What Happened in June? ALA, The Rock, and Texas

It’s July 8 and I’m still thinking about the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in New Orleans, our Texas vacation, and amputees.

ALA

As a first time attendee of ALA’s Annual Conference, here are some moments, now memories from my experience.

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Doris Kearns Goodwin

Sue and I had wonderful and close seats to hear fascinating, new, and entertaining insights from America’s foremost presidential historian.

Kearns Goodwin began with her love of libraries, and how they were, even as a child, “a window to the world.”

She has spent the last 50 years with four presidents, who she admiringly refers to as “my guys.”

Her forthcoming book, Leadership in Turbulent Times (September 2018), looks at the leadership qualities of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson.

What I found fascinating is that all four of these greats she said, “were changed by an emotional or physical disability.” Lincoln suffered an early stroke, TR’s mother and wife passed within days of one another, FDR was stricken with polio, and LBJ had a heart attack.

Vocabulary

Heard a new word from several different speakers at the convention.

Librarian-y: duties or things a librarian does.

Example from the session on “High Impact Librarianship.”

“I didn’t include creating a Libguide for my students in my portion of the research because that’s librarian-y.”

What’s a libguide? It’s a subject guides that pulls together all types of information about a particular subject or course of study. Click here to see the Libguide I created about the history of Fairhope.

What Every Librarian Should know about Young News Consumers

For those of us with a journalism background the news is not good. In a survey of 4,500 high school and college students from around the country, 82% think memes are news. They also get a lot of news from The Onion. Of course, credible sources are listed like CNN, The New York Times, The Guardian and others according to Alison Head, of Project Information Literacy, which is leading the study. Early results reveal not only how the students get the news but also how the news finds them. They find news through social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube and even Snapchat. “Facebook is dying,” in Head’s survey population, though it’s hard to believe since Zuckerberg just bounced Warren Buffet as the third richest person in America. In a bit of good news, Head explained that more than half of the news students get comes from discussion (actual face to face) with peers. The full study is out October 16.

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Sally Field

She and I have something in common. We keep a journal. And more importantly, we encourage others to keep a journal. It’s how she was able to write her memoir, In Pieces, (September 18) Field went back to her journals after her mother died. “To make me go places I didn’t want to go,” she said, was the motivation for her book, and that her journals provided a “string of stories to tell.”

She had her first theatrical role  at 12 and she was hooked. When she was onstage, Field saw the “fireflies on the edges of my eyes.”

As a member of the Actor’s Studio she learned the “Craft of auditions,” Of her early Hollywood experience, and for her role as Sybil, she joked, “I was hired over everyone’s dead body.”

A pivotal role, and one she writes about in the book, is Carrie AKA “Frog,” in the action comedy Smokey and the Bandit.

What Sally’s Reading:

Warlight, Michael Ondaatje, The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah and Edith Wharton

New Dawn: A Conversation with Dr. Carla Hayden

The Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, in the Libraries Rock Summer, is our Rock Star. She’s also the first woman and African-American to lead the Library of Congress(LOC). In a comfortable Q & A with Courtney Young, a former ALA president, Hayden opened up about her role and what’s happening at the Library of Congress. She praised librarians for being “the first search engines.

Hayden told a powerful story about walking down a row with an archivist and wandered into the Frederick Douglass Collection. With TLC and the approval of every move by the archivist, Hayden finds and holds a letter about Lincoln. It’s about Lincoln’s death and Hayden could see, feel, and touch the deep, angry impressions Douglass left on the page upon hearing that negroes would not be able to attend the viewing of Lincoln’s body.

America’s librarian is also building inroads to legislators with the Congressional Book Club. In a closed meeting, lawmakers go to the Library of Congress to listen and talk with prominent authors.

The most recent book club was a discussion with historian Jon Meacham about his latest book, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels.

For many lawmakers, Hayden said, “it’s their first time in the LOC.” It provides a chance for her to talk with them in a private setting and explain what the library is, what it does, and how it serves the nation.

She also makes it a point to meet with legislators at libraries in their districts (Many lawmakers are also in their local libraries for the first time). This way she says, “I can stress the importance of local libraries.”

Her term for volunteers is endearing. “Citizen Historians,” she said are working with children to help them read historic documents written in cursive.

Sparks, pinch me moments, the interconnected of things, from experience to research, and collaboration, to the magic of a new way, practical or creative, of doing things was flowing through the ALA, and will continue to flow through me for years to come.

