My Little Part in the Local Summer Reading Program

I have been involved with donating a prize for the Summer Reading Program to our small town library for the past few years now, and this year I decided to go big. Past years have seen jars of little origami stars, yarn pom-pom bookmarks, there was a set of books and a wooden cobra.  Little things. Nothing that was terribly extravagant because I could never get my butt in gear to get anything done.  Running the produce business with my mom during our busiest season didn’t afford a lot of time for making things, and I rarely like to purchase anything for reading programs, coming up with something fun on my own. The origami stars in a jar were always fun, especially with little quotes about  the stars and such. Easy to do, since I spent my tv watching time folding them and it was something I had jars and jars of.

But this year, I decided that I wanted to go big. I was flipping through a Southern Living  or something along the lines of that, I can’t remember now, and in one of the articles, there was this image of a Jenga game. And not just any Jenga, but a giant one. One made with two by fours. One that was super classy looking with nautical colors, being played on a lake dock, mind you. It was so cool.

So I started hunting for two by fours at our local cabinet shop since they tend to throw out a lot of scraps. No dice. I found nothing but some two by sixes or eights. It would have required a lot of ripping and sanding and futzing with. As it was, I was enlisting Mr. B’s help in the process because hey, he’s the one with all the tools.  So I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, because purchasing the wood isn’t cheap. They say it might cost you around $25, but that’s only if you are probably getting the inexpensive, twisted 2×4’s.

Then serendipity struck. Mr. B has been hard at work cleaning out his garage filled with, well, stuff. A lot of stuff. Mostly wood stuff. Boards, trim, blocks, wood.  And he had been collecting really pretty plywood with nice veneers for a while. We are talking cherry, oak, birch, poplar, douglas fir, etc. Nice stuff. Really nice stuff.  Well, he was going to just burn it or chuck it, when I asked, “hey, could you use this?”

Turns out you could. So, after a lot of cutting (57 blocks because hey, he thought we needed more) and a lot of sanding (a LOT of sanding) and painting (after I finally found what paint I wanted at our 2nd hand store) and painting some more (and having my librarian ask when the heck I was going to have my project done… okay, she was a lot sweeter about my dilly dallying than that statement) and finally making a carrying case (Mr. B couldn’t just make a box, no, we ended up with a snazzy tool box carrying case)….. And almost a month into the whole thing, the project was done.

This is a heavy , outdoorsy, cool game that turned out so cool. I mean, I wanted to keep it it was so cool, but I was also afraid to play it because if you know Jenga, you know it eventually topples.  And I’m working with a stack that is probably around 10-15 pounds. (the case and game all together are pretty hefty)

But this thing turned out so incredibly well! I’m excited to have made it. I may never do it again, but still.  It looks soooooo cool. And I have specific family I hope wins the thing since their kids are readers….. But we shall see.

What do you think? You can see several stages of the game below. Pretty nifty, huh?


So, I’m pretty happy with the whole thing. Now I need to start now, thinking about what I’m going to do next year….


Getting Smacked in the Face by Censorship in Today’s Society

Over the years I’ve read about censorship with books, from the Nazis burning books, to various other books being banned throughout our country for various reasons. Books, like Harry Potter and Maya Angelou’s ‘Why the Caged Bird Sings’.  Books that were banned for their content, for no other reason than the content made someone uncomfortable.

But I thought in our ‘enlightened’ time of free speech (though I have seen plenty of instances where even that right is protested by the youth of today…) that censoring books was gone. Don’t get me wrong, I have had people gasp that I read and like Harry Potter, yet they are perfectly okay with The Lord of the Rings……. crickets chirping…….. really people, there is no difference other than J.R.R. Tolkien was a catholic…   I never thought I would run into ‘hiding books’ because they were a certain kind of book.

Last week I wrote about my book display the librarian allowed me to set up, see the post Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys, and how the prudish women volunteers (yes, I am going to call them that even if the title hurts) were uncomfortable with romance books being set up on a table that had, in the past, been used in the children’s section. See the display made them uncomfortable…….

Censorship at its best all starts with someone being uncomfortable.

