Quake Shuts Key Units, 7 Branches of L.A. Library

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles' public library system, still reeling from last year's arson blazes that decimated the Central Library, was hard hit by the Oct. 1 earthquake, which shut down seven branches and paralyzed the library's acquisition and binding departments, library officials disclosed this weekend.

No books were affected, but structural damage at five of the city's 62 branches--Robert Louis Stevenson, Malabar, Lincoln Heights, Wilshire and Junipero Serra--was so severe that they could be closed for at least a year.

Also closed due to quake damage were the Chinatown and Cahuenga branches. The Chinatown facility reopened Friday, and Cahuenga could reopen this week.

Most Built in 1920s

The seven branches are in buildings mostly constructed in the 1920s, when the city's building code allowed the use of unreinforced masonry, said Paul McCarty, the city's principal architect.

About $1.8 million in federal rehabilitation and modernization money already had been approved to overhaul the Stevenson and Malabar branches, so "those will be the first libraries to reopen," in about nine to 12 months, McCarty said.

Cahuenga, Wilshire, Lincoln Heights and Junipero Serra also were earmarked for restoration, he said, but earthquake damage will slow down their renovation.

None of the Los Angeles County library system's 91 branches, mostly in buildings constructed in the 1950s and later, sustained serious damage, and all are open, said Linda Crismond, the chief county librarian.

Reflecting on the fires and the earthquake from her temporary office in Arco Tower, the Central Library's director, Betty Gay, said the string of bad luck was unbelievable.

The 61-year-old reinforced concrete Central Library building survived the 6.1 temblor in good shape, Gay said. The landmark library tower, however, sustained some non-structural concrete damage, but the steel that supports the tower was not damaged, she said.

Then, Gay said in a telephone interview, she got the bad news about the seven branches and the severe earthquake damage to the Anderson Street building, just east of downtown, where the library does its binding and acquisition work.

"I didn't know whether to laugh or throw myself off the Arco Tower," she said.

Critical Operations

Gay underscored that damage to the Anderson building, a two-story warehouse at 361 S. Anderson St., was critical because the structure houses the library's acquisition and binding operations. Earthquake damage included the loss of a loading dock when the dock's door collapsed, she said.

The acquisition and binding departments process books from about 6,000 publishers and other suppliers, Gay said. The books are catalogued, given plastic covers and library card jackets and, in the case of paperbacks, are shipped to outside commercial binders before they can be publicly circulated.

Now, because of the earthquake, Gay said, "there are no new books coming in" that can be distributed to the branches. "There's no way to process books. Acquisition and binding affects absolutely everyone and our ability to serve the public," she said, adding that it will take a while to relocate the operations.

Meanwhile, the director of the city's library branches, Marilyn Tamura Johnson, said library officials were searching for ways to maintain already strained library services. Possibly, she said, storefronts might be donated until the branches can be reopened. Books in damaged branches could be transferred to other library facilities, she said.

"Our major concern is to provide library services to areas affected by closures because of the earthquake," Johnson said.

Branches damaged by the earthquake are:

- Robert Louis Stevenson, 803 Spence St., Boyle Heights. Earthquake damage: $32,000.

- Malabar, 2801 Wabash Ave., Boyle Heights. Damage: $58,400.

- Lincoln Heights, 2530 Workman St. Damage: $30,000.

- Wilshire, 149 N. St. Andrews Place. Damage: $360,000.

- Junipero Serra, 4255 S. Olive St. Damage: $7,000.

- Chinatown, 536 W. College St. No damage estimate.

- Cahuenga, 4591 Santa Monica Blvd. Damage: $3,700.

Contributing to this story was Times librarian Patricia L. Brown.

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