Monday, April 24, 2017

The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu - by Joshua Hammer

This was already on my must-read list when we received it as a gift from one of my husband's geography students. This tells the story of the rich history of literature in Africa - a history which contradicted the story told in 20th century Europe "that black Africans were illiterates with no history". Instead manuscripts from medieval times
proved the opposite-that a sophisticated, freethinking society had thrived south of the Sahara at a time when much of Europe was still mired in the Middle Ages
The work of scribes who copied texts at a rate of "150 lines of calligraphy per day" is described and their pay in gold nuggets or gold dust. The ancient texts were threatened several times over the centuries, including during the French occupation at the turn of the twentieth century. Over one hundred years later it was Al-Qaeda that nearly destroyed the literary treasure.

In the ensuing years many of the manuscripts had been hidden in homes, where they were deteriorating. Abdel Kader Haidara tracked down many of these manuscripts in the 1980s and convinced the owners to donate them to Mali's libraries where they could be preserved. By "2011 the Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library in Timbuktu was fast becoming one of the world's most innovative manuscript conservation centers and a symbol of Timbuktu's cultural renaisance". In 2012 Abdel Kader Haidara once again worked to save the treasures, as he organized people to smuggle the manuscripts out of Timbuktu where they could be safe from eradication. This tale is not just about librarians, but also about the common people who risked their own safety to move the books.

Controlling information is one way that those in power attempt to keep their authority. It is an old story. One we see throughout history, and just as relevant today as our own government attempts to vilify the press while spouting "alternative facts".

This could be hard to read at times as accounts of be-headings, kidnappings, and other senseless violence were part and parcel to the story. However, it is also a tale of hope and courage. All who understood that knowledge was worth preserving were the heroes of the story and serve as examples to those who may be despairing.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Card Catalog:Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures - by The Library of Congress

Almost anyone who used a library before about 1990 (and many after that) will remember using a card catalog - a now obsolete method of finding books in a library which involved index cards in drawers. The cards were interfiled by book title, author, and subject and had the call number written in the upper left-hand corner. Those who went attended the Graduate Library School at the University of Arizona when I did (1990-1991) will remember a cataloging course in which just about all we did was learn how to create proper entries for catalog cards. Machine Readable Cataloging (MARC) records were beginning to emerge in some libraries at the time (including at the University of Arizona) but we did very little with computers in the class, instead we hand wrote entries, and were graded on such things as how close together our punctuation marks appeared to be. What I didn't know at the time was that there was actually a thing called "Library Hand" that prescribed the penmanship to be used on hand written cards. Now that I know this I'm frankly surprised that that wasn't part of the curriculum.

An example of Library Hand from the book

There is a romance around the card catalog. I will admit to missing them. The old oak cabinets were iconic of libraries once upon a time, and as a youngster I was proud that I knew how to use them. My ability to employ the catalog to find information marked me as a learned person. Card catalogs were not without their faults, however. Lazy patrons, rather than writing down a book's call number, would sometimes simply remove the card from its drawer, whence it would never return. Censors could also easily remove all references to a particular library book simply by ripping all the relevant cards from their drawers making it virtually impossible to find the book. This was certainly a lot easier than actually going through the channels to have the offending book removed the library, and frankly a lot more effective. It was also not uncommon for cards to be misfiled, making finding a needed resource into a special kind of challenge.

When I discovered that a new book had been published about this once quintessential symbol of the library I immediately purchased the e-version and downloaded it to my iPad in celebration of National Library Week.

None other than the newly appointed Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, wrote the foreword to this work. I made an instantaneous connection upon reading the first sentence of the book
One of my first assignments when I began my library career was to file Library of Congress card catalog sets into a wooden case in the storefront branch of the Chicago Public Library.
Such was also one of my first assignments at my first library job (as a student assistant at the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory Library) in 1991. I imagine this experience parallels that of many Baby Boomer librarians.

