The Dog Museum?

A while back we added a new service called SELF-e. This allows aspiring authors to self-publish their manuscripts as eBooks and have them included in the library’s catalog. You can find the link to the published eBooks at our Website by clicking on the Materials tab and then on Indie Missouri.

One of the books I found on a recent check was titled Welcome to the Dog Museum of St. Louis, Missouri, by David M. Mundy. The book is mostly photographs of the many displays at the museum, which is located in Chesterfield. But the most distressing thing is that the introduction says the museum is moving to New York in 2018. I checked, and found news articles verifying this. The American Kennel Club, which runs the museum, has decided to move it to New York, close to its national headquarters, to increase attendance. Last year the museum only had about 6,000 visitors.

I’ll admit, I’ve never been, though I have long known it was there. I was surprised, in paging through Mr. Mundy’s book, at how many statues, paintings, photographs, and other dog-related works of art they have. I am not the world’s biggest dog fan, but I like them enough. Now I want to go–especially since I know that the time I have to visit this little gem is limited.

I think that’s the value of having a service like SELF-e. How many interesting books are out there, failing to find major publishers who are interested in printing them, that people like me might want to read, or at least look at?




Email Blunders

For purposes of my job, I am on a few email listservs. These are the lists of many people with similar interests or jobs or professions who all share questions and answers, announcements, news, et cetera pertaining to those things. One of the most important, for me, is the Missouri Library Association (MLA) listserv, from which I usually get several emails every day. Some I read, some seem of less importance.

A while back a local public library posted a job announcement on the MLA listserv. It carried the usual professional and educational requirements, a job description, and the proposed salary range. Soon after I saw it, a response came to me—as it came to hundreds of people on the list—from a woman who listed herself in her signature as a library science student, a prospective librarian. The gist of her message was, ‘No wonder this position is empty! The salary is terrible!’

Of course she didn’t mean to send this to the whole list. She thought she had forwarded this snarky little comment to one friend of hers, but whoops! Now she had revealed herself, at this early stage in her career, as someone who not only made such comments, but who had unrealistic expectations about what a starting salary for a librarian might be. (The salary was perfectly reasonable, and if she did not think so, she may want to reexamine her dedication to the profession. Nobody gets rich in Library Land.) And perhaps she had revealed herself as someone who does not know how to use email very well.

Yesterday on the MLA listserv there was a job announcement from the library at a Missouri university. Soon after it was posted, there came from a librarian at another university the comment that, ‘wow, they sure do go through people over there!’ Again, she had meant to share this comment with one friend, but had sent her denigrating comment to hundreds of Missouri librarians and library employees. Soon she issued an apology; the person who had listed the job posted a defense of her library as a great place to work, et cetera.

All of these problems could be avoided if people just learned to use email well. The problem in both of these exchanges was in misunderstanding, or misusing, the three basic ways one can respond to emails: reply, reply all, and forward. I don’t want to get into explaining here what each of these mean, and most people reading this probably understand it already.

But learning to use email well also means considering whether the thing you want to say is really worth sharing, or whether you should just stifle the impulse to comment and get on with your day. I was at dinner the other evening with three friends, all men who employ people. They all described warning employees about loose emails. Never ‘fire off’ an angry email, they all agreed. It’s usually written and sent in haste, and more often than not regretted within moments.

With the proliferation of social media (anti-social media, some have taken to calling it) we see the lessening, if not the demise of civility, and people share what were once personal viewpoints, misinformed opinions, and misdirected anger with ever-wider audiences. Misuse of email is much the same.

Perhaps this is why so many people still fear email. We conduct weekly sessions , we call them Computer Questions Days, to help people improve their computer and online skills. It is surprising and a little distressing how many folks one meets who are nearly terrified of the idea of using email. But clearly, even people who think they are perfectly comfortable with the technology have a lot to learn.

The Middle of the Sarpy Tract

Sarpy plaqueWe were at Gazebo Park a little while ago, taking photos for an upcoming historical display about the parks in Webster Groves. I looked all over for some kind of plaque noting anything important or significant about this busy little park. (It was just past 3 o’clock, and thronged with kids getting out of school.)

I pulled aside the branches of a pine tree and saw there, close to the ground, a sign in ancient verdigris that said, ‘This tablet marks the center of the grant of land of 6,000 arpens ceded to Gregoire Sarpy by the Spanish Government in 1802.’ Well whattya know? I had no idea this was here.

As many Webster Groves histories will tell you, way back in 1802 a French immigrant named Gregoire Sarpy was granted a large tract of land, 6,002 arpens–an old French measure–that stretched from River des Peres to the Meramec River. It was an L-shaped tract of land, which was irregular, and the federal land commissioner would not approve it. Development of the land was help up until 1842, when it was finally approved. In the meantime, much of the land was sold to various parties. A large portion of it was divided between Sarpy’s son John and Pierre Chouteau, Jr. This land was divided into lots which were meant to be sold to farmers, and which would eventually become the core of Webster Groves.

But in my many years of working on local history, nobody had ever pointed out to me the existence of this sign, which was placed there in 1933 by the D.A.R. In terms of Webster Groves history, it doesn’t get more ‘ground zero.’ Next time you’re in the Old Orchard area, see if you can find it.