Wanderlist #3 Liyuan Library

This library is a temple, inside a meditative forest.

Living in New York has its big-city annoyances, like getting elbowed in the back while riding the train, getting splashed with dirty rain water when a cab speeds over a puddle, or finding a nice table at a cafe to dive into a good book — only to have the barista turn on an old Might Mighty Bosstones album to distract you from your moment of zen. When I heard about this small library, on the outskirts of Beijing, it fit my fantasy of a quiet place to sit down with a book and read.

Beijing, China, is more than thirteen times the square-mileage of New York with millions more people. How does one find solitude in a city that size? Wouldn’t it be nice to leave the big city for just a few hours and meditate with a book?

Liyuan library is shaped like a box and is small, around 1,900 square feet. It’s clad in firewood, sourced from the forest it stands in, which filters the natural light that streams into the library. The interior’s cascading floor creates private reading nooks. The steps of the giant staircase do double duty as shelving, and are laid out with seat cushions. Book cases cascade too, and no book looks out of reach.

I read that visitors are encouraged to bring three books to drop off and leave carrying away one. I’d be curious to see what travelers have left. To protect the floors visitors are asked to remove their shoes. My dream would be to have the entire library to myself with a cup of tea, warm socks, and a stack of interesting reads, perhaps about travel.

Most of the information I found about Liyuan library was about its architecture. I’d love to know more about the collection or Beijing library culture in general. If you know of any good resources feel free to comment or contact.

A photo posted by Brian (@mrbrian88) on

A photo posted by Helen (@herenguh) on

A place for quiet reflection in the heart of the mountain #LiYuanLibrary #????

A photo posted by Helen (@herenguh) on

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About last month…


Don’t let the cold get you down, there’s lots to be happy about. Here are some links and stories that caught my gaze in the last few weeks.

Children’s book illustrator and provocateur Tomi Ungerer has a mesmerizing show at The Drawing Center right now. Ungerer gave life to an array of dreamy places and characters. Ungerer recently wrote a two part essay you can read via Phaidon, titled “Whatever you’re up to, make yourself noticed!”


These temporary literary tattoos. I would rather have a line from Oscar Wilde or T.S. Eliot on my arm.

Snapshots from an iconic 1960’s fashion photographer’s archive. The slideshow was put together by The Cut for an exhibit of photographs by Gösta Peterson, who was known for choosing eccentric models.

A look inside the library where another famous manifesto was started, The Communist Manifesto. The Library, Chetham, is Britain’s oldest public reference library.

Lastly, picking up the pieces in Ferguson, Missouri. Archivists and historians acknowledge how fresh the wounds are and recognize the importance of documenting the destruction of parts of their city.

Illustration from Tomi Ungerer’s Moon Man.

Another one for the books


We’re two days into 2015 and I’m still nailing down my resolutions. One thing I know for sure is this year I’m going to jump into projects I’ve been putting off because they’re hard or I haven’t felt ready. Expect to see more personal essays and stories on LM.

Before jumping into the year ahead, here’s a look back at some links from November and December to round out 2014.

The Sketchbook Project, an archive of over 30,000 artists’ books, resides at The Brooklyn Art Library in Williamsburg. The sketchbooks, filled with drawings, collages, notes to self and confessions to readers, have been digitized and cataloged and are now available to browse online. When you search the database of sketchbooks, you are essentially looking through images from the imaginations and dreams of artists around the world. My friend Shoko wrote a cool feature about the project on her blog.

This summer, when schools in Ferguson, MO closed amid protests and riots spurred by the police shooting of Michael Brown, the Ferguson public library stayed open, hosting classes to give people a place to go. Now with help from Twitter and writer Neil Gaiman, the library is getting financial support from around the country. What will they do with the money? Scott Bonner, the head librarian plans to purchase more “healing kits” for children. The kits can be borrowed and include books about dealing with traumatic events and a stuffed animal that children can keep. There’s even talk of the library hiring a second full time librarian.

With so many conflicts making headlines, this quote featured on The Paris Review caught my attention. “If every head of state and every government official spent an hour a day reading poetry we’d live in a much more humane and decent world…” The author? Mark Strand, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1999, who died in November. I had never read Mark Strand’s poetry before, but, after reading tributes to him, I instantly took to his work.

We were given a glimpse into authors and artists appraisal of their own work when Christie’s auctioned 75 annotated first editions this Fall. Beloved author and illustrator Eric Carle found fault with his popular work The Very Hungry Caterpillar writing, “I have often tried to recreate the soul full look of the moon — never succeeded!” The New York Times Magazine has all 75 works available to peruse.

I am envious of the second annual Jealousy List. At year’s end Bloomberg Businessweek compiles some of the stories they wish they had had the know-how to publish over the last 12 months. Topics include: venture philanthropy, offender-funded justice, and the unexpected mass appeal of “Serial.” Hey, there’s nothing wrong with lusting after a story.