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Parkway Bakery and Tavern in Mid-City NOLA is a must for a Po’ Boy!

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Our collection includes 65 books for Sue’s classroom library, most signed by the author, “To Mrs. Samry’s Second Grade Class.”

News the missing legged can use

The circulation department staff told me about a new movie I need to see.

Mary said, “So I heard The Rock is an amputee in his new movie.”

“Really,” I said, totally surprised by this.

“I heard he takes off his leg and uses it as a weapon,” Mary added.

“Yeah,” Melissa chimed in, “he also uses the leg for a zipline getaway.”

“Whoa, that sounds too cool. I’ve seen a preview of it but didn’t know he played an amputee, what’s the name of it again?”

Lisa, from the stand up check in computer says, “Rob said it’s called Skyscraper.” The movie is in theaters July 12. Check out the official trailer. It’s part Die Hard, Part Towering Inferno, All Rock!

Civil War Limb Pit

A recent article in the newspaper talked about an archeology discovery at the Manassas Battlefield National Park in Virginia. A national park ranger and archeologist discovered a mass grave where surgeons buried amputated limbs. It’s strange how these limb stories find me. Sue heard about the limb pit story from another shopper at Big Lots.

 

Remember the Amputee

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Amputee stories even find me on vacation. I was in the Capital Visitor’s Center in Austin, Texas when I discovered the name Thomas William Ward in one of the exhibits. Ward immigrated to America from Ireland in 1828. He worked construction in New Orleans and helped organize the New Orleans Greys, a volunteer militia.

In December 1835, the Greys volunteered to fight for Texas Independence. At the siege of Bexar, a cannonball smashed his right leg, and required immediate amputation.

In a bit of Irish luck, he missed the fight, some might say slaughter, at The Alamo in February and March, 1836. Don’t be confused, as I was thinking he fought and died at The Alamo, that was William B. Ward. Thomas Ward was in New Orleans being fitted with a peg, and serving as a recruiter. In May, he return to military service after Texas had gained independence.

Ward was elected Mayor of Austin and served as commissioner of the General Land Office. Read more about Ward here.

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The General Land Office was completed in 1857. It’s now the Capital Visitor’s Center and that’s where I discovered Ward.

Vacation: Austin Public Library

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The saying that everything in bigger in Texas is true for their libraries too. The Austin Public Library is in the background, just past the treeline. It has an amazing Hogwarts-like staircase, a covered outdoor rooftop area for patrons, and a technology petting zoo. Had such a great time, here’s a list, in random order, of highlights: The bats, Home Slice, Eastciders, The Saxon Pub, Barton Springs Bike Rental, The Capital, History of Texas, The Alamo, LBJ Museum, The Salt Lick, Fredericksburg, Luckenbach, Uncle Billy’s Brewery and Live Music Everyday.

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What Happened at Publix #1265? And In Canada Today…

After lunch with the brothers last week, I dropped by Publix for a few things for date night.

I put the groceries away and got in the car. Just as I was about to put the Mazda in drive, a woman with the Publix bagger walked in front of the hood. She was motioning me to stop, and she walked around to the driver’s side, so I put the window down.

“This may seem kind of strange, and I’m sorry if I’m bothering you, What size sneaker do you wear?” I was in shorts, with my prosthesis on display, so if there are strange questions, they are usually directed at me.

“Well, I wear a size twelve.”

“Oh,” she said, sadly, “My uncle just passed away and I have several pairs of New Balance sneakers, never been worn. Would you want to take a look just in case?”

“Sure,” I said, not very optimistic they were going to fit. We, this woman with the sneakers, the Publix guy and I walked across the row to her mid-size white SUV, where she popped the back, and sure enough four boxes of 10 1/2s.

She opened up a box and when I looked at them I thought, these might actually fit.

As we looked at the four boxes she said, “my uncle was 81 when he died.”

“Sorry to hear about that,” I said, “My mom died a couple months ago.”

“I’m so sorry. My other uncle and I are going through his things, why don’t you try em on,” she said, so I grabbed a left shoe.

It’s not easy for me to stand up and take my good foot out of a sneaker while balancing on the prosthesis, so I looked at the Publix guy, he was young, with dark hair, but pretty solid in the shoulders. I put my hand on his shoulder, slid the old sneaker off and slipped the new one on. Notice I said slipped, it went on rather easily.

