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Diamond Jubilee: Seventy Five Years of Public Service

V. Reaching Out

Table of Contents

Reaching out to the underserved always has been a major objective of the Los Angeles County Public Library. Interestingly enough, much of what today has become "basic service" was considered in the early years to be "reaching out." For example, although the Library as early as 1915 began providing books to school districts under contract (this program continued until 1946), it was not until 1927 that the first children's librarian was appointed and not until 1928 that the importance of services to children was recognized fully with the establishment of a special Department of Work with Children. Audio Visual Services had a similar gestation period, as did information service itself during the early years of the "lending" Library.

Delivering reading material at Olive View Sanitarium (c. 1928). During the first year of operation, 1913, the County Library accepted responsibility for institutional service with a library at the Whittier State School for Boys. The following year -- in "one of the first instances of a public library doing real hospital library work" -- service was established in a reading room
Delivering books to inmates at the Hall of Justice (1955). at County General Hospital, and delivery through the patient wards was initiated. A Teacher's Library was organized for the County Superintendent of Schools that same year, followed shortly thereafter by collections at the County Farm (now Rancho Los Amigos Hospital), Juvenile Hall, and in other State and County institutions -- even special war camp libraries were set up during World War I. A modest service in the beginning, the providing of books to the patients and inmates of various institutions has matured over the years to become a model for programs to the institutionalized across the country. Service locations have changed from time to time but enduring recognition of the therapeutic power and cost-effective value of this service continues to make it one of the most important of the many special services the Library has conducted during its seventy-five year history.

By 1926, 117 school districts were being served by the Los Angeles County Public Library. In the reorganization of the following year, service to schools and
The first mobilibrary on display at the Los Angeles County Fair, with Supervisor John Anson Ford of the Third District and John Henderson, County Librarian (1948). teachers came under the new Division of Work with Schools, which merged with the Children's Division in 1935. In 1946, it was deemed appropriate to transfer these services to the County Superintendent of Schools. Although many branches continued for some time to be located in school buildings, they were known as
Mobilibraries converge for open house at Hawthorne (1962). community libraries for service to adults and children as members of the community. Meanwhile, outreach to the schools continued as school visits, community contacts, story hours, and special reading programs became part of each community library's standard curriculum of services. Similarly, the Summer Reading Program, a tradition since 1931, became the backbone of library service to children during the months when school was not in session.

Another significant facet of library service began in 1949, when the first bookmobile became operational as part of the postwar plan to consolidate far-flung outlets while still providing service in areas of thinly spread population. The first, in the Antelope Valley, made it possible to discontinue eleven small branches while still continuing to serve area residents at a much lower cost. Others followed and soon were seen not in terms of consolidating stationary outlets but as an effective means of reaching out with library service to remote areas previously without such service. Today, these bookmobiles, known as "The Information Express," continue to bring dependable library service to people remote from an established library or confined in convalescent homes. Two are special-purpose vans: OASIS, serving senior citizens in the Antelope Valley, and the media van, the MOST, on call for community events and Library programs. In addition, a Books-by-Mail program was started in 1976 in North County Region and expanded in 1983 to the rest of the County service area, thus further extending library service to rural residents and to the homebound.

In recent years, the Library has made significant strides in reaching out to the community through special collections, services and programs -- many initiated through "seed money" from grants. Notable examples include the Language Learning Centers, first organized at various libraries in 1978 and expanded to others in 1983, which offer tutoring and assistance to adults who wish to learn to read or to improve their literacy skills; and the Community Access Library Line, established in 1979 as a multiethnic, multilingual, toll-free information and reference service. Also of special significance has been the sharing of cultural riches through Black History celebrations, art exhibits, other-than-English language films, ethnic symposia, historical round tables and -- especially -- through four cultural resource centers: the Chicano Resource Center, the Black Resource Center, the Asian Pacific Resource Center, and the American Indian Resource Center. Other outreach services include Dial-a-Story, offering multilingual children's stories over the telephone; TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) equipment at several locations; CHIPS, a consumer health information program; telephone legal and medical information services.


  • Delivering reading material at Olive View Sanitarium (c. 1928).
  • Delivering books to inmates at the Hall of Justice (1955).
  • The first mobilibrary on display at the Los Angeles County Fair, with Supervisor John Anson Ford of the Third District and John Henderson, County Librarian (1948).
  • Mobilibraries converge for open house at Hawthorne (1962).

Diamond Jubilee:
Seventy Five Years of Public Service
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