Category Archives: Hot Topics

Inauguration Day

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

barack_obamas_2013_inaugural_address_at_the_u-s-_capitolSoon we will have another quadrennial celebration of the changing hands of the highest office in the land.  The inauguration is about hope. Yes, hope. Regardless of your political beliefs, we watch the events of a new presidency with hope of one kind or another. We hope the new person won’t make the mistakes of the old. We hope that our opinions will now be considered and valued. We hope this guy doesn’t screw up. We hope four years go by quickly and uneventfully. They’re all hope, some positive, some negative, but hope all the same.

This new beginning means that we all have a moment to take some time, look at our present situation as a country and decide if we are where we want to be and what we need to do to get wherever that is. This has been the burden of 43 men on 57 separate occasions. They all stood on a platform in Washington D.C., put their hand on a bible and swore to…wait, none of those things are right. True, this is the image we see when we imagine the inauguration in our mind, but none of those things are actually required for the inaugural process.

Lyndon B. Johnson taking the oath of office on Air Force One following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Dallas, Texas.

Lyndon B. Johnson taking the oath of office on Air Force One following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Dallas, Texas.

Washington D.C.

First of all, the inauguration does not have to be in Washington D.C. George Washington was had his first inaugural in New York and his Second in Philadelphia. Adams was also inaugurated in Philly. Two presidents have taken the oath of office in hotels due to the death of the prior president. Two took the oath in their private residences for the same reason. The most recent extraordinary inauguration was that of Lyndon Johnson in 1963 on Air Force One in Dallas.

The Bible

The Swearing and the Bible are not dictated anywhere either and neither is the phrase, “So help me God”. Due to some religions prohibiting members from swearing to anything, the option to affirm the oath was built in to the ceremony. Two presidents are believed to have done so, Hoover and Pierce. We know that Pierce did for certain even though he was an Episcopalian and was not required to avoid swearing. Hoover was a Quaker and it was believed he had used affirm, but news real footage shows he said solemnly swear. The only other Quaker president was Richard Nixon, and he also chose to swear. Theodore Roosevelt did not swear on a bible, and John Quincy Adams and that rebel Franklin Pierce swore on books of law to signify they were swearing by the Constitution.  Finally, George Washington ad libbed the line “so help me god” and most presidents have followed suit. It is the proscribed thing to complete an oath for federal judiciary members, but there is nothing in the presidential oath that requires it.

The Inauguration Address

washingtons_inauguration_at_philadelphia_cph-3g12011

The second inauguration of George Washington as President of the United States took place in the Senate Chamber of Congress Hall in Philadelphia on March 4, 1793.

The shortest inauguration address on record was Washington’s second address at one hundred and thirty-five words.

                Fellow Citizens:

I am again called upon by the voice of my country to execute the functions of its Chief Magistrate. When the occasion proper for it shall arrive, I shall endeavor to express the high sense I entertain of this distinguished honor, and of the confidence which has been reposed in me by the people of united America.

Previous to the execution of any official act of the President the Constitution requires an oath of office. This oath I am now about to take, and in your presence: That if it shall be found during my administration of the Government I have in any instance violated willingly or knowingly the injunctions thereof, I may (besides incurring constitutional punishment) be subject to the upbraidings of all who are now witnesses of the present solemn ceremony.

Not exactly, “Here we go again” but short sweet and to the point. Washington’s brevity seems to be a skill many politicians these days lack. William Henry Harrison should have followed Washington’s lead. His inaugural address was the longest so far and went on for 8445 words. Many people believe this lengthy speech, combined with the cool temperatures and cold wind contributed to the cold, then pneumonia, then pleurisy and eventual death of President Harrison. He died one month later and though he had the longest address, he had the shortest presidency.

The Twentieth of January

Franklin D. Roosevelt's First Inauguration

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s First Inauguration

Weather was the original reason why most of the early presidents were inaugurated in March. Obviously those brought up from vice president to take the place of a deceased commander in chief weren’t given the option, but Washington Himself was inaugurated in April. The Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution changed the date to the Twentieth of January. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was both the last to be inaugurated in March and the first to do so in January. Regardless of the change in date, the warmest and coldest inaugurations have occurred in the January era. President Reagan had the warmest inauguration in 1981 at 55° and the coldest, 7°, for his second in 1985

The Oath

There have been a few issues with the oath over the years as well. Chief Justice Fuller accidentally replaced the word protect with maintain in regards to the constitution when administering the oath to Taft. Ironically, Taft did the same at Hoover’s inauguration when he, Taft, was chief justice. Chief Justice Stone replaced Harry Truman’s stand-alone middle initial with the name Shipp, one of Truman’s grandfathers’ last name, but Truman just rolled with it and said Harry S. Truman anyway. Finally Barak Obama waited for Justice Rogers to realize a gaff when he put faithfully in the wrong place when reciting the oath. Rogers moved the term but still had it wrong. Rogers and Obama completed the Oath properly in the Oval Office the next day.

All these little bits of trivia notwithstanding, we can observe this inauguration in which ever spirit we choose, be it happy, sad, skeptical or hopeful. However there will be people looking for mistakes or records, swearing or affirming and what the temperature was to add this fifty-eighth inaugural to the history books.

