All Hail National Library Week!

Darn that American Library Association and their need to make the focus of National Library Week as broad and all-encompassing as ever! This year’s theme for National Library Week (April 13-19) is: Lives change @ your library [sic]. Well, sure they do—libraries are the cornerstone of education and community.

We at Langsdale would like to join in celebrating patrons and their library experiences at this special time in April, but in order to make it meaningful, we’ve narrowed our focus to make this occasion something a little more manageable thematically. That’s why this Thursday, from 8-9 p.m., we’re hosting the Library Basement Reading Series: We Heal with Words. (Healing is life-changing, right?). Seven MFA students will share their original fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Join us and Kendral Dickerson, Sharea Harris, Amanda May, Jessica Welch, Nick Richard, Michelle Junot, Lisa Vanwormer, and emcee Ron Williams.


National Poetry Month and the Snot-Nosed Kid

National poetry month is really kind of a sad affair. Fiction doesn’t get a month. Film doesn’t either. And TV—are you kidding. They get that section of the year that lasts (and I’m approximating) the entirety of every year, year after year. But poetry: that squirmy child alone in the back of the lunch room timidly opening the lunch box his mother modified with foam-rubber because, come on, he’s fragile and the corners might bruise his knees as he walks to school. Alone at the table, he organizes the box’s contents—a bag of carrots, sandwich, sippy cup—in some esoteric but exacting way that, despite his outward appearance of shunning attention, secretly begs for it. He endures in a constant state of conflict over the meaning of what attention he gets. Is uncomfortable. The other children scowl at him. They regard him with angry curiosity between their spoonfuls of chocolate Snack Pack. They dismiss him almost as quickly as they consider him. They say, “Oh, really? So, we still make creatures like that. Strange world.”

“It’s a shame,” the principal thinks, “such a smart, sensitive young man, with so much to say but no one to listen. A cruel world.” He shakes his head at the thought. He stews in its heavy cloud. Considers implications and solutions. Maybe a light. He sits a little taller, his eyes widening. His what-a-sad-sad-word thought grows and darkens. He realizes the profundity of its truth, realizes the extent of the injustice in the world, realizes, as the light comes on brighter, that he alone possesses the power and empathy to change the course of events if not in the history of mankind at least for this snot-nosed hypersensitive boy. He immediately flips the switch for the intercom and gives his baritone announcement:

“Now hear this. For too long the snot-nosed boy with the padded lunch box has been ignored. This will stop...

"...for one month.


Hey, Undergrads: Inspired Discoveries Applications Due this Week

This Friday, April 11th, is the final day for students to get in Inspired Discoveries applications. Find out more here.


Blog about a Vintage Blog

Long before the invention of the word 'blog,' there were people willing to write a journal or diary, a place where the writer shared similar thoughts, memories and emotions only with themselves and the page. My father, John D. Chetelat, Sr., was born in 1920, he lived through the depression, WWII, the Korean war, the sixties, Vietnam, Watergate, through to the turn of the century. Can you just imagine what that was like to experience? Oh, and he also spent six years in a monastery studying to be priest. He did not become a priest, thus I am here to write this blog. Near the end of my father’s life, he started to write down his memories. I’ve been told over and over how lucky I am to have his life story, and I think the one thing that I can do that will please my father the most is to share his story. I often post excerpts from his journal on Facebook. I’d like to share a few of these excerpts with you now.

My father, John D. Chetelat, Sr., as a teenager shopping on Howard St.

