An engaging book review of Gillian Gill’s We Two in the Washington Times notes in passing that the power brokers around Queen Victoria were determined from the beginning to keep her young husband in his place.  So Albert was permitted to bring only his valet, his dog, and his librarian with him to England. This is the first time I have ever heard that royals have their own personal librarians. I wonder if one needs an MLS for such a gig?

Another new book has a very intriguing thesis that Gauguin sliced off Van Gogh’s ear:

According to a new book, the painter Vincent van Gogh did not slice off his left ear in a fit of madness and drunkenness in Arles in December 1888. His ear was severed by a sword wielded by his friend, the painter, Paul Gauguin, in a drunken row over a woman called Rachel and the true nature of art.

Such is the thesis proposed in Van Goghs Ohr, Paul Gauguin und der Pakt des Schweigens by Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans reviewed in the Independent (UK). They believe that Van Gogh lied about what happened in order to protect his friend. Whatever the case may be, it occurs to me  that A Woman Called Rachel and the True Nature of Art  would make a nice title for a novel.

Flannery  a new biography by Brad Gooch is the subject of a very interesting essay, Touched by Evil, on  writer Flannery O’Connor in the June Atlantic Monthly.  The author, Joseph O’Neill, wonders whether humans are as awful as O’Connor portrays them and says that she reflected on the question in a number of essays.  She wrote once:

I am always having it pointed out to me that life in Georgia is not at all the way I picture it, that escaped criminals do not roam the roads exterminating families, nor Bible salesmen prowl about looking for girls with wooden legs.

Whatever the answer may be, O’Neill says that Gooch is able to show that many of the “outlandish elements” in her stories ” were inspired by actual events”. This was a very interesting essay/review and  has left me in some ways even more puzzled by O’Connor than I was before– and that is saying something.




I hope no one minds another library cat story. This one comes from Kent, UK via the  BBC. The cat in question, Fidel, apparently doesn’t like being left alone because he shows up when his owners are at work and leaves when they come home. As always, the cat is immensely popular with the library’s patrons.



As if one cat weren’t enough, the Ocean Shores Public Library in Washington has two: Olivia and Waldo, the latest in a number of cats they have given homes to.  Someone at the Seattle Times must like cats because not only is the story accompanied by a picture but there is a nice little video of the cats in the library and a photo gallery, as well. Here is a picture of  of Olivia working at the circulation desk:


 Apparently, black cats are particularly attracted to library work.


I ran across a little story from Columbia on the lengths to which a dedicated teacher has gone to bring books to children. Biblioburro or, Donkey Library, is an effort by one teacher to take books to children on weekends. He started with just a handful of books and one donkey but his effort has grown to thousands of books and 8 donkeys thanks to donations. There is video and, I confess, I was somewhat taken aback to see a full grown man with a load of books riding on a patient, overburdened donkey. Nevertheless, it is another reminder, were any needed, of how lucky we are to have libraries and how important books and reading are to young and old alike.

I don’t suppose a week goes by when ALA’s Library History Round Table doesn’t send me something of interest. Today was an especially fascinating link to the blog of Charles A. Seavey, Desert Sailor.Info. There are several interesting library matters to be found there but his essay “Books for Swabbies: Ship’s  Libraries in the “New” Steel Navy, 1880s-1930s was a fascinating glimpse of a world I never suspected.

Seavey writes at the outset that “by comparing the contents of ship and crew libraries with the recommendations of the American Library Association (ALA) we can see that fundamentally differing approaches to book collections were in place. I[t] will be argued that the ALA recommendations were for an “ideal” library only partially grounded in real world conditions. The Navy, on the other hand, was basing their selections on both the nature of their ship-borne libraries, and the world in which those ships operated. The Navy, in this instance, was far more aware of what their readers might actually want to read than was the ALA”.

USS Franklin

USS Franklin

 Seavey goes on to describe a rather complex history of ship libraries which got their start aboard the USS Franklin in 1820.  According to Seavey libraries on ships became “institutionalized” at this time.

Moreover, he reports that the US Navy was far ahead of all others. Great Britains’s Royal Navy did not place books on ships until 1913.

All in all, this is a fascinating look at a type of library I had never known existed.