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New Year Reading Challenge

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

presentation1Every year countless people create lists of things they never actually intend to do. Well…that’s a bit unfair. They enter into these lists of resolutions for the New Year with all the hope and enthusiasm that a new beginning can impart. Realistically though, many of us can barely remember what we resolved to do by the time we get to May and have failed to follow through on those resolutions to any significant degree. So while we are thinking about what we want to lose, give up, start doing or ramp up let us all take a moment to try to add something fun to our list with a book challenge. (And yes, a book challenge is fun; this is a library’s blog for pity’s sake!)

Reading is a great deal more than a past time. Slipping into the world of a new book brings you so many benefits that this resolution may be on par with exercising more or quitting smoking. Reading exercises your mind, keeps it limber and increases the memory. A National Academy of Sciences study has shown that people who read regularly are two and a half times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease[i]. It has also been shown that reading literary fiction helps increase your ability to empathize with others[ii]. Who doesn’t need to improve their empathy skills? Some books can even lower blood pressure and reduce stress[iii] and help stave off symptoms of mild mental disorders[iv]. Also, you gain new knowledge. Think of all the things you can learn and combine this with the improved vocabulary and increased attention span readers develop. These are real benefits to other parts of your life. Go for it!

Take this list of suggestions and challenge yourself to read more, or step outside of your comfort genre. Here is a list of twenty-six challenges, one book for every two weeks.

  1. Try a book outside of your usual genres.book-1705946_960_720
  2. Read a book your mother would love.
  3. Read a book your mother would hate.
  4. Pick a color at random and read a book with that color cover.
  5. Find a book with a song title or lyric for a title.
  6. Choose a book to read with a friend.
  7. Read one that they choose.
  8. Re-read your favorite book from childhood.
  9. Read something with your family, with everyone taking a chapter in turn.
  10. Read something from an author that you’ve never heard of before.
  11. Read a book about your guilty pleasure, something you’d never admit to reading.
  12. Find an aisle in the library you’ve never gotten something from and choose a book from there.
  13. Get a book from the young adult section. You’ll be surprised how enjoyable they can be.
  14. Try a book that discusses your religious beliefs or lack thereof.
  15. Try one that discusses someone else’s.
  16. Find a book about or set in your favorite part of history.
  17. Read a collection of short stories or novellas from a single author.
  18. Read a book that is related to a movie or television show you enjoy.
  19. Read a literary journal i.e. The New York Times Book Review, Publishers Weekly, etc.
  20. Pick a book from that journal and read that.
  21. Read a magazine from the month and year you were born, cover to cover.
  22. Read a book you read or were supposed to read in high school or university.
  23. Read a graphic novel. They’re not just comic books anymore.
  24. Read an eBook.
  25. Read a book based on the recommendation of a stranger.
  26. Pick your favorite book that you’ve read from this list and read more about it. If it’s Fiction find a non-fiction book related to it. If it’s non-fiction find a fiction book that contains elements of it.

If you’re ambitious try them all, less so, pick and choose. Set your limit where you are comfortable and maybe this year, this will be a resolution you keep.

 


What Our Library Patrons Are Thankful For

During the month of November, we asked our patrons to share what they were thankful for. The entire month our interactive display just kept growing and growing until we had to attach the responses to the furniture beneath the display.  We had responses ranging everywhere from coffee, to politics, to sobriety, but by far what our patrons are most thankful for were their family and friends.  It’s a good community we’re working with here.

Here’s the unedited list of all of the responses we received. Thank you for sharing with us.

