Category Archives: libraries

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“Why are librarians so lonely?”

“They’re always by them shelves…”

Sorry about that. I thought I’d start this blog off with a little joke to break the ice, because what I’m about to write is a little nerdy—and to be honest, I’m a little nervous.

I love libraries.

Some people can read anywhere. In the subway. Walking down the street. Even at the gym while taking a stroll on the treadmill. I can’t. Or to be more accurate, I can—I just prefer not to.

Reading can be a powerful thing. Stories have the ability to transport us to a different place, a different time, allow us to experience life through the eyes of another and make us see the world in a whole new way.

And where we read has an impact as well. The world around us influences everything we experience, and in some of the more beautiful libraries, surrounded by rich mahogany and windows that let the sunlight of the world beyond slip through, in that quiet stillness, we are at peace and can truly absorb the words on the page in front of us.

Here are some snapshots of that type of elegant serenity I’m talking about:

 

 

 

Some more of the world’s most beautiful libraries: http://www.lovethiscitytv.com/top-10-most-amazing-libraries-in-the-world/

 

Oh, and on a lighter note, some more jokes for your reading pleasure: 

“Want to hear a joke about a library?”

“Sur-”

“SHHHH!”

 

“Why did the librarian slip and fall?”

“Because she was in the non-friction section.”

 

So, I was working in a library and this guy comes up to me and asks, “Do you have a bookmark?”

I said, “Yes, we have hundreds…but my name’s Mike.”

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Ready for a little test of your literary instincts?

Don’t cheat and skip ahead to the pictures!

The following is the final paragraph of the galley letter for WHAT very popular book:

“I predict you’ll also face another quandary: whether to share this with a friend, or to keep it for yourself, knowing how much this Reader’s Edition of __________’s first book will be worth in years to come.”

Any guesses?

Here’s another clue. The galley letter is signed by Arthur Levine…

Written for a debut novel that his eponymous imprint at Scholastic purchased for $100,000…

And this galley mailing happened in the summer of 1998…

Being brilliant and super knowledgeable about publishing lore (as all regular readers of the DGLM blog are), I’m sure you’ve guessed that this mystery title is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

 

  I learned all this delightful trivia from The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter, an exhibit at the New York Public Library’s historic Bryant Park branch (yes, the one with the lions out front). The Harry Potter area caught my eye, as I am currently in the middle of a delightful re-read of the series, which I only read for the first time a few years ago. (I know, I know, hush!)

Sound philosophy, even for muggles

Now it’s no secret that I’m a sucker for children’s books. And the exhibit area was full of artifacts from other children’s literature. You can stop by and see the original Winnie-the-Pooh plushies that inspired A.A. Milne or Frances Hodgson Burnett’s handwritten manuscript for The Secret Garden. One display discusses classic NYC-themed children’s lit (hooray for From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler!), and there’s even a Goodnight Moon reading nook with battered library copies of all your favorite picture books. Quite a few families were curled up on the rainy Sunday afternoon that I visited, and I was tempted to grab a Wild Thing and join them.

Not all attendees were as riveted as I was.

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Where books come from

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the homes my books had before they were on my shelf.  Maybe it’s the four huge bins of books of my books my mother brought me from her house (just the ones from college and grad school).  Or maybe it’s that I recently passed the sad corner on which the B&N that used to employ me sat, up until it closed at the end of last year.  But either way, I thought it might be fun to share my library memories.

I was a library kid.  The Rushmore Memorial Library, in fact.

Imagine tiny Lauren, looking for the next Cam Jansen book on her tiptoes

I grew up not far from here, and though I wasn’t allowed to cross the street that stood between us without a parent, my family spent quite a bit of time here growing up.  I haven’t been inside in a very long time, but I can remember being small and reveling in the freedom of a few hours in the kids’ section while my mom went to look for her own books.

Next up was my town’s other library, the Ida Cornell Library.  It shared a parking lot with my elementary school, so while it wasn’t my library, I did get to go often.  This was more a social library for me, in fifth or sixth grade, working on some project or hanging out with my equally nerdy friends.  I always felt slightly disloyal when I was there, cheating on Rushmore, but that feeling was assuaged by my joy that it looked like some strange fairy tale house.

Where Hansel & Gretel lived before getting lost in the woods.

Imagine slightly taller Lauren, getting shushed by a librarian for being chatty

I haven’t been much of a library person since childhood, perhaps because virtually all my pre-DGLM employment was in bookstores.  So the only two other libraries I’ve got an affinity for are the ones at my college and grad school.  Neither is quite as happy a place in my memories, but I did spend a terrifying number of cumulative hours in them procrastinating and daydreaming while pretending to do research or write papers.  I do have slightly nostalgic memories of sleeping on the floor in the basement of Bobst next to a study carousel while pulling all-nighters.  Ah, to be young and irresponsible!

It's not exactly the prettiest building ever.

