National Library Week: The libraries that made all the difference in my life


Being a book detective at the University of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe as it is now) back in 1978 was undoubtedly one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. 

I was charged with finding books that had mysteriously disappeared. In those days, that meant searching for clues in old check-out cards stamped with purple dates and scribbled names; ensuring that the book was still in the card catalogue and hadn’t been intentionally removed from the inventory – and, most excitingly – scouring the stacks for those which had been incorrectly shelved. 

I’ll (conveniently) give the example of my own novel, Nature Lessons (St. Martin’s Press, NY 2003). My search for that title in the library, had the book existed then, might perhaps have taken me from travel to nature to pedagogy sections, instead of fiction, where it should have been shelved.

How I loved pondering where an ambiguous title might land, and how I rejoiced in finding the lost book. 

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Taken the year I worked at the University of Zimbabwe Library (University of Rhodesia in 1978); on a tobacco farm with long-ago boyfriend Graeme (not a patch on my now-husband Bill…)

Not to mention the pleasures of wandering among the stacks, breathing in the smell of old pages and fresh print, scanning the shelves for the out-of-place publication, occasionally coming across a fascinating memoir, or novel, or book about nature or science… 

…and then playing hooky, plonking myself down on the wooden floor between stacks, cross-legged, eagerly reading in short bursts, fingers turning dusty pages, before reluctantly returning to my more mundane duties.

My love of libraries began early in life. Every week my father would go to the library and come home with three titles.

At the age of eight, I was determined to read every book in the house. 

Many were beyond me, of course, but still I loved the mystery that the words contained, couldn’t wait to be old enough to understand them all: the memoir of the woman in the iron lung because of polio; Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K Jerome, so funny, which would later become one of my all-time favorite books; all of PG Wodehouse; and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, which my dad gave my mom, inscribed, “Love, Scot,” before they divorced, before he died.

The only, very blurry, photo I have of me and my dad

After his death, much changed in my life. Paranoia took over my mother’s thinking.

Her brothers and sisters, she said, were in cahoots with the government, spying on us, eavesdropping, plotting, planning our downfall. We fell into poverty. Cockroaches skittered in our kitchen, there were lost jobs, there were evictions; there was anger, and frustration, and hatred; the air in the flat thick with her bitter accusations and the smoke of her ever-burning cigarettes.

But I always had books. 

At the Durban library, I borrowed tales of myths and legends of the world, long before I knew of Joseph Campbell; I devoured Agatha Christie and Gerald Durrell and Jane Austen and fell in love with Middlemarch and Vanity Fair along with Alistair MacLean and Wilbur Smith and so much more. 

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Downtown Durban during the 1960s: the library was a block away from City Hall See the trolley bus in the foreground

In high school, I took refuge in the library during break; it was a quiet, soothing place, away from the rush and noise of kids who seemed so confident in themselves, kids I didn’t dare approach.

For me then, as it is now for so many young people – poor, ostracized, or lonely, needy for all kinds of reasons – the library was my umbilical cord, the books I took home nourishing me with tales of lives beyond my own, letting me know that others out there thought the way I did, felt the way I did, that there was logic and reason as well as magic and mystery in the world that I would one day, as an adult, inhabit. 

Libraries must be treasured, cared for, and fully funded. Libraries offer more than education, more than escapism. They give hope, they give respite.

All that I am today, I owe to those libraries and the books within them, and to my father, who first taught me the wonder of the written word.

Mission Hospital physicians and nurses serve as models in upcoming fashion show and luncheon 

Join the Valiant Women of Mission Hospital as they celebrate “Beaches and Bling” at the 22nd Annual Valiant Women Luncheon and Fashion Show on Friday, May 4 at the beautiful Monarch Beach Resort.

A dynamic team of Mission Hospital physicians and nurses will rock the runway, serving as fashion models in summer designs from retailers at The Shops at Mission Viejo including: Banana Republic, Brighton Collectibles, Chico’s, Lululemon Athletica, Fredric H. Rubel Jewelers, Soma, Tommy Bahama and White House | Black Market. Models will have their hair styled compliments of Toni & Guy and makeup provided by MAC Cosmetics.

Submitted photo

Carolyn Dupon, RN, models during last year’s event

The funds raised by the event will support Mission Women’s Wellness Center, Nursing Endowment, and Scholarships, remodel of the Women’s and Infants Center, a mobile 3D Tomosynthesis Mammography unit and a da Vinci operating bed for women’s surgeries.

The event begins at 10 a.m. with Champagne and shopping at the silent auction and raffle drawings. Four incredible raffle items will be available: A cosmetic surgery package valued at $4,700 from Dr. James A. Heinrich, a ladies’ 18k yellow gold, rose quartz and mother-of-pearl locket necklace valued $2,500 from Fredric H. Rubel Jewelers, and The Shops at Mission Viejo Dream Package with items from nine retailers.

