Carnegie Libraries: Woodstock

Next stop on our tour of Carnegie libraries in Ontario is the Woodstock Public Library. And what a magnificent one it is!

Woodstock Public Library, built in 1909

I’m ashamed to admit that I had no idea there was such a wealth of history and historic architecture in Woodstock. But there are a great many beautiful and well-maintained buildings in this city, and one of them is the public library. Unlike the other Carnegie libraries we have visited in this blog, the Woodstock Public Library actually began almost a century before its current home was built. According to TourismOxford.ca, a Reading Society was formed in Woodstock in 1835. It was a private group with an annual fee, and it was known as the “Woodstock Subscription Library” by 1836.

Detail of the portico

By 1840, the society had grown to 60 members, and by 1935, there were over 3,300! (WPL – history) In the gap between those years, the Carnegie Foundation provided a grant of $24,000.00, and the Woodstock Public Library opened to the public in 1909. In 1976, it was designated as a historic building.

The imposing entrance showing the characteristic ‘Carnegie stairs’ and ‘Carnegie basement’ that were so often incorporated into these libraries

The WPL has its own Twitter feed, with links to numerous resources on wellness, the promotion of literacy, programming for all ages, and a whole lot more. With all the COVID restrictions in effect lately, this library was closed when I was there, but things are starting to open up again, and we can hope that all our libraries will soon be the thriving community hubs they have always been.

Thanks again for stopping by! Stay tuned for the next installment of our Carnegie Libraries travelogue soon. 💜

Sources:
WPL History: https://www.mywpl.ca/library-history
History of Woodstock PL: www.tourismoxford.ca/listing/detail/ArticleId/12890/History-of-the-Woodstock-Public-Library.aspx
Woodstock Public Library Twitter: https://twitter.com/WoodstockLib

A bookshop to yourself!

On a recent visit to my in-laws in the Windsor, ON area I thought I would do a quick Google search for local independent booksellers. I found the Biblioasis Bookstore, and took a brief tour of their webpage, sad that it was likely closed. But then, I saw that they are offering 30-minute PRIVATE browsing sessions which you can book through their website. You can even request music to browse to! Naturally, I immediately booked myself a session that afternoon, and kept my eye on the clock as time slowly passed until it was time to get in the car and head over.

Detail of the Biblioasis storefront on Wyandotte St.

They provide very clear instructions and information on their website about what to expect: please wear a mask, but if you don’t have your own, one will be provided. Gloves will also be provided if needed. You can touch any book you like, but if you don’t end up purchasing it, you must replace it on a cart so it can be wiped down and disinfected before it gets put back on the shelf.

The welcoming view upon entering the Biblioasis Bookstore

This bookstore was exactly as I hoped it would be: old hardwood floors, shelves full of interesting books, friendly staff, a bright front window, and fun bookish gifts for every bibliophile (cards, puzzles, etc.). They have the usual assortment of fiction and new releases, but also some really neat local interest books. The super-cool part of discovering this book store is that Biblioasis is *also* an independent publisher! You can check out their press at www.Biblioasis.com.

#shelfie

If you’ve read much of this blog, you know I love a good cozy mystery, so I picked up a couple more during my private browsing session – both to do with bookshops!

I was impressed by what a great solution Biblioasis came up with, to resume the retail experience amid the ongoing economic upheaval caused by COVID-19. Imagine: an entire bookstore to yourself! If that’s not a dream come true, I don’t know what is. Thank you, Biblioasis 💖

It’s #ThrowbackThursday

This is my first #throwbackthursday post! I thought it might be fun to share this old photo of yours truly, because we are all book lovers here, and there’s a beauty of a card catalogue featured tucked into this picture.

Belleville, ON Public Library, 1985

I spent a week visiting my grandparents in Belleville one summer, and they took me to the library! What a time capsule this picture is.. Note what appear to be homemade dolls/stuffed animals behind me 🙂 But what I especially love is that beautiful card catalogue. Little did anyone know how soon it would become obsolete!

Thanks for visiting, and happy #throwbackthursday 💗

Carnegie Libraries: Amherstburg

Picturesque Amherstburg sits along the Detroit river in Southwestern Ontario, just south of Windsor in Essex county. Replete with historic buildings, this quaint little town is a history-lover’s dream, with buildings from the War of 1812, and ties to rum running and the Underground Railroad.

