Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Secret Libraries of New York

When thinking of a library in New York, what immediately comes to mind is the New York Public Library. Yet the city has many other, lesser-known libraries.
The Brooklyn Art Library, one of New York's secret libraries.
Image via

These "secret" libraries in New York are sometimes private, members-only institutions, or they are special libraries that are located onsite at nonprofit organizations. Quite a few are open and easily accessible to the general public, if only the general public knew about them!

To raise a bit of awareness about these hidden treasures, Allison Meier of Atlas Obscura has written an article, "Secret Libraries of New York City." A couple of these secret libraries, the American Kennel Club Library and the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library, I have visited for school assignments. The American Kennel Club Library is precisely what it sounds like: a library "devoted to dogs, the development of purebred dogs, and the sport and enjoyment of dogs," according to its website. "Open to the public, the Library's mission is to serve as a public reference collection and archive on matters relating to purebred dogs and the various roles they play in our lives."
Interference Archive, home to activist artifacts and much more.
Image by Allison Meier/Atlas Obscura 

The Livingston Masonic Library houses books and myriad artifacts and memorabilia that illustrate the history of Freemasonry, with an emphasis on Freemasonry in New York State. The library is open to Masons and non-Masons alike, but only "Masons who are members in good standing of a lodge under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge F&AM of the State of New York" are allowed to check out materials, according to the library's website. Both the American Kennel Club Library and the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library are quiet, elegant institutions that are located in Manhattan and are staffed by friendly librarians and caretakers who are eager to assist you. Appointments are required to visit both.

Another secret library that Meier mentions in her Atlas Obscura article is Interference Archive. Located in Brooklyn, in the well-traveled and easy-to-get-to neighborhood of Gowanus, Interference Archive is a completely do-it-yourself institution. Its focus is on grassroots activist movements and subcultures, so its many materials, exhibits, and programs are on this subject matter. Interference Archive's library has "thousands of posters, zines, books, comics, signs, and other ephemera, as well as posters, T-shirts, and buttons from causes both national and international," reports Atlas Obscura. Largely run by volunteers, Interference Archive welcomes visitors (no appointment necessary unless you're in a group of five or more) during open hours, according to its website.

Other secret libraries in New York include the library of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York, the New York Society Library, the Brooklyn Art Library, and the libraries of the Hispanic Society of America, the Grolier Club, and the Harvard Club of New York City. Another of these clandestine libraries is the Conjuring Arts Research Center. "Housed in an undisclosed location in midtown Manhattan, the library is a hidden treasure of rare books, many of them secretly published by magicians for magicians," I said in an April 6, 2013, blog post titled "Believe in Magic? Visit This Library!" The Conjuring Arts Research Center was founded by a magician, William Kalush, in 2003. To read about this and other of New York's secret libraries, go to Allison Meier's Atlas Obscura article, "Secret Libraries of New York City," at THIS LINK.

Monday, July 21, 2014

First-Ever Library Cards Made from Bamboo

I and others I know are trying to live a more eco-conscious lifestyle. This includes forgoing plastic shopping bags for reusable tote bags, separating our garbage into recyclable components, selecting products that are sold in minimal packaging, purchasing secondhand clothing instead of "fast" fashion and, among my more hardcore friends, composting under the kitchen sink or in the backyard, using a menstrual cup instead of disposable feminine products, and biking everywhere.

The San Rafael Public Library, in San Rafael, California, is offering an additional way to be environmentally friendly. This month, it began offering the first-ever library card that is made entirely from renewable bamboo:
Image via the San Rafael Patch

To provide the bamboo library cards, the public library system in Northern California partnered with Grovemade, a Portland, Oregon-based company that is "focused on art, design, craftsmanship, and natural materials," according to the Grovemade website. "The bamboo library cards were created to promote the City of San Rafael's goals to create a greener environment through several initiatives, including changes in lifestyle, city operations, and construction," the San Rafael Public Library announced on its website.

The new library cards, made from renewable wood, are individually hand-sanded and oiled, and they are touted as being just as durable as library cards made out of plastic. The San Rafael Public Library is encouraging patrons to exchange their plastic cards for the bamboo ones in an initiative titled "Free Library Card Replacement Month," which will last throughout the month of July. As with all other library cards, the bamboo library cards are free. From this month onward, all San Rafael Public Library cards issued to patrons will be made from bamboo instead of plastic.

