This is a sign that I saw posted in the ladies’ room of the library where I was having a meeting earlier today. –The ladies’ room, folks. Honestly, I’m not sure I want to know that story…
Tag Archives: LIbraries
Time for a shameless plug:
We just dropped our son off at college this week, and you know what I’m the most envious about? That he’s going to school in Boston, which gives him access to the Boston Public Library! He’s our third child in college, and they’re all good readers, but even so I’ve encouraged all of them to visit their town’s public library and apply for a free card. Public library collections are very different from college library collections, since the colleges need to cater to a specific audience – namely the professors and students, focusing their collection on materials that can supplement coursework. Years ago I worked at a small public library in Durham, home to the University of New Hampshire, and one day two young ladies walked in, obviously new students at the school. They looked around the small magazine reading area, taking the entire library in in a few glances. Back then the library (now in it’s own gorgeous building) rented space in a storefront of a strip mall and the staff did their best with the tiny, odd space. We had a magazine reading area, children’s area, public computers and a small staff area in the back of the storefront. Usually we’d get visitors who would look around and then compare it to the big, beautiful library in their home town or places they went on vacation. But these two girls looked around, sighed, and one said to the other, “Oh, yeah. That’s more like home.” Our tiny library was familiar to them, a haven of normalcy in their big, unfamiliar college territory.
What’s in your wallet?
Last week many in libraryland celebrated National Library Week, so, basking in the afterglow, I thought I’d take an entry to give a nod to our libraries. The theme this year was #LibrariesTransform and patrons and staff alike were encouraged to use the hashtag on social media when commenting about how libraries transform individuals and communities. We had a banner week – kicked off by our municipal budget being approved during the Town Vote – which really demonstrates that we must be doing something right. (Whew!)
I’ve always believed that in order for someone to really understand the value of a library in a community, they have to experience an “Ah – ha” moment. A patron has to connect with the right book or service that meets their needs at the right time; making the value of the library very personal.
My hometown in New Jersey didn’t have a library, and though I was a voracious reader — and writer, eventually receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Playwriting from New York University — my “Ah ha” moment came much later. We had just moved to Indiana where my husband was getting his PhD, and I wandered into the public library with two small children. As a kid I hadn’t been familiar with the public library, I pretty much lived in the school library during the year, and we didn’t have many books at home. My mother (who, ironically was a pediatrician – nowadays pediatricians partner with librarians and educators about developing language and vocabulary through parents reading aloud to children) thought reading was a frivolous activity that would only contribute to our already poor eyesight deteriorating worse. If I desperately needed research material for a school paper (and our set of Encyclopedia Britannica couldn’t resolve it) Dad would drive me to the Shrewsbury or to the Freehold Public Libraries twenty minutes away…with their threateningly tall floor to ceiling shelves, 1970’s boxy architecture and shushing librarians (another fun fact: my current library’s addition is one of those 1970’s boxy structures, so it was oddly familiar to me from my first visit). So visiting the main library in South Bend was a real eye-opener. The room –imagine, a room dedicated to children’s books!– temporary as it was, since they were renovating the actual Children’s Room – was bright and spacious. The shelving was low. My kids surveyed the landscape like natives, immediately at home.
When I mentioned to the librarian that I was struggling with toilet training our oldest, the librarian offered me a canvas bag of stuff – books, an audio cassette/book combo and a VHS tape – something from their themed bag collection that they had for parents and teachers, and this one was all about toilet training. Ever skeptical, I checked out the bag and shared it with our oldest, and, as it goes during “Ah ha” moments, Something happened. A patron was matched with exactly the right item at exactly the right time. Adelia sat with her dad and I, reading Alona Frankel’s classic Once Upon A Potty. Then we tried the VHS tape, depicting an different animated potty story. Something clicked with our daughter. We started to talk about Prudence (the character in the book) and her struggles with waiting and sitting (and sit and sit and sit and sit) on the potty, and Adelia somehow, as a 3 year old, identified with Prudence. She saw a character in a book mirroring and validating her experience, and she saw this character endure and overcome. It was amazing. This bag of stuff from the library – that I had been so skeptical about – had been the very thing that our family needed to get through this crisis. It was the Ah-ha moment that made me a believer in the value of libraries to transform lives.
During April, I’m participating in The A to Z Blogging Challenging, blogging 26 days of the month on writing topics while systematically moving through the alphabet. The goal is to develop a more regular blogging habit and network with other bloggers. Join us!
Happy Interweb rabbit trails brought me to Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help. Palmer is a performer, musician, blogger, crowd funder and –how she crossed my path — wife to author Neil Gaiman. Shallow, I know, but that’s kind of the only introduction I needed.
I’m glad I caved to my shallow fan-girling, because Palmer rocks. She gets it. If you’re seeking truth talking and unveiling and creating art in a busy life and creating real connections in this bizarre Interwebby world, Palmer has much fantastic stuff to say that is worthy of pause to hear. The Art of Asking is an expansion of her TED Talk from 2013, when she describes a series of incidents – starting with her post-college gig as a living statue to the controversial act of crowd sourcing her albums – that led her to the epiphany of transforming the act of asking from a mindset of guilty begging to the realization that asking is a fair exchange of money for goods – goods that can include music or performance, but in reality, deep at its core, for connection and help. Artists need to realize that their art is a valuable commodity that fills a void in the audience or consumer and becomes the bridge across which people connect.
“My music career has been trying to encounter people on the Internet in the way I could [as a living statue] on the box…I think when we really see each other, we want to help each other. I think people have been obsessed with the wrong question which is how do we make people pay for your music. What if we started asking, How do we let people pay for music?”
Palmer’s words really resonated with me. It reminded me of a camping trip we went on a few years ago with my brother and his family, during which my sister-in-law provided all of the food and then asked for reimbursement (which would have been much less awkward if these arrangements had been made prior to the trip, but she had declined my help when I had initially asked, so there’s one Ask) so I remembered thinking that the only thing my husband and I had contributed was entertainment. Music and stories around a campfire…oh, and laughs. Lots of laughs. This was a stressful trip (granted, the stress was unneccessarily fabricated IMHO because my SIL could have asked for help with everything) and we provided much needed relief. But we didn’t ask for reimbursement for that because when you witness the connection happening you’re realizing the payment is in joy. That’s valuable. So there’s the second “Ask”.
I think a lot about “The Ask” because I work in a library. I have several circles of influence where I perform The Ask that includes various boards, volunteers, and staff but ultimately my local taxpayers and in order to do The Ask (for help, for funds) I need to believe in the value of the library and our services and I do, so The Ask really has become more of an invitation rather than a hand out. (imaginary high five with Palmer!) Secondarily, I think a lot about The Ask because I’m a writer. While I’m not asking for funding just yet, I am asking for time and that’s just as valuable a commodity at this point. Sometimes it’s asking myself for time and sometimes it’s asking my family for quiet space, but it’s still a need to see value in creating, in an intangible or unconventional commodity. An artist developing a value of their own art is crucial to be confident enough in the art to share it with the world.
Read more about Amanda Palmer on her blog.
I’ve been dying to try making one of these Altered Book Trees since a colleague made them two years ago to decorate the library and I finally cleared my schedule, gathered my supplies and muddled through some directions I found online. Most of these were in video form, and sometimes I honestly don’t have the patience to sit through a video and I’d much rather get to the making, so I decided to make my own tutorial here…With simple pictures and written steps so you can get to your making too! It’s so easy my 8 year old made one for her grandma with very little supervision from me so I could work on my tree, too.
First – Get paperback books that you do not mind ripping apart.*(if you are very offended by this, stop immediately, and skip down to the bottom for my
Note On The Guilt of Tearing Apart a Perfectly Good Book!)
Second – Tear off cover. Discard or save if you’ve got a craft to use it, but I don’t so into the recycle bin it went.
Third – Count out 200 pages and cut these apart from the rest of the book.
We tried this with 150 pages also but the 200 page tree curled nicely into itself to create a “fuller” tree. Use a craft knife, pocket knife or do what we did and go with what’s lying around, like a dull knife to a wine bottle opener.
Fourth – Fold pages – do this in 3 steps. It’s just like folding a paper airplane, folks. The bottom corner can be folded toward the front of the book or toward the back. Put on a movie and off you go!
Continue folding until all 200 pages are done. The book will naturally curl into a cone.
Fifth – Affix tree to a pedestal –
I found short candlesticks ($1 each at the Goodwill) were perfect and elevated the entire craft literally and figuratively! I used epoxy to affix a cardboard circle (hey, there’s a use for the paperback cover!) to the bottom of the tree to stabilize the folds and create a balanced, wide surface to attach the tree to the candlestick.
Sixth – Decorate! We experimented with ribbons and feathers and glitter…You may need to let go of your control so you can enjoy lots of controlled mess. It’s amazing what you find you’ve collected in your craft stores when you dig.**
(Glitter: I watered down some basic Elmer’s school glue because that’s what I had on hand, had my daughter apply it with a sponge brush -also retrieved from my craft stash- and then we stepped out on the back deck and liberally and generously shook glitter on it over the railing into the snow.)
Finish off with a topper. Another peek at my junk drawer produced an iridescent tie tack that perfectly matched the iridescent glitter I had used; after taking down the tree this year, Viv found this darling wooden snowflake in the needles which I grabbed from the dustpan. Perfect!
*A Note On The Guilt of Tearing Apart a Perfectly Good Book: Plain and simple, I don’t feel it. I chose books that I wouldn’t read, nor would I experience an unholy joy in defacing. It was all detached business. I looked for a certain size, without page tears, mold or dampness. After years of working in a library, the book novelty thing wears off – it has to – or you’d never be successful managing a collection. Weeding happens. Books get damaged. Books go unpurchased and unread. If you don’t believe me, or agree, then that is your choice, but I caution you two things: Beware a future post upscaling a book into a wreath, and two, Next time we have a book sale, I should take pictures of the boxes of unsold books that fill a truck and are hauled off to book heaven, and then your guilt would immediately evaporate. Repurpose an unwanted book for a new life of beauty and adoration. Really. There’s plenty of books that can be upscaled.
**I took my time decorating because I really wanted these trees to be special. I tested several ribbons by pinning a straight pin through the top and paper clipping the bottom of the ribbon in various ways before finally settling on something that clicked. Then I used superglue because all of my bottles of Aleene’s craft glue had dried out…and I wanted to get to the making!
I am a former bookmobile librarian; that’s me on the right, at a Bookmobile Conference in Ohio with my colleague Adrienne years ago. We’ve each since moved on to other kinds of work, but mobile libraries remain close to my heart. Check out this article from The Guardian that gives a glimpse of Alex Johnson’s new book Improbable Libraries showcasing some amazing mobile libraries that bring books and media to remote places in the world.
Actually, this is the Vasconcelos Library in Mexico City. “The bookshelves are suspended from the ceiling(!), with frosted glass and concrete catwalks connecting them.” For more amazing pictures real the full article from Book Riot.