Reasons to visit the History Department in person | Los Angeles Public Library

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Reasons to visit the History Department in person

Glen Creason, Librarian III, History & Genealogy Department,
The picture of Rotunda of Los Angeles Central Public Library - Upper Level 2

While new technology points toward every reference resource being digitized and on your hand-held something there are library beauties that can only be savored in person, in your actual hand kind of experiences. While I iPhone cat pictures across the globe I also find that there is no substitute for standing in front of an actual map or holding the magazine your great, great granddaddy may have held. So, this blog post is not about online resources or new databases but a peek backwards at wonders in the History department that are worth a trip down to the historic old Central and all the way down to LL4

map image

A sheet from the Baist's Real Estate Atlas of 1921 Los Angeles in glorious color. Central has four editions.


The California Biography File has sketches created by California notables in their own hand in some cases. These are an amazing primary document of Los Angeles history.

card cat

The History and Genealogy has a fully functioning card catalog that indexes California history and biography for the old-timers who want to flip the cards again.

city directory

city directory

city directory

The department has a large selection of City Directories for cities all over the country but the Los Angeles Directories have a certain serendipity in the advertisements and hard copy pages.


Beautiful atlases that show ownership of land in certain time frames are rare and wonderful. They also are the map librarians favorite pickup line "want to come down to my department and see my cadastrals?"

coats of arms

Unlike the phony ones from Bath, Ohio the Genealogy department maintains a file of colorful and actually authentic coats of arms. Disneyland this is not but the real thing representing families who may or may not be related to you.

garcia carafe

Truly breathtaking are the coats of arms shown here from the Garcia-Carafe set which traces Spanish heraldry in great detail. 


Take a break while at Central and stroll up to Upper Level 2 where the rotunda awaits. Make a cell-phone call and astound your friends when you sound like the voice of God...

photo exhibits

Rotatiing photo exhibits from the History department collection are always fascinating and worth a tour. This one is Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy in Los Angeles.


The department has a large collection of old travelogues dating back into the 19th century where travellers extoll the wonders of places like Summerland aka Los Angeles...

The one of a kind Bernice Kimball's Street names of Los's been answering hard street name questions since Hector was a pup...


Thank You Bernice!


Very special tours might take you by Glen's cubicle...20 years of tomfoolery


Used by the great musician/artist/writer Ry Cooder, the Ry Cooder Renie wall map shows the city before freeways...


The very rare Arnold Hylen book on Bunker Hill awaits at the reference desk...


Even if you do have to ascend to the upper level 2 into Children's Literature you can find a historical lesson in the Sioux Indians who are depicted hanging around a Los Angeles Plaza despite being a couple of thousand miles from their native lands...


An amazing little jewel of the History departments holdings here at Central is the Tom Treanor Collection. These were books that were printed in small sizes to be shipped to soldiers in World War II who might want to read in between the terrors of War. There are hundreds of titles on all manner of subjects from poetry and mysteries to a biography of Lou Gehrig seen here.


Tom Treanor was one of the great war correspondents reporting all over the globe on the battles taking place from Africa to Europe where he was killed when his jeep was struck by a tank in France...


History has a small but extremely cool collection of Sanborn Fire Insurance atlases from the mid 1930's and 1950's They show every structure in a neighborhood and are fascinating to page through.


While the library has digitized Sanborn atlases on the webpage there is nothing like checking out the hard copy monsters in the department.