You’re reading one of those wonderful novels that seems to be getting better with every page: engaging characters, a strong setting, and a smoothly progressing storyline that has you eager to find out what’s next.
That’s the state of the St. Helena Public Library right now, with its vibrant programs and guest speakers, lovely vineyard surroundings, and highly capable stewards who are gracefully ushering it into the 21st century.
With such smooth sailing lately, it’s fitting that the library has found a supporting fundraiser that looks like it’s here to stay. Bookmark Napa Valley, put on by the nonprofit Friends & Foundation, St. Helena Public Library, is returning at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 28, at Markham Vineyards.
Like last year’s event, this isn’t a wine auction – it’s a literary event organizers are comparing to City Arts and Lectures, featuring pre-dinner book signings and meet-and-greets with four authors, food by Oak Avenue Catering, and author presentations during dinner. Tickets are again $150 and probably on pace to sell out. You can buy tickets at supportshlibrary.org or by calling 307-3706.
There are a few changes this year. The venue has shifted from the Charles Krug carriage house to Markham, and the maximum number of guests has gone from 250 to 200 to suit the new location.
The format is slightly altered too. Instead of individual speeches, three featured authors will be interviewed by returning author and Master of Ceremonies Lisa Napoli, whose crisp speech was a highlight of last year’s Bookmark.
Napoli, an occasional NPR correspondent, wrote an investigative chronicle about Joan Kroc’s crusade to distribute her late husband Ray’s vast McDonald’s fortune to a surprising array of charitable causes.
The other three authors are Lisa Dickey, an experienced ghostwriter who’s just out with her own book about Russia; Wiley Cash, a literary novelist coming all the way from North Carolina; and Ivy Pochoda, a novelist whose two books have been praised by crime heavyweights Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly.
The Napa Valley Vintners is the top sponsor, and Meadowood is generously offering free lodging for the authors.
We got the details of this year’s event from Maria Stel, Jack Stuart, Jodine Whisten and Linnea Pearson. Their pitch remains simple and convincing: the more you support the Friends & Foundation, the stronger the library will be in terms of community programs, concerts, guest speakers, part-time staff, unique materials, and all the other extras that separate St. Helena’s library from the pack.
The last few years the Friends & Foundation has donated $135,000 annually to the library, augmenting the city’s operational budget, which already covers the basics. The nonprofit does so while steadily building up its endowment.
And don’t let that endowment fool you into thinking they’re sitting on a bunch of untapped money. Endowments are structured so that a portion of the interest is spent each year, while the principal remains untouched so it can keep growing and generate even more interest next year.
Library Director Chris Kreiden wasn’t able to attend our meeting, but we’ve been impressed so far with her tenure. Even with slightly reduced hours and a smaller budget from the city, she’s managed to maintain the library’s stellar level of service.
She rose through the ranks as a librarian, not a bureaucrat, so she understands the library’s status as not simply a book depository – that reductive conception of a library is now outdated – but as a de facto community center that champions cultural enrichment, togetherness, technology, local history, learning and, of course, books.
For example, on that unforgettable Monday after the fires started, when the power was out all over St. Helena, the library was open. Patrons went there to share information, relax, and savor a shred of normalcy as everything seemed to be coming apart.
That was a dramatic and inspiring chapter in the library’s story. Thanks to solid leadership, the devoted stewards at the Friends & Foundation, and the continued support of patrons like you, it’s a story that just keeps getting better.
And, just as a great book should, this one has a fabulous Bookmark.