Addressing the public through its website, the San Rafael Public Library said, "Join us in making our planet a better place and think of ways that you, too, can reduce plastic waste." Making the planet a better place is a worthy goal for sure, and it's great that library-goers in San Rafael, California, have another way of doing so. For more on the bamboo library cards that are now being issued by the San Rafael Public Library, go to THIS LINK and THIS LINK, too.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Their Shock Sits Between Them

Image from illustrator's Bob Staake's "Bad Little Children's Books" series.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Why Librarians Should Edit Wikipedia

In May, I attended WikiConference USA. Billed as "the first national Wikimedia conference of its kind in the United States," it took place over a weekend at New York Law School, located in the downtown Manhattan neighborhood of TriBeCa. WikiConference, or "WikiCon," was free to attend, and its packed schedule included panels that specifically addressed Wikipedia's connection to librarians.
Image via Pinterest

One topic that arose over and over again during post-panel discussions was librarians taking an active role in editing Wikipedia entries. Among the many great comments that arose during these discussions were Leah Castaldi's "As librarians, our job is not just to promote access to information but to ensure our communities' ability to use it" and Rachel Wexelbaum's "What if every library had one Wikipedian on staff to access the collections and build the encyclopedia?"

Indeed, a librarian who helps build or edit Wikipedia entries - or a "Wikibrarian - is precisely what Michael Rodriguez is advocating for in his article for Hack Library School. Titled "Editing Wikipedia While in Library School," the article explains why librarians (and library school students) should edit the popular online encyclopedia. "Wikipedia is the sixth most frequently visited website globally and is among the first information stops for millions of people," Rodriguez says in the article. "Wikipedia has 500 million unique visitors in more than 250 languages annually!" The popularity of Wikipedia is, in fact, why librarians should become actively involved in editing its content, according to Rodriguez. He says, "Adding, expanding, or correcting Wikipedia content is therefore a public service — one intimately linked to librarians' mission to connect people to information."

Other reasons that Rodriguez gives for librarians to become Wikibrarians include:

Wikipedia builds community: "To become a Wikibrarian is to join an amazing community of editors with diverse interests and knowledge, all dedicated to disseminating and democratizing information."

Wikipedia teaches skills: "Even if you just add citations or links, you pick up some Wikicode. This provides a simple, intuitive introduction to coding and a helpful segue in HTML. If you contribute substantive content, then you develop experience with what amounts to technical writing."

Wikipedia demonstrates ability: "Building quality Wikipedia pages demonstrates that you have both technical skills and initiative. You're coding text and writing copyright licenses. You can upload or link your pages to your e-portfolio for future employers to admire."

Most of all, he says, "Wikipedia is fun to edit." He concludes his article for Hack Library School by telling how to get started as a Wikibrarian, including helpful links (some leading to tutorials) under "Resources." Rodriguez is a Wikipedian and has "found the experience rewarding in the extreme." For more on "Editing Wikipedia While in Library School," see Michael Rodriguez's article at THIS LINK.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

'What Kind of Librarian Are You?' Quiz

If you're on Facebook, then your Newsfeed is likely full of friends' results from online quizzes. These quizzes ask, for example: "Which U.S. City Should You Live In?", "What Tarot Card Are You?", and "How Well Do You Know Star Wars Legends?"
Hmmm...what kind of librarian should YOU be?
Image via Twitter

One such quiz that popped up in my Newsfeed recently is "What Kind of Librarian Are You?" I assumed that it and the other quizzes were from BuzzFeed, a social news and entertainment website. However, the bulk of them (the most recent ones, anyway) were created by PlayBuzz, a start-up company based in Tel Aviv, Israel. "Targeted specifically at the U.S. market, PlayBuzz posts quizzes, questions meant to engage users with response, and the 'listicles,' that BuzzFeed pioneered," according to a July 8, 2014, Wall Street Journal article.

