Sunday, August 23, 2015

Who Did You Read This Summer? Share the 2015 Summer Library Series

Well, dear readers, we have arrived at the end of the 2015 Summer Library Series.  All summer long, authors have reminisced about their childhood memories in the library, from Philadelphia to Switzerland to Roma, Texas.  Thank you for following the series, whether you discovered it this season or have been with us from the beginning.  
Children gathered around a table of books,
Central Circulating Library at College and St. George Streets,
Toronto, Ontario
Used under CC license
 
Please thank the contributing authors by rereading their work, telling your librarian about this series, by sending the writers a personal note via their websites, or by sharing your favorite author's reflection on your Facebook wall. 
 
Any time an author hears from a reader is incredibly wonderful, as it helps assure us that readers do exist--for much of what we hear is that readers don't exist or that people just don't read like they used to or [fill in any other anecdote about the death of reading]. 
 
One effect of this is an intensity of doubt that jeopardizes a writer's confidence while writing, before writing, or after writing for the day.  And any time an artist starts to doubt the importance of art and the world is a bad time for the artist and the world. 
 
So, as readers, please help other readers discover these writers, just as you have. 
I'm very proud to have hosted another successful season, and I hope you've found the series one that you think about in the passing moments.  May you check out an abundance of books from your local library between now and next summer.  Our communities depend on it.
 
Sincerely,
Erin

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by Simone Zelitch 
Bustelton Library
The Bustleton branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia looks like a highway rest step: a single-story structure with long, narrow windows and a corrugated green roof.  It’s located next to Washington High school, which was an easy walk from our house in Northeast Philadelphia.  My mother claims that she took out fifteen books a week for me.  I never came along which made the process more efficient, but could be the reason why I have no early memories of libraries, no sentimental images of choosing my own read-out-loud book and watching a librarian stamp it with the due-date.  It also may explain why I couldn’t grasp that these library books were shared property.   I’d dog-ear pages, crack spines, and stain whatever I was reading with whatever I was eating at the time.   You might say that I left my mark.  [Continue reading]
 
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Bookmobile, TimberlandRegional Library 1 
"No longer in service, this old TRL bookmobile now resides on private property
just south of Amanda Park, Washington. Photo taken 19 Dec 2011. Library Service to this area of rural
Washington is now provided by the Amanda Park branch of Timberland Regional Library."
Used under CC license

By Maya Jewell Zeller

Where my family lived wasn’t a town. It was a series of backroads off Rural Route 4, a river bend tourists would have driven past—or did—if it wasn’t for their interest in the covered bridge, promised like a Meryl Streep movie, if you take the turn indicated and head down the hill, past the tangle of maple and alder, sword fern and salmonberry, through the field of hay grass and thistle with the nettled edge. [Continue reading]
 
 
 
 
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by Regi Claire
Primarschule M┼źnchwilen,
Photo by Roland Zumbuehl


When I was eight, I read a whole library. A library? Yes. Housed in a small attic room with a combed ceiling, up a steep flight of wooden stairs from the stone-flagged second floor of my village primary school. But why the sink and cupboards? Why the thick cigarette smoke? Well, the library must have been an afterthought. [Continue reading]
 
 
 
 
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by

Liz Rognes

 


Summers in Lake Mills, Iowa meant long, hazy, humid days. My mom would drop my siblings and me off at the town pool for morning swimming lessons, two miles away from our farm, and then we would walk a few blocks to my grandma’s house, wrapped in our towels, our skin smelling of chlorine and salty sweat. My Grandma Bea was an Irish Catholic Democrat, the kind who fervently believed in social justice and local participation. She was on the Board of Directors for the public library, and she or my mom would take us every week for story hour or just to check out books. When we were old enough, we could walk by ourselves from Grandma’s house to the library across the street: a small, unassuming building on the outside, but on the inside filled to the brim with books and stories about the big, exciting, incomprehensible world outside of our little Iowa farm town. [Continue reading]
 
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This Book: One Week
by
Emilia Rodriguez


 

