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Community centrality at the circulation desk

Community member Brian Watson speaks about the access that comes with having a library card.

The Vermont Square Branch Library offers a variety of programs for patrons each week.

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By Alexa Hess

Senior Librarian Martha Sherod recalls 70-year-old and 80-year-old patrons coming to visit the branch and recount their stories of coming to the library as a child.  These members still live in the area and stop by occasionally to reminisce.

Sherod enjoys hearing their stories, as some of the other staff members already know the patrons rather well. Two staff members have held their jobs at the library for over 20 years, and another two staff members for more than 10 years.

“There are a lot of greetings back and forth,” she said, of interactions with regular patrons.  These greetings refer to the interactions between not only the staff and the patrons, but also from patron to patron.

Between August and the beginning of December, Sherod built a relationship with this branch and its patrons as she worked to expand the community outreach of the library while the permanent senior librarian took personal time off.

Her favorite part of this nearly 100-year-old building is the Italian Renaissance style architecture.

“I really like the people in the neighborhood too,” she said. Sherod describes the community surrounding the library as family friendly, welcoming and full of history.

Between the free Internet access and the regulated air conditioning and central heating, Sherod notices patrons frequenting here for comfort, almost as a central part of the community for those living in the area.

She says that young patrons feel safe at the library and spend a lot of time here, mostly to use the resources available for completing homework assignments.

Sherod spent much of her time reaching out to local schools to share information on the Internet availability and other school-related programs.  During her short time at this branch, Sherod continued the variety of programming the library offers.

She notices an appreciation from the families that attend each week, as the ones that come really strive for their kids to do well in school and learn to read.

Permanent Senior Librarian Yan Wen continues to follow-up on the initiative that Sherod took to communicate with local elementary schools and other parts of the community.

Upon return to her position, Wen upheld a busy schedule of meetings and appointments Sherod previously arranged which left her with no spare time to comment on the legacy left behind.

Sherod’s outreach also extended toward the Neighborhood Council, as she hopes to garner their involvement in the planning of the library’s 100th Year Anniversary this upcoming March.  Plans have yet to advance, but they will involve patrons of all ages. She also hopes the Council can use the community room the library has more.

Sherod hopes such efforts to expand use of the library continue beyond her time.

“I just wish we had more people come in,” she said. Sherod finds the library's popularity slim compared to other branches she previously worked at.

The library’s residential site and smaller size offer their own limitations.

In regards to size alone, the collection is smaller than most branches.  The shelves hold as many as 16,000 books, but the entire collection of the Los Angeles Public Library system expands beyond 6 million books. Because of the size, the librarians continually cycle through all the products at the library – bringing in new and popular books and passing along older, untouched materials.

Other larger branches gain popularity based on location alone, whether it is next to a school or on a main street. The location of the Vermont Square Branch Library in the midst of a neighborhood keeps it hidden.

“It’s just really heartening for me to…when people come in looking for information for me to be able to find what they need, find the website, get that paper printed out that they’re frustrated with, or you know find that information that they need…” Sherod said. She finds it rewarding to successfully help a patron in need.

After more than 11 years with the Los Angeles Public Libraries, Sherod especially enjoys the Vermont Square Branch Library because of its value to the community and the impact that resources can have on patrons.

“We’re just glad to be here to be able to serve the public and like I said, just working hard to make it the best we can be and reach out to people who need our services,” Sherod said.

LEFT: The library provides resources and workshops for those in the community looking to become U.S. Citizens.

MIDDLE: A section of the library highlights books on the banned reading list.

RIGHT: Students in the area utilize the library for study materials and resources on getting in to college.