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CITY'S LIBRARIES GIVE L.A. SOMETHING TO LOVE.

Byline: MARIEL GARZA

HAPPILY, at least for me and my colleagues, Los Angeles' various local governments serve up plenty to complain about. Rarely a day goes by when bone-headed policies, glaring lack of customer service or frustrating inefficiencies (why, for instance, does the Bureau of Sanitation replace perfectly good trash cans?) fail to offer up tasty fodder for the town's opinionistas.

But today I want to say something in praise of the city of Los Angeles. No, seriously.

I love the Los Angeles Public Library.

Many people may be surprised to know that the well-run operation that is the city's library is part of the same organization that gave us the Tennie Pierce fiasco (firefighter-fed-dog- food lawsuit, for those not in the know) and the neighborhood council system.

It's true. But you'd never know it from the library's customer service.

Unlike other departments that us Angelenos have to fuss with from time to time, it is a pleasure to deal with the city's libraries. Even the most infuriating 3-1-1-related moment will vanish when I walk into my local branch. Or merely log on. The Los Angeles Public Library has a truly user-friendly Web site.

It makes me proud to be an Angeleno, unlike other L.A. operations, which I will not name -- you know who you are -- that regard the public as an impediment rather than its very point of existence.

Yes, I love the Los Angeles Public Library. Let me count ways:

I love its new branch buildings that disprove the idea that all government institutions must look like institutions. I love that their architecture reflects their various communities and are often the nicest building around. I love the airiness, the use of natural light and, at times, the whimsical exteriors.

I love that the library officials, particularly former head librarian Susan Kent, did such a good job managing the library bond money that they built even more new branches and do more renovations than originally planned. That's pretty rare in the public sector. Just look at how the expected final cost of the LAPD's new headquarters has ballooned by a couple hundred million in the past three years.

I love the lapl.org Web site, which satisfies my Amazon cravings without the drain on my finances. I love that I can browse the entire catalog, read reviews of the books, pick a hardback, a book on tape, a book on CD or large print -- my choice.

I love that I can order piles of books online and, like magic, have them delivered to my local branch. I love that I receive e-mails me telling me when book orders are ready, and e-mails telling when when they're about to be overdue.

I love that the librarians I've encountered never really shush people like in the movies. I love that they don't police what people do on the Internet.

I love the new library book program in which branches are stacked with several copies of the hottest best-sellers and then allow people to check them out for only a week -- no renewals. If you can't read a John Grisham in a week, you're not really trying.

I love the LAPL so much that sometimes I accidentally on purpose forget to take books back on time. No matter; I am more than happy to hand over a few dollars to the library's budget each month in overdue fines. Sometimes I want to pay more.

I'm going to love the library even more in March when 24 community libraries -- including five in the San Fernando Valley! -- finally get funding to open the standard 52 hours, from just 40. I don't love showing up to pick up a book or a movie for the evening to find the branch closed.

And I should love the library. I pay for it. So do you.

I just wish I had the same warm and fuzzy feelings for all, for the recreation and parks department, for the zoo, for sanitation, for animal services, for water and power and for the police department.

Of course, nothing is perfect. And I'm sure I'll hear from plenty of disgruntled people who for some reason or another had a bad experience with the city's library. That happens, but it can't change my deep feelings of pride at my city's public libraries.

Did I mention that I love L.A.'s library?

Write to her by e-mail atmariel.garza(at)dailynews.com

How about you?

What do you love about L.A.? Let us know about the institutions and traditions you think make this city great. Go to valleynews.com, register and post your thoughts.
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Title Annotation:Viewpoint
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 7, 2007
Words:774
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