At Home With Vivian: Stacks of fun

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
― Jorge Luis Borges

I’m feeling very pleased with myself. On Saturday, for just ten dollars, I scored two big brown paper bags full to bursting with cookbooks, audiobooks, paperbacks, and DVDs. If you’ve ever been to one of the quarterly Friends of the Martinez Library Bag of Books Sale, you know how much joy one can buy with ten dollars. If you haven’t been yet, well, even the most dedicated bibliophile would be amazed. So many books, so little time.

While you are there, go to the desk upstairs and get your new library card. Yes! We get new library cards for free and they have different pictures to choose from. I picked out a picture of Mt. Diablo with poppies. My husband Jeff chose a picture of a locomotive. There were five styles in all. Which one will you choose?

I love books. Always have. It runs in my family. My sisters were teenagers when I was born and I’ve been told that I was a spoiled child; spoiled with love. My sisters would drop whatever they were doing to read to me. I was lucky. My family loved to read so there was never a shortage of books in our house.

As voracious readers, my older sisters and parents spent a lot of time in libraries. In fact, my oldest sister Karen went to college to become a librarian. Life had other occupational plans for her, but happily her daughter Robin and our niece Teresa both became school librarians. Robin is now an elementary school teacher who loves teaching children how to read and to love books.

When I was in grammar school, library day was my favorite day of the week. Up and down the aisles I would roam, looking for just the right book. First, I’d pull a book off the shelf because of the cover color and then open it because of the cover art. I’d flip through the pages looking at the illustrations. I couldn’t wait to see what Danny the Dinosaur would do next! Some of my earliest memories include sitting on the library floor, pondering which books to take home. I wanted them all. I still want them all.

When I was in fifth grade, my widowed mother became very ill and was hospitalized for a couple of weeks. My kid sister Johnette, who wasn’t old enough to go to school yet, went to stay with our Aunt Tootsie in Yreka. Because I needed to go to school, I stayed with my Aunt Marion and Uncle Bill who lived a few blocks away from us in Antioch. I could walk to my school from their house. Johnette and I were both lucky to have such loving relatives to take us in.

It was January, 1962, and my younger cousin Jonny’s 8th birthday was coming soon. Our families always celebrated birthdays together. Considering my mother had all daughters, she turned out to be pretty good at picking out gifts for boys. The four Ward brothers always liked what we gave them. I remember with pride, the boys saving our packages to open last because they knew the gift was going to be good (Mama never bought clothes. Always toys!). I was sad to learn that my mother would not be home from the hospital in time to get a present for Jonny.

Jonny’s birthday fell on my class library day. As I walked through the stacks, I felt the proverbial light bulb blink on over my head. An idea was born. I could pick out a special book for Jonny to read! In my mind, that would be a wonderful gift. Jonny loved looking at the stars on summer nights. When we played out late, he often said he’d like to go to Mars, long before we even knew that was a possibility.

I went right over to the science section and found two books on stars and astronomy. One had a map of the sky over our home in Antioch.

I found newspapers next to the garbage can in the garage. (Aunt Marion was way before her time in her efforts to recycle) I wrapped up the books and tied them with some yarn scraps. I was so excited! I just knew he was going to love them, even if he had to return them to me the next week.

Well, I have to say that initially, he was underwhelmed. Aunt Marion said it was a very thoughtful gift. Jonny thanked me and then we ate cake, did homework and went to bed. The next night was much better. After dinner, I picked up the book with the map off of the coffee table where he had left it. I convinced him to go outside with me. It was one of those cool, crisp, clear January nights we often get here in Northern California.

We placed an old blanket on the ground and lay back and looked up at the stars. I showed him how to look at the map and then look at the sky. I pointed out the Big Dipper and showed him the names of the stars in the book. It took a few finger points for him to see that the real sky and the book sky were the same. Then he took the book out of my hands. We stayed out until we were called back in. I’m pretty sure he liked my gift after all. Isn’t it amazing how brilliant libraries can be?

We are so lucky to have such a wonderful library here in Martinez. It has a good-sized children’s and young adult section. It’s not a big library with a gazillion books on the shelves, but it does have access to LINK+ which includes any book in46 different systems throughout California and that system has over 25 million titles! And books come in many forms now. I love to listen to audio books while I clean house, do crafts or drive somewhere. Our library even has e-books you can check out. The Martinez library has other specialty services, such as large print or Braille materials, books in foreign languages and an adult literacy program.

If you missed the quarterly Bag of Books sale last week, don’t fret. The Friends of the Martinez Library operates a used bookstore downstairs in the library all year long. They have a terrific selection of books for bargain prices. The Friends of the Martinez Library also has a treasury of “Collectable” books that can be purchased online through Amazon. Go to The Friends of Martinez Library appreciate any book donations. All moneys received go back into making our library even better.

While you are down in that delightful basement bookstore, please thank the ladies and gentlemen who work there for giving so much of their time. They are all volunteers who spend hours sorting and cataloging donated books for us to enjoy.

C.S. Lewis once said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” I agree, and I can’t wait until they have the next sale. In the meantime, I’m hoping the offerings will expand to include to include “Time to Read” I’ll take six bags of that!

Mark your calendar! The next Bag of Books sale will be February 8, 2020. See the Martinez Library event calendar for upcoming attractions at:

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