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Donation for Brentwood Library

February 20, 1988

I must respond to David K. Carlisle's article, "Brentwood Library, a Needless Monument" (Editorial Page, Feb. 13). His thoughts are narrow, hardly practical, and very divisive.

Over five years ago, the City of Los Angeles, through its Library Department and Board, City Council and mayor, accepted a $250,000 provisional gift from Glorya Kaufman. This gift was made on the condition that the citizens of Los Angeles raise an additional $250,000. The total of $500,000 with additional funds from the City would then be used to expand or rebuild the inadequate Brentwood Branch Library. Four years later, the community had raised the $250,000, and then we learned that sum of money would be insufficient to accomplish this goal. Last fall, Mrs. Kaufman generously agreed to increase her commitment by $350,000 to a total of $600,000, and the community pledged to raise the additional $500,000 to be able to replace this structure, not with a monument, but simply with a library to adequately meet the community's needs.

Should we have returned the $500,000 collected by the community to improve public library services? Our board did not feel that would be appropriate. Funds were received from all sources throughout our city, including revenues from book sales, bake sales and individual and corporate contributors. We all know that our city, particularly with the leadership of Mayor Tom Bradley, has prospered with private-public partnerships. The 1984 Olympics, the Music Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art, to name only a few, are examples. Why not libraries?

I would have hoped that Carlisle might have said, if it can work in Brentwood, how do we encourage business and private citizens to do more throughout our city? Then to seek, as the Library Department has done, private contributions to help other branches in our system.

We have not sold out to the highest bidder. Our Master Plan, indicating the needs of each branch, was carefully prepared.

The Library Department has suffered severe setbacks in the last 18 months. Two arson fires have closed the Central Library and access to its major collections, unresolved seismic issues exist in some of our older branches, and four branches are closed as a result of recent earthquakes.

We have also experienced an outpouring of public support from the thousands of volunteers who responded in those days after the fire. Thousands of individuals and corporations locally and nationally, have generously responded with their dollars to "Save-the-Books," the nonprofit organization formed to raise $10 million to replace the burned and damaged books. We've now passed the $9-million mark and hope to soon reach our goal.

1988 is an important year for our department--a $90-million bond issue will be on the June 7 ballot. We will be doing everything possible to encourage our citizens to continue their strong, positive feelings for their library.

RONALD S. LUSHING

President

Board of Library Commissioners

Los Angeles

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