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Book Donation Center


I have always talked about book acquisitions. Ever wonder what happened to all the books after I have finished? I keep about half of them and donate the rest. The thrift shop has been a reliable recipient of my discarded books but I have found the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library donation center an even better place. This venue is singlehandedly responsible for the merchandises at the two locations of Reader’s Bookstore at the Main Library and in Fort Mason. From the outside, the only hint that the bookstore at Fort Mason Center isn’t your average used bookstore is a cart, often stacked with bags or boxes, under a sign reading, “Book Donations.” Sales at the Readers Bookstore, which gets its inventory solely through donations, keep climbing while other stores struggle to survive or face closure. Everything—from signed, first edition copies to recent best-sellers—is priced about 20 percent lower than at other used bookstores. The donation center in the Mission hosts a $1 book sale on every second Saturday of the month. All proceeds from book sales go to the library, as the stores are all manned by volunteers. I would drop off the books and browse their store, end up spending money, but at least it’s for a good cause.


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How often do you visit a library? Do you go to borrow books? Do research? Check out the multi-media center? Hang out with the friendly and knowledgeable staff? Are you there out of love or out of need?

Booklovers would agree with me that libraries are the rescue to our wallets. They are also good sources of books if we have limited shelf space. All that said, I don’t visit my local library as often as I used to because libraries tend to become a refuge for the rancid street people. They bring in what bags and other belongings they have amassed and sit at the media stations. I also don’t appreciate the loud children story time/singing that spread to the main reading room. The bottom line is: I don’t like library being used in any purpose other than reading and conducting research. My library visit is quick stop that allows to peer at the new books. I like to see a book that I’m interested in reading and decide if I’ll buy it. Library is also a great resource for out-of-print books.

Extra: Library Evolved


Recently I read an interesting article in The New York Times about the changing role of libraries to become a replacement of loss of traditional bookstores. From my own experience, as a kid, the joy of visiting the library is the serendipity of discovering another book, even though I was actually looking for something else in my mind. While libraries will not relinquish the responsibility to provide patrons with the opportunity to discover literary works of merit, they also have to adapt their collections to meet demands of the patrons. Yes, it would be nice to have deluxe hardbound edition of The Inferno, but what about the long queuing for Fifty Shades of Grey and The Life of Pi? To make room for the new acquisitions, weeding, or in library parlance, deselection, is inevitable. Over the years I have seen my public library has deacquisitioned well-known books by classic writers, while books by James Patterson know no bound. It would be nice to maintain a balance between quality literature and rotten fiction. Since I work in an academic institution, the situation is exactly opposite: no low-brow fiction is to be considered for acquisition. Books that are discharged permanently might enjoy a happy life after being sold.

O Library!

Working in an academic institution makes me forget how depressing a visit to the public library is. Public library is a place for the community to learn, to research, and to read. I have been a firm supporter of our public library–in terms of donation and patronage, and will continue to show my support. But I can’t help feeling sad about how the nature of library use has deviated from its intended cause. The Main Library has become not so much a library as it is a haven for the homeless, the crazy, and obnoxious kids. Plan on using the computers, especially the public internet stations? Bring some Lysol, Purell, and a face mask. You’re going to be sitting next to crazy people who haven’t seen a bar of soap, shampoo, or, likely, toilet paper in quite some time. If the stink doesn’t get you, then the ranting will. Now that summer has arrived and that school is out for break, joining in the competition for these computers are kids. I don’t really care for the computers since internet has never been my purpose for a library visit. But it’s their noise that unnerves me. I guess the parents are not teaching them about self-entitlement–the need to purge it. Isn’t it ironic that you’re learning–in a library–that so many of today’s youths have absolutely no future?

