Our bookmobile trip is over and we are back to our respective day jobs. However, there are still some stories we couldn't leave behind so we'll be posting a few more items over the next few days. Here's the first one:
Our visit to the Hoopa library on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation was unforgettable. We drove from Arcata to Hoopa around 8:30 in the morning. The weather was just about to turn to fall so we could feel a crispness in the air as the sun shone through the pine and cedar trees. The road (Rtes 299 and then 96) to Hoopa is incrediblly beautiful.
The library was small but well organized. Despite it being early morning, quite a few community members gathered at the library to see the bookmobile or to use the library. We could tell the community was tightly-knit because everyone knew each other and no one was a stranger to them.
One of our bookmobilista speils has been that anyone can download anay of the hundreds of thousands of books (the goal is 1 million!) free of charge; we thought that was universally a good meassge. However, Several Hoopa community members mentioned that not many people in the valley had computers and those that do have uneven internet access at best via the phone line. The library has 4 computers with DSL but the librarian mentioned that the internet connection was spotty and so she recommended that users get a magazine to read while waiting for larger files to download. As we've said previously, the digital divide is unfortunately alive in rural communities across the US. So a digital bookmobile was not the optimum solution for this community.
Regardless of their level of access to the information highway, in Hoopa the library IS at the center of their community and the community knew and cherished that -- that's the dream of every librarian! We interviewed several community members about what they thought was the role of the library in their community. Ms. Hayley Hott gave a particularly passionate response (see below).
Many librarians are struggling to know about the community that they serve, but we felt that this library was truly a success story. It might not be the largest collection or have an abundance of facilities, but it is loved and highly-used by everyone in the valley.
Our 2 week bookmobile trip has finally wrapped up with our last stops today in Willits and Ukiah (both in Mendocino county). We just got home to San Francisco. We are not able to write all our thoughts but we can tell for sure it was truly fun and learning experience.
We learned about the crucial roles that libraries play in rural communities. For many communities, the library is not just a place where you can check out books; it is the social, cultural and educational hub and more. People come to the library to join writing and knitting groups, book club, to fill out resumes and apply for jobs, submit their taxes, surf the Web, and on and on. It's been great to visit those 11 libraries over the last 2 weeks to see in person the central role that libraries play in their communities -- despite the budget cuts, staff shortages, lack of tech support, knowledge and infrastructure. Academic libraries could learn a lot about building and sustaining communities simply from observing small, rural libraries.
We'll write more tomorrow, and will post more flickr images as soon as we get a new camera cable (which I lost somewhere between Blue Lake and Willits :-) ).
Day 11 was one grueling day - driving and setting up/breaking in Hoopa Indian Reservation, Blue Lake and Eureka for the Oysters & Ale library benefit for WiFi. When we got back to the Arcata hotel around 9:30pm we were so tired that we decided to have a blogging/flickr-ing moratorium. It was worthwhile since we had a full day of excitement and interesting conversation with community members. We can't wait to blog about it when we get back to San Francisco.
6:20am this morning we got woken up from a sound slumber by a call from the front desk telling us that the bookmobile was about to get towed to make room for the Saturday farmers' market. James as the official bookmobile driver, got up, threw some clothes on and stopped the Man from towing us. Whew! Nobody can tow the bookmobile!!
Now we're up and on our way to Mendocino for a day at Willits and Ukiah before heading home. We'll wrap up the goings on these last two days tonight or tomorrow. Stay Tuned!
Fortunately we got our pimped out (or at least with a new radiator!) bookmobile back from the mechanic today just in time for our visit to Humboldt County Library in Eureka. The library building looked like a beautiful retreat place where you can smell of ocean.
Eureka has quite a different community compared to other libraries that we've visited on our tour. Many of the people we talked to already knew about Internet Archive (or Project Gutenberg) as well as issues of public domain. This is the first time it's happened to us over the last 10 days. We were at the library for 5 hours and a stream of people stopped by the bookmobile and gave kudos for our work. We didn't even need to talk about the importance of the public domain and why community has to support their local library. It was easy to see how much the community supports their library. Many library staff came out to see our bookmobile including the new library director, Victor Zazueta. He told us that he believes the library is an educational institution and "poor man's university."
