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Bookmobile day 7: the Safeway library

On the way to Jeter Victorian Inn we drove past the Herbert Kraft Free Library (Library Journal Vol. 46 p. 216) which was the first public library in Red Bluff. The library looked exactly like a Carnegie library, but in front of the building was a sign – "House of Design." It turns out the Tehama County library outgrew the building and moved to the old Safeway building about 16 years ago.

The original library was funded by Mrs. Kraft in memory for her late husband under the condition that if the building was not used as a library it would be returned to her family’s estate. When the library moved, the city lost the property and eventually it got sold to the current owner who turned it into a gift shop. The library was filled with fake decorative flowers, soaps, candles, etc, but we could imagine how the library would have looked in the past. The rotunda of the library is beautifully restored stained glass and the sunlight through the glass amplifies the church-like atmosphere.

While Kraft library maintains the elegance of the past, the current public library is eclectic for sure. It’s in a circa 1960s Safeway building that converted to the library. The current library is not aesthetically pleasing from the outside — however, the ceiling inside has 3 large wooden beams that look like waves; But we thought it’s an interesting idea to convert commercial property to public space, especially since our public spaces are dwindling — there are many towns and cities where the only "public space" is their shopping mall!

Red Bluff was not on our itinerary, but we decided to just go ahead and set up the bookmobile in front of the public library guerrilla-style. We showed up at the library around 2 without notice and asked a librarian if we could set up the bookmobile. After we described who we were and what we were doing, she said ok with no hesitation.This was our first guerrilla tactic and it worked ("no one expects the Spanish inquisition!"). Our backup plan was to set up right across the street from the library but this was *much* better because we were somewhat cooled under the large Safeway awning 🙂

The library was the teen after-school hangout spot so we had a chance to talk to many young library users. One teenage boy was very interested in our music collection, especially heavy metal. So we searched and found a music file from the archive collection and turned on the music on our laptop. We hardly understood the lyrics, but he was obviously pleased and said "cool!" quite a few times. Another teenaged boy asked us to find Italian books because recently his grandma told him that he was of Italian decent. We found books on Italian grammar and Italian cooking for him and showed them to him on the spot. He was so excited to see the books and thrilled to take one book that we had just made for him. When we see young kids are interested and excited about our collection we get excited too.

The travel book was right. Ref Bluff is blazing hot in summer. While we were standing in front of the library for bookmobile, we dreamed that the building was still a Safeway and we could go to aisle 4 and get a drink; but then the delirium would wear off and we’d remember this is not a Safeway but a library and there are other types of sustenance inside.

In my previous post, I promised to tell you about our B&B owner, Mary. When Mary opened her house our eyes got big and our jaws opened. Her Victorian era house is decorated with a Victorian theme mixed with kitch, but it was literately full of stuff. There is not an empty space in her house where you can rest your eyes. Every inch of her house has something on it: the walls are filled with myriad paintings, cowboy boots, stirrups, the dressers, tables and shelves are filled with old hair brushes,wax cylinder records, porcelain nuns, birdcages, etc. There is no way that we can describe her house, so we really want you to see our photos. She gave us a tour of the house which I videotaped and hopefully will make available soon.

As much as we were impressed by her house we were so heartened by her hospitality. Mary is a small, feisty and sweet woman to whom you just want to talk all day long and find out about her exciting life. None of us expected anything like this in Red Bluff, but this was a sweet treat on our journey. We’re heading to Arcada for our next stop but we know we will come back to Red Bluff to see Mary again in the future. And make sure to stop by if you’re in Red Bluff and tell her Shinjoung, James and Sarah, the bookmobile crew, sent you!