Sunday, December 21, 2014

PJ Harvey to Pen Poetry Book

It was a moment of sheer serendipity: A pair of friends had won tickets to a sold-out PJ Harvey show at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, and they had an extra one. They asked, "Would you like to join us?" Of course, I answered yes.
PJ Harvey is working on a book of poetry to be released in 2015.
Image via

On the unforgettable night of the concert, Harvey filled the cavernous music venue with her larger-than-life stage presence and rafter-rattling vocals. During one song in particular, "Meet Ze Monsta," she carried every single fan in the venue on the same, massive sonic wave that rose higher and higher as she sang, "!" and let out a howl that went straight through you.

Before seeing PJ Harvey in concert that night, I understood that she was a songwriting genius whose songs were weighted with emotional power. But that night I was a witness to the unmistakable creativity of this unique artist, and it was clearer to me than ever before that she is a gifted wordsmith. After completing an impressive succession of amazingly crafted albums, the last being 2011's Let England Shake, Harvey is at last releasing a collection of poetry.

Pitchfork broke the news that Harvey is working on her first collection of poetry, The Hollow of the Hand. A collaboration between Harvey and photographer and filmmaker Seamus Murphy, The Hollow of the Hand will feature words by Harvey and pictures by Murphy. The two amassed inspiration for their collaborative project by traveling the world for three years, from 2011 to 2014, stopping in places such as Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Washington, DC, along the way.

Talking about the project in a press release, Harvey said:

"Gathering information from secondary sources felt too far removed for what I was trying to write about. I wanted to smell the air, feel the soil and meet the people of the countries I was fascinated with. My friend Seamus Murphy and I agreed to grow a project together – I would collect words, he would collect pictures, following our instincts on where we should go."

Bloomsbury Circus, the literary imprint of London-based Bloomsbury Books, is scheduled to release The Hollow of the Hand in October of next year. According to product details about the book from, The Hollow of the Hand will be 224 pages long. The book will be simultaneously released in both hardcover and paperback editions. "A limited number of signed special editions will be also available," reveals the page for the anticipated book.

For more on The Hollow of the Hand, go to THIS LINK and THIS LINK as well.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Literary Graffiti, Part 2: Holden in Our Hearts

Homage to The Catcher in the Rye, seen in a San Francisco, CA, sidewalk.
Image via thebenbram/Instagram

Monday, December 15, 2014

Focus on Campus Library Security Post-FSU Shooting

In the wake of last month's shooting inside Strozier Library at Florida State University, discussion has increased about security at on-campus libraries.
Strozier Library at Florida State University.
Image via

When I first started working in academic libraries as an undergraduate student, there was little security on campus, let alone inside the university's libraries. Anyone from off-campus could enter, without having to stop at a checkpoint or even show ID, and countless did on a daily basis. At least once a week, it was my responsibility to close the library, and on many occasions I was the only one there at the end of the night. I was informed that if trouble arose, a security guard was nearby, although I don't remember ever seeing him. Thankfully, trouble never did occur, and as far as I know, my fellow library workers and those who used the library never encountered danger while at the library. But this was a number of years ago. I would hope that since then, the university has put security measures in place at its libraries.

In sharp contrast to the lack of security at my undergraduate library many years ago, security at the graduate library at the school where I just earned my MLIS was anything but lax. Before you even cast a shadow on the steps of the library, you would have passed through campus gates that were constantly under the watchful eye of unformed security personnel who were stationed at booths just inside the every entrance. Once through the gates and en route to the library, you would see at least one vehicle with security guards inside, and typically they would drive on the sidewalks, forcing students to stand off to the side. Upon entering the library itself, you had to take out an ID issued by the college before gaining access to the stacks. With ID in hand, you approached turnstiles above which you had to wave your ID in order to gain entrance. And always positioned next to the turnstiles was a bored-looking security guard. Once through the turnstiles, you faced the circulation desk, which was always manned by at least two workers. And library workers were on every floor of the building. As a result, I never felt like I was ever in any danger as a library patron at my graduate school.

The security measures in place at my graduate school's library are now commonplace at on-campus libraries at colleges and universities across the country. Indeed, at Florida State University, such measures, including "a front desk ID check," "a turnstile entry system activated by FSU ID cards," and "a security desk where visitors are required to sign in and register for a guest card," were already present at the time of the November 20 shooting, according to Library Journal. In addition, "Strozier employs a full-time security staff, as well as student workers manning the front desk," reported Library Journal. Despite these measures, the shooting still occurred and students and library staff were injured. (It turned out that the shooter was an alumnus of the university; amid the altercation, he was shot and killed by FSU police.) Thankfully, none of the injuries were fatal, although one of the students who was shot is now paralyzed as a result. The aftermath could have been a lot worse if Strozier Library workers hadn't been trained on what to do in the case of emergencies. As a matter of fact, it was Strozier Library worker Nathan Scott, who was at the library's front desk at the time of the shooting, who warned the students inside after he himself was wounded by the gunman. Scott, who was shot in the leg, is making a full recovery.

