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Presents of mind can be found shopping at library

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.

Something to read can obviously be found within the shelves of books, magazines and— a bit of a plug— 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.

• The El Cajon library has another ‘Bag ‘o Books’ sale happening from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec.3. Customers can fill a bag with as many books as possible for only $2. All proceeds benefit the Friends of the ElCajon Library.

• Learn how to access the county library’s collection of eBooks and eAudiobooks through the free Libby app with a full tutorial on Dec. 6 from 6 to 7 p.m. at the El Cajon library. See a library staff member to sign up.

• Pick up information from the Foster Grandparent table at the El Cajon library on Dec. 12 from 10 a.m. to noon. The program focuses on offering enriching volunteer opportunities to adults over 55 who can offer wisdom of to the kids that need it most.

• Whodunit? Find out at the El Cajon library book club on Dec. 20 from 12 to 1:30 p.m.

•San Diego Law Library will have guest librarians on hand from noon to 4 p.m. on Dec. 28 at the El Cajon library to guide patrons toward legal databases and reference assistance.

• See an El Cajon staff member for more information on English as a Second Language classes, offered weekly.

• The El Cajon library also offers recurring and regular meetups where LGBTQ+ teens, ages 12-17 can socialize in a safe space every Wednesday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

• The El Cajon library welcomes adults with disabilities and their caregivers to make crafts, play games, explore the library, and enjoy music, story times, guest speakers, and more on the second and fourth Monday of every month from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

• Come read to Love on The Leash therapy dogs— the furry friends will be at the Lemon Grove library the first Wednesday of each month, happening in December from 11 a.m. to noon.

• Join other kids for an after school movie on Dec. 13 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Lemon Grove library.

• Kids and teens are invited to play video games, card games and board games on Game Day from 2:30 to 4:45 p.m. on Dec. 1 at the Lemon Grove library.

• Young children are also welcome every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. for songs, stories and fun at the Lemon Grove library.

• Heaven’s Windows will be providing snacks and light meals every day from 1:30-2:30pm at the Lemon Grove library, free for anyone 18 years or younger while supplies last.

• Need tech help? The Santee library has one-on-one help available from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 14. Bring your device for help with eBooks, Macs, PCs, tablets, and more.

• The library is hosting an off-site performance at Santee city hall located at 10601 North Magnolia Avenue from 10 to 11 a.m. on Dec. 7. Come enjoy the Gary Rich Jazz Quartet for a free community concert.

• The Santee library offers toddler storytime from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. every Thursday with stories, songs, playtime and fun for the littlest readers.

• They also offer preschool storytime from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. every Friday with a focus on building early reading skills, learning to follow directions, and enjoying social time.

• A math coach is regularly available from 4 to 6 p.m. at the La Mesa library. Kindergarteners through 12th graders can get one-on-one help from a skilled volunteer tutor. Call or stop by to make an appointment.

• Former Random House Dictionary usage editor and Union-Tribune language columnist Richard Lederer will present a fun lecture on the challenges of English grammar from 2 to 3 p.m. at the La Mesa library on Dec. 3.

• On Dec. 8, Write Out Loud San Diego representative Walter Ritter will present a variety of entertaining short stories and poems for adults at the La Mesa library from 1 to 2 p.m.

You can email Jessica at: with comments and suggestions.

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Source: East County Californian

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