“There are not many who know of its existence, and few who have heard of it know of its location.”


Believe me, New York’s City Hall Library, we can relate.

I’d like to arrange a trip to New York so I could write about this place as part of our Special Libraries series, but unfortunately the Stacked Travel Fund currently consists of $1.17 in cash, a 1991 Mobil road map of the greater Des Moines area, and an expired coupon for a free cup of coffee with the purchase of a Cinnabon.

-Norm De Plume


Published in: on August 6, 2013 at 10:05 am  Comments (2)  

Weekend Reading: Duh Mare

roykobossSlavering with anticipation over the upcoming second session of The American Mayor, the political maven’s clever four part series on what we call real mayors, we took Boss home over the weekend.  What a great book.  Anyone who was anywhere in Richard J. Daley’s mid-century SMSA knows that Mike Royko, holding himself in admirable restraint, rendered the definitive and utterly accurate portrait of Duh Mare.

What a difference it would have made if Cincinnati had had someone like Royko in the last century.  It’s too late for this century.  There’s no newspaper.

Counting the minutes until noon 8/21.

-Nemo Wolfe

Published in: on August 5, 2013 at 11:54 am  Leave a Comment  

Guess who’s 194 years young today?

melville bday

Many happy returns, Mr. Melville. In honor of your birthday, I hereby promise to finish Moby Dick. Eventually.

Melville spoke as part of the Mercantile’s 1858 lecture series.  We paid him $50 (expenses NOT included), in exchange for which he gave a two hour talk entitled “Statues of Rome.” While The Enquirer‘s reviewer was definitely not a fan — He described Melville’s writing career as “having proceeded in the form of an inverted climax”, and described his latest at the time, The Confidence-Man as “one of the dullest and most dismally monotonous books” he’d ever read —  even he had to admit that Melville’s talk here was the best of the season so far.

For more information about Melville’s talk, see Dale Patrick Brown’s excellent Brilliance & Balderdash.  

Happy birthday, big guy.

-Norm De Plume

Published in: on August 1, 2013 at 11:45 am  Leave a Comment  

Hackathon write-up


Brittany York wrote a nice piece about our recent Hackathon for Soapbox’s “For Good” column.  Thanks, Brittany.

-Norm De Plume

Published in: on July 30, 2013 at 12:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Junior Library


Image by Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County

We leap to the defense of the Junior Library whenever we can.  It’s not just that we all have PLCH cards or that we have excellent friends on staff.  It’s just one of the best municipal libraries anywhere in the world, and the city would be sadly diminished if it were just ordinary.

A string of lovely pictures of the penultimate PLCH main branch is floating around the ether, bringing with it a few misconceptions in the entry and the comments.  The 1874 building was not the conversion of an opera house.  It was purpose built as the main branch on the foundation of what was to have been an opera house.  And the present main branch building dates from the mid-nineteen fifties, not the seventies.  Stand on the southwest corner of 8th and Vine and look across Vine.  What you see is architect Woody Garber’s original and, we think, brilliant replacement for the 1874 building.  It was opened by our friend Bob Vitz’s father Carl, one of the truly great PLCH Librarians.  The Garber design has been fiddled with.  There used to be wonderful huge aluminum jalousies – big moving fins- shading the Huenefeld Room on the top SW corner.  And the front door was inset under the cantilevered second floor.  The 70’s addition was well meant but is ponderous and unlovely.  It does hold a lot of books, though.

There was no way to save the 1874 building as anything other than an elegant but very outmoded filing cabinet.  But it certainly was cool.  Do notice the furniture that was chucked out.  We have held onto ours, and we think we were right to do so.

-Nemo Wolfe

Published in: on July 29, 2013 at 11:44 am  Comments (1)  

Speaking of Book Lists . . . it’s BOOK LIST MANIA!

