Librarians: Shushers or Superheroes?

April 27th, 2011

Do you have those days where you simply cringe to think about what may be in the headlines? I sure do.  I’m an avid reader and respect the art of good writing and journalism, but goodness gracious, sometimes I need to escape in the pages of a book.

Truth so often is stranger than fiction—CCPL has a CD book about that, William McKeen’s Stranger Than Fiction: The Art of Literary Journalism, exploring the nature of storytelling and how journalism has affected our culture and modes of expression.  For a more lighthearted approach, I recommend joining Will Ferrell in the quirky and quite hilarious movie Stranger Than Fiction, so check it out. Here’s my true story: I believe in the soul of books. Be it a tattered and torn well-loved children’s book, a massive 800 page masterpiece, or the latest must-read on an electronic reader, stories have soul.

I like to let my mind wander and I suspect librarian Ranganathan (1892-1972) did as well. It’s okay if you can’t pronounce his name—what he did for libraries in his lifetime is what inspired me to write this very post. He believed in sharing his ideas with others, and promoted books in so many ways. Some librarians may refer to him as the “Father of Library Science.” I personally related to his simple philosophy of “Every book its reader.”   I’m not embarrassed to say librarians, in my opinion, are superheroes.

When you’re reading a book, you’re sharing your soul with what’s on the page. CCPL library staff is dedicated to connecting you with what stirs your soul. We also believe that any person who visits the library should be given excellent service. We strive to keep our atmosphere welcoming and helpful, no matter what’s going on in the world at large. We aren’t fair weather fans—we love our library users, and it’s our job to help you find the information you need. But Mr. Ranganathan makes the best case for the soul of the library and the soul of the book: “Library staff should be given full responsibility to promote the use of books…the book pleads with the librarian as follows: I am inert. Of my own accord, I am unable to lead into my reader’s hands. My voice is not audible…I depend on you for my being taken to my reader to be taken to me.”

Whew! Pretty cool, huh? You can find out more about Ranganathan or your hero of choice by visiting our Biography Resource Center.  If you’d like help finding the perfect read for you, use our Book Mate service, and let us help you escape. We’re not shushing you…tell us about your heroes and learn more about them at your library.

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Orchids: A Rare Obsession

April 21st, 2011

RF245648About four years ago, my life took an interesting turn when my husband, Cheyenne, began growing orchids as a hobby.  Since that time, his small collection of a few window-sill plants has grown into a collection of over 200 orchids, housed in a bedroom he converted into an indoor greenhouse.  We regularly attend local orchid society meetings and shows like Longwood Gardens’ recent Orchid Extravaganza, and have traveled to many orchid workshops and nurseries along the east coast.  We even journeyed to Hawaii this past year in pursuit of orchids.  In the early days of his hobby, he used to tell me that there are so many species and hybrids of orchids growing in the world, that even if you collected a different orchid every day for the rest of your life, you still wouldn’t be able to collect them all. That doesn’t seem to stop him from trying.

While I’m not quite the fanatic that my husband is, orchid growing has proven to be a fascinating joint pursuit (that is, once I got used to spending every Valentine’s Day at the annual Slipper Orchid Forum in Washington, DC).  For my part as a librarian, I’ve helped him gain access to orchid literature and research via the library.  Early favorites like Understanding Orchids:  An Uncomplicated Guide to Growing the World’s Most Exotic Plants, the helpful guide Success with Orchids, and Orchids For Every Home:  The Beginner’s Guide to Growing Beautiful, Easy-care Orchids helped introduce us to proper growing techniques and conditions.  As his expertise in cultivating orchids grew, we turned to narrative nonfiction tales of orchid obsession with books like Eric Hansen’s Orchid Fever:  A Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust, and Lunacy, which examines the dangerous lengths and locales (the jungles of Borneo!) some collectors will go to acquire these rare plants.  And then there’s Susan Orlean’s  best-selling The Orchid Thief (which later became the basis of the film “Adaptation” starring Nicholas Cage and Meryl Streep), a true story of scandal and obsession that led the writer into the swamps of Florida in pursuit of the elusive “ghost orchid.”  Since reading these, Cheyenne has proposed orchid treks of our own into the swamps of Florida, as well as into the jungles of Peru in search of rare kovachii orchids.  The DC Slipper Forum’s not looking so bad right now.

Next Saturday, April 30th at 1pm, Cheyenne will share his knowledge and expertise with new and experienced orchid growers alike in the program “Orchids for Everyone” at the Elkton Central Library.  He’ll also be making room for new orchids in his greenhouse by raffling off some old favorites at the program.  For more information and to register for the program, click the link above, stop by the Elkton Central Library or call 410-996-5600 ext. 481.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve also been blogging about our adventures in orchid growing and getting to know this fascinating subculture of hobbyists and professional growers.  You can check out our photos and stories at Paphaholics Anonymous, aptly named for his addiction to growing paphiopedilums, also known as lady slipper orchids.  For a look at these exotic flowers in real life, stop by the Elkton Central Library where many of our orchids are now on display.

What’s your obsession?

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