Today we went to the First Avenue Public School book sale. Once again, a description of our "haul":

Cookbooks (all spiral-bound to lie flat):

Muslim Cookery (Ottawa Muslim Women's Auxiliary)
Lean and Luscious and Meatless, Vol. 3 (Bobbie Hinman & Millie Snyder)
Portage Green: Farmer's Market Cookbook (Portage La Prairie, Manitoba)

Other "How-to":

The Basics of Craftsmanship: Essentials of Woodworking


Handel Messiah (New Novello Choral Edition)

For the grandkids:

Blueberries for Sal (Robert McCloskey)
I took my frog to the library (Eric Kimmel)
The White Rat's Tale (Barbara Schiller)

2 Thomas the Tank Engine DVDs

Miscellaneous Literature:

A Teacher's Guide to Selected Literary Works

George Eliot: Silas Marner
Penelope Lively: According to Mark; Moon Tiger
Alison Lurie: The Truth about Lorin Jones
Ali Sethi: The Wish Maker
Merilyn Simonds: The Holding
Patrick Slater: The Yellow Briar
James Steen (local author): Buried Secrets
Mark Twain: Complete Short Stories


Sita Devi (as told to Rachel Barton): The Scarlet Thread: an Indian Woman Speaks
Eva Hoffman: Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language
Ken Ross (another local author): Babysitters don't live next to highways


Masculine/Feminine: Readings in Sexual Mythology and the Liberation of Women
edited by Betty Roszak & Theodore Roszak
Judith Nies: Seven Women: Portraits from the American radical tradition


Thomas Bulfinch: The Age of Fable
Richard P. Feynman: QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter
Howard Loxton: Beautiful Cats (this was a freebie)
Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Primer, 9th ed.
Back in 1976, while studying for my library degree at Western University, I encountered a chatty busdriver. When I told him I was going to library school, he said something like "Hmmm, libraries. Is that where they say 'Ssshhh'?" No one seems to say "SShh" in libraries any more. To be honest, I sometimes wish they would. It's one thing for libraries to offer enclosed meeting spaces for author readings and community events but frankly, when I'm in the stacks, I want to peruse the books in peace and not be constantly bombarded by loud conversations, clashing cellphone ringtones and bleeping video games.

On Wednesday evening, I had planned to attend an event called "Apartment613 Talks: The Future of Libraries" about the future of the public library in Ottawa, to be held at the Shopify Lounge in the Byward Market. As soon as I heard about it, via an e-mail from the Canadian Library Association's Ottawa Network, I replied saying I would like to attend but was not on Facebook (and was having trouble with the eventbrite registration software). I never got a reply. However, when I followed up on Wednesday afternoon (the site had originally indicated that registration would be accepted up to 6 PM), I learned that the event was sold out. I phoned CLA and left a message, which likewise was not returned. I was out of luck!

When I e-mailed Apartment613 to complain about my ill-fated attempt at registration, I DID at least get a prompt and fairly detailed reply, though not a very satisfying one. The gist of it was "This was an apartment613 event, not a CLA event. They just helped to promote it for us." Huh? You mean, in a debate on the future of the library, the three prominent librarian-panelists are just the handmaidens of Apartment613 (a "grassroots community media group")? Moreover, I had assumed that "Apartment613" was so-named because it puts on events in the Ottawa area and 613 is the telephone area code for eastern Ontario, but according to the e-mail, apartment 613 doesn't even HAVE a phone! Like, maybe that's part of the problem right there - no way to interact in real time with a real live person? How can you organize events like debates when that's the way you operate? I am singularly unimpressed with Apartment613 as well as with eventbrite and CLA.

But anyway, I started out this blog wanting to talk about the future of the public library, so that's what I'll now do. My first suggestion? Put libraries back in the hands of librarians instead of hotshot young aspie computer geeks who clearly think Google glasses are infinitely superior to reading glasses (if indeed they've even HEARD of reading glasses!) This suggestion, by the way, applies to ALL types of libraries, not just the public libraries (Library and Archives Canada and other government libraries spring to mind right about now). We're the skilled, educated professionals with Masters- and often higher-level degrees.

