Today, I found myself regretting (still working on removing the word from my vocabulary) never visiting the Los Angeles Central Library. I had all the time in the world, after work, before COVID, before the baby. I talked about it a bunch. With Efsun we said we would go. But like many things I talk about a bunch, I never did it. Maybe it’s the talking about them that causes dreams to not come true. Maybe that’s an L.A. syndrome. You either shut up and take action to manifest your reality. Or you let them come out of your mouth and see them incinerate in the sun.
To be fair, paying a visit to the library is not exactly a life goal. Plus I have been to my branch in West Hollywood. I even got a fine for not returning a book on time. I must have talked myself out of the $32 fee which was an impossible sum to let go of since I had negative income with unpaid internships being my only employment fresh out of college. I must have told a bunch of endearing stories to the librarian. She must have given me a break. Getting out of this kind of thing, bank charges, late fees, insurance claims used to make me feel accomplished. I even collected back a towing ticket once by sitting it out at the West Hollywood City Hall. The officer who cut me the ticket was a no-show at the court, so I automatically won the case without seeing the judge, which was slightly disappointing because I had prepared such a good defense. I celebrated the $250 something dollars I won back for days. A fortune! For my career misfortunes in the film biz, on the other hand, I blamed myself and my immigration status. It took me years to realize that I had graduated into an economic crisis and a writers’ strike.
In 2008, I was busy reading ten to fifteen scripts per week and writing coverage. So I never got past the first page of that library book. I have zero recollection of its title. Just that it was a thick, intimidating read, might have been on film history, wrapped in ragged, foggy, plastic sheeting that held on to the previous readers’ fingerprints. The condition of the book matched the pre-renovation condition of the library itself which in my memory was defined by the blue-gray frayed and foul-smelling carpet flooring. I’ve known my library long enough to appreciate the sleek new upgrades, the rotating murals in the parking lot, the art installation leading up the stairway, the bright open workspaces, private meeting rooms, and my favorite, solo chairs overlooking the Pacific Design Center. The one thing that doesn’t seem to have changed is the DVD shelves where I still can’t find any movies I’m hoping to find, like a Wong Kar Wai, or a more obscure Scorsese. But renting a free movie is not why I go to the library.
Lately, I am nurturing the closest relationship I’ve ever had with my library, which doesn’t even require me to show up at the building. In fact, it can accompany me overseas. On the apps, Hoopla, Libby, and Kanopy I find most titles I’m looking for and more. I even get to experience the anxious little feeling of waiting for a book to be finished by other readers, so I can borrow it next. I’m reluctant to admit that I’ve never read so much in my life. This incoming flow has begun to unclog the creativity that’s been bottled up inside me. No talk. No regrets. I owe it to the library.
* I learned that I should thank City Librarian John Szabo for transitioning the Los Angeles library system into the digital age, from Susan Orlean’s The Library Book which I’m currently listening to as an audiobook.