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Photo: Wing. 
A Virginia school district has been using Wing, a drone service owned by the parent company of Google, to deliver books to students during the pandemic.

I love stories about the determination of librarians to get books to people no matter what the odds. You may have read my bicycle-library post, camel-library post, library-on-horseback post, or the 2020 post about a book bus in Kabul, here. You can’t keep a good librarian down.

The story today is about book delivery by drone. Marie Fazio writes at the New York Times, “Last week, Deanna Robertson and her two sons stood on their front lawn in western Virginia scanning the sky for a drone they could hear humming from almost a mile away.

“When it finally arrived, hovering above their heads, the boys rushed forward to take what it offered: a copy of ‘All Quiet on the Western Front,’ required summer reading and possibly the first library book delivered by drone in history.

“With students unable to make it to the library because of the coronavirus, the Montgomery County Public School district has partnered with Wing, the drone-delivery unit of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, to deliver books to their homes. One week into the project, there have been more than 35 successful deliveries, said Kelly Passek, a middle-school librarian and the mastermind of the project. …

“Students living in Wing’s four-mile delivery zone in Christiansburg can use a Google form to request a specific book or ask Ms. Passek to choose one she thinks they would like. Around 600 Montgomery County students live within the delivery footprint.

After pulling a book from the library shelf and making sure it weighs less than three pounds, Ms. Passek packages the book and brings it to Wing’s office in Christiansburg. The drone takes over from there.

“It flies to a delivery site, lowers the book on a cable and releases the grip as it hits the ground.

“The students can borrow multiple books and do not have to return them until they go back to school in the fall. …

“Keith Heyde, the head of Virginia operations for Wing, said the company had completed thousands of deliveries for requests like Walgreens over-the-counter medications and cold brew from local coffee shops. The drones, which have a wingspan of 3.3 feet and weigh 10.6 lbs., can carry packages around three pounds up to speeds approaching 70 miles per hour, according to the company. They can fly 12 miles round trip.

“Ms. Passek was one of the first Christiansburg residents to receive a drone delivery when Wing began the program. Her first order, a Walgreens cough and cold care package, made her think of other uses for drones in the community, namely library books. She raised the idea with Mr. Heyde last fall, and revisited it with him when the coronavirus hit the United States.

“Book requests have been a mix of required summer reading and books of a student’s choice, Ms. Passek said. While Ms. Robertson’s 14-year-old son, Brendan, was assigned ‘All Quiet on the Western Front,’ [Camden], 11, ordered John Grisham’s ‘Theodore Boon: Kid Lawyer’ to read for fun. …

“Since the coronavirus pandemic began, drones have been used in novel ways all over the world. In Britain, the police used drones to enforce social distancing. In Fairfield, Conn., they were used to monitor beach and parkgoers. An eager drone user in Queens broadcast a coronavirus safety message on his drone’s speakers as it flew over the streets of New York City. …

“Cold-brew coffees from a local coffee shop are particularly popular, Mr. Heyde said. Since the coronavirus, there has been a substantial increase per month in sign-ups for drone delivery, he said, but he believes the virus accelerated a pre-existing trend. … To the best of his knowledge, this is the first library book program by drone in history.

“ ‘If we can provide even one or two students with a resource they wouldn’t have access to otherwise because they wouldn’t be able to go to the library, that’s a win,’ he said.”

More here.

 

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Photo: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images
Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, from 1890. A new book describes one man’s hunt for Shakespeare’s library.

There are people I’m sure you know who get a bee in their bonnet about some topic, often to the point of wearing out their friends and relatives with a barrage of random facts. But although their enthusiasm can be wearing, there’s no doubt that their research provides benefits to many of us, whether their obsession is about an ancestor of ours or someone we all claim as our own, like Shakespeare.

This report is for Laurie, who is likely to appreciate the enthusiam of Shakespeare hound Stuart Kells.

Alison Flood writes at the Guardian, “In an autumn in which scholars have unearthed Milton’s copy of Shakespeare in Philadelphia and parchment fragments from the 13th-century epic Le Roman de la Rose in Worcester [UK], Stuart Kells, author of the forthcoming Shakespeare’s Library, would like to be clear: he has not uncovered the Bard’s book collection, despite what the title might suggest.

“ ‘But I have confirmed its existence, clarified its scale and scope, and documented what happened to it,’ says the author, who has spent 20 years on the trail of Shakespeare’s personal library, and lays out his search in his new book. ‘It would be a very different book if I had gone out and discovered his library. No one has done that. It isn’t in one spot.’ …

“Kells is by no means the first person to have embark on a quest to find Shakespeare’s library during the last 400 years. As he writes, “for every species of book person, the idea of Shakespeare’s library – his personal collection of manuscripts, books, letters and other papers – is enticing, totemic, a subject of wonder.’ …

“Those not sold on his death, or destroyed or lost, ‘are sitting quietly, in cabinets and on shelves, in public and private collections around the world,’ he speculates. …

“ ‘There are things out there still being found and that’s part of the fun. … People are still finding chests of early letters, and there are volumes of multiple plays all bound together.

