Every Wednesday morning when I was three, no more than four, my beloved grandmother and I would walk hand and hand up the street to the local library. The ritual was always the same once we got inside. After a quick obligatory scan of the picture book section, probably the most appropriate place for a pre-schooler who couldn't yet read, Nana and I would steal our way over to the adult biographies. I learned at an early age about the discoveries of Marie Curie, Jonas Salk and Alexander Fleming; my grandmother was completely star-struck by scientists.
And while her judgment was sometimes questionable -- a pre-nap chapter on the life and times of Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, was not unheard of -- she taught me that a local library branch was among the most enchanted places on earth.
My mild infatuation with libraries continued throughout my youth. I heartily respected the clarity of the Dewey Decimal System (finally, a decimal that didn't involve a calculator). And I loved leafing through the card catalogue; I'm pretty sure I got smarter just reading the dizzying array of titles. And very few childhood memories will top the day I got my first library card. It was like that scene in The Jerk where Steve Martin's phone book arrives. That card, with my name etched across the front, was how I knew I had finally "arrived."
I even lived the fantasy (at least my fantasy) my last semester in college when I snagged a student hourly job as the business school librarian. The job didn't actually involve handling books -- I pretty much handed out Accounting 101 study guides to investment banker wannabees. But I took full opportunity to embrace the "sexy librarian" stereotype, wear my hair in a pencil-held bun, don wire rim glasses, and flirt up a storm with cute grad students.
Post college, bars and coffee shops supplanted the library as far as hangouts went; I probably didn't even set foot in one between the ages of 21 and 30. But the joy of the local branch was completely rediscovered once I had kids. From pre-school story times, to summer book clubs, to my own search for the perfect inappropriate biography to share with my offspring, libraries took center stage once again. We enjoyed the coziness of the Monroe Street Branch, the spiritedness of both the old and re-vamped Sequoya and occasionally took a road trip way west to hang in the stacks of Alicia Ashman.
But I rarely took the kids to the downtown branch, even on Farmers' Market Saturdays. That place always felt too cold, too institutional, and too impersonal, regardless of how kind and helpful the staff may have been. And when I heard that it was being torn down in favor of a shiny new model I didn't shed many tears. It's not like we ever checked a book out of the place.
But I have to say, I'm pretty intrigued to see the space in a new light this coming Saturday for the Madison Public Library Foundation's Bookless event. Central Library is now completely empty -- no books, card catalogs or microfiche, if that even exists any more. But on January 28 only, the 45-year-old building will be transformed into a gallery of sorts displaying library-inspired art ranging from paintings, to installations, to live performances. And there will be tons of free family-friendly activities from 10-2. Your kid can learn printmaking from Madison's Polka! Press and enjoy Klezmer masters Yid Vicious at 1 p.m. And I can't imagine a child in the world who won't be psyched to join the community mural and paint willy-nilly on the walls! In the library! While making noise!
And perhaps, in honor of Nana, the event may even inspire one of my kids to read a book on Van Gogh, Georgia O'Keeffe or Christo.
Or better yet, maybe a biography on Melvil Dewey, inventor of the only decimal system I've ever taken to.comments powered by Disqus
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.
I am so thrilled that the United Way is sponsoring a Teen Gift Drive this holiday season. Sure, teen "wants" often aren't as fun to shop for as precious baby dolls and sweet Lego sets. But middle and high school kids still "need" to feel valued and loved during this time of year. And helping a family in need to provide this for their child is a wonderful way to get in the spirit.
My 11th-grade and 8th-grade sons have heard "the chant" for years. You know which one I'm talking about -- the ESFY (U?) chant (I'm not sure what the parenting post rules are for writing two of the more forbidden four-letter words in the English language) that appears to have both Barry Alvarez and Chancellor Blank quite concerned.
There are many different criteria parents use when evaluating which pre-school programs will be right for their children. Some parents might be looking for an educational philosophy that stresses creativity and community. Others may desire an option that revolves around learning through play or is more academic in approach.
We spent hours poring over name books and checking for inappropriate initial combinations. We looked at meanings, variant spellings and popularity charts. And, as I am sure every parent does, we thought we'd hit the name jackpot with each of our kids. But there are always surprises.
A generation or two ago, the pediatrician was the guy (yes, they were mostly guys) who gave your kids shots and prescribed big bottles of antibiotics for every sniffle. Madison's Dipesh Navsaria is a different breed of pediatrician.
Gamehole Con will be the premier tabletop gaming convention in the region. And with Wisconsin being the birthplace of Dungeons and Dragons, as well as the nation's leader in gaming stores per capita, it kind of makes sense that the convention's organizers want the Dairy State to be known for more than just cheese, beer and bratwurst.
This year I will also try to ease up some of my previous costume concerns. Sure, the world is rife with inappropriate dress up choices for our kids; there is no parent out there that is keen on his or her child dressing like a pint-sized prostitute, even for one night.
This past Saturday, I took my youngest to hear Caldecott award-winning author/illustrator Kevin Henkes read from his latest work, The Year of Billy Miller, a short novel for the early elementary grades.
I was greeted at the door by Tom Moen, who has served as executive director of what he likes to call "Madison's best kept secret", for the past 39 of the center's 47 years. Located in the middle of the subsidized Truax Park apartment complex, EMCC, with its vast array of offerings for kids, seniors and everyone in between, is unquestionably the heart of the neighborhood.
Madison's Kashmira Sheth has written four award-winning novels for middle grade and teen readers, and a popular chapter book for six- to nine-year-olds, but right now her picture books are what she's excited to talk about.
A few summers back, my daughter, maybe 8 or 9 at the time, decided to take part in our swimming pool's annual water ballet show. I'm not really sure what initially piqued her interest in the somewhat under-the-radar, very much under-the-water sport of synchronized swimming.
We rarely included a stop at the Central Library as part of our regular outing. For those of you who've been in Madison for a while, I'm sure you'd agree that the old building was pretty run down. Not to mention, dark, cavernous and depressing. Libraries, at their best, should be portals to discovery, right?
My eleven-year-old daughter spent most of last weekend alone in her room, door shut. It wasn't a temper tantrum or an overwhelming need for tween privacy that led to her self-induced isolation, though. Instead, I didn't see her (except for meals) for two days because she was, in her words, "going through her closet."
Yes, the 2004 classic comedy Mean Girls is an absolutely delightful movie. But it's definitely not the smartest mother/daughter viewing as your child is about to enter her inaugural year of middle school.
Despite celebrating 30 years in business this year, Knowledge Unlimited Inc. remains relatively unknown in the community. Those concerned with closing the achievement gap in Madison's schools, however, may want to take note. This award-winning educational-materials producer, based in Middleton, is unique in emphasizing multiculturalism throughout its lines of educational posters, DVDs and children's books.