The best part is about complaint. If you talk to someone at the information/reference/help desk, they would just shrug apologetically and smile. They’ve heard it all before and will have no solutions whatsoever. What can they do, really? I actually feel sorry that their professionalism is inevitably reduced to handling with guests whose interests are far cry from what library is created to function. The whole floor is filled with people from the streets who hang out there all day, with their luggage in tow and phones charging at the study tables. If anyone has to brace against the filthiness, the smell, and the madness, it’s the poor staff. Now I map out my visit and get out as soon as I’m through. No lingering around to read and to work on the laptop–I’ll go find a cafe.

Now the bright spot of my library visit is the weekly step sale in which every book is $1. There are great treasures to be had here if you’re patient to work your way through the tables because it can be blustery. I scored five books in excellent condition.


Show Your Books Love

Books deserve respect. Handling library books with care is a civil responsibility. It irks me whenever I see people tug books off the shelf by the upper lip of their binding, which is the number one cause of broken spines in hardbacks, I want to scream at them. Library should educate the public by posting signs with hints on handling books. Repairing a book with broken/loose spine is just as costly as replacing it—if the book is still in print. To minimize the risk of damage, try this: Push in the books on each side of the volume you want, then pull it out by grasping both sides of its spine. You’ll also know where to return it. Look for the two books that are pushed out of place.

Inside a book from the Paris haul, I found a slip inserted in a turn-of-the-century volume that reminds reader of the proper etiquette in handling a book. It bears a thoughtful message:

From Modern Bookbinding:
Hold the book with its back on a smooth or covered table; let the front board down, then the other, holding the leaves in one hand while you open a few leaves at the back, then a few at the front, and so on, alternately opening back and front, gently pressing open the sections till you reach the center of the volume. Do this two or three times and you will obtain the best results. Open the volume violently or carelessly in any one place and you will likely break the back and cause a start in the leaves. Never force the back of the book.

and a funny anecdote:

“A connoisseur many years ago, an excellent customer of mine, who thought he knew perfectly how to handle books, came into my office when I had an expensive binding just brought from the bindery ready to be sent home; he, before my dyes, took hold of the volume and tightly holding the leaves in each hand, instead of allowing them free play, violently opened it in the center and exclaimed: ‘How beautifully your bindings open!’ I almost fainted. He had broken the back of the volume and it had to be rebound.”

To Buy or to Borrow

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All things being equal (money, space, etc), would you rather own copies of the books you read? Or borrow them?

If neither money nor space is a concern, I would love to own all the books I’ve read and want to read, if not all the books published. My lust for books that is as visceral and addictive as that of privileged women who seek after designer haute couture, even if the book is meant to read once. A more practical reason is hygiene: I like to own (preferably new) books for my exclusive use or to share with a few special bibliophilic friends. The feelings of owing books is beyond satisfying and rewarding. The convenience of reading my own books whenever and wherever and taking as long as I need to read is important. After all, I just enjoy having my books at my own convenience. I think for me a good compromise or middle ground of buying vs. borrowing books would be to borrow the books I want to read from the library first. I support the public library by joining the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. I also make purchases from Book Bay, the library bookstore of which all proceeds will benefit the library.

A Reader’s Refuge

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Where is your favorite place to read?

Other than the comfort of my home, I do most of my reading at the café where I read for two hours early in the morning before work. Café Flore is the destination in the Castro, where locals and tourists come to see and be seen. In the morning, stripped of its gay allure and festive spirit that reach its pinnacle midday and thereafter, it’s a haven for readers, with plenty of sunlight and classical music in the air.

During lunch break, I claim a tree outside the library building under which I read for half an hour. Morrison Library becomes my shelter from heat or rain. It’s a traditional library reading room providing an ambient atmosphere for students, myself included during my undergraduate days, to take a break from the rigors of academic life. It offers comfortable seating for leisurely reading, and maintains a circulating collection of popular newly published fiction and non-fiction. Morrison Library also has a limited collection of circulating audiobooks, subscriptions to several popular magazines and a few daily newspapers. Restricted only to Cal students, staff and library card holders, and that it’s an internet backwater, Morrison Library is the true haven for readers.

