Monday, July 25, 2011

library for now

A little while ago I asked: "what is a library[an]" In that entry, I gave you some idea of what I, and other folks, think a public library is, and what it should be. I also talked about what a librarian is, and what that critical roll should be as the library moves forward into the future.

Well, we're bumping into that future right now.

The folks over at Street Lab--the ones who brought us the Storefront Library in Boston's Chinatown, which I wrote about in one of my first blog entries--are now working on that next step. The Uni Project grows right out of what Street Lab learned with their Storefront Library. Uni fills gaps in library service by providing the physical needs of a public library in an even more portable, flexible, and accessible format than the Storefront model.

The Storefront Library brought a temporary library service into the Chinatown community by turning a vacant commercial space into public space.

The Uni brings temporary library service right out into the existing public space we inhabit and use now.

Places like Times Square in New York City,* Chicago's Millennium Park, and others like them, are redefining what public spaces can be, and Uni fits right into that model: extending and reshaping public space to be more useful, interactive and rich.

Bringing the public library to the people is not a new idea. Wikipedia cites an example of a "perambulating library" back to 1857, in England; early bookmobile, yo. The US Lighthouse Establishment (read: US Coastguard) began its Traveling Library program in 1876, with wooden boxes of books, delivered to lighthouses for the use of the keepers and their families, who had trouble getting from their remote locations to the library. Need a more personal sized portable library? Its not exactly public, but I guess it could be. Maybe you could borrow the whole thing with your library card.

WiFi hotspots are not enough. We need libraries--in all shapes, sizes and locations--to keep us connected intelligently. The Uni Project is underway right now. Check out their video to find out more and see how you can help.

* Times Square is one of the places the Uni is scheduled to premiere this fall.**
** UPDATE: Times Square is not on the Immediate list, but elsewhere in New York. Take a look at the comment below from Sam from the Uni Project. Thanks Sam!


Book five y'all: Heretics of Dune.

Frank Herbert certainly takes the long view when it comes to the epic saga, boy. So, some time has past in the narrative since book four, but the story of the Dune universe pushes forward. This book, in a lot of ways, seems to be laying the groundwork for the finale, which I presume occurs in the last book in the series. Bridge books are fine, as long as they are entertaining and continue to move the story forward, and that's the case here. [I just looked back at what I wrote about the second book in the first trilogy: Dune Messiah. I called that one a bridge book too.]

So check out the cover; sandworms are obviously still a part of the story, that much is clear. Paul Atreides, or Muad'Dib, through his progeny are also, is still very much a part of the narrative, but Herbert has deconstructed the original story and re-built a new storyline from its parts. What's that mean for us readerfolk? A sequel-ilogy that reads pretty well on its own, has some of the familiar elements, but isn't the same old story warmed over to cash in on the readership. In other words: so far, I think the second trilogy is pretty good.

This volume also revisits some of the more peripheral elements from the earlier stories, and brings them more center stage. The Bene Gesserit and the Tleilaxians for example, get a little more in depth review in this book, the Tleilaxians maybe more so than the BG, only because the BG were pretty well delved into in earlier stories. I'm dancing around here because I don't like spoilers so thats probably as far as I'm going to go.

I burned through the last part of this book, and I'm looking forward to the last book. Not sure what's next yet. The Cicero books aren't all out yet here in the US so that's on hold for a while. I've got The Prince by Machiavelli on deck, or I might just jump into Asimov's Foundation series after reading Orson Scott Card's short story a little while ago.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


I've had this bookmark for a while, but I don't think it goes back as far as 1989, which is the copyright date noted at the bottom. This bookmarker is obviously a campaign to increase awareness and encourage membership in Friends of the Library USA (FOLUSA). When you visit their website, you get this message on a blank white screen:

"Citizen support for libraries received a big boost on February 1, 2009. This marks the date when Friends of Libraries U.S.A. (FOLUSA) and the Association for Library Trustees and Advocates (ALTA) joined forces to become an expanded division of ALA. The new organization is called the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF)." *

And then you are shunted to the ALTAFF site, which is under the umbrella of the America Library Association. The Association for Library Trustees and Advocates still has a site of its own at the ALA site, but it looks like no one has been there for years. I'm not sure why it still up. Its a little creepy actually, its like a ghost site. This apparently is a real term, go figure.

So the folks that run public libraries and the folks who volunteer to help out public libraries have joined forces, or more accurately, their respective advocacy groups have joined forces, and are supported, at least in part by the ALA. Good for them!

They have their own national conferences (just happened in New Orleans) they've got training seminars for trustees, organizational assistance for new or reorganizing Friends groups, and they even have a new bookmark. Looks like the next big thing is National Friends of Libraries Week, October 16-22, 2011. I'll have to keep my eye out for a bookmark.