2014, it’s been sometimes scary, a little disheartening, but fascinating and inspiring too. I am so grateful to friends for reading and I thank anyone who has stumbled upon and continued to read Library Manifesto this year!



Images via The Sketchbook Project. From top: Stacie Spencer, Aimee Rudic, Maria M. Rodriguez

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Holiday Crafting with Library Manifesto


Today being Christmas Eve, it seems an apt time to share some festive literary tree ornaments. I made them using a neat catalog of rare books from the wonderful Honey & Wax Booksellers. The images of first edition book covers, with beautifully designed lettering, ornate borders, and darling details, inspired different variations of a DIY tree decoration. (I also used them as gift tags.)

I like simple crafts and this idea, if you couldn’t already tell, is the simplest. All it took was a circle cutter, scissors, and a little glue. I also used ribbon and baker’s twine for hangers. First, using a circle paper cutter I made a front and back circle, then I glued the ribbon or twine on the inside of the back circle and fastened the top circle over it with glue. For a bit of decoration, I used needle and thread to secure the hanger. I let it dry for a moment, and voila! My tree looked infinitely smarter.


I saw the cover of this first American edition of Ulysses on display in an exhibit of Ernst Reichl‘s work at Columbia University last year. I love how the title spans the height of the book, with lines stretching up, down and across the cover. A nerdy detail: Including the book’s spine, I found, added dimension.

This two sided ornament is my favorite. Mitsou is a wordless story of a runaway cat, the picture book was created by the artist Balthus when he was 13 years old. It’s a wonderful reminder of the imagination of young creative minds.




An even simpler method: Choose a page with compelling books on both sides and a hole punch. This John Keats title page is as immaculate as any traditional tree ornament!


Wishing you the best holiday season. Thank you for reading. Next week, I’ll have an end of year reading list.

Weaving an online textile archive


This fall the Andrea Aranow Textile Design Collection launched Textile Hive, an interactive database and window into its digitized collection. The Andrea Aranow collection includes some 40,000 pieces from complete garments to fabric swatches, sourced from 50 different countries. Textile Hive was designed by Andrea Aranow’s son, Caleb Sayan, who started the project five years ago. With the application, Sayan hopes to broaden the audience of the archive to anyone with an internet connection. (You’ll also have to pay a membership fee.)

Aranow got her start in clothing in New York in 1967 when she opened Dakota Transit. There, her handmade leather and snakeskin garments gained the attention of high profile clients like Jimi Hendrix and Betty Davis. When Aranow lived in Peru, doing cultural research for a museum in the 1970s, she became interested in collecting handwoven and industrial fabrics. She traveled in South America, the Middle East, Europe and Asia, often with her two young sons, acquiring fabrics for museums and her own collection. That work grew into what is now one of the largest private textile archives in the world.


While Aranow is still consulting in New York, Sayan moved the collection to Portland, OR and started building Textile Hive.

When Sayan began digitizing the archives, he had little knowledge about building an online research tool of this scope and size. Sayan tried finding examples of archival terms and taxonomies to work from. He looked at the cataloging system used at The Textile Museum in Washington D.C., but it wasn’t a good match. Sayan and his team landed on a taxonomy with over 19 categories, like culture, era, embellishments, and luminescence, and over 2300 terms.



Sayan built custom software to create the experience he had in mind. “I view the application itself as an augmented tool for interacting with the collection,” Sayan said.

Users have different access points into the collection including by place of origin on a map or by cultural aesthetic. Another search tool pins textiles side by side for comparison (shown above). One cool feature brings researchers into the space, where they can browse virtual drawers and shelves that correspond to the physical archive.

Textile Hive was created for art historians and fabric lovers, but would delight anyone with an appreciation for beautiful objects. “I wanted to show how this collection is different from a museum collection, in that it had a point of view and was personal,” said Sayan.

The finished product is a multi-layered application, as unique as the archive it was born from.

Watch a short video about Andrea Aranow and the digital collection here.

Images courtesy of Andrea Aranow Collection/Textile Hive.

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An unquiet cataloger

photo(5)“What is the greatest joy of Arabic cataloging?” asks Jessamy, “I will tell you: serious works with rhyming titles.”

The creator of Ghilafaat, a curious sounding Instragram feed and Tumblr site, Jessamy Klapper gives followers a glimpse of newly published Arabic and Persian book covers with a candid piece of commentary. Jessamy has access to a conveyor belt of interesting new acquisitions, from poetry to short stories to textbooks, as a cataloger at Columbia University.

Ghilafaat is a made-up plural of ghilaaf, the Arabic word used to refer to a book cover. Jessamy’s posts are a compelling look into the world of Arab and Persian literature. Ghilafaat is the only place I see these covers and imagery.

