The Times podcast: Punk, arson and the public library

A masked, gloved person at a library
Children’s librarian Sara Rebman sorts books in the Los Angeles Central Library.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Welcome, new listeners! Here’s one of our favorite episodes from this year, with a brand-new segment at the end.

It’s been quite the year for the Los Angeles Public Library — and the COVID-19 pandemic is only part of the story.


Inauguration Day cast a national spotlight on Amanda Gorman, who got her start reading poetry via the L.A. Public Library’s youth program. And teen punk group the Linda Lindas gained worldwide fame after a concert at the Cypress Park branch of one of America’s largest public library systems.

Today, we talk to L.A. librarian Kevin Awakuni about how the city’s system has become an incubator for making libraries hip. We also get L.A. Times columnist Patt Morrison to explain how a city long dismissed as an intellectual wasteland learned to treasure its libraries in the wake of a devastating fire.

After that, an all-new segment: Team USA wheelchair rugby player Chuck Aoki tells us about his road to this year’s Paralympic Games.

Host: Gustavo Arellano

Guests: Los Angeles Public Library librarian Kevin Awakuni, L.A. Times columnist Patt Morrison and wheelchair rugby player Chuck Aoki

More reading:

‘Whoa, this is crazy’: L.A. teen punks the Linda Lindas on going viral (just before finals)


How a 22-year-old L.A. native became Biden’s inauguration poet

Who started the 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Library? Susan Orlean investigates in her new book

About The Times

“The Times” is made by columnist Gustavo Arellano, senior producer Denise Guerra and producers Shannon Lin, Marina Peña and Melissa Kaplan. Our engineer is Mario Diaz. Our editors are Lauren Raab and Shani O. Hilton. Ashlea Brown produced the athlete profile, and Steven A. Cuevas, Abbie Fentress Swanson and Julia Turner contributed to the library segments. Our theme song was composed by Andrew Eapen.