The card catalog really dates back to that most venerable of libraries - The Library of Alexandria where books were actually scrolls, and had to be organized in such a way that scholars could find what they needed. The Pinakes was created by Callimachus who divided the scrolls into categories, and created records which included the number of lines, and the opening words of each scroll. You can read an excerpt from the book that describes this early catalog  (published in Time magazine).

I started this blog six years ago, but I've been blogging about books since 2009. My first book blog was called "My Year of Reading 'Year of' Books" a bit of a meta-blog that featured books of the "stunt lit" genre in which the authors took on a yearlong project and wrote about it. In 2010 I wrote a blog called Celebrating the States - a yearlong project during which I posted on each of the 50 states on the anniversary of its statehood. Each post included information about a food or recipe associated with said state, along with a review of a movie that took place in the state, and a review of a book set in the state. Every once in a while I read about a book I've blogged about in another book. I had the good serendipity in reading The Card Catalog to find  a copy of the catalog card from Idaho: A Guide in Word and Picture - written as part of the a program of the Federal Writers' Project during the Great Depression. This was indeed the book I read when I blogged about Idaho. Looking back at the post it seems it was almost in the cards (pun intended) that I mentioned the catalog record for it!

This book has some wonderful pictures, and a lot of history not just of catalog cards, but of the Library of Congress as well. It is a quick read and is sure to be enjoyed by librarians and library lovers alike. Read more about this book, and card catalogs here.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt's Treasured Books - by Susan L. Roth and Karen Leggett Abouraya

The ancient library of Alexandria, Egypt (Biblioteca Alexandrina) stood from 300 BCE to 400 CE. There are various legends as to what happened to this "center where great thinkers, scientists, mathematicians, and poets [came] to study and share ideas". We do know that it was burned either intentionally or by accident and today, not far from where the original library was located, a new library made of  granite and opened in 2002, stands in its place.

In early 2011 protesters in Egypt succeeded in their call for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. The eighteen days of protest were violent and the new library was threatened. The director of the Library, Dr. Ismail Serageldin, closed the library and feared that it would be destroyed.
"The Library has no gates that can be locked", he called out. "The doors are all glass. There is nothing that prevents anybody from destroying this building with all its treasures, except the will of the people."
And the will of the people prevailed as crowds of students, library workers, and other demonstrators, surrounded the library and held hands to protect it from the devastation and so "the library still stands today holding all of our stories."

This children's book is beautifully illustrated with collages by co-author Susan Roth.

A perfect story for National Library Week about the breadth and depth of love a society can have for its library.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Stella Louella's Runaway Book - by Lisa Campbell Ernst

In honor of National Library Week, which starts today, I read this book involving a library escapade. Stella Louella is afraid she will never be able to use the library again when she realizes that she has lost her library book. The hunt is on as she spends her Saturday tracking the book across town. One after another she meets people who picked it up and read it, and passed it on to someone else. By the end of the day she has dozens of people helping her to find the lost volume. The librarian has a surprise for her though when Stella Louella shows up at the library at closing time and comes clean that the book is nowhere to be found!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Quabbin: The Accidental Wilderness - by Thomas Conuel

In 1946 the Massachusetts towns of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott, along with six villages were flooded to create the Quabbin Resevoir in order to provide fresh water to Boston. The inhabitants of the towns were relocated, as were cemeteries and some buildings. 

Conuel's book tells some of the history of the towns and how the reservoir was created, and also tells of the beautiful wilderness that stands today with wildlife including bobcats and bald eagles. This slim work is rife with historic photographs providing a glimpse into the life of central Massachusetts at the turn of the 20th century as well as pictures of flora and fauna found at the Quabbin Resevoir. The book was first published in 1981, and I imagine that even since the 1990 revision I read climate change has brought about some additional transformations to the area.

One cannot write a book such as this without some assistance from archivists, historical societies, and librarians. Conuel found a gold-mine of information in Warren "Bud" Doubleday, a former resident of one of the flooded towns. He was referred to Doubleday by a librarian in New Salem. He also acknowledges Audrey Druckert, the official librarian of the historical society, an expert in wild plants and conservator of "a collection of close to a complete oral history of the valley before the reservoir was built as exists anywhere."