‘Play scripts were thought of as low literature for some time – they were slightly disreputable and weren’t taken seriously.’ …

“One of his tantalising findings is the potential former owner of a theologicial work by Agostino Tornielli. The book was published in Milan in 1610 and shipped to England, where it was bound in brown calfskin in 1615, the year before Shakespeare’s death. The cover panels on the book include an image of Pyramus and Thisbe, and the edges of the text block are decorated with elaborate patterning.

“The owner of the four bindings is not known, but there are a few hints.. … Writes Kells. ‘In tiny letters, the cover image is signed “I. S.” No one knows whether the initials are those of the block-maker, the bookbinder, the bookseller, the book’s owner, a patron or a dedicatee.’ … But the initials match those of Iohannes Shakespeare, William’s father, who dealt in leather hides – ‘no doubt some of them for bookbinding,’ Kells writes.

“Kells believes that one of the reasons for the disappearance of Shakespeare’s library is that the playwright was not an ‘avid inscriber of books,’ or much of a letter writer. ‘Practically minded and commercial, he does not seem to have been driven by abstract ideas of fame and posterity,’ Kells writes. …

“ ‘I’m quietly confident things are going to turn up,’ he says. “We now see the quarto editions as some of the greatest literary treasures in the world but, up until the 19th century, they were thought of in a different way. They are slight documents, little pamphlets, so it’s very probable they’re out there. We now have clearer eyes to search for these things and different ways of analysing them and dating things. We’re in a golden era of discovery right now.’ ”

More at the Guardian, here. I must say, it takes imagination to interpret the initials of Shakespeare’s father on a piece of leather this way, but it is surely imagination that will find and assemble the lost library.

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Photos: Local Council of Daraya City
This image from 2014 shows young people who rescued books for a secret library in besieged Daraya, Syria.

As much as I love stories about good things happening in bad times, I always wonder when I post them whether the oasis in Kabul or the library in Syria is still going. Was it there in July when a news outlet’s article was written? Was it there yesterday? Sometimes I search the internet to find a follow-up on, say, the multireligion soccer team that was never expected to win. Sometimes I leave it to you.

Despite the ambiguity of this July 2019 comment from VOA, a book on the heroic library started by Syrian teens is still worth talking about:

[Abdul] Basit and his team of volunteers were among those who had to flee Daraya to northern Syria, leaving the library behind. Unable to take the books, the members tried to conceal the library by blocking its entrance with pieces of shattered concrete. Despite their efforts, Syrian government forces were able to find the makeshift library. The fate of thousands of books remains unclear, according to Basit, who has been unable to return home.

At The New York Times, Dunya Mikhail reviews Mike Thomson’s book Syria’s Secret Library: Reading and Redemption in a Town Under Siege.

“In a region that sways ‘on the palm of a genie,’ as the Arabic saying goes, where bullets and explosions are more familiar than bread, you would not expect people to read, let alone to risk their lives for the sake of books.

“Yet in 2013 a group of enthusiastic readers in Daraya, five miles southwest of Damascus, salvaged thousands of books from ruined homes, wrapping them in blankets just as they would victims of the war raging around them. They brought the books into the basement of a building whose upper floors had been wrecked by bombs and set up a library. As Mike Thomson recounts this unlikely story in Syria’s Secret Library, this underground book collection surrounded by sandbags functioned, as one user put it, as an ‘oasis of normality in this sea of destruction.’

“There, the self-appointed chief librarian, a 14-year-old named Amjad, would write down in a large file the names of people who borrowed the books, and then return to his seat to continue reading. He had all the books he could ever want, apart from ones on high shelves that he couldn’t reach. He told his friends: ‘You don’t have TV now anyway, so why not come here and educate yourself? It’s fun.’ The library hosted a weekly book club, as well as classes on English, math and world history, and debates over literature and religion.

“Advertising the library’s activities without compromising its security was a dilemma; patrons relied on word of mouth for fear that it would be targeted by the Syrian Army. By the time the library was founded, Daraya, a site of anti-government uprising and calls for reforms, had been under siege by the army for more than a year. Its 8,000 remaining residents — from a prewar population of about 80,000 — faced near-constant bombardment and shortages of food, water and power….

“Thomson, a radio and television reporter who covered the war in Syria for the BBC, dedicated months to interviewing the library’s founders and their friends via Skype and social media. When the internet went down in Daraya, his sources recorded comments on their phones as audio diaries they could send on to Thomson when the connection was restored. His book is a compassionate and inspiring portrait of a town where, one of the founders tells him, ‘fuel for our souls’ was an essential need.

“The books ‘help us understand the outside world better,’ another founder, a local dental student, said. Likewise, Thomson’s book may help the outside world better understand Syrians. …

“In the same spirit of piling books under Daraya’s shattered streets, local artists painted graffiti art on the walls of ruined buildings. In a moving image drawn by Abu Malik, a local artist nicknamed Banksy, a little girl stands on a pile of skulls writing the word ‘hope’ high above her head.” More.

