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Las Vegas that I remember, under the Sheepheads

The Sheephead Mountains stood like hooded monks in prayer that early spring midnight; Molly was due to calf and I, half asleep, braved the nippy air to check her progress. Calves seldom came when the powder dung of the stockyards was sunny warm. They slipped into life in the dark hours when Pacific Northers crossed the Sierras flooding the desert, and flooding the corrals. But tonight Orion chased the Pleiades across the sky as Cassiopeia and Andromeda draped the firmament with lantern-treasures. This cloudlessness brought water troughs caked with ice; the ground cracked as I walked. Climbing the fence, from the top rail I searched for my charge. Two hours earlier she had been fat and humped; quietly chewing and snorting frosty air, she had acknowledged me for an instant. I had left her feeling certain she was far from giving birth. But now with a panicked jump, I crossed the pen racing towards a little pile of darkness laid out afresh on the black frozen ground. Spring welcomes pretty things: the bee’s clover with its purple heads like lively ladies dressing up a field, the prickly pear’s splattered palette of colors brushing tapestries on a languid desert floor, the pea fowl’s parade of chicks—clowns and soldiers alike—sanctifying mama’s forty day set, the wiener pigs’ round, rosy and full bodies squeezing one another with playful exuberance against sty walls. So as I lifted the limp, wet, unfull body into my arms to carry it to the barn, I felt no weight


From Mining Camps: A study in American Frontier Government, 1885

Brief though the reign of the mining-camp alcaldes was, it left a deep impress upon mountain society ; as an occurrence in northern California a few years ago will perhaps illustrate. 

There is a school-teacher there, a man of mighty frame and great energy, whose boy hood was spent in the placers of Siskiyou, and his young manhood on the cattle-ranges of eastern Oregon, and in adventurous wanderings along the frontiers of British Columbia. When the late war began, he went East, and joined a regiment; returning to his mountain wilderness in 1865, a crippled and battered veteran. He had always been a close reader and hard student: so, as a teacher, he soon won a reputation for success over three counties. Under these circumstances he was called to take charge of what, with undoubted justice, was called one of the worst schools in northern Cali fornia. 
The mail-rider threw off the trustee’s letter at the door of this man’s summer cabin, perched on a pine- clad height of the Sierra ; trout-stream within a stone’s throw ; grouse, deer, and bear in the woods ; his gun and rod in the corner, his ” Marcus Aurelius ” and ” Noctes Ambrosiana” on a rustic shelf. He saddled his horse the next morning, and reached the village, once a mining-camp, before nine o’clock. When school was called to order, he found that efficient work demanded a reclassification ; because the previous teacher had tried to gain cheap favor by advancing grades without reason, and skipping the hard places.
 After a few weeks he had come to grief by trying to persuade a large boy not to smoke a cigarette in school-hours ; for the playful innocents had ducked him in the adjacent stream, sousing him up and down until he escaped, waded to the farther bank, and sought other fields for his peda gogic prowess. 
But the new teacher possessed fron tier freedom of resource, and military discipline of character. ” I must turn you back in your grades,” he said, after several hours of examination. An ominous murmur of rebellion followed. Several boys rose in their seats, and announced that their parents “would see about that.” 
The teacher then made his first and last speech to the excited school. He took a book from the table, and addressed the most noisy of the rebels. ” Do you know what this is ? ” ” Yes, sir, — the school-law.” ” And it defines the grades ; and you think that last year you passed an examination, and that I cannot go behind the law ? ” ” Yes, sir.” “Very well, you are quite mistaken. I am the alcalde of this school. I am sheriff, and register of claims, and judge of the camp, and the whole jury. I am absolute finality here ! ” With this comprehensive statement, he threw the school-law out of the open window, and then, in the midst of an awe-struck throng, proceeded to break up and consolidate class after class. 
” Yes, an alcalde was what the district needed,” was the opinion of the old pioneers of the village when the story was told; and a better school, for the rest of the year, northern California never knew.

In a little place of angels

To discover one day, one group of people, one hundred and fifty nine years ago, to make it real, I have a basement apartment in the Ohio heartland with 26 library books from around the country, a dropbox folder stuffed with internet ebooks and academic journals, and a weary brain. I have discovered American actors, Johnny Appleseed of American theater, an actress Antipodean, a passionate actor-gunslinger to his death, New York, Philadelphia and Boston stage royalty, renamed Irish immigrants with hope, hustlers of the past who have moved us forward, believing in dreams, congregating in a mother lode town, a little place of angels, over a hundred miles from the San Francisco Bay, ready to put on Hamlet.  The curtain rises only by the power of historical preservation, libraries, the wonder of wires and glorious imagination–however it all works!

If I was in Ireland right now

If I was in Ireland right now, I’d eat salmon for breakfast and mussels for dinner. I’d boat out to the Skelligs and damp with sea spray, I’d climb rocky steps to the top to spend the day watching puffins on the grass and Terns in the sky. I’d walk red soil paths lined with Fuchsia and visit stone circles on the coast at 10 p.m. in the soft light of a summertime solstice afternoon if I was only in Ireland.

A Fine Plain

The Holy Roman Emperor, Henry III, had a grandson who had a granddaughter who lived in Nicosia, Marie Bourbon. The names flash like starlight over the centuries, like birdsongs, early morning calls to awaken us.These old folks with stain glass windows in their honor, they are our genetic ancestors. We are them. We could not be here but for their prayers and terror. The mongols begat us. Whether through rape or family politics, we now inhabit this green and wet orb because of them. We are the survivors of plagues and war, illicit love affairs and pawns of power gained. We have sunlight in our hands to do great things, across this fine, bevelled plain.