‘I don’t like what that book is about’,  ‘I don’t want to read about racism in our country’,  ‘I don’t like hearing about childhood rape’, ‘Sorcery is a bad thing, children can’t read about that’, I don’t have a romantic life, I don’t want to read about romance and possibly hot sex’……..  The last line is my own addition to what I feel might be the root of the problem in my case. Am I trying to be mean? No, just making an assumption. Because not wanting romance sitting out where everyone can see it, (Come on people, children are oblivious to A LOT!) says to me that you have a more psychological problem with sex and romance.  Which is rather ironic in my mind because I can bet you, had I put a display of Shakespeare’s plays out, no one would have said a thing.  Or maybe a display of Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and John Steinbeck, who are considered some of our greatest writers who wrote about love and sex! I’m sure a display of those would have been fine.enhanced-buzz-11259-1379943626-5

Again, it goes back to one’s perceived discomfort with something. As a whole, people don’t want to be around something that makes them uncomfortable. We avoid it and try to stay as far away from it as possible. As a voracious reader, one whom the volunteers at the library have dubbed ” one of our best customers”, I have read my fair share of things that have made me uncomfortable.  Eli Wiesel’s ‘Night’ comes to mind as a book I highly recommend and everyone should read it, but it gave me nightmares and a case of depression for weeks.  See, the things that tend to make me uncomfortable tend to deal with the sufferings of mankind. Not a sexy bed scene. Sure, I have read graphic murders in a mystery book— won’t read about that again— and some sadistic sorcerer murders in another young adult book — definitely won’t read that again— but that’s all you do. You put the book down.

You say, “Oh, I can’t read this anymore.” You don’t go out and try to ‘burn’ all those books you don’t want to read. You don’t tell someone they can’t read such and such because it makes YOU uncomfortable. You just deal. Life is about dealing with uncomfortable things, not letting them define you, but realizing that they are out there.

There will always be books that are going to make you uncomfortable, and books you don’t want to read.  That is your choice. Your freedom. But it is also the freedom for others to read those same books and for you to not tell them they can’t.

CensorshipNow my display was ‘ruined’ and the attitude of those involved with removing the display and the librarian compromising to the point of a form of censorship, is not okay. Granted the books are still out, albeit, high on the top shelf where no child could, gasp, reach them, but still….. Children are going to be confronted with romance books. Go to any grocery store and, gasp, the romance books are where children’s books are. The grocery store isn’t going to hid the adult books from kids. And we are not talking porn magazines and such.

This image was borrowed from Melville House, where it illustrates an article  if you click on the image.

Romance, love, sex, are all part of life…… uh and the reason we have kids…..   Hiding it in itself is childish.

Again, I will clarify the fact that I kept the more questionable romances in the back of the library, I.E. Fifty Shades, etc. But to remove the other normal ones from any child’s eyes is so ridiculous. Again, it is showing your issues.

People tell me to keep fighting, Mims and Shala, thank you, and others, Dona, who understand my not wanting to offend people. My first post/rant was not posted on Facebook because I’m connected to the librarian and others that are part of the library. But as someone reminded me today, none of these volunteers cared about offending me. SO this is one post that is going up on Facebook because this is a bigger issue than just my feelings getting hurt or my display and ideas being moved.

Censorship is clearly alive and well, unfortunately so. And there is a good chance you will find that in rural areas people’s ideas and beliefs trump the right o read what we please without interference.

Not that anyone has ever stopped me from reading whatever the heck I want, but I don’t need to be judged by it either.

Oh, and the whole point of the library is to encourage people, not just children, to read, including books that have been banned……….


“Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys”

13406986_10153566220727371_623513095724235842_nA few weeks ago I came across this statement. I fell in love with it and it has become entirely too applicable in my life. Today I was brutally slapped with it again as I had to deal with some craziness that while affected me, was not my circus. Thank God. I can walk away.

I have had this idea since last year while watching Paris When It Sizzles, a favorite Audrey Hepburn movie. I mean, I seriously love this film. And I got this idea for my local library. What about ‘Summer When It Sizzles’ for a book theme where you pull off all the romances and steamy books and trashy romances….  okay, not super trashy, but heck, even a few Harlequins have some ‘bodice ripper’ style covers. It is what it is and hey, the library has them on their shelves. It’s not like I would insert naughty books. Heck, the Fifty Shades of Grey books are right there.

So I talked it over with the librarian this year. I thought, heck, while the kids are having their summer reading program, the adults can have a fun “summer sizzling’ kind of reading program. Nothing fancy, just all the romance are pulled out and showcased. Up on shelves with little cut out tidbits of  ‘something steamy in here’ or “sweet romance’  or ‘a classic romance’. See?  Simple.

