Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Libraries: Places of Dreams and Places of Refuge

I love libraries. I owe libraries so much. They were my favorite destination when I was a kid. Every Tuesday, I'd wait impatiently for Mom to take all of us to the Carnegie Library in Livermore that evening after she got home from work. There I'd race through the bottom floor and run up the stairs to the second floor, all the way to the far corner where the children's books were. There's I'd zone in on the horse books like Walter Farley's THE BLACK STALLION and Marguerite Henry's MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE.

Later in life, libraries became a haven where I'd go to escape the drama unfolding at home or when I needed to forget my own troubles when I was out on my own. The school library, the town library, the community college library, all became places of both dreams and of refuge.

Much later, they became a necessary place where I found many a book I needed for research. If I was working on a school project, and I didn't know where to look, or even what to look for, I'd have to approach that intimidating person, The Research Librarian, where I'd end up just blurting out that I had no idea what I was really looking for. Somehow she always managed to figure it out for me. Once the Internet came into being, when the local branch didn't have the book I needed, I could order it via the Internet and miraculously it would show up at my branch within a few weeks.

A few years ago I got out of the habit of thinking of the library as a place to find books. That was partly due to the fact that my local library, a City of Los Angeles branch, was a terrible place. It smelled of urine, had an appalling low number of books and was a haven for transients who dominated the chairs and desks. Of course, for the most part they were harmless and I felt sorry for them, but they were still distracting. So I quit going. There was a very nice library up in the Palos Verdes area, but it was somewhat of a drive. I ended up getting in the habit of buying books on amazon.

Now I'm lucky enough to be in a city that has a wonderful, large library that is part of the County, not City, of Los Angeles Library System. I can order books from the county library system and it will arrive within days at my local branch. When I move, the area where I will live will, thankfully, be in the County system as well.

Here are the books I checked out tonight:

The Time It Never Rained
by Elmer Kelton. Doubleday Edition, 1973. This is the book that Kelton writes so lovingly about in his memoir, Sandhills Boy.

Safe at Home: Confessions of a Baseball Fanatic by Alyssa Milano, 2009. Milano, you might remember, was a child star who starred in the TV show Who's The Boss. I didn't know until recently that she is a dedicated baseball nut, a loyal Dodger fan, and knows enough about the game to write this book. It came highly recommended by a friend who is both a voracious reader and a Dodger fan.

Raymond Chandler: Collected Stories. Borzoi, 2002. I've seen this book before at the library and decided to take the leap tonight. It's a thick book, but even if I only get around to reading a few stories, I'll still be ahead of the game.

I encourage everyone to visit their local library. They are the quiet heroes of our community and many times they don't get the credit they deserve for the positive impact they have on our lives.

Above photo credit:


Deka Black said...

Ah, the small library of the town whre i lived as a kid... The only place where i can achieve some quiet time sometimes.

The good thing about living in a country with so many history... well, the local library was placed inside a castle. A true one, with all the stuff castles have. Imagine was is that for a little kid!

Walker Martin said...

I agree with everything you said about libraries and I first became addicted to them while attending college. I decided if I ever had the money, I would create my own personal library in my home. Fortunately I've managed to do this and have filled the house full of pulps, old paperbacks, books, art, and dvds of my favorite movies.

But I still often hear the criticism, even from other collectors, about why do I have such an enormous amount of dvds, books, etc. I explain about my personal library, etc, but still many people just do not understand.

I simply like having my own library and feel this is the way to go if you have the income and the space to do it. And frankly, this is what being a collector is all about.

韻枝 said...


David Cranmer said...

I didn't know that about Milano's passion. Of course, any man my age who was a teen boy in the 1980s will never forget Ms. Milano. And I'm thinking I have the Chandler collection with a different cover.

Barry Traylor said...

I have loved libraries since I was a child. They seemed like such a warm and cozy place when I was young and still do for that matter. The township where my wife and I reside is building a new library that opens this Fall. It is inside the very large township park and is styled to look a bit like a very large barn complete with a tower that looks like a silo. I can hardly wait as it is only a couple miles from our house.

Barry Traylor said...

Some additional thoughts after reading Walker's comments. I can't imagine living without books around me. I too have been asked the goofy question "have you read all these"? Which is a no win situation for me if I reply "yes" they wonder why I keep them and if I reply "no" they wonder why I have so many unread books.

Walker Martin said...

Speaking of Raymond Chandler, if I was backed into a corner and forced to pick my favorite mystery writer, it would be Chandler. You can't go wrong reading the short stories, many of which appeared in such pulps as BLACK MASK, DIME DETECTIVE, DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY, AND DETECTIVE STORY.

