Pershing Square Reading Room – Los Angeles CA


In December 1936, the Los Angeles Public Library opened an outdoor reading room in the heart of the city. Located in Pershing Square, the reading room was staffed by Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers. The library circulated 24,000 books in its first six months of operation.

The 1939 WPA guide to Los Angeles alludes to the Pershing Square Reading Room: “The character of the city is also reflected in the facilities for open-air living. Angelenos…patronize outdoor libraries—’parasol stations’—three of which are maintained by the Public Library in downtown plazas and parks” (Kipen, p. 8).

The WPA assigned over one hundred men and women to the Los Angeles Public Library system. The Library’s 1939 Annual Report notes, “For the third year our branches and Central Library departments have had continuous help in clerical work and book cleaning and repair…[and other] tasks which could not otherwise be undertaken. Besides the outdoor reading room in Pershing Square, community stations have been opened in four school buildings and a daily concert has been conducted at the noon hour by using library records and classic programs” (Los Angeles Public Library, p. 9).

Source notes

David Kipen (ed.), Los Angeles in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to the City of Angels (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2011).

Open-Air Library in Pershing Square, Downtown Los Angeles. Circa 1937. - UCLA Library Digital Collections,” accessed January 11, 2023

Los Angeles Public Library, Fifty-First Annual Report, 1939

Project originally submitted by Natalie McDonald on January 19, 2023.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

Pershing Square
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Location notes: pin drop in the square is arbitrary

Coordinates: 34.049033, -118.251815

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