Monthly Archives: April 2014

Kennneth J. Bunting – my thoughts

Thinking about a friend:

Sometimes you just know a person.  I never had the chance to know Ken Bunting as well as I hoped..  He knew facts and stories I wish I knew.  He shared a passion and knew how to make open government happen.  He was a special man.

Above all, he was a supporter of the right of each of us to have access to information by and about our government.  He knew the role of a free press as the way in which we learn and become engaged.

In recent times I have encouraged Ken to come to Minnesota where his ideas might take root.  He had a thing about the weather  .Little did he know our strength comes from the time we spend making the world a better place.

Ken was a major contributor to the efforts of many to think about our future.  He knew that open government requires the efforts of a public that lives outside the beltway but still has a voice.

The vision of Ken Bunting inspires us all.



Digging Deep on Earth Day

If there is anything we have learned in the decades since the first Earth Day in 1970, it’s that this is a wonderfully complex challenge – a challenge too great for anything less than a global collaboration of concerned and aware individuals and institutions.  It’s a challenge for advocates, scientists, politicians, parents and grandparents, corporate leaders, artists, the faith community, researchers, and any one who cares about the future of the earth that is our home and the home of our progeny.

For me, the small slice of the challenge relates to the importance of open government  — broadly defined.   This narrow slant is in truth a small piece of a complex story.  Earth Day is for me a reminder to focus specifically – and hard – on what it is we need to know, how will we know it, who/what agencies are the best sources of information.  As with any information probe, who do we/should be trust?

And then I think about the information flow.  My frame of reference is specific, but scalable.  How do we know what we know about the earth, the climate, world food distribution, the seas and oceans, the flow of water, the soil beneath of feet?  Who sets the research agenda?  To what purpose is information produced and with whom is it shared?  What else do we need to know?

Earth Day is more than spirit and energy for a cause.  The day must kickstart a commitment to the idea that information is power, that the agencies of government of the people must be held accountable as a primary resource for the people.

Much as we care about the earth beneath our feet, we need to realize that the challenge of Earth Day is also one of the head.


Eileen Cooke, A National Library Week Tribute

With a firm hand and a smile that could charm the toughest solon, Minnesota native Eileen Delores Cooke (1928-2000) shaped and steered the legislative agenda of America’s libraries.  She anticipated the role of telecommunications technology, held firm to the principle of freedom of information, and saw to it that there are public libraries in small towns throughout the nation.

Born in Minneapolis Cooke, graduated from St Margaret’s Academy and went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Library Science from the College of St. Catherine.

From 1952 until 1964 Cooke served on the staff of the Minneapolis Public Library – working as a bookmobile librarian, branch assistant, hospital librarian and public relations specialist.  For one year, 1957-58, she took a position as branch librarian at Queens Borough Public Library.

It was probably Cooke’s public relations acumen that caught the attention of Germaine Kretek, legendary director of the political arm of the American Library Association.  ALA, with its main office in Chicago, had long maintained a strong presence in Washington, DC.  In 1964 Cooke moved to DC where she held a variety of positions with the ALA Washington Office, serving as Executive Director for two decades, from 1972 until her retirement in 1993.

The early years of her tenure Cooke described as “a great time for libraries.”  The Kennedy administration set a high priority on libraries, which the Johnson Administration continued.  The passage of the Library Services and Construction Act in 1964 marked a time of great library development, particularly support for small and rural public libraries.  The next years saw passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that included generous appropriations for school libraries.  The Medical Library Assistance Act followed in 1966 along with the Higher Education Act of the same year, both of which included unprecedented funding for library support.

Each of these political accomplishments reflects the strategic approach and influence of the ALA Washington Office and of its Executive Director.  Cooke herself described the philosophy and style of the Washington office as being firmly anchored on a commitment to “persistence, persuasion and planning.”

Not one to rest on the organization’s political laurels Cooke worked with library leaders to anticipate and hold at bay the changes that were to come with the next administration.  One notable accomplishment was establishment of the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science in 1970.  NCLIS led in time to two White House Conferences on Library and Information Services, both of which engaged a inclusive  public of library users and supporters, along with administrators and board members.

Cooke’s approach was to emphasize the importance of not only engaging but also training staff, board members and the public in the tools of effective politics.  Today library buildings and networks thrive because of the groundwork Cooke laid decades ago.

