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More than 800 sign petition questioning ALOUD changes

More than 800 sign petition questioning ALOUD changes
The Los Angeles Public Library in downtown Los Angeles, where most of the ALOUD reading series conversations take place. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

More than 800 authors, readers and other literary Angelenos have signed a petition sent to the board of directors of the Library Foundation, along with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, raising concerns about the future of its ALOUD reading series following the dismissal of ALOUD’s founder Louise Steinman and associate director Maureen Moore.

“We are writers and readers deeply invested in ALOUD, and we are deeply concerned by the announced departure of ALOUD director Louise Steinman and associate director Maureen Moore, and the elimination of their program-sustaining positions,” the petition reads.

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Moore, who worked at ALOUD for eight years, and Steinman, who had been with it for the 25 years since its founding, were dismissed in late August and told that their positions were being eliminated.

“The diminishment or loss of ALOUD would be serious subtraction from the cultural wealth of Los Angeles,” the petition continues. “We urge you to recognize what Steinman and Moore have accomplished at ALOUD, and to remain committed to the priceless civic resource ALOUD has become.”

Among the hundreds of signatories are Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen, National Book Award winner Rachel Kushner and L.A. Poet Laureate Robin Coste Lewis, MacArthur Fellows Jonathan Lethem and Anne Carson; bestselling authors Janet Fitch and Luis J. Rodriguez; writer and filmmaker Miranda July; writers Geoff Dyer, Ben Ehrenreich, Pico Iyer and Héctor Tobar; novelists Aimee Bender, Mark Z. Danielewski, Steve Erickson, Mohsin Hamid, Thomas McGuane, John Rechy and Sapphire and Mona Simpson; and poets Chiwan Choi and Eileen Myles.

ALOUD has been the highest profile reading series of the Library Foundation, a foundation formed in 1992 to support the Los Angeles Public Library. The Library Foundation did not respond to our request for comment.

David L. Ulin, speaking on behalf of the ad-hoc committee that organized the petition, said that the group hopes to accomplish two main goals. “The first is to express our respect and give honor to everything that Louise and Maureen have done with ALOUD over the years. We think they deserve to be recognized for their profound contribution to the literary culture of Los Angeles,” he said. “The other is we hope to engage the Library Foundation in an open conversation about their plans both for ALOUD and literary public programming for the future.”

Ulin is the former book critic and book editor of The Times, and has been a frequent participant in ALOUD programs. He added, “One of the troubling aspects of this situation is that it was so sudden and there has been no explanation from the Foundation for their decision.”

On Tuesday, prior to the delivery of the petition, Library Foundation Communications director Leah Price said in an email that “ALOUD is not going away.” While she said that it would be part of “a new larger public programming initiative” from the Library Foundation, she declined to provide any further information.

The fall program of ALOUD has 12 upcoming events, including appearances by Susan Orlean, Karl Ove Knausgaard and Tommy Orange. Four of the events have sold out.

“For the community, this is a shocking situation,” Ulin said. “Art is about communication. For the last 25 years, that has been what ALOUD embodied at its core.”

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