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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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I’ve read about book lovers delivering books to children and adults by camel, donkey, portable Uni bookshelf and van. Now at the BBC, Theodora Sutcliffe reports on a sailboat that can get books to watery places in Indonesia.

“The toothless steersman positioned the rudder. A second sailor, balancing barefoot on an outrigger, coaxed an elderly engine into life. A third poled the boat away from the trash-strewn beach. In West Sulawesi, Indonesia, a ground-breaking mobile library was on its way.

“The Perahu Pustaka (Book Boat) is sorely needed. In a recent study of 61 nations for which data was available, Indonesia ranked second worst for literacy – only Botswana scored lower. More than 10% of the West Sulawesi’s adult population cannot read, while in many villages, the only book available is a solitary copy of the Quran.

“So in 2015, local news journalist Muhammad Ridwan Alimuddin decided to combine his twin passions for books and boats by setting up a mobile library on a baqgo, a small traditional sailboat. His aim? To bring fun, colourful children’s books to remote fishermen’s villages and tiny islands in the region where literacy is low and reading for pleasure virtually non-existent. He preaches the joy of reading. …

“Despite never finishing university, he has written 10 books on maritime culture and helped sail a small traditional pakur craft from Sulawesi to Okinawa in Japan. His love of the sea can be seen in his maritime museum, a collection of model and antique boats, which shares space with his library. And he uses the boat journeys, which can mean up to 20 days at sea, to research and make YouTube documentaries on the fishing and seafaring life of his native Mandar people. …

“As we closed in on the oyster-farming village of Mampie on the West Sulawesi coast, a gaggle of children emerged from the palms to watch the library boat pull in. Others stopped the hard, repetitive work of shucking oysters as Alimuddin, a volunteer from his home village and his crew of three unrolled plastic mats and covered them in books.

“Excited children dived into the brightly coloured tomes; their mothers, some with babies, were more circumspect.

“ ‘We have low expectations,’ Alimuddin said. ‘We want them to use the books – that’s all.’

“With more than 17,000 islands scattered across the Indian and Pacific oceans – some virtually in the Philippines, others close to Australia or butting up against Singapore – education in Indonesia is a constant struggle. …

“ ‘When you see a child smile and open a book, all your problems disappear,’ Alimuddin said with a smile of his own.” More here.

Photo: Theodora Sutcliffe
In 2015, Alimuddin decided to combine his twin passions for books and boats by setting up a mobile library.

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In spite of the drought, Massachusetts trees displayed some of their best colors this year. I’m sharing one photo taken along the Concord River, another that barely does justice to this month’s reds and golds, and a third that intrigued me because the green leaves were pink only on their tips.

Other photographic offerings include a name shadow at Bondir restaurant, where we had lunch today, a pirate skeleton with his skeletal parrot in a Lowell bookshop/café, lovely plants in the café, an artist working en plein air, shadows of ivy trying to break into the house, and four book-themed scarecrows at the public library.

The first scarecrow was inspired by the book Strega Nona, the second by If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. The third scarecrow promotes the library’s seed catalog, and the fourth celebrates the counting books.

Don’t you wonder how the library came to do all that work? There must be 20 scarecrows altogether. I’m trying to picture the meeting where the boss says, “We’re doing scarecrows for Halloween. Who volunteers to do what?” Or maybe it was more spontaneous. It sure looks like people had fun with it.

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You probably know that a library is a haven. But in case you didn’t, here is a story about what libraries mean to New Yorkers these days.

Winnie Hu writes at the NY Times, “Matthew Carter’s summer hideaway … does not require a car ride or a small fortune to keep up.

“Mr. Carter, 32, an adjunct professor of music at the City College of New York, simply holes up at the Inwood Library in northern Manhattan with his research books. It is quiet, air-conditioned and open every day.

“ ‘I’m a total leech of public libraries,’ he said. ‘It’s my summer hangout. It’s where I spend the majority of my time, and where I’m most productive.’ …

“Far from becoming irrelevant in the digital age, libraries in New York City and around the nation are thriving: adding weekend and evening hours; hiring more librarians and staff; and expanding their catalog of classes and services to include things like job counseling, coding classes and knitting groups. …

“Sari Feldman, president of the American Library Association, said library workers had shown people how to file online for welfare benefits and taught classes in science, technology, engineering and math to children who could not afford to go to summer camps. …

“A recent contest to recognize neighborhood libraries underscored their vitality: 18,766 online and paper nominations were submitted in one month, up from about 4,300 when the yearly competition was started in 2013. Nearly every library was nominated at least once. Some received hundreds of nods.

“One young man wrote that he was homeless when he started going to the Arverne branch of the Queens Library, where the staff not only helped him study to become a security guard but also hired him to work as a mentor to teenagers. Today, that man, Richard Johnson, has two jobs and his own apartment.

” ‘Ever since becoming a member of the Queens Library, I have been bettering my life,’ he wrote in his statement. …

“The recent gains by libraries have delighted Christian Zabriskie, a librarian and executive director of Urban Librarians Unite, an advocacy and education group that organizes an annual ‘read-in,’ in which people take turns reading nonstop for 24 hours, to support the libraries.

“ ‘In New York City, there is somebody using library materials every second, every day of the year,’ Mr. Zabriskie said. ‘It’s showing that libraries are the fabric of society.’ “

More here.

Photo: Alex Wroblewski for The New York Times
The Inwood Library in northern Manhattan is quiet, air-conditioned and open every day.

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