The Whole Story

I have learned to recognize the female cardinal song in the last month here in Ohio. I heard it outside, this bird song and then  searched on youtube until I located the exact notes. If it were so easy with my tale! I have details of history, a cabin boy who served on the gunboat, Merrimac in the Civil War and I can dive into google searches to mine fleeting details of its sinking on November 15, 1865. The whole story is found in government documents. I had a student ask me yesterday why we have old tatty books and files on shelves upon shelves in the basement of the library. I told him because of folks like me who want the whole story, the truth and nothing but the truth.

Interlibrary Loan Interesting Facts…..

Primary Research Group has published Higher Education Interlibrary Loan
Management Benchmarks, 2013 Edition, ISBN 157440-216-1

The 165 page study is based on data from detailed responses from more than 65
colleges and universities, covering interlibrary loan response times, shipping
costs, means and form of fulfilment, Ill staffing and budgeting, workload and
trends in number of transactions, policies on non-traditional items, use of
digital repositories, automation and many other issues in higher education
interlibrary loan management.    The report gives highly specific information in
a myriad of areas allowing end users to compare their Interlibrary loan efforts
with those of peer institutions.

Just a few of the report’s many findings are that:

•    Over the past three years, traditional interlibrary loan services
transactions in college libraries in the sample have increased by a cumulative
3-year mean of 17.94%.
•    The mean turnaround time for article borrowing requests among libraries
in the sample is 2.99 days.
•    53.85% of research universities and deliver documents in electronic
form unless otherwise specified by the borrower.
•    13.24% of survey participants say that interlibrary loan at their
college is under the auspices of the reference department.
•    39.71% of libraries in the sample use Ariel for document delivery.
•    Research universities in the sample employ a mean of 5.3 students in
their interlibrary loan efforts.
•    Public colleges in the sample have a mean turnaround time of 7.37 days
for video borrowing requests.
•    22.22% of community college libraries and 27.27% of 4-year college
libraries offer interlibrary loan for state-adopted textbooks.
•    Shipping and courier fees related to interlibrary loan have cost
colleges in the sample a mean of $11,254 in the past year.

For further information view the website at


Taken from ACRL Science & Technology Section Discussion List


 Baby Chick

Peck, peck, peck
On the warm, brown egg.
Out comes a neck.
Out comes a leg.

How does a chick.
Who’s not been about,
Discover the trick
Of how to get out?

by Eileen Fisher

My Drive to Work

The young lad holds his daddy’s hand and skips along the sidewalk. A group of children, hunkered down with knapsacks cross the street under the guidance of a guard, stop sign in hand. A black squirrel uses the wires to span the intersection, racing the current and disappearing into a giant oak. The light changes. Two yellow buses turn out into a lane from a side road, one to the right and one to the left. A breeze lifts a flag, then the next, flags lining Northwestern Avenue, Grant, and Bowman, all in the sunlight.

This is no strange land and I am no stranger but I have been gone for years. If I sense nothing but this on my short drive every morning, I acknowledge something abiding: a limp acquired from a dare, yet a race towards everything about tomorrow.


One afternoon in the National Museum of Damascus, I spotted through dusty glass those Ras Sharma artifacts, tiny cylinders, carved and ready to be rolled across clay. I later read that the cuneiform characters carved on those cylinders were the mother or our own alphabet. This cache discovered by archeologists in 1928 part of an ancient library’s collection changed the scholars’ view of words and language: Ras Sharma, Mediterranean coast, Syria.

I spend time every week in library stacks retrieving interlibrary loan requests. I haven’t retrieved a book on Ras Sharma or sent one in that exact direction yet. I mailed a book on Gertrude Stein to Turkey on Friday, pretty close. I mailed a book to South Africa on holocaust crimes the week before. That alphabet set up by scribes many millenniums past, the one from Ras Sharma, ancient Ugarit, has magically branched out.

The spiders in my basement apartment have branched out also, those daddy long legs stay to the baseboards and weave their webs. Ah, Ras Sharma and spiders an interesting mix! I am reminded of the Native American myth of the spider and the deer. Deer asked Spider why she wove such an intricate web with symbols; Spider said that Earth’s children needed those symbols to preserve knowledge from past to future. I wonder if the ancients in Ras Sharma inspected spiders’ webs? I have and I sweep those webs and my spiders out daily and they come back. I don’t kill daddy long legs: persistent, quiet creatures, kind of like librarians. They just go about their business.

An important business it is, because it takes more than symbols to keep our knowledge base intact these days, to protect and share it: From catalogers to shelvers; from circulation desk to reference; collections and weeding; IT to ILL. Sometimes I push my cart through the stacks and I want to stop and browse, but I don’t have the time because I am going to find information in a book for someone miles away who needed it yesterday. They can’t find what they need online or they wouldn’t be asking me; hundreds of requests get scanned and emailed or wrapped up and mailed on a weekly basis from my college. Imagine the web of information transfer going on worldwide on a daily basis made possible by all those librarians.

Sometimes I wonder, is it worth it, all this energy to move information? My spiders keep coming back to trap something along the baseboards. They weave their Ras Sharma symbols and wait. While much spinning made from my mailings may be for naught, I am steadfast that a few of my customers out there will puzzle together silk filaments and trap some gems.

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