Category Archives: News

Books versus Burgers

Did you know that there are more public libraries in America than McDonald’s restaurants? Or that Americans spend more money annually on candy then they do on public libraries? Check out this great infographic created by H&R Block for some more library insights!

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(Courtesy of Electric Lit.)

 

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Future Library – Opening 2114

Readers, an exciting new work by Scottish conceptual artist Katie Paterson is underway. In Norway, 1000 trees were planted to print books which will remain unread until the opening of the “Future Library” in 2114. A highly selective panel will choose one book each year by an author who understands that, at least for those contributing in the next 60 or 70 years, their work will not be read in their lifetime.  The hopeful heart of this project is “to conceive and produce a work in the hopes of finding a receptive reader in an unknown future.”

Excitingly, Margaret Atwood will be the first author to be included in the collection. In her words,

“I am very honoured, and also happy to be part of this endeavor. This project, at least, believes the human race will still be around in a hundred years! Future Library is bound to attract a lot of attention over the decades, as people follow the progress of the trees, note what takes up residence in and around them, and try to guess what the writers have put into their sealed boxes.”

Take a look at this video, from Paterson’s Future Library website, to learn more about the project.

 

BANNED BOOKS WEEK 2014: September 21-27

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Readers, that time has come again!  September 21-27 is Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of the freedom to read put on by the ALA. Censorship continues to be a very real threat to libraries, schools, and anyone trying to access information. Take a look at these stats published by Pat LaMarche in the Huffington Post:

The Office of Intellectual Freedom recorded 307 instances of banned or challenged books in 2013. Jennifer O’Brien, Serials and Government Documents Librarian for Western Connecticut State University, cautions that this might represent a fraction of the censorship cases actually going on in the United States. O’Brien explained, “Teachers or librarians may just be self-censoring. And not because they don’t want to use the material… it’s possible that they didn’t even purchase a book or periodical because they thought it would be challenged.”

So do your part to fight censorship! Get involved by staying up to date on what is being challenged and where, maybe drafting a letter to your local newspaper, school board or library director,  or contacting your local elected officials to urge them to publicize Banned Books Week. For more ways to help out, check out the ALA website.

In the meantime, come to the Mason Library to check out our awesome Banned Books Week display and exercise your freedom to read by taking one home!

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The Floating Library

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Check it out, readers! The library is going nautical this Saturday, September 6-October 3. Artist Beatrice Glow has initiated a project entitled “The Floating Library,” described here on their website:

” The Floating Free Library is a mobile-device free pop-up public space aboard the historic Lilac Museum Steamship berthed at Pier 25 in Tribeca. The space offers a reading lounge for fearless dreaming under open skies, sound art, free public programming of performances, public debates, roundtables, and more!

Take a look at the website for info on the project, specific events, and ways YOU can help out!

Magna Carta Comes to the Clark

Exciting news! The Magna Carta is coming to the Clark Art Museum in Williamstown, MA in September. This document was foundational in the formation of the U.S., as well as in the writings of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights . As Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in his 1941 inaugural address,

“The democratic aspiration is no mere recent phase in human history . . . It was written in Magna Carta.”

Not only will the Magna Carta be on display, but the Clark will also be hosting five other historically significant documents in American history : the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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Remember, you can pick up a free museum pass to the Clark at our Great Barrington libraries – so come on down!

“Does your library carry a copy of Mein Kampf?”

Last week a patron came up to the desk and said, “I have a kind of a weird question.”

“Oh?” I asked.

“Does your library carry a copy of Mein Kampf?”

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This patron’s question is particularly timely. In 2015, Mein Kampf – which has been the property of Bavaria since Hitler’s death in 1945, along with all of his estate – becomes public domain. It will no longer be subject to copyright laws, and theoretically, can be published by anyone.

Since the original confiscation of Hitler’s property, over 12 million copies of Mein Kampf have been sold, yet no actual legal copies have been produced since 1945.* Bavaria has for the most part adamantly opposed publication, halting government funding  in 2013 for an initially-supported scholarly edition. Germany’s reaction to this 2015 turnover is understandably aggressive. According to Jean-Baptiste Piggin and Martina Rathke’s article in Haaretz, the Interior Ministers of the sixteen German states “vow prosecution for any publication of Mein Kampf” even after it becomes public domain.

Coming back to our patron’s original question – whether or not we have copies of Mein Kampf in our library system – I will quote the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Statement (I have quoted this before, and I honestly can’t read it enough):

  1. It is in the public interest for publishers and librarians to make available the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those that are unorthodox, unpopular, or considered dangerous by the majority.

