Thursday, September 11, 2014

WPA Posters on Books and Libraries

Who doesn't like a cool poster? During the Great Depression, artists hired by the government produced many great posters, some promoting books and libraries.  
Poster for WPA Statewide Library Project in Chicago, Illinois.
Image via

During the Great Depression (1929-1939) in the United States, millions of people across the country found themselves unemployed, including thousands of artists. These artists were put to work through the Federal Art Project. The Federal Art Project was part of the Work Projects Administration (WPA), an ambitious government effort initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to employ the masses of people who were jobless as a result of the Great Depression.
Poster for bookmobile service of the Chicago Public Library.
Image via 

Through the Federal Art Project, more than 5,000 artists were employed. Some of these artists were given the task of creating posters. According to the Library of Congress website, "The posters were designed to publicize exhibits, community activities, theatrical productions, and health and education programs in seventeen states and the District of Columbia, with the strongest representation from California, Illinois, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania."
Poster publicizing Book Week in North Carolina.
Image via Marchivist on

Quite a few of these posters publicized books, libraries, and a love of reading. These posters and others can be found in the Library of Congress collection, which consists of more than 900 of the 2,000 WPA posters that are known to exist.

All of the posters in the Library of Congress' Works Projects Administration (WPA) Poster Collection were produced between the years of 1936 and 1943. The posters are striking in color and clever in design, and their messages are both simple and direct. Many of the WPA posters can easily be considered works of art.
Poster promoting book clubs in Iowa.
Image via 

Want to see more WPA posters promoting books and libraries (and other topics)? You can do so online by going to the Library of Congress website for the Works Projects Administration Poster Collection at THIS LINK. At the link, you can also obtain copies of WPA posters that catch your eye. Enjoy, and be inspired!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Multnomah County Library Celebrates 150 Years

Last week, I moved from the East Coast of the United States to the West Coast, specifically to Portland, Oregon. Even though I've only been in Portland for a week, I've already come to appreciate many things about the city: its mild and sunny weather (no rain yet!), its cleanliness, and its people's love of books.
Portland, Oregon: A city whose people have an unabashed love of books.
Image by

This love of books is reflected in numerous aspects of life in Portland, from the pride in Powell's Books, which is the largest independent used and new bookstore not just in Portland but in the world; to the brouhaha surrounding the 30th birthday of Literary Arts, a lecture series that attracts a plethora of authors and thinkers to the Northwest and hosts workshops, seminars, and public high school programs; and to the fervent passion toward the public library, the Multnomah County Library, which has manifested itself in some patrons getting tattoos of the Multnomah County Library card.

Whether they have tattoos of the library card or not, lovers of the Multnomah County Library will have the chance this month to help the library celebrate its 150th anniversary. What began in 1864 as a members-only reading room in "a frontier town with frame buildings, muddy streets, and few sidewalks" has evolved into an expansive, 19-branch public library system serving a left-leaning, well-read populace in one of the most vibrant, cultured cities in the world. To mark the occasion of its anniversary, and to thank county residents for their dedicated patronage, the Multnomah County Library will be hosting a community celebration on Saturday, September 27, 2014.
The Multnomah County Library is celebrating its 150th anniversary this month.
Image via @MultCoLib on Twitter

On Saturday, September 27, the Central Library branch, located at 801 SW 10th Avenue, will present a variety of entertainment, speakers, and activities. From 11 AM to 5 PM, the Central Library has scheduled, according to its website:

Inside the Library
  • William Stafford Calligraphy Project exhibition and calligraphy demonstration
  • 150 Years of Library Memories collection of photos and stories
  • Symphony Storytime with the Oregon Symphony
  • Storytimes in English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Vietnamese
  • Cafe Banned Presents: To Cut or Not to Cut: A Conversation About Censorship
  • Honoring Babies, Kids, and Teens--Our Shining Stars of the Library!
  • Central Library and Eco-Roof Tours
  • John Wilson Special Collections Tour

On the Outdoor Stage
  • LoveBomb GoGo
  • Oregon Ballet Theatre
  • Portland Opera
  • Bollywood Dreams Entertainment
  • Aaron Nigel Smith Band
  • Bobby Torres Ensemble
  • Director of Libraries Vailey Oehlke
  • Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury
  • Author Mathew Dickman

