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

August 2013

Aug 30 2013

Quirky and Unique Libraries

by Rebekah B

FreeLibraryCollageHello readers,

As an idealist living in a world or at least a culture that often seems to focus on self-aggrandizement, celebrity, and greed, it is nice to know that many people devote themselves to the propagation of kindness, art, and knowledge.  In this post, I decided to explore improbable libraries, from the very modest to the more ambitious ventures.

Photos, top left, clockwise: Mobile library in Pakistan, Free Little Library in Avondale Estates (my photo), Re-purposed newspaper vending machine on Desmond Drive in Decatur (my photo), Impromptu library in a Moscow park

A year or so ago, a former co-worker sent me a link to the Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project for 2012.  For a modest fee, you can order a sketchbook, and for a supplement, pay for the digitization of said sketchbook, allowing viewers around the world to peruse your personal pages.  Otherwise, the undigitized volume goes onto the shelves of the Brooklyn Art Library, where anyone can visit, procure a library card, and sit down and enjoy original works of art and writing at no cost!  The Brooklyn Art Library is a private venture and is not part of the New York Public Library system.

Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook Project

The arthouse coop was started in 2006 by two Atlantans, Steven Peterman, a printmaker, and Shane Zucker, a web developer.  The duo then moved the project to Brooklyn, NY – first to Red Hook and later to Williamsburg, in 2010.  Libraries live in the imaginations of the creative, and the Sketchbook Project allows amateur and professional artists from around the world to fill the 32 blank pages of a small book that will join the shelves and mobile library of the Brooklyn Art Library.  The mobile unit travels around the world with parts of its collection each year, making stops in various cities around the United States and around the globe. This past summer you may have spied their bus at the Goat Farm in Atlanta.

Although I did not pay for the digitization of my first contribution to the Sketchbook Project, I do receive an email notification each time someone looks at my book.  Each sketchbook is cataloged and has a barcode sticker on the rear panel, just like a “normal” library book.  Currently, I am awaiting my new blank book – this time containing lined pages for the “fiction project.”  Two hundred fifty writers around the world can submit their illustrated stories before the November 2013 deadline.

Front CoverSketchbookProjectThe front cover of my 2012 Sketchbook Project submission (photo, right)

We all have seen or visited unusual libraries, and each is a tribute to the creative energy and generosity of those who founded these libraries, however large or small.  When I lived in Baltimore, The Book Thing supplied free books to those hungry for knowledge, and it continues to do so to this day.  Run entirely as a nonprofit and stocked by donations, the owner makes a lean living gleaning the more valuable donations to provide capital to keep the “store” running. Sponsors also provide funding.


The Book Thing (original location), Baltimore, MD

Train stations, coffee shops, motels, public parks are all places where impromptu libraries may appear.  In Avondale Estates, near the community swimming pool and tennis club, there is a small windowed case on a pole containing children’s picture books that are free for the taking.  I found two of the photos (included at the top) on a French language Facebook page titled “Improbables Libraries, Improbables Bibliothèques.” A reader living in Moscow posted the picture of the small box on a tree, labeled “Library” in Russian, mentioning that this type of impromptu book exchange is a frequent sight in public parks in Russia. The other photo borrowed from this page depicts an artisanal mobile library in Pakistan.  After questioning patrons and co-workers, I found that there are several Free Little Libraries in Decatur, including the one pictured above off Clairmont, another in Oakhurst Village, as well as a geocache location in Hahn Woods.  Here’s another link about Free Little Libraries in our area.

Other unusual libraries that I have visited include the amazing Cabinet des dessins at the Musée du Louvre.  Although not open to the general public, with special permission, you can enter this beautiful room and handle original artist sketchbooks and drawings.  The Bibliothèque Forney in Paris, housed in a beautiful medieval building, contains a rare collection of items on the themes of art and architecture.  A patron told me that his favorite is the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC.  Below is a picture of their impressive reading room.

FSL Interior: Old RR with First Folios in foreground 2000

What is your favorite library?  Have you thought about creating your own?



