A number of years ago, I was invited to mount a photo exhibit in Zagreb, Croatia.
“Vital Signs” was a collection of photographs that chronicled several years in the LGBT Movement in the United States. The show’s narrative arc began with images of quilts from the AIDS Memorial Quilt displayed on the National Mall in Washington, DC during July 2012, and ended with images of New York City’s Pride Parade of 2013, the victory “lap” following the U.S. Supreme Court’s findings on June 26 that both California’s Proposition 8 and Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) were unconstitutional.
The final image in the show was of a plaque commemorating the Stonewall Inn, a bar in New York City frequented by gays, which was the site of riots following a raid there by police the night of June 28, 1969.
After Stonewall, the gay rights movement came “out of the closet and into the streets” and into the public consciousness where it has remained since.
The first Pride Parade was held in New York City on Sunday, June 28, 1970, one year after the riot. More than 45 years after Stonewall, Pride events are now held nationwide in cities large and small, in red states and in blue states, from San Francisco to Omaha and New York to Sioux Falls.
Every June, Arlington Public Library (APL) celebrates Pride, to honor LGBTQIA+ Americans and their allies who have fought for and continue to fight for the right to be treated fairly, to be granted equal protection under the law and afforded the inalienable right to be happy.
Gay rights are human rights, and libraries have a unique role in supporting the LGBTQIA+ community: through our safe spaces where we foster inclusion, our collections which reflect diverse points of view, and our programs that educate and celebrate the differences among us that make Arlington a thriving community.
More than a year ago, we signaled our embrace of inclusion with the addition of rainbow welcome signs posted on the entrances to each of our buildings.
And last year we added a banner at Central Library acknowledging that June is Pride month at APL.
And this year, for the first time, we joined Arlington County Government and are proudly flying the Pride Flag at Central Library.
June is Pride month, but in reality, every month is Pride month at APL.
For we are always:
Open to accepting others for who they are
Open to embracing diverse points of view
Open to protecting and nurturing those who are most vulnerable
Open to fulfilling hopes and dreams
Open to making Arlington the best it can be.
Our commitment to you.
Hidden Stories of Persistence and Influence
Many years ago, I was attending a party for Charlie, a work colleague who was retiring. It came time to cut the cake and he turned to me - one of the few women in the room - and asked me to do it, adding that it was “women’s work, anyway.”
At the time, I was the assistant division chief responsible for a couple of hundred employees. But to him, I was a woman and he was not, and there were tasks - cake cutting among them - that it was my “job” to do.
Rather than demur, I did as I was asked, and yet never forgot the experience.
Today (with a bit of tongue in cheek) and in honor of Women’s History month, Arlington Public Library launches a new digital exhibition:
A New Online Exhibit from the Center for Local History
The collection profiles the women who made Arlington the community it is today. Entrepreneurs, activists, educators, politicians, and homemakers, the women of Arlington helped found Arlington’s first hospital, fought to integrate the school system, and established the Black Heritage museum. Even the public library system we enjoy today, a vibrant system comprised of a Central library and seven branches, exists because of the largesse of citizen bequests and the vision and hard work of leaders of Arlington women’s civic and garden clubs who understood only too well that knowledge is a core service. Several years ago, sociologist Robert Putnam warned in “Bowling Alone” that civic engagement was dying and with it the life and hope of communities. But Putnam doesn’t know Arlington’s residents, particularly its women.
As the exhibit unfolds over the upcoming year, through photographs, personal papers, and oral histories, you will find the story of Dr. Phoebe Hall Knipling, science teacher and founder of the Arlington Outdoor Education Association and its 225-acre Lab in Fauquier County, where Arlington students can experience nature and learn how to protect the environment. And Elizabeth Campbell, board member for Arlington Public Schools and founder of WETA-TV, the first public television station in Washington, D.C. And entrepreneur Margarite Reed Syphax, who began a real estate and construction business with her husband William, and who was one of the first black business women to be designated a Certified Property Manager.
This first release presents several stories and over the next year, we will continue to add more. But this collection will never be complete because a “woman’s work is never done.”
If you know of an Arlington woman who should be included in this exhibition or if you possess artifacts or other source materials of Arlington women that you would like to donate to the community archive, please contact the staff of the Center for Local History.
