Category Archives: Education

The Man Who Launched 75,000 Libraries

alex atkins bookshelf booksOn October 18, 2018, Todd Bol, the founder of the Little Free Library, passed away at the age of 62 due to complications of pancreatic cancer. Margret Aldrich, a spokesperson for the Little Free Library organization said of Bol: “Todd created this beautiful, living, breathing movement of literary and community that resonated from that very first Little Free Library all the way to today. He was a true believer in the power of one person to make a difference. And he certainly did.”

The story of the Little Free Library begins in 2009. Bol was renovating the garage of his home. After removing an old wooden door, he realized that he didn’t want all that good wood to go to waste. He pondered about what he could do with the wood. That is when he was struck with an epiphany: why not build a tribute to his mother, who had been a schoolteacher? So he built a small replica of a schoolhouse (about two feet wide by two feet tall), filled it with about 20 books that his mother owned, attached the structure to a post, and planted it on his front lawn. The world was introduced to the first free book exchange, the first Little Free Library, based on the honor system: take a book, leave a book. Absolutely brilliant!

Bol had read the biography of Andrew Carnegie, the railroad and steel magnate, who as one of the country’s richest men wanted to give back to society by establishing 2,509 libraries. That legacy was in the back of his mind, when he established the Little Free Library nonprofit organization in 2010, hoping to inspire others to build a little library in their own neighborhoods. His initial dream was to inspire others in order to beat Carnegie’s record. Bol, with the assistance of some craftsmen, built some of them; but most were built by home owners who downloaded plans from the organization’s website. In just two years, there were more than 2,510 little libraries around the world. Fast forward to today, and Bol’s organization has inspired more than 75,000 Little Free Libraries throughout the United States (all 50 states) and in 88 countries. And what’s truly remarkable is that people get really creative with their libraries — they come in all shapes and sizes. You will find libraries that look like spaceships, barns, Victorian mansions, boxcars, robots, log cabins, cars, boats, trains, and even replicas of the houses of the builders.

So the next time you walk by or drive by a Little Free Library, think of Bol, the man who launched 75,000 libraries around the globe to share books and support literacy. Indeed, one person can make a difference.

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Read related posts: The Power of Literature
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For further reading: The Little Free Library Book by Margret Aldrich
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/23/obituaries/todd-bol-dead.html


What is the Worst Color to Wear to a Job Interview?

alex atkins bookshelf educationIf you are going to a job interview, most people are guided by two timeless maxims: “Dress for success” and “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” We can thank John Molloy, author of the best-selling book Dress for Success (1975), for popularizing the expression and the concept of “power dressing,” i.e., dressing like you are already successful and have the job. And we can thank film star and social commentator Will Rogers for the second adage. At bottom, both of these sayings reinforce the notion that in the real world, especially in the competitive business world, people are judged by the way they present themselves — more specifically, by the way they dress. Darlene Price, author of Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results, reviewing extensive research on first impressions states “Clothing plus communication skills determine whether or not others will comply with your request, trust you with information, give you access to decision makers, pay you a certain salary or fee for contracted business, hire you, or purchase your products and services.” Well said!

In the interest of finding the best and worst colors to wear to a job interview, CareerBuilder asked over 2,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals to discuss how they perceived different colors worn by job seekers. Let us begin at the bottom of the list; that is to say, the worst color to wear to a job interview. Can you make a guess? Overwhelmingly, survey respondents indicated that orange was the worst color to wear to a job interview. Sorry, orange is not the new black. Orange is well… the old orange. They considered orange to be loud, attention-seeking, and inappropriate in formal business settings. Other colors to avoid include: green, yellow, and purple.

Here are the colors that hiring managers and HR professionals recommended for a more favorably-viewed job interview, ranked in order of preference:

Blue: conveys trust, confidence, and suggests person is a team player

Black: conveys sophistication, seriousness, and exclusivity

Gray: conveys that person is independent and self-sufficient

White: conveys that person is well organized and careful

Brown: communicates warmth, safety, reliability, and dependability

Red: conveys power, passion, excitement, and courage

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

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For further reading: https://www.businessinsider.com/how-your-clothing-impacts-your-success-2014-8
https://www.businessinsider.com/best-and-worst-colors-to-wear-to-job-interview-2013-11


Serendipitous Discoveries in Used Bookstores

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Still, anyone with a taste for wonder — not all, apparently, have it — should learn to haunt used bookstores, even more than stores that sell new books… Each person should take pains to scout his own city on this score… The used bookstore, unlike the catalogue or even the library, puts us in a place where we can come across and buy some unsuspected title that turns out to get at the essence of what is.