Photograph shows a girl with long dark hair, her back to the left side of the picture. She wears a green and red plaid shirt. She has a hesitant expression.
Emilia Rodriguez as a child,
Used with author's permission

 
We didn’t stay in places very long when I was young.  My parents were born in Mexico.  My father was not a U.S. citizen.  We moved to Fort Worth, TX when I was in the first grade.  Until then, all of my classes had been bilingual.  Spanish was my first language.  My English was shaky.  I could read a little and watch cartoons, but holding a conversation was difficult. [Continue reading]

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by
Ben Cartwright 
The Cartwright Family,
Used with author's permission
Dear Spokane Valley Library (1980),
My mother was losing it.  School canceled for a week, noonday sky black and missing the sun's round punctuation, so faces covered in surgical masks (because of St. Helen's) we clambered into the Volkswagen bus.  Ash in the streets made crests and troughs under our tires.  Laneless, we stuttered over Sprague, crept around the S-curves of Main, wipers set to high and accomplishing nothing.  My mother, driving blind and sobbing, triggered a sympathy response in my sister, and their chorus of lamentation as I held my finger to my small mouth, made the noise a librarian makes when she (the ones I loved were always she) tells the world to remain silent, to keep a kind of order, for a while.  Your square door was lit yellow and bright.  It was the end of the world.  I left the van first. [Continue reading]
 *
Walking to East Branch
by
Carol (Ryan) Pringle
The East Branch Library, Evansville, IN
From EVLP History
Opened in 1913, the year of my mother's birth, the East Branch of Evansville, Indiana system (now called East Branch of Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library) was the library of choice for our family, as it was within walking distance from our home 6 blocks away.  By the time I was old enough to read and walk to the library with Mother, my sister, and brother, it was 1945; Dad was finishing his World War II Army service, so wasn't home to walk with us. [Continue reading]

 
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Please visit again.
Photograph "Chesapeake Library" by Bill Smith
Used under CC license
 
 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

2015 Summer Library Series: Walking to East Branch by Carol (Ryan) Pringle

Hello, hello! Welcome to the Summer Library Series, an annual weekly exhibit of wonderful essays in which professional writers reflect on their childhood in the library. This week's edition is a slight departure from the formula, as our author is not a professional writer, although three of her children are.  She is a dedicated reader of the series and was very pleased to contribute this reflection. I bring to you the origin of my love of the library, my mother.  Please enjoy her memories of the East Branch Library in Evansville, Indiana.
 