Are you good at research? Maybe you could help me find out what has since happened to the library. I volunteer with displaced Syrians and others at a resettlement agency in Providence, and I feel a personal interest in this war-torn country.

The artist Abu Malik next to his mural amid the ruins of Daraya in 2014.

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Photo: Culture Club/Getty Images
Detail from CW Quinnell’s portrait of 17th century poet John Milton.

Never doubt the ability of a motivated academic researcher plodding along in dusty library carrels to uncover miracles. I credit the intense focus of youth, imagination, and the thrill of the chase.

Alison Flood writes at The Guardian, “Almost 400 years after the first folio of Shakespeare was published in 1623, scholars believe they have identified the early owner of one copy of the text, who made hundreds of insightful annotations throughout: John Milton.

“The astonishing find, which academics say could be one of the most important literary discoveries of modern times, was made by Cambridge University fellow Jason Scott-Warren when he was reading an article about the anonymous annotator by Pennsylvania State University English professor Claire Bourne. Bourne’s study of this copy, which has been housed in the Free Library of Philadelphia since 1944, dated the annotator to the mid-17th century. … She also provided many images of the handwritten notes, which struck Scott-Warren as looking oddly similar to Milton’s hand.

“ ‘But I always think “I recognise that handwriting,” ‘ Scott-Warren said, ‘[and] normally I’m wrong. This time I thought: “The case is getting stronger and stronger.” ‘

As evidence stacked up, he said he became ‘quite trembly … You’re gathering evidence with your heart in your mouth.’ …

“Scott-Warren has made a detailed comparison of the annotator’s handwriting with the Paradise Lost poet’s. He also believes that the work the annotator did to improve the text of the folio – suggesting corrections and supplying additional material such as the prologue to Romeo and Juliet, along with cross-references to other works – is similar to work Milton did in other books that survive from his library, including his copy of Boccaccio’s Life of Dante.

“The scholar tentatively suggested in a blogpost that he might have identified John Milton’s copy of the Shakespeare First Folio of 1623, admitting that, ‘in this as in other cases, there’s usually a lot of wishful thinking, plus copious spinning of the evidence to make it seem plausible, and elision of anything that doesn’t seem to fit.’

“But he soon found that other scholars were agreeing with him. ‘Not only does this hand look like Milton’s, but it behaves like Milton’s writing elsewhere does, doing exactly the things Milton does when he annotates books, and using exactly the same marks,’ said Dr Will Poole at New College Oxford. … ‘This may be one of the most important literary discoveries of modern times.’ …

“One highlighted section in The Tempest is the song: ‘Come unto these yellow sands, / And then take hands: / Courtsied when you have and kiss’d / The wild waves whist.’ The unusual rhyme, of ‘kiss’d’ and ‘whist,’ is echoed in Milton’s On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity: ‘The winds with wonder whist, / Smoothly the waters kist.’

“ ‘We would already have known about that allusion, they are the only two writers who used that rhyme, but you can see him marking it in the text and responding to it,’ said Scott-Warren. ‘It gives you a sense of his sensitivity and alertness to Shakespeare.’ ” More here.

(Looking for a comment from blogger Laurie Graves, a devoted Shakespeare fan.)

Photo: The Guardian
Milton’s annotated first folio of Shakespeare, recently discovered in the Free Library of Philadelphia Library by a Cambridge University fellow. “He said he became ‘quite trembly … You’re gathering evidence with your heart in your mouth.’ ”

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Image: Jennifer Luxton / Seattle Times
Richard Brautigan, best know for the quirky
Trout Fishing in America, encouraged unpublished writers to express themselves. Now there’s a library in his honor — a library of unpublished manuscripts.

In bookshops, I have often perused books by Richard Brautigan but have always concluded they were too odd for me. After reading about the unusual library the writer inspired, however, I have changed my mind. I’m going to take the plunge.

Megan Burbank writes at the Seattle Times, “It’s easy to trace the lingering influence of Tacoma-born writer Richard Brautigan if you know where to look. Though known for depicting San Francisco’s counterculture of the 1960s and ’70s with surrealistic flair, you’ll find one of his greatest legacies on three bookcases in the basement of Vancouver’s Clark County Historical Museum.

