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Los Angeles Travel Guide

This Library Is the Only One of Its Kind in the Entire World

If you love film and television, you can’t miss spending a day at this Los Angeles library.


hird and Fairfax is one of the most visited intersections in Los Angeles. The main attraction is The Grove, Los Angeles’ premier outdoor shopping mall. The Grove sits next to the Original Farmer’s Market, where vendors have sold farm-fresh groceries, prepared food, and specialty items since 1936. Around 18 million people visit The Grove and the Original Farmer’s Market annually. But most guests are clueless about the much quieter cultural epicenter waiting for them right across the street. That’s the Writers Guild Foundation Shavelson-Webb Library.

The Writers Guild Foundation Shavelson-Webb Library is the only library in the world focused entirely on writing for film and television. The library is full of scripts and script materials, which range from development documents like “show bibles” and outlines to promotional materials, writer’s personal notes, photos, and transcripts. Altogether, the library and archive contain more than 40,000 items, and it’s growing every day.

The library’s ethos echoes the sentiment Steven Spielberg told Cameron Crowe after reading a draft of Almost Famous: “The script is the star.” Walking into the Shavelson-Webb Library, you see shelves full of scripts. Hard copies of your favorite movies and TV shows sit in dignified red or black binding for your reading pleasure. You can browse the shelves or come in with an idea of the scripts you want to read. In that case, a librarian will pull those materials for you in advance.

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Almost Famous is among the thousands of scripts you can read, along with many of its fellow Best Original Screenplay Oscar winners.

“She is instantly and overwhelmingly, the life of this party,” Crowe writes about Penny Lane in the script’s descriptive action. You know, the stuff you never hear because it’s never said. The lines between the dialogue.

You see, most elements of scripts are designed to dissolve. They transform and disappear into the movies or shows themselves. Nobody can begin working on a movie or an episode of TV without a script, but once the project comes alive, they’re often treated more like a blueprint than a standalone piece of art. The Shavelson-Webb Library respects these scripts as the foundation of all great entertainment.

The scripts most frequently pulled by visitors are as diverse as the material in the library, but some are definitely more often read than others. One such script is the Cheers pilot. Library visitors often request to read this piece of ’80s sitcom history. For the library staff, filling in the collection and witnessing it become more complete is an enjoyable part of the job.

“One of the main ways we receive scripts is writers giving us their work when they retire. We often find things we were looking for or hoping to get within those collections. A couple of years ago, we finally found the pilot for MASH in one of these collections,” library staffer Javier Barrios says. “We had a lot of MASH episodes but never the pilot, so that was fun and worthwhile. It’s special to see things get filled in over the years, but it’s never-ending. There will always be new scripts.”

The library’s materials date back to the beginning of film and television. But unlike many archives, the focus here is on the present as much as the past. One of the library’s main focuses today is acquiring scripts fresh off our screens. As the sheer volume of content available to us grows, so too does the library and its collection.

“The difference between the early days and now is there are just so many TV shows. It’s impossible to keep up. We pay attention to what people are requesting because, often, that’s different than what we think we should get,” Barrios says.  

Writers Guild Foundation

According to Barrios, the library’s latest sought-after script is Everything, Everywhere, All At Once, the adventure film that became A24’s highest-grossing film worldwide after its release in 2022 and received 11 Academy Award nominations.

Newer materials can be found in the library’s digital archives. While the pilot of each new TV show still gets a hard copy on the shelves, the full collection of contemporary shows and movies is accessible via the library’s iPads. Upon checking into the library, you give a librarian your ID, and they loan you an iPad filled with scripts and special materials. You can search for what you want or browse the collection alphabetically. There are the full first seasons of shows such as Yellowjackets and Abbot Elementary and select episodes of other recent favorites such as Succession and White Lotus.

Animated movies your thing? Read Finding Nemo, Shrek, The Little Mermaid, and Encanto.

Obsessed with limited series? Read all of Dopesick, Station Eleven, and Pam & Tommy.

Wild for rom-coms? Read Fire Island, Legally Blonde, and Love & Basketball.

Eager to read something you’ve just seen in theaters? Scripts for The Menu, Bones and All, and The Woman King are already available.

There’s no wrong way to organize your time at the library. You might look into scripts based on format or genre or just browse as you please. One visitor I observed requested all of the best scripts about chefs and the culinary world.

You might just be interested in a specific screenwriter. Barrios tells me the story of finding an old episode of The Rockford Files written by a young David Chase, who would go on to create The Sopranos and forever change the course of TV history. The Rockford Files script he wrote follows two New Jersey wise guys. It has nothing to do with his later creation, but the core inspiration is already there, making it a fun piece of the legendary writer’s oeuvre.

Associated with the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA), the union for professional screenwriters, the Shavelson-Webb Library is the only public space within an entertainment trade union in Los Angeles. The Shavelson-Webb Library is proud to not only support working writers but also be open to the public at large. This makes it a supportive space for prospective writers and visiting tourists who love a good story.

“A family recently came in from Colorado. She told us her son was interested in writing for film or television and called a couple of months in advance to make sure we had the materials he was interested in. I told her, ‘Don’t worry, just make the appointment,’” Barrios says. “Once you’re here, it literally takes a second to get you whatever you want to look at. They came in last week and were just over the moon.”

Visitors are welcome to pour over as many scripts and pieces of material as possible, but it’s perfectly fine if they just want to sit and write. Unlike some stuffier Hollywood archives, where you seemingly need to have already won an Oscar or a Pulitzer Prize to be met with kindness, the librarians here are friendly, helpful, non-judgmental, happy to answer any questions.

Your question could be as qualitative as: “What do you consider the most well-written coming-of-age films of all time?” or as practical as “Do I really need to write CUT TO: in between all of the scenes in my new script?” Screenwriting might be a competitive industry, but the spirit of this library is not competitive at all.

Library hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Appointments are considered all-day visits, so you can come and go freely between those hours. Schedule a visit in advance and plan to meet friends for dinner or drinks at The Grove or Original Famer’s Market afterward. Alternatively, meet friends for an early coffee and pancake breakfast at Dupar’s before spending a day among the stacks.