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Walking to East Branch
by
Carol (Ryan) Pringle
The East Branch Library, Evansville, IN
From EVLP History
Opened in 1913, the year of my mother's birth, the East Branch of Evansville, Indiana system (now called East Branch of Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library) was the library of choice for our family, as it was within walking distance from our home 6 blocks away.  By the time I was old enough to read and walk to the library with Mother, my sister, and brother, it was 1945; Dad was finishing his World War II Army service, so wasn't home to walk with us.
The building itself was in an ideal location between Stanley Hall Elementary School and Bayard Park.  (After I was invited to write of my experiences, it occurred to me that there was no library in our elementary school.  Neither did our classrooms have novels and non-fiction books to read, unless the teacher read to us from a book she'd acquired. So, access to a nearby library was essential in broadening our world).  On the east side of the library, Bayard Park afforded us a place to slide, swing and teeter totter during the summers of our youth, as well as to hold special school activities, celebrating the end of school.
Carol as a child,
used with author's permission
As one of many Carnegie libraries, East Branch seemed a huge building in this young child's eyes.  More space was dedicated to adult books and reading materials than to children's, as the number of children's authors was less prolific than in today's world.  Even the books each of us owned were few in number, so our twice-a-month trips to exchange our books that were due (very important that we not have an overdue book) for new ones, were vital to our joy of reading.
It was an enforced rule to be QUIET in the library, and if we needed to speak to each other or to the librarian, it had to be in hushed tones.  Otherwise, "SHHHHH" was the most used word heard. I decided the librarian's job entailed keeping the room quiet, no matter how mean a look she maintained . . . oh yes, and stamping the book to indicate when it was due back.  I wouldn't have dared ask her a question about a book (or anything else) for fear of her shushing me.  On the other hand, years later, a friendly librarian was hired and it was like having a cheerful breeze floating through the room.  
Two images stand out in my memory of those young years--one was the stereoscopes that were set on a library table for anyone to look through at 3-D pictures.  The stereoscopes were somewhat like the modern View-Masters but were more cumbersome in their structure.  Still, it was fun to look at the scenes from this interesting non-toy.
Children using stereoscopes,
Cincinnati, OH public library
The second image is the experience of a Summer Reading Program circa 1949, in which the program's final activity, as a reward for having read and reported on a certain number of books (10?  20?), was a trip to Lincoln City, Indiana, where Abraham Lincoln once lived, as well as the location of his mother's (Nancy Hanks Lincoln's) grave.  The process of attaining this reward was interesting in itself, as the title of each book read was placed on a paper "log" and added to the building of a "cabin" there in the library.  It was no easy task for me to read and report to that strict librarian, regarding the number of books required, but the struggle brought great satisfaction in completing the program and receiving the reward!
By the time I was a Brownie Scout and then a Girl Scout, the basement of the library became the meeting place after school for our troop.  I clearly remember the "flying up" ceremony from Brownie to Girl Scout held there and also recall one of our meeting in which we performed "Snow White," my role being that of the Mirror.  How meaningful that role still is in that "reflecting" is one of the main things I continue to do in my daily thoughts.
Having pondered these memories, I now realize what a dear part of my childhood the East Branch Library was, from the feeling of family togetherness in walking to get there, to the sharing of the experience of reading, to the disciplines of quietness and being prompt in returning what we'd borrowed, to the sense of community in knowing others shared this space.  Although libraries have dramatically changed in their services, including computers and other ways of accessing books around the state and country, they continue to be a vital part of my life in the community in which I now live.
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Carol (Ryan) Pringle grew up on Linwood Avenue in Evansville, Indiana and now lives in Casey, Illinois. She has her bachelor's and master's degrees in elementary education from Indiana State University and is about to begin her last year of educating children before retiring next spring at age 76. She is an active member of the Martinsville, IL Methodist church, enjoys singing, and walks her dog three times a day.  She is also a grandmother of five. You can read past interviews I've done with her: "Christmas Began at 1104 South Linwood" and "The Woman Who Helped Author Me."
 
If this is your first time travelling with the Summer Library Series, you can catch up by visiting all the places we've been this season: Philadelphia, Washington, Switzerland, Iowa, Texas, and Spokane. Past seasons of the series are housed here. The series will continue through August, so please check back next Thursday, and share with friends and strangers until then.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

2015 Summer Library Series: My Dear Library by Ben Cartwright

Welcome back to the Summer Library Series.  It's August, that part of the summer that is both full-on summer and the inevitable decline toward autumn. And so it is with this season's library series here at What She Might Think. All summer, writers have been sharing their childhood memories of the library: wild horses gone still in streamscigarettes left for an attic, the refusal of returning books, the fear of betraying one library by checking out the books of another, and the small, enormous political acts of reading what others don't approve of.

We now move to a series of dedications, letters, summonings of the past, with writer Ben Cartwright. Enjoy!
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Envelope, photograph by Dingler1109,
used under CC license

My Dear Library
by
Ben Cartwright 
Dear Spokane Valley Library (1980),
My mother was losing it.  School canceled for a week, noonday sky black and missing the sun's round punctuation, so faces covered in surgical masks (because of St. Helen's) we clambered into the Volkswagen bus.  Ash in the streets made crests and troughs under our tires.  Laneless, we stuttered over Sprague, crept around the S-curves of Main, wipers set to high and accomplishing nothing.  My mother, driving blind and sobbing, triggered a sympathy response in my sister, and their chorus of lamentation as I held my finger to my small mouth, made the noise a librarian makes when she (the ones I loved were always she) tells the world to remain silent, to keep a kind of order, for a while.  Your square door was lit yellow and bright.  It was the end of the world.  I left the van first.
The Cartwright Family, used with author's permission.