The librarian loved it. She even said, she would pull out one of the extra kids tables and set it up by the door for me to set up the display. I was even wishing I had some red fabric for a Valentines-y look.  I was tempted to cut out hearts.  And I like to think the librarian was excited for this display because the day before the first of July, when we were going to set it up, she made sure I was coming in to do it and seemed super excited.

So, I set it up. You can see my display.

July 1st rolled by and we got a laugh when she had to hunt for a book that I had pulled out to showcase and she had to switch labels…..

The the holiday came…….

Then today.

I walk into the library with my stack of due books and before I barely get in the door, one of the volunteer ladies immediately tells me that they didn’t think it was appropriate that the children’s table had been used for ‘those kinds of books’ so they put them all back in the library and set up children’s books instead, and oh, would I call the librarian.

Fortunately the librarian was trying to catch me before I was slammed with the switch.  But I would have liked her to have maybe stood up for me a bit. I mean, I had spent two hours making the labels and wording for the sign, and another hour setting up the display. And good grief, what? The table is not specifically a ‘children’s table’ but just a small table in the kid’s section.  I didn’t know that kids could get an STD by picking up a romance novel…… which they can check out and the librarian cannot stop them (I should know, I worked in the library and when I saw a 12 year old check out Hannibal, I was shocked but couldn’t do a darn thing about it….)

The shock and horror that was in the volunteer woman’s tone was like I was this awful bad person.  Yet, aren’t we supposed to be promoting reading? At a library?  And aren’t romances part of the library? And a lot of them? And Fifty Shades made the rounds.  And yes, I’ve read some of it.  (Personally I find it terrible writing. I’ve read much better erotica in my time, but I digress)

The point being was, how petty can you be? How utterly childish and prudish can you be?  Now, I’m not naming names because I plan on sending this to a few friends who know these people, but my gosh.

This is where I say, not my circus, not my monkeys.  You can go take your own GD monkeys and well….. I’ll leave the option up to you.  Needless to say I was not happy. In fact, I was kind of fighting tears later this afternoon because honestly, one day. The display was up one day with the Librarian’s permission and people got upset.  Emma was one of the titles for pete’s sake!

It reminds me of Marian the Librarian from The Music Man (modern version best)

Professor, her kind of woman doesn’t belong on any committee.
Of course, I shouldn’t tell you this but she advocates dirty books.

Dirty books!




OMG! Dirty books! I mean, who knew that Emma and Emilie Loring books were dirty?

And this is one reason I don’t get terribly involved with the library. And this is one reason why younger people don’t get involved with the library. It’s having to deal with anyone over the age of 55….. and their lack of , well lack of a lot.

Is this a rant? You bet it is. It hurt. And am I going to let it go? Yep. But seriously, this is the last time I bring up an idea to the library.


My Landing Spot

Hiding in the non-fiction. My favorite spot in all the library.

Hiding in the non-fiction. My favorite spot in all the library.

I’m sitting in the very last row of the non-fiction section of my library, which isn’t saying much since the non-fiction section is only two full shelves. Okay, it’s three, but the over-sized books are over somewhere else.  I’m reading my new copy of Foolsgold by Susan G. Wooldridge, which is silly because over in the 130’s of the non-fiction is the library copy.  I could have just picked up that copy since I have borrowed it numerous times, but I am so in love with my own copy, I had to bring it.

Cover of "Foolsgold: Making Something fro...

Cover via Amazon

Chapter 32 of Foolsgold, titled ‘foolsgold and ethel’s landing’, talks about finding a spot you find peaceful and removed.  Just a corner or nook (I love the word nook) that you can pause and be in your own realm.  Fill it with a cushion or chair and settle in.  Pause.  Maybe do nothing at all.

For me, this last row in the library is that spot.  I can usually sprawl out here and not be bothered, though just as I wrote that, Bev, a friend, has ‘intruded’ into this space to look for a book in the 900’s for the library.  Or maybe herself.

Poetry to the right

Poetry to the right

I like this spot because it doesn’t get much traffic.  To the right of me are all the poetry books and to the left are literature and travel.  Shakespeare and books on New York.  Plato and The Places in Between by Rory Stewart.  Hold on, I have to see what that book is about.  Ooh, sounds interesting; about a man walking across Afghanistan in 2002.  Maybe a winter reading book.  The title fits with the Foolsgold chapter, for in there, Ethel’s Landing is the stairs landing Susan’s mother has her spot.  And landings are neither up nor down, but between.

I love my spot and I would love to add a cushion, a couple of candles and a pot of tea.  Just

Plato, Shakespeare, and The Places in Between. See the arrow?