  • img_1051God
  • My family and friends
  • My therapist
  • God and Jesus
  • Friends and family
  • Post-it notes
  • Books and libraries
  • Me
  • My family
  • Dumplings
  • Friends and family
  • Family
  • That I have a family
  • Family and friends
  • For God and my family
  • Cute boys
  • Fuzzy friends (my pets)
  • Freedom
  • Food
  • People
  • The hope that is found in Christ
  • Food, God, hope and the Bible
  • Quadruple shot espressos
  • For god, family and my community
  • That I don’t personally know any Trump supporters
  • That God considers me
  • Food, friends and family
  • Doing great in class because of my teacher
  • The gift of family and a fresh new year to live to the fullest
  • For God and Jesus
  • This library and electronics
  • Friend of the Williamson County Public Library
  • My health, my family, my friends and all of God’s blessings
  • A loving mother and father
  • Family (and my brother)
  • My family and my life
  • My beautiful friends, even though we are separate
  • Friends and family
  • Us
  • Elie, Aiden, Asa and Ethan, rain and coffee
  • My family and dogimg_1054
  • What I have and all my friends and family
  • Harambe (the gorilla)
  • For God and God alone
  • This library
  • For my wife and kids
  • Jesus, love
  • Pokemon Go
  • Food
  • A great book
  • Small acts of kindness
  • Good health, family and beautiful earth
  • For food on my table, a bed to sleep in and a roof over my head; also that my Momma and Daddy love each other and we’re all healthy; I’m thankful that the sun came up this morning and that we live in a country with freedom for all, and definitely the pursuit of happiness
  • My family, my jog, my boyfriend and Twenty-One Pilots
  • Thankful god has blessed me to live 43 years.  If he does nothing else for me, he has already done enough
  • The library
  • The amazing school I go to
  • Faith
  • Books and the library
  • For my family and friends, for God and Mary and Jesus
  • Libraries!
  • For kindness in all its forms
  • For my kids, family and the path Goad has for me and my dearest friend
  • For wonderful parents and late husband
  • For the right to be heard
  • My cat, my jobs, my friends, my boyfriend, Dr. Brunner, the refugee center, Happy Thanksgiving!
  • Very thankful for my mom
  • My sobriety – one day at a time
  • For my best friend
  • For NPR, national public radio, its great broadcasts and programs and for the kind people and wonderful atmosphere of the Franklin (WC) public libraries
  • Dolores and her wonderful staff and this beautiful library
  • For good health and lots of love from my family and friends
  • For my son!  Family!
  • For my family and other stuff
  • For the ocean
  • Our republic and the 2nd amendment and furry cats
  • My diagnosis
  • My awesome husband and kids
  • God and everything he’s given me and my family and friends
  • For god making us!
  • My mother, my cat and Trader Joe’s mac n cheese
  • New friends, music, beauty
  • My family, a God who loves me, a great job, my cat (most of the time) and living in a democracy
  • My mother and the love she has for her kids
  • New friends and family in Franklin, TN
  • Thanks to God for giving such a beautiful life
  • For easy ways to cheer someone on a gloomy day
  • For libraries!
  • The power of prayer and my new job and friends, and dressing
  • My family and friends
  • Thankful that Christmas is coming soon
  • For my mom and grandma and dad; I have three wonderful kids and their dad is OK, and to be alive and healthy and I love the Lord
  • Our President and first lady Barack and Michelle Obama
  • Random acts of kindness

    img_1060

    Someone left us a little origami menagerie.

  • A good job and friends who I like to work with
  • For education, parents and kids; for my life and such a loving family and friends, for everything and mom and dad; for all good things in this world and things that give hope that is light at the end of the tunnel
  • My life and everything else
  • For each new sunrise—each day is a new beginning
  • For my friends and family, especially my son
  • For my cat, Stevie, and Nintendo Funk
  • For the opportunity to start over in some situations, righting your wrongs
  • My friends, family and home/belongings
  • My best friend, my family and boyfriend, music and marching band, my other close friends, reading and the library, God and how he saved me and how he still loves me unconditionally, even when I mess up, Camp Crestridge
  • For my family and friends, for food and my safe home, for my city and each day of my life
  • Being able to learn and grow. To do the best I can
  • For my mother
  • My family: mom, dad, brother, cousins, uncles, etc.
  • For everything…family friends, scouts, God
  • For gymnastics and family
  • That I’m getting my gender reassignment surgery and moving to Canada
  • That Trump is now our president
  • For crunching leaves, laughter and the anticipation that Christmas is coming, and coffee
  • Family and friends, and books

Did You Ever Wonder Why Frankincense and Myrrh were as Valuable as Gold?

By Lance Hickerson, Reference Department

One story of the present holiday season tells of Magi bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the baby Jesus. These Magi from the East were riding a wave of expectation common in the Mediterranean world and beyond.  One Roman historian of the day explains:

There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief, that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judaea to rule the world.  (Suetonius, Life of Vespasian, 4.5; similarly other first century historians Tacitus, Histories 5.3 and Josephus, War of the Jews, 6.5).

myrrh

Frankincense

Indeed, the Magi were bearing gifts fit for a king, but what gifts would properly honor one who is “to rule the world?”   The Magi chose gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Of course, gold makes complete sense as a fitting gift, but why would frankincense and myrrh rate so highly?

Frankincense and myrrh are widely available today as “essential oils,” but in the first century world, they were much more essential, especially since the peoples of that time exhibit refined sensitivities in matters of smell and fragrance.  One geographer from Greece who sailed around southern Arabia, named Agatharchides, recounts:

A heavenly and indescribable fragrance seems to strike and stir the senses.  Even far out from land as you sail past you do not miss the fragrant odors blowing from the myrrh bushes.

frank-2

Myrrh

The tree that captivated the explorer’s sense of smell, might not appear so impressive in full sight.  Myrrh trees are small, thorny, and often just a bush.  Like frankincense, myrrh trees grow in places limited to an arid climate like that of southern Arabia.

Yet what matters is the treasure the trees produce.  Both frankincense and myrrh are harvested by tapping the inner sap with cuts to the tree bark.  The gummy resin oozes out in the form of what some ancients called “tears.”  After two weeks for drying, the resin is scraped off the tree, and sent on a long journey aboard camels and ships to crossroads and ports the world over.

What were the Uses of Frankincense and Myrrh?

Frankincense and myrrh had common uses and were even sometimes used together.  But frankincense was more fragrant as incense and myrrh more helpful for perfume and skin care.

The top use for both frankincense and myrrh was for religious expression.  Religion in our western world is often separated from other aspects of life, whereas religion in the first century world was part of everything and considered to be the most important aspect of all.  This includes the wide ranging pagan religions as well as the Judaeo-Christian stream.  Since religion was so important, religious expression was essential.  And essential to religious expression was offering incense, especially frankincense.

