inkdeathI was privileged to receive an advance reading copy of Inkdeath. The surprise and joy felt was great. Cornelia Funke wrote a great ending to her Ink trilogy. What I enjoyed most about reading the story was the passion Mo and Meggie had for books, or actually, manuscripts. I am beginning two short courses on Medieval manuscripts and have been doing extensive reading for both classes (only because I love this subject). And as I read Inkdeath I noticed the book binder and illuminator and the tools they used to create their manuscripts. There is a time when someone is writing in the story, and they write upon parchment, use a glass man to stir the ink, and then brush sand upon the manuscript so that the ink will dry. It was great details like this that makes Funke a great author and storyteller. Just like her character, Mo.

I don’t want to spoil any of the story for anyone, but this story was fantastic and shouldn’t disappoint any fans. Each chapter just spurs the reader on to read more and to never put the book down. With its abundance of characters, there will be someone that everyone loves. Each character’s story is complete and satisfactory. And if you can’t remember the previous books, Inkheart or Inkspell, there is a brief two page recap at the beginning of the book and at the back of the book there is a complete list of characters too (yes, with so many characters it is reminiscent of a Russian novel, except the names are pronounceable).

The only question that Inkdeath leaves, is one that is beginning to be asked at the end of Inkspell, and that is, who is really writing the story of Inkheart? Is it Cornelia? Fenaglio? Orpheus? Or even Mo? Or by entering the story, has the characters actions determined the story? I found myself asking this as I finished Inkdeath. Who is the author? Or were the characters in the end writing their own story?


Losing Austen

What can get more ridiculous then this? By way of John Sutherland’s witty and biting blog about the newest Jane Austen television adaptation, Lost in Austen, I discovered this horror. Being as this is a presentation for UK only, the trailer for the show can only be viewed in the UK. But Americans can view the trailer on YouTube.

Through the trailer you can easily see that this new mini-series will capture the fancy of many young women. Especially those who desire nothing else but to escape their humdrum lives. And this show offers that escape. Ugh. Again, Austen boils down to nothing but a sexy romance for single desperate and lonely women. That is only the way our culture approaches the esteemed lady. If one were ever inspired to actually study her novels and life, they would see that Austen is far from just that stereotype.

It’s times like these that makes me sad to like Jane Austen. If only we could boil down all novels to sex and romance, then maybe our culture would read more? No, they’d still watch horrible television or movie adaptations. It’s much easier.

The Largest Monastery Library

The restoration for the world’s largest monastery library has been completed.  Click here to go the news story.  From the library’s own website, a bit of history:

“Since its foundation in 1074, i.e. since almost one thousand years, Admont Benedictine Monastery has collected and preserved cultural goods. In this respect the library has a special position.

This library is one of the most important cultural properties of our country and is one of the largest late Baroque works of art in Europe. Perhaps a little overenthusiastically but at the same quite justifiably, since the early 19th century the Admont library has been called the “eighth wonder of the world”. It represents a repository of knowledge containing examples of the artistic and historical development of books over the centuries – from the manuscripts of the medieval Admont writing school over the collection of incunabula (early printed books) to the fully developed printing process.

As a work of art, the library should be viewed as a whole in which the various genres (architecture, frescoes, sculptures, written and printed matter) blend into one work – in the final analysis, the central place of books in the history of the development of the Benedictine Order.

The late Baroque library, completed in 1776, was commissioned by Abbot Matthäus Offner (reigned 1751-1779) and built by the Graz Master Builder Josef Hueber (1715-1787). Hueber was imbued with the ideas of the Enlightenment:  “As with the mind, light should also fill the room”. With a length of 70 m, a width of 14 m and 11 m in height (12.7 m in the central cupola) and divided into three, this room is the largest monastery library room in the world. The Austrian National Library in Vienna served Hueber as a pattern.

