One Week Later



Oakland, CA.– You down with Oakland Public Library? asks Pamela Ribon, novelist, aka, Pop Culture Princess of her countless cyber-fans. Pamelas Web site, or blog, has been the scene of some heart-rending activism recently on behalf of the beleaguered Oakland Public Library in Oakland, California, which recently launched a Buy a Book Campaign to shore up its collections.

Pamie picked up the news that the Oakland Public Library was experiencing drastic budget cuts this year that affected not only staff, but its spending on books and other materials. She also learned that the Oakland Library had posted a wish list on, hoping that the general public would purchase a few of those most-in-demand titles that the Library had to pass up this year.

On May 1, 2003, the Web site announced:

The Oakland Public Library has had its funding drastically cut, and now they cant afford books. They must have learned something from all of us journalers and bloggers, because theyve put up Amazon wish lists, where you can buy a book to donate to their libraries.

Ill even post a list of people who donated if you want even more recognition. Ill post your journal/blog with your name. There. The names will go up on Monday. Thats four days for you to raise fifteen bucks and buy a book for children.

Well, its six days and hundreds of book donations later and the UPS trucks keep pulling up to Oakland libraries to drop off boxes of brand new books in mailers.

Why are these people from all over the United States and the world so generous? Heres a sampling of their reasons for giving, taken directly from the Pop Culture Princess Web site:

Anna Carey helped out all the way from Ireland:
Thanks for telling the world about the Oakland Library book drive. I just read about it this morning. I sent them a copy of Shirley Hughess new book Annie Rose is My Little Sister, because Shirley Hughes rocks and I hope lots of little American kids discover her coolness. I dunno whether its the only donation theyll get from Ireland, but I hope it wont be the last because Ill spread the word over here.

Rebekah feels the library love:
Hi Pam!

I just donated The Da Vinci Code (because of the 67 reserves and 8 copies situation) and The King of Torts (because my own public library has helped me with my closeted Grisham love).

Dude, you rock.

Cribbed from Mary Anne Mohanrajs journal entry:
I bought them Darwins Radio (mostly cause I know the author) and a Byron: Life and Legend (cause Byrons just so sexy), for the Piedmont branch. I used to go to that library, when I lived in Oakland-sometimes I would just hang out and read, sometimes I would take my laptop and write. It was nice to have someplace to go where I didnt feel the obligation to buy a $3 cup of coffee in order to justify my table space-there were times when that would have been a financial hardship. Now that its no longer a hardship, its lovely to be able to give something back to the library-I felt a surprisingly intense feeling of satisfaction, buying them two books and including a little good-luck note. I hope library patrons enjoy them for years to come.

Carmen Martinez, Oakland Public Librarys Director, has been surprised and gratified by the outpouring of support. We really appreciate each and every person who has reached into their pocketbooks to donate books to our library for our community to enjoy. It has been a great morale-booster for our staff during these tough times, and it sends a message that people everywhere love libraries and consider them to be an essential service.

For more information about the Oakland Public Librarys Buy A Book Campaign, visit our Web site at or call Dana Heidrick, Collection Development Coordinator, at (510) 238-4704 Or check out the Web site and help us out!

But that’s not got me all teary-eyed in the middle of the night. This is:

[readermail]Subject: I wish you could see itHey, the UPS guy has no head, or, How to make a librarian cry

Seven times in the last three days, the UPS man has come bearing a stack of boxes taller than his torso. He looks like a cardboard robot. Every time I see his truck pull up, my heart beats faster and I get a little flushed. I’m not in love with him, but with Pamie and all her friends. Last December, Oakland’s city budget bottomed out, and plans were made to close half of its branch libraries. Among six others, Piedmont Avenue library was on the block. Oaklanders rallied, and all the branches were saved, but there was almost no money left for books. Then, on May 3, one thin mysterious box arrived from New Jersey of all places. Like a sequence out of a James Stewart movie, that box was followed by one hundred more, all filled with beautiful, beautiful books. Gulp. A note from Canada solved the mystery, “You can thank for letting me know that you needed books.” This is the closest thing to magic that I’ve ever seen. I’m going to get every one of your books (the children’s books, I mean) into the hands of a kid. Maybe the books will help them to grow up as nice as you.

