CLAYTON -- Community libraries have always been a respite for the public and a place to wind down that the Contra Costa County library staff has referred to as "community living rooms."

Recently, the Clayton Community Library was a gathering place of a different kind -- evacuation site. During the Morgan Fire on Mount Diablo this month, the library opened its doors for residents in need of safe shelter.

Karen Hansen-Smith, senior community library manager, said this latest offering is a testament of what libraries have become in recent years -- community gathering places.

Clayton Reads, part of the annual "One City, One Book" county library program, now in its sixth year, offers another way the community can come together to discuss the same book.

Courtesy of the Clayton Library Foundation, 150 copies of this year's selection, the classic, "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury, will be available for free beginning Oct. 1. Patrons are encouraged to pass the book along to another reader when they've finished it. Hansen-Smith will lead a discussion at 2 p.m. Nov. 3.

"To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Contra Costa County libraries we decided to select a story with a book theme and celebrate the importance of preserving books," Hansen-Smith said. "It's also the 60th anniversary of the publication of 'Fahrenheit 451,' which has been a strong sell ever since."

For the book's anniversary, the publisher, Simon and Schuster, showcases a new book cover which was chosen through a book cover contest, Hansen-Smith said.

The book, about a fireman in a future totalitarian state where firemen start fires, instead of putting them out, still resonates with today's readers, she said. As the fireman begins to question the society in which books are no longer valued, he starts hiding books and seeking out other people who value books and stories.

It would be interesting to discuss how readers can relate to this theme today, Hansen-Smith said.

Clayton Reads this year is truly a celebration of books and the written word. In addition to the book discussion, the event will feature "The Written Word: Calligraphy and History," at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 7, to be presented by Carylon Van Essen, retired Clayton Valley High School teacher and calligrapher.

She will give a talk and demonstration about calligraphy and offer the public a chance to learn some basic pen strokes. Registration for this event is required. Call the library at 925-673-0659 for more information or register at tinyurl.com/Calligraphy-Clayton.

"Fireside Stories: Not Just For Kids," will be held at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 30, featuring storyteller Marian Ferrante in an old-fashioned campfire storytelling.

"One of the ways books were preserved in the story was that a group of people memorized books and that's what ties the Fireside Stories program with Fahrenheit 451," Hansen-Smith said. "This is the idea of telling stories as a way of preserving them."

Young children also have a chance to enjoy Clayton Reads with a "Story in a Box" craft program at 4 p.m., Nov. 7, in which kids only need to bring their enthusiasm and imagination, Hansen-Smith said.

One city, one book
WHAT: Clayton Reads "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury
WHEN: Oct. 1-Nov. 7
WHERE: Clayton Community Library, 6125 Clayton Road
INFORMATION: Pick up a flier at the library or visit guides.ccclib.org/onebook or www.clayton
library.org