Essex County Library – Amherstburg branch

The Essex County Library branch in Amherstburg is another public library that was funded by Andrew Carnegie. He provided $10,000 in 1911, and the library opened to the public in 1913. In 1987 the building was granted Heritage Designation, and it’s no wonder: the building is made from limestone quarried in the former township of nearby Anderdon, and features many characteristics that are typical of Carnegie libraries. This is another rare example of a library built just after the turn of the last century that has maintained continual, uninterrupted service as a library!

Town of Amherstburg historic plaque for their public library funded by Andrew Carnegie

This beautiful structure was built on the site of a hotel that burned down in 1895. At that time, the town’s library was housed on Dalhousie street, and in 1901, it was moved to a building on Ramsay street before finally settling into the newly constructed location in 1913, where it remains to this day.

Detail of the imposing archway over the main entrance

According to a brief history of the library, as described by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, there was much back-and-forthing between Mr. Carnegie and the Amherstburg Town Clerk before the grant was agreed to. The architects who built the library submitted plans with design elements that Carnegie has previously approved, incorporating “Carnegie Stairs” and a “Carnegie Basement,” which are found in many other of his public libraries.

When the Amherstburg library moved into its new home on Sandwich street in 1913, it had just 6,000 volumes. But, by 1935, “Ontario Library Inspector F. C. Jennings stated in his report that the Amherstburg Library was one of the most complete and up to date in the County.” (https://www.heritagetrust.on.ca/en/oha/details/file?id=420, page 6)

This concludes our second library travelogue. Thank you for traveling with me to Amherstburg! Look for the next Carnegie Libraries installment on BookNotes soon. 💜

Sources:
http://www.mtc.gov.on.ca/en/libraries/carnegie.shtml
https://essexcounty.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=386befd577814c4f86e041837af7fab5
https://www.heritagetrust.on.ca/en/oha/details/file?id=420
https://windsorstar.com/news/local-news/amherstburg-to-mark-librarys-history/wcm/2a7652cf-80ce-4f27-936f-7a8015bd6e9d/
https://www.amherstburg.ca/en/live-and-play/heritage-designations.aspx
https://www.werelate.org/wiki/Place:Anderdon,_Essex,_Ontario,_Canada

What to read when you can’t concentrate

Have you noticed that it’s harder to stay focused these days? I think the stress of self-isolation, working remotely while still attending to your home and domestic responsibilities, and so much time together with the same people is getting to us. It’s safe to say that these are very unusual times, even though states, provinces, and countries are trying to slowly return to normal. It has been an unprecedented, stressful time for everyone.

What if you don’t feel like sitting in front of the TV for another day? But the thought of picking up a book is just too much; it feels overwhelming. Here are a few suggestions that might help.

1. Read some comics.

Calvin & Hobbes comics are always good for a laugh, and they brighten the spirits.

2. Pick up a graphic novel. The stories are just as complex as a regular novel, but with far fewer words (sometimes no words at all!), so they won’t overwhelm.

If you haven’t read a graphic novel before, now is the time to try one! Lots of words, no words, short or long, there’s a graphic novel out there just for you.

3. Why not bust out those old coloured pencils and give adult colouring a try? It might just be the de-stressor you never knew you needed.

Click on the image to buy this book on Amazon. Image courtesy of Amazon.com

I hope you find these ideas helpful. It’s true we are living in strange times, but good can come from this disruption of our busy routines: more (quality?) time with family, more time outside getting healthy fresh air, and maybe a broadening of your bookish horizons.

Until next time, happy reading! 💜

Carnegie Libraries: Paris

Brant Public Library – Paris branch

Andrew Carnegie is famous for his philanthropic donations in support of public libraries, and in fact, his donations resulted in 125 public libraries being built in Canada, 111 of which were in Ontario. Not all of the libraries remain in use today, but the one in Paris, Ontario still does.

Interesting tidbit: unlike many public libraries that were built near the turn of the last century, the Paris public library has been in continual use as such since it was built. A list of head librarians through the years can be found at the County of Brant Public Library Digital Collections website, along with the building’s timeline.

Paris Public Library first opened to the public on July 27, 1904.