Aug 29 2013
Post image for Losing Weight

Losing Weight

by Glenda

Why is losing weight so hard? I’ve decided that I am going to lose weight and I am not going to give up. No, really I am. So I have been reading different books to give me some guidance. I checked out the book Good Housekeeping Drop 5lbs: The Small Changes, Big Results Diet. This book has some really good information in it, such as the number of calories I am getting from my morning hot chocolate. I must say that after reading this book I am no longer stopping for my morning 350-calorie hot chocolate, and that does not include any food. This book is also a little disappointing. For instance, the book states that six ounces of cooked pork ribs equal 558 calories and that a healthier alternative would be six ounces of pork tenderloin. Now I’m sorry, but pork tenderloin is good; pork ribs are so much better. Right? So I decided that I needed to think this information over. While thinking things over, I checked out the book Eat This, Not That!: The Best (and Worst) Foods in America. After reading this book, I was sad and disappointed because the book basically tells me that most of the things I enjoy eating are not things that I should be eating. Now I am going to challenge myself by not eating at any fast food restaurants for seven days. After seven days, I am going to see how I feel. I would like for you to take this challenge with me and post your thoughts.


Aug 26 2013

A Good Laugh

by Hope L

laugh460Having gone to see We’re the Millers this past weekend, I was thinking about how good it felt to laugh; then I started remembering some of my favorite funny movies.

And it just so happens that (in my humble opinion) DCPL has an impressive collection of comedy DVDs.

So, without further ado, here is my list of DeKalb County Public Library’s funniest movies (in order):

1. Airplane (1980) – Silly take-off of “Airport,” (the original disaster movie). Cracks me up every time. Leslie Nielsen reawakened his career with this comedic turn. As soon as I see him driving the luggage cart I start laughing uncontrollably.
2. Death at a Funeral (2010) – Chris Rock presides over his family’s ordeal with hysterical goings-on. Very, very funny.
3. The General (1926) – This uproariously funny film is silent. Buster Keaton, known for his stone face, struggles with the enormous steam engine train while pursuing a beautiful girl. I actually saw the real General years ago; it now resides in Kennesaw at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History.
4. Bridesmaids (2011) – Hilarious female answer to The Hangover, except that I liked this much better. Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig are awesome.
5. Barbershop (2002) and Barbershop 2 (2004) – Ice Cube stars in both of these, with Cedric the Entertainer, who always cracks me up.
6. A Night at the Opera (1935) – Groucho and his brothers on the loose to the consternation of Kitty Carlisle. Still funny after all these years.
7. Harold and Maude (1971) – Watching Harold in the background while his mother interviews prospective dates for him makes me laugh each and every time. Ruth Gordon as the free spirit Svengali and the original cougar. The Cat Stevens soundtrack makes it even sweeter.
8. City Lights (1931) – Charlie Chaplin tries to impress the girl and gets into all kinds of mischief in another classic silent film. My favorite line, often quoted… The Tramp: “Be careful how you’re driving.” Eccentric Millionaire: “Am I driving?”
9. Tootsie (1982) – Dustin Hoffman’s drag is cute 80’s fun.
10. Babe (1995) – Cute and funny with the irresistible Pig.  I loved the cat, too!
11. The Three Stooges Collection – Volume 1 and Volume 2 (1934-1939) – I just had to include these guys.
12. Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005) – Hometown boy Tyler Perry stars as one of my favorite characters: Madea. Watch out for that chainsaw!
13. The Muppet Movie (1979) – I just LOVE The Muppets!
14. Annie Hall (1977) – Diane Keaton plays the ditzy heroine in this Woody Allen film.
15. Shrek (2001) – Cute for the kids, funny for the grown-ups. Mike Myers voices the loveable ogre. Eddie Murphy supplies plenty of laughs as Donkey. I loved the gingerbread man.


