Vermont Square Library celebrates 100 years


Located in a residential area on 48th St between Vermont and Normandie, the Vermont Square Public Library has served South L.A. for 100 years. Through the century, the building has watched the neighborhood change both physically — from dirt to paved roads — and demographically as new residents moved into the community.

 Through all this, the library’s maple-wood doors and terra cotta bricks have remained a steady meeting point for the community.

Branch manager Martha Sherod looked back on the branch’s 100 years of history in preparation for their centennial celebration this past August. She remarked on how many things had changed yet others stayed the same.

“It’s fun to look back,” she said. “Our techniques have probably changed a bit, but a lot of it is still the same.”

The branch still encourages students to read, struggles with understanding circulation figures and faces maintenance problems.

Technology, of course, is the biggest change, said Sherod. The library now offers free WiFi. This helps students who need to complete their homework or community members who need to fill out online employment applications.

The surrounding neighborhood is another big change. The residential area is now an uncommon area for a library to be located, although it was not out of the ordinary at the time. Libraries are now often on busy street corners instead of tucked away like the Vermont Square branch. The number of Spanish-speakers who utilize the library has skyrocketed. The library tries to accommodate this shift by carrying more books in Spanish.

The building, however, has not been touched. It was one of six library buildings in Los Angeles that Andrew Carnegie built at the beginning of the 20th century. Only three now remain standing, and the Vermont Square Branch is the oldest.

In 1983, the building was named a Historic-Cultural Monument. The building was almost torn down in the 1990s because it did not meet certain regulations. The community rallied around it in support to prevent this, according to Sherrod.

“I’m really glad that the building didn’t get torn down,” Sherod said.

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