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'Fahrenheit 451'? No, But Book Lovers Were a Little Hot

Volunteers go to the rescue when the Dana Point Library starts scrapping texts.

May 17, 2003|Stanley Allison | Times Staff Writer

What a title fight. As hundreds of donated texts were being tossed into a trash bin behind the Dana Point Library, book lovers were trying to rescue them.

At times, as many as six people were knee-deep in books, handing them to friends and spouses, witnesses said. And one by one, volunteers from Friends of the Library bookstores in Mission Viejo, San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente boxed them and hauled them away in pickups and cars Thursday.

The frenzy over the books, which had been given to the Dana Point Library bookstore to raise money, is the latest chapter in a squabble between former volunteers and the Dana Point Friends group's board of directors over the use of funds.

Volunteers had challenged the board for spending proceeds on parties, newsletters and community organizations instead of the library. The $54,000 a year they raise should be spent solely on the library, they contended.

Tension rose when board members held firm to their intent to broaden community involvement and the volunteers called for their resignations. It reached a head when one board member -- the vice president overseeing the bookstore -- resigned in protest March 31. The store managers, all volunteers, walked off the job eight days later, followed soon after by another board member.

Board President Bill Shepherd said he has tried to heal the rift.

"You have refused all entreaties to resolve differences," Shepherd wrote in an April 24 letter to the volunteers. "You leave us no reasonable alternative but to accept your notice to quit/resign as final."

Shepherd, meanwhile, tried to reopen the bookstore. But the key, which had been stored at the library, was confiscated by the county until the dispute was resolved. Donated books continued to pour in, and they were being stored in a library meeting room.

By the time the store reopened a week ago with a new set of volunteers, the accumulation of books had become unmanageable, said Mary Williams, the volunteer vice president. Library officials insisted that the meeting room be cleared for use in the summer children's reading program.

The plan was to go through what some said were more than 4,000 books in the room, throw away unusable titles and put the rest up for sale. "We're not throwing good books away," Williams said. "We're in the business of selling merchandise that can be sold."

The former volunteers, however, were appalled that enough books to fill a dumpster would be thrown away, and so staked out the library parking lot first thing Thursday to salvage what they could.

"You may as well go out and burn a dollar bill as throw away dollar books," said June Bauer, former Friends of the Library vice president.

They had plans for "buck-a-bag" sales that they say would have brought in money and spared books. They noted that Bauer had dramatically increased the money raised from book sales because she was creative in getting almost every book into someone's hands.

"I hate to see books destroyed," Bauer said. "I was raised by a librarian. I didn't have radio or TV. All we had were books."

The former volunteers said they plan to return to the library and watch over the disposal of the remaining books. But Shepherd said most of them will be sold at the bookstore.

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