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PACOIMA LIBRARY SERVES AS SANCTUARY.

Byline: ALEJANDRO GUZMAN Valley News Writer

PACOIMA -- It is Saturday afternoon and there are at least 60 people at the Pacoima Branch Library browsing for books, doing research online and thumbing through magazines.

Angelica Hurtado-Gracia, senior librarian, is busy trying to assist as many patrons as possible. It seems today that just about everyone who walks in has a question.

One boy, about 7, asks for a copy of the movie ``Spy Kids'' and Gracia is not finished promising him that she'll have another library send it to her as soon as possible when another woman demands to know when a computer will be available for her kids to use.

Gracia maintains her cool.

She is the only librarian working today. She has two clerks working the counter, and her youth assistant just left a couple of hours early. She's supposed to have a second librarian with her, but a family emergency has left her working solo.

Gracia says her job is ``a real people job'' and says no one should consider public work unless they are ready to assist people.

And assisting people can come in many ways. A woman once came in asking her how she could find out whether her house was haunted. Gracia found a book for the woman that covered finding out whether the house had negative spirits.

Gracia grew up in San Fernando, graduated from San Fernando High School and went on to California State University, Northridge, where she earned a bachelor's in Chicano studies. She's been at the Pacoima branch since 1995, when she was hired as the branch manager. Since then, she has seen changes.

In 1998, the library had plans for renovation and in 2002, the new Pacoima library was opened.

She says the new library is much more attractive and inviting to the community.

``It certainly measures up to the technology people need today,'' Gracia said.

And the technology, she says, has brought about a big change. People now have a place where they can not only study and find books, but also be entertained. They can bring their own laptops and go online with the library's wireless access.

One visit to the library and it becomes evident that it has an important role in the lives of people in Pacoima and other surrounding areas.

Shane Hartshorn, a 32-year-old from Van Nuys, came in looking for a test-preparation book. With book in hand, he inquires about obtaining a library card. He says he visits libraries at least three times a month looking for books or to use the Internet.

For some, though, the library serves as a sanctuary from the stresses of home life.

George Avila, 18, from Pacoima, goes to the library to do his homework for an economics class he takes at North Valley Occupational Center in Mission Hills. He is working toward his high school diploma.

He says he would never settle for a GED and wants potential employers to know he graduated. The library assists him with this because it offers a quiet place where no one will bother him while he concentrates.

He says his home environment brings him too much stress.

``There's drama at home,'' Avila said.

He lives two blocks away and walks to the library two or three times a week depending on the amount of homework he is given.

Not only does the library offer him a quiet place to do his homework, but it gives him a chance for some peace and quiet. And best of all, it's a good place to find a book that might interest him.

Gracia says it's situations like these that help her feel like her job really has a positive impact on people's lives.

``It's rewarding to know you helped someone with whatever goal or research they have,'' Gracia said.

She especially enjoys helping a person who walks in looking insecure. Gracia gets up and helps them look for whatever it is they need.

The boy comes back 20 minutes later and reminds Gracia to call the other library for ``Spy Kids.'' Gracia smiles.

CAPTION(S):

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Photo:

The Pacoima Branch Library has seen an increase in circulation and users since its renovation in 2002 and also features wireless Internet access.

Courtesy of the Pacoima Branch Library
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Title Annotation:Valley News
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 13, 2006
Words:713
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