Monday, September 28, 2015

Bruckman Award...


      Recently my atheist brother gave me a book on Buddhism and the subject of gratitude is foremost in the themes.  So while I am here to accept this award today I want to say how grateful I am for all the gifts I have been given by LAPL over the past thirty-five years.  This award gives me great pride, knowing the reputation of the truest of hard-copy librarians- John Bruckman and his influence on the intellectual life of Los Angeles. I am humbled to be mentioned in the same breath with such a man. I am grateful for so much and to so many. Through the good and the really bad I have sought refuge in the wisdom of the people and place of Central Library. Basically, those people and that institution have given me almost everything and after decades I finally understand how much gratitude is owed. Albert Schweitzer said “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” That flame, that light of learning has flickered more than once and certainly in recent months was threatened with extinction but there were sparks that kept me going forward...just as the library and the library staff has reached out to me countless times and showed me what I could do if I participated in the culture that surrounds me in those halls.
      Central Library gave me the opportunity to be useful in this world and to help nudge the IQ of Los Angeles upward a tick… that is all I ever wanted for my life. Not just to write a book or talk about maps but to make some converts to public libraries and to bring joy to total strangers over thousands of hours on the reference desk. I have met movie stars, great musicians, literary giants and prominent politicians but I learned as much from eccentric MCs and clerks and library assistants as I did from the celebrities and eggheads. I have fallen in love three times thanks to the library so some of what I learned were lessons of the heart. I have also lived through profound losses and managed to come through them by holding fast to the strength made known to me at Central.  I may not drive a nice car, in fact I drive a terribly beaten up car but I have a storehouse of memories that is more filled with gold than the Lizard People’s tunnels under the library. The blockbuster sized cast of Central staff and the colorful patrons have taught me so much over the years I would shudder to think where I would be if I had done something to get rich, although that has crossed my mind a few times. From the moment I reported to the old History department with the rotary phones,  Lampson tubes and dumbwaiter for periodical delivery… being part of Central Library was all I ever wanted to do in my life. Where else could I meet the Rubber Man, the Prospector, Heckle and Jeckle or Peterson who passed me the note that said “You get smarter and smarter.” Where else could I have gathered pearls of wisdom from M.J. Campbell or Tom Owen or Billie, Helene, Renny and the pre-fire old world of superbly gifted and dedicated library staff at every level. They made me what I am today for better or worse. Most of what I know about the History department reference collection I learned from Diane McCarry and Bettye Ellison here today.
     I am also grateful to my family who has put up with a lot… from my  generous Dad to my wonderfully supportive Mom to my truly great brother and my two patient sisters who actually think I deserve an award. Then there is my daughter who has been my inspiration from June 30, 1984 every day, even when she shows up to inspect my pantry at home. I hesitate to name names at LAPL since there are so many who I owe a debt to and unfortunately many who I can no longer express my love to since they have moved on to another reading room in paradise… where there are no problem patrons and it smells like lavender and sage. I would like to mention Roy who I pretend to insult and who pretends to insult me but we love each other. What I have done for maps at LAPL Roy has done for every librarian working now and in the future. I mentioned the living legends here in this room but I must allow a moment to salute the fine folks of the History and Genealogy department who have literally carried me through thick and thin without complaining…too much. Cindy, Christina, Debbie, Kelly, Julie, Wendy and the most excellent Nelson Torres along with the clerks, MCs and  security staff who know my voice by heart. Despite being older than dirt I still have young friends at  Central: in every department: Jim Sherman, Sheila Nash, Emma Roberts, Mary McCoy, the man known only as Timmermann, the Social Science neighbors and even some on the 4th floor including the Foundation folks who have treated me so well.
     I remember like yesterday the phone call I received from dear Miss Pratt when she offered me the L1 Job in the History department. Believe it or not my salary was doubled by LAPL from what I was making at the Herald-Examiner newspaper which made my creditors happy. I could not believe my dream job was to begin in November. When I hung up the phone I did some cheerleader jumps with my knees tucked up under me with joy in my new life. While I cannot do cheerleader anythings now,  there is still some of that joy left in my doing the job I apparently was born to do and will continue to do at least for a while longer. When I  walked over the asphalt in the parking lot and through the Flower street door I had a feeling I might never want to leave and 35 years later it has all seemed as quick as a heartbeat. On November 19 it will be 36 years since I first showed up at Central with a bad hangover but full of wonder for a place that can be an anecdote for the darkness in the world. I am still grateful for the opportunity to shine the light of learning here and to be the first in a line of deserving Bruckman Award winners. Thank You


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