Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘Lent – Season of Change’ Category

A Fine Mess

In Books, Lent - Season of Change on April 15, 2017 at 4:06 pm

Lent—Season of Change, the Final Day

Sooner or later, if you check books or other materials out of the library, you’ll be faced with fines. Here are a few tips to avoid them.

Keep library books in one place so you don’t lose them and have to pay the replacement fee.

Carry library books in a separate bag, not one that also contains your take-out lunch. I put them in the same bag once and the sauce leaked out of the take-out container all over the book. Oy.

Download Kindle or audio books. They disappear automatically when the check-out period ends.

Use the due date slip as a bookmark or obsessively mark due dates on your calendar. I can’t seem to do this myself, but I hear it works for other people.

Find a library that sends an email reminder about upcoming due dates. Both my libraries do this, but I still found myself accumulating fines.

Bonus – find a library that will automatically renew any books eligible for renewal. Denver Public Library does this and it’s a wonderful service.

Set reminders on your phone or other electronic devices. Enter weekly reminders that will prompt you to return library materials.

If you check out a lot of books (guilty) and can’t seem to check the website for due dates every single day, choose one day a week (e.g. Saturday) and only check out books on that day. You can go to the library for other things, of course, but only check out books on your designated day. Then every Saturday, check the website to see what’s due on that day. I haven’t had to pay a fine since I started doing this.

Join Friends of the Library or volunteer and you may get amnesty on fines. Ask the librarian about any other amnesty programs.

If all else fails, you can probably find an app that will help. I wouldn’t know. I only use my phone for the occasional (and I mean occasional) text or call and to listen to audio books.

You really need to return books when they’re due and pay your fines. It all helps the library.



In Books, creativity, Learning, Lent - Season of Change on April 14, 2017 at 3:43 pm

thinker1Lent—Season of Change, Day 39

Some people just can’t leave well enough alone. They take a perfectly fine book and turn it into something else – a sculpture, a journal, a scrapbook. Part bookbinding, part bibliovandalism, part mixed-media collage, and part scrapbooking, the craft of altered books is becoming increasingly popular,” according to Makezine.

The International Society of Altered Book Artists, defines it as “any book, old or new, that has been recycled by creative means into a work of art. They can be … rebound, painted, cut, burned, folded, added to, collaged in, gold-leafed, rubber stamped, drilled, or otherwise adorned…”

The sculpture pictured, which is in the Arvada Public Library, uses folded and rolled newspapers to create a poor man’s version of The Thinker.

Altered books serve as a metaphor for the transformation of libraries themselves. A library containing only books may exist somewhere, but most modern libraries have grown far beyond a simple repository for books. People who try to defund libraries and insist they are obsolete are clearly people who have never set foot in one. 

A recent report from the Center for an Urban Future highlighted the benefits to immigrants, seniors, individuals searching for work, public school students and aspiring entrepreneurs. Not surprisingly, libraries across the country are experiencing a surge in popularity. Maria Popova, the brilliant and tireless creator of BrainPickings calls libraries “those most democratic cultural temples of wisdom where we come to commune with humanity’s most luminous minds; where the rewards are innumerable and destiny-changing, and the only price of admission is willingness.”

The cofounders of The Library as Incubator project promote using the library as “a sandbox for creativity, a productivity booster for your work, and as source of immense nourishment for the life of the mind.”

Is it any wonder that the theme for National Library Week is “Libraries Transform”?

The Live-in Library

In Auntie Flat, Books, Home, Lent - Season of Change on April 13, 2017 at 12:33 pm

Warren_Branch_LibraryLent—Season of Change, Day 38

I describe my decorating style as “demented cowgirl librarian.” When I moved to my condo, I got rid of the three pairs of red cowgirl boots on the mantel and the three red cowboy hats above the entry and several boxes of books. The books have crept back in with stacks of them threatening to topple over on most horizontal surfaces, and I have several pictures of cowgirls, too. The demented part just indicates that my home is not exactly normal.

It’s my reading, writing and listening studio, a paean to the written word. Still a home library is not the same as a library home.

