DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!

February 2013

Feb 27 2013

A Personal History of Libraries

by Jesse M

Recently, science fiction author John Scalzi wrote an article on his blog entitled A Personal History of Libraries, in which he recounted his first experience with the library and outlined some other fond memories of the libraries that have been a part of his life and the positive and substantive impact they’ve had. Here’s a particularly touching quote regarding his first visit to a library when he was five years old:

I remember specifically, although not by name, a picture book a [sic] pulled down from the rows, about children leaping for the moon. It was explained to me that I could take the book home — and not just that book, but any book I wanted in the entire library. I remember thinking, in a five year old’s vocabulary, how unbelievably perfect.

Scalzi’s post in defense of the public library was inspired by an article recently published in The Guardian quoting popular children’s author Terry Deary stating that libraries “have been around too long” and are “no longer relevant”. Among the charges Deary lays at the feet of public libraries are that

“libraries are doing nothing for the book industry. They give nothing back…What other industry creates a product and allows someone else to give it away, endlessly? The car industry would collapse if we went to car libraries for free use of Porsches … Librarians are lovely people and libraries are lovely places, but they are damaging the book industry.

He goes on to wonder “Why are all the authors coming out in support of libraries when libraries are cutting their throats and slashing their purses?”

Scalzi responds directly to this notion by saying:

I bought new books by the authors I was introduced to in the library, and bought the old books that checked out so many times from the library, because now I could afford to own them. I bought books on the subjects I first became interested in by wandering through the library stacks. I bought as gifts the books I had grown to love and wanted others to love, too. I had become a fervent buyer of books because libraries made it easy to become a fervent reader of books—to make them a necessary part of my life.

Do you think there is any credence to the claims Terry Deary makes, that libraries are no longer relevant, and actively harm the book industry and authors whose works fill their shelves? Or do Scalzi and other defenders of the library have the right of it? Let us know in the comments.

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Feb 25 2013

On Book Recommendations

by Jnai W

I realize that I’m at least a few years late to the party but I’ve just recently finished reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (loved, loved, loved it!) and am now tucking into book two of the trilogy, Catching Fire. I’ve been aware of The Hunger Games for the past few years because…well, it’s hard not to be when you work in a library. But for whatever reason I’d never gotten around to reading it. Recently, however, it became quite inexcusable for me to not read this book. In the case of The Hunger Games I ran out of excuses not to read it based on the recommendation of one of DCPL’s adorable teen patrons (yes, Readers, teens can be quite adorable!). Our circulation desk conversation had somehow turned to the Hunger Games series. I’d mentioned to the young patron that I hadn’t read the book yet but “I’ve heard good things”.

“Oh my gosh,” said the youngster. “You’ll love it! You’ll really love it!”

Her enthusiasm for this book was honest, overflowing and contagious, so much so that I’d decided that I would be reading this book at my earliest convenience. “Earliest convenience” is still slightly non-committal but at least now reading Suzanne Collins’ acclaimed trilogy was officially on my to-do list.  After talking for a while longer, I checked out the patron and wished her happy reading with the items she’d borrowed.  Perhaps half an hour later, the young lady and her mother returned to the library and presented me with their copy of The Hunger Games, suggesting that when I was finished reading it I could pass it along to someone else to read or donate it to the library. Ecstatic and touched by the gift, reading this book graduated from being a to-do list item to My Plans For The Evening. It took me three days to read it but only because I had to break for things like going to work and sleeping.

As a library worker, book recommendations from patrons are always welcome and appreciated. But nothing compares to when a teenager who’s normally too-cool-for-school cracks a smile at the mention of a book he likes.  Or when an adorable, gap-toothed kiddie-grin widens with the mention of each of Victoria Kann’s -Licious books (“Did you like Pinkalicious? Have you read Purplicious? How about Silverlicious?”).  So if there’s one recommendation from today’s post it is that it pays to pick your nearest youngster’s brain for an excellent book. May the odds of a great read be ever in your favor!