If the sign-up sheets haven’t yet begun circulating in your office, don’t fret. They will soon.
The annual Girl Scout retail juggernaut is underway, spinning thousands of signatures into hundreds of millions of dollars in roughly six weeks’ time, a pace and margin of profit that is the envy of many CEOs. (I believe I have already committed to buying 16 boxes of Trefoils).
What began in 1917 as a modest troop fundraiser in Merle Haggard’s Muskogee, Oklahoma has become both a model of entrepreneurship and training program in “Life Skills 101.”
According to the Girl Scouts, young girls and women learn five basic skills: “goal setting, decision making, money management [boxes are priced at $4 each], people skills, and business ethics.” And consistent with the times we live in, cookie sales in at least two national councils–Houston and Minneapolis–have gone mobile. A website to help support young scouts establish an online sales presence is found here.
Girls Scouts and their moms have not baked cookies in decades, even though an enterprising troop leader in Chicago created an inexpensive cookie recipe in the 1920s.
Two companies, Little Brownie Bakers, a subsidiary of Keebler, and ABC Bakers, are licensed to bake the cookies and may choose to produce among eight varieties, three of which–Thin Mints, Trefoils, and Peanut Butter Sandwich cookies–are mandatory. And there is some autonomy among troop councils as to which varieties they sell (provided they sell “The Big Three”), and which names they use: “Samoas” aka “Caramel deLites.”
Other useful bytes of information about cookies:
- They have little or no trans fat and no preservatives or artificial flavors
- Vegan “Thin Mints” are now available
- Little Brownie Bakers does not use any high fructose syrup in its cookies
- The packaging is sustainable
Not all adjustments to the nutritional value of the cookies, however, have succeeded. For example, low-fat and sugar-free varieties didn’t sell well and are no longer produced. They are cookies, after all. And some varieties, “Mango Cremes,” a vanilla and coconut cookie filled with a tangy mango-flavored crème; “Upside-Downs,” oatmeal treats with sweet frosting on the bottom; and my own fleeting favorite, “Dulce de Leche,” bite-sized cookies with milk caramel chips will never again see the inside of a cookie jar or sack lunch.
That’s the way the cookie crumbles.
I was a Girl Scout in Arlington in the mid-1960s, and was one of the legions of young girls selling cookies. In those days, the operation was pretty low-tech. I would come home from school, change into my uniform, and hit the houses in my neighborhood unaccompanied (something I cannot imagine a Scout doing today), lugging my cardboard carton of 12 boxes of the Big Three. No driving around with a parent, no meet-ups with other scouts and mothers to sell cookies in front of a grocery store or library, no sign-ups sheets carried by my father to his office. Just me, my carton and my sales pitch.
To the list of life skills that cookie selling teaches, I would add: self–confidence; the ability to look an adult in the eye; perseverance (I refused to quit going door-to-door until every box was sold); the value of team work and how achieving something individually (selling my share) contributes to the greater good (troop camping trips).
In fact, it’s the camping trips I most remember from my years as a Girl Scout. The fun of being outdoors and hiking, telling ghost stories and sleeping (only sometimes; I was notorious in my troop for keeping everyone awake all night with my joking and clowning around) in huge canvas tents with wooden floors. And cooking foil-wrapped dinners.
Most people have tried their hand at making “S’mores,” the campfire confection first recorded in “Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts” (1927). While S’mores are tasty, I prefer the campfire treat favored by my Troop: a red apple (Fuji or Gala work best), cored and filled with the candy “Red Hots,” wrapped in foil and baked over a camp fire. Sweet, cinnamony, spicy, nutritious (well, sort of) and delicious.
For that treat alone, I would turn back the clock.
Shameless plug for Girl Scouts: Arlington girls interested in joining a troop or adults interested in volunteering their time and skills to serve as troop leaders and mentors, should consult http://gscnc.org. The current scout focus is the G.I.R.L. initiative which stands for: Go-getter, innovator, risk taker and leader.
Were you a Girl Scout with a story to share?
I would love to hear from you in the comments section below.
Libraries matter — Here is why:
They provide open access to information.
They are free.
They are inclusive.
