Friday, October 29, 2010

Connecting Through Books

One of the best things about working at a library is that people love to tell you what they are reading. I might run into a friend at the grocery store or a lecture and invariably, we start talking about books. Of course, talking about books is a big part of my job, so maybe I do tip the conversation in that direction!

This week I had the pleasure of attending the Bucksbaum Lecture and hearing Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran. Dr. Nafisi’s book is about the women’s book discussion group she began, comprised of seven of her best female students who secretly attended regular meetings at her house weekly. They would study such books as Lolita and Madame Bovary, literary works considered controversial and even dangerous to read in Iranian society. Often, Nafisi would encourage her readers to bring westernized clothing underneath their veils, and they would put on make-up during the meetings.

Much of Nafisi’s talk addressed the importance of taking personal responsibility and the need for greater civility throughout the world. But the portion of her talk that really struck a chord with me was her focus on the absolute joy of reading—the intimacy of strangers, she called it. She described how reading a book can close the gap between cultures, between countries, between strangers. Two people reading the same book, immediately have a sense of sameness—no matter their backgrounds. There is a sense of sharing the experience along with a sense of escape-- the sense, as described by Atticus Finch, of walking in someone else’s shoes.

I guess that might explain why wherever I go, I love to ask people what they are reading. It’s amazing how quickly and easily you can connect with someone by just listening to them describe the book that might be stashed on their night stand, or in their Kindle, or on a CD in their car’s stereo. If you’ve read the book that they mention, you instantly want to share your favorite parts with them. If you haven’t read it, you want to know what they like about it. If you are familiar with the author, you may gain a bit of insight as to how the reader thinks. It’s all about connecting, and isn’t that a wonderful thing? In this fast paced, often impersonal world of technology and cubicles, it's wonderful to actually connect with a person. Here at the library, we are seeing an increase in teens wanting to connect via our craft programs, gaming events, and book discussions. It's a nice role for the library--and another great reason to support it financially!

And in case you're interested....This week I am listening (in my car) to The End of Overeating by David Kessler. On my nightstand is, an advanced reader copy by Julia Glass, called The Widower’s Tale. And next to my reading chair downstairs is a book by Benjamin Percy, a young Iowa State University teacher I just heard about called, The Wilding. Three very different books, but I am enjoying each one!
What are you reading?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Socks for a Squadron!

When Sarah Early, one of the youth specialists at the Central Library heard that we had scheduled a program with Major Chuck Larson, in recognition of Veterans Day, she suggested that we might want to add in a service project for our staff association to sponsor for the holidays. You see, Sarah knows firsthand about service men because she has a couple of sons that are Marines.

On November 9, at 6:30 PM Major Larson will be speaking about his book Heroes Among Us: Firsthand Accounts of Combat from America’s Most Decorated Warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan. These stories tell of the training and the commitment our men and women have made to freedom around the world.

And that's why you will soon be hearing more about putting socks on a squadron of soldiers called the Flying Tigers because we have teamed with the folks at Fox River, a manufacturer in Osage, IA who has a wonderful initiative to provide wool socks to soldiers overseas.

In honor of the men and women who are currently serving our country, the Des Moines Public Library Staff Association in conjunction with Fox River Mills is sponsoring this holiday project. On the night of Chuck Larson’s talk you will be able to order a pair of warm Fox River Mills socks for just $10.00. You will also get two cards, one card will be attached to the socks and have space for your greeting and appreciation. The second card is for you to give to someone else acknowledging this purchase was made in their name. Our goal is send 300 pairs of socks to Afghanistan for the holidays.

According to Sarah and her sons, receiving any kind of item from back home is greatly appreciated. Warm, dry socks would be a wonderful gift. Watch our web site for details on this project or write to Sarah directly at for more information.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Couple of Books about Birds

Every so often we seem to experience a bit of serendipity here at the library. This month it seems to revolve around birds! Larry Stone, a great nature photographer sent us some information recently with an offer to do a program about his newest book (cowritten by Jon W. Stavers) titled, Gladys Black: The Legacy of Iowa’s Bird Lady. You may recognize Larry’s name from his twenty-five years as the outdoor writer for The Des Moines Register. He’s written several other nature books featuring wonderful stories about local characters and beautiful photos of some of Iowa’s most picturesque scenery. His book about Gladys, who also wrote many newspaper articles, is a wonderful look at the countless lives (birds and humans) she touched and how she became a conservation legend. Larry will present his program at the East Side Library on Wednesday, October 20 at 6:30 PM.

Once we had the program about Iowa’s bird lady planned, we called up our friend Pat Schlarbaum at the Department of Natural Resources. So during the entire month of October, you can stop by the East Side Library and see a life-sized replica of a bald eagle’s nest. Then it was only natural that we would also have to offer a showing of that great Alfred Hitchcock thriller, The Birds, right? It’s free, it’s at 1:00 PM this Saturday, October 9 and it’s at the East Side Library. Bring the family!

Think that's enough about birds! Oh no, here's where the serendipity happens!

After we booked all the bird events, right out of the blue sky, (pun is definitely intended) came a phone call from another local writer, Wendy Delsol, who has written this thrilling debut novel called, STORK. It’s being sold as a young adult book, but I took it along on my recent vacation and can honestly say that it was a fun read. I just learned that the ALA, American Library Association, included it in its nominations for Best Fiction for Young Adults. I don’t want to give too much away, but just know that it has plenty of fantasy for teens, a lot of suspense, and some delightful Scandinavian references that will appeal to adult Iowans and Minnesotans!
Wendy will be here at the Central Library on Monday, October 18, at 6:30 PM. Get set to hear more about this local writer because she has already signed for the sequel, Frost, to be released next year! Hope you land at the library some time this month!