City Lights: A blessing comes to Oak View library

There's an old Paul Simon tune called "One Man's Ceiling Is Another Man's Floor."

The title sentiment can be taken literally — the song, on the surface, is about squabbling apartment tenants — but it can also be taken to mean that what seems lofty and unattainable for one person can seem like no great shakes for another.

Consider this: When you donate to a food bank or a Third World clinic, do you ever read the literature explaining how they plan to stretch out your dollar? Five dollars, which could buy a coffee at Starbucks, will feed a family of four for a week; $50 can pay for a month of clean water, and so on.

To some who live in Huntington Beach, $1,000 may amount to little more than pocket change. We've got quite a floor up here. But that didn't diminish my joy when I learned that at least three anonymous donors have come forward to help resurrect a pair of summer education programs at the Oak View Branch Library.

The other week, we ran a story about how the library, located in the northeast end of Huntington, was on the verge of cutting its summer programs — and possibly its after-school Homework Club for the latter half of the school year — if funding didn't materialize.

The library provides an array of services that the average Surf City resident must take for granted and beyond: computers to print homework, desks large enough to spread out paperwork, a quiet study spot away from the kitchen and TV. Together, Homework Club, Math Club and Reading Partners cost a little under $25,000 to run, funds that the city lost when the state cut its library support last year.

"It's hard for people with money in their pocket to realize there is a desperate need," Joann Craft, one of the library's longtime tutors, told me.

Evidently, some people realized.

Stephanie Beverage, the city's director of library services, said three people came in Friday and Monday and collectively donated enough funds to run Math Club and Reading Partners for this summer and the next. For Math Club, which meets for eight weeks during the summer to help elementary students hone their number skills, the funding amounts to a revival because the program was put on hiatus last summer.

Reading Partners, which targets students who struggle with language barriers, was reduced to a dozen or so students last year as a few volunteer tutors stuck around. The annual cost for the program is $1,000; for Math Club, it's $1,400.

Work, of course, still needs to be done. Homework Club, which runs during the school year, needs about $14,000 to make it until next June.

Beverage said more donations have come in since Monday, but not enough to cover the entire program. Still, summer is a promising start.

The people who footed the cost for the next two summers have remained anonymous so far, so I can't say how big of a sacrifice it was for them.

But however much that amount seems up here — and I know the economy has put a dent on our side of the floor too — it's hard to imagine its impact for those who have to walk to the library just to print out a single page.

In the words of Claudia Locke, Oak View's librarian: "This year, it's going to be kind of a blessing."

City Editor MICHAEL MILLER can be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at

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