This book has been sitting on my shelf for a long time. I finally read it as part of Book Riot's 2017 Read Harder Challenge  which includes a call to "Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location" (among 23 others).

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Elephant Whisperer -by Lawrence Anthony

It was looking mightily like I would not be blogging here about Bridgewater's current One Book One Community read. This story of the author's affinity with a rogue herd of elephants who find their home in Anthony's South African game reserve in the early 2000s didn't have any libraries in it. However, just as the book was winding down (on page 366 of 368) Anthony explains how elephants' reputations for long memories is well deserved as older elephants teach young bulls
masculine etiquette as well as more practical matters of survival in the wild, such as where the best watering holes and the most succulent branches and berries are....An ageing elephant male is not something surplus to be dispatched by some meagre trophy-gatherer. He is a breathing reference library [emphasis mine]; he's there for the health and well-being of future elephants. He teaches the youngster who they really are and imparts priceless bush skills to succeeding generations.
And there you have it.

This was a popular choice for One Book One Community (OBOC) - a favorite of many committee members, and OBOC's fans have shown great enthusiasm for it. I wasn't crazy about it myself though. As much as the author loved animals, and was able to commune with them, he seemed unable to transfer that respect to his interactions with other humans, which I found rather off-putting.

Friday, March 31, 2017

I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This - by Jacqueline Woodson

This young adult novel tells the story of Marie who befriends the new white girl (Lena) at her predominantly black middle school. Lena confides to Marie that her (Lena's) father is sexually abusing her and Marie promises not to tell anyone Lena's secret. Their friendship is challenged on many fronts and Marie learns some difficult truths.

Marie's single father dates Rose, the town librarian (who doesn't actually appear in the book). However, the town library has a small role in this work as Lena's sister's (Dion's) "favorite place in the world. She actually had a temper tantrum if...picked up too early." The library is likely a safe place for the little girl who lives with a neglectful and abusive parent.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

El hijo - por Alejandro Palomas

I have blogged occasionally about children's books in Spanish, or bilingual English/Spanish books, but it has been a long time since I read a whole novel in Spanish. When I saw that the last name of the author of this award-winning book was "Palomas" I really had no choice but to read it. Paloma is the Spanish word for dove. It is also the name of my wonderful, artistic daughter.

This is the story of an enigmatic young boy, Guille, who lives with his father. His mother, a flight attendant, has been away for over a year. His only communication with her comes in the form of weekly letters. When Guille tells his teacher that he wants to be Mary Poppins when he grows up he is referred to a counselor, María, who helps him solve some mysteries he wasn't even aware of.

Regular readers know that it only takes one mention of the word "library" (or in the case of this book "biblioteca") to earn a post on this blog. Guille uses the map in his school library to find the distance between Pakistan (from whence his friend Nazia hails) and Dubai (where his mother is).

I learned some new Spanish vocabulary reading this: most notably ojeras (the bags under one's eyes); and mirilla (peephole).

This book is the winner of the Premio Joaquim Ruyra, and Spain's 2016 Premio Nacional de Literatura Infantil y Juvenil.

Paloma de Palabras

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Public Library and Other Stories - by Ali Smith

I brought this book with me to jury duty on Monday. I arrived about 20 minutes early, went through security, and was directed to wait on a bench. I sat down, opened the book for the first time, and by the time I was called in had read the first story. The rest of the small jury pool and I were led to another room to await further instructions. I was interested to see that most of my companions that morning had also brought something (mostly books) to read. The rest of the morning passed rather uneventfully. We watched a short orientation video, and occasionally a court officer would let us know what was happening with the day's docket, but mostly we were left to read in the blissful library-like quiet of the jury room. Eventually, at 11:00, we were informed that no juries would be needed that day and we could all go home. At that point I had read almost half the book. The next day snow storm Stella closed the University where I work and so I had a day to catch up with my blogging and reading. I finished Smith's book and started another.

