Summer at the Library

Monday, June 24, 2013

I recently saw the list of 2013 summer activities in DeTour Village, Michigan, where I grew up. The list includes a summer speaker series and family movie nights, both at the library. The library didn't have summer activities when I was growing up. In fact, I'm not sure it was even open in the summer.

The only library in town was the school library, which I notice is now called the DeTour Area School and Public Library. Adults may have been welcomed when I lived there (many years ago), but I never thought of it as a public library. The closest one of those was 60 miles away at Sault Saint Marie, Michigan. We went every two weeks and I checked out the maximum number of books allowed. Even when supplemented with the books in the school library, I always ran out of reading material long before our next trip.

I have fond memories of libraries. When I was a child, they were the source of the books I hungered for. Later, when I was out on my own and living on a small income, libraries helped me feed my habit without spending money I needed for other things.

When my children were young, weekly trips to the library supplemented my growing stock of children's books, and summer programs kept Caroline and John entertained and motivated. Caroline still frequents the library to keep her reading habit affordable.

Of course, things are changing. More and more people--children included--are reading electronic books, but most libraries are keeping up with the times. Caroline frequently borrows electronic books from her small-town library.

Libraries have adapted in other ways, too. They offer computer use and Internet access to people who don't have those resources at home and to people who are travelling away from home.

Then there are the standard services that have stayed the same over the years. Traditional book lending. Quiet areas where people can study and work. Small rooms for group projects. Conference rooms for educational and non-profit activities.

And all those summer programs to keep children excited about reading while they are out of school.

What would we do without libraries? I hope I never find out.

* * * * *

The picture shows the Lake County Public Library branch in Munster, Indiana.

Beyond Academia

Monday, June 17, 2013

I've been putting my foot in my mouth a lot lately, and I did it on two different occasions while talking to a friend who teaches at a local university. She must think I hate academia, or at least that I think academics are elitist.

Actually, I love academia. If I didn't, would I have three post-graduate degrees? I even started my post-graduate life training to be a college professor.

But there is a wider world out there.

When I first started angling for someone to publish Writers in Wonderland, I got a bite from an academic publisher who stated that he was "a little leery" of the Lewis Carroll theme. According to the publisher, that theme "risks distracting or even irking a good number of readers, or worse yet, that all-important reviewer. We're not suggesting that you'd need to remove it entirely, but we'd want to discuss ways to tone it down by a good degree."

The Lewis Carroll theme is my way of standing out from the often dry competition. And although I would love to have Writers in Wonderland used as a textbook and to receive favorable reviews from "that all-important reviewer," my book is aimed at the ordinary writer who is neither a lawyer nor an academic. These are people who tend to avoid legal-themed books until they have no other choice, when it may be too late to avoid the Queen of Heart's courtroom. I was not willing to sacrifice my reader on the altar of convention, so I removed the hook from the publisher's mouth rather than from the book.

Yes, the book is unconventional and often describes legal concepts using analogies that might make some lawyers wince, but the analogies are apt and make the concepts easier for the lay writer to understand. The comments I've received from my intended audience consistently classify the book as being both information and enjoyable.

That's my goal. If it takes me away from academia, so be it.

But I still love the academic life.

* * * * *

The picture shows Graves Hall at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and the anchor that is Hope's symbol. As Hope's founder said of its predecessor school, "This is my anchor of hope for this people in the future."

Another Leader Retires

Monday, June 10, 2013

This is the month for retirements. Last week I wrote about David Brandt, who retired after 59 years teaching at St. Paul's Lutheran School.

Yesterday was Dr. Eric Stumpf's turn to retire after 40 years in the ministry, with the last 16 at St. Paul's Lutheran Church as senior pastor. He came in the summer of 1997, right after Caroline was confirmed. He did confirm John, however. He also married Caroline and Pete in 2006.

As a minister's daughter, I know from experience that pastors are expected to work 24 hours a day and still be well-rounded, family men. They can't leave the job behind when they go home for dinner at 5:00 p.m. or when they return two hours later for a meeting that may continue long into the evening. It's a demanding, often thankless, job, and not everyone can handle it for 40 years without burning out.

Thank you Pastor Stumpf for your many years shepherding St. Paul's congregation. Enjoy your well-earned rest.

Fifty-Nine Years of Inspiration

Monday, June 3, 2013

Yesterday my congregation celebrated David Brandt's retirement after 59 years of service to St. Paul's Lutheran Church and School. But it wasn't just 59 years of service. It was also 59 years of inspiration.

I've only known Dave for 34 of those years, and I never had him as a teacher. But Roland had him twice (for the 2nd and 6th grades), Caroline and John each had him in 6th through 8th grades for English and social studies and as their 8th grade home room and religion teacher, and all three had him for Children's Choir. What a legacy.

Fifty-nine years of inspiration, and all at the same school.

And yes, I do mean inspiration. No teacher has 100% success, and not all of his students have done Mr. Brandt proud. But many more are teachers and musicians and prominent members of their churches and communities. These students remember him fondly and credit him for inspiring them to be their best.

Thank you, Dave, for 59 years of inspiration.

* * * * *

The picture shows Mr. Brandt's second grade class in 1956, when Roland was in it.