Tag Archives: Minneapolis Central Library

Lifelong Learning Thrives on Digital Digging

After a work life ruled by a cluttered desk calendar I’ve shed blind allegiance to a schedule. Evolving technology has only reinforced my disinclination to commit to the calendar or clock. This somehow justifies my reluctance to register for classes, concert series, monthly meetings, haircuts and most especially medical appointments.

The drive for independent, affordable learning is reinforced by the inability to pay for OLLI or college credits, health club membership or store-bought books. I find that learning thrives when sparked by the freedom to carpe diem and that an active life of the mind is best measured not by the learner’s ability to pay but by his or her thirst for knowledge

Thinking and writing about Older Americans Month which starts today (May 1) sparks thoughts about the freedom that seniors have to explore the borders of knowledge. I originally categorized this independent path as “random acts of learning” – till I compulsively googled the phrase and learned that there’s a blog thus named….A little learning can be a deflating thing….

Still, “Poking Around with Mary” fairly well describes my thrifty and rigor-free methodology. “Poking Around” is the term my friend would use to describe my learning style — how I would hop off the bus to check out a neighborhood or drop in at an outdoor concert or start up a conversation with a stranger while we stood in line for a common purpose, or pursue a person, place or idea on the web.   That, she said, was “poking around” and the blog could simply reflect the “pokes.”

Writing for the blog frequently inspires me to poke a little deeper. Now, when I hear of or see something of interest – a display, an event, a park, a coffee shop, a reading space, a specialty shop, a book – I want to learn more – and to share what I’ve learned. Blogs are great for ad hoc poking around, especially when fueled by a compulsion to share….

Since most of my learning is random it’s a challenge to list, much less categorize, the options. Some random thoughts:

  • My favorite poke is probably bookstores, especially used bookstores, where it’s all wonderfully random – authors, subjects, eras, format, language. I tell myself I can identify with all those writers, then internalize their ideas and literary style through osmosis. In fact, it’s the bibliophiles who tend these bookstores that truly inspire me to hang out and learn. Several blog posts reflect this love of bookstores – more to follow.
  • Similarly, many libraries are good, some are great. Librarians are often genetically disposed to share the quest for knowledge. Libraries of all types – public, college, even corporate, church, ethnic and other special libraries, are interconnected in functional networks that facilitate access through any portal – physical or digital. For most learners, the public library is the best port of entry and the most convenient way to explore the learning opportunities, ranging from public programs to home delivery. MNLink https://www.mnlinkgateway.org/zportal/zengine?VDXaction=ZSearchSimple offers a handy gateway to the endless possibilities. Still, especially with libraries, it’s often best to shop locally.
  • Those who work in great libraries are fortunate and indispensable fellow travelers on the path to learning, James K. Hosmer Special Collections at Minneapolis Central Library (http://www.hclib.org/specialcollections\ is unchallenged as my favorite because of the incredible collection, stellar service, and the ambient environment that inspires serious research. Check the website – hours are severely limited.
  • The archives at the University of Minnesota are beyond wonderful. Exploring the Archives blog http://www.continuum.umn.edu/primary-sourcery/#.VyShhUtEB4M is both random and revealing of unimagined – yet essential – resources.   And if you’ve been wondering about what’s planned for the Bell Museum Library check https://www.bellmuseum.umn.edu
  • Libraries and librarians are inclined to listen to the needs of learners who have physical challenges to reading or to poking around the collections; seniors sometimes fail to realize how many learning options are accessible at or through their local library. In fact there are statewide and national networks set up to expand options beyond the local collection. One of several good starting points can be found here: http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/StuSuc/Lib/MBTBL/AudioBks/index.html
  • For a thorough and timely guide to resources there is no more comprehensive resource than that prepared by staff of the Legislative Reference Library. http://www.leg.state.mn.us/LRL/LINKS/links?links=disabled
  • You’ve probably visited the Minnesota History Center, but have you checked out the library? (http://sites.mnhs.org/library/) Though it’s accessible virtually the setting inspires the will to know more. I am always in awe of the serious learning in progress as scholars, genealogists, History Day students, journalists and PhD hopefuls plumb the State’s historic record. [I find it’s best to refresh with coffee and a muffin at Café Minnesota and/or a stop at one of the irresistible museum shops.
  • Though I have made pit stops at most state agency libraries that collaborate through the Capitol Area Library Consortium I know for certain that all constantly evolve and grow, add resources and programs, and create a unique corporate culture. The great news is that searcher can take a virtual tour with just one click of the CALCO directory. http://mn.gov/library/directory.pdf) A quick tour underscores Governor Perpich’s vision of the “brainpower state”, built on a firm foundation of accessible information services and top-notch professionals who build and mine the power of the resources accessible through this network of libraries and librarians.
  • Over time Pokings have taken me and readers to unique library settings. One of my former Northeast neighborhood haunts, the Polish American Cultural Institute of Minnesota (PACIM http://pacim.org) has found new digs and new life on the banks of the Mississippi.  The original blog post is woefully dated so check out the new profile and site to learn the latest – and check the online catalog to learn more about the library collection.
  • Though I haven’t visited yet I’m impressed with the collection, the programming and the mission of the East Side Freedom Library. The very special library fosters ideas and action in the former Arlington Hills branch of the St. Paul Public Library. Again, the library features a unique collection and a robust public programming agenda. https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/east-side-freedom-library-gives-new-life-to-carnegie-library-st-paul-neighborhood/

