Thursday, November 23, 2006


For those of you who don't know, I've become quite a shutterbug lately. Some of you may have already fallen prey to the swift shutter of my S2. Many of you have probably seen me firing away at trees or piles of books or something else that won't run away. I've got the photo fever so badly that I've taken to carrying my camera everywhere I go. Actually, come to think of it, it seems like the entire Reference staff has been bitten by the bug: Mitch started scanning and saving his film shots from his old Pentax onto, Steve bought a brand new EOS Digital Rebel and Vicki has been going into serious overtime with her Kodak (as well as with Steve's EOS, which often gets enlisted for library photos on our public Flickr page). I'd say I started the trend when I started showing off my Canon S2IS after I won it on eBay last month, but that'd be a bit over the top, wouldn't it?

So...why is a reference clerk going on about camera work? Shouldn't he be ranting and raving about the historical accuracy of the latest David McCullough book? As off as my clocks might be, I think we're all on to something here at KPL. Books, it seems, aren't the only medium for us.

Photography has quickly become an art in its own right. From the moment Joseph Nicephore Niepce first committed his "View from the Window at Gras" to a polished pewter plate in 1826, the delicate balance of mathematic and aesthetic has developed as a veritable language of expression for the peoples of the last two centuries. But it's not just that, either: it has become a device of remembrance, a volume in reference, a catalog of history. The photograph is as important to us and our posterity as the written word was to the children of Phoenicia, Rome and Israel. Like the Phoenician alphabet and its early offspring opened a doorway to cultural preservation never before imagined, so did the camera do for a rapidly expanding Western World: The sprawling expansion of the wild American West...the ravages of war, both civil and international...the social and cultural revolutions that shook the peoples of the Old and New Worlds...the rise and fall of minds unparalleled in science, math, philosophy...As moments rose to the eyes of the post-industrial world, a camera was there to document them-a scribe for future eyes. The importance of these documents is undeniable. The importance of this device is undeniable.

With all of this long-winded argument in mind, I suddenly reflected upon a recent inquiry about my own photographic blunderings. After a particularly heavy flurry of pics, a friend of mine asked, "Why do you shoot so much in black & white?" I'm sure I shot out some spur of the moment response, either horribly cheeky or horribly geeky in nature (depending on whatever my mood was at the time), but the question just lingered in my head. Why is that, really? What is it about Black and White that's so intrinsically profound? Now that I'm knee-deep in this, I think I can answer that question...

There's an elegance, a classicism to monochrome photography that I can find nowhere else. B&W is neither cursed by the gaudy nor the trendy: it flattens the assault of color, garish light saturations, busy clashes of color coordination and not-coordination. It erases the bias of temporarily hip shades and hues; it flattens out the allegiance of national, regional or political colors; it takes us away from the flash and glamour of all the details. Colors of skin become unified as mere shades of grey; race is united under the gloss of a singular shade.
It draws our attention to shadow and light, shape and contour. It forces us to look away from shades of our subjects and instead toward the nature of them- their expressions, their motions; essentially, it brings us to the heart of the matter.
Distance between 'them' and 'us', 'now' and 'then' utterly disappears. A photograph of 1963 could be any day in 2006; a moment taken now could be any time in 2084. It's Classic. Pure Classic.

Well, that's how I see it anyway.

Heck, now that I've written that out, I'll probably have my camera firing away all evening in color, and by next week, I'll be writing an argument as to why color photography is a superior medium for the immortalization of culture how it is superior as a textural element or blah, blah, blah. That's art for you...

If you're interested in photography, Kankakee Public and our Prairie Area Library System brethren have a variety of photographic works on book, as well as some great guides and how-to books to get you started.

If you're really interested, drop us a line, and maybe we can even consider a camera club or a few photography classes. Who knows? The possibilities are endless.
Oh, and here's the photo page for the library:
If you hunt through the community hard enough, maybe you can even find my page!

Nick Garcia
Adult Services

Friday, November 17, 2006

Poop Is Always #1 With Us!

