Monthly Archives: April 2016
By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department
People amass stuff. We are all hoarders of one type or another; we just prefer to be called collectors or connoisseurs. We tuck our prized collections away in corners of closets, in attics, in garages and occasionally in storage facilities because we cherish these items. We want to keep them as mementos, memories or keepsakes to show our descendants and maybe have those people love them the same. The question is: are we storing them properly? We want to save these pieces of who we are for the future, but are they going to make it to the future? Libraries have been worrying about this for ages and there are many great places to find information on preserving your collections. Actually, there is too much information out there so here we will pull together the most important as well as the easiest steps for preserving your materials such as books, newspapers, magazines, comic books, film, slides, negatives, magnetic tape (both audio and video), records and even a little on documents and art.
Once again, cleanliness is essential. Clean hands, or even archivist gloves, and a clean workspace are ideal for going through your old photographs. Ideally, photos should be stored at 40 degrees or less in a location with 30 to 40% humidity. This is very specific because the stability of modern color photos degrades with heat and according to the preservation department of the Library of Congress, “Relative humidity is the single most important factor in preserving most photographic prints.” Never let adhesives come in contact with photographic prints and only mount them on acid free cardstock.
If you are dealing with a photo that has deteriorated or if you are working with an older format like tin or daguerreotypes you will probably want to consult a professional. The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works has an online directory of conservators to help you find one in your area.
Films, Slides and Negatives
Film and slides contain cellulose, an organic substance, and as such are subject to decay. Temperature and humidity are mentioned here time and again, but here it is most important. The Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) recommends storage at 40-50° and 20-40% relative humidity. They also suggest freezing film, but this is for long term storage and should be done in the proper manner, starting in a middle to low humidity environment, packaging the material and freezing them for very long term. This is not a thing you want to do if you are planning on getting these items out next week or even next month. These materials are the best case for digital transfer. There are many services out there that can help you get these materials digitized for future use and reproduction.
Magnetic Tape Recordings (reel to reel, 8-Track, cassette and Video Tape)
When you are working with magnetic recordings storage should be considered. While demagnetization is unlikely, it can happen so avoid storing your material near large machinery and electrical transformers. Handle reel to reel tapes from the edge and center hole only. Grasping the reel itself to hard can break the reel or crush the delicate tape. Any kind of cassette should only be handled by the outside edges. Do not touch the spools. Store them in a cool place with lower to mid-level humidity.
Other Audio Sources (Records, Wax Cylinders, CDs)
Never mess with the groove. When handling any of these older recordings keep your fingers confined to the label for records, the center hole for CDs, and for the truly old cylinders, just the edges. The grooves are where the recorded material is read by the needle or laser and damage will come from your fingerprints and any dirt on your hands. They should also be stored upright with dividers every six inches to support them in cool dry places. Always allow these materials to reach room temperature in the room where they are to be played before using them if they are stored at a low temperature. Always store like sized material together. Make sure manufacturers cleaning instructions are followed for all playback devices.
Most people do not have a Monet in their house or a painting from the Dutch masters in their office waiting room, but with art there is no telling what will become valuable. For forty years the Jesuit house in Dublin, Ireland had a painting hanging in their parlor. In the 1990s it was determined to be a lost Caravaggio. You never know what may come of the paintings on your walls, so it never hurts to take care of them properly.
As with every other type of material, cleanliness is the first and easiest step. Make sure that you handle paintings by the sides of the frame, not the painting itself, and have enough people for the job. Dust your paintings with “a clean, soft, natural-hair artists’ brush (3.5cm to 5cm tip)” in one direction if there is no peeling or cracking evident in the paint according to the Smithsonian Institution. Display your art where there is a little exposure to UV light and as little fluctuation in temperature and humidity as possible and avoid extremes in both. Finally, make sure art is hung with the proper hardware and check those hooks, wires and brackets periodically to make sure they are in good condition.
By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department
People amass stuff. We are all hoarders of one type or another; we just prefer to be called collectors or connoisseurs. We tuck our prized collections away in corners of closets, in attics, in garages and occasionally in storage facilities because we cherish these items. We want to keep them as mementos, memories or keepsakes to show our descendants and maybe have those people love them the same. The question is: are we storing them properly? We want to save these pieces of who we are for the future, but are they going to make it to the future? Libraries have been worrying about this for ages and there are many great places to find Information on preserving your collections. Actually, there is too much information out there so here we will pull together the most important as well as the easiest steps for preserving your materials such as books, newspapers, magazines, comic books, film, slides, negatives, magnetic tape (both audio and video), records and even a little on documents and art.
