Jul 242015

by Joan Stevenson

There is a new fashion statement in Lafayette.  It is the bright green shopping bag with the words, “Friends Corner Book Shop   Selling gently used books since 196?”   You can get yours at the Friends Corner Book Shop for the bargain price of $1.00 and you can fill it at the Book Shop Bag Sales.  The shopping bags were purchased with a generous donation from Mechanics Bank of Lafayette.  Hats Off to Mechanics Bank for their support.


Way back when Lafayette was “imagining a place”, a commitment to making it a “green” place was one of the goals.  And what could be more “green” than a book store, a place where used books can find their way into new homes for at a phenomenally affordable price.  Who better to make that dream a reality than The Friends of the Lafayette Library and Learning Center?  In the years that have flown by, the shop has flourished and gained a reputation as one of the best used book sellers in the state.  Last year sales generated an amazing grand total for the year is $ 184,305. That kind of “green” (revenue) is what supports a wide variety of library programs, Sunday staffing, the Summer Reading Program, Lamorinda reads and much more.  Just imagine that.

I just learned about a new program called “Teen Tech Help” that began on July 18th.  If you encounter problems with your smart phone, laptop, eBook reader or any of those pesky tech items we seniors stumble with, drop by the library any Saturday from 12-2 in the Homework Center.  There you will find friendly, custom, on-on-one assistance and it is free!

WATER!  It is the five letter word that dominated the summer.  How did we get into this situation? Is it global warming or is there more to the story?  On Sunday, August 26 from 2-3:30 in the Community Hall, the Lafayette Historical Society continues its Speaker Series with programs focusing on the importance of water resources in our community. The guest speaker will be Janet Thomas who has lived in Lafayette for 31 years near Reliez Creek. Janet developed the Environmental Science curriculum for the Acalanes Unified High School District and used that creek (which borders the school and its surroundings) as an outdoor classroom.  Ms. Thomas is now involved with the Lafayette Community Garden and Outdoor Learning Center.  $10.00 LHS members; $15.00 non-members requested – Kids under 14 with adult are free.   Contact LHS at (925) 283-1848, or Lafayette.history@comcast.net for reservations or additional information.

Ellen Reintjes, chair of the Wonders of the World programs, gave me a glance at the Fall lineup.  On September 16th at 2:00 in the library Community Hall we will hear about the Napa Valley Museum which Ellen describes as “a hop, skip, and a jump up in the heart of wine country, the Napa Valley Museum blends, art, nature and history in a 21st century facility situated on the beautiful grounds of the Veterans Home of California.”  Other museums in the lineup include St. Mary’s, deYoung and Asian Art.  These lecture are not to be missed.

On a recent visit to the library my attention was drawn to a display put together by the Lafayette Historical Society entitled “How Burton Valley Came to be the Burton Valley of Today.”  This delightful display goes back to the Saclan Native Americans and traces the many changes including the arrival of squatters after the Gold Rush, the Electric Train with a stop on South Lucille Lane and planting of the pear orchards.  In 1956 a two hundred home development, Lafayette Valley Estates, was built and that is where I landed when I came from New York. Many of us old timers are still around and this look into our past is a delight.

Come to the Community Hall on Thursday, August 20, 2015 at 7:00 to catch a “sneak peak” of this year’s Eugene O’Neill Festival with Artistic Director Eric Fraisher-Hayes who will discuss the productions, “A Season of Desire” and “A Streetcar Named Desire”.  Following up on the incredible, sold-out run of last year’s The Iceman Man Cometh and the record-setting Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the Eugene O’Neill Foundation will be partnering again with Role Players Ensemble.  For more information: http://www.eugeneoneill.org/

I eavesdropped on a book club in the children’s section and listened to a discussion of “Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace” which had the kids totally engrossed.   One is never too young to participate in a serious book club!  In the words of Dr. Seuss, “You can find magic whereever you look.  Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.”


 July 24, 2015
Jun 222015

deYoung Museum, San Francisco

Thursday, August 6, 2015, 6:30 PM, Community Hallsnow_storm_steam-boat_off_a_harbours_mouth_exhibited_1842_1

This summer, the deYoung Museum brings together more than sixty oil paintings and watercolors created by JMW Turner (1775-1851), one of the greatest British artists of the nineteenth century. His works are revered for the spectacular effects of light and color and have influenced generations of artists. This is the first major exhibition devoted to Turner’s achievements during his final period of productivity, when some of his most iconic works were created.  Exhibition highlights include such renowned works as Snow Storm—Steam-Boat off a Harbor’s Mouth and The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, October 16, 1834.


