12 Months of the Los Angeles Public Library

Every year thousands of Angelenos take part in the many educational and cultural programs, resources, and services at the Los Angeles Public Library. Before we look ahead to what will be an exciting new year at the Library, here’s a look back at some of the diverse activities supported by the Library Foundation in 2014. Thanks to all of our Members for joining us throughout the year and for making these invaluable experiences free and available to all.

ALOUD kicked-off a new year of eclectic programming unique to L.A. and the Library. In January, ALOUD paid tribute to Los Angeles’ unofficial poet laureate, Wanda Coleman, to honor what she did for poetry and who she was in Los Angeles: ­a larger-than-life figure who for decades reminded us how to be our own most authentic selves.

The Library Foundation’s coziest fundraiser of the year, The Stay Home and Read a Book Ball, took place, inviting Angelenos to support the Los Angeles Public Library without leaving their homes. Last year, folks stayed home in record numbers–raising the most funds ever in the long history of this favorite event! Save the date for the 2015 ball on March 1st.

Young Literati Members gathered with L.A.’s best and brightest for the Sixth Annual Young Literati Toast to raise funds for the Los Angeles Public Library’s “Summer Reading Clubs.”  The evening featured Young Literati Chair Amanda Fairey, emcee Busy Philipps, and music by Moby and Jenny Lewis, along with readings and comedic interludes from Nick Kroll, Lizzy Caplan, and Tig Notaro.

After flocks of authors and booklovers strolled the lawns of USC for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books last April, participating authors and Library Foundation Members continued celebrating the literary life of this city late into the night at the Third Annual “Book Drop Bash” with more than 400 people gathering at the downtown Central Library.

A new exhibit marking the 75th anniversary of Union Station opened at the Central Library. No Further West: The Story of Los Angeles Union Station was the first exhibition to examine the significance of the architectural design and cultural politics of the historic station, and included a series of related events like ALOUD panels and a changing display of model trains by various train clubs throughout Southern California.

The “Summer Reading Club” kicked off to foster literacy and learning while students were out of school last summer. Los Angeles Public Library’s longest running program motivated over 30,000 kids to crack the books and engage in innovative ways with storytelling.

The Library Foundation welcomed Ellen Lipson in her new role as President of The Council. Throughout the year, The Council hosted many special programs and fundraising events to benefit and raise awareness for the Los Angeles Public Library like a special evening and book signing with Norman Lear.

The Young Literati gathered in Santa Monica for a proper send-off to the season of long sunsets and frosty cocktails. The Summer Social offered Members the chance to raise their glasses to this past year of incredible support for the Los Angeles Public Library, and also get a sneak peek of what’s on the horizon for this dedicated group of engaged and informed Angelenos.

Supporters of the Library Foundation gathered at the historic California Club to celebrate the Foundation’s 22nd anniversary with a gala to benefit the great Los Angeles Public Library. This year’s benefit honored Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Díaz with the Los Angeles Public Library Literary Award and bestselling author Judith Krantz with the Foundation’s Light of Learning Award for her devoted advocacy for the Los Angeles Public Library.

Throughout the month, Angelenos joined the Library Foundation and the Los Angeles Public Library for an epic quest to reinterpret Homer’s The Odyssey through a Southern California lens. With over 70 Odyssey-themed activities at the branch libraries for children, teens, and adults, including bike riding with the Cyclops and pop-up appearances by a commemorative Homer Simpson poster, the Odyssey Project culminated with a marathon reading of the epic poem at the Central Library.

ALOUD’s award-winning series journeyed to the west side as critically acclaimed Irish novelist Colm Tóibín was interviewed by New York Times bestselling L.A. local Rachel Kushner. The pair took the stage at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills for a conversation about Tóibín’s new novel, Nora Webster, while also discussing their shared passion for some of literature’s most memorable characters.

The Library Store got their motors running for the holiday season and sent The Library Store On Wheels to sites across the city to offer unique gifts from our carefully curated collection that gives back to the Los Angeles Public Library.

Happy New Year from the Library Foundation!

Look back at other great photos from the year here.

