Thursday, May 30, 2013

Unicorns, light sabers, magic purses...

I know that all our hearts have gone out to the community in Moore, Oklahoma this recently, particular so because of the loss of children. As a mother myself, each of those 9 deaths struck me particularly hard.

When I drove to pick up my daughter from school last Tuesday afternoon, I had been listening to coverage of the tornado on NPR. I fetched her from her class, we walked back to the car, and I strapped her into her booster seat. Then, somewhat distracted, I walked around to the driver's side, sat down, and started the car. Before I could react, the first voices out of the radio said loudly, "more news on the Oklahoma tornado tragedy. The death toll stands at 24 people, including 9 children."

I hit the knob quickly to turn the radio off as my 5-year-old daughter cried from the backseat, "9 children?! Dead?!"

Oh..... shoot.

Long story short: we had a good talk about it, and I was thankfully able to reassure her that we do not have tornadoes in Portland, Oregon. However, when living in Atlanta, we lived under that threat every spring and fall. When she was only 8 months old, I huddled with her, trembling, under a mess of pillows and blankets in a closet under the stairs while following the path of a tornado on a weather radio, 1 mile away, headed in our direction. I can truly say I have never felt more powerless and frightened in my life.

That tornado dissipated before it reached us, but there have always been close calls, all my life, living in the midwest and south. However, tornados can occur almost anywhere in the continental United States. Compared to the rest of the world, we are tornado central.

A map of tornado activity in the US from 1980-2010

Living in Portland, OR, there is a far lower chance of being caught in the midst of a tornado (though we do get extremely high winds from time to time). I was granted at least the former to explain to my daughter.

And the rest? Like any child, she played with the day's events, and that night's play revolved around tornados. She begged to watch The Wizard of Oz again for the tornado part, and she played with her stuffed animals (toys with eyes, she used to call them) as if they were hiding from tornados.

After her bath, our routine is for me to carry her "like a baby" down the hall wrapped in a towel and pretending not to fit through the bedroom door as she stretches her legs out straight. Then we have to search for tools to widen the door. Imaginary swords, saws, light sabers, etc. That night's tool of destruction was a tornado. One that she controlled by letting it escape from a pink leopard-print magic purse, and then captured again with same purse. The destruction was confined to the bedroom door, which we passed through easily afterwards. The tornado was tucked away for later use.

And I was reminded again of the resilience of children, of the magic of play, when the scary things of the world can be controlled by the power of a pink leopard-print magic purse.

Excuse me while I cry again for those nine children in Oklahoma whose magic was shattered last week.

If you would like to donate to the families of Moore, Oklahoma, check out Charity Navigator to choose the charity that best suits your values.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Somehow they manage to bring in Nietsche as well.

Back to Zora Neale Hurston.

I thought I'd do a little more research on Hurston's life in order to add to the upcoming discussions. I found this:

Guantanamo, Eatonville, Accompong: Barbecue and the Diaspora in the Writings of Zora Neale Hurston

To quote, "Hurston’s lifelong interest in questions of cultural provenance seems activated by the opportunity to depict African ritual yet suppressed, silenced, when it comes to the native origins of barbecue."

Barbecue, eh? Now, to any of my gentle readers who may indeed be anthropologists, literary theorists, or a member of any of the learned groups whose job, or perhaps lifework, it is to analyze such patterns in literature: please do not take offense.

But, barbecue?? Cooking food over a fire? I honestly couldn't stop laughing as I read through it. I'm a Southern girl, and I loves me a good barbecue, but I don't think it ever occured to me to think of it as anything other than food. Food cooked over a fire. I may be going out on a limb here, but I'll argue somewhat emphatically that that is something that occurs all over the world. Sometimes a barbecue is just... a barbecue.

Still, if the May 21st Spring Book Group discussion proves me wrong, I will soak my words in barbecue sauce, grill them until the letters fall apart, and devour them happily.

I will never question again "barbecue’s torrid colonial history, its turbulent and rhizomatic outward journey from Guantanamo Bay to Eatonville and elsewhere..."

The source I have terribly lampooned:
Warnes, A. (2006). Guantanamo, eatonville, accompong: Barbecue and the diaspora in the writings of zora neale hurston. Journal of American Studies, 40(2), 367-389. Retrieved from

Friday, May 17, 2013

Why the Library?

As a librarian, I am unfortunately often tasked with the job of defending libraries. I've had smart, good people with lots of letters after their names sincerely (and politely) ask me, "Aren't libraries a dying institution?"

In my own job as well, I do believe that my particular employer would do away with the library altogether if it weren't an accreditation requirement. :-(

It's not that everyone hates the library. Everyone "likes" the library just fine. But just because one has no enemies does not mean that one has allies.That's the opinion of Jason Kramer in his article The Downside of Being Universally Liked.