Aug 23 2013

Vacation Time? You are Booked!

by Dea Anne M

When my former carpool buddy Fran, told me about the Library Hotel in New York City, you can only imagine the level of my excitement. The hotel’s location at 299 Madison Avenue puts it near two of Manhattan’s bestNY Public known structures, the main branch of the New York Public Library (photo, right) and Grand Central Terminal. The Library Hotel boasts 60 rooms and, most thrillingly, each floor is themed with one of the ten major Dewey Decimal classifications. Not only that, each room’s theme reflects a subcategory or genre within that classification. For example, room 800.005 is Fairy Tales, while room 300.004 is World Culture. Needless to say, spending a night at the Library Hotel is on my “must do” list for the future and, after looking at the rates, I have to say that one night, and one night only, is probably going to have to be it. I don’t know about you, but the nine-year-old in me can’t wait to stay in room 500.005 (Dinosaurs)!

Are you interested in staying somewhere that reflects your love of books and reading? If so, consider these unique hotels.

Inn BoonsBoro in Boonsboro, MD, is a boutique hotel with just eight rooms butprincess the owner, Nora Roberts (yes, that Nora Roberts), has taken special care to make each of those rooms special. Seven of the rooms are named for famous literary romantic couples and feature details themed to those specific stories. The Nick and Nora, for example, highlights Art Deco decor in keeping with the Prohibition Era setting of Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man. The Jane and Rochester has both a massive wooden canopy bed and a “fainting” couch – just the thing that Jane might have encountered in Jane Eyre. My favorite of the rooms, the Westley and Buttercup, (from William Goldman’s The Princess Bride) features a fireplace, a copper tub and an enormous “princess” chair.

Should you find yourself planning a trip to Russia, and you happen to be a fan of Russian literature, you might consider staying at least one night at the Radisson Sonya Hotel. Each of this gorgeous hotel’s 173 rooms features designcrime details inspired by Dostoyevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment. Closer to home, the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Nye Beach, OR, is very much a hotel for readers. Each one of the rooms is named for a famous writer, the dining room is called Table of Content, and there are no TVs, radios, or phones in the rooms. Also, there is no WiFi, but for a serious booklover this looks like a beautiful and elegant place to stay. The hotel is named for Sylvia Beach, the American expatriate and bookseller who owned and operated the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris between the World Wars.

Finally, for a truly unique experience (if you happen to be traveling inhobbit Romania) check out the House of Dracula hotel. Maybe you can re-read Bram Stoker’s Dracula while you’re there. If you are lucky enough to be heading for New Zealand, you might consider a stay at the adorable Hobbit Motel. The rooms are, of course, inspired by the Shire homes described in J.R.R. Tolkien’s  The Hobbit. The motel is part of Woodlyn Park in Waitomo where you can also sleep in a train, a plane, or a boat.

DCPL has two interesting looking books about hotels/motels in itsmotel collection. Home Away From Home: Motels in America by John Margolies is a visual compendium of quirky American roadside culture. The Hotel: A Week in the Life of the Plaza by Sonny Kleinfield is an in-depth study of the workings and character of Manhattan’s famed landmark hotel, and home of Kay Thompson’s Eloise, The Plaza.

While researching this post, I discovered that in 2003, OCLC (owners of the Dewey Decimal Classification system) sued the Library Hotel’s owners. Later, the parties reached an agreement that has enabled the hotel to continue using the system as its theme.

What is your most unusual or memorable hotel or motel experience?



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Aug 19 2013

Books on Bikes

by Jesse M

Books on BikesWe’ve discussed bookmobiles on the blog a couple of times in the past (once in 2010 and again in 2011), but today’s post is about a bookmobile with a slight twist; in addition to having books available for checkout, Seattle Public Library system’s new Books on Bikes program also offers another high-demand library service: internet access.