Additional Fun Activities
  • Reading fortunes from My Librarian
  • Literary Arts presents Oregon Authors
  • Fear No Technology: Free eBooks! Free Music! Free Movies!
  • Design Your Library of the Future! Nitya Wakhlu Innovations
  • Crafts for kids and adults
  • 3-D printing with OpenFab PDX
  • Bike repair resources from Kerr Bikes

With all of this great stuff slated to go on, the Multnomah County Library 150th anniversary celebration promises to be an event you won't want to miss. For me, it will be an excellent opportunity to further explore what my new city has to offer. If you're in Portland as well -- whether you live here or are just passing through -- be sure to check out the festivities. For more information on the day's events, and on the Multnomah County Library, see THIS LINK.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Book-Themed Gifts Perfect for Baby

Many friends of mine are having babies as of late. Invites to baby showers have been trickling in. And every day it seems, my Newsfeed on Facebook fills up with more and more baby photos from friends who have recently become parents. 
The "Read Me Books" onesie available from WORD bookstore.
Image via

When buying a present for the new addition to their family, I tend to put together a baby-themed gift bag, in which I include a hardcover children's book. I suppose I could also purchase a book-themed item that would be perfect for baby, such as the "Read Me Books" onesie that's sold by WORD, an independent bookstore with locations in New York and New Jersey.

Although WORD's "Read Me Books" onesie wasn't included, BuzzFeed has compiled a still impressive list of "33 Perfect Gifts for Book-Loving Babies." Many of these gifts are onesies that feature words and/or imagery from such classic works of literature as The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams; Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak; Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll; A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens; and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Quite a few bibs are on BuzzFeed's list, as well as quilts, mobiles, teething rings, and hats that were either knitted or crocheted, including a Cat in the Hat hat, The Very Hungry Caterpillar hat, and this adorable Winnie-the-Pooh hat:
This hat inspired by A.A. Milne's classic work will keep baby's head nice and warm.
Image via

In addition to onesies, bibs, bedding, mobiles, teething rings, hats, and toys - a Winnie-the-Pooh wooden rocking horse and Charlotte's Web wooden building blocks - BuzzFeed's list of gift ideas features shoes for small feet. There are booties, made by hand and available for purchase through, that have imagery from The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter; Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll; and Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. There's also this great pair of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland shoes:
Baby shoes that would also sell well in adult sizes (hint, hint).
Image via

Browsing the list of "33 Perfect Gifts for Book-Loving Babies" put together by BuzzFeed, I'm sure you'll find a gift that the new parents in your social circle will love. To see the complete list, check out the BuzzFeed article at THIS LINK.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Literary Pair

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward browse the book carts outside the Strand Bookstore, c. 1950s.
Image via the Strand's Facebook page

Thursday, August 21, 2014

New Book Illustrates Labor Strife at the Strand

The Strand Bookstore in New York City is famous for being a destination for book lovers from all over the world. With its "18 miles of books," the Strand attracts customers who feel nothing but love for the bookstore, which has been in business since 1927. However, those who work at the Strand can tell a different story.
Image via

Back in 2012, employees of the Strand were embroiled in a labor dispute that arose when the store's owners proposed a new contract that the employees felt would reduce their wages and benefits. Exacerbating matters, non-unionized workers were being hired at an increasing rate, causing concern for the unionized workers already on staff. 

One of the workers on staff during this tumultuous period was Greg Farrell, who is still employed at the bookstore. Farrell, a comic artist and rapper who resides in Brooklyn, has documented the 2012 labor struggle of he and his coworkers in a new book. Titled On the Books, it's a comic strip account that tells the story of the struggle from the inside.

For On the Books, Farrell interviewed his fellow workers at the Strand, adding further depth to the story of the Strand's steady transformation "into a worker-unfriendly, corporate-style environment," as described by John Farley in a March 23, 2012, article for MetroFocus. In addition, Farrell inserts his own interpretation of the labor strife at the Strand, and in doing so, allows readers a peek into the struggles of a young working person in the recent economic environment.