If you are not a Member already, please consider becoming a Library Foundation Member today to take part in these special events.

Machinations at the Library

Everyone loves the Los Angeles Public Library because it’s “free and open” to all, but what happens when artists are invited to creatively respond to the Library’s space and collection? Last Saturday night, ALOUD invited the Machine Project, one of L.A.’s most experimental and dynamic programming teams, to reimagine the Central Library. Doors opened at 8 PM after Library hours, and art enthusiasts spanned the block as if the historical library was holding its own downtown art walk. Crowds poured in to a bustling second floor—with music, dancing, drinks, and art installations flashing from every arm of the rotunda.

“Machine has presented public art at beaches, parking lots, museums, and sidewalks, but the architecture of the Library afforded us a whole new opportunity,” explains Mark Allen, the executive director of Machine Project. “I was greatly influenced by the crazy intersection of style forming and surrounding the rotunda space. From colonialist murals, 1990s meets Disneyworld, to abundant model train sets, the diversity of styles inspired a medley of performances working with the Library’s varying aesthetics. Everyone got to experience a night of wandering around the assorted architecture wondering what was going on, creating a sense of intrigue embodying the diverse aesthetic of the library itself.”

Here’s a look at some of the revampings that “freed” up our typical associations with card catalogs, stacks of books, and the hushed beauty of the marbled rotunda.

“Hallelujah Already”

Dancer Jmy James Kidd (pictured above) along with multi-instrumentalist and composer Tara Jane ONeil took center stage in the rotunda with a sound and dance improvisation inspired by a photograph of legendary choreographer Bella Lewitzky in the LAPL’s photo collection.

“Capsule Seance Projection”

Inspired by used books unearthed in a library book sale and featuring an omniscient head atop a stack of books, director Joel Fox created a site-specific video installation called “Capsule Seance Projection” in Children’s Literature.

“Shades of the Jeepneys Planet: Exploring the Known Unknown”

Jeepneys, named after colorful, iconic public transportation vehicles populating the Philippine islands, originating from discarded U.S. WWII army jeeps, capture the spirit of reinvention in their work to create other-worldly sounds, movements, and visuals, manifesting “electro Pinayism waves” that travel through space and time to heal and inspire love–here they landed in Teen ‘Scape where they pulsed over tables, bean bags, and computer stations.


Artist and writer Jibade-Khalil Huffman crossed the concept of a card catalog with social media to make an interactive installation that invited guests to tweet questions throughout the night.

“No Further West: The Story of Los Angeles Union Station”

Last but not least, as part of this summer’s special exhibit “No Further West: The Story of Los Angeles Union Station,” train clubs set up spectacular model trains throughout the Getty Gallery that took audiences beyond your average train depot and into elaborate worlds of haunted houses and crop circles, weddings and funerals, and even a secret nightclub for the wild-at-heart. Learn more about upcoming model trains on display at Central Library.

All photos by Javier Guillen.

All Aboard! Don’t Miss the Trains at Central Library

Earlier this month a new exhibit marking the 75th anniversary of Union Station opened at the Central Library. No Further West: The Story of Los Angeles Union Station is the first exhibition to examine the significance of the architectural design and cultural politics of the historic station. The exhibit is free and open to the public during regular library hours at the downtown Central Library through August 10.

As part of the exhibit, the Library Foundation has made it possible for various train clubs–including the Southern California Traction Club pictured above and below–to have model trains running in the Getty Gallery on selected dates. Check out the schedule below and bring the family for this rare chance to see these incredible trains let loose in the Library.

No Further West is organized by the Getty Research Institute with the generous participation of the Automobile Club of Southern California.





No Further West: The Story of Los Angeles Union Station

Over a century ago, the city fathers of Los Angeles imagined that one day their gritty frontier town would become California’s major metropolitan hub. In order to position its status as a progressive, prosperous community, Los Angeles would first need a Union Station. For decades the fathers fought the railroads to build the station, and when they finally agreed, the railroad planners examined issues of economic growth, urban expansion, and transportation logistics that continue to shape the Los Angeles we know today.

