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The library will be closed July 9 to July 25 as we move to our new building. Visit us at 707 Vermont St. starting Saturday, July 26!

Staff Picks

Sleepreading

One of the great joys of parenting toddlers for me has been the newly acquired skill to perform basic human functions while half asleep.  Specifically, I’ve found much pleasure in recent years reading aloud to my kids, and silently to myself, in a state approaching unconsciousness.  Having never come close to mastering the art of lucid dreaming, which always sounded so fun, this may be as close as I will get to operating in the plane of the surreal (unless you count an ill-conceived game my 3-year old and I play sometimes called “Food Coloring and Shaving Cream”).  I find the benefits—strange connections between the text and various subconscious flights of my own weary, wandering mind—usually outweigh the drawbacks, which have included the replacement of P. D. Eastman’s deathless prose with my own inappropriate word salad.  My biggest complaint about reading half asleep is the simple inevitability of falling totally asleep within a few paragraphs or pages, and frequently forgetting most of what I’ve read.  But I figured there must be writing that lends itself to this mode of consumption, and after a brief quest for the perfect book to read in a half asleep state, I believe I’ve found it. Read More..

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” –Jorge Luis Borges

I walked into the Carnegie building that chilly spring morning as the newest employee of the Lawrence Public Library.  The library had moved to its temporary location and this all-staff gathering was an opportunity to meet as team and envision our library’s future.  The keynote speaker that day was Nancy Rosenwald who, having recently helped elevate her South Carolina library to Best Small Library in America, was there to share her expertise.  Rosenwald invited us to be “agents for change” in this profession of “vital and transformative work”.  She spoke of public libraries as “third places”, free grounds for social interaction that are not in the home or work sphere, where the magic of community can unfold.  “Foster the human connection,” she urged us, “love the children and get to yes!”

It was inspiring.  And it got me to thinking: Where would we be without our public library system?   Read More..

Listing Heavily

As the dust settles on our big RFID tagging project, I’m left, as usual, with a bunch of titles.  Like many a bookworm, I’ve kept lists of books for years: books to read, books I have read, books that balance really well on top of my head, etc.  It seems at times that the compulsion to make lists of books may be just as powerful as the one that leads us to rack up library fines or stay up later at night reading than is good for us.  During RFID week, we all pitched in to unshelve each item in the library, place an adhesive RFID tag on it, program each tag with the ability to communicate with our catalog, then reshelve it.  This assembly line was designed to function as quickly as possible, but also seemed custom-made to pollute my life with yet another list of books, since the time involved in handling each allowed only the briefest exposure, just long enough to notice, one after the other, the hundreds of titles passing through our hands.  When a book called The Un-Constipated Gourmet came to me, as I’m sure you would agree, I really had no choice but to start a new list.  Read More..

Three to Share

For some of us, the beauty of a book lies in the solitude, the way we dive into the pages and lose ourselves in the gentle current of others’ lives.  The world falls away, time is contained and dispersed through the whim and work of the author.  Left to revel in silence, the reader listens only to sound of the imagination.  For others, a book is something to be passed around, a currency of connection that can spawn ideas, spur inspiration.  A coffee table book, a novel read aloud to a lover, a family’s favorite bed time story: we crave these literary tangos much in the way we savor cooking together, sharing a good movie.  Lately I’ve taken to keeping a few interesting library books on my coffee table, ready to be recommended to family and friends. Today I’d like to share with you a few excellent shareables, all new to our library, and all relying on photography to tell their unique tale… Read More..

Around the World in 80 DVDs

As parents of small children, my wife and I were not surprised when our style of travelling changed.  Last summer’s trek to Salina, Kansas, for Aunt Clara’s 100th birthday party summed things up: Perfect travel moments like our Roman sunset on the Campidoglio had been replaced by a sightseeing tour through the hallways of an assisted living facility led by my 2-year old son, a connoisseur of the little ceramic dogs, cats, and Jayhawks occupants keep outside their doors.  La vie quotidienne, perhaps, but a perfect moment nonetheless (although it does help this grounded traveler to throw a little ornamental French in to describe it).  If, like us, the only foreign tongue you hear spoken these days are snippets of the exotic Gumballic family of languages, such as may be overheard on a transatlantic flight (seated next to a toddler attempting to chew 3 gumballs at the same time), the library has a number of great travel DVDs to remind you either how much fun you may have had in your glory days of international travel, or just how lucky you are to be safe on your couch with your kids tucked neatly in their own beds, instead of accompanying you on a 24-hour train ride to Ulan Bator. Read More..

