Tag Archives: leadership

Words Not Needed


“But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’

I almost wonder if the picture suffices.  There’s virtually nothing that Churchill did or touched, or wrote about that isn’t worthy of studying or reading for its own merit. Yes, I am an unabashed Churchillphile.  Franklin Roosevelt scores high on the Those-Whom-I-Admire meter too, but I find Churchill a more substantial personage.  He did and accomplished more, over a greater period of time than any of his contemporaries.

In that vein, I was fortunate enough to be in Winston Spencer heaven by being in London for a week.  No, I did not go to his gravesite, the seat he occupied in Parliament, or even to the home at Chartwell.  My fascination isn’t that maudlin. We did however go to one of the most fascinating historical sites I’ve ever been to: The Churchill Centre & Museum at the Churchill War Rooms.

The Churchill or Cabinet War Rooms are a warren of living quarters, communication centers and meeting rooms underneath HM (His or Her Majesty’s) Treasury Building that sheltered Churchill and his government during the Blitz (the bombing of London.)  The War Rooms are where the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet met during the course of the war.  Work began on them in 1938 and they were first utilized beginning in 1940.  They were vacated and locked-up at war’s end on August 16, 1945 – in a way like some of our steel mills were – without really being emptied out.  In 1948 Parliament took steps to ensure their preservation and they were opened to the public in 1984.  The British take their WWII secrets very seriously.  In 2005 the IWM (Imperial War Museums, the authority responsible for the site) added the Churchill Museum to the complex, the only major museum display dedicated to Sir Winston Spencer Churchill.

My fascination with Churchill stems from his character and personal experiences, and his almost unmatched ability to convey them.  Here was a man who wholly embraced the notions of the (Victorian) day about empire and personal courage, and recognized early on that he had no “marketable skills” save for writing.  Perhaps Churchill’s most important attributes though – the ones truly admirable in my eyes – were his personal integrity and his resoluteness in the face of failure and derision. At significant points in his life, especially in later middle-age, he was both fairly and unfairly ridiculed, rejected and disparaged for sins real and assigned – the Dardanelles fiasco of WWI being the most notable.  For almost 10 years Churchill was one of the lone voices in London warning that Hitler and the Nazis (Narzis in his vernacular) posed a real threat to Europe and the world.  More than most, Churchill was prescient, and obnoxious.

What struck my wife and I during our trip was the affection in which he is still held, and the significance of his role as the wartime leader.  We were surprised at the mentions we heard that still referred to the Blitz, the Queen Mother (wife of George VI – mother of Queen Elizabeth,) and Churchill himself.

– Richard


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This Thank-You is Overdue…

A funny thing happened on the way to today’s regularly-scheduled post: Eleventh Stack was chosen as the winner in the Public Institution category of the Salem Press Library Blog Awards. This was about as shocking as–albeit much more pleasant than–coming back to your desk to find a goose head in your in-box.

Goose head

Strange things happen around here sometimes. Photo courtesy Amy E.

In fact, even after mulling it over, I’m still not sure what, exactly, constitutes an appropriate thank you.  It should be short and sweet, but not dismissive, and it should acknolwedge that a lot of people, who have no reason to do anything I ask them to (I’m not their manager, after all), carve out time in their workdays to write thoughtful, informative, and often hilarious essays about books, library programs and services, and other items of community interest. It should express gratitude to upper management for supporting our creative risks, the contest judges for grokking what our blog tries to do, and the other library bloggers nationwide who share our collective struggle to make libraries–which are, alas, still bogged down in horrible stereotypes–visible on social media. (Solidarity, brothers and sisters!)  And, of course, it should give a shout-out to our Constant Readers, both those who have read along with us from the get-go, and those who have come to know as we’ve grown and (hopefully) matured as writers.

Hm.  I think I’m on to something here.

Seriously, though:  thank you. Whether you’re here in Pittsburgh or on the other side of the world, we hope that our blog remains a bright and cheerful five minutes in your regularly-scheduled daily pandemonium. We have a few ideas up our sleeves about how this blog could get even better, and we’ll gradually roll those out over the course of the next year.  But because this blog is both for and about you as readers and thinkers, we want to remind you that suggestions and feedback can be sent to eleventhstack@carnegielibrary.org. Without your input, we’re just a bunch of people who know things and are inclined to be helpful, but have nobody to share them with.  And that would be very, very sad.

When I logged in this morning to finally put the finishing touches on this essay–the perfect is, indeed, the enemy of the good–I discovered that Eleventh Stack had been Freshly Pressed again for the third time in two years. Words now seem horribly inadequte. I’ve got to up the ante on this thank you. It should involve cakeLoads of cake. And champagne. And a group serenade of our adoring fans, culminating in a rousing rendition of Queen’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls.” And…

…and there I go, getting carried away again. Thank you, internet. We owe you one.

Leigh Anne

who loved Salem Press digital reference books before the award, and is still one of their biggest fans.


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Books (but no snakes) on a plane

I try not to go anywhere without at least one book.  You never know when you’re going to be stuck in rush-hour bus traffic, or sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room, or standing in line at the bank.  Might as well have something to read, just in case, right?

So when I was packing for my trip to Denver, I made sure to take at least one book for every day I would be gone.   And even though I’m having a great time up here where the air is clear, I’m glad I have a few pieces of the Pittsburgh libraries’ vast arsenal with me.  Keeps me sharp, and cuts down on the homesickness.

Here’s a quick peek at some of the books I took:

Sit Down and Shut Up, Brad Warner. If you find the Buddha, slam dance with him! An extremely down-to-earth Zen monk makes an esoteric Buddhist text accessible to the average jane/joe.

Sacred Voices, Mary Ford-Grabowski, ed. This diverse collection of women’s wisdom illuminates historical and contemporary aspects of the sacred feminine.

Leading With Kindness, Baker & O’Malley. If you think being kind means being a cream puff, think again. The authors espouse a firm, reality-based approach to kindness at work. Designed for bosses, or people who think they might want to be one someday.

Straight Up and Dirty, Stephanie Klein. This hilarious narrative of the post-divorce world will bring healing laughter and tough-love comfort to everybody who’s ever failed at relationships. Klein pulls no punches, sharing her story in an honest, yet not-victim based, way as she struggles to date after her marriage goes horribly awry.

With all these great books to distract me, I won’t have time to worry about whether or not there are snakes on my plane. What kind of books and music do you use to distract yourself during travel or other down times?

Your roving reporter,

–Leigh Anne


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