Thursday, April 30, 2009

Central New York

It's weird. There are some places that you have to get away from in order to appreciate. When I lived in central New York, I didn't like it much. I had a hard time meeting people and finding things to do. Most of the people my own age had grown up in the area and had a set group of friends already, not to mention kids and family. There was one bar, and it was pretty lame. The nearest movie theater was a half hour away. My apartment building was full of old people who bitched to the apartment manager if I vaccuumed after 7:30 at night. I couldn't wait to get out of there.

Now that I am out of there, I appreciate it more. It was very pretty and peaceful. It had Sylvan Beach, a great summer hangout with rides, bars and good food. It had some historic interest. There were a lot of scumbags living there: the police blotter was full of DWIs, domestic violence calls, and welfare fraud complaints. You could see a lot of this stuff firsthand whenever you went out, actually. But looking back, I often think that perhaps I counted the place out too soon and didn't give it enough of a chance.

Geese on the Irrigation Pond, waiting to take off, Fall 2006

Spring Comes to Downtown Oneida, 2007

Sunset over Lake Oneida, 2006

Fire Escape, Oneida, 2007

Sylvan Beach bar interior

Skee-Ball at Sylvan Beach

One of the Oldest Dark Rides in the State

The Galaxi at Sylvan Beach


Worse? April 30, 2009
Filed under: Wordpress — --Deb @ 1:01 am

Which is worse?

Finding a book you love and then hating everything else you try by that author, or

Reading a completely disappointing book by an author that you love?

This is an interesting question. I don't think I've ever had the first experience. I have had authors wear on me, though. For a while after I read My Sister's Keeper, I got into Jodi Picoult. I read the one about the Amish girl accused of killing her newborn baby. I read the one about the teenaged boy who was on trial for murdering his lifelong friend and girlfriend. I read the one about the twice-accused, never-guilty-of-pedophilia teacher and the girls who dabbled in witchcraft. Somewhere in there, they all started to blur together. She's got a formula, and once I could spot it, I lost interest. I felt I'd gotten all there was to get out of her books, at least for me.

I do hate reading disappointing books. A. Manette Ansay's book Blue Water leaps to mind, probably because it's in the stack of books I'm going to sell on Amazon, here on my desk. I loved all of her other books. I've read Vinegar Hill and River Angel many times. I thought the latter was an excellent novel about religion and faith, that should appeal to Christians without being overly preachy towards agnostics and atheists. I thought of it when I started that horribly cheesy "Christian" novel, Doesn't She Look Natural? last winter. Nothing in the first half made it Christian except for a few hackneyed references to the main character's belief in God and an unfortunate intolerance of homosexuality.

So, I had very high hopes for Blue Water. I was disappointed. I didn't find the main characters terribly engaging, nor did there seem to be much driving the story forward. You can read my review of it here. It wasn't horrible on its own. If my expectations had been lower, I might have even been keeping it instead of selling it.

So I guess I don't know which is worse. They're both pretty disappointing. But I'd say it's worse to be let down by an author you really like, than to merely find out you don't like a particular author after all.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Grain Elevators of Buffalo

For many years they were underappreciated around here, the rusting, abandoned hulks standing silent watch over the lake shores. I think they're starting to make somewhat of a comeback. A local historical society offers a boat tour three times each summer among them, and they always sell out, so more and more people are getting to see how amazing they are. Riding along the water among them is an indescribeable, eerie sensation. It's virtually silent on that part of the Buffalo River, without even any noise from highways or houses. And on both sides of your boat are these grain elevators, as tall as skyscrapers, as silent as boulders, slowly crumbling to oblivion.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Custom Made for Me

Ever come across something -- a book, a blog, a museum exhibit -- that seems like the perfect intersection of your interests? I found such a book recently, and it's going on my birthday list for sure. The Tavern Lamps Are Burning is a literary journey through New York State since its colonization up until about the 1960s (that's when this book came out). It's edited by Carl Carmer and contains lots of interesting morsels: Rudyard Kipling's description of Buffalo's grain elevators, Charles Dickens' visit to the Shaker colony in Lebannon, NY before it became a museum, and writings by Red Jacket and Mary Jemison. There are short stories, poems, and excerpts from longer works. All in all, it's around 500 pgs long and not the type of work one reads cover to cover.

