Tag Archives: Hopeful Things

On Libraries and Hurricane Relief Updates

None of us need a reminder that this year’s hurricane season has been historic and, for many of our friends in Texas, Florida, and the US Virgin Islands, life-changing.  And with even more hurricanes moving closer to Puerto Rico and the other Leeward Islands, it doesn’t look like life is going to be getting easier for many of those good people anytime soon.

But even as we in Massachusetts prepare for what is now Tropical Storm Jose, and send all our good wishes to our friends in the CLAMS Library Network, it’s really important that we don’t forget the clean-up and rebuilding efforts that all those affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are undertaking.  Because they will be taking years.

Downed trees outside the Miami-Dade Public Library System’s Coconut Grove Branch after the storm
Photo courtesy of Miami Dade Public Library System

So, having said that, here are some updates from the wonderful people at the Texas Library Association and the Florida Library Associations, with some additions ways you can help!

Our first update comes from the American Library Association’s  #LibrariesRespond page, that not only advocates for disaster preparedness, but also offers a number of resources for helping Florida’s and Texas’ Libraries:

Florida Libraries Disaster Relief Fund

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, the Florida Library Association is working with the State Library of Florida to coordinate a response to damage caused to libraries across the state.  We have already begun receiving requests to help.  Anyone wishing to assist Florida libraries with their recovery efforts is urged to donate to the Florida Libraries Disaster Relief Fund.  Donations can be open to assisting any library affected by the storm, or can be directed to assist a specific library in need.  We will update our website frequently as we learn details about specific libraries and their needs.

There is also the inspiring “Rebuilding Florida Library” page on the Florida Library Association page, that is being consistently updated with needs and offers of help from libraries across the country.  Donations are being accepted through any of the links posted here.

Secondly, American Libraries Magazine has posted an update on the rebuilding efforts in Texas.  This article features some of the horrible circumstances that Houston’s Libraries faced, but also their incredible resiliency and determination to reopen as quickly as possible:

Nineteen of the 26 branches of the Harris County Public Library reopened on September 1 for emergency relief purposes only—for residents to fill out FEMA forms, use computers or internet, charge cellphones, or make use of a quiet, air-conditioned spot. Four branches are closed until further notice: Baldwin Boettcher, Barbara Bush, Katherine Tyra @ Bear Creek, and Kingwood. The library opened a pop-up library at the NRG Stadium to give evacuees some diversion with books for all ages, storytimes for kids, a 3D printer for informal edutainment, and a bank of laptops with internet access.

Texas Libraries begin cleaning up from Hurricane Harvey

For those looking to help, the Texas Library Association (TLA) and Texas State Library and Archives Commission are working together to assist damaged libraries across the Gulf Coast region. TLA has a disaster relief fund that is actively seeking contributions. Hundreds of individuals and companies have donated to the fund, and offers of books, furniture, volunteer assistance, computers, and preservation services are coming in regularly to TLA. The two organizations have also set up the Texas Library Recovery Connection, an online sharing system to bring together assisting organizations with libraries needing help.

The thing that consistently surprises me about these sites is the Google Spreadsheets.  On these documents, libraries post their needs, from computers to bookcases, from books to supplies.  And other people/groups/institutions can (and do) respond.  For all the complications and trouble that the Internet has brought into our lives, there is something genuinely awe-inspiring about the way that it can also bring people together and accomplish lasting good.  So feel free to check out these sites, contribute in whatever way you can, and appreciate the good that our species is capable of doing.

Hurricane Irma Relief

Two weeks ago, we offered a number of ways that you could help the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas–and you, the people of Massachusetts, and our own beloved patrons, responded.

As the Boston Globe reported, Boston City Hall was buzzing with people walking in off the streets with donations that ranged from 200 t-shirts, to boxes of diapers and formula, to change from piggy banks.  Here in Peabody, the donation portal for Hurricane Harvey relief is still active via the City Hall Website (the first option on this page will take you to the donation portal).

Now, there is more need from our friends in Florida and the US Virgin Islands.  These are early days as yet, and the total damage from Hurricane Irma, which is still winding its way up the eastern seaboard, has yet to be fully assessed.  Nevertheless, there are people and organizations already doing good in the communities hardest hit by this storm, and they need your assistance.

