All Hands, Ahoy: By Beverli Jinn
Paul Peck and I have coffee together on Thursday mornings. It gives us a chance to catch our breath and take a look at what’s going on. Last week we moved our visit back a day because his Thursday was crowded with other things—a fortuitous change because Thursday was cold and dreary while Friday was beautiful. We decided to change our pattern a little bit however, heading first to the Friends of the Library to drop off some books for adoption and then to the library itself to check out some reading books.
The drive from Capistrano Beach westward along Stonehill took us past the high school and gave us a brief but spectacular view of the sparkling blue ocean with an unexpected glimpse of Catalina, presumably to the south. Oddly, when we came to Niguel Road and turned left, there was Catalina on our right. How could that be? Wherever we were, though, it was amazingly beautiful. We were on our way to the magic of the library. Of course, Catalina Island and the cloudless sky and the ocean R.H. Dana so admired, were a part of this adventure.
The parking lot of the library was largely empty. A laidback security guard was at the entrance, stoically in place to…wait, what was he there for? Somehow, beneath the sparkling blue sky, the welcome had lost its warmth; the sweet melody had become a dirge. Strangely, as Paul and I gathered our books to be donated and headed toward the Friends’ bookroom, there was an emptiness that settled around us, an emptiness that was more than an absence of books on display.
“Isn’t the Friends of the Library open today?” Paul asked the security guard.
The guard replied without really directing his response to Paul. He pointed over his shoulder toward the darkened doorway. “There’s a note on the door,” he said.
Paul cupped his hand behind his left ear to indicate that he hadn’t understood. The guard repeated his statement with what seemed to me to be impatience. Probably he was fed up with explaining the situation to unbelieving book lovers. Probably he didn’t know any more about the reasons than we did.
We walked to the door and read the notice. It basically said the obvious: The Friends of the Library would be closed until further notice.
Now just a darn minute. I’ve read Fahrenheit 451. I know that in the 24th century books will be considered dangerous because they lead people to think, to seek meaning in life, to share themselves deeply with other people. But we’re not there yet. We have plenty of time to learn. It’s too soon for the firemen to commence the burning. It’s too soon for the Book People to go into hiding.
So what was left for Paul and me but to take the books we’d planned to donate back to the car, wondering, speculating, and grumbling? What was really going on?
Oh, we knew about the squabbling between the two factions of Friends of the Dana Point Library—the membership in general and the board of directors in particular. But how could there be any issues more important than the service itself? How is closing the doors helping in any way? Instead of burning the books, the closed store is effectively entombing them, sentencing them to languish on neglected bookshelves in our homes, darkening and locking the Friends store that kept the books’ messages alive, sentencing them finally to biodegrade in the moldy silence of reeking landfills.
And what about the income derived from the sale of these donated books? How will this loss affect the library itself?
We went into the main library to borrow some books, now in a depressed mode in spite of the sunny, sea-filled beauty of the Dana Point morning. It seemed dark and gloomy inside. The search for a book to borrow felt more like a chore than an anticipation of discovery, but we made our choices, checked out and trudged back to my car.
Across PCH from the library, our lattes awaited. We could sit outside and talk about books, about the vagaries of being human.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A story in last week’s edition of the DP Times, “What’s up with Friends of the Library Bookstore?” revealed that the Dana Point bookstore was closed by order of the Orange County Library system after their attorney recommended that all nonprofit, volunteer Friends bookstores county-wide be required to sign a formal licensing agreements that specifically allow their operation on county property. The agreements are expected to be put in place in early January. All other FOL stores in the county will remain open. Over the past nine months or so, fighting between the current Friends board and a group of former volunteers dubbed “Save Our Bookstore” has continued to escalate, resulting in an effort by the group to oust the current board. In response, the current board filed a lawsuit against the Save Our Bookstore group. The Dana Point Friends organization is set to elect a new board at their December meeting. In the meantime, Orange County Librarian Helen Fried said the closure of the Dana Point store would hopefully “provide the group an opportunity to amicably resolve their internal member conflicts.”