Monday, February 28, 2011

The Traveling Librarian Goes Home

I'm just back from two weeks in sunny Southern California, where, as you can see from the photos above, it was raining, but that's all right. Fresh snow on the San Bernardino mountains and lush green in the desert--gorgeous!

Riverside is about 60 miles east of Los Angeles. Its library serves over 300,000 people in the city, but like Austin, the surrounding area (called the Inland Empire) is densely packed, and also like Austin, you only have to live in the state to qualify for a card. RPL has an area history collection in its basement, and is planning a new, bigger library building (sound familiar?) to accommodate new technology. (I hope they don't trash the decorative cement grids on the front.)

The pagoda in the center photo was a gift from Riverside's sister city, Sendai, Japan. Behind the trees to the right of the pagoda is the Mission Inn, the most fabulous thing in town, a 1920s luxury hotel with world-class service where movie stars and Presidents have stopped. Most of the time I was growing up it was a ruin. A series of investors bought it, poured money into it, and bailed out, but the latest owners have brought it back from the brink. (Sorry to sound like a commercial. The Mission Inn and I are old friends.)

This has been a quick, disjointed post written by somebody returning from vacation with a lot of e-mail to wade through, but I do have a puzzle!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Chicken Time

According to Mother Earth News, February - June (early - late Spring) is the time to start chicks! If you've been considering starting your own chicken coop, now is the optimal time to choose from the variety of breeds out there, buy your baby chicks and keep them super warm, and get to work building (or buying) your coop so it will be ready by the time the chicks are all set to inhabit it. There are many great reasons to raise chickens in your own backyard including: a source of excellent fertilizer; the addition of some friendly, low maintenance pets to your backyard; pest control; fresh eggs; and even meat. There are a number of studies out there indicating that eggs from chickens that are provided appropriate conditions, such as ample outdoor time and space, are far more beneficial to your health than many brands of even organic eggs from your local supermarket.

Here are some links and how-to guides to help you get started. Austin is the perfect place to raise chickens considering the large number of Austinites with backyard coops - there are plenty of people in town to talk to on the subject and you might be surprised how many people in your own neighborhood have chickens and dine on supberb, local eggs fresh from their own backyard.

Austin Backyard Poultry Meetup Group

Austin's Egg Rolls Jump As More Chickens Take Up Roost in Backyard
Good article from Austin 360 about the growing number of Austinites raising chickens.

Buck Moore Feed & Supply
There are many places you can get your baby chickens in Austin. Usually, most feed and supply stores are the places to look. Here's a link to one of the places you should be able to find baby chicks, among other supplies, this year.

Callahan's General Store
Another place you should be able to find baby chicks and other supplies.

Eggstravaganza: A Four Part Series on Raising Chickens for Eggs
An article from Mother Earth News

Funky Chicken Coop Tour
For the past few years, a chicken coop tour has been taking place in Austin where you can print out a map of residences around town where people are raising chickens and tour them. Get design ideas, talk to the people actually raising chickens, and just enjoy meeting neighbors and fellow community members on April 23, 2011.

H & H Poultry
Yet another Austin area business that can help you with your chicken (and other poultry) needs.

Organic Egg Scorecard
This scorecard ranks organic egg companies. Notably, the closest producer to us with the best rating is World's Best Eggs from Coyote Creek Farm near Elgin, Texas with a 5 egg (the best possible) rating. You can purchase World's Best Eggs at Whole Foods. See this page for more info.

Meet Real Free Range Eggs
Another Mother Earth News article - this is the one where they've run some tests on eggs and discovered a health difference in (truly) free range eggs vs. your standard supermarket egg


Barnyard in Your Backyard: A Beginner's Guide to Raising Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Rabbits, Goats, Sheep, and Cattle

Chicken Breeds & Care: A Color Directory of the Most Popular Breeds and Their Care

Chicken Coops: 45 Building Plans for Housing Your Flock

Chickens in Your Backyard: A Beginner's Guide

Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rethinking Architecture and Libraries

I am not a student of architecture but I sometimes find myself under the spell of beautiful buildings. Some of my favorites include: The Sculptured House (pictured) is also known as The Star Trek House, Clamshell House, The Jetson House or The Flying Saucer House and is known best as the house in Woody Allen’s The Sleeper; London’s “Gherkin” which houses offices in the financial district and also had a cameo in Allen’s Match Point; and the home of Charles and Ray Eames in California. These aren’t really surprising choices on my part but I appreciate each of them because they each ignored the convention of their eras and made something fundamentally different in some way.

