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..
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..
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..
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.
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..
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..
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 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..
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..
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..