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Book Burning Raises Funds For Blacktip Island Library

library fundraiser

The Blacktip Island Bibliophile Society hopes a book burning and bar-b-q event this weekend will raise enough money to rebuild and stock a new library on the small Caribbean island. (photo courtesy of Herring Frye/BIBS)

The Blacktip Island Community Bibliophile Society will host a Fahrenheit 451-themed “It Was A Pleasure To Burn” book-burning ceremony and bar-b-q cookout Saturday evening to raise funds to rebuild the Caribbean island’s lending library, destroyed by fire last year.

“We can’t be a proper library without a building. And books,” Society chair Herring Frye said. “We tried literary readings and bake sales, but no one came. We had to do something flashy to get folks’ attention.

“We finally thought since fire destroyed the old library, maybe it could help build the new one, Frye said. “Then we hit on the idea of us dressing up as Fahrenheit 451 firemen, and got all kinds of attention. The book lovers are howling, and we already have a big pile of books people dropped off for us to burn.”

Society members concurred.

“We’re not torching great literature,” co-chair Elena Havnes said. “It’s mostly out of date scuba manuals and old phone books. And a disturbing number of Justin Bieber biographies. Several people suggested burning science books, too, since they’re so little-used these days, but we drew a line in the sand at that.

“We’re asking people to leave a monetary donation when they drop off unwanted books,” Havens said. “They’ll get one lottery ticket for every dollar they donate, and at the end of the night we’ll draw a ticket at random. The winner will have the new study carrel named after them.”

Critics decried the event.

“Sure, it’s for a good cause, but it trivializes book burnings,” resident Harry Wrasse said. “This sends a horrific message to our children, too, that burning books is a legitimate action. The end doesn’t justify these means.

“If they light any books, we’ll be there with water buckets to put an end to it,” Wrasse said.

Others questioned the need for a library.

“This is the 21st Century,” resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “We don’t need books. We have the internet. If Herring and Elena want to raise money, they should do it for an ad campaign to get more people to Blacktip Island.”

Society members were quick to defend the library and the event.

“The library’s about more than books,” Havens said. “Every great community has a library at its heart. That was the one place on Blacktip where people could gather that wasn’t a bar or restaurant. It was our public space. Our piazza, if you will. Regaining that’s worth losing a few unwanted books. We’re not the bad guys here.”

Admission is $4.51. For an additional $20, attendees may toss a book on the burn pile. Donations of diesel fuel are greatly appreciated.

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Fire Destroys Blacktip Island Library

A security camera still of unidentified witnesses watching the Blacktip Island library burn.

A security camera still of unidentified witnesses watching the Blacktip Island library burn.

The Blacktip Island Public Library burned Thursday night in what authorities are calling suspicious circumstances. The library, housed in a shed on property next to Eagle Ray Cove scuba resort, contained one of the Caribbean’s largest collection of scuba diving manuals, some in Latin and Koine Greek dating back to the Second Century C.E.

“There was plenty of fuel, what with all that parchment and papyrus,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “But there was nothing there to spark a flame. I would term that ‘suspicious.’

“There’s also security camera footage showing people watching the place burn. That’s suspicious as well.”

“It’s a tragedy,” librarian Edwin Chub said. “This was one of the few places folks from all walks of life could gather without having to buy a drink or stink of cigarettes. To think this was intentional really burns me up.”

“Whether an accident or vandalism, the place burned quickly,” IPC Marquette said. “It was done before Dermott could get two buckets of water on it, and the folks on video only had time for one beer.”

Local opinion differed on the fire’s cause.

“Business owners have eyed that land for years,” long-time resident Frank Maples said. “There were plans to put a clothing boutique there. I’m not pointing fingers, but there are people who benefited from this.”

Eagle Ray Cove Resort owner Rich Skerritt bristled at talk of arson.

“The bookworms can’t keep a fire extinguisher handy, it’s not my fault,” Skerritt said. “The real tragedy is some of those books hadn’t been colored in yet. One of those yahoos sitting around drinking beer probably flicked a cigarette butt in the wrong direction.”

Other locals remained unconvinced.

“The historic house that used to be on that property blew up in the middle of the night a few months back,” resident Reg Gurnard said. “The fire department said it was a gas leak, but there’s no natural gas on the island. Plus, Dermott pretty much is the fire department, and he’s half sauced most nights, so there’s no telling what happened, then or now.”

“We, as a community, will come together to make this better,” Eagle Ray Cove’s Skerritt said. “We can’t replace those old books, but we can give Chub and his library a fair price for the property, get him some nice, new books and set him up in a newish shed across the island.”

“We encourage anyone with information about the fire to contact us,” IPC Marquette said. “The security footage is so grainy, we’re having a hard time identifying bystanders. I’d like to say we’ll catch the arsonist, but I wouldn’t make book on it.”

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