To the Editors:
I’m a subscriber with a favor to ask. When I received the following letter from the Los Angeles Public Library’s Save the Books campaign, it occurred to me that your readers might also be interested in helping.
In case your acquaintance with the Los Angeles Public Library is slight, I should tell you that Southern California writers (of whom I used to be one) regard their library with all the reverence, affection and gratitude that New York writers feel for the temple behind the lions on Fifth Avenue.
South Norwalk, Connecticut
On April 29, 1986, the worst library fire, not only of the century, but of historical record, raged through the Los Angeles Central Library. Two hundred fire fighters, working from nearly eighty emergency vehicles, struggled over six hours to put out the ruinous flames that enveloped the building and book collections.
Before the disaster, this great public research center’s holdings had filled forty-six miles of shelving. The fire destroyed nearly 20 percent of these collections, which had taken well over a century to build. Significant portions of the remaining collections were waterlogged or stained by smoke.
The staff and 1,500 volunteers mounted an around-the-clock salvage operation to move the nearly 700,000 remaining water-soaked volumes to cold storage. Destroyed were 375.000 volumes. The emergency phase of the operation is well over. The staff, in varying degrees demoralized and heartbroken, have been involved in the grimy, saddening and massive job of cleanup and restoration. The Central Library and staff spirit suffered another devastating blow when on September 3, 1986, there was a second fire that destroyed nearly all the holdings of a major reading room.
This tragedy has united the private sector and the public sector in an effort to raise $10 million to replace the books destroyed in the fires. The Campaign is spearheaded by ARCO Chairman Lodwrick M. Cook and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley. The Campaign, “Save the Books,” has raised just over $8 million. We are now looking to you, members of the library and literary world, to help us in the homestretch as we attempt to restore the largest public library research collection in the western United States.
Any contribution would be warmly appreciated and is tax deductible. Please send your check to “Save the Books,” P.O. Box 1986, Los Angeles, CA 90071.
Wyman H. Jones
Los Angeles, California
March 31, 1988