Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Wishing This Was a Real Book

Image via Leaver and Beam/Twitter

Susan Sarandon Reads "Goodnight Moon"

I have been a big fan of the actress Susan Sarandon ever since I watched the 1991 road movie (and feminist classic) "Thelma & Louise" during my formative years.
Susan Sarandon: Actress, activist, and narrator of classic children's books.
Image via the interwebs

Every film I've seen of hers since then has solidified my opinion of Sarandon as a bold actress who makes fierce, feminist choices when it comes to selecting roles. I also admire her outspokenness when it comes to political causes she believes in. She has always come across as someone who is very much her own person.

In addition to being an outspoken political activist and an actress with impressive career longevity, Susan Sarandon is also an excellent narrator of classic children's books. In a soothing voice, Sarandon has been recorded reading with tender emotion the 1947 children's picture book Goodnight Moon.
Image via Wikipedia

Authored by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd, Goodnight Moon is a brief bedtime story, written in rhyme, in which familiar household objects, animals, and people populating a dimly lit bedroom at nighttime are said good-night to by a small, soon-to-be-sleeping child.

Since its publication in 1947, Goodnight Moon has become one of the best-loved children's books worldwide. It was listed among the "Top 100 Picture Books" of all time, according to a poll by School Library Journal, and it was named one of the "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children" in a poll by the National Education Association. Goodnight Moon has been published in more than 10 languages, including Dutch, Chinese, Japanese, Catalan, and Hebrew. It's easy to visualize parents the world over reading this classic to little ones tucked in for the night.

Listen to Susan Sarandon sweetly reading Goodnight Moon in an animated version of the classic children's book seen in the video below.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Show Your Support for Seattle's Left Bank Books

Founded in 1973 by a small collective, Left Bank Books has been a longtime fixture in Seattle's radical community. Situated in the city's famous Pike Place Market, the independent bookstore is open to anyone seeking reading material of all kinds, from small press books to fiction to cookbooks to pamphlets to zines.
Left Bank Books, located in Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington.
Image via Left Bank Books' Facebook page

Left Bank Books is collectively run and worker-controlled, and it is largely staffed by a dedicated group of volunteers. The handful of paid workers - a core staff of approximately six members - handle a range of responsibilities, including lease negotiating, bookkeeping, ordering, marketing, general store maintenance, and volunteer coordination, all while earning low wages. For paid staff members and volunteer workers alike, running Left Bank Books is truly a labor of love.
Inside Seattle's Left Bank Books.
Image by Melissa Dex Guzman/Flickr

This independent bookstore in Seattle has recently embarked on an Indiegogo fundraising campaign, not necessarily because it needs saving. "We are not asking you to save us," Left Bank Books expressly states on its Indiegogo page. "We ask you to help us continue to thrive and to grow in four new directions." What new directions might this be? According to Left Bank Books:

1) "We want to establish an easy-to-use and efficient online ordering system for our customers. This means we need to invest in technology upgrades to computerize our entire inventory so we can get books and goods to you quickly."

2) "We want to expand our publishing of both reprints and original materials." In addition to being an independent bookstore, Left Bank is also a small publisher.

3) "We want to keep our shelves stocked with the best and most interesting books you could hope to find!"

4) "We want to continue our long-standing sponsorship of the Books-to-Prisoners Project, which answers thousands of requests from prisoners throughout the U.S. They receive donated books for free, but our postage costs have gotten higher."

To accomplish these goals, Left Bank Books is admittedly setting its sights high, hoping to raise $50,000 between now and the final day of the fundraiser, which for now is January 19, 2015. With twenty-one days left in the Indiegogo campaign, Left Bank Books has raised $4,517 toward its ultimate goal.

If you would like to help Left Bank Books "continue to thrive and to grow," give to its Indiegogo campaign at THIS LINK. If you're traveling to Seattle, or if you're in the Seattle area, stop by Left Bank Books in Pike Place Market at 92 Pike Street. Its hours are 10am to 7pm Monday through Saturday, and 11am to 6pm on Sunday. Support independent bookstores!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

In Other Words: Portland's Feminist Bookstore

You've seen the popular "Portlandia" sketches featuring Women and Women First, the feminist bookstore that a random assortment of people wander into and encounter Toni (Carrie Brownstein) and Candace (Fred Armisen), the unsmiling owners who deliver their own brand of usually unhelpful customer service.
Toni and Candace of Women and Women First feminist bookstore on IFC's "Portlandia."
Image by IFC via www.fastcocreate.com

