Tag Archives: connect savannah

UPDATE: Geek the Library Shout Out

The national Geek the Library campaign (which I have been fan of for some time now) heard about my article in Connect Savannah and gave me a little shout-out on their Facebook page today!

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And I truly do geek libraries.  And books.  And reading.  And writing. And…
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ARTICLE: Geeks & Cowboys at the Live Oak Public Libraries

Live Oak Public Libraries, serving Chatham, Effingham & Liberty Counties in GA is hosting its annual fundraising gala on Jan 21.  I used this opportunity to shed some light on the funding cuts and other troubles facing the library, as well as highlighting the Geek The Library Campaign and the amazing work LOPL does. 

Jan 12, 2011 – Connect Savannah
True grit: Live Oak Public Libraries host gala after banner year

Sigmund Hudson, along with his wife Anne, have been volunteers with the Friends of the Library for several years. The support group helps with many projects including the semiannual large book sales.
“We sort several thousand books into about 15 categories,” he notes. “We work the sale itself, helping count books, check people out. We do the same at author book signings.”
The group also assists in the planning of the annual gala and mans the information tent at the Children’s Book Festival. When asked why he chooses to give his time to the library he recalls his own childhood in Memphis.
“As a young kid, we always lived within a bicycle ride of the branch. As a teenager, I would catch the city bus and make three stops: the five and dime store, the magic store and the branch library. It overlooked the Mississippi River and it was a quiet place in the very busy city. When we moved to Savannah, we bought a house near the Bull Street branch and my two sons continued the tradition of riding their bikes to the library.”
By the numbers
They are not alone in their enthusiasm for the Live Oak Public Libraries. In FY10 (July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2010) their circulation was just under 2 million (up 19.5% from FY09) and their visits were up 4.5% to more than 1.5 million; that from a population of about 400,000 in Chatham, Effingham, and Liberty Counties.
35,000 of them attended the Children’s Book Festival on November 13, a special annual event with authors, illustrators, storytellers, crafts, food tents and more. In FY10 alone, there were 1761 children’s events in 17 of the 18 branches, including the Summer Reading Program, weekly book readings, storytelling, art contests and game nights.
One of the 12,811 children registered in the Summer Reading Program is Thomas Bordeaux, 8, a student at Charles Ellis. He goes to the library at least once a week.
“Recently, I found some good books,” he said, “called ‘Loud Boy’, and I learned some new words, like ‘repel’.” His favorites are comics and construction books.
His mother, Nelle, says the unsung heroes are the librarians in the children’s section. “They don’t just read the books aloud,” she explains. “They act, sing, bring them alive. They know many of the children by name and are masters at gently guiding them to new books.”
Return on Investment
• About $34 of taxes from each citizen goes to library funding – comparable to one hardcover, new release book. The average library user checks out seven books a year.
• Literacy has a dramatic impact on local demographics including crime, poverty and health.
• Two-thirds of children who cannot read proficiently by 4th grade will be in jail or on welfare.
• A Department of Justice report notes, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” More than 70% of U.S. prison inmates cannot read above a 4th grade level.
• The low literacy level costs $73 million per year in terms of direct health care costs to America. A recent study by Pfizer estimated the cost to be higher.
Clearly, a great library system is worth its weight in books. Any one of these statistics proves its value far beyond the price tag.
Yet, Live Oak Public Libraries experienced a 2.8% drop in funding in FY10, and another 4.5% drop for FY11 budgets.
Compared to similar libraries (same number of branches, similar demographic served), Live Oak Public Libraries receives an average of only two-thirds the amount of funding.
At the same time, public demand for library use is up, not only for books, but for internet usage, job searches, and an ever-growing list of various media.
Library Director Christian Kruse notes, “Our materials budget is smaller than it has been in the past. This is compounded by the fact that circulation continues to soar and there are now more formats to buy in than ever before. Aside from the traditional print versions: hardcover, paperback, magazine and large print, we are now asked about eBooks which come in a variety of formats also!” Not to mention mp3s downloads and DVDs.
Geeks and Cowboys
Live Oak Public Libraries was one of two pilot sites in the country chosen for the nationwide Geek the Library Campaign. Kruse says it is too early to know the full effect of the campaign, but, “On the whole, I think the campaign had a positive effect because people were talking about libraries. Whether there will be a longer-term effect that includes increased funding is yet to be seen.”
But what does the staff Geek? “Right now we all Geek Westerns!” He adds, “Some Geek Western Movies; some Geek Western novels; some Geek Western Art… Can you see a theme?” He’s referring to the annual gala fundraiser for LOPL Foundation. This year’s genre-based theme is “Wanted: Read or Alive. A Celebration of Westerns.”
In addition to a vast silent auction, an iPad raffle and Western style entertainment, there is an open bar, full dinner, desserts, and a prize for the best cowboy boots worn by a guest. A portion of the $100 ticket for the event on January 21 is, of course, tax-deductible.
Other ways to help
If you don’t have the budget to attend a gala, there are still plenty of ways to give to the library. For just $25, you can “Adopt a Book.” Dedicate a favorite novel to a friend or in memory of a relative. Attend one of the book sales, or donate gently used books for them to sell.
When my husband and I got married, instead of giving our guests party favors, we made a donation to Live Oak Public Libraries, and asked our guests to bring gently used books. We were able to give three boxes of books to the library. You can also volunteer your time to anything from large annual events to helping catalog and sort in the circulation department.
The sunny side
It can seem daunting, but the staff of LOPL manages to not get mired down.
Kruse says, “We – everyone at the library – have stories of why we come to work each and every day. Sometimes it’s the simple things: helping someone find the book they want when all they know is the author’s first name and that the cover was blue. Don’t laugh, it happens all the time!
“Other days it’s about making a connection: a shy child doesn’t like books because he’s embarrassed with his reading skills until he’s introduced to one of our reading dogs and reads to the dog a few times and completely connects to reading,” he says.
“And then, on those more rare occasions it’s about transformation: helping someone with a resume and job leads only to later find out that your work enabled them to get that job,” he says. “Or finding information on a disease that someone has just been diagnosed with and helping them educate themselves so that they are a little less scared of their new reality.”
Visit www.liveoakpl.org for more info about the gala and how to volunteer. Also check out in2books.org and roycelearningcenter.com for further opportunities.
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LOCAL BOOKSTORE: The Book Lady, Savannah GA