* Apparently, who ever is in charge didn't think alta folusa was a good name. Sounds like Italian for a tall, loose woman or a small, mountain dwelling mammal.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

god emperor

Oh Frank Herbert, that is some wacky* stuff brother.

I'm going to go out on a limb here, and compare the Dune saga to The Lord of the Rings. I know, heresy for the true believer--whether you're the Tolkien true believer, or the Herbert true believer--but what I mean is; both of these guys have managed to weave stories of epic proportion within their respective genres, which include all of the trappings of a good novel, set against a stunningly detailed backdrop of people and places, and the customs, ethnicity, politics, religions, sciences, ecology and economics which bind and contrast them.

I can't imagine keeping all that straight. Oh, and Herbert needs to manage the philosophical output, psychology and inner dialog of his characters as well, even as they age and develop over time. This from a guy who shopped the first novel, Dune, to twenty-odd publishers before someone took a chance on him.

So back to it. God Emperor of Dune is the fourth book in what has become know as the Dune Chronicles. You may recall that I was a little reluctant to continue on to the fourth book, after finishing the original trilogy, fearing that the second group of books wouldn't hold up, or would feel contrived, as many, better-left-unwritten sequels can be. So I was pleasantly surprised.

Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, given how many folks are gaga over this series, but I guess I try not to get caught up in that stuff, and find that I usually end up reading stories a while after they've cooled off, just to see if they still hold my interest after the initial advertizing and buzz blitzkrieg. Waiting a while also means I can get them cheap and/or won't have to wait for them at the library...shhh!

Now, would I say this was the best yet? No. Would I say its a must read? No. Would I say that its an interesting, if a little over-long, follow up to the original trilogy, that eventually gets over itself, and leaves a reasonably tantalizing outcome at the end, which is probably enough to get me to read the next installment?

What? I just said it. Okay, so: yes. Whatever.**

* when I was searching through my older posts on the first three books, I found that I also used the word wacky to describe them.
** Dude, there is a crap-load of colors I can choose for my little whisperings. Some of them; you can't even see, they're so quiet.

Monday, July 4, 2011

east longmeadow library bookmark

This bookmark was printed to commemorate the groundbreaking of the East Longmeadow Public Library in Massachusetts, on July 13, 2002. That's nine years next week! My office did the architecture, and I managed the project right through the construction. It was a great project to work on. You can see some images of the building here at the library's website. OSO Interiors did the furnishings. The library re-opened to the public in its present location on February 3, 2004.

For the year and a half that the construction was going on, the library continued to serve the public from a couple of double-wide trailers, set up on the grass next to a church parking lot in town. The New Life Baptist Church, was kind enough to donante the use of this land, its parking lot, and storage space inside the church for the protions of the libraries collections that wouldn't fit in the trailers, all for the library and its patrons.

The groundbreaking ceremony was also a chance for folks to take a last look around the old library, which began its life as a hardware store. I brought my young son to this event and he was delighted to write on the walls of the soon to be demolished building.

The quote is from Winston Churchill; "We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us", from a speech given to the House of Commons on October 28, 1943, about plans for the rebuilding of the Chamber, destroyed by an enemy bomb on May 10, 1941. I think this quote is especially fitting for public libraries and other public buildings, which help to define and support our democracy.

Friday, July 1, 2011


I'm not quite sure why I chose to read another thousand page, super-tome so soon after my trip to Sherlock-land, but I have and it was good, actually.

My dad has been telling me about this book off and on for a couple of years. He actually gave me another book by Neal Stephenson to read first, only because his copy of Cryptonomicon was on loan. That book, Anathem, was more in the speculative fiction/sci fi realm, and because I hadn't read any of Stephenson books, I assumed he was a sci fi guy. Nope.

Cryptonomicon is a modern day--okay, maybe a few years into the future--novel, with an historic fiction sub-plot weaving through it. Sounds pretty simple, and it is, but Stephenson does a great job of weaving the story-within-a-story into the narrative to create mystery and depth, so that, eventually, it doesn't matter which is the main story and which is the sub-plot; they become interchangeable and support one another.

Each of the parallel story lines is related to the other, through time, and this gives the characters tangibility and personal history. As things are revealed in the historical plot line, it has implications in the modern plot line, and weirdly, vice versa.

The story is rich with history, technology (both modern and WWII era), crypotology (again, both modern and WWII era), math, science, war stories and love stories. Sounds like a lot, but Stephenson pulls it off again. Anathem was also a weightlifting exercise, with similar plot complexities, and he pulled that off too. So huzzah to Neal Stephenson for being able to write a big book, about big ideas, and do it so its interesting, albeit, not a page-turner, all the way through.

So why, you may be wondering, after finishing another big boy book, would I be so dumb as to begin a trilogy of 500 pagers? Or, more accurately, the fourth, fifth and sixth book in a sexology. what? I'm sure I'm using that word right. What can I say, I'm a sucker for punishment. Wish me luck as a revisit Dune.