The Contra Costa County Library celebrated its 100th birthday this summer. And despite what my wife says, there is no truth to the rumor that I was their first patron.

But I have been a regular patron for dozens of years. Whether it's reserving books online, viewing their web page, or visiting the Pleasant Hill Library in person, I seem to connect to our library on a daily basis.

When I was a kid, I felt really lucky that there was a public library across the street from my school. I could stop there on my way home and browse through hundreds of books looking for just the right ones to take out.

I still remember how proud I felt the first time I showed a librarian my very own library card.

Ever since that special day, I've always kept my library card in my wallet. I still get a thrill when I walk into the Pleasant Hill Library and use my library card to check out books with the newfangled self-checkout machines.

I love books. I'm an avid reader and I've been writing a book review column for a local publication for the past year. Reading as many books as I do, it just doesn't "pay" to buy all of them when I can borrow them from the library for free.

I've had as many as 33 books on reserve at the library at one time. When I check my account online, I get excited when I see that a book I reserved is now waiting for me at the library.


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As a professor and scientist, I've been involved in many research projects. I've spent a lot of time in the laboratory working on new scientific experiments.

Early in my career I learned a very valuable lesson about research: "An hour in the library is worth weeks in the laboratory." By doing library research before taking on a new project, I was able to avoid wasting time on fruitless ventures, and could devote my energies in the lab to new and worthwhile endeavors.

Going to the library is like exploring the world without leaving home. I can find books about mysterious places I've never been, famous people I've never met, and magnificent adventures I've never had. Through library books, I get to enjoy all these wonderful experiences and more.

Today's libraries are more than just book repositories. They are gathering places for the entire community.

When I walk into the Pleasant Hill Library and see a group of parents with young children listening to a story being read by the librarian, a huge smile comes to my face. What a joy it must be for those parents to share such a special occasions with their children knowing that story time will open their young eyes to the wonders of the world.

The programs and the people at the Pleasant Hill Library are truly wonderful and enrich our lives. You can help our library by becoming a member of the Friends of the Pleasant Hill Library. I'm a life member.

You can learn more about the great work they do by visiting their website at http://ccclib.org/friends/phl.html.

The city is committed to extend library hours so all of us will have more opportunities to visit the Pleasant Hill Library and see what it can provide to help us grow and learn.

I am personally committed to exploring all options for building a new library in Pleasant Hill. In the meantime, I hope you will continue to enjoy all that our library currently has to offer.

Our libraries are special places to share ideas, meet friends, learn new things, stimulate your mind, soothe your soul and refresh your spirit.

Libraries embrace the best of our past, the challenges of today, and the hopes for the future. It true that your library card is "the key to the world."

When I look in my wallet, I find many important things. But none is more valuable than my library card. It has opened more doors and provided more adventures for me than money can buy.

That is why at the library's 100th birthday celebration, I said: "Your library card. Don't leave home without it." I never do!

Harris is the mayor of Pleasant Hill. Email him at columns@bayareanewsgroup.com.