LAPL Photo collection. Union Station, 1940.

On May 2, a new exhibit marking the 75th anniversary of Union Station opens at the Central Library. No Further West is the first exhibition to examine the significance of this architectural and civic landmark. Featuring stunning historic drawings from the Getty Research Institute that have never been shared with the public, the exhibit will showcase original renderings by John and Donald B. Parkinson, the father-son architectural team who designed this gateway to the West. Photographs of trains, depots, the original Chinatown that was razed to make way for Union Station and the grand three-day opening ceremony will be on display along with maps and ephemera—much of which is from The Huntington Library. Rare books from the Los Angeles Public Library’s collection will be on hand to tell the story of Union Station’s past—highlighting the immense Spanish Fantasy influences.

Alameda Street Elevation, Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, July 16, 1936. Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute © J. Paul Getty Trust

“Union Station has this interesting tension of looking back and looking forward,” says Marlyn Musicant, the senior exhibitions coordinator at the Getty Research Institute who is curating No Further West. She explains how at the time the aesthetic of the station’s Mission Revival appearance juxtaposed with the modern trains that were very much about the promise of the machine age. Continuing to look ahead to the future, author and critic Greg Goldin will curate a section of the exhibit featuring vision plans that architects have recently proposed for Union Station in 2050.

Main Concourse Section XII, March 6, 1938. Edward Warren Hoak. Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute © J. Paul Getty Trust

The Los Angeles Public Library, which was built during the same era and less than two miles away from Union Station, presented the perfect venue for this very L.A. story. “At a time when there is a resurgence of activity in downtown L.A.—especially the historic core—and an increasing interest in expanding our rail system, it’s fitting to celebrate this beautiful landmark within the walls of another of the city’s treasured buildings,” says Musicant.

Ticket Concourse, Union Station, 2013.  Photo by John Kiffe. Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute. ©  J. Paul Getty Trust
Ticket Concourse, Union Station, 2013. Photo by John Kiffe. Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute. © J. Paul Getty Trust

The exhibit is free and open to the public during regular library hours at the Central Library’s Getty Gallery through August 10. A series of related events will be held in conjunction with the exhibit, including changing displays of model trains by various train clubs on selected dates:

May 17 & 18 Southern California Traction Club  www.trolleyville.com
May 24-June 1 Group 160   www.group160.org
June 7 & 8 San Luis Obispo Model Railroad Assoc.   www.slomra.org
June 14 & 15 Orange County Module Railroaders   www.trainweb.org/ocmra
June 21 & 22 NTrak Express   www.ntrakexpress.com
June 28 & 29 Antelope Valley Nscalers   www.avns.av.org
July 12 & 13 NTrak Express
July 19 & 20 Orange County “N”Gineers   www.ocngineers.com
July 26 & 27 ZoCal    https://vimeo.com/groups/31397
Aug 2 & 3 Pacific Coast Modular Club   www.pctrainclub.org
Aug 9 & 10 Group 160

On May 29, ALOUD will be hosting a special panel on No Further West—members of the Union Station Master Plan team, an architectural historian (and exhibition curator), and the vice-president of the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California—will discuss the history of this architectural icon and share visions for its future. Make your free reservation to the ALOUD program here.

Learn more about the exhibit and other special events at the Library.

Lost & Found at the Movies with John Nein

Last fall, the Library Foundation launched Lost & Found at the Movies, a new series to celebrate the art of cinema and the vitality of film culture. John Nein, a senior programmer of the Sundance Film Festival and curator of this new series, is focusing on lesser-explored areas of filmmaking to cultivate a conversation around film beyond the buzz of new releases. From unearthing historic photographs and film books from the Los Angeles Public Library’s archives to talking to some of Los Angeles’ biggest film nerds, Nein is combing the whole city for film treasures and bringing them to the stage. Free and open to the public at the downtown Central Library, the next event will take place this Friday, February 28th at 7:30 pm. All the events are built around a theme, so on the heels of Valentine’s Day this upcoming episode, Love is a Many Splendored Things, will explore love at the movies. We talked to Nein about some of his own movie loves and what movie-lovers can look forward to this Friday.
John Nein with Kenneth Turan.

