Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board of Supervisors (Board) set aside $5.7 million for a prospective new library in Florence Firestone. They also called for securing additional funding for the project, including from the state of California, and directed Los Angeles County (County) departments to redouble efforts to identify an appropriate location.
“Literacy matters, and I am committed to finding a new and improved long-term library with enhanced features, including modern technology, a robust book collection, as well as welcoming spaces to meet the needs of the Florence Firestone community,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.
He added he is collaborating with Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer to seek state funding to build the new library.
County Librarian Skye Patrick told the Board, “The Los Angeles County Public Library and County CEO have been working with the Supervisor to find a home for this library. We have committed to this library and so has the Supervisor.”
Several members of the public testified in support of the motion, including Dominique Medina, President of Florence Firestone Community Leaders. “I would like to thank Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas for improving the communities within Florence Firestone,” he said.
Support also came from Edwin Hernandez, Executive Director and CEO of the Florence-Firestone/Walnut Park Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 1,500 local businesses. In a letter to the Board, he wrote, “The business community fully supports [Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ motion]… and we have no doubt that the funds being requested to secure a permanent library location will be another successful and productive project for the Florence-Firestone Community.”
Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has long demonstrated his commitment to Florence Firestone residents. He has overseen over $106 million in investment capital and social programs for the community, including affordable housing projects, an improved senior center and constituent service center, streetscape upgrades, park renovations, art programming, and workforce and economic development opportunities.
The original Florence Library, previously located at 1610 East Florence Avenue, was first built in 1970. At 5,000 square feet, it was one of the smaller facilities within the County Public Library system and long overdue for renovation or replacement.
In 2016, a proposal was considered to rebuild the Library at its original location along with affordable housing. This, however, proved financially unfeasible. The Board moved forward with the project’s affordable housing component and added a workforce development center. Construction is now under way.
The Board then considered a new location for the Library at the Florence-Firestone Constituent Service Center, only half a mile away but with twice as much available space. However, the plan was withdrawn after some community members expressed concerns.
While the County continues to look for an alternate site, an “Express” Florence Library has been established at nearby Roosevelt Park. In addition, the community has access to four other libraries within approximately two miles from the original location of the Florence Library.
Julian Zamora, the County’s community library manager at the Florence Express Library, said a full-service library with the same staffing levels remains available at the Express location. He added it offers enhanced programs, including STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs for kids, and painting, yoga, and many more programs for adults in the adjacent community room. Meanwhile, a new partnership with the County’s Parks and Recreation Department has resulted in an after-school program where kids can participate in story time and crafts projects. Additional amenities at the Express location include laptops, Wi-Fi service, printing capabilities, and access to the large community room.