Monthly Archives: May 2008

Shelf Examination: World Fiction

The second in our series of quick guides to the fiction shelves tackles the world of world fiction.  Here are four picks that show off the diversity of this collection, which features books from around the world, translated into English.

 The Book: The Chess Machine, Robert Lohr.

 Check it out if you like:  chess, con artists, 18th-century Europe, German authors, political intrigue, scandal, mystery, or scrupulous attention to historical detail.

book jacket

The Book: Stories of Little Women and Grown-Up Girls, Sonia Rivera-Valdes.

Check it out if you like:  Interlinked short stories, coming-of-age narratives, contemporary Cuban issues, the joys and challenges of women’s friendships, or down-to-earth prose styles.

The Book:   Nightwatch, Sergei Lukyanenko.

 Check it out if you like:  urban fantasy,  ill-fated romances, stolen artifacts, intricate plotting, dark humor, the Moscow scene, books that eventually become movies.

book jacket

 The book: Everyday Life, Lydie Salvayre.

Check it out if you like:  Unreliable narrators, office politics, troubling portraits of the perils of growing older, generation gaps, or the rapidly changing corporate world.

book jacketJonesing for more?  Take a peek at this booklist, and this one, for good measure.

Until next time, enjoy exploring brave new (or new-to-you) worlds!

–Leigh Anne


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Osprey Publications Fly Off Library Shelves

Military mavens and modellers alike know the name Osprey, immediately identifying it with the extensive line of mostly soft-cover reference manuals on all aspects of soldiers and warfare from ancient times to the present. These slim little books also make great references for students doing papers, and costume designers working on period pieces. The amazing drawings, photographs, and informative text in these books provide excellent information, and increasingly, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh carries many Osprey titles.

To find a comprehensive list of Osprey titles in our online catalog, simply do a Keyword search for “osprey” and limit your results to location Main. Try this link for a ready-made search.

Here’s a short list of just a few of the titles we carry from Osprey’s massive catalog:


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I heart free things

Like most people, I appreciate free things when I can get them.  (It’s one of the things I love about the library!)  There are lots of places I turn to regularly for free things, from images to sewing patterns to audio books.  In the spirit of free stuff for everyone, in my next few posts I’ll tell you all about those resources.  Today…copyright-free things!

Copyright law is long and complicated, so much so that I can’t get too in-depth about it in a blog post.  Suffice it to say that for the most part, when we copy a few pages from a book we really liked, or use an image that we found online in a presentation, we are probably falling within the realm of fair use, which allows us to use copyrighted materials for free, so long as they are for personal or educational purposes.  If we decide to publish that presentation though, or even just use an image in a blog posting, we need to tread a little more carefully, because once you start publishing copyrighted things (images, or sounds, or videos, or text), it’s a whole different ballgame.  To make things a little simpler, all of the sources below either have no copyright, or have very liberal use policies.  Enjoy.

  • The Open Photo Project: This is an online community that makes images available to the public.  All images on the site fall under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license, which lets you not only use, but also alter the images or build upon them, so long as you credit the source and license the new creation under the same terms.  Images on the site encompass a variety of categories, from animals to technology. 
  • Opsound: This is similar to the Open Photo Project, but for music and sounds.  Recordings on the site also use the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license, so they can be used, dubbed, re-mixed and sampled to your heart’s content.
  • The Prelinger Archives: This is an archival collection of “ephemeral” films (things like stock footage, ads, and educational or corporate films), that has fortunately digitized a great deal of the collection.  Visitors to the site are “warmly encouraged to download, use and reproduce these films in whole or in part, in any medium or market throughout the world. You are also warmly encouraged to share, exchange, redistribute, transfer and copy these films, and especially encouraged to do so for free.”  There are some great films in the collection, and those of you who appreciate “educational” movies about teenage popularity or 50’s-era anti-Communism cartoons (and who doesn’t?) will find this archive especially entertaining. 

 And this is just a sampling of resources!  You might also look at the Free Use Photos Group on flickr, Public Domain Music, or The Public Domain Movie Database to find more copyright-free images, music, or movies. 


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Music from Iraq

There’s more to Iraq than chaos and conflict. There’s music to be heard.

Despite the ongoing violence, music is still being made in Iraq today such as the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra in Baghdad (who just performed on May 21, 2008). And there’s even a heavy metal band from Iraq, now refugees, and the subject of a documentary.

In my next post, I’ll introduce you to music from other hot spots around the globe.

— Tim


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Living and Listening

storycorps airstream

Since 2003, the nonprofit project StoryCorps has been celebrating, recording and collecting the oral history of nearly 30,000 Americans; the concept, everybody’s story matters. The National Public Radio affiliated project archives each recording at the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress.

