St. Paul's Baptist Church, once the center of a thriving African American community, is now struggling to financially survive and attract new members in what has now become a primarily Hispanic neighborhood. Yet new life is flowing through the sanctuary as hundreds of homeless come every Sunday to eat breakfast and many become regulars in the services, bible study classes and choirs.
Family-owned, Word of Life Christian Bookstore, is celebrating 50 years of operations on Main Street. The family owns three location in Los Angeles and is considered one of the largest outlets for Christian literature in Southern California.
Relics of the post-WWII era still stand tall along Main Street - air raid sirens. Although they were originally installed to alert Angelinos of an impending air strike, they have been configured to serve as part of the statewide Emergency Alert System. During the 1992 Los Angeles riots, certain public services were stretched beyond their limits and while some eventually expanded, some were discontinued. Listen to find out how the city responds to crisis, whether it be natural disasters or urban unrest.
Heawon Paick sits at the desk in the center of the library, typing on the computer and answering phone calls. Behind the senior librarian is a row of computers, and all around her are many bookshelves. Adults are also on computers, clicking and typing away. Teenagers are in the "Teen Section," browsing the Internet and reading. A man is reading a newspaper, a UCLA student is on his laptop.
From the looks of it, it seems the Junipero Serra Library is functioning just fine. However, that is not true. Because of recent budget cuts, the library (along with all the libraries in the Los Angeles area) has been forced to cut hours, let go of staff members, and reduce their budget to buy books, computers and whatever else is needed for the library. According to Paick, the annual material budget given to the library was about $80,000 in 2007; now it's $50,000.
Since the price of the book continues to increase, and even though we have $50,000, the buy power is even less than what it used to. It's very hard to purchase really needy materials as much as we used to. It's very difficult to choose what to buy and what not to buy," said Paick.
The $30,000 cut leaves Paick struggling with figuring out what to cut from the children's library versus what to cut from the adult library. She said it's a constant struggle.
However, that's not the only hit the library is experiencing. Along with losing money, the library also had to let go of some of its staff members. Paick said she went from having 12 staff members to now only eight since the time she began working there in 2007.
"I lost one librarian to another branch, and I lost one full-time clerk to another branch. I also have one vacancy for a 'MC' (which stands for messenger clerk. A MC generally stacks books away on shelves)," said Paick.
Felecia Warren, a clerk at the library, has worked in the Los Angeles Public Library system for 12 years. "It's sad hearing about people who've worked in the Los Angeles Public Library system for five years and then having them not be here," she said.
Warren said Junipero Serra Library staff members have been dispersed to other library branches in Los Angeles because those branches were low on staff due to the budget cuts.
"[The budget cuts] disrupt everything," said Warren.
A drastic change the library has experienced as a result of the budget cuts and letting people go is the reduced number of hours it stays open to the community. Currently, the hours are 12:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays and the library is closed on Sundays and Mondays - a first in the Los Angeles Public Library history.
"We used to open 6 days a week," said Paick. "We used to open Monday to Friday to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. But now, Monday is closed. That's a huge reduction...this is a great tragedy and loss for the community."
Hope for the library, and all the other libraries in Los Angeles, is not lost though. On Tuesday March 8, Angelenos had the power to bring money back into the Los Angeles Public Library system by voting for Measure L. Measure L will essentially help restore 6-day service at all libraries and eventually 7-day service, buy books, and support library programs including after-school and summer youth, student homework help, adult literacy and job search programs. If passed, this new funding will be available as early as July 2011.
"If [Measure L] doesn't pass, the picture is not pretty. That means that there's a possibility that there will be more cut in hours, there could be more layoffs, and the worse scenario would be that some of the branches would be closed permanently to the community members, which cannot happen," said Paick.