Banned Books Week: Unshelved Style

click on the image for more legible view

Unshelved is a daily web comic by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum about the employees and patrons of a public library. Today's strip (above) celebrates the beginning of Banned Book Week (Sept 29-Oct 6). I'm sure that any of you who have occasion to interact with the public vis a vis books (booksellers as well as librarians!) will get a chuckle out of it, like I did.

Hmm . . . I'm not sure I have any controversial reading planned for this week. I will be doing some studying about the Oneida community though--probably group marriage would qualify as controversial in some circles. And I bet I could come up with a way to make the history of public parks in Boston into a controversy as well. Let's see . . .


The Side Effects of Excedrin

Yes, it really is 12:27 am and yes, I'm really writing an entry to this blog. I took two Excedrin this afternoon after work to drive away a lurking migraine so that I could be coherent in Archives class. This plan worked, as far as it went, but now it is the early morning, and I really ought to be sleeping in preparation for my first morning at the DCR internship. Instead, I'm up on the computer, searching for a bakery that serves Boston Cream Pie, reading the latest on feministing, answering e-mail, listening to The Corrs Live in Dublin, and wondering when this late-September heat wave is going to end . . .

I do keep meaning to write that post on all the interesting theory we are reading in my History Methods class, but I've been frittering away my time building silly wiki pages and silly html pages for my "technology orientation requirement" and rooting around for a digital source for my history paper on using primary sources. The digital archives sources I have access to here, as a Simmons student, are mind blowing and time can get sucked into the void of historical enthusiasm with alarm speed. There's this project called "Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000" that has an endless supply of women's history diversions.

I chose a selection from the papers of the Oneida Community, a religious/free love/communitarian experiment that existed in upstate New York during the latter half of the nineteenth century. They report of a "criticism" of one of the women who lived in the community. "Criticism" was sort of like group therapy plus religious testimony: one member at a time would present themselves before the assembly and all the other people would talk about all the ways in which they could improve (morally, spiritually, socially, etc.). Yeah. Not my idea of a fun evening.

Oh, and I'm reading a fluffy novel ostensibly about eighteenth-century spies but which is really a regency romance in disguise (yes, bosoms do heave!) This actually connects rather nicely to the discussion we will be having tomorrow in History about the boundaries between historical fiction and non-fiction history (can the boundaries be drawn? where? are academic historians snobs? is historical fiction an affront to the profession?). That is, if we can make it passed the choppy waters of Foucault's "The Repressive Hypothesis," Joan Scott's "Gender: A Useful Category for Analysis," and Robert Darton's The Great Cat Massacre. One fellow student said to me today, "I didn't understand how they were connected at all!" Since I'm one of the discussion leaders, this is slightly worrying.

That having been said, I had best try to get some sleep, or other students' struggles with postmodernism will be the least of my worries!


Wee Britain in Boston?

Some of you may recall the plot arc of Arrested Development in which Michael (Jason Bateman) is involved in international intrigue, crossing into the settlement of Wee Britain and, for a short while, dating a mysterious young woman named Rita (played by Charlize Theron). Well, it was the first thing that came to mind when I walked passed this sign on my way to the Arnold Arboretum today:

Honestly: do they all wear uniforms? (or maybe robes, and carry broomsticks?) . . . or maybe it's more along the (in)famous Summerhill free school model, and they run around like wild savages and set their own bedtimes at democratic community meetings (more my style).

A little further up the road, while speculating about the nature of British schoolchildren, I happened to stumble across this peculiar architectural specimen:

If it weren't for the half-dozen American flags liberally sprouting from the battlements, I might be tempted to suggest this was the school in question . . . what purpose do you think the giant golden crown serve? Anyone?

Happy Monday!


B&N Pictures

Here are some photos I took on my way to work this morning, at the Barnes & Noble store, and on my way home again.
Barnes & Noble (Boston) #2

I've discovered that (on nice days) it is as fast to walk to work along the Fenway park system as it is to ride the T, so I am getting my exercise without having to get up any earlier than the 7:00-11:00am shift at work requires!


Internship Assignment

Today, I was given my internship assignment for Intro to Archives. I will be working at the Massachusetts Department of Recreation and Conservation (which means I will finally learn how to spell "Massachusetts" correctly!), the governmental organization which oversees many of the natural areas in the state, including the Walden Pond Reservation, which I visited on Monday.

