Miss Webster

In the library’s ongoing quest to catalog and file every photo, magazine article, newspaper clipping, old document, and any other kind of local history tidbit, I came this week to the file dedicated to the Miss Webster pageant. The pageant is one of the most popular and enduring of the events held annually at our Community Days Festival, and there has long been significant media attention to it.

In decades past Miss Webster had more ‘official duties,’ such as meeting with the mayor and city council and attending important municipal events: all of this is attested by charming old news photos, such as those showing a beaming teenage girl standing among a group of somber, dark-suited councilmembers.

Many of the photos we have come from the collection of John W. Cooper, Jr., who was a councilmember for ten years, starting in 1960, and then mayor from 1970 to 1986. It was during his tenurMiss Webstere, and largely due to his work and influence, that Community Days grew to the important local celebration that is still is today. He was also a great fan of taking snapshots, and so we have this archive of photos, including this one of the 1962 court in all its summertime splendor.

A while back we worked very hard to compile a list of all the winners of the pageant over the years, particularly the early years from 1960 to 1985, which Mayor Cooper’s photos cover. The only years we could not figure out were 1969 and 1985. So if anyone reading this knows who won in those years, please let us know.

Perhaps what we call ‘beauty pageants’ carry a little cultural baggage these days, but I don’t foresee any popular movement to get rid of our Miss Webster Pageant. It is an integral part of the city’s long-time Fourth of July celebration, one of the best celebrations in the region.


Last night our Strategic Planning Committee met to discuss the results of our recent community survey. Most of the survey was well designed and yielded results that were easy to understand. But one word, one concept really, kept troubling us and made us wonder if we and the people who answered the survey were on the same page.

We asked a few questions about diversity: diversity of services, diversity of our collections. They yielded very different results. One question asked if it was important for the library’s services to represent the diversity of our community, and only 13% of respondents thought it was. However, when we asked about the most important actions for the library to provide, ‘Diverse Collections and Services’ ranked number two among dozens of selections, sandwiched between ‘Support for Basic Computer Literacy,’ and ‘More Downloadable E-books.’

In discussing this, we wondered whether survey respondents took the words ‘diverse’ and ‘diversity’ to refer to the same concept in both instances. We certainly meant it the same way in asking both questions, namely, collections and services that are relevant to people of varying races and ethnicities. But due to the wide disparity in responses, we thought that perhaps respondents understood ‘Diverse Collections and Services’ to mean many different collections and services, without consideration of any specific target audience.

What do you think? If you were answering the question about ‘Diverse Collections and Services,’ would you mean the former or the latter?

Navigating the New Online Catalog

Check out this post to see how to:

  • Log in
  • Change your personal information
  • Find items
  • Place holds


Logging In

  1. Access your account by clicking on the “My Account” link on the WGPL home page.    www.wgpl.org


2. Type your barcode (found on the back of your library card, also known as your full library card number) and password into the boxes. If it’s the first time you’re logging in, your password is 1234.


Managing Your Account

Once you’re logged in, you can make all kinds of changes to your information, including creating a username, changing your password, creating a check-out history, renewing items, and estimating fines and fees. All of these options can be managed under the “My Account” tab at the top of the page.

  1. Creating a Username and Password:
  • These changes are accessed by expanding the “Change Logon” section at the bottom of the “My Account” page. Make sure to click the box next to “Change Username” or “Change Password” before you start typing. And make sure to click save!


2. Creating a Check-out History:

  •  If you want to keep track of all the things you’ve checked out, make sure you check the box next to “Maintain Reading History” in the “Contact Information and Preferences” section. Please note that this will only keep track of things that are checked out going forward from the date you chose that option.


3. Seeing What is Checked Out & Renewing Items:

To view a list of the items you have checked out, click on “Items Out” in the menu on the left-hand side of the page, or choose “Items Out” from the list under the “My Account” tab at the top of the page.Picture6

To renew items, click the box next to the title and then click on “Renew Selected Items.” Simply click on “Renew All Items” to renew everything.


4. Estimating Fees & Fines:

The aPicture7mount you currently owe in fines & fees is listed next to “Fines & Fees” on the left side of the page. Click on those words to see an itemized list. Click on “Estimate Overdue Fines” and then choose a date from the drop-down calendar to find out how much you’ll owe if you turn items in and pay at a later date.


Searching & Placing Holds

Start any search by typing the title, author, or subject into the search bar on the catalog’s main page and pressing enter. This will give you the widest search results; narrower initial results can be found by clicking on one of the choices below the main search bar.

To narrow your search, click on any of the options under “Narrow Your Search” on the left side of the page. Among the options are: format, owning library, language, series information, and subject. You can also choose “More” under most of those headings to see other options listed.


Click on the title to find out more about a specific item, including the plot summary, availability, location of copies in the MLC, and suggestions of similar titles.


To place a hold, click on “Place Request” on the right side of the page. You will be prompted to select a pickup library. After choosing a library, you’ll see a page confirming that your hold has been placed; this page will also allow you to confirm your contact information. Note: if you’re placing a hold on a popular title, you may have an additional step letting you know how many holds are currently on the item, and asking you if you’re sure you want to proceed with the hold request.


For further assistance or questions please contact the Reference Desk.

By phone – (314) 961-7277

By email – reference@wgpl.org

A New Library Catalog is Coming Soon!

