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Libraries of the Unexpected : From Golf to Grand Opera, L.A.'s Offbeat Archives Offer Special Kinds of Knowledge

February 05, 1989|MARLA JO FISHER | Marla Jo Fisher is a Los Angeles writer.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA has long been a magnet for people with unusual passions. The region's sometimes quirky intellectual landscape is mapped in its special libraries, collections that often reflect the vision or pointed interest of one person or small group. Outside the many institutional, corporate, legal and medical libraries, there are some that approach the pursuit of knowledge from unlikely directions. The Elysium Nudist and Naturalist archives in Topanga Canyon, for instance, or a proposed library devoted to the history of LSD and the psychedelic movement. Nobody knows exactly how many specialty libraries there are in this area, but the local chapter of the Special Libraries Assn. says it has 600 members who specialize in providing information on narrow topics. What follows is a sampling of L.A.'s more notable repositories of specialized information.

DRIVER'S EDUCATION

FOR SOME GUESTS ATthe Industry Hills Resort and Sheraton, the check-in routine is: Find the room, unpack--and head for the library. The golf library. Visitors who've come to the hotel complex in the City of Industry to play on the world-class greens are often surprised to find that they're steps away from the Ralph W. Miller Golf Library, the only public golf library in the western United States, with a collection that includes more than 5,000 volumes on the science and history of the game. There are also memorabilia--score cards, postcards, medals, artwork, golf bags and clubs of Bobby Jones, Babe Didrikson, Craig Woods, Amy Alcott and other famous players.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday March 26, 1989 Home Edition Los Angeles Times Magazine Page 4B Times Magazine Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Jean Bryant, director of the Ralph W. Miller Golf Library in Industry Hills, is the widow of Bill Bryant, who was general manager of the Industry Hills Recreation and Conference Center. --The Editors

Students in golf classes can watch videos to help bone up

on technique; scholars and course architects do research.

The library's hundreds of pre-1900 books include a 1597 edition of "Lawes and Actes of Parliament," recording the edict of 1495 that banned Scots from playing golf because Scottish landlords felt that people should be learning archery to defend their property rather than hitting balls around the countryside. The original collection was the life's work of Ralph W. Miller, a Los Angeles lawyer who once lived near the California Country Club, about eight miles from the library. The facility is now run by his widow, Jean Bryant.

ANNALS OF MEDICINE

THE STAFF OF THELos Angeles County Medical Assn. Library is used to fielding unusual questions: Will hypnosis help a patient with hormone imbalances? Should a film maker put a plaster cast on a 15th-Century character with a broken leg? What do Islamic forceps or Roman surgical instruments look like? And the library is often able to provide answers from its 140,000 holdings, which range from clippings on contemporary medical topics to a collection of books that includes such precious texts as a 1532 Latin translation of Hippocrates' aphorisms. In a small museum at the library, in the northern part of

the Medical Assn.'s headquarters near Wilshire Boulevard and Alvarado Street, visitors can examine early stethoscopes, a wooden obstetrical mannequin on which 19th-Century doctors practiced deliveries, a transparent, decalcified skull preserved in wintergreen oil--even a pair of shrunken heads from cannibalistic tribes in South America, all gifts from private physicians. One doctor also donated a Daumier caricature of Louis Philippe, king of France between 1830 and 1848, who was honored by Indians for his medical services. The library's primary emphasis is on providing literature searches and clinical information to its physician-members--about 2,000 use the facility regularly--but it also assists lawyers researching malpractice and accident cases as well as TV- and film-production companies and other media.

THE SECRET LIFE OF PLANTS

GARDENERS WHO WOULD LIKEto identify a strange plant in their back yard can bring in a cutting and learn its name and function at the Los Angeles State and County Arboretum in Arcadia. Then, to find out more about it, they can go to the arboretum's Plant Science Library, where about 25,000 volumes await. The library is the only one in Southern California that welcomes the public to research plant-science subjects with the help of arboretum horticulturists and botanists.

Along with the gardening enthusiasts and landscape

designers who come to use technical reference works, artists who want to do illustrations of plants that are not in bloom can study them at the library. And with the growing interest in natural medicine, the library's collection on herbs attracts many would-be herbalists. A researcher can study one of the library's oldest books, "A Newe Herball, or Historie of Plantes," published in 1578, to learn about the use of plants to treat ailments during the time of Queen Elizabeth I.

SPEAKING VOLUMES

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