Both frankincense and myrrh were widely used in preparing bodies for burial, which also included groups who cremated their dead.  Frankincense in particular was good for masking the odor of a burning body.   Emperor Nero burned an entire year of the frankincense harvest in honoring the death of one of his favorite people.  That was extravagant indeed.

frank

Frankincense Tree/Bush, photo from HitchChic

Each substance had a number of particular uses as well, again sometimes overlapping.  The Middle East Institute remarks:

The market for frankincense was unlimited. Whereas other exotic spices and aromatics were luxury items, frankincense, though expensive was a household necessity. For many families throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East frankincense was a basic staple just as things like toothpaste and deodorant are always on the grocery list today.

Among the medical uses for frankincense were:  stopping bleeding, cleansing, and functioning as an important ingredient in prescriptions used as antidotes to poisons, help for side and chest pain, and abscesses.  It was used as well for a pest repellant and food flavoring.

myrrh-2

Myrrh Tree/Bush

Myrrh likewise had many functions in the first century world.  In addition to the uses common with frankincense, it figured prominently in perfumes and ointments.  Furthermore, its medical uses were wide ranging, for both internal and external use. It was a chief ingredient for the Egyptian army’s balm for the healing of sword cuts and wounds.  Myrrh is mentioned 54 times in the Hippocratic literature helping alleviate various diseases.  It helped with snakebites, coughs, stomach pains, toothaches, and ear aches.   It was in demand as a pain killer and antiseptic, and also served as a mouthwash.  So while in the first century world, its religious significance was primary, myrrh was helpful in many other ways.

When the parents of baby Jesus saw the Magi bearing frankincense and myrrh, along with gold, they were most certainly not disappointed.  The frankincense and myrrh had many more uses than gold, and were fitting gifts of high value and honor.

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Celebrate Native American Heritage Month!

By Jessica Dunkel, Reference Departmentnative-american-heritage-month

History

Native American Heritage Month (also known as “National American Indian Heritage Month” and “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month”) hasn’t been around for very long.  Although Native Americans have resided on the continent for approximately 12,000 years, it wasn’t until November 1990 that President George H. W. Bush declared November to be “National American Indian Heritage Month”.

Honoring the month

Many of us are not exposed to Native American culture and do not know much about Native people, their way of life, and the issues they face.  In order to honor this month, I’ve compiled some facts and figures, as well as answers to questions some of us may have about Native Americans and their culture.  This list is far from complete, and I encourage you to discover what you’ve always wanted to learn about Native people and their history.

Below you will also find ways to celebrate Native American Heritage Month for yourself, plus Fiction and Non-Fiction books from Native American authors – and a few movies, too.  All titles are available at our library, so get to celebrating!

Census information as of 2014

Population:  American Indians and Alaska Natives made up 2% of the US population (5.4 million people), including those that are more than one race.

Race:  Of the 5.4 million, only 48% are fully American Indian or Alaska Natives.  The other 52% are American Indian or Alaska Natives in combination with at least one other race.

Reservations and Tribes:  As of 2015 there were 326 federally recognized American Indian reservations and 566 federally recognized American Indian tribes.

Income:  The median income for single-race Native American and Alaska Native households was $37,227 (compared to $53,657 for the United States as a whole).

Poverty:  Single-race Native Americans and Alaska Natives had a poverty rate of 28.3%, the highest rate of any race group in America.

Higher Education:  13.9% of single-race Native Americans and Alaska Natives, ages 25 and over, had a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.

Language:  26.8% of single-race Native Americans and Alaska Natives ages 5 and older spoke a language other than English at home.

2010 American Indians and Alaska Natives in the United States Map from the U.S. Census Bureau

2010 American Indians and Alaska Natives in the United States Map from the U.S. Census Bureau

More interesting facts here

FAQ about Native Americans

Are all Native Americans considered US citizens?

  • In 1924, all Native Americans who were born in the US were granted citizenship, although not all states allowed them to vote until 1957.

Do all Native Americans live on reservations?

  • According to the 2010 census, only 22% of the country’s 5.2 million Native Americans live on tribal lands. Many Natives have left reservations seeking jobs and higher education.

Do any Native Americans still live on their original tribal land?

  • There are some reservations that are located on a tribe’s original land, while others were created by the Federal government for the tribes forced from their land.

Do tribes make their own laws, or live under the laws of the US?

  • Federally recognized tribes have a sovereign, government-to-government relationship with the United States. They legally govern themselves aside from some restrictions from Congress, federal courts, and treaties with the U.S.  They are able to form their own governments, make and enforce laws, tax, provide licenses and regulate activities, and more.  They are unable to print their own currency, start wars, or take part in foreign relations.

What is life like on a reservation?

  • Living on a reservation has been compared by some to living in a Third World country. For many there are few jobs, a lack of employment opportunity, and inadequate and substandard housing including a lack of running water, phones, and electricity.

Can anyone visit a reservation?

