Once upon a time, UCLA hosted the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books — the nation’s largest public literary festival.
That time is now over.
USC President C.L. Max Nikias and L.A. Times publisher and CEO Eddy Hartenstein announced on Sept. 22 that USC will be the new host of the Festival of Books this spring.
Though many students might not be excited about holding a book fair on campus, they should be.
The festival will kick off its 16th year at the USC campus and will include more than just book panels; celebrated authors, celebrities, speaker panels and local musicians will all be in attendance. The festival seeks to bring together a variety of demographics and unite them in passion for the written word.
“We are thrilled that the festival has a new home here,” Nikias said to USC News. “The Festival of Books is known for sparking just the kind of intellectual curiosity and energy that are at the heart of USC’s mission.”
The fact that the festival has moved from Westwood to USC’s Downtown location is, in and of itself, a remarkable accomplishment. But knowing why this shift occurred is vital to understanding our university’s increasing standing in the greater Los Angeles area.
From authors to publishers to cultural organizations, the fair will bring together numerous professionals from across the region. This is an encouraging sign that the Times has come to view USC as a prominent cultural center of Los Angeles. If the Times didn’t think USC was ready to take center stage for such an event, it would not have broken off from its traditional location.
Furthermore, the campus’s physical improvements make hosting this event possible in the first place. Improvements to Child’s Way, the new Ronald Tutor Campus Center and the construction of light-rail systems near USC show how the university has grown and continues to do so. As a hub of Downtown Los Angeles, USC is constantly beautifying its campus and the surrounding area — paving the way for us to host high-profile events.
Consequently, the university will be able to open its doors to the public so everyone can all participate and engage in this festival — which is beneficial for both USC’s image and Los Angeles residents.
The collaboration between USC and the Los Angeles Times in hosting this event also reassures the strength of the university’s business partnerships.
Part of USC’s mission is to team up with organizations that share the same enthusiasm for service and leadership in our communities. Our partnership with the Times is a great example of that effort.
Not only are USC and the Times two of the oldest institutions in Los Angeles, they are also two of the most influential. This key relationship could allow USC to delve into even greater projects that enhance the “breadth and depth” of our education.
Many students might be indifferent toward the festival, not realizing the impact the festival has on them, their majors or their networking opportunities. Admittedly, book festivals might not be the first priority on the list — especially during a sunny spring weekend.
Ultimately, however, this festival really isn’t about books. The collaboration between USC and the Los Angeles Times to host this event communicates to students an important idea: We do not live in a bubble on campus. USC is gradually becoming the embodiment of the diverse culture and intellectual fervor of Los Angeles and all students should be proud to be a part of this exciting transformation.
Judging by Hartenstein’s comments when announcing the festival’s move, it appears as though the festival is at USC for good.
“We are very excited to move the Festival of Books to its beautiful new home,” he said, “and have the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with USC to ensure we grow bigger and better in the future.”
With these accomplishments, we can expect that this event is not just a one-time gig.
The festival is here to stay. And who knows what’s in store next.
Stephen Zelezny is a sophomore majoring in public relations. His column, “USC on the Move,” runs Thursdays.