Friends Of The Libraries: Government involvement can start here

Election Day is coming up. If you haven't already voted by mail or used other early voting methods, it is important that you inform yourself and vote.

President James Madison said in 1822, "A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

How does this relate to libraries? Dr. Steve Matthews in his Aug. 13 21st Century Library Blog post wrote, "The reason libraries are needed is because it is a fundamental right of America's citizens to have free access to information and knowledge."

America's public libraries are the one place where there is equal access to everyone regardless of the size of his or her wallet. I have visited libraries in many foreign countries, and have been shocked to discover the limited access and limited materials available to those seeking knowledge.


Academic decathlons

Because I am already on my soapbox, I might as well get something else off my chest. I am probably going to stir up a hornet's nest, but here goes: Why is it that Costa Mesa, which has a wonderful junior college and several universities, a noted performing arts center and repertory theater, seems to be more into sports and sports fields than brain stimulation?

This culture gives students the feeling that sports are more important than academics. Don't get me wrong. I think that exercise is important for everyone, and sports are important for many schoolchildren, but maybe it is time that we cheer as much for science projects, high grade-point averages and academic decathlons as we do for that winning home run or touchdown. I have always thought it was great that UC Irvine didn't have a football program — that instead, the school was able to devote that energy to academic classes and was better off.

Did you know that in 1968, Robert Peterson, who was Orange County superintendent of schools, formed the academic decathlon? He intended that the competition would encourage not only the highest-level students, but "change C-students' lives," according to a Los Angeles Times obituary for Peterson.

The first competition hosted 103 students from 20 local high schools, according to Wikipedia. Statewide competitions started in 1979, with national ones starting several years later, the entry continues. Now there is a middle school academic pentathlon as well. Some of our Newport Mesa schools have participated in these contests. I am hoping to learn soon which schools and when they participated. When I do I will pass it on to you.

How does this relate to libraries? Obviously, libraries are a source of information, a place where students can study together — especially when we get a library with study rooms. But more than that, perhaps an expanded library with meeting rooms might be able to host a competition similar to this, or a local science fair — where we could all cheer them on.


At the Costa Mesa Donald Dungan Library

The Costa Mesa Book Club will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday to discuss "The Flight of Gemma Hardy" by Margot Livesey. This book takes Jane Eyre into the mid 20th century, changing the setting to the author's native Scotland and the Orkneys. The book is available at the checkout desk.

"A Catered Thanksgiving" by Isis Crawford will be discussed at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 27 when the Mystery Book Club meets in the Community Room. This seventh mystery by Crawford carries on her "mystery with recipes" theme.

For information on the many children's and other programs at the Dungan Library at 1855 Park Ave., call the information desk at (949) 646-8845.


At the Mesa Verde Library

The library continues to have Preschool Storytime at 11 a.m. Tuesdays. For information on other programming at the Mesa Verde Library at 2969 Mesa Verde Drive East, call (714) 546-5274.

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 branches of the Orange County Public Libraries.

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