Kramer likens the library to a hammer. A hammer is important, but nobody thinks much about all the things we couldn't do without it. Like a hammer, the library is "not an end in itself, it is a means to an end."

Kramer goes on to say, "academic and research libraries make innovation possible. These libraries provide the raw material—information—that is needed to fuel researchers, incubators, and entrepreneurs."

And to paraphrase further:

Want to find out about grant money won by public colleges?

  • Go to the library.
Need to encourage public-private partnerships and start-up companies?
  • The library can help.
Want to lower the cost of business for job creating entrepreneurs?
  • Give them access to information.
Improve faculty recruitment and academic standing?
  • Improve the library.
Want to cultivate jobs, improve workers skills, or help someone find a job?
  • There is the library for that.
In other words, for nearly any policy issue, supporting the library is important to achieving the goal.

Hear, hear!

Now, for those of you (certainly not my readers! but, you know who I mean) who point to the internet as a replacement for libraries, let me remind you that using the Internet as a library is akin to a using a forklift to find a needle in a haystack. Libraries aren't just collections of books. They are highly organized and systematically arranged according to deep and complex principles of information design and management. Librarians are the people who know how to find things when Google fails because librarians know how knowledge is organized.

Information and knowledge has and always will need to be organized in order to be useful. The Internet is not an organized place. Librarians can do better.

For the full Kramer article, click this link:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Our Eyes Are Watching Hurston

Dear Readers!

I hope many of you participate in the Spring Book Group's upcoming reading and discussion of Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston.

I myself read this book many moons ago, shortly after graduating from college with a degree in English and a hunger to read books for fun and not for critical theorizing again. I plan to re-read it in advance of the May 21st (2 pm) meeting in the Dickert Room so that I can post a little more intelligently about it, but let me say now that it is a wonderful book that is sure to raise both questions and eyebrows.

I don't want to give out or encourage spoilers here, but I'd love to hear more from y'all (I warned ya!) about what you are taking away from the book as you read it. For me, I think it was who Janie becomes when she falls in love that intrigued me the most.

Just to add some background to the book, I did a quick tour of a few library databases here where I work in Vancouver, WA (add that to my list of virtual spaces). Here is a little summary of what I found.

Zora Neale Hurston was actually raised in the very first incorporated African-American town--Eatonville, FL. She herself described it as the first attempt at self-government on the part of African Americans. The town nourished in her a love of her cultural tradition, and this inspired much of her fiction.

Hurston's mother died when Zora was about nine years old. Her father had remarried shortly after her mother's death, and Hurston's dislike of her stepmother caused her relationship with her father to deteriorate.

Hurston was taken out of school at age 13, and she left home to take a job as a wardrobe girl in a repertory company touring the South. Eighteen months later, she left the troupe in Baltimore, Maryland, and an employer later arranged for her to complete her primary education. She completed her high-school requirements at Morgan Academy in Baltimore. She went on to Howard Prep School and Howard University and earned an associate's degree. She completed her undergraduate education at Barnard College and Columbia University.

Hurston became a part of the African American literati termed the Harlem Renaissance. She became well-known not only for her writing but for her outspokenness, her distinct way of dress, and her refusal to be ashamed of her culture.

(Summarized, quoted from The Encyclopedia of African American Writing in the Credo Reference database.)

Just this little blurb says so much about Hurston and her connection with her character Janie. There's more, but I'll leave it until next time.

Don't forget!

2 pm, May 21st
Dickert Room
Lake Saranac Free Library

Friday, May 10, 2013

My Virtual Internship

Hello, dwellers of Saranac Lake!

I'd like to introduce myself. My name is Joanna Crump and I am the first (as far as I know) virtual intern for the Saranac Lake Free Library. That is to say, my internship is virtual. I myself do reside in a physical space.

But virtually speaking, I am in a lot of places! I am currently working on my Master's degree in Library and Information Science at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa while living in Portland, Oregon, and interning in Saranac Lake, New York. As an aside, I was born in Louisiana, and have lived in Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia and California.

So yes, I'm a traveler, but a Southern girl at heart, and I will you probably call  you "y'all" on occasion. Don't be alarmed.

I can honestly claim that I HAVE visited the Andirondacks, but unfortunately I did not get the pleasure of visiting Saranac Lake. However, from what I have heard and seen (virtually, of course), it is a stunningly beautiful place that I hope to learn much more about.

I am really looking forward to getting to know the Saranac Lake community and I hope you'll join me on this blogging adventure. Be sure and Like the SLFL page on Facebook, because you'll catch me there, too.