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Dictating History

The stereotypical 20th century office secretary—taker of dictation, orderer of flowers for the boss’s wife, getter of coffee—was a silent participant in whatever glory or tragedy befell her employers.  Such secretaries rarely found themselves subjects of historical interest, except perhaps in studies of the marginalization of women in the workplace, and characters like Mad Men’s Peggy Olson have portrayed the heartbreaking limitations of the job with an empowered twist hopefully more reflective of today’s female labor force.  But in two of the best movies I’ve seen recently, real life secretaries quietly performing their duties became involved in the most momentous historic events of the last century. Read More..

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Like, Try, Why: Stephen King Edition

Stephen King has not only a huge following, but an impressive and diverse body of work. For those looking for a creepy or scary tale this Halloween, he’s a favorite author. If you’re looking to branch out into some other novels that have that Stephen King feel, he have some suggestions. Find these titles in the catalog. Read More..

Halloween Reads: Horrorstör

If you ventured to Merriam to see its nascent IKEA store, you’ve gotten a taste of furnishing-rabid hordes and the mega-store’s beguiling floor plans. Perhaps you felt grasped by the need for a low-price ARKELSTORP or POÄNG. I was convinced to brave the lines to see this phenomenon, and from my visit I concluded two things: one, IKEA is pretty creepy; and two, I can’t afford to not upgrade with a new set of ÅFJÄRDEN. Read More..

Like, Try, Why: Murakami Edition

Haruki Murakami has quite the cult following, and fans are getting a double dose of him this year. The recently released Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage will be followed up in December by The Strange Library, which sounds particularly interesting. For his avid fans looking to branch out into other works, here are some suggestions based on why readers are drawn to his various works. You also can find these titles listed in the catalog. Read More..

Down with the OED (Yeah, You Know Me)

It takes a certain kind of nerd to want to read the dictionary, and there’s even a name for it: logophile, or lover of words. I’m always been interested in obscure words and how definitions of certain words have changed over time. I was the kind of kid who read the dictionary for fun. Really.

I’m not quite ambitious enough to undertake reading the entire Oxford English Dictionary, but I was intrigued enough by the idea to read Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages by Ammon Shea. In 26 chapters, Shea shares his experience reading every single word in the dictionary and documents the amusing words he discovers during the process. It was an interesting and entertaining read.

About the time I finished, my friend, an acquisitions editor at Oxford University Press, said she got an email at work asking for suggestions on words to add to the OED as well as nominations for word of the year (last year’s was selfie) and asked for ideas. While I couldn’t think of a word I thought warranted such an honor, it did get me thinking about how a word enters a dictionary, as well as how early dictionaries were compiled. Turns out, it’s quite a tale, and is documented in The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester.  Read More..

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J.P. Dinsmoor’s Self-Made World

What inspires the artist to create?  Is it borne of a deep connection with the instrument or medium?  Is it a need to connect one’s inner life with the outer world?  Is making art about influencing change or creating beauty or making peace?  As this process of creation is unique to each of us, the possibilities are endless.  Self-Made Worlds: Visionary Folk Art Environments offers a glimpse into the world of artists whose works “challenge long-standing ideas about what art is and what it can be.”  These artists, often self-taught, tend to focus on spiritual and mystical themes and have sometimes been categorized as outsider, visionary, or folk artists.

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The World of Tomorrow

2014 marks the double anniversary for the World’s Fairs that were held in New York City. The 1939 fair opened seventy-five years ago and the 1964 fair opened fifty years ago. The World of Tomorrow: The 1939 World’s Fair, by Larry Zim, Mel Lerner and Herbert Rolfes gives the reader a chance to relive the excitement of an event most of us did not have the opportunity to experience firsthand. Read More..

The Long Goodnight of Margaret Wise Brown

Nearly 20 years ago, Roberta Brown Rauch retrieved from her attic what editor Amy Gary describes as “the treasure of a lifetime”: a trunk crammed with manuscripts typewritten on onionskin paper and bound together with countless, rusty paperclips.  Rauch had become their owner when her sister, Margaret Wise Brown, died in 1952. Twelve were published for the first time earlier this year  in a beautiful new bedtime book, Goodnight Songs.  A dozen of today’s top children’s book artists, including Jonathan Bean, Eric Puybaret, and Dan Yaccarino, illustrate the rhymes, and a CD of musical adaptations accompanies them. Read More..

Strangers in a Strange Land

Things have changed a lot around here, if you haven’t noticed. With instant RFID check-out stations, solar tubes, and a huge automated check-in machine, the newest incarnation of your Lawrence Public Library might seem more like a spacecraft than a book repository. It looks like it could lift off for a cosmic voyage. Read More..

Adventures in Extreme Reading

Author Phyllis Rose wants to take you on a literary experiment like none other.  The Shelf: From LEQ to LES opens in the stacks of the New York Society Library, where Rose has taken it upon herself to read across a single shelf of fiction in order to learn about a variety of novels in a completely arbitrary way.  “Usually we choose our reading from a preselected list of books, compiled by reviewers, award panels, librarians, teachers, and professors,” Rose explains.  “What about all those books that are never read at all, never even considered?  Let me, I thought, if only for a change, choose my reading almost blindly.  Who knows what I will find?”   Read More..