Thank you with all my heart,
Jamie Turbak, Children’s Librarian
Piedmont Avenue Branch, Oakland Public Library[/readermail]

The librarians are making me cry. This came in the mail today:

[readermail]May 6, 2003

Dear Ms. Ribon,

Yesterday, we received six boxes from with books that had been purchased for the library from our wishlist. I knew something was up because the books came from people who lived all over the country, and not a one from an Oakland resident! I received a phone call from Wendy last week so I suspected that the extra help came from the online journal she had mentioned. When I found, I was delighted by your call to contribute and by the responses. Thank you, thank you. It is an amazing example of the power of Internet communication and the good will and kindness of strangers.

The books are pouring in and they are all useful titles. We are really excited about the success of this campaign and I think that we will owe 90% of that success to you. Thank you again.

Dana Heidrick
Collection Development[/readermail]

If that doesn’t make you feel good this week, I don’t know what does. Honestly, last week when I suggested sending a book, I figured we’d get a good thirty books over to Oakland. I absolutely couldn’t imagine this. But if there’s one thing all of us have in common, it’s our love of reading. And another thing I know from all of your letters and forum posts over the years: you are all very kind.

I keep saying thank you and I’m so proud of you, but I’m saying it again. Even those of you who can’t afford to send a book these days, you’re helping when you pass the word on. It’s helping just to be aware of the situation, so you can help locally. I don’t know how many of us were aware of the problems our libraries are facing. I can only hope this spreads to your local libraries, and government awareness is increased and money flows back towards our libraries. I hope this is just a very small beginning.

And now, more cool kids!

Martha is the second person today to tell me that she gave out of Catholic guilt:

[readermail]The lapsed Catholic in me has been guilted into donating books to the Piedmont Avenue branch of the Oakland Public Library. ;-)

First, I sent 2 copies of “An Ace of the Eighth“, by Norman J. Fortier, otherwise known as my Uncle Bud. He’s a veteran flying ace of WWII and this paperback was just published last Tuesday. I’m very proud that he wrote this memoir and I want to spread the word.

And, since I know not one, but two published authors, I had to plug my friend since high school, Matthew Holland, who wrote “Dizzy Z” which was published in 1997. Because you can’t read enough stories about drunken rock stars!

In all seriousness, what a wonderful thing you (and all your readers) are doing here. It’s warms the cockles of my heart![/readermail]

Amanda is packing up her books and going local, and has an idea for you:

[readermail]Pamie –

You’ve broken me down – I’m packing up the dusty depths of my unread book shelf and taking them to my local library. Who am I kidding that I’m going to read Gunter Grass – I’ll just take the Nobel committee’s word that he’s good.

I thought you might be willing to toss out a link for those people who have more time than money on their hands and would still like to help out. Project Gutenberg ( puts books that have entered the public domain on-line, for free. So any library, or school, or home with an internet connection around the world can access these books. To ensure accuracy, they’re looking for proofreaders to check their text against the original book scans. You can do this all on-line at their Distributed Proofreaders page ( It doesn’t take too many people proofreading a couple of pages a week before they can get a whole new book online. Their work-in-progress list includes Alcott’s novels and their Australia branch has been putting L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon books online – how can you not love them?!?![/readermail]

Now you can’t say you don’t know how to help. You were just going to surf the web for an hour anyway. Now it looks like you’re working! And you are! Resume fodder!

Sobell kicks ass, branch by branch:

[readermail]Pam —

Count me in as another DHAK/TWoP donor.

Oakland Public Library is getting:

2 copies of: Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets by Dav Pilkey

2 copies of: Captain Underpants and the Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space by Dav Pilkey

2 copies of: Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman by Dav Pilkey (Illustrator)

2 copies of: Captain Underpants And The Perilous Plot Of Professor Poopypants: El Capitan Calzoncillos Y El Perverso Plan Del Profesor Pipcac

Because there is no such thing as too much Captain Underpants.

The Piedmont Avenue Branch is getting:

The Making Of America by Robert Johnston (Author)

Wetware by Craig Nova

The Montclair Branch is getting:

Dora the Explorer – Map Adventures VHS

Dora the Explorer – Move to the Music VHS

So the love is spread all over Oakland. It was super-smart of you to bring up the library budget crunch and the wishlists, and I admire you taking all the time to keep your readers up on who’s donated to the libraries thus far. Thank you.[/readermail]

I don’t know which has been the better piece of knowledge: Learning the words “Captain Underpants” or knowing that the Spanish word for “Poopypants” is “Pipcac.”

