One of the fun things about libraries is seeing where things wind up being shelved. In my humble opinion, some of the best things ever written were done without any particular audience in mind. For example, CS Lewis’s thingy about wardrobes, or that Harry Potter series that was kind of popular for a while there. They don’t talk down to kids, and they don’t pander to adults. They just kind of tell a story, and whoever likes it is welcome to it.
Mouse Guard is an example of that dynamic in graphic novel format. If you look in the catalog, you’ll see it shelved variously in adult, teens, and children’s areas. And, honestly, it fits any of them. The series follows, well, the Mouse Guard. It’s a band of warrior mice who look out for their fellows and protect them from such threats as owls. It’s got a kind of Medieval feel to it, with the mice being very concerned with chivalry. The tension often is generated when one honorable intention butts up against another obligation.
This particular volume picks up the backstory of the Black Axe, a kind of mythic artifact that makes brief appearances in other volumes. It’s one of those kind of stories of loss and duty that hearken back to the roots of English literature, and it still works surprisingly well today.
Librarians find a lot of interesting things in books, but nearly all are — this is an assumption based in hope — left accidentally. We get lots of checks, a handful of photos, and various tickets, flyers, and other ephemera. One of the librarians here at Highland Square once found a leftover chicken wing. Thankfully, just the one time (and she didn’t specify, but I assume it was still delicious).
So it’s not unusual in and of itself that when I hit about page 40 of the new Maggie Stiefvater book, The Dream Thieves, there was something left by the last person who checked it out. What was unusual was what it was: A simple note saying the reader had enjoyed it, and hoped the next person would as well.
Now, as a professional librarian, my by-the-book reaction should probably have been to call the police immediately and report someone abusing our property, and also notify Fairlawn schools to have them put cautionary messages in the permanent files of all their students. But I really found this note rather touching.
It also has me thinking that this is something unique to paper books. Much as I love my e-books, you just can’t stumble upon random feedback like this. For example, Goodreads has lots of user-submitted reviews, but in order to view them you have to actually be looking. It prevents the kind of improvised intimacy of a random note from a stranger. It’s also something unique to libraries (maybe also used-book stores, but even that seems a stretch). I mean, if you’re finding weird notes in a book you’ve just purchased you’ll probably be wondering why it didn’t come with a discount.
There’s a certain kind of magic created by people who share a book. And like any magic, it’s best served up with an air of mystery. For those reasons, this anonymous note really made my day, and this is something of which I wholeheartedly approve, as long as the note’s not left on a chicken wing. Of course, don’t let me catch you at it, either, because, again, standard practice in library circles is to come down on miscreants like this like a she-bear taking on someone who tried to write a note on her cub.
Oh, and if you’re wondering, that Fairlawn student is entirely correct. This book is great. You’ll probably want to start with its predecessor, The Raven Boys.
Lighthouses are part of our country’s history, and appeal to many’s sense of wonder of the past. People think what it was like to live in the past, in remote coastal areas, often several days travel away from even the closest of villages. Lighthouse Keepers kept lights burning day and night, year round, to warn sailors away from dangerous areas of the coast. Some lighthouses were even on remote islands. Not only did the Lighthouse Keepers tend their lights, but they often risked their lives to rescue the shipwrecked in the middle of terrible storms.
When I chose lighthouses as a topic for a presentation, I became fascinated with them, so decided to share a few of the things I learned. The first book I read was called Gracie the Lighthouse Cat, by Ruth Brown. This children’s story is about a mother cat and her kitten who live in a lighthouse. While the mother cat is sleeping, the kitten goes exploring, and gets stuck out in a horrible storm. The mother cat eventually finds and rescues her kitten. But in this book’s illustrations, a real event is revealed. Grace Darling was a Lighthouse Keeper’s daughter, and during a storm, she saw a shipwreck. Even as the mother cat rescues her kitten, the real story unfolds as Grace Darling and her father bravely take a rowboat out in the storm and rescue of 9 shipwrecked people. Grace Darling became a heroine in England for her diligence and bravery.
Loving this picture book, I started researching more about lighthouses, and realized I had never wondered how long ago civilizations had built them. We have many historical lighthouses in the United States, but were they used throughout the world? To my amazement, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was a lighthouse called the Pharos. This structure, built in the port of Alexandria of Egypt, was built in the beginning of the beginning of the third century BC, and stood for about 1,200 years, until it was destroyed by an earthquake. One of the many purposes, over time, for this tower was to help the Roman Merchants find Alexandria and trade with the city, for its harvested food grown along the Nile River. Some records indicate a mirror or lens may have been used to project its light further to sea.
Over time, different types of fuels were used in lighthouses, and different types of mirrors or lenses were experimented with. Lighthouse Engineering became an occupation, with the duty to design and build improved lighthouses. In 1822 a French Physicist named Augustin Fresnel invented a type of lens that could concentrate light into a beam that was visible 20 miles out to sea. This lenses could be as tall as 12 feet, with rings of glass prisms above and below it’s center, and resembled huge glass beehives in a metal structure. Most United States lighthouses weren’t converted to using the Fresnel lenses until the 1850s. Each unique lens helped give each lighthouse its characteristic, which is the unique lighthouse beam that helped sailors identify the specific lighthouse and location. One of the Lighthouse Keeper’s duties was to clean soot from the hundreds and hundreds of small lenses that made up the huge structure.
Information on these topics and much more are available on lighthouses. Historical works discuss how lighthouses were built and talk of the people who lived there long ago. Travel guides are available for those who want to visit lighthouses, often now converted to stores, museums or bed and breakfasts, or preserved as historic sights. There are stories of shipwrecks, haunted lighthouses, and the brave Lighthouse Keepers who risked their lives to rescue people lost at sea. Visit your local library to find out more.
Kristi~Adult Services Librarian, Highland Square Branch Library
On Nov. 5, voters will be asked to select four candidates for Akron School Board. That’s a race that is vitally important, but will never get the kind of attention we see in higher-profile races like mayor or city council. This time ’round we have seven candidates, three of them incumbents.
Last week, all seven candidates were on hand to answer questions submitted by the public here at the library. There were about 40 people in the audience, and the forum went on for roughly two hours. Here’s the event recorded in its entirety, divided into two YouTube files.
Tonight’s was another really great Block Watch program organized by Summit County Councilman Frank Comunale.
This month’s guest was Akron Police Department Sgt. Mike Lugenbeal, who shared some general crime prevention tips. These included:
Make sure the doors to your home have locks that can’t be opened from the outside. Many doors have windows within 40 inches of the lock, which means a criminal can fairly easily break out the glass and then reach through to unlock the door.
Can criminals see valuables through your windows at night? Make sure blinds or other window coverings keep your belongings private. These days, large televisions that can be spotted from outside are a hot item for burglars.
Secure window-mounted air conditioners. If such units are simply held in place by the sliding window, it’s a pretty simple matter to remove them and gain easy access to a home.
Eliminate any tall shrubbery that could be used as convenient cover for someone working on opening a window.
Make sure your address can be easily seen from the street, so that emergency responders can find you.
Record serial numbers of valuable items, and take photos of jewelry, so any stolen items that later turn up in a police evidence room can be reclaimed.
If you’re planning to be away from home, have someone gather mail and newspapers for you, shovel snow from walks, and so on to avoid advertising the fact that your home is unattended. Lugenbeal noted that Akron police offer a service called an Away From Home Report. If you call 330-375-2181, police can send a cruiser by your home daily to check around and make sure everything looks alright.
The next meeting is Thursday, Nov. 7, at 6 pm. See you there!
This is the report card issued to Akron Public Schools by the Ohio Department of Education. There are a lot of challenges faced by an urban district in tough budget years, but on the face of it this report card is probably not something most would view as good news.
Still, one of the cool things about public schools is that they’re accountable to the public. Like anything in a democracy, though, that means voters are responsible for knowing what they vote for. Ultimately, voters have only themselves to blame if it’s governance that contributes to report cards like this.
If you keep up with news, you probably know that there are myriad challenges facing educators in Akron, and that those issues tend to be pretty complex. Meanwhile, election coverage by the media tends to focus on the “sexier” individual races and the issues that can be summarized in a daily story. So how do you figure out what to make of the school board race? A great start would be attending the school board candidates forum here at the Highland Square branch Thursday, Oct. 10, at 6 pm. There are seven candidates for four school board seats, and all have confirmed they’ll attend.
Oh, and if you have a question you’d like to see asked of the candidates, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you there!
It’s been said that libraries are a cornerstone of democracy, in that an under-informed electorate will quickly break the whole system. That’s one reason we were so excited to host the War 1 City Council candidates forum a while back (thanks again to County Councilman Frank Comunale for getting that together).
Now we’re getting ready for a similar event, this time for the Akron School Board. This race works a bit different than most, in that it’s not a party ballot or direct competition. Rather, voters are asked to vote for up to four candidates, and the four with the highest tally get the office. This time around there are seven candidates on the ballot. You can see them and the names for all contested offices at the Board of Elections here.
We’ll host a school board candidates forum the evening of Thursday, Oct. 10 (more details including the starting time will be announced shortly). To prepare for that, we’re taking questions from voters. If you have a question you’d like to hear the candidates speak on, shoot me an email at email@example.com. I and other forum moderators will combine similar questions, weed out any that are intentionally leading or designed to be unfair, and put them in the question box.
As promised, here’s part two of the re-cap from Wednesday’s Block Watch meeting.
Mark Smith and Anita Marron were on hand from the Highland Square Neighborhood Association. It used to be, every year they organized and put together the excellent Art in the Square. This year, the city hosted SquareFest on the planned date, which led the neighborhood association to re-think some plans.