The book was published in 1964, as my graduate program was being founded. I thought I'd recognized the author's name, and I'm still not 100% sure I do, but he was a trustee of the museum my program works with, and dedicated this book to one of the founders of my program. I think it would be an excellent project for any institution in the state to update this book. Things have changed a great deal in the state since the book was published, and not always for the better. But many new writers and works would be worthy of excerption and inclusion, such as Richard Russo's Mohawk, The Risk Pool and Bridge of Sighs; Lauren Belfer's City of Light; and many, many others that I can't think of at the moment.

The book also inspired me to share some of my photos on this blog from around New York State. I have quite a few of them, after all. I'm going to be doing that all this week -- certainly not promising an update every day, but who knows?

Today's are from Camp Sagamore, in the Adirondack Mountains. Built by the Vanderbilts in 1897, today it's a tourist attraction. It's also host to overnight programs like Elderhostel and a corporate retreat. Every year, the Upstate History Alliance holds an institute there for museum professionals. I was privileged enough to attend one year. The leaves were beginning to change and it was just gorgeous. Even if the sessions had been absolute crap, it would have been worthwhile. But as it was, I learned a lot, had a lot of fun, and enjoyed a truly gorgeous setting in New York State.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Symbolically Speaking

It's that time of the week again! Here's today's question:

My husband is not an avid reader, and he used to get very frustrated in college when teachers would insist discussing symbolism in a literary work when there didn’t seem to him to be any. He felt that writers often just wrote the story for the story’s sake and other people read symbolism into it.

It does seem like modern fiction just “tells the story” without much symbolism. Is symbolism an older literary device, like excessive description, that is not used much any more? Do you think there was as much symbolism as English teachers seemed to think? What are some examples of symbolism from your reading?

This one's a pretty challenging question. It's hard to know what to think sometimes. I do think English teachers, particularly English PhD's, sometimes go a bit too far. For example, you don't even want to know what Hermione's magically enlarged satchel from the last Harry Potter book is supposed to symbolize. There's all kinds of scholarship on it, apparently, but I'll leave the reader to Google it for him or herself. You may wish you hadn't.

At the same time, though, I always disliked those whose sole contribution to class was to assert "It don't symbolize nuthin'. It's just a story." That's not exactly the truth of it either. In graduate school, we had to read the Melville short story "Bartleby the Scrivener." I was pretty surprised to be the only one in the room who grasped that the story was about alienation and that Bartleby was a symbolic character. After classes were over for the week, a friend and I argued about that all the way to Friendly's (nearly a 40 minute drive; school was in the middle of nowhere). He was a very black-and-white sort of person and couldn't understand how to tell the difference between a symbolic character and one that's more like a real person. I just couldn't figure out how to explain it, either, though. "You can just tell, they don't act quite right," was the best I could do.

As far as symbolism in modern fiction, I would say that it's still there. It's not trendy in the popular stuff that's meant to be digested easily. But I guess it probably never was. My absolute least favorite use of symbolism is when the writer kills off an animal. I read a short story where a woman and her brother were visiting their family for a holiday. They'd grown up in a rural area that was being developed. They got drunk and rode their horse to a local Wal-Mart, where it fell in a construction pit or retention pond and drowned. They watched it, knowing there was nothing they could do.

When I read that story, I understood intellectually that the horse was supposed to represent the conflict between the rural life they'd grown up with and the development that was threatening it. I think it also symbolized something with the brother's life -- my memory's a little hazy, but I think the sister felt he was drinking too much or in some kind of trouble. But I couldn't get past the horrible image of the horse drowning like that, struggling to get its footing, to keep its head above water, and looking to its owners for some kind of help the entire time.