Still, her legacy far exceeds bricks and mortar.  Among other commitments, she was a formidable supporter of the Copyright Revision Act of 1976, working tirelessly for fair-use provisions of the copyright law, which required revision to respond to demands of evolving media.

In 1978 when the future of the Internet and the role of telecommunications was a gleam in the eye of futurists, Cooke was elected the first woman president of the Joint Council on Educational Telecommunications.

Perhaps best known for her encyclopedic knowledge of the facts and her dependability as a resource, Cooke was also an excellent communicator.  Her public relations background and innate ability led her to write extensively for a host of library-related journals, including the ALA Washington Newsletter, a timely and habitually read information pipeline.

In addition Cooke recognized the way that libraries could collaborate with organizations and projects set on parallel paths – listening to their goals and pointing out the overlap of interests, whether with the needs of older Americans, school media professionals, literacy providers, proponents of library services to American Indian tribes, the National Periodicals Center, services for people with disabilities, preservationists or scholars.

On the occasion of Eileen Cooke’s retirement in 1993, former ALA President and Director of the District of Columbia Public Library, Hardy Franklin, described her as the “51st State Senator on Capitol Hill.”

After her retirement Cooke returned to her birthplace in Minneapolis.  There she found time to enjoy the arts, including her own watercolor painting.  She participated in activities at her alma mater, the College of St. Catherine.  And well into her 70’s Cooke took on the awesome challenge of learning to drive for the first time in her life!

Cooke died April 30, 2000.  On June 30 of that year Congressman Major Owens (D NY) rose to pay tribute before his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives:

As a result of Eileen Cooke’s efforts the library profession moved into the mainstream of the political process.  She demanded that the federal government recognize and respect libraries as universal institutions in our democratic society which deserve greater and more consistent support….

With indefatigable optimism Eileen Cooke worked with Members of Congress, staff assistants, educational and cultural organizations, and all others who supported education and libraries… 

She was a fighter capable of hard-nose analysis but always focused and deliberative.  She was a coalition builder who won both fear and admiration from her adversaries.  Above all she had vision and could see far ahead of the government decision-makers.  She understood the nature of the coming “information superhighway” and could predict the vital role of libraries and librarians as the traffic signals on this expressway into the cyber-civilization of the future.

The work of Eileen D. Cooke benefits all Americans.  She has won the right to be celebrated and saluted as a Great American Point-of-Light.

In commemoration of Eileen Cooke’s commitment to open government the American Library Association continues to sponsor the Eileen Cooke State and Local Madison Award, conferred on Freedom of Information Day, held each year on March 16 to honor the birth date of President James Madison.

Read These and Reap!

Because our images of the family farm tend to be stereotyped, out of date, shaped by the media or otherwise skewed, one special way to celebrate 2014 – International Year of Family Farming – is to focus on the very young, those urban tabulae rasae whose  perceptions of the family farm are not yet formed.

With a child, even a very young child, stories can start the discussion that will shape their mental images. Reading to and with an impressionable child will have a powerful influence on that child’s understanding and appreciation of the heritage that we Minnesotans share a responsibility to preserve.

This list is random, subjective, intended to get a family member, friend or caregiver to think about reading to and with young readers about family farming as a time-honored profession. Celebrate the International Year of Family Farming by sharing a good read, maybe your own experience, with a youngster who’s poised to learn the facts, the stories and importance of the nation’s family farms.

Some possibilities to prime the pump —

Weidt, Maryann, Daddy played music for the cows.  Memories of a young girl growing up on a family farm reflected in the songs her father played for the cows.  A delightful read by a Minnesota writer.

Miller, Jane.  Farm Alphabet – for babies and older children – uses photos to introduce the basics of things found on farms

Wolfman, Judy.  Life on a Cattle Farm.  Also  Life on a Pig Farm, Life on a Goat Farm, and others by the same author.

Lobel, Anita.  Hello, Day!  Farm animals and the noises they make.

Murphy, Andy.   Out and About at the Dairy Farm.

Flemming, Denise.  Barnyard Banter.  Lovely illustrations – watch for the wily goose.

Brown, Margaret Wise.  Big Red Barn.  How the animals spend their day.

Wellington, Monica.  Apple Farmer Annie.  Especially good for harvest time.

Dorros, Arthur.  Radio Man/Don Radio.  Bilingual story about a boy and his migrant family.