 June 22, 2015
Jun 152015

Looking East:  How Japan Inspired Monet, Van Gogh, and Other Western Artists

Community Hall

 June 15, 2015
Jun 072015

This blog is about a volunteer group that raises funds for a library in Lafayette CA.  It’s from the perspective of one volunteer who spent decades of my working life in the for-profit world.  Planet volunteer is a different place.

The organization known as the Friends of the Lafayette Library and Learning Center (FLLLC) runs the Friends Corner Book Shop.  We sell used books.FCBS backroom

The following link is to a site that summarizes reasons people volunteer in general.  http://www.serviceleader.org/volunteers/why.  My guilty pleasure?  Seeing first-hand what people donate and buy.  I love this window into other worlds. The things that have surprised me most:  hilarious, unstuffy colleagues, great advice.  As expected, I also learn about great books.

A few facts about this group:

  • >220 active volunteers, payroll zero
  • 100% donated, pre-owned inventory
  • Retail shop open 6 days per week; ~ 25,000 volumes of books shelved in over 150 categories
  • 2,000+ titles listed on Amazon.com (separate from the shop – high value collectible and/or esoteric non-fiction)
  • 800 square foot retail shop in the Lafayette Library & Learning Center building; only major expenses = rent and liability insurance
  • Jump-started the campaign for the state-of-the-art library here with a $1,000,000 donation; money from selling used books (for years), plus investing wisely

Donations await the team’s assessment.FCBS doc


 June 7, 2015
Nov 032014

Joan Stevenson

It was a joyous celebration…a birthday party that was appropriately called A Literary Festival. Happy Fifth Birthday Lafayette Library and Learning Center! So let’s take a look at what is on the calendar for November and December.

If you have a Kindle or Nook or another ereader and want the latest regarding what your library can offer in services, you are invited to Digital Library 101 on Wednesday, November 12 from 6-7:30 PM. This is your opportunity to learn about using the new and updated digital lending services now available through ccclib.org. We’ll be looking at the new overdrive catalog, the axis 360 catalog, and the just released Enki eBooks catalog. We’ll learn the best use for each catalog as well as some basic technology terms and formats and how each differs depending on your ereader. The presentation will take place in the Lafayette technology lab. Due to space, registration is limited to 20. For information on registering call: (925) 283-6513.

Join us on Friday, November 14 at 7:00 in the Community Hall for A Classical Evening of Piano and Cello. This special musical evening at the Lafayette Library and Learning Center by Noel Benkman and Rebecca Roudman will feature two sonatas for cello and piano, with pieces by Prokofiev and Chopin. This free program is sponsored by the Friends of the Lafayette Library and Learning Center. Register at: tinyurl.com/BenkmanRoudman

Friends of the Lafayette Library and Learning Center continue their Wonders of the World Docent Lecture Series with Roads of Arabia: Archeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, November 12 from 2-3PM in the Community Hall. The exhibit, organized by the Smithsonian Institution, features more than 200 objects, beginning with some of the earliest evidence of humankind. Tracing ancient incense trade routes and early-Islamic pilgrimage roads that once spanned the peninsula, Roads of Arabia, offers firsthand insight into the remarkable cultural interactions that occurred between Arabia and its diverse neighbors. As archaeologists continue to unearth important ancient finds beneath the shifting sands of the desert, Roads of Arabia offers a rare first glimpse into the Arabian Peninsula’s fascinating past. Free. Register at: tinyurl.com/WOWAsianArt

If you missed it before, here is your chance. AstroBlast is Back! Join us on November 18 from 6-7:30 PM in the Community Hall for another out-of-this-world evening featuring Chabot Space & Science Center! Visit with a NASA Scientist, learn about life in outer space, experiment with hands-on activities, rockets, crafts & more! Fun for all ages! For the youngsters who attend Story Time, plan to stay a little later on November 24th from 12 – 1 because there will be a special craft time for you. Kids will have the opportunity to make a wonderful table decoration to take home for the family Thanksgiving.

