Nobel Prizes and Insularity

Today’s announcement of this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature once again has many Americans scratching their heads. Patrick Modiano? Who is he? This seems to be the reaction almost every time the Nobel Committee selects a non-American (or at least English-speaking) author.

Several years ago, then secretary of the Nobel Committee Horace Engdahl got himself embroiled in controversy when he said that, ‘the US is too isolated, too insular. They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature.’ The statement angered many American intellectuals, for good reason. But he had a point.

If you look at the bestseller lists in major European magazines like France’s Paris Match or Germany’s Der Spiegel, you will notice that they include, and sometimes are almost dominated by, current American books in translation. When was the last time a book in translation made the New York Times Bestseller list? I’m thinking back to Patrick Suskind’s Perfume (1986), translated from German. There has to be a more recent one, but the fact that I can’t recall one speaks volumes.

So when we hear that an author we never heard of has just won the Nobel Prize for Literature, our natural reaction is to think the Nobel Committee is once again out of touch. But perhaps we are out of touch. Webster Groves Public Library doesn’t own any books by Patrick Modiano, though there is at least one available through the MLC. We will correct this oversight as soon as we can.

What about you? Do you have any favorite contemporary authors whose works you read in translation? Are you ‘in touch’ with world literature?

Use of Adobe ID

Due to new changes to the OverDrive app for Android and iOS devices, there has been an elimination of the need to create an Adobe ID account in order to check out and use audiobooks and ebooks.

Use of the Adobe Digital Editions program still requires the creation of an Adobe ID account. Older devices such as NOOK Classic and Simple Touch, as well as use of the program on PC and Mac computers, will continue to use Adobe ID accounts.







Instead of creating Adobe ID:

1. New users will be prompted to create an OverDrive account upon app install.

2. Existing users: If you already have an Adobe ID or OverDrive account, no action needed. If reinstalling the app, will be prompted to create/ sign in to OverDrive account.

3. Users under 13: Anonymously authorize app. Will not have OverDrive account features. A parent/guardian can create OverDrive account for user.



Borrow eBooks and Audiobooks from your NOOK Color and Tablet

nook tablet

Installing OverDrive

1. From Google Play, search for OverDrive app and download for free. (Skip section 2-4)


1. Open the app section of your NOOK from the menu and select “Shop Now.”

App store

shop now

2. Search for “OverDrive,” and select the “Free” button next to the OverDrive symbol.

3. “Confirm” to start installation. (You may need to enter your B&N password).

4. When the app has finished downloading, select “Close” at the bottom of the screen.


5. In the settings menu select “Get Books.” Next, enter your library name or zip code to find Webster Groves. Select the Municipal Library Consortium.

Webster Groves Lib



6. The OverDrive app functions the same as the web browser. You can search for specific books, authors and subjects at the top of the page, or you can browse collections by selecting Fiction or Nonfiction eBooks or Audiobooks.

7. When you are browsing books, you can choose to look at only the titles that are currently available for checkout by selecting “Only titles with copies available” from the drop-down menu at the top.

8. When you have selected a book, click on the cover and select “Borrow.”

EPUB download
9. Next, enter your library card number to check out the book.

Sign In

10. Once you have signed in, your device will begin loading the selected title. Some devices may prompt you to download the title.

11. When the title has finished downloading you can find it in your OverDrive Library. You can access your library by opening the settings menu and selecting “Bookshelf.” Tap the title to start reading or listening.

Place a Hold

  • If  an eBook or Audiobook is currently checked out, the symbol in the corner will display light gray.  When the book is checked in, the symbol will appear dark gray.
A checked out Audiobook

A checked out Audiobook

  • Click on the cover to take you to the title information page.
  • Instead of the option to borrow the book, you will be able to place a hold.

Placing a Hold

  • Enter your e-mail address. The library will contact you when your hold is available. After you have received your e-mail you will have 3 days to check out your hold.
  • To access your hold, go to your account (the icon of a person).account
  • Next, choose your holds from the menu on the right.  Next to the cover of the book there will be an option to download the book.


Want some more tips on how to use OverDrive on your NOOK?  Check out these sites:


Weekend Reads

One of the funniest (and kind of distressing) things that people often say to me when they hear I am a librarian is how much they’d love to be a librarian because, ‘I could sit and read all day.’ Librarians discuss this little canard amongst themselves all the time, and how best to respond to it. My usual response is to note to the speaker that I have worked in libraries for over 25 years, and I have never read a book at work.

Quite the contrary, actually. As a librarian, much of my reading is assigned. I do book talks at various places around town, so I am always reading some new and (I hope) interesting piece of non-fiction that I can tell people about. I also conduct a monthly book discussion group, so I have to read one book a month for that. This takes up a lot of time. So I have to be selective about my reading, when I finally get the time to read something I simply choose to read.

As the weather gets cooler, and outdoor chores become less of a burden, I anticipate weekends when I will have more time to read. For a few years now, almost without noticing it, I have evolved the habit of selecting what I might call ‘weekend reads.’ These are usually short novels, between 200 and 300 pages, which can be read in a weekend. I like that experience, like a mini literary vacation.