  • All reservations have their own laws and therefore different policies on visiting. Make sure to contact the proper tribe to ask about their policy and be aware of etiquette if given permission to visit.  Here is a link to the Tribal Leaders Directory that provides contact information for each tribe.  Here is a link to some tips on visiting a reservation.

Do Native Americans still speak their tribe’s language?

  • Before European influence, it is estimated that there were over 100,000 different Native languages. Today, over 70% of Native Americans say they only speak English at home.  Navajo is the most-spoken Native language, at 150,000 people.

What is the history behind Native American names?

  • This is a fascinating topic that cannot be fully represented by a short answer. The brief version is that many Native Americans have a complex naming tradition.  Their names are said to speak to an individual’s personality and even change over the course of their lives.

What was the Native American population before 1492?

  • No one knows for sure. Not many population records were kept at all during that time period.  All scientists have to go on are historical writings, and even then they can only guess.  At the low end, anthropologist Alfred Kroeber estimated 8.4 million.  At the high end, anthropologist Henry Dobyn estimated 112.5 million.  What almost everyone can agree on is that the Native population decreased significantly after 1492.

Do Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving?

  • In 2015, Huffington Post published an article that interviewed the ancestors of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, the first tribe to make contact with the Massachusetts Pilgrims of 1620. This is a quote from their current tribal president and chairman on how he celebrates the holiday:  “We are Americans as well, and so even today, I sit down at Thanksgiving with family.”  He goes on to note that Thanksgiving is equally a time to reflect on the tragedies they suffered then and ones they continue to suffer today.  So while many consider it a day to give thanks, it is also seen as a national day of mourning.

What are some current issues facing Native Americans today?

  • The Dakota Access Pipeline has been in the news recently. The construction of the pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation may potentially threaten their water supply.  The Sioux also say the pipeline would disrupt sacred land.
  • Click here for a Smithsonian article about the current controversy, and here to visit the Standing Rock Sioux website.

How can I find out if I have Native American ancestors?

  • If you believe you may have Native American ancestry, here is a guide provided by the Office of Public Affairs – Indian Affairs on how to begin genealogical research as well as tribal enrollment information.
  • Visit us at the Williamson County Public Library to get free access to Ancestry.com with your library card.

6881eed3f57f35152cae7b85252d784dHow can I participate in Native American Heritage Month?

  • Click here for some creative ideas on how to celebrate.
  • Read a book or watch a movie – all available @WCPL!
  • Non-Fiction
    • The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West by Peter Cozzens (978.02 COZ)
    • Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan (770.92 EGA)
    • Empire of the Summer Moon : Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne (978.004974572 GWY)
    • 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus by Charles C. Mann (970.011 MAN)
    • With My Own Eyes: A Lakota Woman Tells Her People’s History by Susan Bordeaux Bettelyoun (973.04975 BET)
    • On the REZ by Ian Frazier (978.366 FRA)
    • Killing Custer by James Welch (973.82 WEL)
  • Fiction
    • Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie (F ALE)
    • House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday (F MOM)
    • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (YA F ALE)
  • Film
    • Smoke Signals (DVD SMOKE)
    • Dances with Wolves (DVD DANCES)
    • The Last of the Mohicans (DVD LAST)
    • Longmire – TV series (DVD LONGMIRE)
    • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee – (DVD BURY)
  • More Suggested Reading:

Other Resources for Native American History Month

  • Click here for audio and video resources from the Library of Congress, Smithsonian, and more.

It is impossible to accurately represent an entire people in a single blog while retaining the real essence, beauty, and complexity of their culture.  I urge everyone who is interested in any aspect of Native American life to read more, learn more, and attempt to truly understand the lives and history of America’s Native people.

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Guy Fawkes Day/Bonfire Night

By Jessica Dunkel, Reference Department

“Remember, remember, the 5th of November

Gunpowder treason and plot…”

Who is Guy Fawkes and why do they burn his effigies in England every 5th of November? I mean — that seems a bit harsh. To be fair, the modern-day celebration is more about fireworks and parades, which is far more humane than what actually happened to Guy Fawkes in the aftermath of November 5th, 1605.

Some History: A few months before the fateful November 5th a group of men, Guy Fawkes among them, were plotting to kill King James I of England. Why, you ask, would they want to do such a thing?

The hatred of the monarchy began with the throne’s predecessor, Queen Elizabeth I. Under Elizabeth’s reign it was illegal for Catholics like Fawkes and his co-conspirators to celebrate mass or marry according to Catholic rites. Maybe if the Pope hadn’t excommunicated Elizabeth I in 1570 she would not have gone to such lengths, which included killing dozens of priests.

After the reign of Elizabeth I ended in 1603 Catholics in England had hope that King James I would be different. His mother, Mary Queen of Scotts, was Catholic, and it was said that his wife converted to Catholicism. It was even rumored that King James I would convert as well. Unfortunately for the Catholic population, King James I treated them just as poorly as the former Queen had. He publically condemned the Catholic religion, referred to it as a superstition, and ordered all Catholic priests to leave England. And so, a group of Catholic dissidents decided to blow him up.