I like all of these buildings because they each take a step back from convention and ask “why?” Why do buildings need to be rectangular? Why would we build a building for the now instead of trying to picture an appropriate building for the future? I think the architect for The Sculptured House, Charles Deaton said it well: “People aren’t angular. So why should they live in rectangles?”

After spending a long weekend in Seattle, I have to add Seattle’s Central Library to this list. According to Library Journal’s Brian Kenney, “What Seattle’s team of architects and librarians did was no less than to deconstruct the public library – laying out its various services and collections – the put it back together, seemingly unburdened by history.” It is projects like these that keep me excited about Austin’s own Central Library Project. You can, by the way, read the latest update on our website which includes some tidbits about how the Art in Public Places Program might play a role in the design of the new building. The update also provides the timeline for the project and information about other Capital Improvement Projects.

So if you’re interested, join me in daydreaming about the future of APL! Here are some titles to get you started.

On Building Libraries:
The New Downtown Library: Designing with Communities
by Mattern, Shannon Christine

Planning for a New Generation of Public Library Buildings
by McCabe, Gerard B.

Countdown to a New Library: Managing the Building Project
by Woodward, Jeannette A.

Amazing Architecture and Design:
20th Century Design: The Definitive Illustrated Sourcebook
by Miller, Judith

Building Up and Tearing Down: Reflections on the Age of Architecture
by Goldberger, Paul

Modern Architecture: Representation and Reality
by Levine, Neil

The Films of Charles and Ray Eames
by Charles and Ray Eames

Monday, February 21, 2011

Presidential Biographies

Presidents' lives have always been favorite subjects for biographers. David McCullough and Edmund Morris have written some of the best presidential biographies. MCullough won two Pulitizer Prizes for his biographies, Truman and John Adams. McCullough's next book will be about Americans living in Paris between the 1830s and the 1930s, and is due out this May. Edmund Morris, who won the Pulitzer for The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, writes about Roosevelt's last decade in Colonel Roosevelt, which is on the list of recent biographies at APL.

Madison and Jefferson
Andrew Burstein, 2010

Washington: A Life
Ron Chernow, 2010

Colonel Roosevelt

Edmund Morris, 2010

Lyndon B. Johnson
Charles Peters, 2010

A Complicated Man: the Life of Bill Clinton as Told by those Who Know Him
Michael Takiff, 2010

Young Mr. Obama, Chicago and the Making of a Black President

Ted Mcclellan, 2010

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Andy Goldsworthy

I have mentioned a time or two that my favorite artists do not use paint or canvas. They use stone, steel, and wood. Whether a building's facade or an outdoor scultpure, I prefer my art outside. I feel more integrated with the art if I can admire it while strolling around outdoors. It seems more playful.

One such artist who continually surprises me is Andy Goldsworthy. The simplicity of his work always wows me.

He plucks natural elements from their places and reconfigures them into something beautifully odd. Whether we like it or not, his installations are intended to fall down, break apart, or be washed away, the constituent parts bucking his arrangement and returning to a natural order. Due to each work’s impermanence, photography plays a vital role—capturing the art before it returns to its natural form. His works' impermanence lends it a special aura.

Since his work is meant to disappear I have never seen a work in the wild. Thankfully, The Austin Public Library owns several photography books conveying the works of Andy Goldsworthy. Each one of these books has spent at least one tour of duty on my coffee table.



Hand to Earth





I had never heard of Andy Goldsworthy until I watched Rivers and Tides with a friend. I remember being floored, then scampering to the library for all the books mentioned above.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cupid behind the scene

You know the story: two movie stars meet on a movie set and fall in love with each other. Then everyone talks about them and their infatuation is the best thing that can happen to the tabloids and paparazzi. Their romance might last as long as the shooting period of the movie, or they might end up marrying and staying together for a long time (usually, against all odds.) \

Here is a list of some of the movies where Cupid was a little mischievous, lighting the flame of love between co-stars:

Days of Thunder (Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman)
Daredevil (Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck)
Sahara (Penelope Cruz and Matthew McConaughey)
Time to Kill (Sandra Bullock and Matthew McConaughey)
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt)
Gattaca (Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke)
Scream (Courtney Cox and David Arquette)
The Long, Hot Summer (Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman)
Woman of the year (Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy)
Bugsy (Annette Bening and Warren Beatty)
Twilight saga (Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson )

Can you see that special sparkle in their eyes? :)

Happy Valentine's Day all!!

