“I don’t believe in colleges and universities,” Ray Bradbury, 88, said. “I believe in libraries.”
Storytime led by Dwight Hochstein at the H. P. Wright Library in Ventura County, Calif., which Ray Bradbury is helping to rescue.
“Bo Derek is a really good friend of mine and I’d like to spend more time with her,” said Ray Bradbury, peering up from behind an old television tray in his den.
This is a lucky thing for the Ventura County Public Libraries — because among Mr. Bradbury’s passions, none burn quite as hot as his lifelong enthusiasm for halls of books. His most famous novel, “Fahrenheit 451,” which concerns book burning, was written on a pay typewriter in the basement of the University of California, Los Angeles, library; his novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes” contains a seminal library scene.
Mr. Bradbury frequently speaks at libraries across the state, and on Saturday he will make his way here for a benefit for the H. P. Wright Library, which like many others in the state’s public system is in danger of shutting its doors because of budget cuts.
“Libraries raised me,” Mr. Bradbury said. “I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”
Property tax dollars, which provide most of the financing for libraries in Ventura County, have fallen precipitously, putting the library system roughly $650,000 in the hole. Almost half of that amount is attributed to the H. P. Wright Library, which serves roughly two-thirds of this coastal city about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
In January the branch was told that unless it came up with $280,000 it would close. The branch’s private fund-raising group, San Buenaventura Friends of the Library, has until March to reach its goal; so far it has raised $80,000.
Enter Mr. Bradbury. While at a meeting concerning the library, Berta Steele, vice president of the friends group, ran into Michael Kelly, a local artist who runs the Ray Bradbury Theater and Film Foundation, a group dedicated to arts and literacy advocacy. Mr. Kelly told Ms. Steele that he could get Mr. Bradbury up to Ventura to help the library’s cause.