A Berkeley woman who loved books so much that she literally changed her surname to Book has bequeathed a fortune to the Berkeley Public Library.
Joyce Columbia Book, whose former name was Joyce Columbia Bernur, died on February 6, 2007. It has now been revealed that she left $77,000 to the library, whose North Branch she loved best of all.
“She was once heard to say that she wished she could just move into that library and live there for the rest of her days,” notes BPL Community Relations Librarian Alan Bern. “As a very independent person, she used the library on her own until late in her life; and, in her later years, Book was frequently a patron of Berkeley Public Library’s Outreach home delivery program and often requested ‘cozy’ mysteries or mysteries with cats in them.
“Joyce Book was the daughter of Duke Kahanamoku, a famous swimmer and cliff diver from Hawaii in the early 20th century. She lived in Berkeley all of her adult life and besides her love of reading and of libraries, she was an early supporter of animal rights.” She worked, Bern reports, as a technician at UC Berkeley.
“Another of Book’s special interests in reading and book collecting was in the area of astrology. Having grown up in abject poverty and having moved many times during her early life, Book’s last years were not always easy or comfortable for her and reminded her of her earlier difficult times, but she managed to make important friends, including her attorney Bonnie Bishop and her neighbor Sam Siegel, who helped her to make the last years of her life easier. Bishop remembers Book calling the last years before she died the ‘happiest time of her life,’ and remembers what a pleasure it was to help Book,” Bern reports.—Anneli Rufus