The idea is simple, a facilitator who works for StoryCorps and two individuals who know each other go in the both; one person listens while the other shares their story. Each session lasts 40 minutes and the participants get to keep a copy of their recorded history. Topics range from the “big questions” to becoming a business woman in the 1970s. Pittsburgh was lucky enough to have an Airstream trailer of its own for a few weeks in June, 2006.

Listen to hundreds of stories archived on the StoryCorps website. Bummed out about missing the mobile booth 2 years ago? Grab a loved one and record your own story with this do-it-yourself guide.

Also, take a look at Listening is an Act of Love, an anthology of stories from StoryCorps’ collection.

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A Tale of Two Teams

Meme Retort


Novel readers, listen up! Better yet, divide up into two teams – Pro-Dickens vs. What-the-Dickens. (Anti-Dickens, I’m not inviting you to play.) If you were recruited for the Pro-Dickens team in lit class, but said no thanks, I’ll give you a second chance. Consider me your Post-School, Pro-Dickens Librarian Recruiter.

You probably feel like you know Dickens’ work. You’ve seen a film or stage version of A Christmas Carol. Your high school performed the musical Oliver. But perhaps you haven’t actually read Dickens.

As your Pro-Dickens recruiter, I recommend beginning with Hard Times. The full title is Hard Times – For These Times. I’m not the only book scout who believes this is the best place to start. George Bernard Shaw observed that in Hard Times, readers are likely to find Dickens worth reading for the first time.

Beginning Points: Modest Expectations About Hard Times

• It’s Dickens shortest novel (around 300 pages, depending on the edition).
• Because it’s short, the cast of characters is (for Dickens) small, and the plot is relatively simple.
• One critic wrote that Hard Times is an abstract of Dickens’ other novels. This is helpful for the first time Dickens reader. You’ll get a sense of his common themes without going into overtime.
• The story is set in England’s industrial north, in mythical Coketown. Throughout his life Dickens was indignant about industrial conditions. He was also passionately against a new, government sanctioned method of teaching, the Utilitarian educational system. Dickens felt that this system, which valued facts and statistics and allowed no place for the imagination, was as gloomy and hopeless as Coketown itself. (Read Dickens’ description of industrial Coketown and picture pre-cleaned up Pittsburgh.) Coketown was the product of Utilitarian theory, which allowed the rich and powerful to exert their will upon their employees and nature herself.
• The main characters are a school master and his family (the Gradgrinds), a circus owner (Mr. Sleary) and his daughter (Sissy Jupe), and a factory owner (Mr. Bounderby).
• Freedom, humor, and creativity flourish in the lives of the circus performers. Their lives of imagination are contrasted with the Gradgrind’s lives of facts. Dickens pleads for “a little more fancy among children and a little less fact.”

If reading Hard Times entices you to join the Pro-Dickens team, you’ll look forward to taking on the big bullies. Among my recommendations are Great Expectations (550 pages), and, weighing in at 900 pages each, Little Dorrit and Dombey and Son.

– Julie


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Valentines in May

Someone I hadn’t connected with, until recently, was Ted Kooser. I’m not sure why; perhaps I had typecast him as a typical Midwestern poet, someone whose subjects and sensibilities are not things that normally show up on my radar. In some recent reviews, I read about his latest collection, Valentines, and was intrigued. So, when a copy came in for our International Poetry Collection in the Reference Services department on the second floor, I grabbed it.

As he explains in an author’s note, Kooser began sending out annual Valentine poems to a select group of 50 women in 1968, the poems being printed on standard postcards. 21 years later, his list had burgeoned to 2600 and, he implies, all the printing and postage was getting to be a bit much. So, the last card went out in 2007 and this book collects all the poems together, with one last one written especially for his wife.

The work in Valentines both celebrates and transcends the genre of occasional verse. The poems are, of course, all relatively short since they were originally published on postcards and I have a feeling that different poems here will appeal to different people. One short one that particularly struck me follows:

For You, Friend

this Valentine’s Day, I intend to stand
for as long as I can on a kitchen stool
and hold back the hands of the clock,
so that wherever you are, you may walk
even more lightly in your loveliness;
so that the weak, mid-February sun
(whose chill I will feel from the face
of the clock) cannot in any way
lessen the lights in your hair, and the wind
(whose subtle insistence I will feel
in the minute hand) cannot tighten
the corners of your smiles. People
drearily walking the winter streets
will long remember this day:
how they glanced up to see you
there in a storefront window, glorious,
strolling along on the outside of time.

One of the appealing things about this poem for me is its echo of W. H. Auden’s poem “Funeral Blues,” popularized in recent times in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral. Kooser, however, transforms the conceit of stopping time from a devastating grief of loss to a celebration of love and immortality through verse, reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 and Edmund Spenser’s Sonnet 75.

Kooser’s delightful volume of poems from the University of Nebraska Press is nicely illustrated by Robert Hanna; more poems from the book may be found in a pdf at the publisher’s website.