I submitted this very short description of The Book Lady as part of the Spotlight on Bookstores series.  Every Wednesday, this blog hosts a section encouraging people to write about their favorite independent bookstore.

My submission:
I love to frequent a little, independent, used bookstore called THE BOOK LADY, on Liberty Street in Savannah.  It is nestled a couple of steps down from the street level, in the lower level of an historic old home in downtown Savannah. Brick walls, stuffed leather chairs, fireplaces and floor-to-ceiling shelves, filled with interesting titles.  Her desk is always covered with stacks of invoices, orders, and other books she is considering.  She handwrites all of her receipts on a small pad.  And there is nothing that can stump her encyclopedic knowledge.  But the store has one more secret – a garden out back.  A tiny spot of green, overflowing with flowers – a quiet place to shuffle through your latest find.

Submit yours, and encourage others to frequent these little gems.

*Photo snagged from the Book Lady’s FaceBook Page.*

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REVIEW: The Art Detective by Philip Mould

Fakes, Frauds and Finds and the Search for Lost Treasures
I could not have enjoyed reading this book more.  It is fresh, fast, and furiously entertaining.  If you need a summer read with some substance, look no further. Part Indiana Jones, part London academia, Mould shares tales of his years in portrait dealing with elegant charm.
The Hampden Portrait of Elizabeth I, one of Mould’s finds.
He leads off with a tale of a packrat who had amassed as many pieces of junk as he had treasures.  There is an aching sadness as both the narrator and reader realize how the collector’s life was consumed.  Thankfully, the extensive collection was salvaged and donated to SCAD in Savannah.  
He also delves into the nail-biting world of research (yes, it is exciting), discovery and finally winning at auction.  Many hours are spent in dusty corners of libraries, scouring tidbits of information on the internet, and interogating other experts in the field — all to determine who put brush to canvas, who made that little smear of paint.  The answer can cost a collector millions of dollars, in either direction.  (It reminds an old soul like myself of the wonderful episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show when they go to auction to get ideas for an episode of the Alan Brady Show.)
Dick Van Dyke & Mary Tyler Moore
This book is great fun, and educational but refreshingly not didactic.  And Mould is quick to give credit to others in his gallery and in the field who are constant sources of assistance and perspective.  It’s rather like watching Antiques Roadshow UK (of which he is a appraisal member) — it’s more about the stories behind the art, and the people who love art, than the price tag associated with it.  
Thanks to Meghan at Viking/Penguin for the review copy!
Book: Hardcover | 5.51 x 8.26in | 272 pages | ISBN 9780670021857 | 10 Jun 2010 | Viking Adult | 18 – AND UP
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Article/ Interview in Connect Savannah: For All The Tea in China

My interview with Sarah Rose, author of FOR ALL THE TEA IN CHINA appears in this week’s Connect Savannah.

