As a recent transplant to LA from the east coast, Anya Grottel-Brown is contributing to the series: The Newcomer Journals
When you move your family across the country, it’s comforting to know that certain things remain the same in the midst of all the change. I am not talking about the chain stores. I am talking about things like Google search and Wikipedia, which you can take with you anywhere so that your child can continue to feed information into those pesky school reports.
The problem is that Google, although ubiquitous, can’t answer questions like: “I’m writing about an inventor and can’t decide between Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. What kind of stuff do you have about them for a kid my age?” Or, “I am in the mood for a really cool mystery. What have you got?”
The answer, of course, is ‘ask a librarian,’ which is how my eleven-year-old son and I ended up in the John C. Fremont library on Melrose Ave at N. June Street. Like so many other things in Los Angeles, we found this particular branch by chance and were instantly charmed. The library, which began as a reading room at Vine Street and Santa Monica Boulevard in 1912, moved into the current building in 1927. It remains a large, stately open space reminiscent of an old-style reading room. The building underwent extensive renovation between 1990 and 1996, adding features like earthquake reinforcement, computer wiring and an outdoor courtyard with sculptures.
My son and I were lucky: the branch had a dedicated Children’s Librarian. Megan Katz, who is originally from Cincinnati, first applied for a job at her local library when she was 20. She has been working in libraries ever since, eventually earning her Master’s degree in library science and becoming a full-time librarian at John C. Fremont last November. (Prior to that, Megan had supplemented her library stints with a career as a casino singer.)
When it comes to children’s literature, Google is no match for Megan and the library. First, Megan only reads children’s books. “I need to make appropriate selections for my library and help kids and parents find the right books. Plus, I would read children’s books anyway. They’re so much fun,” she says. Second, the John C. Fremont branch has 15,779 children’s items, 14,488 of which are books. Third, if you have a question about inventors or mysteries, you can ask Megan.
In addition to being a fountain of information at John C. Fremont, Megan is an unabashed promoter of Los Angeles Public Library in general. “The LA public library is one of the largest in the U.S. and has an enormous amount of resources: everything from traditional and e-materials for borrowing and entertainment for children and teens to free online courses and webpages dedicated to job seekers,” she explains. She adds: “The library information sources come from reliable experts, whereas there is no way to know if information from a random search online is accurate.”
Coming up at the John C. Fremont branch: a weekly Storytime program for young kids; Science Workshops; Summer Reading Club for ages 0-18. All information is available at www.lapl.org.
Since we’re in the midst of the awards season, here’s Megan’s Top 10 List:Chapterbooks: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry Wonder by R. J. Palacio Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
Picture Books: Little Gorilla by Ruth Bornstein Bark George by Jules Feiffer Punk Farm by Jarrett Krosoczka Farmer Brown Shears His Sheep by Teri Sloat
All-Time Favorite Book: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Read about another local librarian here: Larchmont Buzz: Wilshire Librarian Brings New Energy to Library