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We should be throwing the book at the library

One of the more arrogant of the librarians down at the Central branch

inadvertently gave it away today that the library, because of “finite

space,” was going to dispose of the locked-case H.L. Mencken and D.H.

Lawrence collection in the back, as well as other materials, such as

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complete runs of valuable 19th century periodicals.

What’s wrong with this?

First of all, these collections take up little space. They are

being removed because the head librarian wants to enlarge the

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offices. They were carefully shepherded over a 40-year period to the

point that Burbank has about the most complete collection of Mencken

and Lawrence in the country. Their collection of periodicals is

extremely rare in Southern California, and came within a hair of

being thrown out two years ago.

They are a valuable asset to our community. Worst of all, it’s a

lie that our library has a space problem. Both librarians and

“Friends of the Library” have remarked that the new Buena Vista

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branch “looks so bare.” In five years we’re going to have a huge new

Central Library. So what’s going on here?

This isn’t the first time this has happened recently. Four years

ago, Burbank gave away the complete Warner Research Collection back

to Warner Bros., on the grounds that “they would keep the collection

intact, which is so important to us.” The first thing Warner Bros.

did was cherry pick the collection, and then gave away what they

didn’t want, COMPLETELY violating the agreement (ask former

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councilman Ted McConkey about this. Ted was a big advocate of getting

rid of it). They even gave some books back to Burbank -- which

proceeded to sell them off for pennies on the dollar -- instead of

putting them back on the shelves many people claimed “looked empty.”

There’s no excuse for this. Even worse, they city refuses to

provide -- by law -- a specific list of all the surplus library

property they have gotten rid of. They don’t want anyone to know.

This library has gone through five directors in the past six years,

mainly because they can’t be pushed around to do these things

willingly. They gave them a lot of flack. But now they’ve hired an

insider who does anything staff wants, and who has never seen a

harebrained scheme she can’t endorse. Whose idea, for instance, is it

to remodel the Central Branch right now (closed for a week) when

we’re already going to tear it down soon for a new library across the

street?

What’s going on at our library is an outrage, a complete violation

of the facility’s public trust of shepherding the valuable collection

we’ve built over the years.

Next week I am going to demand of the city a complete listing of

all library materials disposed of as “surplus” public property within

the last six years. When they refuse to provide it, which they will,

I’m going to sue them for violation of the public records act, much

as was done seven years ago with the San Francisco library. It won’t

be hard to do, and it will raise serious questions why they didn’t

compile a list in the first place.

It was bad enough what happened to the Warner Collection -- they

should at least have culled out useful materials before they gave it

away. Those of us who cared about this were slack back then. But

getting rid of these small, valuable literary collections, when

there’s plenty of space, is the last straw, as far as I’m concerned.

Jim Carlile

Burbank


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