Monday, September 17, 2018

2018 Summer Library Series: My First Library by Richard Paolinelli

We have reached the middle of September and nearly the end of summer, and though the doors to summer are closing, the library doors will remain propped open when the weather's right, and autumn leaves will hopefully follow you to the circulation desk and book return.

Please welcome today's writer, Richard Paolinelli, and his beginning of many visits to the library shelves.

📚 
My First Library
by
Richard Paolinelli

Richard Paolinelli as a child
My first library was located at the corner of Minaret Avenue and Cooper Avenue in Turlock, California. It was across the street from Crane Elementary School, which I attended in 1972. A lot has changed in my hometown. But the library is still there.

It was a magical place. A place of so many different worlds and universes, filled with people and things and creatures beyond imagination. A place I would go to if I needed to wait to be picked up well after school got out. I didn’t mind waiting there. I met many friends there: Wells, Blish, Poe, Verne, Doyle, Burroughs, Foster and so many, many others.

It was there, in the audio room, where I listened for the first time to the recording of Orson Welles’ infamous radio play of War of the Worlds that created a nationwide panic back in 1938.

I walked along the many shelves, looking at random for the next adventure I wanted to immerse myself into. Sometimes I would have a title or subject in mind even before I walked through the doors and would head to the cabinet where the index cards were. Flipping through them until I found the book I sought, getting the Dewey number and then hunting the shelf, hoping someone hadn’t checked it out already.

That library was a haven, a source of familiarity that I took with me as we moved from town to town (my father’s business kept us fairly mobile). No matter what new town we landed in, I sought the nearest library and felt right at home everywhere we went.

To this day, I credit that love of reading, those hours spent within the walls of that first library, with planting the seed to my becoming the writer I am today. Anytime we venture back to Turlock, I stop by and peek in.

It hasn’t changed all that much in 46 years. Oh, there are books in there that weren’t there in 1972 of course. And there is a small area for computers and a terminal to search for books instead of the old card cabinet. But if I stand in just the right spot, it is 1972 all over again, and a new adventure waits somewhere among those shelves to be discovered.

Turlock Library
(photo by Richard Paolinelli)
🕮


Today's library author:

Richard Paolinelli began his writing career as a freelance writer in 1984 and gained his first fiction credit serving as the lead writer for the first two issues of the Elite Comics sci-fi/fantasy series, Seadragon. His 20-year sports writing career was highlighted by the 2001 California Newspaper Publishers Association award for Best Sports Story. 

In 2010, Richard retired as a sportswriter and returned to his fiction writing roots. Since then he has written six novels, including the recently released, When The Gods Fell, three Sherlock Holmes pastiches, two non-fiction sports books, three novelettes, and shorter works in several anthologies.

He plans on releasing The Timeless series, a middle-grade YA Steampunk series, this fall and another novel, Firstborn’s Curse, around Christmas. Learn more at his website: https://scifiscribe.com/

🕮

Continue enjoying reflections from the Summer Library Series: 
http://www.erinpringle.com/p/summer-library-series.html

Monday, September 10, 2018

2018 Summer Library Series: A Chinese Laborer, a Mural, Carlos Santana, and My Hometown Library by Donna Miscolta

Autumn may be reaching into these last weeks of Summer, but this year's Summer Library Series continues. Please enjoy this reflection by Donna Miscolta.

📚

A Chinese Laborer, a Mural, Carlos Santana, and My Hometown Library

by
Donna Miscolta

Library turned Arts Center, National City, CA

Each Saturday after catechism class, our minds numb with doctrine, my siblings and I crossed the street to the public library. It seemed not a coincidence that our weekly visit to a place of books would follow something religious and utterly rote. True, there was something holy about the library, its orderly rows of books, the expectation of silence, the rules of checking out books like a liturgy, the fines for late returns like a penance. But liberation was what the library offered – from the memorized answers to questions about God and creation, which opened up space for stories and imagination and dreams.

We moved to National City the summer before I started fourth grade. Library visits soon became a ritual. It gave our parents an extra hour without us in the house. It made us feel grown up to be someplace unsupervised except by the shushing librarians. In all those years, while we read story after story, I never gave a thought to how that library came to be, how it had its own story.

