Thursday, June 27, 2013

Something for That Special Reader in Your Life

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Science Behind That 'Old Book Smell'

Walking in the confines of the rare book room of the library or your local bookstore, you've smelled it. You've also smelled it upon opening a dust-covered box full of books kept in the attic or basement. Even flipping through your grandmother's old crochet books, you've smelled it. It's that "old book smell," and it's unmistakable. But why, exactly, do old books smell that way?

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In recent years, specialists have uncovered the science behind that distinct smell. Specifically, chemists have identified 15 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are often present in books and that degrade - emitting a gas while doing so - at a predictable rate. These compounds are in the ink, paper, and glue of books. As books age, these compounds break down, releasing the scent book lovers know.

The most common VOC that's in books is lignin. It "is present in all wood-based paper [and] is closely related to vanillin," said the International League for Antiquarian Booksellers. "As it breaks down, the lignin grants old books that faint vanilla scent." In addition to vanilla, chemists have picked up the scent of grass in aging books. "A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness, this unmistakable smell is as much a part of the book as its contents," said Matija Strlic, a chemist at University College London and lead author of the study of that old book smell.

Despite all this talk of notes, it's not a scent that can be easily bottled. No matter, though. That old book smell is still savored by - and is a comfort to - those of us who find ourselves surrounded by books.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

10 Well-Known Writers on Traveling

Summer is upon us, and I'm sure many of you are making travel plans. Being in library school, where I'm paying out-of-pocket for tuition and miscellaneous fees, I'm not likely to venture far from home this year. So I'll have to live vicariously through writers who've used for inspiration their jaunts to such lively locales as Paris, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Spain...and Key West.

Ernest Hemingway in East Africa, 1954.
Image from Photofest

It was at Key West, the tropical island that's part of the state of Florida, where Ernest Hemingway spent much of the year. It's also where he wrote A Farewell to Arms, one of his most famous novels. When he wasn't writing away amid the lush greenery of Key West, Hemingway was traveling to East Africa or the Caribbean. Or he was off to France or to Spain, where he reported on the Spanish Civil War. Also in his lifetime, Hemingway saw Italy, England, Cuba, China, and several U.S. states, ultimately settling down in Idaho. Many of these locations influenced his writing, and thus readers of his works are brought along on the journey.

Hemingway is just one of many well-known writers who've written about the places they've been. There's also Virginia Woolf (St. Ives, Cornwall), Henry Miller (Paris), Hunter S. Thompson (Puerto Rico), and David Sedaris (Paris, Amsterdam). For more, check out The L's list of "10 Famous Writers on Traveling." And consider taking one of their books with you on summer vacation this year!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Library Job Seekers, Raise a Glass!

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24 Book Picks on the Library Profession

For a long time, I thought about becoming a librarian. The seed was indelibly planted during my years of working on a part-time basis at campus libraries in undergraduate school; it was a job I truly enjoyed. I found the daily variety, in both tasks and patrons, stimulating. However, upon college graduation, I decided to pursue a career in publishing. I found working in publishing to be exciting and at times gratifying, but the desire to return to the stacks persisted.

A book on the library profession that truly inspired me.
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Changing careers from publishing to librarianship went from something I pondered to something I wanted to pursue after I read two pivotal articles. One ran in the Spring 2004 issue of Bust. It's titled "Revenge of the Librarian: With their own action figures, 'zines, and websites, a new breed of librarians is closing the book on a stodgy old stereotype." The magazine's new look at an old profession inspired me. The other article that got me excited about librarianship was in the July 8, 2007, edition of the New York Times. Titled "A Hipper Crowd of Shushers," it profiled librarians in their 20s and 30s, women and men, who were doing cool and admirable things, such as engaging in social activism, creating zines and comic books, and being active in social media. Reading it, I thought, "This is something I really want to be a part of."

Later, I embarked on a series of informational interviews with those active in the library profession in order to get an insider's view on what it's really like. Then I picked up the book This Book Is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson, and that was it. My mind was made up. I knew I wanted to go to library school.