From Another Sort of Learning: Selected Contrary Essays on How Finally to Acquire an Education by James Schall, S.J.

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The Most Beautiful College Libraries in America

alex atkins bookshelf booksAs most librarians know, college libraries have been on the endangered species list for some time. Over the last two decades, college libraries have downsized, relocated, or — gasp — entirely eliminated their books as they shifted to digital resources or repurposed the space. Which begs the question: if a library does not have any books, is it still a library? But we digress. In the article “The Disappearance of Books Threatens to Erode Fine Arts Libraries,” journalist Sarah Bond discusses this disturbing trend: “Across the country, many university libraries are engaged in a book purge. This has meant reassessing the use of library spaces and consolidating book holdings in a bid to attract more visitors. In states like Missouri and Kansas, libraries have begun to spend more and more of their annual budgets on digital subscriptions and spaces for people, rather than on the acquisition of physical books. As in Austin and Madison, such shifts have often been met with resistance. At Syracuse University in New York, there was a faculty uproar over the proposed movement of books to a far-away warehouse. The struggle ultimately resulted in the university building a 20,000-square-foot storage facility nearby for over 1 million books — guaranteeing next-business-day delivery.”

Twenty years ago, book stores also thrived. Consumers took them for granted. And then, before you knew it, they disappeared — one by one. That is why Town & Country’s recent feature, “22 of America’s Most Beautiful College Libraries,” is a reminder to appreciate their significance of what they contain as well as their stunning architecture. If you have an opportunity, visit them while they are still around. Here is the list of the 22 most beautiful college libraries in America:

Bapst Art Library at Boston College

Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington

Widener Library at Harvard University

Uris Library at Cornell University

Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar College

Riggs Library at Georgetown University

Washington University Law Library

Hoose Philosophy Library at the University of Southern California

Harper Memorial Library at the University of Chicago

George Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins University

Fisher Fine Arts Library at the University of Pennsylvania

Cook Legal Research Library at the University of Michigan

Butler Library at Columbia University

Beinecke Rare Book And Manuscript Library at Yale

Anne Bremer Memorial Library at San Francisco Art Institute

Mclure Education Library at the University of Alabama

Joe And Rika Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago

Firestone Library at Princeton University

Geisel Library at the University of California, San Diego

Albert And Shirley Small Special Collections Library at University of Virginia

William R. Perkins Library at Duke University

Powell Library at UCLA

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For further reading: https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/arts-and-culture/news/g3006/most-beautiful-college-libraries/
https://hyperallergic.com/433583/fine-arts-libraries-books-disappearing/


The 300 Book Vacation

alex atkins bookshelf booksMeet Hope Faith Wiggins — a sweet and precocious 8-year-old girl from Aldine, Texas who is a real inspiration for book lovers around the world. Her family could not afford a summer vacation, so Hope used her imagination and took a different kind a vacation — a voyage through the world of books. Specifically, she pledged to read 300 books before school began on August 19. Her proud mother reflected on the 300-book vacation: “The library opened up so many worlds. It was like a vacation, but inside our house.” Hope made dozens of trips to the library, collecting books by the armful, to exceed her goal. By mid-August, she had read 302 books. Hope’s profound love of books is infectious; she explains: “I like reading a lot because it’s fun. It’s like being inside of a whole other world. You can imagine that you’re the character, and for me, one thing that happens when I read a book or watch a video is I dream about it.”

