Sunday, November 26, 2006

NO library...

There is one county in California that has no library. I'm not even sure if any version of Bookmobile makes the rounds there.

Sierra County (north of Lake Tahoe) is rural, and no - that doesn't translate to folks who don't read. Over 3500 residents there are in need of a new venue to house books as well as offer community classroom space and a children's center. Even with $2.3 milion dollars raised for the plan, the county is still $500,000 short towards financing construction of such a center. With the coffers already depleted, Sierra County may or may not be able to raise the extra money. No money, no library center.

Following the online article are reader's comments: one reporting that another CA. county has just been financed to erect two new libraries in a city east of Sacramento (where there are already quite a few existing libraries). Cost for new construction: 16 million dollars. Not surprisingly, this is in a high-growth, affluent, residential area which is certainly not lacking for much of anything.
One county struggling to build their very first modest-sized library center (which, at this writing, may or may not happen) and another erecting one of palatial (possibly ostentatious?) proportions. Population and economic differences between the two counties is obvious, but when it comes to libraries, all are equal in their need for one, wouldn't you think?

Everyone should have access to the wealth of information that a public library makes available. A library is a building which houses borrowable books, certainly. Yet the building represents so much more...

When I was a kid, the Chinatown Branch Public Library (posted photo) was my home away from home. Located two and a half blocks from our flat, it was an easy walk, and I could be found there every day after school hanging out with friends and doing homework. An avid reader who didn't own any books of my own, the library was my sole source of reading material (other than my younger brother's comic book collection). I'd peruse the shelves and bring home a stack of books every week. Those would be finished within days, and I'd be back for more.

Even at that young age I realized that the public library was a special place offering unique gifts of knowledge and discovery. A virtual treasure trove of books - all free to borrow, to pore over, to learn from. Every title holds promise of an exciting adventure to new worlds and existences different from one's own. Within the confines of its four walls, the library provides countless opportunities for adventure, travel, fantasy, mystery. Books that prompt questions. Books that provide answers.

In its own quiet way, the library was then and still is - exciting. Comforting. Always welcoming.
Come in, sit down, read a book.
Stay awhile. Or awhile longer.
Take the book home to read. Just be sure to bring it back so someone else can have a turn.

I loved the sounds and smells of the Chinatown Branch Library: old books, new books, the warm mustiness of the central heating system. The heavy swoosh of the big double wood and glass doors as they swung open on smooth hinges. The 'snap' as card catalog drawers were pushed closed. The 'due back' date stamp as it was inked and pressed onto a card by the librarian, then inserted into the front pocket of the book. Creaky wooden furniture.

It was MY library. I owned those sounds and those smells.

Back then, librarians shushed .
I know it's an outdated stereotype, but geeez, I even miss the shushing.

Everyone should have a library of their own 'to own'. A place to make friends with books. Somewhere to escape to from the world and to find new worlds to escape into.

Sierra County is in need of someone who can do an 'Andrew Carnegie'. Will anyone in the 21st century step up to the philanthropist plate for a cause such as this?

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