How ever you look at it, poop is probably the most useful stuff on Earth! - I'm serious; to most of us poop is nothing more than a "waste," but poop can be used for a plethora of things from fertilizer to building materials, and maybe even rocket fuel...If you can think of it, poop is probably used for it, and I'm not just talking about people. Animals use poop in amazing ways too! Did you know Michelangelo used to age his sculptures by scrubbing them down with animal feces? Makes you question his artistic "genius" doesn't it?

I know what you are thinking, what's with all the talk about poop? Over the past month the Youth Services staff has been hard at work researching our "gross" bodies. That's right folks, Grossology, the study of really gross things. And believe me I have learned more than I care to about my body and its various functions; for instance: the average person farts fourteen times a day, never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear, humans swallow about a quart of snot a day, the medical word for vomit is "emesis", and that's not even mentioning all the functions of poop. I never would have imagined all of the useful possibilities of poop, or that I would have enjoyed talking about it! Once I got past the initial taboo of the word, my eyes were opened to the wonderful world of kaka!

Poop comes in all shapes and sizes, and each species of animal has its own distinct kind. Anyone want to take a guess at the largest poop on the planet? Here's a hint: it comes from the largest animal on the planet...The turd from a Blue Whale is about a foot wide, and several yards long. Aren't you glad no one has to scoop its poop? To find out more about what it is, where it goes, and what we can learn from it (scientist have even found fossilized T-Rex droppings!) be sure to check out two of my new favorite books: Poop, A Natural History of the Unmentionable by Nicola Davies, and The Truth About Poop by Susan Goodman. Interested in other bodily functions? Then be sure to stop by the second floor of the Kankakee Public Library and check out some of our other "gross" books.

Joanna Thompson
Youth Services Staff

The Dangers of Being a Librarian

I've been living a dangerous, dangerous life. DANGEROUS. I sit next to the microwave while it's running. I run with scissors. I cross the street when the DO NOT WALK sign is flashing. I sometimes eat food I dropped on the floor AFTER THE 5-SECOND RULE HAS EXPIRED. And on top of all that, I work at a library. You know, being in CONTACT with THE PUBLIC.

Exciting and terrifying, I know.

I'm not the first in my family to run the public service gamut, either. My father, a veritable bear of a man, has been wearing the Kankakee City Police badge for several years, and had been wearing the St. Anne Police's insignia for many before that. I have seen this man deal with everything from irate, drunken Masons to irate, hormone-dripping siblings while simultaneously juggling eighteen pears and building a serviceable garden shed, and have only seen him lose his temper a handful of times. I'm not sure how he does it; I have the lingering suspicion that he has mastered the use of the Force, as well as maintained a steady diet of Buddhist monks for many, many years.

Despite the occupational gap, father and son do have one thing in common: we both work with the public, and we both walk the tightrope- the thin red line- between order and service.

We've spoken of this before, this dangerous little dance we do between one demand and another. The public must be kept happy; we must supply them with the information, service and access that they demand. Simultaneously, we have to define the difficult lines of acceptability in public, creating order in a vague and uncertain world. And in between it all, there's the secret self, the heart of personal interest we must maintain. Municipal service of any kind is a discipline in and of itself, one that demands separation of the public self and the private self.

There is a Japanese proverb of which I am terribly fond that tells us a man will always have three hearts: a true heart which he shows everyone, a truer heart he reveals only to his friends, and truest heart which will remain a secret for his own person. (Otoko no hito wa kokoro ga san-ko aru...) I've never told you this before, but under all these sweaters and collared shirts, there is a strong-minded liberal- tree-hugging vegetarian, mild supported of socialism, a protestor of the current political *cough*regime*cough*, a happy agnostic, a follower of existentialism and the Buddhist precepts. It's a strong passion that I have, but it has no place in my service to the public.

As much as I want to berate every patron looking to find a veal recipe or a dissertation on why religion should stay in schools, it is not my place to do so. I'm sure good old Dad has had the urge, once or twice, to tell those domestic dispute participants/juvenile delinquents/drunken Masons exactly what he thinks of them, but it hasn't happened yet.

