After The Friends of the Chinatown Library, a non-profit group, and other… (Arkasha Stevenson, Los…)
A pair of shaggyhaired teenagers sauntered into the Chinatown Branch Library, one holding a basketball, the other, a boba tea. Librarian Shan Liang took note.
"No drinks!" she admonished. Guiltily, the offender tossed his cup into a trash can.
Liang, the library branch's manager, may have a sharp bark. But in truth, she was thrilled to see the teenagers and all the other people who came to the library Monday.
For the last year, her branch and the rest of the Los Angeles Public Library system has been closed on Mondays. Los Angeles officials said the cash-strapped city couldn't afford Monday hours.
But this week, Monday service was restored at each of the city's 73 libraries, thanks to a March ballot measure that gradually increases the amount of money dedicated to the library system each year.
The passage of Measure L means other library services that were sacrificed because of budget cuts will also be brought back in coming years, including evening hours twice a week in 2012 and Sunday hours at nine libraries in 2014.
The Monday hours were celebrated in Chinatown, one of the city's busiest braches, where patrons fought hard for Measure L and where librarians promoted the new schedule with bright posters printed in English, Spanish and Chinese.
But unlike at downtown's Central Library, where Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced the restoration with a news conference, there was little fanfare. At one table, a 5-year-old looked through a book of Justin Bieber photographs as his father read about Native American tribes. At another, a law student studied for next week's LSATs.
In a back corner, near a sunny window, a man napped, using a stack of books as a pillow.
"So many people depend on the library," said Bill Chun-Hoon, 82, who was browsing through a book on Chinese history. "They missed it."
In the late 1970s, Chun-Hoon helped bring the first library to Chinatown when the city opened a small branch inside Castelar Elementary School, where he once was principal.
The library in Castelar, despite its small size, was a hit.
The branch got a new home on Hill Street in 2003, thanks to two Los Angeles bond measures that paid for a 15-year building program that more than doubled the total library space citywide. The nonprofit Chun-hoon is a part of, the Friends of the Chinatown Library, raised $500,000 to make the library even larger than planned.
But then the recession hit, and city officials cut library staff by 28%. Service cutbacks followed.
When Measure L landed on the ballot, the Chinese American community rallied around it. The Friends of the Chinatown Library helped raise awareness, as did a coalition of businessmen. They say the measure's passage will help protect the city's libraries for generations.
Chun-Hoon has instilled a love of the library in his grandson, James Kawakami. On Monday, the 17-year-old sat hunched at a small table with a little girl, reading her a book . Kawakami, who comes to the branch twice a week to shelve books and help young readers, is a volunteer at the library his grandfather helped build.