Learnings from the LA Public Library

Librarians have warned me that things can get weird at public libraries. The main branch in downtown Los Angeles lived up to the hype today.

First, did you know there’s a Panda Express in the library? Ok, not in the library proper, but in the library building, about ten feet from those alarms that sound if someone steals a book. The Panda Express shares a space with a TCBY and a no-name cafe.

I pick the fiction room on the third floor. Immediately there’s a choice: table or cubicle?

I pass a bank of cubicles. Most people are working, or watching YouTube. One man is watching porn. Ok, watching is a strong word. He’s actually opening his mail; the porn is just background. He’s watching an orgy the way airport travelers watch CNN.

I opt for less privacy and snag a table. The woman next to me works diligently, but she’s also a multi-tasker. She files her nails. Loudly.

Later, a library cop appears. She skips past Postal Porn and smiles at Multi-tasker. Then she sees the real problem: a man sleeping, head down on the desk.

She shakes the sleeping man awake.

“If you’re going to sleep, you have to leave.”

He decides to stay.

Eventually, Multi-tasker leaves. An elderly woman takes her place. There is no outlet nearby, but a lamp sits on her table, the cord dangles.

The man on the other side of her has an outlet, which powers his laptop. She asks for his seat.

“I’m leaving in five, you can have it then.”

Powerless But Entitled turns to face me.

“I think there’s something wrong with this library,” she says.