My friends, I do believe it’s the latter.

Carrie keeps her promises:

[readermail]I read your entries about the Oakland libraries problems yesterday in the half hour before taking my masters degree oral exam and promised someone (either myself or I might have been making a deal with God) that if I passed I would donate to the Oakland library. And I passed (!) so in addition to being only a few days away from being a broke MFA, I am also now a good book donor. I highly recommend the Oakland library cause for all deals with a higher power.

I sent the Piedmont branch “Audrey and Barbara,” a children’s picture book about a girl and her cat going on adventures in honor of my orange kitty, and all the grad school moments where my cohorts and I thought very seriously about getting in the car and running away.[/readermail]

Congratulations, Carrie. May your MFA take you everywhere you and your cohorts never went. Except maybe Vegas. That was probably a good call, skipping that trip.

From Affilare, who has good news about her local library (and who I think is on her second donation):

[readermail]Well, the library in my hometown, the Greenville County (South Carolina) Public Library, is apparently doing so well that, in addition to having recently opened a new, multi-million dollar main facility, they just broke ground for a new branch. So, since we’re apparently rolling in literary excess over here, I thought I’d contribute a little more. AND, this time I decided to use Cody’s Books because of all the glowing praise it has received in your most recent journal entries. Instead of supporting The Man, sometimes it feels good to support…. Not… The Man. Or something.

Anyway, I’m sending a couple more books:

Calvin & Hobbes — the first compilation. I feel that all attempts at advanced transmogrification should be encouraged.

Endurance — by Alfred Lansing. Nonfiction about Ernest Shackleton’s unbelievable crossing of Antarctica. Yes, I’m a nonfiction dork sometimes, and this one is great. Makes you want to get outside, wrap yourself in threadbare fur garments, and walk across a continent. Actually, it makes you want to grab another blanket, another beer, and thank God someone else is out there to do those things.

Crocodile on the Sandbank, by Elizabeth Peters. Fun, tongue-in-cheek spoof of English murder mysteries and Victorian travel memoirs. Ostensibly light reading, but deeper than it seems and the start to a fun series. Again, this is a great thing. Obviously my community isn’t hurting at the moment, so it feels good to be able to help further the joy of books and libraries for some community that is. I’m going to be on the look-out for similar projects.

Thanks, Pam!

PS — I do have a fledgling online journal (and by fledgling, I mean, like, 6 entries): But since it is so meager, would you please link to a local used bookstore here in Greenville? I would really like it to do well, because I have enjoyed their efforts tremendously over the years. And, they have a Cat-in-Residence, Zola, who has contributed his own section to their website. Thanks again![/readermail]

It’s also crazy-fun to say, “Shackleton!” Hey, you donate twice, you get two links.

Anna Beth loves me in her own special way:

[readermail]Subject: i hate you.
I can’t believe you made me buy a book for the fucking Oakland Library.[/readermail]

From Elle, who’s only popping in:

[readermail]Hi, Pamie. I’m yet another lurker coming out of the shadows to tell you what a great idea your book donation idea was (is). I sent off the following three books to the Piedmont branch:

All Aboard!” — a picture book about trains for the kiddies.

Goodnight Moon Board Book” — aw, who doesn’t love this book?

What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Third Edition” — like The Bible for pregnant women (only with more strict dietary rules).

Nothing fancy, but all books I think will be enjoyed.

Back to the shadows…[/readermail]

Even my lurkers are the coolest. It’s always nice to hear from you, even when you aren’t donating books, by the way.

When I was in college I directed a short scene from Glengarry, Glen Ross. I was a young directing student with a potty mouth, so it was the law. Anyway, usually scenes like that suck because you can’t find a Kevin Spacey, or an Al Pacino. But my Al Pacino, the guy I had playing Roma, knew how to command a room. He kept your attention. You remembered him and watched him. Not because he’s a six-foot albino. Not because he’s an amazing actor. He’s just an amazing person, and you can tell by looking at him. His name is Cliff, and he’s recently become a junkie:

[readermail]As always, I have a true respect and admiration for your dedication at making this world a better place bit by bit.