One of her favorite books is Our Enduring Spirit: President Barack Obama’s First Words to America. Hope recently experienced something very tragic: she lost a close childhood friend to cancer. Each day she wears a yellow bow in her hair to keep the memory of her friend alive. It is that profound loss that inspired her dream career: to be a pediatric oncologist. She is certainly well on her way — the best education, as many philosophers and writers know so well, is self-education motivated by the insatiable thirst for knowledge. Moreover, at such a young age, Hope understands the importance of having a good heart as well as a good head; in the words of another inspirational and remarkable human being, Nelson Mendala: “A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.” Indeed, the world is a better place because of Hope.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

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For further reading: www.bookstr.com/8-year-old-girl-has-already-read-more-300-books-achieve-her-summer-goal


What Book Should Every Student Read in 2018?

alex atkins bookshelf booksEach year in the United States, there are 600,000 to 1 million books published each year. Of those, about 50% are self-published titles that sell less than 250 copies. So the book lover’s dilemma — what should I read? — is quite a challenge. But no need to pore over countless book reviews, book blogs, and best-seller lists — why not ask the smartest people on the planet: college professors. The bibliophiles at Business Insider (who knew?) recently asked the brilliant professors at Harvard University: what one book should every student read in 2018? Here are their recommendations.

EJ Corey, organic chemist: Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Joseph Aoun. Janet Napolitano, president of University of California writes: “[Aoun’s] book is a thought-provoking analysis of our technology –infused world and higher education’s place in it. Far from fearing the dislocation caused by the increased use of robots and the development of AI, Aoun offers an optimistic, practical view of what higher education can do to prepare the next generation. Anyone interested in higher-education policy will greatly benefit from this cogent, persuasively written work.”

Claudia Goldin, economic historian and labor economist: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: “There is no better novel I know about how women (and I don’t mean just Anna) – elite, intelligent, educated – are ignored, oppressed, and have little legal recourse. Women are the caregivers, the empathetic. They hold society together and provide salvation even as the priests take the credit.”

Stephen Greenblatt, English professor: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. Incidentally, this book is one of the most popular books assigned as summer reading for incoming freshmen at over 70 colleges in America. Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative to defend those need it most: the indigent, the wrongly condemned, and those trapped in the byzantine and Kafkaesque criminal justice system. Author John Grisham compares it to the timeless legal classic To Kill A Mocking Bird: “Not since Atticus Finch has a fearless and committed lawyer made such a difference in the American South. Though larger than life, Atticus exists only in fiction. Bryan Stevenson, however, is very much alive and doing God’s work fighting for the poor, the oppressed, the voiceless, the vulnerable, the outcast, and those with no hope. Just Mercy is his inspiring and powerful story.” Ted Conniver, from The New York Times Book Review, adds: “You don’t have to read too long to start cheering for this man… The message of this book… is that evil can be overcome, a difference can be made. Just Mercy will make you upset and it will make you hopeful.”

Steven Pinker, psychology professor: The Internationalists: How A Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World by Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro: [The authors] explain the decline of interstate war and conquest [via]… the Kellogg-Briand Paris Peace Pact of 1927, which declared war illegal… [The] book presents a sweeping vision of the international scene, making sense of many developments in the news and recent history.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

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For further reading:https://www.businessinsider.com/harvard-university-professors-book-recommendations-2017-12
https://www.forbes.com/sites/nickmorgan/2013/01/08/thinking-of-self-publishing-your-book-in-2013-heres-what-you-need-to-know/#2132763e14bb


Best Commencement Speeches: Tim Minchin

alex atkins bookshelf wisdomTim Minchin may not be a recognized name in the United States, but in Australia he is a well-known comedian, actor, musician, writer, and director. He is best known for his musical comedies that have been performed around the world, such as Matilda that received seven Olivier awards. Back in October 2013, his alma mater, The University of Western Australia, honored Minchin with an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters and asked him to deliver the commencement speech, which the university calls the “Occasional Address.” His thoughtful, and at time hilarious, speech entitled “Nine Life Lessons” delivered to the 225 Arts and Sciences graduates and their families, manages to pack a lot of wisdom and inspiration in just 12 minutes. Here is Minchin’s memorable graduation speech delivered in his inimitable way:

“In darker days, I did a corporate gig at a conference for this big company who made and sold accounting software. In a bid, I presume, to inspire their salespeople to greater heights, they’d forked out 12 grand for an Inspirational Speaker who was this extreme sports dude who had had a couple of his limbs frozen off when he got stuck on a ledge on some mountain. It was weird. Software salespeople need to hear from someone who has had a long, successful and happy career in software sales, not from an overly-optimistic, ex-mountaineer. Some poor guy who arrived in the morning hoping to learn about better sales technique ended up going home worried about the blood flow to his extremities. It’s not inspirational — it’s confusing.

