Fare Thee Well, Glen Creason
October 27, 2021 5:02 PM   Subscribe

"I knew how crazy people were long before the internet made it crystal clear." Having worked in the L.A. Central Branch Library for 42 years, Glen Creason muses about the time he's spent in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles and says goodbye.
posted by starscream (6 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is quite lovely and you should really check out his other writings on that site. This one in particular stands out for me.
posted by sjswitzer at 5:43 PM on October 27, 2021 [4 favorites]


Thank you for posting this.
posted by badbobbycase at 6:29 PM on October 27, 2021


This is great!
posted by vorpal bunny at 8:49 PM on October 27, 2021


Thank you for sharing this - I spent some enjoyable time last night and this morning reading his blog.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:40 AM on October 28, 2021


This is wonderful - I often have stayed with an old friend who lives in downtown LA, coincidentally not that far from the library. His line that, "Over the years I have seen, heard, and smelled the big city like few others" really resonates - I'm not saying downtown LA smells good by any means (you soon learn to distinguish human urine from animal urine), but there is something about the smell that locks you into a time and place and Glen obviously knows so. Thanks for sharing.
posted by dngrangl at 3:27 PM on October 28, 2021


My parents were librarians in a mid-sized coastal American city in the 70s through the 00s (although it grew suddenly in the 90s). I spent my teenage years going to the main library downtown and doing my homework and goofing off until shifts ended and we rode home on the bus together.

The security guards knew me on sight, and would watch out for me, I'm told. The 80s was a really rough time there, because of Ronald Reagan. When he shut down all of the federal mental hospitals (which needed reform, don't get me wrong), many people were simply turned out into the streets. Libraries were the only spaces that did not have "no loitering" signs up: in fact, they are spaces custom engineered for waiting alone with your thoughts and whatever inspiration they can offer. Where else can you go that won't demand money from you just to stay put and pass some time by yourself?

I remember the space I always avoided was the tables by the industry and technology sections. I think my father specifically warned me away from there. That was the floor where the chess games were played, and the men who played there were easy to smell from the escalators. A guard once warned me that that was the most violent part of the library, and they'd moved the stacks around to keep more eyes on that spot.

And yes, I heard tell of the absurd queries. A woman with a dodecahedron she dragged around in a bejeweled red-ryder wagon would always make the most difficult-to-follow reference questions. A man once worked out my father's name and made terrifying requests about information on the deaths of people with that exact name. One person tried in vain to get a photo of a literal albatross around a former mayor's neck, refusing for hours to accept that a headline describing this was metaphor.

I used to call the short-question reference phone line when I needed something for homework I couldn't find in my textbooks, and occasionally I'd reach my parents when they worked that desk. They knew my voice, and sometimes would scold me for not looking harder in the book.

But I spent more time in that downtown main library than I ever did in our residential neighbourhood's local branch, and I was only partly dismayed when they dismantled it and built a giant glass-and-steel abstraction of a library in its place. I've never been to the new one, and still think back to the first floor humanities department when I hear the ambient noise of the Enterprise in Star Trek TNG: it sounded just like the sound-dampened escalator machinery from a 1960s urban library building used to.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 4:15 AM on October 29, 2021 [5 favorites]


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