Chicago Public Library Ranked #1 in U.S.

Dear readers, despite the return of the polar vortex,

yesterday was an exciting day for Chicago! Yes, it’s cold, but we got some great news that warmed our hearts: our very own Chicago Public Library has been named the #1 library in the country and #3 in the world!

I’ve only actually been to this particular library once, when I waited in a line with thousands of fans to see Neil Gaiman for the “One Book, One Chicago” event celebrating the citywide reading of Neverwhere, in spring 2011. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually make it in to see him–fire codes or some such formality. (Someday, Neil…) I suppose it was good they followed safety rules, which I’m sure contributes to their high ranking, but I drowned my sorrows in buying a copy of all of the books he’d autographed. Plus, I got to explore the beautiful, historical library (est. in 1873).


Please read on to see’s coverage of the award. Stay warm and well-read, dear readers! ‚̧


An international honor for the Chicago Public Library system.

A new study ranks CPL as the number one urban library in the United States, and number three in the world.

The rankings were released by the Heinrich Heine University in Germany.

Researchers studied the core services of libraries worldwide.

The CPL includes the Harold Washington Library Center two regional libraries and more than 70-neighborhood branches.

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A Storm of Skies and Pages: “Bookgate”

Happy Friday, everyone! The day started out sunny around here but suddenly turned into torrential thunderstorms in the afternoon.

Speaking of storms, there’s a big scandal going on in the book community right now. That means, at the very least, you can count on an epic and well-written battle. The Urbana Free Library, which is a public library in Urbana, Illinois–near, but not associated with UIUC, is under massive scrutiny for their “purge” this week of thousands of nonfiction books. The criteria for purging? Anything over ten years old. As you can imagine, this lit a beacon in the minds of book fans, having been warned of such dystopian behavior in Farenheit 451 and Libyrinth.

Beacons are better than pigeons: Gondor announces war.

The best articles I’ve found on the overall coverage of the event are by the News-Gazette and Book Riot (@BookRiot on Twitter). has a good article on the library staff’s responses to the event.

The News-Gazette, East Central Illinois’s newspaper–and a direct competitor the UIUC newspaper I used to write for (sorry Daily Illini…I love you both…): Urbana Free Library patrons express concern over size and speed of book culling”
BookRiot, a book news source: “Bookgate: When Urbana Free Library Purged Thousands of Books”
Smilepolitely, Champaign-Urbana’s online magazine: “Miscommunication, or Mismanagement?”

In fact, the scandal has spawned a catchy hashtag for the event–and it’s trending right now in the Twittersphere: #bookgate. I suppose it makes sense that the most prolific Twitter writers would also be book fans. But it’s not just an online sensation; emergency city council meetings were held, too.

“Weeding” is a natural, necessary task–in nature and in the library. It may hurt our hearts to pull out bright dandelions (they’re flowers, too!) or irrelevant books (How to Clean Your Typewriter in Just Ten Hours), but the truth is, without maintenance, those extraneous items can choke out your lawn–or your library. New books will always be written, and space is finite–so what do you do with outdated or irrelevant materials?

One option is reselling. As a bibliophile, I enjoy visiting different bookstores and libraries. I appreciate when they try to sell old copies of books, movies, and CDs that they need to get rid of–either because they have too many copies or because people are no longer interested in the content. I usually try to visit whenever I hear my local ones are having a sale going; I have found treasures for under $1! Sometimes, I discover things I never would have found otherwise; the shelves are expansive, and I might not even have thought to look at a certain topic. In particular, I have found reference books to be a gem. OK, so a musical history book might only go till 1950–which might not be popular, but it just so happens that my interest in pop music pretty much stops at around that time period. ūüėČ I love filling my imaginary bookshelves of my dream library with quirky and unusual books. Lots of books, period.

“This is all you think about when you picture your dream home.” –Buzzfeed’s “25 Signs You’re Addicted to Books”

The Library Journal also lists some clever possibilities for upcycling books if truly no one wants them.

The problem for Urbana Free Library was more in the way they culled than the act of culling itself–and protesters have said as much. In my opinion, a ten-year-old book would be irrelevant if it is proven incorrect by more current research/data, but I think those types of materials are more often found in specialized university science collections, not public libraries. Biographies, typographical studies, ancient histories, and so many other topics would rarely be updated–and even if they were, someone else might still find use for the content in the older books.