I have to admit, though, that I'm not usually on a very sharp lookout for symbolism while I'm reading. I mostly read for enjoyment, or in the case of nonfiction, to learn something specific as well. The best writers will write on both levels, so that readers can enjoy the story without getting all the symbols. And at some point, maybe it stops mattering whether the reader makes symbols out of nothing or whether the writer put them there. One of the members of Pink Floyd was once asked about the meaning behind his songs. He replied that it no longer mattered, that now that they were out in the world, it was what the listener took from them that counted, not what he put there. Perhaps that's true of books to an extent, as well.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Gone a Bit Flat

Image from

I just finished another Laurie Graham, Gone With the Windsors, and am clearly in a minority with this one. I didn't like it much, which surprised me. I've liked the other four books I've read by her. But this one just didn't do it for me.

As you can read in numerous effervescent reviews, this book is the diary of one Maybell Brumby, young widow and childhood frined of the infamous Wallis Simpson. She comes to London after her husband's death, to catch up with her old friend and also with her sister Violet, married to another, minor royal. Maybell and Wallis resume their old friendship immediately, giving Maybell a front-row seat for the whole divorce/abdication drama.

If you were to line up all the characters in this novel, you could fill a minor-league ballpark with them. Maybell's social circle is wide-ranging and inconsistent. She has large numbers of shallow acquaintances, and they're hard to track as they're never really developed. Maybell herself? The people who enjoy this book are laughing at her, not with her. They commonly cite her many malapropisms and misstatements of fact. Only one got a real laugh out of me: the piano-playing "coal porter," inexplicably invited to one of the upper-crust events. The book's full of this sort of thing if you get a kick out of them. After a while, it started to feel like the "backseat of a Volkswagen" joke from the movie Mallrats. Funny the first time, less so the second time. By its tenth appearance, you're gritting your teeth every time someone tees it up with the phrase "uncomfortable position."

So, I didn't like Maybell much. There just wasn't much to her, actually. Nora in The Importance of Being Kennedy led an interesting life all her own. Poppy of The Great Husband Hunt was a constant challenge, as you initially rooted for her, then saw your feelings towards her complicate as she took her life in strange directions and rarely softened towards those who'd been less lucky. And it was a joy to see Peg and her friends successfully remake their lives and change with the changing times in Future Homemakers. Maybell inspires few feelings at all.

The ones who interested me got less and less stage time as the book wore on: Maybell's own family. Violet and her traditionalist husband. Her mischevious older son and her untameable daughter. And Maybell's other sister, Doopie, which is short for stupid, the nickname Maybell gave her after a childhood illness took her hearing (and, the family thought, her intelligence too. They were wrong). Wallis and the King are not presented in a very good light. Wallis struck me throughout as a craven materialistic social climber. The King was a strange sort of man-child, easily tired out by any sort of duty, desirous merely of a quiet life of golfing and dogs and Wallis. Strange that a novel about one of the biggest scandals of the twentieth century, let alone one written by the wonderful Laurie Graham, should seem dull to me. But there it is.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Made in the U.S.A

image from

At the beginning of Made in the U.S.A, Billie Letts thanks circus performers, medical professionals, people who guided her through Las Vegas, people who taught her about the survival strategies of the homeless; people knowledgeable about gymnastics, construction sites, golf balls and teenagers; the author of a trivia book; and the people at a piercing and tatoo parlor. You can tell that it's going to be an exciting read.

However, it wasn't quite what I expected. The two protagonists of the book are Lutie and Fate McFee, brother and sister. They've had very rough lives, and it gets worse during the first half of the novel. Their mother's dead, their father was an alcoholic who abandoned them to the care of his most recent girlfriend, who dies at the start of the book. Fleeing the spectre of foster homes, they light out to Las Vegas with less than $200 and only Lutie's learner's permit, in hopes of tracking down their father.

