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Spotlight on Delores McKinney

Central Docents, Central Library,
Delores McKinney

LAPL Docents have been giving free daily tours of the Central Library since the early 1980's.  We are guides who love the art, architecture, and backstory of the library, and volunteer to share our passion with others.  Some of us are retired, some are juggling tours with full time jobs.  Some of us have been touring for decades, others are recent graduates of our top notch training program.  This is the first in a series of feature stories about LAPL docents.

As a waitress for more than 30 years at Hamburger Hamlet, and a receptionist for the past five years at Sunny Hills Assisted Living facility, LAPL docent Delores McKinney has exhibited enthusiasm, commitment, and a sense of humor in whatever she takes on. Since 1991, she’s taken on leading tours at the Central Library.

“I was in the first docent training class after the fire,” she said. “There were four in the class when we started and two of us finished. When I began leading tours, the library was operating at the Spring Street location. The only way to get to most of the floors in the building was by elevator, so we spent a lot of time waiting for elevators.”

She was attracted to becoming a docent, she says, because of her love of learning and research.

After the passage of Proposition 13 and the subsequent cuts in library funding, librarians no longer had enough time to devote to leading tours around the library, so they sought out volunteers to fill the gap.

Before the fire, she said, tours focused mainly on books and highlighting the library’s collections. When the Central Library reopened, the Goodhue wing had been restored and the Bradley wing had been added with its new art acquisitions, tours added information on the architecture and the artists. “It was an exciting time for docents to discover new things and share what we were learning with people.”

When asked about the best thing she finds in leading library tours, she is quick to answer: “Associating with such a fabulous library. It’s something I feel when I walk in—so rich, so deep . . . Tours are a price I pay for being allowed to enjoy the library. After 8,574 tours, it’s a constant pleasure,” she quipped with a smile.

Delores’ enthusiasm is such that not only has she led tours for 23 years; she also decided the docents needed a newsletter. In 1994, she launched and for several years edited The Normal Hill News which later became today’s LAPL docent newsletter. 

“Being a docent”, she added, “gives one the advantage of delving deep into what interests you, whether its history, photography or something else. This has enriched me and my tours.”

This woman with boundless energy also serves as a docent for tours of public art in LA’s Metro subway stations.  

“Every station on every rail line has at least one piece of public art. [On our tours] we stop at each station to look and talk about it.”  She speaks with pride about the refurbishing of Union Station. “Union Station is a treasure for Los Angeles.”  People who would like to join one of the monthly tours of the public art in the Metro  can check the schedule by going to www.metro.net.

Want to learn more about the historic Central Library?  Take a free art and architecture tour of the DTLA Library. Walk-in tours Monday - Friday at 12:30 p.m., Saturday at 11 a.m., & 2 p.m. and Sunday at 2p.m. Garden Tours are given Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Follow us on Twitter @DTLALibrary  Book a tour: docents@lapl.org