But how do you go about blowing up the King of England? In what would later be called the “Gunpowder Plot”, Guy Fawkes and 12 others planned to blow him up indirectly.fawkes-1

The Plot: Many people believe that Guy Fawkes was the mastermind behind the Gunpowder Plot. In reality, he’s probably so popular because he was caught in the act of carrying it out. The real leader and creator of the plot was Robert Catesby. His idea was to kill the king, kidnap his daughter, and marry her off to a Catholic to restore their rights in the kingdom. In order to do that the current regime had to be destroyed.

Using the alias John Johnson, Fawkes was chosen to pose as caretaker of a cellar located directly below the House of Lords. The group had managed to smuggle 36 barrels of gunpowder into the cellar and would wait until the 5th of November when Parliament was in session for Fawkes to light the fuse.

The Mysterious Letter: To this day no one knows who sent the letter that unraveled the Gunpowder Plot. The letter advised its recipient to avoid the House of Lords, which was handed over to authorities and spurred them to search Westminster Palace. They found Fawkes in his cellar, along with the barrels of gunpowder and a match. That was all of the evidence they needed to capture Fawkes and torture him until (after two grueling days) he revealed the names of his co-conspirators. Four were killed while resisting arrest; the others were tried and executed for their treason.

The Punishment: Being found guilty of treason in seventeenth-century England was one of the last things you would ever want to happen. Fawkes was to be hung, drawn, and quartered after having his stomach opened before his eyes. Fawkes, a rebel until his death, jumped off the hangman’s platform and died from a broken neck. Although he saved himself from his horrible punishment, they still quartered him to be sent to the four corners of the kingdom as a warning to potential traitors.

Unintentional Consequences: The Gunpowder Plot had not only failed, it backfired. King James I worked even harder to make sure Catholics knew he, not the Pope, had authority over them. The king required that every citizen take an oath saying just that. Catholics in England were not fully liberated from legal restrictions including the right to vote, practice law, or serve in the military until the 19th century.

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Guy Fawkes Night celebrations in Lewes, England

The Celebration: The king and parliament had narrowly escaped being blown to pieces. In 1606 they would officially commemorate November 5th as a day of thanks and celebration. Back then, there was still an anti-Catholic atmosphere surrounding the festivities. They would burn effigies of the Pope and Guy Fawkes. They also gathered for parades, set off fireworks, and made huge bonfires.

Today’s Celebrations: Britain still celebrates Guy Fawkes Day every 5th of November. Although the anti-Catholic sentiment is nowhere near as wide-spread, some groups still burn effigies of the 1605 Pope in keeping with tradition. The town of Lewes is particularly noted for burning effigies, including the Pope, Guy Fawkes, and current political figures. Different towns celebrate in different ways, but among the celebrations you will find burning tar barrels, seriously big bonfires, fireworks, torches, costumes, and members of bonfire societies leaping through open flames. Not an event for the faint of heart.

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Wax Guy Fawkes effigy ready for the bonfire

The Mask: Americans might not know Guy Fawkes from the 5th of November plot, but from the Guy Fawkes masks used by protestors to protect their identity. The graphic novel and film V for Vendetta used the mask while overthrowing a suppressive government in future dystopian England. What inspired protestors to use it in real-life situations? The illustrator of the graphic novel, David Lloyd, says it best, “It’s a great symbol of protest for anyone who sees tyranny.”

Many groups have used Guy Fawkes’ face as a way to protect their identity while protesting against what they consider to be tyrannical establishments. From the hactivist group Anonymous to Egyptian protestors during the Arab Spring movement, these masks have become a symbol of anti-establishment protest.

Guy Fawkes may have lost the battle for Catholic rights in 17th century England, but his face has come to serve as a symbol of protest throughout the world.

Hactivist group Anonymous protesting at the Scientology area in Los Angeles

Hactivist group Anonymous protesting at the Scientology area in Los Angeles

 


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It’s National Friends of the Library Week!

By Jeffie Nicholson, Reference Departmentfotl-wcpltn

What is a Friends of the Library group?  They are outstanding individuals who value the services a public library provides to a community.  They are willing to volunteer their time and talents plus dedicate themselves to the promotion and support of their local library.

To recognize and celebrate the volunteer and fundraising work of Friends in local community libraries, the United for Libraries division of the American Library Association designates one week in October as the National Friends of Libraries Week.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has proclaimed October 16-22, 2016, as Friends of Libraries Week in Tennessee and encourages all citizens to join in this worthy observance.fotl-1

Our own Friends of the Williamson County Public Library group was established in 1961.  They held their first meeting on December 3 at the War Memorial Public Library. Over the years, they have contributed thousands of dollars to our  library.  Nearly $15,000 for books was raised this year. They also provide support for staff training and education, and other endeavors as they arise.fotl-2

Our Friends raise these funds via membership fees, their book sales and events such as the Special Children’s Book Sales and by selling t-shirts and book bags. Members volunteer to help out with these and library events plus special Friends events like October’s “Boo Books” on October 24.fotl-summer-2012-book-sale

“The library has always played such an important role in my life and in my family’s life,” said Friends president Debbie Eades. “I truly enjoy being able to give something back – and being an active member of this group is fun!”

Our Friends of the Library are truly priceless and our library system would be bereft without their contributions. Did you know that the value of a volunteer hour is now assessed at $20.56? It leaves you speechless when you think about all the time our Friends give to the library.