DeAngelis, Therese.   The Ojibway: Wild Rice Gatherers.   The story of American Indians’ discovery of wild rice, the “food that grows on the water.”

Smith, Joseph A.  Mowing – a little girl helping her grandparents on the farm.

Purmell, Ann.  Maple Syrup Season.  The basics of collecting and boiling the sap, the making maple syrup.

Brown, Craig McFarland, Tractor.   Some of the basics of how a small farmer plans, harvests and sells the fruits of his labor.

Wilder, Laura Ingalls, Jody Wheeler and Renee Graef.    Winter on the Farm.  Paging through brings back memories, not of the farm but of reading the book with the family.

Lewis, Kim.  Little Puppy.  One in a series of family farm books by Kim Lewis.

Root, Phyllis, Kiss the Cow.  When the consequence of not doing so means no milk…

Runcie, Jill.  Cock-a-doodle-doo.   A delightful spin on an old story about depending on a rooster to sound the morning call.

Wolff, Ferida.  It is the wind.  Rhyming text that describes the thoughts of an African American boy awakened in the night by the sounds of the farm animals.

Philips, Mildred. And the cow said Moo!  The bossy young cow tries to teach the other animals his language.

Most, Bernard.  The cow that went oink.   More about farm animal language differences.

Cleary, Beverley.  The Hullabaloo ABC.  Fun-loving kids enjoying a day on the farm.

Bradby, Marie.  Once Upon a Farm.   Every day work and life on the family farm.

Williams, Sue .  I Went Walking.  A young boy encounters all sorts of animals on his walk – what/who will come next?

Fredrickson, Gordon W.  Fredrickson, who taught for many years in Minnesota schools, has published a series of farm stories that tell of his first-hand experience growing up on a family farm. One of Fredrickson’s books, What I Saw on the Farm, is illustrated by Bradley Simon, a New Prague teenager.

Last but definitely not least   — Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type.  Written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin. This recent (for me) discovery explains so much – any kid or adult who ever engaged in labor negotiations will get it!


International Year of Family Farming – What it’s about, Why it matters

For Minnesotans the true Rite of Spring is planting season – even if the experience is remembered or vicarious.  Planting season with real farmers on real tractors with genetically un-modified seeds, rotated crops and other practices that promote sustainable agricultural systems.  Happily, nostalgia is giving way to reality as urban farming, farm to home, and farmers market programs and locavore cuisine raise the profile of family farming and the role that family farmers play in growing nutritious food to feed a hungry world — while protecting the environment and preserving the land.

Still, conspicuously absent from the mainstream headlines is the news that 2014 is International Year of Family Farming!   This global effort aims to reposition family farming at the center of agricultural, environmental and social politics “by identifying gaps and opportunities to promote a shift towards a more equal and balanced development.”

IYFF offers the chance for a global conversation among family farmers and, even more, among those working outside the agriculture sector, to creatively re-think the central role, strength, and challenges to the family farm.  Planners encourage policy makers to think systemically – to connect the dots that link family farming with the organic whole in which family farming is an essential player – the environment, economic development, sociological, cultural and community ties.

Who should celebrate the International Year of Family Farming?  This is, after all, an international initiative, promoted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in particular.  At the global level, attention is understandably on the mega-issues – addressing world hunger, building strong economies in third world countries, promoting sustainable agriculture.  The UN website describes an ambitious vision and sets the context.

Still, for Minnesotans, family farming is a local issue that invites individual and organizational attention.  Close to home, who has a stake in the celebration of the IYFF?   Everyone, of course…..

  • Anyone or any organization that cares even peripherally about safe food or the environment
  • Educators and educational institutions that shape both the opportunities and the attitudes of youth
  • Local newspapers and the advertisers that support their role as the connectors of the community
  • Urban oriented media that need to go on the road not just for features and oddities (fun as they are) but for hard news and news analysis.
  • Government agencies that gather and manage data – if it’s not counted, it doesn’t count when resources are allocated or services delivered.
  • The faith community whose rural presence is precarious at best.
  • Proponents of broadband — though there’s been a lot of talk and action, there’s not been a so much talk about or engagement of small and family farmers
  • Obviously, family farming matters to each of us because we all care about  land preservation, clean water and air, safe food, the state economy,  the welfare of all Minnesotans…..

Bottom line – focus on family farming deserves to be moved to the front burner.  The voices of family farmers must be heard in every discussion.  The data needed to reflect the reality.  The environment, the economy, the story of Minnesota’s heritage depend on our collective awareness and understanding of family farming as a core value.

