Category Archives: Libraries

Honoring the heritage of Native Americans at Thanksgiving

As too few Americans are aware, the day after Thanksgiving is not only about excessive mindless shopping, it is the day on which thoughtful Americans pause to celebrate National Native American Heritage Day. (

The origin of Native American Heritage Day goes back to President George W. Bush who signed the legislation that designated the day after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day. With time the Day has morphed into the establishment of the month of November as Native American Heritage Month. Though the distinction between the month and the day is nuanced, November 25, 2016 offers a timely opportunity to pause, learn and reflect on the narrative and heritage of Native Americans.

President Obama’s proclamation declaring the month of November 2016 is an excellent starting point for understanding the import of the day and/or the month.

Numerous federal agencies have contributed to a mother lode of resources ranging from descriptions of parks to art to poetry to personal memories of Native Americans’ life experiences. Though the content is presented in calendar format, the films, audiotapes, photos and stories are not date specific. Let your fingers to the walking this amazing wealth of authentic resources!

Related info:

A guide with specific relevance to individuals interested to explore their personal American Indian heritage: A Guide to Tracing American Indian & Alaska Native Ancestry

A hot-off-the-press report with great relevance, less than mass reader appeal, is a report rom a recent conference related to Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Museums organized by the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums


“Information Literacy”- Universal challenge of the digital era

Information’s everywhere so now we have to think

 As we reel in the barrage of misinformation, punctuated with provocative spurts of ignorance, it seems ironic – if timely — to note that October 2016 is National Information Literacy Awareness Month.  On the positive side, we should be keenly aware by now that this democracy, based as it is on an informed citizenry, faces an unprecedented challenge.

In truth the term “information literacy” makes me cringe, though I can offer no alternative. More to the point, my serious concern is to focus on the concept – that we keep the goal in mind as we struggle to sort through the maze of messages with which we are bombarded. So I use the term “infolit” and think about how we cope – individually and as a society — with the maelstrom.

Since the dawn of the digital era teachers and librarians have led the push to prepare youth to meet the challenge of the information age. The United States National Forum on Information Literacy offers a serviceable definition of infolit — to wit: “the ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use that information for the issue or problem at hand.” The story of infolit is well-chronicled in a pair of lengthy Wikipedia pieces that provides references, definition, and basic background.

Still, today’s information-saturated environment presents a challenge for every lifelong learner – i.e. everyone. We are all in the same boat, struggling to stay afloat in a turbulent sea of information overload, misinformation, and truncated innuendoes. It is incumbent upon each of us, regardless of age, economic, social or education status, to hone the skills of discernment, to stifle the spontaneous reaction, to share information responsibly and thoughtfully – in a word, to think.

Though the month of October offers far too little time to overcome our digital gaps, we can begin by focusing on the reality that we are at a critical moment in the history of this nation and the world. As never before we engage as producers, intermediaries, receivers, and processors of information; it is incumbent upon us to consider the dimensions of our responsibility, to realize that all information is not created equal and that funding source, authority, intent, verification, and a host of other factors shape the content of the messages that bombard us. As citizens of the information age we must also recognize and respect our role as sources and sharers of information and ideas.

The challenge of the Information Age is to internalize the fact that information matters – and to act accordingly. Exchanges of ignorance are inane at best, potentially dangerous. To honor the intrinsic value of good information is not instinctive; it must be taught, learned and applied – until it becomes habitual.

At one point I thought to create an ad hoc list of materials to help young people sharpen their infolit skills. During that initiative it came to me that these exercises would be appropriate for any one of us. Masters though we may be of digital manipulation we might well take time to think critically about what’s known in some circles as “critical thinking”.

So this launch into Info Lit Awareness Month begins with titles for adults who may hope to hone their own thinking skills before sharing them with 21st Century learners. There nothing conclusive about this, the point being to encourage readers to think about thinking.

One starting point might be a dip into the website of The Critical Thinking Community for their thoughts on the subject:

Though this library-centric reference may compound the info overload it offers a comprehensive overview of information seekers and their interface with resources and it sets the stage for thinking about the broad scope of the challenge:

Following is a pot pourri of approaches to logical thinking, coping with fallacies, intelligent embrace of the Net and the scourge of intentional misinformation – needless to say this is the proverbial tip of the infolit iceberg:

  • Almossawi, Ali and Alejandro Giraldo. An illustrated book of bad arguments.
  • Bennett, B. Logically Fallacious: The ultimate collection of over 300 logical fallacies.
  • Cryan, Cran and Sharron Shatil, authors, with Bill Mayblin, illustrator.Introducing Logic: A graphic guide.
  • Mintz, Ann P, editor. Web of Deceit: Misinformation and manipulation in the age of social media. Numerous contributors.

Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge;  It is thinking that makes what we read ours. John Locke

Art Lending Library + American Craft Council = Great evening!