“Known as the Brautigan Library, the collection spans family histories, absurd Brautigan-esque capers, DIY religious tracts and memoirs of ordinary lives. They don’t feel like books at all, really, so much as the complete, unfiltered contents of other people’s minds. And they all have one thing in common: They’re unpublished. …

“When I visited the Brautigan Library in February, I couldn’t stop thinking of a passage from ‘Trout Fishing in America,’ perhaps Brautigan’s best-known work, that compares a bookstore to a graveyard:

‘Thousands of graveyards were parked in rows like cars. Most of the books were out of print, and no one wanted to read them any more and the people who had read the books had died or forgotten about them …’

“The books I encountered, crouched on the floor in that vaguely antiseptic-smelling basement, ran a fierce gamut. … Some stood out for their titles alone. My favorite was Alyce Cornyn-Selby’s ‘Did She Leave Me Any Money? A philosophical comedy about men, money, motivation, winning strategies, architecture, nudism, trucking, corporate assassinations, heart attacks, sexual politics, hometown parades, Spiritual Warriors, and the dredging of Willapa Bay.’ …

“The rows of manuscripts are punctuated with little cardboard printouts of mayonnaise jars, a nod to the collection’s cataloging technique, known as the Mayonnaise system.

“The name is a reference to the last line of ‘Trout Fishing in America.’ (‘Expressing a human need, I always wanted to write a book that ended with the word Mayonnaise.’)

“When Richard Brautigan died in 1984, control of his literary estate fell to his daughter, Ianthe Brautigan Swensen. [She] started getting letters from a man named Todd Lockwood. … His request [to create a library like the one in a Brautigan novel] was the first proposal Brautigan Swensen received that reminded her of the person her father had been.

“ ‘All of the sudden, I was like, “Right, this is the father that I remember,’” ‘ she says. ‘And right after my dad died, I was so — obviously — devastated and I thought in my mind that I’d lost him forever, and I picked up one of his books and there he was.’ …

“In 1990, Lockwood took on [the role of the novel’s librarian, who collected manuscripts.]. His Brautigan Library, based in Burlington, Vermont, operated as a nonprofit. At its peak, he says, it had about 100 volunteer librarians and attracted visitors from out of town.

“But in 1997, it closed due to lack of funding, and the manuscripts were put in storage in Lockwood’s basement.

“This caught the attention of John Barber, a faculty member in the Creative Media and Digital Culture program at Washington State University, Vancouver, who had once studied under Brautigan.

“He found space for the collection at the Clark County Historical Museum, and the library was moved and reopened in 2010. The manuscripts in the library date from the Vermont years: 1990-96. In 2013, it began accepting manuscripts again, but only electronically; there’s not enough space to keep accumulating paper volumes.” More.

What fun! This could be for you!

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Photos: Sian Cain/The Guardian
Where libraries are scarce, Indonesians have risen to the challenge. Sutino ‘Kinong’ Hadi, above, runs the Bemo mobile library in a Jakarta suburb.

Books are important for children, but there are many places around the world where books are scarce. Caring adults do what they can to fill in the gaps, sometimes even going without food in order to buy more books.

Sian Cain writes at the Guardian, “With a great heave, a young man pushes the ancient, three-wheeled rickshaw down a ramp and it splutters to a start. The driver, Sutino ‘Kinong’ Hadi, laughs as he putters his tiny Bemo in a loop outside a preschool in Tanah Abang, in central Jakarta. It’s all the signal the children need; around 20 flood out to envelope the car, pulling at hangings, clambering into the front seat. It’s an exciting time: their library has arrived.

“Kinong is one of thousands of Indonesians who have opened their own library in their own communities. Estimates suggest there are thousands of such libraries in Indonesia, started by ordinary people with great initiative to address the lack of books in their area and funded by occasional donations.

“There is the Perahu Pustaka, a library boat that sails around West Sulawesi. There are libraries on the back of vegetable carts, shelves lugged around by horses in Serang and in West Papua. Across Banten, a 200-strong motorbike gang called the Komunitas Motor Literasi (Moli), brings books to homes from a box attached to their vehicles, delivered with the ease of a takeaway. …

“The persistent myth that Indonesians aren’t interested in reading still pervades; last September, Jakarta governor, Anies Baswedan, told the Jakarta Post: ‘We are challenged to improve our reading interest, particularly in an era where people are far more interested in reading WhatsApp [chats] than in reading books … People nowadays prefer to skim rather than read.’

“But civilians argue that interest isn’t the problem, it’s the lack of infrastructure. ‘Reading appetite isn’t low in Indonesia, it’s just hard to get books,’ says Laura Prinsloo, a publisher … ‘A lot of the people operating these libraries don’t have an education, which makes it hard in a place where it’s about who you know. So if you don’t know anyone, you just do it yourself.’

“Like Andri Gunawan, a wiry young man who heads up the Komunitas Motor Literasi. He never had a library in any of his schools and only became a voracious reader as an adult. ‘Contrary to what a lot of people say, it’s not that there is no interest in reading, it is that there are no books,’ he says. …

“Or Kiswanti, a 52-year-old woman who started out delivering books door-to-door for free on her bicycle. Now, her library and school Warabal, found in Parung, Java, is 21 years old and houses 15,000 books, looked after by 25 volunteers for 1,700 members. …

“ ‘My father apologised as he couldn’t send me on to further education’ she says. ‘But he told me, if I wanted to be smarter, I had to read.’ …

“When Kiswanti opened Warabal in 1997, she even began fasting 10 days each month to buy more.

