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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Libraries

Caps for Sale

Caps for SaleMy college boy is home this week. So far his spring break has been spent fighting a doozy of a virus, lying about feverish and wan. Perhaps there is slight comfort in Mom making tea and soup, verses the non-hominess of the dorm, I don’t know. He seems grateful. I asked if he wanted something to read and went to his bookshelves to see if there was something light a98nd fun—an old favorite, perhaps—to while away the languishing hours on the couch.

I’d imagined a novel he could lose himself in—Swallows & Amazons or Harry Potter, maybe, but I found myself flipping through picture books. Most of the picture books are in my office these days, but some of the extra special ones are kept on each of the kiddos’ bookshelves. Caps for Sale: The Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business by Esphyr Slobodkina is one such picture book for #1 Son.

Goodness how he loved that book when he was a little boy! For awhile we had it perpetually checked out from the library. I renewed and renewed until I could renew no more, then I found a sympathetic librarian who checked it back in and let me check it right back out. She did this for us twice. Then I lost my nerve to ask for such special favors yet again and I bought the book.

I bet we read that book every day for over a year. It was before he was really talking—he called monkeys key-keys and he thought they were hilarious. He’d shake his finger, just like the peddler in absolute delight. “You monkeys, you! You give me back my caps!” Then he’d shake both hands, again just like the peddler; then kick one foot against the couch when the peddler stamped his foot, and both feet when the peddler stamped both feet. Each time he’d make the monkey reply “Tsz, tsz, tsz!” as well.

Caps for Sale

He liked to pile layers of hats (or shirts or socks) on his head like the peddler stacked his caps, and he loved to throw them on the ground, which is how the peddler eventually gets the monkeys to give back the caps they’ve stolen from his napping head. I watched him re-enact the entire book once when he was supposed to be taking a nap.

He learned sorting as he noticed the different colors and patterns of the caps and how the peddler stacked them up to take his inventory under the tree. He did this with playdough disk. “Caps!” he’d say when he made tall columns of red circles, blue circles, and yellow circles. I remember thinking this was uncommonly brilliant for an under two-year-old.

I offered to read it to him this afternoon. He declined, but the smile was wide, if still weary, when I showed him the book. I left it next to the couch, just in case he starts to feel better and wants to revisit it.

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Libraries in the USA are at Mission Critical

“There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.” —Andrew Carnegie

Hamel Public Library, Minnesota

Hamel Public Library, Minnesota

Libraries in the USA are at mission critical. Those who went before us worked hard to establish free public libraries so we could have access to what we need to know. How can we let their legacy erode?

We’ve already seen our public school libraries damaged by budget shortfalls in which libraries are deemed non-essential and degreed librarians are considered easily replaced by a volunteer.

Public libraries have suffered as well via consolidation, replaced by pick-up-your-book kiosks, and outright closure.

For readers, it is understood how vital libraries are as a free source of education, essential services, and entertainment that might otherwise be too expensive for families and individuals. Beyond books, public libraries offer free programming in education, crafting, music and dance, citizenry, and business. Some libraries have become a place to check out seldom-needed but important items like fishing rods, electric drills, sewing machines, and gardening tools.

gardening tools library

Reading is still at the heart of the library. The ability to learn, whether by fiction or nonfiction, and the privilege of asking a librarian who can help you find what you need and what you don’t yet know that you need—that is a library. No computer algorithm, no matter how well-meaning, can take a librarian’s place.

Many of us take our public library for granted. We walk a few blocks, ride our bikes, drive a few miles or 30 miles to check out books and magazines. We can call the staff on the phone to make sure they know what we’re looking for and have it. If they don’t have it, they can order it from a library far, far away. This is one of the most reliable services of being an American citizen.

This access to information and resources was hard-won. The generations before us recognized how vital books and reading are to a healthy, citizen-engaged country.

Down Cut Shin CreekIn Down Cut Shin Creek: the Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky by Kathi Appelt and Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer (Harper Collins, 2001), we learn the riveting true story of women, primarily, who were hired by the Work Projects Administration (WPA) in 1935, during the height of the Depression, to ride horses or pack mules to the often inaccessible small communities and individuals of eastern Kentucky. Eventually these librarians would serve more 100,000 people in 30 counties as part of the Pack Horse Library Project. It’s an inspiring book. Reading the account of how important these librarians were because they knew their communities, their readers’ tastes, and felt a sense of duty … it’s easier to understand why libraries have been so vital in America.