“Our library would be much poorer without the Friends,” said Library Director Dolores Greenwald. “The funds they raise are such a valuable contribution to our community. I think most patrons would be surprised to learn how much support is provided by our local Friends groups.”

— Andrew Gold video : Thank You for Being a Friend!

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The Scary Truth of Banned Books Week

By Rebecca Tischler, Reference Department

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Banned Books Display at WCPLtn

It’s that time of year again, the time to celebrate… the freedom to READ!!  Banned Books Week is Sept. 25 – Oct. 1, an annual week that highlights the importance of free and open access to information.  Yeah, I know we’re also gearing up for Halloween, with fantasies of 5 candy corns, 4 chocolate kisses, 3 tiny monsters, 2 couple costumes and a big ole’ jack-o-latern… well, close enough.  Is it not terrifying to think about the possibility that not only could you be told what you have to read (thank you summer and required reading), but that you could also be told what you can’t read?

That may not be quite as terrifying as having dead pets come back from the grave as violent and disturbed zombies, or having a scarred psychopath with claws for fingers chase you in your dreams, but still, it’s scary.  Farenheit 451 and Brave New World scary (Have you read them? They’re pretty good, and they’ve also been challenged or banned in an ironic twist). That’s why we have Banned Books Week, the annual event “brings together the entire book community – librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types – in shared support of the freedom to seek, to publish, to read, and to express ideas, even those [that] some consider unorthodox or unpopular,” according to the American Library Association (ALA).

This week encourages people to look at some of the efforts that have been taken across the country, including the reasoning behind those efforts, to remove or restrict access to books. This draws national attention to the harms of censorship, and the infringement on intellectual freedom.  The ALA really says it best, so take a look at an excerpt from their website:bbw2016_poster-jpg

What Is Intellectual Freedom?

Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored… Intellectual freedom is the basis for our democratic system. We expect our people to be self-governors. But to do so responsibly, our citizenry must be well-informed. Libraries provide the ideas and information, in a variety of formats, to allow people to inform themselves. Intellectual freedom encompasses the freedom to hold, receive and disseminate ideas.

What Is Censorship?

Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons—individuals, groups or government officials—find objectionable or dangerous. It is no more complicated than someone saying, “Don’t let anyone read this book, or buy that magazine, or view that film, because I object to it! ” Censors try to use the power of the state to impose their view of what is truthful and appropriate, or offensive and objectionable, on everyone else. Censors pressure public institutions, like libraries, to suppress and remove from public access information they judge inappropriate or dangerous, so that no one else has the chance to read or view the material and make up their own minds about it. The censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone… In most instances, a censor is a sincerely concerned individual who believes that censorship can improve society, protect children, and restore what the censor sees as lost moral values. But under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, each of us has the right to read, view, listen to, and disseminate constitutionally protected ideas, even if a censor finds those ideas offensive.

What Is The Relationship Between Censorship And Intellectual Freedom?

In expressing their opinions and concerns, would-be censors are exercising the same rights librarians seek to protect when they confront censorship. In making their criticisms known, people who object to certain ideas are exercising the same rights as those who created and disseminated the material to which they object. Their rights to voice opinions and try to persuade others to adopt those opinions is protected only if the rights of persons to express ideas they despise are also protected. The rights of both sides must be protected, or neither will survive… Censors might sincerely believe that certain materials are so offensive, or present ideas that are so hateful and destructive to society, that they simply must not see the light of day. Others are worried that younger or weaker people will be badly influenced by bad ideas, and will do bad things as a result. Still others believe that there is a very clear distinction between ideas that are right and morally uplifting, and ideas that are wrong and morally corrupting, and wish to ensure that society has the benefit of their perception. They believe that certain individuals, certain institutions, even society itself, will be endangered if particular ideas are disseminated without restriction. What censors often don’t consider is that, if they succeed in suppressing the ideas they don’t like today, others may use that precedent to suppress the ideas they do like tomorrow.

And just for fun, take a look at the top ten most challenged books of 2015:

  1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  2. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
  3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
    Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
  4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
    Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
  6. The Holy Bible
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
  7. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
    Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
  8. Habibi, by Craig Thompson
    Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  9. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
  10. Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
    Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).

    Banned Books Display at WCPLtn

    Banned Books Display at WCPLtn

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Gone Girl — A Puzzling Disappearance

By Sharon Reily, Reference Deaprtment

An accomplished young woman goes missing and is presumed murdered. Is her cheating husband the culprit or is she deviously punishing him for being unfaithful? After a massive search and media frenzy, she turns up alive. Sound like the premise of Gone Girl, right? Guess again. This actually happened to one of the world’s most beloved novelists!

The titles Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, And Then There Were None might seem a bit familiar as some of the best known mysteries by the queen of whodunits, Agatha Christie. September 15 marks the 126th anniversary of Agatha’s birth in 1890. During a career that thrived from 1920 until her death in 1976, she penned 66 detective novels, 14 short story collections, the world’s longest running play (The Mousetrap), and created the beloved fictional detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. She also wrote romance novels under the pen name Mary Westmacott. Her intricately plotted tales of love, murder, greed, and jealousy have sold more than a billion copies, making her one of the most popular writers of all time.

agatha-in-1925-how-she-looked-near-the-time-of-the-disappearanceBut in 1926 Agatha, already an established writer, became the subject of a mystery herself – one that has never been solved. She simply vanished one wintery evening. She was found safe 11 days later, but with no memory or explanation of what had happened to her.