Conceived by librarian Jared Mills, the Books on Bikes program will feature 11 librarians on bikes hauling custom-made trailers that carry 500lb (227kg) of books, a large sign and a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. The library-cycles will show up at festivals, parades, and parks, utilizing social media like facebook and twitter to keep the community informed of their upcoming appearances. By breaking down the physical boundaries of the library, Books on Bikes hopes to reach out to a new demographic, the Millennials, whose support of libraries will mean the difference between public libraries growing or becoming obsolete. The pilot project will run through the summer months and officials will decide in October whether to continue the program.

For more information, check out these articles from the Economist and NPR.

Are programs like this the future of library outreach? Would a similar program be successful in your community? Let us know in the comments.


Aug 16 2013

More Documentaries…

by Jimmy L

Rebekah’s excellent post about documentaries on Wednesday started me thinking about what my own favorite documentaries were. Sometimes it’s hard to remember them all, and it’s hard to compare a documentary about a social cause to one about an artist’s life. Nevertheless, I have racked my brains and come up with a short list of 3 of my favorites:

Nanook of the North screenshotNanook of the North

The first full-length, antropological documentary ever made, and a favorite of filmmaker Werner Herzog’s (Grizzly Man, Cave of Forgotten Dreams), Nanook of the North documents one year in the life of Nanook, an eskimo (Inuit) and his family, following him as he conducts his everyday life, trading, hunting, fishing and migrating in a landscape that is barely touched by industrial technology. While the film is fascinating both as a document of a lifestyle and a document of an early way of making films, it’s also been criticized for its occasional spicing up of the truth with staged scenes and other inaccuracies.

Harlan County, USA

This 1976 Academy Award winning documentary film covers the coal miners’ strike against the Brookside Mine of the Eastover Mining Company in Harlan County, Kentucky in June, 1973. Eastover’s refusal to sign a contract (when the miners joined with the United Mine Workers of America) led to the strike, which lasted more than a year and included violent battles between gun-toting company thugs/scabs and the picketing miners and their supportive women-folk. The film captures the brutal reality of a strike as if you were experiencing it yourself, along with all the strong personalities of that town. I’ve written about this film on this blog before, in much more detail here.

Capturing the Friedmans

Focusing on the 1980s investigation of Arnold and Jesse Friedman for child molestation, this is one of the most thought provoking and conversation provoking documentaries I’ve seen. By the end, you start to question the nature of truth. Watch it with a friend and discuss afterwards. But fair warning, it’s not for all audiences, as it discusses some sensitive issues, and is rated R.


Aug 14 2013

Documenting Life in Film

by Rebekah B

Au Palais du Louxor, cinema ParisGrowing up, I only saw three movies in the theater.  I specifically remember which ones: Bernard and Bianca, E.T., and The Meaning of Life (Monty Python). This rarity sparked a desire and love for film in me, and when I moved to Paris at age 19 to go to art school, I quickly became addicted to the cinematic arts. Paris is an amazing city for film, with hundreds of theaters, large and small, including some very unusual theaters. Every day, you can see movies made in every country, projected for the most part in V.O. (original version, with subtitles). The photo to the right was taken by my former teacher and photographer, Lesly Hamilton, at the Louxor, Palais du Cinema in the 10th arrondissement, quartier Barbes.  The Louxor was built in 1921 and is famous for its elaborate Egyptian style mosaics.  Recently entirely renovated, it re-opened in April of this year. Click on the links if you would like to see more photos.


Documentary films are a genre that many people enjoy.  The fairly recent phenomenon of reality shows of which the documentary might be called the avatar, shows evidence for humanity’s thirst for real experiences.  One patron at the library confided to me that documentaries are her “best reality shows.” She also said that when ill in the hospital, documentaries on the themes of veteran’s rights, the state of health care, and other social welfare related issues helped her to keep up with continuing education requirements in her field as a social worker.

Vision is the primary sense with which we humans perceive our world, and culture helps us to understand ourselves and to relate to one another.  As global economics, world travel, and social media have extended everyday communication far beyond the borders of the familiar, it is important for all of us to be informed about how to better our world and to know more about cultures beyond our own.  It is the unique privilege of humans to witness life, and if we are truly paying attention and homage to our surroundings, to create works of art that reflect what we see.

