Friday, August 29, 2014

Top 5 reasons why I love public libraries

If there's one thing I learned while getting my Master's of Library Science and subsequently diving into the world of librarianship, it's that there are ALL KINDS of of libraries out there. The blog Letter's to a Young Librarian has a terrific series called "So You Want to Be a ____ Librarian" that highlights all the different kinds of libraries and library and information science jobs out there. The last article was written by a material's librarian (not her official job title) for an athletic shoe manufacturer. Her collection is thousands of samples of materials that go into making athletic shoes. How cool is that? There are academic libraries, and archives, and museum libraries, and specialty libraries, and corporate libraries, and school libraries, and of course, public libraries. Some librarians manage databases and systems and have nothing to do with a physical collection but everything to do with organizing information.

In some ways it's unfortunate that the first thing that pops into many people's head when they hear "library" is public library. It's a very limited view of the breadth and scope of librarianship. However, in some ways it's a great thing that people are aware of public libraries because public libraries are AWESOME! One of my favorite activities as a child and adolescent was going to my local public library (weekly. sometimes more than that). I've seen the library from all sides and one of the first things I do when I move to a new town is get my library card. Why? you ask....

1. Value. Public libraries are one of the most cost efficient tax-funded entities. Even in areas with well-funded public libraries, the amount of materials, expertise, and resources you get for that tiny fraction of your tax dollars is incredible! It's different everywhere, but in one county I worked in, the library had estimated that each taxpayer's yearly contribution to the library system was around $30 per year. 

2. Literacy. Public libraries say "this community cares about literacy and education." And that's the kind of community I want to live in.

3. Opportunity. Public libraries give people a chance to better themselves. With a little effort, you can access resources that can help you improve your knowledge and skills. It's one reason why when Andrew Carnegie started donating money he chose to build libraries. Information in the hands of anyone who has a desire to learn. Capitalism in disguise.

4. Community and librarians. Okay, this is a two-for-one. First, librarians are awesome and if they don't have the answer to your question, they are usually pretty skilled at helping you find it. Second, librarians use their libraries to help build community. Whether it's through programs, activities, or even just talking about books, public libraries and librarians can be a place to connect with people who like the same stuff you do.

6. Books. You were waiting for this one, right? Where else can I go feed my addiction so easily? Whether it's the exact book I was looking for, or a new author I found just browsing the shelves, there's so much to read and so little time!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Reading...Suite Francais

Suite Francais, by Irene Nemirovsky is an unfinished book that still manages to tell an interesting and thoughtful story. The author wrote the book during World War II, but died before finishing it. Many of her notes are included in the back of the book, so the reader gets an idea of how the story ends, and is able to see Irene’s intentions and direction. The book as it was published is written in two parts –the author intended to include two more. As the first book begins, there is one event that sets the characters in motion: the Germans are coming to Paris. At least, that’s the rumor, and people are being encouraged to evacuate. Our characters are upper class, middle class, working class, and artist class (in this particular case, upper class artists). They care about themselves, their families, or their possessions. Most of them aren’t too excited about leaving, and would really rather stay. Through their eyes, we are given a glimpse of France at war. The exodus from Paris brings out the best and worst in people, and this section of the book is a study in contrasts, a series of juxtapositions.

The second part of the story focuses a little more sharply on one provincial town that is newly occupied by German forces. Its’ a picture of contrasts: there are those who hate the Germans, for this war, for the last war, for all that the war has done to destroy their life and families. But there are also those who are bored, and lonely, and who don’t see the enemy, but simply see men who are caught up in the machinations of something beyond themselves. They are simple soldiers…they follow orders, and go where they’re told, and war has not been kind to them either. Some villagers – particularly women – find company and even friendship with the soldiers. This second story ends in motion. A farmer has shot a German officer in cold blood, and is on the run. He goes to his aunt’s employer, Lucille Angellier, who has been friendly with the German officer quartered at her home, and from whom the farmer believes she can get travel papers that will smuggle him to Paris. Under a sense of national duty and loyalty, she agrees. She says she can contact a nice couple that stopped at their house seeking shelter during the Paris evacuation. This couple – the Michauds – are back in Paris, and Lucille believes they will be willing, if not happy, to return the kindness. The author’s notes mention that her intention was to further weave the stories of the characters in the first part with the fugitive farmer and Lucille. There was to be Communists, imprisonment, escape, and two people falling in love.