As a teenager:

It was in November 1939 that I decided to take a temporary break from school to earn some Christmas money and to help pay tuition to the school as it was becoming financially burdensome on my mother and father. So, in mid-November I took a temporary job at Wards on Monroe St. The first three weeks weren’t too bad as I was working in the mail order tool department filling orders. But the last three weeks were a nightmare. In the actual mailing department there were these huge chutes that received orders from all over the mail order areas. During the day these orders were weighed and postage applied by women. State labor laws at that time said that women could not work more than 10 hours a day but there [were no limits] on how long men could be made to work. So when the women left, all the men in the mail order department took their places in weighing and stamping the packages. We worked until all the packages were taken care of – usually ten or eleven o’clock at night. Of course, we had to be back to work at eight the next morning. During the last two weeks before Christmas, I worked 14 days straight. All this for the magnificent sum of 30 cents an hour. This was the minimum in those days. My last pay check was for $32.60, which represented 40 hours regular time and 40 hours overtime. They wanted me to work Christmas Eve but I lied and told them I was going out of town that day. I was so tired I could have slept all day Christmas Eve, except that was the only time I had to do Christmas shopping. That was quite an experience.


Borrow Books, Keep the Change

nickolouse13 via flicker
What book changed your life? Can you really narrow it down to just one? If I had to tell you all the books that changed my life, it would fill a book. Believe it or not, it probably started with the first-grade readers where I could “see Spot run.” They’re the ones that taught me I could read – that there were other worlds to discover inside ordinary looking covers.

Families Around the World was the start of a journey where I found I could learn a great deal about diverse cultures just by going to the library or a book store or some forgotten box at the far end of a yard sale. I discovered there were people very similar to me who lived in different places and had occupations and customs that weren’t always the same as those of my friends and family. This book played a huge part in showing me there was more than one right way to do things and that I had choices about how I did things, too.

I am fortunate to carry this powerful lesson with me today.

Also on my life-changing book list is Jennifer,Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth by E.L. Konigsburg, which taught me I could read and walk at the same time. Later in the book, I learned you actually had to cast a spell to pull off that trick really well and although I was a natural at spelling, I never really got the hang of casting which probably explains why I rarely caught fish, either, but that’s another story. (Not The Old Man and the Sea, although that’s a good one, too.) These days I have my walking time and my reading time. I still do a lot of both but I do both separately.

With Harriet the Spy, I learned I could walk around with a notebook, discover a lot, and keep track of it.

Even today, I notice that walking around with my notebook makes me more observant and a better listener. I am still amazed by what I can learn by staying quiet and listening to what other people have to say. For some reason, I do this better when I sit with my notebook open.

Childhood’s End opened my eyes to an entire genre in my twelfth-grade science-fiction class. That was just the beginning of a lifelong adventure of finding hidden treasures and alternate universes with fantastic and unique narratives that, in all their bizarreness, still managed to mirror reality with powerful and revealing analogies.

Every time I open a book I learn something new and each book I read changes me in some small, and sometimes huge, way.

That’s why I was excited to find out this year’s theme for National Library Week is “Lives change @ your library,” which is April 13-19.

Langsdale Library will be celebrating by displaying books that changed the lives of UB students, faculty and staff. Come in and take a look at these books – maybe you’ll want to read them too. They’ll be highlighted in Langsdale’s display case, which you can see as soon as you enter the library.

Langsdale is also hosting a Library Basement Reading on April 17, from 8-9 p.m., with seven readers. Ron Williams, columnist for The UB Post, will be emceeing the event, which is free and open to the public.

Afterwards, you’re welcome to walk around the library and look for a book. Maybe the one you find will change your life as well.

As published in The UB Post, April, 2014.


Langsdale Piloting Book Delivery Drones During Move

Helicam Cinestar8 Octocopter testing
by Ville Hyvönen on flickr
Sometime between the end of the spring semester and the beginning of the summer, Langsdale Library will be moving to a temporary home on the third and fourth floors of the Learning Commons. The library staff, books and computers will remain there while the current library building undergoes a renovation. One of the challenges we face is how to move all of the books. While Langsdale has been getting more and more electronic resources, including ebooks, we still have many of the hard copy variety that need to be transported across the street. As anyone who has ever tried to cross Maryland Avenue during rush hour knows, there is a fair amount of traffic between the Library and the Learning Commons, and it’s not like you can run across the street carrying several boxes of books. So what is a library to do?