Voted ‘the Prettiest Little Town in Canada’ by Harrowsmith Magazine, Paris is replete with natural beauty (it lies between two rivers) and architectural delights, featuring a great many well-kept Victorian buildings.

Fun fact: both Alexandrea Graham Bell and Andrew Carnegie have ties to this little town. On August 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell received the world’s first successful long-distance telephone call here; and as we know, Andrew Carnegie sponsored our featured library, tying both of these great men to the humble town of Paris, Ontario.

Doric columns are featured on the library’s former facade.

I hope you enjoyed this tiny library travelogue. There are several Carnegie libraries that I plan to feature in this new section of BookNotes, so please stay tuned for the next one!

Sources:
http://www.mtc.gov.on.ca/en/libraries/carnegie.shtml
http://images.ourontario.ca/brant/3281106/data?dis=dm
http://images.ourontario.ca/brant/2713035/data
https://oaa.on.ca/bloaag-detail/Carnegie-Libraries/327
https://www.brant.ca/en/live-and-discover/paris.aspx#

Bored? Not anymore!

This is week 3 of working from home, for me, and week 4 of self-isolation. At first, so much extra time was filled the exciting possibilities that all my unread books presented, their time of languishing on my shelves finally coming to an end. But, as it turns out, there is only so much reading one can do over a period of several weeks, and one starts to get a bit stir-crazy, even knowing that adventures and new friends await in each new book.

If you’re in a rut, and starting to drift away from your books, take heart! There are still some things we can do that are not technically reading, but are still very much book-centric, and thus, almost as good. If you will allow me just a few minutes, I would like to walk you through the very easy process of making something fun: bookmarks! Make them funny, or scary, or beautiful – it’s all up to you.

  1. All you need is: a cutting mat and an X-Acto knife (or not even those, if you prefer to use scissors), a ruler, a pencil, glue stick, and some paper that you love. I used chiyogami paper, and some flyers that had graphics I was drawn to, but any paper will do – even wrapping paper works – whatever you have that makes you smile, and can be cut to about 2″ x 6″.
1. All you need to get started: scissors or a knife & cutting mat, pencil, ruler, glue stick, and your choice of paper.

After you make the bookmarks, you will need a means of laminating them, at an office supply store (once they open again), or you can use a home laminator, if you have one. If you don’t have a means of laminating, that’s okay! Once the glue has dried, they are ready to use until you can get them into that protective coating.

  1. Once you have the paper ready, measure a rectangle on the back it, over the part you want to be featured on your bookmark. It should measure two inches wide (we will fold this in half, so your bookmark will be one inch wide), and as long as you would like, usually between 6 and 8 inches.
2. Measure two inches across, and 6-8 inches long, being very careful that your lines are straight. Using the grid from a cutting mat will help you, if you have one.
  1. Next, cut along the rectangle you drew. Using a ruler will help you make sure the lines are perfectly straight.
Use a knife on a mat for quick, perfect edges. You can use scissors, but be careful to keep the lines straight.
  1. Once you have your rectangle, fold it in half lengthwise, creasing it very hard to give it a sharp fold. If your bottom and top edges do not match up exactly, just trim them up against the ruler.
Trim edges after the rectangle is folded, to make sure the sides match exactly.
  1. Once you have the paper folded, it’s time for the glue. Cover one half of the paper in a layer of glue, being sure to go beyond the edge of your paper. This ensures the glue will go right up to the edge of all three open sides, and prevent any lifting. Don’t press it together yet! Let the glue dry slightly, and then apply it again. After the second coat, firmly press the sides together, taking care to smooth any air bubbles out.
Apply two layers of glue, being sure to apply the glue beyond all the edges of the paper, to ensure full adhesion.
Ta-daa! Now all you need to do is laminate.

I hope this little project helps to settle some of your restlessness, and brightens your day at the same time. If you do end up making some bookmarks, please let me know in the comments! Good luck, and STAY HEALTHY 💜

Does the weather affect your reading choices?

In all my life, I don’t believe there has ever been this much snow on the ground for such a long time without a thaw! As a snow lover I am thoroughly enjoying every soft, sparkling second. All the cold and snow have kept me indoors more than usual, though, so I have been able to chip away at my never-ending To Be Read pile.