“Ghilafaat are the fleeting impressions and ideas you get from glancing at the cover of a book,” said Jessamy. “The things that make you want to turn back and look again…or hurry away!” Some covers stand on their own as works of art. The designs incorporate colorful typography, photography, playful illustrations, and collage. Others are more subdued. For a simple cover with a black and white portrait, Jessamy writes, “Here’s Ahmad Reza Ahmadi looking pensive again, this time on the cover of Naser Saffarian’s study of the poet’s work: A Poet Unlike His Poems.”

Jessamy shares these books because she loves the material. “Sometimes I am already familiar with the book or author before it arrives – I tend to highlight those books as well, just because I’m excited to see them! It’s like spotting a familiar face in a crowd of strangers.”

Here are three of Jessamy’s favorite posts from Ghilafaat:

1. I loved the Nowherelanders, for exactly the same reason I wrote in the original posts. I’d love to do translations of the Nowherelanders’ individual bios.


Meet the fascinating faces of Nowhereland! This is catalogued as a collection of short stories, but it’s almost like an art catalog. Each story is presented as the bio of a particular character, photographed and presented in detail. I love these ugly-cute-strange doll-sculpture-people. My Persian professor was so enamored of them, he got his own copy. Author/artist: Alireza Mir’asadullah. #persian #art #fiction #books #bookcovers #dollmaking #sculpture #mixedmedia

2. This book is one of my favorites because it has gorgeous illustrations, and it’s a bilingual edition. The book I photographed here is actually the second copy I’ve cataloged – the first one passed through before I created Ghilafaat & I thought I had missed my chance!


Gorgeous watercolor illustrations on (and inside!) this bilingual volume on the Emir Abdelkader. #art #arabic #french #history #books #bookcovers #coverart

3. This book isn’t really one of my favorite covers, but I wanted to share something that illustrates another side of this project – sometimes the books make me laugh. This one is a sort of tabloid-style ‘expose’ on the life of a star from Egyptian cinema’s Golden Age – Su’ad Husni. It has all the markings of something you would see on your way out the grocery aisle; insensitive, sensational questions in bold type, references to heretofore unseen documents, a glamorous photo of the starlet made ominous by a black background…On top of everything else, the author Samir Farraj has added a sort of pen name: ‘Ibn al-Shati” This title translates to Son of the Beach, and I’m really not mature enough to let something like that slide. ghila_3

WAIT, wait, wait—am I cataloging acquisitions at a respected research institution, or am I in line at the grocery store (of golden age Egyptian cinema, that is)? “Suad Hosny: did she kill herself, or was she murdered?” This macabre piece promises to include heretofore unseen documents and also declares that this “book is considered a historic document.” By whom, we don’t know. Side note: Author Samir Farraj seems to have a nickname of sorts “Ibn al-Shati’” which literally translates to ‘Son of the Beach.’ Hmm. #arabic #egypt #suadhosny #egyptiancinema #scandals #books #bookcovers

Top Image: Jessamy at the library, taken by Natalie.

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September Wrap Up



Archives week will soon be upon us! Check out my suggestions on which programs to see in the new Library Manifesto calendar. Suggest additions to the calendar by tweeting @mspantojatoyou or by e-mail!

A library in Westport, Connecticut introduced “Vincent” and “Nancy” two humanoid robots, programmed to walk without bumping into walls and make eye contact. The robots will be the stars of programming classes at the library.

For the first time, archives from an abandoned Moroccan Jewish synagogue on a tiny island in the Azores are being examined.

Culture in Transit will send librarians out to NYC’s archival depositories with scanners and cameras in hand. The program aims to centralize and preserve the city’s historical records.

100 years from now will books still be printed and bound? The Future Library in Oslo is ensuring at least 1 anthology will be! Margaret Atwood, the prize-winning Canadian author known for her dystopian novels, is the first author to contribute a story to the project.

For New Yorkers and architecture aficionados, how a stereoview (you know, the 3D experience of 1880) led to a rare New York find.

Finally, some haunting GIF’s to toll the knell for the spookiest month of the year. Thanks for sharing, Jessamy!

Happy Archives Month everyone!!


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Summer Wrap Up

This summer I took an unexpected hiatus from Library Manifesto. In June I decided to make a big change and left an academic library for a job in tech. A week later, I lost my best friend Chloe. These past few months have been filled with jitters, puffy eyes, and have left me with a few new gray hairs. After a tumultuous start to summer I was holding my breath, hoping there wouldn’t be any more surprises. August passed without incident and I’m excited to write again this fall. I have a few great posts in the pipeline, including another tribute to the incredible Chloe Weil, who is in my thoughts every day. In the meantime, here are some stories that caught my eye this summer.

