So though I am trying to not do any competitive reading this year, at the very last-minute-dot-com I thought I would riff off SuperWendy’s monthly TBR challenge to discuss my own month’s reading (and possibly watching and listening). Last year, I kept a book thread going on Twitter, a practice which I found abhorrent but I might find it easier to have a monthly instalment going here on my blog.
Observation Note 97: ‘Tis the pox! To begin with, this has been a rather flat start to the year, as my still-at-home 20 year old son and my elderly mother tested positive to Covid on the 3rd of January. My usually cautious, (no longer a) child who had cancelled on all his other parties and nightclubbing when the Omicron spread took off, decided it was safe (it wasn’t!) to go an outdoor music festival on New Year’s Eve, and my mum attended a New Year’s Day church service. For nearly a fortnight, my husband and I were also in isolation as close contacts, and had to negotiate caring for our son’s (not so) “mild” illness while also protecting ourselves from illness. I teetered between anxious worried parent and hag crone refusing to breathe the same air as my coughspring (excuse the pun – I couldn’t help myself). I also spent a couple of days caring for my mum who did have a mild case (yay for her Christmas third vaccine dose) but her case lingered and lingered for many weeks (she is finally testing negative). I am incredibly grateful for my younger Covid-nurse sister who cared for Mum during the majority of her illness. So let’s just say that very little reading took place. However, I managed to read two books:
Reading Note 38: Ch-ch-changes. The future of libraries is a topic of endless speculation that seems to have been on autoloop throughout my library career. In Public Libraries in the Smart City, Dale Leorke and Danielle Wyatt revisit this question, this time considering the role of the library in supporting and becoming instrumental in delivering digital connectivity to their communities, by examining the role of libraries as intermediary government services (the authors refer to them as “meso-level”) and their position in the digital/smart city. Leorke and Wyatt state that “institutional reinvention is intrinsic to the history of the library” (p. 4) (agreed!) and that public libraries have transformed themselves in response to the emergence and establishment of digital technologies in our everyday lives. The authors explicitly use metaphors as they conceptualise the changes that have taken hold, with chapter names such as “Beacons of the Smart City” and “Mixed Metaphors: between the head and the heart of the city”. They interview librarians, library policy makers, in Melbourne and Geelong, Australia, to gain a deeper understanding of this new positioning of the public library. They gain their understanding of the various tensions in the field through interviews with librarians, policy makers and users to make sense of how the library is understood as a 21st century community space. In the conclusion, the authors write
The users in our study valued the library as a way to connect to the past, to their personal memories, but also to situate themselves within a shared, public history. Temporal connection sustains personal and collective narratives”(p. 121)
This really stood out for me. Digital connectivity and life in a city/town/community extends beyond the function of the digital, and is integral to the social. Finding shared city spaces that don’t hold commercial and retail requirements is something that citizens seek out and libraries are amongst the public spaces that were meeting this need. However, this book was published in 2019 and definitely shows the “beacon” libraries were in the “before times”; before the pandemic. Life is different now. Covid has wrought phenomenal change. Libraries are definitely social hubs in the embodied sense of entering public buildings, libraries have a role in the city’s digital technological infrastructure, but I remain unconvinced whether libraries have been able to pivot to creating digital social communities, they have yet to create an online hub of activity. I enjoyed this book and I am still reflecting on its ideas, and whether the same ideas continue into the pandemic times needs to be questioned and examined as we are in the midst of another transformation. Once again, the future of libraries autoloop has made its return.
Reading Note 39: Faith and the sense of self. So a few days ago, I returned a very very overdue book to the library (see Observation Note 97) and found myself borrowing an eight book haul, the first of which I read today. L. Nichols’ graphic novel memoir Flocks. L. Nichols is “a trans man, artist, engineer and father of two, was born in rural Louisiana, assigned female and raised by conservative Christians”. Their* memoir shows their life from a young age, living with their parents, attending church, struggling with their sense of identify, self and self worth while managing to find a place through their education, not to mention the difficulties in dealing with parents who are divorcing each other and the fractured family dynamics that ensued from this. I deeply engaged with this book, especially with L. Nichols finding of faith outside of the church they grew up in, but also outside of a structured faith, where they found faith in themself, faith in their behaviour, in their studies. I was riveted and though I had so many other things I needed to complete today but instead, the graphic novel had me all wrapped up in it instead.
* in my original posting, I made the mistake of using “him/he” as per the Goodreads blurb, after I published this post, I noticed that the copy of the book I have uses the pronouns “she/her”, so I panicked and went to the source and corrected the pronouns to use L. Nichols twitter listed preferred they/them. Apologies for anyone who read the original post (and of course to L. Nichols).