Monday, June 29, 2009

Beautiful Old Libraries

The libraries of my childhood were two. One, a modern affair, was a 10-minute walk from my home, situated on a corner of the neighborhood public park. I was 12-years old when ground was broken for this library. I remember watching it being built and the thrill, when it opened, of getting my first library card, and subsequent visits where I would pull a little stool, on which to sit, up to a bookshelf to browse and select the books I would carry home. Later, in high school, I discovered the main library, downtown, with its rooms of dark wood shelving, sturdy tables and chairs, and its distinctive books scent. I spent many a date with my high school beaux doing homework in this library.

I still use the library, a lot. At least once a week, I drive to my local branch to check out movies and pick up the books I have reserved and directed to this branch through my library's online site. I rarely buy novels or audio books because I rarely reread or relisten to them so I am grateful to have a source of "free" books, but I do buy lots of reference books on topics such as gardening, cooking, beading, bookbinding, and dog training, to name a few. I use the library to make decisions about these types of book purchases. So, you can imagine my dismay when I learned a week ago that on Friday, June 19, the Governor of the state of Ohio, in an effort to balance the state budget, had proposed a cut of 50% for Public Library Funding and that voting on this proposal would be June 30!

The effects of this cut will be devastating. We all know that libraries educate and promote literacy, something that is good for our society. Libraries also contribute to the safety of our communities. A child who likes and uses the library is unlikely to become a delinquent or grow up to become an adult criminal, and is far more likely to graduate from high school and continue his or her education. And in these hard economic times, we need our libraries more than ever. In my city, library use is up as the unemployed use computers to search for jobs and borrow books and movies they cannot afford to buy. If this budget cut is passed, half of my city's branches, 20 of 40, will be closed permanently, and 250 library personnel will lose their jobs.

Fortunately, library patrons across the state sprang into action, sending emails to and calling the governor's office and their state legislators. In my city alone, library supporters sent 35,000 emails to legislators and the governor and deluged them with phone calls. Almost all members of the Ohio General Assembly issued statements in support of libraries. Now we await the vote.

All of this is preamble to linking you to a blog entry of beautiful libraries at Curious Expeditions. What memories do you have of the libraries of your youth?

Photos (in order):
Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Boston Copley Public Library, Boston, MA
Widener Library, Harvard, Cambridge, MA
Cornell Law School Library, Ithaca, NY

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mass Production Bookbinding

An industrial film, ca. 1961, showing the work of bookbinders and the final steps in the process of manufacturing printed books. From the "Americans at Work" series. Courtesy of The Prelinger Archives.

After experiencing the slow process of making a hardbound book (codex) by hand, I was fascinated by this film and how the various processes were mechanized. The collating of book signatures was my favorite. I could not help thinking what a mess it would be if one of those ladies lost her rhythm, and was reminded of the Lucille Ball candy factory episode.