At 9:45 on the evening of December 3, 1926, 36-year-old Agatha Christie kissed her sleeping daughter Rosalind, and then drove away from Styles, her English estate. Her abandoned vehicle was found on a slope not far from her home with the hood up and lights on. There was no sign of Agatha, but her fur coat, driver’s license, and overnight bag were still in the car.

Her car had been left near “the Silent Pool,” a natural spring where several children reportedly had died. There was much speculation that she had drowned herself or had been murdered and a massive search ensued.  The search for the author (whose recent novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, was already selling briskly) was at the time the largest manhunt in British history with over 1,000 officers and 15,000 volunteers on Agatha’s trail. A fleet of planes was employed – the first time they’d been used in England in a missing person’s case. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got in on the action, taking one of Agatha’s gloves to a famous medium. Dorothy L. Sayers, creator of the Lord Peter Wimsey mystery series, examined the scene around the abandoned car. Their efforts turned up no clues.

By the end of the first week, Agatha’s disappearance was a national obsession, and was reported on the cover of the New York Times. Theories abounded. Some thought the disappearance was a publicity stunt to boost sales of her latest book, but it was already selling well before she vanished. Others thought she might have been injured in a car crash and wandered off suffering from amnesia. But the car showed no sign of an accident.

Some also suggested that Agatha was missing because of her husband’s affair. Her husband, Archie Christie, a former Royal Flying Corps pilot, didn’t hide his philandering ways from his wife. He was currently having an affair with Nancy Neele, a young friend of the couple, and Agatha’s car was found near a house where her husband was planning a rendezvous with Nancy. This suggested to some that Agatha was trying to thwart the affair, or even frame Archie and Nancy. Many even suspected Archie had killed Agatha.

christie_at_hydroOn the 11th day of her disappearance, Agatha was recognized by a musician at the Swan Hydropathic Hotel, a luxury spa in Harrogate. She had registered there as “Theresa Neele” from Cape Town, curiously using the last name of her husband’s mistress. Later Agatha’s husband claimed that she was suffering from complete amnesia – she reportedly didn’t know him when he came to collect her at the hotel and she had also failed to recognize herself in newspaper photos during her stay there. Agatha, her family, and friends maintained a lifelong silence about the lost 11 days. So the mystery remained a mystery.

After the incident, Agatha resumed her prolific writing career, which continued with enormous acclaim for many decades. She also divorced Archie in 1928 and made a happier match with the renowned archaeologist Max Mallowan in 1930. They were married until her death.

In his 2006 book Agatha Christie: The Finished Portrait, Andrew Norman advanced a new theory that during her disappearance Agatha was experiencing a rare deluded condition called a “fugue state” — a psychogenic trance brought on by trauma or depression. The facts of her life in 1926 seem to back up his conclusions. Her mother passed away, and with immense sorrow Agatha spent a great deal of time alone clearing out the family home. This added strain to her marriage. She was also struggling to write her next novel. To top it off, Archie revealed he had fallen in love with a family friend, Nancy Neele.

Agatha completed her autobiography when she was 75, and one might assume this work would offer the definitive explanation of those 11 days in 1926. Wrong! Not one word about the disappearance is included. Still, Agatha offers some clues about her state of mind around the time of the incident that seem to bolster Andrew Norman’s theory. Of her time spent cleaning out her late mother’s house, she writes, “I began to get confused and muddled over things. I never felt hungry and ate less and less. Sometimes I would sit down, put my hands to my head, and try to remember what it was I was doing.” She later mentions her extreme loneliness and a sense that she was ill. She once started to write a check and could not remember her name. She also suffered a meltdown when her car wouldn’t start. Years later, she believed she had been suffering a nervous breakdown. Could Agatha have been offering an explanation of her odd disappearance, or was she covering up the fact that the incident was an elaborate hoax?

agatha_poster-page-001Almost 90 years later, the story of the missing author still sparks the imagination and has found its place in popular culture, a lot. While not touching on the disappearance, Agatha’s semiautobiographical novel Unfinished Portrait mirrors the disintegration of her first marriage to Archie at the time of the event. Dorothy L. Sayers, who failed to solve Agatha’s disappearance, used elements of it in her novel Unnatural Death. The disappearance was the subject of the 1979 film Agatha starring Vanessa Redgrave as the author and Timothy Dalton as Archie. There are also two new movies in the works about Agatha, one reportedly starring Emma Stone and the other Alicia Vikander. And of course, the Doctor Who episode “The Unicorn and the Wasp” offered a completely plausible explanation of Agatha’s disappearance involving a giant alien wasp (Series 4, Episode 7).  It makes complete sense.

We’ll never know what really happened to Agatha Christie in December of 1926. The incident remains the greatest mystery in the life of one of our greatest mystery writers.

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