Where did the idea for Lost & Found at the Movies come from?

Nein: Ken Brecher [President of the Library Foundation] first suggested doing a film culture series. There’s no shortage of great film-related events on upcoming releases, award seasons, and so on, but what excited me was the idea of bringing in anyone who has a passion for film—directors, writers, journalists, cinematographers, costume designers—to talk about personal cinema passions, perhaps even arcane interests that they don’t often have an opportunity or platform to talk about in any real depth. For instance, a filmmaker may get the chance to talk about their current work, but they don’t get the chance to talk about how much they love the Czech New Wave. We’ve imagined the series to be very eclectic in nature. You should feel like you’re flipping through a film magazine, but there’s a thematic connection within each event like an episode of “This American Life.”

You kicked off the first event by talking to film critic Kenneth Turan—a beloved and longtime voice in the film community. What “new” things did he have to say about film?

Nein: Kenneth Turan makes his living talking about films that are coming out, but what we talked about was Miyazaki, Max Ophüls, and how he loves this old 1920s French serialized film called “Fantomas.” We even got a chance to talk about Casablanca. We both appreciated that we could use clips and that’s what makes it engaging and fun for the audience.

Speaking of Casablanca, the upcoming event will take on the love story. What do you plan to explore?

Nein: The idea is to look at different kinds of love in movies and love for movies. Each segment of the night will have a different way of interpreting that. For example, we’ll be showing a couple of home movies of famous Hollywood couples like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall courtesy of the Academy Film Archive. In another segment, I just spent a day driving all over Los Angeles to as many theatrical exhibition venues as I could manage in search of people whose passion is to show movies—places like the UCLA Film and Television Archive, Cinefamily, and the American Cinematheque.

Also, the special guest of the night is Stacie Passon who is the writer/director of Concussion, which I thought was one of the strongest films of last year that was overlooked by many. It’s a film that deals with love in a really sophisticated and difficult way. This is not movie warm and fuzzy, but Passon shows a way of depicting how profound cinema can be about human nature and relationships, and marriage in particular and we’re going to look through film history for the really rigorous takes on mature relationships (Rossellini, Cassavetes, Bergman).

Besides Concussion, what are some of the other movies you loved from last year that maybe we haven’t heard of?

Nein: We’ll talk about some of these on Friday, but Fill the Void is a completely unique love story that takes place in an ultra orthodox community in Israel—by virtue of being set there, I’ve never seen this type of film before and it’s a wrenching love story. The Spectacular Now is one of the most honest portrayals of teenage romance with all the edges. Cutie and the Boxer is one of the best documentaries from last year, and even though it’s nominated for an Oscar, it was overlooked by many. It’s so observant of mature love about a tumultuous marriage between two artists.

You spend the year travelling to film festivals around the world in search of new work to screen at Sundance. What are some great films we should be on the lookout for this upcoming year?

Nein: We’ll also talk about some of these films I’m most excited about this year on Friday, which won’t all be love stories like Calvary, which stars Brendan Gleeson as a good priest tormented by his townspeople. Lunchbox, set in Mumbai, is a love story between an accountant and a housewife that starts when the lunchbox she sends her husband inadvertently goes to the accountant. And Mike Leigh’s new film, which we assume will premiere at Cannes and is about J.M.W. Turner, the British artist.

Where do you see the rest of the series going this year?

Nein: We’re hoping to do an episode called “All About Evil,” which occurred to me when I was thinking about characters in the Coen brothers’ movies, but this will stretch way beyond that. I’m talking to Buck Henry about Shakespeare on film, and I think later this year we’ll do something about documentary portraits.

Last, but not least, the Oscars are this weekend. In your professional opinion, what’s going to win Best Picture?

Nein: Gravity. But I’m always wrong.

Learn more about the upcoming Lost & Found at the Movies. Admission is free and space is limited, so please make your reservations online early.