I have always wanted to live in a library. This is as close as I get. Thirty years ago when searching for a home, a realtor showed me the former library in Elyria. Sold in 1952, the previous owner had gutted it. The small Carnegie library would have been much too large a home for me and also much too expensive to buy and remodel.

The former Henry White Warren Library, located at 3554 High Street, pictured here, opened in 1913 and was Denver’s first branch library. The building was sold by the City and County of Denver and now houses residential lofts, also much too big for me and not on the market anyway.

While a former library may retain some ambiance of a library, what would it be like to live in a working library?

In NYC during much of the 20th century, many public libraries featured caretaker apartments. Ronald Clark grew up in the Washington Heights branch of the NYPL and benefited from having the run of the library after hours. Living in the library gave him a desire for knowledge and led him to became the first person in his family to graduate high school and go on to college.

Maya Angelou spoke at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture about what libraries mean to her. “Each time I’d go to the library I felt safe. No bad thing can happen to you in the library.” Sounds like home to me.

Man of Steel

In Books, Lent - Season of Change, Uncategorized on April 12, 2017 at 4:37 pm

smileyLent – Season of Change, Day 37

Andrew Carnegie is my kind of Superhero. A Scottish-American born in 1835 in Scotland, he emigrated to the United States in 1848 and led the U.S. steel industry to became one of the richest Americans ever worth $374 billion in today’s equivalent. I couldn’t care less about that.

What I do admire is that he spent the last 30 years of his life giving away 90% of his fortune and suggesting that other rich people to use their wealth for the benefit of society, kind of like the Bill Gates and Warren Buffett of the 1900s. He used much of his money to build 2,509 libraries including some 1,689 were built in the United States, 660 in the United Kingdom and Ireland, 125 in Canada, and others in Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Serbia, Belgium, France, the Caribbean, Mauritius, Malaysia and Fiji.

When the last grant was made in 1919, there were 3,500 libraries in the United States, nearly half of them built with construction grants from Carnegie. As I said, my kind of guy.

Colorado boasts 35 Carnegie public libraries plus one at the University of Denver. Thirty of these buildings are still standing, and 18 still operate as libraries. Denver has nine, five of which are still used as libraries including Smiley where I pick up and return books every Saturday and Woodbury, the branch I frequented for the 33 years I lived in North Denver.

Smiley was built in 1918. It’s a sweet little library in Berkeley Park at 46th and Utica that gives me access to books from libraries all over the country. It’s on the Doors Open Denver event April 29-30 and my friend Bill will be leading tours there on Saturday, April 29. Stop by and say, “Hi.” (Hi, Bill.)

Somebody Stop Me

In Books, Lent - Season of Change, Uncategorized on April 11, 2017 at 9:57 am

library booksLent – Season of Change, Day 36

These are all library books I currently have checked out, but, sadly, it is not all of them. I have twelve more books and a DVD in the other room, the one I’m reading on my desk, and a couple in the car, ready to go back to the library. And that doesn’t count the the audio or Kindle books or I have downloaded.

Somebody should stop me from this – what shall we call it? An addiction? An obsession?

I guess you could call me a serial hoarder because they make me return them periodically.

I’ve always been bad at this. As soon as I hear about an interesting book, I request it from the library. It’s gotten worse since I installed the Library Extension app on my browser. It acts on amazon and other booksellers to show you when a book you look at is available at your local library. Just click and place a hold. You can see how dangerous this could be.

Obviously, I won’t be able to read all these books. My only solace is that I’m helping my library drive up circulation, which helps them get funding and justify important services and positions. Hey, whatever I can do to help. To me, the library is the most important resource in town. Any town.

Note to whoever is in charge of returning my library books when I die. If they’re from somewhere other than Denver or Jefferson County, return them to Jeffco. That’s where I get all my interlibrary loans.

It’s National Library Week. What have you done to help your library?


You Are What You Read

In Books, Finding Your Calling, Lent - Season of Change, Uncategorized on April 10, 2017 at 10:00 am

night bookmobile

Lent – Season of Change, Day 35

I’m not generally a fan of graphic novels, but I pick one up every once in a while because they’re wildly popular, and I think I ought to give them another try. The title of The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger made it a natural for me. I love libraries (it’s National Library Week!), especially bookmobiles. I’ve enjoyed several books about people running bookmobiles and this one would seem to kill two birds with one stone – I’d get to read another book about bookmobiles and also assuage my prejudice against graphic novels.

