Back to School Shopping

August 21, 2007

In the words of my former retail manager, “I think JCrew does fall best.” Meaning that their clothes in the fall season are better than their clothes in spring or summer.
Evidence– the August 2007 catalog. As is appropriate for Back to School, there’s a whole library/book/reading theme happening–cashmere tees folded in the stacks alongside old bound issues of Pennsylvania Magazine, boots displayed on the h-k drawer of the card catalog, etc.


So committed to the reading theme, JCrew folks did a photo shoot in an actual library. On page 028 we have two young ladies perched precariously in the alcoves wearing a not-very-flattering combo of the cropped pants and deep v neck sweaters. The butch one is wearing the “men’s tartan patchwork driving cap” and the femme one has her hair in an oh-so authentic co-ed messy bun. She passes a book down from the balcony to her eagerly awaiting tartan clad friend. And there’s a little bit of trivia in the right hand corner, and suddenly its like reading Martha Stewat Living, “WHO KNEW? The library pictured here is one of the world’s oldest, most distinguished independent libraries…Can you guess the name of this beautiful Boston landmark?”

Well I was hoping to flip the catalog upside down, Highlights style, to find the answer, but instead I had to look it up. Why of course! Its the Boston Athenaeum. Any self respecting back to schooler would know.


read the rich

August 14, 2007


Reading Brooke Astor’s lengthy Times obit yesterday, I was struck by the attention paid to her patronage of the NYPL. Having far more knowledge of greatest generation socialites as a young someone from Texas really should, I was vaguely aware of her persona  (she drank Campari and soda) and her legacy in New York. And I did recall that she celebrated her 100th birthday by having a party with 100 librarians.  Her support of New York’s libraries (she was also a major patron of the Morgan Library) over the latter half of the 20th century had a major impact on those libraries’ life as city institutions, and more specifically, as vehicles for philanthropy. Ahead of her time, Astor was not only generous, but also personally involved with the institutions she supported.

Library development has in the ensuing decades become a beast all its own, but in a lot of ways I think we’re still talking this talk of the old guard rich as essential financial supporters and indicators of our real societal worth. How uncomfortable this makes me! But this outdated narrative is probably a sweetly arcane alternative to the post-globalization reality. The university library where I worked last had as major contributors to its capital campaign one of the most notorious white collar criminals in recent history, some major war profiteer corporations and the Saudi consulate- and this was met with chuckles.

I think archives and special collections are especially attune to the pressure to fundraise- they are often the flashiest parts of their parent institutions and a must-stop for donors. And it’s my impression that doing targeted stuff to appease and attract donors is necessary and expected. Some of it is survival, I understand, but it’s kind of a bummer. And it’s also no secret that any decent fundraiser or development director can command way more in salary than a librarian. So what does that say, when fiscal perpetuation takes equal or greater priority than library services? And recognizing the importance of private support for libraries, how can we do this better?

Summer Roadtrip Brainstorm Part Deux

August 2, 2007

Books are pretty much the ultimate insulator, but in the heat of summer their coziness can be down right oppressive. (This may be one of the reasons why places like the University of Texas change their undergraduate libraries into things called “academic centers.”)


Consider cooling off this August by paying a visit to Roni Horn’s VATNASAFN/LIBRARY OF WATER in Stykkisholmur, Iceland. Her work, installed in an former library building, features translucent columns filled with melted H20 from Iceland’s receding glaciers. Most of the text in Horn’s library is actually a “field” of English and Icelandic adjectives inscribed into the floor. So no worries about sweat droplets warping your summer reading!

But if your desperate for paragraphs, try Weather Reports You, Horn’s related project.