The news is not good, and the book gets very grim indeed at this point, as both tough, independent Lutie and sweet, quirky Fate are forced to grow up in a hurry. Utterly alone, they fend for themselves as best as two homeless children with no identification or permanent address can. You can probably imagine how, but Letts doesn't require you to.

Their luck miraculously turns at the moment when things can't get much worse. A guardian angel in the shape of a broken-down wire walker spirits them away, to the family he's been avoiding for more than fifteen years and to a reckoning for all three of them.

There's something I liked about this book, but it's hard to put my finger on what. The first half was utterly unrelenting. With each turn of the plot, you wonder how things could get worse for Lutie and Fate, only to find out the answer a few pages later. The second, happier half was a bit draggy, though. The ending seemed like a foregone conclusion pretty early on in the second half. The meaning of the title, too, still eludes me.

I'm guessing that what I liked about the book lies somewhere in Lutie and Fate. Lutie's not particularly likeable at first. She's snappish with her little brother, selfish, and constantly angry. But there's also something there that makes you root for her to turn it around. And Fate's just adorable, with his earnestness, his deep well of love and forgiveness, and his encyclopedic knowlege of all things trivial ("Did you know rats can have sex twenty times a day?").

This is my first Billie Letts book, although I've seen some of her others. I feel funny about saying I "enjoyed" a book with such vivid, graphic descriptions of what can become of homeless children, but I would definitely give another one of hers a try, and would reccomend this one.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Yesterday, April 15th, was Tax Day here in the U.S., which means lots of lucky people will get refunds of over-paid taxes.

Whether you’re one of them or not, what would you spend an unexpected windfall on? Say … $50? How about $500?

(And, this is a reading meme, so by rights the answer should be book-related, but hey, feel free to go wild and splurge on anything you like.)

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

As an unemployed person, I think about this issue a lot. I start many sentences with, "When I get a job, I'm going to buy..." At the moment, there are so many things that fall into that category of "lesser need" that I've had to let go. So today, none of my answers will be book-related. Here, instead, is a list of things I'd buy:

1. A washing machine. Due to some stupid drama with my upstairs neighbor, I can't use the one that's here anymore (because it's suddenly "his," never mind that he didn't care about us using it for a solid year until the one he was using broke). My landlord's going to help us pay for a used one. I've been on the lookout for someone selling a decent used one for a reasonable price that can deliver, but those sell as fast as they're posted.

2. A vet visit for my cat Molly. Why does she hiss and growl whenever we have people over? How come she frequently chooses to pee on the floor? How bad is her vision, anyway, and is there anything I should be doing for her? A vet may hold the answers to some of these questions.

3. New clothes. I'm so sick of all of mine.

4. New rims for my car, so my tires don't keep going flat and I can actually drive the stupid thing. Or new tires, or whatever it actually needs.

5. A dentist visit to get my teeth cleaned. Been a while. I promise to never, ever slack on that again when I'm employed. Ever.

6. A video card for my computer. When I play World of Warcraft, I like to raid, but getting in there with 24 other people just makes my computer cry. Raids would be less aggravating if they didn't look like slideshows.

7. A new couch. The one I'm using was cool in the 80s when my grandparents bought it. Less cool these days. Plus, it has wood on it that doesn't match any of the rest of my furniture, and it's only a loveseat.

8. A new chair. Ooooooohhhhhhh. Right now, I've got one that I purchased at Amvets several years ago. It wasn't all that great then. Now that it's faded further and the cats have clawed it up, I doubt even the bums in my neighborhood would be interested in it. I have it covered with a throw but it still offends the eyes. To make it even better, it's starting to fall apart. One of the "legs" (I guess they're more like supports, they're only about 3 inches tall) snapped off so it's a little wobbly. When you sit in it, you can hear every joint in it strain. I'm convinced it will just snap right in half someday soon. Why is it still around? My significant other absolutely loves it. He sits in it all the time. I can't get rid of it, I don't know what he'd do without it. So I need a new one that's less hideous and in better shape. I'm convinced I could get a better one for free on most trash days, but I have no way of getting it home.

9. A vacation. It would be so nice to get away from all this stupid crap listed above, too. While I have fantasies of making the trip to Hawaii or Egypt, I'd really just settle for somewhere I've never been before. Somewhere natural, like Maine or Arches National Park in Utah.

I guess there's no book-related stuff on this list, just because I don't buy them often. I've mentioned before that the Barnes and Noble giftcards tend to be a bit of a double-edged sword for me. I like getting them, but they also paralyze me and panic me. It's so rare that I buy books that I tend to give my purchases too much thought. Do I really want this book? Will I be glad I have it five years from now? How many times do I think I'll re-read it? Should I maybe just borrow it from the library first, because even though I've liked most of this author's other books, this one might suck? With an unexpected windfall, I'd rather get the rest of this stuff in my life taken care of first.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Elementary? Not so much.

I've been putting off writing about The Shadow of Reichenbach Falls by John King for about a week now, I guess because I'm still not sure what to say about it. While I was looking for the cover image on Amazon, I checked out some of the reviews. And I'm beginning to think that reading this book without having re-visited the Sherlock Holmes stories in years is a little like reading a Harry Potter fanfic after having only seen the movie, or knowing the most basic outline of the plot. You may have enjoyed it, or hated it, but you don't really have the necessary context to evaluate it.

There is a whole world of Sherlock Holmes out there. There are conferences, societies, listservs, fan pages, and podcasts. There are magazines, meetups and those who write their own Sherlock Holmes stories. helps Sherlock Holmes fans find their own kind on the web and in real life. This novel is most likely aimed more at them than at me, who read many of these stories in childhood and has only the dimmest recollection of them.

Coming from that perspective, Reichenbach was enjoyable enough. It's extremely fast-paced and only took me a couple of days to blow through all 352 pages. King introduced two (I assume) new characters: a young, educated drifter named Thomas Carnacki, and Professor Moriarty's daughter, Anna, who loved her father but hated and feared what he had become. They are both present when Holmes topples over the Reichenbach Falls, and help fish him out, protect him from the mystery man he was fighting with and escape from his clutches while he regains his memory. Along the way, of course, they fall in love.

Watson makes an appearance, of course, and we learn Professor Moriarty's backstory. One Amazon reviewer was very scathing on this aspect of the story, as it introduces an element of the occult, which is (I guess) not in keeping with the logic and reason Holmes generally employs. The thing that irked this non-Sherlockian most in the book was an anachronistic reference to an icepick leucotomy, a procedure not developed until the 1930s (even then, I don't believe they had an "icepick" version. I'd have to re-read The Lobotomist more closely, and that just ain't happening tonight).

The book did make me want to re-read some of the old Sherlock Holmes stories, though. They're available on the web, but I hate reading lengthy stuff that way. I may check them out from the library, but I don't ever see myself becoming a "Sherlockian". It's waaaaay too geeky for me. Now, if you readers will excuse me, I have to go do some quests on my blood elf mage.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hoppy Easter!

Happy Easter everyone! Whether today represents the cornerstone of your religion, or simply a day to get the family together for a ham, I hope you're enjoying it. My Easter present to you is a flea market find from this summer!

This is a very neat old package of Easter egg dyes. I love the graphic on it, and it's one of those times where I'm glad to have come up with this feature on my blog, because I really don't know what else to do with this guy!

In case you're curious, I found this article online about the Fleck's company and the Easter Egg dyes. They were in business from 1889 (as the package states) all the way until 1997, when the company was sold at auction. They also sold a variety of medicinesThat article dates my egg dye package from 1950-1960.