The International Year of Family Farming offers Minnesotans a push to get up and do what needs to be done to understand and preserve our proud heritage.



Twin Citians Remember Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) at the Capri

Many who may know poet and playwright Amiri Baraka (nee Everett LeRoi Jones) may not know his close association with the Twin Cities.   Next weekend’s celebration ,  “Spirit Reach: A Twin Cities Tribute to Imamu Amiri Baraka” offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remember or to learn.

The community curated event is set for Saturday, April 12, 2:00-4:00 p.m. at the Capri Theater, 2027 West Broadway in Minneapolis.

Spirit Reach represents the impact that the artist, who died at age 79 in January 2014,  has had on the Twin Cities area literary and performing arts communities.  The event will be hosted by author Alexs Pate and arts community leader Arleta Little.  Performers include a host of nationally and internationally recognized artists that call the Twin Cities home.

A prominent member of the Beat Generation, LeRoi Jones began his literary life on New York’s Lower East Side where he founded the avant garde poetry magazine Yugen.   Other members of the Beat Generation included Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac.  After the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965 Jones changed his name to Imamu Amiri Baraka.  At the same time, he moved to Harlem where he played a major role in the explosion of the Black Arts Movement, generally regarded as the cultural mirror of the Black Power Movement.

In 2008 TPT produced an hour long video entitled “Amiri Baraka: The Power of the Word” in which the poet reads from his work and discusses writing, politics and the African American  experience with author Alexs Pate – in front of a live audience of Twin Citians.

If you were fortunate enough to be in that audience you’ll want to revisit the experience – if you missed the 2008 performance, here’s your chance to learn more.

Local artists including Douglas Edward, Toki Wright, Sha Cage, Emmanuel Ortiz, Leah Nelson, E.G. Bailey, Donald, Fare and Kevin Washington, Mankwe Ndosi, Bao Phi, Tish Jones, J. Otis Powell, Lisa Brimmer, Bob Cottman, Andrea Jenkins, Davu Seru, Chaun Webster, Truthmaze and Louis Alemayehu are expected to join in the celebration!

The free and open celebration is sponsored by McKnight Foundation, Insight News, Givens Foundation for African American Literature, Pangea World Theatre, KFAI Radio, and the University of Minnesota.


National Poetry Month Celebrates Poetry of, by and for The People

Archibald MacLeish once said of poets that “there is nothing worse for our trade than to be in style.”  At the risk of rendering poetry and poets stylish, the Academy of American Poets for the past twenty years has led the nation in the celebration of April as National Poetry Month.  (

T.S. Eliot’s line about the “cruelest month”  drones like a mantra as the winter of  ’14 creeps on to remind us Who real is The Boss.  Still, the wonder of poetry is that more than any art form it can enhance any mood – whether we’re grumping about the endless winter, pondering the human condition, or celebrating the almost imperceptible inklings of Spring, poetry has the power to share the spirit.

How to celebrate National Poetry Month?

Start with (, the website of the Academy of American Poets, where you will unearth a treasure trove of delightful ideas ready to bloom in your head and hands – there’s Poetry in Your Pocket Day (April 24), find a poem a day in your email, or submit your own thoughts about poems that have had meaning in your life.

If you would like the share the joy of poetry of young people, you will find a rich resource center for teachers and parents.  For example, aspiring bards can watch videos of contemporary poets reading and talking about their work, then write and submit their own poems, describing how and by whom they were inspired.

Check the poetry map for an incredible collection of each state’s poetry organizations, journals, well-known poets past and present, and much more.

And there’s a calendar of Poetry Month activities that can keep you busy 24/7.

Of course there’s an app that will deliver daily poetry readings to your desktop or earpiece of choice.

David R. Godine, Publisher, is celebrating with a daily giveaway of Godine and Black Sparrow titles.  Catch Godine’s daily Twitter (@GodinePub) for the publisher’s daily contest, Q&A about general poetry and publishing, especially histories of the publishers.  Daily winners can select their favorite library which will be entered into a drawing for a curated collection Black Sparrow poetry titles.

The venerable publisher Alfred A. Knopf sponsors the “Portray Your Love of Poetry” contest.  Submit a photo, drawing or other visual representation of poems that inspire you.  Find Knopf on Facebook, upload your image, fill out the entry form which will pop up in the voting gallery.  Winners receive a packet of new poetry books from Knopf.

