Los Angeles Public Library

[Another post from Sam: libraries and public space on tour—explanation here.]

Here’s a postcard from LA and a few thoughts about learning and public space. With only 24 hours and without my own ride, I could not hit the outlier libraries and little institutions on my LA list. However, the central branch is next door to my hotel. So today’s post stays “local.”

Around libraries and playgrounds, I see lots of public art with an educational bent. The stuff seems easy to do and hard to do well. A classic example of this kind of art is the scale model of something big, like the solar system, which is one of my favorites, actually.

The other end of the spectrum is public art that references learning and knowledge in a more unintelligible, impressionistic way. This generally doesn’t work for me. I have an obsession with learning, so when I see an inscription or a formula engraved on a wall, I’m ready to go further than most artists seem willing to take me. I’d rather you show me a single formula and make me understand it, rather than show me twenty like a decorative wallpaper pattern.

One of the origins of the Uni is a desire to go deep like that—whether the topic be math, history, or science—and to do it in public space. We think this will support a broader culture of learning and showcase the work of librarians, teachers, and thinkers. Here on the plaza of the LA Library, with so much going on just inside the walls of the library, couldn’t we bring a little more of it to the sidewalk out front? The Uni nods, yes.

LA Public Library

Public art on the steps. Outdoor learning?

Uni Librarians, remember to give your patrons what they need. In LA, that's parking.

On the way out of town, aviation and local history exhibit at the Burbank Airport. Culture of learning.

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The Uni Project is the operating name (DBA) of Street Lab, a 501c3 nonprofit.