For my internship, I will be working under the DCR Plans Archivist to arrange and describe one of two collections (there are two interns assigned to this site) they have of architectural and engineering plans, land surveys and maps that provide information on the properties and structures held and administered by the DCR.


Walden Pond

Today being my self-imposed day of rest, I left early with a sack lunch for Concord, Mass., to take a walk through the Walden Pond Reservation. This meant boarding the T and then switching to the commuter rail at North Station for the remainder of the journey to Concord. I left home at 8:15 and was in Concord by 9:30.

Walden Pond is a mile outside of town, though I made an inadvertent detour by turning the wrong way on Thoreau Street and walking for a good ways through a wealthy suburb before realizing that I was not going in the right direction. I backtracked through town, passed the rail station, and out across, finally ending up on the boarders of the reservation.

Walden Pond

(click on the photograph for the complete album)

I admit that I know very little about Henry David Thoreau, nor have I made any serious study of the transcendentalist movement. The site, however, is beautiful and--despite its well-trodden paths--reminded me of Northern Michigan, particularly the small lake systems I used to canoe in the Upper Peninsula. And I was also reminded of my time at the Oregon Extension, since Thoreau's retreat to Walden Pond was one of the early inspirations for their own educational project.

I stopped for lunch on the far side of the lake, away from the visitor's center. There were several intrepid souls swimming in the water! The guy working at the gift shop later told me told me they swim till it freezes over out there, so I guess this wasn't much different than high summer for them. Sitting by the lake, I caught up on some correspondence and got slightly sun-burnt on the back of my neck for my troubles.

In the park shop, I bought a Dover edition of Margaret Fuller's Women in the Nineteenth Century (and early American feminist tract), which I started reading on the train home. My favorite quote so far? "We would have every path open to woman as freely as to man . . . a ravishing harmony of the spheres would ensue"! (16).

I have to say, of all the results of women's equality, I never put "ravishing harmony of the spheres" on my list . . . but whatever it is, it sounds good to me!

I will definitely have to go back when the leaves start to turn.


". . .but the people working there are fairly nice."

Today, I took a field trip to Cambridge to visit the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute, one of the largest repositories of archival material on women's history in the United States. The impetus for the visit was an assignment for my Archives class, in which I had to visit an archive and describe the experience. However, I admit that enjoyed the very personal pleasure--perhaps more aptly described as "reverential awe"-- of simply by being in the same space where so much of the history (or herstory as many feminists would insist!) I care about is preserved, and the historical work I value done.

(Note: In the photograph above, the banner above the library's main entrance reads "Votes for Women!" in the suffragist colors of violet and gold).

Aside from the pilgrimage aspect of the visit, I actually chose the Schlesinger because they are the repository for the Boston Women's Health Book Collective records. (The BWHBC is the collective that wrote--and continue to update--the classic book Our Bodies, Ourselves, and are feminist advocates on a variety of women's health issues worldwide). Our Bodies, Ourselves was one of my earliest, most comprehensive, and unabashedly feminist forms of sexual education and it remains near and dear to my heart (as well as close at hand on my reference shelf). I was interested in seeing some of their earliest manuscripts and gleaning what I could about the collective consciousness-raising process that had led them to publish the first edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves--then called Women and Their Bodies: A Course--which sold for 75 cents in 1970, and was intended as a working study guide for women's health workshops.

The original publication was fun to browse through, permeated as it was with the language and political ethos of the women's liberation movement which had given it birth. The first chapter of the 1970 edition, for example, is titled "Women, Medicine, and Capitalism"; a later chapter on abortion describes the hurdles unmarried women face when seeking birth control. A footnote highlights a single clinic in Boston where women--regardless of marital status--can obtain birth control no questions asked. The authors of the chapter observe: "this program is financed by the federal government, but the people working there are fairly nice."