It wasn’t what I was expecting and it had a bizarre ending, which I won’t go into here. It’s about a young woman, Alexandra, who happens upon a bookmobile while she’s out walking in Chicago late one night. She begins to browse only to discover that she has read every book there. It is, in fact, a collection of every book, indeed, every written word she’s ever read, including cereal boxes. She was charmed. “In the same way that perfume captures the essence of a flower, these shelves of books were a distillation of my life,” she thinks.

I want to stay here,” she tells the librarian. “I want to come with you. I could be your assistant.”

That isn’t possible,” he says and tells her he has to leave.

Over the years, she searches futilely for the bookmobile and completely changes her life, going to library school, so she can work in the night bookmobile and be united with her lifetime of reading.

It occurs to me that, while I don’t have a library of all the books (let alone cereal boxes) I’ve ever read, I do have a sort of card catalog of the past 30-40 years of them. That’s how long I’ve kept a diary listing every book I read.

I have often wondered why I never became a librarian. It seems like a natural for someone who loves books as much as I do although my friend Pat, who teaches seminars for librarians all over the country, tells me that librarians don’t really read as much as you’d think. They’re too busy.

George R.R. Martin once said, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” Ignoring the sexism, I’m sure that in at least one of those alternate lives I’ve lived I was a librarian.

I’ll Take Manhattan

In Lent - Season of Change on April 8, 2017 at 1:27 pm



Lent – Season of Change, Day 34

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney joins the growing list of my favorite books of the year. Rarely have I flagged so many pages with words that charmed me.

It’s New Year’s Eve 1984, the year of the subway vigilante, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish, who only admits to being 84 because being born in 1899 makes her sound too old-fashioned, heads out walking to her favorite neighborhood restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. She ends up walking almost to the southern tip of the island and back, reminiscing about her life and befriending a cast of characters along the way.

She moved to New York in 1926 and has lived there ever since, watching the city grow and change around her. Some changes she laments and some, like the World Trade Center, she has grown to appreciate.

Working in advertising at Macy’s, she becomes the highest paid woman copywriter in the country. Not a typical working woman for the time, she“was not on the prowl for a permanent connection. No taxidermy for me; strictly catch-and-release.”

She spent her first Christmas in the city alone. “Alone, but not lonely; in the state of being solitary but not the condition of wishing myself otherwise. Solitude enrobed me like a long, warm coat.”

Eventually, even though“Whenever ‘everyone’ is doing something, I seek to avoid it,”she does marry and have a child. No longer allowed to work, (you read that right, “allowed”) she“came to miss the relative privacy—not to mention the privacy from relatives—that I routinely enjoyed while breadwinning, even in my bustling and clamorous office, where I could shut the door and tell the receptionist to lie: “She’s not in.”

Turning back north toward a friend’s New Year’s Eve party and declining offers of a ride, she says, “I figure Chelsea is a hair under three miles away as the crow flies, but I’ve never been inclined to let crows plot my routes.”

As she remembers soaring to the heights of her profession, she also recalls some very bad times.

Lillian’s story is in many ways the story of the 20th Century. I didn’t want the book to end. Lillian is a singular and witty companion. I wanted to continue my stroll with her for a little while longer. Just a few more blocks.


The Walkability Factor

In Home, Lent - Season of Change, Uncategorized on April 7, 2017 at 8:38 am

lifestyle-city-walking-people-urban-scene-22371860Lent – Season of Change, Day 33

I’ve mentioned before how much I’m enjoying reading Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney, and I’ll have more to say about that when I finish it. That will be sooner than expected because the library wants it back tomorrow. I had enjoyed reading at a more leisurely pace than normal as I stopped to look up maps of Manhattan.

It reminds me how much I liked walking in my old neighborhood, a couple miles a day almost every day. Several physical problems now limit my walking, although I’m trying to build up my stamina. Still, when I walk around Olde Town, I realize how much more fun it was to walk in Highland, a hilly urban neighborhood with houses from every decade since the 1850s and little business areas every few blocks.

