On Thursday night, the first gathering of the Friends of the Library Foundation attracted nearly 200 guests to the San Juan Capistrano Library.
The "Literary Mystery Night" brought together members of the Friends of the Library, both city and county, to broaden community and financial support for all public libraries.
According to foundation president, Herbert Schwartz, the admission fee covered costs of the event.
Volunteer librarians, dressed as sleuths in trench coats and hats, greeted the guests after they walked through the synthetically fogged entrance of the library.
Working with flashlights, they handed each "detective" an envelope with two clues leading to messages hidden throughout the library.
"It's one way to have everyone learn about the foundation in a fun way," said Sheryl Pruett, organizer of the mystery night.
The search for the hidden messages also gave guests a tour of the beautifully appointed reading rooms in what Pruett referred to as the "jewel of libraries."
While most guests mingled outdoors in the sheltered courtyard and snacked from tables labeled "Orient Express" and "Baker Street," the more curious had their Tarot cards or palms read in secluded booths nearby.
Dressed as Sherlock Holmes, Harvey Erlich, the master of ceremonies, began the bidding on autographed television scripts.
The bidding was low on scripts from "Magnum," " Mike Hammer" and "Spenser for Hire," to name a few.
In conversation, Laguna Hills resident Herbert Schwartz, the president of the foundation, told how he formed the organization after he was unable to research an article locally.
"It was on 'Slavery in Africa,' " Schwartz said. "You would think that there would be a number of articles on it."
Without success at either the El Toro or Mission Viejo libraries, Schwartz obtained what he needed from the Los Angeles Public Library and the United Nations Library in New York.
"I later found out it could have been found at the UCI library or Cal State Fullerton, but there was no correlation between the city and county libraries," he said.
He told Orange County Supervisor Thomas F. Riley about the problem.
Riley, attending the library event with his wife, Emma Jane, agreed that he had told Schwartz to "look into it and do something about it."
Schwartz met with county librarian Elizabeth Martinez Smith and learned that city and county libraries could not be put together because of being "two different entities.
But after five months of working it out, a nonprofit organization was formed and papers filed with the state. "It's worked beautifully," Schwartz said
Names on the advisory board include James Roosevelt, Tom and Marilyn Nielsen, John Rau, Marion Bergeson, Jewel Plummer Cobb and Judge Leonard Goldstein.
Smith described the foundation's first project, the Living Library that will be ready this spring.
"Literature is acted out by actors," she said. "We will take them on tour to libraries, hospitals, community and senior citizen centers, even the beaches."
And Smith and Schwartz both share the dream of a major high-tech central reference library in Orange County.