This is a library blog so books come first. The easiest and first step in preservation is careful use. Make sure your hands are clean, that you are reading in a clean area free of food or drink and that you are not forcing the book open to 180°. Never use glues, rubber bands or adhesive tape on books. Never dog ear the pages or mark you place with paperclips or acidic inserts. When storing your books, try to put upright books of similar size together so that they support each other and don’t allow them to lean at an angle. Books should be kept in a cool room with low humidity (<35%) and as little exposure to direct, harsh light as possible. Avoid vents and registers as well as rooms like attics which experience extreme temperature changes. Clean your books and cases regularly. Finally when you remove a book from the shelf, grab the book on both sides of the spine at the midpoint. Do not grab it from the top.
Saving the newspaper is a great way to remember a great moment in your, or humanity’s, history. Whether it is a paper from your child’s birth, VE Day, the moon landing or the election of the first African American president, newspapers show a segment of time contemporary to the event. Once again, the rules of cleanliness are paramount. No dirty hands or coffee cups here. Newspapers to be preserved should be opened flat on a surface large enough to support the entire paper. Do not fold the paper against any existing folds. When folding the newspaper back to store it always use the existing folds and keep the edges aligned as much as possible. Newspapers should be stored flat and in protected boxes with some kind of supporting material. Like comics and magazines, these boxes and boards should be acid and lignin free. Storage space should have the same conditions as that needed for books.
For the most part the documents that we have now that we want to preserve are those that have already come down to us from generations past. Many of these are already preserved, but even more are not and have already begun to deteriorate. Think about these things and what they are and represent. Discharge papers from the civil war or world war two, your great grandparent’s marriage license, an ancestor’s immigration papers. These are great things to have, but remember that someday, you may be someone’s great grandparent. Now is the time to preserve your documents, before they start to degrade. The basic rules for books still apply to documents (as well as manuscripts, drawings, prints, posters, and maps). In addition, you want to make sure any marks or inscriptions that you make are done in pencil only and on a clean surface to avoid pressing dirt or other contaminants into the paper. Paper items should be stored flat and supported like periodicals, unless the size of the object makes this prohibitive. At that point rolled in an archival tube is the safest storage option.
MAGAZINES & COMICS
One of the reasons that those Superman, Batman and Captain America comics from the 1930s and 40s are so valuable is that there are not many surviving. Everyone has heard the old, “I’d be a millionaire if my Mom hadn’t thrown away my comic collection” shtick, but this is far from true. These were comics. They cost 10₵, because they were made cheaply. No one expected them to be kept for seventy or eighty years. Modern comics are better, but still need preserving. The rules for books apply here as well, with a little modification. Never bend a comic back upon itself. It weakens the spine and you may be beaten by nerds. Comics should be stored in supportive enclosures. That means polybags, backing boards and archive boxes. You want to make sure the boards and boxes are ph. neutral and lignin free. Otherwise the very things protecting you comics can be causing their slow disintegration. Magazines should be treated in exactly the same way although those with glued bindings (similar to what you see on National Geographic) should be treated like books for the purpose of reading them. Do not open these to a flat position.
By Stephen McClain, Reference Department
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.” –Prince
Prince Rogers Nelson died on April 21, 2016. He was 57 years old. That’s way too young. Prince was not only an icon and a musical legend, he was perhaps a “once in a generation” artist that was still relevant after almost 40 years in the business.
This isn’t supposed to happen. Our heroes are not supposed to die. Ever. We forget that they are mortal. We forget that they were once little children who went to school, ate dinner, got in trouble, and got scared. They are different than us. They are supposed to be stronger, smarter, more creative and invincible. In so many ways, they are unintentional representations of us; of who we are, who we want to be and most often, who we once were. We try to look like them, try to act like them, and try to write or create like them. But we can’t. Because we are not them. We deify them because they are greater than us and without them; we would not be who we are.
Prince stood up when he felt he was being taken advantage of by his record label, appearing in public with the word “slave” written on his face and changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol in protest. He stood for something, even if it was only the control of his art. I cannot think of a comparison today. So many artists are beholden to corporations and greed and will not risk alienating anyone for fear of losing money or endorsements. I miss those days when rock stars used to be dangerous and take risks. They didn’t care about money. They cared about art and what they believed in and were willing to risk everything for it.
