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..
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..
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.
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..
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..