Shakespeare – speaking through Polonius – advised readers through the centuries that we should “neither a borrower nor a lender be.” Though that advice may fit financial institutions and garden tools, it has no relevance for borrowers and lenders at the Minneapolis Art Lending Library ( Shared art actually expands the community of art lovers who have the chance to live or work with original art – if only for a time.

The Minneapolis Art Lending Library has announced that their July lending event will be Friday, July 29, 5:00-8:00 p.m. The big news is that, thanks to a new partnership, the event will be held at the American Craft Council, 1224 Marshall Street NE, #200, in beautiful – and artsy — Northeast Minneapolis. (If you have not visited the ACC in their unique home at the former Grainbelt Brewery, the lending event is a double treat! (

Art lovers will have the opportunity to meet and talk with summer artist fellow Carolina Borja whose work will be on display. Carolina is known to many Minnesotans through her exhibits and coverage in a host of area journals. (   Her original installation, “Better a bird in the hand than two in the bush” is a papier mache piñata that incorporates sound and audience participation.

The Minneapolis Art Lending Library is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to providing exposure for artists, building support for the arts, and sharing the joy of art with members of our community through the free lending of artwork.” The goal is “to create an attitude change in the Twin Cities in terms of art ownership.” The MALL (that’s the art MALL) includes nearly 100 contemporary paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, ceramics, and sculptures by local and national artists. There is no charge to borrow the art for a period of time. Lending events such as the July 29 gathering at the ACC provide an opportunity for members of the public to browse a selection and to support this unique project.

If you’re planning to participate in the lending event, look forward to a full evening. The American Craft Council library is a jewel – everything you ever wanted to know about crafts, not to mention crafts you never heard of, and a staff that knows the collection and is willing – truly eager – to share their knowledge of the field and the robust resources of the American Craft Council.

Contact for more information about the lending event.


We lose our bearings entirely by speaking of the ‘lower classes’ when we mean humanity minus ourselves. — G.K. Chesterton

This is just one of the pithy observations shared with the generations by Gilbert Keith Chesterton. (

This compilation of quotes gathered by the G.K. Chesterton Society ( will inspire, irritate, amuse or otherwise offer an insight into the mind of G. K. Chesterton.

Scholars, critics and devotees have categorized Chesterton as a philosopher, a literary critic, a brilliant conundrum and a highly quotable curmudgeon. He is best known, perhaps, for the breadth of his work that ranges from scholarly tomes, often on the fine points of Christian orthodoxy, to his still-popular Father Brown mysteries and pithy quotes.

What has prompted my renewed awareness of Chesterton is an open invitation from the Minnesota Independent Scholars Forum to attend a forthcoming Chesterton-rich public presentation. The speaker is renowned Chesterton authority Dale Ahlquist ( whose association with the life and work of Chesterton reflects both scholarship and commitment to share the works and views of this prolific writer.

It may come as a surprise to local scholars and bibliophiles that there is a deep and ongoing Minnesota connection with Chesterton. To wit: Minnesota is the home of The American Chesterton Society ( a national society founded by Ahlquist. Today there are some seventy local chapters of the Society. Members will be gathering for their annual meeting August 4-6 in Slippery Rock, PA.

Ahlqvist is also publisher of Gilbert Magazine ( as well as author and editor of a dozen works and host of an EWTN series on Chesterton. Further indication of Ahlquist’s commitment is his role in the founding of the Chesterton Academy, a private high school situated in Edina.

Another Minnesota connection is the fact that the many works of Chesterton are archived in the Chesterton-Belloc Collection at St. Thomas University Library ( [Sad to note: Librarian and archivist James Kellen, who established and curated the Chesterton-Belloc Collection, died just last week in Minneapolis. Kellen’s life story is an inspiration in itself.]

The Chesterton lecture is 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 25, 2016.  All are welcome – free and open. Membership not required.









Floating through summer in a library without walls

An art book is a museum without walls.  Andre Malraux

The writer and statesman Malraux would appreciate the perfection of a summer evening on a floating library of art books anchored on a busy urban lake. The museum without walls is a reality this summer at the Floating Library, an experimental public art project set to launch mid-July on Lake Phalen on St. Paul’s East Side. (

Visitors to the Floating Library will find circulating and reference collections contributed by artists nationwide and internationally. A staff of hardy floating librarians will facilitate check out, make reading suggestions, answer reference questions and otherwise quench the reader’s thirst for information and ideas – whether it’s information on book art or traditional beach reading.

The Floating Library will be anchored off shore near Phalen Park Beach on weekends mid-July through early August (weather permitting). Daily hours are 1:00-6:00 p.m.

The genius behind the Floating Library is Sarah Peters, an artist, writer and art administrator who is committed to public engagement with the arts and the critical challenges of the day. Though she is primarily a book artist Parker is also a spark behind the Northern Spark Festival and a visionary with a “dream of turning the lakes of Minneapolis into a creative commons.” Some months ago Parker issued a an art for book arts appropriate to a raft-anchored library; background information on some of the other participating book artists can be found on the Floating Library website

Ever at the nexus of East Side St Paul projects, folks at the East Side Freedom Library are planning related activities. On Sunday, July 10, 1:00-4:00 p.m. Aaron Johnson-Ortiz, visiting artist at ESFL will host a bookmaking workshop for people of all ages and skills; attendees will create zine and book forms that will displayed on the Floating Library and archived at ESFL.

