First, I want to wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year.

Secondly, I mentioned in my last article on Dec. 14 ("Suggestions for your shopping pleasure") that I wanted to know what people were reading. Then I neglected to give you a path to tell me. So if you would, please email me at costamesalibr@gmail.com and mention the authors whose books you are reading, and what you want to read later. I just finished Barbara Kingsolver's "The Lacuna" and I know it is a book I will long remember with pleasure. And as a die-hard mystery reader, I am mid-book with Ruth Rendell's "The Rottweiler."

Thirdly, I have to admit to being old enough that I remember when almost everything I bought was made in the United States. Clothes, food (except coffee) and most of the machinery, electric appliances and shoes. (And, of course, they were leather shoes.) In fact, it was as exciting then to find something made in another country as it is now to find something made in the old U.S.A.

Now, in order to continue to compete with other countries and adjust the balance of payments, we in the United States need to begin making more of the things we use and need in our daily lives at a lower price. We need to invent, design and build them so we can sell these products not only to ourselves, but to others around the world. To do this, we need more scientists, engineers and mathematicians. And we can't just continue to hire these people from other countries. It is time we began "making our own," beginning with very young children whose imaginations are waiting to be unfolded. Parents, of course, have the first chance to light the spark, but schools and libraries and boys' and girls' clubs, among others, can play a large part.

A video I watched recently featured AnnMarie Thomas, a professor of engineering at the University of St. Thomas, speaking at the November 2011 TEDxTC conference. She spoke of "makers" — designers, inventors, builders — and said, "Who are the great innovators and engineers, both today and in the past, and how do they get there? " She then proceeded to explain that in the research she had done on the subject, these people were given the opportunity when young to find solutions to problems, to take things apart and try to put them together. And in general, they were good readers — their imaginations stirred by "possibilities." She had lots more to say on this subject, and I would be glad to send the electronic address to you from the email address mentioned above.

Thomas is associated with the Maker Education Initiative. This is one group that is concerned that the U.S. ranks 14th in reading, 25th in math and 17th in science against other Economic Co-operation and Development countries. The highest marks go to South Korea, Finland, Canada, New Zealand and Japan, according to Jessica Shepherd in the Guardian Datablog, Dec. 7, 2010.

A 2007 study by the Urban Libraries Council titled "Making Cities Stronger" concluded that "public libraries are positioned to fuel not only new, but next economies because of their roles in building technology skills, entrepreneurial activity, and vibrant, livable places." Libraries provide not only casual, recreational reading opportunities, but tutoring, homework help, summer reading programs for children on a regular basis, and literacy help for adults as well. And libraries can provide more. But they need support from the communities they serve. Costa Mesa needs to invest more in its libraries.

Coming events at Costa Mesa's libraries

At the Mesa Verde Library, Storytime will again be scheduled at 11 a.m. every Tuesday. A definite date has not yet been set for Pajama Storytime, Game Board Night and an origami program that is always a favorite at this library. Call (714) 546-5274 for further information.

Bilingual Storytime and regular Storytime for toddlers will begin again after the middle of January at the Donald Dungan Library. The Costa Mesa Book Club, which meets at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 7 at the Dungan Library, will be discussing "The Age of Innocence" by Edith Wharton. The book is available at the checkout desk for the month prior to the meeting.

MARY ELLEN GODDARD produced this column on behalf of the Friends of Costa Mesa Libraries, the Costa Mesa Library Foundation and the three Costa Mesa branches of the Orange County Public Libraries.