Here are a list of charities, programs, and organizations that are active in the Florida and US Virgin Islands communities that are currently accepting donations.  If you are in a position to help financially, you can click on any of the links to see the charities.  Please avoid sending clothes, toys, or perishable items at this time, as there are few places to receive or store it.  The New York Times has produced a helpful article on how to help, and how to avoid scams.

If this is not a time you are able to help, please don’t worry.  Rebuilding in a process that takes years and years, and there will be any number of ways to help in the future.  We will be sure to keep you updated about them as news and opportunities become available.

Thank you in advance for your generosity, your kindness, and any good wishes or kind thoughts you are able to share.

We are all made of stars.  It’s time to shine.

Look for the Helpers

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” — Fred Rogers

Those of us who live in and work in and around Downtown Peabody know what floods look like.  Being partially below sea level (and with an average elevation of 17 feet) will do that.

But that flooding is nothing compared to what our friends in Texas are enduring right now as a result of Hurricane Harvey, and it’s not getting better.  So for those of you who listen to Mr. Rogers (quoted above), and would like to know how to be an effective Helper, we have some resources for you.

First of all, because we are a Library that cares about Libraries, the Texas Library Association and Texas State Library and Archives Commission are working together to coordinate a response to damage caused to libraries and archives across the Houston and gulf coast region.  They have issued a joint statement saying, essentially, that it’s too early yet to know what libraries and archives affected by Hurricane Harvey, but that TLA has its Disaster Relief Fund available and TSLAC is considering how it can make resources available as well. As damage is assessed, they will provide more information on the availability of these resources.  

At this point, people are asked not to send material donations, such as books.  Right now, there is no way to know what is needed, and no where at all to store donations.  Anyone wishing to help financially are encouraged to donate online to the TLA Disaster Relief Fund.

For those looking for other ways to help, please check out this enormously useful article from Texas Monthly that lists all the charities, organizations, and institutions working on the ground in affected areas to help people and animals.  You can access this article here.

If you work or live in the Boston Area, Mayor Marty Walsh has announced a drive called “Help for Houston”.   The collection effort starts today, Tuesday, August 29, and lasts through Thursday, August 31. The Mayor is asking residents to contribute items to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Texas.  They are collection food, infant formula, blankets, and a number of other items at collection centers in and around the City.  Check out the City’s website for full details and collection sites.

If you are not in a position to donate at this moment, please know that help will be needed in Texas for a long time to come, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated on ways you can help in the coming days and weeks.

“NOW is a fact that cannot be dodged.”

“A country that tolerates evil means- evil manners, standards of ethics-for a generation, will be so poisoned that it never will have any good end.”  (Sinclair Lewis)


In 1935, Sinclair Lewis published a book, a political semi-satire, entitled It Can’t Happen HereYou may have heard about it recently…it’s been getting a lot of renewed attention.

The novel centers on Doremus Jessup, an American journalist covering the campaign of Senator Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, a charismatic and power-hungry politician , who promises to restore the country to prosperity and greatness, to secure “traditional values”–and to do it by any means necessary.  He calls himself a member of the “League of Forgotten Men”, whose statue in society has been diminished by Jewish organizations, non-white people, and women.  When he is eventually elected, Windrip begins systematically dismantling the American government and instituting a “Corpo” government that gives rights to businesses.  The “Corpo Government” proceeds to outlaw dissent, incarcerate political enemies, restrict the rights of women, minorities, and establish concentration camps where those who oppose the regime are sent.  Jessup ends up in one of these concentration camps, but manages to escape, making his way to Canada, and working as a writer and a spy by the New Underground, working to bring down Windrup’s regime.

Make of this plot what you will.  Sinclair was writing in 1935, when Fascism was gaining power at a frightening speed in Europe, and his concern was that fear would lead the United States down a similar path.  His message throughout the book is two-fold:

  1. That democratic institutions, civil rights, and systems that ensure equality are very easy to break.  It only requires people to be frightened enough to mistrust each other.  Throughout his campaign, Windrip sows this fear by emphasizing racial, ethic, and religious stereotypes, by telling people that they are not safe around people who don’t look like them, and by assuring them that he alone can protect them.  But once broken, those institutions are incredibly difficult to reinstate.
  2. That … well, I’ll let him say it for himself:

More and more, as I think about history…I am convinced that everything that is worth while in the world has been accomplished by the free, inquiring, critical spirit, and that the preservation of this spirit is more important than any social system whatsoever. But the men of ritual and the men of barbarism are capable of shutting up the men of science and of silencing them forever.”

