Monday, April 19, 2010

The Los Angeles Public Library System and the Creation of Branches

The Los Angeles Public Library System is one of the oldest library systems in the United States of America. According to the Los Angeles Times, it began in 1872 with the creation of the Los Angeles Library in Downey Block (it used to cost 5¢ to use it but was made available to the public in 1891) (“Interesting Library Facts,” 1899). According to Gracy, Hansen, and Irvin (1999), during that time, Los Angeles was just a 17,000 square foot “provincial outpost with less than 6,000 people” (p. 313). The system was named the Los Angeles Library Association and headed by the Board of Trustees of the Los Angeles Public Library. However, the Ordinance of 1878 changed it to the Los Angeles Public Library, departments were created, and the Library Board of Regents was established. The following year, the post of City Librarian was established. In 1889, the city’s charter created the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Public Library (who was now appointed by the Mayor). In addition, the library was moved to City Hall from Downey Block. In 1891, the Library School of the Los Angeles Public Library opened in 1891 (“Interesting Library Facts,”1899; Los Angeles Public Library, 1936, pp. 31-6, pp. 77-8). Then, in 1897, the library’s first branch was established “in the form of a reading room and delivery station on Castelar Street,” according to the Los Angeles Times (“Interesting Library Facts,” 1899, p.10). Two years later, in 1899, the Macy Street Reading Room was opened as a branch. In 1900, stations were being opened, such as Boyle Heights; many soon began to be converted into branches due to the process of supply and demand. Los Angeles, too, began growing at an alarming rate; hence, the city began annexing surrounding towns and counties. Many towns that had already-established libraries, such as Eagle Rock and Hollywood, were being annexed by Los Angeles; hence, their libraries were incorporated into the Los Angeles Public Library system (“Interesting Library Facts,” 1899; Los Angeles Public Library, 1936, pp. 70, 71-73).

Due to the library system’s rapid growth, it was deemed necessary to become organized and appoint a head of the newly-created Branches Department in 1906. This was made possible through the use of Carnegie’s funds. Hence, Helen T. Kennedy was appointed as head of the branches and Betsey Foye of sub-branches in 1913. Also, the Vermont Square Branch was built that year. It was the first branch housed in a new building with a permanent collection and equipment (Los Angeles Public Library, 1936, pp. 74-5). In 1919, the Inter-Library Loan Department was organized under Blanche Herzog. A year later, the Work With Children Department was established; also, a new budget plan was developed. In 1924, the Branches Department was reorganized into 3 divisions: larger branches, second group branches, and sub-branches; each division had a leader. A year later, the sub-branches division was abolished (Los Angeles Public Library, 1936, pp. 74-6). Around the same time, stations were either rapidly being converted into branches or being discontinued. In 1925, the library system was officially “supported by [an] annual appropriation of 7¢ on each hundred dollars of…city taxes” (Los Angeles Public Library, 1934, p. 3; Los Angeles Public Library, 1936, pp. 64, 75; “Interesting Library Facts,” 1899). In 1926, due to overflowed collections, the Central Library (known today as the Richard J. Riordan Central Library) was built and became the Branches’ Headquarters (Los Angeles Public Library, 1936, pp. 61-2, 64-5; Chuck, 2002). One year later, the Library Board was given its present name: the Board of Library Commissioners of the Los Angeles Public Library.

In 1928, under Annabelle Learned, the Branches Department created the Stations division. Later, in 1933, a change took place where all branch heads were given a new title: the Department Librarian in Charge of Branches. Hence, by this time, the public library system was finally organized (Los Angeles Public Library, 1936, pp. 71, 75). As the decades went by, more branches, stations, and departments were created; new positions opened up; and, by 1950, the Los Angeles Public Library was shaped to what it is today- one of the largest public library system in the United States with over 30 branch libraries, which includes the Vermont Square Branch (Los Angeles Public Library, 1936, pp. 75-8; Los Angeles Public Library, 1950).

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