Ray Bradbury is alive and kicking here in Los Angeles. He’s pushing 90 and still has a mind that blows me away. He is currently campaigning to help the H. P. Wright Library in Ventura County stay open. With California’s financial troubles, libraries are easy targets. Ray believes in libraries. Back when he was a young man during the Great Depression, libraries served as a substitute for a university education. Perhaps we should listen to the wisdom of our elders?
“Libraries raised me,” Mr. Bradbury said. “I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”
Libraries saved me too. It was the early 70s at the time, but times were hard. I knew every book in my local library. I would spend hours there every chance I could, especially during the dog days of summer. I had a voracious appetite for knowledge and a wondering mind to match. School did not work for me, but reading did. I had a five book a week habit for most of my youth. I lived in fear of the big red-headed librarian. She like to collect those late fees. I could not afford to pay them.
My local library moved to bigger digs in the early 80s. I had left the neighborhood by then, but visited from time-to-time. In the early 90s the budget ax hit. The local government closed my beloved library. Ironically, my stepfather became the library’s most vocal and visible supporter. Funny though, I never once saw him read a book. His door-to-door support of our little library warmed my heart. It was so out of character.
There is no longer a local library. Kids must travel to a main branch many miles away. There is an upside. The neighboring city of Cerritos invested in a library of unparalleled quality. It is a great resource for the local kids, but is quite expensive for non-residents.
Two young members of my extended family are librarians. They make me proud and give me hope for the future. I expect great things from them. And Ray Bradbury… I had to get in line to read his books back when I first started reading. I still read him. Something Wicked This Way Comes still gives me chills.