Documentary films are a wonderful way to catch a glimpse of how others experience life in places and circumstances very different from our own, as well as to improve awareness about issues that are immediately important to our everyday lives.  Many festivals around the world celebrate documentary film, from Atlanta to Helsinki, Amsterdam to  Beijing.  Every continent – even Oceania – is represented.

I have discovered many wonderful, thought-provoking, and entertaining documentaries within the DCPL collection.  Perusing IMDB’s top 100 documentaries since 2000, I found several that I too had watched and loved, some that I know we have in our collections but have not yet seen, and yet others that are not available through DCPL. While each of us enjoys life through the particular filter created by our temperament and interests, documentaries on every possible subject can be found—from art to politics, environmental issues, animal rights, health, unsolved crimes, history, quirky personal stories, theater, education, music, travel, fashion…

Here is my own top ten.  Hope you explore the 650 plus films in the DCPL documentary collection (excluding tele-films) and find your own favorites. Each title is connected by hyperlink to either the title in our library catalog, or (if we don’t have it,) official movie website.

[read the rest of this post…]


Aug 12 2013

Remembering Emmett

by Hope L


Now, I don’t know if you know about Emmett Till, but you definitely should.

This time every year—but especially now with Trayvon Martin’s death and the trial of George Zimmerman—I think of Emmett. It is a sad time.

14-year-old Emmett Till was savagely murdered August 28, 1955, while visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi.

Death of Innocence—The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America by Mamie Till-Mobley and Christopher Benson, tells the story as only a mother could. I loved this woman’s courage.

Her son’s ‘crime’? Entering a small grocery store for sweets and supposedly whistling at a white woman, the wife of the proprietor.

Emmett’s mama insisted his casket be open at the Chicago funeral (in order to do so without the smell, a glass-covered casket was used) with thousands of people filing in to view the body. Photographers took pictures of her son—photos that appeared in a black newspaper and Jet magazine. The result was shock, horror, and—some say—the impetus for the civil rights movement.

“People had to face my son and realize just how twisted, how distorted, how terrifying race hatred could be. People had to consider all of that as they viewed Emmett’s body. The whole nation had to bear witness to this,” she said.

Heartbreaking as it is, Till-Mobley’s account of her son’s murder is a testament to her strength, vision and tenacity. And her words ring especially true today.

She writes, “If you look at Emmett’s century, you see that the men who lived important lives, significant lives, were truly gifted. They were blessed with good mothers, mothers who gave them exactly what they needed—unconditional love. That, and the freedom to express themselves, to fulfill their promise. In that way, these mothers helped their sons come to believe that there was nothing they couldn’t achieve. This was a gift I gave my own son—a boy of great potential.”

Sadly, potential never realized. As Mamie Till-Mobley said during the 1989 dedication of the Civil Rights Memorial (at the Southern Poverty Law Center Headquarters, Montgomery, Alabama):

“We cannot afford the luxury of self-pity. Our top priority now is to get on with the building process. My personal peace has come through helping boys and girls reach beyond the ordinary and strive for the extraordinary. We must teach our children to weather the hurricanes of life, pick up the pieces, and rebuild. We must impress upon our children that even when troubles rise to seven-point-one on life’s Richter scale, they must be anchored so deeply that, though they sway, they will not topple.”

The murder of her son pushed her into activism:  the NAACP  asked Till-Mobley to tour the country relating the details of her son’s life, death, and the 1955 trial that acquitted his murderers. (Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam confessed in Look magazine, reportedly earning $4,000 for their participation in the 1956 article.) In 1956 she graduated from Chicago’s Teacher’s College; in 1976 she obtained her master’s degree in administration at Loyola University Chicago.

Till-Mobley died in 2003 at age 81 during the writing of her book,  and although she sought justice for her son her entire life, no one has ever been convicted of the crime. The state of Mississippi had to exhume Emmett’s body in 2005 to reopen the case, and his casket now resides in the Smithsonian.