Plato, Shakespeare, and The Places in Between. See the arrow?

set up and stay.  I like hearing all the sounds from the library around me.  People tapping on the computers out at the front, the murmur of conversations.  It’s homey.  I should look into bringing a cushion to sit on so I’m not on the floor, but at the same time, I kind of like it the way it is.

I don’t get to sit in my spot all that often.  Usually I’m in a hurry or I’m browsing the library so I don’t just go settle down and unwind.  Life is so incredibly busy that I don’t feel like I have the right to sit and separate myself from what’s going on around me.  The thing is, I only need about ten to fifteen minutes in the back of that row and I’ll have a whole session of relaxing tingles that unwind me, a few random thoughts, maybe glancing through a magazine.  It doesn’t take much to really do nothing but be there.  Who knows, maybe I would be more writing productive if I were to pause there once a week when I stop in at the library.

Signing off


Why Doesn’t My Library Court Me?

Interior view, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh,...

Image via Wikipedia

I love my library. I’ve loved every library that I’ve used on a regular basis, including the Carnegie Library I browsed during my six week stay in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Libraries are my way to get a ‘book fix’ without spending a fortune in books. I don’t have the luxury of a close bookstore, nor even a used bookstore. I will purchase books online, but only when I really, really want or need a certain book. So the library is my only option, and like I said, I love my library.

However, there is a problem with how my library is run. I’m sure this is the same with all libraries. They are run like a government organization, which it is, and not like a private business. They don’t have to show a profit. They don’t have to increase usage. They still get funding even if the patronage drops.

Most flourishing businesses are constantly catering to their customers. They introduce new items to entice people to buy, and to return. They run a helpful operation that cares about their customers. They want your business.

Why doesn’t the library do that? When you go into a library, there are usually books displayed to entice, yet most of the time, the books are on a specific issue, or something the librarian has deemed important. For instance, this week was Dr. Seuss’ birthday, so several of his books wer displayed. I’m perfectly fine with that, but most of the time, I couldn’t care a wit for what is usually displayed. Also, most of the time, the books are not changed often enough to attract my attention.

Part of this rant stems from the fact that my librarian and the volunteers, who now run the library most of the time, don’t really care what I check out. They don’t take the time to know their patrons. Because they don’t have to show a profit, they don’t care if I take out one book or five.

Now, I have been teased as being the one who keeps the library running since I am forever ordering in new books that tickle my fancy. While I have to admit that I have brought in a fair amount of different books, I am not the one who keeps the library running. I just, uh, help.

I used to be the substitute librarian at my library. For two years I ran my one day a week, and for a brief time, I was in charge of all the functions of the library for a month. (At 21, this was somewhat scary to me.) I loved my job and one of the best parts was getting to know my patrons, learning what they liked, and being able to recommend books to them.

Even if I hadn’t read the book, I learned what genres certain people liked, and accordingly, recommended along those lines. For the record, I didn’t have much time to read during the years of working in the library. I checked out plenty, but just didn’t read that much. Go figure.

I liked a post this Christmas that posted on last minute gifts. Read it herePeg-o-Leg’s Ramblings  had it right.   What a great idea for an ad campaign for the library systems. You encourage people to ‘give’ a library book as a gift. Just picture this. You see a woman browsing the shelves, looking and looking. Finally, she finds one she likes. Her eyes are excited. She takes it to the counter and checks it out, then just before she leaves the library, she takes it to the gift wrapping station, just like Barnes and Noble has every holiday season, to be wrapped up. Of course inside is a due date, but she has the perfect gift for someone. If they don’t like it, they can return it!

Well, that was my silliness escaping. However, why don’t libraries try to court their patrons? Display a wide variety of books that are available, so it catches people’s eyes. Instead of just the new titles, how about some old ones? I mean, just the other day, I found a book that has been in my library for six years and has never been checked out. Go figure why since it is a field guide to west coast lighthouses. It’s cool! But I’ve never seen it displayed.

If libraries want people to use them for books instead of just an internet source, which my library does, then they need to have incentives for patrons to keep returning. How about a running tally of the top readers. You know, where a user name, or even the patron’s name is displayed with the amount of books they have read. Or maybe a list of patron recommendations. I don’t know.

Well, this is my own rant. And I have plenty more about my library. Hey, I may love it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have problems.

What say you?

Signing off


Where Are The Classics?

