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Push for Library Funding Is One for the Books

January 15, 1987|TRACEY KAPLAN | Times Staff Writer

Bibliophiles in Brentwood hope that seven will be their lucky number.

For the seventh time in about two years, determined residents are seeking funds for the $1-million rebuilding of the Brentwood Branch Library. This time they are trying to get money from the Los Angeles City Council.

"We've been down just about every other track," Los Angeles City Librarian Wyman Jones told about 50 residents during a recent meeting at the tiny one-room building, which is sandwiched between a bank and a brokerage house on San Vicente Boulevard.

"Our odds are as good as they can be, but that doesn't mean we'll emerge triumphant," he said. "Every single council district in the city has library needs they would like to see funded."

$530,000 Donated

But Brentwood has one advantage over other libraries seeking funds in the wake of Proposition 13 budget cutbacks: It has $530,000 donated by residents. That, plus $24,123 from the Margerie Lyon Estate Fund, leaves a shortfall of $445,877, the amount requested from the city.

The Board of Library Commissioners approved the Brentwood project report Wednesday and has sent the request for funds to Mayor Tom Bradley. The City Council will vote on the proposal in six to eight weeks, said Claire Rogger, a deputy to Councilman Marvin Braude.

"There is a sentiment around that says, 'Why should funds go to the more affluent areas of the city, like Brentwood,' " said Ron Lushing, president of the commission. "But this is a situation where the community has come forth with 60% to 70% of the funds."

When the community first began soliciting funds, the plan called for expanding the existing building. But that proposal was scrapped in favor of a new one-story structure after consultants from Arthur Erickson Architects reported that it would cost $25 less per square foot to erect a new building than it would to remodel.

Competition for Funds

"To bring this building up to code, you'd have to take everything out but the two end walls," said Kevin Hom, vice president and director of design for the architectural firm. "It would end up costing more than demolishing it and building another one."

Despite support for the new library from Braude, whose 11th District includes Brentwood, the project faces stiff competition for city funds. Sixteen of the city's 62 libraries have been cited as seismically unsafe and have top priority, Jones said.

An estimated $20 million is needed to repair or replace those buildings, said Robert Reagan, spokesman for the city's library system.

The series of setbacks hasn't discouraged Glorya Kaufman, the Brentwood library's principal benefactor who donated $250,000 in 1983 in memory of her husband, developer Donald P. Kaufman, and challenged the community to match the amount.

Other Residents Impatient

Kaufman, who has lived in Brentwood for 18 years, said, "My (four) children all went to school here, and the library was always inadequate. It's ridiculous that with as many scholars as Brentwood has, we have a library as big as a postage stamp."

Other residents have become impatient with the slow progress of the project. Ron Perlstein, a real estate investor who has lived in the area for eight years, asked the Brentwood Library Expansion Committee to return his $500 donation.

"I didn't intend to be an Indian giver . . .," said Perlstein, who suggested that the library use the donated money to extend its hours. But Jones said those contributions couldn't be used for operating the library.

Meanwhile, library staff and patrons continue to cope with cramped quarters.

Library worker Drue Mees said she was eager to see the new library built.

"It's hard to instruct kids when every day after school, adults and children fight over the same 16 to 18 chairs," Mees said.

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