Dear Spokane Valley Library (1984),
In the old building, the Children's Section was a separate room.  The yellow backs of Nancy Drew's jeremiad were like a magnet.  We took turns looking at the pictures pressed into the vinyl of the Empire Strikes Back soundtrack, scratched and unlistenable, never checked out more than once by any given family, a found portal.  I'm sure the separate room was dangerous, maybe the reason for the new building.  Vague memories of adults being ushered away, men being questioned about who belonged to them, whom they belonged to. 

On our island of the Children's Section, in the old building, I learned to play with others.  A boy swears he will pee in the corner, next to the oversized picture books.  My sister tells him she's a witch, feeds him one of the allspice she keeps in her pocket, says she'll grant him a wish if he swallows.  Once it's down, we tell him never to pee in the library again, or she'll say the word, and a thousand tiny spiders will hatch in his insides, make their way through membrane and sinews, come pouring out of his ears, his eyes, his small and doglike instrument he uses to destroy the public good. 

Years later, she earns her Master's in library science, and I lead undergraduate students into the stacks in a university library, in another state, another time zone.  I tell a student on his phone that he can leave, can get into his father's Escalade and drive off, without a grade; that this is a library, and you don't do that in here.  I offer extra-credit if they read anything banned.

Dear Spokane Valley Library (1990),
My sister is a library page, and her spies are everywhere.  Still, my quiet and troubled first girlfriend placed my hand on her breast, underneath her shirt, while watching Edward Scissorhands, so I turn to you.  I am discrete, and know the call numbers.  I start with anatomy, but those books are like a deer trail that starts somewhere you think you know, and then leads you into a ragged clearing where there isn't any outlet, only forest, the peeling skin of birches, an impenetrable wall of Ponderosa Pines.  I turn to psychology, and understand now, that I was reading the Kinsey report.  I find a terror of unknowing, a gulf I am not ready for.  In graduate school, I think of this as "the fear"—the wave of books you never understand, the reading of which would outlast you, and take another lifetime.  Offering to shelve what I've pulled, my sister's friends tell their friends, who tell their friends, who tell their friends what I'm reading--the library pages a perfect system of babble, like the voices that spoke to Joan of Arc from the brook.  My sister throws a library page party at our house that devolves into laughter.  None of them were in the theater, after being driven there and dropped off, unkissed, lost in the dark, hand trembling and pressed against what Solomon called gazelles.

Dear Spokane Valley Library (2014),
I am relieved for your tables with the single chairs, each with private outlets, a ziggurat of essays to grade before me, a place that is not my home, where I will not fall asleep.  I hear the new building is now old.  Like a selkie, you will be changing skins, but I remember you best when you traveled from wave to wave, crest and then undertow.  This is not to say I will not vote for you to change.  Once, I slipped outside beyond your loading dock, in the dark, smoked my first and only cigarette near your dumpsters.  The friend who gave it to me is buried.  I don't know what it means.  Another time I drove across the country, and married the first girl I saw in town.  She was reading a book.  She wore red socks, and looked like a librarian.  Thank you.
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Ben Cartwright
Ben Cartwright grew up in Spokane. His work has appeared in many fine places, such as the Seneca Review, The Stinging Fly, Midwestern Gothic, Diagram, Verse Daily, DMQ Reviewand Matter Press.  He has his PhD from University of Kansas, where he taught for a number of years; he also taught in Tianjin, China and now teaches at Spokane Falls Community College.  Currently, Ben is writing a speculative fiction novel set in 19th century Tianjin, China titled An Amah in Victoria Park.  You can follow him on Twitter here.
 
 
If this is your first time travelling with the Summer Library Series, you can catch up by visiting all the places we've been this season: Philadelphia, Washington, Switzerland, Iowa, and Texas. Past seasons of the series are housed here. The series will continue through August, so please check back next Thursday, and share with friends and strangers until then.