Giving thanks for the variety of happenings at local libraries

November is often marketed as a month for gratitude. The myth of Tom Turkey takes over preschool lessons, sometimes with a side of vivid ‘Indian corn’ for balance. Meanwhile, older children are reminded to be grateful for warm clothes, bountiful plates, and healthy friends and family although the first Thanksgiving in 1687 was a forced political exercise which, according to the Jamestown Historical Society, was designed to celebrate powerful English leaders. On another cold November day, 258 years later, prisoners at Auschwitz were ordered to dismantle the gas chambers in an attempt to conceal evidence of systematic murder. In a Jerusalem Post interview, Auschwitz survivor Dita Kraus recalled some prisoners spoke of gratitude and others were terrified something more sinister would take their place while she turned inward, grew increasingly worried about what would happen to the few books she maintained as the camp’s undetected 16-year old librarian.

There were two types of books available in the death camp, Kraus has said: the handful of bound books somehow snuck past guards and stories told by trained and untrained teachers who served as living narratives. Adults crafted lesson plans disguised as games— sometimes using the tattered few books on hand and otherwise relying on oral lessons— while older teens served as guards against sudden Nazi inspections. The oral lesson books were born of necessity, Kraus remembers, a way to maintain routine for children who had somehow landed in the experimental family block overseen by infamous Dr. Mengele. I’ve never run across a Kraus interview where she describes what telling those stories meant for the teachers, but I would think they were also a source of mixed emotions for imprisoned adults with a call for learning, a need to bring forth knowledge.

The formalization of audio narratives in modern America can be traced to the Talking Book Program established by Congress in 1931 to provide library services for people with disabilities. On Oct. 27, the California State Library won federal approval in the form of $15 million which directs resources toward increased access to books of all formats: bound, audio, Braille-imprinted and human included. The internet has plenty to say about the collection of living books, alternative sources of information who serve in libraries across modern America: drag queens and transgender activists, cancer survivors and undocumented residents, all people willing to share their lessons and answer questions against the backdrop of modern politics. It has been 75 years since Kraus, the young prisoner-turned-librarian created ways to keep books, including living books, available while her government suppressed knowledge and openly tried to mislead the world with lies. In comparison, we have everyday people willing to serve as teachers across a free nation and invite questions from anyone seeking to learn from them as an alternative to books, not unlike those teachers who were compelled to share lessons in the absence of books.

Where the royals ordered Jamestown colonists to celebrate with forced displays of gratitude, there is a real sense of being blessed, in today’s society, with being able to choose between learning from a hardbound book or a person who volunteers to share their stories. There is also an undeniable link between gratitude and knowledge and the human capacity to survive. The concept of serving as a living book for children under deadly circumstances I am powerless to conceptualize is not entirely removed from recognizing our tiny presence in the scope of history. As people did before books, as people did without books, we too push our voice out as far as possible into darkness in a desperate act of faith.

In gratitude, I give you a list of some November events happening at libraries throughout our area.

  • On Nov. 12 at 2 p.m., the Alpine Library Friends Association is hosting an afternoon with Richard Lederer, author of more than 50 books about language, history, and humor as well as co-host of “A Way with Words,” on KPBS.
  • Do you like whodunits, thrillers and detective tales? Join fellow mystery fans for the Alpine Library’s mystery and thriller book discussion group on Nov. 15 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
  • Sharp Grossmont Senior Resource Center will have information on health-related topics from 1 to 3 p.m. on Nov. 17 at the Alpine library.
  • Kingdom Quilters will meet on Nov. 18 from noon to 4 p.m. Join in a project to benefit children and babies in need of the comfort of a handmade quilt. No supplies or experience necessary.
  • Crafters: Crafters’ Paradise will teach you how to crochet or knit with free yarn provided every Wednesday from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Designed for ages 13 and older.
  • Preschool age kids and their caregivers can enjoy family story time every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. at the Alpine library.
  • Head to the Campo-Morena Village library every Thursday for digital literacy and tech help all day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. County residents can learn the basics of using a Google Chromebook, desktop computer, and other devices. Receive a Google Chromebook and MiFi device to take home for a year while supplies last with a county library card.
  • The Campo-Morena Village library also offers preschool story time from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. every Friday with stories specially chosen for children ages two and younger.
  • Join in on Wacky Wednesdays from 4 to 5 p.m. weekly at the Descanso library with different activities such as drawing, crafting and 3-D printing every week.
  • Feeding San Diego is on a mission to connect every person facing hunger with nutritious meals. Stop by the Descanso library from 9 to 10 a.m. on Nov. 17 to learn more.
  • A Teen Makerspace is also available after school, daily from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Descanso library with space to create a different S.T.E.A.M. project each week or just hang out with friends.
  • The Potrero library will host the monthly Senior Food Program from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Nov. 29 for seniors 60 years of age or older. USDA food is given to registered participants on a monthly basis.

Up for a good adventure? Join the Dungeons and Dragons group at the Campo-Morena Village library every Tuesday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Adult artists are invited to join in an instructor-led painting class from 10 a.m. to noon on Nov. 5. Call the Pine Valley library at 619-473-8022 to reserve your spot in class.

Visit for information on these and other San Diego county branch library events happening in August.

You can email Jessica at: with comments and suggestions.


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