Looking at the Past and Present; A Year of Special Projects

The Library Foundation has spent the last year envisioning the role of the 21st century library by launching a range of special projects that celebrate the rich history and culture of Los Angeles in today’s world. Before we head into 2014, we wanted to share some highlights from these projects that we hope have offered Angelenos a chance to experience our city in new and unique ways.

Songs in the Key of L.A.

Photo by Gary Leonard.

Over the summer, this special project brought to life the Los Angeles Public Library’s sheet music collection, including the publication of Angel City Press’ beautiful anthology curated by USC Professor Josh Kun. The First Floor Galleries of the Central Library also opened an exhibit of 46 pieces of the cover art from the sheet music, and ALOUD hosted Kun and GRAMMY-winning L.A. band Quetzal for a look at L.A.’s musical history. Listen to the podcast here.

The project closed with what Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic Randall Roberts called “a truly memorable moment, one that many in attendance won’t forget.” East L.A. band Ozmatli and fellow artists took the stage at Grand Performances to resurrect the historic songs from the collection. The evening featured special guests Stevie Wonder, Jackson Browne, and Cheech Marin filling the California Plaza with a new take on its SoCal roots.

Check out KCET’s Artbound special series for short films documenting the new recordings of songs from the collection below, and download some of the songs here.


Whatever Happened to Moby Dick?

Raymond Pettibon, No Title (His transformation is), 2009. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles ©Raymond Pettibon

Throughout the fall, the Library Foundation teamed up with the Los Angeles Public Library to invite readers to take a look at Herman Melville’s masterpiece through a Southern California lens. Over 90 librarian-created events across the city offered Angelenos of all ages to chance to interact with the great white whale, including a special reading of Moby Dick by actor, comedian, and Melvillian enthusiast Patton Oswalt.

Photo by Gary Leonard.

Over 200 folks took part in the Summarizing Moby Dick Twitter Contest winners, which offered hilarious and thoughtful micro takes on the epic story, including this favorite:


The project culminated with “My Moby Dick,” a grand finale of theatrical performance, sea shanties, and cutting-edge science at the Broad Stage, including a special film by the directors of Little Miss Sunshine, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Watch parts of this video here, including food critic Jonathan Gold’s retelling of eating whale balls.


Lost & Found at the Movies

This fall, we debuted a new series celebrating the art of cinema and the vitality of film culture. Curated by John Nein, senior programmer for the Sundance Film Festival, the program is eclectic in theme and varies in form, exploring how we lose ourselves and find ourselves at the movies. The first installment unearthed some historic photos of theaters from the Library’s archive and featured Los Angeles Times and NPR Film Critic Kenneth Turan talking about how and where we watch films in L.A.

Check back with us in the new year for upcoming special projects, including the next installment of Lost & Found at the Movies.

Buried Treasure: Josh Kun Unearths the Library’s Sheet Music Collection

Music scholar and native Angeleno Josh Kun has always been interested in how communities and cultures interact, so working with the Los Angeles Public Library’s sheet music collection was a perfect trajectory of his studies. Guided by Emma Roberts, Librarian III in the Art, Music, and Recreation/Rare Books department, Kun and graduate student Inna Arzumanova, along with a team of five undergraduate students from U.S.C., spent many Saturdays examining box after box of the archive. Here Kun takes us through the extensive research process that eventually evolved into Songs in the Key of Los Angeles.

What did you expect to find in the Library’s sheet music collection before you actually began to “mine” it?

Kun: I went into the collection literally knowing nothing about what was in there. I didn’t yet know it would be a project about Los Angeles, but then I started noticing all of these Southern California songs and I realized they were adding up to something singular that could tell a remarkable story on the shaping of Los Angeles.

How did you approach building the historical context surrounding this music?

Kun: Very little had been written about the sheet music industry in Southern California and the publishers, so we did a lot of digging into early L.A. historical archives to try to piece together these stories. We had to figure out how to contextualize sheet music in the myths and power plays of the building of early Los Angeles, which there is a lot of scholarship on, for example, the history of tourism. But we also wanted to position sheet music in the history of Mexican-American life and African-American life in Southern California, both of which we found many songs that spoke to these histories.