Speaking to Library Journal, Julia Zimmerman, dean of libraries at FSU, said, "We were thankfully well-prepared for this." As evidence, Library Journal cited "Strozier Library's security system and staff, recent emergency drills, a responsive police force, and a quick-thinking front desk employee" that, collectively, saved many lives that November night.

For more on library security at FSU after the November shooting, see the Library Journal article "FSU Shooting Highlights Need for Library Security" at THIS LINK. For more dialogue on security at on-campus libraries, especially those in Florida since the FSU shooting, see THIS LINK.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Unearthing Fossil's Library and Archives

When searching for a library or archive job, MLS degree holders are encouraged to look beyond traditional libraries and archives, such as those at colleges and universities. Yet, how many MLS grads would know to look toward a watch and lifestyle company based in Richardson, Texas, for a library or archive job?

Inside the library at Fossil headquarters in Richardson, Texas.
Photo via

Fossil creates high-quality watches, handbags, wallets, and more that can be found in luxury shopping meccas around the world. But it's at the company's Texas headquarters where ideas for its designs are helped brought to fruition, thanks to reference materials at the Fossil library and archive.

The Fossil library contains books, magazines, and reference materials that creatives at the company can use to help realize their design ideas. Among the magazines the library subscribes to is UPPERCASE, which specializes in graphic design, illustration, and crafting content. Curious about the library that carries the magazine, Janine Vangool, publisher, editor, and founder of UPPERCASE, decided to interview the librarian at Fossil, Laura Pike-Seeley.
On the shelves at the Fossil library.
Photo via

Laura Pike-Seeley, the librarian at Fossil, gladly spoke to Vangool about the Fossil library and archive. Vangool published Pike-Seeley's great responses in a highly insightful interview that can be read on the UPPERCASE magazine website. Some highlights from the interview:

  • The Fossil library "manages collections for our product design teams, the largest being our collection of retail and vintage samples."
  • The library also has "a variety of materials, from books on Expressionist woodcuts and jazz album covers to a circulating iPad full of digital magazine subscriptions."
  • The archives features "signature watch tins, catalogs and mailers, advertising collateral, newsletters, press releases, merchandising props, and of course, product, including watches."
  • Fossil's "digital archives holds commercials, internal videos and our art department’s work from the past twenty years or so." 

Pike-Seeley also tells Vangool how the Fossil library and archive are curated, she reveals the coolest item in the archive, and she explains how the library and archive assist Fossil's brand and company culture. Read the entire interview with Fossil librarian Laura Pike-Seeley at THIS LINK.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Banksy: "Books Are the Basis of Knowledge"

Image from @therealbanksy/Twitter

Ferguson Library Offers Normalcy in Anomalous Times

The city of Ferguson hasn't been the same since August 9, 2014. On that day, an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in this suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. In the wake of this incident, Ferguson has been a hotbed of unrest. Throughout months of tumult, the city's public library has been steadfast at being the calm at the center of the raging storm.
Image via @EKrauss/Twitter

Ferguson Public Library stayed open while local businesses and schools closed as protests sprung up and National Guard troops arrived on the scene. The library's director and its only full-time librarian, Scott Bonner, had only been at Ferguson Public Library since July. Yet amid escalating tensions and chaos, Bonner stepped up to let the community know that Ferguson Public Library was keeping its doors open to serve the people of Ferguson. Through social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, and through the efforts of volunteers, the posting of signage around the library, and word of mouth, news spread that Ferguson Public Library would be an oasis of normalcy in increasingly anomalous times.

In response to classes at area schools being cancelled due to unrest in the streets, Ferguson Public Library allowed for a makeshift school to be set up inside. Collaborating with Carrie Pace, an art teacher at local Walnut Grove Elementary who proposed the idea of a pop-up school at the library, Bonner and teachers, volunteers, and staffers enabled the start of informal classes. In an interview with the Magpie Librarian, Bonner said:

"We made an ad-hoc school! I offered the library's space, put out metaphorical fires, and played taskmaster to the press, and the teachers and volunteers made an actual, working school. We spread across two locations, the Ferguson Library and the First Baptist Church up the street. We had 200 students across locations at our peak — before we established the second location, we had 150 at the library alone on Wednesday, and wasn't that a crazy day! We had educational organizations from across St. Louis clamoring to help, including SpringboardSTL, St. Louis Science Center, MO Dept of Conservation, and many more."