The funny thing about this collection is that there is no one story in it actually called "Public Library". However, The stories alternate with pieces of memories, reminiscences, and histories of libraries elicited by the author from acquaintances and strangers alike.  The stories themselves rarely mention libraries. Word play, books as touchstone, and literary allusion are all, however, what make up the mood of this work. Reading this while sitting in silence with my discerning fellow jurors left me with a feeling of connection along with a sense of the energy we still get from books and reading, and knowing that libraries still matter.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Brave New World - by Aldous Huxley

A few weeks ago I read an article by Margaret Atwood explaining why we should all read Brave New World at which point I realized I had no choice but to look it up in the catalog of the library where I worked, find the call number, walk up the two flights of stairs to retrieve it, and check it out.

The brave new world described in the book is painted as a "utopia", but readers easily see it for the dystopia that it is. Humans are created, rather than born, each to a specific caste (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, or Epsilon) for which they are programmed to believe is better than the others. Everyone is happy with their lot, and regularly provided drugs and sex to keep them happy. Everyone also knows that "everyone belongs to everyone else". Worst of all books are censored.

 We learn early on that Deltas are conditioned to hate books. (Presumably this is true of Epsilons, and perhaps Gammas as well). This was because "you couldn't have lower-caste people wasting the Community's time over books, and that there was always the risk of their reading something which might undesirably decondition one of their reflexes". While not verboten for the upper-castes, books are still considered a waste because "you can't consume much if you sit still and read books." And even at Eton (where you can find the Alpha Double Pluses) the library "contains only books of reference. If...young people need distraction, they can get it at the feelies."

Ultimately we learn what is almost always true about those who would keep certain books from others - that those in charge have access to all of them. The censors believe that they alone can handle the information within. The masses simply cannot understand them, and those who might understand may be attracted to them, and then might not like the new things the controllers want them to like.

In the end the propaganda of the Brave New World isn't so new. The same rhetoric has been around for centuries, and still continues today.

Friday, March 10, 2017

La Doctora: An American Doctor in the Amazon - by Linnea Smith, M.D.

After a vacation to the Explorarama Lodge in Iquitos, Peru in 1990 Dr. Linnea Smith gave up her medical practice in Wisconsin to provide care for the people who lived in the Peruvian Amazon. Over an eight-year period her practice in Peru grew from a single exam room in the Lodge with some basic medicines to a multi-room hospital equipped for surgery. She also trained a local community member, Juvencio, to be her assistant. When she noticed the slowness with which Juvencio wrote up patient notes she was reminded that Juvencio's
formal education had extended only through the six grades of primary school, in the one-room, libraryless school down by the river. Since that time, ten years earlier, he written virtually nothing except, in rare intervals when he was employed, his signature on paychecks.
Nevertheless, Juvencio became quite skilled at practicing medicine
capable of examining a patient and reaching a diagnosis...prescribing and administering an appropriate medicine whether oral, intramuscular, or even intravenous, and explaining the necessary follow-up for 80-90 percent of ...cases...
Well, so much for the importance of libraries (or medical degrees, for that matter)!

Smith did bring with her to the Amazon what she called "a reference library in miniature" which consisted of a PDR (Physician's Desk Referenence)...;a small general medical reference; and a tiny looseleaf notebook in which [she] had accumulated ten years' worth of "pearls"...

This was a good read, with just enough of therapeutic drama to keep it interesting without being distressing.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mary Harman, Mary Hartman - the television show, Season one episodes 1-9

Back in the mid 1970s, two soap opera spoofs aired that pushed the limits of parody. Soap was a weekly, prime time show that my whole family enjoyed watching. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman really went a step further, a daily show that aired during a regular daytime drama slot. The show, however, was far from regular. The usual melodrama found on a soap was compounded and all sets, characters, and scripts were exaggerated. The title character, played by Louise Lasser, represented a suburban housewife in a blue collar family who, in addition to facing the usual stresses of marriage and raising a pre-teen daughter, also confronts the challenges of a mass murderer in the neighborhood, an exhibitionist grandfather, and a host of other problems.

