Save Salinas Libraries READ-IN
medea’s ideas spark like a live electrical line wreathing on a wet pavement during a starless nite: the day the library is scheduled to close, we begin a 24-hour read-in – then we extend the read-in, sitting in to read, especially women w/children – until the governor and/or state legislators agree to meet with us & find the lousey 3 million it takes to keep the libraries in Salinas open for a year. we invite famous writers, authors, poets to join us. but mostly we get the children of Salinas to read and read and read.
medea calls & asks if I’m available to go w/her to Salinas tuesday – she wants us have a meeting w/some Salinas folks about the read-in. nancy, medea & I end up driving the 105 miles south to Salinas to meet with folks all day long and into the nite – we have four meetings in total – first w/the womon who has set up meetings for us, then with city folks, with latina community groups, and ending with the white ‘leftist’ politico group in the evening.
Macgregor welcomes us into her home & rarely stops talking long enuff for us to ask for the bathroom. she has arranged for us to meet w/the city officials first – she gives us the general low-down on politics Salinas style – not so unique for the u.s. – where everyone wants the libraries to be kept open, no one wants to be blamed for the libraries closing, especially in the light of the tax bond failing last election which allows all fingers to be pointed at the poorest folks in Salinas unwilling to increase taxes upon themselves. we are warned of the fear of ‘outside agitators’ taking over. it takes me a few heart-beats to realize codepink could be the feared agitators.
we visit the Cesar Chavez library in east Salinas near her house. it is a 60’s-ish grand, modern one-level sprawling building where children, young people, and adults are all milling around quietly using the stacks and computers. medea speaks w/librarians as nancy & I scope out promising read-in (and potential sleep-in) quarters.
the elected officials with some community leaders & the chamber of commerce rep meet with us around lunch-time – everyone is cordial and welcoming although cautious. the elected officials smoothly point out their hands are tied; the chamber of commerce rep is adamant about not shaming the business community first & foremost no matter what happens; the community leaders are adamant about keeping the action a community-based & lead action. medea is brilliant in gathering support that fuels momentum for the read-in.
we swing by the john steinbeck library – another low, sprawling building that is again filled with people: little people in one room sitting in small chairs or on the floor in circles; in another room big people wandering the stacks, and yet another room, mostly young adolescent types silently staring into screens.
at the vote citizenship project office, we meet with community folks, activists, librarians, students, and the same representative from the chamber – he appears uncomfortable & leaves on a cautionary note shortly after the meeting starts. people speak passionately here about the libraries as they quickly embrace the read-in, sleeping bags & all! enthusiasm & ideas fly: who to invite, how to get youth involved, where the stage should be, what kind of advertising should happen – all laced with determination to keep the libraries open & functioning for this city. medea leaves open the length of the read-in, laying out the first 24 hours beginning on april 2nd, the day the library is scheduled to close, and it is quickly understood that we may have to continue reading-in until the monies are found to keep libraries open.
it is dark by the time this meeting ends – our guide Macgregor continues to lead us to a little tacqueria where everyone but me orders in Spanish & we have the cheapest burritos I’ve had since 1975 – we spend less than $2.00 each for a meal complete with salsa & chips! medea is looking forward to our last meeting w/a group she hopefully characterizes as the radical ones who will be our closest allies. we drive into yet another part of Salinas & rush into the huge living room where several people are already gathered – no city officials, no paid staff - just a group of concerned Salinas residents. they appear to mostly be all white, middle-aged & incomed folks – the over 30, white leftist crowd. we watch some video footage of an earlier demonstration to save the libraries where these folks are demonstrating, their ranks swollen with the rowdy union crowd.
as the meeting progresses, I try to swallow my rising disappointment – the crowd is mostly all white and although they embrace the action enthusiastically, they speak immediately of getting a permit to do the read-in. medea as quickly turns it into a strategic ploy – we’ll get a permit for the first closing march 22 of the smallest library & hold a small vigil there for a couple of hours. then when we go to get the next permit for april 2nd, we will let the city assume we are planning the same action at cesar chavez. someone cautions about not appearing to be a hippy-ish santa cruz or Berkeley-type event. hmmmm
nancy, medea & I head back to s.f. in the late hours of the nite, debriefing and brainstorming our next actions.