5 Questions for Silver Lake librarian Lisa Palombi

Silver Lake, library

Silver Lake Senior Librarian Lisa Palombi behind the Information Desk

By Marni Epstein

Lisa Palombi is the Senior Librarian of the Silver Lake branch Library . Since 1983 she has worked in virtually every library capacity possible – elementary schools, special collections at Planned Parenthood, and of course, branch libraries. She takes pride in Silver Lake’s community-driven programs and particularly their family-based orientation. In fact, Lisa’s biggest sources  of pride are the Children’s collections and early literacy programs. She has helped revive weekly story times across the Los Angeles Public Library system from the South Central branch, to Edendale, and now Silver Lake. It’s no wonder really as Lisa emanates a wide-eyed sensibility and self-deprecating sense of humor ideal for capturing childrens’ attentions.

In curating the Silver Lake branch’s collection,  her goal is to reflect the community’s personality. For that reason, the Silver Lake branch holds a collection vast in the business of creativity, entrepreneurship, going green, and modern architecture. For whatever the community is looking for, it is the 47-year-old librarian’s top priority to help them navigate the library’s emerging technologies and traditional formats to find it.

Are the stereotypes true – do you really “shush” people a lot?
I am not a big shusher, but it is definitely still an expectation among our customers!  When our extremely popular baby and toddler story times are going on, the library is NOT quiet, and some of the grown-ups get upset.  Have you ever tried shushing a 10 month old? It doesn’t work.

What is the largest late fee you have ever seen?
Our overdue fine structure is such that the fine maxes out at the cost of replacing the book, as if it was lost. The highest account I ever saw was when someone checked out as many items as they could and then did not return them. It was almost $1,000!  Unfortunately, I think that was a case of intentional theft.  But there are times when, what may appear to be a small fine is an insurmountable obstacle for families.  At our branch, we do our best to work things out so that kids get the materials they need for homework.

What are the most common books/ genres that are checked out?
Cookbooks are pretty popular, as well as self-help.  Bestsellers get reserved before they even arrive at the branch!  Of course, our DVD collection is amazing.  We focus on Criterion titles, and have a lot of great donations that fill our backlist.  We also have a lot of great music.

What is the Dewey Decimal System? How does it work?
Melvil Dewey is considered to be the Father of Modern Librarianship. When he was 21 and working in the college library at Amherst College in upstate New York, he came up with a new system for organizing books.  Its genius is that it is expandable, so topics that Mr. Dewey could never have even dreamed of can be accommodated in his system.  It starts with a basic structure of a set of ten large themes, such as natural science or literature.  Then it is broken down into smaller subsets (such as mammals), or Dewey decades, and then it gets more and more specific as the decimal number expands.  Each numeral in the number represents something about the book. There are other systems, such as the Library of Congress system, but public libraries for the most part have stuck with Dewey.

Are people ever embarrassed about the material they’re checking out?
There are many topics that people will not ask for help in finding, but I know that they are being used because of the circulation statistics.  You can probably guess what they are: sex, relationships, health, and more sex.  The Silver Lake Branch has three self checkout stations, as well as a self help holds area for materials that have been reserved.  Privacy is a very big part of the philosophy of public library service.

Marni Epstein Epstein is an entertainment, music, and lifestyle Journalist and resident of Echo Park. She has previously worked in the film and digital media industries with FOX and Sony Pictures Entertainment. She is currently also pursuing a Masters in Historic Preservation.


  1. Lisa Palombi is a Silver Lake shero and star librarian. We’re SO fortunate to have her. Go Lisa!

  2. Lisa Baca-Sigala

    CORRECTION – Lisa Palombi was at Echo Park Library (not Edendale as reflected in the story). Lisa was also the key person for bringing back the Echo Park Library Community Group (EPLCoG) aka “Friends” and the installation of the Historic Filipinotown Culture and Book Collection (the only one of its kind in the City of Los Angeles ‘s library system). Lisa continues to help Echo Park and Silver Lake residents by being a resource and giving advice on various projects. CONGRATS TO LISA on a job well done for the benefit of all our communities.
    Lisa Baca-Sigala, Treasurer, EPLCoG

  3. I worked at a Library. It was a nightmare! But I gained alot of experience with the public. Kudos to everyone who works with the public.

  4. We live around the corner from this wonderful library and are frequent visitors! Thank you so much for all your great work lisa and thank you for all that you do for our community!!!!

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