American troops on parade in Vladivostok in August 1918. Japanese marines are standing at attention as the Americans pass a building occupied by the staff of the Czecho-Slovaks.

The Library History Buff Blog is always a wonderful read but Mr. Nix has been hitting ’em out of the park recently. There are two posts, in particular, that I recommend. His Sunday, Dec. 14 post is entitled Christmas in Vladivostok, 1918.  The ALA War Service and the American Expeditionary Force sent postcard greetings to the troops in Siberia, where Harry Clemons was working for ALA to provide services to the troops. This is a lovely post and I cannot help but feel proud, once again, to be part of a profession and tradition that takes books and learning and their critical importance in everyone’s life so seriously and with such dedication.


 On a lighter note the post for Friday, Dec. 12 is entitled, Library tim-toolman-taylorArtifact from Hell, and recounts a most amusing salvage operation carried out to preserve the old-fashioned iron shelving that was discarded when the Wisconsin State Law Library was restored. I don’t know why but the story reminded me of Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor for some reason. 

From an article about librarians at the turn of the century:

Hearne read stories of graduates who would, after a fire, start a new library in a gym; who walked through 8- to 10-foot snow drifts to get to the library; and who brought books to World War I soldiers recuperating in hospitals.

“The librarian was a kind of apostle for culture. They were missionaries for literacy, knowledge and culture,” Hearne said.

This seems to be a week for looking back. The quote above comes from a very nice story in the Chicago Tribune today about librarians at the turn of the century.


Larry T. Nix, whose blog and history website I linked to a couple of posts back, has a delightful post up today about Mabel Wilkinson who was a Wyoming librarian in the first decade of the 20th century:

Wilkinson gave a presentation at the American Library Association conference in 1916 in Asbury Park, New Jersey entitled “Establishing Libraries Under Difficulties”. Wilkinson’s presentation concerned a trip on horseback to organize library service that she made in Platte County, Wyoming.

Nix links to the entire presentation she made, which is available on Google Books. Do take a look!

42_grumpy_quiet_librarianYou young librarians may not know this yet but we older ones do. People almost always assume the best about librarians.  This follows on our image about which we often complain– but it does have benefits. I think only nurses, maybe, have it as good as we do.

I learned years ago, that when you are trying to convince a potential, pet-hating landlord to rent to you and your two cats, nothing opens doors faster, literally and figuratively, than the words, “I am a librarian”, particularly if you are a woman teetering on the edge of middle age. We ooze respectability. We really do. Messy reality simply doesn’t enter into it at all.

Nobody knows the troubles I've seen! Nobody knows my sorrows.

Nobody knows the troubles I've seen! Nobody knows my sorrows.

Even knowing this as I do, I was surprised to find out a couple of days ago that our image works for us, even when we get caught embarking on a life of crime.

I had discovered that my driver’s license was missing and had spent the afternoon retracing my steps in pursuit of it. It was not to be found. I finally gave it up for the day and headed home. It was rush hour and, as I watched the usual running of red lights, speeding, etc., it occured to me that I was going to have to be very careful. I had never been pulled over for a traffic violation but there is always a first time. It would not help things, if I couldn’t produce a license.

I turned into my neighborhood and, a block and a half from home on a very quiet street,  I was stunned to see flashing blue lights in my rearview mirror. Shaking my head in disbelief, I pulled over, uncertain whether to laugh or cry. A very pleasant officer came up and told me that I had not come to a “complete and full stop” at the stop sign. I handed over my registration and insurance and then, with a sinking heart,  ‘fessed up to my lost license. He took down my information and, to my surprise, asked me where I worked and what I did. He then asked for a phone number at the library. 

He returned to his squad car and was gone for what seemed like forever. He apparently verified everything and, to my amazement, came back and handed me two warnings. One for running the stop sign and one for not having a license. I could not believe my eyes. I suppose it is possible that I was born under a fortunate star. It is also possible that the officer was motivated by sympathy for my plight and went beyond the call of duty in showing mercy. But I am convinced that, once again, the magic of being a librarian saved me; if not from the big house, at least from having to pay fines, and deal with points on my license (or whatever happens in Alabama, when you are a traffic scofflaw).

Needless to say, I have been thoroughly rehabilitated and will never, ever fail to come to a full and complete stop again.