What many viewers of "Portlandia" may not realize is that Women and Women First is an actual bookstore in Portland, although "Women and Women First" is not the store's real name. Its real name is In Other Words, and it's been serving as a bookstore, meeting place, and more for Portland, Oregon's feminist community since 1993. Shortly after I moved to Portland, I decided to stop by for a visit.
In Other Words Feminist Community Center.
Photo by Gina Murrell

In Other Words is located at 14 NE Killingsworth Street in North Portland. Because I was coming from a different part of the city, and because I was relying on public transportation, I found the bookstore slightly inconvenient to get to. The nearest station is the N. Killingsworth Street stop on the MAX (light rail) Yellow Line. From the station, you walk three blocks, cross an overpass, and then walk another 13 to 14 blocks to reach the bookstore. However, I should say that if you have time to spare, it's better to wait for the number 72 bus on N. Killingsworth, just across the street from the MAX station; the bus goes past In Other Words.

Arriving at In Other Words, I smiled at seeing the facade that should be familiar to all viewers of "Portlandia." It was a beautiful and warm fall afternoon, and the late-day sun reflected brightly off of the bookstore's many shiny windows. Painted prominently on the larger windows was the rallying cry "All Women Unite!" and a trio of women's symbols, each symbol containing a raised, clenched fist.
The view of In Other Words from the front entrance.
Photo by Gina Murrell

Walking through the front door, I was immediately struck by how bright and spacious In Other Words is. I also quickly realized that In Other Words is much, much more than a bookstore. To the immediate left of the front entrance is a long table that is set up for arts and crafts activities; indeed, next to the table are stackable bins brimming with craft supplies. And next to the crafts table is a Kids' Corner, complete with a shelf full of brightly colored toys and a big, fluffy, stuffed toy bear propped on a short chair. So, in addition to being a bookstore, In Other Words is also a crafting space and a place that small children can enjoy.
A prominent display of books "hot off the press."
Photo by Gina Murrell

Also just inside the door is a tall display of books advertised, by a hand-drawn sign, as being "Hot Off the Press." On the top tier of the display are all products tied in to the "Portlandia" TV show: The Portlandia Activity Book (with a bird on the front) by Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein and Jonathan Krisel; the Portlandia Season One DVD; and Portlandia: A Guide for Visitors by Armisen and Brownstein. I really can't fault In Other Words for capitalizing on the Portlandia connection; I'm sure many people outside of Portland wouldn't know about the feminist center if it weren't for the top-rated IFC show. I even had one friend ask me, after I said I had visited In Other Words, "Is that a real bookstore?!?" So if I were the owners of In Other Words, I would totally play up that connection if it meant further boosting my profile and bringing in more customers.
An impressive selection of zines at In Other Words.
Photo by Gina Murrell

Just beyond the display of books "Hot Off the Press" is shelving that holds row upon row of zines. Being a fan of zines, I moved in for a closer look. I was happy to see zines by women of color and also zines I had never seen before. Especially impressive to me was the inclusion of OP: Original Plumbing, which has the tagline "Trans Male Quarterly." Flipping through it, I was amazed at how far the conversation about and the representation of trans people have come in the past twenty years. It was refreshing to see the self-representation of trans males in its pages, and it was also revolutionary (and admittedly, titillating) to see trans male centerfolds offered up for the OP reader's gaze.

Walking away from the zines, I noticed - artfully arranged on brightly painted, stand-alone displays - jewelry, buttons, trinkets, balms, and more produced by local artisans. So not only is In Other Words a crafting center, a place for kids, a bookstore, and a zine store; it is also a boutique. I saw an impressively extensive selection of unique, carefully made pieces, including delicate earrings and long necklaces, that would make perfect gifts. If you're looking for a one-of-a-kind gift for a significant other, or if you're shopping for a lovely little something for yourself, I'd recommend checking out In Other Words' boutique-quality offerings.