Fifty years have passed since the wide spread protests of the civil rights era. These archival photos show some striking similarities between efforts to constrain demonstrations in the 1960s and recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Ferguson public library has offered some new services as a result of the protests. Libraries provided classroom settings for teachers and students when school start dates were postponed and gave out bottled water to the community.

Some New Jersey residents will be able to earn an accredited high school diploma at their local library with the new Online High School Completion Program.

After 30,000 antique New Orleans newspapers ended up on Craigslist, a local printmaker saved the archives and created The Eliza Jane Nicholson Digital Newspaper Archive.

Many of the articles that publish the findings of publicly funded research are paradoxically very expensive for the public to access. The New York Review of Books looks inside the baffling world of academic journals.

Polarizing views on the Israel-Hamas conflict are all over social media. Interestingly, a study of twitter users showed that Ha’aretz is the only paper that attracts readers from both sides of the issue.

Adult females have taken over as the largest video game-playing demographic in the United States. Beating out boys under the age of eighteen.

The New Inquiry took a look at yelp reviews of museums. “Start your visit at the top and then walk down.”

Photo of yours truly by Chris Antkowiak

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Sound of Summer


The best archivist I ever knew was also a coder and my best friend. Her name was Chloe Weil.

Recently, Chloe committed suicide. It is a tragedy for many reasons. She was stunning. She wowed people with her creativity. In everything Chloe did, she left a piece of herself in it. This made her work feel authentic, thoughtful and personal. Her work let others into her world. On her blog Chloe wrote 101-word journal entries, guided us through her artistic process and shared some really cool web projects. Chloe has left behind an online archive that is almost as rich and profound as the girl we loved being around. This post and my next will show off two of Chloe’s web based projects that expanded my ideas about sharing personal archives online.

I have been meaning to write about Chloe’s work on Library Manifesto for a while. I haven’t until now because she was too great a writer. No one could explain her work better than she did. Her posts were always humorous, conversational and succinct. She explained highly technical web projects in accessible ways and used her personal life to make web jargon more relatable.

"Above, I explain computers to a room full of guys." - Chloe Weil

“Above, I explain computers to a room full of guys.” – Chloe Weil

Chloe loved music. She was sometimes a human version of Shazam – she could tell you the name of a band or artist playing overhead at a bar. Chloe knew more obscure bands than anyone else I knew in High School and anytime after. Her love of music and web development came to a head in 2012 with Sound of Summer. Sound of Summer came from Chloe’s urge to catalog the emotions of her life through sound. Put simply, Sound of Summer is a personal music archive that lists Chloe’s most played songs in her iTunes library, every summer, starting from 2001.

Chloe tracked all of her music intake. In High School she began using iTunes data fields in ways they weren’t intended; tagging and organizing songs by when she listened to them most. Chloe wrote, “To organize music based on artist or album or even year released is extrinsic; the music has always been about me.” While others would balk at sharing such personal details of their life, Chloe embraced it.

I encourage you to look at the site. You’ll be immediately drawn to a stack of coral colored columns, each representing a year between 2001 and 2013. Select a column for a year, say 2012, and you are taken to that year’s songs, 74 for 2012. You might look for songs you listened to that year too. If you click on a song a music player pops up displaying an animated beating heart while playing back a snippet of the song. The beating heart reminds me of Chloe’s playful details. The project introduced me to some amazing music I had never heard before from bands like The Stranglers and The Go-Betweens. I learn about a new band every time I go back to her site.

“Do you remember in High Fidelity when Rob is organizing his record collection autobiographically? That’s the closest analog to this model. Each of my season-year playlists has the emotions and experiences of that three-month moment encoded into every song it contains. I’ve inadvertently managed to create a detailed narrative of my life just from the way I ended up organizing my mp3s. If want to feel how I felt my freshman year of college, I just filter my library for 2003FALL and I get all the tracks I listened to then, all the emotions I’d experienced, and the general mood of that period in my life. Say I want to re-experience my first year in Portland, although I don’t know why I would want to live through that again. I filter my library to 2009 and get 2009SPR, 2009SUM, 2009FALL, and 2009WIN. Say I only want to experience every summer of the past ten years. I filter my library by SUM and I’m having those rich emotional experiences again.”

I’ve listened to Chloe’s most played songs over the last 13 summers. I will never know what it felt like to be her but when I listen I get through to another layer of her identity. It helps me understand her a little bit better each time. Chloe made something emotional, scientific and vice versa.

Here’s Chloe’s conclusion from her technical write up. I’ve included it because I find it inspirational.

“There were entire weekends spent typing the same commands in the terminal, entire evenings spent refreshing the browser without accomplishing anything. But all it takes is one right thing to move forward, whether it’s modifying one line of code, or approaching your problem from a different point of view.”

Photo: Chloe and me at a summer music concert. Taken by Ruchi.
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