Books provide alternative to grim headlines

Recently, I ran across an article which briefly recounted how and why Thomas Jefferson sold his personal library to the federal government when most of our national collection was destroyed by the British during the war of 1812. Jefferson suggested that any attempt to rebuild a national library during wartime conditions would be near-impossible, while he was living his golden years and would not be able to enjoy his library much longer. The article claimed Congress was, unsurprisingly, split in its decision on whether or not to take Jefferson up on his offer. According to, a site linked with Jefferson’s estate, the members of Congress who stood against the purchase did not have any issue with the sale itself but felt some of the books promoted an “infidel philosophy” and were not appropriate for American readers in part because they addressed hard topics and were not all written in English. Ultimately, the sale was narrowly approved and when the books were finally transferred to D.C. in February, 1815, Jefferson included the bookcases and clear instructions on how the books were to be shelved so as to remain a collection.

Jessica Brodkin Webb

Over 210 years later, libraries across the nation have auxiliary groups which regularly sell surplus and discarded titles for a small profit alongside books donated solely for that purpose, while school libraries simply put outdated books out to intellectual pasture. One of my children brought home a pile of discards last week, an armful of treasures she snatched up from the school library discards with a poetry book among them. The writers inside the discarded book are recognizable: Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Lewis Carroll and Emily Dickinson, among others. Louis Untermeyer, the poet behind the not-anthology describes it in his introduction as “a talking book” and emphasizes the importance of literature.
“It is more important than ever to know that beauty and wit and feeling have not been silenced by the despair and violence of the moment,” Untermeyer wrote in the 1941 introduction.

Untermeyer would likely approve of someone salvaging the discarded book in a world where the evening news flashes images of the Half Moon Bay shooting, a world where police officers are on trial for murdering a citizen they swore to protect and defend, a world where articles on transgender health care bills can be found alongside updates on which football teams are going to the Super Bowl. Surely, a scruffy kid in a letterman jacket scooping up a book of poetry destined for a modern landfill confirms feeling triumphs over violence. The poems Untermeyer gathered are nothing like Amanda Gorman’s ‘The Hill We Climb’ and Jefferson likely never envisioned a young, Black girl reading poetry at a 2021 presidential inauguration. Yet his claim “I cannot live without books” is upheld every day when school librarians quietly let a teen girl take home discarded books, when Friends groups sit watch over their inexpensive treasures housed in libraries across the nation. And, if what we do speak volumes then Jefferson’s reaction to shipping his own books off to Congress is a loud call to action: upon completing the sale with Congress, he began almost immediately to rebuild his own collection.

This month, local libraries are showing their love for, as Untermeyer said, beauty and wit and feeling along with more modern considerations with a plethora of events planned for February.

•Meet other families and enjoy fun skill building games and toys during Preschool Play from 11 a.m to 12 p.m. on Feb. 4 at the Bonita-Sunnyside library.
•The Merrie Ukes meet every Tuesday from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Bonita-Sunnyside library. Have fun learning some ukelele songs and playing in a group. Beginners welcome.
• Art enthusiasts are invited to the Bonita-Sunnyside library from 4 to 5 p.m. on Feb. 7 and Feb. 21 to learn art skills and create a new piece to take home.
• Science Explorers meets at the Bonita-Sunnyside library on Wednesdays from 4 to 5 p.m. with hands-on STEM activities for kids.
• Ms. Margaret and her dog Maisie will be at the Bonita-Sunnyside library every Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. to encourage children to increase their reading skills, and self-confidence by reading out loud to a therapy dog and Ruff Readers volunteers.
• The Bonita-Sunnyside library also has a chess club which meets Thursdays from 4 to 5 p.m. with all ages and abilities welcome to join in.
• Join older adults for Silver Age Yoga at the Bonita-Sunnyside library Thursdays from 11 a.m. to noon.
• Every Friday, the Bonita-Sunnyside library has story time from 11 a.m. to noon.
• Acompáñenos a disfrutar de cuentos, canciónes y más en español e inglés, Jueves de 11 a 11:30 a.m. el 23 de febrero en la biblioteca Bonita-Sunnyside.
• The Bonita-Sunnyside library is offering a three-week Microsoft Word basics class from 11 a.m. to noon on Feb. 11, 18, and 25. Registration is required, contact the library to sign up and learn how to create and format documents, edit and save files, and more.
• Learn to design and print your own project on the Bonita-Sunnyside library’s 3-dimensional printer from 2 to 3 p.m. on Feb. 18. Beginners welcome, for all ages.
• Practice your drawing and coloring skills at the Bonita-Sunnyside library themed art table, happening this month from 4 to 5 p.m. on Feb. 14 and 28.
• Join the Rush Hour book club at the Bonita-Sunnyside library which meets monthly. The next meeting will be on Feb. 21 from 6 to 7 p.m. Visit for information on these and other Bonita-Sunnyside library events.
• Older residents are invited to Senior Socials with coffee, crafts, games and senior tech help every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon at the National City library, or at Casa de Salud on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., 1408 Harding Avenue.
• Join in on adult craft classes the second Wednesday of every month, next held at 6 p.m. on Feb. 8 at the National City library.
• Book club is held the third Tuesday of every month at the National City library, coming up next at 1 p.m. on Feb. 21. This month’s selection is “The Huntress” by Kate Quinn, as suggested by resident Sharon Lemmo.
• Teens and young adults are invited to join the Bookflix club and discuss books and graphic novels being made into shows and movies. The Bookflix club meets at 6 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of the month at the National City library, next held on Feb. 28.
• STEAM Saturdays happen every first and third Saturday at the National City library. Meet from 2 to 3 p.m. on Feb. 4 and 18 in the large meeting room. Visit for more information on these and additional National City library events.
• Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a quick make-and-take craft. Stop by the Otay Ranch Branch to pick up a craft that you can complete at home, while supplies last.
• Free homework help is available from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Otay Ranch library every Monday and Tuesday.
•The Otay Ranch branch library hosts a family story time for children under age 3 every Tuesday from 10:15 to 10:45 a.m.
• The Otay Ranch branch library also hosts their Ready, Set, Read program for young children from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. every Wednesday.
• A representative from US4Warriors will be at the Chula Vista civic center branch library from 1 to 3 p.m. on the second and fourth Mondays of every month to provide services to veterans and eligible family members, next happening on Feb. 13 and 2 . Call ahead to reserve a 30-minute session: (619) 691-5069.
•Visit for more information on these and additional Chula Vista library events.
• You can email Jessica at: with comments and suggestions.