‘I needed 3,000 rupiah (16p) to eat a day,’ she explains. ‘If I didn’t eat, I can save 30,000 (£1.66) in 10 days – so I could take our best students by taking them to bookshops and buy them any book they want.’ …

“ ‘Reading transports me and introduces me to new worlds – I want to give children that.’ ”

More at the Guardian, here. For similar stories on seat-of-the-pants libraries around the world, search the blog on the word “library.”

This mobile library has been running since 2013. The children are eager for books, but Hadi has found it’s not advisable to let the books go home if  he wants them back.

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Photo: Chicago Public Library
Chicago Public Library STEAM Team First Assistant Librarian Alejandra Santana (left) reads to storytime attendees at Bubbleland laundromat.

Suzanne and Erik’s son went through a period of being utterly enraptured and entranced by washing machines. When his uncle came to visit from Denmark, he made him sit on the floor of the bathroom with him and marvel at the wash cycle. When his sister was born, he pushed her baby bed in front of the washing machine to show her the greatest wonder of life. When my husband babysat him, he insisted on visiting the local laundromat just to watch the machines work. All the staff knew him.

So when I saw this story about the Chicago library system setting up story hours for young children in laundromats, I thought of my grandson. He would have considered library outreach an intrusion on his contemplation (he once sent my husband out of the laundry room because he was in the way), but I think that for other kids, libraries in laundromats would be fantastic.

Anne Ford writes at American Libraries, “Laundry: It’s got to be done. And if you’re in a family with small children and no washer or dryer at home, it’s got to be done at the neighborhood laundromat — probably every week, probably on the same day every week, and probably with those children in tow.

“That’s why, in 1989, Chicago Public Library (CPL) Children’s Librarian Elizabeth McChesney (now CPL’s director of children’s services and family engagement) visited a local laundromat to introduce herself to families. How she responded to what she saw there would help change the landscape of children’s literacy initiatives for decades to come.

“ ‘What I saw was that these were families who, because of a variety of circumstances, were not likely to come to the library for storytime,’ she says. So she went back to the library, threw some books, a couple of puppets, and a tambourine into a laundry basket, walked it back to the laundromat, and held a storytime for the kids there — right on the spot, as the washers whirred.

“McChesney’s not claiming she started the laundry-and-literacy movement. ‘People have done this off and on for the last 25, 30 years,’ she says. Still, thanks to her, CPL continues to hold regular storytimes at laundromats across Chicago. And, she says, the librarians who participate continue to see rewards.

“ ‘Families are now changing their behavior, showing up to do their laundry when the library is going to be there,’ she reports.

‘One little boy just recently said: “Let’s do laundry every day, Mom!” ‘ …

“Can’t these children simply go to a branch library instead? Not necessarily. As a recent paper on book deserts by Susan B. Neuman and Naomi Moland in the journal Urban Education (vol. 54, no. 1, p. 126–147) points out, in some areas, decreased funding for libraries has led to ‘limited hours and curtailed services’ — and in many low-income communities, demand has exceeded capacity or parents are often hesitant to check out books because of potential library fines. …

“Not all laundromat library programs are alike, though most operate with some type of librarian participation, direction, or materials curation.

“Wash Time Is Talk Time, an effort sponsored by [the Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail (TSTF) early-childhood initiative and the Coin Laundry Association’s LaundryCares Foundation (LCF)], distributes posters in English and Spanish that encourage parents to talk, read, and sing with their children while they do laundry; it also provides books to some laundromats to lend out. …

“How effective are these programs, and what kind of impact are they having on children’s literacy? To find out, [the Laundry and Literacy Coalition (LLC)] is working with Neuman. … The first part of that evaluation, conducted last year, found that children in laundromats with literacy resources engaged in 30 times more literacy activities — such as talking with their families, singing songs, drawing, and reading books — than children in laundromats without those resources. The second phase, announced in March, found that librarians in these programs increased child engagement in literacy-related activities.” More here.

Bubbleland on Western, a Chicago laundromat

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Photo: Book Aid International
The first shipment of books for the University of Mosul’s library arrives in Iraq for Alaa Hamdon’s Book Bridge campaign.

It’s a good thing that humans are like ants in one regard because as soon as a community is destroyed, people begin the work to build it back up. That is what is happening in Mosul, Iraq, a city that was overrun by the culture-hating forces of Isis not that long ago.

Olivia Snaije writes at Publishing Perspectives, “Since the destruction of the University of Mosul’s library, momentum is building for Book Aid International’s efforts to coordinate and enable publishers’ contributions to rebuilding. …

“Most news accounts date the main destruction of the University of Mosul library to 2015, following the start of the Islamic State group’s occupation in June 2014. … The library had been one of the most important in Iraq and the Middle East, a repository of information on the cultures, religions, and ethnicities that make up the region. The destruction of thousands of books, many of them precious, was a tragic addition to the country’s list of tremendous cultural losses in recent years.

