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The Ultimate LA Family Guide ™
Los Angeles County Library System
Our introduction to the county library system was when we went to the Agoura Hills branch for their weekly used book sale. The sale is every Saturday and they have a huge collection of books. It’s so large that it’s hard to even describe. They get a lot of huge donations and the friends of the library also arranges for pick-ups which makes them unique. After picking out a few books we headed upstairs to browse and relax for a while. The library is modern, has beautiful mountain views with tons of comfortable seating next to the windows and a very impressive collection. My kids immediately dived into the turning paperback racks and each found about 15 books that they wanted to check out. You don’t need to be a resident of LA County to get a library card, just a resident of California. One major difference with the LA city library system is that you can check out 50 books at once unlike LA where the limit is 30. Another difference is that children's paperback books are all categorized on the digital catalog which means you can find them at another branch or put them on hold and they will be brought to the branch you choose. This is a big deal in my house because the LA city library does not categorize the books my kids love including Geronimo Stilton, Goosebumps, A to Z mysteries and Bailey School Kids. So we were driving around to branches all over the city trying to find the books they hadn’t read yet. Now we can go on the library catalog system at home, order all the books they want to read and then go pick them up when they are ready.
The Agoura branch has lots of fun activities for families including Stargazing at 6:30 pm on November 20th. This branch wrote a grant to bring more astronomy programming to the community and these events are very popular and well received. If you have any budding space enthusiasts in your house you should really come and check this event out.
Another great feature of this huge branch are the private rooms that you can reserve to hold study groups or book club meetings. There are also a ton of magazines to choose from and lots of computers with internet access.
Once we had checked out the Agoura branch we hopped online to see what other branches we wanted to see. Our next stop was the Topanga branch which was recently remodeled. There are beautiful sculptures crafted by local Topanga artists which complement this modern and airy space perfectly. The library is immaculate with great lighting and different seating areas. The bathroom situation is not the best...the library employee has to press a button which makes a buzzing sound and releases the lock on the bathroom door. The embarrassing part for both the patron and for the library employees is having to ask have this interaction each time you go to the bathroom. When I had to do this the buzzer didn’t work well which meant having to walk back and forth, interrupt her conversation with another person and ask her to try again. It’s an inconvenience and I am not sure why they couldn’t just have a key for people to use and bring back or open bathrooms with a very obvious surveillance system outside the bathroom entrance.
The Topanga library had a great selection of picture books that come with an audio CD to read along with and a huge collection of childrens DVDs as well.
The last library that we have checked out is the Malibu library which is connected to the Malibu courthouse. It is laid out as one big room with ample seating and great visibility. A great feature here was the new books collection. The children’s librarian has taken the time to gather a variety of books that are all brand new to the library and put them in an attractive display. I quickly gathered up a step-by-step drawing book, two comic books, a new book by the author of the Judy Moody series and two adorable picture books. It’s obvious to me that this county system really takes pride in keeping their books in beautiful condition and regularly replaces books that get worn out or are in disrepair. I have no problem with a book getting lots of use but there have been several times in the LA system where we have gotten books with pages torn, stained or falling out. Another positive feature of this system is the great parking. I find that in the branches I go to most often in the LA city system, the parking is cramped and I am lucky to find even one space available. The parking for the Agoura library is huge and the others were smaller but also ample. To be fair, we visited all three branches on Saturdays so I don’t know what a typical weekday after school would look like but even so, I was impressed with what I saw.
The West Hollywood branch is our next stop as we have heard wonderful things and it was recently remodeled. There are over 80 branches in the county library system stretching from Castaic to Hawthorne to Norwalk. We also plan to check out one of the bookmobiles they operate for nostalgic sake.