Great things to do and learn while we wait for Spring!

Oh, the lovely fickleness of an April day!  W. H. Gibson

CALENDAR HIGHLIGHTS:

April is National Poetry Month(https://www.poets.org/national-poetry-month/home)  As always, the website is replete with poetic treasures – new books, a Poetry Month reading list (including a book published  by Coffee House Press (https://coffeehousepress.org/products/not-here)and a chance to sign up to receive 25 poems curated by U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy Smith.   A related resource is the Library of CongressArchive of Recorded Poetry and Literature, an amazing compilation of recorded readings of former Consultants in Poetry, including Margaret Atwood, Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Frost and other literary superstars.  https://www.loc.gov/collections/archive-of-recorded-poetry-and-literature/about-this-collection/

The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang has announced that April 2018 marks the annual Reading Without Walls Challenge.  Author Yang challenges readers, educators, librarians and booksellers to read “outside of their walls” by “reading a book about a character who doesn’t look or live like you, a topic you don’t know much about, and/or a book in a format that you don’t normally reading for fun.”  The website even offers some reading suggestions:  http://www.cbcbooks.org/reading-without-walls/

April 19 – Open reception for a new book and exhibit by nature photographer Craig Blacklock exhibit, “St Croix & Namekagon Rivers: The Enduring Gift.”  The exhibit and accompanying book celebrate the 50thanniversary of the St Croix National Scenic Riverway.  Reception at 6:00 p.m. followed by music by Peter Mayer.  Mill City Commons, 6:00-9:00 pm

April 20 –  Valerie Caesar, an artist in residence at the Archives and Special Collections, will talk about her work using historical sources at the University of Minnesota Libraries to inspire and create works of art.  Elmer L. Andersen Library, Room 308. Noon-1:00.   More about this talk and about the Artists in Residence program here: https://www.continuum.umn.edu/2018/01/artists-take-residence-u-archives/

April 21 – 30thAnnual Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony. InterContinental Hotel on the St Paul Riverfront.  6:30 p.m. Reception, 8:00 Award Ceremony, 9:30 Epilogue After-Party.  Follow on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/mnbookawards/See nominated titles here: https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/announcement-minnesota-book-awards-finalists/

April 21-29 – National Park Week.  It’s a busy week including a fee-free day on Saturday, Earth Day (April 22) and National Park Rx Day (April 29.)  Details at https://www.nationalparks.org/our-work/campaigns-initiatives/national-park-week

April 23 – The East Side Freedom Library hosts a sneak preview of Subprime,schedule to open early May at Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis.  Playwright Beck Lee and members of the cast will read some of the script, discuss the development of the project and engage the audience in conversation about the play, living in denial, “even our identities.” 7:00 PM at ESFL (http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org/)

April 28 – Independent Bookstore Day.  Promoters remind readers that “independent bookstores are not just stores, they’re community centers and local anchors run by passionate readers.” Rain Taxi has merited national kudos for taking a local lead, including publication of an excellent guide to the how and where of areal indies – http://www.raintaxi.com/literary-calendar/twin-cities-independent-bookstore-day-passport/Take time to visit this fun site https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/independent-bookstore-day-photos

April 30 – Toxic inequities: risk, regulation, and environmental justice in the Great Lakes, 12:20 pm – 1:10 pm,  Wangensteen Historical Library, 555 Diehl Hall. Nancy Langston, environmental historian at Michigan Technological University will discuss her current research on environmental health and environmental policy in the Great Lakes region.   http://envhum.umn.edu/session/toxic-inequities-risk-regulation-and-environmental-justice-great-lakes

May 2 –Dinner and program, 6:00 pm — Friends of the (U of M) Libraries, Annual Celebration. Joseph Haj: A conversation, Joseph Haj,artistic director of the Guthrie Theater, will share a conversation with Jeff Meanza, his Associate Artistic Director about the value of the western canon, its continuing relevance, and its agency for social change.  McNamara Alumni Center, $58 general public, $48 Friends of the Library. http://www.continuum.umn.edu/friends.  Email stangret@umn.edu

Next month: Check out the May First Fridays at the U of  M: https://www.continuum.umn.edu/event/first-fridays-may-2018/

