friday roundup: why we need libraries, taking notes, and “she who divides herself”

An artist's rendering of the Library of Alexandria wikimedia

An artist’s rendering of the Library of Alexandria wikimedia

Happy Friday, Reader! Here we are again. Yesterday afternoon while Sister was at ballet class I sat in the waiting room and looked at my calendar for the next 10 days. And I am afraid. Very afraid. I’m so afraid that I’m afraid I’ll have to take next week off from blogging. Maybe I’ll be able to post some fragments here and there — since blogging is part of what keeps me sane.

Meanwhile, starting around 3:00 today we’re have a big, weekend-long cousin festival at our house. There will be cousins and sleeping bags, pancakes and pizza, lego marathons and the cutest two year old in the history of two year olds. Also meanwhile, my mom just told me that the BART isn’t running due to a strike (how did she know this before I did?). Sigh. There goes my plan for taking transit for my reading. And now, on to the roundup:

why we need libraries  This speech by Neil Gaiman has been making the rounds on Facebook, and my response to it is yes, yes, yes! There is a segment of thinkers (something tells me many of them live in my zip code or in nearby zip codes) who believe that books are so, like, 1986. And that the library is dead, because we now have the interwebs. I have many, many gut-level, sentimental reasons why I think libraries are more necessary then ever. Neil Gaiman has his reasons a bit more thought out, so I’ll share a couple of them with you:

“But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.”


“Books are the way we communicate with the dead. The way that we learn lessons from those who are no longer with us, that humanity has built on itself, progressed, made knowledge incremental rather than something that has to be relearned, over and over. There are tales that are older than most countries, tales that have long outlasted the cultures and the buildings in which they were first told.”

Because I’m a complete library nerd, I’ve also been reading The Oxford Guide to Library Research by Thomas Mann. Mann points out that (1) there are many resources that exist only in physical form and are not available on the Internet (e.g., rare books, maps, subject encyclopedias, site-licensed subscription databases, archives), and (2) that the best, most comprehensive research can’t be conducted on a platform that returns results based on frequency of searches, keyword ranking, and/or advertising. He also points out that:

“…there is an inherent bias in screen-display formats toward the pictorial, the audio, the colorful, the animated, the instantaneous connection, the quickly updated, and the short verbal text… .”

This is probably fine for some things, but is not fine for actual scholarship. So, yeah, based on that research we’ve all heard about that people read very differently on the web than they do in a book, this post is already WAY TOO LONG. But, in conclusion: The library is dead, long live the library. Amen.

taking notes  Do you read brainpickings? It is an amazing website chock full of information on creativity (so,yes! we need the interwebs, too). Yesterday a quote from Aaron Koblin (who works for The Google’s creative lab) about taking notes caught my eye:

“They say an elephant never forgets. Well, you are not an elephant. Take notes, constantly. Save interesting thoughts, quotations, films, technologies…the medium doesn’t matter, so long as it inspires you. When you’re stumped, go to your notes like a wizard to his spellbook. Mash those thoughts together. Extend them in every direction until they meet.”

I think it captured my attention because it’s so true for my writing process. Whenever something tugs at my mind, nags at me, makes my heart skip a beat, etc., I put it in a note — either in my physical notebook or in Evernote. Then I draw on those notes for poem-making. I find it fascinating that the same thing works across such a wide ranging creative spectrum that includes poetry *and* software programming. Do you have your notebook handy?

“she who divides herself” If They (whoever They are) say libraries are dead, what about independent bookstores? What about print journals? I’m happy to report that from the looks of things, they’re still kicking. Last summer when we were in the Old Country, Husband and I walked into an indie bookstore and I was thrilled to find actual copies of print journals, including a few issues of Third Coast. I bought them, of course, because money talks. This week, I’ve been reading through the Fall 2012 issue, and came across a stunning poem by Christina Cook (whose poem “Summer Requiem” was featured in this roundup). Reader, for your Friday, here is…


Postmortem by Christina Cook

When the boundaries are erased, once again the wonder: that I exist.”
— Dag Hammarskjold

Not I, but the mangy cackle of gulls
and the reeds they beat flat when they land;

the garden whose gray-blue slate gave way to weeds
and ribboned bodies of voles deranged by death.

When my face is most in shadow, I find the moon
to be the dark epitome of itself:

soon to start over from zero,
becoming the answer, which I am

to the question, which I also am.
Spectacularly self-destructive and, evidently, fertile,

I am the old fairy tale: she who divides herself by two
is always one, in the end.

Wind whines through the hollow pipe
of night, softly, it is said

that she who halves her life by death will find herself
the twin of many such things.

first published in Third Coast


I can think of about seven different poems I could write using lines or phrases from this poem as starters. Starting with a poem whose title is “I am the Old Fairy Tale.”

And now, this she-who-divides-herself actually has to go to Safeway so that there is something for the cousins to eat for dinner. However you divide yourself, I hope you are always one in the end. Thanks for reading.

5 thoughts on “friday roundup: why we need libraries, taking notes, and “she who divides herself”

  1. I usually feel divided in the way that an origami fortune teller is divided. 🙂 Love the poem, and yes, so many ideas out of it. Thanks for sharing!

    I also read brainpickings, and yep, my notebook is handy at all times! Well, almost at all times…the other day, while waiting for school to let out, I was scribbling notes on the back of a receipt. And yes, you other parents, I *did* see your stares….

    So much to say regarding the paper book/e-book thing, but you’ve chosen a great speech and book to direct us to, and I hope that libraries never ever ever become extinct. What a tradgedy that would be.

    Have a great weekend, Molly!

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