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'W e moved all the bathrooms around, broke through a lot of walls so we could combine all the buildings, and built a staircase to the adjacent building on Girard," says Erika Torri, executive director for the Athenaeum Music and Arts Library in La Jolla. "Now we can go from one building to another without even going outside." From Friday, January 12, through Sunday, January 14, the Athenaeum is hosting a "Reclamation Celebration" to commemorate the completion of its $5 million expansion project. "All of the funding came from friends and family, from our members," says Torri.

The Athenaeum has existed for 108 years and is one of only 17 remaining membership libraries in the country. Not supported by taxes, the institution relies on annual fees from its approximately 2300 members in order to operate. "The largest donation [$1 million] came from Joan and Irwin Jacobs, the largest art supporters in town."

For the past 50 years, the library utilized 7000 square feet. Now, after taking over the space that had previously been rented to tenants, it is using all 12,000 square feet of the property. The redesign took almost one year to complete. "From the outside, everything stayed the same," says Torri. "We did retrofitting to the building years ago; we had big scaffolding everywhere. We did far more to the building this time, but nobody saw a thing."

Torri says the library is particularly proud of it's "artists' books" collection, which consists of approximately 1200 books ranging in price from $15 to $35,000. The expansion includes a climate- and humidity-controlled vault for this collection. "Artists' books is a new genre in the last 40 to 50 years," says Torri. "An artist's book is the book as an art form, not a book about artists or art categories, but a book itself that is a piece of art." The library's website explains, "Artists' books are either one-of-a-kind or created in limited editions. They are by nature multidisciplinary -- a combination of text and artwork -- ranging anywhere from a traditional format to unconventional sizes, shapes, materials, and structures far beyond the constraints of a book."

For the library's collection, Torri prefers to focus on the Southern California region and pays particular attention to artists' books produced by Brighton Press, Bay Park Press, and Scripps College Press. "Over the years, we've collected the work of Ed Ruscha, who made 16 small artists' books in the '70s. We are missing only one, which has been offered to me at $35,000. I think it will be a little while [before we are able to acquire it], but then we will have the whole collection." According to the Columbia University Press, Ruscha first "became known for his paintings of roadside buildings" and later for his photography books and multimedia graphic works, for which he "often incorporates food, blood, grease, gunpowder, or other unusual materials."

The Athenaeum's collection also includes books about music and art; CDs, audio cassettes, and LPs, mostly of classical and jazz music; VHS videos, DVDs, and CD-ROMs relating to art and music; Bach Werke, a "series issued by the Bach Gesellschaft in Leipzig from 1850--1900 containing all of Johann Sebastian Bach's compositions"; art and music periodicals dating back to the late 19th Century; music scores; and sheet music from the early 1800s to the 1980s.

"We do not have bicycle-repair videos or books on economy, math and science, or anything that does not have to do with art and music," Torri explains. "It's pretty clear-cut. If there's something we don't have, a member can make a request and we can find it." -- Barbarella

Athenaeum Music and Arts Library Community Day: live music, docent tours, and art demonstrations Sunday, January 14 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Athenaeum Music and Arts Library 1008 Wall Street La Jolla Cost: Free Info: 858-454-5872 or www.ljathenaeum.org/specialevents.html

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