It’s hard enough to keep a library quiet but the staff and supporters of the Edendale library in Echo Park have also waged an uphill battle to keep the place clean. Tight budgets leave the library with little money to maintain the grounds surrounding the Sunset Boulevard building, which has attracted a large number of homeless people, some of whom sleep overnight behind locked gates. The Echo Park neighborhood council had agreed to pay for additional maintenance workers at the Edendale library and the Echo Park branch on Temple Street but its funds have been frozen by the city since last fall. Earlier this year, the Edendale Library Friends Society agreed to help pay for a part-time maintenance worker but that means it can’t spend money on books and other library supplies.
In an email to Council District 13, Suzanne Rogers, who manages the library group’s Wednesday book sales, sums up the situation;
Here is our problem. We simply do not have the funds to cover the huge outdoor maintenance issues we have here at Edendale. Due to our very public and accessible location, at Sunset Blvd. and Alvarado, we enjoy one of the highest ‘use by patron/community’ ratio of any branch Library in C/D 13. But what is our blessing is also our curse! At night we have on-going homeless encampments on our grounds and along both front and back handicapped ramps. Our utility sheds (which we use for book storage) have been broken into so that they can store their bed rolls, clothes and misc. stuff.
In March, the group could only afford to pay one worker to come in two days a month to clean up the outdoor areas, said Rogers. “Last week he struggled to just get the Sunset Blvd. entrance cleaned up, let alone doing anything on the parking lot side.”
Ari Bessendorf, President of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council, said the council has submitted paperwork to get the city to release neighborhood council funds, which were frozen after it failed provide the necessary documents to show how funds were approved and spent.. But so far the neighborhood council has “not yet heard whether or when our funds will be unfrozen,” Bessendorf said.
The neighborhood council has also approached Councilman Eric Garcetti’s office about spending some neighborhood council funds that were transferred to a trust fund controlled by his council district. “No official word on when that money is coming out,” he said.
Meanwhile, visitors to the Edendale library must contend with grimy and smelly conditions. Said Rogers:
If our neighborhood Public Libraries are not a major “Community Beautification Project” and if our [neighborhood council] and our District 13 Representatives can’t help to keep our Libraries looking like the cared for, enjoyed and appreciated institutions the voters in their communities expect, and pay for, than they have failed in a big way!