The most fascinating folder of material I read through was a collection of newspaper clippings and letters detailing the backlash to Our Bodies, Ourselves in the late 70s and early 80s when, apparently, it was being used quite widely in high schools as part of the health curriculum! In this age of abstinence-only education, it's amazing to me that OBOS ever made it into high school libraries, let alone the curriculum. One teacher from Pennsylvania wrote the collective and described in detail how her students (ages 14-18) had used the book as part of a human sexuality class, including their sophisticated interactions with a pro-life activist who insisted on coming to the class and speaking on abortion. Another letter, written to a high school librarian in 1978, was from a pediatric doctor with teenage daughters who lauded the librarian for her defense of the book and observed:
Young people are far better served by the combination of access to all valid knowledge, even if at variance with parental thought, and the opportunity to discuss this openly with concerned and mature adults.
On the other side of the controversy, of course, were outraged parents and organizations such as the Moral Majority, which sent leaflets to its members detailing (in their minds) unacceptable sexual and political content of the book. One man was quoted in a 1981 newspaper clipping: "I am challenging [defenders] of this book to walk into church and read material out of Women, Our Bodies, Ourselves [sic]"--clearly expecting his audience to be shocked by the idea (though I rather like the image myself).

While this particular trip to the archives was a self-contained event for the purpose of a class assignment, I chose the content with an eye to my interest in feminist activism around sex and sexuality education, and who knows--these records may continue to play a role in my graduate education as I begin the task of designing the project for my history thesis.


At the Close of Week One

Hello All,

Hard to believe it's Sunday evening, and I'm closing out Week One of classes, and my second weekend here in Boston. Here are a few more pictures of my campus:

Simmons Campus
(click on the photograph for the complete album)

This week, I had general orientation and two of my three courses (the next one doesn't meet for the first time until Tuesday). LIS438: Introduction to Archival Methods and Services meets Wednesday nights and is the beginning class for all students who dual-degree, as well as some students who focus in Archives Management without the History M.A. I'm looking forward to the practical aspects of this course--particularly the internship!--as well as the philosophical/ethical issues we'll tackle (copyright, privacy, access, etc.). HIST597: History Methods is equally promising, as we wrangle with the existential questions What Is History? Why Do History?

Both courses are reading-heavy but assignment-light, at least on the paper-writing front, for which I am saying grateful prayers to Sophia, Goddess of Wisdom, and any other deities who might be listening. I'm greatly looking forward to doing substantial research papers, not to mention my history thesis, but it's a blessing this semester to be able to focus on settling in, straightening out my work schedule, and putting my energy into class discussion. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop--which it may well do now that I've announced the fact online!

I've gamboled thoroughly this weekend, apart from reading for history (which, in its own way, if a sort of gamboling) . Saturday, I met Hanna (a fellow History/Archives Management student in her second year) for a idiosyncratic walking tour of our bit of Boston. We spent six hours wandering around from Fenway to the North End, stopping occasionally for nourishment of various kinds or to seek respite from the 90-degree heat in an air-conditioned building. A fellow former homeschooler (somehow we always manage to find one another . . .), with hippie parents who homesteaded in rural Maine, Hanna shares my love of teen literature, BBC drama, and (natch) history: the doing and preserving of. I had a lovely time.

Last night and today was spent fervently wishing the heat wave would pass (it finally has, though my room has yet to reflect the outside temperatures), and reading various historians' perspectives on Why Do We Do History? I took a study break in the middle of the day and detoured into the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, next door to the main campus, to which I have free access as a Simmons student! It's this crazy art museum, built by the rich Mrs. Gardner, to display her own collection of art in the style in which she felt it was most naturally suited: a Venetian palazzo complete with a greenhouse courtyard that rises the four storeys of the museum to a towering glass ceiling. Sadly, you aren't able to walk through the courtyard, but there is a stone cloister that runs all the way around it on the first floor, with benches to sit on in relative quiet.

This leisurely schedule has been made possible by the fact that it's my last weekend before starting work at Barnes & Noble. Next weekend, I will have to juggle reading assignments alongside the time spent wrangling toddlers (and often more so their parents) in the children's section of B&N at the Prudential Center.

I will also be kept busy with various workshops on the library and technology services, scheduled throughout the month of September, and assignments for my courses: on the agenda this week is selecting an internship for my Archives class as well as scheduling a Field Study of an area archive. More on how those go next weekend!

Fashion for Library Geeks!

Here's what TO wear if you're a bibliophile, regardless of whether you've been locked out of your dorm room on a Sunday morning (ahem . . .).

Last spring, I was shopping online for something at CafePress when I stumbled upon an ingenious little mug with the legend:

What could it mean?