Ever a rich resource of all things poetic, the Poetry Foundation ( continues to expand their audio and video holdings including numerous online podcast discussions of poets and poetry.  Naturally, there is an app for that, too….During National Poetry Month the Foundation is featuring an audio series of poets discussing their art.

The list goes – and any one of these starting points will lead you into a world of literary wonders beyond belief.

When you do extricate yourself from the websites, consider turning your own hand at  ars poetica – doggerel counts.   Or possibly indulge yourself by taking time to re-read or listen to a well-wrought rendition of The Wasteland.











Splash on, Minnesotans! It’s National Walking Day!

Wake up!  Dig out the galoshes, grab your parka, add mittens, earflap cap and scarf – it’s National Walking Day.

No, this is not a post-April Fool Day joke, it’s for real.

National Walking Day is a well-meaning program of the American Heart Association.  Planners envision employees wearing sneakers to work so they can stop everything and walk for a half hour during the workday.  They suggest meetings be held at remote locations so attendees can get in their 30 minutes en route.  They even have a tool kit, but it’s too late to get your free kit now

In truth, it’s a great idea.  Minnesotans who have been forced into hibernation for six months would welcome the opportunity to dash out to do errands.  We dare to dream of a brisk constitutional and fantasize about the freedom to walk to the mailbox.

Then we remember – the impenetrable mounds of packed black ice at the corner, the perilous puddles that conceal sheets of treacherous ice, the long-term consequences of a broken limb….

So we slump back in the chair, sip our high test coffee, and listen to the meteorologist remind us that Yes, there is another blizzard on the way.

We check the National Walking Day website again  —  to no surprise we learn that the contact address for NWD is in Dallas!

Thanks, American Heart Association for a great idea.  One suggestion, if you want a national crusade, check the records re weather trends across the nation.  We can inch and splash our way to the car or bus today, but for us to embrace the joy of a brisk 30 minute walk is asking a lot this early in the season!

Maybe this time next year….



“Rejoice the Legacy!” Andrea Davis Pinkney Delivers 2014 Arbuthnot Lecture May 3

Born in Washington, DC in 1963 Andrea Davis Pinkney was an infant during the Civil Rights Movement, this year celebrating its 50th anniversary.  And yet she tells the stories of those days with beauty and passion – in words and pictures that communicate with children of today.  Today Pinkney is a highly regarded writer, editor and publisher, creator of stories that bring deeper understanding of African American heritage to young readers.

Pinkney’s elegant books for children, many illustrated by her husband Brian, have earned her a host of awards, including the famed Coretta Scott King award.  Her acceptance speech on that occasion warrants legacy status.  (

And “Rejoice the Legacy!” is the title of the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture she will deliver on May 3, 2014, at Willey Hall on the University of Minnesota campus.   The Arbuthnot Lecture is a prestigious honor bestowed by the Association of Library Services to Children, a network of over 4000 children’s and youth librarians, literature experts, publishers and educators.

Andrea’s husband Brian Pinkney is just one of several talented family members who contributed to a profile of the writer in The Hornbook.(

To prepare for and further illustrate the Arbuthnot Lecture Lisa VonDrasek, Curator, and staff of the Children’s Literature Research (Kerlan) Collection  at the U of M have prepared an exhibit that brings to memory the stories of the Civil Rights Movement era.  One visual highlight of that exhibit is a real-life reconstruction of the famous lunch counter where protesters sat in to protest the ways in which the civil rights of African Americans were trampled in a nation that prides itself on equality.

The exhibit at the Andersen Library on the University of Minnesota West Bank is open now during library hours.  Included in the exhibit are original art and sketches selected from Pinkney’s children’s and young adult titles, “providing insight into one writer’s creative process as well as a peek into editorial practice.”

The Arbuthnot lecture is set for 7:00 pm. at Willey Hall on the U of M campus.  Doors open at 6:30 p.m.  A reception and signing will follow the event.  Required tickets are free for the lecture and can be obtained from the U of M website.(

For more information or with questions, contact the Children’s Literature Research Collection at  One treasure on the CLRC website is a great Educator’s Guide to one of Pinkney’s books, Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down, the story of the peaceful sit-in at Woolworth’s lunch counter and its role in the Civil Rights Movement.

Read more about Andrea Davis Pinkney: