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August 18, 2011

Hawaii Library

My friend Jennie just got back from a trip to Hawaii, and took this library photo for me. Not sure where it is exactly, but isn’t it everything you ever dreamed of a Hawaiian library being?

July 27, 2011

On library romance

In the past two days, it has occurred to me that it’s not uncommon for women to imagine library jobs as gateways to romance. Julia did, and so did I, though neither of us got exactly what we were looking for. Particularly since what I’d been looking for exactly was Love Story‘s Oliver Barrett IV (who, incidentally, didn’t look like Ryan O’Neal, since I’d read the book before seeing the movie. He also didn’t look like Al Gore). I wanted the son of a millionaire, the Harvard jock with a sports car who’d see past my glasses and my Italian working class origins, even though I didn’t have either.

Needless to say, I didn’t meet him, though I did eventually get glasses, which I hoped would help, but they didn’t. Which was not to say that my career was not romantic– plenty of nights perched at the circulation desk, I’d await the arrival through the library’s revolving door of whoever it was I was happened to be in love with at the time. I remember many flirtatatious chats to the steady rhythm of the date-stamp. There really were two incidents during which I was kissing boys in the stacks when I should have been shelving, which is the nerdy girl’s erotic fantasy. And if none of this sounds particularly romantic to you, I assure you that it was, or at least it was romantic as my life ever got around the turn of the century.

You can forgive me for being deluded though. I understand the world through literature, and books tend to present libraries as most romantic places. In Love Story, it’s the Radcliffe Library where Jenny Cavilleri first encounters her unlikely future-husband Oliver Barrett IV (“I’m not talking legality, Preppie, I’m talking ethics. You guys have five million books. We have a few lousy thousand.”) and he invites her out for coffee, purportedly to get his book. In Martha Baillie’s The Incident Report, Miriam meets Janko Prijatelj in the park on her lunch break from the Allan Gardens Library, but it is through the language and structure of library bureaucracy that we become privy to the details of their romance.

And then there’s the erotic novel Overdue For Pleasure, about a simple librarian who discovers her wild side . What about Rose in Alice Munro’s Who Do You Think You Are? who is molested in the stacks during her library job, and saved by the man who will become her husband? (Though admittedly, this plot line is less than romantic.) AS Byatt’s Possession unfolds in a library, the English kind, which are the very best. And then there’s every Barbara Pym book ever written (except the ones that are tales of village life) in which dusty love is encountered across hushed study tables between individuals the rest of the world has forgotten.

Update: Amy Lavender Harris’ excellent blog post informs me about “Rosemary Aubert’s Harlequin romance Firebrand (1985) in which a City Hall librarian has a torrid affair with the City’s charismatic, handsome, left-leaning mayor. It need not be said, of course, that Aubert’s Mayor does not close any branches.”

June 2, 2011

Slave Lake Library

Slave Lake Library Staff

As many people already know, when much of Slave Lake Alberta was destroyed by wildfire a couple of weeks ago, the town lost its library. The tragedy of this is underlined by the fact the library was less than two years old, and had been built after years of local fundraising efforts. And because we’re library enthuasiasts around here, and because we’ve been delivered much good fortune of late, we decided to pass some of that fortune along with a donation to the library and its reconstruction. I’d like to encourage the library-lovers amongst you to do the same, or perhaps make a bid in the Slave Lake Book Auction, which is a fantastic campaign run by Lavender Lines.

May 31, 2011

Magic Cities at the Osborne Collection

I wish I’d written this post weeks ago, because it would have given you more than four days to make your own visit to the Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books (at the Lillian H. Smith Library) to see the Magic Cities Exhibit, which closes on Saturday (June 4). But I couldn’t have posted it, because I only went to the exhibit yesterday, but I’m putting this post up anyway in order to urge all those who can to go and see it for themselves.

I’ve written about this before (scroll down), but I love houses, and literary houses in particular: Howards End, To the Lighthouse, Anne of Green Gables (and the girls of Lantern Hill. New Moon, Silverbush etc. Clearly LM Montgomery loved houses too). Most of my favourite books have a house at their centres, and it was the case when I was little too– I loved the way illustrations showed houses with a wall removed so that you could see life going on inside it. (I still feel similarly when the outlines of rooms from a demolished buildings are visible on the wall of the house still standing next door). I loved Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House, as well, and now so too does Harriet.