ImageA crafty, literary-minded reddit user has combined the top 10 top-100 books lists into the mother of all top-ten book lists.  That’s it.  I’m definitely reading Lolita and Midnight’s Children now.   -Ed Scripsi

Published in: on July 25, 2013 at 4:50 pm  Comments (5)  
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Willie Carden’s Booklist


carden 006

By popular demand, here is the list of the books Willie Carden discussed during his By the Book talk a few weeks ago:

Urban Green (Innovative Parks for Resurgent Cities) – Peter Harnik
Cities on the Rebound (A Vision for Urban America) – William Hudnut III
Seven Lessons for Leading in a Crisis –  Bill George
How Successful People Think – John C. Maxwell
Good to Great – Jim Collins
Courage: The Backbone of Leadership – Gus Lee
How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
God is my CEO – Larry Julian
The Powell Principles – Oren Harari
Deep Change – Robert E. Quinn
Monday Morning Leadership – David Cottrell

Of course, just because you’ve got the books doesn’t mean you got the full-on Willie Carden experience. Not by a long shot. He was great.

-Norm De Plume

Published in: on July 24, 2013 at 10:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Fascinatin’ Algorithm

nakedstatsI suppose that statisticians always knew they were cool – but now the rest of us are figuring it out. The “quants” are the ones who (for better and worse) will sort through “big data” and, we hope, find meaningful things.  For those of us who were reading that tenth Henry James novel instead of taking stats and learning the beauty of precise quantification of uncertainty,  Charles Wheelan’s Naked Statistics helps cure that knowledge gap.

Warning:  knowledge of this book’s contents will almost certainly mean you will be irritated by the media accounts of any scientific study. (Causation, and not correlation, will be involved.) On the other hand, you will know what to do on a show like Let’s Make a Deal when the host asks you whether you want to pick another of three doors, after the host opens one of the ones you didn’t pick.  (For reasons less than intuitive, you do.  Read the book.  Odds are you’ll like it.)

-Alfred E.  Numen

Published in: on July 23, 2013 at 9:45 am  Comments (1)  

Weekend Reading: Detroit City is the Place to Be

detroitcityWe learned growing up that the difference between a mythic place and an equally swell or even better place was often that the mythic place had better writers working for it.  Because the Wolfe pack has a branch in Greater Detroit, we have become familiar with the city and its hinterland over the past year.  What we learned early on was that the actual city bore almost no resemblance to what stuff we read in the broadsheets.  (We know.  What were we thinking?  Reporters? Feature writers?  Facts?).  So on the very weekend of Detroit’s sad collapse into bankruptcy we were happy to be reading Mark Binelli’s take on Motor City.  Binelli, who writes for Rolling Stone, a periodical we have avoided all our life, is a Detroit (suburban) native who gets it right and tells it in best School of Tom Wolfe (no relation -ed.) style.  We blitzed through it speedily and found ourself wishing at the end that Cincinnati desperately needs a writer that good to rejigger both our national  and our self images.

-Nemo Wolfe

Published in: on July 22, 2013 at 10:25 am  Comments (2)  

“… a ‘feral child’ raised by librarians among the stacks”


Here’s an old but great interview with Neil Gaiman (which I found via Boing Boing) on libraries, and how wonderful and necessary they are.  If you’re reading this, you probably already think libraries are wonderful and necessary, but still… it’s a good read.

This bit, on the changing role of libraries, was especially good:

“We’ve gone from looking at a desert, in which a librarian had to walk into the desert for you and come back with a lump of gold, to a forest, to this huge jungle in which what you want is one apple. And at that point, the librarian can walk into the jungle and come back with the apple.”

Once, quite by accident, I saw Neil Gaiman read when he opened up for one of Mrs. De Plume’s favorite musical acts.  He was thoroughly entertaining.  We’ve recently added his latest, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, to the collection.  It’s been getting great reviews.  It’s waiting for you on our new releases shelf.

-Norm De Plume

Published in: on July 17, 2013 at 9:50 am  Leave a Comment