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Feb 22 2013

Great Rappers are Great Readers!

by Jimmy L

the Richie Perez Radical LibraryI’ve always believed that rappers possessed a type of literacy, though unconventional, that’s highly attuned to the intricacies of language. The best rappers use tone, diction, sound, and personas (unreliable narrators?) in impressive ways, an accomplishment equal to the best literary works of fiction and poetry. So I was pleased when I came across an article about a ‘radical’ community library for youth opening up in the Bronx.

Housed inside the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective headquarters in the Bronx, the same place that hosts monthly hip-hop open mic nights, the Richie Perez Radical Library was launched by the hip-hop-centric Rebel Diaz Arts Collective.

“I tell them, ‘The more you read, the iller you’ll be as an emcee,’” said Rodrigo Venegas, aka Rodstarz, one-third of the rap crew, Rebel Diaz, and a founding member of the cultural collective with an activist bent.

Read the rest of this story here.

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Feb 15 2013

The Sound of Silence

by Veronica W

As I sat at the red light, my car was vibrating and my ears were assaulted. Ilake tried to identify the person with the deafening music but I couldn’t. They could have been five cars behind me but it didn’t matter because their bass was so loud, it shook every car in line. Although it was a balmy spring day, I rolled up my windows in disgust.

I have a sister who lives in and loves New York City…Manhattan to be exact. Although she lives in a high rise, traffic sounds and general city life were heard very clearly through her windows on the fourteenth floor, no matter the time of day.  When she visits me, after awhile she gets antsy at the quiet. Imagine my delight last year, when I visited NYC and rode down Fifth Avenue and saw signs that warned people of a stiff fine for honking.

George Prochnik, in his book In Pursuit of Silence,  “examines why we began to be so loud as a society, what it is that gets lost when we can no longer find quiet and what are the benefits of decluttering our sonic world.”  When I encounter people who must fill up air space with conversation, radio, television or music—especially when I am being quiet myself—it makes me  wonder if silence is uncomfortable for them.

There are many ways and places people can enjoy noiselessness—or at least replace it with more desired noise.  A charming picture book is Sitting in My Box. A little boy has found a big box, and it is his getaway in which he reads or dreams. A host of different animals crowd in, until they are finally “persuaded” to leave.

Edna St. Vincent Millay, in her poem Exiled, laments, “Searching my heart for its true sorrow/This is the thing I find to be/That I am weary of words and people/Sick of the city, wanting the sea.” Her refuge from the cacophony of the city was the ocean. I can identify and as often as  I can, I visit the Monastery in Conyers, where I sit by the lake and feed the ducks. Where do you go for peace and quiet?

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Feb 6 2013

African food heritage

by Dea Anne M

We all know that February is Black History Month but did you know that during February we also celebrate African Heritage and Health Week? According to Oldways, the nonprofit food and education organization, February 1st – 7th is a time for celebrating African heritage by eating meals inspired by the traditional cooking of Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and the African American South. Numerous studies have shown that traditional diets that emphasize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans help to promote good health. I urge you to visit this very interesting website and learn more about the traditional food of Africa. You’ll find the African Heritage Diet Pyramid, information about African Diaspora cultures, tips on grocery shopping and setting up your kitchen, and my favorite feature “African Heritage Dine-Around-Town.” This is a list (with links) of restaurants in every state that serve African cuisine. Though it is by no means comprehensive (for example, no Ethiopian restaurants make the list for Georgia) it’s still a fun tool for those who want to dine out on African foods.

cuisineAre you interested in exploring African foods in your own kitchen? Check out these resources from DCPL.