RESOURCES

Remembering Barbara Bush:

TED Talk– “Thought reading machines and the death of love” https://www.wired.com/story/ideas-jason-pontin-openwater/

Pew Research has produced a new video and data essay based on the Center’s 2017 survey of U.S. Muslims. The resources include a look at the beliefs of Muslims in America; the data “delves into the ways in which Muslim immigrants see life differently than those who were born in the U.S.”http://www.pewforum.org/2017/07/26/findings-from-pew-research-centers-2017-survey-of-us-muslims/

Data Security: Research on privacy in the digital ageis a recent publication from the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School.  The study is published in the Journalist Resource publication, a weekly compilation of significant and timely research. (https://journalistsresource.org)

Lisa Vecoli,distinguished curator of the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies at the U of M, retired from the U of M Libraries, shares her wisdom and experience in a video conversation now online. https://www.continuum.umn.edu/2018/04/a-conversation-with-lisa-vecoli/ Producer Mark Engebretson adds an excellent blog post. Lisa was also interviewed for the U of M video archives. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFMgE3eNOR4&t=145s

Seen & heard: The Power of Books was a symposium on diversity in children’s literature, sponsored by the Library of Congress in March 2018.  For a video and transcript of the main speaker, click here: https://www.youtube.com.watch?v=ECHX0AFXj0c

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Post-NLW reflections

National Library Week 2018 is history.  If you’re a public librarian who celebrated and survived, take time now to relax —  primp the bun, adjust the bifocals and wag a well-worn “shh” finger at the public library patrons waiting in line for assistance.

When you do get a much-needed break , treat yourself to  a cup of coffee and share a laugh about the unfortunate stereotypical TV depictions with a  real librarian and colleague.   Though there will never be a stereotypical librarian,  this essay comes closer to reality than many depictions….

http://mentalfloss.com/article/539843/secrets-of-public-librarians

National Library Week 2018 – Musings

Librarians are the true superheroes–they can help us find our best selves & carve out the future we want, instead of  what’s thrown at us. – Laurie Halse, author

This week (April 8-14) is celebrated nationwide as National Library Week 2018.  During the week, I have fervently devoted a good deal of time reading and pondering the expanding and necessary role of libraries in this, the “Information Age.”

By week’s end, I have once again concluded that what we should be celebrating is National Librarians Week.  Clearly it is people, not buildings, that shape the library experience today.  And never has the role of library workers been more essential for individual seekers of truth, for their communities, and to the fate of an informed and thinking democracy.

As week’s end, I’m at a loss for words to express the urgency I feel about the challenge facing librarians – and for decision-makers who determine the fate of libraries and librarians in a political environment neither recognizes nor values truth-seeking as a priority.

And so, as I grapple with confusion and concern, I look for hope in the words and thoughts of others.   I have sought for and embraced articulate defenders, those who understand and write about the range of ways in which librarians create community, inform decision-making, and preserve American values – with gusto.

Overwhelmed by concerns about critical and independent thinking in this democracy I turn to more articulate spokespersons to share their vision and hope for libraries and librarians. Try to take time this weekend to peruse, if briefly one of more of these thoughtful essays:

And, if we have the snowfall that’s predicted, you might want to take a quick look at some past blog posts on libraries and the critical thinking skills that inform and fulfill the hope that inspires this democracy.  https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/01/27/information-and-media-not-weapons-but-tools/

Democracy depends on an informed population. And where can people get all the information they need? —At the Library.” – Elliot Shelkrot,

National Library Week tradition — Top 10 Challenged Books

ALA’s ‘Most Challenged Books’ List

The American Library Associationreleased its annual Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books, included in the ALA’s State of America’s Libraries Report 2018, which “affirms the invaluable role libraries and library workers play within their communities by leading efforts to transform lives through education and lifelong learning.”

