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Disastrous Fire at Central Library

May 11, 1986

Let us hope that the disastrous fire in the main Los Angeles library will finally shock us into doing something about the dreadful state of public libraries in this city.

The Central Library is a wonderful historical landmark that has desperately needed modernization for at least the last 20 years. I am not privy to the city politics involved and have no interest in fixing blame; I want only to draw attention to the bottom line--that endless years of bickering in this city over what to do with the library, and the associated inaction, led to it becoming a shabby firetrap, endangering its contents, its employees, and its users.

In the meantime, all the city's libraries have been starved for funds, while the rest of the city prospers. Funds for book purchases at the main and branch libraries alike are so limited lately that permanent holes in their collections are being created, representing these recent years when current publications could not be bought as needed.

Staffing has had to be curtailed to the point where branches are open for fewer hours than formerly and the alert library user has to keep track of the narrow "window" of use allowed by the shortened hours of opening.

Public libraries are used not only for recreational reading and personal research; they are also heavily used for reference and research by business and industry. High-tech industries in particular have heavy library research needs. The starved condition of the main and branch libraries does not befit Los Angeles as the nation's second largest city and a major center for aerospace and other high-tech research.


Associate Professor

Graduate School of Library

and Information Science


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