“Used by up to 40,000 students, the library was, in the words of Alaa Hamdon at the London Book Fair, ‘an icon for the university, a lighthouse for students and the community, a shining light at the heart of the university.’ Hamdon is the founder of the Mosul Book Bridge campaign to rebuild the library. …

“When Mosul was liberated from ISIS in 2017, Dr. Hamdon decided to establish the Mosul Book Bridge effort to rebuild the university’s library, and contacted Book Aid International. The British charity works with more than 100 publishers in the UK and reports sending up to 300,000 books to countries worldwide.

“Traditionally, Book Aid’s service area has been mostly in Africa. But [Alison Tweed, chief executive, said] that reports of the deliberate cultural and intellectual destruction in Iraq were so moving that she offered to partner with Hamdon’s Mosul Book Bridge campaign.

“ ‘We have infrastructure and logistics,’ she said, ‘and it seemed like a wonderful partnership. … We like a challenge. We made a selection of books and put them onto trucks. They sat in Bulgaria for a few weeks and then limped across the border. The situation is volatile and ever-changing, but the books got there.’

“When the first shipment of 3,750 or so books arrived in Mosul in March 2018, Hamdon said he and his colleagues danced in the street. Tweed said that her colleagues danced in the office. ‘That appreciation is everything for us, it makes our work worthwhile.’

“What made Book Aid’s coordination and contribution especially valuable was that they delivered new books that the University of Mosul had specifically requested, said Mehiyar Kathem, whose Nahrein Network helps people across the Middle East to ‘reclaim their ancient heritage as local history, putting it to constructive use for their communities.’ …

” ‘I visited Mosul in January,’ Kathem said. ‘I’d like to stress how important it is to have the physical books there because the Internet doesn’t work well. These are brand-new important books, because you also have out-of-date books donated, like a book on electronics from the 1980s.’ …

“Hamdon said that rebuilding the library can help ‘give hope to everyone living there, that culture is back. People will feel reassured about their education and their future.’ ”

More here.

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Photo: CNN
Garbage collectors in Ankara, Turkey, created a library from abandoned books.

This story seems to go with the one about the homeless man in South Africa who sells used books to passersby. The books in the CNN article, however, are not only used — they have been thrown in the trash or abandoned.

Garbage collectors in Ankara thought it was a shame that so many salvageable books should be landfilled when there are people who would appreciate access to them.

Here’s the report from Spencer Feingold and Hande Atay Alamat.

“Garbage collectors in the Turkish capital have opened a public library composed entirely of books once destined for the landfills. The library, located in the Çankaya district of Ankara, was founded after sanitation workers started collecting discarded books.

As word of the collection spread, residents also began donating books directly.

“Initially, the books were only for employees and their families to borrow. But as the collection grew and interest spread throughout the community, the library was eventually opened to the public in September of last year.

” ‘We started to discuss the idea of creating a library from these books. And when everyone supported it, this project happened,’ said Çankaya Mayor Alper Tasdelen, whose local government oversaw the opening of the library.

“Today, the library has over 6,000 books ranging from literature to nonfiction. There is also a popular kid’s section with comic books and an entire section for scientific research. Books in English and French are also available for bilingual visitors.

“The library is housed in a previously vacant brick factory at the sanitation department headquarters. With an aged brick façade and long corridors, the space was ideal for a library. …

” ‘On one hand, there were those who were leaving these books on the streets. On the other hand others were looking for these books,’ Tasdelen said.

“The collection grew so large the library now loans the salvaged books to schools, educational programs, and even prisons.

” ‘Village schoolteachers from all over Turkey are requesting books,’ Tasdelen said. The city government also hired a full-time employee to manage the library. …

“The library is especially popular with cyclists who bike in the nearby valley and break for a quick read and cup of tea.” More here.

You know what I love best about this? It shows how a good idea attracts people of good will as fast as honey attracts flies.

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Photo: Getty
Auckland Libraries in New Zealand figured out why their books were going missing and came up with a win-win solution.

If you know how to read, you want to read, and librarians want you to read. But not everyone has easy access to books. That is why some readers in New Zealand were sneaking books.

Mark Molloy writes at the UK’s Telegraph, “A New Zealand library has finally solved the mystery of why some books were going missing from its shelves.

“Auckland Libraries staff were bewildered after finding some books were being hidden in random places. They initially thought kids playing pranks were to blame, but later discovered it was the city’s rough sleepers who were actually stashing the books so they could return the next day to continue reading.

“ ‘A lot of our street community were wanting to put them underneath the couches or underneath book shelves and kind of hiding them in various places,’ librarian Sean Taylor told TV NZ. … Without a permanent address they were unable to sign up for a library card that would allow them to take the literature away.

