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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Library in Koreatown faces operational crisis amid aging board and volunteer shortage

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The Pio Pico – Koreatown Branch Library, a nearly 50-year-old institution, is currently facing an operational crisis due to an aging board and a lack of volunteers.

The organization recently had to postpone its annual event owing to insufficient volunteer participation.

At a board meeting on March 30, the organization found itself unable to elect a new chairperson because of poor attendance, with only four board members, volunteers, and others present.

“Originally, we had about 30 directors and volunteers. Post-pandemic, however, attendance has plummeted,” explained board member and writer Jeong-ah Lim. “Most directors are over 80, facing health issues, and attracting volunteers is challenging as fewer young people are engaging with reading.”

Consequently, the meeting’s attendees decided to delay electing a new board president, to hold the reading club meeting, and to postpone the regular April book sale until fall.

Pio Pico Koreatown Branch library. [Screen captured from Koreatown LA Directory]

The book sale is a critical event for the organization, generating funds for operational costs and supporting the Pio Pico Library. Its postponement jeopardizes the organization’s functionality.

“Over 10,000 books are stored in our second-floor warehouse, and the library has requested we clear these through sales,” Lim mentioned. “But without volunteers to manage the books and event, postponing was our only option.”

Currently, the organization’s chairperson role is vacant following Jae Kwon Kim’s resignation last year, leaving the position unfilled for three months.

The potential disorganization of this long-standing support group for Koreatown’s public libraries is a growing concern.

Volunteer Donghee Kim expressed worry that the organization, a vital community pillar for decades, might dissolve due to a lack of succession planning.

The pandemic significantly slowed the organization’s activities, leading to its nonprofit status being listed as “suspended” on the state’s website due to unreported financials, prompting the formation of a probation committee by past presidents.

Lim hopes to see more Korean parents bringing their children to the library and getting involved, whether by volunteering or joining the board, to preserve this crucial community resource.

The Pio Pico – Koreatown Branch Library, established in 1977 by then-USC professor Steven Choi, was designated as a library for Koreans by the Los Angeles Public Library in 1979 and officially renamed in 1992.

For further details, please contact (213) 305-0011.

BY YEOL JANG, JUNHAN PARK    [jang.yeol@koreadaily.com]