Harry Potter Festivities This Saturday!


As you may have heard, there’s a new Harry Potter book coming out this weekend . . .


Okay, it’s not really a book.  More of a script.  And it wasn’t even really officially written by J.K. Rowling herself.  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a stage play currently in theaters in London.  Here’s the description:

“As an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and a father, Harry Potter struggles with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs while his youngest son, Albus, finds the weight of the family legacy difficult to bear.”

Remember when Rowling said years ago that she’d never write another Harry Potter novel again?  Well, she’s kept her word on that front.  But no one ever told her she couldn’t help produce a play on the subject.  And just to make it extra confusing this script is listed as “Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne.”

Still, many of us have fond memories of Harry Potter release parties of years past, so let’s whoop it up and have another!  Evanston is going all out for this and there are loads of fun events to be had on July 30th.  Here are the official details:

The day will start with a reading relay at the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., at noon. Come read a paragraph, a page or a chapter as we attempt to get through as much of the series as possible, in several locations, before midnight! Bring your own book or read one of ours. The EPL Childrens’ Library will also offer two quiet time Potter-inspired activities.

6 p.m.
The EPL closes at 6 p.m., and the action will move to Evanston’s very own Wizarding School: Northwestern University’s Deering Library. A pick-up Quidditch Game will gather on the Deering Meadow at 6 p.m. Bring a friend, bring a Quaffle, and prepare to run/fly fast.

7 p.m.
An Animal Keeper will present a class on the Care and Feeding of Creatures on the Deering Steps. The Reading Relay will continue in the Deering Library, along with Wand Making and Basic Spells.

8:30 to 8:45 p.m.
There will be a costume contest judging with one award for best existing character cosplay and one award for best original character cosplay.

9 p.m.
All visitors are encouraged to parade back to downtown Evanston and Diagon Alley (on Sherman Avenue) just outside of Bookends and Beginnings Bookstore, 1712 Sherman Ave., for the announcement of the Costume Contest winners. First prize winners will get to open one of the sealed boxes at the stroke of midnight at one of the bookstores and receive the first book.

The reading relay will split into two parts with simultaneous readings at Bookends and Beginnings and Barnes and Noble, 1630 Sherman Ave., to see which location can get the furthest by Book Box Opening at midnight.  Bookstores will have continuous activities from 8 p.m. until midnight. All readers are encouraged to preorder their book from their favorite Evanston bookseller prior to the party.

For more information, please contact Bookends and Beginnings at 224-999-7722 or Barnes and Noble Evanston at 847-424-0848.

And, naturally, if you’d like to reserve your own copy, feel free to do so.  It’s definitely going to be a hit!


Art Mysteries, Forgeries and More

Earlier this week I wrote a little post about the kinds of books Evanston readers do and do not like.  Naturally I didn’t include every kind of book out there. There are a couple subject areas that are a bit on the odd side that I failed to mention.  For example, the books that strike me as lots of fun and so strange when they don’t circulate are books on art forgeries, art mysteries, and art thieves.  We’ve a bunch of really fun books and titles out there on these topics, and yet their circulation just dips and dips and dips.  With that in mind, here are books on shady dealings in the art world, both old and new, that you might want to check out if you get a chance.


Recently there was quite a to do in the news.  In the little Polish city of Mamerki, a long undiscovered Nazi bunker was unearthed.  Hopes ran high.  Could this, at long last, be the resting place of the long-missing Amber Room of Peter the Great?  If you’re unfamiliar with the story, back in the 18th century the Room, a chamber decorated in amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors, was built for the Catherine Palace of Tsarskoye Selo near Saint Petersburg. During WWII the Nazis plundered the room and squirreled it away somewhere.  Its location has yet to be uncovered.

Sadly, as of July 13th the bunker yielded no Amber Room (aww).  In lieu of that, you can read up on the mystery in the book The Amber Room: The Fate of the World’s Greatest Lost Treasure by Cathy Scott-Clark.

Chasing Portraits

This coming September, New American Library will be publishing
Chasing Portraits: A Great-granddaughter’s Quest for Her Lost Art Legacy by Elizabeth Rynecki.  In it the author chronicles the lost art of her grandfather Moshe Rynecki.  A great artist, before Moshe was deported to the ghetto he entrusted his work to friends who would keep it safe. After he was killed in the Majdanek concentration camp, the art was disbursed all over the world. With the help of historians, curators, and admirers of Moshe’s work, Elizabeth began the incredible and difficult task of rebuilding his collection.


