Since opening in 2012, the Topanga Library has been a cherished fixture of the community, providing a serene central locale for enriching the lives of Topangans, both young and old.
The new Community Library Manager, Ashley Abrams, and new Children’s Librarian, Crysty Harding, aim to uphold that legacy while bringing their personal style to their stewardship. Abrams, with her warm demeanor, quickly gleaned what was singular to Topanga as an L.A. neighborhood.
“It’s a very close-knit community and on any given day people will come in here who know each other,” Abrams said. “They interact. That’s not what I experience in my own community, so I think that’s really special and unique to Topanga. I love getting to be a part of that here.”
As she spoke, several children gently murmured in the background hanging on Megan Rice’s “A Great Tale” sculpture of a boy reading to his dog. On the wall behind them a sign proclaimed, “Topanga is Magical!” in giant, multicolored letters adorned with flying pigs, Topanga’s unofficial mascot. Other art pieces feature prominently throughout the expansive haven, all created by local artists.
“I don’t think you see that everywhere and it makes it really special,” Abrams said. “This library has the most beautiful artwork of any library I have visited or worked at…. It showcases what the community is all about.”
The new manager hopes the library will reflect Topanga’s rich artistic history and help cultivate creativity. She’s eager to fulfill this mission but, while growing up in Northridge, she initially never saw herself in this role. Everything changed for Abrams when, at 18 years old, a brain tumor nearly left her blind.
“A few months prior [to my recovery] I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the library in the same way I always did because I thought that I may have lost my eyesight forever,” Abrams explained.
Once she realized her true calling as a librarian, she jumped on the opportunity to work in Topanga. She grew attached to the neighborhood while working there part-time and was thrilled when she attained the manager position.
“I just knew it was a beautiful place to be,” Abrams said. “It’s somewhere that I think anyone would want to work at.”
Harding, a Topangan of ten years, shares Abrams’ fondness for the community. She worked at the library since it first opened and was recently promoted to Children’s Librarian.
Over the years, she’s developed a close bond with many of the families and the children of Topanga.
“I just really felt like this was my home,” Harding said. “I’m very happy to be here. I’m grateful that everyone has been so welcoming.”
In her new position, Harding developed a ham radio class for kids motivated by her background in electronics, as well as the communication breakdown during the Woolsey fire.
“I definitely want to encourage more young girls to pursue those types of activities,” Harding revealed as another impetus for her passion project. “I’m glad that several girls did pass the class and they worked very hard—all the kids worked really hard.”
Harding is also excited for the children’s book club series, Topanga Bookworms, which recently launched for the summer. Harding recalled how one child made her a thank-you card describing how much they loved the book and the experience.
“That actually made me tear up a little bit,” Harding said, welling up again at the thought of it. “The kids here are great, so I couldn’t be happier.”
The book club is one of myriad programs the library offers which Abrams and Harding, as well as Adult and Teen Librarian, Craig Fischer, endeavor to promote. The Summer Reading & Discovery Program launches June 1 with classes and events for all ages.
Abrams’ personal passion for crafting inspired her to introduce an adult craft series earlier this year. And Fischer, Abrams noted, leads a number of successful programs for seniors and curates documentary film screenings.
Both Abrams and Harding stressed their receptiveness to community involvement. The team embraces a hands-on, collaborative approach to support the specific needs of Topanga.
“I don’t want to prejudge what everyone wants so I welcome any ideas or suggestions,” Abrams said. “I want to make sure that the community is aware of the resources and services that we offer here, but I also want to learn more about what the community would like to see. If there are ways we can serve them better, or serve some of our underserved residents, that would be great.”
To see the full schedule of upcoming programs and events, please visit: lacountylibrary.org/topanga-library/. To volunteer with Friends of the Topanga Library, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.