Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

Book Reviews: Down Cut Shin Creek and That Book Woman

I love the innovative ways people have thought up to get books into the hands of others! The Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky was one example of such. And it just happened that I read two books about this very subject within a short time of one another.

Down Cut Shin Creek (2001) by Kathi Appelt and Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer gives a more detailed account of this program. It was inspiring to read about the women (and men) who took part in this- all of whom seemed very courageous and determined. And I’m glad people appreciated their dedication. Families with nothing to give still managed to find something to offer them as a token of their gratitude whether it be a quilt pattern or a family recipe.

That Book Woman (2008) by Heather Henson and illustrations by David Small is a fictionalized account of one boy’s perspective of a “book woman” who comes to his family’s home on a regular basis whatever the weather. It’s another great tribute to those traveling librarians- and the power of books. It was a wonderful moment when the boy asked his younger sister to teach him how to read.

I wasn’t familiar with this moment in library history so I was glad to have found these books!


Sherman Alexie: A Stand Up Guy

This year, Multnomah County Library selected two books by Sherman Alexie- Ten Little Indians and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian for their Everybody Reads community-wide reading project. The first is a collection of short stories for adults while the second is his National Book Award winning novel for young adults- and personally one of my favorite books ever.

Sherman Alexie’s a writer who’s been recommended to me for the longest time. When I read “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” a few years ago, I liked how relatable the main character was. While this followed a similar arc to many coming of age stories out there, of the protagonist persevering through whatever challenges came their way and ended up being better for them, this was somehow different and refreshing.

With its strong but honest language and a lot of the subjects covered, I can see why certain groups may be offended with the book and may want it banned. But I think that’s what a great story does. It makes us uncomfortable in its ability to mirror our lives and ourselves in its pages.

I was instantly hooked when I picked up “Ten Little Indians.” I just wanted to stay home and read through the whole thing but I also wanted to take the time to enjoy each of the stories before going on to the next one. I was impressed by how each story sounded different yet there were some things that were mentioned or touched upon repeatedly. Each one was better than the last.

I was fortunate enough to see him speak for Literary Arts’ Everybody Reads lecture. I love how in Portland writers can feel like rock stars, the way people sell out these kinds of events on a regular basis. And he didn’t disappoint.

The lecture started out with a drum circle and dance performance before Multnomah County Library Director Vailey Oehlke talked about Everybody Reads and the role of books in generating conversations within a community. Literary Arts Executive Director Andrew Proctor introduced Sherman Alexie by sharing one of the writer’s quotes from his essay “Superman and Me” of how through books, reading, and writing, “I was trying to save my life.”

Hearing Sherman Alexie speak was like having his books come to life. He talked exactly as he wrote. I saw the autobiographical parts in the fictional stories he shared in his books. Hearing Sherman Alexie speak was like going to a stand up performer’s show. He joked about not being the next Pope and that eventually led to him telling the teenage students in the audience to wear condoms. He called the students another word but I don’t want to write it here. And, as random as those two topics are, he somehow made them make sense.

It was a little preview of what we could expect from him. Through many tangents, he talked about his childhood of being sick, poor, invisible, and lost. He made fun of everyone in the audience- but mostly of himself. He made everyone uncomfortable with his uncensored words and improvised sign language. He made us laugh but also made us think. (Seeing him crack up at his own jokes was amusing.) I liked how he uses humor to deliver a serious message by making them stand out in contrast to one another.

Two things he said really impressed me. The first was “the quality of your life is determined by how willing you are to leave your traditions behind.” This tied in to his belief of evolution, of how progress is made by basically someone saying “Fuck this shit!” to his circumstances and moving to somewhere unknown and perhaps greater. Leaving his reservation to attend a primarily white school was an example of this which yielded to his realization that he was “indigenous to the land but an immigrant to the culture.” He has a mastery of words I can only dream to have a fraction of!

I can go on forever but I won’t. The night was incredible. I know I’ll be reading more of Sherman Alexie in the future!

Multnomah County Library District Measure Passes!

Congratulations to everyone who worked so hard on making this happen! We deserve to continue to have the best library and this is a great historic step in ensuring that we do!

Image courtesy of Multnomah County Library website

A Poet’s Letters: The Correspondence of William Stafford

Since moving to Portland in 2008, I’ve always seen posters for events celebrating the life of William Stafford come December and January. I’ve always wondered who this man was- that he was a poet was all I knew. Then, during the Library Lovers Unite! Event, his son, Kim Stafford, gave a great speech in favor of libraries and quoted lines from the poem “Ask Me” which has resonated with me since then.

I was looking forward to this exhibit to get a better understanding of William Stafford- and it did not disappoint!

I attended the Opening Reception where John Wilsons Special Collections Librarian Jim Carmin, former curator of the William Stafford Archives at Lewis & Clark College Paul Merchant, and Kim Stafford spoke about the letters and the man himself.

Jim Carmin shared that the exhibit actually started off appropriately enough with a correspondence between him and the publisher of “Tuft by Puff,” the pages of which were made from the latter and the poet’s bathrobes! The exhibit was many years in the making and only a small fraction of the actual collection.

Paul Merchant’s excitement and respect for William Stafford was clearly evident. He shared a few letters that he thought were noteworthy. One was an exchange between William Stafford and fellow Pacific Northwest Poet Richard Hugo which really provided insight to the former’s character. Another was a sort of behind the scenes look at how artist Wang Hui-Ming translated one of Stafford’s poems. The display is of the colorful coyote and is hard to miss!

Kim Stafford told wonderful stories about his dad and how he was always encouraging to others, inviting everyone to the world of writing. He talked about the power of the written letter and urged everyone to write one because it will make that person’s day!