Johnson's book isn't among the 24 books on the library profession culled from WorldCat by Valerie Hawkins. Still the list is worth checking out if you're seriously considering a career in librarianship. Whether you're looking to become a school library media specialist (New on the Job: A School Library Media Specialist's Guide to Success), an academic librarian (How to Stay Afloat in the Academic Library Job Pool), an academic or public library director (The Next Leadership: Attributes of Academic and Public Library Directors), or a public librarian (Neal-Schuman Directory of Public Library Job Descriptions), there is a book on this list for you. Also covered is how to pay for library school (How to Pay for Your Degree in Library & Information Studies 2010-2012), which, of course, is crucial. To see all 24 books on library careers, go to this WorldCat link. Thank you, Valerie, for putting this list together!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Librarian and Artist: Elizabeth Stettler

Besides being expert accordion players, experts on rare carillon music, and sought-after consultants for popular TV shows, today's librarians can also be successful artists. Meet Elizabeth Stettler, master of the woodcut print.

Elizabeth Stettler, wearing one of her designs.
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Interviewed by the Library as Incubator Project, Stettler works as an assistant lab technician at a paper conservation lab in Austin, Texas. There, she repairs works of art on paper and paper archives, putting her studies in library science - with a concentration on preservation - to very good use.

In her free time, Stettler focuses on woodcuts. "I love making woodcuts because they are a great mix of sculpture and printmaking," she told the Library as Incubator Project. "And I can cut and print on my dining room table without fancy presses or chemicals. Recently, I learned to screen print and have been making screens from my woodcut images."
A hand printed woodcut by Stettler.
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At her Etsy shop, LibrarianArtist, Elizabeth Stettler has a plethora of items that she hand printed from her meticulously created woodcuts. There are T-shirts and tote bags, onesies and tea towels, and greeting cards and blank sketchbooks and journals, all featuring her woodcut images. These images are of owls, foxes, chickens, buffalo, octopi, bats, cats and dogs, and more. She also does portraits of you or your pet on items of your choice.

Creating and printing from woodcuts is a real passion of Stettler's, and it can sometimes take over! "My art is very detailed and exact - though I'm afraid my studio has gotten a little out of hand," she told the Library as Incubator Project.

To read the full Library as Incubator Project interview with Elizabeth Stettler, where she also talks about how she came to the library profession and found her calling as an artist, go to THIS LINK.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

NYPL Conservators Provide Tips on Book Care

Before I bought my beautiful red bookshelf,* I kept my books stacked high in piles directly in front of a window and right next to a radiator - two things you DON'T want to do if you want your books to stay in excellent condition. 

You DON'T want to store your books like this.
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Exposure to direct sunlight and to extreme heat can do damage to your beloved books, so can not storing them upright. When I did, at last, place my books on the bookshelf - where they belonged - I saw that some had already become slightly misshapen due to the way that they were temporarily stored. So there's something to be said for taking the steps to properly care for your personal collection.

In a recent presentation, conservators at the New York Public Library provided tips and tricks on keeping the books in your home library in tip-top shape. Some of the pointers they offered are:

1. DO keep your books in a stable, moderate environment. Try not to store your books in attics (too hot) or basements (too moist). Too much heat or moisture can speed up deterioration or encourage mold growth.

2. DO keep your books away from direct sunlight. Ultraviolet and visible light can speed up the deterioration  of paper and cause fading or discoloration.

3. DO clean your books regularly by dusting with a clean, dry, soft cloth. Simply hold the book closed and wipe the covers and edges. Vacuuming with a soft brush can also safely remove loose dust.

4. DO shelve books upright, and support them with bookends so they don't slump. If you have oversize or large, heavy volumes that don't fit upright on the shelf, store them flat rather than on the spine or edges.

5. DON'T put your bookshelves along exterior walls, where they may experience temperature and humidity changes. Try to place them along interior walls.

For additional do's and don'ts on the proper care of your books (and papers and photographs) from professional conservators, go to this NYPL link HERE.

* It is again time for me to buy a bookshelf - a larger one!