“As a solution, Auckland Library created a new section where books can now be left overnight and picked back up again the next morning. …

“ ‘They are really well read. We’ve got a guy who I’ve had a discussion about the meanings of words and we’ll talk about the reference section and it’s the kind of intellectual conversation you’d expect from an academic.’ …

“Auckland Library says it sees itself as a ‘home for the homeless’ and holds regular cinema screenings and a book club for those sleeping rough. …

“ ‘One guy told me he moved to the city several years ago, and that none of his family back home knew he was homeless,” [said Rachel Rivera, manager of Auckland Libraries]. He used our computers to keep in touch with them. It was his lifeline to his family,’ she said.

“ ‘They value our service, like many of our communities do, for different reasons. But they don’t always feel safe and welcome, and that is something we can and should take steps to address.’ ”

More at the Telegraph, here. And look: Everything at the Auckland libraries website is in both English and Maori.

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Photo: Walter Siegmund
Storm Reyes, who grew up in an impoverished Native American community, says her life was transformed by a bookmobile. The first book she chose was about volcanoes because the previous night she’d heard a scary story about Mt. Rainier erupting.

Maria Popova has a wonderful blog that she often links to on twitter, which is where I picked up her heartwarming story about what access to books can mean in a poor child’s life.

From Brainpickings: “A beautiful testament to that emancipating, transformative power of public libraries comes from one such troubled little girl named Storm Reyes, who grew up in an impoverished Native American community, had her life profoundly changed, perhaps even saved, by a library bookmobile, and went on to become a librarian herself. She tells her story in this wonderful oral history animation by StoryCorps:

“The piece was adapted into an essay in Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work

“Here is Reyes’s story, as it appears in the book:

Working and living in migrant farmworkers’ fields, the conditions were pretty terrible. My parents were alcoholics, and I was beaten and abused and neglected. I learned to fight with a knife long before I learned how to ride a bicycle.

When you are grinding day after day after day, there’s nothing to aspire to except filling your hungry belly. You may walk down the street and see a row of nice, clean houses, but you never, ever dream you can live in one. You don’t dream. You don’t hope.

When I was twelve, a bookmobile came to the fields. I thought it was the Baptists, because they used to come in a van and give us blankets and food. So I went over and peeked in, and it was filled with books. …

The night before, an elder had told us a story about the day that Mount Rainier blew up and the devastation from the volcano. So I told the bookmobile person that I was nervous about the mountain blowing up, and he said, ‘You know, the more you know about something, the less you will fear it.’

At Brainpickings, you can find out what happened next, here.

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Photo: Leila Navidi/Star Tribune
Kate Coleman, outreach coordinator at the Minneapolis Central Library, met with Byron Brooks about his housing issues.

Ever since the Ferguson, Missouri, library created a safe zone for residents during the 2014 riots, my eyes have been opened to the range of services that contemporary libraries offer the public.

In Minneapolis, for example, one library branch has a social worker who focuses on helping homeless patrons find resources.

Haley Hansen at the Star Tribune reports, “Kate Coleman worked with nearly 500 homeless people at Minneapolis Central Library last year … as part of a yearslong effort by the Hennepin County Library system to better help the homeless connect with tools and resources in the area. …

“Coleman’s position allows the library to be more than just a basic reference point for help. She said the full-time role fits in with the library’s overall mission of connecting all parts of the community with help and information. …

“Coleman works for St. Stephen’s Human Services, a nonprofit whose mission is to end homelessness. Her position is funded by Hennepin County’s human services and public health department and the Downtown Council. …

” ‘I think the library allows people to feel human and to just feel like they can comfortably be themselves when they’re here,’ she said. … ‘It’s my job to always keep up with what’s available and stay connected with those other community service providers.’ …

“Coleman asks [clients] about income, disability diagnoses and the length of time they’ve been homeless to help connect them with the services that best fit their needs.”

I suspect that people who are down on their luck may also be treated more courteously at libraries than at overwhelmed social service agencies. I hope the libraries never get overwhelmed.

More at the Star Tribune, here.

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Photo: Jason Koxvold

Question: What is halfway between the book-sharing Little Free Libraries that are sweeping the country and your town library? Answer: A personal library set apart from your home in a tiny house.

The Today show interviewed an artist whose friends helped him build one, perhaps also securing themselves a place to stay as a guest.

Christina Poletto reports, “In New York’s Ulster County, at the base of the Catskills Mountains, Jason Koxvold’s woodland home has a new addition to the property that is nothing short of stunning. There, tucked among the property’s forest of oak trees, sits a tiny one-room library which holds 2,500 books.

“Koxvold, a British artist based in New York, owns the property and was inspired to carve out a space specifically for solitude and escape. ‘I work from this location and was looking to make a quiet space for writing and reflection,’ Koxvold told TODAY.

“When there’s an overflow of visiting guests, the forest library also serves as an additional bedroom. …

“Koxvold desired a simple, singular structure that he could construct on his own using red oak from the property.

“Using already-felled trees left over from the construction of the main house, cut trees were planed on site into large log sections measuring 8 x 8 feet. After air drying the 12,000 lbs of milled red oak for several seasons, they became the shelving and cubbies that make up the the library’s interior.

