You bookworms out there might want to stock up on reads for the three-day weekend. Our three Costa Mesa libraries will be closed on Monday for the Labor Day holiday.

The Mesa Verde Library, 2969 Mesa Verde Drive East, will offer these child-centered activities during the next two weeks: "READ OC" Family Reading Time at 6:30 p.m. Thursday; and "Lego Wednesday" from 2 to 3 p.m. Sept. 14.

Call (714) 546-5274 for more information.

The Costa Mesa Donald Dungan Library, 1855 Park Ave., will hold a Family Storytime at 2 p.m. Tuesday. The Sept. 13. Toddler Storytime is scheduled for 11 a.m. Sept. 12; Family Movie Nights are at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and Sept. 14; and Bilingual Storytimes are at 2 p.m. on Sept. 8 and Sept. 15.

For more information, call (949) 646-8845.

The Friends of the Library Book Club will meet at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 19 to discuss "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand."

For more information, call the Friends' bookstore at the Mesa Verde Library location, (714) 438-0517. At the Donald Dungan Library, the Book Club has selected "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov to discuss at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 12.

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'My Favorite Book' essay contest

The Costa Mesa Library Foundation is sponsoring an essay contest for students in local elementary and middle schools. The contest runs from Sept. 12 to Sept. 26. There are two grade-level categories: fifth through sixth grades and seventh through eighth grades.

In 200 words or fewer, students are to include the book's name and author, describe the plot and main character, and then explain why this is his or her favorite book. Essays are to be typed or neatly written in pen on 8½-inch by 11-inch white paper. The upper right-hand corner must include name, age, grade, school and teacher.

Participating Newport-Mesa Unified School District students must turn in their essays to their principals by 4 p.m. Sept. 26. Students from private schools and home-schooled students must turn their essays in to either the Mesa Verde or Donald Dungan libraries by 4 p.m. on that date.

In a special awards reception, winners in each category will receive $100 in cash. One runner-up from each category will receive $50. Teachers of the two winning students will each receive $50 gift cards from Staples.

Winning essays will be posted on the Costa Mesa Library Foundation and the N-MUSD websites, and will be on display in the three Costa Mesa libraries. For further information, contact Barbara Steck at (714) 658-2879 or bdspr@aol.com.

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More library history

Earlier, I told you about how our first Costa Mesa Library began in 1923, largely through the efforts of the Friday Afternoon Club. In 1923, this group of Costa Mesa women decided that this fast-growing community, which grew from 220 in 1920 to a population of 2,400 in 1924, needed its own library.

The women appointed a committee to contact the county librarian. The committee scouted for a location, and selected the location — the second floor of the Balboa Bank Building on Newport Boulevard.

Anna Lane and other club women, helped by two schoolgirls, Harriet Baker and Marie Carruther, opened the room three afternoons a week from 2 to 5 p.m. Lane contacted an old school friend, Sarah Conant, about becoming Costa Mesa's first librarian. Conant had just retired after 27 years as a teacher in Illinois and quickly accepted the position. She arrived in April 1924.

Unfortunately, the noise of people climbing the stairs disturbed the bank customers and the library was moved to the Rochester Building on the corner of 18th Street and Newport Boulevard. During the five months that the library was in this location, Mr. Rochester kept the building open from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. while he read his daily newspaper.

But this building also had problems, as it was on a noisy business corner. During the first several months that Conant worked in the library, she wasn't paid by the county, as she hadn't yet been approved.

All these problems might have stopped this fledging library effort if it hadn't been for a major personality stepping in to save the day. More on that later!

MARY ELLEN GODDARD produced this column on behalf of the Friends of Costa Mesa Libraries, the Costa Mesa Library Foundation and the three Costa Mesa Libraries.