According to the report, libraries continue to face challenges–including the potential for censorship–to a variety of books, programs and materials. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 354 challenges to library, school and university materials and services in 2017. Some individual challenges resulted in requests to restrict or remove multiple titles or collections. OIF estimates that 82%-97% of challenges remain unreported. Overall in 2017, 416 books were targeted–direct attacks on the freedom to read. The most frequently challenged titles last year were:

  1. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  3. Drama by Raina Telgemeier
  4. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  5. George by Alex Gino
  6. Sex Is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  8. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  9. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole
  10. I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

National Catholic Sisters Week 2018

Possibly I was too wrapped up in Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day to remember that March also heralds the special recognition of some of the strongest women of all.  I have just realized that this week, March 8-14, is also National Catholic Sisters Week http://www.nationalcatholicsistersweek.org

In the interest of sharing that time-sensitive message without delay I am taking the liberty of quoting the website description of this major initiative:

Created to honor women religious, it is a series of events that instruct, enlighten and bring greater focus to the lives of these incredible women. It’s our chance to recognize all they have done for us. It’s also our hope that as more young women learn about women religious, more will choose to follow their example. 

 National Catholic Sisters Week, a branch of National Catholic Sisters Project headquartered at Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wisc., is headquartered at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minn., and is held in conjunction with Women’s History Month.

For a not-quite-recent update on today’s women religious this 2011 article in the National Catholic Reporter offers a brief history of the contributions of women religious to the history and values of this nation. https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/grace-margins/us-women-religious-have-earned-place-american-history

I am also taking the liberty of noting some past Poking Around posts that give a sense of the unique missions and roles of women religious in this region:

These posts are a minimal sampling of the myriad articles and books that reflect the leadership of individual women and communities of women religious in Minnesota.  In the interests of piquing the interest of readers, I presume to note just a smattering of the stories that record the work of strong committed women who have shaped the state’s health, education, political, social movements and intellectual life.

Minnesota Women’s Press has published several articles about women religious; following are links to just a couple:

A quick skim of MNOpedia disclosed these articles about women religious – there are, and will be, more but these offer a taste of the research that has been and needs to be undertaken, recorded and shared:

On my personal bookshelf I found these books that record the work of the women religious in Minnesota.  The shelf is tilted to the contributions of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet because the CSJ’s were my teachers throughout high school and college:

  • They came to teach; The story of Sisters who taught in parochial schools and their contribution to elementary education in Minnesota. Annabelle Raiche, CSJ and Ann Marie Biermaier, OSB. Published by North Star Press, St Cloud in 1994.
  • Eyes Open on a world: The challenge of change. A collaboration by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St Paul Province. Published in 2001 by North Star Press, St. Cloud.
  • On Good Ground, The story of the Sisters of St. Joseph in St. Paul. by Sister Helen Angela Hurley. Published by the University of Minnesota Press, 1951.

By any measure this is a sadly incomplete listing.  My last-minute effort is to share the message that we are now celebrating National Catholic Sisters Week.  Much more important, this post is intended to spark and encourage scholars’ interest in learning and share more stories.  The archives of the religious communities and academic institutions (of which there are many!) are robust, meticulously preserved, and open to serious students of the history of these too-often under-recognized powerful women of faith and vision.

I am interested in and will post other publications – please share ideas, suggestions, stories and publications that fill in the gaps in the role that women of strength and wisdom have played of Minnesota’s and the nation’s history.

National Catholic Sisters Week, March 8-14 2018

 

Not just another day: March 8 is International Women’s Day 2018

A highlight of Women’s History Month is a pause to celebrate International Women’s Day, celebrated March 8.  In light of what’s happening on the political front, the media are doing a good job of reminding us of the vision and contributions of American women.   Sponsored by the United Nations IWD honors women’s achievements across nations, race and accomplishments; it is a day to collaborate on commemoration of the ongoing – perpetual? – movement for women’s rights across geographic and political lines.

The first observance of Women’s Day was held on February 28, 1909 in New York City.   Not long thereafter, the 1910 International Women’s Conference proposed that March 8 be celebrated as International Woman’s Day.  The day is also known as the United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.

The theme of International Women’s Day 2018 is both timely and thought-provoking for Minnesotans.  “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”.  While the theme honors rural and urban activists, the time is now for each of us to be attuned to what’s happening in our own state.  In fact, the theme relates directly to the UN Commission on the Status of Women’s concern with the rights and activism of rural women “who make up over a quarter of the world population, and are being left behind in every measure of development.”  (See previous posts re. elimination and/or suppression of data about things we don’t want to acknowledge…)

One IWD tradition is a call for supporters to wear red.  The gesture reminds colleagues, friends and family of the “A Day without a woman” movement.