Friday, February 11, 2011


The first science fiction televsion program aired on the BBC on this day, 1938. I happened to stumble upon this little piece of trivia while browsing Wikipedia and it stood out to me for two reasons: robots and Karel Capek. A coworker's daughter actually just drew me (and everyone in our department) a picture of a robot - she's only 3 and, when asked why she chose to draw everyone robots, APL blog contributor Evelyn Carnahan replied that for some mysterious reason this is her new favorite thing to draw. Apart from finding that truly adorable, I have also been listening to a lot of Daft Punk lately, particularly Alive 2007, for no other reason than a recurring mood to dance around my apartment while getting dressed in the morning ("Robot Rock" at 7AM? Yes, please!). So, I've had robots on the brain this week...

But really, what got me going about finding out about the first sci-fi television program was the fact that it was based on Karel Capek's play, R.U.R., Rossum's Universal Robots. Capek is credited with coining the term robot, which was first introduced in R.U.R. Capek wrote novels, plays, and short stories and was considered to be Czechoslovakia's most prominent literary figure in the 1920s and 1930s; indeed, he is one of Czechoslovakia's most renowned literary figures of all time. I actually knew his name from the one novel I've read by him, War With the Newts. I absolutely loved that book - it's a science fiction story about a race of creatures, the Newts, that live below the sea and are discovered and exploited by humans. I've actually never met anyone, other than the person that introduced me to Capek, who has even heard of him. But, if you're a lover of sci-fi, I'd say he's an author you shouldn't miss (I mean, come on, he invented the term and concept of robots!) and we have tons of his work at the library:

The Absolute at Large

Apocryphal Tales: With a Selection of Fables and Would-be Tales

Cross Roads

The Gardener's Year
This is actually a nonfiction book about gardening - it's beautifully written and can be enjoyed by anyone no matter their level of affection (or lack thereof) for the subject.


Nine Fairy Tales: And One More Thrown in For Good Measure

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Ups and Downs of Basketball (in Books!)

I’ve been thinking a lot about college basketball lately. There's nothing too surprising about that at this time of year of course. Conference play is in full swing, the conference tournament is just around the corner, and then the NCAA tournament begins! But what I’ve been interested lately, aside from the records of my favorite Big XII teams, is the way basketball can impact the lives of young people. Sometimes in really positive ways and sometimes in pretty frustrating ways.

Here are some titles that go beyond the basics of how the game is played and who the stars are. Instead, these titles look into how the off-court lives of players affect the on-court lives of players and vice versa.

On the lighter side of basketball:

Hopefully these can keep you busy on those quiet, gameless Friday nights.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Nordic Mysteries

Today in Austin we have a touch of the Nordic weather that makes Nordic mysteries such compelling reading. Crime stories from Sewden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland have become the mass-market vehicle that now carries the Nordic countries to the world.

Readers relish Nordic crime in part because of its densely realized local backdrops. In compact, often lonely communities, grim deeds suddenly erupt. The masters of this game often take pains to trace hidden links that bind cosy corners of the wealthy North with a bigger, and poorer, world. In contrast to American mysteries, often the law officers and detectives do not know what they are doing.

You can find a list of Nordic Mysteries listed under Fiction on APL Recommends. You will find authors beyond the well-known Norwegian author Jo Nesbø and Sweden's Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


February 2, 1922 was the day Sylvia Beach published James Joyce's Ulysses. Long considered a masterpiece of the twentieth century and the subject of a landmark obscenity trial, Ulysses is a complex novel of several hundred pages set in Dublin on June 16, 1904. Joyce spent eight years writing the novel, completing it in the fall of 1921. He spent the next few months editing and saw it published on his fortieth birthday, his self-imposed deadline.

I have not read Ulysses. I have begun it several times, never reaching beyond the first few pages. I am not afraid of the book. I simply am hesitant to commit to several hundred pages of the same story. I know the book's plot. I understand its place in the literary canon, but I have yet to fully experience its lyrical writing and beautifully disjointed storytelling. Marilyn read it. Countless others have read it.

Ulysses sits near the top of my 2011-to-read list. Some other long classics I have yet to read: Moby Dick, War and Peace, and the second half of The Brothers Karamozov. I do not know if I will read them all this year, but I'll try.

What are classics you have avoided, but might tackle this year?