Thursday, August 30, 2012

OWS' People's Library Serves Seattle Amid Closures

Now through September 2, the entire Seattle Public Library system is closed due to budget cuts. What are students, parents, those without home Internet access, and others in the community supposed to do? Thankfully, Occupy Wall Street activists have stepped up to fill the void during this furlough period. They've opened the People's Library on the steps of the Douglass-Truth branch at 23rd and Yesler, and people of all ages and backgrounds are flocking to it.

Organized in 10 days' time, thanks to word-of-mouth and social networking, the Seattle People's Library consists of donated books shelved in neatly stacked milk crates and wooden boxes, borrowed laptops with WiFi connections arranged on folding tables, a space set aside for recycling, and an area for the preparation and serving of food. The People's Library even has a daily schedule of events, which include storytime and crafts for children, live musical performances, and meals (snacktime, lunch, and dinner). Anyone can drop by to make use of the library, and anyone can stop by to volunteer or donate books and other supplies.

A girl browses the People's Library of Seattle, organized by Occupy Wall Street activists.
Image from
"I just think it's wonderful," said Laura Sindell, who donated some of her books to the makeshift library. "I want to support them any way I can." An organizer of the People's Library, Charles Conatzer, had this to say: "Literacy is important, and when you have austerity measures that threaten the ability for people to come together and use computers and to get books, it's really not good for the community." Indeed the closure of Seattle's public libraries through Labor Day displeased many patrons. "It's a little bit annoying," said Kristen Fitzpatrick. "My son had picked out some books and they are on hold, so I have to wait another week and I've got a pile of them I'm returning."

But Fitzpatrick looked around at the People's Library and said, "It's great. It's awesome. I didn't know they were going to do that."

The Seattle People's Library is open daily, from 10 AM to 8 PM. If you wish to donate money or food, or if you want to volunteer, you can reach organizers of the People's Library at You can check out the library's Facebook page HERE.

The quotes in this blog post were taken from the Central District News article "The People's Library Creates Community Library Outside the Closed Douglass-Truth Branch" and the article "People's Library Fills in or Seattle Public Libraries During Closure."

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Introducing Little Free Library #2646

Even though I've yet to see one in person, I like that pop-up libraries exist. For those who don't know, a pop-up library is an outdoor public space established for the free exchange of books for the benefit of those in the community. That space, which is either assembled or repurposed by an individual or a group of individuals, can be an abandoned phone booth, bike basket, birdhouse, or a custom-made container that shields the books from the elements.

Little Free Library #2646.
Image via Amy Seidenwurm/

I love the whimsy of the pop-up library. I also have an appreciation for the do-it-yourself mind-set that makes such a thing possible. And the fact that the basic purpose of the pop-up library is to make books more much accessible to everyone in the community is something that I think is amazing. For someone like myself, who is for the democratization of information, the pop-up library is a fantastic idea. It's much better than just abandoning a pile a books on a sidewalk or a curb, which is something I see a lot of.

Among the newer pop-up libraries that are springing up across the country and around the world is Little Free Library #2646, which you can see in the photo above. The finishing touches were put on it just last week by Amy Seidenwurm; her husband, Russell Bates; and their friend Wesley Smith. They decided to put it in a vacant lot that is conveniently located near their house and a nursery school, and according to Seidenwurm, they have "already had donations from neighbors of all ages and a few books have been borrowed." To see more photos of Little Free Library #2646, go HERE.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Monday, August 20, 2012

Poe as You've Never Experienced Him Before

I love traditional books. I really do. I'm such a devotee of the paper book that I can honestly say that owning an e-reader is not in my foreseeable future. But I have to admit...whenever I witness the highly interactive nature of digital stories, my mind gets completely blown. Like with iPoe.

Image via

iPoe is a collection of four Edgar Allan Poe stories - "The Oval Portrait," "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Masque of the Red Death," and "Annabel Lee" - that have been creatively reinterpreted for digital consumption via the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. The "illustrated & interactive" nature of this reinterpretation is positively stunning. Take a look:

With amazing illustrations by David Garcia Fores and a haunting soundtrack by Teo Grimalt, iPoe allows for a breathtakingly unique revisitation of Edgar Allan Poe's work for longtime fans. Plus, it's sure to attract a new, younger group of readers to his timeless tales. Extras include a biography of Poe and a collection of the illustrator's sketches. Text is available in English, Spanish, and French.

iPoe is from Spanish developer Play Creatividad and is available via the App Store.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Parking Garage a 'Community Bookshelf' in Missouri

Can you believe this is actually a parking garage? It's part of the Kansas City Public Library's Central Library building, located in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

"Community Bookshelf" on the exterior of the Central Library in Kansas City.
Image from

The installation is called "Community Bookshelf," and it takes up the entire south wall of the library's parking garage on 10th Street between Wyandotte Street and Baltimore Avenue. The book spines are made of signboard mylar, and each spine is approximately 25 feet tall and 9 feet wide. There are 22 in all, and the titles on the spines reflect "a wide variety of reading interests as suggested by Kansas City readers and then selected by the Kansas City Public Library Board of Trustees," according to the Kansas City Public Library's website.

Some of the titles on the larger-than-life spines are Catch-22, by Joseph Heller; Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson; Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison; Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury; Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu; Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne; Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien; Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare; A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens; and To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. The garage behind the row of titles was built in 2006, and the "Community Bookshelf" was a means to beautify the structure. The design firm Dimensional Innovations, of Overland Park, Kansas, was behind this unique installation.

If I ever visit Kansas City, you best believe I'll check out the Community Bookshelf!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Rare Film of Mark Twain by Thomas Edison

In one of my college literature courses, we were assigned to read Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Many of my fellow students questioned why we had to read such a seemingly simple book at the university level. Others took issue with some of the language in the book (but that's a whole other blog post). But the professor refused to acquiesce, so we proceeded with Twain's 1885 novel.

American author Mark Twain, looking thoughtfully out a window, in 1907.
Image from
Revisiting one of Twain's classic works at the college level made clear what a masterful storyteller he was. The Hannibal, Missouri, native had such a way with words that he was heralded as "the greatest humorist of his age" and "the father of American literature." Twenty-four years after the publication of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, at the age of 73, was filmed by none other than the great American inventor Thomas Edison. Edison's footage of Mark Twain - shot in 1909, just one year before Twain's death in 1910 - shows the esteemed writer ambling around Stormfield, his sprawling estate in Redding, Connecticut. You can watch this rare footage, which is the only known footage of Mark Twain, below.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Gorgeous Photos of Readers from Across the Globe

The love of reading goes beyond national borders and envelopes the world. Acclaimed photographer Steve MCurry, best known for his shot of the "Afghan Girl" that made the cover of National Geographic in 1985, has taken photos of readers from across the globe for his blog.

A Burmese monk leans on a windowsill, absorbed in a book.
Photograph by Steve McCurry

The section of McCurry's blog that focuses on readers in India, Burma, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere is called To Fly, named after a quote by philosopher A.C. Grayling:

To read is to fly:
it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view
over wide terrains of history,
human variety, ideas, shared experiences and the
fruits of many inquiries.

Many of the gorgeous photographs were taken in Southeast Asia. But some of the pensive subjects were photographed in other Asian countries, the Middle East, and parts of Europe and North America. A shopkeeper in Yemen sits amid his spices and wares, drawn into a book. A sunbather in Thailand hoists a book above her as she lounges poolside. A girl in Germany huddles next to a warm stove, her brow deeply furrowed as she studies the book in her lap. Steve McCurry has captured so many beautiful images of lovers of the written word. Admire them HERE.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Self-Service Libraries a Big Hit in Beijing

For many, the limited hours of most U.S. libraries are an inconvenience. It can become a bit of a production to get to the library before it closes, especially if you work a 9-to-5 job and/or have school-age children. In the city of Beijing, China, a patron-pleasing solution to the problem of limited library hours has been found: the self-service library.

A man stands in front of a self-service library in Beijing, China.
Image via
Scattered across the bustling Chinese city are massive automated machines that collectively hold 20,000 books that are available 24 hours a day to the public. To access these books, readers must use their IDs to register for membership at a public library. Membership isn't free, however; it costs 100 yuan ($16). Still, the service is proving popular with the people of Beijing.

"I can return or borrow a book anytime of the day, even early in the morning before I go for a stroll in the garden," said Li Anyin, a retiree in the Chaoyang district. "You no longer have to rush to have the books returned before the library closes." But this new technology also has its critics. "Leafing through the books, you can hardly find an English novel or fiction," lamented Wang Yue, a graduate student. This lack of variety has been addressed by library administration.

"Most of the books are Chinese fiction, biography, cookery, and horticulture," stated Tao Jung, a publicity officer at the Chaoyang District Library. "However, the library will consider catering for different tastes and including more books."

Each self-service library contains approximately 400 books, and people can check out a total of 5 books for up to 4 weeks at a time. Currently, 50 of these automated libraries can be found in Beijing. One hundred more machines are expected to be set up in the coming months.

To read more about this "new chapter in Beijing's libraries," go to this LINK.

Something Sweet for Your Next Book Club Meeting

Book cupcakes from Victoria's Kitchen.
Image via

Thursday, August 2, 2012

OWS's Tactical and Symbolic Use of Books

Books have long been central to protest movements. Occupy Wall Street is no exception. In addition to its extremely resilient People's Library, OWS has found another effective way to incorporate books into acts of resistance: the book bloc.

Book blocs at an Occupy Wall Street protest in Oakland, California.
Photo via
What are book blocs? They are shields that have been decorated to resemble books, particularly titles that have strongly political or revolutionary themes, such as The Wretched of the Earth, by Frantz Fanon; Assata: An Autobiography, by Assata Shakur; and Letters of Insurgents, by Fredy Perlman. Protestors hold these shields in front of them as they march. By doing so, they not only have some protection against flying police batons, but they also produce an incredibly striking image for the highly visual media. Book blocs were first seen in Italy in 2010. Since then, they have appeared in grassroots actions in Spain, London, New York, California, and elsewhere. On Governor's Island, OWS in New York recently held a workshop on making book blocs. It looks as if the book bloc will continue to be a regular visual component of OWS protests worldwide.

For a bit more on book blocs, and how OWS is using them, go HERE and HERE.