“I knew how crazy people were long before the internet made it perfectly clear,” says retired LA librarian
On October 15, Librarian Glen Creason returned his ID badge to the central branch of the LA Public Library and then retired. He has spent more than half of his life in the reference office of the Department of History and Genealogy and has seen a lot in those 42 years.
When the time came to go, he put a pen on some paper and wrote a farewell.
“I felt really sad about leaving,” he said. “So I wrote this as a kind of therapy. “
KCRW asked Creason to read part of his love letter to the LA Public Library:
“I had the rare vantage point of observing downtown Los Angeles for four decades. Not as a journalist or reporter, but in the service of a cultural crow’s nest. Until last Friday, I was the reference librarian in the History Department of the Central Library, in the heart of our metropolis. Over the years, I have seen, heard and smelled the big city like few others. I have met movie stars, music legends, famous writers, powerful politicians, and even a serial killer.
I have spent more than half of my life in this original Fifth and Flower building. It’s almost embarrassing to say, but I loved my job and most of all couldn’t wait to walk into this dear and dirty downtown to experience Los Angeles, from broken hearts neglected to the heights of human achievement every working day. . I have had the privilege of sitting at a reference desk for over 40 years, watching my neighborhood away from home change, sometimes dramatically, but often grotesquely. I was so proud of my workplace, so ready to announce that I was working at the big downtown library that it shattered me in two when the place burned down in 1986. Most of my coworkers survived , often painfully, and when the great old lady came back open in 1993, it was one of the happiest days of my life. I got into my cabin, then I blinked, and here I am.
I’ve been here for eight presidents, give mayors, many issues of Microsoft Windows, 3 Dodgers World Championships, 11 Laker Crowns, flip phones and smartphones, subways, spectacular Olympics, a book and the birth of ‘a wonderful girl. There were also the dark times of two catastrophic fires, the AIDS epidemic, the uprising in LA, September 11, a mental health sinkhole and COVID.
This great old library has been my refuge and my inspiration through death, divorce and depression. This precious village of Central has been tested, but still maintained by people who share my love for the true value of ancient beauty.
There is nothing like the variety from the ridiculous to the sublime public who visit libraries. I will miss the unpredictable curiosity of my clients. I once was able to cite “the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus” as one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World” or patiently explain that I found no evidence that Columbus wore cufflinks when he discovered America. I learned so much from all these curious Angelenos that classrooms could never come close to those 500 months of teaching. There were a lot of requests that I couldn’t meet, the existence of the Nazi tarot deck, the location of the golden tablets of the Lizard people, the Jesuit maps of Los Angeles, I knew how crazy people were long before. than the internet clearly shows.
More than ever, I miss those moments before the doors open and I have the old library to myself. It’s strange how the smell of moldy books can be soothing, even sultry at times. Susan Orlean has described how the village of Central continues wonderfully in her book, but the power to stand in the midst of the wisdom of our rightly maligned race is an experience for the lucky few. As John Prine sang, “How lucky can a man be?
Touching the real life of this library causes a great wave of nostalgia, a bittersweet desire for those deep friendships closed by death. Still, it’s time to dim the lights in the rotunda, shut the great iron gates of Fifth Street, and leave tomorrow to another lucky soul.