In the Library


From the children’s collection, “Library Lion ” by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes.  Published in 2006, it was a New York Times bestseller.  Everyone knows that you must be quiet and there is no running in a library.  But what will happen when a lion has the audacity to enter Mrs. Merriweather’s  library.  When her assistant, Mr. McBee came running down the hall, Mrs. Merriweather, called, “No running.”  “But there is a lion,” said Mr. McBee, “in the library.”  But he wasn’t “breaking any rules” so Mrs. Merriweather said,  “Then leave him be.”

Can you picture Mr. McBee and Mrs. Merriweather.  He is wearing plaid pants, a yellow suit coat, poka dot bow tie, close cropped hair and large glasses.  She is wearing a blue-gray frock, with lots of buttons and a belt, sensible shoes, a bun hairdo and oval glasses that she wears on the end of her nose.

After exploring the card catalog and stacks, the lion settles down for story hour.  But when the story hour ends, the lion roars, raahhhrrrr!  Corrected, he promises not to roar and Mrs. Merriweather says he can return tomorrow.  The lion begins to do all kinds of library chores, dusting encyclopedias, licking envelopes with overdue notices, helping children get books.  He always laid down with the children for story hour.


One day Mrs. Merriweather “stretches a little far for a book on the top shelf.  She falls.  The lion runs down the hall and roars at Mr.McBee.  McBee gasped, “Your breaking the rules.”  The lion knew what that meant and left the library.  McBee finds Mrs. Merriweather on the floor and calls the doctor.


Days pass. The lion does not return.  He was missed.  McBee decides to search the neighborhood; he eventually finds the lion and brings him back to the library.  Mrs. Merriweather runs to greet him.  “No running” Mr. McBee says. Everyone learns a lesson.   “But sometimes there was good reason to break the rules. Even in the library.”


Lions in front of the New York Public Library

I was in early elementary school when my father first took me to the Dorrance (Campbell soup family) street library in Bristol.  It was an old wood frame building; the librarian resembled Mrs. Merriweather, but had gray hair.  I was soon checking out books myself.  One strong image is finding that there was more than one “Wizard of Oz” book.  And the library’s copies were beautifully illustrated, first editions I believe.   I worked my way through the Hardy Boys, then Tom Swift, and other “boys” series.  I even tried a few Nancy Drew and Bobbsey Twins books.

I also remember the librarian guiding me in late elementary to a new area labeled Junior classics.  There were Jules Verne books, “Robinson Crusoe,” “The Swiss Family Robinson,” “Huckleberry Finn,”  and “Tom Sawyer,”‘ possible some Dickens.  New worlds to explore.

The old Bristol Free Library was replaced by the Grundy Library on Radcliffe Street in the early 1960s.

Privately funded, it is probably one of the best libraries in the County.  I used it when it first opened, and when I first started teaching, off and on since then.  They had a great selection of LPs (many of historic interest) that I would check out for classroom use.  For years I borrowed a 20 plus set of blue bound,  facsimile books in early new world history to teach about primary sources (some were in Latin or languages other than English languages).  In the 1980s the librarian contacted me.  Since I wás the only one who used the books, would I like them. They are now part of the HGP collection. I’m sure they are checked out regularly.

My High School library at Holy Ghost Prep was a disappointment.  Father Curtin, later Brother Dominic served as librarian. Someone was buying easy to read series– biographies, books about saints or books about states.  I checked out a lot of books but also bought many paperbacks because I knew the school library offerings were not great or challenging reading.  In the summer of my sophomore year I took an American literature course at Neshaminy HS.  In my senior year, Father Dave Marshall taught a good literature course.  I began to read Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Twain, and other American authors.

I loved the Bapst Library at Boston College Library.

Although required reading books were usually purchased, library  books were used for research papers.  The subject of my first paper was Hemingway.  I read every book of criticism and biography in Bapst, even doctoral dissertations.  I then traveled to Boston University to supplement BC offerings.  No question I was a library person, a book person.  Bapst with its antique furnishings, low lights, long tables was also my favorite study venue. Footnote: after reading so much Hemingway criticism, I felt everything had been written.  Fortunately my professor, John McCarthy, helped me develop a topic —  “Huckleberry Finn and the Nick Adams stories.”  A well-known Hemingway critic stole the idea a year or so later?