The library was on 12th Street and sat on the northwest edge of Kimball Park, named after Frank Kimball, who, according to a local historian, purchased the Rancho de la Nación, a “barren” Mexican land grant. Nice to see that “barren” is in quotation marks, an acknowledgement that it was not actually empty or unproductive, just absent its indigenous inhabitants who had been driven inland onto reservations. Also, the name reflects the long history of Mexico’s claim to the land.

The library had its start in 1884 when Frank Kimball moved his personal book collection into his National City real estate office. His Chinese workman Ah Lem lent a hand. Kimball’s diary contains entries such as these:
“Ah Lem at work on library and on bookcases.”
“At work on 2nd bookcase for Public Library.”
“Ah Lem hauled 3 loads of books to the Library rooms in my real estate office.”
Um, it seems that Ah Lem was doing an awful lot of the work. I’d like to offer my personal gratitude to Ah Lem for his labor in creating the first National City public library.
After various permutations in terms of location and architectural styles, the National City Library of my youth was established in the early 1950s. The style was the ranch house design, ironically reflecting the original name of the land upon which its sat. The style was popular for suburban homes – long, low-slung, rectangular, with deep overhanging eaves. The library had two wings: one for the children’s section and one for the adult section.

In that children’s library, I read the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald. Another title that I remember was a book called Three Wishes for Sarah, which I checked out multiple times. Recently, I searched for and found the Kirkus review, which summed up the book as “A somewhat saccharine flavor for a story with no particular significance.” It was a book about a girl who saves a small child from drowning. A girl hero, which I must’ve found to be of particular significance.

When I turned twelve, on the cusp of junior high school, I was allowed to borrow from the adult section of the library. I remember checking out Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native, William Faulkner’s Light in August, and Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady. I checked them out multiple times. Because of the language. Because of the story. Because I don’t remember women writers or writers of color being terribly visible on those shelves.

As we got older and reached confirmation, we ceased going to catechism classes. And so ceased our regular trips to the public library, our devotion over.

In the 80s, several years after I had moved to the Pacific Northwest, the flat, bland design of the library was improved with the addition of a mural, one that I never saw, since in all my return visits to National City I never had reason to visit the library. I had not yet achieved the age of nostalgia.
Journalist Daniel Hernandez wrote about his memory of the mural:
“I remember a huge mural loomed from behind the library’s reception desk, depicting scenes of Mexican American life in the San Diego area in the late 1970s and early 1980s: a quinceañera celebration, students lifting up their diplomas, a backyard carne asada, a news reporter interviewing a vintage car enthusiast before the painted pillars of Chicano Park. The colors were rich, the images drawn with an appealing cleanliness, the lines easy to follow.” 

The library mural by David Avalos
When a new library was built in 2005 on the southwest corner of Kimball Park and the contents transferred from the old library, the mural was lost. Eventually David Avalos, the painter of the mural and Juan Parrino who helped lead the mural project in 1981, located the lost painting and found it a home in the new library at the renovated high school.

The old public library I had grown up in was converted into an arts center. Its original ranch style is still recognizable even with a multistory addition that serves as its entrance. A couple of murals decorate the façade. One depicts a pair of birds dancing a jarabe. The other is of a young Carlos Santana, a psychedelic peace sign with hearts and doves emanating from it, and these Carlos Santana words: "The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace. Welcome is spelled out in metal-sculpted letters.

The façade of the new, state-of-the-art library is graced in multiple languages with these words by Jorge Luis Borges: "I always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of Library."

The new library is where my books When the de la Cruz Family Danced and Hola and Goodbye, both set in a fictional town called Kimball Park, reside. It’s where Paradise and the imagination meet.



🕮

This week's library author:


Donna Miscolta
(photo by Meryl Schenker)
Donna Miscolta’s story collection Hola and Goodbye won the Doris Bakwin Award for Writing by a Woman and was published by Carolina Wren Press (2016). It also won an Independent Publishers award for Best Regional Fiction and an International Latino Book Award for Best Latino Focused Fiction. She’s also the author of the novel When the de la Cruz Family Danced (Signal 8 Press, 2011). Recent work has appeared in The Fourth River, Cascadia Magazine, Moss, Blood Orange Review, and The Seattle Review of Books. She writes a monthly blog at donnamiscolta.com.


