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Discovering Some New Beginnings in Happy Endings

Think the Los Angeles Central Library is a place for just bookish types? Think again.

September 01, 1996|Valerie J. Nelson | Valerie J. Nelson is a Los Angeles-area freelance writer

Myracle Hollinquest, 5, dressed in her Pocahontas best, giggles as the two performers act out "The Donkey Ride"--a Mexican folk tale about trying too hard to please others--by lumbering across the stage on the donkey, a decidedly low-tech wooden scooter.

It's 2 p.m. on a Saturday, and another young audience has packed the KLOS Story Theater for the free weekly program in the Los Angeles Central Library. Today's entertainers, Lorrie Oshatz and Royce Herron, sneak in lessons about life while presenting multicultural fables and folk tales. As the 45-minute show ends, Herron strolls out with a suitcase and a book and says, "I can go anywhere my imagination will take me."

Any parent looking to reignite a child's love of learning in time for the new school year should consider spending a day at the library, so breathtakingly restored it will inspire collegiate feelings--if not aspirations--with its Craftsman-style architectural details, rotunda, inventive fountain garden and Book Ends Cafe. Oh, and the more than 2 million books housed there.

"Parents are making a day of coming downtown. On a weekend especially, it's a place where you see lots of families throughout the building and sitting in the gardens," says Susan Kent, city librarian.

Younger families often are ensconced within the roomy yet comfy confines of the children's literature department, which juxtaposes multimedia computers with educational software against huge murals illustrating California history.

Gabriela Carreathers, who flips through books at a handsome, child-size wooden table, is already a seasoned library-goer at age 4. Every couple of months, she takes the Metrolink and Red Line in from Covina, along with her parents and 2-year-old brother, to spend the day at the Central Library. Besides the story time and books, she enjoys a "special fountain" where she goes to eat crackers.

The Saturday program is one of several regular events planned to pull families to the downtown facility, especially on weekends, when they can take advantage of public transportation or $1 validated parking, Kent says.

Children's programming for this month, which begins at 2 p.m. in the KLOS Story Theater, includes:

"Kids for Peace": On Saturday, children can work on a community project by painting a tile with artist Gayle Gale (who is assembling a mural made of 1,000 individual sections by children in Los Angeles and Israel) or take a poetry-writing workshop with Kennon B. Raines.

"Viva With Ballet Folklorico de Maria Luisa": The Sept. 14 program starts in the theater but moves to the nearby rotunda as Maria Luisa and her students present and explain dances from Latin America.

"Pigs a Plenty": The children's librarians use dramatic techniques meant to involve the audience in pig tales on Sept. 21.

Once a month, usually on the fourth Saturday, the library presents a program to expose children to performing arts. On Sept. 28, Bobby Rodriguez, a Latin jazz musician, will perform a "Hispanic Heritage Program" at 2 p.m. in the 230-seat Mark Taper Auditorium.

Children's videos also are shown Sundays at 2 p.m. in the KLOS Theater, but there is no formal program. "Winnie-the-Pooh Growing Up," a 45-minute video, will be shown today. For information or to get on the mailing list for children's literature department programs, call (213) 228-7250.

Across the hall from children's literature is the Teen'Scape department, set up to help teenagers with homework and provide a place to just hang out and flip through one of 45 magazine titles, including well-worn issues of Sassy and Comic Buyer's Guide.

"We want to encourage young people to use the library and feel like they belong. That's the idea behind the department," says Donna Watkins, a librarian. "We get a lot of people that keep coming back. They seem to have a good time."

On Saturday, a teen drama workshop will start up, with the goal of presenting a public reading in November. The workshop, which features scripts written by other teens, is open to youths in middle school through high school and meets at 11 a.m. There is no pressure to perform, and drop-ins to the weekly group are encouraged, Watkins says.

Next Sunday, "Tales of King Arthur" will be presented at 2 p.m. in the Taper Auditorium by the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum's teen repertory company.

For more information about Teen'Scape activities, call (213) 228-7290.


Los Angeles Central Public Library, 630 W. 5th St. Open Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Tuesdays and Wednesdays, noon to 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m. Validated parking is available to library cardholders for $1 at the 524 S. Flower St. garage on weekends. Closed major holidays. (213) 228-7000.

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