Dyeing eggs with my grandmother and sister is my main memory of Easter. When I hear the word, I smell the vinegar and hear the fizzing of the egg dyes dissolving in half a dozen different Corelle bowls. My grandmother would help my sister and I dye the eggs the night before Easter. When we woke up, they'd been hidden by the Easter Bunny, along with little gifts, all throughout my grandparents' house. We'd get our Easter baskets after we found all the eggs and presents, and then later on, all of my cousins and aunts and uncles would come over to my grandparents' house for a big dinner. But mostly it's the eggs, and my grandmother, that I remember.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Post 300! Booking Through Thursday multi-reads

For something different, I’m borrowing a question from … here! One of the very first questions ever at Booking Through Thursday. Back from 2005 when Laura owned the blog but, because it was so new, it didn't get as many responses as it does now … so, why not revisit?

Here’s the question:

Some people read one book at a time. Some people have a number of them on the go at any given time, perhaps a reading in bed book, a breakfast table book, a bathroom book, and so on, which leads me to…

Are you currently reading more than one book?
If so, how many books are you currently reading?
Is this normal for you?
Where do you keep your current reads?

My 300th post today! In a little over 2 years of having this blog, it seems both a milestone and kind of pathetic at the same time. Shouldn't I have been able to do more? But it has been a crazy two years, so I guess I should say I've done my best and let it go at that. I hope people have enjoyed coming here as much as I've enjoyed working on it.

Today's BTT, after three awesome weeks in a row, frankly doesn't do much for me. I guess it's because it doesn't require a lot of thought on my part, and I don't have anything very interesting to say.

I typically read just one book at a time. I used to be able to read more of them at once when I was little. I used to check out as many as I could carry from the library and have two or three going at a time, plus a re-read. Somewhere along the line, my habits changed. In graduate school, I (oddly) had little access to pleasure books, so all I did for two years was re-read. I barely re-read at all now. And whenever I try to get multiple books going, all that winds up happening is that I abandon the first one I started for the second one. So right now, I'm a one-book woman.

Technically, I'm not reading any books at the moment. I just finished the one I'd been working on for the past couple of days. Then I came upstairs to do my blog post. (I will tell you all about what I was reading a little later). As for where I keep them? Wherever I was reading them last. Usually this means either:

a. on the couch
b. on the end table next to the couch
c. on the coffee table at the foot of the couch
d. on my night table
e. on the bathroom vanity

I'm told that my grandfather, who passed away when I was only five, was a big reader too, but was not like this. Apparently, he had them stashed everywhere: bedroom, bathroom, living room, kitchen, car. I bet if you looked in the toilet tank, he'd have a book sealed up in plastic bag in there. He could read multiple books at once. I never like to be too far away from a book. I carry a book whenever I'm going somewhere with a potentially long, boring wait: mechanic shop, hairdresser, eye doctor, etc. But it's usually the one I'm reading at the moment, or a new one I want to start.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Light Fare

A man and a woman have been best friends since grade school. They both reach their
30th birthday completely unattached, each with a less-than-proud history of meaningless, disposable relationships and/or one-night-stands. They make a bet to work harder on finding someone decent to settle down with: first one to enter into a relationship that has a plausible chance of becoming long-term owes the other 100 pounds (the book's set in London). Quick, who do you think they'll end up with?

Well, you're right. Lisa Jewell, in Thirtynothing, employs the most shopworn, predictable plot ever. There have been a bajillion movies, books and TV shows that use this same plot. I think they continue to succeed or fail based on the strength of the two main characters. Jewell's Nadine and Digby are interesting folks. Nadine is an eclectic professional photographer who works for "Lad mags" (I guess Maxim would be a close American cognate) and lives in an apartment with candy-foil wallpaper. Digby, who's called Dig, is an A&R man for an independent record label whose apartment is a haven of clean lines and anal-rententiveness that Jeff Lewis himself would die for.