🕮
Continue enjoying reflections from the Summer Library Series: 

Monday, September 3, 2018

2018 Summer Library Series: That Texas Library by Julia Drescher

Welcome to September and this week's edition of the 2018 Summer Library Series. Poet Julia Drescher shares reflections of her wry childhood in the library, and the thoughts one might have read from her mind had it been a book back then.

📚

That Texas Library

Julia Drescher

Julia Drescher, Father, Sister
Where one is is in a temple that sometimes makes us forget that we are in it. Where we are is in a sentence.    – Jack Spicer, “Textbook of Poetry” #13

As a kid, I absolutely hated Texas in a generalizing way – the way everyone seemed to have (and be proud of) a get-mean-or-die kind of attitude, the weather (the oppressive humidity combined with the relentless way the sun shines feels like a perpetual punishment most of the year), and the landscape of the suburban town we eventually settled down in (every living thing seemingly cut down for concrete, wretched-looking brush residing in what was left of the natural areas). Places of seeming-refuge were somewhat hard to find.


The small public library in that town has two floors. The first floor contains the card catalog (now on computers), adult fiction & non-fiction collections, and, between this and a newspaper/magazine wall, a weird construction best described as a series of movable particle board curtains with various (mostly pastoral or portrait) paintings in the traditional style hanging from them. Though I never saw anyone do this, theoretically you could check one out like a book and hang it on your wall for two weeks.

The second floor contains the children/juvenile fiction & non-fiction collections, a small room that often held children’s music recitals, a huge dollhouse display, and a librarian who sits at a desk in the most advantageous location for monitoring who is on the floor.

After moving to Bryan, Texas when I was ten, I would often be dropped off at the library and left to roam the stacks (mostly unseen) for hours. When my mom came to pick me up, I would have quite a heavy load of books, reading my way through what of the collection interested me. 

At around the same time as being forced to attend a small private Catholic school, I began to almost exclusively check out any books having to do with magic and witches (led here, of course, by what I would now say are the correspondences between prepubescence, the growing imposition of traditional femininity, and the learning about saints' lives). 

My mom probably held her tongue for awhile, but seeing so many spines with ‘witch’ on them finally disturbed her enough to say something like, Why are you reading so many books about witches? 
(and I probably answered moodily, “I don’t know”– if I answered at all) You better be careful – you might get into trouble. If the former clearly reflected to me an uneasiness with my interest, the latter seemed to reflect some sort of fear for me – a vague paranoia that the librarians would report such dark interests to some government authority (or something).

Pretty early on (because the library is actually very small), I grew bored with the offerings of the second floor. But it took me awhile to confidently peruse the first – I would arrive at the library, go up the stairs to the second floor, pretend to look at the juvenile books in the most obvious way that I could, then try to sneak back down the stairs without any adults seeing me do so. These were maneuvers based on an assumption that categories were untrespassable – that any adult could see that I didn’t belong on this floor. I knew generally, too, that I should be seen and not heard (from), so my biggest fear was drawing attention to myself, causing a scene.

At some point, I got over it. At some point, I went from the interest in witches to a vague interest in various outlaws that had some Texas connection and checked out as many books as the adult section had on Billy the Kid, Bonnie and Clyde etc.

When I came out to the car with these stacks of books, my mom glanced over and, as we drove out of the parking lot, said under her breath with a sigh of relief, Thank God that witch phase is over.

🕮


Julia Drescher,
photo used with permission

Today's library writer:

Julia Drescher lives in Colorado where she co-edits the press Further Other Book Works with the poet C.J. Martin. Her work has appeared most recently in ‘PiderEntropyLikestarlingsAspasiology, and Hotel. Her book of poems, Open Epic, is available from Delete Press. She works at a library.







🕮
Continue enjoying reflections from the Summer Library Series: