Monthly Archives: August 2013

Roundup: Going Back To School

composition notebook graphic

Fall is a wonderful time to find yourself back in class picking up new professional skills (or dusting off old ones). Here are some courses and workshops coming up in 2013 that caught my attention and offer a nice professional boost. These classes range in price from free to a bit costly and they’re sure to give anyone who’s been out of the classroom a healthy dose of back to school jitters.

I’ve signed up for “Metadata: Organizing and Discovering Information” a free course from Coursera, one of the organizations driving the MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) phenomenon. The course is taught by Jeffrey Pomerantz of the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina. Before you sign up, know that there is some required background knowledge in coding. If you don’t have experience with HTML, you may want to try Codeacademy. People love Codeacdemy’s hit the ground running style. You’ll start coding the second your browser opens the link.

Library Juice Press offers classes through Library Juice Academy. These workshops earn Continuing Education Units, good news for some certified librarians. The topics are broad and include “Cataloging for Non-Catalogers”, “Considering an Open-Source ILS” and “Introduction to RDA.” They’re all offered at the affordable price of $175.00. Library Juice Academy also offers a Certificate in User Experience (UX). Through the certificate program, you can gain fundamentals of user experience and learn to apply user-centered strategies to library websites. The program covers topics like “Designing a Usable Website” and “Do-It-Yourself Usability Testing.”

There’s been an outpouring of support for women developers, and Girl Develop It (GDI) is one of the the leading organizations. Classes starting in September are offered all over the US. The classes are not solely for ladies. So, boys, you can learn how to build your own website too. And if you already have your own site, you can take more control of its look and feel. Other course topics include “Introduction to JavaScript” and “Mockups to Code” they also organize more casual “Code and Coffee” nights. Classes will set you back around $80.00. Black Girls Code is another female-oriented educator. Check them out too.

And, if you’re looking for something to energize your life goals, there’s  James Victore’s “Take This Job and Love It.” In the creator’s words, the one day event  is about “work, life and bucking the status quo.” Victore wants you to unlock the creative skills you already have. This October, topics will include “The value of being unreasonable” and “Accepting responsibility for your awesomeness.” Full day passes will cost $250.00 and it’s $500.00 for a “Badass” ticket.


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Herbals: Once Essential, Now a Rarity

Leonhart Fuchs

During the Middle Ages and Renaissance books known as “herbals” were popular for their classifications of plants and descriptions of their medicinal and culinary uses. Even as summer’s greenery fades, plants remain verdant year-round on the illustrated pages. I recently had the chance to see some up close in “The Renaissance Herbal,” an exhibition at the New York Botanical Gardens’ Mertz Library, the largest botanical and horticultural library in the world. The exhibit is part of a larger program titled “Wild Medicine” about the many cultural uses of plants.


Before the advent of movable type in the 1400s, herbals were written as scrolls and manuscripts.

Page fro m al-Ghafiqi Herbal

Herbals were second in popularity only to the Bible, but as modern medicine developed and synthetic drugs grew more common, these books became tomes of a bygone era. Still, their amazing artwork and handcrafted beauty make them highly sought after today.

 Basilius Besler-Caltha palustris flore

“The Renaissance Herbal” is up at the New York Botanical Garden until September 8th. Here’s one stunning page (below) on view at the Mertz Library. Find more peeks  here.

New York Botanical Garden Wild Medicine page

Images, from top to bottom: Leonhart Fuchs, Basilius Besler, Herbal of al-Ghafiqi, Basilius BeslerNew York Botanical Garden,

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The Joy (and dread) of Keeping Diaries


Like many young girls, I started keeping diaries as soon as I could form sentences. At age 15 I decided anything I had ever written previously in a diary was much too embarrassing to exist and tore them up. While all of my diaries since have been equally embarrassing, I’m glad the same destructive impulse hasn’t come over me. There is so much humor in our younger selves. In hindsight, the problems that felt unbearable – “does so and so like me?” –  are endearing and a little insignificant. It makes me sad too, to look back on myself when I was feeling self-conscious, was too attached to certain boys, and made enemies of girls in school.

My birthday is on Saturday and now that I’m getting older I am happy to have these keepsakes. I can look through pages from an old diary and be right back in those places, remembering the sights, sounds and smells as they were.

