No local programs for National Library Week |

No local programs for National Library Week

Record Courier Staff Reports

by Selma Calnan

Antelope Valley News

Neither Friends of the Douglas County Library nor Friends of the Mono County Libraries had programs this year.

The association cannot celebrate in the midst of deepening state budget woes. Libraries are so tempting to budget cutters.

It has happened in Salinas, a working class town of 150,000, that gained world renown as the home of Nobel laureate John Steinbeck.

The National John Steinbeck Center is not threatened but all city libraries have been targeted for closure unless a permanent solution can be found.

The Salinas Friends of the Library has been in the forefront of efforts to avert such a disaster. Meetings, rallies, and marches by school children culminated in a “24-hour read-in” on April 2.

It drew media celebrities, officials of the United Farm Workers, national library experts and elementary school children. On April 7, the Associated Press reported “the libraries will stay open at least through the rest of the year after a grassroots campaign raised $500,000.”

In November 2002, Coleville High School juniors presented a program on “The Grapes of Wrath” as part of the statewide celebration of Steinbeck’s centenary. In 1939 admiration was not unanimous.

A group staged a burning of “The Grapes of Wrath” in front of the Salinas City library. In Germany book burning were standard operations as a prelude to Hitler’s 1939 invasions and the start of World War II.

When libraries closed and reading was illegal

Recommended reading on the subject is “Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress,” a novel by Dai Sijie, available on the Mono County Bookmobile. It is based on the author’s personal experiences as the son of a famous doctor, one of thousands exiled by Chairman Mao for “re-education.”

Sijie’s tells of that surreal period in the seventies when schools were closed and books were forbidden.

Yet it is filled with flashes of humor during degrading circumstance. Sijie is a Chinese film maker who sold the novel rights to nineteen countries.

The value of reading

“The Primeval Forest” by Albert Schweitzer with a forward by William H. Foege, M.D. was reissued by John Hopkins Paperback. It records Schweitzer’s trials in the Belgian Congo working with “children of nature.”

He recorded his day to day struggles as a medical doctor, healer of souls, carpenter and work foreman.

The great Doctor’s prescription for maintaining one’s humanity was a good education and lots of books to read in the jungle.

This is in contrast to Joseph Conrad’s haunting tale, “Heart of Darkness.”

The value of listening

In “The Image a Guide to Pseudo Events in America,” copyright 1962 by Daniel J. Boorstin; published in 1993 by Blackstone Audiobooks. Blackstone asks, “How could a man who is devoid of character and who offers us unending doses of symbolism instead of substance be elected to our country’s highest office? Daniel Boorstin saw it coming 30 years ago.

First published in 1962, this wonderfully provocative book introduced the notion of pseudo events such as press conferences and presidential debates, which are manufactured solely in order to be reported and the contemporary definition of celebrity as a person who is known for his “well-knownness.”

Since then Daniel J. Boorstin’s prophetic vision of an America inundated by its own illusions has become an essential resource for any reader who wants to distinguish the manifold deceptions of our culture from its few enduring truths.

President Ford appointed Boorstin Librarian of Congress during his administration.

He died on Feb. 28, 2004.

— Selma Calnan can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at (530) 495-2633.