Cover of "Bright Star"

Cover of Bright Star

I started watching Bright Star the other day.  About the life and romance of John Keats and Fanny Brawne.  Well, any ways, the film starts off with Fanny wanting to read Endymion, by Mr. Keats.  Of course, because I love anything literary-ish, and British to boot, I decided I needed to take a look at Endymion.

My library system doesn’t have a copy of Endymion.  At all.  Nor does it have much on Keats.  Actually, my library system is lacking in quite a few of the classics.  It’s missing certain Shakespeare plays…. Like Romeo and Juliet.  Um, am I missing something here?  Shouldn’t the library be the place to get these kinds of works?

So, I’m relegated to having to read Endymion online.  I hate reading things like this online. I like flipping through a book and pulling out passages I like.  I started reading Sir Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake, in a book from the library. I loved the edition, but have yet to find it myself, or at least the specific edition. I do have a selected works of Scott, and a paperback copy of the Lady of the Lake, which is old.  Any ways, I like reading the book format.  Not online.

The thing is, my library system isn’t small. I mean, the library is the whole county.  Not just my town.  And the county has 50K people.  So it’s not impossible.  No, the library has to put dumb worthless books in the library.  It has to ‘weed’ out books on classical painters and such because they don’t get checked out much.  But it can’t seem to have decent copies of the classics.  Especially in the poetry section. 

Now I get that poetry isn’t terribly popular.  Only unique people read it.  Yes, I’m unique, but still, CLASSICS!  Come on, isn’t that one of the reasons for going to the library?  Not everyone wants to own a classic, but at some point just about every one has read one.

Well, I’m ranting, but this is just my opinion.  I guess I’ll just have to suffer through the online version.  Same goes for wanting to read The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding.  I think there is a copy in the system, but it requires more work than I care to put into it, to read it.  So again, online.  Which probably means I’ll never read it.

Signing off


In The Stacks

I know, this is a guy, not a girl...

She sat on the floor, knees bent.  Sheltered in the back stacks of the library, in the unpopular sections, like poetry, biographies, and various literature, the scent of musty books, aged paper and ink, and time gone by, she let the atmosphere float around her.  An irregular square of light reflected on the wall above her head, its shape constantly moving from the wind tossing around the Norway maple shading the skylight that was the square.

Sounds of rustling paper, the tapping of keyboard keys, and murmured discussions sent a prickle of delight up her spine.  Goose-flesh broke out on her skin and she could feel every hair on her head tense.  She loved this feeling.  It relaxed her like nothing else.  Sometimes she would get the same tingle when someone brushed her hair.

There was a tranquility being in the library.  No one bothered her while she flipped through a book of Emily Dickinson’s poetry.  She read random lines, not really focusing on the words, but letting them roll off her form like water rolls off a duck’s back.  Noticeable, but not.  She floated in mind as she read but still consciously listened to the movement of other patrons. 

A printer  turned on and the warm, whirring motor sound made her feel like she was in a warm blanket.  Keys clicked on a keyboard and she pictured an office with secretaries typing away.  A newspaper crackled as someone shook out the pages.  She pictured an old man with white hair, his glasses sitting low on the bridge of his nose.

A couple of school girls came in, giggling and joking with each other, more loudly then they should have been.  The sound jarred her for a moment before she heard the librarian shush them.  They scurried off towards some other deep recess of the library, still giggling.  The heating system turned on and she felt the warm air blow up behind her back.  She was practically sitting on the vent in the floor.

She sat there just being a part of the library.  Hiding in the stacks.

 Okay, flash fiction time!  I think this is my new favorite thing, now that I know that I’m actually doing it.  I love the library.  I used to be a substitute librarian for two years and it was my thing.  I still go to my local library on a weekly basis, more if I have time, and I can be found sitting on the floor in the poetry section, many times.  So if you happen to see me there, ‘shush’, I’m reading and taking it all in.  Probably with the relaxed gooseflesh hair raised thing going on.

Signing off


The Ultimate Personal Library

I don’t know if there is a band wagon for this, but I have just found some gorgeous photos of Neil Gaiman’s personal library from a couple blogs. Can I swoon?

"daaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyymmmmmmmmm" via A Minute For Minute

 That statement says it all.



More pictures can be seen here at Ron Brinkmann’s blog post:

Gaiman’s Bookshelf Details


Another great post regarding personal libraries is Case Study: The Personal Library (a pictorial)


Give me a man who owns a library like this and I will be in heaven.  Just so long as I get to add my books to the collection.

Signing off