Meanwhile, Ferguson Public Library continued to provide routine library services, including access to computers and the Internet, circulation of books and other library materials, story times for small children, crafts workshops, teen meetups, book swaps, and exhibits supporting the arts in Ferguson. The library did all this and more for the community of Ferguson on a limited budget. Speaking to BuzzFeed, Bonner said, "Libraries are famous for squeezing every dollar, making the most of what we have." He revealed in another interview that "Ferguson library's budget decreased about $200,000 after the recession." But as word got out about what Bonner and Ferguson Public Library were doing for the community during this time of crisis, donations in the form of money and books - including kid's books from Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon - began to pour in.

On Monday, November 24, 2014, the grand jury decision not to indict the police officer who killed Brown was broadcast, setting off riots and other forms of civic unrest in the city of Ferguson. Much of the city was effectively shut down, but Ferguson Public Library let the world know that it was remaining open. In an announcement made on Facebook, the library stated:

The public's reaction to this announcement was swift, with people mobilizing primarily through Twitter to encourage donations to Ferguson Public Library. Soon, celebrities tweeted their support for the donation effort. Among these celebrities was author Neil Gaiman, who tweeted:

Since these tweets, Ferguson Public Library has seen an incredible spike in donations. In just two days, the library received nearly $200,000 in donations. According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, "The money donated so far adds up to almost half of the library's annual budget (about $400,000) and Bonner hopes it will allow him to hire another full-time librarian to work with children and programming." Discussing the amount of money that has come from supporters, Bonner told the Dispatch, "It doesn't seem real yet. I had no idea there was anything like that coming."

And the donations are continuing to come in. If you would like to show your support for Ferguson Public Library, you can donate at THIS LINK. The library is also accepting donations in the form of bitcoins. Bitcoin donations to Ferguson Public Library can be made at THIS LINK. If you prefer to send donations to a physical address, you can, at:

"I think that when there's all these negative stories," Bonner said in an interview with NBC News, "a community comes together unified behind a common cause... it makes people remember that, you know, we're all human beings and we're in this together."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Library Books Save FSU's Student's Life (Literally)

When the topic of the school shooting at Florida State University began to trend in news outlets on the morning of Thursday, November 20, 2014, my heart dropped and my throat tightened. Yet another incident of senseless violence involving guns taking place in a U.S. school - in an environment where bright-eyed students and hard-working teachers, staff, and administrators are supposed to be safe - was just too much for me to deal with. So I turned away from the news sites.
FSU student Jason Derfuss holds one of the library books that saved his life.
Photo by Jason Derfuss

Later, I logged into Facebook and began to scroll through my News Feed. An amazing story caught my eye: An FSU student hadn't realized that he had been targeted by the gunman until after returned home, removed his backpack, and took out the library books inside. Holding the books, he noticed they were pierced with bullet holes and that they had actually prevented the bullets from the gunman's weapon from entering his body. Reading this story, I found it absolutely incredible. It wasn't until I saw photos of these bullet-riddled library books - photos that were posted by the student himself - that I at last believed the story.

As reported in media outlets, student Jason Derfuss was at Strozier Library on the FSU campus on the night of the shooting. He checked out a stack of library books, placed them inside his backpack, and began walking out of the library when the gunman entered the building. The gunman started to unload his weapon, and Derfuss heard the shots. Relating the incident to his friends and followers on Facebook, Derfuss said:

"Tonight there was a shooting at FSU, right as I was leaving Strozier. I didn't know this at the time, but the Shooter targeted me first. The shot I heard behind me I did not feel, nor did it hit me at all. He was about 5 feet from me, but he hit my books. Books one minute earlier I had checked out of the library, books that should not have stopped the bullet. But they did. I learned this about 3 hours after it happened, I never thought to check my bag. I assumed I wasn't a target, I assumed I was fine. The truth is I was almost killed tonight and God intervened."

Derfuss proceeded to share photographs of his bullet-pierced library books. In another photo, he is holding a bullet that he had removed from one of the books, a bullet that was meant for him. You can see some of these photos below:

As bibliophiles, we are well aware that books have the power to change lives. We now know that they also have the power to save them.

All above photographs are by Jason Derfuss.