But perhaps Emmett and Mamie led the way for that other boy of color with a single mother, born six years after Emmett’s death:  Barry Obama.

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Aug 9 2013

Andrew Carnegie…our hero?

by Dea Anne M

Carnegie_Library_of_Moultrie“The man who dies rich dies disgraced.” This famous statement comes from Andrew Carnegie, the industrialist and steel baron who amassed a huge fortune and then spent the latter part of his life giving the majority of it away. Perhaps the best known of his philanthropies is Carnegie Hall, Manhattan’s famous concert venue which Carnegie paid to have built. Others include the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Carnegie Mellon University and numerous museums. The most important of his projects, at least to those of us who love libraries, would be the Carnegie libraries. The image at right shows the Old Carnegie Library in Moultrie, GA.  Built in 1906, it is no longer in use as a library but is on the National Register of Historic Places. 1690 of these libraries were built in the United States alone and many more in other parts of the world. A huge proponent of self-improvement, Carnegie didn’t provide endowments for these libraries. Rather, he insisted that any community interested in building a library aided by Carnegie funds be willing to abide by certain requirements:

  • demonstrate the need for a public library;
  • provide the building site;
  • annually provide ten percent of the cost of the library’s construction to support its operation; and,
  • provide free service to all.

This last point created its contradictions. In the strictly segregated American South, for example, Carnegie funded separate libraries for African Americans in many communities. In any case, Carnegie rarely denied a request and many of these buildings, beautifully designed and executed, often became known as the most distinguished structures in their communities (check out some images here). The unique design of these buildings also featured an element brand new to libraries—self service stacks which encouraged patrons to browse and discover books, either on their on or with the guidance of library staff. Prior to this, patrons asked librarians to retrieve specific items from closed stacks.

carnegieAndrew Carnegie was a proponent of political egalitarianism and professed his support for labor unions. At the same time, he held his own workers to long hours at low pay and his reputation would be forever tarred by his actions during the Homestead Steel Strike.  In spite of these contradictions, I believe that Carnegie has to be recognized as a major figure in shaping the mission of the modern public library. NPR recently ran a very interesting piece on Carnegie’s legacy that is well worth checking out. It includes a very lively comments section as well. If you’d like to learn more about Andrew Carnegie’s life, DCPL carries (among other resources) two well-regarded biographies Carnegie by Peter Krass and Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw.

Did you use your hometown’s library (or libraries) when you were growing up? Did your town ever have a Carnegie library? Speaking of hometown libraries don’t miss Joseph’s fun post from earlier this week!

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Aug 7 2013

Library Memories

by Joseph M

gus-loved-his-happy-homeGrowing up, I always liked visiting libraries. My first library memory is sitting with my mom in our local public library as she read to me. I was probably 4 or 5 years old. If I recall correctly, we were enjoying one of the Gus the Ghost books by Jane Thayer. I liked the illustrations so much that I begged my mom to photocopy some of the pages, which she did. The seating in the children’s area was unusual, sort of like large blocks covered in a plush material and stacked in arrangements that were good for climbing. I remember feeling like the library was a fun and exciting place to be.

I felt the same way about my elementary school library when I got a little older. My class would visit the library about once a week or so, and the school librarian would read to us from what seemed at the time to be a vast collection of children’s books. The librarian selected a lot of stories by Bill Peet, which was always an entertaining choice in my opinion. It was around this time that I was first introduced to the concept of nonfiction and shown how to work the card catalogs, which I found daunting yet intriguing.

A little later in my childhood, my mom was taking classes at a local university and so had access to the library there. I had been assigned a school project about American Indians and I needed to do some research, so my mother graciously took me with her to the campus library. This was by far the largest library I had ever seen, spanning multiple floors filled with row after row of bookshelves. I was highly impressed by the wealth of knowledge arrayed before my eyes, and I quickly found several books relevant to my project.

I credit the above experiences with inspiring my life-long fascination with libraries and helping to guide me into my current career. Do you have fond memories of your early library experiences? Please share them with us.