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Staff Picks: Books

The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, Literary Treasures

I find it hard to believe that it has been 26 years since the Kalamazoo Public Library gave up its card catalog in favor of an online catalog. This means that a fairly large segment of the population has no memory of this iconic entity. As do a few others on the staff here at the library, I remember well the days of walking to the card catalog from the desk to determine whether we owned a certain book or not. While I would never want to return to this method of library service, I did enjoy looking at this 2017 book produced by the Library of Congress. In it are five chapters: 1) Origins of the Card Catalog, 2) The Enlightened Catalog, 3) Constructing a Catalog, 4) The Nation's Library and Catalog, and 5) The Rise and Fall of the Card Catalog. There are lots of illustrations, not only of the furniture, but also individual cards as well as photographs of original book jackets to go along with the cards depicted. I loved seeing covers of books such as those for To Kill a Mockingbird, The Cat in the Hat, Charlotte's Web, The Grapes of Wrath, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and many others. This book evokes nostalgia for the past as well as gratitude for the present.


For the Love of Bunnies and Books

Bunny's Book Club by Annie Silvestro is all about a Bunny's love of books! It all starts one day when he happens to hear a librarian reading outside to local kids. Bunny realizes right away that books could take him to faraway places where he can experience adventure and excitement!

When summer ends, story time moves inside the library, a place that Bunny didn't think he was allowed to enter. But one night his longing for books gets the better of him, and he decides to venture over to the library. But alas it is locked! What to do? Being an ingenious rabbit, he leaps at the bar of the book return, lands inside the slot and through it into the confines of the library itself. He gets very excited seeing all the books that are available. Bunny spends the night exploring the various sections of the building, picking up tomes of interest along the way. With a towering stack of books, he makes his way back to his burrow ready to read his newly found treasures. This behavior becomes a habit, and he returns night after night. Pretty soon he invites some of his animal buddies to join him in exploring the wonderful world of books. Somehow, all the animals are able to fit through the book return, even Bear but only after a good deal of squeezing and wriggling.

One particular evening, all the animals are so immersed in their book finds inside the library, that they don't notice or hear a librarian arriving to work early. Not knowing what to expect, Bunny and his friends are delighted that she points out that the library has strict rules and the first rule of business is that "every book lover must have one of these"- a library card. Each animal receives a shiny, new card allowing them to borrow books legitimately, as long as they are returned.

Back inside the confines of Bunny's home, they inaugurate Bunny's Book Club as proud founding members.

This is a truly whimsical story with lively and attractive illustrations by Tatjana Mai-Wyss, that is sure to please kids and even adults. It's very pro-library, pro-books, and pro-book club to boot. What's there not to like?

Although, I own a pet bunny named Patrick, adopted from the Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary on St. Patrick's day six years ago, he is not much into books or reading. Being only four and one-half pounds, he makes up for his small stature with a very big assertive personality. He also happens to be very smart and as a result, he rules the roost in our house that he shares with three large male cats. Basically,whatever Patrick wants he eventually gets by manipulating both cats and humans who cohabit  in our house. In the past five or six months, nine year old Patrick or Patricio, as we sometimes fondly call him, has become quite cat-like in his behavior and tastes. He started to use the cats' litter box, sleeps in their cat beds, likes to sneak in a few cat kibbles for a snack and actively seeks out the cats for play time. He hasn't eaten Timothy Hay for years now and instead has trained his humans to purchase fresh greens for him three times a week. His favorites are cilantro,parsley, mint, and the super food for both humans and apparently bunnies- kale!

As my husband is fond of saying in referring to him, "What a guy!"

 

 

 

 


These Girls Pack a Punch!

 Do you need more dinosaurs, time travelers, and girl power in your life? If so, I have two fantastic graphic novels for you.  First up, is Paper Girls, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughn, the writer named by Wired Magazine as " the greatest comic book visionary of the last five years." This suspenseful mystery starts with a slow burn as four paper delivery girls head out to cover their route the morning after Halloween in 1988.  After the girls accidentally set off a strange machine, the story kicks off at break-neck speed, and soon the girls are facing off against dinosaurs, laser-blasting knights, and sub-human creatures that might just be from the future. It’s intense, fast-paced, wicked fun, and the series is only just beginning. 