The book contains many voices beyond the musicians—talk about the community you involved in assembling this history.

Kun: I wanted to make sure we had essays that explored some of the many facets this collection represents, so I reached out to experts I knew in particular areas. We’ve got an essay on the history of graphic design and graphic art in relation to sheet music; an essay on African-American music in Los Angeles; an essay that focuses on the dominance of women on covers of sheet music.


What was one of the most interesting things you learned about the history of L.A. through your research?

Kun: One of the earliest pieces we found was a piece of music for a traditional Mexican song called “Chiapanecas.” This was usually an instrumental folk song, but the sheet music had newly written English lyrics. The sheet music cover also had a photograph of a restaurant on Olvera Street and used the song to promote the restaurant by saying, ‘Come here to hear this song.’ It was a great example of how sheet music was used to promote local businesses.

The book explores the huge role of sheet music in advertisement and how music was used to persuade people to move to L.A. What was this impact?

Kun: A large part of the sheet music in the collection is from the early 20th century period. We’ve seen lots of scholarship about how the tourist industry and railroad industry and chamber of commerce advertised to get people to move here, but we’ve seen very little about music’s role in that story. A lot of these songs read like the ultimate booster pop song: ‘Come to Los Angeles where it’s always sunny.’ Over and over again, we found songs that said, ‘Here, you’ll find love.’ Many of the songs were part of the larger constellation of business interests in Los Angeles by using popular culture to inspire people in other parts of the country to come here.

Most people associate L.A. with the film industry, not the music industry. What was the dynamic between these two industries?

Kun: People associate the early influence of music with the east coast and New York, and they don’t think about it in Los Angeles. Instead they think about Hollywood as the prominent industry of L.A. But Southern California music grew alongside Hollywood and often the two industries were very symbiotic. When people think about the music industry in L.A. they often think about it starting in the 1940s with the rise to prominence of the record company—major and independent—and the expanding market for recordings. But the surprise for me was finding how many sheet music publishers were in L.A. before that time, and how much sheet music was circulating in music stores and at the Los Angeles Public Library.

You could take sheet music and go play piano in the rehearsal rooms at the Library in the early days. Or you could check out the sheet music and take it home to play on the piano or ukulele. Or professional musicians would borrow the sheet music to perform on stage. Sheet music was before the phonograph, vinyl record, CD and MP3, and it was the foundation of the music industry. Songs would only become popular if people could get the sheet music. There was a real presence of sheet music in Los Angeles during that time that hasn’t really been documented anywhere.

What do you hope this book teaches us about this time and place?

Kun: The collection has reinforced for me that everyday people use music everyday. They use it in their personal and domestic lives. Songs are things people use to make sense of the world and make sense of our city and who we are. This sheet music collection is a great example of not just a historical archive, but an archive of use. These songs lived in people’s lives and houses and it mattered to them. I hope the collection shines a light on the relationship between the things we use and the city we live in.

Learn more about all the ways to take part in the Songs in the Key of Los Angeles, including the recent opening of the exhibit at the Central Library, the upcoming ALOUD program featuring a conversation between Kun and members of Quetzal, and an upcoming Grand Performances.


Come See the “Songs in the Key of L.A” at the Central Library

This Monday, July 1st, an exciting new exhibit from the “Songs in the Key of L.A.” project will be unveiled in the downtown Central Library’s First Floor Galleries. The exhibit will feature a selection of sheet music mined from the Los Angeles Public Library’s collection as part of a recent collaboration between the Los Angeles Public Library and Library Foundation of Los Angeles.

Including 46 pieces from the 1850s through 1950s, the sheet music exhibition offers a unique window into Southern California and Los Angeles music history by highlighting the early history of the city’s music industry, civic music culture, and the role of music in shaping Los Angeles. It also demonstrates the prominent role of Mexican and African American music in Los Angeles.