Of course, you can’t really talk about lost WWII treasures without mentioning The Monuments Men : Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert Edsel.  Better known as the movie starring (amongst others) Matt Damon, George Clooney, and Billy Murray, the true story really was a gripping race against time by these fellows to save art and culture from Nazi destruction.

The Nazis were sort of keen on blowing in and taking what they wanted without so much as a how-do-you-do.  Art thievery has had to be a lot cleverer since that time.  One of the greatest heists, of paintings that remain lost to this very day, was recorded in Master Thieves: The Boston Gangsters Who Pulled Off the World’s Greatest Art Heist.  Written by Stephen Kurkjian, the story chronicles what happened with a master thief joined forces with a career criminal.  The year was 1981.  The theft?  13 works of art valued at up to $500 million–including Rembrandt’s “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.”  A great mystery.


Losing treasures is easy.  Finding treasures?  More than a little difficult.  So when art historian Fred Kline was was routinely combing through a Christie’s catalog it’s sort of kismet that he saw a beautiful little drawing attributed to Carracci.  It didn’t cost much (relatively speaking – I mean, this is art collecting, after all) and Kline became convinced that it wasn’t a Carracci at all but a lost Leonardo. Leonardo’ s Holy Child: The Discovering of a Leonardo da Vinci Masterpiece: A Connoisseur’s Search for Lost Art in America is part detective story, part art history lesson, and all fun.  It’s sort of a real world version of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, don’t you think?

Art Detective

Mind you, for every newly discovered Leonardo there are hundreds of art fakes swirling around there.  So while I doubt he’s ever going to get his own television series, Philip Mould’s The Art Detective: Fakes, Frauds, and Finds and the Search for Lost Treasure is quite a bit of fun.  It includes tales of a fake Rockwell, a hidden Rembrandt, and a lost Gainsborough amongst many others.


So What Have We Learned?: Evanston’s Readers in 2016

Bookmobile2It’s been almost a year since I joined Evanston Public Library as their Collection Development Manager.  So what have I learned about this city and its reading population?  Here’s a quick rundown of some of the facts as I see them about this great city:

Travel!  Travel!  Travel!  Evanston’s crazy for it.

Honestly I cannot quite figure out if the residents of Evanston, IL are constantly jet setting around the world or if they simply like to read about travel.  This year I weeded out all our out-of-date travel titles and bought a slew of new ones.  We then placed the books on the east side of the room where they could have their own little space.  We seem to be a victim of our own success, though.  Insofar as I can tell, Evanston residents are interested in visiting every single part of the world.  Particularly Canada, ESPECIALLY Canada!  One would think that half the population of Montreal consisted of Evanston tourists, seeing the sites and walking the streets.

What you’ve read and given away is as interesting as what you borrow

Evanston Public Library is one of the few libraries in the Chicago area to take book donations.  The bulk of these go to the book sale, but I always make a point to dip in and find those books that would suit our collection as well.  The best books are the pristine older hardcover titles that can replace our old worn out editions.  Yet time after time I see the same books or the same kinds of books filling up the bins.  Here are the titles that I see donated the most often to EPL:

  • The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner.  A very popular title . . . to give to the library because you don’t want it anymore.
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.  I don’t know why anyone would ever give this book away, but I don’t care.  More!  A library can never have too much Satrapi (since the bindings are weak and don’t last long).
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed.  Almost every week this book appears.  Like clockwork.
  • Books on mangement, management, management, management.  Did I mention management?  Management.
  • Other library’s books.  Undoubtedly purchased at those libraries’ book sales.  Then they go straight to our booksales. And around and around the circle goes.
  • Cookbooks.  I like cookbooks but you’d be shocked how many come in.  One day we got a donation of what looked to be hundreds of brand new gluten-free cookbooks.  I honestly wondered if a gluten-free cookbook bookstore had closed somewhere and gave us their entire inventory.

On a related note, I’ve found that readers of Evanston love their books so much that they can’t bear to recycle them. Even when they probably should.  Those yellowed paperbacks from the basement that carry just the slightest tincture of mildew?  We don’t need those, but thank you.


Biographies are not for everyone

On the first floor of the library you’ll find a rotating display next to the Most Wanted section where I come up with a different grouping of books every month.  Almost everything I put there circulates beautifully.  Gardening titles.  Pets.  Travel memoirs.  But there was one topic I put there that never EVER circulated: Biographies.  Sure, folks like to read them on occasion.  But apparently there aren’t vast hoards of people here in town who only like to read the latest ones.  Good to know.

CatEvanston cat lovers outnumber dog lovers

This month you’ll find on the aforementioned first floor display a collection of books about pets, pet owners, vet memoirs, etc.  I always make certain to put just as many books out about dogs as cats.  Yet to my surprise, the cat books go out FAR more than the dog books.  I’m not going to read too much into that, but clearly cat people in Evanston are far more inclined to read about their furry feline friends than their canine compatriots.

Somebody out there is still listening to cassette tapes

When they’re about opera anyway.  Let no one tell you that outdated information doesn’t get checked out anymore.  I recently went through a shelf of old cassette tapes of various operas and symphonies to see when they’d last gone out.  A whopping 24 of them have circulated in the last 3 years, some even this year!  I’d expect that from the CD-ROMS, but cassettes?!  Surprising.

They may be a bit hidden, but our Oversized selection really does circulate

Far far, at the end of the nonfiction section, you’ll find a collection of books too big to fit on our other shelves.  These would be the Oversized books.  But for all that they’re a little difficult to find at the moment, those books circulate beautifully.  In spite of their girth and weight, they do well for themselves.  Additional Fun Fact: Oversized books go “missing” at a rate disproportionate to regular circulating books.  The idea of someone trying to sneak an Oversized book out of the library under their shirt is comical, but clearly something along that line has been happening, since so many are not on the shelves where they should be.

Evanston readers love their ebooks and e-audiobooks and are NOT afraid of a little new technology

We’re happy to report that thanks to our handy dandy instructional sheets found on the second floor, checking out ebooks and e-audiobooks has never been easier.  But what’s that?  Free instantaneous streaming?  Don’t mind if we do!  When Hoopla was introduced at EPL it took very little time for it to get going.  Now it’s more popular than ever and going strong.  That soundtrack of Hamilton: The Musical probably doesn’t hurt matters much.

Evanston readers are the best readers in the world

No brag. Just fact. But you knew that already, didn’t you?


Summer Reading Program CrowdRise Campaign

EPL FriendsPsst!

Over here.

You know what’s neat?  People who raise money for libraries.  Obviously.  I’m telling you nothing new.  I might as well be saying that water is wet and the sky is high.

Well here’s something you might not know.  These people at this link here.  These people?  They are friggin’ amazing.  You see, they’re raising money for the library on our very cute, rather attractive, CrowdRise page.  Go take a gander.  Basically you look at the folks you like and you donate to them.  OR, if you like, you can be the person getting the funds and have your friends, families, rich pets, etc. donate to YOU.  Cute right?

As of this post right now it looks like Sandra Waxman’s in the lead with Jim & Margi Hughes nipping close at her heels.  I’d say the game is far from over.  So take a look, choose whomsoever you like, and support them (and, by extension, your beloved library, accordingly).

In it to win it, baby.

Lift a Glass to the Loveliest Summer Reading T-Shirt

I don’t usually cross post this blog with the one I run on School Library Journal, but today’s a special day.  Summer Reading is here and that can mean only one thing: Every Wednesday (today!) you can see Evanston Public Library employees wearing what I conservatively like to call the most gorgeous summer reading t-shirt of all time.  Check it out:


See what I mean?  The slimming black, the elegant red design, the whole package just screams about how classy it is.  And since summer reading t-shirts are traditionally eyesores, I’ve decided to collect as many pretty ones as I can.  So if you happen to see a nice one from any of our neighbors, be it Skokie or Wilmette or Niles or what have you, snap a picture and either send it to me here or post it to Twitter with the hashtag #summerreadtee

Also, don’t forget to sign up for summer reading itself!  The summer has just started and it’s not too late.  All information can be found here.

It’s even cute en masse:

Summer Reading 2016