While talking about open source software in the library, he mentioned that Riverside County Library and the City of Redding had contracted out the management and operation of their libraries to a private company called LSSI. It's shocking to hear about a library being managed by a private company. This is wrong on so many levels. The library is an integral part of any community and we seriously doubt that a private company could appreciate those roles as their main goal is making profit, not providing local history, education, knowledge commons, and cultural space. Victor told us that at Riverside, there were high school students working the reference desk. What a shame.
After breaking down the bookmobile we visited the library's local history and special collections. This is one of the most beautiful local special collections we've ever seen. The room was full of local history that are used by community members, historians, and scholars. We wondered if this collection would exist if the library were being managed by LSSI. Our two main messages this entire trip has been the importance of the public domain and supporting local public libraries. We hope our message resonates with each community that we've visited.
Tomorrow is our big day. We have 3 places scheduled - Hoopa, Blue Lake, and the Oysters and Ale Library Fundraising in Eureka. This will be fun and crazy! For more photo please check here.
This is bookmobilistas in action. Please check it out.
Day 8&9: We left Red Bluff yesterday and we are now in Arcata gearing up for tomorrow's stop at the Humboldt County Library in Eureka, CA.
Our time in Red Bluff reminded us the resemblance between our physical and our knowledge landscape. Red Bluff is a town of 10,000+ people but houses and businesses are so spread out that everyone drives their car (actually it was mostly trucks and SUVs which probably accounts at least in part for the poor air quality) which creates a feeling of disconnect from the community. We didn't see any active public places (parks, squares etc) where community members were getting together and sharing their space in common.We are witnessing the shrinking of public spaces where culture and community emerge. This is mirrored in the erosion of the public domain. As knowledge/information has become more and more hyper-commodified, the idea of public ownership of culture drifts into the fog of history. This bookmobile has been a great opportunity to remind ourselves and those we talk to about the importance of the public domain in the creation of culture and community.
In reaching the crest of our journey, we will have a busy few days coming up including being part of Oysters and Ale festival, a WiFi fundraiser for Humboldt County Library at the Eureka Marina on Friday. We've been ready for all kinds of technical difficulties and have backup plans for all contingencies *except* for our wheels. And wouldn't you know it, we've run into a blocked radiator in the bookmobile. No way around it but to get it in the shop for repair now! So far the bookmobile has been good to us so we are very hopeful. We will keep you posted.
On the way to Jeter Victorian Inn we drove past the Herbert Kraft Free Library (Library Journal Vol. 46 p. 216) which was the first public library in Red Bluff. The library looked exactly like a Carnegie library, but in front of the building was a sign - "House of Design." It turns out the Tehama County library outgrew the building and moved to the old Safeway building about 16 years ago.
The original library was funded by Mrs. Kraft in memory for her late husband under the condition that if the building was not used as a library it would be returned to her family's estate. When the library moved, the city lost the property and eventually it got sold to the current owner who turned it into a gift shop. The library was filled with fake decorative flowers, soaps, candles, etc, but we could imagine how the library would have looked in the past. The rotunda of the library is beautifully restored stained glass and the sunlight through the glass amplifies the church-like atmosphere.
While Kraft library maintains the elegance of the past, the current public library is eclectic for sure. It's in a circa 1960s Safeway building that converted to the library. The current library is not aesthetically pleasing from the outside -- however, the ceiling inside has 3 large wooden beams that look like waves; But we thought it's an interesting idea to convert commercial property to public space, especially since our public spaces are dwindling -- there are many towns and cities where the only "public space" is their shopping mall!
Red Bluff was not on our itinerary, but we decided to just go ahead and set up the bookmobile in front of the public library guerrilla-style. We showed up at the library around 2 without notice and asked a librarian if we could set up the bookmobile. After we described who we were and what we were doing, she said ok with no hesitation.This was our first guerrilla tactic and it worked ("no one expects the Spanish inquisition!"). Our backup plan was to set up right across the street from the library but this was *much* better because we were somewhat cooled under the large Safeway awning :-)
The library was the teen after-school hangout spot so we had a chance to talk to many young library users. One teenage boy was very interested in our music collection, especially heavy metal. So we searched and found a music file from the archive collection and turned on the music on our laptop. We hardly understood the lyrics, but he was obviously pleased and said "cool!" quite a few times. Another teenaged boy asked us to find Italian books because recently his grandma told him that he was of Italian decent. We found books on Italian grammar and Italian cooking for him and showed them to him on the spot. He was so excited to see the books and thrilled to take one book that we had just made for him. When we see young kids are interested and excited about our collection we get excited too.
The travel book was right. Ref Bluff is blazing hot in summer. While we were standing in front of the library for bookmobile, we dreamed that the building was still a Safeway and we could go to aisle 4 and get a drink; but then the delirium would wear off and we'd remember this is not a Safeway but a library and there are other types of sustenance inside.
In my previous post, I promised to tell you about our B&B owner, Mary. When Mary opened her house our eyes got big and our jaws opened. Her Victorian era house is decorated with a Victorian theme mixed with kitch, but it was literately full of stuff. There is not an empty space in her house where you can rest your eyes. Every inch of her house has something on it: the walls are filled with myriad paintings, cowboy boots, stirrups, the dressers, tables and shelves are filled with old hair brushes,wax cylinder records, porcelain nuns, birdcages, etc. There is no way that we can describe her house, so we really want you to see our photos. She gave us a tour of the house which I videotaped and hopefully will make available soon.
As much as we were impressed by her house we were so heartened by her hospitality. Mary is a small, feisty and sweet woman to whom you just want to talk all day long and find out about her exciting life. None of us expected anything like this in Red Bluff, but this was a sweet treat on our journey. We're heading to Arcada for our next stop but we know we will come back to Red Bluff to see Mary again in the future. And make sure to stop by if you're in Red Bluff and tell her Shinjoung, James and Sarah, the bookmobile crew, sent you!
Every time I travel around U.S. without exception, I'm always in awe by the grandiosity of the land. It's just a big country especially compared to my native South Korea.
Yesterday we stayed in Weaverville, CA and spent time exploring the town. We didn't have a plan for the bookmobile but we visited the library anyway. Sadly the library was closed on friday and only open 20/week because of budget cuts. (See the photos).
Weaverville is a small historical gold rush town with a population of @ 3500. A logging mill is the only industry that sustains the town today, but during the gold rush era, over 1000 Chinese gold miners lived there. Now the miners and Chinese are largely gone but they left their stories and the glimpse of their lives behind. In Weaverville, there is a Daoist temple, Joss House, built by a chinese entreprenuers in 1874 (Also called "Cloud Forest Temple", é›²æž—å»Ÿ, Yunlin Miao) where the miners worshiped. The land was donated by the local Methodist Church, according to the State Park ranger. After 126 years, the temple is still standing firmly. Wandering around the ground of the Joss house, we all wondered about the lives of those intrepid Chinese miners. For more on the CA gold rush, see From Gold Rush to Golden State and Guld Rush Introduction
We left Weaverville this morning and drove to Redding where the temperature hit over 102 F. While we drove through downtown, we saw the library sign and, like hypnotized people, just followed the sign and ended up in the parking lot of the library.
The Redding library's new building just opened this January so we could still smell the new furniture, fresh signage, and unfilled shelves. It was hard not to notice a "customer services" sign at the circulation desk -- a term that should *not* be used in any library IMHO. The Redding library is quite big and bright, and interestingly powered by solar power which we thought it is an great example of how library can be an example of green building design. The library has a small section of government documents tucked away in one corner of the 2nd floor (*not* the basement!) and according a reference librarian, they are in the process of cataloging and converting from dewey to Sudoc. It's always nice to see government documents in a public library.
We left the library without knowing where we would spend the night. When we were just about to get into the car, James paused and looked at Sarah and me and said that he left his keys in the ignition of the bookmobile. According to AAA service person, James was the 4th "James" with car trouble that day.