Marcus Samuelsson is a world famous chef who was born to Ethiopian parents and adopted by a Swedish couple after the death of his mother. Raised in Sweden, he trained and apprenticed in Europe before coming to New York where he became the youngest chef to receive a three star review from the New York Times. His newest restaurant is Red Rooster in Harlem and his cookbook The Soul of a New Cuisine: a discovery of the foods and flavors of Africa (with Heidi Sacko Walters) was selected as the “Best International Cookbook” by the James Beard Foundation in 2006.

africaAlso take note of:

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Feb 4 2013

Informed Citizen

by Amanda L

GovTrackOver the last few weeks the Georgia General Assembly and congress have gotten back to work creating and passing laws. Years ago, the only way to find out what these legislative bodies were working on or the “hot” topics for the year was through the press or in the case of congress, the Congressional Record. As with anything in today’s society, raw information is available almost instantaneously and is searchable.

On the national level, the place to find this information is GovTrack. This website allows you to follow legislation through the legislative branch. You can see what is on the docket for the current week, laws that have recently been enacted, passed resolutions and active legislation all from the front page.

To research more in depth, you can browse by subject or  search for a particular legislation. There are statistics for each of the Congresses on how many laws they have enacted, how many resolutions were passed, how many bills were sent to the president, how many inactive legislative actions there was for a session, how many legislative bills failed and how many were vetoed by the president. If you click on the number within each category of legislation, the details about the legislation will display. So for example, if I clicked on  active legislation for this congressional session (113th), it would list and display information on all five current active bills in front of congress.

Interested in congress specifically and not legislation? This website allows you to locate your senators and representative by providing your address. The site allows you to see how each senator and representative voted on any legislation or resolution. If there is a related bill that went through the Legislative branch it will link to that bill also and give you voting records. What I love most about this site is that you can search how congress voted all the way back to the 1st Congress.

The State of Georgia has a website that allows you to follow legislation through the General Assembly. It is not as comprehensive as the federal site for historical purposes but to be an informed citizen, it is useful. On this website daily you can see what is on the agenda for the General Assembly. There is a list of first reads of bills for both the House and Senate. Within the list, you can tell which legislative person was involved in the introduction of the bill and the actual wording of the bill. The website also lists how each State Senator and House of Representative voted on a bill.

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Feb 1 2013

Needful Things

by Veronica W

One of my earliest kitchen memories is of my mother, who didn’t own an electric mixer at the time, holding a big bowl full of cake batter in the crook of her elbow and vigorously cake and spoonbeating the batter with a big wooden spoon. At the time I wasn’t impressed. I just wanted to lick the spoon when she was finished. Not until I tried it myself did I really appreciate the amount of work and energy that went into her famous pound cakes. Trying it also taught me to love my mixer.

I have always been fascinated by stories of the Amish way of life. The traditional old order groups—sometimes called The Plain People—eschew many of our modern conveniences, such as electricity and cars…and zippers! Terri Blackstock has written a wonderful science fiction series in which a catastrophe causes all the electricity and electronics in the world to fail, shutting off just about everything; refrigerators, cars, televisions, computers, alarm systems, electronic games, telephones, heating and air, furnaces, hair dryers…need I go on? Hardest hit in the story is the upper middle class, whose lives seem to be controlled by microchips. At first, when everyone thinks it’s a temporary power outage, it’s almost fun, like roughing it at camp.  However when food gets scarce and clean water is at a premium, survival takes on a more serious and dangerous meaning. The first book in the series is Last Light, followed by Night Light, True Light and finally, Dawn’s Light.

Of course, after reading the series I looked at my house—and my day—with new eyes. For example, I am very fond of hot showers and toasted bagels at the start of the day. Also, have you noticed how really hard it is to put on makeup by candlelight?  Hmmm, then there’s the matter of clothes. These days, washboards and wringer dryers are pricey antiques and besides, after washing and drying them, how wrinkled could I bear to be without my iron? Having never learned to ride a bike, I would be stranded without a car, cab or bus (temperamental knees, can’t walk long or far).  I haven’t even touched on less frivolous, maybe life threatening needs.  A little less facetiously, a bit more soberly, I realized I am spoiled.

Perhaps you would like to do what I call a “chips and volts” assessment. What do you use now that you would be really hard pressed to live without?  Considering that a large portion of this world does not have the things I consider so important, I may need to work on shortening my own list.

True Light

Dawn's Light

Night LightLast Light

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