Even when a patron is wrong, it is not my place to point that out to them. I cannot count how many times I have had rather stilted discourse with cardholders who believe that kamikaze means 'suicide' or that the internet is separately stored on each one of our shiny little computers or that Buddhism is the worship of Buddha or that all of the books in all the world are certainly housed in this one three-story building. We're lucky in the fact that library service embodies respect. It is my place to respectfully facilitate those users' needs, no matter how deeply-rooted their ignorance is, to help them in their journey- to show them the pathway to the enlightenment they seek.

We as librarians are moderators, objective guides into the world of literature, data, information. Excuse me for being so geeky, but I see librarians as the Jedi Knights of the public- keepers of order and peace, custodians of freedom of information. We are required to be the most wise, the most patient, the most objective; we have dedicated ourselves to the ancient discipline of literacy. (We are also known to occasionally use Jedi mind tricks on patrons, but that's our little secret, okay?)

My only wish is that they would issue us lightsabers at our library. Mine would be green. Maybe blue.

Okay, so I've never honestly earned my MLS, and it may be some time before I do; nonetheless, I do feel like I've become part of the librarian community. Baptism by fire has brought me into this amazing world; only Darth Vader and herd of wild gun-toting horses could ever drag me away from it. Bring on the insanity and the uncertainty; I wouldn't have my world any other way.

Adult Services Dept.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

From the Trenches

When I entered the library world a few years ago never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would be like this! I started out in a very small quiet library and thought that was how libraries were; quiet boring institutions with little old "shush" ladies around every corner. Well, since coming to Kankakee Public Library I have been awakened to what libraries could (and should) be. The circulation department here is very busy, extremely fast-paced and sometimes demanding. Being a people person is a must in order to excel in this department. We are exposed to people from every walk of life every day - all day. We have judges, lawyers, doctors, business moguls, teachers, regular Joes and of course people who may be currently a little down on their luck. We are happy to see them all, greet them all, and service them all.

My background is in customer service - I worked in commercial banking in downtown Chicago for 16 years before changing my career path, and I have had a chance to use all of that background and training every day here. We learn from the tough situations and relish in the good interactions. The huge turnouts for the never-ending programs in the Youth and Adult Service departments, here at the library help to keep the Circ staff hopping. The Circulation department here at Kankakee Public Library is one of the best and by far the busiest I have ever been exposed to and I look forward to its future growth.

Well, back to the trenches for more circulating and percolating!

Yvonne Croswell
Head of Circulation

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The God Delusion

Religion is a source of much joy in my life, or rather, the refutation of religion. As a recovered Catholic I find myself constantly on the lookout to destroy those paper thin arguments that desperately try to prove the existence of a god. Why? Well, I find the truth to be so much more delicious than those stale communion hosts.

The hardest part, I find, in arguing the illegitimacy of religion is backing up statements with well explained proof. Kirk Cameron, in his show "The Way of The Master", purposefully exploits the unlearned atheists' vulnerability to make non-believers appear stupid by asking them questions that only well studied scientists could answer. Cameron then makes it seem as if all non-believers have this same limited knowledge. (See for yourself ). It's people like Kirk Cameron that have driven me to this wonderful religious cynicism, and also to a wonderful book.

The book is The God Delusion, written by Richard Dawkins, an Oxford scholar and prominent atheist. The God Delusion is the "holy grail" of arguments for atheism, containing points not fueled by opinion, but by rational, scientific explanation. I was fortunate enough to see Richard Dawkins on Book TV (yes it's true, a book channel). Person after person shot questions at Dawkins trying to trip him up and disprove his arguments, but the unbeatable Dawkins was, well, unbeatable. His jaw dropping intellect has caused quite an uproar in the religious world, even with the infamous Ted Haggard who once threatened Dawkins with an arrest if Dawkins did not leave the preacher's property.

I recommend this book to peoples of all beliefs. If you're an atheist you will find pages and pages of argumentative support. If you are a believer of a religious faith of any kind, then why not challenge those beliefs since they seem so true to you?

"Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence." - Richard Dawkins

Adult Services Dept.

Sweet Valley is Suuuhweeet!