Songs like “Little Red Corvette,” “Purple Rain,” “I Would Die 4 U,” and let’s not forget “Darling Nikki” were the soundtrack to a very important time in my life. I am sure that anyone who was in high school in the 1980’s can relate Prince’s music to some time or someone in their adolescence. In those days we bought the record. We went out to hear music or waited for it on the radio. It wasn’t On Demand. It didn’t stream and it was worth far more than it is today. MTV was new. I didn’t have cable but my friends did and we watched videos after school and watching Prince crawl on the floor staring at me in the video for “When Doves Cry” creeped me out.
I can still see the flashing, sequenced lights and mirror ball at the skating rink in my hometown whenever I hear “1999” (that year seemed to be so far away). The same goes for “Little Red Corvette” (and everyone knew someone who moved a little too fast). The intro chords to “Purple Rain” take me back in time too, but that album came out later. I was older and the lyrics meant something more to me. In the 1980s, guitars ruled the world and Prince’s guitar solo on “Let’s Go Crazy” was nothing short of inspirational. It demanded you pay attention. Even at the age I was then, I could hear Hendrix in Prince’s playing. Everyone knew this guy was special. And now he’s gone.
I am so thankful that our time on this earth overlapped. His music was playing during so much of my youth and he continued to create innovative music with the recent albums “Art Official Age,” “Plectrumelectrum” and “HitnRun Phase One and Two.” He played one of the most memorable Super Bowl half time shows ever and performed an unexpected 8-minute medley on Saturday Night Live in 2014. On Saturday April 23, two days after he was found unresponsive at Paisley Park, SNL produced a special retrospective of Prince’s performances on the late night show. Hosted by a teary-eyed Jimmy Fallon, it featured not only his first appearance in 1981 but also his last, which had never been seen before, as he and his band 3rdeyegirl burned through an unrehearsed version of “Let’s Go Crazy” at the 40th anniversary after-party. Jimmy said that the “crowd parted as Prince floated to the stage in a cloud of purple” and then tore the house down. I watched the show in silence and for 90 minutes on Saturday night, Prince was still with us.
As I mourn Prince’s passing I also lament the struggling condition of today’s music. Many of the people I talk with share the same belief that today’s music is in a sad state, which is one of the reasons why Prince’s death is so numbing to me. Prince never repeated himself. He moved forward. He was about the performance and always had something to prove. We argue about politics and religion but what brings us together? Music. The pure joy of music. We’re all in this together and music is one of the few things that can unite us. Prince saw the future. Now he’s in the past. But his music helped create our present.
*Opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and in no way reflect the philosophy or preferences of the Williamson County Public Library, its staff members, their families, friends, or pets.
By Stacy Parish, Children’s Deptartment
Hey, no kidding! April is National Humor Month. So, in no particular order of hilarity, here are 7 raucously funny children’s books to help you celebrate:
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! By Mo Willems (J E WIL) AR level 0.9, Caldecott Honor book
Pigeon just wants to drive the doggone bus. He begs, pleads, whines, and offers a bribe to the reader to let him drive the bus, to no avail. Pigeon’s frustration drives him to have a spectacular little meltdown when he doesn’t get his way, but as he is ranting and carrying on, a ginormous red semi pulls up, and Pigeon’s dreams of driving are rekindled.
Olivia by Ian Falconer (J E FAL) AR level 2.0
Olivia has been one of my personal favorites for more than a decade. I mean, how can you not admire and adore this charming, creative, confident, stylish creature? The original book spawned many more Olivia titles and an eponymous television show, but the whole Olivia experience — and often, parenthood itself— can be summed up by the last page, where Olivia’s mother kisses her goodnight and says, “You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway.”
Duck! Rabbit! By Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld (J E ROS)
“Hey, look! A duck!” “That’s not a duck. That’s a rabbit!” And thus ensues the spirited debate over what, exactly, it is.
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka (rhymes with Fresca) and Lane Smith (does not rhyme with Fresca). (J E SCI) AR level 3.4
“Oh, man! What is that funky smell?” And that’s not even the funniest line from this rollicking collection of short stories that totally lends itself to reading aloud in funny voices. Why, this anthology is so hilarious, it even comes with a SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: It has been determined that these tales are fairly stupid and probably dangerous to your health. Most of the stories are twisted variations on classic fairy tales; for instance, “The Stinky Cheese Man” is a modern retelling of “The Gingerbread Man.” Unhinged, I tell you!