The "What Kind of Librarian Are You?" quiz from PlayBuzz is comprised of eight questions and/or requests that are intended to determine which area of the library profession is right for you. The questions and/or requests are: 1) Pick a cocktail; 2) If you were a Dewey Decimal number, what would you be? [I hope you remembered what you learned, or are learning, in your cataloging class!]; 3) Pick a cat; 4) Which event would you be most likely to attend?; 5) Pick a gluten-free snack; 6) It's a rainy Saturday night. What movie do you want to watch? [None of the movies were ones I'd want to watch]; 7) What's your favorite NW [Pacific Northwest] musical act?; and 8) Pick a banned book.

When taking this online quiz, I and all my friends got the same result ("Reference Librarian"), which I found interesting. Right before I typed up this blog post, I decided to take it again - this time picking some answers just for the sake of being contrary - and I got a different result ("Teen Librarian"). To see what you come up with, take the quiz at THIS LINK. Perhaps it will shed some light on what kind of librarian you should be. Or not.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Jack Kerouac, Joe Strummer Collaboration

Jack Kerouac is one of those authors whose work is highly polarizing: people either love it or loathe it. I'm squarely in the former camp. I first picked up Kerouac's breakthrough novel, 1957's On the Road, when I was in my early 20s. Like countless young people who read it before me, I found the novel inspiring: its loose, stream-of-consciousness prose colorfully weaving the tale of a cross-country adventure in an America that no longer exists. It was wildly romantic.
A young Jack Kerouac, on a New York City street in the 1950s.
Image via Tumblr

After On the Road, I went on to read The Subterraneans, Desolation Angels, and The Dharma Bums. (I also tore through Joyce Johnson's Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir, in which she provides intimate details about a lesser known side of Kerouac - a perspective that could only have been gained by being his lover, which Johnson was for a brief period in the late 1950s.) In addition to these and other works, Kerouac was also a prolific writer of poetry. Many of his poems found their way onto a spoken word tribute album, titled Kerouac: Kicks Joy Darkness.

Released in April 1997, Kerouac: Kicks Joy Darkness features numerous noteworthy artists, each of them offering a unique interpretation of the Beat writer's work. One contributor to the album was Joe Strummer, the late musician, singer, and songwriter who's best known for being the co-founder of, and driving force behind, the British punk rock band The Clash. For Kerouac: Kicks Joy Darkness, Strummer added a beat-laden musical track to an actual recording of Kerouac reading one of his poems, "MacDougal Street Blues." This collaboration of sorts, which has a duration of two minutes and forty-eight seconds, is the ninth track on the album. You can listen to it in the YouTube clip below. The words to "MacDougal Street Blues" are posted below the video.

"MacDougal Street Blues"
by Jack Kerouac

Written in Jim Hudson's window lookin' out on MacDougal
Summer of 1954, when he left me his whole apartment
He went away with his girl someplace.

Parade among Images
Images Images Looking
Looking - 
And everybody's turning around
& pointing -
Nobody looks up
and In
Nor listens to Samantabhadra's 
Unceasing Compassion.

No Sound Still
S s s s t t
Of Sea Blue Moon
Holy X-Jack

Night - 
Instead yank & yucker
For pits & pops

Look for crashes
I know, sweet hero,
Enlightenment has Come
Rest in Still

In the Sun Think
Think Not
Think no more Lines -
Straw hat, hands a back
He exam in atein distinct
Rome prints -
Trees prurp
and saw

The Chessplayers Wont End
Still they sit
Millions of hats
In underwater foliage
Over marble games
The Greeks of Chess

Plot the Pop
of Mate
King Queen

- I know their game,
their elephant with the pillar
With the pearl in it,
Their gory bishops
And Vital Pawns -
Their devout frontline
Sacrificial pawn shops
Their stately king
Who is so tall
Their Virgin Queens
Pree ing to Knave
The Night Knot
- Their Bhagavad Gitas
of Ignorance,
Krishna's advice,

The game begins -

Go home, Man

- So tho I am wise
I have to wait like

Lets forget the strollers
Forget the scene
Lets close our eyes
Let me instruct Thee
Here is dark Milk
Here is Sweet Mahameru
Who will Coo
To you Too

As he did to me
One night at three
When I w k e i t
P l e e
Knelt to See
Realit ee
And I said
'Wilt thou protect me
for 'ver?'

And he in his throatless
deep mother hole
Replied ' H o m '

For more on the tribute album Kerouac: Kicks Joy Darkness, go to THIS LINK.