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Saturday, Sep 30, 2023

Announcing Another Valley Fatality

It is with tears and lamentations that we announce the death of another close friend in Our Valley. Unfortunately, it was a slow, lingering demise, not a mercifully quick one. The patient had been severely ill for some time, so death came as a surprise to no one. The cause of death was identified as a variety of maladies. Yes, Borders is closing its doors…all of its doors…everywhere. The entire chain is being liquidated, including its Valley stores. “Liquidated.” Sounds like something Stalin’s chief of secret police, Lavrenti Beria, would say with satisfaction. While last year’s shuttering of Borders at Ventura and Hayvenhurst in Encino drew community ire and brought usually docile book lovers out in droves to protest, no one expects a similar vocal reaction to the Borders closing in Canoga Park. There are two Valley Borders locations, Northridge and Canoga Park. The Sherman Oaks store closed just a couple of months ago. The Canoga Park Borders closing hits particularly close to home. Manager Paul Hixenbaugh has hosted the Cooper Reading Challenge for the past four years. Scores of Valley businesspeople and community supporters contributed so hundreds of youngsters could have $25 each to purchase books. Those donations stretched a bit further because Paul gave the Club a 20 percent discount on books. He also generously provided snacks for the children. But the goal of the program is not just to provide books for children that — we hope — they’ll read. The larger goal is to instill in the next generation a love of learning. The Reading Challenge won’t die, even though Borders will. We’ll find another Valley bookstore…we hope. But failing that, imagine how less exciting it would be to give a youngster $25 and to tell him or her, “Go to the Club, sit at a computer, and pick out a book online.” What does it say of our values as a society when Starbucks proliferate while bookstores close? Oh, it’s not the end of books…yet. There are millions of books available online, with Amazon.com the largest book retailer in the country. Yes, that’s the same Amazon that is fighting so fiercely to avoid paying the sales taxes that are paid by stores — large and small — throughout our community, city, and state. But fading fast are those dimly-lit little used bookstores — a dozen used to dot Ventura Boulevard. From Sherman Oaks to Woodland Hills — with their musty smells and browsers’ glorious feeling that one might uncover a hidden gem. Some used book stores aren’t so little…and are still great. Two of the best used book emporiums in Los Angeles are right here in Our Valley. My personal favorite is Bargain Books, owned by siblings Bill Wirt and Diane Sharrar. Their address is 14426 Friar St. in Van Nuys. More than a few of my personal collection of about 2,000 books come from Bargain Books; they always seem to have just what I want. Dan Weinstein runs the Iliad Book Shop, at 5400 Cahuenga Blvd., North Hollywood. Dan and his staff care for more than 100,000 books, and have done so for more than two decades. Why do I shamelessly promote these stores and even provide their addresses? Because I want you to go visit them, enjoy them, and buy from them. Before it’s too late. Many of us fondly remember Dutton’s Books in Valley Village, under the proprietorship of Dave and Judy Dutton. It opened in 1960, on the corner of Laurel Canyon and Magnolia Boulevards. It was truly a great used book store. It died in 2006. The list of other wonderful new and used book stores across the Valley that have gone out of business in the past decade is too painful to enumerate. Nearly two hundred years ago, on June 10, 1815, Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Adams, “I cannot live without books.” We shouldn’t be able to, either. Martin Cooper, is president of Cooper Communications, Inc. He can be reached at mcooper@coopercomm.net.

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