The show is really quite sophisticated in its humor, and without a laugh track the audience is left on its own to figure out what is funny. Exaggerations and stereotypes comprise much of the farce. Re-watching the show now, four decades since it first aired, I commented to my husband that the sets look less like they were created in the '70s and more like they were created in the '90s to look like the '70s. That's quite a trick! Librarian stereotypes are, of course, some of my favorite things to write about, and this show managed to represent two different librarian clichés over two episodes. Episode five ends with our heroine receiving a phone call from a short, bespectacled, older, bun-headed, shusher-type (Iris Korn) informing her that the books she wanted had come in. She goes on to read the titles out loud, all of which fall along the lines of  'Your Orgasm and You', and other sexual self-help titles. The start of the following episode finds Mary arriving at the library to find a rather effeminate male librarian (Ken Olfson) behind the desk. She asks to speak to the "lady librarian" but is informed that she has left. While Mary pretends that the stack of martial aids that were set aside are not really for her, the librarian pretends that he simply cannot check them out to her since they were set aside for someone else. Ultimately Mary manages to wrest the books away from the library and bring them home, where they almost become another character in the story. Mary's husband Tom (Greg Mullavey) is embarrassed when a friend from work notices the books in the kitchen. Tom confronts Mary about them, and is incensed when she doesn't immediately return them from whence they came.

There is practically enough material here to write an entire Master's Degree thesis.

There are two more discs of episodes coming to my mailbox from Netflix. If there is any more drama about libraries or library books you will find out here.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Perfect Little World - by Kevin Wilson

Nine couples, all of whom are expecting their first child, as well as a single expectant mother, Izzy, are chosen by Dr. Preston Grind to be the guinea pigs for the Infinite Family Project. All ten infants are to be raised collectively in a communal living situation, with all 19 parents having equal responsibility for all of the children.

The people who comprise the Infinite Family Project are well aware that they live in a bubble. Bubbles, of course, are formed by tension, and those who live and work in the Infinite Family Project are no strangers to tension. The seemingly infinite number of interpersonal relationships are enough to begin with, add to that tensions around parenting issues when 19 parents are involved, and the inevitable sexual tensions, it is a wonder that the bubble doesn't pop sooner than it does.

Of course one cannot have a "perfect little world" without a library, and the Infinite Family Project does meet this specification. And, in fact, the Chattanooga Public Library plays a role in putting the Family together in the first place. It is where Dr. Grind's assistants meet and interview the Project's potential participants. There are childhood library memories woven into the story as well.

One of the benefits to joining the Infinite Family Project is that all participants receive full funding for educational tuition or job training. One member of the Family, Nikisha, opts to use this perk by getting a Master of Library Science degree from Middle Tennessee State University. Ultimately, she becomes the library director at Rhodes College.

Like the characters in Wilson's The Family Fang the members of the Infinite Family realize that they live in a surreal world, and are not quite sure how to contextualize it. Nevertheless, they manage to make the best of the situation, even when things turn out to be less than perfect.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

March (Books 1,2, &3) - by Lewis, Aydin, and Powell

Representative John Lewis won the National Book Award for Book Three in this series. I recommend reading all of them. This graphic novel series follows Lewis through his childhood on an Alabama farm and his struggle to become educated (even by defying his own family) to his civil rights work during the 1950s & 60s with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to the historic march with Martin Luther King, Jr., and hundreds of other protesters, from Montgomery, Alabama to Selma, Alabama in March of 1965. Later that year President Johnson would sign the Voting Rights Act ensuring access to the vote for African Americans from whom it had been denied.

Books 1 & 3 of the series make specific mention of libraries. Book One gives us the story of Lewis' childhood. He tells how he "loved going the library. It was the first time I ever saw Black magazines like Jet, Ebony, The Baltimore Afro-American, or the Chicago Defender". He gives shout out to librarian Careen Harvey who told her young charges "My Dear Children, Read. Read Everything."

