Bill of Rights Day

December 15 was Bill of Rights Day. It has never been a major day of observance, even though Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed it as long ago as 1941, acknowledging that December 15, 1791 was the day the first ten amendments to our Constitution took effect. I noticed that a few libraries had posted book lists for Bill of Rights Day: mostly books about the history of the Constitution and of the Bill of Rights itself. There’s some interesting reading there.
I have to admit that I missed it, and we didn’t post any book list. In retrospect, I would say that even had I known it was Bill of Rights Day, and planned carefully for it, I would probably not prepare a list of books. I would only recommend that everyone read something that day. Sure, there are ten amendments, and various people and special interest groups cite one or another of the amendments as the cornerstone of American democracy. It likely goes without saying that to librarians, the First Amendment reigns supreme, particularly where it says, ‘Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . . ’
To librarians, this means the freedom of everyone to read what others have said or written. The American Library Association sponsors a yearly Banned Book Week (usually late September), when we highlight all the many books that various individuals and groups have worked to censor or ban over the years. Works by some of our greatest authors are included, people like James Joyce, John Steinbeck, and Mark Twain. During that week libraries encourage people to read one of these books, just to show that despite misunderstanding and narrow-mindedness, our Constitution still protects your right to read what you want.
People keep us on our toes too. In our very political times, we have patrons who question why we don’t have a book by this conservative commentator or that liberal social critic. We may experience the occasional lapse, but there is never an intention to censor.
I remember once, a patron had asked at the front desk to speak with ‘whoever was the person who censors our collection.’ They sent him to me. He was indignant that we had no books in our collection by Erich von Däniken, the author of such controversial tomes as Chariots of the Gods. What I found was that he had searched under ‘von Däniken, Erich,’ but the library catalog lists his name properly as ‘Däniken, Erich von.’ There were nine of his books listed in the catalog, but somehow that didn’t seem to assuage his sense that we had conspired to keep this information from him.
It is interesting how quickly people jump to the assumption that we purposely censor what they want to read, when the fact is, your average public librarians are probably the people in your town most dedicated to making sure you get to read what you want. So again I say, if you want to celebrate the Bill of Rights, whether it’s on Bill of Rights Day or any day of the year, pick up a book, any book, and read it. Remember, it is one of our most precious freedoms, and freedom is always a precarious commodity.

Ferguson Public Library

Ferguson Public Library is a member of the Municipal Library Consortium, one of our sister libraries. Most of the nine Municipal Libraries in our group are geographically contiguous, clustered here in the center of St. Louis County, but two, Ferguson and Valley Park Municipal Library, are at some distance.
Joan Henderson, the long-time director of Ferguson Library, retired last year. She was replaced by Scott Bonner, who had been at the helm there a few short months before all of the problems developed. Talk about a trial by fire. Scott is a very experienced librarian, having worked his last ten years or so at the Richmond Heights Memorial Library; but it goes without saying that no amount of education or experience prepares you for something like this.
During the unrest this past August and September, the Ferguson Library worked with local elementary teachers to create a makeshift schoolroom, inviting kids in for learning activities, crafts, storytelling and more. It served as a safe zone amid so much confusion and chaos. Other local libraries, Webster Groves Public included, gathered supplies and sent them up to Ferguson.
Scott closed the library last night, just ahead of the announcement of the grand jury decision; but he has opened the doors today, and hopes to stay open all day. He hopes the library will once again be a place of refuge. As he has told his staff and tells people who come to the library—all of that political bickering and protesting is for out there, not in here. If you want to come in here you are welcome, just as everyone else is welcome, but this is a politics-free zone.

We wish the best to Scott and his staff at Ferguson Public Library. Stay safe, and keep up the good work.

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.