Archive for September, 2014

What are the students reading?

September 15th, 2014

I asked the student assistants in the Reference and Research Services Department of Gleeson Library what they read this past summer, and got some very thoughtful book reviews to share with ya’ll! Enjoy the first installment here.

 the goldfinchThe Goldfinch, reviewed by Kelsey Weise

I read some great books over the summer, and even over the past couple years, but none of them hold a candle to the masterpiece that is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. With her descriptive and absorbing writing, Tartt tells the fascinating​ story of Theodore Decker through his first-person narration, from his pre-teenage years up through adulthood. While the writing and plot itself are both fantastic, my favorite part of this Dickensian novel is how Tartt portrays the characters. No character, no matter how seemingly insignificant or unlikable, is unsympathetic; each one is so thoroughly developed that they could just as easily be people you have known personally for your entire life. At the same time, the plot is riveting enough that Tartt’s careful attention to imagery and detail don’t ever get boring or dry. Overall, this emotional, dark, and often even philosophical novel truly does have something in it for everyone. The Goldfinch is both the kind of novel you stay up all night (maybe even two) reading, and the kind that will be eventually taught in schools for its modest brilliance.

All Quiet on the Western Front, reviewed by Andrew Gonzalesall quiet on the western front

Over this summer I read many books, from Cormack McCarthy’s The Road to Marx’s Communist Manifesto, but by far one of the most stimulating books was All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. Now, I have a specific spot for generally dark and/or war novels, maybe it’s because my English teacher in high school had me read the genre all the time, maybe cause I like the harshness of a cynical reality rather than rosy endings. Either way, I had heard of this book being a strong retelling of World War One from the perspective of a front line soldier. I was not disappointed in this regard.

All Quiet on the Western Front tells a rapturous tale from almost the beginning of the book. First allowing for sufficient character rapport, the book then delves into the harsh realities of the World’s first modern war, a war which tore asunder the optimism surrounding modernism/progress of the last half century as all that progress was co-opted to make better killing machines. The book is told from the point of view of a German solider, which is a nice in contrast to the Ally-centric view in which we Americans tend to see WWI and WWII. But besides some names and jokes, this could be the story of any young boy on the front. It beautifully exhibits the stresses of war on the soldier’s mind, as well as how war alone came to define the legacy of these soldiers, these young men whose lives are now lost. I highly recommend it to anyone and will read it again sometime soon.

Guthrie, Oklahoma’s Carnegie Library

September 11th, 2014

When Andrew Carnegie gave a grant of $26,000 to Guthrie, Oklahoma on October 17, 1901 for a public library building it was the capital of the Oklahoma Territory. The library building was completed in 1902 and in 1906 it served as the backdrop for the inauguration of Frank Frantz, Oklahoma's last territorial governor. That event is depicted on the postcard above. Guthrie lost out to Oklahoma City as the permanent State Capital. The Carnegie building ceased to house the public library in 1972 when a new public library building was completed. According to the website of the Oklahoma Territorial Museum, the Carnegie building barely escaped destruction due to the generosity of a benefactor who also donated a museum building to the City. The very elaborate building which was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1971 is now part of the museum complex. Information about Oklahoma's other Carnegie libraries can be found HERE

Equalizing Library Opportunities 1927

September 10th, 2014

In 1927 the Committee on Library Extension of the American Library Association published a small brochure (see above) that described the inequality of access to public library service in the nation and advanced the goal of "Adequate public library service within easy reach of every one". It then offered some strategies for achieving that goal. A chart in the brochure (at left) showed that more than 50 million Americans were without library service, mostly in rural areas. Elsewhere in the brochure it was pointed out that out of 3,065 counties the United States 1,235 had no public libraries within their boundaries. Strategies included leadership from state library agencies and county libraries. It was not until the passage of the Federal Library Services Act in 1956 that that the extension of public library service became a national priority. As a result of federal and state library funding programs enormous progress has been made toward achieving the goal of adequate public library service within easy reach of everyone. However, there are still millions of Americans without public library service or without adequate public library service. 

Autographs of Famous Librarians

September 2nd, 2014

One of the categories of librariana that Norman D. Stevens discusses in his book A Guide to Collecting Librariana (Scarecrow Press, 1986) is autographs of librarians. He highlights the James I. Wyer (1869-1955) Autograph Collection which is housed in the American Library Association Archives. Wyer served as President of ALA in 1910-1911. His autograph collection includes letters from 46 ALA presidents as well as correspondence from other librarians. Stevens notes that autograph collecting was once a popular hobby, but has gone out of favor. He provides tips on autograph collecting. Although, I don't specifically seek autographs of librarians, famous or not, I have managed to accumulate a nice selection. Some of those are shown below.

Herbert Putnam (1861-1955), 8th Librarian of Congress
Susan Grey Akers (1889-1984), Library School Dean

Ainsworth Spofford (1835-1908), 6th Librarian of Congress
Justin Winsor (1831-1897), ALA's First President
Melvil Dewey (1851-1931)