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Local Westwood Library strengthens community

Patrons browse the shelves of the Westwood Library on Glendon Avenue, located not far from the UCLA campus. The library offers workshops for students such as resume writing and computer education classes. It also offers a sense of community for its regular visitors.

By Carolyn McGough

Sept. 28, 2009 1:45 a.m.

For 22 years, John Krajian has been a regular at public libraries in Los Angeles.

Ever since the Westwood Branch opened on May 7, 2005 on Glendon Avenue, Krajian has had a routine: Get up at 4:30 a.m., eat breakfast by 5:30 a.m. and when the library opens at 10 a.m., Krajian is there and ready.

The 85-year-old Westwood resident is a World War II veteran who lives in housing at the Veterans Affairs grounds. Visiting the library has become commonplace, and his routine continues once inside the library: He reads the Bible, reads magazines and reads the newspaper.

Westwood Senior Librarian Shahla Chamanara recognizes Krajian when he shows up to the library each day.

“He’s here all the time,” she said upon noticing him.

Chamanara said she has developed a relationship with her more regular patrons.

The library has become a cultural center for Village residents like Krajian, she said. Regulars like him have found a home there, using the books, media and computer resources in the 64,000-book branch.

Chamanara said the library boasts a large Persian collection to cater to a large Persian population in Westwood.

UCLA students are also commonly seen sitting at the available tables and computers that are spread around the branch’s sprawling book stacks.

Ilia Jbankov can be found at the library, answering patron inquiries, shelving books, assisting the circulation desk, and generally helping to keep the library organized.

Jbankov, who transfered from Santa Monica College, is a second-year undergraduate nursing student at UCLA. He’s worked in the library for three years now, often walking or riding his bike from his apartment located south of Wilshire Boulevard. Jbankov echoed the library’s presence as a cultural center.

“Most of the time there are people who come here all the time,” he said. “They greet each other.”

These frequenters have made the library space a favorite of Jbankov, not only for his part-time job but also for his studies.

“I use the library for about half an half, work and studying,” he said.

Krajian and Jbankov aren’t far apart from each other in the library, although they come from two seemingly different worlds. While Jbankov works, Krajian can be found sitting in a large chair that is located in front of a western-facing window.

Behind him is a balcony, on which the library hosts fundraising events organized by the Friends of the Library. The next event, which will be on Oct. 4 at 2 p.m., will be a silent auction that raises donations for the library. Chamanara calls the Friends a “support group,” which she said helps the library to survive and thrive, even during tough economic times.

When the library was founded, it was funded through Proposition DD, which was a literary bond that provided funds for libraries in 1998. The Friends provided added revenue and help to keep the library’s circulation high.

She added that any money donated or gained by the Friends “is to be spent at this branch.” At this time, no reduction of hours at the library is anticipated, Chamanara said.

As a whole, the branch circulated 250,298 titles in the last fiscal year, Chamanara said.

Appealing to a city of students, the library also offers resume writing workshops. Students can check out test prepartion materials and computer education classes.

Chamanara also stressed the presence of children at the library. Despite being in a college town and big city location, the library attracts families as well and thus provides reading workshops and teen movie nights.

“We have a huge source of information for the community,” she said, referencing her busy days filled with greeting patrons, updating the circulation and organizing books.

“We all come here … and all of the sudden it’s the end of the day,” she said.

Because of the long days at the Westwood branch spent working by Chamanara and three other librarians, Krajian is able to maintain his routine.

He spends his mornings buried in the book stacks, “keeping up with the news,” Krajian said.

“I like this area; I like the school and the community.”

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Carolyn McGough
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