Archive for the ‘Staff Blog’ Category

Libraries on the Edge….

Posted on: December 11th, 2014 by Dan Weiss

If you really want to ponder the value of libraries these days – to communities, to citizens and to society in general, consider the Ferguson (MO) Public Library. Their response during recent events there speaks volumes for libraries and civilizations, and provides lessons for all of us on so many levels.

We’ve all been following the events happening in Ferguson since August, when a police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teen.

When the beginning of the school year was put on hold there because of obvious safety concerns, Ferguson Public Library Director Scott Bonner worked with teachers and a host of volunteers to offer math, science, and arts activities for school aged children at the library.

The effort, which helped hundreds of kids, was expanded to other libraries and locations and was aided by local organizations who offered everything from free lunches to additional cultural programming. Library Journal provided some good coverage.

The library, located on the edge of where protests were occurring, was able to safely stay open every day. Not only was it a place for students to go, but anyone in the community seeking respite from the turmoil outside. Signs were posted around the building that read, “During difficult times, the library is a quiet oasis where we can catch our breath, learn, and think about what to do next.”

What a powerful message for us to all to remember.

The events in Ferguson have sparked heated debates on a national level, and St. Louis has a lot of healing and work to do, but one thing we can all agree on is that when a community is in crisis, libraries on the edge have the opportunity, and perhaps even a duty, to respond appropriately and to be a sanctuary — a “quiet oasis” — for all.

There’s been lots of coverage of the Ferguson Public Library — far more than most libraries ever get, especially ones of this size.

In Salon
Library Director Scott Bonner’s AMA (Ask Me Anything) postings on reddit (well worth a look) and so is one author’s response to all of this.

and donations to the library have topped $300k in a week!

In so many ways, even though the Ferguson Public Library’s actions have been exemplary, what they’ve done and continue to do is very much what most libraries do all the time, every day, for the communities they serve — in times of crisis and in ordinary times too — just without as much fanfare.

Thanks to Megan McCarthy, editor of the New Jersey Library Assoc. Newsletter for some of the above.

Are you listening to Serial?

Posted on: November 24th, 2014 by Nancy Kipping

The hot new podcast from the people at This American Life?

It’s Baltimore, 1999. Hae Min Lee, a popular high-school senior, disappears after school one day. Six weeks later detectives arrest her classmate and ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, for her murder. He says he’s innocent – though he can’t exactly remember what he was doing on that January afternoon. But someone can. A classmate at Woodlawn High School says she knows where Adnan was. The trouble is, she’s nowhere to be found.

Told in weekly installments, the episodes analyze Adnan Syed’s murder conviction. Did he do it or is he innocent? That is what we are trying to discover in each episode. New information is coming in about what maybe didn’t happen on January 13, 1999. And while Adnand’s memory of that day is foggy at best, he does remember what happened next: being questioned, being arrested and, a little more than a year later, being sentenced to life in prison. Serial is a podcast designed to be listened to in order. If you’re just discovering the series, be sure to start with Episode 1.

There have been articles about this podcast all over the place. Entertainment Weekly has it on their must list. The New York Times says it is a ‘break-out hit”!

And even the Atlantic has weighed in.

I am definitely hooked as are other members of the library staff. We wondered what books would be like The Serial and here is what we found:

Iphigenia in Forest Hills: Anatomy of a murder trial by Janet Malcolm. Also check out her 1990 book, The Journalist and the Murderer about the 1970 Jeffrey McDonald case (which declares it “unsolvable”, which was also explored in two other nonfiction books: Joe McGinniss’ Fatal Vision that declared MacDonald “a narcissistic sociopath,” and Errol Morris’ A Wilderness of Error that argues MacDonald was innocent.

In cold blood: A true account of a multiple murder and its consequences by Capote, Truman

Alias Grace (1996) by Atwood, Margaret

and to listen and subscribe to the podcast you can go to:

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage and more…

Posted on: November 12th, 2014 by Dan Weiss

I don’t purport to be an expert in Japanese fiction, but it has been an ongoing interest of mine since I first stumbled across Yukio Mishima’s powerful short story, “Patriotism” when I was in high school. His Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea is another of his great offerings. When I went back to school at tender age of 38 to finish my bachelor’s degree, on my way to becoming a librarian, I took an excellent class called “The Modern Japanese Novel and the West” which expanded and cemented my interest and appreciation of the literature of Japan. It further explored the tension between the traditional and the pull of the the west and what Japan was becoming in the post-war era. It was a great course and and great teacher, (Professor Janet A. Walker), and a wonderful reading list that included: Tanizaki Jun’ichirō’s “The Tattoo” and “The Makioka Sisters”; Kōbō Abe’s mysterious “The Woman in the Dunes”; Natsume Soseki’s “Kokoro”; Kawabata Yasunari’s “The Sound of the Mountain”; Kojima Nobuo’s “The American School” and many more.

I haven’t read much of that recently, so when I picked up the new Haruki Murakami novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, I was blown away. There has been plenty written about it all over the web and in every major (and minor) book reviewing source – check out the great Patti Smith’s terrific review from the August 5, 2014 New York Times – but here’s my 2 cents.

There is something amazingly compelling Murakami’s unique tone, a kind of ‘quietness’, a contemplative interior world played out in short direct sentences. The plot pulls you along but it’s the underlying imagery, the colors (and colorlessness), and a uniquely Japanese flavor that makes it such a compelling and powerful book. It’s about loss and love and friendship and dreams and death… and trains… and food….

and music too…. there’s an ongoing theme that references Franz Liszt’s “Le mal du pays” Years of Pilgrimage (Années de pèlerinage in the original French) as played the Russian pianist Lazar Berman. The piece is a set of three suites for solo piano and this is the First Year: Switzerland, published in 1855.

Take a listen – it evokes the same solitary, quietness as the novel. Liszt himself wrote in the introduction to the suite that the history, poetry and nature of the places he saw when he traveled, “stirred deep emotions in (his) soul, and that between us a vague but immediate relationship had established itself, an undefined but real rapport, an inexplicable but undeniable communication,” not unlike the connections between characters that Murakami weaves so skillfully. Like just the right wine that pairs with and enhances a meal, it’s the perfect compliment to the tale of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki.

Highly recommended!