When did it happen?

History books will document the period we’re living in, although I’m not sure what they’ll call it. My grandparents endlessly recounted the horrors of the 30s. My husband and I took it pretty hard in the 80s. What will our descendents say about the first decade of the 21st century? As recently as October 2008, news journalists and even economists were debating whether we were in a recession (and I wrote a post on my personal blog I know it when I see it.) The official benchmark for a depression is defined by the National Bureau of Economic Research as “a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales.” A simpler definition is that recession occurs when real gross domestic product (GDP) growth is negative for two or more consecutive quarters.

Well the official depression marker has been reached, and no one had to tell us in libraries that it’s official. Our branches are busier than ever from open to close. Folks are waiting in line to use our computers to find unemployment and job search information. By everything we count, library use in East Central Minnesota is up 20% or more. People are using our resources and services -at no cost – and are using our collections to find ways to save money. East Central Energy donated 5 Kill a Watt electricity usage meters to check the amount of efficiency of household devices. The devices circulate just like books and there are currently 157 people on a waiting list to check one out.

An old story goes: A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. Over the last months fewer and fewer people are working. As a result, tax receipts are going down and government is less able to fund services.

To see a gut-wrenching graphic depiction of the spread of unemployment, check out When Did Your County’s Jobs Disappear, on Slate (an online magazine published by the Washington Post.) Using the Labor Department’s local area unemployment statistics, Slate presents the recession as told by unemployment numbers for each county in America. In January 2007, many blue dots represented areas of net job gains. Moving through month by month, red dots representing job losses take over the map. Check it out. Link to online article.

Barbara Misselt, Director

Sandstone Classics Corner Open House

With Friends Like These…the Sky’s the Limit!

The Sandstone Friends of the Library recently celebrated their new CLASSICS CORNER with an open house. Having purchased over 175 volumes from the Library of America series, the Sandstone library now has an outstanding collection of the best literature America has produced over the centuries. The Library of America books are beautifully produced and there’s something for every interest.

For example, for early-American history buffs, check out the Writings of our Founders: Washington; Jefferson; Franklin; Madison; Hamilton; and Paine each have a volume in the series. Or tackle the monumental history by Henry Adams on the Administrations of Jefferson and Madison. (By the way, when’s the volume of Henry’s great-grandfather–our second president–coming out?) Perhaps you wish to go back further with Captain John Smith’s Writings, with Other Narratives of Roanoke, Jamestown, and the First English Settlement of America. Francis Parkman’s history, France and England in North America, is a must-read ending with (spoiler alert!) England’s victory in the French-Indian War.

Picking up the story from there, The American Revolution: Writings from the War of Independence, gathers the literature surrounding the birth of our nation. Of course, it’s one thing to “dissolve the political bands” between peoples and quite another to have to establish one’s own. For that attempt, see: The Debate on the Constitution (Vols. 1 & 2).

With an outsider’s perspective, Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America offers a portrait of our country’s social and political character that is still considered one of the best. Then back to Parkman for The Oregon Trail, a chronicle of his 1846 trip West, his encounters with the Plains Indians, and a vanishing frontier. The two volumes of Lincoln’s Speeches and Writings, which begin in 1832, are excellent accompaniment to the many outstanding books currently being published to celebrate the bicentennial of his birth.

Above: Ray Marcotte (l), Maker of the “Classics Corner” sign and Art Olstead, Maker of the Bookshelves! Many, many Thanks!

Area Lions Club members, left to right: Branch Librarian Jeanne Coffey, Carrie Olstead, Irma Faulkner, Carol Nelson, Sandy Snadwick, Chester (behind) and Janice (front) Gustafson, Tony Nelson, Judy Loken, Art Olstead, Ken Sample.

Below: Never letting a fundraising opportunity pass, the Friends held a silent auction. A few elbows were thrown as the clock ticked down but no injuries were reported. Below Left: Silent Auction items and (front to back) Carrie Olstead, Judy Loken, Sylvia Marcotte, JoAnn Alexander. Middle: Irene Sandell plans her strategy. Right: JoAnn Alexander (below left) reveals her talent for accessorizing by putting a quilted Christmas tree skirt to use as a cape.

I could go on and on. So I will!

(L-R) Judy Loken, Elsie Lundorff, Irene Sandell
Perhaps fictionalized accounts of these times are more your style. Then take a look at James Fenimore Cooper’s The Leatherstocking Tales, which includes the novel “The Last of the Mohicans.” Washington Irving’s and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s stories also present windows through which to view our nation’s early years. The Writings and Drawings of John James Audubon capture the natural landscape, as does the work of environmentalist William Bartram (1739-1823), described as “the most significant American writer before Thoreau and a nature artist who rivals Audubon.”

Explore other aspects of the cuture with American Poetry: The Seventeenth & Eighteenth Century (2 vols.); American Sermons: The Pilgrims to Martin Luther King; American Sea Writing: A Literary Anthology; or American Speeches: Political Oratory from the Revolution to the Civil War. Civil War? Read on!

Right: (L-R) Merlin and JoAnn Alexander, Patti Hapke, Branch Librarian Jeanne Coffey, Branch Aide Carol Nelson

Below: Friends of the Library (L-R), JoAnn Alexander, Melissa Grabau, Patti Hapke (back), Sylvia Marcotte (front), Jeanne Coffey.

There’s the Memoirs of Generals William T. Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant, The Autobiographies of Frederick Douglass, and the anthology of Slave Narratives. Post war? How about little-known Lafcadio Hearns’ American Writings, “the master of a gaudy and sometimes self-consciously decadent literary style…a tough-minded and keenly observant reporter, with an eye for the offbeat, the sensual, and occasionally the gruesome”?

And I’ve only described one avenue through this collection!

Talk to Jeanne or Carol about what’s available–or, better yet–come on in and browse through these wonderful books and discover on your own.

Also, go to the Library of America website for their description of each volume.

(Become a Friend of the Library today!)
Posted by Nick Dimassis, Assistant Director