“From boosterism to beaches, mythic missions to citrus utopias, the rise of the railroad to the rise of Hollywood, this original sheet music cover art reveals a city being shaped in dynamic full color,” said USC Professor Josh Kun, who is the director of “The Popular Music Project” at USC Annenberg’s Norman Lear Center, and curated the exhibition along with scholar Inna Arzumanova. Working with the librarians in charge of the collection at Central Library, Kun, Arzumanova, and a group of USC students, combed through roughly 50,000 pieces of sheet music collection to create this one-of-a-kind exhibit.

“We are thrilled to shine a light on this fascinating view of Los Angeles history,” said City Librarian John F. Szabo. “Thousands of professional and amateur musicians and music lovers throughout Los Angeles already use our music collection. With this exhibit, we hope to encourage everyone to come and explore the wonderful resources and treasures at the Los Angeles Public Library. We look forward to highlighting the Library’s other special collections and using them in a similar way to tell the story of our great city.”


The exhibit is part of the larger “Songs in the Key of L.A.” project, which during the summer will showcase the sheet music through a comprehensive anthology, new recordings, a free concert with Grand Performances, and an ALOUD program at the Central Library.

“Songs in the Key of L.A.” is on view in the Central Library’s First Floor Galleries and is free and open to the public during library hours: Monday & Wednesday: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Tuesday & Thursday: 12:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Click here for more information about the exhibit.


Songs in the Key of L.A.: Tuning into a New Project from the Library Foundation and the Los Angeles Public Library

Long before the film industry took root as the cultural and financial epicenter of Hollywood, music paved the way for the growth and development of the Los Angeles we know today. Deep in the archives of the Los Angeles Public Library, there’s a vast sheet music collection from the 1840s through the 1950s, which provides historical insight into the  music of Southern California. You probably weren’t aware of such a treasure, and that’s why this summer, the Library Foundation and the Los Angeles Public Library are kicking off “Songs in the Key of L.A.,” the first in a series of collaborations to mine the Library’s vast collections. The project unveils for the first time the world’s only collection of Southern California sheet music and offers a never-before-seen look at the integral role music has played in defining the voice of our city.


Through a comprehensive anthology, new recordings, a special exhibition, a free concert with Grand Performances, and more, the Library Foundation and Library will bring the collection to light for contemporary reflection. “The Los Angeles Public Library is the place for Angelenos to explore, reimagine, and celebrate their history,” said City Librarian John F. Szabo. “We are pleased to bring this incredible collection to light, as it demonstrates this important fact: Public libraries are every-person institutions, where everyone, from scholars to middle schoolers, can unearth treasures that can teach, inspire, and even change their lives.”

“The idea of examining Los Angeles history through the lens of music came from a series of conversations I had with USC Professor Josh Kun, director of The Popular Music Project at USC Annenberg’s Norman Lear Center,” explains Ken Brecher, the president of the Library Foundation. “We talked about ‘mining’ the collections of the Library for forgotten stories and imagined creating a book to showcase the power of music and its imagery in shaping both our sense of history and of home.” Agreeing to lead the research, Josh Kun and a group of his students, working with librarians from the Central Library, combed the Library’s roughly 50,000-piece sheet music collection. The stories Kun discovered—visually breathtaking cover art; a diverse mix of unrecorded jazz, pop, Mexican folks, and blues songs; an empire of unknown music publishers and songwriters—formed a singular portrait of the artistic, cultural, social, and political currents that influenced Los Angeles in the 19th and 20th centuries.

http://www.lapl.org/sites/default/files/media/images/collections/skla.jpgKicking off the project, on June 1, Angel City Press will publish Songs in the Key of Los Angeles: Sheet Music from the Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library. Written by Kun and with special contributions from musical legends Van Dyke Parks, Stew, and a host of California historians, the anthology showcases more than 100 vintage sheet music covers from the collection, from California lullabies and Los Angeles waltzes, sunshine rags and sunset serenades, to emerging West Coast jazz and the legacy of Mexican folk traditions.  Available at bookstores throughout Southern California, the book will also be carried at The Library Store.