One goal of taking this approach on the first day of Older Americans Month is to ease the way into a longer range goal – to demonstrate in tangible and useful ways far exceed most newbies expectation – it just depends on the keeper of the keys to envisions worlds far beyond shopping, paying bills, FB and email.   Armchair learning is within ready reach of any keeper of the keys for whom the goal is to learn.

Life experience tells me that everyone wants to know more about something – it might be presidential politics or polo, violin making or veterans, Iron Range history or hieroglyphics, football or food safety, car repair or climate change, Russian literature or road construction, immigration or isotopes, antiquities or animal protection…

The pitch today is “there’s an app for that” – in my mind, “there’s an opp for that” – an opportunity to enrich the life of the mind. Though the app may unlock the digital door it remains to the seeker to carpe diem. Bear in mind that “on the Internet, nobody knows [much less cares] you’re an “’Older American.”(1)

(1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Internet,_nobody_knows_you’re_a_dog

 

Women on the Homefront – Classic WWII Posters at the Library

 

Grow your own Cana Your Own

Grow your own Cana Your Own

It was a poster from the Kittleson Collection on exhibit in the Minneapolis Central Library Hosmer Collection that spurred my reflections. The World War II-era posters depicts a loving mom and daughter, their gentle exchange as they plant their Victory Garden, the little girl‘s optimism as they work together to support the War effort. Peaceful, full of life and hope.

That, I realized, was the contribution of my mother and millions of other women to the War effort. Though we know the stories of the 36% of American women who shouldered heavy labor during the War, we overlook the fact that those women were also rearing families alone while their husbands and sons were fighting overseas

Even further buried in time are the stories of the two-thirds of American moms and wives whose legacy remains unheralded. Theirs was the day-to-day life of feeding, clothing, caring for a family, often an extended family, during the war. American women on the home front were valiant contributors to the War effort in subtle, domestic, ordinary ways that escape the notice of war historians and of the federal agencies that take a lead in promoting March as Women’s History Month. All during WHM I have found myself reflecting on their contributions.

At the outset of the War an article published in the New Republic advised readers that “For the coming year, at least half our productive effort must be spent making things that citizens cannot eat, wear, or live in – making things for military use.” (1)

Writing directly to homemakers, the popular magazine Good Housekeeping advised their readers that “every item of our apparatus…is now at our Government’s command.” Then GH calmly assured homemakers that “There is another obligation that we will recognize: that of being anti-hysterical.…We will try to remember that entertainment and instruction and homely advice must continue….While we are fighting to win, we shall try to know that love will stay in the world;…that life in American homes must go on and will go on.” (2)

GH need not have worried; these ladies definitely did not resort to hysteria. And they didn’t just cope. Women became active learners – learning to garden, to cook creatively, to sew, to sell not apparel but war bonds, to operate canteens, and to do those domestic tasks that had heretofore been classified as “men’s work.” The exercised creative heroism in an environment in which tools and household basics were at a premium and the local handyman was fighting for his country.

Historian Doris Weatherford writes that American women made “rationing a topic of daily conversation thereby educating themselves rapidly” largely cooking, sewing, shopping, rationing, gardening, and other getting-by tricks of the homemaker’s trade..