When we moved to Yardley, the “Old Library on Lake Alton” became a special place.

It had been started as a private subscription library in the mid 1800s.  By the 1970s it was part of the County system.  It was small.  Books were two deep on the shelves.  But it was always an exciting place to visit.  They were purchasing new titles but also had a lot of older volumes — sometimes dusty.  The librarians were pretty typical.  But there was nothing better than walking to the library on a snowy evening for a good winter read.  When the County built a new local library in Lower Makefield township, the “Old Library” became the home of the Yardley Historical Association.  For many years I was active with the Association and presented quite a few slide programs on Yardley history.  It’s probably one of the most painted and photographed buildings in Bucks County.

In 1974 I was hired by Headmaster Francis Hanley as librarian at Holy Ghost Prep.  A Spiritan brother, Dominic Reardon, was the librarian. The library had been moved from a room on the third floor in my student days to the former first floor gym.  It was a good size room, nicely furnished but most of the books were not labeled with clear call numbers, there were few, if any, new purchases.  Donations were accepted from other libraries, even donated card catalog cards.  I disposed of thousands.    I don’t think many books were checked out.  The library pretty much served as a study hall for classes. (Ironically, since I’ve retired some faculty tell me the library is again a silent study hall.)

Hanley wanted me to run a more open library.  Let in the lion. Sometimes it roared.   I began taking courses for a MA degree in educational media.  Libraries were becoming labeled media centers.  I established a music center (problematic as kids would talk loud with earphones); a room for AV equipment and the software (film strips, tapes, slide programs) was set up for faculty. I established a relationship with the BCIU to borrow 16 mm films.  Sometimes I would feature a film  in the library.  I also managed several other small rooms — one as an audio lab, a darkroom and eventually a video room for taping.

I served as HGP’s librarian (always taught 3 courses, so it was not full time) for several years but was appointed Assistant Headmaster in the late 1970s.  For several years the library was managed by volunteer mothers until we hired a librarian, Jan Showler.  I went on to serve as Assistant Headmaster for over ten years but was destined to return to the library.

In 1989-90 I took a sabbatical to research and write my dissertation for an Ed.D program in educational leadership. When I returned I was offered the position of librarian. Since I was writing my dissertation (another story),  it was a good fit.  Several years later the HGP library moved to the first floor of a new building, Founder’s Hall.  Arlene Buettler was hired as a part-time assistant and I would continue to teach 2, sometimes 3 classes.

The new Holy Ghost Prep library was an extremely pleasant environment.  I was teaching several courses at LaSalle and Holy Family in the evenings and I continued to teach several courses at HGP.  What I enjoyed most was exposing students to a new book, a new idea, a new question.

For me a library has always been a special place, a space to think, to read, to write, to explore new worlds. There were rules but also reasons to break the rules.  It was good to let the lion into the library.    I would finish my education career as a librarian and part time classroom teacher.


New worlds, new ideas, even a bit of magic — all found in libraries.  You just need to look, listen, and read.                                              “Old Library on Lake Afton” Yardley.




I am not a Luddite but . . .




Upfront,  I want this very clear, I AM NOT A LUDDITE.  If you are unfamiliar with the label, it comes from 19th century English textile workers who protested the mechanization of their craft.  More generally it’s used for those who are against new technology.  I have a new computer (Apple laptop), shoot digital pictures (although I fear the loss of film), listen to music on CDs (a bit backward and I hold tight to my collection of LPs), I constantly use a cell phone, have a Kindle and I-Pad (although I still prefer books), order online, stream movies, use GPS, and just bought a Toyota Highlander with all kinds of high tech features. But I must admit I can get frustrated with “new” technology.  I emphasize “new” because pencils and chalk boards are technology, before smart boards and devices (Holy Ghost Prep is a bring your own device school — I wonder if a pencil or ball point pen is acceptable).

