laptops. Though the building was busy, the noise level did not go beyond the low din of a public space (with an occasional exclamation from the book sale in the meeting room).
"Folio/Wave" by John O'Brien (hat-tip to for the image).
I suspect that the large metallic(?) sheets of public art backed by what appears to be noise-dampening material hung overhead all over the library contributes to the comfortable ambiance.

I normally pop into the Mar Vista Library just before they close on weekdays to pick up my holds so it was nice to be able to stop and browse a little. The collection of adult books isn't especially notable, and I didn't peruse the non-fiction. The audiobooks, which I'm a huge fan of generally, have the cassette tapes and CDs interfiled, which makes scanning less convenient. Still, I found The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury and that was good. The teens of Mar Vista have a sizable section all to themselves and while the floor, tables, and general layout of the section is unremarkable, I did enjoy the wall of collages made by teens, I assume.

Properly, in my view, the architects made the children's section just over a third of the library. While I didn't spend too much time there, my once-over did reveal a charming storytime tower at the north side of the building. With colorful rugs underfoot and a "Story Telling" sign topping an entranceway filled with books, I was taken, once inside, with the soft benches and sea-themed neon signs glowing overhead.

There's more where this guy came from...
The staff too added to my enjoyment of the place. Though I know nearly every library has its grumps, I didn't run into any today. Chatting with a librarian, I learned a little Mar Vista history, was given a handout from the library's grand opening (a wonderful keepsake with a history of the library, some of which is above, a plan of the building and the names of staff who graced the library on that happy day in 2003) and shown to a historical exhibit put together by another librarian who grew up in Mar Vista. One could see that area residents care about local history since the historical society has its meeting information and some historical photographs displayed in the case visible on the right as soon as visitors enter the inner door of the building.

I admit, the Mar Vista library does have the usual library clutter, inconsistently designed signage, typical wear-and-tear of a government building, and a cramped parking lot, but where it counts, staff seem to have their act together. Whatever a library's purpose may be, I can safely say that today, I learned about my community, checked out Ray Bradbury, and spent a nice mid-morning at my neighborhood library. Oh yeah, and at the book sale I scored E.B. White's One Man's Meat, a paperback of Hermann Hesse's Demian, and for my wife, a nice copy of The Little Prince in French, all for practically nothing.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Harbor City - Harbor Gateway Branch Library of the City of Los Angeles Public Library is a fairly new building and an eco-friendly facility. Located on Western Avenue at 240th Street, this library is only a few years old. There is adequate free parking and easy access as it is all on one level. There is a community room as well which can be rented, as well as a computer lab, and other smaller meeting rooms.

I stopped in at 4:00 pm and found it to be an unusually quiet atmosphere. Tweens and teens were busy at computer stations with and without headphones. Individuals and small groups were diligently working on homework. Parents and young children were on computers together. I found it remarkable that there was so little noise. I really liked this. This is the kind of library atmosphere I grew up in. No one dared speak above a whisper or you were shushed out of there.

The building itself is a long rectangle with a raised ceiling, about two stories high. There is plenty of light and each section is clearly marked in English and Spanish. Despite its rectangular shape, it is far from a sterile design or feeling. As you wander from the front to the back, each section provides interest, and one is not aware of the shape.

At the rear is the Children's Section. A little circular alcove with tiny chairs and tables and high windows up above to light the space. This is very inviting little room for children. A special section for books on specific holidays was set up. Books were at eye level for various ages and sizes of children. Artist Beverly Crist created the unique and modern ceramic letters and numbers, which have been imprinted with children's building blocks. The colors, patterns and shapes are imaginative and charming.

The periodical section was in the well-lit front section near the Circulation Desk. There were popular magazines for all demographics and the area was as neat as a pin with comfortable Le Corbusier-style leather and steel chairs. This same style chair repeated itself throughout the library, all near windows making for comfortable and well-lit adult reading areas.

Serving the community, this branch offers clubs and movie screenings as well as SAT Practice Test Sessions, pre-school story time and free workshops on money management.

I have driven by this library countless times during and since its construction and will definitely stop in more often to browse, read and enjoy this welcoming branch.