As the vanguard of the Library Foundation’s mission to provide critical support to the Los Angeles Public Library, Young Literati brings together engaged Angelenos in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who believe in and celebrate the power of public libraries. On Saturday, April 1, at NeueHouse Hollywood, the biggest Young Literati celebration of the year returns: the Ninth Annual Toast.
We recently spoke to two of the masterminds behind this year’s event. Young Literati Chair Samantha Hanks has long been a strong supporter of the Library and is Vice President of Casting for Magical Elves and the Co-founder of Bumble Pie Productions, dedicated to promoting unique talent, especially female voices. Young Literati Honorary Co-Chair Busy Philipps, who is hosting the Toast for the fourth time, is best known for her work as an actor on Freaks and Geeks, Dawson’s Creek, and Cougar Town, and is currently starring in Vice Principals on HBO. Below, this dynamic duo discusses what drives their passion for libraries and gives us a sneak peek into the upcoming Toast. Learn more about the Toast, which will also feature special performances by Andrew Bird, Chelsea Handler, Kumail Nanjiani, Retta, Timothy Simons, and Constance Wu.
How did you first get involved with Young Literati?
Philipps: I was asked to be a reader at the Toast in 2011, and I read a piece I love by Dorothy Parker called A Telephone Call. It was such a magical night, held in the downtown branch of the Library. After the event, I reached out to say I would love to be involved in any way I could and Amanda Fairey, who was the Young Literati Chair, thankfully took me up on that offer!
Samantha, you took over as chair from Amanda this past June. What first drew you to the work of Young Literati?
Hanks: My step-father Robert Chick was the Library Commissioner for many years and I always thought it was such an important institution to be involved in. Libraries and books shaped my interests as a kid and I like helping to make that connection for a new generation. The YL is a perfect combination of community involvement and cultural satisfaction. Our work aids so many Angelenos and we all get the benefits with amazing programs.
Busy, what do you like best about being involved with Young Literati?
Philipps: I love being involved in a Los Angeles based charity that benefits EVERYONE living in our great city. As my friend Andrei Cherny said (and I quoted in my YL opening remarks a few years back), the public library is “the great equalizer.” The library doesn’t care about your zip code. The library is there for everyone.
Why are libraries personally important to you?
Philipps: I’m someone who grew up with a real love of books. My grandmother was a librarian and my mother and father are both avid readers so the library has been an important part of my life for a long time. Obviously, I don’t need to impress the importance of the public library to those reading this newsletter, but I think especially now, we need to remain committed to providing vital services (like the literacy program, the STEAM program, the high school diploma program) for people and children in our community who otherwise might fall through the cracks. The Library offers an amazing way for parents and teachers to expose children to a myriad of ideas that can go beyond “just books.”
Samantha, you helped to launch the popular Young Literati Family Day events to connect more kids to the Los Angeles Public Library. As a kid, what did you love about libraries?
Hanks: I remember my first tour of the school library vividly. It was so big and had so many books to choose from. The Dewey Decimal System was also oddly appealing to me in its detail.
Busy, you’ve been hosting the Young Literati Toast for several years now—what’s one of your favorite Toast moments from years past?
Philipps: Russell Brand recapping everyone else’s toasts was a real highlight in 2011. I loved Randall Park’s reading last year of the lifecycle of a water droplet from the DWP pamphlet. Demetri Martin reading from the dictionary, Tig Notaro reading the “GoodReads” reviews, Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice performing. There are too many good moments to choose just one!
As we are preparing to raise a glass at the upcoming Toast, what are you looking forward to at this year’s event?
Philipps: Well, this year Colin Hanks and I will be hosting together and seeing as we’ve known each for other almost 20 years, who knows what will happen!
Samantha, what are you excited about? Any words of advice that you’re passing on to Colin?
Hanks: I am looking forward to hearing Chelsea Handler read! Busy is the perfect host and I hope Colin just follows her lead!