The Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research is a great place to learn about the rich history of progressive movements in the city of Los Angeles. A non-profit entity, operating on a shoestring budget, the library houses some 30,000 books, 3,000 periodicals, and 1500 posters, just to mention a few of the documents inside. Of course, access to all of this is free of charge.

The library was founded by a man named Emil Freed who was an activist and a member of the International Association of Machinists until he was expelled for participating in the 1945 Hollywood Studio strike.

Starting back in the 1940’s, and increasingly in the 1950’s as McCarthyism reached its’ peak, many activists in the area were getting rid of a whole bunch of books, pamphlets, movies and other materials. Freed was doing his best to rescue those items. He accumulated masses of these materials, storing them in a garage, moving them into a storefront library downtown, and finally, into their current residence at 6120 S. Vermont Avenue.

The outside of the building on Vermont is covered with murals depicting the history of the people of Los Angeles. Preserving the history of communities in struggle for social justice and the multicultural nature of the city; and ensuring this is accessible to future generations is the mission of the library.

Here, you can see original materials from the great civil rights defender, Leo Gallagher, who actually went to Nazi Germany to defend George Dimitroff, who the fascists charged with burning down the Reichstag. The library also holds archival collections on the Walls Rebellion, and Chicano activism. Other popular items that folks are particularly interested in include documentary films from the Film and Photo League of the 1930’s as well as those from the 1960’s Newsreel collective of the SDS.

All of these items are free to browse. You do have to be a member to check out books or tapes. Basic membership is $40. They also have a student rate of $20 and a “People’s rate” at $10. This is for a whole year — a great deal! You can join the library by going there in person, and writing a check, which I recommend; by phoning them at 323-759-6063; or by going to and paying with PayPal.

There’s always something happening at the Southern California Library. This Saturday, I went to a book signing by author, Robert Lee Johnson. Mr. Johnson discussed the history of the city of Compton, alongside historical images taken from his book, Compton: Images of America. It was a very informative talk, followed by a nice discussion and a chance to chat and meet new folks.

Aside from the free stuff, the library has some great deals going on right now on books you can take home and keep. They’re offering a selection of great titles, with paperbacks going for $1.00 and hardbacks for $2.00. They’ve also got some fascinating historical pamphlets dating back to the 1930’s that you can keep at only $1.00 for four of them! They’re really unique pieces of history.

Another deal the library is offering right now is a coupon for $2 off of one of three newly unionized car washes in the city – and it’s only a block away. For $10.99 with the coupon, I got a super spiffy union job on my car and it looks spectacular!  You can print out the coupon from the library’s website; and, when you use it, the library gets $1 for each car washed. So, you can help the library, help wash away injustice for car wash workers and get a sparkling vehicle to run around town, all in one go!


Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research (map)

6120 South Vermont Avenue, L.A., CA 90044

Phone: 323-759-6063


Vermont Car Wash

6219 S. Vermont Avenue, L.A., CA 90044 (at Gage) (map)

Phone: 323-778-7100

Union Proud!


One thought on “THE PEOPLE’S LIBRARY

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