Friday, June 22, 2007

Iraqi Libraries Struggle to Keep the Faith

Dedication is always an admirable trait in an employee, but its presence in Iraqi librarians is downright heroic.

Lucinda pointed me to the British Library's site which features the diaries of Iraq's director of the national library. In them he documents the power and water failures, the death threats against library employees and security guards, the lengthy and circuitous routes to work occasioned by the destruction of bridges and roads. Members of his family urge him to leave Baghdad for the security of a city less under siege. Corrupt government officials sit on their hands. The library staff swelters as generators fail. The sun itself (which he capitalizes, significantly) becomes an oppressor to be survived.

The British Library site includes a link to the web site of the Iraqi National Library. I clicked on it, only to have the connection "refused." As I read more of the diaries, I realized that once again, there was probably no power to the library. The diarist has to go to internet cafe to retrieve his emails, so often is there no connection to the library itself. (Update: I did get into the site Wednesday, June 27--it's really interesting and includes articles on restoring the country's national heritage and rebuilding the library. Try the link above; if you aren't successful the first time, keep trying. It's worth the effort.)

As I sat exclaiming over the diaries, children's librarian Beth Reynolds slipped downstairs and returned, bearing The Librarian of Basra, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter. (The illustration above is from this book.) It's the true story of a dedicated librarian in that city who, when learning of the likelihood of war, began to take bags of books home, to see that they will be spared in the event that the library is bombed. As war became more and more inevitable, she enlists the neighbors of the library in her campaign, and in the course of a few sleepless nights, these guardians of literacy are able to relocate 70 per cent of the collection. Beautifully written and illustrated, it's a children's book worthy of the attention of adult readers.

Here my authorial voice fails. The danger, the destruction, the staff's persistent yearning for the light is more than I can fathom. Keep these brave people in your thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

80 People Turn Out for Mark Breen

One lady said she'd always wondered what he looked like, with that resonant voice that turned the weather forecast into sheer poetry. Lots of people wanted to know more about the night sky.

So it turned out that 80 people provided Vermont Public Radio's Meteorologist Mark Breen with a standing room only audience in NPL's Community Room last night. The library staff had to remain outside the room in deference to preserving space for the public, although our Lisa did manage to insert one-half of one shoulder blade into general proximity of the presentation. If the room was hot, the reception was warm!

When it came time for the outdoor portion of the program to what Breen refers to as the visible night sky, the moon and Venus were the only objects bright enough for identification on the evening before the summer solstice. Mark Breen turns out to look as nice as his voice sounds, and the audience really seemed to enjoy what he had to say. There were lots of questions, always a good sign.

For those who didn't quite fit into the Community Room or find the time to attend the presentation, Mark left behind a little of himself: the interactive kiosk from the Fairbanks Museum. When I first saw it, I asked where the joy stick might be found. It looks almost like a video game! Instead, it holds a computerizedl presentation on the planets, and for all those who felt a pang of regret at the declassification of Pluto, a view of it and its sort-of-moon, Charon, is still there for the seeing, along with the rest of those "rocks" who have held onto their jobs.

Come by the library and wander the heavens with the kiosk. It'll be across from the circulation desk till July 18.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Summer Reading for Kids: Definitely Not Clueless

This summer's vacation reading program comes with lots of extra possibilities.

Dubbed Get a Clue @ Your Library, this summer reading program offers more than books.

Along with the rich reading fare that is has become a staple to NPL's young patrons, there is the opportunity provided by excursions designed by the good people at Valley Quest.

I'm always interested in discovering what pockets of illiteracy remain in my considerable self. Clearly, I was clueless about Valley Quest. When I asked Children's Librarian Beth Reynolds about the connection between the Get a Clue theme and Valley Quest, she shot me a look that said, "Oh, you poor dear," (my interpretation, I'm sure) and then told me that Valley Quests were actually treasure hunts. In any of the adventures taken by the Questers lies a box, the quest destination, if you will, at which place successful Questers can leave evidence of their having been there and can, at the same time, discover the names of others who have been similarly successful. Sounds like great fun for families and groups of friends.

Beth tells me that she's hoping that her young readers and their families will avail themselves of the Valley Quest option, in addition to the time for relaxed, recreational reading. To offer support to that end, she's offering a rubber stamp workshop for families on Monday, June 25, at 7 p.m. Participants will be given both the know-how and materials for making rubber stamps for the families--a great way to sign off on having found the magic boxes that are part of the Quests. It's a good idea for families to come to this workshop together, since some of the tools used for making rubber stamps are a bit sharp and best handled by the More Mature generation (or so we like to think of ourselves).

Because space will be limited and Beth hopes to have materials for everyone, interested families should call 649-1184 to save a space.