It goes without saying that we need more than one day to honor women’s rights, women’s role in the political life of this nation and the world, women’s vote and the power of women to restore order in this nation.  March 8, 2018 is not just another day – it’s a day to pause, focus, learn, celebrate, think and share thoughts about women’s accomplishments.  More important it is the challenge to think in terms of specific steps to engage women in the all-encompassing struggle to cope with the reality of what’s happening to the world we share.

To start the mental juices flowing take time to check out this initiative to record, preserve and share the stories of women’s lives, vision and contributions:  https://www.internationalwomensday.com/Activity/12130/-Suffragette100-A-Wikipedia-editing-event-for-International-Women-s-Day-2018

There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a third power stronger than both, that of women.”Malala Yousafzai

Addendum:

Putting a face on truth-seeking

I personally think honestly disclosing rather than hiding one’s subjective values makes for more honest and trustworthy journalism. But no journalism – from the most stylistically ‘objective’ to the most brazenly opinionated – has any real value unless it is grounded in facts, evidence, and verifiable data, Glenn Greenwald

In recent months I have spent far too much time viewing and listening to the saga unraveling in this, the Trumpian era.  One thing that has been of particular interest to me is the way in which we as viewers/listeners have come to “put a face” on those who dare to share their knowledge and, even more, their opinions.  In many cases, respected print journalists have emerged from behind the by-line to face the camera and/or microphone.

Whether it’s Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow, Phil Rucker or Joy Reid, we now understand the news, in part, through the personality of the presenter.  Though this fact marks a change abhorrent to some who value journalistic objectivity above all, it is a fact of journalistic life.  To be honest, I appreciate putting a face on the skilled – and opinionated – journalists whose information and opinion I can assess  for myself.

My ultimate goal is to learn the truth.   This de-mystification of the process prompts me to ponder how these journalists locate, evaluate, and shape the information they share.  As I view or listen I match the presentation with the process;  I envision the roles of those who manage or at a minimum influence the information chain.  As the investigative journalist reports on her findings, my mind is asking how do you know that?  What resources did you use?  Who determined those resources?  Who organized it?  Who archived that information?  Who asked the questions?  How were the statistics collected?  What’s missing?  How do you know what you know?  I tend to put a face on each of the players on whom the journalist depends.

Mine is a subjective analysis of the information chain itself.  And still it’s time to put a face on what is an invisible, complex, implicit but undeniable – and ultimately very human – process.

Those who would mess with the information chain know the links all too well.  They are at the ready to hinder the flow, shape the issues, determine the players, and otherwise weaponize information.  Similarly, those who would squelch the truth are adept at determining that data are not collected, much less published, that voices are ignored, that stories are overlooked or skewed, that money talks – and is heard.  https://thinkprogress.org/trump-officials-erase-climate-data-2a4e4fe81f96/

Which is why the time has come to “put a face” on the process of information collection, interpretation, organization, preservation, distribution – all those “backroom” sorts of things that ensure that essential information moves through the information chain efficiently and effectively.  This will require more collaboration among the professionals who are the links in the chain; it will also require greater attribution.  Above all, this demands educating information consumers about the characteristics and function of the links in the information chain.

We the people, the decisions-makers in this democracy, depend on solid, verifiable information – truths – so that we are individually and collectively equipped to make good decisions in our own lives and in the life of the democracy.

Important as journalists are, their work depends on a powerful and dependable information chain that is forged by an unsung team of professionals, each responsible for a link, all responsible for the whole.  The work depends on intellectual and financial commitment.

It’s time for the professions to speak out, to demand respect – and financial support.  And it’s time for concerned citizens to understand the critical links in the information chain.  We need to put a face on the critical role and skilled work of those who gather, organize, preserve and otherwise make information accessible to journalists and other information presenters whose research, voices and visages convey that information to the public.

Fact checking after the fact is putting a band aid on misinformation.

* * *

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/advocates-sue-federal-agencies-to-obtain-lgbtq-policy-documents/ar-BBJWOAU

https://unredacted.com/2018/03/07/foia-a-colossus-under-assault/