While in Long Beach, I had the opportunity to see one of my personal heroes, Ray Bradbury, speak at the Long Beach Main Library. As part of a campaign to save the main branch of the Long Beach Public Library system from being closed down due to lack of funding, Bradbury served as the keynote presenter to express his devotion to public libraries. He talked about how they have served an essential role in shaping who he is today. Though he grew up in a poor family, where he did not have the opportunity to to pursue a formal college education, he spent four days a week after graduating from high school at the downtown Los Angeles public library, perusing the shelves, reading everything of interest to him, and exploring his own brand of higher learning.
He told the story of how he went downstairs into the lower level of the library one day and discovered a room with typewriters that could be rented for ten cents an hour. He said to himself, “This is going to be my office.”
He brought back a bag of dimes, and sat at the library for nine days, writing the first draft of Fahrenheit 451. He said it cost him $9.80.
This anecdote was close to my heart, as I often use the library as my personal office too. I sit in a quiet corner with my laptop, escaping the distractions of home, and write for as long as I am able.
Bradbury recently celebrated his 88th birthday, and the crowd gathered at the library to hear him speak sang him a cheery chorus of “Happy Birthday.”
Bradbury is the author of over 500 published works, ranging from novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, television scripts, to poetry. He is considered one of the classic founders of the science fiction genre, and his works include The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. He was awarded the National Book Award in 2000 and the National Medal of Arts in 2004.