Secondly, be aware that a library is NOT the same thing as a bookstore. They perform related but distinct functions. In particular, bookstores - those that are NOT second-hand bookstores, that is - focus on CURRENT materials. There are no back-issues of periodicals, for example, and the books they stock are mostly published within the past couple of years. Those that are published earlier than that are usually by well-known living or recently-dead authors or they are the classics that never go out of print. I think public libraries these days focus a bit too much on current bestsellers, often buying a ridiculous number of copies, all of which takes away from the available budget for subscriptions or for discretionary purchases of excellent books which will all-too-soon be out of print and unavailable through normal channels. A library normally has a collection development policy establishing priorities for the areas within which it collects. A bookstore, understandably given its mandate, collects what will sell.

Another aspect of this library-is-not-a-bookstore is the whole notion of library as physical place and space. Bookstores may encourage browsing to some degree, but the ultimate aim is to get a maximum number of customers in and out as quickly as possible and to get them to part with as much of their money as possible. Even the coffee shops in bookstores, originally set up to encourage longer stays, now no longer allow unpaid-for merchandise in their cafe-areas. And the amount of space they devote to actual books and reading material is decreasing alarmingly! A library, on the other hand, can and should continue to have quiet spaces where people can stay and read or study all day if they so choose.

The Ottawa Public Library recently ran a kind of visioning exercise, asking people what they should start doing, continue doing, and stop doing. It was, of course, run on social media by some sort of outside consulting group and was offering various prizes and other incentives. I didn't participate, except to "lurk" and read what others were saying. It will be interesting to learn the results.

I still hope we will get a new Main branch of the Ottawa Public Library in the near future, even though I don't discount the importance of the smaller branches right in people's communities. But we shall see.
Will we in our lifetime see the end of the book as we know it, or used to know it? The evidence, I think, is mixed.

On the one hand, a lot of small independent bookshops are closing, downsizing, or becoming online-only booksellers. On the Ottawa scene, the following spring to mind:
Mother Tongue Books (to close July 21); Nicholas Hoare; Shirley Leishman; Prime Crime; Patrick McGahern; at least two incarnations of a science fiction bookstore; The Bookery (children's books); Books Canada; Jarvis's; Classics (these last three are long gone). On the other hand, we still have Perfect Books on Elgin Street; Collected Works on Wellington; Books on Beechwood (location obvious); plus the chains - Chapters/Indigo, Smithbooks, Coles - and a number of second-hand bookstores.

Many people have e-readers, of course, or other devices like iPads on which they can read books and other text that they download. I have a Kobo (non-touch version) which came pre-loaded with about 100 classics - and it's wonderful knowing I've got them there in easily portable and accessible (at least till the next great technological development comes along) form.

Many people also order the traditional paper books but from an online source - or they take them out of the library. I buy a lot of books through Abebooks (which apparently is now owned by Amazon, though I've discovered a number of the individual booksellers who sell through Abebooks): it's a great source for out-of-print items.

Then there's the second-hand booksales. Two months ago, I wrote about my haul from the Rockliffe Park book sale. A quick update about that - thus far, I've read the memoir of an Ottawa family by Grace Day Hartwick; I've baked muffins, adapting a recipe from the Veganomicon; and I've watched one of the videos I bought there.

What else is Blogcutter reading? Well, at the moment it's John Irving's latest book, In One Person (may not be the exact title) as well as Jan Wong's Out of the Blue (her self-published book about her experience with depression). I recently read a number of the books by authors who were appearing at Bloody Words the weekend of June 1-3 (including Gayle Lynds, Lou Allin, Janice Macdonald, Garry somebody, Erika Chase (a.k.a. Linda Wiken) Hilary McLeod, Kay Stewart); I read Anne Holt's first Hanne Wilhelmsen mystery, Alexander McCall Smith's "The Great Cake Mystery" (a children's book about Precious Ramotswe when she was a little girl); and a history of the free public library movement in Ontario from 1860-1930.

And today, I went to the Friends of the Experimental Farm booksale. They were a little better organized than they seemed to be last year; I joined the line-up around 9:45 where a woman was distributing plastic shopping-bags (I wonder what they do in Toronto now that plastic bags are to be banned?) You could fill one of their bags with paperbacks for a flat fee of $15; hardcover books were $2 apiece.