“Wow!” I said, “they fit.”

“Hmm, nice,” the Publix guy said and seeing where this was going, loaded the bags and took the buggy back to the store.

“Oh, I see, they’re extra wides, so I guess that must be it,” I said.

“You see these are brand new, and expensive, here’s the receipt from 2010. I’d rather give them to somebody than to Goodwill. Please take two pairs.”

“This is so kind of you, thanks so much.”

“I’m Debbie, a retired teacher,” she said, ” I’ve lived here my whole life, went to Fairhope High.”

“Thanks Debbie, I’m Alan,” I said, as we shook hands, “my wife’s a school teacher. It’s nice to meet you. I work at the library.”

“I’m so glad I stopped you,” she said.

“Thanks again, come in the library and say hello, you might see a pair on my feet.”

“I might just do that,” Debbie said.

At Publix, shopping is a pleasure and so is giving and receiving.

Canada

The post was supposed to end there. However, I’d be derelict in my duties as Stump the Librarian if I did not share this breaking news today from Western Canada. It’s eerily similar. Not really, it’s just eerie, but it involves New Balance sneakers, dismembered feet and it really makes you wonder. My gosh, it even has a Wikipedia page. I’m about to go down this strange rabbit hole. You can join me if you wish, just click on the sneaker below. To make it out safely, don’t forget your rabbit’s foot.

Post Mortem Amputation-by sea creatures

Need a Hand?

Up until a few days I was skeptical about public libraries hosting maker spaces and 3D printers. That all changed after I began reading articles about 3D printers and prosthetics. Most of the articles mention the e-NABLE community. Enabling the Future is a global nonprofit that provides open source software that lets users custom design functional prosthetic hands.

Anyway, it’s all here in a 7 minute video or text. It’s the story of a man who wants to give people (especially librarians) the tools to imagine, design, and build affordable functional prosthetic hands. It completely changed my perspective not only on 3D printers, but it’s a powerful message about our compassion and our innate need to help others.

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The Fairhope Public Library is getting a MakerLab for adults and teens! Complete our interest survey. We already plan to get a 3D printer, 3D scanner, robotics equipment (Lego Mindstorms, Arduino and Raspberry Pi) and Silhouette.

 

Need Some April Reading?

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I’m hoping the March showers will bring April flowers here in Lower Alabama. In the meantime, here’s some links to an article on relationships, the great global nonfiction versus fiction debate, and links for amputees, poets, and librarians.

For Amputees

This month is Limb Loss Awareness Month. (#LLAM) The Amputee Coalition of America’s National Limb Loss Resource Center is a great place to find information for anyone with limb loss, from born amputees like me, to those recovering from amputation surgery.

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Relationships

My wife Susan and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary last month. In a Facebook post, my cousin Gayle asked, “What’s the most important thing to share about your time together?”

“Friendship, empathy, forgiveness, funniness, and affection are a few important things,” I posted. About a week later, I read the article below. No matter the relationship, I think understanding one another is profoundly difficult and infinitely more challenging to sustain.

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For Readers and Writers

The next storm that crossed my path is the relationship readers and writers navigate between fiction and nonfiction. This global multilingual discussion will have you wondering about the origins of the word nonfiction and questioning the meaning of story.

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Student Librarians and Poets

Since it’s also National Poetry Month, I’ve included a link to an article that I netted for a library school assignment about Charles Bukowski. It’s not his poetry at the other side of the link below. A well-written (if a bit raunchy) profile from a 1976 Rolling Stone magazine interview has motivated me to go and read some Bukowski this April.

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Don’t forget, next week (April 10-16) is National Library Week, so visit your library, online (Fairhope Public Library) or in-person, to learn how Libraries Transform.

 

 

What’s your Halloween Costume?

Josh Sundquist is a cancer survivor, paralympic skier, motivational speaker and author. At Halloween, he’s always entertaining. This year he brings a classic amputee joke to life. Click on the photograph or the link at the bottom to watch “Making of IHOP,”  Josh’s short video about this year’s costume.

Josh Sundquist’s 2015 Halloween Costume

His Amputee Rap is great too!

Do You Write in a Library?

For two hours on the last three Mondays I was in my element teaching a class on creative writing at Fairhope Public Library.

Nine wonderful library patrons paid the $20 refundable deposit and showed up for “Great Readers Make Great Writers: A Crash Course in Creative Writing.” It was a true crash course as each two-hour session covered creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry.

