Archive for the ‘Libraries’ Category

It was hard to believe that someone could write 227 pages on library card catalogs, but in reality, three quarters of those pages are photos. Written by the Library of Congress, The Card Catalog: Books, Cards and Literary Treasures includes a short history on the evolution of the card catalog and is mostly a venue to display various books in its collection (mostly first editions)…alongside of which is a copy of an index card from a card catalog. This is all fine with me.


For those of us who are library users, the card catalog is a thing of the past…unless, like me, you have one in your home. Those user friendly little index cards detailing the pertinent information about a book have gone electronic and there is no more flipping through cards to find what you’re looking for…as lamented by various authors and poets when asked to sign catalog cards of their works for an exhibit.

The various great libraries of the world, especially the one in ancient Alexandria, needed some way of cataloging their holdings. As writing surfaces evolved from papyrus to codex to paper, the ability to catalog library holdings improved, both from the framework of the writing implements as well as the system by which items were cataloged. Most of us are familiar with the Dewey Decimal System and some of us with the Library of Congress Subject Headings.

The Library of Congress itself evolved from a library to support the fledgling United States Congress to becoming the premier library in the world, supplying cataloging information to libraries worldwide.

One tidbit of note: in the initial training programs for librarians in the United States, the penmanship of an index card used for cataloging purposes was one of the courses.

If you’re looking for some easy reading about books or want to learn a little bit about the cataloging of books, The Card Catalog is an enjoyable two day read. Book lovers will enjoy this immensely.


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PublicLibraryI readily admit that I’m a library geek. When I go on vacation I visit libraries. I also collect books about libraries, primarily photo essays. So, of course I’d end up reading The Public Library: A Photographic Essay by Robert Dawson. Over a decade in the making, this book has photos of public libraries, big and small, fancy and plain. Some are Carnegie libraries. Some are shopping mall libraries. Some libraries were once gas stations or prisons or churches. One was even a bank and in the vault they show movies. Some are log cabins. There’s a seed library and a tool library. Some had air conditioning and some didn’t. Not every library is as well stocked as the suburban libraries that we’re familiar with. One library was founded by a widow, using the books her husband had.

This is an eye-opening and moving book. The captions explain the libraries, and mention those that have closed after having been photographed. There are way too many of these. There are essays by writers such as Barbara Kingsolver, Amy Tan and Ann Patchett examining what libraries mean to them and what the closing of libraries means, as well. There’s an essay from a Bookomobile driver explaining the satisfaction he gets from putting books in the hands of children and adults alike.

I remember going to Freeport, Maine one year to go to L.L. Bean. Walking down the main street I noticed that what once was the local public library was currently an Ann Taylor store. How disappointing!!!

In this economic climate, many libraries are shortening hours and are on the brink of closing. I marveled at the citizens who banded together to make sure their public libraries remain open.

The Public Library: A Photographic Essay is a marvelous book and I highly recommend it to library lovers and book lovers.

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Happy Holidays

I know many of us are all stressed out, bogged down with last minute gift shopping, bucking the crowds at the malls. It’s interesting to note that in the past week, we’ve had three outbreaks of fisticuffs at the library, a telling indicator of the stress caused by the materialism of the holidays, the economy and world events.

So, while I know it’s difficult, I hope that this holiday season we take time out to appreciate the meaning of the holidays…the miracles we overlook every day like a child’s laughter, the sun casting its light on us in the morning and lowering in the evening, the vision of a family of deer, their white tails receding in the distance as they bound over the hillside, white fields of virgin snow in the winter transforming into fertile fields of greenery each spring. I could go on and on.

I know I’ve been blessed this year with family and friends. As the year draws to a close, I relish looking back at the year’s events and the happiness they’ve brought: holidays in Cape Cod and Warwick with Susan, graduations, new jobs, new apartments. We tend to dwell on the negative, but let’s resolve to dwell on the positive from now on.

So, from my family to yours, we all wish you a happy holiday season.


P.S. May the season be filled with the wonderousness of books and the worlds they open to all of us. And where do you get these great books? At your libraries and independent bookstores. So, support them! You need them and they need you. (I had to put this in!)

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A student of mine, knowing how much I like news articles about books and libraries sent me the link below.

In short, “An anonymous artist of considerable talent has been hiding paper sculptures in the collections of libraries and museums around Edinburgh.” The photo above is one example of the sculpture made out of pages of books. Don’t get upset, though, because the artist is a major supporter of libraries.  See the rest of these amazing sculptures by clicking the link below.


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