The “other religions” section of the Urbana Free Library now–note almost all of the foreground is empty. Are religions really updated that often? (Image from

What troubles me is I can’t find any information about what happened to these thousands of books except that they were “sent away”–to an incinerator? To a dump? How often is this happening, and at how many libraries? So many areas in the world could use these materials, if only to learn how to read, so I sure hope they weren’t discarded outright. I know I will be following #bookgate to see what comes of the scandal. I read that there is a possibility some boxes are still around; let’s hope so. At this time, the library director is still denying culpability and avoiding questions; the public is crying out for her replacement. On a personal level, I’m sad this has happened, because I really loved this library.

Like we learned in Farenheit 451, books are a reflection of life, culture, and humanity when they are written–and I think that goes doubly so for nonfiction. Hopefully, #bookgate has caught enough attention to be a real-life example of why this shouldn’t ever happen again.

I don’t feel like ending on a somber note on this Friday night, so here are some guinea pigs enjoying some books. –

“Jaundiced Outlook”–NaPoWriMo #2

Hi everyone! We’re having a lovely spring day over here, and my mom and I decided to visit the library. One of my favorite¬†pastimes¬†on spring days was when my mom would take my sister and me to the library as kids. We loved going up and down the aisles and picking out books (often by their covers, whoops), finding the comfiest chairs to sit in–and oh my gosh, the bookmarks! There were always fun new bookmarks to take, sometimes with a quote, sometimes with a cartoon, sometimes cut from wallpaper. The bookmarks were almost as exciting as the books themselves, and we quickly amassed great piles to stuff into our dressers (and the books, of course). We also loved participating in the library’s reading challenges, where you’d have to read a certain number of books off of a list of award-winners to get a small prize. I don’t even remember the prizes, but I do remember the books.

Another day, another poem! Today, I’m going to go for the prompt that NaPoWriMo has given us, mostly because it is just so weird that I can’t resist it. The prompt:

The books of Scottish science fiction writer Iain M. Banks often have spaceships in them. And those spaceships have extremely odd, poetic names. So your challenge for today is to write a poem with a title drawn from one of these spaceship names.

I have to say I’ve never run across a prompt like that before. One of the ship names in particular caught my eye: “Jaundiced Outlook.” Because I was born with jaundice, I knew that it meant “yellowed skin.” I read that it’s based on some kind of blood imbalance, but I’ve also heard that people with unusually colored skin are sometimes destined to do great things.

Elphaba "Defying Gravity" from my favorite musical, "Wicked"

Elphaba “Defying Gravity” from my favorite musical, “Wicked”

Anyway, my skin adjusted in a few weeks as it often does in newborn babies, so I’ll let Elphaba handle Oz on her own at the moment and stick to writing, myself. I decided to look up the word in my favorite dictionary (Merriam-Webster, an acquired love from grad school), because I knew the definition must be more complex than just a color.


 adjective \-dəst\

1: affected with or as if with jaundice
2: exhibiting or influenced by envy, distaste, or hostility <a jaundiced eye>

I was also attracted to this particular title because¬†the concept is exactly opposite from the perspective I try to adhere to–but it is so easy to fall into a trap of negativity, isn’t it? Is it safer? Here’s my opinion, in blank verse–I did warn you about the iambic pentameter. ūüėČ

“Jaundiced Outlook”
By: Amanda K. Fowler

Who could blame Alice, shutting the window
On a fine spring day? Only yesterday
It was not sunshine, but sharp, ragged hail,
That came through the frame, scraping and bruising
Poor Alice, and she just could not lower
The glass before the damage came to scar.

I find I cannot be judging the girl,
She is only guilty of protecting
Herself, of course, and whatever she feels
Alone on her cushion, gazing beyond
The panes at the cardinals frolicking,
The chrysanthemums dancing in the wind–
It is hers, wrapped in a knot to wither.

But then, I do wonder what she’s missing
Sitting safe and alone behind the glass.
The world continues to turn without her
And the window is yellowing with age.
Yes, Alice sits here and watches it all,
Seeing the world through her jaundiced outlook.