Friday, February 25, 2011

A Farewell to a Library System

On March 14th, the County of Los Angeles is no longer allowing patrons of the Valencia, Newhall, and Canyon Country libraries of the Santa Clarita Valley to place holds on any items that would come from the libraries of the County, ahead of the City of Santa Clarita taking control of those three libraries on July 1, to ensure that nothing belonging to the County gets lost in the process.

I'm disappointed. The three libraries have a fair amount of books, but not always the ones I'm looking for. "Moon Over Madeline Island" is one reason I loved the County of Los Angeles library system. I usually bumped into books and took a chance on them. And that one was one of the most rewarding.

There's a lot that doesn't please me about this takeover, particularly the fact that a small corporate outfit on the east coast that specializes in running libraries will run these three libraries. No member of the City Council that made this decision owns a library card. Go figure. And the penchant for that kind of exploration is limited when the books are limited to those three libraries.

So I will miss many books. I will miss the copy of "Subways are for Sleeping" by Edmund G. Love from the Hawthorne branch that I didn't buy. I alternated between that one and the one I own, whichever library would ship it to the Valencia branch first. I will miss "The Music of Your Life" by John Rowell, even though the copy from Valencia is no longer there. I was prowling those shelves many years ago and, yes, bumped into it. I own my own copy, but it was so special that first time.

I won't quite miss the copy of "Travels with My Aunt" by Graham Greene, though I forgot which branch it came from. In that instance, it was more about the words than the book itself. The book was an important conduit, but the copy I bought off of and received some weeks ago is the one that will begin my long history with this story.

Two weeks ago, I returned a widescreen VHS copy of the movie "Travels with My Aunt" to the Valencia library, where it had come from, and I immediately put it back on hold on my card, figuring that the library would put it back on my holds shelf for me to pick up. They didn't. They took it out of circulation. Gone forever. It's why I bought a used copy off Amazon for $12.97. I hope it's been used carefully. I'll miss that copy because it's one of the few instances where I love both the book and the movie.

And, oh god, I'm going to lose a slew of books by Quentin Crisp. Now I won't be able to check out "The Naked Civil Servant," "Resident Alien: The New York Diaries," "How to Go to the Movies," "Manners from Heaven," "How to Become a Virgin," and "Doing It With Style." No copies to be found in this valley, since it's relatively conservative. And even though I haven't checked it out in a long time, nor do I own a copy, I will miss "Lawnboy" by Paul Lisicky, a Florida-set novel that's available from only two libraries that aren't in this valley.

I could go on for pages and days, but it's too criminal to continue giving personal evidence that this move by the City Council is foolish beyond the capacity for foolishness. I am pleased to see, though, that the same hardcover copy of "The Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro that I checked out about a year after we moved here, the one that made it one of my favorite books, still remains at the Valencia library, and is currently checked out. I hope whoever is reading it feels the same way I do about it.