After a little research via the world wide web, I discovered that (naturally) it was the Dewey Decimal classification for "coffee." How brilliant! How could anyone resist improvising on this idea, and making all sorts of things (say, T-shirts) that bore cryptic slogans to be decoded with the aid of a library catalog!

My friend Joseph was, for his birthday, the recipient of my first creation: SB441.4.H37 (the Library of Congress call number for the book Makers of Heavenly Roses, by Jack L. Harkness).

More recently, I printed up one for myself: HQ1190.H67 (the Library of Congress call number for bell hook's Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics).

Obviously, I encourage all of you to take up the challenge and make yourself enigmatic shirts with messages of your own choosing. The site at which you can design one-of-a-kind shirts is called CustomInk, and even if you don't get anything printed, it's great fun to play around.

What Not to Wear . . .

. . . When, on a Sunday morning, you go down the hall to brush your teeth and lock yourself out of your dorm room!

This morning I was brushing my teeth in the washroom when I realised--oh shit!--that I had thrown my bathrobe on and stumbled out into the hall without triple-checking (as has been my habit) that I have my key in my pocket. In fact, I hadn't even checked once. The key was most emphatically not in my pocket, no matter how many times I felt around in there. This necessitated a call to public safety, and then I stood around the hall in my bathrobe, waiting while the RA on duty was summoned out of bed, and made her way over to North Hall to let me back in. Trust me: I lacked the cool suave of this gentleman on the right.

It had to happen at least once. When I lived in the dorms in Aberdeen, I did it twice in quick succession about a month into my residency--once while wearing the very same bathrobe--and after that took to leaving the key physically IN the lock whenever I was in the flat. But that was a more secure environment; I have been warned by people who have reason to know that this is a bad idea here in North Hall. Expensive and/or irreplaceable things have been known to go missing.

So on a Sunday morning, when I get up and blearily stumble to the washroom to clean my teeth and wash my face, I need to remember to take my key with me. Perhaps I could just glue it to my upper arm?

At least I realized what I had done before I was in the shower covered in soapsuds!


Revere Beach Pictures

On Labor Day, I took the subway out to Wonderland and walked along Revere Beach, which used to be "Boston's version of Coney Island" according to my Lonely Planet Boston City Guide. No longer so glamorous, it provided me with exactly what I needed: a few hours within sight, sound, and touch of the ocean. Here are some pics (once again, click on the photograph to view the full album):

Revere Beach


Two movies

Yesterday, I watched the 1957 Hepburn-Tracy film Desk Set, in which Katherine Hepburn plays the head reference librarian at a media corporation and Spencer Tracy plays the computer engineer whose machine, Emmerick, threatens to make her job obsolete. Of course there's romance involved--with the right man (Tracy) and the wrong one (the junior executive who expects her to drop her career and move to California when he gets a promotion). It's a charming film, though like with so many other Hollywood romances, you wonder how someone as utterly with it as Hepburn could possibly have been dating the wrong guy in the first instance, from which relationship doom Tracy subsequently rescues her?

While you're hunting down Desk Set (available through Netflix!), also check out Next Stop Wonderland, since it's set in Boston and features some of the very spots I have been (or soon will be). It's a slow-moving love story about a biologist-plumber and a recently-single nurse whose meddlesome mother places a personals ad for her in the newspaper. There is also a side-story involving a fish-napped puffer fish from the Boston aquarium. Kenneth Turan wrote a nice review in Never Coming to a Theater Near You, which is how I originally found it.


Maps, Photographs, and Other Things Useful to Homeland Security

Boston: Day Three

My computer is up and running . . . for the first time, ever, I have high-speed internet access on my own computer, in my own dorm room. I have finally arrived in the 21st century. Whatever Pixies, Nixies, Boggarts or Brownies saw fit to patch up my ethernet allowed their benevolence to run out when it comes to Anna'zOn, since I can't get the page-editing software to work today. However, other aspects of my multi-media communication arsenal seem to be functioning, so here is what I can offer by way of showing you a bit about my new environs, one weekend in to the adventure.

1) Photos, as so many have requested. I have uploaded pictures of my dorm and its immediate environs to to Picasa, which you can view by clicking on the link below.

North Hall

I also have an album up of photographs from the going-away party my friend Cara hosted last Sunday (good lord, was it only a week ago??) so all my Barnes & Noble buddies could wish me luck.