One final area of interest about Kooser, a former Poet Laureate of the U. S., is that he produces a weekly online poetry project entitled American Life in Poetry. This weekly web posting provides content for newspapers and online publications in the form of a column featuring contemporary American poems. Kooser selects the poems and typically provides a 3 to 5 sentence introduction to each. These columns are produced at no cost to any newspaper or online site that wishes to reprint them; all that is required is that the publication register on the website and that the text of the column be reproduced without alteration. Readers can sign up to have the column delivered weekly to their email box.

The stated intent of the project is “to create a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture” and, featuring work from poets as diverse as Sharon Olds, Ed Ochester, Wendell Berry, Jan Beatty, and 12 year old Max Mendelsohn, the project is certainly equal to the challenge. At 164 columns and counting, ALIP may just give Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac a run for its money when it comes to presenting accessible poetry for all; some, no doubt, will welcome the competition, Keillor himself perhaps most of all. The work is all mercifully short, clear in language, grounded in subject, and forthright in execution.

Sort of like one person talking to another, really; come to think of it, that’s as fine a place to start when trying to describe what poetry is all about as most any I can think of.

– Don

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What’s the Buzz? Tell me, what’s a happening?

Well we have had some – actually A LOT – of bee visitors here at CLP Main lately. Word is that when bees need to create a new hive, a new queen flies off and is joined by her many, many new followers in search of a place to call home. Some bees were in the process of doing so during last week’s rainy stretch (as opposed to this week’s rainy stretch, oi vey). When it’s rainy, bees aren’t able to fly freely and so the bees took a break. In our Bamboo Garden!


There was talk of what to do about the bees while the Bamboo Garden remained closed. Our facilities manager didn’t want to do harm to our lil friends, so he contacted a local beekeeper who came in and harvested them. The beekeeper was cool as a cucumber and very adept.

I think it’s great that the library found an environmentally-conscious solution, and that once again, a public library became a site for fun and learning.

See the “Bees” Flickr photo set (that the very talented Amy took) for some great shots!


Like I said, cool as a cucumber.


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Why should little kids get all the fun?

Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.   first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.  

 If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.   It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.  In the last years of the Seventeenth Century there was to be found among the fops and fools of the London coffee-houses one rangy, gangling flitch called Ebenezer Cooke, more ambitious than talented, and yet more talented than prudent, who, like his friends-in-folly, all of whom were supposed to be educating at Oxford or Cambridge, had found the sound of Mother English more fun to game with than her sense to labor over, and so rather than applying himself to the pains of scholarship, had learned the knack of versifying, and ground out quires of couplets after the fashion of the day, afroth with Joves and Jupiters, aclang with jarring rhymes, and string-taut with similes stretched to the snapping-point.

Listen to today’s audio posting:  to find out what the above titles have in common. 

Use these links to find out more:
The List
The Event


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five books I am always reading

It’s an occupational hazard for library workers to have booklists so long it would take several lifetimes to read them all, but certain titles keep their place at the top of mine, regardless of whatever distracting new temptations I happen upon.  Whether I keep coming back to re-read them, or just can’t seem to finish the whole thing, these five books stay on my “currently reading” shelves in my Goodreads and LibraryThing accounts (and in my livingroom).  They’ll probably be there for awhile, too, so long as I keep bumping them for impulsive replacements, like I did Saturday when I picked up Tresspass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land while shelving.

I’ve read at least a dozen books related to mythology that cite Campbell, and I love Bill Moyers’s Power of Myth interviews, but the bookmark in this one stays stuck somewhere early in the first chapter.   


This essential history starts with the staggering incidents and statistics of early explorers’ Native American genocide,  moves to the horrors of African slavery, then progresses into the violent roots of US class division and labor unrest, and before long gets me so upset, I shelve the book for a few months to process it all.  Luckily, though, Mike Konopacki and Paul Buhle recently adapted Zinn’s work into a graphic novel called A People’s History of American Empire


And Her Soul Out of Nothing is the perfect book of poetry.  Davis writes strange, haunting verse that incorporates daily language with profound questions, and gorgeous poetric turns with confronatational statements.  I could re-read “Another Underwater Conversation” every week for the rest of my life.


This volume includes Walt Whitman, Wanda Coleman, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Patti Smith, Eileen Myles, Joy Harjo, Alice Notley and more and more.  And it’s almost 700 pages long, so six years later, I’m still not done yet.


If this graphic novel doesn’t break your heart, you probably don’t have one.  Not only is Ware the master of fantastically designed and colored layouts and intricate, vintage-inspired illustrations, but the story (which includes the Chicago World’s Fair and a superhero failure) of a self-conscious man in search of his father is to tender that sometimes I just have to put it down and walk away with my rotten little heart intact.




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