That same week, through the Library’s website, the Foundation will release five new recordings of music from the collection by beloved local artists Aloe Blacc, I See Hawks in L.A., Julia Holter, Petrojvic Blasting Company, and La Santa Cecilia. The recording sessions will be showcased online every two weeks in five short documentaries produced by KCET’s transmedia award-winning arts and culture series, Artbound. The first session with I See Hawks will also be featured during the Artbound television series on May 30 at 9 p.m.

On July 1, the exhibition, Songs in the Key of L.A., will open on the first floor of the historic Central Library in Downtown Los Angeles.  Featuring a rotating selection of pieces from the collection, the exhibition will use sheet music to explore the early history of Los Angeles’ music industry, civic music culture, and the role of music in shaping key stories central to the making of the city.

On July 13, the Foundation will host Kun, Los Angeles musical icon Van Dyke Parks, and surprise guests for a special evening of song and story specifically for Library Foundation Members. And on July 18, the Foundation’s award-winning ALOUD at the Central Library series gets in on the fun, hosting Kun and musical guest Quetzal (pictured below) for a rare evening of L.A. music history.

On July 25, Grand Performances hosts City Librarian John Szabo and Library Foundation President Ken Brecher for “Off the Shelf: Creating L.A.’s 21st Century Library,” a lively discussion about the future of the Los Angeles Public Library, starting with the “Songs in the Key of L.A.” project.

And finally, on August 2, Grand Performances, in collaboration with the Library Foundation, presents “Songs in the Key of L.A.” the concert.  With selections hand-picked by Kun, hometown heroes Ozomatli and special guests will bring songs from the collection to life in a free concert for the people of Los Angeles.

For more information about this and other special collections, visit www.lapl.org.


From the Collections: A Look At African American History

I just love viewing L.A. history, particularly, when it involves people, books and reading. In honor of African American History Month, here are a few of my favorites from Los Angeles Public Library’s Photo Collection as well as some reading recommendations. I stand on the shoulders of women like Miriam Matthews, LAPL’s first African-American librarian. –Jené D. Brown, Librarian and Volunteer Services.

From Shades of L.A.: African American Community

The first two images below are from Shades of L.A., an archive of photographs representing the contemporary and historic diversity of families in Los Angeles. Images were chosen from family albums and include daily life, social organizations, work, personal and holiday celebrations, and migration and immigration activities.

Friends at an Event

Mr. and Mrs. Larry Wilson, Miriam Matthews, the first Black librarian in Los Angeles (2nd from right), and standing in rear, Angelique De Lavallade. Circa 1946.

Portrait of a Woman

A signed portrait of Miriam Matthews, the first African American librarian in Los Angeles who worked at Los Angeles Public Library from 1927 to 1960.

Bookmobile in Watts

Reading material in the city’s mobile library unit attracted the fancy of Arthur and Joe Lottie, 8 and 9 yrs. old respectively, as librarian Marion K. Cobb helps them make a selection”. Photo dated: Aug. 13, 1966.

Parade Float, Watts

A parade float in Watts. Sign on side of float reads, “Mother of Watts C.A.C Future Child Care Center.” Photo dated: August 14, 1968.

Dedication of Exposition Park-Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Regional Branch

David Cunningham (right), member of the Los Angeles City Council, and an unidentified woman hold a portrait of Mary McLeod Bethune at the dedication event of the Exposition Park-Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Regional Branch at 3665 South Vermont Avenue.

Vernon Branch Library’s 50th Anniversary


Mrs. Leontyne King holds a proclamation celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Vernon Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. Attending the ceremony, left to right, are Thomas Bradley, Councilman, 10th District; Albert A. Le Vine, president, Library Commission; Billy G. Mills, Councilman, 8th District; Harold L. Hamill, City Librarian; Mrs. Leontyne, Library Commissioner; Dr. Albert A. Raubenheimer, Library Commisioner; Joe Sutton, Vernon Branch librarian. Circa 1965.


Reading Recommendations

Kindred by Octavia Butler
Now is the time to open your heart : a novel by Alica Walker
The dream keeper and other poems by Langston Hughes
Some soul to keep by J. California Cooper
The souls of black folk by W.E.B. DuBois