By her own admission, Bonita Cooper is no activist. The former educator and mother of two, although conversant on topical issues and quick to offer well-informed opinions, has devoted most of her 10 years in View Park to raising her family.
But when she realized two weeks ago that the View Park Library was on the county hit list of libraries slated to close because of budget cuts, Cooper snapped into action.
In a few days, she composed a flyer encouraging View Park and Windsor Hills residents to write letters or phone in protests to county Supervisor Yvonne Burke and Assemblywoman Gwen Moore (D-Los Angeles). She enlisted the help of friends and neighbors who felt as passionately about the library as she did to distribute 1,500 flyers and to hit the streets to solicit support.
With the Board of Supervisors scheduled to decide this week which county facilities will get the ax, Cooper will find out whether or not her efforts were worthwhile.
"We just don't want (the library) to close," said Cooper, seated in the dining room of her home on Olympiad Drive. "Reducing the hours would be bad, but a stay of execution is better than the alternative."
Hours at View Park have been sharply reduced over the last two years; the library is now open four days, 28 hours, a week. The situation with many county libraries is similarly grim, with no relief in sight, said Burke aide Vicki Pipkin.
"There are certainly concerted efforts being made to save (the libraries), but we're looking at 50% cuts in library services," Pipkin said. "The funds for libraries, which are 90% property taxes, just aren't there."
Cooper and many of her neighbors say the View Park Library--a modest, homey building set on a sloping stretch of 54th Street--is an invaluable community resource whose absence would be sorely missed. Cooper says her 9-year-old daughter, Kathryne, and 5-year-old son, Bertran, first scrawled their names on library card applications there.
At the insistence of his sister, Bertran began attending weekly story sessions at the tender age of 1 week. Cooper said she frequently sees friends and catches up on news at puppet shows and holiday events at the library. "It's an old-fashioned facility, like a corner grocery store," Cooper said. "You can walk there, the kids can ride their bikes there. We all use it."
Library supporters say they are willing to pay fees for library cards, offer more volunteer help or do anything else they can to keep the View Park library's doors open. The nearest county library is in Culver City, Cooper said.
In addition to the inconvenience, View Park resident Patrice Carrere said the community would lose an important part of its history. "I've been coming here since I was in elementary school," said Carrere, 35, a mother of three. "I grew up a library kid, and I've made sure my kids are exposed to it. There's so much here--classics, black history--and it's free. I'm really upset that it's supposed to close."
Doris Walker, who has lived near the library for 28 years, said it is no accident that her three children, who grew up frequenting the facility, now have professional careers.
"Reading is very important, an extension of the school system," said Walker, a library volunteer who conducts the children's story-time session each Wednesday. "Kids need to be turned on to books. Here, they can develop an interest in anything they want."
Whatever the library's fate, Cooper said she was glad she made the effort to save it. "Very often, I don't get a letter written, but I had to do this," she said. "This is near and dear to my heart."