Sunday, May 22, 2016

Chicago & the Harold Washington Library


I was in Chicago last week -- not for BEA, sadly, but for another exciting event that I greatly enjoyed -- but of course I had to take time to head to the closest library for a little busman's holiday.


The closest library happened to be the glorious Harold Washington Library, newly built in 1991 but looking as if it has always been there. In fact, one of the employees told us, when we asked about what refurbishments had been done, "It was built from the ground up, Ma'am" - and went on to explain that the library sat on what had been a parking lot. This was a security guard who was so enthused about his library that he told us who the architect was, where they got the inspiration for the design, and the sources of many of the materials (from other buildings nearby). It was great!

The library was gorgeous, with many elements from the past incorporated to give it a solid presence. It fits right in with all of the other fascinating architecture in the South Loop. And yet it also stands out, with great presence.


As a librarian, I was fascinated by the 'popular library' on the main floor, a section to just pop in and grab the latest and hottest titles. The periodicals and public computers were on the 3rd floor, and I made use of the computers - interesting being on the other side of the counter for a change.

There was a stunning art piece in the stairwell of the 3rd floor, a Vietnam war memorial consisting of dog tags with the names of every person who had died there. The person I was with took the time to read the installation info while I was on the computer, so we found out that this was the only monument in the US besides the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington to include all those names. It was an affecting artwork.


Looking up from the main floor through the stairwell to the 3rd floor
In fact, there is a lot of art in the library, and even incorporated into the building itself. There were some displays of art journals and of  "tiny houses" which I thought were lovely.



my favourite tiny house
 We went up the the atrium on the 10th floor, which is gorgeous. It was being set up for a special event, and we were told that between May and November there are special events constantly, whether library events or rentals for weddings and such. What a beautiful space it would be to hold an event!



I chatted a little with some of the staff about library procedures and their still present card catalogue in the arts section - it is mainly used as a display space now :) I also peeked it to their MakerLab but didn't take any photos as there were people using it - it was not a huge space but looked like there
was a lot going on.

I enjoyed visiting this library, and found all the staff friendly and forthcoming in reply to my questions. I'm glad it was near to my hotel and I had the chance to drop in. Other libraries are always so interesting.

This one was extra special because of the stunning building itself. I couldn't stop looking around at everything - it's very impressive. I'll leave you with some of the amazing historically influenced details.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

10 Years of Blogging: How the Time does Fly!

Today is the anniversary of the birth of my blog, ten long years ago! How does that happen?

Ten years ago when I desultorily started writing blog posts, I had no idea that I'd turn out to be still reading and reviewing a decade later. I didn't even know at the start that this was going to turn out to be a focused book blog. SO MUCH has changed in ten years of book blogging. For example:

  • the book blogosphere has exploded with new bloggers
  • book review and author scandals come and go and come again....
  • the focus on social justice and diversity in our reading is so much stronger and more active
  • reading challenges are both broader and less common these days
  • professional book review sites are much more in evidence
  • other social media avenues, like Booktube and twitter, have garnered some of the original book talk from blogs
  • BUT book bloggers are still reading and talking and sharing bookish thoughts!

Can you think of any other startling differences that have happened over your own blogging career?

On the phone, er, internet, nobody knows you're a dog

What has blogging done for me over the decade?

Well, I find that my reading community is fantastically huge. I love all the bloggers I've met, some of whom have become real life friends, and many of whom have become online friends who I follow eagerly. People have disappeared from the reading community, some who are simply tired of blogging and some who have left us altogether - and who we all miss greatly.

Book blogging has enriched my professional life as a librarian. I've made connections, I've deepened the habit of reflection on my reading, and I have a record of those thoughts! I often check in to see what other bloggers are talking about when I am thinking about purchases or about book recommendations. And the book talk about all kinds of issues in the publishing world and the reading community is enlivening and refreshing, and helps me stay on top of the issues I need to know as a professional book person.

Blogging has been a lifeline for me into a vibrant, thoughtful community of readers, a community that I am very grateful to be a part of. While the amount of blogging I've done has varied over the years, I've counted myself in as a book blogger for the past ten years. And I don't really see that changing - I enjoy my blog, and I love sharing my love for books.

Here's to another ten years ahead!

*all photos thanks to the British Library & the Library of Congress flickr streams