Libraries have literally rescued me from boredom nearly all of my life. Choosing a book to read, meeting the characters, turning each page as I explore what happens next, and saying goodbye at the end are all parts of not only entertainment but also ways to broaden my view, experience empathy, and attempt to understand a world that is both virtuous and evil. In this process of reading, books have become some of my best friends.
But books can also be dangerous and offensive as we read through their pages. Should these books be banned or censored because they make us uncomfortable? Which books are historical and which are racist? Where is the line between adult material and pornography? What about the freedom of speech that is so important in a democracy?
The Burbank school district is thinking of removing five books from their curriculum including “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Huck Finn.” Personally, I read “To Kill a Mockingbird” as a young girl, saw the movie, and found both to be multifaceted and very far away from my life in the middle of California. As a retired teacher as well as a book lover, I hope that rather than removing books that arechallenging, the school district will reconfigure the approach to these books by questioning the language used, discussing why parts of certain books can be offensive to some readers and explore how injustices of the past have or have not changed.
I have always loved going to the library, and never, ever thought about the idea that there might be a book on the shelves that I “shouldn’t” read. Let me clarify, the library I visited as a child was a smaller library with not that many books. As my reading skills improved, my very “proper” mother gave the librarian permission to let me check out books from the adult section. One summer afternoon, I rode my bike to the library, picked out several books and went to check them out. The librarian picked up one of the books (I have no idea what the title was), looked at me disapprovingly, and said, “Does your mother know you want to read this?” At first, I didn’t get it, but then it dawned on me that there just might be a book I shouldn’t read. This was totally a new idea to me. I assured the librarian that my mother was OK with me reading whatever book was in the public library . . . and she was.
After World War II, people of Jewish descent began a push to never let the world forget what happened during the Holocaust. Books were a big part of their efforts. Reading “The Diary of Anne Frank” led me to realize that horrific things can happen to good people. Years later, visiting war museums and synagogues and churches while vacationing in Europe was educating, but it was reading the stories of Holocaust survivors that revealed over and over the importance of the words, “Never Again.”
Books are influential and entertaining and educational and funny and controversial and shocking and . . . available at our local Carpinteria Branch Library. Because of Covid-19, the use of the library is more limited than usual, but let me fill you in on what is now being offered. The Carpinteria Library is gearing up for indoor book-browsing services that will start in December. Until then, sidewalk service is available Wednesdays from 2 to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. You can request personalized “book bundles” based on what you like and your format preference. You can fill out a request form on the library website or call the library to have someone fill out the form via phone. Book drops are open 24/7, so if you are still holding onto your items, you can now return them.
If you need to use the library computers, laptops and hotspots are available for lending. Call the library to place a hold. Programs for children and adults are still ongoing and available via Zoom, just look at the events calendar on the library website. Blanca, the Carpinteria librarian, also runs the Crime Book Club and can be contacted by calling the library.
Our Carpinteria library is over 100 years old. It has moved several times, suffered fire by arson, and now is trying to survive the Covid virus pandemic. If you aren’t already a Friend of the Library, consider joining. Go to friendsofcarpinterialibrary.org. You can also buy used books next door to the library at the Friends Book Store. Call to schedule an appointment Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to noon, (805) 566-0033, or check the cart outside the front door Tuesday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to noon.
Most people would agree that books are good, libraries are “nice” to have, and taxes should cover any cost for buildings, materials, librarians, upkeep, cleaning, and on and on. We all know how that goes. Therefore, if you are able to make a donation, contact the Friends website or call the Carpinteria Library at (805) 684-4314. Another option is if you shop at Amazon Smile, part of the cost of each sale can be donated to Friends of Carpinteria Public Library. You might also be old-fashioned like I am and write a check and send it to 5141 Carpinteria Ave., Carpinteria, CA 93013. Your help will be much appreciated by toddlers, grandkids, teenagers, retired folks, moms, dads and the dreaded junior high school students.