For the Love of the Library

Two books have made their way off their virtual shelves and into my heart:

Palaces for the People by Eric Klinenberg and The Library Book by Susan Orlean 

Both books capture the essence, character, and importance of public libraries, prompting me to express my love for the library:

For the Love of the Library 

The Library is a place: to gather, visit, meet, explore, discover, learn, laugh, and play. 

The Library is a place: to rest, re-energize, be seen,  be heard, connect,  disconnect,  give voice, and be challenged. 

The Library is a place: of collections, story times, games, art, lectures, and book clubs. 

The Library is a place: to dream, to imagine, to engage, to grow, to be. 
 

Working outside the walls of the library, my fondness and appreciation has grown stronger.

Klinenberg’s work details how social infrastructure affects ones quality of life; places to gather like libraries, community gardens, and schools help give us a sense of well being. The book is interspersed with stories of triumph and tragedy. In a society that is growing increasingly polarized, he sites multiple examples of communities coming together and learning from one another.

Members of the Bayside Neighborhood Community Garden

Where relationships exist, communities survive despite circumstance. I’ve seen evidence of this in my neighborhood. In the community garden, people are spending more time together and relationships, along with plants, are thriving.

Orlean’s re-telling of the 1986 Los Angeles Library fire and the history of libraries in her book sends out a similar message. Cutting across socio-economic, generational, and cultural lines, the library by design is a place for all people.

Beyond the books, brick, and mortar, the library lives on in your story and mine. This is just a long and difficult chapter. I want our library back and I think most would agree: a virtual library just isn’t the same thing. 

These two books intersected my path at just the right time, offering me perspective and gratitude for this recess from the normal and predictable. 

In conclusion, I’d like to share this quote that I have taped to my desk. Take care. We’ll get there! 

Gratitude is the ability to experience life as a gift. It liberates us from the prison of self-preoccupation.  

John Ortberg

Listen Up! December Wrap-up and New Music Arrivals

Petite Noir Cover

December is here and I’m catching my breath. It’s been a long busy year at the library, and I’ve had a blast working with our music collection. It’s been amazing to see how the unique character of our community influences the music that passes through our doors. Our users help determine what makes it to our shelves via donations, purchase requests, or simply checking certain items out more than others so we know what they like.

Some casual observations: Rock, Country, Latin, and Christian music do a booming business. Hip-hop and Electronic acts are steadily gaining in popularity; there are rarely any purchase requests (hint hint), but the stuff that’s been added goes out quickly and those shelves can look completely ransacked at times. People around here love reggae and Hawaiian music (I think all the rain makes people long for warm sandy beaches). Everett also can’t seem to get enough holiday music – the carts have been out since just past Halloween because people kept asking about them.

One issue that I’ve noticed is that some genres are becoming more difficult to purchase due to changes in technology. Within the Indie, Electronic, and Hip-hop communities, many artists are choosing to go digital-only, or to scrap the use of CDs for throwback media, such as vinyl records and cassette tapes (I’m waiting on the 8-track and wax cylinder revivals). This came into play while working on developing the Local Music collection, because many bands only had digital releases of their albums. The digital-only trend is also a big hurdle for libraries when it comes to adding music from international artists making music in developing countries. Digital releases are far cheaper to produce, market, and distribute, so they’re a natural fit for musicians who are working with a tight budget. There are online services available that allow libraries to loan digital music. They wouldn’t do much to remedy this issue, however, since they mainly provide pre-selected packages of albums from major labels. Hopefully this is something that will change in the near future, because there’s a lot of great music out there that we’d love to share with our users.

I’m looking forward to seeing what 2016 brings to Everett. We’re a vibrant city with a lot of creative people and a thriving musical scene. You can help be a part of that growth: if you hear of a great new act, local or otherwise, drop our reference librarians a line and we’ll see what we can do. Now on to those December picks (I’ll keep it short!).

Empress Of CoverEmpress Of – Me (Terrible Records) – A lively combination of dance, pop, and rock, very reminiscent of Bjork’s early material. Lorely Rodriguez’s voice somehow manages to be strong and ethereal almost in the same breath. Her lyrics are deeply personal and rich in storytelling, flitting through scenes of a failed romance while making you want to dance away her angst.

Petite Noir – La Vie Est Belle (Domino Recording Company) – Bright, beautiful, and insanely catchy. Yannick Ilunga calls his sound Noirwave, and you can definitely see his New Wave influences winding through, track by track. In the end, the album really defies description. New wave, hip hop, electronic, or rock, plus subtle hints of Ilunga’s Congolese and Angolan musical roots – each element fuses together into a satisfyingly-complex new sound.

Car Seat Headrest coverCar Seat Headrest – Teens of Style (Matador Records) – After releasing an impressive 15 albums on the indie music selling site Bandcamp, former solo-artist Will Toledo and his band have come out with their first album on the legendary Matador Records. Did I mention that he managed all this before turning 23? Bright, airy, and guitar-driven, I expect to hear more wonderful things from this band in their 2016 release, Teens of Denial.

Future Shock – Secret Weapon EP (Future Shock) – Continuing on the new wave tip, this mysteriously-masked Seattle Duo calls their sound Afro New Wave. With production by RayGun and lyrics by The Doctor, this EP comes across sounding like David Bowie, Marilyn Manson, and Duran Duran got together and laid down some tracks. From start to finish the Secret Weapon EP is a solid album that leaves you looking for more.

Protomartyr CoverProtomartyr – Agent Intellect (Hardly Art) Dark, brooding, driving post-punk. This album sounds like a grey winter day – perfect for your winter angst.

Roots Manuva – Bleeds (Big Dada) U.K. hip-hop pioneer returns with his first release in nearly four years. Stripped-down, tight production showcases the kind of political lyricism I’ve come to expect from Roots Manuva.