And if the mountain was meant to be a symbol of life’s challenges, and the loss of limbs a metaphor for sacrifice, the software guy’s not going to get it, is he? Cause he didn’t do an arts degree, did he? He should have. Arts degrees are awesome. And they help you find meaning where there is none. And let me assure you, there is none. Don’t go looking for it. Searching for meaning is like searching for a rhyme scheme in a cookbook: you won’t find it and you’ll bugger up your soufflé.

Point being, I’m not an inspirational speaker. I’ve never lost a limb on a mountainside, metaphorically or otherwise. And I’m certainly not here to give career advice, cause… well I’ve never really had what most would call a proper job.

However, I have had large groups of people listening to what I say for quite a few years now, and it’s given me an inflated sense of self-importance. So I will now — at the ripe old age of 38 — bestow upon you nine life lessons. To echo, of course, the 9 lessons and carols of the traditional Christmas service. Which are also a bit obscure.

You might find some of this stuff inspiring, you will find some of it boring, and you will definitely forget all of it within a week. And be warned, there will be lots of hokey similes, and obscure aphorisms which start well but end up not making sense. So listen up, or you’ll get lost, like a blind man clapping in a pharmacy trying to echo-locate the contact lens fluid.

1. You Don’t Have To Have A Dream. 

Americans on talent shows always talk about their dreams. Fine, if you have something that you’ve always dreamed of, like, in your heart, go for it! After all, it’s something to do with your time… chasing a dream. And if it’s a big enough one, it’ll take you most of your life to achieve, so by the time you get to it and are staring into the abyss of the meaninglessness of your achievement, you’ll be almost dead so it won’t matter.

I never really had one of these big dreams. And so I advocate passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals. Be micro-ambitious. Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you… you never know where you might end up. Just be aware that the next worthy pursuit will probably appear in your periphery. Which is why you should be careful of long-term dreams. If you focus too far in front of you, you won’t see the shiny thing out the corner of your eye. Right? Good. Advice. Metaphor. Look at me go.

2. Don’t Seek Happiness

Happiness is like an orgasm: if you think about it too much, it goes away. Keep busy and aim to make someone else happy, and you might find you get some as a side effect. We didn’t evolve to be constantly content. Contented Australophithecus Afarensis got eaten before passing on their genes.

3. Remember, It’s All Luck 

You are lucky to be here. You were incalculably lucky to be born, and incredibly lucky to be brought up by a nice family that helped you get educated and encouraged you to go to Uni. Or if you were born into a horrible family, that’s unlucky and you have my sympathy… but you were still lucky: lucky that you happened to be made of the sort of DNA that made the sort of brain which — when placed in a horrible childhood environment — would make decisions that meant you ended up, eventually, graduating Uni. Well done you, for dragging yourself up by the shoelaces, but you were lucky. You didn’t create the bit of you that dragged you up. They’re not even your shoelaces.

I suppose I worked hard to achieve whatever dubious achievements I’ve achieved… but I didn’t make the bit of me that works hard, any more than I made the bit of me that ate too many burgers instead of going to lectures while I was here at UWA.

Understanding that you can’t truly take credit for your successes, nor truly blame others for their failures will humble you and make you more compassionate. Empathy is intuitive, but is also something you can work on, intellectually.

4. Exercise

I’m sorry, you pasty, pale, smoking philosophy grads, arching your eyebrows into a Cartesian curve as you watch the Human Movement mob winding their way through the miniature traffic cones of their existence: you are wrong and they are right. Well, you’re half right — you think, therefore you are… but also: you jog, therefore you sleep well, therefore you’re not overwhelmed by existential angst. You can’t be Kant, and you don’t want to be.

Play a sport, do yoga, pump iron, run… whatever… but take care of your body. You’re going to need it. Most of you mob are going to live to nearly a hundred, and even the poorest of you will achieve a level of wealth that most humans throughout history could not have dreamed of. And this long, luxurious life ahead of you is going to make you depressed!

But don’t despair! There is an inverse correlation between depression and exercise. Do it. Run, my beautiful intellectuals, run. And don’t smoke. Natch.