When I decided to move, one of the main things I wanted in the new place was walkability. The real estate sites all included a walkability score for each location, and I was astonished that the score for Olde Town was actually higher than Highland. Here we have a whole town with restaurants, bars (lots of bars), shops, churches, a library, a park, plenty of services and soon, a light rail station. The only thing we’re missing is a grocery store.

Yet, I miss walking in the old neighborhood, which was just more interesting somehow. Highland has changed quite a bit in the five years since I left and it was changing even then with big modern townhouses replacing small brick homes and young white families taking over the older, more ethnic vibe.

The same thing is happening here, except there aren’t many ethnic minorities to displace. Transit-oriented development (TOD) continues to transform the area, which makes it a bit more interesting to watch. Maybe by the time I’m 85 like Lillian Boxfish, a day which, oddly enough, keeps getting closer, I’ll stroll around Olde Town and remember the times I’ve had.

Exact Change

In Lent - Season of Change, Uncategorized on April 6, 2017 at 12:35 pm


Lent – Season of Change, Day 32

You’re standing in the checkout line behind an old woman who is meticulously counting out change to the exact amount due. You’re annoyed because it’s taking ten seconds longer than you think it should. That woman is me. It makes me happy to have the right amount. Have a little patience and wait your turn.

I asked a cashier once if old people are the only ones who count out correct change. “No,” he said. “Kids do it, too.” All righty then.

More and more stores and restaurants ignore and penny here and there. At Carl’s, my usual bill is $13.24. I hand over a twenty and a quarter and receive back $7.00. Not $7.01. At another restaurant, if my bill is $4.63 and I’m a penny or two short, that’s close enough.

It isn’t that a penny one way or another makes a difference to me, it’s that once upon a time I worked in the accounting department of a federal reserve bank and had to balance the books to the penny every day even though we were dealing in millions of dollars. They paid us a lot of overtime so we could find those extra few pennies.

My mother also taught me to balance my checkbook to the penny every month. Many months I would spend hours trying to find the piddling amount my calculations were off.

I hear they want to get rid of pennies because it costs more (1.7¢) to manufacture them than they are worth. That makes sense (or cents), and anyway, we’re probably on our way to paying electronic with our phones for everything.

At least I no longer write checks. When I’m in line behind an old person (it’s always an old person) who’s writing a check, I marvel that anybody does that anymore. And, okay, I may get a tiny bit irritated because it takes thirty seconds longer to finish the transaction.

The Next Mission

In Finding Your Calling, Lent - Season of Change on April 5, 2017 at 8:09 pm

Lent – Season of Change, Day 31

Why do veterans have such a hard time re-integrating into civilian life? They have notoriously high rates of alcoholism, addiction, homelessness, unemployment and suicide, and we see constant hand wringing and blaming over how to solve these huge problems.

Roadtrip Nation on PBS takes a very personal look at three transitioning vets in “The Next Mission.”

For years, the show has selected three young people who are trying to figure out what to do with their lives, put them on a tricked-out green RV and sent them across the nation to interview successful people who faced and conquered those same questions.

The participants this time are a bit older, 28 – 35, facing unique issues. Bernard is trying to start a nonprofit to help other veterans, but “I feel like an alien”; Helen, a single mom forced by an injury to retire after serving 15 years is struggling to find a new identity when “being out is not in my element”; and Sam who joined the Army at 17 and lost both legs in Afghanistan and now fights depression and tries to focus on what he can do instead of what he can no longer do.

In this one-hour special, they visit retired vets who give them advice and tell their own stories about discovering the opportunities of post-military life. “Don’t think of it as military life and civilian life; it’s life,” says a motivational speaker who came very close to suicide.

Yesterday is yesterday. Do something today.” “Use your military discipline and training.” “Find your purpose.” “Help other people.” “Talk about the things we learned that we are capable of.” “Go to school,” offered other vets who had made it out of the “Bat Cave” of depression, confusion and despair.

I’ve always liked this show and wished it had been available when I was young. I also wish that about computers and the internet. Now, though, I wish every struggling veteran could have a chance to take this trip.