Sunday, January 06, 2008
Friends of the Zoo at the Library
While researching the collaborative careers of the writers P.G. Wodehouse, Guy Bolton and the composer Jerome Kern for a production at the 42nd Street Moon theatre troupe, I stumbled across the fact that Wodehouse and Bolton had co-written a memoir in 1953 of their theatrical career during the first three decades of the 20th century in New York and London (click here for a short essay I wrote at the 42nd Street Moon site about it).
So I went to the Main Branch of the San Francisco Public Library to find the book and was informed that there was only one copy and it was in the "rare books/special reserved" section, meaning that you were not allowed to check the book out but would have to read the damned thing in the library among all the insane people and were not allowed to take it home.
Checking out the scene on Amazon.com, I found that the book had been reprinted in 1984 in a trade paperback edition and there were plenty of copies to be had for $6 and less, so its absence on the stacks in the public library was ridiculous. After finishing the book last night, which I can confidently state is the wittiest theatrical memoir ever written and which can't be praised highly enough, the fact that it's not on the shelves is just plain shameful.
Unfortunately, the San Francisco Public Library is afflicted with the same privatization woes as the San Francisco Zoo, which has been much in the news lately. The "Friends of..." groups are all about fundraising and marketing and of course that becomes their only purpose, rather than simple details like making sure there are basic books on the shelves or that animals are treated decently.
The local activist James Chaffee has been obsessed for years with the perfidy of the Friends of the Library (click here for his extensively researched website on the issue) and Willie Morrissey over at the SF Willie's blog takes a look at the sleazy Friends group running the public/private partnership of the San Francisco Zoo (click here). If you see the name Sam Singer involved as head of public relations on any issue, you can safely bet that his client is evil (one of his other major clients is the Lennar Corporation, currently poisoning Bayview/Hunter's Point). Willie has been living next door to the zoo since he was a child. It featured free admission for most of his life, and since he's no spring chicken, he knows the place well. His suggestion is to just get rid of the large animals, keep the small animal exhibits, and turn the place into a roller park for skaters and skateboarders. The idea is so good it will never happen, but click here to read his proposal.