Libraries are changing; they’re adapting to shifts in technology and expanding their services to help communities in need. Los Angeles Public Library staff members are now taught how to respond to child abuse and threatening behavior, trained on how to use Narcan to revive overdose victims, and have panic buttons at their desks, The Los Angeles Times reported last year. The library system is “a place where John Lithgow can be found reading next to an unhoused person in the North Hollywood branch,” Jeffrey Fleishman wrote in that article.
In this moment when the Los Angeles library system is redefining itself, it has taken an unusual step. The library system, which manages 73 branches and houses more than eight million books, announced last month that it had acquired a local book publisher, Angel City Press, which had been run by a married couple.
I spoke to John Szabo, who has been the city librarian of Los Angeles since 2012, about the acquisition and the library’s changing role in the community. Here’s our conversation, lightly edited:
Why did the library acquire a printing press?
A few years ago, Paddy Calistro and Scott McAuley, the owners of Angel City Press, approached us and said they were retiring and wanted to donate the press to the library. While it’s certainly a small business, the press also feels to me like it’s an institution in Los Angeles, and one that has had a wonderful mission of publishing these just incredibly high-quality, wonderful, well-researched books about Los Angeles and Southern California.
We really thought long and hard about it, and also thought about our mission and the library’s role. And it really seemed like a great fit, and like something that would help us do what we already do, and that is preserve and tell stories of Los Angeles and Southern California.
This may be a silly question, but what will it mean, exactly, that you have a press? Does it mean that the library is publishing new books?