On Wednesday, December 10 at 7:00PM in the Community Hall, a special presentation of Science Café, What was the Star of Bethlehem? Join Saint Mary’s College’s astrophysicist, Ron Olowin, to reinvestigate this popular symbol of the Christmas season. The conversation will combine current historical scholarship and astronomical facts in an effort to provide explanations, religious interpretations, review methods of determining the year the historical Christ was born and depictions of the event in art and popular culture. $5.00 at the door. Register at: tinyurl.com/Sciencecafebethlehem

Friends the of LLLC present: Get the Holiday Scoop with Ron Shoop! Sweet Thursday on December 3 at 7:00 PM will roll out the red carpet for the ever-popular Ron Shoop, of Random House Publishing, returns to the Lafayette Library. Ron will give us the inside scoop on all the latest and greatest books coming this winter, as well as can’t miss spring/summer reads. Get started on your holiday shopping! Come and find out about the 14 books Ron says you must have on your nightstand. Free program; refreshments provided. Register at: http://tinyurl.com/RonShoopLLLC

The half-price used book sales are now a monthly event. Here is the website: http://www.friendsoflafayettelibrary.org/corner-bookshop for the Book Shop and it lists the dates of the sales. I was surprised to learn the Book Shop is also on Amazon and the feedback from buyers gives it rave reviews:   Gayla Manning, who manages the half-price sales summed it up this way, Thank you all once again for a smooth running sale! Set up, staffing, keeping customers happy, and clean up….could not have gone better! Slow and steady was the theme for the day with 228 customers and…………. a final total of $1599.”  Thank God for the wonderful volunteers and consider this, “What if we had to pay them the $9.00 an hour minimum wage?” You are special volunteers and we are all thankful for your gifts of time.

Lafayette Library and Learning Center – You are Awesome!


 November 3, 2014
Sep 302014

Joan Stevenson 

Who could forget November 14, 2009?  The opening of Lafayette Library and Learning Center!  It was the coming together of our community who had shaped a dream, funded it and built it.  The launch was unforgettable…with a parade and bands and activities and all the hoopla that it so richly deserved! And now 5 incredible years later on Sunday, November 2 from 11-3, A Literary Festival will take place to celebrate the anniversary with music and food, activities, workshops, and special guests.  Those guests will include author, Elizabeth Rosner (known for The Speed of Light, and reading from her new book Electric City, coming out in October), Joe Di Prisco (known for the Field Guide To The American Teenager, reading from his new book Subway to California), Marissa Moss (Mira’s Diary), Denys Cazet (Minnie & Moo) and others.

Calling all Book Clubbers!  The Friends of the Lafayette Library and Learning Center have just announced the First Annual Book Club Swap! Imagine that, a place where book clubs can bring in a stack of their favorite reads, share ideas and learn what is going on with other clubs in our community!  So gather your book buddies and come to the Library Amphitheater at First Street and Golden Gate Way on Thursday, October 9 from 6:00 – 7:30.  Admission is $10 and includes the swap, wine and a raffle ticket for a chance to win prizes.  Proceeds will benefit the Lafayette Library and Learning Center.  Please register online at tinyurl.com/friendsbookswap.  October was designated National Reading Group month by the Women’s National Book Association.  Check out this website for the 2014 selection of Great Group Reads: http://www.nationalreadinggroupmonth.org.

My boys (now grown men) had a favorite Little Golden Book about Willie Woo Woo, a fire engine.  I even remember the line, “get out of the way I’m coming through, get out of the way, I’m Willie Woo Woo!”  Clear the way on October 9 from 12-1 for a special visit from Lafayette’s finest! Station 15 is bringing their fire truck for the kids to explore!  There is something very exciting about being up close and personal with a fire truck!

The Lafayette Library and Learning Center Foundation will host two events as part of the Distinguished Speaker Series.  The first, October 16 at 6:30 is An Evening with Piper Kerman author of “Orange is the New Black” and Joe Loya author of “The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell” in conversation.  The unlikely pair were pen pals while each was in prison. They will share their personal stories and reflect on the writing of memoir.  On Thursday, October 23 at 6:30 we will hear a conversation between Malcolm Margolin, founder of an independent publishing house in Berkeley, and his biographer, Kim Bancroft.  Funny and provocative, The Heyday of Malcolm Margolin reveals the workings of a courageously unconventional enterprise run on beauty, passion, friendship, and joy.  To reserve your space: tinyurl.com/HeydayofMargolin

On Monday, October 13 at 6:30 in the Community Hall the Commonwealth Club will gather a group of experts to address the question uppermost in our minds, “How long will the California drought last? The panel will include: John Coleman, President, Association of California Water Agencies, and Anthony Rendon, California Assemblyman (D-Lakewood); Chair, State Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee. By studying tree rings and lake sediments, scientists have found that droughts were once typical in California and have been known to last for decades. This raises the question: Is this the beginning of a new normal?  Cost: $22 non-members, $12 members, $7 students with valid ID.  Visit www.commonwealthclub.org for reservations.