Book 3 tells us that when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed that, among other things, "it ended segregation in public schools, libraries, and parks".

The poignancy of these two points in the story is magnified when one listens to Lewis' acceptance of the National Book Award.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

I'll Take You There - by Wally Lamb

Film professor Felix runs a club that screens classic movies in an old vaudeville theater. It is there that he meets the ghost of movie director Lois Weber. Weber informs Felix that he is being given a special opportunity to watch movies featuring his younger self, and that he would also be able to enter and be part of the films. Episodes focus on the summer before he (Felix) begins first grade when he and his older sisters are excited about helping their former babysitter win the Miss Rheingold title; and the year his twelve-year old self watched as his sister Frances (aka Fran) developed anorexia and a family secret was revealed.

There wasn't much about libraries in this one, but it doesn't take much to make the cut on my blog. I was optimistic at first that there would be some good library stuff when I read that Felix's daughter's boyfriend, Jason, was a New York University Special Collections librarian, but he barely makes any appearance in the work beyond the first mention early in the story. The Miss Rheingold contest is brought up in several contexts in the book, and one is that of a lonely newlywed bride,Verna, ripping an entry form from a magazine she reads at the New London public library (she "looked over at the desk to make sure the librarian was busy" first).Verna also found solace at the library during her long solitary days as the wife of a Merchant Marine. And on a final note about libraries, Felix's daughter, Aliza, writes an open blog post to her mother, Kat, and in something I will dub Gen Y-splaining, reminds her mother that young women in the 1950s had few career options. These included "mother, teacher, nurse, secretary, librarian, fashion model". Furthermore she says Aunt Fran (who eventually became a denist) didn't want to be any of those things. She probably just didn't realize how fun being a librarian could be. I imagine she saw the job as just stamping out books.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Hidden Figures - the movie

I don't often go to the theater to see a movie. I prefer to wait until they are available streaming or on DVD so I can watch them in my living room and enjoy reasonably priced snacks from my own kitchen and bathroom breaks whenever they are needed. Yesterday I made a rare exception and went to see Hidden Figures at the local cinema. This film based on the true story of African-American women who worked for NASA during the 1960s lives up to all the hype and was well worth the price of admission. I can also only assume that the racism and sexism we see in the film has a Hollywood sugar-coating and that it was much worse than what is portrayed in the film. 

One thing we don't see is any of the trailers for the film is a pivotal library scene. Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) is thrown out of the public library for daring to look for a book in the "white" section when she realizes what she needs is not available in the "colored" area. Once she is back on the bus with her two sons she pulls out a library book on Fortran from under her coat. When one of her sons asks if she "took" it Vaughn explains that she pays taxes like everyone else, and that you can't "take" what you already paid for. She uses the book to secretly learn to program the new room-sized IBM mainframe computer that has recently arrived at NASA that will surely put her and many of her denizens out of a job. By learning the computer language she not changes her own destiny, but that of dozens of other women, both black and white, who work for the space program. This episode is one of many in the film that reminds us that what is legal is not necessarily right, and what is illegal is not necessarily wrong. Powerful lessons that are still relevant today.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Girls - by Emma Cline

Emma Cline's debut novel follows the story of fourteen-year old Evie Boyd during the summer of 1969. She is adjusting to her parents' divorce, and getting ready to go away to boarding school in the fall. Eschewing her best friend Connie and suburban life, she is drawn to a group of seemingly carefree girls she sees in a park and eventually follows them to the ranch where they live with their cult-leader, Russell. The ranch is a thrilling and dangerous place that draws Evie in by degrees. The summer culminates in a Helter Skelter-esque massacre. The story bounces between the events of the summer, and reflections of Evie as an adult.

