Our View: ‘Who doesn’t love the library?’
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.
— Steve Sanfield
The excerpt accompanying this editorial is from the late 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. Sanfield, a longtime local poet who died in January at the age of 77, shared the piece for “Open to All: What the Library Means to Me,” an anthology edited by Sanfield, local writer Molly Fisk and former County Librarian Steve Fjeldsted and published in 2007 by the local Comstock Bonanza Press.
“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 at the time. “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. … 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.”
The anthology was a fundraising effort for the Nevada County library system to buy more books. Just a few years later, as the economic recession led county officials to consider deep cuts to the library budget — to such an extent that a discussion on privatizing the system was on the table — Nevada County residents rose to a challenge to show their support for our libraries. Jeff Ackerman, former publisher of The Union, asked readers to reach into their pockets to make a small donation in a “Save Our Libraries” effort.
In a matter of a few weeks, more than $50,000 had been raised. Over the course of five years, readers of The Union have donated more than $122,000.
As we again acknowledge National Library Week (April 12-20), we once again encourage our community to show its support for our library system. Next week, in collaboration with Nevada County Librarian Laura Pappani and her staff, The Union will publish a series of stories focused on our local libraries, the programs they offer and what it means to patrons, volunteers and staff members. One week from today, a donation envelope will be inserted in The Union as a convenient way for the community to make a contribution.
The donations have been targeted for library materials purchases, including books, books on CD, movies and music, and we hope to help make more materials available once again.
National Library Week was first sponsored in 1958, but western Nevada County residents began a relationship with local libraries a full century earlier.
According to Wednesday’s “Library Week” proclamation by the City of Nevada City, residents there have enjoyed a local library since 1858, when the Library Association first offered services inside the Yuba Canal Company Building. More than 150 years later today, our county is served by six library locations, in addition libraries found within our community’s schools and other local organizations, such as the Nevada County Historical Society’s Searls Library set to soon reopen at its new location on Nevada City Highway.
We hope over the course of the coming week to encourage all readers to consider the importance of our local libraries, just as Sanfield, Fisk and Fjeldsted asked us few years back for their anthology.
“Libraries hold a very special place in many peoples’ hearts, unlike any other place in most of our lives …,” Fisk said at the time. “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.”
And so, in honor of National Library Week, we ask our community to once again consider, “What does the library mean to you?”
The weekly Our View column represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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