"You make good use of your library I am sure," Laura wrote in May 1950. "How I would have loved it when I was young but I was far from a library in those days." One of America's most beloved author's began corresponding with the Pomona Public Library's children's librarian, who was a fan of her books and this is how the manuscript came to be donated. There is even a room named in the author's honour in the library. Yet none of this may be enough to save it from closure. The library currently has a budget of $1.6 million and is open 26 hours a week. They have been offered a chance to stay open if they can cut the budget to $400,000. I have no idea how these figures compare to UK library budgets but anyone can see that the cut is just too much. "Any book you haven't read is a new book," is the library's slogan and it is truly heartbreaking to hear that they might close.
However it is not all doom and gloom. One hour up the coast from L.A. is the city of Oxnard where my 95 year old aunt, Stella lives with her husband Bob. Stella was born in London in 1916, the year of the Somme. Her father, my grandpa, Joe Hyams, was a gunner at the front. He's the one with the cross next to him.
Stella has lived in California since the 1960s. For the past 20 years she has volunteered at the Oxnard Public Library and is still a very valued member of the team. Here she is at her work station. She catalogues the CDs.
It was great to have a chance to look round a local library in the States and I was enormously impressed. The children's library which occupies only part of the ground floor is absolutely vast - about twice the size of the entire public library in Golders Green near me.
The Oxnard Library has financial support from a 'Friends' group and maybe this makes all the difference in the US at helping to keep such amazing facilities open. Certainly volunteers have had some effect in helping to keep libraries open in the UK.
So my aunt will be back on duty on Monday and the children's librarian has emailed me to say she wants to stock my novels - excellent and they are not even published yet in the US. But from small beginnings.....
We finished our day in Oxnard back at Stella and Bob's house and had a look round Bob's amazing garden, groaning with produce.
From the Prairie, through the Trenches to Oxnard, reading books all the way!
KEEP OUR LIBRARIES OPEN WORLDWIDE!!!!!