ELAC names library for former instructor, artist

By Cynthia Solis

East Los Angeles College dedicated its library to Helen Miller Bailey who served as chairperson of the Social Science department from 1946 to 1974. 

The Helen Miller Bailey Library, located at the heart of the East Los Angeles College campus, is approximately 60,000 square feet and is home to more than 100,000 volumes and collections. 

Bailey donated most of her earnings over the years to Mexican-Americans in need. She was an accomplished artist and writer who created the Armando Castro Scholarship Fund. 

The royalties she received from her books were donated to the scholarship. Bailey also hosted luncheons and dinners during her 43 years as an educator and even opened her home to students needing a place to stay.

  The library was first built in 1945 and was initially located in the F5 building.  As the student population increased, the need to have the library be its own structure also increased. This laid the path for the library to eventually be moved and given  its own building. 

The building was two stories tall and only 44,212 square feet. After 25 years, ELAC deemed it necessary to modernize and expand the library. 

Before construction, the building was old and not equipped to house the library’s growing collection of books. It also could not  serve ELAC’s ever-growing student population.

Interestingly, before the library underwent construction, many of its books were housed in two other locations. 

The school had designated six temperature-controlled containers near the C2 bungalows to protect ELAC’s rarer books. The second location was near the South Gate campus. The books from both sites were moved into the Helen Miller Bailey Library. 

After construction finished, the library increased the number of computers to 240, added book stacks, which refer to the main bookshelves in the library, two library classrooms, 23 study spaces and 23 study rooms. 

The additional features enabled the librarians to teach students research skills since more technology and library instruction was available.  

“Book and database budgets have increased to meet the demands of ELAC students’ research more adequately. Ebooks, databases, and 24/7 research assistance were added to provide online services for distance learning,” Choonhee Rhim, library chair, said.

The district will include the library when determining budgets as the student population grows. This is to ensure students have access to a wide range of genres. 

The library is trying to make headway in ensuring that students have access to books on anti-racism, equity, diversity and inclusion. All of these types of titles further promote social justice. 

This is a huge step forward in enabling future generations to fight against racial inequalities still present in society. 

The library is noted as being sustainable. The exterior consists of window walls with solarized glazing and shading devices that allow natural light to flow into the building.

 The inclusion of natural light coupled with the internal lighting systems allows for overall lower energy consumption. 

The building also includes low-flow plumbing fixtures, achieving water savings by having a lower flow rate or using a smaller quantity of water per flush. It is no surprise that the architect who worked on the library, Som A. Iempinyo deemed the library the “Crowning Jewel’ of the campus.”

The mural titled “Education Suite: Arte, Ciencia, y Filosofia’’ was first created for the Helen Miller Bailey library in 1981 by the East Los Streetscrapers. The group of artists consisted of David Botello, George Yepes, and Wayne Healy, with assistance from David Morin. The mural consists of panels where the canvas lays and portrays artwork which themes include art, science and philosophy.  

Throughout the library’s renovation the art piece remained hanging in the library as workers updated the light fixtures and installed a skylight. 

The mural depicts various important figures in history, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Emiliano Zapata; it also features relevant figures in ELAC history, such as Helen Miller Bailey. 

Bailey stands firmly in the center of the panel next to images of John Lennon and John F. Kennedy.

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