So it was with great joy that I discovered that the Magic Cities exhibit is all about houses. Pop-up books with castles inside, picture books about how houses are built, and the parts of houses, and the early ways that children learn about architecture. (Though, surprisingly, I did not see reference to A House is a House for Me). Novels about houses like Green Gables, and Green Knowe, that Little House on the Prairie, and books about neighbourhoods, and different kinds of cities and towns. Lovingly curated with every wonderful book you’ve ever forgotten, the exhibit features books old and new, original artwork, and plenty to reflect on and delight in. So glad I got to take a look at it before it turns over to the summer exhibit (which is Turtle Mania! I’ll be checking that one out too).

May 9, 2011

The connection between reading and real estate

“If there was anything wrong with Shady Hill, anything that you could put your finger on, it was the fact that the village had no public library–no foxed copies of Pascal, smelling of cabbage; no broken sets of Dostoevski and George Eliot; no Galsworthy, even; no Barrie and no Bennett. This was the chief concern of the Village Council during Marcie’s term. The library partisans were mostly newcomers to the village; the opposition whip was Mrs. Selfredge… She took the position that a library belonged in that category of public service that might make Shady Hill attractive to a development. This was not blind prejudice. Carsen Park, the next village, had let a development inside its boundaries, with disastrous results to the people already living there. Their taxes had been doubled, their schools had been ruined. That there was any connection between reading and real estate was disputed by the partisans of the library, until a horrible murder–three murders, in fact–took place in one of the cheese-box houses in the Carsen Park development, and the library project was buried with its victims.” –John Cheever, from “The Trouble with Marcie Flint”

April 20, 2011

Keep Toronto Reading video!

In which I make funny faces, over-enunciate and (quite obviously) talk without actually having prepared what to say. Hooray to Jen Knoch for once agan Keeping Toronto Reading over at the KIRBC. This year’s Keep Toronto Reading theme is books that have transformed you, and I chose Bronwen Wallace’s People You’d Trust Your Life To because it transformed me into a Bronwen Wallace devotee (and it did. I haven’t shut about this book since I read it). I know it will transform you similarly, and we’ll all be better for it.

January 2, 2011

East Side Public Library

Photograph: Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre

From the “Detroit in Ruins” gallery at The Guardian. Accompanying story is here. It amazes me that the books were just left behind, like jetsam, as though no possible further use could be imagined for them.

November 22, 2010

To become a card-carrying learner

“To be the holder of a library card is to take an early step towards citizenship. Before the bank account, before the drivers’ license, before the legally purchased beer, or the opportunity to vote, comes the chance to advertise one’s curiosity about the world. To become a card-carrying learner. Is there not something noble, something irreplaceable, in that?” –Susan Olding, “Library Haunting” in The New Quarterly 116. (Photo of Harriet, aged six weeks, the day her card was granted. Please excuse the baby acne. It was fleeting).

November 18, 2010

Behind every TPL Librarian…

In my experience, behind every Toronto Public Library librarian, there is a little bit of awesome. Take TPL Librarian Martha Baillie for instance, whose awesome behind her is the acclaimed and wondrous The Incident Report. I’ve already mentioned our local librarian Mariella, who goes around the world telling stories, but we get to hear her in our neighbourhood every week. A whole lot of awesome, I thought, but it turned out to not even be the half of it.

For the last month, we’ve been attending the toddler program at the Lillian H. Smith branch, being just on the verge of having outgrown Spadina Road’s Baby Time. And we love it– Harriet gets to run around, gaze at big kids, misbehave, sing songs, play games, do the beanbag song, and hear stories read by Joanne, who we adored from the get-go. Back at Spadina, I was telling Mariella about how much we were enjoying it, and she asked me if we’d read Joanne’s books.

“Joanne has books?”  I asked. Of course she does, and Mariella directed us to Our Corner Grocery Store and City Alphabet. The marvelous Joanne is actually Joanne Schwartz, who is as talented at writing books as she is at reading them. And I’ve really enjoyed them, her text perfectly complementing the images by photographer Matt Beam and illustrator Laura Beingessner. Both are generically urban enough to be from anywhere, but I can’t help but see Toronto on every page. Both books, in very different ways, celebrating urban communities and particular uniquenesses that characterize the places where we live. 

October 29, 2010

Mariella Bertelli performs The Frog

We’re lucky enough to have Spadina Road as our closest Toronto Public Library branch, where Mariella runs the children’s programming. Since Harriet was eight weeks old, Mariella has been delighting our whole family with her storytelling, her games and songs. And now she’s on Youtube– Mariella for everyone! Here is Mariella performing The Frog.

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