Tuesday, November 10, 2009

6. Sebastopol Library

On one of the first serious rain days of the season a few weeks ago (yes, sorry, it's been that long), I left work and drove out to visit the library in the unique, quirky little town of Sebastopol, a good half-an-hour away. So let's say it's 40, 45 minutes from my home in Petaluma, depending on traffic (isn't all life in the Bay Area dependent on traffic?).  It had been raining all weekend, but that Monday it was wrapping up-more than a drizzle, not quite a shower.

Sebastopol Library
7140 Bodega Ave
Sebastopol, CA 95472
Visit time: Monday evening, 5:30 - 6:30 pm
Architecture/Atmosphere: 3
Seating: 3
Books: 4
Librarians: 4

Two books checked out:
Salt by Mark Kurplansky.
A fascinating look through history at a basic element so necessary for life. Once upon a time, one could pay their bills with salt. And be paid with salt. Thick going in spots, but compelling.
Why I Write The Secret Lives of Authors by Philip Oltermann.....another example of the importance of punctuation. I thought the author was going to tell me why he writes about the secret lives of authors, because, as we well know, writers are equal parts nosy, tight-lipped and show-offs, confident that folks desperately want to hear about why the hell he spent hours in a cramped garret churning out text-docs about the hidden lives of other authors. But the book is far more than that.

The library is just up a small hill from the city center, on one of the main arteries of town, the one that goes right out to the coast, another 45 minutes or so down the road. It's one of those brick-clad buildings from the 70's (1976 to be exact) but with a whole bunch of style. The clean angles and spare lines have a pleasing balance of weight and shape. Anchored on one corner, of course, by a large, very red, apple, the icon of Sebastopol, once the Apple Capitol of Sonoma County.  Although the orchards have dwindled and the last apple processing plant closed shop several years ago, it's still the Apple Capital, at least in the hearts and minds of the populace. They still have the festivals and parades and a million apple icons around town to prove it.

But back to the library.

The entrance is somewhat disguised; walking up the terraced steps past a water garden is an act of faith, but it leads us to a lobby whose door is set back, not quite seen from the street. The lobby is actually a wide hallway, with another entrance on the opposite side; to my left is the Community Room, to the right, two entrances into the library. The hallway is pretty much all brick. In the wall between the two library doors is a long narrow window, shoulder height, resembling  a theater box office window somewhat, only much much longer, that gives a glimpse into the circulation desk area. We can see, through this wide slot, the clutch of library techs assisting patrons, and the patrons themselves on their way in or out.

Okay, so the pictures are kinda blurry, but if you squint your eyes....and maybe stand on your head, it'll start to make sense. I kinda like the ghost-patron in the second photo.

The Community room is hosting a very lively art show of masks, puppets and costuming; a fitting exhibit for pre-Halloween.

After shaking off the dribs and drabs of the drizzle, I spend some time at the art exhibit and then cross the hall to enter the library, dropping several books on the return counter. The place is packed: all study tables are occupied, many are shared, and all computer terminals are in use. Once again, a very large  square with cubby-nooks running along two edges, yet on this rainy day, it feels more cozy than oppressive or crowded.

At one table, a chess game is in progress, at another, math tutoring.  One young girl makes the circuit from the children's area near the front (below, outfitted with two reading couches), to her mom, working at the computers a few aisles away.

I admire the supreme patience of the reference desk librarian who responds to several people trying to get  their uniquely individual laptops to access the inter-schnitzel.  I wander a bit, investigating the shelves.  The collection seems very robust in non-fiction; self-development, crafts and gardening in particular.  It feels like an accurate reflection of the town, known for its self-reliant, back-to-the-land, do-it-your-selfers. Before I leave, I grab a shot of some books, these biographies below; there is something soothing about these full shelves, rich in the lore of poets.


  1. Sebastopol is one of my favorite proper nouns. I just love how the syllables slam up against each other.

    I came across Mark Kurplansky's Salt on my tour! At either the North Clairemont or Clairemont branch down here in San Diego. I didn't check it out, but it looked interesting.

  2. Yes! it's a wonderful word. Slurs nicely too, if you need a character to be drunk.

    "Salt" is definitely a history book, but fascinating history. Gave me a new appreciation for the substance and for the power struggles over it.

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  4. just when you think it's safe to play outside, you get spammed by an escort service ... on your blog! Sheeesh! Don't these folks have better things to do?

  5. Hello Lakin,

    My friend Susan Starbird recommended your site to me. Thank you for taking the time to review our County's libraries. I hope you will make it to all 13 branches! I read all your reviews in one sitting and appreciated your thorough approach. I would only add that the Rincon Valley branch is not the library closest to the Schulz Museum. That would be the Northwest Santa Rosa Library, which is located in a small building at Coddingtown. I'm afraid it won't get many bookmarks from you for ambiance! Looking forward to your next report!

  6. Thanks for stopping by! (thanks to Susan, too) Glad you enjoyed the reviews. I plan to finish the library project...but will have to wait for the new year, of course, with the libraries being closed during the holidays. I understand the need for it, but it's still sad. Plus, since I also have the week off, I thought I'd be able to whip out a few visits. But so it goes.

    At least I have time to catch up on some reading.....


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