As it happens, they put on the Porch Rok’r this spring as a fundraiser for the planned art festival, and that was wildly successful. With all the changes, they thought it best to do another Porch Rok’r event with some art displays set up on the side. They also have a snappy new web site at http://highlandsquarefestival.com. You’ll be able to get stage assignments, a list of artists, and so on there.
Smith explained that the idea came from a similar event in Ithaca, New York, and no one was quite sure how it would go over. In the end, they wound up with a lot more bands than they originally envisioned, and after some scrambling wound up with enough porches to host them. An unexpected side effect was the pride of home-ownership the event seemed to foster. Smith and Marron said people really treated the anticipated audiences as company coming. “It was so neat to see,” Smith said of seeing people cleaning up their streets in preparation.
The upcoming Porch Rok’r will take place Saturday, Oct. 12. They’re expecting upwards of 100 bands this time around, with an eclectic mix of genres. Smith noted, though, that they’re currently a bit thin in the country department, and asked anyone who knows of a country band willing to perform for free to contact them.
Oh, and if you skipped the previous Porch Rok’r, you really missed out on something special. This is an excellent chance to make up for it. See you there!
Last night’s Block Watch was another hot one. Summit County Councilman Frank Comunale put together a list of speakers that included Phil Nabors, the owner of the much-anticipated Mustard Seed market that’s going in at the corner of Portage Path and West Market. Here’s a re-cap on his presentation. Look for part two of the Block Watch re-cap — the discussion led by the Highland Square Neighborhood Organization about the upcoming Porch Rok’r festival — tomorrow.
The question that’s been on almost everybody’s mind for ages now is just when that store will be open for business. We’ll have the answer … right after this break. (Ha!) Just kidding, libraries come commercial-free. The quick answer, according to Nabors, is that we can probably expect to be shopping at the new store in about a year.
Nabors also provided some context that will probably offer up a good prediction of the kinds of things we’ll see there.
For starters, he pledged to maintain the present stores’ — there’s one in Solon and one in Montrose — ingredient standards. A self-described food-politics activist, Nabors said he and his wife feel strongly about their stores not carrying things with ingredients like artificial sweeteners and growth hormones. They’re intent on labeling non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) foods, with the eventual goal of being free entirely of GMO-containing products. And, he said, they also have the goal of offering affordable prices.
As to how to reconcile those seemingly disparate goals, Nabors said, “I’m not sure exactly, but we’re going to do it because that’s what we believe in.”
He elaborated by noting that the growers of his stores’ seasonal produce are all local, many of them Amish. Nabors said that while he pays them the same rate he pays California growers for out-of-season produce, there’s a significant savings in transportation costs, which translates into lower costs for the consumer. He also said the store will stock non-branded and bulk foods. Nabors emphasized that he’s committed to the entire neighborhood, and knows there are many facets to Highland Square, because he’e lived in the neighborhood for over 30 years.
As for the construction schedule, there have been numerous delays and general slow going. But the property is currently in a closing period that includes a due diligence review for things like undiscovered environmental hazards (the property was once a gas station, and could potentially have soil contamination issues). Nabors expects that closing period to end at roughly the beginning of October, with construction to follow through the winter as weather allows.
On August 28, our Special Collections Department of our MAIN Library presented the program called Identifying Your Family Photographs. We learned all kinds of pointers about finding clues in old pictures. Did you know that up into the early 1900s, both male and female young children were dressed similarly, in long baby gowns? You can tell gender by looking at the hair part, because females had a center part and males had a side part. One can find clues from pictures in style and location, looking for things in the background like signs, power lines (which in some locations were either direct current or alternating current in different times), equipment or vehicles. The differences in ladies clothing styles are more apparent than in men’s outfits both because they change more drastically over time, and because women replace their clothing where a lot of men may wear the same suit for twenty years as long as it still fits. With men there are still clues though, one can look at whether or not a vest is visible, the type of tie, accessories like pocket watches, and hair style.
We also learned that calling cards were replaced by something called a Carte de Visite, which was a small thin albumin photograph mounted on a paper card, that were traded between friends and family. The Carte de Visite was eventually replaced by cabinet cards, which were a larger form of albumin photograph traded between people. Many homes had furniture near the entrance specifically designed for people to insert their cards when visiting. These customs continued until Kodak made available relatively inexpensive, easily used cameras like the Brownie Camera, and people went crazy over taking their own pictures for the first time.
The Special Collections Department will return to Highland Square Branch Library to present Using Ancestry in Your Genealogy Research on Wednesday, Sept 25 at 6:30pm. With more than 8,000 databases and 200 billion images, Ancestry is a great genealogy resource, and is available for free in any of the ASCPL locations. Please call us at 330-376-2927 or stop in at the Highland Square Branch Library to register.
~Kristi, Adult Services Librarian, Highland Square Branch Library