A Library Named 'Riordan'


The political uproar over the renaming of the Central Library after Mayor Richard J. Riordan was all but forgotten Monday as he gathered with supporters to unveil the sign that will pay tribute to him for generations after he leaves City Hall.

The mayor gleefully flexed his muscles and flashed thumbs up as he posed for photographs next to the bronze-colored plaque that trumpets the downtown landmark's new name: "Richard J. Riordan Central Library."

The erection of the sign might seem mundane, but for Riordan, it was both a personal and political triumph.

An avid reader and book collector, he casts himself above all as a champion of education and literacy. To get the library renamed, his City Hall staff overcame the fierce opposition of the librarians union and other opponents. Riordan aides mounted an aggressive lobbying campaign to quash an effort by two City Council members to overturn the honor bestowed on him in April by his appointees on the city library commission.

"Libraries are my passion in life," Riordan told dozens of supporters who gathered around the sign Monday in the library gardens on Flower Street. "Before I became mayor, and before the [1986] fire in this library, I used to sneak out here during lunch time to get away from the mad race that was going on in my legal practice. And I'd go into a corner and take a book--any book almost--and read it for a while, and then feel rejuvenated."

As Riordan spoke, TV news helicopters roared above the downtown skyscrapers in preparation for the Lakers championship parade. After the ceremony, Riordan joined the parade, waving to thousands of Lakers fans from atop a double-decker bus.

Behind Riordan on the bus were Magic Johnson and the Laker Girls, who drew the sort of delirious cheers that are rarely lavished on a mayor. Indeed, a few minutes later, he was roundly booed when the celebration reached Staples Center.

Heaping Praise on the Mayor

At the more sedate library celebration, one speaker after another heaped praise on Riordan. They cited expanded hours and a steady rise in the budget to buy books as his prime contributions to the library's success..

"You've taken a great public library and you've made it literally the greatest public library in the nation," said State Librarian Kevin Starr.

But inside, some librarians were annoyed.

"To me, the whole thing is just a lesson in how, when someone gets power and wealth, and they want something, how easily and quickly they can get it," said librarian Dan Dupill.

Librarian Christine Bocek said it was "sleazy" for Riordan's appointees on the library commission to rename the library after their boss.

"It was ridiculous," she said. "Name City Hall after him."

Guadalupe Reyes, the only library commissioner who voted against renaming the library after Riordan, attended the ceremony to pay her respects to the mayor.

"I support my fellow commissioners and their decision, and we'll go from there," she said.

A few minutes later, she greeted Riordan with a hug.

"You look wonderful," she told him.

Riordan smiled.

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