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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Wisconsin

Skinny Dip with Marsha Qualey

 Joni MitchellWhich celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

Joni. And I’d come prepared with questions about her painting, not her music, because then, just maybe, she’d see beyond the gobsmacked fan. Maybe she’d draw something on a napkin for me.  

If she didn’t show, I’d be okay because I’d have a back-up date with Louisa May. 

buttered toastWhat’s your favorite late-night snack?

Buttered toast, but I can’t indulge that often now. Once upon a time, though, it was a nightly thing. Then when I was diagnosed with celiac disease I went years without it because the bread I made or could find in stores just didn’t cut it. And then along came Udi’s.

Most cherished childhood memory?

I had the best best friend any quiet, introverted, bookish girl could have. Mary was just the opposite of me, and when I was with her, adventure wasn’t just something that happened in books, it was something we made together.

earthwormsOne first grade day we were walking the six to seven blocks home for lunch. It had rained all morning and we were excited by all the earthworms still on the sidewalks. What if we gathered them all and sold them as bait? We began collecting the liveliest ones and putting them in the pockets of our raincoats. The pickings were grand and we didn’t notice the time pass. When we neared our houses, conveniently across the street from each other, something made us realize how late we were (A beckoning family member? Church bells? Kids returning to school? This detail is lost.).  We rushed to our respective homes for a quick lunch and met up again at her family car for a ride back to school—we were that late.

The sun was shining and we were in a car and neither of us wore a raincoat. The sun prevailed for many days thereafter. Only when at last we again needed our raincoats, did either of us remember the grand plan to make a seven-year-old’s fortune by selling worms.

The worms were dust in the pockets of our size 6x raincoats. There’s an old woman’s somber metaphor about dreams in there somewhere, but it wouldn’t have registered with Mary and me.  We laughed then and we still laugh about it now.  

Morning person? Night person?

Night, now and forever.

What’s the strangest tourist attraction you’ve visited?

Mary Nohl HomeI love environmental art—the concrete and bottle constructions that an individual artist builds over the years on his or her property. Thanks to the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and the Kohler Foundation several such installations in Wisconsin have been preserved. Any one of these would qualify as strange, and they are all worth a visit.

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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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The Scraps Book

The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life

Sometimes I want to walk right into the pages of a book, know everything the author knows, share their lifetime of experiences, and be able to emulate their creativity. Scraps: Notes from a Colorful Life makes me feel that way. I’ve even enjoyed the feeling and texture of the paper because I want in! For […]

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bk_ice140.jpg

Alongside the Books We’ve Loved: Venom and the River

This week, join me as we continue to look at books that orbit the constellations of children’s series books much-loved by adults: Louisa May Alcott’s books, the Little House books, the Anne of Green Gables books, and Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books. A brand new novel, Venom on the River, is now available from my favorite […]

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