Tuesday, June 28, 2011

School Libraries Under Fire


My early memories of reading take me back to the library at Washington Mill Elementary, where in third or fourth grade I spent hours poring over a series of biographies along with occasional scifi like A Wrinkle in Time. That was where I caught my appetite for life stories, one that nourishes me still – both intangibly and with food on the table.
    So it hurts to read that school districts across the country are eliminating libraries and librarian positions. In Oregon, all 48 librarians in the Salem-Keizer school district’s elementary and middle schools face layoffs in a budget that will be voted on this week.
    True, more classrooms are using laptops and iPads so students can do research without going to the library, but libraries are still where kids can learn skills they need to use those tools and analyze their searches and results, says Nancy Everhart, who leads a national association of school librarians, in the New York Times. In libraries they can find interests they might not otherwise see.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Three Writers Tackle History

Last Saturday at the AIW Writers' Conference held at The Writer's Center, a trio of fine authors -- Barbara Esstman, C.M. Mayo and Natalie Wexler -- surrounded the challenges and opportunities of historical fiction from three sides. Here are C.M. Mayo's insights (plus a fine reading list for any writer) on her blog after the event.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Footsteps at Night: 1930s California

Los Angeles in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to the City of Angels (WPA Guides)Okay, forgive me first for pointing out Library Journal's glowing review of Soul of a People. They call it a “touching, straightforward, and well-paced look” at this slice of American history, “a welcome addition to literature and history collections.” My partners on the film and I couldn’t agree more.
    Just in the last two months come two reprints of WPA guides, with insightful new introductions by David Kipen: the WPA Guide to Los Angeles, with an essay that points out the bubbling L.A. scene when the book was first written, with early film noir and Orson Welles, and late F. Scott Fitzgerald. Southern California was even more beautiful than now, and a magnet for fascinating people. “If only some benevolent patron had stepped in and commissioned a panorama of prewar Los Angeles,” Kipen writes. “In other words, if only there existed the book that you … now hold in your hand.” He is as lavish with San Francisco, where he lived for years.
    This is how the stories and footsteps of the past stay with us. As I come from burying my father this week, this is on my mind: mixing stories with histories.