On any given day, kids come to storytime, and read to dogs; teens meet with young adult authors to review books and instruct older adults on new technology; those new to our country practice their English; a homebound patron receives an audiobook by mail; residents explore their community history and learn about desegregation in Arlington Public Schools; the pop-up Library exceeds expectations; our award-winning Energy Lending Library provides energy efficiency solutions to home-owners; we learned at Arlington Reads from 3 award-winning authors — Colum McCann, Elizabeth Strout and Viet Thanh Nguyen — why fiction matters; and our Library app puts us in your pocket.
Libraries now and forever — committed to you.
On behalf of all the Library staff, thank you for being part of a great public library system and best wishes for a bright new year.
Director, Arlington Public Library
Looking for something fun and meaningful to do this holiday season, either on your own, with your family or with a group?
Try checking out the interactive exhibit Put the i into Civic currently “wintering” at Central Library.
Created by local artist Linda Hesh, the project, done in collaboration with Arlington Public Art, asks each of us to consider “what Civic means to you.”
“What do you expect from your government? What do you appreciate? Civic Expectations or Treasures? What might be your contribution, your Civic Duty or Civic Pleasure?”
With each installation, Hesh photographs citizens standing in for the missing “i” and records their statements about the meaning of civic life:
The result is a diverse portrait of the citizens of Arlington whose pictures and statements are collected and posted at reimaginecivic.com. For more on our plans to promote this exhibit, watch this space.
The concept is simple — the meaning is anything but.
Being somewhat of a word nerd, I looked up the origin of civic and found that the word’s original use was in “civic garland, crown, etc., translating Latin corona civica, denoting a garland of oak leaves and acorns given in ancient Rome to a person who saved a fellow citizen’s life.”
That seems about right. We live in community and we need and depend upon one another for our health, our safety and our prosperity. From the services the government provides to keep us cared for, to the individual acts of kindness each of us dispenses each day, we demonstrate empathy and gratitude for what each of us brings to community life.
Putting others before ourselves is a big ask and not easy to do. And yet, our well-being demands that we do so. Several years ago, sociologist Robert Putnam bemoaned the diminution of social capital – the ties that bind us – in his classic, “Bowling Alone.” From data and interviews conducted over a quarter century, Putnam documented reductions in community engagement (voting, family dinners, singing in choral groups) that have led to an overall “dissing” of community life resulting in disaffection, disenfranchisement and disappointment. In “Better Together,” Putnam described the potential for rebooting engagement and, not surprisingly, called out the pivotal role of the public library in rejuvenating communities.
Which brings me back to why the “wintering” of Put the i in Civic at Central Library is particularly apt.
I can think of no better place than this place, which welcomes and protects all comers of all ages, all beliefs, all experiences, all countries of origin. All day and every day. At the heart of every vibrant community is a strong and dynamic public library. The staff and I at Arlington Public Library don’t take that for granted, and neither should you.
And for the record, there are two “i”s in Civic. Which means You and Me. Together.
And while you’re at it? Put the “i” in Arlington and help make us all wiser, healthier and happier.
From all of us to all of you, thank you for your support in making this the best public library anywhere – and best wishes for a bright new year.
The Library Director’s Annual Holiday Music Yule Blog
Thanksgiving has come and gone which means it’s time to dust off the annual “Don’t Touch That Dial” holiday mix.
I’ve been creating this playlist since 2008, and it’s one of the things I most look forward to. You’ll find there’s a little something for everyone in this one, including tunes by musicians we lost this year – Chuck Berry, Tom Petty, Glen Campbell, and David Cassidy, RIP. Enjoy.
All of us at Arlington Public Library believe we are lucky to live and work in a community that is welcoming, tolerant, curious and compassionate. And that wholeheartedly supports its libraries. From all of us to all of you, we are grateful for your support and wish you a safe and happy holiday season and bountiful new year.
We leave you with the chorus from one of my all-time favorite songs, John Lennon’s “Imagine,” the last song on this year’s playlist. Released as a single in October of 1971, the words are as resonant today as they were then.
“You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”
With all good wishes,
Take a Stand for Books
"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."
– Harper Lee, banned book author of "To Kill a Mockingbird"
Established in 1982 by the late Judith Krug, then director of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office of Intellectual Freedom and a tireless champion of freedom of speech, the annual Banned Books Week promotes free and open access to ideas and information. And it’s a great time for libraries to celebrate the joy of reading, shown in countless studies to be a key factor in determining one’s success in life.
