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Librarian Blog

Keillor would be proud

Remember Lake Woebegon?
That's Garrison Keillor's imaginary village where, among many other things, all the kids were above average.
Can you imagine such a place?
Well, look around. It seems that we all increasingly live in a Lake Woebegon. All kids everywhere are above average.
They are so above average that in some communities a quarter to a third of the graduating seniors are valedictorians!
The Wall Street Journal's Tawnell D. Hobbs reported on this strange phenomenon this past weekend in an article with this headline: "You're All No. 1! High Schools Say 'Vale' to the Valedictorian."
It seems that many high schools have done away with the valedictorian competitive run because it's all gotten, well, too competitive. The implicit idea seems to be the competition is a bad thing. I'm not sure why. After all, many high schools have football teams, right? They compete, right? What's the difference?
I don't know.
On the other hand, is it possible that there are so many valedictorians in one school because the coursework is too easy?
I don't know about that, either.
I actually regard this as just another trendy happening in public education. I suspect that it, too, shall pass.

Fried?

I'm afraid that's the state of the modern-day cookbook: Fried.
As in Done For. Dead. Kaput.
We probably have a hundred boxes of cookbooks that have been donated to the library for our annual Friends book sale on Oct. 21 and 22. I bet we don't sell one-tenth of them.
People don't want them; thus they bring them to us in the sad hopes that we can unload them for pennies on the dollar.
I don't think so.
Google has undone the cookbook more surely than it has undone anything else.
Maybe I'm wrong. But, I don't use cookbooks at all when I'm looking for a recipe. I Google my ingredients or my main protein.
I bet you do, too.
Still, if you're old school, you will have plenty, plenty of cookbooks to choose from at the sale. Bring a big box. And then don't bring them back.
 

Bury that smile!

It's no laughing matter, this thing that is happening to clowns.
This thing is "It." "It" is a  movie about clowns based on a novel by Stephen King, so you know that said clowns are not the heroes.
Indeed, they are so loathsome that real clowns, whatever that means, are angry about the depictions of them as scary.
Are clowns really scary?
Joe Queenan, writing in The Wall Street Journal, that answering this question poses the old conundrum: Which came first, the scary clown or the fear of the clown?
I decided to ask our resident clown expert, Emily McDonald, who is our children's librarian.
She said we had Bonzo The Clown as a performer last summer, and Silly Sparkles this summer.
Emily went with Silly this year because "she was less creepy."
But, she said, children don't find clowns scary at all.
Their parents do.
I guess they'll be happy to submit to being frightened when they pay $10 or $12 to see Stephen King's animation of their fears.
 

Printing body parts?

As a society we're still a little bit away from printing entire human beings on 3-D printers.
That may be the vision of film-makers and authors of dystopian novels, but the reality is not quite so glamorous or terrible, depending on your viewpoint.
The Wall Street Journal had a nice article on the state of medical 3-D printing, and the experts acknowledged that while strides have been made in the making of individual bones and bone systems and even skin, the processes are expensive and complicated and not altogether 100 percent satisfactory.
You can bet that costs will come down and processes will get simpler and less cumbersome.
Will we ever see a printed 3-D human?
We might see the superstructure, but there's more to a human being than bone and skin and muscle, etc.
Want to build a good human? Start witih the mind and work backwards. To start with the mind, start with a good book.

Get outta here

Okay, so I missed it.
Banned Books Week was last week, but it's never too late to celebrate, is it?
Actually, we probably should have a Banned Books Decade or maybe a Banned Books Year. That's how much energy gets expended when people get riled up about a book or two.
It's not a book or two, to be accurate. Since 1982, 11,300 books have been challenged, according to the American Library Association. Why, it seems like only yesterday when the public was up in arms over "Lolita." But it was really 60 years ago.
And it's been about that long since Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" shocked American readers.
And it's been just 35 years since the Supreme Court spoke to the issue of school boards banning books. You may not recall the case, but the court found that "a school board's discretionary power is secondary to the First Amendment and the board could not ban books from its library simply because its members disagree with the content.
Since there are a lot of new books out every year, there are a lot of new ones to hate.
Some of the same old ones are banned, though. They often include "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" of even "Huckleberry Finn."
So many books, so little time!
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