Weho's Big Literary Weekend: Library Grand Opening and Book Fair

The new $64 million library will be dedicated Saturday and more than 300 authors are set to appear at the 10th annual Book Fair on Sunday.

will be swarming with city officials, authors, celebrities, exhibitors and thousands of visitors this weekend as the city officially opens its new $64 million library Saturday, followed by the 10th Annual West Hollywood Book Fair on Sunday.

The new, three-story library has been to give staffers a chance to adjust to new procedures and iron out the kinks, including checking out books to library patrons.

However, the library’s official grand opening is set for Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The dedication ceremony at 10:30 a.m. will feature a speech by best-selling author Jackie Collins. Public tours will be offered until 2 p.m.

Collins will also be among the more than 300 authors, publishing industry figures, celebrities and performers who will participate in Sunday’s book fair, representing an eclectic array of literary tastes for all ages.

Among the West Hollywood residents set to appear are authors Audrey Davidow, Mike Padilla, Felice Picano, Christopher Rice and David White; editor and literary activist Charles Flowers; and illustrator Noah Woods.

Two events cause for civic pride, but also controversy

Despite the celebratory nature of the two events, each of the projects being feted has generated varying degrees of controversy regarding the need, cost, fundraising methods, alleged cronyism and accountability. Look for more details on these controversies in a Patch article coming Thursday.

Mayor John Duran has been among those voicing complaints, yet he expressed strong support for the new library and the book fair, which have been personally nurtured over the years by longtime Councilman John Heilman.

“Each event stands on its own,” said Duran, who plans to be at both. “The book fair has grown and gained support and has become a phenomenal event. The new library is the culmination of an idea developed for two decades. Any time a new civic institution is [introduced], it’s an exciting event to attend.”

Whatever the controversies, Duran added, the two cultural milestones “should make West Hollywood residents proud of their local government and their community.”

City provides special parking and public transportation

The book fair’s many booths, tented pavilions and other venues will be spread throughout the park. Some events will also happen in the new library, which anchors the park’s south end.

Limited free parking, including handicapped accommodations, will be available both days in the library’s parking deck (enter from Tovar Place off Robertson Boulevard, just north of Melrose Avenue). Additional parking will be available across the street at the (enter off Melrose Avenue, just east of San Vicente Boulevard).

The city will provide free Cityline shuttle service to and from the book fair, with buses running regularly to and from along Santa Monica Boulevard, stopping for riders along the way.

For directions and more information on book fair parking and public transportation, including the free shuttle service, click here.

A new city center

The new 32,000-square-foot environmentally friendly, LEED-certified West Hollywood Library complex will essentially serve as the city's new cultural and civic center.

The $64 million structure and related park improvements represent Phase 1 of the city’s West Hollywood Park Master Plan. That park master plan is part of the city’s ambitious 25th Anniversary Capital Project, implemented in 2009 with a projected $125 million budget for other major projects/improvements throughout the city.

As a capital project, the new library was constructed with $54 million in city funds and $10 million more in private donations raised through the nonprofit Library Park Fund.

The County of Los Angeles Public Library will continue to operate the library, which will include a career center, computer and technology areas and a children’s theater. The library will house 150,000 books, movies and music as well as wireless Internet, reading lounges, group study rooms and a public meeting room.

The current West Hollywood Library, also located in the park, was built in 1960 and is generally considered too small and outdated to serve the needs of a culturally diverse and thriving city. Building a new library has been a City Hall priority since the first General Plan was adopted in 1988. The old, one-story building designed by renowned architect Edward Fickett is slated for demolition, but some are protesting that decision.

More than just a book repository

“It is more of a civic center,” Mayor Pro Tempore Jeffrey Prang said about the new library in a statement on the city’s website, “providing much-needed meeting space for City Council meetings, public lectures and performances, improved [book and document] collections and resources, expanded green space and more.”

Among the special features of the new library are an LGBT area, an HIV/AIDS collection, an Art and Design Collection, an International Languages Collection, a collection of large-print materials for seniors and the visually impaired. The library also has a special West Hollywood Room that will serve as an archive for important city documents.

Author Christopher Rice, a Weho resident who has been active in fundraising for the new library, believes the LGBT collection will provide a “safe haven” for younger LGBT readers in West Hollywood and outlying areas to read about gay history, culture and sexual identity, without fear of exposure or bullying they might encounter in less tolerant communities.

Original art is an integral aspect of the new building, which will feature two major interior art installations from artists David Wiseman and Shepard Fairey, as well as three public exterior murals created by Fairey, Retna (aka Marquis Lewis) and Kenny Scharf. The official mural unveilings are scheduled for Oct. 12.

Book Fair keeps expanding

The West Hollywood Book Fair originated in 2002 as the vision of John Heilman, a council member since West Hollywood became a city in 1984. It has grown each year in terms of participating authors, exhibitors, sponsors and attendance. The city estimates 20,000 to 25,000 people have attended in recent years.

According to city figures, the 2010 book fair was financed by the General Fund for $119,240. An additional $44,342 was raised in sponsorship dollars and exhibitor fees, with in-kind donations of about $200,000 from various businesses. More than 100 volunteers donated their time over two days for last year’s fair.

This year, the book fair will feature 12 stages devoted to a wide range of subject matters, 124 booksellers and other exhibitors, writing workshops, author panels, featured author interviews, live performances and book signings.

More than 300 authors are set to appear. Among them are actresses and memoirists Meredith Baxter, Dyan Cannon and Tatum O’Neal, plus O.J. Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark, discussing her first mystery novel with book critic Dick Lochte.

Journalists such as Maria Armoudian and Hector Tobar, who has a novel out now, will be on hand as will literary novelists such as Ghalif Shiraz Dhalla, Kazu Kibuishi, Melinda Palacio, Kwei Quartey, Lisa See and Susan Straight.

Also scheduled to appear are LGBT icons and memoirists Jeanne Cordova and Michael Kearns, and graphic novelist Kazu Kibuishi. For those looking for something more offbeat, Jackass daredevil Steve-O will be there promoting his new memoir.

For more information on this weekend's literary festivities:

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Paul September 28, 2011 at 08:04 AM
I love the new library but in all honesty, I don't think it was necessary. That being said, they did a nice job! What it does do is show case the PDC beautifully! It's high enough off the ground from the upper entrance that the view of the PDC is breath taking! Looking up San Viente with the hills in the background is something I am sure the media will use in film & television for years to come. I just hope the library doesn't become a place that displaced people hang out in or around. There is a library on Sunset Blvd less then 5 miles away that is fairly new and sadly homeless people hang around the entrance begging for money. I feel bad for people in that situation but it isn't something anyone going to the library would want to deal with.
Steve Ward October 02, 2011 at 07:47 PM
It's gonna be a great 'cruising' and hook up place ultimately. Just wait... There will be something worthy to come of this all.
Paul October 02, 2011 at 08:28 PM
Well, you got a point Steve but with the police station across the street, I wouldn't risk it. Never say never but the good ole days are gone my friend. Most people today cruise via the web.


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