Steinbeck's hometown may lose libraries

April 4, 2005 at 8:45 AM

SALINAS, Calif., April 4 (UPI) -- The public libraries in Salinas, Calif., the hometown of Nobel laureate John Steinbeck, will soon be closed unless emergency funds are found.

Residents, authors and celebrities gathered during the weekend for a 24-hour read-in to raise funds for the libraries -- two of which are named for Steinbeck, who won the Nobel prize in 1962, and labor leader Cesar Chavez.

Unless $500,000 is raised buy June 30, the libraries will be closed, making Salinas the largest city in the country without a public library, the New York Times reported Monday. But even that amount will allow the facilities to be open only one day a week through 2005.

The city is facing a $9 million budget shortfall and officials have cited the defeat last November of several tax measures by voters as part of the decision to close the libraries. Library supporters say two of the proposals lost because voters likely didn't understand how the measure would affect the libraries.

Among participants in the read-in was actor Hector Elizondo, who said libraries had been key to his development and safety while growing up, the Times reported. Elizondo described closing a library as "putting a tourniquet around your mind."

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