Rationing

Rationing

Rationing was both a puzzle and a mighty challenge. Food rationing was a daily reality – sugar, coffee, meats, fats including butter, fish, cheese are just some of the basics that were rationed. Substitute foods such as dried powdered eggs and liquid paraffin to replaced cooking oil were the order of the day. Meat, poultry and fish were all in short supply – even with the introduction of Spam to the American diet. Dependable refrigeration was poor and replacement was unthinkable, so most food was preserved in recyclable tin cans.

Rationing also covered tires, gas, bicycles, shoes, rubber, including rubber pants, the precursor of disposables, fuel oil and kerosene. Though milk was never rationed, canned milk became the household staple for families that lacked refrigeration when steel, not milk, was rationed. Ration coupons were the coin of the realm and penalties were strict.

Conservation recycling altered virtually every daily routine. Since plastic was not yet the bête noire of environmental conservation, the challenge was more basic – crushing and recycling tin cans to be turned into munitions, bottles returned to the milkman for reuse, saving cooking fat to make soap.

Victory gardens were not just for the natural food purist but the basic source of produce for the family dinner table. At one point during the War fifty percent of the nation’s vegetables were grown in victory gardens. To lighten the load women created competitions for the gardens and for recipes that featured produce from the backyard of community garden.

The War Production Board became the nation’s premier clothing consultant. They influenced the appearance of civilian apparel by dictating the conservation of cloth and material, changing the style, especially women’s garments. Weatherford writes that “adult clothing made its wartime adjustment primarily in the promotion of fashions that used less fabric, heedless of the implication that new fashion guidelines implied new clothes.” One story is that fabric rationing led to the design of women’s two-piece bathing suits which Neiman Marcus was quick to market as “patriotic chic” beachwear.

Women also led the volunteer front. The Red Cross, the Office of Civilian Defense, serving at recreation centers and canteens, and constantly pitching war bonds were just one of women’s routine tasks.

In spite of the fact that women bore the brunt of fighting the War on the home front, they had little or no say in the regulation-making process. Women ‘s involvement in the decision-making didn’t begin until the rules were in place and women were brought on board as volunteers to deal with the public and otherwise implement the rules.

Though my reflections on women on the home front will continue, my goal was to make the Women’s History Month deadline. Still, I’m eager to learn more about the stories that that those posters, preserved in the Kittelson Collection, dredged to the surface.

I’m now on a quest to learn more about a topic that has had such an influence on my personal life as well as the role of women. Doris Weatherford’s book, American Women and World War II, of which I read just the chapter on “The Normal Housewife in Abnormal Times” is my starting point. From there I plan to explore the rich collection of resources compiled by the librarians and researchers at the Minnesota Historical Society who have prepared a helpful guide to “Women and the home front during world war II, an excellent introduction to women’s changing role in the workplace and in the home.

Save Freedom of Worship.  Buy War Bonds.

Save Freedom of Worship. Buy War Bonds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes:
(1) “Rationing: Democracy’s Test” New Republic,(February 9, 1942), quoted in Weatherford.
(2) “Good Housekeeping and the War,” Good Housekeeping (February 1942, p.19) quoted in Weatherford.

The Times Morgue File Back on the Shelves at Mpls Central Library

Historians, scholars, intellectually curious Minneapolitans take note.  In the spirit of openness the James K. Hosmer Hosmer Collection at the Minneapolis Central Library, has announced that The Times Morgue, the lynchpin historical record of the city, has not been dead, but only sleeping.   The Times Morgue file which the Library acquired from the Star Tribune Company many years ago, is now accessible to the public again.

The Times Morgue File, as it is affectionately known, was relegated to storage for several years during construction of the “new” Central Library.  The collection remained in storage long after the building opened because of storage issues.  Today, the collection has been moved to the 4th floor stacks  of Minneapolis Central Library where it is available to serve the public again.

Ted Hathaway, Manager of Special Collections, Preservation & Digitization, notes that “despite the old name, the collection actually consists of clippings and photos from several newspapers: The Tribune, the Journal, the Star and the Star Journal, as well as the Times.”  Hathaway adds that the collection consists of “many thousands of clipping folders and photographs dating from the 1910’s to 1950, the bulk of it covering the 1930’s and 40’s.  Most of the photographs were taken by newspaper staff photographers.”

