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Photos: The Library Store Is Our New Favorite Place To Buy Gifts In L.A.

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In a city of seemingly infinite stores—a great many of which would self-classify as “curated”—there is a surprising dearth of truly great places to buy gifts.

There are plenty of “design” stores, plenty of bookstores, plenty of boutique-y places selling high-end objets with no discernible purpose, but a one-stop shop stocked with actually cool and surprising stuff at a range of price points? Until yesterday, that was in short supply.

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(Photo courtesy of the Library Foundation)
The revamped and reopened Library Store at downtown’s Central Library is soon to be your new favorite destination for essential inessentials, perfect presents and all things exquisitely L.A. The Library Store—which has been shuttered since January for a remodel—reopened its doors Friday, and it’s no longer quite so tucked away. The Library Foundation team worked with architect Cory Grosser to reimagine the space and add glass walls that make it visible from Central Library’s busy lobby.

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“We wanted to open it up and make it brighter but keep the charm of a library,” Lindsey Vaniman, the store’s assistant retail director, told LAist, pointing out the dark wood of the slat walls and the pair of old-fashioned rolling library ladders (yes, they slide and no, you can’t climb them) used to display scarves and wrapping paper. The space is clean and bright, but there are a number of other wonderfully nostalgic details—the cash register station is papered in an off-white linen meant to resemble old book covers, an old card catalog is tucked in a corner.

Vaniman and retail director Christine Romero are responsible for the store’s eclectic selection. Together, they scour craft fairs and gift shows, surf Etsy, and work with local artists to source the merchandise, a fair amount of which is custom made for the Library.

Think the kind of elegant, unusual stationary and trinkets you’d find at a place like the MOCA store or Poketo, cult Blackwing pencils, and a careful selection of all the coolest L.A. books (guides to secret stairs, secret walks, haunted restaurants, unfamous views of the city and Metro Rail day trips, assorted strange histories, and the city in maps, to name just a few). Everything is unpretentious, and most of it is legitimately cool. All sales support the Los Angeles Public Library.

The Library Store is also, of course, the official vendor for the Library Foundation and the ALOUD series, meaning not just signed books but also unlikely extensions of library projects like To Live and Dine in L.A. and Songs in the Key of Los Angeles, which showcased the library's menu and sheet music collections, respectively. There are "I Love You, California” pint glasses with a design inspired from the vintage sheet music cover of the California state song, gorgeous cookbooks from all your favorite L.A. restaurants and “To Live and Dine in L.A.” flasks, cocktail napkins, bibs and lunch boxes.

We like to incorporate current products with a retro feel, Vaniman told LAist.

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(Photo courtesy of the Library Foundation)
Their L.A.-specific products, many of which are also custom made with images from the sheet music collection, all have a kind of low-key cool to them. They are kitsch in a knowing way, and utterly un-touristy: thick cork coasters printed that same “I Love You, California” logo, modish ceramic travel mugs emblazoned with the skyline and boxed notecard sets with vintage images of the city, along with totes and cups from Sisters of Los Angeles, a favorite local hipster brand. Perhaps the best element of the Library Store—the best element of any great gift selection—is the surprise factor.

There is plenty to be had for $20 or less, much of which you aren’t likely to find anywhere else, along with things like a cloisonne pendant of the California flag gilded in 22 karat gold, high-end coffee table books, and silk scarves printed from photos of the city. The scarves, which hang from the library ladders, are strangely beautiful. Some of the images, like a photograph of the Mulholland skyline at night, are recognizable, while others, like the blue of a pool, could be mistaken for pure pattern.

There is also plenty of literary whimsy, like Edgar Allen Poe and Jane Austen temporary tattoos, banned book socks and Shakespearean insult band-aids.

The Library Store is located in the lobby of Central Library at 630 W 5th St, Los Angeles, CA 90071. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.