East Los Angeles Library Features Mexican Arts and Culture

By Jiawei Wang

Four mariachi musicians hit the stage in East Los Angeles Library wearing charro suits of short jackets and tight pants to celebrate Thanksgiving in their own way on Tuesday, Nov 25.

The performance took place in a meeting room in the library. Around 70 audience members attended the event. They clapped to the rhythm, sang along to the familiar lyrics and even danced with the mariachi performers.

“It’s my first time seeing a mariachi performance in a library. It’s very interesting. But I also like the children’s Halloween event!” said 13 years old Alexa Morales, who came to the event with her parents.

This is the second time the East LA library hosted a mariachi event. The library hosts six to nine different programs a year, and most of them are Mexican culture related programs, according to the librarian Joshua Cloner, who works in the East LA Library.

“Because it draws bigger crowds,” Cloner said. “At the same time, the library wants programs from other cultures as well to give people wider idea about the world out there and make the library itself more interesting to people.”

Cloner mostly organizes events for adults, and at the same time there are young adult’s and children’s librarians to provide services and run events for teenagers and children.

The library not only attracts Latinos, but also people of other ethnicities. Samuel Delee, who is African American, has frequented the library in the past three years, five times a week. He lives in Little Tokyo and he said the Golden Line made it convenient for him to hop on the metro and visit the library.

Delee said the library, while providing Mexican cultural experience to people, is also open to other cultures. He went to a hip-hop music event and the musicians are his childhood friends.

“So I don’t find it limiting at all,” said Delee.

Coloner said that each year the county provides $400 funding to the library, and this year, the money was spent on two programs, while all other programs are funded by Friends of East Los Angeles Library, an organization formed by community members to support the library.

Most of the members in the group are frequent patrons of the library and are Mexican Americans. The group has its own bookstore in the library and it hosts book sales in the meeting room three to four times a year. The money from the book sales funds the programs and events in the library.

Cloner has been working for County of Los Angeles Library for over 26 years, since he received his master degree in library management from UCLA. His father Alexander Cloner was a renowned professor in USC and the university established the Alexander Cloner Outstanding Student Award after he died in 1991.

As a Caucasian librarian in a Hispanic community, Cloner said he feels accepted and welcomed by the community.

“Some people are very interested in the fact that I’m different,” Cloner said. “Some people don’t speak English at all. I like to help them and they like to speak to me in their own language. Many times they don’t expect as many services as they will get, so most of the time they are happily surprised, and they will see me for years because they feel they can always get help from me.”

Cloner said because of the strong Mexican American presence in the community, the county library established the Chicano Resource Center in 1976 to support the Mexican-American (Chicano) community.

The center is in a big room in the library. It features mural art, folklore and the history of Mexican immigration and the Chicano movement. The center has its own liberian to manage collections of historical documents, political posters and subject notebooks. It also hosts art exhibits and microfilms

Cloner took out a book called “Pintura Mural” and said he bought the book in 1997 when he attended a book fair in Guadalajara, a city in Mexico. The author of the book David Alfaro Siqueiros used to be a friend of his father’s 60 years ago.

Robert Gonzalez who is 46 years old attended the mariachi music event and said that he came to the same event four years ago.

“All my family members are immigrants from Mexico, and I was born and raised here in East Los Angeles, so I always want to know more about Mexican culture and where my family comes from,” said Gonzalez.

He started visiting East LA Library since he was four years old and he feels grateful for what the library has offered him.

Mozaic art features Mexican culture in the lobby of East Los Angeles Library.