The seven ceiling frescoes created by the 80-year-old Bartolomeo Altomonte (1694-1783) in the summer months of the years 1775 and 1776 also breathe the spirit of the Enlightenment. They show the steps in man’s exploration of thinking and speaking from the sciences to Divine Revelation in the central cupola. The bookcases under this cupola alone contain editions of the Bible and the Church Fathers, those in the North side room theological literature and those in the South room all the other subjects.

The monastery sculptor Josef Stammel (1695-1765), one of the most important Baroque sculptors, created the extensive carvings in the room. Particularly famous is “The Four Last Things”, a group of four over-lifesize presentations of Death, the Last Judgement, Heaven and Hell.

The Admont library is a historical monument to book culture with an importance far beyond the region. At the same time it offers equally valuable and exhaustive source material of the surrounding country. The total collection of books comprises some 200,000 volumes. The most valuable treasures are the more than 1,400 manuscripts (the earliest from the 8th century) and the 530 incunabula (early printed books before 1500).”

Library’s website

Another reason why to go to Austria.

Why We Need Library Fines

Over at the Guardian, there was an article about the desire to get rid of library fines. Being a Circulation Manager I am the one in charge of fines and fees. And it is not my favorite aspect of the job. Especially as most of our patrons are undergraduate college students who have hardly any money and quickly feel the pinch if they incur large fines. It would be great if we could erase our system of library fines, but honestly, I don’t believe any other method would work. To publicly shame a student, like they did when monasteries held the libraries, would not mean too much for most students. Sure, there will be those who get embarrassed quickly and don’t like that shame, but most of our repeat offenders I feel could honestly care less that they were publicly shamed by the library. I know as an undergraduate student I was consumed by my studies and the fact that the library would announce I was a horrible person would hardly ruffle my feathers as long as I got to keep my book. And the idea about doing a point system might work, but again, I think it wouldn’t deter most students from keeping our books. There are students who use the library once for their papers (especially as now more and more information is moving online) and if they never come back, then what does it matter if they get any points? Some students may like the idea of playing against me in Guitar Hero to try to get their fines waived, but with busy schedules and other more exciting activities, I can’t see them stopping by. Even if they know it would be an easy win (I’m horrible at Guitar Hero).

No, library fines should stay. What speaks the most to undergraduate college student? Money. I always can get undergraduate college students to listen to me or reply to my emails when I mention the monetary amount of their fines. We don’t make much money off of fines (I’m sure most of our undergraduate students think we do), but it is just a mechanism to remind them to be responsible. And we’re not without grace. Once a year we do have a Jubilee Week where we forgive students fines (with some limitations such as if they still have a lost library book). This year I am planning to kick it up a notch and have a Coffee Bar with some cookies. Just to let students know that we do appreciate them and want them to be able to use our library. That we’re not heartless, or “Scrooges”. And most often, if the student can’t pay their fine (or if circumstances outside their control happen), we forgive their fines. They have to come talk to us, but we do exhibit grace. We understand because we too often know what it is like to be stuck in a hard spot.

If the system works, I say use it. Maybe in other areas there are different things that would work better then money. But with America and our capitalist structure, we need the monetary fine system. And if a patron never comes back because they have a huge fine or end up never returning book, then it is okay. Often there are several other people who still use the library and the library can always make up services to assist their patrons in other ways. There are many things the library can still do to show their patrons that they don’t care only about their pocketbooks or our books.

So Long for Books?

A couple months ago (or maybe it was longer) I wrote about how Acres of Books was closing Long Beach. Now, not only is Acres of Books closing, but the Long Beach Public Library is going to close its downtown library and extend hours of its branches due to budget concerns. This is such a travesty for the city of Long Beach where books other than the popular fiction is going to be scarce.  Ray Bradbury wrote a piece here at the local paper: Is Long Beach at War with Books?.  If you have ever seen Ray Bradbury in person and heard him talk, this piece will remind you of those times where he spent days at the libraries and read books upon books.  When there are budget concerns, is books really the first place you want to cut?

And Acres officially began their Closing Sale today. They stopped purchasing and receiving books a couple months ago when the sale of the building was first made, but now the closing is coming all the closer.

Link to story on Acres of Books Closing: LA Times