 

Also, make sure to check out the Lumberjanes series by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson. Lumberjanes follows five “hardcore lady types” spending the summer at a crazy camp surrounded by bizarre supernatural mysteries. The girls fight werewolves, solve riddles, and avoid the ever-watchful eye of their group counselor in this manic, off-beat, fantastic read. This series has been out for a while, but you can catch up on Hoopla digital.

Both of these series are a great mash-up of sci-fi, fantasy, action, and mystery with fabulous artwork. So what are you waiting for? 


The Walking Dead Comics on Hoopla

I have a history of being a latecomer to particular pop culture moments. Though I tend to love low and high brow culture fairly equally, I have snobbish moments and tend to assume if millions of people like something I probably won't. The best example of this is Harry Potter. I was about 13 years old when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was published and I had absolutely no interest in joining that craze. I was in Moscow when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was published ten years later, and refused to even tag along with friends for the midnight release at an English-language bookstore. But after I started library school I decided I should probably see what all the fuss was about. And of course I loved the books.

That is all to say I am fully aware The Walking Dead is presently one of the most popular series on television, you are probably watching the current season, and you may have already devised ways to cope with waiting a week to see a new episode (or even waiting months between seasons!). I know, I am really late to this party. Since I binge-watched nearly 80 episodes in less than one month, and only four episodes remain of the current season, I'm looking for ways to feed my obsession between new episodes/seasons.

It appears Hoopla, a library service perhaps best known for streaming movies and music, will fill that void. Hoopla now offers access to comics, including all 24 volumes of the collected The Walking Dead. Comics check out for three weeks, and the great thing about Hoopla is that everything is always available – no holds, no waiting.


Improbable Libraries

Having spent most of my life in libraries as either patron or staff, I naturally gravitated to this little 7" x 7" gem. The subtitle gives a good indication of what the book contains: A Visual Journey to the World's Most Unusual Libraries. The seven chapters are 1) Libraries on the Move, 2) Animal Libraries, 3) Tiny Libraries, 4) Big Libraries, 5) Home Libraries, 6) Mobile Libraries, and 7) Not libraries. Most of the 'institutions,' and I use that term loosely, are definitely cutting edge and/or unorthodox. I love the pictures of the camel carrying books as The Mongolian Children's Mobile Library, the Elephantine Library in Laos, the Biblioburro in Colombia, and the book donkeys in Venezuela. Libraries exist in surprising places and are structured in widely diverse ways. The book shows that libraries are alive, well, needed, and used -- all over the world.


Information Wants To Be FREE

 Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand is famously credited with the saying "information wants to be free", but it was hacktivist wunderkind Aaron Swartz who took his quote as marching orders and set out to actually make it free – with both troubling and thought provoking results. The new book The Idealist: Aaron Swartz and the Rise of Free Culture on The Internet by Justin Peters reads like a highly contextualized biography of Swartz and the history and circumstances that led to his tragically taking his own life in 2013 rather than face what most characterize as an overly aggressive federal prosecution for anonymously downloading massive amounts of academic articles from the JSTOR database. Peters veers off from the Swartz storyline multiple times to give context and a sense of history to the complex history of intellectual property in the US, something that he is criticized for in Stephen Witt’s NYT Sunday Book Review of the book. But I loved the veering off and the lively and accessible prose that Peters uses here. Aaron Swartz believed deeply in the power of open access to information as the central idea that makes our democracy so powerful. I will leave it to readers of this book to make up their own minds about the status of that ideal today and what they are willing to do about it. Highly recommended! 

For more about Swartz and his story, I recommend the great documentary The Internet’s Own Boy.


Part of Our Lives

I recently tuned in to one of C-Span's book review programs, and the author being interviewed immediately struck a chord. Speaking was Dr. Wayne A. Wiegand, an alumnus of WMU's School of Librarianship (an institution still held dear by some of us) in the early 1970s. He also has degrees in history. These, combined with his professional library and professorial experience, make him eminently qualified to write this book. Subtitled A People's History of the American Public Library, this 2015 work observes that 'despite dire predictions in the late twentieth century that public libraries would not survive the turn of the millennium, their numbers have only increased.' He discusses the public library as a public space, a place for accessing information, or a home for reading material that helps patrons make sense of the world around them. The first sentence of the introduction says, 'It's an indisputable fact -- Americans love their public libraries.' What a wonderful thought!