(If you will indulge me and allow me to get facetiously emotional for a second) I am reminded of a commercial that I see from time to time during Longhorn football games…(this is where you would hear “The Eyes of Texas” playing softly in the background as I tell this story) the commercial is a shot of the UT tower, and a guy saying something to the effect of:

“Here, at the University of Texas, we don’t claim to be able to change the world. We change people, and then they go out and change the world.”

Pam, you are one of a kind, and a true gentlewoman and a scholar.

While, I have done a lot of growing up since you last knew me, some things will never change. For this reason, I have sent: Gettin’ Buck Wild: The Sex Chronicles II. Sorry, didn’t catch the author (Zane maybe)

It was on OPL’s wish list, so obviously someone out there needs it, and God bless ’em for that![/readermail]

That’s Cliff. I love him dearly.

Diana made her pennies count:

[readermail]I’m really tight on cash right now, so I could only send one book.

I picked C aptain Underpants And The Perilous Plot Of Professor Poopypants for a few reasons. One, it was one of the few Spanish books I saw on the list. Two, kids freak over Captain Underpants. I don’t know why, but I feel it’s best not to think on these things too long. And finally, it was cheap and cheap is the word (like “Grease!”) around these parts lately.[/readermail]

Do you know we fulfilled all of their Captain Underpants requests? It’s like, twenty books or something.

Colie had better find herself swimming in free drinks at Squishycon:

[readermail]I donated:

*Captain Underpants and the Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space – Dav Pilkey

*Rap A Tap Tap – Diane Dillon, Leo Dillon

*The Spider and the Fly – Mary Botham Howitt, Tony Diterlizzi

I decided that little Jason Limplepicker needed to read about Captain Underpants much more than I needed booze money for SquishCon (May 23-27, Washington DC! All the coolest Squishettes will be there!)[/readermail]

Julie already donated, but she wanted to pass along this information:

[readermail]Lots of states with budget problems are hitting their cities’ public libraries hard– all over the nation. And, yeah, some people might not be aware that the same thing is happening to public libraries in their own cities– so it would be great if you mentioned that!

See this article.

Or this one

If you provided that first link (long and annoying as it is) so people could see how their own states are being affected, that might be helpful!?[/readermail]

manda had this to say:

[readermail]Way to guilt people into doing good things!

I bought The Handbook of Forensic Psychology, because it really is a great reference text, not to mention hella expensive.

I would like to dedicate this purchase to the truly “unique” Psychology department at my alma matter, Carleton College ([/readermail]

That is one mother of a book, people. Thank you so much, manda, for helping out the reference section.

Julie sent:

[readermail]”A Library for Juana: The World of Sor Juana Ines” Pat Mora, Beatriz Vidal

Shake It, Morena!: And Other Folklore from Puerto Rico” Carmen T. Bernier-Grand (Editor), Lulu Delacre (Illustrator)

All this because I suspect that I am truly a Latina trapped in the body of a red-headed white girl.

Read, mis hermanas, and learn![/readermail]

I love the cover for Shake it, Morena!. Thanks, Julie, for adding some flava to our list.

I love Amy Sleep’s name, and I wish I had thought of it and used it for a character already so it won’t look like I’m stealing it when I steal it later:


You are doing a good thing here, but I am sure you have figured that out by now. I bought a book for the Montclair Branch a few days ago because I got my first library card when I was too young to write my name on the back and my Mom took me every week. But then, today, when I found out I am finally graduating from college, after 11 years and countless library books, I sent two to the Piedmont Branch. It seemed like a good way to celebrate.

Montclair Branch:

The Pediatrician’s New Baby Owners Manual: Your Guide to Care & Fine-Tuning of Your New Baby

Piedmont Branch:

A Harvest of Color: Growing a Vegetable Garden

Super Croc And Other Prehistoric Crocodiles [/readermail]

Congrats, recent graduate. Look at all my new grads. You guys are so shiny.

Wow. Look at what we did in one week. That’s pretty impressive.

I’m all weepy. That’s what I get for updating at one in the morning. These book entries are taking me like, three hours. And I had a recap that just went up. My mom’s here. But yet — not tired. I could open these letters from you guys all night long.

Thank you. I keep saying it, but I sure do mean it. Thank you.

Again, see everybody who has donated here.

Currently reading

The Bone People.

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