How to Festival

Ann Hulce reviving old library books, during the Burbank Public Library's 'How to Festival.' (Courtesy of Ross A. Benson / October 5, 2013)

A few curious observers huddled around Mike McDaniel to better hear the story of the origin of the Burbank city library. As the tale unfolded, Helen von Seggern nodded, quietly confirming the details as she remembered them.

Von Seggern brought her children to the library, originally located on Olive Avenue, when they were young. She made several trips with students during her 43-year career as an educator — sometimes with UCLA students, sometimes with the Burbank Adult School.

When she researched a trip to Ireland and Scotland years ago, she checked out every travel book she could because "the more reading you do ahead of time, the more rich your experience will be."

A couple of children's books about Scotland told the story of Roman occupiers — von Seggern found those streets when she got there.

From McDaniel's history talk, she moved on to another table set up at the library last Saturday. Dozens of tables taught dozens of skills at this "How-to Festival" celebrating the 100th birthday of library services in the city.

Come December, von Seggern will celebrate her 100th as well. She and the library are good, longtime friends.

"That old library was important in my life," she says, motioning to the black-and-white photo on McDaniel's collage of historic places. "As your children grow, the library's just part of your family."

Near the "How to Dig into Burbank's Past" section, an artist taught calligraphy. At the next table, visitors learned a quilting technique. A Braille teacher set up shop by the door.

They filled the library floors upstairs and down. Curiosities and life skills were given equal billing — inside you could learn to find your family in the 1940 census and out the doors on the lawn, a firefighter might hand you a fire extinguisher and teach you how to use it.

In a second-floor hallway, Bradley Nations kept people's attention by brandishing wine. He taught passersby how to pair inexpensive wine with holiday meals: A Craftwork Pinot Grigio from Monterey, for example, will hold up to a $50 bottle easily, Nations proclaimed.

Around the corner from his presentation, a woman finished her sentence with, "… if they don't potty outside." This was "How to Potty Train Your Dog in 15 Minutes."

On the library lawn, Donn Angelos, director of operations for Shakespeare at Play, sat comfortably behind a keyboard, claiming to work miracles. According to his flier, he was teaching "How to Learn the Piano in 15 Minutes." Let's see how he does with a slightly tone-deficient newspaper columnist.

He begins by numbering each digit on his hands, starting with one at each thumb and ending with five at each pinky. With this code, anyone could play his song.

He scratches out numbers on a white board, then shows where to place the "one" digit — the thumb. The board reads "3212333" and before you know it, I'm playing "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

As long as you have the code, "you can practice piano anywhere," Angelos explained.

Total mastery was not the point of this festival. It opened doors to things you might not otherwise think you could do — then provided resources to encourage everyone to learn these new skills.

As von Seggern noted, "The more reading you do ahead of time, the more rich your experience will be."

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BRYAN MAHONEY writes about Burbank neighbors and the place they call home. He can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter at @818NewGuy.