Grim Reality

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In this week’s question, the host of Musing Mondays is confronted by a harsh reality:

The local Catholic school board is closing its school libraries, and parents and teachers, and even the students—are in an uproar. Budget cuts demanded that the board choose something to get rid of… they choose libraries. As such, many librarians have lost their jobs. And, the board is moving the books to the classrooms, instead. They feel that it is a good solution.

What do you think? Should the schools be without an actual “library” room? Is this a good solution?

I’m outraged that budget cuts have taken a huge toll on the quality of education, which is the gateway of our future. All over California education is taking the axe from an ever diminishing budget. Some school districts anticipate even fewer school days and close for summer vacation early. Others have opted to cut peripheral services such as after-school programs and library hours. The most macabre story I heard is the reduction of library service to one hour a day, four days a week.

While not all kids are (going to be) fanatic readers who bury their noses in a book, library is still an integral component of a quality education. Libraries foster an atmosphere for inquiring and researching for knowledge, encourage reading, and provide an interactive learning experience in which kids seek the expertise of librarians, who are usually resourceful and very well-read.

Public libraries are considered non-essential agencies which are unfortunately the first to take the brunt when there is a budget cut. What outrages me the most is that even a private school has to axe libraries and deprive students of the one place that will mold and prune their minds. From elementary school up until college, I spent most of my free time in the library—doing homework, working on a term paper, or browsing for books. I couldn’t imagine completing the dissertation without the services of the library, which has played a role in shaping the person that I am. I feel sorry for the kids whose scope of the world ceases to exist beyond textbooks.

Library Sale

The last day of the Friends of San Francisco Public Library book sale had a surprise for book lovers—Everything is $1 each. I wasn’t going ballistic, just keeping an eye on target authors, ones you recommend and ones with whom I fall in love.

Raise the Red Lantern Su Tong
The Painter of Shanghai Jennifer Cody Epstein
Latecomers Anita Brookner
A Shooting Star Wallace Stegner
Two Lives William Trevor
Force of Gravity R.S. Jones
Echo House Ward Just
Death in Summer William Trevor
A Mercy Toni Morrison

Books with the most copies seen: Da Vinci Code (several boxes), The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Plainsong, Tales of the City, and Bridget Jones’s Diary. Also abundant in supply but all of which are in poor condition is The Fountainhead, a book I actually want to read. I saw a couple copies of Crossing to Safety, but had no luck with The Spectator Bird. For a quick two-hour scour, I thought I did well with finding books popping up in my radar.

Shhhhh: Silence is Golden

I enjoy going to the local library. My branch has a special LGBT collection that represents the neighborhood’s demographic and relevant. What used to be comfort and shared silence in an institution of knowledge is no more. Burst in shortly after the library opens is a bevy of SUVs strollers in which sit little human beings that make all kind of noises. The kids, some are toddlers, have barely developed speech, let alone the ability to read. With their nannies chasing after them, these kids roam around the library, screaming to the extent that the sound waves undulate across the building to reach the reading room. I understand the library’s need to integrate the interests of community and foster an atmosphere of an converging ground. The nursery rhyme session is going overboard because some of the behaviors (or the lack of discipline on the part of parents and nannies) breach the library’s code of conduct made known to generations of readers. Silence is golden. Silence is prerequisite to a pleasant library experience in an atmosphere conducive to study, reading and appropriate use of materials and services. I even refrain the use of cellphone within the library lest to breach the silence. Maybe the times are really changing that these values are no longer appreciated. I remember being told when I was a first grader that I should make every effort to preserve that enormous, almost staid, silence that prevailed the library as soon as I walked through the threshold. Gone is time when the purpose of library was primarily on books, as more patrons come to the library to use computers to access the internet (don’t get me started about racy and pornographic materials some of the users are accessing). I still believe that certain ground rules are timeless and therefore should be enforced regardless of the advent of time. How would kids know the proper manner to behave if they are not educated? On a few occasions I even sighted consumption of snacks on the premise. Library is not your living room.