We know this is a scary time for just about everyone.  But we at the Library encourage you to fight that fear, first with information–with good information, from reputable sources.  We are quite literally, full of such information, and we exist to help you find that information.  George Peabody knew that the only way democracy could function was to allow its citizens to be capable of thinking for themselves, and we function to fulfill that goal.

We also want you to know that, now, and forever, that you are welcome here.  The Library is a place of safety and a place of trust.  And we reject any ideology that does not respect the dignity and humanity of every person that comes through our doors. 

“Come Friends”, by Kamand Kojouri

If you come into the Library–and we certainly hope that you will–you will see this poem as part of our card catalog display.  A Library is a safe house for stories–not only those in the books or the films or the recordings.  They are for your stories, as well.  And we treasure your stories as much as every other we hold.  In that spirit, we invite you in to share your story, and to encounter the stories of other people–those whose experiences are similar to yours, and those whose life is nothing at all like yours.  

“Come Friends”, by Kamand Kojouri

Come, friends.
Come with your grief.
Come with your loss.
Carry all the pieces of your heart
and come sit with us.
Bring your disappointments
and your failures.
Bring your betrayals
and your masks.
We welcome you no matter
where you come from
and what you bring.
Come and join us
at the intersection of
acceptance and forgiveness
where you will find our
house of love.
Bring your empty cups
and we will have a feast.

Reading for Hope

“The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on.”
–Oscar Wilde 

From TED Ideas

On Tuesday, dear readers, we talked about some of the things we do to deal with stress…well, ok, we talked about some of the things do to deal with stress.  I am sure you have your own, unique, and wonderful ways to handle the growing pressure of the world and all the Things it demands of us everyday…perhaps now, more so than ever.

But that is where friends–and, more specifically, Bookish Friends–come in.   At every time in my life that I’ve had a hard time, I’ve had good friends who not only had my back, but took care of by brain, as well, offering solace, escape, and, blessedly, even a laugh or two. Today, I thought I’d share with you a list that was compiled by the good people at the Boston Book Festival, who asked their friends on social media what books they were turning to for comfort, answers, or just to escape (friends who help friends are the best friends).  This is the list they produced.  I hope it brings you some peace, some good ideas, and some time to yourself to think.  And never stop sharing your suggestions with us, as well!

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
Ian Bremmer, Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
Chris Dixon, Another Politics: Talking across Today’s Transformative Movements
Emma Donoghue, The Wonder
Negin Farsad, How to Make White People Laugh
Ellen Fitzpatrick, The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women’s Quest for the American Presidency
Omar Saif Ghobash, Letters to a Young Muslim
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements
Jenny Jaeckel, Spot 12: Five Months in the Neonatal ICU
Autumn Kalquist, Defective (Available on Kindle only)
Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer
Tyler Page, Raised on Ritalin
Parker J. Palmer, The Courage to Teach
Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death
Dawn Powell, The Wicked Pavilion
Alex Prud’homme, The French Chef in America
Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter series
Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Solmaz Sharif, Look: Poems
Jessica Shattuck, The Women in the Castle
Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby
Destiny Soria, Iron Cast
Art Spiegelman, Maus
Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad
Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States

Five Book Friday!

And a happy winter to all of you, dear readers!  In honor of this past week’s Solstice, and in looking forward to the holidays coming up this weekend and next week, it seemed like a good moment to share a bit of good cheer and high hopes for the future, before we get to the books, which always bring good cheer!  So here is a bit of verse, from us to you:

The Shortest Day
by Susan Cooper

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!


3810822History of WolvesEmily Fridlund’s debut novel has been getting attention for a while, and her first chapter won the McGinnis-Ritchie award, giving it a seal of excellence from quite early on in its creation.  Set in the woods of northern Minnesota, the book follows fourteen-year-old Linda, whose family lives on a nearly-abandoned commune, isolating them from the world around them.  Linda suffers most, especially when the arrest of one of the teachers at her school cuts off the few connections she has forged, until a young family moves in across the lake, Linda begins to babysit for their young son Paul, and soon finds a sense of belonging.  But with belonging comes access to secrets that Linda never imagined, and over the course of a few days, she will make choices that will have lifelong consequences.  This is not an clear-cut read, but Fridlund is so skilled at crafting the damaged, lonely Linda, that readers will find themselves falling into the complexities of this story.  Publisher’s Weekly agrees, giving this book a starred review and praising is as “An atmospheric, near-gothic coming-of-age novel turns on the dance between predator and prey . . . Fridlund is an assured writer . . . The novel has a tinge of fairy tale, wavering on the blur between good and evil, thought and action. But the sharp consequences for its characters make it singe and sing—a literary tour de force.”

