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Councilmember Richardson Proposes Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library in North Long Beach

Release Date: 2015-12-15

Written by: Harry Saltzgaver of Gazettes

Ninth District Councilman Rex Richardson has come up with a name for the new under-construction North Branch Library — the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library.

Richardson has put the proposal on the Dec. 22 City Council agenda. He said that he has talked with a number of neighborhood leaders in north Long Beach, and offered a list of supporters for naming the library after the First Lady, including presidents of 10 Ninth District neighborhood associations, former Ninth District Councilman Steve Neal and Long Beach Unified School District board member Megan Kerr, who represents north Long Beach on that board.

Val Lerch, the Ninth District Councilman before Steve Neal, has said he opposes the name. Lerch said he thinks the library should be named after someone local.

Richardson said he believes naming the library after Obama sends a broader message.

“Our state-of-the-art library will be a source of pride and a major focal point of our Uptown Renaissance,” Richardson said. “But we miss the mark if we don't connect with and inspire our youth to reach higher towards their goals through literacy and enrichment.

“I'm thrilled at the idea of naming the North Library after First Lady Michelle Obama, a product of public schools, who studied hard and earned degrees at Princeton and Harvard Law School. She is a figure who shares many similarities with the youth of North Long Beach and is a shining example of who they can become with hard work and a dedication to their education.”

In his agenda letter, Richardson also noted that naming the library after Michelle Obama would create the only library in the city named after a person of color. And it might be possible to convince the First Lady to come to Long Beach for the library opening in late 2016, he added.

Richardson said the idea to name the library after Obama first came from a group of students in the Jordan High School WRAP Program. He acknowledged that more discussion might be appropriate, though, and added in his motion to have the Library Services and Parks, Recreation and Marine departments conduct more discussions with youth and library patrons about the name.

Any name will have to go through the Parks and Recreation Commission and the City Council’s Housing and Neighborhoods Committee for recommendations back to the full City Council.

“But, the first step is to initiate a fair, consensus-building process with our youth, library patrons, and community in the weeks to come,” Richardson said.

Three council members, Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal, Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price and Eighth District Councilman Al Austin, cosponsored the motion.

Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at hsalt@gazettes.com.