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‘He’s Causing Scandal’ ~ Supporters of Reader Series ALOUD Say L.A. Library Foundation President Ken Brecher Should Resign

11:08 AM PST on December 14, 2018

[dropcap size=big]S[/dropcap]upporters of the former directors of the ALOUD lecture series at the L.A. Public Library rallied at a library commission board meeting against the foundation’s director.

The ruckus at a normally boring Los Angeles commission meeting meant that scene was more like a City Council public comment period.

In August, the founding director of the ALOUD Series Louise Steinman and associate director Maureen Moore were fired and escorted from the library. After twenty five years leading the celebrated lecture series – which had included the likes of W. Kamau Bell, Natalie Diaz, Jennifer Egan, and even James Comey – Steinman was out.

The last exhibit the team put on ended in controversy. L.A. Taco revealed the Library Foundation declined to make any public statements on the removal of two artists from San Francisco International Airport. Both sides have suggested that the Tlacolulokos case had nothing to do with the firings.

RELATED: These Oaxacan Muralists Brought Indigenous Flavor to the Central Library; Now They Are Deported ~ An Exclusive

The Tlacolulokos murals provide a thematic counterpoint to the traditional depiction of California history in the 20th Century murals above, by Dean Cornwell. Photos by Daniel Hernandez.

“I can’t comment on personnel matters,” said Bich Ngoc Cao, president of the Board of Library Commissioners. “But I do know that ALOUD will continue, and it is a program that the library has been proud to be a part of.”

When Ken Brecher, president of the Library Foundation of L.A. – the private nonprofit formed in 1992 to support the library – abruptly fired Steinman and Moore, ALOUD’s associate director for eight years, the two women were then allegedly escorted out of the building by security guards.

“The foundation has entered a phase unfortunately of gross mismanagement by its current president, Mr. Ken Brecher,” said Aaron Paley, president and co-founder of Community Arts Resources and co-founder of L.A.’s open-streets events, CicLAvia. “The fissure is growing in the community to such a degree that we have lost trust in the library.”

ALOUD has been the highest profile program of the foundation. It brought authors, poets, scientists, artists, and thinkers to events — as many as 1,500 since its founding in the late 1990s — to read from their works, speak, and engage in public Q&As usually at the Central Library in downtown L.A. The events are almost always free.

Bich Ngoc Cao, president of the Board of Library Commissioners. Photo by Philip Iglauer.

[dropcap size=big]F[/dropcap]ans of ALOUD at Thursday’s board meeting lauded the program for the way it revealed a Los Angeles is too often disparaged as fixated on the superficial. It can be a city of depth. They said that Steinman was the program’s “heart, soul, and brains, and in some ways a community’s unifier in chief.”

What they fear is that Brecher wants to turn the series into a profit-making enterprise, with trendy topics and celebrity speakers, and largely ticketed events.

An ad-hoc committee headed by authors and journalists David Ulin and Héctor Tobar quickly formed and organized a petition in September that subsequently garnered signatures of some 1,000 literary figures, including Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen and L.A. Poet Laureate Robin Coste Lewis.

“We are writers and readers deeply invested in ALOUD, and we are deeply concerned by the announced departure of ALOUD director Louise Steinman and associate director Maureen Moore, and the elimination of their program-sustaining positions,” the petition reads.

“Mr. Brecher is incompetent. He’s causing a scandal,” Chuck Levin told the Board of Commissioners. “One thing that Mayor Eric Garcetti, who I support, does not need is any more man-made controversies and scandals. We have enough in Los Angeles.”

RELATED: Drama at the Library ~ Prominent L.A. Writers Slam Foundation For Hiring New Director From New York

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