This weekend I read I Served the King of England, by the Czech master Bohumil Hrabal. Some of Virginia Woolf’s books, like Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, make excellent weekend reads, as do several shorter works by John Steinbeck, particularly The Old Man and the Sea, The Pearl, and Cannery Row. If you’re in the mood for something intense, Kafka’s Metamorphosis is a good short novel.

But there are great humorous weekend reads, like Three Men in a Boat: To Say Nothing of the Dog! by Jerome K. Jerome, or Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. Nothing like a bit of rollicking laughter to make one feel like the weekend was time well spent.

Next time you see a chilly, cloudy weekend coming on, give it a try. Check out one good short novel, brew a pot of hot tea, and tell everyone in the family that you are not to be disturbed. Do you have any suggestions for books that would make good weekend reads?

The Bids Are In!

This week’s Webster-Kirkwood Times had an article about the recent (Park)ing Day in Webster Groves. SWT Landscaping had participated by turning two parking spaces into tiny, temporary parks for the day. The article noted that SWT, a Webster Groves-based firm, also designed the new Sculpture Garden at Gore and Kirkham, and was working with the City on the Forty Acres project. I wish the article had added that SWT is also in the process of finding a contractor to install the landscaping they have just designed for the Library.

Although our renovation and expansion project was substantially completed in December 2012, we haven’t redone the landscaping around the old part of the building yet. We were waiting through one growing season to see what plantings were still healthy and what would need to be replaced. A generous gift from the Bronner Family Foundation provided money to have SWT design the new landscaping.

The bids have come in, and we will soon decide which contractor will install new plantings all around the Lockwood and Orchard sides of the building. We hope to have the work completed before the end of October.

SWT’s overall design for the Library’s landscaping is a complete concept, including pathways, seating areas and storytelling areas. We have talked about approaching it in phases, as we can afford it. Taking care of the foundation plantings is phase one, and we’re very excited to see it completed.

Great Author Events

Sometimes, when it rains it pours. Sometimes we can go a long time without any very interesting author events coming our way. But this autumn, we have three!

First up will be bestselling science fiction and fantasy author R.A. Salvatore. He is appearing in October’s Archon 38 convention in St. Louis, and will make a stop by Webster Groves Public Library on the night of October 2 (7 p.m.) to talk about and sign his books Demon Wars and Rise of the King. This event is sponsored by all the libraries of the Municipal Library Consortium, and Left Bank Books will be selling copies of the books.

Next up is former newsman and author Julius K. Hunter. He has just written a new novel called Priscilla and Babe. It is about two real women, emancipated slaves who made their way north and set up one of the most lavish and notorious brothels in St. Louis history. Full of adventure and scandal, with cameos by many of the period’s celebrated personalities, it is a rollicking look at what really went on in Victorian-era St. Louis. Julius Hunter will be our special guest when our Saturday Afternoon Book Club discusses Priscilla and Babe November 1 at 2 p.m.

And finally, on the afternoon of November 8, we will have a very special poetry reading by the editors of River Styx. It’s hard to believe that the area’s premier literary journal is already forty years old. In celebration, we will hear short readings from Ron Austin, Allison Creighton, Shanie Latham, Ben Moeller-Gaa, Lizzy Petersen, Tanya Seale and Jennifer Tappenden. Editor-in-Chief Richard Newman will read selections from his newest book, All the Wasted Beauty in the World.

We hope you’ll be able to join is us for one or more of these exciting events. For more information about any of them, call the library at (314) 961-3784, or e-mail me at


Do you know what heraldry is? As I ask the question I am assuming that, as with most things, some readers will know exactly what it is, some will have a vague idea, and some will have no clue–perhaps have never heard the word. That’s okay. It’s been many centuries since heraldry was very relevant in our lives.

But when I first began working in libraries in the last few decades of the twentieth century, heraldry was still a fairly popular subject of study for a number of hobbyists and history buffs. Libraries had books on the subject and librarians knew where to find information about it. At the History and Genealogy Department of St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library there was one older librarian who was probably the region’s leading expert on heraldry.

These past few weeks I have been weeding our non-fiction collection. I have worked my way into the 900s, which is history in the Dewey Decimal System, and one of our largest collections. What I do when I want to weed out old and unused books from the collection is run what librarians somewhat playfully call a ‘dusty books list.’ It is actually a list of all the books in a specified collection that have not been checked out in a specified time period. I am using five years. I go out and collect all of these books, check to make sure we have other books on the subjects they cover, or that they are not classic works by important authors, and withdraw the ones that do not make a strong case for themselves.

Today I learned that Webster Groves Public Library has six books on heraldry. All six were on the dusty books list. Of course I am not going to withdraw everything in our collection on heraldry, even if it is apparent that nobody reads about heraldry any more. I chose to keep the newer ones and withdraw the older ones.

I am a lover of history. I read many books on a variety of subjects in history every year. It displeases me when I find that books on the Mycenaeans or Louis XIV are not being read. It is a hard decision to get rid of them–but I can’t make people read books they don’t want to read, can I? We have to make room for all the new books that are constantly flooding our shelves, with the ever-present optimism that someone will read them. But when it comes to some subjects, like heraldry, I find myself unable to get rid of them altogether, regardless of how uninterested people may be in them.

I realize that some readers are waiting for me to provide a description or definition of what heraldry is, but I am not going to. For that, you’ll just have to check out one of our remaining books on the subject, and learn for yourselves.