This one almost didn't make the cut for this blog. The lone mention of a library comes on page 297 (of 355). It is, however, exactly the kind of thing that makes me reflect on how we see libraries. Evie accepts a ride from a college student while hitchhiking back to the ranch. She invites him to stay and look around. The not-yet-a-high-school girl showing the naive college boy the ropes makes for an awkward juxtaposition. Evie is aware of the power she has in the situation and susses it out
Tom was clearly uncomfortable. I was sure he was used to college girls with part-time jobs and library cards and split ends. Helen and Donna and Suzanne were raw, a sour note coming off them...I didn't want to notice the hesitation in Tom, the shade of cower whenever Donna addressed him directly.
Evie's simplification that decent people have library cards and dangerous people don't on one level fits in with the stereotype of libraries as "good" places - a place we should support. However, it is also true that there are those who see the libraries as dangerous as well. Providing the masses with books and ideas can only lead to trouble.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

What if the Gilmore Girls were librarians?

This is all because of Logan. 

My husband (James) and I finished binge watching all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls over the weekend and started on the new retread. After watching the first episode -"Winter" - I said to James that if I were in charge of the new mini-series I would have had Logan have a complete change of heart, and be would be a social worker. Then I thought a bit more about it and said "no, better yet, a librarian". Then we started joking about what kind of librarian all the characters would be. From there it just got out of hand. So grab a cup of (fair-trade, organic) coffee (in a ceramic mug) and join me in a re-imagined Stars Hollow where everyone finds their true calling in library work. 

Lorelei  is the community program director of Stars Hollow Public Library (SHPL). As a single parent she is keenly aware "that it takes a village". Parents of young children are especially grateful for her free daytime programs where they can take a break from endless mind-numbing games of Candyland, and talk to some other adults. Her annual Banned Books Week display and reading is anticipated more than the town's annual Winter Carnival.

Rory is a research librarian at National Public Radio. She loves hobnobbing with the national personalities and really can't  tell you how much she wishes that the Organization would just stop taking donations from the Koch brothers. For goodness sake she'd rather take money from the Huntzberger Group!

Jess received the prestigious Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers fellowship from at the New York Public Library.

Luke and Dean are in charge of Library maintenance at SHPL. Dean is fantasy fodder for the bubble gum brigade at Stars Hollow Middle School (and that includes the gay captain of its football team - thank goodness it is finally safe to be out in Stars Hollow!) making the teen center at the library the place where all the cool kids go after school. Luke keeps the coffee maker in the break room filled and takes special joy in reminding patrons who are talking on their cell phones to "take it outside". He also gives cooking lessons at the library on Saturday afternoons. Reliable as ever, there is never a burnt out bulb in the stacks, or an un-shoveled walk after a snow.

Sookie found her passion in food research and got a job as a reference librarian at The Culinary Institute of America. She is royally peeved that the Institute's homepage does not include a direct link to the library, but will continue to fight the good fight on that front. She commutes to work from her home on Long Island, where Jackson maintains a lovely garden and runs an heirloom seed library.

Emily runs a homework helper volunteer program at the Nantucket Atheneum. She thinks some of the children must speak Portuguese, but can't be sure. She understands them anyway.

Lane and Zack finally extricated themselves from Mrs. Kim's control by moving the family to Cleveland to be curators at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They are currently creating a special exhibit of 70s rock star jumpsuits - an idea given to them by a 50-something librarian who thoroughly enjoyed her visit to the museum earlier this year.

Paris writes and maintains the pamphlet collection at Planned Parenthood. Her attention to detail and medical expertise assure that only the most current, accurate, and medically-based information is available at all times.

Doyle works as an archivist at the New York Times

Miss Patty and Babette maintain a Little Free Library adjacent to the town gazebo.

Logan is a systems librarian at Bunker Hill Community College. He had a spiritual reawakening and a realization that he was just a blond jackass after all after his last business deal was such a disaster it caused the lay off of over 1,000 workers. He had to take out a loan to pay for is Master's degree in Information and Library Science because even his father had had enough of his shenanigans. He is a better person for it though, and is glad to provide service with his signature smile.