He Came With The Couch by David Slonim (J E SLO) AR level 1.5
After an exhaustive search, Sophie’s family has finally found the perfect couch. But there’s just one catch to the couch: a mysterious blue Muppet-ish creature is currently ensconced upon it. Sophie and her family try valiantly to remove him (and also cure his raging case of upholsterosis) but to no avail. In the end, the little blue dude proves his worth when he saves Sophie from calamity.
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein (J E STE) AR level 2.2
This charming book will resonate with anyone who has ever attempted to get a child to wind it down to bedtime with a nice, relaxing story. Little Chicken wants Papa to read her a bedtime story, but she just can’t bear to see Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, et. al. make such potentially dangerous mistakes, so she keeps interrupting the stories and putting her own spin on the endings. Stein’s sweet story demonstrates that being an active participant in the storytelling process can be satisfying and very funny.
The Cat In The Hat by Dr . Seuss (J E SEU) AR level 2.1
Seriously, what list of humorous children’s books would be complete without the rollicking tale of the stovepipe-hatted feline troublemaker who shows up on a boring, rainy day with the sole mission of showing two well-behaved kids how to have a little fun? Yes, Cat completely trashes the house, but he cleans up his mess just in the nick of time, subliminally imparting a lesson to Sally and her brother (who was never officially named in the book, but was christened “Conrad” in the 2003 film adaptation, just so you’ll know.) Also, an ethical matter to consider is imparted in the final pages:
“And Sally and I did not know what to say.
Should we tell her the things that went on there that day?
Should we tell her about it? Now, what should we do?
Well . . . what would YOU do, if your mother asked you?”
Laugh it up, Faithful Reader—
***As always, the viewpoints espoused here are solely those of the author and not in any way reflective of the opinions of WCPL employees, their families, or their pet chickens. Also, the author’s last name doesn’t rhyme with Fresca, either.)
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department
Most people encounter poems as a child first and poetry books for kids are fun and often silly. Kids love being read to and many poems are made to be read aloud. It’s when we grow up and forced to study specific poems and poetry that we lose interest. That’s why April has become “poetry month,” to encourage everyone to find their enjoyment of poetry again. And poetry really is for everyone. Or rather, there is at least one poem out there for each person that will touch them in some way. You just have to find it.
In order to help people find their enjoyment of poetry again, I hope to introduce you to a few good or unusual poetry books. Of course, if you just want to browse through our poetry books, in our Nonfiction section, which includes poetry, our library organize by the Dewey Decimal System, where American poetry is usually found in the 811s and British poetry is usually found in the 821s.
To refesh your memory about fun children’s poems, have a look at these:
- Falling up: poems and drawings by Shel Silverstein (J 811.6 SIL )
- A bad case of the giggles: kids’ favorite funny poems (J 811.08089282 BAD)
- Where the sidewalk ends by Shel Silverstein (J 811.54 SIL)
- A light in the attic by Shel Silverstein (J 811.54 SIL)
- I’ve lost my hippopotamus by Jack Prelutsky (J 811.54 PRE)
- My dog ate my homework! a collection of funny poems (J 811.54 LAN)
- Stopping by woods on a snowy evening by Robert Frost (J 811.52 FRO)
- Dirt on my shirt: selected poems (J E Fox)
- For laughing out loud: an anthology of poems to tickle your funny bone (J 808.81 FOR)
- Pizza, pigs, and poetry: how to write a poem (J 811.54 PRE)
Want to get back to poetry or rediscovery your love for it? Try these books:
- How to read a poem: and fall in love with poetry (808.1 HIR)
- How to haiku: a writer’s guide to haiku and related forms (808.1 ROS)
- Essential pleasures: a new anthology of poems to read aloud (808.81 ESS)
Most all adults have read Beowulf, one of the oldest extant English poems. Seamus Heaney won awards and rave reviews for his new translation of this epic poem (829.3 BEO). If Beowulf is too long, maybe you should try this book of Old English (Anglo-Saxon) poems with a mouthful title, Ten Old English Poems Put into Modern English Alliterative Verse (821.1 MAL).
If you really want to get adventurous, try listening to the Iliad or The Odyssey. It’s easier to listen to, somehow. Perhaps because it was recited for centuries!? And maybe try The Aeneid for the same reason. Virgil wanted to write a great Roman epic and he definitely succeeded.