Imagine, college-aged Lauren, boring herself to sleep while writing a paper

That's Leabharlann Shéamais Uí Argadáin if you prefer your library names, as Gaeilge

Imagine grad school-aged Lauren, wishing it was as easy to nap in the James Hardiman Library as at Bobst

And bonus library!  My books rarely come from here, but if this isn’t one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, I don’t know what is.

If people tell you Brooklyn's not actually great, they've never been to Grand Army Plaza.

Who needs lion statues when you can have this?

 

So those are MY libraries.  Tell me about yours!

4

Rallying round

I came across this interesting piece today about a group of squatters who had settled in a public library that had been shut down by the local council. Before they were finally evicted, the squatters-turned-librarians had endeavored to re-stock the library with books that were donated by the local community, amassing 8,000 books. Not only were the once empty shelves replenished, the commandeered library held events for children and authors and are set to have a pot luck style event this Christmas Day.

I was really taken by the sense of harmony and community in this story. And it was reassuring to know that in a world where we have a myriad forms of entertainment thrust in front of us, there is still such a strong affection for books, not just individually but collectively as well.

If you were a part of this community, which one of your books would you donate?

6

Literary Spirits

Halloween is just around the corner, and as usual, it’s only increased my appetite for ghost stories. I’ve loved them since I was a kid and had my own paranormal experience while at my grandmother’s house. That incident seemed more likely due to my overactive imagination than supernatural forces, but it only increased my fascination with the specters, ghouls and the like. Two books in particular, though, solidified my love of all things macabre: A House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and its many sequels, by Alvin Schwartz with art by Stephen Gammell. The former made me sleep with a light on for the days I spent reading it–I swore I could hear ticking! And the latter was the most passed-around book in second grade and one that terrified me even in broad daylight. I’ll admit, I’m pretty easily frightened, but I have a feeling those books will be terrifying children for years to come.

What got me thinking about all of this, though, was a list of haunted restaurants here in LA, which then got me searching for a list of haunted libraries. And I found it! It’s helpfully broken down by region, so there’s sure to be one near you. It turns out I have a handful to go see right here in Southern California, and I’m going to go exploring my next free weekend. Sadly, the one I most one to go to, the Brand Library in Glendale, is closed for renovation. Here’s hoping the spirits stick around through all the construction noise!

Do any of you have haunted library tales or favorite scary books?

2

A Little Free Library grows in Brooklyn

If you didn’t see this article in the Times this morning, get ready for some major cuteness: The first Little Free Library in New York City has gone up in Brooklyn. Have you heard about the Little Free Library program? Evidently it’s an international movement to set up some kind of receptacle—usually a box, but evidently canoes (?) or ovens(?!) work, too—in a neighborhood where residents can leave books for borrowing.

Well, if the kid-cuteness factor and neighborly good vibes are to be believed, I dearly hope we see some more of them around town, and soon. Right now, I’m having a bit of a lovefest with the NYPL—I took some books out last Friday for my 3 ½-year-old, and I’ve been amazed at his reaction. While Henry certainly gets excited when I bring home books to keep from work, the idea that these are on loan has made him completely obsessed—I think we read Revenge of the Dinotrux three times in a row this morning over breakfast, partly because he knows it has to go back to the library. At the same time, he keeps asking when I’ll go back to the library, and when I do, I must get him another Spider-Man book—or else!

And I have to say, considering his ever-growing list of demands and wants, this is one request I’m happy to oblige. Besides, I have totally selfish reasons here—after all, libraries build readers, and readers eventually buy books. So, to keep me in business, I’ll be heading back to the library for Henry this Friday afternoon. And who knows, if the red tape doesn’t choke us here in Manhattan, maybe there will be a Little Free Library on the Upper West Side soon—I certainly hope so!

6

Librarians

As a kid, the library was a huge part of my life. During the summer, my mom would take me every week to check out new books and return the old ones. I loved going. In the unbearably muggy Illinois summer, the cool library (imagine a time when everything wasn’t air conditioned) was a welcome respite, and the seemingly endless supply of books meant hours of entertainment during those long, hot days. My favorite part of the trip was always story time, when we’d sit on the colorful carpet and listen quietly as the librarian brought a picture book to life. Even writing this, I can smell the old books and hear the crinkle of the cellophane covers. It was a magical time for me.

So I’m excited to set off for the beautiful town (I’m psyching myself up!) of Anaheim for my first ALA. In the children’s book world, librarians are some of the most important people around–and I’m proud to be a part of a world that recognizes them as such. With kids’ books, “gatekeepers” like librarians and educators aren’t seen as the enemy, but rather as allies. They’re the front line in getting kids interested in the books that are being published, and when they love a book, stand back: they will hand sell it to any kid who’ll listen. Librarians often champion the books that aren’t the biggest, loudest and most commercial; they’re often the first to recognize under-read talent. When they bestow their awards, like the Printz, Caldecott, Newbery and others, they literally change lives overnight. And when they get excited, they get excited. These are some of the most passionate book people around, and knowing how poorly most of them are paid, you know they’re in it for the love of books.

