Monday, September 29, 2008

Fahrenheit 451

When I met that rare person who likes to read our conversation always included two questions: Who is your favorite author and what type of books do you read. Even people who do not read asked me those two when they found out I was an avid reader. If someone told me Ray Bradbury was their favorite author, I would say, "I do not read Science Fiction, so I never read any of his books." Today, I wonder if that was true.

Bradbury entered my world when the Press-Telegram had a front page article about Bradbury being in town for a book signing. It was also a sad farewell to Acres of Books. The building which was home to Acres of Books for decades is being torn down to make way for the new and improved downtown Long Beach. Like many, Bradbury was sad to learn of the demise of a favorite used book store.

soon after, the headlines were the City was going to close down the Main library. The PT printed a Letter to the Editor from Bradbury. "Is Long Beach at war with books?" the author queried. Several weeks passed and Bradbury was in Long Beach again. This time he was at the Main library to talk against the City plan to close it down. The City Planner and Mayor thought people can simply use branch libraries and promised they would have a computer center somewhere downtown. The Main library is the closest "branch" of the Long Beach Public Library for miles in many directions.

When I lived on First Street and later on Broadway, over three years, I visited my nearest library branch. It is quaint and tiny. I still went downtown. People can order books from Main at their branches, Mayor said. Except how can I order a book if I do not know what book I am looking for? I browse shelves and a title pops out and grabs me. I no longer read book reviews (does the PT have book reviews?) or am up on new releases. The tiny branch libraries do not have enough of a selection for browsers like me. At the Main library there are perhaps a dozen racks for new Fiction downstairs and as many upstairs for new non-Fiction. Those displays are usually my first stops.

My closest branch today has one row of shelves for new Fiction and Non-Fiction. I would estimate the New Fiction section of those shelves is 3' wide and 6 or 8 shelves high. The left half of that row displays books totally unrelated to New releases. Perhaps it is dictionaries, I forget. After reading a new release, I often like the author enough to go search the shelves for their other work. The library computer look up will show 10 books per page. It took me a long time to realize I could sort them by branch. Sorting by branch would not help me if the book is at Main and Main was closed.

Take Ray Bradbury for instance. Finished a novel that mentioned "Dandelion Wine" by Bradbury. A quick look at the branch library shelves did not show the title. I am not sure if DW is Sci-Fi. I tried looking the book up by name and obviously did not spell Dandelion correctly. I looked up Bradbury. I did not have time to start scrolling looking for it. Oh to skip to the "D's" if they were listed alphabetically. But, no, a LARGE PRINT book of the same title may or may not be listed after the regular print book and there may be an audio. Looking up Marley, Bob, might have the CDs mixed in with the books mixed in with audio versions of the books mixed in with...

Scroll, scroll, scroll, give up. Easier to check shelves most often.

Where was I? Oh Fahrenheit 451.

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