Library Tour Makes Visit More Inviting

If the Central Library and its 2.8 million books intimidate you, here are some quick suggestions for making your visit easier.

Each of the three entrances--from Flower, Hope and 5thstreets--converge on the main lobby, a rectangle at the center of the original 1926 building in Downtown Los Angeles.

Splashes and streaks of brilliant color crisscross the lobby ceiling. "When you come in here, you can't help but look up," said Milton J. Schorr, one of the volunteers who lead daily tours through the library.

In the lobby's four corners are the circulation desk, where you can sign up for a library card, the information desk, the library store and a monitor-filled security station. In the center is a quartet of computers offering an electronic guidebook to the library.

If you take the tour on a Thursday, Schorr will lead you up the marble steps near the 5th Street entrance, past the statue of "Civilization" and two sphinxes. To the right is the "popular library" of new books and magazines. Continuing straight, through the soaring rotunda and its epic 1930s murals, the next stop is the children's library, where the size of the furniture matches its clientele.

"I'll show you my favorite place," Schorr said, as she leads you back to a theater--with 62 tiny chairs--that are filled on Saturdays for puppet shows. Rare books and fiction are one floor up.

Backtracking to the rotunda, take a right down the corridor. The hallway ends in a vertigo-inducing glass precipice over the atrium of the new Tom Bradley wing. Eight stories in height--half are underground--this is where most of the books are kept.

Take the elevator down one floor, then a cascading series of escalators, down through the business section, sciences, social sciences and finally history on the bottom floor, where you can find the day's newspapers.

For more directions, make your way back to the lobby, where someone like Yvonne Johnson can answer your queries at the information desk.

The most common question?

"Right now, it's 'Where are the tax forms?' " Johnson said.

Answer: From the lobby, go down the corridor toward the Bradley wing. On the right side of the hall is the copy center. The forms are there.

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