So, my coworkers are mocking me on a regular basis. Heck my own brother is too. I am okay with this...a good mocking is healthy once in a while. Is it so wrong to want to relive a little piece of my childhood? Is it wrong to be of a certain age and want to reread the Sweet Valley High series of books? Is it?!

This series started coming out in 1984. I remember my mom taking me to Crown's Bookstore near our house about once a month so I would be able to get the latest masterpiece by Francine Pascal. At one time I owned #1-50 in the series but sadly gave them away at one point. I have come to recently find out that there are about 150 in that series alone. Not to mention that there is Sweet Valley Senior Year series, and Sweet Valley University just to name a few.

For those of you not familiar with these books they follow the adventures of identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield and their friends. You can always count on Elizabeth to be the rock in the story and she continually bails out her sister Jessica. There are great classic lines like, "the beach disco was in full swing" and Elizabeth's favorite teacher reminds her of the dreamy Robert Redford.

As if the books weren't great enough this was briefly made into a TV show (it's on my Xmas list this year) that was fairly successful. So, mock me all you want (I will admit to being slightly embarrassed to read these in public) but Sweet Valley Rocks!

Vicki S.
Adult Services Dept.

RIP Rainer Maria

Rainer Maria, one of my favorite bands of the last ten years, just announced their breakup today. They've left quite an intriguing and challenging body of work in their wake, and I recommend them highly to anyone interested in pop music as a poetic art. Try any one of these works as your starting point (though I've starred* my personal recommendations):

Rainer Maria (EP)
Past Worn Searching
Look Now, Look Again*
A Better Version of Me*
Ears Ring (EP)
Long Knives Drawn
Catastrophe Keeps Us Together*

As a side note, some of you may have recognized their name as a reference to the 20th century German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. He is a strong and unique voice in the Modernist movement. Regardless of whether you are a casual reader of poetry, a literary fanatic or a poet trying to find inspiration, he's worth a read or two. Here's a list of some of his work to get you started, which should be available at any library or bookstore:

Letters to a Young Poet
Selected Poems (translated by C.F. MacIntyre)
*another fine translation is available from Stephen Mitchell
The Book of Hours: Love Poems to God (tr. Anita Barrows & Joanna Macy)
Uncollected Poems (selected/translated by Edward Snow)
The Roses and the Window

Have fun!

Nick Garcia,
Adult Services Department

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My First Hand at Blogging

I am currently working on the latest edition of the newsletter. The previous edition was my first hand at doing such a project and I loved doing it and was very proud of the end result. I can't wait - 2007 is going to be an awesome year! I am mostly excited about Elizabeth Berg coming in February. It's awesome to be able to brush elbows with people like her, Arlo Guthrie and Lois Lowry, just to name a few. I have only been working here a year but I have been loving every single minute of it!

In addition to working the desk and teaching computer classes I have been helping make our library go "2.0". I will be maintaining our Flickr account so please check out the site. I did not personally take all the photographs, I'm responsible for about half of them, but it was a lot of fun picking the best that we had and putting them on the account to share with other people. Be sure to check the site out and to post any comments. And who knows? Next time you are at a program and you see me with a camera you just might make it onto the website!

The book, Marley and Me by John Groban, is our latest selection for my personal bookclub with my friends. I bought the book last night and started reading is at 8pm. At 1am, I put the finished book down. It was such a good read. My dog growing up was not a pain in the rear end like Marley but reading the book brought back so many happy memories. Like Marley, my dog Max, lived to a rather old age for a big dog. We got him when I was in fourth grade and he lived until a year after I graduated from college. We loved that bag of fur just like a regular family member. We dressed him up in a Chicago Bear's jersey for the '85 Superbowl and we tortured him by taking an E.T. photo of him - any free toy or stuffed animal was put around him so only is head was visible. We took tons of pictures of him. We called him "Triever" because he never retrieved anything, he only ran away with stuff. Not everyone can understand the bond between pets and their owners but if you have ever had a beloved pet then you can really relate to Marley and Me.

Vicki S.
Adult Services Media Lead
Kankakee Public Library