Marty is the director at the Bunker Hill Community College library and Logan's boss (an irony not lost on Logan, believe you me). They both still carry a torch for Rory, but she is having none of it. Occasionally Marty and Logan will have a cry over some beers together.

In a twist that surprised even them, Kirk and Lulu became nudists and moved to to Kisamee, Florida where they work at the American Nudist Research Library.

April won the student worker of the year award at the MIT's Dewey library.

Michel and Caesar both volunteer two evenings a week at the New Haven Free Public Library. Michel teaches French for travelers and gets a truly perverse pleasure in telling Emily's former cronies from the DAR that he can't understand a thing they say. Caesar teaches English citizenship classes. Whenever one of his students passes the citizenship test he celebrates by making them his famous chilaquiles.

Taylor is archiving the town's historical documents. Every scrap of paper is sacred and must be cataloged, digitized and, preserved in acid-free archival boxes. He is all about acid-free now.

Richard left a colossal amount money to the Chilton prep school library. The will stipulated that they money be used to update the collections, and that the librarian had to be the highest paid member of the faculty and, of course, that the library be renamed in Rory's honor.

I understand that Paul also got a library job... now if I could just remember where?

A special thanks to James for being my Muse on this one, and for helping me to flesh out some of these ideas.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My Brave Book of Firsts

I found out about this book from "A Mighty Girl" on my Facebook feed. I was drawn to it for several reasons: first, it is a book about firsts - something my friend Jenny has made me realize are to be celebrated no matter what age you are; second, it is a "year of" book; third, and most importantly, it addresses the excitement of getting a first library card, and checking out a book for the first time. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - by Junot Díaz

To wrap up 2016 I re-visited an old favorite. I first read this about 10 years ago when I assigned it to students in my First Year Seminar. I had not read it since, although I did read Díaz's two other books Drown, and This is How You Lose Her. And I did have the chance to meet the author in the meantime - in fact I got to introduce him when he spoke at our campus in 2008! There is movement afoot to bring him back to Bridgewater so it seemed like a good time to re-read this novel.

Oscar de Leon (aka Oscar Wao) is a Domincan living in New Jersey He is also a big nerd. Fat and homely he does not fit in with the rest of the kids in his neighborhood, and not surprisingly, does not do so well with women. He does, however, love to read and spends a lot of time at the library.
Oscar had always been a young nerd - the kind of kid who read Tom Swift, who loved comic books and watched Ultraman - but by high school his commitment to the Genres had become absolute. Back when the rest of us were learning to play wallball and pitch quarters and drive our older brothers' cars and sneak dead soldiers from under our parents' eyes, he was gorging himself on a steady stream of Lovecraft, Wells, Burroughs, Howard, Alexander Herbert, Asimov, Bova, and Heinlein, and even the Old Ones who were already beginning to fade...(It was his good fortune that the libraries of Paterson were so underfunded that they still kept a lot of the previous generation's nerdery in circulation.)
 This may be the first time I've seen a lack of library resources referred to as a stroke of luck.

The narrator, Yunior, takes on Oscar as a bit of a project as a favor to Oscar's sister (Lola). They are college roommates and Yunior attempts to get Oscar to diet and exercise, and to act like more of a Domincano. Yunior mentions using the library a few times himself - once because he had nothing better to do, and once to hit on another student at his college library.

 The author makes heavy use of footnotes, which often provide historical context and are an important part of the story. They are not to be ignored and are written in the same engaging style as the rest of the book. I knew better than to skip them, and was rewarded with not only a better understanding of the story, but also it was where we learn that Lola ("a reader too") always supported her brother's sci-fi mania by "bringing him books from her own school, which had a better library."

The action in this book alternates between New Jersey and the Dominican Republic. There is a fair amount of Spanish language woven into the dialogue. Those who have heard or used Spanglish will recognize the natural use of the language in this work.

It was serendipitous that a friend posted this video on her Facebook page just as I was finishing this work. It explains why the Spanish words and phrases used in the novel are not italicized, but simply embedded into the rest of the text.