Although not a Luddite, I must use admit I can get pretty frustrated with new technology.  When I taught, I was frequently dismayed when September brought any number of new, better programs, tech in service, and tech related policies.  I remember different times asking our IT (what a funny designation) person (well,  Mike Jacobs) why we had a new operating system or program.  The answer never satisfied.  “Everyone was using it. . . or . . .  it was newer”   What about the old  “if it’s not broken don’t fix it . . . the  old system worked fine.”  Remember I am not a Luddite, sometimes the old system did work, not only fine but better.  But as General Electric often boasted “Progress is our most important product.”

Recent technology frustrations include when when the Comcast technician, installed a new phone service.  We had bought the triple pack — phone, cable and Internet.  The only problem, he left and the only phone that worked was the one tied directly to the tower.  He said something to Diane about buying phones that worked wirelessly!  A second technician did realize that our current phone lines had to be connected to the tower.  Months later our Internet began to drop out.  Diane spent hours online doing whatever the Comcast voice told her. It didn’t change anything.  I called.  The male voice.  Comcast voice acknowledged that we had done standard trouble shooting, would we do it again.  I think I shouted, “NO, send a technican.”  A day later the guy arrived and his first comment was, “these Comcast towers are junk,  buy another . .  it should only cost about $40.”  Ran it by the HGP tech person (second opinions are always valuable).  He upped the purchase to a $100 Linksys (is it a modem).  Hooked it up but I am not sure it’s providing any better connection than the Comcast tower.  Now it seems we have two poor Internet connections.  Diane comments that our neighbors connections come up, “Join.”  The grass is always greener . . .

Remember that despite setbacks and frustrations, I am not a Luddite.  Before Christmas I bought a new Canon printer.  WiFi capable.  I needed to hook it up to my new Apple laptop and I-Pad.  Opened the box and looked at the fold out set up picture directions.  Pretty limited.  But within minutes, I had removed packaging and was installing printer cartridges.  But the process stalled.  There I sat with new Apple laptop, new Canon printer and new Linksys modem.  But none of them seemed to recognize or communicate with each other.  One key was the Canon (online — no print)  directions told me to push the WPS button.  I searched and searched.  Canon failed to tell me that the WPS button was on the tower or modem not the printer or computer.  I guess that’s core knowledge these days.  I finally realized the location of the WPS button but problem, Linksys doesn’t have one. Consult the Internet for an easy connection.  I put the printer in the spare bedroom and got a book to read.

For Christmas, Diane gave me a Bose CD-Radio.  We tend to buy gifts that we want and give them to each other.  (I gave her a Expresso coffee maker last year and somehow it got shelved, but that’s another story).  The Bose system was (you guessed it WiFi).  I am still not sure what that means.  I believe it’s the ability to connect to your phone and probably set up additional speakers.  Needless to say I wasn’t excited.  Now I have two WiFi projects.

A week ago, Diane broke the proverbially ice.  She replaced our kitchen CD Radio with the Bose.  “Doesn’t it sound so much better.”  To be honest I have a, is it a wooden ear.  I don’t hear the subtle differences.  LPs are still fine for me; never though CDs were better.  But OK — maybe we will listen to more music.  Diane wasn’t satisfield. One morning she got the directions.  She was going to connect the system to our poor WiFi.  And after about an hour she did.  I think the system is connected to her phone and I quess we can buy additional speakers.

The most important outcome was that she inspired me (isn’t that an important part of marriage).  Out came the Canon printer and the Apple laptop.  An hour later the printer was connected to the tower (Comcast had an WPS button, a curse on your house, Linksys).  But now, how to get the computer to talk to the printer.  Or maybe it will be easier to connect the I-Pad?  I downloaded a program that would connect the Pad.  Nothing worked.  Finally as I neared meltdown, a breakthrough.  The printer was connected. i don’t know how.   I printed a page.   It worked.  Later that night, a miracle, the I-Pad connected and I printed a page.

There are glitches.  I tried to print a  photograph and it came out very  slow and wet.  Actually it never dried.  And haven’t tried again.  Maybe tomorrow.  I  am sure the problem can be solved.  Just need time and willingness to endure some frustration.  But I am so happy.  Diane and I both successfully navigated new technology challenges. It was  a high tech day.  And remember, I am not a Luddite.