Their relationship over the years, has been a tragedy of timing. First Dig got a girlfriend in high school, which shattered his closeness with Nadine. They went to different schools prior to college, finally got back together for one weekend before Nadine left for college...and got a boyfriend of her own. After that, they were just good friends for a decade. Until their thirtieth birthdays, and it became time to get serious. Both of their exes explode back on the scene in the course of the novel, but ultimately prove little more than a diversion to Dig and Deen's true destiny.

This novel is typically everything I dislike in a book. Lame plot peppered with ridiculous coincidences and characters who would act much differently in real life, and a denoument to gag on. But for some reason, I loved this book. It's not great literature by anyone's standards. None of Jewell's books are, although the other two I've read had much more originality. But I liked Dig and Deen. I liked Dig's self-centered gorgeous ex Delilah. I liked Deen's slimy con-man ex Phil. And in an era where there's bad news virtually everywhere you look, sometimes it's nice to read a simple novel where everyone winds up happy.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

It's like it was made for me! Today's BTT on Libraries and You

Suggested by Barbara:

I saw that National Library week is coming up in April, and that led to some questions. How often do you use your public library and how do you use it? Has the coffeehouse/bookstore replaced the library? Did you go to the library as a child? Do you have any particular memories of the library? Do you like sleek, modern, active libraries or the older, darker, quiet, cozy libraries?

Well, as anyone who comes here often knows, I make frequent use of my public library. I've done so pretty much everywhere I've ever lived. I have library cards for about four or five different systems in my state. I patronize them quite a bit and pay enough late fines to have my own wing in some of them. I've been going to the library all my life. I think I got my first card when I was around five. It was a paper card with my signature on it. I spent hours in our Pizza-Hut looking local library (was about the same size as a Pizza Hut too). I can't claim to have read all the books in it, but I'm pretty familiar with their offerings.

When I was living and working in Central New York, I had four libraries at my convenient disposal. One was right at my workplace. It worked entirely on the honor system. It wasn't staffed. They kept a binder in the room, and if you wanted a book, you wrote down your name, what you were taking, and the date you took it. You kept it as long as you wanted and brought it back when you were ready. If it had been a while, the librarian would hunt you down and give you a gentle reminder that maybe someone else would like to use that book. It was great. The town library was within walking distance of where I worked, on the same road, so I went there a lot, too. I joined their book club and went faithfully, even had my own session once. Around the corner from my apartment building was yet another library, but it was a pretty crappy library. I only went a couple of times. It had extremely limited hours and selection. Both times I was there, I was the only person in the joint.

As to what type of library I prefer? I'm not sure. I thought I liked the sleek, modern huge one in my area the best. Then before vacation, I went to the one in my hometown. Although it falls into the sleek and modern category too (the Pizza Hut one was abandoned in favor of a new building and now houses the school district's admin offices), it's smaller and more manageable. I did much better there. I wasn't rushed because of parking limits. There weren't a million people there. The selection was less overwhelming -- I could actually see everything -- and I walked away with a fair number of books. I felt the same way about the library in Stockbridge, MA. It was small, but it was in a beautiful old buidling and it had a terrifc selection, particularly for its size. Oddly, I have more trouble getting the books I want from the large library I generally go to than I ever did in Stockbridge or in my hometown. So I'm going to cop out and say that it's good that there are both. Just like IKEA serves its function, but so do local boutique furniture and housewares stores.

I don't think the library will ever be replaced by the bookstore/coffeehouse. People may use libraries a little differently now. It may have become less of a hangout than it used to be. Families with young children will always patronize them because picture books are expensive and it doesn't take kids long to get bored with them. Students doing reports will patronize libraries as long as there's information in books that can't be culled reliably from the internet. It's a great place for any book lover on a budget.

I think libraries represent some of the best values of our society: open access to information and education, trust in one another, sharing resources with the community. I feel good every time I go to the library. I never want to see them go away. So everyone, enjoy National Library Week. Keep patronizing them, and keep speaking up for them when your voice is needed.