Tuesday, July 31, 2007

goings on about town

Thanks to GoP for the electrician rec. I've got a call in to him, despite the fact that we did in fact get hold of another recommended electrician, who proceeded to cause us both to fall out in a dead faint when he informed us that the electrical panel is a sizzling menace (and indeed it does look like a dog's dinner back behind the fuses). Second opinion, here we come!

On the up side of home ownership, one of our neighbors stopped by yesterday morning with a gift: a used copy of the Sunset Western Garden Book, which she claims as her bible. It was tremendously generous of her, and we were both pleased that she (rightly) took us for used-book people. She'd bought it at Magic Books, down in the 2nd Street "entertainment distract" (sorry, I can't say that without snickering), and she talked up the bookstore as much as she talked up the book. Beat that, Welcome Wagon!

I finished T.C. Boyle's new book on the way back from visiting my mother up in the holler (I'll get around to posting about the book on the other blog soon), and I felt like something fun and easy. Not being a big fan of genre fiction, I have always turned to children's books to scratch that itch. In grad school, particularly, children's books were about all I could read.

So I hied me down to the Pomona Library. Both of us are happy to be out of the clutches of the LA County Library System, which blows in more ways than Elizabeth Barrett Browning can count (at least judging by our experience in Claremont). Pomona has a well-planned, if underfunded, small municipal library, with a real library director (not just some functionary chosen according to the Peter Principle) who is involved in the life of the city. Sure, it has its faults -- and I'll discover more of them -- but there's a lot to be said for the place.

I had not until the other day explored the children's room. It was full of kids doing all kinds of things -- reading, studying, coloring, talking about books with the librarians. All you parents can snarl at me now, but there are a lot worse things than spending all your time at the library. Look at me! (Oops, bad example.)

The underfunding of the library really shows in the children's room, although I'm not entirely sorry. The Claremont children's room has a fairly aggressive policy of weeding out older books in order to make space for the newest ones, meaning tons of Magic Treehouse and Gossip Girls bilge and one lonely Encyclopedia Brown book. Bias toward the new? Not so much a problem at the Pomona PL. Several copies of The Trumpeter of Krakow, a full of range of EB (Brown, not Britannica), all the Boxcar Children you can eat.

I generally limit myself to one book per decade (publication date, not decade of my age -- that was how the library of my childhood limited their circulation). That lets me achieve some breadth and prevents me from carrying home whole shelves. That can be a challenge at Claremont, where everything is from the 90s and the naughty-aughties, but it's eminently doable at Pomona. In fact, it affords an opportunity to assess the trajectory of library budgets (at least for the children's room): While the aughts are pretty well represented, the 1990s seem to have been a time of real belt-tightening.

My last observation is that Pomona and Claremont have very different attitudes toward children's nonfiction. The latter town counts on parents to provide information access through other channels, while the former takes seriously its role as a place to find information, even for early readers. While I don't read much children's nonfiction, I wholeheartedly support that policy, esp. given how the library seems to be used by the community. My only quibble is that historical fiction set before the American Revolution seems to be automatically classified as nonfiction. If anything, it should be the other way round, with most medieval and antique "history" for kids cataloged as fiction.

The current PL is the finest architecture the early 1960s (I'm guessing) had to offer, but isn't the earlier incarnation a handsome specimen?

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