Earrings and other unique gift items for sale at In Other Words.
Photo by Gina Murrell

After much browsing, I finally made my way toward the back of In Other Words, where the bulk of the books are. Signs just above the rear half of the space point toward a bookstore on the left and a lending library on the right.
In Other Words' vast lending library.
Photo by Gina Murrell

Yes, In Other Words, in addition to being a crafting center, a place for kids, a zine store, a boutique, and a bookstore, is also a lending library. Talking about the lending library, In Other Words says on its website:

"[We have made] literature accessible though the creation of a free lending library. Our library is a free resource that enables everyone to find radical books and zines and enables us to further our mission of supporting education. In times of economic hardship, libraries are crucial institutions to ensuring access to literature, and a library that is specialized is even more of an asset because it ensures that those materials include work from and for underrepresented and marginalized groups. You can see what books have in our collection online on our Library Thing page, or come in anytime we are open to browse our shelves and check out books."

According to a sign on one of the shelves of the lending library, patrons "can check out three or fewer items at a time for up to three weeks. If they are returned overdue, expect a small late fee. Due date reminders arrive via email. Patrons can renew items over the phone or in person. After hours, items can be returned through the mail slot in our front door."

The area of In Other Words that contains the lending library and the bookstore section also has a welcoming setup of soft-looking purple couches and other seating available for those who would like to sit and read a while.
A cozy setup for readers at In Other Words.
Photo by Gina Murrell

In the far rear, left-hand corner of In Other Words is a feminist archives, which to me was an amazing discovery. In Other Words' website makes little mention of the archives, and I believe if you hadn't visited the store (and wandered to the back), you would never know that the feminist archives was there. Granted, it's a small collection, but I still think it's noteworthy.
The Feminist Archives, accessible to all, at In Other Words.
Photo by Gina Murrell

Items in the archives are kept in a tall metal filing cabinet, and hanging above the cabinet is a row of T-shirts that appear to be relics of the Second Wave feminist movement. Placed above the T-shirts is a hand-painted banner that designates that corner of the center as the "Feminist Archives." A sign on the filing cabinet encourages visitors to "Browse Our Archives." The sign further says:

"In Other Words' archives were donated by a local feminist and PSU professor. After sitting in storage for years, they are finally available for public use. Please feel free to look through any items you'd like; we just ask that you handle with care. A listing of the collection's contents is located in the top drawer. Contents are cataloged by file drawer and folder. Please take a place holder to mark the place of any items you remove. Archive items cannot leave In Other Words. Enjoy!"

Crafting center. A place for kids. Zine store. Boutique. Bookstore. Lending library. Feminist archives. What else could In Other Words be? How about an art gallery? Adjacent to the feminist archives is wall space dedicated to the display of artwork. Local artists can show their work here.
In Other Words is also a gallery space for local artists.
Photo by Gina Murrell

It should also be noted that a pull-down projection screen is mounted on the wall above where the art is displayed. In Other Words hosts film screenings as well. In the past year, In Other Words has shown the 2013 documentary "After Tiller," which focuses on the current climate of abortion access in the U.S., and the 2013 documentary "Guarda Bosques" ("Forest Keepers"), about an indigenous community of hunter-gatherers in the Ugandan rainforests who fight to protect their way of life. In Other Words has also partnered with Clinton Street Theater for film events titled "reel feminism!" that are followed by panel discussions.

I was still browsing In Other Words as the feminist community space was closing for the day. Its regular hours are noon to 7pm Tuesday through Saturday; it's closed on Sundays and Mondays. As I walked to the front of the store to pay for my handful of items, I saw three young women behind the counter. One was obviously a new volunteer - In Other Words is almost entirely run by volunteers - and she was being instructed on how to ring up purchases. Among my first jobs were cashier positions, so I sympathized and was smiley and chatty with all three as I patiently waited for the newbie to carry out the transaction. All three volunteers at In Other Words that day were extremely pleasant and easy to talk to, and they seemed to genuinely appreciate my business. I'll definitely return.
Looking out at N. Killingsworth Street from the front windows of In Other Words.
Photo by Gina Murrell

If you're lucky enough to live near In Other Words, I hope you are a regular customer and familiar supporter of this feminist community space. If, like me, you aren't within short traveling distance, I still encourage you to visit; it's more than worth the trip. And if you're arriving from out of town and are a fan of "Portlandia" who's curious about where the "Women and Women First" skits are filmed, by all means drop by and buy something with a bird on it and other great items that In Other Words has. Support feminist spaces! Support In Other Words!

Follow In Other Words on Twitter at THIS LINK and on Facebook at THIS LINK.

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 www.dancinglyrics.com

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, "Big...black...monsoon!" 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 Amazon.com, 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 Amazon.com 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 www.trendytron.com

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 entrance...at 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 http://uppercasemagazine.com/blog

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 http://uppercasemagazine.com/blog

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.