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Libraries Lost to the Sahara

Of course we think of libraries as great edifices of permanence–think of the massive near rectangle known as ODY.  However libraries are like books in that they can weather, whither, or burn.  The Library at Alexandria and all that thought entails comes quickly to mind, and in the September 11th version of the Daily Beast Nina Strochlic has a well written essay on the libraries in Chinguetti, in Mauritania.  Libraries tended by families that once were central to “a once-legendary, enlightened city.” However, with Chinguetti largely depopulated and the Sahara Desert enveloping it, these libraries are on the edge of ruin.  Strochlic capturing the sense of possession the people still in Chinguetti feel for their libraries, and the sense of haunting that the image of the libraries in the past makes real.

Elmore Leonard’s Rules

One generally does well to avoid sweeping generalizations but one is safe in saying Elmore Leonard is the preeminent American crime fiction writer of the twentieth century.  One can praise Leonard’s prose for pretty much every angle and from pretty much every angle.  Around the time of his death in August of 2013 a number of journals and magazines republished his “10 Rules for Good Writing ,” which begins with “Never open a book with weather.” To add to this, a couple of weeks ago Atlantic Magazine published “Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for (Criminal) Success and Happiness,” which features actor Timothy Olyphant reading from Leonard’s 1976 novel Swag, the part of the book where the character Frank Ryan recites his 10 rules for happiness.  It’s a great compliment to the “10 Rules for Good Writing” and a great way to think about life through the lens of Leonard’s fiction.  Elmore Leonard, Miami Bookfair International, 1989

Herring-Cole Rennovation

While there are already articulate descriptions of the renovation of Herring-Cole Library facilitated by the gift from Jay and Valerie Ireland (both ’77), what we in the LIT division would like to highlight is the focus on maintaining Herring-Cole as a quiet text-centered space. What we have in the restored Cole Reading Room is balance. The expectation and surroundings encourage quiet, individual study, reading, and work juxtaposed with the 21st century reality of student’s digital lifestyle. Thus the beautiful furniture, the elegant desk lamps, the century old books on the shelves upstairs balance the WiFi networking and the in-table power which students are always seeking. One of the great one line explications of the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson is his own assertion, “I like the silence in the church before the service much better than any preaching,” which speaks to the contemplative mind that is the goal of the Liberal Arts. Quiet amidst the digital transmission of academic discourse is a tangible part of a student’s development—in The Power of Silence Graham Turner quotes April Pierrot of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art on the silence essential to an actor’s success:

It’s that inner silence which enables an actor to both listen to an audience and, at the same time, be present in a performance. Then they’re rapt, absorbed—and that quality of raptness in a performer is something that transmits itself to an audience, if they’re receptive and perceptive.

You can see a student late at night by the light of the lamp and laptop rapt, quiet, finding that inner silence while they bring their personality to bear on what they are reading, what they are understanding. Finding their voice, and readying it to bring to receptive and perceptive faculty and fellow students—this is the goal that the setting in Herring-Cole is perfecting set to facilitate.



New Work from Jon Rosales

Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and class of ’13 SLU graduate Jon Ignatowski have an essay “Identifying the Exposure of Two Subsistence Villages in Alaska to Climate Change Using Traditional Ecological Knowledge” in Climate Change.  Professor Rosales describes their work:

The  article is the latest from Dr. Rosales’ research project Alaskans Sharing Indigenous Knowledge (http://AKSIK.org).  AKSIK focuses on the impacts of climate change on two native subsistence villages in Alaska – Savoonga and Shaktoolik – making their concerns visible, advocating for their assistance, and calling on governments to act on climate change.  This article was written with Jon Ignatowski (’13), an Environmental Studies/English major who accompanied Dr. Rosales during the summer of 2012 to the villages to conduct interviews of hunters, fishers, and gatherers of traditional foods.  The article is the result of those interviews and is based on Ignatowski’s Senior Year Experience and Honor’s work.  The article outlines the specific impacts of climate change villagers are noticing and compares their knowledge of the changes to the scientific literature on climate change.  The result is that both traditional knowledge and scientific knowledge largely corroborate when it comes to the impacts of climate change in the Arctic.  Dr. Rosales is now taking the results of this article a step further and surveying the measurable strength of that traditional knowledge, something that has largely been described qualitatively.

