Math is 11-year-old Suliaman Johnson's favorite subject, and he is enjoying it even more these days thanks to the new computers at his neighborhood branch library.
"Those computers keep me sharp," said Johnson, a sixth-grader at Paul Revere Junior High School.
After school each day, Johnson goes to the Exposition Park-Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Regional Branch Library on South Vermont Avenue where he works on computers in the library's new homework center.
The center is one of three the Los Angeles Public Library inaugurated last week. The others are at Ascot Branch Library in South Los Angeles and Malabar Regional Branch in Boyle Heights. The centers are funded by a $122,672 grant from the J. Paul Getty Trust.
Each library homework center has three computers, printers, and educational software with tutorial programs that teach math and language. Reference materials include encyclopedias and dictionaries. There are also television monitors where students can watch videos ranging from classic movies to study guides for college-entrance exams.
Many of the computer software programs are in the form of games that allow students to learn basic skills while having fun.
"The students are getting what they want. These computers are really tremendously useful," said city librarian Elizabeth Martinez.
Martinez said the library conducted a survey to determine what students really needed to help them with their education, and found that computers were the top request.
An estimated 300 to 400 students come through the Ascot center every week, librarian Vivian Fiedler said. Students are required to sign up at the centers, and can generally use the computers for 30-minute intervals or longer if no other student is waiting.
"The students are hooked. We've gone home every day exhausted but elated," Fiedler said.
About 50 children a week attend the Exposition Park center, while about 100 probably come through the Malabar center weekly, librarians said. The centers are open weekdays from about 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Most of the students who attend the homework centers attend public and private schools near the libraries. Adults are allowed to use the computers on the weekends and at times when the students are not using them.
Librarians are assisted by three college students who have been hired through the Getty grant to work part time in the homework centers.
Information: the Exposition Park branch at 3665 S. Vermont Ave., (213) 732-0169; the Ascot branch at 256 W. 70th St., (213) 758-8159; and the Malabar branch at 2801 Wabash Ave., (213) 263-1497.