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About the Central Library


The Los Angeles Public Library’s Central Library is the third largest central library in the nation.  Its subject departments contain more than 2.6 million books; 10,000 magazine subscriptions; almost 3 million historic photographs, 5 million U.S. patents, plus language learning and multi-media materials.  The Central Library is the headquarters for the Los Angeles Public Library, which includes 72 branch libraries.

The Central Library has nine Subject Departments that provide a variety of reference services over-the-counter, by telephone, mail, e-mail, computer “chat” or fax.  Materials in the Central Library can be ordered by patrons throughout the city and shipped to the borrower’s local branch. 

Central Library statistics for fiscal year 2011-12:

  • Contains 2.6 million of the library system’s 6.2 million books and other items.
  • Attracted over 2 million visitors
  • Visitors checked out 1.2 million of its books and other items
  • Answered over 2 million reference questions
  • Presented 2,100 programs attracting nearly 46,000 people to the library
  • Searched for almost 450,000 items on the router list and supplied nearly 400,000 individual items to fill patron reserves
  • Provided nearly 600,000 hours of computer access to Central Library users.

Central Library building overview

  • Originally opened in 1926.  Arson fires in 1986 closed the historic building and accelerated the building’s renovation and expansion.  The “new” Central Library opened to the public in October 1993 and attracted over 80,000 people on opening day.
  • The building features 538,000 square feet of space on 8 floors, nearly 89 miles of shelves and seating for over 1,400 people.
  • The building includes the:
  • The Singleton Adult Literacy Center
  • The popular Library, a “library within the library” offering popular high-demand, books, magazines, DVDs, and CDs.
  • 235-seat Taper Auditorium;
  • KLOS Story Theater for children’s programs and puppet shows;
  • The Getty Gallery and First Floor Galleries for exhibitions;
  • The Library Store;
  • a food court; and The Maguire Gardens, a 1.5 acre public park adjoining the library.
  • There are 255 free public access computers located in the Computer Center and throughout the building.  Internet access is also provided by Wi-fi.
  • LAUSD Electronic Information Magnet High School uses the Central Library as its classroom.

Subject Departments

The subject departments contain in-depth collections of books and other items related to specific subjects.  Highlights include:

Art, Music, Recreation & Rare Books

  • Provides scores and orchestration services to music groups in the L.A. area.

Business & Economics

  • Collection includes annual reports and 10-K statements for every U.S. public company, annual reports for over 9,000 international businesses, over 100,000 company reports by financial analysts, statistical reports covering industrial production and consumer expenditures.
  • Emphasis is on materials for small business owners/operators, entrepreneurs, importer/exporters, investors, analysts, industry researchers, job hunters, and marketing personnel.
  • HUD kiosk provides information relative to housing needs, housing assistance, HUD approved lenders, and temporary shelters.

Children’s Literature

  • Children’s Literature Department serves children (birth to age 12) with a multi-media collection of children’s literature, fiction, picture books, poetry, fairytales, biographies, Native Americans, Pacific Rim and California.  It presents regular public programming for children and their caregivers to highlight parts of the collection and promote children’s literature.

History & Genealogy

  • Over 350,000 photographs of Los Angeles from the 1880s to present and 2.5 million photos from the Los Angeles Herald newspaper.
  • The California file provides information on local people, events, buildings, issues and neighborhoods.
  • The genealogy collection includes 40,000 volumes, 10,000 genealogies and an electronic family name index.
  • The map collection is one of the largest in the U.S. with over 80,000 maps, 2,000 atlases, and 1000 gazetteers.  The collection features U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps for the entire U.S., nautical charts, historic street maps of Los Angeles back to 1849, historic street guides back to 1929.

International Languages

  • Materials in 28 major languages.
  • Language Learning Center’s audiotapes, videos, DVDs and interactive software packages assist in improving language skills.

Literature & Fiction

  • Collection includes most plays published in the United States, all fiction set in California and novels with tie-ins to motion pictures.

Social Sciences, Philosophy, & Religion

  • A depository site for materials from the United Nations, U.S. Government Printing Office, and the California State Printing Office.

Science, Technology, Patents

  • Department has a complete collection of U.S. patents dating from 1790 and is a depository for U.S. Trademark and Copyright information.


  • One of the nation’s first libraries within a library designed by and exclusively for teens.
  • Areas include the “living room,” complete with sofas and 50” plasma TV; Cyberspace with more than 20 computers with Internet access; and a Homework Center featuring computers with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Docent tours of the Central Library, highlighting its art, architecture and collections are available for individuals or groups of less than six people every weekday at 12:30 p.m., Saturdays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.  For groups of six or more and for specialized tours, call 213-228-7168.