As I was selecting a book to read, I wondered whether the wintry weather had an impact on my choice. Beach reads are obviously meant to be read in the summer, preferably while on vacation. But what about cozy mysteries, are they always read in the winter months, by a fire or with a cup of tea (or both)? Lately I have been conscious of something that makes me choose a gloomy mystery over less atmospheric non-fiction nature writing, but I’m not sure what the cause is. In case anyone is out there thinking I just didn’t want to start reading something ‘dry,’ that is not the situation in this case. I truly love the natural world, and I therefore find nature writing very interesting! It’s just that I was vaguely aware of some underlying instinct that seemed to result in my final selection.

I think we can all agree that the weather affects our mood, and I suppose our mood would have an effect on what we choose to read, so maybe it’s not exactly the weather that causes us to read something light, or something a bit heavier.

What do you think? Have you noticed that the genre of books you read tends to vary with the seasons? Or am I on my own with this one?

Books as Therapy

I think it’s time for another post about bibliotherapy – the practice of using books as tools for improving, promoting or maintaining mental health. Wellness and mental health are extremely important, with our lives getting busier and busier, and stress increasing with every new addition to our calendars.

Reading helps us escape from the pressures of everyday life

Is there anything more satisfying than recommending a book that someone else reads and enjoys? I absolutely love those moments. Readers’ advisory is not bibliotherapy, but if finding someone who likes the same books as we do warms our hearts, imagine the thrill of prescribing a book that helps someone on such a foundational level as their mental wellbeing.

In her Guardian article, Move over Freud: literary fiction is the best therapy, Salley Vickers breaks it down for us, spelling out some social problems (‘chronic loneliness and isolation’) and a therapeutic solution that involves reading: “reading in groups . . . significantly ‘improves self-confidence and self-esteem.'”

The Conversation has a great article about the history of bibliotherapy, which came into its own after World War I. Many returning soldiers were so traumatized from their experiences that they had a difficult time re-adjusting to civilian life; but prescribed reading helped many sufferers to work through their trauma. I know I have written about her before, but one of my heroes is Sadie Peterson Delaney, who pioneered bibliotherapy, and worked very closely with veterans as well as children.

Image courtesy of The Steampunk Home

On the other hand, bibliotherapy is still an imprecise science. A book that one person connects with might not be helpful to someone else. In their article, 5 Books That Will Make You Happier, According to Bibliotherapists Good Housekeeping sites therapists who recommend The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt as a good book to read if you are feeling pessimistic about the future. I found that book very depressing and not at all positive or uplifting, so in my opinion that’s an inappropriate recommendation for someone who is already feeling pessimistic. This article leads me to believe that there could be quite a margin of error in the practice of bibliotherapy, but I suppose that could be said about many things. Overall, I still love the idea and am eager to connect with someone who has been an official participant in bibliotherapy.

Is there anyone out there who would like to share a books-as-therapy experience? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Penguin Random House Canada

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This week brought the privilege of touring Penguin Random House Canada’s gorgeous new facilities in downtown Toronto, sponsored by the Ontario Library Association’s 2017 Super Conference (#OLASC). As soon as we walked through the front doors, the wonderful smell of new books greeted us, and set the tone for the tour.

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Reception area at Penguin Random House Canada

When Penguin merged with Random House in 2013, it just so happened that the leases on their separate business offices were coming due shortly thereafter. Because of this fortuitous coincidence, a brand new location was renovated to house the new, combined company. We had a lovely tour guide from the architectural firm that built the new office, and she was wonderfully informative, showing us all the innovative designs that were used to build the open-concept space that truly fosters creativity and collaboration.

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We were invited to view individual work stations, as well as meeting rooms and casual spaces designed to promote spontaneous interactions and conversations. The end of the tour brought us to the brand new retail store that opened over the summer (@PenguinShopTO). Even though it is only 158 square feet, this little shop holds a great many treasures for book lovers including paperback and hardcover books, mugs, bags, water bottles, and more!

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Full disclosure though, the tour would have been even better if we had learned about what Penguin Random House actually does as a publisher. The tour was focused on the space where all the magic happens, but not on the magic itself. All in all, however, it was still a great way to spend an hour, and I think everyone on the tour would agree that it was interesting, informative and a lot of fun!