This builds on Dr. Rosales body of work which includes publications in The Huffington Post, Conservation Biology, and The Bulletin of Science, Technology, & Society as well as presentations at conferences such the Society for Conservation Biology, the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences, and the North American Benthological Society, i

Summer Reading, A Last Look Back

At the end of July Ellen Rocco published the NCPR Summer Reading List! While of course summer, at this writing-hour, is something to look back on this list is simply a good read.  It gathers readers from around the North Country who suggest books old and new, fiction and nonfiction, books touching upon North Country topics and books touching upon global topics.  Certainly, most, if not all of these titles, grace the shelves of the SLU Libraries…even as we hurtle toward the start of the academic year, having a book in hand is a “no downside” thing…Ellen’s list is a very useful one looking forward to the fall…

Afternoon Reading in Bars

With a new issue of the FODYLL Bulletin in the works, time to renew our blogging efforts here at the FODYLL blog…and what better way to do that than making the case for reading at the bar.  Juan Vidal does, “My favorite place to read is in a dark bar mid-day.” Dark Bar Mid Day is a wonderful image, evocative, very much like the cover of James Crumley’s mystery The Right Madness.right_madness Come to think of it, Crumley’s work (we have several of his titles in ODY) is especially appropriate for consumption in a bar.Vidal’s short essay is a great little piece on reading…

Poems Work

In honor of national poetry month (and because it is a peaceful slowly unwinding Monday morning) I typed Poems Work into our SLU Libraries Encore search, and, my goodness, did I get back an interesting list of books. So interesting I did indeed feel motivated to blog out what poems work. Here is a baker’s dozen from this serendipitous phrase:


New Poetry

An annual April “National Poetry Month” post…a baker’s dozen of new collections of poems at the SLU Libraries:

May of these are found in the Browsing Collection on the shelves near our Paul and Anne Piskor Special Collections Reading Room…

National Poetry Month

mmoore2   April is National Poetry Month, and as winter finally winds down it is increasingly likely that one could venture out of the house in search of poetry.  I say “venture out” because while there is much verse downloadable (see the Poetry Foundation), our Special Collections is home to several significant poetry collections.  Noteworthy are The Frank P. Piskor Collection of Robert Frost, the Marianne Moore Collection (one of her manuscripts is pictured), the Rudyard Kipling Scrapbook, the display out in the reading room of Adirondack Poetry curated by SLU Senior Holly Brown, and the Frank P. Piskor Book Collection.

Venturing to our Frank and Anne Piskor Reading Room to read through the books or papers in these collections also means reading the real thing; that is, it means holding the poem as an artifact, as a discrete object, as a thing unique like the timber of a voice or handshake.  Dana Gioia has written eloquently on this experience, and along with the experience of a visit to the reading room one has the opportunity to understand the poem in a way unique from an e-version–there is truth in pursuit.  So if you have not been by the ODY Special Collections for a bit, April is the perfect month…

Who Uses Libraries

PI-library-typology-03-13-2014-00-01Our friends at the Pew Research Internet Life Project, in their ongoing attempt to create a mosaic of what the Internet is and who specifically is Internet-borne, have released a new study on who is using libraries in the United States, From Distant Admirers to Library Lovers–and Beyond. The study identifies and connects the who and why of people who frequent libraries–and comes up with some quite amusing categories for those who do (and do not) come through the front door. Foremost amongst library users:

Information Omnivores are more likely to seek and use information than other groups, are more likely to have and use technology; at the same time, they are strong users of public libraries, and think libraries have a vital role in their communities. However, they are not quite as active in their library use as Library Lovers, or nearly as likely to say the loss of the local library would have a major impact on them and their family.

One of the “surprise findings” of the study is that only a small portion of library users report suffering from “information overload,” and that many folks (such as the information omnivores) move back and forth between digital and print information sources “seamlessly” (to invoke that ugly word). Print and digital sources do not seem to preclude one another–this a point made by JCR Licklider back in the 1960′s when he was thinking about something that works very much like the Internet now (see “Man-Computer Symbiosis“), and is beautifully explicated by Eric Ormsby in his essay “The Battle of the Book” which was published in New Criterion back in 2001 (and, for members of the SLU Community, easily accessible through a quick search in Academic Search Complete). Ormbsy’s essay is a marvelous contemplation of readers and libraries, and as I mentioned the way in which the print and digital happily coexist, facilitate different work. Facilitate the work of poems, and with National Poetry Month at hand, work that needs to be done…