Regular users of the Special Collections at the Central Library know that that much of the material from The Times Morgue File has been integrated into the Minneapolis History Collection.  A good deal of the material has been digitized.  Still, much of the archival material has been stored and out of reach of history lovers.

Because the materials are just too fragile, library searchers will not have direct access; staffers will be available to search on request.

The collection even has a new name: The Minneapolis Newspaper Collection – not as memorable, perhaps, as the Times Morgue, but probably more accurate.

This phoenix-like rebirth of The Times Morgue File is just one example of the changes taking place on the 4th Floor of Minneapolis Central Library.  Start with an armchair video tour.  There’s a new, simplified, web site, and some irresistible Tumblr samples.  Much of the collection – everything from manuscripts to posters from the Kittleson Collection –  has been digitized.  Cautionary note, leave yourself time to really explore the digital pathways that lead you through a virtual experience of the several Special Collections.

Better yet, visit the Hosmer collection in real time.  Hours have been expanded.  Staff and interns are mounting exquisite exhibits based on the collection.  The calendar is rich with public programs.    Real time spent marinating in the riches of the Hosmer Special Collections is more than a learning experience.  It’s good for the mind and the soul.

 

Readers Look to Spirited Romance for Literary Love?

“The brain may die, but my compulsion for useless trivia lives on.”

Molly Harper, Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs

Molly Harper is a librarian which is probably why I opted for this pithy quote.  She’s also a lover of a genre commonly known as “spirited romance.”  This is the gentle term often used to describe literary works that deal with love among the vampires, werewolves, demons, shapeshifters, ghosts, angels, changelings and their ilk.

And spirit romances are hot – in more ways than one.  So hot that exhibit designer Ruthann Ovenshire is feverishly creating a display of blistering fiction titles plucked from the shelves of Minneapolis Central Library.

The exhibit includes titles from these and other prolific authors adept at weaving a tale of spirited romance just right for a long winter evening’s read:  Cherry Adair, Claire Ashgrove, Michele Bardsley, Anya Bast, J.K. Beck, Cynthia Cooke, Lydia Dare, Mary Janice Davidson, Alyssa Day, Laurie London, Katie MacAlister, Sarah McCarty, Pamela Palmer, Lynsay Sands, and Nalini Singh.

Paranormal romance writer Keri Arthur defines her genre in this way:

A romance with paranormal characters and events.  It follows the same rules that apply to all romances and it has the build up of the romance as the heart and main plot of the novel.  The only real difference (between paranormal romance and urban fantasy is that either one or both of the main characters often aren’t human, and the story itself can dip into darker waters plot-wise than a regular romance.  That said, the paranormal elements have to be a believable, intricate part of your plot.

Arthur goes on to note that paranormal romance covers the whole genre spectrum.  They can be humorous, historical, futuristic, contemporary, mystery, fantasy, urban fantasy, scifi, gothic, erotica.”

Some critics suggest that the increase in interest in paranormal romance is a 21st century phenomenon of technology.  The genre thrives in an environment of telepathy, robots, implants, time travel and other anomalies.

There are organizations of paranormal romance awriters and readers, blogs, journals and book groups.  A popular title in the genre may sell over a half million copies.

There was once a cherished reader’s choice award.  The P.E.A.R.L. (Paranormal Excellence Award for Romantic Literature) conferred annually to the top voted paranormal romances by the ParaNormal Romance Groups.  The award has not been active since 2008, but then again….

Check out the exhibit, escape to the netherworld of the paranormal for an evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family History Fair

Autumn is the right time to locate the cold weather gear, check the insulation, dust off the bookshelves and focus on family.  The Family History Fair, Saturday, October 23, at Minneapolis Central Library opens up the possibilities to explore the roots and stories that are the family history.  It’s a chance to browse ethnic and special interest groups, to connect with genealogy experts, to learn how to start a family history and to discover the exceptional resources of the library.  And they are truly exceptional – for a quick peek at just some of the library’s treasures check the special collections page on the online catalog.

The Fair will run 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. in Pohlad Hall, top of the escalator at the Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall.  The event is sponsored by the Library Foundation of Hennepin County in partnership with the Minnesota Genealogical Society.

Register for the free event online or call 952 847 8000.