A quick scan of ALA’s list of frequently challenged books reads like a Who’s Who of literary giants – F. Scott Fitzgerald, J.K. Rowling, Walt Whitman, Sherman Alexie, Toni Morrison, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Katherine Paterson. Two years ago, Arlington Public Library hosted an author talk with the legendary Judy Blume, a frequent “contributor” to the banned list, appearing five times over a ten-year period with such titles as “Forever” (7), “Blubber” (30), “Deenie” (42), “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” (60), and “Tiger Eyes” (89).
Books are change agents. They challenge our beliefs and biases. They expose us to different experiences and cultures. They help us learn to think for ourselves and not follow the crowd or cult of public opinion. They can scare us and they can charm us. They can enliven our spirits and they can cause despair. They honor equally the ordinary and the profound. They can please, they can polarize. Paper or “e,” quarto or quartz, on your phone or in your hands, reading inspires, inflames, evokes and enriches.
Want to know how you can help celebrate Banned Books Week? Commit to reading at least one challenged book (2016 10 most challenged books) (ALA list of frequently challenged books). And if you have a child at home, ask him or her to commit to reading one, too. The family that reads together, thrives together.
We promise it might hurt. And that’s a good thing.
“Let the wild rumpus start.”
– Maurice Sendak, banned book author of "Where the Wild Things Are"
To our patrons:
We live in interesting times.
Please be assured that Arlington Public Library remains committed to being a welcoming place that accepts all comers regardless of backgrounds, beliefs, origin, income status, and appearance.
We will continue to embrace inclusion and diverse points of view.
We will continue to inspire, to tickle your passion, to quench your thirst to know.
We will encourage you to ask why and why not?
We will continue to be a wellspring for ideas, for conversation, for disagreement, for enlightenment.
We will continue to educate and to provoke.
We will continue to create opportunities for increased understanding: of our world, of our community and of each other.
We will continue to honor truth and fairness, social justice and compassion.
We will stand up for each other and ask that bullies stand down.
We will do all of this as we have always done:
- With good will and humor and kindness,
- Through books and community programs,
- Within our walls and outside in the community.
We may live in interesting times and we will be there for you.
Director, Arlington County Public Library
The Library Director’s Annual Yule Blog
Since 2008, each December I have created a mix tape of seasonal favorites.
They’ve been known variously as” Don’t Touch that Dial” (I imagine there will come a day in the not too distant future when readers will have no idea what I mean by this — perhaps those days are here?), “Too Cool for Yule” and “The Director’s Annual Yule Blog.”
There are many thousands of songs to choose from, across all genres, and putting together this annual list is one of the things I most look forward to.
As with that first list, I observe two major criteria: I really like the song and (mostly) stay away from the purely goofy — barking dogs, flattened grandmas – (although this year, I couldn’t resist, “Gelt Melt” by The LeeVees in homage to Chanukah, the eight-day Festival of Lights that begins on Christmas Eve); and I include a version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – that wistful confection penned by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, and introduced by Judy Garland in the 1944 MGM musical Meet Me in St. Louis, directed by Garland’s soon-to-be-husband, Vincent Minnelli, one of the greatest directors of movie musicals. I don’t believe there is a singer who has not covered this song and while Garland is still the standard by which I measure any cover, Luther Vandross does a terrific job with it, cool and swinging, and makes me miss him all the more.
And speaking of losses, in 2016 we said good bye to several giants of the music industry: Prince, David Bowie, Sharon Jones, Maurice White, Merle Haggard, Leon Russell, Glenn Frey, Leonard Cohen, Ralph Stanley and too many others gone too soon.
While not technically a holiday song of the “holly, jolly” variety, Cohen’s “Winter Lady” captures his essence as poet and troubadour. And Stanley’s “Christmas is Near” is grassy and old-timey. Which brings me to “Who Knows Where the Time Goes,” by British folk rocker Sandy Denny – haunting, lyrical, a perfect accompaniment to late year musings.
I close with “The World Spins Madly On” by Indie folkies, The Weepies. Because this was 2016.
So click, spin or sing along.
And please consider posting a comment below to tell us what you think or to share your holiday favorite —be it musical, audio-visual, literary, traditional, or food-oriented. We would love to hear from you.
And while you’re at it, have yourself a merry little. . .