“Koxvold was able to complete this structure with the help of eight different friends over the course of a year.

“While the monolithic shape and black exterior is shocking against the natural forest forms, the interior, heated by a single small wood stove, is as warm as it is cozy. A lone picture window looking into the forest is a source of natural light. …

“If you’re lucky enough to be invited as a guest, you’re welcome to leave a private message in one of the books on the shelves.” More.

Nice idea about leaving notes. In Suzanne and Erik’s Harlem apartment, an entire wall was available for written messages. Guests loved it.

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An African writer’s gratitude to a generous book lover in his childhood city has inspired an online bookstore geared toward African authors.

Daniel A. Gross writes at the New Yorker, “Magunga Williams grew up in Kisumu, a Kenyan city that’s home to more than three hundred thousand people but to only two major bookstores. There, Williams told me recently, ‘people depend on books that they find in supermarkets.’ Most of these books come from the United States and Europe. ‘These supermarkets do not have a rich African collection,’ Williams said.

“But there was one place where he could always find a wider range of books. It was the personal collection of a local man, whose house became a neighborhood meeting place and an unofficial sort of public library. …

“Williams moved to Nairobi and began an undergraduate program in law, but he never forgot the way that a house full of books, in a city with too few, became an escape. …

“So Williams, while he was in school, started a literary blog, Magunga.com, and … he made it his mission to create a space like that library—not in a house but on the Internet. The result is a fledgling online pan-African bookshop: the Magunga Bookstore.

“In becoming a bookseller, Williams was, in part, following in the footsteps of his girlfriend, Abigail Arunga. A few years ago, Arunga, a Nairobi-based freelance writer in her late twenties, stopped by a few local bookstores and asked if they would stock ‘Akello,’ her self-published collection of poems.

“At one shop, she was told that Kenyans don’t read poetry. At another, an employee claimed that her ninety-three-page book was too short. ‘They told me that my book had to be at least a hundred pages,’ she said. So she decided to sell the book herself — at poetry readings, literary festivals, even family gatherings. …

“An epiphany came last winter, when Williams was reading an article in the Guardian and noticed that the newspaper operates its own online bookstore. He told Arunga that they were going to open a bookstore, too. …

“Williams earns his living by writing sponsored posts on his blog, which attracts around five thousand readers each day. He asked his Webmaster, David Mabiria, to add a new tab to the Web site, which would offer books for sale. … He and Arunga requested book donations from writer friends, who provided copies of their own work. They launched the feature with ten titles in stock, under a simple slogan: ‘Spreading the Word.’

“Word spread slowly. The Magunga Bookstore made its first sale in December, 2015, when Williams was out of town — he had to ask a friend to deliver the book. ‘He was telling me he was in traffic,’ Williams recalled. ‘And I was, like, “I don’t care. Just go get a boda-boda ride.“ ‘ (Boda-boda is East African slang for a motorcycle taxi.) He remembers telling the friend, “I’ll pay you even if it costs me double the price. Just to make sure the client is happy.” ‘ ”

More at the New Yorker. And while you’re clicking, take a look at the Magunga Bookstore site, here.

Photo: Facebook/Babishai Niwe Poetry
Abigail Arunga and Magunga Williams at the 2016 Babishai Poetry Festival, in Ntinda, Uganda.

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Photo: Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan
Halifax firm Fowler Bauld & Mitchell won a Governor General’s Medal in Architecture for its work on the Halifax Central Library.

Sandy and Pat drove up to Nova Scotia from Rhode Island this year, a trip that had been on their bucket list for some time. I loved hearing their blow-by-blow account when they returned and, among other things, their enthusiasm for the Halifax Central Library, where returned books reshelve themselves with little-to-no human assistance.

I Googled around to see what I could find about the library.

CBCNews reported, “The team behind one of Halifax’s architectural diamonds has won a crown jewel of an award. Fowler Bauld & Mitchell, the Halifax-based firm that designed the Halifax Central Library, was one of 12 recipients announced Thursday of the Governor General’s Medals in Architecture. …

“Halifax’s library was lauded by jury members as an ‘inviting, light and playful public space.’

” ‘This outstanding new civic building is a community gathering place that responds to the diversity of its users, accommodating many more activities than the traditional library,’ the jury wrote.

” ‘The jury commends the process of early user engagement that led to the design, and the public’s embrace of the building is a testament to its value.’

“The library has been a resounding success since the day it opened, with visitor numbers far exceeding expectations. A big reason for its success was in the design process, which relied heavily on community consultation and inclusion, said [George Cotaras, the architect of record for the project]. …

“The proof that people’s opinions mattered and were considered showed on the day the library opened, said Cotaras.

” ‘They knew what it was going to be like but they had never been able to see inside and when they came in they went, “Wow,” and people were going around saying “Wow, that was my idea. I suggested that.” ‘ ” More.

Can’t help thinking that community involvement would be a good idea for every area of public life.

Photo: Anjuli Patil/CBC
A view from the second floor of the new library.

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