Many thanks to Sarah Rose for her willingness to speak with me, and to editor Jim Morekis for including this and many articles on books and literature in his publication.  And thanks to all those at Viking Press, especially Meghan and Holly, for making sure I got to read and review this book.

Included is a transcript below:

Somehow, stories like these get lost as memories fade.  Perhaps at the time it was merely business and the adventure was just a part of life.  Perhaps at the time they had no idea how it would affect the future of world economy.  For some reason the incredible trek of Robert Fortune has lain rather dormant — until author Sarah Rose dusted off his old journals and brought him back to like.  A botanist and horticulturalist, Fortune was enlisted by the East India Tea Company to turn spy and gather tea plants, recipes, traditions and even gardeners without the knowledge of the Emperor.  All because England didn’t want to pay China to import the tea anymore.  Her book is enlightening, fast-paced and great fun to read.  I interviewed Sarah Rose about the process of uncovering this amazing tale:

Q: How did you come across the story of Robert Fortune?  What about him made you want to dig deeper, and eventually write about him?
A: My ex-boyfriend said to me “I heard one guy stole tea from China, you should look into that.”  So I did.  It turns out Robert Fortune went undercover in Chinese clothing and fought pirates, in addition to changing the world by bringing the secrets of tea horticulture and manufacturing beyond China. There were international drug cartels, and technological innovation as revolutionary as the microchip –  it was just a great story I couldn’t resist.
Q: Did you get to travel to any exotic locales?  
A: I retraced Fortune’s steps in China,  including a trip down the Yangtze, and overland to Wu Yi Shan. I also made several trips to London, to see the Physic Garden and to research the East India Company papers. I have a deep background in the story, my first job was as a cub reporter during the Hong Kong handover in 1997 and I also traveled through India for six months.
Q: Do you have plans for another book?  A novel?
A: No plans for a novel.  I have another non-fiction book in mind that would combine colonial history and biblical history, with a bit of swashbuckling too. It will take me to Egypt and London: DaVinci Code meets Raiders of the Lost Ark.  But writing books is really, really hard so I’ve been enjoying working on magazine pieces for the past year.
Q: In your research, what surprised you?  Did you uncover any “dirty” secrets?  Did you meet any descendants?  Were there people who didn’t want it to be written about?
A: There was a moment in the British Library when I was pouring over East India Company documents and realized how Fortune’s project went completely awry early on. There were reams of letters from long dead bureaucrats in which they fretted for their jobs and Fortune’s mission, men who had been dead for 125 years. It was so exciting to be in the library at that moment, I could have stayed forever.
Q: Do you even like tea?  If so, what kind? Why?
A: For about 2 years when I was writing the book, I could barely touch tea But I do love it – it tastes like hospitality to me. I drink black tea with milk and sugar. Fancy teas are wonderful and I admire them, but I add to much candy to really appreciate the subtlety, so mostly I drink bagged, Barry’s Tea, from Ireland.

Q: This is your first book. What advice do you have to any other aspiring authors? How did you keep yourself in “the zone” and get the writing done?
A: Honestly, I recommend aspiring authors do anything else other than write books. I wouldn’t have listened to this advice once upon a time, and now I’m too old. Writing is a really hard and dispiriting way to earn a living.
I think Richard Ford (who was my professor) gave great advice in the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/20/ten-rules-for-writing-fiction-part-one

I don’t know that I have ever really felt in the zone, I just set myself a word count for the day – some days I could write 400 words by lunch, some days it took me all day just to sit in my chair and I would write between 10:30 pm and 1 am.
I am fortunate in that I could run away some place quiet and warm for six weeks in the winter. I have the very good fortune to have chosen a best friend who lives in Hawaii.

It’s important to have trusted readers. I have a fabulous agent and my ex-boyfriend is a tremendous reader of my work; for about 2 years they were the only ones who saw it. Once I felt it looked vaguely book-like, I prevailed upon my friends in the profession for a read — and only *then* did I realize For All the Tea in China was any good. 
And now, I think it’s really good.
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