Poetrying Your Way Through the Public Library

Many thanks to poet and birth doula V. Wetlaufer for penning this guest post on poetry & public libraries!  V. is a Lambda Literary Fellow, the author of two chapbooks — Scent of Shatter and Bad Wife Spankings — and her poetry has appeared in Drunken Boat, Word Riot and Bloom.  She also blogs regularly at The V-Spot.


Poetry Shelf

I owe my start in poetry writing to my undergraduate college’s library. Crossett Library is small, but what they lack in numbers they make up for in the quality of their collection. I was in my regular library carrel, where I went to complete all my schoolwork senior year, writing a paper for a literature class, when I decided I needed a break. Off to the shelves I went to find a collection of poetry. I randomly selected a collection of Adrienne Rich’s poetry and opened the volume at random. So moved by her work was I that, having never written a poem before, I scribbled my very first poem inspired by a book plucked at random from the shelves.

I’m fortunate enough these days to live in a city with a fantastic public library, Salt Lake City, as well as a truly incredible university library I rely on for my PhD program. However, I am always saddened when I turn to a library to feed my poetry needs and the poetry collection is sadly lacking. I am especially sad when there is a dearth of contemporary poetry. I am a huge fan of poetry from Chaucer to Wordsworth, Whitman and Eliot and everyone in between, but I believe that the best way for the majority of people to encounter poetry for the first time is through contemporary work. Continue reading


Crowdsourcing and Collaboration: 20th Century Style!

Thanks so much to my friend and colleague, Julia Skinner, for writing this guest post.  She’s a historian,  book-arts whiz, and she blogs regularly at Julia’s Library Research Blog and Modernizing Markham.  She’s also currently on the prowl for someone to publish her book on World War I-Era Libraries.

Cedar Rapids Carnegie Library
I’ve been feeling so inspired lately by all the exciting work people around the country are doing with #HackLibSchool (a collaborative effort by students to discuss library school and to share experiences and tips), and I can’t help seeing connections in other areas of my life! I just finished up a major research project on World War I-era Iowa libraries, in which I looked at 6 Eastern Iowa libraries and talked about their administrative records in the context of the statewide and national climate. I was amazed that even in an era before the Internet (or private telephone lines) librarians were collaborating and sharing resources, and using each other as inspiration!

Librarians from several of the libraries would visit each other to talk about what was going on in their libraries and share ideas — in Cedar Rapids especially, the librarian mentioned meeting with others in Eastern Iowa. She even compiled statistics about all the libraries so she could compare how they were doing! Like today, librarians also attended conferences, and they also wrote reports about what was discussed and what they learned. What’s really cool is the overlap between what they discussed then and what it discussed now — there was a lot of talk about how to improve services to patrons!

Continue reading