I love libraries. A fortunate child in many ways, libraries were one of the first public places I was taken to as a little girl. I was an early reader and blessed with literate family members.
My library experiences ventured far and wide—Boston Public, a Quonset hut at Ft. Richardson Army Post School in Anchorage, back to the East Coast where I was a member of Beverly, Danvers, and various Cape Cod libraries, Marshfield Library, Wilmington Library, Yale Library, and then in a leap of joy, the New York Public Library—lions and all.
God knows I have misremembered some, but you get the picture. To say I have seen many styles of library is fair, but I am not an expert.
Last week I had the opportunity to utilize the new library in West Hollywood, returning first and then looking for some books. May I ask, when the more than $60 million was being flushed into this project, who forgot the books? There is plenty of space. The kid's area is quite adorable, but where are the damn books?
They have copy rooms, and "staff" rooms (Weho loves the word "staff"), restrooms, lifts, lounges, computers, but what I did not find in excess were books. Nor did I find handy or helpful directions, signs, arrows to the stacks. And the employees all seemed immersed in non-patron paperwork that was all absorbing.
Quiet, it was, as you entered. To the front, the DVD collection was robust (like Blockbuster), but I had to wander in my search to find new books up a lift and in the back to finally find them stuffed on a side. It was a puny selection.
But the chairs and lobbies were amazing. The welcome desk was quite stylish and, of course being au courant, one was directed to check out their own books at scanners near the library staff who sat at the desk very busy. I thought the hardwood floors noisy and slippery.
Los Angeles Public Libraries vary a great deal. Parking can be iffy, but the interior at Fairfax is Hacienda is quite welcoming. Fremont is restored to its original adobe look. I don't care for the Durant—it's ugly, but they have plenty of books and a great book sale. Downtown is heaven—a beautiful building with a vast collection of wonderful books and ephemera.
I love the new Beverly Hills Library. It is Ivy League-ish (of course), but large and dark and loaded with books and soft carpet, and their used book store is a delight. I do like the Santa Monica library, sort of—neither this or that design, but plenty of books and Fickett. A cozy, snuggly library, now firewood, replaced by the Weho Public.
The new library cannot be all things to all people, but as a repository of the written word, it could consider that this is what many folks come looking for. It could showcase the books as you walk in the door. The actual bookcases are sorta Staples (yeah they can do that), and there is a sense of afterthought throughout the upper level. Warm and welcoming it's not.
I probably will still stop by if I am in the area, but my loyalty is to the Los Angeles Public Library, who simply does it better, location by location. And when they get around to peddling the naming rights for WeHo - and they will, I would stay with Fickett. A little tradition is not out of place no matter what the pile looks like.