Visitors to the Floating Library don’t just park and drop in. They will need a canoe, kayak, paddleboard, rowboat or other small craft.   Library users will BYOB (boat, that is) or check out navigable craft that can be rented by the weekend from the U of M Recreation Department. Cautionary note: The rental office is closed on weekends so craft pickup must be on Friday.

Floating Library visitors may want to test the waters by checking out these links:






Sherlockians celebrate misadventures of a fictional nature

As we struggle through this period of unparalleled misadventure it seems just right that some among us are probing a parallel universe in which clear thought and intense focus lead to logical conclusions.   Sure, it’s fiction, but then again it would be enlightening to join devoted readers as they probe “The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes.” The intrepid Sherlockians will gather June 17-19 at the University of Minnesota for their triennial conference.

The gathering is sponsored by the Friends of the Sherlock Holmes Collections at the University of Minnesota ( and the Norwegian Explorers of Minnesota. ( To get some global grip on the impact of the creation of Sir Arthur Conan Coyle, consider this global list of active Sherlockian societies! (

Scholars and devotees gather at the U of M where the Sherlock Holmes Collections constitute the world’s largest libraries of material related to the books and their author. The U of M Libraries catacombs are home to some 60,000 books, journals, artifacts and unique materials of endless interest to true believers.

The triennial conference will feature presentations by Sherlock scholars, vendors, an exhibit of rare and unique materials from the Collections, a dramatic performance by the Red-Throated League of the Norwegian Explorers – even an auction of some rare treasures that will be the envy of avid collectors gathered to delve into the misadventures of Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Those of us who read, enjoy but have not drunk deep of the Sherlockian stream should be at the ready to welcome these learned scholars to our fair University. My thought is to avoid textual criticism or syntactical analysis at all cost, but maybe brush up on the light side with something like this probably-flawed backgrounder on Sherlockian culture


In the digital age the question remains: Whadya need?

Ask any good salesman the rhetorical question “Whatya sellin’? and you’ll get the stock answer, “Whatya need?”   The old story comes to mind often, including on a day this week when I read three contrasting – and complementary – library-related stories.

The first was from my favorite day brightener, the Writer’s Almanac. A birthday tribute to Malcolm X (nee Malcolm Little) shed this ray of light on the early life of a complex man whose ideas continue to influence the nation’s struggles with race-based challenges. (

Following a childhood marked by tragedy, Malcolm Little in the mid was arrested in the mid-40’s for larceny. The WA editors tell us that, while Malcolm was in prison,

An older inmate encouraged him to use his time to educate himself. Little began checking out books from the prison library, and when he found his vocabulary too limited for some of them, he copied out an entire dictionary word for word.

The story engendered a sense of loss when I reflected on abandonment of library services once provided through the state’s correctional facilities. Though I appreciate that committed volunteers, including the Women’s Prison Book Project (, are helping to fill that gap, it is a sad reality that today’s prisoners are deprived of the learning options that transformed the trajectory of Malcolm Little’s life.

On a lighter note, I then skimmed the data-driven piece in MinnPost in which Greta Kaul as data cruncher tabulates the hot reads du jour as reflected in circulation data collected by area public libraries. ( Though I enjoyed the snapshot I know well that circulation stats, though quick and easy to collect, are the least meaningful indicator of public good.

Next I was brought up short by a hot-off-the-press thought piece with the alluring title Virtual memory: the race to save the information age. The challenging article raises these disturbing questions:
Are we creating a problem that future generations will not be able to solve? Could the early decades of the 21st century even come to seem, in the words of the internet pioneer Vint Cerf, like a “digital Dark Age”? … It is becoming increasingly clear that the migration of knowledge to formats permitting rapid and low-cost copying and dissemination, but in which the base information cannot survive without complex and expensive intervention, requires that we choose, more actively than ever before, what to remember and what to forget. (

In some ways, libraries and librarians can be viewed as sparrows in the unknown cavern that is the Information Age. Throughout recorded history libraries have offered a safe haven in which the past, the present and the future live as one. With the dawn of the Information Age realistic visionaries embraced the premise that information is a resource like no other, an idea early articulated by Harlan Cleveland (  Over the years, libraries have crossed bureaucratic and technological borders to sate society’s unquenchable need to know.

Malcolm Little’s unmet need was for a port of entry into the world of ideas he could access through his prison library. The high stats cited in Kaul’s piece reflect busy readers’ need to grab a quick read for the LRT ride. Of equal import is the fact that tomorrow’s researchers will need to know what we’ve been doing in these times.

As a society struggling to shape this democracy and the role of this singular institution in the Information Age, we are challenged to ponder the public good implicit in the prevailing question: Whadya need?