cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “libraries”

A Librarian/Teacher View on #metoo


Image: Etsy.com (vintage book cover)


Although I am a bonafide English teacher, I remain a librarian at heart and keep an invested interest in matters of school and public libraries. This month’s School Library Journal ran an article on how the #metoo movement has affected the juvenile literature world with the news of authors Jay Asher, James Dashner, and Sherman Alexie’s admissions and accusations. One result of these disclosures is for many librarians to contemplate whether the books of these authors should be pulled from shelves. Bill Cosby’s Little Bill picture book series is part of this conversation.

Banning, censoring–controversial terms that create a myriad of reactions. When books or the authors of books come into question, often the reaction is to pull, box up, and cleanse in the name of protecting young minds and upholding values. This is can become problematic.

At the public library level the response I usually observed was to ride the tide–if patrons objected to the material they had the option of not checking it out. Simple and neat. As one librarian noted: considering Hitler’s atrocities against humans should Mein Kampf remain on the shelf? If you don’t want to read hi as book, then don’t.

Somehow this philosophy of ignore and move on changes when it comes to material found on school library shelves. Social commentary and opinion frequently challenge books based on content, as To Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn, Fahrenheit 451 and other novels fall under scrutiny depending on public mood and cultural times. Yet, this new round of challenging is based on the behavior and actions of the authors, not the content of their books. Their objectionable behavior is in question, as rightly it should be, especially in these times of sensitivity upon the rights of individuals. Young readers aren’t necessarily going to be politically minded when they go to select a book to read. But their parents often are. 

I find it interesting that distance tends to soften outrage. Charles Dickens led two lives, all the while perpetuating Victorian values of domestic happiness, yet we embrace his books and promote them in our literature courses. Oscar Wilde was jailed for his preferences, and his books are not abandoned. Ernest Hemingway, well-known for his womanizing, is still part of the recommended literary canon. 

For me, as a teacher with a librarian’s directives, who is also a writer, I am reflecting on the responsibility I have as I recommend books to my students and as I write them. The #metoo movement, as it drifts over to the literary world, is certainly setting up a new awareness of the impact of words. 

What are reader thoughts on pulling books from shelves in light of the conduct of the authors?

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Reading Round up: February


February briefly held the promise of winter ending and spring arriving. I even had grass in the backyard. Lilac buds. I felt victorious.

Twelve inches of snow later, winter is rebooted. Pardon me while I emit a primal yawp. *YErrrgggh*

My go to option for dealing with this surfeit of snow is to make frequent dashes to the library. Much more fulfilling than dark chocolate. Well, a book lasts longer.

Once again, a fair mix of TBR, recommends, reviews, and discoveries.

First love sometimes feels like it will be the only love. Ever. Rainbow Rowell describes the intensity of that special love through the wondrous tale of Eleanor and Park, two misfits who are perfect fits for each other.

The teaser beginning serves to entice readers to continue reading because there are hints of a tragedy brewing, and as the plot heats up, along with Park and Eleanor’s relationship, a person just has to know how it will all turn out. That makes this a gotta-read -it-in-one-sitting book.

And that’s good writing.

Would have been a fiver, yet the cruelty seemed too much at times for believability.

Reminiscent of Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, without the profanity and drama.

I remember the drop under the desk drills in elementary schools. We shivered, crouched like little frogs, not understanding the why of it. As we grew older we felt that nudging threat of the Cold War. Pat Frank’s post apocalyptic novel tentatively answers that concern.

Published in 1959, Frank’s novel prepared readers what happens to civilization after the bomb, in this case, the bombs have dropped. The author’s varied background as government consultant and journalist provides a verisimilitude that is more than believable, it is at times dismaying, yet mostly inspiring. He provides a clear-sighted hopefulness that the human race will continue even when faced with having to start over.

Even though the story takes place in the fifties, it rings too close to the present to be dismissed as being anachronistic. Alas, Babylon is a guidebook to keep on the shelf.

Major Pettigrew, full of old English practicalities at the spry age of 68, contends with several inconveniences as he contemplates his remaining days. One irritant is dealing with the village’s gossipy ladies as his friendship with the attractive widow Mrs Ali changes course. For all their supposed openness the people in his life, including his son Roger, can’t fathom how the major could possibly be interested in this foreign shop keeper.

An endearing character, Major Pettigrew is full of wry quips and commentary as he deals with breaking from expectations and unexpectedly finds love. For those who loved A Man Called Ove, make room for another lovable git.

Hollywood portrays CIA agents as full of action, intense swagger, and having a dedicated skill set. CIA agent Michele Rigby Assad provides a truer portrait in her memoir, Breaking Cover. Her frank, engaging story emphasizes how much time is spent gathering reliable intel and creating a trustworthy network. Car chases and fiery shootouts aren’t mentioned, although trying to survive searing desert heat and daily bombings lend a gritty authenticity. Assad outlines the process of becoming an agent as well as highlights some of her tours in the Middle East. While her tours might not be the stuff of Hollywood, she relates plenty of intense episodes of needing to be the best of her abilities. The fact that she and her husband both worked as agents and are dedicated Christians heightened the overall interest of her time spent in counterterrorism.

The second half of her book brings in the subtitle: My Life in the CIA and What It Taught Me about What’s Worth Fighting For. Having left the CIA, Michele and her Egyptian immigrant husband Joseph became international security consultants. The larger part of this section involves their work with relocating displaced Iraqi Christians (featured as an ABC 20/20 special). Assad’s passion and faith especially comes through as she fought to find a safe refuge for a people under persecution.

Overall, the memoir comes across as genuine and inspiring, and while it’s understandable there might have been restrictions on how much detail she could divulge of her CIA experience, it would have added more to her memoir to have further experiences about being married agents, definitely a unique perspective.

Disclaimer: Tyndale House Publishers provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What titles are keeping you warm this winter?

Hold it, Hold it


When I get down to one book in hand and one waiting to be read, a rising sense of dismay bordering on idgety panic ensues.

I could live without chocolate before I could live with nothing to read.

–C.Muse

So I did what any ink-blooded Book Booster does–I began scouring my resources and filling up my books- to-read shelf. First stop: the library.

I rarely buy books. If I do, they are gifts. This means I have achieved Frequent Flyer status at my local library. Can’t beat the convenience or the price: five minutes down the street and a twenty item limit. Did I mention they have an amazing free books shelf? Plus, they have the nicest inter-library loan dept. The library often buys my requests–I am spoiled, I know.

I also review for two separate publishers, and I can review two books at a time per site.

My panic mode at having nothing to read over the long weekend before school starts (my leisure reading diminishes considerably after Labor Day) became one of stress when EVERYTHING came in at once. I went from bare shelf to overwhelmed in a matter of moments.

Three holds appeared within two days of each other, with two being ILLs needing to be read almost immediately (honestly–why loan it out if a person barely has time to read the book?) and one book bearing that annoying little bookmark “Read Me First!” I can practically feel the anticipatory drumming of fingers of the next patron. Three books I have to read now, as in right now, presents an oxymoronic perspective to the idea of leisurely reading over the holiday.

Oh, two review books arrived and they need to be read and reviews duly noted before the month is out.

I also have three books which I had picked up at the library a couple of weeks ago, which means their due date is approaching. Renew or return? Oh, how I dislike that question.

Well, I have plenty to read at the moment. I will have to hold off on my longings for the new titles promos that keep popping up in my email.

Does anyone else go through this famine/feast cycle? I’m hoping I’m not alone in this…

Hold it, Hold it


My idea of vacation is a quiet condo equipped with a comfy couch and a sunlit balcony–and being within walking distance of a library.

Fortunately, I got all that at a great price–free! Yup, I’m staying at my mom’s place for a couple of weeks while she is traveling. Perfect set up. It’s my old neighborhood, just down from my high school and I’m here for about two weeks.

No yard to tend. No tv to distract. No tempting pantry beckoning me. So no weeding, channel zoning, or needless snacking. Just reading. And yeah, I’m here to focus on my writing too.

image: roanoke.com
Upon unpacking I immediately trotted next door to the library, the one I grew up with from fifth grade through part of college, and scoured the shelves and ordered books not readily available. I’m thinking they would come in a bit at a time, kind of staggered in their return to the shelves.

Nope.

They all popped in within two days and I am reading, reading, reading.

Life should be so complicated, right?

I am now at 53% towards my reading challenge of 101 books. Ooh, I do so like having a batch of books at my fingertips. *sigh*

So far I’ve read:

Anna and the Swallow Man

The Wednesday Wars

Reduced Shakespeare

Blackberry Wine

Courtyard of Dreams

After Hamelin

As well as having thumbed through a couple of fun books:

Amazing Cows

Romeo and/or Juliet: A Chooseable-Path Adventure

William Shakespeare: Scenes from the Life of the World’s Greatest Writer

Dante’s Divine Comedy: a graphic novel

How is your summer reading going?

POM: SEPTEMBER


September heralds in fall and school. Being a librarian at heart with a day job as an English teacher, I have a soft spot for poems about books, especially those about libraries. This one hits the spot quite nicely.

My First Memory (of Librarians)

Nikki Giovanni
This is my first memory:
A big room with heavy wooden tables that sat on a creaky
       wood floor
A line of green shades—bankers’ lights—down the center
Heavy oak chairs that were too low or maybe I was simply
       too short
              For me to sit in and read
So my first book was always big
In the foyer up four steps a semi-circle desk presided
To the left side the card catalogue
On the right newspapers draped over what looked like
       a quilt rack
Magazines face out from the wall
The welcoming smile of my librarian
The anticipation in my heart
All those books—another world—just waiting
At my fingertips.

This summer was an odd one. In my part of the world June is usually a bit drippy around the edges until after July 4th. Summer decided to rev up early and we suffered through high nineties through most of the season, which caused a set of horrendous fires in the surrounding states.

We usually coast into a gentle fall, with chilly nights and warmer days, allowing the ability to sneak in sandals and linen skirts a couple of more weeks. Not so this September. We are nightly lighting chill breakers in the stove and I forlornly have folded away my summer stock of tank tops and capris.

As a farewell to summer, as fall officially begins this week, I have included an August poem.

August

Lizette Woodworth Reese
No wind, no bird. The river flames like brass.
On either side, smitten as with a spell
Of silence, brood the fields. In the deep grass,
Edging the dusty roads, lie as they fell
Handfuls of shriveled leaves from tree and bush.
But ’long the orchard fence and at the gate,
Thrusting their saffron torches through the hush,
Wild lilies blaze, and bees hum soon and late.
Rust-colored the tall straggling briar, not one
Rose left. The spider sets its loom up there
Close to the roots, and spins out in the sun
A silken web from twig to twig. The air
Is full of hot rank scents. Upon the hill
Drifts the noon’s single cloud, white, glaring, still

Last Chance Rack Finds


When the progeny were young enough to tote to the grocery store I used to dread the inevitable trial of the checkstand gauntlet: the Last Chance Rack. You know, the racks of candy, toys, geegaws, magazines that all whimper at worn out consumers to be taken home. Their whimpering frequency is especially tuned to children’s ears. “Pluheeze, Mom?” I did have a stock phrase for surviving the ordeal which consisted of “Sorry, I don’t have money for (fill in the blank) today.” No arguing with that. And very true–I tended to stick to the budget because I had to back then.  Actually, I still should as an empty nester. Never mind that.

The Last Chance Rack I refer to today does not promote cavities or wasteful spending. This is a positively good rack in that it promotes reading. This is the LCR of the library. Our library has prominently planted two double-sided racks near the checkout area. They probably meant it as a way to display new titles as a greeting for patrons. On the flip side, the racks serve another purpose, one I think of more significance. While patrons await their turn to check out their basket of literary goodies they  find themselves next to the LCR and can’t help but browse titles.  I usually end up taking home an extra yummy or two.  Who can resist? The books are especially trained to Book Booster frequency.

This last week I went in for my one hold–akin to going in for that one quart of milk. I came out with two extra books.  No complaints about the extra calories needed to read my found treasures.  Thought I would share my finds:

image: amazon.com

 

As a Book Booster it’s difficult to pass up a book about making books. Like any conniseur, I appreciate the art and skill that goes into making something I so regularly consume. The books contained within this palm-sized tome focus on the artisans and their craft. Flipping through the pages and savoring the renderings of featured artists inspire me to try my hand at making my own book or two. There are handy directions included. Sounds like Christmas presents to me…

Another LCR item practically jumped into my arms as I passed the rack. This little goodie knew a Bardinator was in hailing distance. I need to subscribe to the NYT bestseller list. I always hear of these amazing books waaay after they’ve been out and then feel so silly when I find them and gush about them. No wonder I get those looks of–“That was so yesterday’s book.” or “You are just now hearing about that one?” I’m so glad the Book Booster Brigrade is disbanded. I might be in violation of section 31-A (best seller awareness).

Ready for this companion to the NYT bestseller? (just roll your eyes if you are already oh-so-aware of it):

How can you resist a book from a publisher called Quirk Books?(from which this image cometh)

Without slavering too much about how it’s so absolutely genius to mash-up Shakespeare with Star Wars, I will say Ian Doescher manages to pull off the feat of presenting *the best episode* of the Star Wars trilogy in iambic pentameter with dextrous aplomb. Not that I’m an expert at iambic pentameter, but I do appreciate how tough it is to write it. I teach it as the “heartbeat” meter and the students understand that. Shakespeare understood that writing his works in a meter close to the essence of being alive meant his words would be as easy to remember as breathing. Doescher gets that concept too, and understands the devotion of Stars Wars fans. Bringing Shakespeare into our century in a new and absolutely true and original way always gets a round of applause from me. What I really appreciated about Doescher’s mirthful approach is how he skillfully inserted references to the Bard’s other works. Here is my unabashed shopping list of “Where’s Willy?” finds:

  • Leia’s rant about Han’s ego is reminiscent of Beatrice
  • Hamlet’s “A hit! A very palpable hit!” uttered by Luke as they attack AT-ATs
  • C-3PO’s parts with sorrow from his loyal R2-D2 is so R&J
  • As Luke wings his way to learn the ways of the Jedi from Yoda he speaks of the affairs of mean
  • And Leia swoons upon discovering her nice scoundrel kisses by the book–that Han, he’s such a bad boy Romeo

The book trailer is as delightful as the book:

 

 

Anyone else have a library with a tempting Last Chance Rack?  Don’t resist the Force of a good book that needs to go home with you…

Stacking the Odds


Barbie

image: Amazon.com

Now and then I try to squeeze in volunteer time at the library by shelving a cart or two of books.  Having worked at a couple of libraries I can do the Dewey sufficiently well.  In the future I should remember that the reason the non-fiction juvenile cart is up for grabs is because it takes a loooong time to do. I will have to say that it does involve quite a bit of aerobics stretching from whales to the Star Wars cookbook.

Besides the getting some calisthenics in and helping out the library, I volunteer shelve because I find all sorts of treasures for myself. And because I am on my own clock now I don’t suffer the guilt (and rebuke from my supervisor and coworkers) when browsing. Okay, I do feel a little bit of guilt.

Here  are some of the treasures I’ve discovered:

 

The Good, the Bad, the Barbie by Tanya Lee Stone
Being a Boomer girl I had quite the Barbie collection. I even had the one in the zebra one piece. Had Midge, Skipper, Ken complete with a kitchen set and canopy bedroom ensemble. Oh, yes, I do wish I still had them. No, not because I’m a Barbie fan, but I’m sure my retirement account would have been a bit healthier because there are LOTS of Barbie fans out there.

Lincoln Lawyer (this was a series before the movie!)