A congressman from Kentucky, Carl D. Perkins, sponsored the Library Services Act in 1956 “that made the first federal appropriations for library service.” More than likely, he was influenced by a Pack Horse Librarian while he taught in rural Kentucky.

That Book WomanFor a picture book about the Pack Horse Librarians, read Heather Henson’s That Book Woman, illustrated by David Small (Atheneum, 2008). Written by a Kentucky native, this story of Cal, living high in the Appalachian hills, depicts a young boy who wants nothing to do with reading until he realizes the extraordinary lengths his Pack Horse Librarian is achieving to bring him books.

Books in a BoxIn northern climes, Stuart Stotts wrote the marvelous Books in a Box: Lutie Stearns and the Traveling Libraries of Wisconsin (Big Valley Press, 2005). Lutie Stearns grew up near Milwaukee, reading all the time. She is drawn to library service where, thankfully, she has big ideas. She teams up with Frank Hutchins (another big idea person, he started the Wisconsin State Forest Department, and introduced Easter Seals to the Anti-Tuberculosis Association) to create traveling libraries.

Melvil Dewey (he of the Dewey Decimal System) introduced publicly-funded traveling libraries in New York State in 1893. (The first traveling libraries were likely those in Scotland and Wales in the early 1800s, but they were part of a schooling system.)

The next year, Lutie and Frank petitioned lumber baron and Wisconsin state senator James Stout to fund traveling libraries in Dunn County. They wanted him to introduce a bill in the legislature to fun the Wisconsin Free Library Commission. You must read this book for the engrossing experiences Lutie encountered as she tried to establish traveling libraries, books in a box, around the state in post offices and stores.

Later, Lutie would help citizens apply for funds from Andrew Carnegie to construct a library. These Carnegie libraries, some of which are still in use, brought education and entertainment to generations of citizens, taxpayer supported but otherwise free, throughout the United States. Lutie Stearns could celebrate the growth of books-in-a-box to full-fledged libraries through her persistent efforts and those of Frank Hutchins.

Dunn County

Democrat Printing Company – (1897) Free Traveling Libraries in Wisconsin: The Story of Their Growth, Purposes, and Development; with Accounts of a Few Kindred Movements

“The desire to have a good influence and a decent place to go, instead of the many saloons and dance halls, led me to visit one community no less than twelve times before I could get the town president, also owner of a dance hall, to appoint a library board.” (Lutie Stearns, Books in a Box, pg 49)

Twelve times? That’s determination.

Can we do less?

MORE RESOURCES

“The earliest libraries-on-wheels looked way cooler than today’s bookmobiles,” by Rose Eveleth, Smithsonian.com

“Traveling libraries,” by Larry T. Nix, Library History Buff

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Free, Playful, and Courageous

Call me crazy, but my family knows very well that traveling to a new city means visiting one site in particular: the library. It’s best if we have time to go inside. I like to see the walls, the signage, the special rooms. I look to see how the books are arranged, not only Dewey […]

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How lucky we are

I’m in the midst of reading Lea Wait‘s books for children (she also writes mysteries for adults). I’ve finished Finest Kind, I’m in the midst of Wintering Well, I’m eagerly looking forward to Seaward Born, and I’m on the waiting list for Stopping to Home. The two books I’ve read so far are plumb full […]

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What’s got my dander up?

I can’t decide whether I’m angry or sad. When Steve and I travel around the country, we stop in at bookstores and public libraries and schools, observing the state of children’s books in those environments. We talk with booksellers, librarians, and teachers. Some people are aware of our connection to children’s books … some are […]

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Where Lifelong Readers Begin

When my second grade teacher took our classroom to the school library, I thought I had discovered the greatest place on earth. A room filled with books, more books than I had ever seen in one place. I remember that room well. Suddenly, moving from my small hometown in Wisconsin to the overwhelming big city […]

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Monday Morning Roundup

We’re a little behind time today. CLN has entered the world of cloud computing … Steve spent the weekend moving all 25,000 pages, photos, blogs, and photos to the CLN Cloud. Doesn’t that sound restful? For you, we hope it means the pages will load faster, videos will run more smoothly, and you’ll enjoy hanging […]

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Libraries are Essential

This is National Library Week. It’s a great time to reflect on how much libraries mean to each and every one of us. Public libraries are the only place where everyone in the U.S. can access information for free … with help from a knowledgeable librarian. School libraries offer a safe and wondrous refuge for […]

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