- The Iliad by Homer (883.01 HOM)
- The Odyssey by Homer (883 HOM)
- The Aeneid by Virgil (873.01 VIR)
For something completely different, try reading haiku, or maybe writing them. They are short and usually describe a nature scene. There is a definite pattern for haiku: the first line has five syllables, the second line had seven syllables and the third line has five syllables. The best things about haiku are they are short and they don’t have to rhyme!
- Haiku landscapes: in sun, wind, rain and snow (808.1 ADD)
- Haiku love (895.6104108 HAI)
- Haiku: an anthology of Japanese poems (895.6104108 HAI)
And for a different kind of haiku, try these:
- Haiku for the single girl (811.6 GRI)
- Redneck haiku: Bubba-sized with more than 150 new haiku! (811.6 WIT)
If you are feeling patriotic or want to celebrate patriotic holidays, this is the book for you:
- A patriot’s handbook : songs, poems, stories, and speeches celebrating the land we love / selected and introduced by Caroline Kennedy (810.8 KEN)
For poems written from another culture’s point of view, check out these books. Hah, check out these books!!! A little library humor for you.
- The Southern poetry anthology, Volume VI, Tennessee (811.50809768 SOU)
- Angles of ascent: a Norton anthology of contemporary African American poetry (811.09 ANG)
- Voices of the rainbow: contemporary poetry by Native Americans (811.54080897 VOI)
- S O S: poems 1961-2013 by Amiri Baraka (811.54 BAR)
- Reflections: poems of dreams and betrayals by Adebayo Oyebade (811 OYE)
- No enemies, no hatred: selected essays and poems by Liu Xiaobo (895.1452 LIU)
For those trying to say something romantic, nothing is as good as a poem. Here are a few books to get inspiration from (or to copy and give your beloved, showing how much you care.)
- Rumi : the book of love : poems of ecstasy and longing, translations and commentary by Coleman Barks (891.5511 RUM)
- The essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks (891.5511 RUM)
- Art & love: an illustrated anthology of love poetry (808.81 ART)
- Ten poems to open your heart by Roger Housden (811.6 HOU)
- Sonnets from the Portuguese and other love poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (821.8 BRO)
- Twenty love poems and a song of despair by Pablo Neruda (861 NER)
- Love poems and sonnets of William Shakespeare (822.33 SHA)
- If there is something to desire: one hundred poems by Vera Pavlova; translated from the Russian by Steven Seymour (891.715 PAV)
For those who want to explore military themes, and get a real feeling of battle and the letdown of safety after, here are some from older wars and present conflicts.
- “Words for the hour”: a new anthology of American Civil War poetry (811.0080358 WOR)
- Some desperate glory: the First World War the poets knew by Max Egremont (821.912 EGR)
- Poets of World War I: Rupert Brooke & Siegfried Sassoon (YA 821 POE)
- Visions of war, dreams of peace: writings of women in the Vietnam War (811.54080358 VIS)
- Lines in long array: a Civil War commemoration: poems and photographs, past and present (811.008 LIN)
- Here, bullet by Brian Turner (811.6 TUR)
In case you think poetry is just a “girl thing”, here are a few books for men:
- Poems that make grown men cry: 100 men on the words that move them (821.008 POE)
- The Bar-D roundup a compilation of classic and contemporary poetry from CowboyPoetry.com (CD 811.54 08 BAR)
- Lessons from a desperado poet: how to find your way when you don’t have a map, how to win the game (811.54 BLA)
- Poetry for guys– who thought they hated poetry (811.008 POE)
A few offerings of humorous poems for grown-ups
- O, what a luxury: verses lyrical, vulgar, pathetic & profound by Garrison Keillor (811.6 KEI)
- Ogden Nash’s zoo (811.52 NAS)
- How did I get to be 40: & other atrocities and other poems by Judith Viorst (811.54 VIO)
- I’m too young to be seventy: and other delusions by Judith Viorst (811 VIO)
Other poetry books to consider that are recent and don’t really fit a category:
- It’s probably nothing, or, How I learned to stop worrying and love my implants by Micki Myers (811.6 MYE)
- Words for empty and words for full by Bob Hicok (811.54 HIC)
- Horoscopes for the dead: poems by Billy Collins (811.54 COL)
- Mr. Collins was a US Poet Laureate – a big deal!