On the Books was just released by Microcosm Publishing as part of its World Around Us series. At 128 pages, the paperback is now available for $11.95 through the Microcosm website. Although it's newly released, On the Books is already getting praise. One of Farrell's coworkers at the Strand said the following about the book on his website:

"This is a completely important, brilliant, and informative nonfiction work. Our struggle is real, [and] Greg nailed it. He's a primary source to what happened in the last contract negotiations, he did extensive research from primary and secondary sources for other events in the Strand's and the union's history, and at no point did I feel like his criticism was unfair. If you love the Strand and its employees, you need to read this."

On the Books by Greg Farrell can be purchased directly from the author at the Strand, as well as from Forbidden Planet and online through Microcosm, Amazon, and elsewhere. It can also be downloaded as a PDF or e-book at Farrell filmed two trailers for On the Books. You can view the first trailer on YouTube and the second one below:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Queer Book Dioramas on Display at NY Public Library

In the heart of Greenwich Village, a historically gay-friendly neighborhood in New York City, is a never-before-seen display of miniature.
Michelle Brennan's diorama of Roving Pack, by Sassafras Lowrey.
Image via

The Queer Book Diorama Show is currently on view at the Jefferson Market Branch of the New York Public Library. The library, located on 6th Avenue, between West 9th and 10th Streets, is housing dioramas that were assembled by thirteen LBGTQ artists. Hailing from the United States, Canada, and South Africa, these artists have chosen to explore the relationship between LGBTQ readers and literature through the construction of their dioramas.

The artists, and books they interpreted as dioramas, are: Melissa Sky and Jennifer Corbett, Beebo Brinker Chronicles by Ann Bannon; Michelle Morgan, Chelsea Girls by Eileen Myles; Michael Moran, Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran; Jenny Lin, Female Masculinity by Jack Halberstam; Jacky Flagg, Fun Home by Allison Bechdel; Jason Bishop and Tim McMath, Mommy Dearest by Christina Crawford; Kate Conroy, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Rubyfruit Jungle by Jeanette Winterson and Rita Mae Brown, respectively; Michelle Brennan, Roving Pack by Sassafras Lowrey; Victoria Baker, Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown; Daniel Roza Lang, Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones by Samuel R. Delany; and Ketch Wehr, The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf.
Jason Bishop and Tim McMath's diorama of Mommy Dearest, by Christina Crawford.
Image via 

The Queer Book Diorama Show was curated by writers Sassafras Lowrey and Hugh Ryan. Speaking to the Daily Beast, Ryan said, "Sassafras and I wrote a call inviting people to create a diorama based on a book that was meaningful to them in their development of their queer identity. We received nearly 100 proposals from around the world - including Canada, South Africa, Ireland, and the Czech Republic - for dioramas that ranged from pocket-sized to life-sized, on everything from picture books to dense philosophy. Had we not been limited by the space of the gallery, we would have included all of them!"

In addition to the dioramas, there will be panel discussions with the artists. Melissa Sky, Michelle Moran, Jacky Flagg, Kate Conroy, and others will shed light on their artistic process, as well as converse about queer art and literature and explain the relationship between author and reader. The panel discussions will take place at the Jefferson Market Library and will be free to attend for the general public. Sassafras Lowrey and Hugh Ryan will moderate the discussions, which are scheduled to begin at 7PM on Friday, September 5, and Friday, September 19. For more details on the scheduled events, go to THIS LINK.

The Queer Book Diorama Show was made possible through the sponsorship of the Lambda Literary Foundation, the Pop-Up Museum of Queer History, MIX NYC, and the New York Public Library.

"It has been amazing to see the outpouring of inspiration," Ryan told the Daily Beast, "as well as the crucial institutional support from the Pop-Up Museum of Queer History, the Lambda Literary Foundation, MIX NYC, and the Jefferson Market Branch of the New York Public Library! In our own small way, this show is a gift to the community and an offering to all other queers who, like us, stood before a card catalog or library shelf looking for belonging."

The Queer Book Diorama Show will be at the Jefferson Market Library through September. For more information on the show, see THIS LINK and THIS LINK.