3795960Difficult Women: From Roxane Gay, author of the sensational Bad Feminist (among other sensational and thought-provoking works), comes a collection of fictional stories about women from all walks of life, whose tales form a mosaic of works that describe the reality of America in the present day, from a pair of sisters, abducted as children and inseparable throughout life, learning to cope with the elder sister’s marriage, to a Black engineer moving to Michigan for work and trying to leave her past behind, from a college student who works as a stripper to pay her tuition to a girls’ fight club in a wealthy Florida suburb, each of these stories is a wry, funny, and deeply emotional example of Gay’s talent for prose, as well as her piercingly insightful views on race, gender, class, and identity.  These stories will definitely challenge, but they will also help you grow, and that is some of the best work that fiction can do.  Kirkus Review agrees, saying, “Unified in theme―the struggles of women claiming independence for themselves―but wide-ranging in conception and form . . . Gay is an admirable risk-taker in her exploration of women’s lives and new ways to tell their stories.”

3827020Instructions Within: Ashraf Faydah’s book of poetry was first published in Beirut in 2008, and was subsequently banned from distribution in Saudi Arabia, and Faydah himself is currently in prison in Saudi Arabia for apostasy (the renunciation of religious beliefs), and for allegedly promoting atheism through his poetry.  All of this makes the US publication of his book that much more important, but Faydah’s poetry speaks for itself, taking its inspiration from historical texts, ancient artistic traditions, and modern pop culture to make powerful observations about the world around us, its horror as well as its beauty, and what we are willing to do about what we see happening in that world.  Art has always been a fierce and relenting voice against tyranny and injustice, and Fayadh’s work proves an strong reminder of that truth.  A note–this book is bound on the right, like Arabic texts, so be prepared not only to see the world through another’s eyes, but to read through another culture’s lens, as well.

3826857The Gentleman From Japan: Fans of John Le Carre’s novels should definitely check out Inspector O, the protagonist of James Church’s intriguing series.  In this sixth installment of the series, O is assigned to investigate a Spanish company that is allegedly producing parts for a nuclear weapon, disguised within a dumpling maker.  When it is discovered that this “dumpling maker” is ultimately destined for North Korea, O enters a world of government corruption and family ties that will bring him face to face with a Chinese gangster he’s worked for years to destroy.  A hard-boiled mystery full of gritty settings, murder, secrets, and lies, Churches’ books, which benefit enormously from his years in intelligence, are always densely-plotted, twisting, and engrossing, but critics everywhere are agreeing that this may be his best Inspector O novel yet, with elaborate deceptions, dastardly foes, and international intrigue aplenty.  The Chicago Tribune agrees, cheering “The deeper you get into The Gentleman From Japan, the more educated you become about the dark complexities of international relations, and the more indebted you are to Church for creating a series that stands out as winningly as this one.”

3839737Mad Genius TipsI don’t know about you, but there has never been a holiday season where some part of the food preparation has gone chillingly, disastrously wrong.  A critical pan is missing…the proper ingredients weren’t purchased…I nearly cut the top of my finger off….ok, to be fair, Justin Chapple’s book can’t really save you from yourself, but it can offer you a whole ton of tips, tricks, and last-minute saves that will make you look like a suave culinary expert.  Each chapter deals with a different household cooking tool, like resealable baggies to knives, from plastic lids to cooling racks, and leaves it to Food & Wine‘s Mad Genius to tell you all the nifty things you can do and make with each item.  Packed with weird, wonderful tips, and a whole bunch of fascinating recipes, this is a book that will definitely make your holidays a little easier (and more fun!), but is sure to help any time of year, too!  Publisher’s Weekly is definitely a fan of Chapple, saying “Chapple, a senior editor at Food & Wine, brings his Web video series into print with a collection of 90 creative uses for everyday kitchen items, and 100 recipes in which to employ this hackery…. Some of his suggestions are handy indeed: he gets a lot of mileage out of a baking rack, for example, using it as a chopper for both boiled eggs and avocados.”

Until next week, beloved paons–happy reading!