In Memoriam: Remembering Gordon Brooks

Gordon Brooks

Library, 36 years of City service

Remembrance written by Betty Uyeda
Retired, ITA, 15 years of City service

As I enter my 10th year as a member of the Employees Club of California, I received the February 2022 issue of Alive! the other day. I was saddened to see that the section “In Memoriam” listed a familiar name, L. Gordon Brooks. This must have been Gordon Brooks, I thought sadly, seeing that he served 36 years in the Library.

Gordon worked at the Central Library for some or all of the years I was there from 1976 to 1986. We did not have too many conversations, maybe because I was a young Clerk-Typist, and he was a professional Librarian. We did not work in the same section, but because he roamed the book stacks throughout the Central Library, our paths naturally crossed.

Gordon belonged to a special “elite” group of librarians at Central – he was a SCAN Librarian. The acronym stands for Southern California Answering Network. Formed in the late 1960s, SCAN was headquartered at Los Angeles Public Library and was the last recourse in Southern California for difficult reference questions that needed to be answered. SCAN was supported by federal funds for library services.

Gordon Brooks (left) accesses the SCAN equipment (the same task Betty Uyeda mentions in her essay) at the Central Library, 1984. With Gordon (Social Science Specialist) are David Gonnella (Library Assistant, center) and Evelyn Greenwald (Director). Photo courtesy the American Library Association Archives

Before the convenient days of the World Wide Web and Google, anyone seeking information on anything from businesses to health advice to homework assistance to puzzle solutions heavily depended on the Library for its books, newspaper clippings, indexes, encyclopedias, guides, maps, and so on. Gordon was one of the many subject specialists who made up SCAN.

My memory of Gordon is of him standing by a shelf holding an opened book and being deeply immersed. He was someone I did not know well at all, yet after more than 40 years what resonates is the quiet kindness he bestowed upon me.

Out of curiosity I speedily conducted “arm chair” Internet research. I uncovered that the game of chess was a lifelong avocation for Gordon – he presided over the Santa Monica Bay Chess Club; he voluntarily organized local area championship tournaments; and at the Arcadia Chess Club he competed in 732 games in a span of 20 years. I learned that in 1967 he was on staff at the Central Library, and on the job he equally demonstrated activism – he was on a committee that soon became the Librarians Guild and a chartered union in the AFL-CIO by 1968.

These discoveries about his life allow me to come to the conclusion that Gordon Brooks led a very impactful life.