New book explores value of books and libraries to our lives

If you are reading this “Library News” column, you probably love libraries and admire librarians. If yes, you no doubt will enjoy “The Library Book” by Susan Orlean, which garnered rave reviews and spent weeks on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list.
The book opens with the 1986 fire that burned down the Los Angeles Central Library. Nobody died, but 50 firefighters were injured and more than a million books were damaged.
The fire didn’t make much news at the time — maybe in part because that same week, a nuclear reactor melted down in Chernobyl and sent the stock market crashing. Even after arson was suspected and a suspect identified, the fire never attracted the public’s imagination. It was just one of the many senseless, regrettable things that happened, was briefly noted and then more or less forgotten.
Orlean uses this fire and the 145-year history of the Los Angeles library system as a backdrop to deftly explore the purpose and value of libraries in the U.S. and around the world. Her storytelling skills make the people involved and even the buildings themselves come to life. In fact, this book follows three threads — the whodunit relating to the fire, the L.A. library system history and the broader evolution of libraries in our lives.
Here are a few excerpts to give you a sense of her book:
• “Volunteers … formed a human chain, passing the books hand over hand from one person to the next, through the smoky building and out the door. It was as if, in this urgent moment, the people of Los Angeles formed a living library. They created, for that short time, a system to protect and pass along shared knowledge, to save what we know for each other, which is what libraries do every day.”
• “The publicness of the public library is an increasingly rare commodity. It becomes harder all the time to think of places that welcome everyone and don’t charge any money for that warm embrace.”
• “Books are a sort of cultural DNA, the code for who, as a society, we are, and what we know. All the wonders and failures, all the champions and villains, all the legends and ideas and revelations of a culture last forever in its books.”
• “Even though the Internet and electronic media wouldn’t appear for decades, you can sense, even in the 1960s, that librarians knew traditional book lending would not always be the institution’s chief purpose … Libraries were increasingly moving in the direction of functioning as information centers as well as being repositories of book collections.”
• “Libraries are old-fashioned, but they are growing more popular with people under 30. This younger generation uses libraries in greater numbers than older Americans do, and even though they grew up in a streaming, digital world, almost two thirds of them believe that there is important material in libraries that is not available on the Internet.”
“The Library Book” is in our collection and available for your reading pleasure.
Legal clinic
Friday, Jan. 11, from 2 to 3 p.m., a free legal clinic for parties who have no attorney will take place via computer link. Volunteer attorneys will answer questions, help fill out forms, and explain the process and procedure for legal issues in the areas of family law, civil litigation, property tax, probate law, collections, appeals, landlord-tenant law, veterans benefits and civil protection orders.
Please check in at the registration desk. You will be helped on a first-come, first-served basis. This clinic takes place the second Friday of every month.
All-ages movie
Join us Friday, Jan. 11, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. to enjoy a free G-rated movie with your friends and family. Our contract does not allow us to name the film in the media, but you can find the name in the activities calendars.
LEGO Club on Saturday
Kids ages 6-12 are invited to bring your imaginations — LEGOs are provided — on Saturday, Jan. 12, from 11 a.m. to noon for the free LEGO Club.
Board games
Monday, Jan. 14, fourth- through 12th-graders are invited to play a variety of board and tabletop games in this free session from 4 to 5:30 p.m.
Teen gaming
Free teen gaming happens on Tuesdays from 4 to 5:30 p.m. for teens in the seventh through 12th grades. Enjoy Xbox 360 Kinect, Wii and snacks.
Teen writers group
Join us Wednesday, Jan. 16, from 4 to 5 p.m. for our free teen writers meeting for seventh- through 12th-graders. This group’s interests include stories, poetry, graphic novels and fan fiction.
Computer classes
Join us for free sessions from 1 to 2 p.m. on Thursdays to learn a useful technology skill or application. Jan. 17 is Microsoft Word Resumes, when you will discover how to create a professional-looking resume. Jan. 31 is Saving and Finding Files, when you learn how your computer is organized, including files and folders. No registration is required.
Adult education
Our free PALS (Pagosa Adult Learning Services) takes place on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., plus Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Come to your library to get help from Mark with high school equivalency, GED, college prep, financial aid, tutoring and more.
