Library lessons: Project looks to collect writings for anthology |

Library lessons: Project looks to collect writings for anthology

Miss Groub was tall and thin./Her bright red hair rested softly on her shoulders,/and what must have been a thousand freckles/danced across her narrow face./She wore rimmed spectacles that always seemed/ as if they were about to slip off the tip of her nose./ She loved two things in this world above all others,/books and children,/and her mission was to bring them together.

The above excerpt is from local poet Steve Sanfield’s poem “Thank You Miss Groub,” a tribute to his childhood librarian. In the poem, Sanfield talks about how Miss Elsie Groub gave him copies of Mark Twain’s novels and instilled in him a love for writing when he was a child.

Now, co-editing an anthology about libraries, for which contributions are being requested from members of the community, Sanfield hopes people would share their experiences with libraries in their writings and artworks.

“The anthology is simply about our love and appreciation of libraries and librarians and the respective roles they’ve played in our lives,” Sanfield said. “I mean, who doesn’t love the library? Here in Nevada County, the libraries are probably the most widely-used and appreciated institutions we have. What we’re trying to do is put together a collection that’s representative of the wide spectrum of individuals who live here and use the library. All one needs to do is spend a few hours at any of the libraries to see that folks of all ages, professions, and living styles pass through on a regular basis. We’re attempting to reach out to just about everyone.”

The anthology, called “Open to All: What the library means to me,” is a fundraising effort by the Nevada County library to buy more books. Besides Sanfield, local writer Molly Fisk and a Nevada County librarian, Steve Fjeldsted, will co-edit the collection.

“‘Open to all: What the library means to me’ is going to be an anthology of personal responses to libraries – all sorts of libraries – from our community members, and a few outside the community who have ties here, like the novelist Anne Lamott, who’s read here several times,” Fisk said. “We want to make the book varied and interesting, with essays, poems, reminiscences, stories – some humorous and some profound, but things everyone can relate to. We’d like this to be something that local people can pick up and enjoy, as well as people from out of the area.”

Entries have started to come in, and the editors want more contributions from people of all ages. Photographs and drawings with a library theme are also welcome.

“The initial response has been really encouraging. We’ve only begun to get the word out and we’ve already received lots of worthy and fascinating contributions – with many, many more promised,” Sanfield said. “I hope we are not deluged with contributions, but if we are, so be it.”

“Libraries hold a very special place in many peoples’ hearts, unlike any other place in most of our lives, and we wanted to get a more personal sense of that by asking people what libraries meant to them,” Fisk said. “I know for me the library of my childhood, the Carmel Library, was a sanctuary, one of very few. When I got to college, the libraries there were more like museums, with the books valued perhaps more than the students.

“I have stolen some very nice kisses in libraries, cried in them, written dissertations and letters and grocery lists in them, raced into them to find a bathroom or a clock. And read a few books, too – a few thousand, anyway. Libraries belong to us, to ordinary people, in a way that few other public institutions do, I think. We are proud of them and proprietary, we all have opinions. This anthology is designed to give readers a sense of the breadth of this feeling.”

According to Fjeldsted, residents of Nevada County are quite involved with their libraries. The Nevada County Library has 62,000 active cardholders, which consists of more than half of the people in the county.

“We circulate 650,000 items each year which is a tremendous circulation for a county of our size,” Fjeldsted said. “The figures represent more than six checkouts for every resident of any age. By estimation, these materials would stretch all the way from Grass Valley to Sacramento if placed end-to-end.”

No wonder the editors are expecting a lot of interest from people in the anthology – both in terms of contribution and sales.

“We believe … the book is going to be a keepsake of the love and involvement people have for our library,” Fjeldsted said, “and also anticipate that it will be a popular holiday gift.”

The deadline for submitting writings or artwork is May 1. For submission specifications, log on to

To contact staff writer Soumitro Sen, e-mail or call 477-4229.

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