Basement Jaxx – Junto Remixed (Pias America) A full roster of clubby, dancefloor-ready tracks. The vibe of this release is about 50/50 house and techno, but there’s a little flirtation with footwork in there. Overall it’s a really versatile collection of remixes.

Place your holds now, and see you in the new year!

Libraries and Laundry

laundry2A few days ago a front page story in the newspaper caught my attention: apparently in some neighborhood associations it is a crime to hang your laundry outdoors to dry. I kid you not, there is actually a discussion about Washington becoming a ‘right to dry state’ following Oregon and California.

I’ve often associated my work at the library with the act of doing laundry. I work in the circulation department where we, among other things, operate as gatekeepers. We track the comings and goings of library materials. We gather, sort, and put items neatly away. And sometimes, like a stray sock, we discover a stray story we may not have otherwise happened upon.

Here at the South Everett Branch the circulation desk is nearby the entrance allowing us the opportunity to greet and assist people as they enter the library and over time we have the benefit of getting to really know our customers. It is not uncommon to hear comments like “It must be great to work in a library” or “I’ve always wanted to work in a library”. I think people generally like a certain sense of order and the library reflects just that, which brings me back to the news article.

Line drying laundry has wonderful advantages much like libraries: both save you money and offer a measure of satisfaction. E. B. White said it best:

We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry.

In this instance I may add “hanging the laundry outdoors to dry.” Here is the part where I hang out my eclectic laundry list of library materials for you to see.

birdersFor your educational  viewing entertainment: Hawaii and Birders: Central Park Effect . I halfheartedly tried a Zumba DVD, but quickly decided that this is a skill best learned in a class.

I recently watched Secondhand Lions. Though I’ve seen this amusing feel good story before, I wanted to revisit it before my husband and I  go to see the play in Seattle at the 5th Avenue Theatre .

musicisyouMusically, I’m enjoying a new CD, The Music is You: A Tribute to John Denver. One of my favorite songs on this diverse CD is ‘Back home again’ by Old Crow Medicine Show. If you like this upbeat folk band, you can also check out Carry me Back to Virginia  or O.C.M.S .

sandcastlegirlsWhile on vacation my husband and I started listening to the audiobook version of The Sandcastle Girls. I’ve continued listening to this historical fiction novel on my very short commute to and from work. I enjoy how the author takes the reader between events from the First World War in Europe and weaves a story with present day characters in America.

pursuedFor inspiration I just finished reading, Pursued by Jud Wilhite. This book sparked my attention when I saw it listed awhile back on the New York Times non-fiction bestseller list. Author and Pastor of the Central Christian Church in Las Vegas Nevada, Wilhite writes in a manner that is both entertaining yet relative. Another engaging book I’m reading is by author Heather Kopp, who as a youth lived here in Everett. Her book Sober Mercies is told with amazing transparency and is about her struggle with alcohol.

silverstarLastly, I’m excited to dive into Jeannette Walls latest book The Silver Star. I’m on page 18, and I’m hooked. The inside cover says it well

In The Silver Star, Jeannette Walls has written a heartbreaking and redemptive novel about an intrepid girl who challenges the injustice of the adult world-a triumph of imagination and storytelling.

In closing, I’ve given you this short laundry list of recent things that I’ve sorted through and have found a measure of joy in.

Marhaba and Salaam (Welcome & Peace)

This past November, I spent several incredible weeks in Egypt and Jordan.  Of course, being a librarian, I had to visit the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria. It’s a stunning building surrounded by water to give the effect of floating. The building’s curve is covered on the outside with a gray granite wall that displays letters from the alphabets of some 120 languages. One walks through a small entrance into the entrance hall, which then leads to the main building with its soaring columns and astonishing ceiling (meant to represent eyes with eyelids). These features allow light to enter, but also protect against the sun’s rays. There you experience the reading room which is the largest in the world. The library’s collection has yet to reach the magnificence of the original library’s collection which is discussed in The Library of Alexandria : Centre of learning in the ancient world. However, the library does maintain the only copy and external back up of the Internet archive!

Sphinx and Khufu PyramidAfter visiting Alexandria and Cairo, we took an overnight train to Luxor, where we boarded a boat and set sail to Aswan. While floating down the Nile on a felucca in Aswan, we could see the Cataract hotel (currently undergoing renovations) where Agatha Christie stayed while writing Death on the Nile  in the mid 1930s. Christie had married an archeologist by this time and her knowledge of Egypt and the Middle East is obvious in her descriptions of the ancient sites.

Before traveling to Egypt I read Dreamers of the Day by Maria Doria Russell which is about a 40 year old single woman who, after the death of her family members from influenza, decides to travel with her beloved dachshund to the Middle East just as the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference convenes. There she meets, among others, T.E. Lawrence, Gertrude Bell, and Winston Churchill who include her on several of their outings.

Wadi Rum in south JordanAfter entering Jordan through Aquaba (captured by Lawrence during WWI) we spent a night with the Bedouin in Wadi Rum where there is a rock formation also called The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. On the way to this breathtakingly beautiful nature reserve, which Lawrence visited several times, we crossed the railway tracks several sections of which had been destroyed by him with the aid of the local Bedouin in 1917 & 1918.  For a complete description of Lawrence’s time in the Middle East, I recommend reading Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

I found several children’s books helpful while preparing for my travels for their descriptions of Egypt past and present including: Egyptian Diary : The journal of Nakht and Egyptology. For older readers, 1988 Nobel Literature Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz’s The Cairo Trilogy and Larence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet describe these cities and their peoples’ recent past. There are many more titles that cover this interesting part of the world in Everett Public Library’s collection. And remember, if we don’t own the title you want, you can always request an Inter-Library Loan. Ask a librarian!

Sue