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Commentary

A $7 Bargain for L.A. Readers

Prop. DD: For a small annual sum per family, city libraries would get the help they need.

October 25, 1998|GREGORY PECK | Gregory Peck is honorary director of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles

Since people first began writing down their stories nearly 7,000 years ago, we have needed libraries. The story of who we are is contained in all its amazing variety in the library, and we are fortunate in Los Angeles to have a place of public greatness where this complex, rich and varied story can continue to be told, read and heard.

A tradition of greatness is not automatic, however. As T.S. Eliot warned us, we must add to and maintain traditions. We owe it to our children to make sure they will have access to these traditions, in both old and newer forms, so they too can experience the delight of learning as youngsters and the depths of meaning as they mature.

Today, this tradition is threatened by deteriorating branch library buildings in neighborhoods throughout the city of Los Angeles. These libraries do not have enough room for the children and families they serve, nor do they have adequate space for books and computers. The shortage of space at some branches is so acute that books are kept in storage sheds in the parking lots. Moreover, the branch buildings are not earthquake safe and cannot be used by the disabled.

Proposition DD, if passed by two-thirds of voters, can remedy this situation. At a cost of about $7 a year per family, Proposition DD will repair, expand or rebuild 28 branch libraries across the city and construct four new branches in communities now without libraries.

The bond will replace cramped, 40-year-old branch buildings with new structures with twice the space for books, computers and chairs. These new facilities will offer features not available at the older buildings, including computer training centers, children's storytelling areas, community meeting rooms and parking.

Few public agencies are as successful in completing bonds and have managed as many bond projects as the Los Angeles Public Library. Since 1921, the library has completed three bonds, which have built the city's system of branch libraries. Currently, a fourth bond measure is repairing, expanding and building 27 branches and is being finished on time and within budget. The patronage of these branches has increased up to 300%.

Now more than ever, we must provide children, families and adults with neighborhood branch libraries that are safe, convenient places for the pursuit of education and enrichment. We must create branch libraries where everyone can read books, complete homework, learn on computers, listen to stories and participate in literacy programs. We must make a commitment to continue the Los Angeles Public Library's tradition of greatness. We can accomplish this goal by voting yes on Proposition DD.

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