The answer: book delivery drones.

In order to ensure the well-being of all the books, the library will be piloting the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to lift the books to a height of about 60 feet above street level in order to fly them across the street safely above traffic.

An Australian textbook rental company called Zookal has already started using similar drones to deliver books and Amazon recently made news with plans for a “Prime Air” service that will also use drones for delivery. Drones, like the ones Amazon proposes to use, have been dubbed octocopters because they have 8 small helicopter-like rotors affixed to the top in order to ensure stability as the books are being transported. And now Langsdale Library will be using a fleet of octocopters to transport the books to our temporary home in the Learning Commons.

The plan is not without its critics. Unfortunately the fleet of octocopters really only consists of two of them. Since they can only carry a few books at once, it is going to delay the time it will take to move books over to the new location. Instead of having all of the books in the Learning Commons at the beginning of the summer semester, current estimates are that the last of the books won’t make it across the street until sometime in October. Library Director Lucy Holman said the trade-off was worth it. “I had been waking up in a cold sweat and having nightmares about boxes full of books being run over by tractor trailers with Sesame Street Live logos as they pull up to the Lyric. Now, at least I can sleep at night”.

In addition, part of the plan to make the use of these drones more efficient, was to drill a hole in the top of the Learning Commons and make a shaft through which the books could be delivered directly to the 4th floor of the library in the new building. Unfortunately, the contractors keep rescheduling the construction for Tuesdays, and there has been too much snow on the roof literally every single Tuesday since Thanksgiving. Since we now expect it to snow pretty much every week until June, it may take a little bit longer to get the books in the Learning Commons this way.

Although plans can change between today, April 1, and the time the actual move begins around Memorial Day, the staff at Langsdale looks forward to seeing everyone on the 3rd and 4th floor of the Learning Commons starting this summer.

[UPDATE 4/2/14: April Fool's!]


The Power of Public Archives

Photo credit: Xpressive4ever Dance Inc

There is something very powerful about public archives when they are used by citizens to improve conditions for the next generation.

That's exactly what Angela Koukoui and her colleagues are doing at Langsdale Library. Angela is using archival material from Langsdale's Special Collections Department to advocate for arts funding in Baltimore public schools. Her relationship to this topic is in no way theoretical. Now the founder and artistic director of a local nonprofit for city youth, Angela grew up in East Baltimore in the 1980s, where she trained as a dancer through the city's Cultural Arts Program and went on to study dance at The Baltimore School for the Arts.

According to Ms. Koukoui, "I didn’t go looking for the arts, the arts found me in my own Baltimore City community and embraced me with gifts of opportunities that I never thought I could obtain."

What drew Angela to Lansdale Library was the rich visual history of the Cultural Arts Program (CAP) documented by the photographer Robert "Breck" Chapman and held in special collections. CAP's origins trace back to the War on Poverty's Model Cities Program and the grassroots efforts of parents at Baltimore's Dunbar High School. The CAP program was the cultural education arm of city services that were delivered to residents through a network of neighborhood centers. In the 1970s and 80s, these programs were conducted through the municipal Urban Services Agency. One of these citywide centers (known as Gallery 409, and later, the Eubie Blake Center) became the performing and visuals arts hub of CAP. When CAP was eliminated from city government in the 1990s, the Eubie Blake Center transitioned to nonprofit status.

In addition to the archival material Angela is using to research the history of Cultural Arts, she's also conducting interviews with key community leaders, arts instructors, and politicians to further her advocacy efforts. This work is being done to support the Governor's Leadership Council Task Force on the Arts. "Because of the great gifts instilled in me through the arts, I’ve had the honor to give back to the community that once gave back to me."

To learn more about Angela's work, please visit the Xpressive4ever Dance Inc. Facebook page.