Creative Nonfiction

In the first class, we got to know each other a little. My students ranged in age from thirty to ninety. The ninety year old is writing a gossip column for her community newsletter. The youngest is a coworker, sculptor, and installation artist. Many were retired, including several teachers, but I also had a stylist from a local salon.

Students enjoyed “Somehow Form a Family,” a personal essay by Tony Earley, and learned some lessons on craft from “On Keeping a Notebook,” by Joan Didion, and “This is What the Spaces Say,” by Robert Root.

The writing exercise I gave them for the first class was to skim through their notebooks, journals, or diaries, find an entry (a word, fragment, sentence, paragraph etc.) that interests or intrigues them and start writing.

“Reading fuels writing,” I said. When we read we are consciously and subconsciously learning and absorbing things we like and dislike. In this way, I believe each writer gleaned something from the readings and incorporated that little something into their writing, whether it was pop culture, a small detail, a setting, or a historic moment in their life.

For the next writing exercise, I handed out postcards from my collection and asked students to write to someone. After they finished writing, I told them to give the postcard to the person on their left. I instructed them to use the postcard given to them by a classmate as inspiration for a fictional writing journey for the next class.

Fiction

The fiction reading list included major amputee characters, a subject near and dear to my own heart.

“The Ironworkers’ Hayride,” from Robert Olen Butler’s collection Had a Good Time, was enjoyed by all the students for its humor but “Good Country People,” by Flannery O’Connor drew mixed reviews, mostly for being a bit too depressing. They did enjoy O’Connor’s ending.

We read aloud Chapter 3 from The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck. “The story of a turtle.” I told my students, but it’s so much more. I called it “Steinbeck’s three-page metaphor for living.”

The flash fiction I assigned left most readers confused. Perhaps this was due to my selections, or the newness of the genre. In very short fiction you have to be able to make leaps in the reading and that’s something difficult to do, even for me.

The fictional pieces from postcards, which is how Butler wrote his collection of stories, Had a Good Time, were fabulous.

They used the postcard images (Cape Cod and Tiffin Motorhomes) or the words on the back to write an account and most of them responded to the writer in a letter, but with a fictional spin about blacksmithing, dieting, and traveling.

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Poetry

Students gave mixed reviews on a chapter from The Odyssey, by Homer and translated by Robert Fagles, and the nature poems by Robert Frost.

“Facing It,” by Yusef Komunyakaa and a “Poem Guide” from The Poetry Foundation, is where we spent the most time. Having the guide helped students understand the depth of poetry upon a close reading of a few lines.

In addition to Homer’s epic poetry, the nature poems of Frost, and the ekphrastic poem of Komunyakaa, I chose works from two actual amputees.

“Invictus,” Latin for unconquered, by William Henley was written from a hospital bed after doctors believed Henley, who already had one leg amputated, was at risk of losing the other. They saved the leg, and Henley went on to achieve what I can only dream of. With “Invictus,” he became a one-hit wonder, but to his friend Robert Louis Stevenson he was much more. Henley became the inspiration for Long John Silver in Stevenson’s classic pirate novel, Treasure Island.

Jillian Weisse’s poems of her amputee childhood brought back some memories of our experiences in “Below water,” and some humor in “Holman, Age 10,” from her collection, The Amputee’s Guide to Sex.

Read, contemplate, imagine, think, reflect, write.

Many said writing the poem was the most difficult exercise but they used song lyrics, humor, civil rights, rhyme and repetition to discover how writing is a form of artistic expression.

These never happen in order, but having a few steps to get the creative writing process going is useful to all artists, including creative writers.

I heard recently that creative writing is no longer offered at many public schools. While this saddens me, I would like to keep creative writing classes alive in the public library, an idea that dovetails with my Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing.

Let me tell you how fortunate I am to offer these programs. The leadership of Fairhope Public Library, recently named a “Gold Star” library by the Alabama Library Association (ALLA), encourages staff and patrons to share their expertise, hobbies, and passions with their communities. Sharing knowledge and information is the cornerstone of public libraries and I believe growing these learning, artistic, and continuing education opportunities is the future of public library programing.

Do you agree? If so, check out  Fairhope Library for what’s happening soon (Phil Klay author of Redeployment), and watch the “Events Calendar” for my summer creative writing series. I love sharing what I’ve learned with others, but there’s nothing more rewarding than hearing those voices read writing they have created.

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