Despite the intense setting and subject matter, Suite Francais is a quiet book. I felt as though I was watching someone paint a painting in front of me of France during war, from the vantage point of regular people. Although I enjoyed the book, it was expectedly heartbreaking, made even more so by the contrasts the author painted between the beauty of every day and the devastation of war. Although there are some characters I was not sorry to step away from at the end of the book, there were several characters whose story I would have enjoyed reading more of. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Book and music pairings

Just like some authors like to listen to music to set their mood while writing, and sometimes there's nothing like the perfect soundtrack for reading a book. I was never that great at creating mix tapes or CDs...or playlists these days. If I'm looking for a good playlist of hand-selected, individual songs, I go to my friends Nicole, Doc, or Scott. But I'm pretty good at setting a mood. Here are a few of my favorite genre/mood pairings: 

Anne of Green Gables, contemporary romance novels,  -- Upbeat coffee shop. James Taylor's Greatest Hits, The Carpenters, The Weepies, Shawn Mullins

High fantasy, historical fiction -- something interesting, but instrumental. classical guitar, movie soundtracks, cello solos.

Jane Austen -- classical piano

British detective fiction -- Celtic music (of course! I never said I was all that original), minor-key coffee shop. 

Friday, August 15, 2014


It's a little ridiculous that I haven't posted a review here in so long...but I'll confess, it's because I just haven't been able to get into and finish a book lately. First, I started an ebook I'd purchased on sale a while back. It wasn't bad just...I couldn't get into it. I can't decide if I just wasn't in the mood for teen dystopian...or if it's just not my favorite genre. So I put that one down and picked up a historical fiction (technically, a contemporary fiction written during WWII). I am very interested in this book in theory...but again, either I'm just not in the mood, or there's some other reason it's just not grabbing me. Normally, I'd just put it down and try again another time, but it was a book loaned to me by a friend who said "read this! it was so good!" And I've had it for more than a year. I feel a compulsion to read books recommended by friends, and this one especially since I really want to get it back to the friend. 

A prime example of why in Reader's Advisory the rule of thumb is "suggest" don't "recommend." 

Do you feel compelled to finish books you start? Does it make a difference if a friend gave it to you or recommended it?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Shopping your bookshelves

I'm floundering a bit trying to figure out what I'm in the mood to read next. There are a couple of books that have come out in the past few months that I'd like to read, but I haven't yet made it to the library here, and I'm trying to be a little conservative in my e-book spending. I've always been a mostly public library user when it comes to my voracious reading habit (no surprise that I ended up pursuing a career in public libraries), but I'm a sucker for used books stores and library book sales. Because of this -- and because I had a hard time saying no to free ARCs at the library I worked at -- I've got quite a few books on my bookshelf that I've never read. Before our move, I went through with a critical eye and pulled out a big stack that I decided realistically I'd probably never get around to reading, or I read them and had no real desire to keep a copy. Now I'm (somewhat) determined to shop my bookshelves: reading those books that have been languishing for months or years. So when I'm looking for something to read with no clear direction (or waiting to get my grubby hands on a copy of Sinner by Maggie Steifvater), I'm trying to shop my shelves. Right now I've got a World War II novel on deck. It hasn't grabbed me yet, but with all our moving and travel and company lately I haven't had more than 5-10 minutes at a time to read it. So I'm still giving it a chance.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Filling your bookshelves

In my dream home there is a room dedicated to bookshelves. It doesn't have to necessarily be a library only -- maybe a library/music room. Or a library/living room. Or a library/dining room. Or a library/office (I'm big on multi-tasking rooms. My dream home is also small enough to clean easily). The walls in this dream room are top-to-bottom book shelves. There's probably at least one window, and depending on it's partner function, there's probably a desk, piano, or sideboard taking up a small part of one wall. In this room, it's (relatively) easy to put out one's books. You can organize it however you want -- or not -- and in my mind the choices are easier. Because you know what's hard? Trying to organize your books when you have half of them in one room, half in another, and a small percentage in the random built-in next to the fireplace. (so...I guess that's more like 48%, 48%, 4%).

What complicates things, I'm ashamed to admit, is also a bit of "what-will-people-think-itis." In other words: what books do I want front and center, because I'm cool if people know I read that? What do these books say about me? What do I want them to say? 

Which is ridiculous. 

So, I'm going pretty general. Nice looking hardback series and cookbooks on the built-in (which is next to the kitchen too). Fiction in the front room, non-fiction in the office/guest room. There may be exceptions to the fiction/non-fiction rule, but that's how we're organizing at the moment. Although I'd love to have some of hubby's cool history books in the front room...there's just not space for everything! And I've got to have at least some kind of system, as loose as this one is. 

How do you decide where books go?