In 1930 the Los Angeles Public Library established a small community book station in rented quarters on Pico Boulevard. Known as the Shenandoah Station, it quickly became a popular fixture in the community and by the early 1940s it boasted the fourth highest circulation of materials in the LAPL system. During the years of World War II, sharp increases in rent and a paucity of library funds resulted in the library moving to the Canfield Avenue Elementary School, and, later, it was replaced by a bookmobile stop at the school.
Patrons, spearheaded by the editor of the local Pico Post newspaper, pushed for the construction of a branch facility, and in 1951 a lot was purchased for a building. Two years later, on April 1, the new $89,000 Robertson Branch Library opened following a brief ceremony sponsored by the local Lions Club and attended by the Mayor of Los Angeles and many prominent officials.
The branch was an immediate success; during the first three months, circulation jumped from 800 books per day at the book stop to 1,300 books per day at the new building. By 1959, the branch circulated 2,000 books a day. In the following decades the branch needed a larger facility to meet the community's growing demands for services. The passage of Proposition #1, the 1989 Library Bond issue, provided the funds necessary to replace the older building.
The new 10,000-square-foot building, designed by Steven D. Ehrlich, FAIA, features double the space of the previous 1953 structure. Carpeted, air-conditioned and fully accessible to the disabled, it has reading areas for children and young adults, a computer training room, and a multi-purpose room for library and community programs.
The facility’s exterior features a bold structure, not unlike the hull of an ocean liner, which soars above the two-story building and provides an attractive contrast to the library’s rectangular footprint. Inside, exposed wood beams support the roof, while a sloping clerestory, round skylights, and a “peak-a-boo” portal window admit generous natural light.
Steven Ehrlich received the 1997 Award for Design Excellence in Architecture from the Los Angeles City Cultural Affairs Commission for his design of the Robertson Branch Library.
A “virtual electronic library,” the building will provide multiple computer workstations with electronic access to an array of information resources including more than 500 databases, creating, in essence, a library without walls. The virtual electronic library will include a homework center which will provide youngsters with the latest computers and software designed to help improve reading, math and study skills.
Photographs from the Los Angeles Public Library Security Pacific National Bank Historic Photograph Collection.