I hope you will get some enjoyment out of reading these excerpts of my personal “archive” of diaries. I wish I could share the most embarrassing entries with you, but there is part of me that wants to keep those secrets and be a loyal friend to my former self. Besides, these snippets are cringeworthy enough for me.

On friendship:

Diary List

On boredom:


On teacher crushes:

Diary Entry

On office jobs:

Diary Entry

And random doodles:

Diary Drawing

P.S. Back in 2012, Flavorwire posted these images of the journals and notebooks of famous actors, authors and artists. Check out Marilyn Monroe’s penmanship and David Foster Wallace’s use of smiley face stickers.

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Roundup: Books less borrowed

Secret Libraries in New York City

People often talk about the newest places in New York, the trendiest restaurants and blockbuster art exhibits, but I find my favorite things about the city, and often the most surprising, are the things right under our noses, the ones that have been around the longest. A recent feature about the little-known City Hall library in the New York Times Metropolitan section got me thinking about other libraries camouflaged into the streetscape. Here are three gems quietly leading their existences.


1. City Hall Library
What makes this library so secretive is a lack of signage outside its home in a landmark downtown court building. This advertising restriction hides the over 100 years old library from street traffic. The library is rich in city history, with documents dating back to the first mayor of New York City.

2. American Kennel Club Library
One of the world’s largest libraries devoted to canines, the American Kennel Club, opened in New York in 1934 is a unique resource for tracking the history of breeds. No materials are allowed out, but cat people will be happy to hear they’ve expanded the collection to have some books about our other favorite pets. The fact that the library no longer has a librarian may make the institution even more secret, but the 2,000 years of pooch history is still open by appointment.

3. Theosophical Society Library
Located discretely on the second floor of the Theosophical Society’s 53rd St building, the Theosophical Society Library collection includes books on a mix of topics in divinity, esoteric philosophy and the occult. The society was founded in 1897 by the fiery and controversial Helena Blavatsky, whose magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine, delved into some big ideas about the the universe. Members of the society can borrow books for free, but anyone can join the library for a $20 annual fee.

Images: New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Times.

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In case you just woke up from a month long nap: International Zine Month

International Zine Library Day Barnard

July was International Zine Month (IZM.) The zine community cut and pasted their way through the month (including a heat wave for East Coasters) growing awareness for zines and camaraderie for zine makers. To me zines are fun, personal, and often have a sense of humor, and I appreciate the personal touch reflected through the hand assembled components of each booklet.

Jenna Freedman of the Barnard Zine Library (BZL) celebrated International Zine Library Day July 31st with crafts and commemorative buttons. Jenna defines a zine as publication having these five characteristics:

1. Self-published and the publisher doesn’t answer to anyone

2. Small, self-distributed print run

3. Motivated by desire to express oneself rather than to make money

4. Outside the mainstream

5. Low budget

I had always taken a supporter from afar approach to zines, so I used International Zine Month as an opportunity to read more about the history of the zine and even had the chance to contribute to Booklyn Artists Alliance’s (BAA) 24-hr Zine Spree. People dropped in to create a collaborative 24-page zine and the amazing staff at BAA provided the supplies, pizza, and cookies. What could be more conducive to creative zine making?

Zine Spree Library Manifesto

Natalie zine spree

If you missed some of July’s zine festivities, here are links to get you started on zine reading, collecting, and/or making. If you were really into zine month, you can pick up right where you left off.

How to make a one-page zine

Goings on at the Zine Librarian Unconference in Iowa City July 13 – 14 #iczluc

One minute Zine Reviews

July 31st was HallowZINE, pay tribute to self-publishers who’ve past

A list of select Zine Libraries around the country and world

A zine history

Photo of me and Maya by Matt. (I’m on the left.)

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Wanderlist #2: Cinémathèque de Tanger

Wanderlist #2 CdT

Years ago, I clipped an article about Cinémathèque de Tanger in Morocco and sent it to a film archivist friend and pen pal, Taz. Many months later, Taz took a trip to Tangiers and, to my surprise, my next care package from her included a pin from the Cinémathèque! She had been able to go to the film center and get a behind-the-scenes tour in which she saw old movie posters and heard about the types of acquisitions the center hoped to grow with. Her tip: “We were lucky to get in on the fly, but I’m sure they’d be able to make it even more special with advanced notice.”