November 6 at 7:00 the Friends will welcome a local author, Joe Di Prisco, to Sweet Thursday. He will discuss his new book, Subway to California.  By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Subway to California recounts Joe’s battles with his personal demons, bargains struck with angels, and truces with his family in this richly colorful tale that reads like great fiction.


I asked Ellen Reintjes, Friends President-Elect, what we might find on her night stand and I was awed at her reply.

“I’m currently reading “The Violin: A Social History of the World’s Most Versatile Instrument”, by David Schoenbaum.  I inherited my grandfather’s violin a few years ago and am taking lessons at Lamorinda Music.  To quote the inside of its jacket, this book combines “… the stories of its makers, dealers, and players into a global history of the past five centuries.”  I find it filled with “I didn’t know that” moments, humor, and even intrigue.

One last note from Ellen – November 12 WOW will host an Asian Art docent. More on that next month.


 September 30, 2014
Sep 192014

by Joan Stevenson

Imagine this. You are ten years old and you discover that you have the ability to travel through time. Your magic Touchstone can whizz you to Rome or Paris. Incredible! Allow me to introduce you to Mira, a time traveler. Her diary, Bombs Over London by Marissa Moss is the selection for Lamorinda Kids Read during September. For as long as the supplies last, you can pick up your own copy at the library courtesy of the Friends of the Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda libraries. Let the book spark your own imaginary trip through time. Where would you go and why? Write about your adventure and submit it to the time travel writing contest by September 22 and don’t miss the movie, “Back to the Future” on September 2 at 4:00. In addition, Penny Warner, author of “The Code Buster Club”, is coming to the Lafayette Library on September 26 at 4PM. Join us and learn how to break secret codes! Pick up the Mira’s Diary brochure when you collect your book and don’t miss out on any of the fun planned for September at Lafayette Library and Learning Center.

While the kids are exploring Istanbul in their time travel, their parents may be looking back as well and wondering what went wrong in their garden this summer. Contra Costa Master Gardeners will be in the Art & Science Center on September 16 from 6:30 – 8:00 for a post mortem. This talk covers common vegetable growing problems and how to correct them. You will also receive suggestions for which vegetables to plant for the most reliable results. Free event. To reserve please email higginssierra@gmail.com

I have to admit my surprise in learning that the focus of Science Café was cheese! I am a true cheese lover so I will be there in the Community Hall on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM to learn how bacteria, enzymes and acids transform ordinary milk into more than 1000 varieties of cheese. Were you aware that cheese can be stored for months or even years? And, yes, there will be cheese sampling! $5 payable at the door. Register at tinyurl.com/sciencecafecheese. Boxed meals will be available for pre-order.

Ellen Reintjes who wows us with (Wonders of the World) has the fall lecture series in place. You will notice a theme with the first two. Come on Wednesday September 17, 2014 at 2 pm in the Community Hall where you will be introduced to the Native American Collection of Roger Epperson from St. Mary’s Museum of Art. It features over 25 works including photography, etchings, drawings and paintings by esteemed artists. Roger Epperson was an East Bay Regional Parks Ranger for over thirty years who had a passion for California’s environment and a deep love of art. On Wednesday October 8 at 2pm in the Community Hall a docent from the deYoung Museum will introduce Lines on The Horizon: Native American Art. This collection spans more than 1,000 years of artistic creativity.

Lafayette Library and Learning Center Foundation Distinguished Speaker Series welcomes Anthony Marra, author of “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” on Thursday September 25 at 6:30. Anthony Marra’s exquisite debut novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, describes the transcendent power of love in wartime. When first published in May 2013, it became an instant New York Times bestseller and later won the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize, and was long listed for the National Book Award. Tickets: $20/person
World traveler and popular presenter Frank Rainer returns for a special travel program entitled “Mad about Madagascaron Thursday, September 18 at 6:30. Hear all about Frank’s adventures in this fascinating environment. Except for island continents, Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world. Wildlife there is unique with fascinating little lemurs that may jump as if dancing and even come to hop on your shoulder and beg as you breakfast at an outdoor patio. Free Program Register at tinyurl.com/frankrainer2

I asked our librarian, Vicki Sciacca, what we would find on her night stand. ”I am reading Subway to California by Joe DiPrisco.  It is a memoir written Mr. DiPrisco about his family’s transition to California prompted by a series of fascinating events in New York.  He will be our Sweet Thursday author for November and is a Lafayette resident! The book was recently released and is already in its second printing.” That will be a tale many of us can personally relate to!

Coming Soon: October 9 from 6-7:30 1st Annual Friends of the Lafayette Library Book Club Book Swap. Details in October.


 September 19, 2014