2) Check out this Google map of Anna's Boston, which I was created last night. I'll be adding to it as I enlarge my world (a little each day) . . . for you map freaks out there (and I say this with all kindness because I'm one of them. My room decorations current consist of four maps: NPR stations in the United States, a map of the world, a map of Boston, and a map of the campus), hope you enjoy it!

Today, I'm sticking close to "home" (the dorm doesn't quite feel homey yet), making headway in the organization of my life--both internal and external--and preparing for Advising/Orientation day on Tuesday, at which (according to the published schedule) we will drink a lot and sign away our lives (academic and financial) on various bits of paper. Tonight, I have a hall meeting at which I will get to meet some of those people whom I live with, whom--so far--I have only met as shuffling bodies headed for the showers in the morning. I'm not up for much socializing at the moment, but they're all Graduate School of Library and Information Science, or GSLIS Students (pronounced "GISS-liss" with a hard G as in gambol or gabardine), so chances are I will have some of them in classes and every repetition of names and faces helps!

I had my first meal at Bartol Hall, the main dining hall on the residential campus. La-dee-dah! It's like the most expansive breakfast buffet you've ever seen (waffles? pancakes? bagels? oatmeal? cold cereal? egga? bacon? grits? fruit and yogurt? hot chocolate? coffee? fruit juice?). Suddenly, the whole monastic-like system of bachelor dons and bluestocking lady professors living in University quarters and dining in the Senior Common Room makes so much more sense . . . except, of course, for the fact that it's made possible by a whole regiment or two of waitsstaff who bear an unsettling resemblance to the Scouts in Gaudy Night, except for (thank heavens!) the absence of frilly aprons and caps.

More about people and courses when I meet more of the former and attend more of the latter . . .

For Labor Day, I am going to take the T (subway) to Wonderland and get a look at the ocean!


Greetings From Boston! (day two)

Hi Everyone! Just a quick word to say I've arrived safely and am in the hectic midst of moving in--some of it fun, some of it not. I promise pictures as soon as I have my ethernet working at the dorm (it's giving me problems . . . why can't the magic computer faeries come and fix it??)

I moved in yesterday, somewhat hurridly, in order to get the rental car to Logan Airport by noon. I left the residential campus at 10:30, which turned out to be a good amount of time, since I got off at the wrong exit and ended up driving around East Boston for an hour, asking directions on three separate occasions (everyone was very nice, but either I'm bad at following directions, or they neglected some crucial detail). Boston is one of those cities that, once you've left the highway it's virtually impossible to get back ON said highway unless you do so by accident (sort of like how you can only see certain magical beings out of the corner of your eye). But I did finally get to abandon the car, and am now the relieved owner of my very own CharlieCard MBTA pass for the semester. Hooray for public transportation!

Then I returned, after lunch at the Trident Bookstore and Cafe (why eat anywhere else when you can eat at a bookstore?) on Newbury Street, to begin the daunting task of unpacking and arranging my life.

The PROS of my dorm room:

A door that locks, to which only I possess a key
A tree outside the window
High ceilings
Only on the second floor
Located across the hall from bathrooms
It came with a its very own bookcase! (already filled . . .)
Next door to the campus gym
. . . and also to the Riverway park, which I ran along this morning.

A few CONS:

Air conditioning unit located right outside the window (noisy on warm nights!)
Linolium floors
North-facing window (Calliope is worried)
Wonky lock takes fiddling
Awkward confguration for furniture (if I believed in feng shui I'd be pissed)

All in all, I'm fairly confident I can make it feel homey.

I have my ID card on the requisite lanyard (though I spend enough of my time lanyarded at Barnes & Noble that I am resisting wearing it, and carry the thing around in my pocket instead). The photo is just the right amount of embarrassing. It's just a little too weird being a student again, but I'll get used to it. Particularly when I get to pay student-price admissions to museums and theater and other cultural events!

Today, I have a long list of little items to pick up at Bed, Bath & Beyond and Staples (yes, we have them here, too, right down the block . . .), and somewhere in there, some food to eat. The campus meal plan doesn't kick in until tomorrow, so I can treat myself to restaurant food for one more day before feeling profligate with my pocketbook (I do have to eat, after all).

More soon . . .