Half Bad, All Good

Don’t get me wrong. I love Harry Potter, even though I came to it later than most. Good versus evil, witchcraft and wizardry, friendship and identity…J. K. Rowling delivers the whole package. And even though there will always be a special place in my heart for Hogwart’s, as a general rule, I tend to prefer my fiction (even my YA fiction) a little…darker. Which is no surprise, considering if I went to Hogwart’s, the sorting hat wouldn’t have to think twice about putting me in Slytherin.

It’s also not surprising that Half Bad, the first installment in a new young adult trilogy from Sally Green, was just to my taste. Read More..

Watergate: Not As Boring As You Thought?

No one has ever accused me of being a good businessman, or having great taste in movies, so it’s no surprise that a recent inspiration to locate a sufficiently boarded up movie theater, purchase it and inaugurate an annual Watergate Film Fest fell on uninterested, and possibly appalled, ears.  However, the response I received to this suggestion–that it was a good thing my work in a library limits me from doing too much damage in the so-called “real world”–may not actually have been correct.  To wit, the following is a list of movies recommended for anyone out there in the real world who may want to embark on personal Watergate Film Fests in their own homes. Read More..

Windfall

True story: last fall I looked out my window and saw a coyote lounging in the shade of an apple tree, contentedly eating apples off the ground—the proverbial free lunch, a literal windfall.

Two years previously, at The Land Institute’s Prairie Festival in Salina, writer Naomi Klein gave a talk called “The Message”—meaning, the message of climate change. Klein is the author of The Shock Doctrine, a powerful and important book with an ominous subtitle: “The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.” My notes from her talk emphasize her point that, contrary to appearances, the right wing completely understands climate change, and, especially, its effects. Read More..

Warhol: The Prince of Pop

From printmaking innovator to social and sexual instigator, Andy Warhol was nothing if not a groundbreaker.  “Popular opinion crowned Andy Warhol (1928-1987) as the ‘Prince of Pop’, an artist who created a pantheon of pictures that became icons of American consumer culture in the 1960’s.”  Thus begins Andy Warhol by Joseph D. Ketner II, a thoroughly enjoyable glimpse into the life of a renowned and unusual celebrity artist.  Raised in an immigrant, working class family during the Depression, Warhol rose through the echelons of New York art society to become one of the defining figures of the 60’s. “His eccentric personality and his entourage of acolytes captured media attention and altered the cult of celebrity.”  A compact, accessible book with a nice sampling of Warhol’s works, Andy Warhol is a great place to dive into this artist’s complex history.

The book is part of a series published by Phaidon Press called Phaidon Focus.  Phaidon lauds the series as offering “accessible, up-to-date, authoritative, enjoyable and thought-provoking books on internationally renowned modern masters.”  Other artists featured in the series include Warhol contemporary Robert Rauschenberg, abstract sculptor David Smith, and figurative painter Francis Bacon.  Phaidon itself has an interesting story as a publishing house that has focused on high quality, affordable books, especially art books, since its inception in 1923.  Founded in Austria with an emphasis on history, philosophy and literature, the press was forced to move to England when the Nazis annexed Austria during World War II.  Despite this setback, the press continued to thrive and expanded its operations to include a wider array titles focused on art and academia.  According to Phaidon’s website, the press now has “over 1,500 titles in print, featuring the finest creative work from leading innovators in all areas of the arts, architecture, design, photography, cinema, travel and food.”  Look for Georgia O’Keeffe, the latest in the Phaidon Focus Series, to be released in March.

If you’d like to peruse Warhol’s art instead of reading about his life, Andy Warhol Portraits, also published by Phaidon, boasts “the most comprehensive collection of Warhol’s portraits.”  It’s a wonderfully big, glossy book that showcases well-known figures such as Jackie Kennedy, Elvis Presley, and Truman Capote.  Possession Obsession: Andy Warhol and Collecting, another beautiful book by Phaidon, documents Warhol’s art acquisitions and displays items from his $30 million dollar estate. For a great in-depth movie on Warhol’s life, the library also carries PBS’s Andy Warhol: a documentary film.  And if you just can’t get enough, Warhol’s prolific legacy can be enjoyed at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, the largest museum in the United States to focus on a single artist. – Rachael Perry, Adult Services

That Repetitive Rodent

At least here in Lawrence, Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction this year for 6 more weeks of winter seems to have been on the money.  Not a Groundhog Day goes by without fond recollections of its namesake movie, a comedy which, due to the profundity of its central problem—a man doomed to repeat the same one day of his life until he gets it right—has arguably recast the meaning of the holiday itself.  Just a month past New Year’s Day and its resolutions, Groundhog Day, as symbolized by Bill Murray’s struggle to break free of banality, is a day to reflect on how difficult it can be to change.  It’s another testament to the movie that, for all its lightheartedness, the title itself has become shorthand for bad habits and repetitive situations.

Read More..