Limitless–having watched the movie I was intrigued enough to read the book. Go with the movie.

Monk? based on the series? How could a book do him justice?

Deadly Pursuit–a Christian thriller mystery? I’m game. Toss it on the TBR list.

I also made some observations:

If I look like I know what I’m doing people will think I do know something. I felt really, really good about helping a patron find a book she wanted. We didn’t find it but I gave her information how to place a hold or a search for the title.

I had no idea how prolific Christie, Cussler, Jance, Patterson are as authors until faced with trying to alphabetize their numerous titles. SIDENOTE: I found out it’s okay to get the titles in place by author (you know how that’s dratted patrons just mix them up anyway–wait, I’m a dratted patron).

People really do read Melville’s Moby Dick.

And To Kill a Mockingbird still rocks the shelves! Big yeah on this one.

So don’t be shy, trot right on down to your friendly local neighborhood library and see about volunteering for shelving. You’ll feel good, the library folk will be happy, and you’ll have an even fatter TBR list.

Way Too Cool Library(ians)


I am a bona fide bibliophile. I not only love (phile) books (biblio) I adore all that  is connected to them: writing, reading, bookstores, and libraries. If we go on vacation I seek out the library. Some seek out shopping, eating, beaching, hiking, or cycling–I seek out reading. My idea of the perfect vacation tour would be to visit libraries all around the world.  The cool part about libraries is the librarians. There are plenty of movies about super heroes as well as super agents, along with super smart folk who solve crime, save the world, etc.–but rarely is the librarian given credit where credit is due. Being a librarian at heart, I had a fair amount of fun watching The Librarian series–all that knowledge put to good use saving the world. Yeah, librarians do have skills.

image: pinterest.com

Libraries around the world preview:

  • clementinum int 10 of the world's most spectacular libraries

    This is in Prague. Oh, yes, I do want to go. I do. I do.

Neil Gaiman: Why We Need Libraries


  • image: greenbaywriters.wordpress.com

Neil Gaiman is one of those buzzword authors. Unfortunately, I have not harkened to becoming a reader of his works. I have tried, really I have. However, I do perk up when it comes to successful authors speaking up about reading, particularly about libraries. Last year, Gaiman spoke eloquently about the need for libraries and the lecture,  “Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming” was reprinted in The Guardian.  

Excerpt:

The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.

Another excerpt:

Libraries are places that people go to for information. Books are only the tip of the information iceberg: they are there, and libraries can provide you freely and legally with books. More children are borrowing books from libraries than ever before – books of all kinds: paper and digital and audio. But libraries are also, for example, places that people, who may not have computers, who may not have internet connections, can go online without paying anything: hugely important when the way you find out about jobs, apply for jobs or apply for benefits is increasingly migrating exclusively online. Librarians can help these people navigate that world.

  • image: pinterest.com

Check out the lecture. You will be cheering by the end of reading it. You might even feel like running down to your library and say to it, “Thanks for being here.” Don’t forget to hug and a librarian and say the same.

Libraries All Over


Libraries. We think of them in terms of brick and glass with rows of shelves and some comfy chairs. Yet, they can appear in many places and in many forms.

A Works Progress Administration Bookmobile visits Bayou De Large, Louisiana. Photo from the New Deal Network.

Pack horse librarians pose in Hindman, Kentucky. From the University of Kentucky’s Goodman-Paxton Photographic Collection

A booketeria in a Nashville supermarket. Photo from the Nashville Public Library.

A vending machine library at a Bay Area school. Photo originally from Inside Bay Area.

A former Wal-Mart photo from the McAllen Public Library.

BiblioTreka transformed into the pop-up library.

Pop-Up Library known as the BiblioTreka (image: libraryasincubatorproject.com)

IKEA shelves. Bondi Beach. Books. Perfection. (image:PeaceandNoise.blogspot.com)

A true book is never phoney. (image: PeaceandNoise.blogspot.com)

This gives me hope books ae not on the wayse as technology encroaches on book-in-hand versus book on-screen. Any unusual libraries spottings?

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