MLC Logo Art (300x147) (2)On December 10 Webster Groves Public Library, along with our 8 partner libraries in the Municipal Library Consortium, will start using a completely new computer system. We’re very excited about the change, which will allow us to provide better, faster, more secure service in many ways.

But what’s most important for you to know as a library user is that we will have a great new catalog for you to use for finding library materials, keeping track of your account, handling your library requests, and much, much more. With our new catalog you will be able to:

  • Create targeted searches to find exactly what you want, limited by media type (book, movie, e-book, etc.)
  • Easily create reading lists and wish lists
  • Pay your library fines on line
  • Update your contact information and account preferences without having to visit the library
  • Set up an individual username so you no longer have to enter your library card number
  • Create saved searches so you will be notified when your favorite authors publish new books
  • Choose if you would like the catalog to track your reading history, so you know the books you’re already read
  • Read book reviews right from the catalog, and submit your own reviews

There are many more features guaranteed to make your library experience easier, more enjoyable, and more productive. As soon as we are up and running with our new catalog we’ll start scheduling classes to teach you how to use it, so stay tuned!

The Arch: What’s in a Name?

I am old enough that I recall a time, fifty years ago, when a television was wheeled into my fourth grade classroom and we were allowed (or forced, depending on your perspective) to watch the last piece of the Arch being placed. It was a historic moment largely lost on us kids, who found it mostly yawn-inducing. It seemed to take forever. But now, as the fiftieth anniversary of one of the world’s most striking and meaningful monuments is upon us, I am happy to have been afforded the opportunity to see it.

I heard yesterday that there is still lingering discontent on the other side of the state about the placement of the Arch. Kansas City, some believe, is the actual gateway to the west. More wagon trains departed for points west from Kansas City than from St. Louis. Maybe so, but most of those people provisioned in St. Louis before heading that way, so where do you draw the line?

It is also noteworthy that the Arch is officially known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. It commemorates Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana Territory, and the fact that Lewis & Clark departed from St. Louis on their famous expedition. So you couldn’t put that in Kansas City.

We have many books in the library on the Arch. The Making of an Icon, by Jim Merkel, Historic Photos of the Gateway Arch, by Nini Harris, or The Building of the Arch, by Robert F. Arteaga are just a few examples. There are also a number of great DVDs to watch about the history and the building of St. Louis’s premier monument. When you look these things up in the library’s catalog, you can look under the subject Gateway Arch, or the subject Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Both names work.

I for one have never thought it belonged anywhere except in St. Louis. What do you think?

Images of America–Webster Groves Edition

Yesterday Tom Cooper, Emma Delooze-Klein and I gave a talk at the Kirkwood Public Library about our recently published book, Images of America: Webster Groves. We spoke about our favorite pictures and told some of the back stories – how we got the picture, why it was taken and so on.
One of the images I talked about was the picture of Hans Lemcke and his band of young musicians at Bristol School in 1929 or 1930. Hans Lemcke was a music teacher in Webster Groves for 37 years but before that, he was in a band directed by John Phillip Sousa. The story goes that Sousa would visit Hans Lemcke in his home. While we were working on the book, I checked the census records and discovered that the Lemcke home was right across the street from the lot that would one day become the site of the Webster Groves Public Library.
As often happens when we give talks about the book, yesterday we learned something new. A woman came up to me after the talk and said that she used to take music lessons from Mrs. Lemcke in the Lemcke home. And unless it had changed, the railing from the sidewalk up to the house was decorated with a treble clef. As soon as Tom and I got back to the library, I checked to see if it was still true. It is!
If you would like to read more stories about the history of Webster Groves, check out our book. Copies are also available to buy at the library.

Treble clef railing




Paul Prudhomme

This morning I learned that famed Louisiana chef Paul Prudhomme had died. He was seventy-five. I pondered whether this was news for a library blog, but the fact is there are so many reasons that make it so.

Paul Prudhomme rose to fame in the 1980s, introducing the world to his creative take on Cajun cuisine. As a matter of fact, it was through Prudhomme that we learned the difference between Creole and Cajun food, a distinction first pioneered by Justin Wilson and other cooks. Prudhomme worked at the very beginning of the foodie revolution, the sudden interest in ethnic and regional cuisines, in using only the best, fresh ingredients, in shopping locally, and his food epitomized all of that.

So did his books. Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Cookbook, The Prudhomme Family Cookbook, Seasoned America and several others were hugely popular books that taught many of us basic techniques we still use today. It was from him that I learned to season a spicy dish with black, white and red pepper for a full flavor experience, and to saute my spices for a moment before adding liquids to the pot, to bring out their bouquet. I could go on, and I’m betting many of you could too.

Paul Prudhomme was in the vanguard of great cookbook publishing. For several decades now, cookbooks have been one of the most popular non-fiction genres in libraries. Sure, now you can look up a recipe for shrimp etouffee or chicken creole on YouTube, but there’s something still comforting, and frankly more deeply educational, about having a great chef’s whole book before you, to read all the little tips, the whys and wherefores of why you are advised to cook a dish this way.

One of the best meals I ever had was at Prudhomme’s flagship New Orleans restaurant K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen. I still remember it—a meal that began with his signature rich gumbo, followed by a whole crispy fried trout stuffed with crawfish. I hope the restaurant continues to put out great food, and that library users continue to check out and learn from his wonderful books for a long time.