I apologize if I got information and names wrong. I couldn’t read my own notes! The exhibit runs until December 16.

What’s your favorite William Stafford poem?

Of Library Hops and Archives Crawls

Yesterday was the 3rd Annual Oregon Archives Crawl.

Since I’ve always enjoyed a good library hop, this sounded like fun. What is it exactly? What does it entail?

From their site,

“Based on the popular concept of a pub crawl, the Archives Crawl consists of four host institutions that open their doors for the curious, provide behind-the-scenes tours, and offer space for many other archivists from local collections to bring information about their archives and examples from their collections. People “crawl” from one venue to another, checking out the items and meeting the archivists. In addition to tours, exhibits and the opportunity to chat with an archivist, special events demonstrate why archives are not just for scholars but for the curious of all ages.”

What’s cool about this year’s crawl was their theme of “Celebrate women; celebrate archives!” If you recall, earlier this year, at Central Library’s Collins Gallery, the exhibit was “Votes for Women! The Oregon Story.”

My first stop was at the Oregon Historical Society to get a tour of their Davies Family Research Library. (Another library to add to my list!) Did I manage to get lost looking for this library? Yes. I took an elevator from the museum and ended up in the adjacent building- the Sovereign Hotel. Aside from that little hiccup, the Library Director gave a wonderful tour of the place. There were so many interesting things to see and this is just a small percentage of what they actually have. The majority of their collection is in a warehouse in Gresham.

After quick visits to the Portland Archives and Records Center and Portland State University’s Millar Library, I ended the crawl at Central Library’s John Wilson Special Collections where the librarian gave a show and tell of some of the items there.

I’ll be honest. I’m not really into history. But the Archives Crawl is something that I always look forward to. It’s a great way to learn about topics I normally wouldn’t think about. And, it’s so fascinating that libraries have to somehow preserve the past, find ways to stay current and relevant, and think ahead to the future- all at the same time!

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How to put Library2Go titles onto your e-reader device

Do you have an Kindle, Nook, iPad or one of the many other e-reader devices? Would you like to learn how to put FREE library e-books onto your device?

First, check out Library2Go.

Do you need help navigating around the Library2Go website? Check out this brief tour of Library2Go.

Library2Go carries thousands of titles in many formats. Do you need to know what format works best for your device? Find your device on this page and below it you’ll see the formats that can downloaded onto it.

Not sure how to put e-books onto your device? Check out this Help page for step by step instructions.

The Multnomah County Library website has an E-books page that is full of helpful FAQ’s and video tutorials. Prefer to work one-on-one with an expert? Book an appointment with a librarian or attend a program.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Banned Books Week: Some Reviews of Banned/Callenged Books We’ve Read- Earl’s Picks

Sherman Alexie and “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” has been recommended to me for quite awhile now. I wanted to continue reading books that dealt with identity- in January I read “The Girl Who Fell from the Sky” and in February, I read “Monstress”- so I picked this book up. Unlike “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Wonder”, which I liked very much and basically followed the same storyline of the main character persevering through whatever challenges came their way and ended up being better for them, this was somehow different. It was more relatable.

With its strong but honest language and a lot of the subjects covered, I can see why certain groups may be offended with the book and may want it banned. But I think that’s what a great story does. It makes us uncomfortable in its ability to mirror our lives and ourselves in its pages.

This was a great introduction to Sherman Alexie’s works as I’m sure I’ll be reading more of his books!

One of the constantly challenged books since its publication is “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. (I was surprised to see most of the titles, as this one was, were children’s books.) Based on actual events in New York City’s Central Park Zoo, this picture book tells the story of two male penguins who’ve partnered up and became “adoptive” fathers. The reasons for challenging this book includes “anti-ethnic, sexism, homosexuality, anti-family, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group”.

I thought the story was sweet. Despite the subject matter, there was nothing offensive or preachy about it. It’s not like the penguins were doing the deed. I don’t understand how this can be considered “anti-family” when it’s just showing another type of the modern definition of what makes a family. As for “unsuited to age group”, I did wonder if kids should be reading about things they can’t fully comprehend. (“And Tango Makes Three” is targeted for the preschool and early grade school crowd.) But some people might actually find it comforting there are books aimed for kids that deal with controversial topics- not only of homosexuality but death, racism, terrorism, etc.

Meet Winston Smith. He lives in Oceania, a prison designed to look like paradise. He works in the Records Department for the Ministry of Truth where he edits the past in all ways possible to prove that the present is as it should be.

He begins to wonder if life has always been this way. But in a world where the government controls everything and kids can turn on their parents, questioning society and authority is a very dangerous thing to do- especially when Big Brother is watching. Welcome to 1984.

I’ve practically stayed away from books that are considered “required reading” for schools. Just thinking about them turns me off. I remember how much fun was taken away from otherwise good books.

But I had read George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and his essay “Bookshop Memories” and liked them. He was also highly recommended by people I know- and all of them had powerful reactions to “1984”.

“1984” is probably one of the most terrifying novels I’ve ever read. It’s obviously fiction but it was based on a world where some of the things really happened- and scarily are still happening today- in one form or another.

There were very brutal sections. It was literally torture to read. But good literature does that. It opens your mind in ways you can’t even imagine- whether you like it or not.

I’m sure everyone is familiar with “Where the Wild Things Are”. The story and illustrations by Maurice Sendak are classic. Even if they hadn’t read the book, it would be familiar. Anyone can relate to Max because we were once him- a little trouble maker who had fun with his imagination- in other words, a child.

This is one of the book that gets better the more you read it. You learn to appreciate just how solid the book is. The wild things are original and distinctive. The run-on sentences are structured to keep the readers turning pages, anticipating what happens next.