Libraries offer a variety of gift ideas, activities worth checking out

Each year, as store advertisements transform overnight from autumn-themed signage printed with falling orange leaves to wintery images of prancing reindeer and evergreen trees, holiday shopping begins in earnest. While some shoppers fill bags upon bags with items galore, a saying of unknown origin provides a more frugal hint on what to buy loved ones for the holidays: something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. Frugal and extravagant shoppers alike can knock that out in one trip to a big-box store, however there is also a library version of that list.

Jessica Brodkin Webb

Something to read can obviously be found within the shelves of books, magazines and a variety of local, national and international newspapers available for anyone to peruse. Expanding upon the definition of reading found in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as “to receive or take in the sense of letters” opens up that concept to audio books, to electronic books downloaded onto what amounts to a piece of plastic, or any other means by which an everyday individual can absorb content in a way they find accessible. While one cannot give away the local library, they can certainly take someone to get a library card, participate in literacy programs, work weekly trips to the local library into a busy family schedule, or serve as a senior reading volunteer, all of which end with the lifelong gift of giving someone something to read.

Something to wear is a slight stretch until spotting Friends of the Library t-shirts displayed in used bookshops and side rooms at libraries around the county. Typically made of thick cotton and printed in bright colors, they are far too exclusive to be found in common shopping malls and can be coordinated with often-available book bags to accessorize the logophile look. Proceeds from each sale benefit local groups operating as they have since the first Friends of the Library group took shape at Glen Ellyn library in 1922, a tidbit attributed to author Susan Cushman. Those various Friends groups serve different needs at libraries across the country but all generally support the pursuit of literacy and wearing their logo announces that ideal to the world.

Procuring ‘something they want’ is less of a stretch: stop by the reference desk and questions get answered. The more challenging part of answering to ‘want’ is found on the American Library Association website with funding available to librarians facing discrimination or defending intellectual freedom, alongside a grant for graphic novels. Children might want to find the next book in the series they are reading from their local branch library while adults might want to check out a new novel but a larger question emerges nationally. Indeed, what does America want from public libraries?

Want, it seems, is tied to need. The youngster coloring a free bookmark after story hour grows overnight into a tween who needs help with homework. The teen who quietly grabs a self-harm reduction support group flyer might develop into an adult who decisively reaches for the mental health outreach pamphlets. Certainly, the library has something giftable to wear, to want, to read. However, the need for knowledge, for information, for help in a busy world which, post-pandemic, is so conveniently located online that the human connection is wearing thin- that need is more real than any tangible present purchased at the store. Answering what one wants and needs is vital.

May we all receive what we want this year, give a good read to someone we appreciate, provide something to wear for those we care about and land on what we need. Our local libraries are full of possibilities to that end.

• Come play with The Merrie Ukes 10 a.m. to noon on Dec. 6, 20 and 27 at Bonita-Sunnyside library. Beginners are welcome, have fun learning some ukelele songs in a group.

• Join older adults for Silver Age Yoga at the Bonita-Sunnyside library from 11 a.m. to noon on Dec. 8.

• The Bonita-Sunnyside library also has a chess club which meets from 4 to 5 p.m. on Dec. 8 with all ages and abilities welcome to join in.

• Non-profit McAlister Institute representatives will be at the Bonita-Sunnyside library from 1 to 3 p.m. on Dec. 13 with information on low-cost substance abuse treatment.

• Adults of all ability levels are invited to hang out for a craft session from 10 to 11 a.m. on Dec. 7 at the Bonita-Sunnyside library. Regular craft sessions are offered on the first and third Wednesdays of every month.

• Acompáñenos a disfrutar de cuentos, canciónes y más en español e inglés, Jueves de 11 a 11:30 a.m. en la biblioteca Bonita-Sunnyside.

• Every Friday, the Bonita-Sunnyside library has story time from 11 a.m. to noon.

• Visit for information on these and other Bonita-Sunnyside library events.

• The National City library staff invite you to sign up for the winter reading challenge, open to all ages. Kids and teens who register before Dec. 16 will get a free book and a candy cane. Register at:

• Every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. older residents are invited to the Senior Socials with coffee, crafts, games and senior tech help 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 Dec. 14 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 Dec. 20. The December selection is “The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek” by Kim Michele Richardson.

• 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 Dec. 27.

• STEAM Saturdays happen every first and third Saturday at the National City library. Meet from 2 to 3 p.m. on Dec. 3 and Dec. 17 in the large meeting room.
Visit for more information on these and additional National City library events.

• The Chula Vista library hosts Cuentos Bilingue, a bilingual story time from 11 to 11:30 a.m. every Monday at the civic center, designed for ages three and younger.
Adults with special needs are invited to join in on holiday carols from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 14 at the South Chula Vista branch library.

• Santa Claus will be visiting the South Chula Vista branch library from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 15.

• The Otay Ranch branch library will host STEAM story time from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 21.
Visit for more information on these and additional Chula Vista library events.

You can email Jessica at: with comments and suggestions.