I see Laurie is getting into training for the big BLACK MASK 90th birthday party being held at pulpfest in Columbus, Ohio( Chandler was one of the big discoveries made by BLACK MASK in 1933.

Ron Scheer said...

Glad I came in late, to read everybody's comments. There was a Carnegie Library in Central City, Nebraska, where I grew up.

I'm a big fan of the LA Public Library, which has so many hard to find books scattered throughout its many branches, and a great online retrieval service that gets a copy to your local branch in just a few days. With the current budget crisis in LA, there's already talk of cost cutting, and I hate to think what that will mean.

Richard R. said...

I too love libraries, though sadly they seem to have become community centers and homeless hangouts, rather than quite places for people who love books.The remodeled last Fall local library (part of the county system) has as much or more square footage assigned to meeting rooms, teen social spaces, children's activity areas and computer terminals as they do for books and other media. Half those selves are empty The county system buys small numbers of books so for anything new and popular the wait list is long. For instance, I want to read The Big Short, about the financial collapse. It's a best seller. I'm about 160th on the wait list, and it's a one week book. More often I can't find what I want, though I do notice they have abundant copies of the Stephanie Meyers books.

Laurie - That Chandler collection is the most complete, but do be aware it has some non-mystery/crime stories in it.

Ron Scheer said...

I hope you'll post some comments after you read Chandler. I'd be interested in how often he retells the same story in different ways. I had this experience reading a collection of Raymond Carver. I realized that he was working the same material over and over, not out of laziness or lack of inventiveness, but as a way of fully exploring it.

Laurie Powers said...

Deka, I would love to see that library. Kind of reminds me of Hay-on-Wye in Wales which is nothing but book stores and they've converted the local castle into a book store.

Barry and Walker, I'm hoping my next house will have more room for bigger bookcases. I'm tired of having to split up my books all over the house.

All, thanks for the tips on the Chandler book. I'm looking forward to it. One thing that bugs me about this version is that it appears that the original information about the stories (i.e. where and when they were first published) is not anywhere in here. Can that be right?!

Ron, so far I've had excellent luck with the County of L.A. system; not so much with the City system. I'll stick to the county system as that's what I'll have when I move.

Rick, I know what you mean about wait lists. Sometimes I'm so far down the list I give up and try to find a used copy somewhere like on amazon or abebooks for cheap.

Deka Black said...

XDD I'm afraid was this way long time ago. Sadly, i returned very few times to the town since we moved decades ago. The libray was in the upper floor, in a very big room.

Was a medieval town, 8000 people lived here. I know! look, the Wikipedia page dedicated to the town!

I'm from Santander (veeery far to the north of Spain.), but i grew up in Sos due to my father's work

Evan Lewis said...

We live near the border of two counties and visit a branch of each county's system every weekend to pick up holds and surrender the stuff they want back. The libe also comes in mighty handy in the summer, when our feeble air conditioner is overpowered.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Alas, whenever I get a book from the library I manage to keep it too long, and since I don't believe in fines I end up being banned from checking out any more books. I once offered them $250 worth of new hardcover mysteries to pay a $25 fine and they rejected it. I find it easier to have my own personal library. However, I do agree that libraries are important and hope they will survive the economy.

Laurie Powers said...

Deka, that looks like a beautiful town!

Dave, yet another reason to support your local library: shelter from the elements.

Bob, I'm going through a similar situation. I turned in a book like a good girl a few weeks ago - now the library is saying they never got it. The overdue fines rack up, and they put in a "search" for it, but if they don't find it after a few months, they come after ME for the book. I'll fight that. It's not like it's a huge amount of $, but it's the principal. Or is it principle?! Either one.

Deka Black said...

Thanks Laurie. And in summer have places really Cold (the sun never reaches them!)

Barry Traylor said...

"One thing that bugs me about this version is that it appears that the original information about the stories (i.e. where and when they were first published) is not anywhere in here. Can that be right?!"

This sort of thing annoys me no end! I assume it is just laziness on the part of whomever is setting the book up. I love to see what magazines the story was first printed in. At a local flea market last week I found a copy of The Complete Short SF Stories of Fredric Brown and there is no info as to waht mags the stories were first published in. I know some and can check on the ones I don't know but it would be nice to have the info in the book.

Laurie Powers said...

I have to eat some crow here - I found the bibliography - it's two pages hidden in the introduction.

I also didn't know the intro was written by John Bayley, who was a great scholar and also the husband of Iris Murdoch. He wrote a memoir, IRIS, that was turned into a great and heartbreaking movie with Judi Dench. Bayley was portrayed by Jim Broadbent.

So I hereby apologize to Mr. Bayley.

Richard R. said...

BTW, Laurie, the soundtrack to IRIS is wonderful.