The fourth raffle is a Miraval Resort Escape valued at $4,800. It includes a three-night double occupancy stay at Miraval Resort and Spa in Tucson, Arizona. Each guest receives a $150 resort credit plus full access to resort amenities. The cost is $50 per ticket and a maximum of 150 tickets will be sold (this special item is being raffled separately from the other raffle packages).

The event is made possible through the generous support of Presenting Sponsor: The Shops at  Mission Viejo, and Valiant Sponsors: Golden State Foods - Ginny and Mark Wetterau, and Jeanne and Igor Olenicoff. Additional sponsorship opportunities are still available.

The event sells out quickly, so make arrangements to attend today by contacting Darcy at (949) 365-3893 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit

Merkel the Doxie dog is ready for a new adventure 

Merkel is a seven-year-old neutered male Doxie who is seeking a new adventure alongside a new owner and home. Any home will fit his needs, for he is easily adaptable. He is full of love, and is the perfect size to hold in your hand. 

Nancy Goodwin, shelter director, hopes to see Merkel adopted soon. 

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Merkel is open to any home willing to adopt him 

The Laguna Beach Animal Shelter adoption procedures are designed to make sure that both the potential family and the animal adopted are in the very best situation possible. Due to their approach to adoption, their return rate is five percent as compared to the national return rate of 50 percent.

The LB Animal Shelter is located at 20612 Laguna Canyon Rd. Call (949) 497-3552 or go to the website for information on adoption procedures at

Learn about Laguna’s Beaches from Historical Society Board member


Folks who have no reason to attend tonight’s City Council Meeting, may want to sit in on Eric Jessen’s presentation of part one of “The History of Laguna’s Beaches” at 7:30 p.m. at the Susi Q.

Jessen is a board member of the Laguna Beach Historical Society and former Chief of Orange County’s Harbors, Beaches and Parks.

Admission is free. Those who can’t make it to the Susi Q may view the program on line at the Laguna Beach Historical Society You Tube Channel. 

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Courtesy of LB Historical Society

Aliso Beach

The program will include a video on the acquisition, development and milestones in the history of some of Laguna’s beaches and parks, starting from the north end of town: Smithcliffs View Park, Bootleggers Cove, and Crescent Bay Point Park. The video will also include beaches in South Laguna: the county beach where Aliso Creek spills into the Pacific Ocean; Camel Point; West Street; Secret Cove/Table Rock; Thousand Steps; the county’s Three Arch Bay beach that is open to the public; and Salt Creek County Park in Dana Point. 

New aerial photographs will be featured.

Did you know? Laguna’s coastline has more dolphins than Florida, Hawaii and the Caribbean combined

Among the interesting information about Laguna’s beaches itemized in the society’s April Newsletter: Laguna has eight miles of coast line with more beachfront lodging than any other California City and more dolphins than Florida, Hawaii and the Caribbean combined.

The newsletter is among the perks of belonging to the society. Membership fees start at $25 for an individual, which includes a free gift at the society headquarters in the Murphy Smith Bungalow next to Whole Foods Market on Ocean Avenue.

 A $100 membership includes the gift and a history book about Laguna. All of the above and a framed historical photograph of Laguna is the incentive for $500 membership and a $1,000 membership adds special acknowledgement at programs, in newsletters on the society’s website and an displays.

Donations to the 501c3 non-profit organization are also welcomed and made easy by Pay Pal or credit card at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and at Ralph’s/Food 4 Less/Foods Co. Community Contribution Program online at

Tree Identification Walkabout takes place this Saturday: Enjoy a casual, informative stroll around town

The Laguna Beautification Council offers a fun, informative stroll along the downtown streets of Laguna this Saturday April 14 at 10 a.m., during which participants will learn a great deal about the trees they pass by every day.

The Tree Identification Walkabout will be guided by Prof. Chris Reed. Chris will identify the scores of different trees planted on private and public spaces in Laguna Beach. He’ll also provide guidance on which trees you might plant in your yard, and on pruning trees as well.

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Photo by Lynette Brasfield

You won’t see this ailing New Zealand Christmas tree: shortly after the last walk, it was removed…Chris will tell you why it wasn’t doing well

The Walkabout begins at 10 a.m. and takes approximately one to two hours. Meet at 670 Catalina. Street parking should be available.

LBBC asks that participants wear walking shoes, and a hat. LBBC will provide complimentary tree guides. RSVP to email below or call to reserve your place. Group size will be limited. You’ll be sent a Tree Identification Guide when you RSVP. 

For more information and to RSVP, contact George Weiss at (949) 295-0832 or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Where’s Maggi – the answers!

Maggi likes this pelican and so do our readers. Several correct answers came in early in the day.

Thanks for locating this spot: Lisa Thompson (first in!), Janene Freita, Mona Roberts, John Walker, Laurie Kirkland, and Cindy Hudson.

The pretty pelican pictured here is on the corner of Rockledge and S Coast Hwy.

Thanks for playing! Look for a new challenge on Friday.

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Pelican mural at Rockledge

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