5. Be Hard On Your Opinions 

A famous bon mot asserts that opinions are like [assholes], in that everyone has one. There is great wisdom in this… but I would add that opinions differ significantly from [assholes], in that yours should be constantly and thoroughly examined.

We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others. Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out onto the verandah and beat them with a cricket bat. Be intellectually rigorous. Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privilege.

Most of society’s arguments are kept alive by a failure to acknowledge nuance. We tend to generate false dichotomies, then try to argue one point using two entirely different sets of assumptions, like two tennis players trying to win a match by hitting beautifully executed shots from either end of separate tennis courts.

By the way, while I have science and arts grads in front of me: please don’t make the mistake of thinking the arts and sciences are at odds with one another. That is a recent, stupid, and damaging idea. You don’t have to be unscientific to make beautiful art, to write beautiful things. If you need proof: Twain, Adams, Vonnegut, McEwen, Sagan, Shakespeare, Dickens. For a start.

You don’t need to be superstitious to be a poet. You don’t need to hate GM technology to care about the beauty of the planet. You don’t have to claim a soul to promote compassion.

Science is not a body of knowledge nor a system of belief; it is just a term which describes humankind’s incremental acquisition of understanding through observation. Science is awesome.

The arts and sciences need to work together to improve how knowledge is communicated. The idea that many Australians — including our new PM and my distant cousin Nick — believe that the science of anthropogenic global warming is controversial, is a powerful indicator of the extent of our failure to communicate. The fact that 30% of this room just bristled is further evidence still. The fact that that bristling is more to do with politics than science is even more despairing.

6. Be a teacher.

Please be a teacher. Teachers are the most admirable and important people in the world. You don’t have to do it forever, but if you’re in doubt about what to do, be an amazing teacher. Just for your twenties. Be a primary school teacher. Especially if you’re a bloke — we need male primary school teachers. Even if you’re not a teacher, be a teacher. Share your ideas. Don’t take for granted your education. Rejoice in what you learn, and spray it.

7. Define Yourself By What You Love

I’ve found myself doing this thing a bit recently, where, if someone asks me what sort of music I like, I say “well I don’t listen to the radio because pop lyrics annoy me.” Or if someone asks me what food I like, I say “I think truffle oil is overused and slightly obnoxious”. And I see it all the time online, people whose idea of being part of a subculture is to hate Coldplay or football or feminists or the Liberal Party. We have tendency to define ourselves in opposition to stuff; as a comedian, I make a living out of it. But try to also express your passion for things you love. Be demonstrative and generous in your praise of those you admire. Send thank-you cards and give standing ovations. Be pro-stuff, not just anti-stuff.

8. Respect People With Less Power Than You.

I have, in the past, made important decisions about people I work with — agents and producers — based largely on how they treat wait staff in restaurants. I don’t care if you’re the most powerful cat in the room, I will judge you on how you treat the least powerful. So there.

9. Don’t Rush.

You don’t need to already know what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. I’m not saying sit around smoking cones all day, but also, don’t panic. Most people I know who were sure of their career path at 20 are having midlife crises now.

I said at the beginning of this ramble that life is meaningless. It was not a flippant assertion. I think it’s absurd: the idea of seeking “meaning” in the set of circumstances that happens to exist after 13.8 billion years worth of unguided events. Leave it to humans to think the universe has a purpose for them. However, I am no nihilist. I am not even a cynic. I am, actually, rather romantic. And here’s my idea of romance:

You will soon be dead. Life will sometimes seem long and tough and, god, it’s tiring. And you will sometimes be happy and sometimes sad. And then you’ll be old. And then you’ll be dead. There is only one sensible thing to do with this empty existence, and that is: fill it. Not fillet. Fill. It.

And in my opinion (until I change it), life is best filled by learning as much as you can about as much as you can, taking pride in whatever you’re doing, having compassion, sharing ideas, running, being enthusiastic. And then there’s love, and travel, and wine, and sex, and art, and kids, and giving, and mountain climbing… but you know all that stuff already.

It’s an incredibly exciting thing, this one, meaningless life of yours. Good luck.

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For further reading: http://www.timminchin.com/2013/09/25/occasional-address/
http://www.news.uwa.edu.au/201310186163/features/nine-life-lessons-graduate


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