Poverty in the Suburbs
Race and Redevelopment Policy
in Long Beach
Set back from Anaheim Boulevard by a narrow patch of lawn, the Mark Twain Library is a mere 2,100 square feet. The smallest public branch library in Long Beach, it approximates the size of a generous living room and den with bookshelves placed at angles and squeezed into all corners. Over half of this small space is dominated by overstuffed shelves of children's books, most nonfiction so that Twain's young patrons can complete their school assignments. The most popular children's selections— Goosebumps, Dr. Seuss, SpongeBob—are conveniently stored in plastic baskets next to the librarian's desk in the center of the room. Lining the wall on the opposite side of the room stand the foreign-language holdings in Spanish, Vietnamese, and Khmer marked off by handwritten index cards taped to the shelves. The collection of Khmer books, the largest west of the Rockies, comprises three shelves mostly acquired by the librarians at local Cambodian markets.
A key hub of activity in the library is the computer center, consisting of six computers arranged in a circle less than ten feet from the librarian's desk. These computers are constantly in use for e-mailing, doing online research, working on homework, resumes, and letters by a rotating array of people. One Library Assessment Report found that the majority of the 35,000 residents in Mark Twain's service area do not have computers at home and thus rely heavily on the library for their computing needs.1 The library's primary clientele are young people: teenagers working on the computers, packs of middle-schoolers giggling and reading in clusters, small children and their parents looking for books and videos. A table in one corner is reserved on Saturdays for a retired schoolteacher who volunteers her time and materials to run an informal tutoring workshop for