Free tech sessions
Drop in with your technology questions on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon and Thursdays from 2 to 4 p.m.
Family storytimes
Every Wednesday from 10 to 11 a.m. and Saturday from 9:30 to 10 a.m., join us for free great stories, fun songs and plenty of reasons to get up and move. This is an excellent way for kids of all ages to have fun while building the skills they need to become independent readers.
Both storytimes are open to babies, toddlers and youngsters of all ages to make it easier for parents to attend with their children depending on their busy schedules rather than the age of their little ones.
Activities calendars
To be sure you don’t miss any of the free activities available to you and your families at your library, we encourage you to pick up a copy of the events calendar each month. There are three versions — kids, tweens/teens and adults. We look forward to seeing you at your library. Se habla espanol.
Nonfiction
“Love for Imperfect Things” by Zen Buddhist monk Haemin Sunim advises how to accept yourself in order to be at peace with the world around you. “How Schools Work” by Arne Duncan is an inside account of the failures and success from one of the nation’s longest-serving secretaries of education. “The Minimalist Home” by Joshua Becker is a room-by-room guide to a decluttered, refocused life in any sized house or apartment. “Snowman” by Bob Eckstein is a history of this iconic winter symbol with 200 illustrations and photos. “The 100 Best Stocks to Buy in 2019” by Peter Sander and Scott Bobo features new information on investing in a volatile market. “CBD Oil” by Gretchen Lidicker explores this nonintoxicating compound found in cannabis. “Ten Grapes to Know” by master sommelier Catherine Fallis is a guide to 375 wines with tasting notes. “Frommer’s Easy Guide to Alaskan Cruises and Ports of Call” is a guide book.
Large print
“The Trading Post and Other Frontier Stories” contains 14 original stories of historical American fiction. “One If By Land” by Ethan J. Wolfe is book four of the Regulator Series. “Castle Butte” by John D. Nesbitt is a coming-of-age story where boys become men.
DVDs
“The Story of God” with Morgan Freeman is season one. We have four LEGO movies — “NEXO Knights Book of Monsters” season two, plus three in the Friends series — “Friends are Forever,” “Always Together” and “Friends Together Again.”
CDs
“Them” by U.S. Senator Ben Sasse explores the hatred in our country and how to overcome it for the good of everyone. “Of Blood and Bone” by Nora Roberts is a tale of terror and magic in a postapocalyptic landscape.
Programmed Nooks
We have nine free Nooks and three free tablets programmed for your e-reading pleasure. The eight adult e-readers contain either fiction or nonfiction bestsellers. The four youth e-readers contain books for children, juniors and young adults.
Downloadable e-books
Current New York Times bestseller downloadable e-books are being added regularly to our free 3M Cloud Library. Access them by clicking on the 3M Cloud Library icon on the home page of our website. While there, browse through a multitude of other adult, juvenile and children’s books, both bestsellers and classics in many genres.
Downloadable films
For your viewing pleasure, we offer IndieFlix, a free streaming movie service that gives you unlimited access to more than 7,500 award-winning and popular independent shorts, feature films and documentaries from more than 50 countries — on your device, PC or Mac, with no apps needed.
Access IndieFlix through the Downloadable Content icon on the library’s website. Use “Quick Pick,” the discovery tool that lets you sample movies like you would music.
Thanks to our donors
For books and materials this week, we thank Benny Lohman and our anonymous donors. For their generous monetary gifts, we are grateful to Constance D’Angelis and to Cindi and Scott Galabota.
Quotable quote
“All people kissing 60 have a deep well of experience to offer others. Volunteer your talents, especially at schools. If you’re a baker, bring your baking skills. If you’re a dressmaker, bring your sewing skills. If you garden, plant a vegetable garden and work with the teachers on sustainability. It’s too easy to sit back and look at screens. Get sweaty. We can never say we’ve done enough.” — Jamie Lee Curtis, American actress and author.
Website
For more information on library books, services and programs — and to reserve books, e-books, CDs and DVDs from the comfort of your home — please visit our website at https://pagosalibrary.org.

This story was posted on January 11, 2019.