While James was dealing with AAA (Thanks AAA!), Sarah and I looked through several California tour books in the library to find a place to stay. Since Sarah has to be in Anderson on Monday morning (about 10 miles south of Redding) we couldn't drive too far afield and so Mt. Shasta unfortunately was out of the question. There were nothing much around Redding except the same old franchised restaurants, hotels, walmart, home despot ( :-) ), strip malls, etc. So we decided to flip a coin -- heads we'd stay in Redding and tails in Red Bluff. One of the travel books noted that Red Bluff is blazing hot during the summer. It turned up tails so we drove to Red Bluff. We found a B&B called Jeter Victorian Inn from a travel book and drove there to see the house before making the reservation. On the way to the B&B, we saw the main street of Ref Bluff and it looked like another declining small town in the U.S. So we had low expectations for the B&B.
Lo and behold, when we arrived at the B&B,s we saw a beautiful Victorian house with an amazing Garden. We rang the bell with curiosity. The proprietress (her name is Mary, and she turned out to be an extremely kind and gracious hostess) opened the door and we saw the inside of the house. Immediately we knew that we were going to stay. Mary and her house are full of stories that mesmerized us all. We will tell you all about them in our next posting.
We don't have great WIFI access so I won't be able to upload the photos today but more tomorrow.
It just occurred to Shinjoung and me that we never posted the schedule for our bookmobile trip. So, with 1000 mea culpae, here's our schedule :-) If you live in any of those areas, please come on down and see us, contact your local newspaper and let them know that we're coming, and tell all your friends. We'll be in Red Bluff, CA tomorrow, then over to the coast where we'll spend Thursday and Friday in Humboldt and Saturday in Mendocino (Willits and Ukiah).
And one more little bit of housekeeping, a big thanks to Jessamyn over at librarian.net for posting about our trip and getting the word out to a much larger library audience!
Day 4: Staying up until 2 am blogging, flickr-ing (here is Day 4 photos), and imovie-ing :-) and waking up early morning to set up the bookmobile requires a little will power. However, once in a while for morale, bookmobilistas need a day when they can sleep in and start the day a little late. Today was one of those days.
We got into Orland yesterday and scoped out the town. When the railroad was built around the 1870s (we talked with the town historian!) Orland was a lively little crossroads town. However, today you can only faintly see the traces of Orland's past in its downtown buildings and marquees. So I wasn't quite sure what to expect from our day in Orland.
When we arrived at the library around 12:30pm, and met Margarita, one of 6 staff (they have 2 librarians) at the Orland Free Library -- and an artist whose beautiful self-portrait hangs on near the front door of the library. We asked Margarita where we should set up the boookmobile. With no hesitation, she said, "just drive the car on the lawn and park in front of the library;" shortly we confirmed this with Marilyn, the head of library. Being able to park the bookmobile right in front of the library is always a good sign for bookmobilistas :-) .
As soon as we set up shop, Estelle, Margarita, and Marilyn showed up and they were so eager to see the bookmobile. Of course we pulled out our best -- and only! -- repertoire Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and made a book for them. We heard oohs & ahs which meant that we had perfected our act.
Since today was the first friday that the library was scheduled to be open, there weren't many visitors to the library; but this turned out to be better for us. The Library staff was able to come out and hang out at the bookmobile with us, ask lots of questions and receive the full power of the public domain.
While we were talking about random stuff, I asked Magarita if she knew what a blog was. She said that she had heard about them but didn't know much more than that. We explained to her and asked her if she liked to have one for her. She said "sure" with a big simile in her face. Sitting next to the bookmobile with JRJ's laptop we helped Margarita create a worldpress blog account. While Magarita was thinking of her user name for her blog, Jody, the children's librarian, came and suggested that she create a library blog. Perfect timing! We changed course from a personal to collective blog and Orland Free Library blog was born. Jody and Magarita were so thrilled and started to talk about what they can do with it. And when Marilyn came out we told her that Orland Free library now had a blog. Oh my!! was her response. Jody posted her first blog post and Estelle posted her first comment. We could feel the pure excitement in the library with their new blog and meeting with the bookmobilistas. All of the staff are like a family and they were all very kind and beautiful.
Our next stop is Anderson which is not until monday. So we drove to the Trinity Mountains to explore the area. On the way to Weaverville, we passed Whiskeytown lake at sunset and the beauty was stunning and unfathomable. I was thinking of capturing nature with my digital camera but I decided against it because I knew it wouldn't do it justice. It was simply a beautiful and prefect day.