- Firecracker red by Stellasue Lee (808.810082 LEE)
- Ms. Lee is a local poet
This book is in a category all by itself – and funny!
- I could pee on this: and other poems by cats by Francesco Marciuliano (811.6 MAR)
By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department
With the coming of April the First we are all reminded of the jokes and pranks of years past, but very few people are reminded of the actual origin of this humorous day.
The tradition of April Fool’s Day can be traced back to the days of the early Christian church. Like St. Patrick’s Day and Valentine’s Day, April Fool’s Day is yet another church Holy Day that has become a secular holiday.
The tradition dates back to the late fourth century CE, and St. Hilary of Poitiers. Hilary was an extremely well educated man of a pagan family in the Poitiers region of what is now France. He converted to Christianity and was baptized in his early adulthood along with his wife and young daughter, the future St. Abra. Hilary was well liked and soon was elected Bishop of Poitiers. He was a serious man but had a well-documented jovial streak. There are documented incidents of his being reprimanded by the archbishops and cardinals of France at the time for once having replaced the water in the holy font with “the juice of the apple, the fruit that brought the fall of Eve.” And on another occasion adding a well-loved local sheep to the list of priests to be elevated to the level of monsignor, claiming “no purer lamb of god than he.”
Unfortunately, Hilary, also known as the Hammer of the Arians, was a very prominent detractor of the heretical sect of Christianity known as Arianism. This led him into conflict with some Church Leaders as well as the Emperor Constantius II, and resulted in his exile. When the Emperor’s centurion delivered the notice of exile, Hilary tweaked the man’s nose and immediately decamped for Phrygia. He spent the four years of his exile defending the Roman Catholic ideal and was eventually allowed to return to Poitiers and to the Church’s good favor. After his death in 367, Hilary was Beatified and Canonized very quickly as a defender of the faith with the church of Sant Ilario at Casale Monferrato being named in his honor as early as 380. This dedicated church father and his japery are remembered to this day on the first of April, what we know as April Fool’s Day, but what was once remembered as the Feast of St. Hilary or as he was known in Latin Sanctus Hilarius.
Here’s the (more or less) true history of April Fool’s Day:
Okay, so the real history of April Fool’s Day is quite a bit different from that. The actual origin is uncertain. The earliest written reference connecting foolishness and the First of April is from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In the Nun’s Priest’s Tale Chanticleer the egotistical rooster is tricked by the fox. The tale is set “Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two” or the First of April. This however may be a mistake in transcription and refer to 32 days from the end of March, May Second, the anniversary of the engagement of Richard II to Anne of Bohemia in 1381.
Some believe that the practice of playing pranks on fools goes back to the advent of the Gregorian calendar. Before Pope Gregory’s modification to the calendar as we know it, the New Year was celebrated with a week-long festival that started on the Twenty-fifth of March and ended on April first. The new calendar changed that to the January first date we’re all familiar with. It is believed that it was common to send people who continued to hold to the April first date on fool’s errands, making them look the fools they were thought to be. The biggest problem with this likely apocryphal story is that the Gregorian calendar was not introduced until 1582, well after the Chaucer reference as well as several other historical allusions to the holiday.
The most likely origin is that it is a descent from earlier holidays like the roman festival of Hilaria, the Hindu religious festival of Holi, the Jewish Purim holiday and the medieval Feast of Fools. All of these holidays, except for the Feast of Fools, traditionally take place between March and April and are celebrations of joy and mirth. There is a distinct connection with the end of winter and the beginning of spring, a resurgence of joy from the dormancy and doldrums of winter.
Traditions vary across the world when it comes to the type of pranks played. In the United Kingdom, and many of its former possessions, it is common to give someone a letter to take to another person who will then read something akin to “send the fool further” and direct them to another person with the same letter. This is supposed to end by noon or else it is the sender rather than the messenger that will be the April fool. In Poland, the tradition of pranks and silliness is so rampant that in 1683 Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II refused to sign a treaty involving Poland unless it was backdated to March 31st. The Scandinavian countries have a tradition where the newspapers will publish exactly one false front page news item, but it is never the main headline. Finally, in French speaking areas and Italy as well you find the April fish (poissons d’avril in French or pesce d’aprile in Italian). This is a practice of attempting to hang a paper fish on the back of someone’s shirt on the first of April.
So now while you are on the lookout for the next person trying to prank you or enjoying the schadenfreude of your own April fools jokes you can now know you are just continuing a centuries old tradition.