So here is a list of what I brought home:

Hardcovers - Karol Wojtyla (aka Pope John Paul II), Collected Poems
John Masefield - Poems

Crime novels - The Puzzling Adventures of Dr. Ecco, by Dennis Shasha (about a mathematical detective in Greenwich Village)
- The Dying of the Light, by Robert Richardson
- A Wreath for my Sister, by Priscilla Masters
- Striding Folly, by Dorothy L. Sayers
- Thrones, Dominations, by Dorothy L. Sayers, completed posthumously by Jill Paton Walsh
- The Point of Murder & Almost the Truth, both by Margaret Yorke
- By Hate Possessed, by Maurice Gagnon
- Beware of the Trains & Frequent Hearses, both by Edmund Crispin
- All Shall be Well & In a Dark House, both by Deborah Crombie
- The Keys to the Street, by Ruth Rendell

Canadiana - Dancing in the Dark & Family News, both by Joan Barfoot
- The Husband, by Dorothy Livesay
- Swann: A Literary Mystery, by Carol Shields
- The Falling Woman, by Shaena Lambert

Other fiction - The Woman and the Ape, by Peter Hoeg (translated from Danish - the author also writes crime fiction)
- The Search, by Naguib Mahfouz
- The Black Prince, by Iris Murdoch
- Blitzcat, by Robert Westell
- Jizzle, by John Wyndham

Non-fiction & Reference
- The Ojibwa Woman, by Ruth Landes
- Early Irish Myths and Sagas
- The Bronte Myth, by Lucasta Miller
- Dictionary of Classical Mythology, by Pierre Grimal
- From Abacus to Zeus: A Handbook of Art History, by James Smith Pierce
- The Book of Classical Music Lists, by Herbert Kupferberg

Total haul, 30 books.

I'll issue an update later on where I am with my various reading.

Meanwhile, I've been dismayed by the demise of some newspapers, including the Sunday edition of the Ottawa Citizen and the entertainment weekly, Xpress. But further commentary on that will have to wait for another time.
Hi. My name is Blogcutter and I'm a biblioholic.

Today I went to a book sale at Rockliffe Park Community Centre. There was already a line-up when I got there, about ten minutes before their 10 AM opening. I emerged around 11 AM with a shopping bag filled with 26 books and 2 videos - all for about what I would have paid for one new book. Some of the books I got looked as if they hadn't even been opened, let alone read. Others looked as if they'd been around the block a few times. Some of them I'll probably keep; others I'll probably read and pass along to others who share my addiction. My haul is listed and discussed below.

1) Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook - This was my only hard-cover book. In mint condition and copiously illustrated, it was evidently pre-owned by folk who never followed through on their noble intentions.

In the crime fiction category (no particular order):

2) The Hollow, by Agatha Christie (Poirot)
3) Smilla's Sense of Snow, by Peter Hoeg
4) The Fifth Woman, by Henning Mankell
5) Red Wolf, by Liza Marklund (Can you tell I'm on a Scandinavian crime novel jag?)
6) The Impossible Dead, by Ian Rankin

In the Canadiana category (again, no particular order):

7) Lunatic Villas, by Marian Engel
8) The Shack, by Wm Paul Young
9) Glass Voices, by Carol Bruneau
10) Coventry, by Helen Humphreys
11) One Hundred Years of an Ottawa Family, by Grace Day Hartwick
12) The Home Children, edited by Phyllis Harrison

In the "other fiction and literature" category (though that's a rather artificial distinction):

13) Jennie, by Paul Gallico
14) Something in Disguise, by Elizabeth Jane Howard
15) Affairs at Thrush Green, by Miss Read
16) The Aeneid of Virgil, a new verse translation by C. Day Lewis (new in 1952, that is)
17) Barbary Shore, by Norman Mailer (This should possibly go in the "humour" category: it purports to be his "explosive novel of love and violence in post-war America" and according to Mailer himself is "the richest of my first three novels" and "has a kind of insane insight into the psychic mysteries of Stalinists, secret policement, narcissists, children, Lesbians, hysterics, revolutionaries"
18) The Haunting (of Hill House) by Shirley Jackson
19) The Woman Destroyed, by Simone de Beauvoir
20) The Rector's Daughter, by F.M. Mayor
21) The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami
22) Porterhouse Blue, by Tom Sharpe

And finally, in the miscellaneous non-fiction category:

23) The Myth of Sisyphus, by Albert Camus
24) Under the Sign of Saturn, by Susan Sontag
25) History the Betrayer: A Study in Bias, by E.H. Dance
26) A Small Sound of the Trumpet: Women in Medieval Life, by Margaret Wade Labarge

The two videos I bought were:

Voices from a Locked Room and
Miracle on 34th Street (the classic 1947 version, starring Maureen O'Hara and Natalie Wood)

So that's all I'm writing for today, folks - more in the near future.



October 2017



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