 Cinematheque Tanger

Cinémathèque de Tanger is exemplary both as a focal point for discussing, viewing, and sharing film treasures and as an archive (films from Gabriel Veyre, Ahmed Bouanani, Hicham Falah, Mohamed Chrif Tribak, and many more). Cinémathèque de Tanger has been a pioneer in offering screenings for films rarely seen in Morocco and preserving and promoting North African and Arabian cinema. They have set the groundwork for other film organizations to work with Moroccan authorities, censors, and film vendors and have built collaborations with cultural institutions around the world.

Cinémathèque de Tanger

The Cinémathèque is housed in a beautiful, old movie theater that is a natural gathering point and welcomes people to the archive. If you happen to be in Morocco, stop by the cinema and visit their cafe, which co-founder and director Yto Barrada says has taken on it’s own local importance, “Something we didn’t anticipate is the way our café has been taken over by the local teenagers and young adults who seem to spend all of their free time there flirting, playing the guitar, singing, using the free Internet, nursing a Coca Cola, hitting on our interns and very occasionally going to see a movie.”

Images from Pete, Cinémathèque de Tanger, and Frieze.

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Unreliable Narrators

Jonathas de Andrade, Tropical Hangover, Journal Entries

In contemporary art, the archive is frequently explored as a tool to cope with and understand history. Here, I’ve picked two projects that explore identity through documentation: one from Margia Kramer in the ‘80s, one from Jonathas de Andrade in 2009. Each explores the idea of myth making, storytelling, and the deliberate construction of history with misinformation disguised as truth.

Broad Museum Jonathas de Andrade, Tropical Hangover

Artist Jonathas de Andrade used journals and photographs that are not originally connected and threads them together to create one narrative. I recently saw his work, Ressaca Tropical (Tropical Hangover), on view at the Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University. Ressaca is a word used to describe the moon’s influence of the tides and is slang for “Hangover” which brings to mind that familiar process of piecing events together after a wild night out. Found images and journals are presented on the wall as a timeline building a visual history of the city of Recife in northern Brazil. Much like our memories, there are gaps in the story and what Andrade pieces together is sometimes unreliable. Read more on this project here.

Kramer, Seberg, FBI

Activist artist Margia Kramer’s publication Essential Documents brings attention to FBI files that were part of a slandering mission undergone against actress Jean Seberg after the actress donated money to the Black Panther Party. Seberg is remembered as a fashion and film icon, but the less recounted part of her story is the harmful FBI investigation. Kramer’s work catalogs that trauma and tells of misinformation provided to the press by the FBI. Soon after Seberg’s death Kramer made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the release of those FBI files. FOIA requests are an important part of Kramer’s work and her way of of building a critical consciousness around government surveillance and handling of information. Read more on this project here.

Both artists are using primary source material (i.e. letters, photography, government documents) which we take to be trustworthy and unassailable, to show how the authority of the documents should be questioned. Not only are our memories flawed but items kept in an archive have the potential to be misconstrued too.

Images borrowed from top to bottom: The State of L3, Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, and the Franklin Furnace Archive.

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Carded: My introduction to libraries

Library Card

Library Card

My memory of my first library card is vivid. I was almost 5 and I remember what a big deal it was because it was the first card that was ever mine. It had power! With my mom at my side at the library information desk in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, a librarian gingerly guided me through the signup process. It felt momentous. Previously, I had only seen adults using cards like this, at grocery stores and banks. I was now mature enough to have one too. I even remember signing my name very meticulously, to avoid error.

When I was a little older, my brother and I put library card pockets in the back of all our books and called our friends over to borrow from our ad hoc library. Minutes later, our friends Abel and Elias had come down the block and were in the living room browsing our “collection.” I remember that as they took their time to make selections, my brother and I silently watched, hardly containing our excitement.

The library was where I learned to read and, as an introverted kid, learned about relating with people through the relationships between characters in books. Coming across this old library card brings back the fuzzy feelings I had about the library growing up. It reminds me to appreciate how our views of the library are shaped and how significant libraries can be in the minds of children.

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