It’ll be great to spend the next few days with my authors, publishing colleagues, and the great unsung heroes of the book world, librarians. Do any of you have great librarian memories?

12

Making Room

After a confusing month of wondering whether or not to wear a jacket, layer with a sweater, go bare-legged or long-sleeved, it finally seems like spring is here to stay. Moods are cheery, windows are open and it’s time to turn over new leaves. Odd though it is, I look forward to my Sunday afternoon housecleaning (the kitchen especially) and even more to the big overhaul that comes with the changing of the seasons.

Spring cleaning. Out with the old and in with the new. It’s a great feeling except for one small glitch—sometimes, there’s just so much old to get rid of that I don’t know where to put it! We’ve all posted on this blog about the vast quantity of books and reading we’ve acquired over the years. There’s no room for a third bookshelf in my quaint (read: tiny) little living room in Brooklyn and so we’ve had to go through a bit of an overhaul, as we keep amassing books with nowhere to put them.

Painstaking as it was in some cases, both myself and my roommate have managed to fill a deceptively large shopping bag with enough books to leave us marginal space on the shelves. Deciding which books to get rid of was a process and heartwrench of its own, and so we thought the hard part was over once we’d finally settled. Except now it’s two weeks later and the giant bag of books is still sitting there. The question remains—where to donate?

The options, while not endless, are many. Easiest would be to bring them to the coffee shop down the street that has a little lending library that thrives on donations, but I dump books there all the time. There’s a small library three blocks from my apartment that might benefit from a few more additions. We could cart them into the city and donate to thrift stores or other charity-based bookstores. Surely we could think of friends who would gladly take some off of our hands, too. There’s selling to second-hand shops, online or in the front yard (pretending I have a front yard). Throwing them away is obviously not a possibility (They’re BOOKS!).

While it’s not the worst of dilemmas, it’s one I’m currently facing. What do you do when you run out of space for your books? To whom to they go?

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Come out and see me some time

It’s a dream come true. Not only are you a published author, but your publisher is actually setting up an event for you! A reading at a bookstore, perhaps, or possibly something at a library or community center. You get nervous: What will I wear? Which section of my book should I read? What questions will I be asked? And, finally, most importantly: will anyone show up?

The answer to that last question, as just about every author can attest, is no. Well, it’s not always no–sometimes people show up. Especially if you’ve been writing for a while and have a following, of if you’re doing an event for later books in a series, or if you’re doing an event with authors who have a following. But as a first-time author out in the world, getting people to turn up is hard. I had an author at an event this past weekend that went spectacularly badly. Not only was it sparsely attended, but the store wasn’t able to get the books in time! So the author traveled to an event only to have a handful of people show up, and then couldn’t even sell the book to them. I wish I could say this was a rare occurrence, but it happens all the time.

But I’m not really here to complain. What I want to know from you, dear readers, is what makes you turn out for a book event? Do you ever go to events for authors whose books you haven’t yet read? Is there some sort of enticement that might make you come out? Or is the bookstore event best reserved to those with large followings?  I’m curious to hear what you think.

7

Oh.

Normally I turn to Cracked for levity which begets fascination which begets something vaguely unsettling and distressing, but not actually of importance to my existence (an article I usually get to about 15 minutes before I’m going to go to bed, which is the perfect time to be creeped out by the world).  Okay, so maybe “6 Reasons We’re in Another ‘Book-Burning’ Period in History” didn’t exactly sound like a rollicking good time, but I was expecting Cracked to deliver something funny and dubiously connected.  I wasn’t expecting a really sad breakdown of what libraries do when there’s no more money to keep the books they’ve already got: burn them.  Even if they are incredibly valuable first editions or of some historical significance or perhaps the only extant copy (physical or otherwise).  Because it’s the most cost effective thing to do and needs to be done and there’s no money to do what many of us would think makes sense and because maybe in some ways the digital age means throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  My reading process was very much “But why can’t they…?  Oh.  But surely they could…?  Oh.”

It seems like this is something worth contemplating, as we face down an age in which we value physical objects less and less and digital ones more and more.  It’s a pretty safe guess that today’s children’s children will not have anywhere near the attachment to books as objects that I do—I grew up as the world was beginning this shift, so even my grasp is at times tenuous, where things like music and photos are concerned—so it seems like maybe this problem will more or less go away on its own.  Not because we’ll stop burning books, but because people like me will stop being around to find it sad and surprising.

So it saddens me, perhaps for dubious reasons, that this is the reality.  I have no answers, and I strongly suspect that the people who do these things don’t come to the decision lightly.  But I do know we have some librarians lurking round these parts, so I wonder if you’ve ever had to face this very task.  Have you found an alternative solution?  Or found a way to come to terms with tossing books onto the pyre?  Is it just the symbolism that’s getting me down?