Peter Coyote, Mort Sahl, Mark Pitta, Holly Payne, Tom Barbash, Tony Lindsay and many more regale at Library Foundation event at Throckmorton Theatre.

The Mill Valley Public Library’s Centennial Celebration in 2011 had a pair of notable outcomes: recognition for one of Mill Valley’s hallmark institutions and its ability to evolve in the digital age, and a shot of fundraising adrenaline for the once-disparate organizations dedicated to supporting that institution.

At the Mill Valley Library Foundation’s Beyond the Book Bash Saturday night at the Throckmorton Theatre, the celebration continued with a group of star-studded group of talent from literary, comedic and musical arts. And library supporters’ ability to raise money showed no signs of slowing down.

Foundation officials reported Tuesday that the event raised another $124,000 to support Library programs and services, and that the foundation has raised more than $1 million for an endowment and financial support of programs such as First Fridays and After Hours events; children and teen programming and digital entertainment. 

“Programs like these make the library more relevant than ever,” City Librarian Anji Brenner said.

“We want to blow your mind about what a library can be in a community,” MVLF board chair Andy Mercy told the crowd of more than 200 people. “Tonight is a celebration of your thirst for knowledge and the library’s ability to quench that thirst.”

That thirst was quenched Saturday night from every angle, with local comedian Mark Pitta keeping the night moving swiftly with joke-laden segues, including light jabs at City Hall: “I almost didn’t make it here tonight on Miller Avenue; man, someday they might give us drivers our own lane!” and book sales in the digital age: “The title of my new book is ‘Add to Cart.’”

The night’s entertainment included:

  • Tam High student Emma Weinswig reading her poem “26 Seconds,” which juxtaposed the rate of high school dropouts in the U.S. and the struggles of children in places like Afghanistan, where the Taliban “scare dreamers into silence.”
  • A reading by local author Holly Payne from her new book Damascena: The Tale of Roses and Rumi that took the audience to Turkey in 1270. Payne brought the unparalleled poet Mevlana Rumi to life, unraveling the mystery surrounding a legendary orphaned girl who discovers her gift of turning roses into oil.
  • Tam Valley actor, author and ubiquitous documentary narrator (including Ken Burns’ The Roosevelts) Peter Coyote gave a wildly entertaining reading about a youthful jaunt through Mexico from his latest book, The Rainman’s Third Cure, a spiritual memoir that will be published by Counterpoint Press in spring 2015. 
  • In a hilarious chat with Pitta, legendary comedian and political humor pioneer Mort Sahl spoke about Last Man Standing: The Life and Passion of Mort Sahlauthor James Curtis’ impending biopgraphy, with Sahl drawing raucous laughter with lines like: “There are many wives to chase down and they’ll tell him, ‘Every minute with him was pure hell,’” and “It wasn’t a very puritanical life, but it was a whole lot of fun.”
  • Joined by piano, drums and Beyond the Book Bash producer Tom Corwin on bass, longtime Santana singer Tony Lindsay gave a spirited performance, while New Tork Times best-selling author Tom Barbash delivered a reading from “The Break,” a story about a newly single mother who in interferes in her son’s love life over his Christmas vacation from college – part of Stay Up With Me, his 2013 collection of stories that explore the myriad ways we try to connect with one another and with the sometimes cruel world around us. 

But while the readings, the music and the performances were stellar, it was the tributes to the library itself that stood out.

  • “Hi I’m Mark and I have a Library Card,” Pitta quipped at the evening’s outset.
  • “The Mill Valley Library is showing the way in how to stay relevant in the digital age,” Corwin said.
  • “Our library is a ridiculopusly beautiful place,” Barbash said.
  • “I’m so excited to see all these people out here for this secret leftist institution, the library, paid for by your tax dollars – how discreet,” Coyote joked.

“For thousands of years the library has been a vital repository for knowledge and books, a place to explore and touch the physical world,” Mercy said. “In Mill Valley, we are blessed also by a place of beauty that nurtures contemplation and collaboration. Tonight’s event celebrates that legacy and the innovation that keeps it relevant in today’s changing world.”

Click here for more information of the 31-year-old Mill Valley Library Foundation.

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