Photo by Marie Meneses
Tucked into an alcove off the ground floor of Payson Library is the inconspicuous office of Ken LaZebnik. He has no official plaque or faculty webpage, but once located, the cramped but comfortable quarters of Pepperdine’s director for library advancement and public affairs are a haven for lovers of art and literature.
Based out of Studio City in Los Angeles, LaZebnik is also an active screenwriter and educator. For the past 22 years, he wrote episodically for “Touched By An Angel,” “Providence” and “Star Trek: Enterprise.” Before coming to Payson, he scripted a movie that starred Peter O’Toole, taught screen writing to USC graduate students and acted as the dean of performing arts at Stephen’s College in Missouri, commuting every week.
After a handshake and an invitation to sit down — likely after removing a pile of books from the visitor’s chair — LaZebnik is eager to expound his profession to all admirers of art, literature or cultural exhibitions.
He said his position at Pepperdine is two-pronged: the logistical coordination of events to grace the natural gallery of Payson and the transformation of the library into “a place of inspiration, not toil.”
Working closely with Dean of Libraries Mark Roosa, LaZebnik said his focus is to make Payson “the cultural hub on campus, the source of serendipitous discovery between the dorm and downtown.”
Opened on Sept. 3, the Kinsey Collection will stay until the end of the month, displayed on the second floor of Payson as an artistic tribute to the untold stories of African-Americans.
“The Kinsey Collection is great,” LaZebnik said. “It is such an interesting intersection of art and history.”
In September alone, the library will play host to a series of guest speakers, a pop-up art exhibit and a classical guitar concert from the students of professor Christopher Parkening. Plans for the rest of the year include more music and an exhibit on Armenian history.
“This is why I was hired, to bring in a different level of activity,” LaZebnik said. “[Mark Roosa] and I both get into trouble; both love to do new things. We over-program, and that’s good, that’s all good.”
The proof of LaZebnik’s sometimes over-exuberant involvement is plastered all over his office. The wall behind him is papered with posters of his past programs, books are squashed into any spare space, his computer hums with messages from collaborators and connections and an unfinished script for a new television show sits, neatly stapled, on his desk.
In Dec. 2010, LaZebnik left Missouri in favor of Malibu, but Pepperdine was the natural decision for reasons surpassing simply the location. Payson, he said, is the ideal venue to practice “the joy of bringing writers to a place where they can share.” And, he said, given his extensive background in education and the literary arts, LaZebnik loves libraries.
Follow Alex Free on Twitter: @alex_pepperdine
As published in the Sept. 5 issue of the Pepperdine Graphic.