  2. Publishers, librarians, and booksellers do not need to endorse every idea or presentation they make available. It would conflict with the public interest for them to establish their own political, moral, or aesthetic views as a standard for determining what should be published or circulated.

  3. It is contrary to the public interest for publishers or librarians to bar access to writings on the basis of the personal history or political affiliations of the author.

  4. There is no place in our society for efforts to coerce the taste of others, to confine adults to the reading matter deemed suitable for adolescents, or to inhibit the efforts of writers to achieve artistic expression.

  5. It is not in the public interest to force a reader to accept the prejudgment of a label characterizing any expression or its author as subversive or dangerous.

  6. It is the responsibility of publishers and librarians, as guardians of the people’s freedom to read, to contest encroachments upon that freedom by individuals or groups seeking to impose their own standards or tastes upon the community at large; and by the government whenever it seeks to reduce or deny public access to public information.

  7. It is the responsibility of publishers and librarians to give full meaning to the freedom to read by providing books that enrich the quality and diversity of thought and expression. By the exercise of this affirmative responsibility, they can demonstrate that the answer to a “bad” book is a good one, the answer to a “bad” idea is a good one.

While Germany has an understandably complex relationship to Mein Kampf, in our library system Hitler’s book is available. Why? Because even Hitler’s hate-filled manifesto is a historical document, representing someone’s voice and opinion. To uphold the library’s mission to provide information, we must remain neutral in our acquisition of material. Our responsibility  to our patrons is to provide as much information as possible, while it is our patrons’ responsibility to engage with material and make their own judgments.

* In an amendment to my initial statement – “no actual legal copies have been produced since 1945” – the legality of production varies country by country. In Germany it is currently illegal to copy or print the book, and the state of Bavaria has contested publication in a number of countries with limited success. For example, in Sweden there was a case which went to the Supreme Court of Sweden, and which ultimately ended in favor of the publisher rather than the state of Bavaria. In the U.S., Houghton Mifflin bought the rights to the book from the U.S. government in 1979, and 15,000 copies are sold a year. In some countries, even the ones in which copying or reprinting the book is illegal, libraries are allowed to carry and circulate copies.

U.S. libraries become front line in fight against homelessness

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As outlined in this recent article from Reuters, libraries are becoming true community resources when faced with the homelessness that plagues over 600,000 Americans. When one patron suffering from homelessness was asked how often he frequents the library, he replied “”Always. I have nowhere else to go. When it’s hot, you come here to stay out of the heat. When it’s cold, you come here to stay out of the cold.”

What other public institution offers classes to young mothers and their babies, a selection of local history, tech support groups, book clubs, exercise classes, your favorite crime bestsellers, and programs to help people get back on their feet after hard times? These are obviously just a smattering of what is available in a public library; the list of everything  offered there is actually far larger, and changes and adapts based on individual community needs.

I passed by the the public library in Amsterdam, New York today . Above the door the words “Free to all” are carved in stone. When people ask me if I think libraries are still relevant, I always say of course – libraries are public spaces that foster independent thinking and support community members whatever stage or station they occupy . An America in which these spaces are no longer relevant is one that I hope I never see.

You Can Get What at the Library??

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Hey there readers!

Sometimes when I say that I work at a library, people are surpised when we get talking about all the things the library has available. “You have more than books?” is a fairly common question. And happily the answer is of course!

At our libraries, we offer passes to local museums, computer classes (for free, of course), bi-monthly movies, meeting rooms available to be booked in advance, two book clubs, and more. Come see for yourself!

For the full list of interesting not-just-book things available at libraries around the U.S., check out this great compilation from USNews.

 

No Meat, No Problem! – Vegetarian Cooking Class at the Ramsdell

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On Wednesday, July 9th, the Ramsdell Library in Housatonic hosted local amateur chef Lia Douillet for the first of a series of vegetarian cooking classes.

Check out what this happy patron had to say about the class!

What I learned at the Ramsdell Library class on vegetarian cooking: 

You can “bloom” curry power in a frying pan.

You can put a dab of cold compound butter on vegetables steamed in miso broth and let it melt like a lump on a Delmonico steak.

Once you have chiffonaded and dressed the raw kale salad, you need to massage it to make the greens submit and not choke you.

How to not curdle the yoghurt you add to the aromatic curried cauliflower.

That when they say finely mince the garlic or ginger, that doesn’t mean you can roughly chop it and call it rustic.

You can cook a whole meal without a kitchen, an oven or a dishwasher (in the library).

Next week: soups, stocks and sauces. There are five spots available for this fun, free class which runs for the next three Wednesdays from 7 to 8pm. Call for reservation: 274-3738