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In the Spotlight

The Five Coolest Things I’ve Found on a Lawrence Curb

Last winter, before my mom moved out of the house she’d lived in for the past 40 years, my sister and I found ourselves in her basement opening a box on which someone had scrawled “CREEPY DOLLS.”  They weren’t lying.

Over the course of several long afternoons we opened many more boxes.  What a waste!  All these useful doilies, lapel pins, letter openers, broken pairs of glasses, magazines saved for unspecified reasons, and pewter pitchers had been down here all these years without us ever knowing it.

We found the weird (a broken gold tooth), the humorous (my grocer grandpa’s copy of Profitable Meat Cutting and a manual on packaging iceberg lettuce), the scandalous (a program from a Sally Rand fan dance show), and the heartbreaking (wedding dresses and commemorative plaques, of such moment to their former owners, which now no one argued to keep).

We found more than one set of silver plated flatware, which had signified to my great-grandparents, most of whom were born in other countries, that they had become somebody in America.  A few generations later and my sister and I didn’t even have room for their stuff in our own homes.

lettuce

Veteran radio and tv broadcaster Alison Stewart chronicles, in amusing detail, our national struggle to come to terms with our possessions in Junk: Digging through America’s Love Affair with Stuff, a book which begins with Stewart’s experience of clearing out her own parents’ basement.  Overwhelmed, she realizes that letting go of such an accumulation requires passage through each stage of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s famous grief model, and sums up the experience with an invocation of comedian George Carlin’s classic stand-up routine “A Place for My Stuff,” in which he concludes that “a house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it.” Read More..

Dreaming the Beatles

Rob Sheffield, a music columnist with twenty years experience who currently writes for Rolling Stone magazine has recently released a new book: Dreaming the Beatles. Roughly ten years ago, I read Sheffield’s first book, Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time, a heart wrenching autobiographical memoir concerning his late wife and their shared passion for music via the art of the mix tape.

And in 2016, Sheffield produced another emotional collection, On Bowie, a homage to David Bowie’s legacy as told through fan’s memories, as well as his own. It was a read that left me as gutted as Bowie’s final album, Blackstar, due to the artist’s passing months prior. Now, if there is one thing that Rob Sheffield excels at, it’s portraying the visceral connection between music fans and the musicians they admire, so when I picked up Dreaming the Beatles I knew it was my ticket to ride. Read More..

Finding Pride in the Stacks

“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel…is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

For me, the public library has always been place of possibility and self-discovery.  As a gay youth growing up in a small, predominantly Christian and conservative community, I didn’t feel comfortable accepting my true self, let alone trying to relate to others about it. Huddled in the stacks reading, it was in the books on the shelves of my local library that I first discovered I wasn’t alone, that other people felt the same as I did and had experienced similar journeys.pridebooks1 Read More..

Short Story Mixtape

I remember sitting on the mauve carpet of my bedroom in front of my boombox, patiently waiting  with one finger poised above the tape deck’s red RECORD button. As soon as the radio DJ finished their boring spiel and “my song” came on, I jammed that sucker down and silently congratulated myself on yet another score for my mixtape.

I was in fifth grade and this tape was a very big deal. iTunes wasn’t going to be a thing for several more years, our shared home computer probably just barely had a CD drive, and anyway that was my dad’s realm. All I needed were the sweet, sweet jams on Y-98 FM.

While I sorta wish I could find some of those old tapes for the nostalgia factor, I also know that they were very time-specific. Listening to a tape of my hard-earned “jams” would probably give me that embarrassed-for-someone-else feeling and ruin the memory. (Also true for CDs I made in high school and college… some things should just live in your head.)

To me, the importance lies in both the right-now-ness as well as the process of creating a collection of faves – whether on tape, CD, iPod, or Spotify playlist. It makes me wish it were possible to make a “mix” of other forms of media, and what I’d really love to have is a short story mixtape – a personal anthology of the short stories that spoke to me at a particular point in my life. Read More..

Whoa, We’re Halfway There: Squad Goals Progress Post

If you’ve stopped by LPL in the past few months, you may have noticed that the Book Squad has set up monthly rotating displays featuring potential reads for the Squad Goals Reading Challenge, our inaugural reading challenge featuring a baker’s dozen of prompts designed to help you find great new books.

We announced the Squad Goals Challenge on the Spotlight Blog last December, and I wrote about what I planned to read then. Since 2017 is almost halfway gone (eek!) and Summer Reading is upon us, I wanted to check in and update you all on how my personal Squad Goals Challenge is going.

Spoiler alert: It’s been a mixed bag so far. Read More..

All the News That’s Fit to Print, and Then Some

The New York Times. The “paper of record” (well, not really, but commonly perceived as such). “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” The gold standard for crossword puzzle enthusiasts. (Source of the lion’s share of my information about national and global current events: If you spend any time talking with me all, at some point you’ll almost undoubtedly hear me say, “So, I read an article in The New York Times…”)

I’ve been an avid reader of the Times for several years now, and so I was thrilled when it came to pass that we would be offering our patrons unlimited digital access to this venerable news source; (Fear not, paper lovers: We also continue to receive the print edition daily). Read More..

Summer Beach Reads 2017

Last year, we put together a list of some of our most anticipated summer releases to enjoy whether you’re vacationing in the Caribbean or in your own living room. This year, we have even more unconventional beach reads that will transport you to exotic locales and will introduce you to interesting new characters. All you’ll need is a library card, and your adventure awaits.  Read More..

Local Author Reimagines a Classic with New Novel

While taking literature classes through high school, many of us had to read canon staples from the likes of Dickens and Steinbeck, despite how jarring it can seem to approach something like Great Expectations when you’re fourteen years old. Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights— a title which my friends keep telling me to pronounce differently, for some reason— is one such classic. Read More..

Vegan Crash Course

Deciding to eat a vegan diet is a lifestyle change that many people struggle with. It is often perceived to be “inconvenient” or somehow “unsatisfying,” and it does not need to be. Arguably, it is far more inconvenient for the animals, the planet, and your health than it is for you to make some lifestyle adjustments.

While the negative health aspects and animal cruelty arguments don’t give everyone pause, many people are rallying behind veganism because of their newfound understanding of the environmental impact that the factory farming of animals has on our environment. Factory farming accounts for 37% of methane emissions, which has more than 20 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide (CO2).

When you consider the millions of acres of deforestation that is happening to make room for more cattle to graze, and the fact that industrial agriculture sucks up 70% of all freshwater on the planet, it quickly becomes obvious that we all need to do our part to reduce the negative impact our lifestyles have on this planet. Read More..

Infinite, Unfathomable, Nonstop

Once upon a time, I stumbled across a quiz that asked, “Where You At?” Despite, or perhaps because of, its sloppy grammar, the question has stayed with me. My interest in natural and cultural history, and even my fascination with infrastructure, surely dates to this time, as evidenced by the real estate that writers like Henry Thoreau, Wallace Stegner, and Barry Lopez occupy on my bookshelves. Read More..