If you love books and libraries, you will enjoy The Library Book. Not that the book isn’t upsetting because it is in part about a fire that broke out in the Los Angeles library in 1986. Over 400,000 books were destroyed and 700,000 were damaged let alone the destruction to the library itself. The fire was thought to be arson but the suspect, Harry Peak, was hard to pin down because he was a chronic liar. The damaged books were put in freezers for two years and then pressed to get the water out. But the book is much more than a tale of arson. Susan Orlean presents the broader history of libraries in the past, the role they play today and considerations for the future.
Some interesting tidbits about the Los Angeles library – over the years, the Los Angeles library head was presided by some interesting characters. Mary Fox was only 18 years old and the first woman to head a library. The eccentric Charles Lummis wanted to make the library the best in the world! Every week seven hundred new books arrive and 47,000 are distributed to the 72 branches. It took 15 years to decide on renovation and expansion. How about a drive through book return, a day care centre, a puppet theatre, a high school program and a safe place for the homeless.
In their constitution, Friends of Bayfield Library (FOBL) states that libraries are the vital heart and hub of our community. Susan Orlean would add “mind and soul’ and “they are more necessary than ever.” –BB