Year: 2014

New Year’s Water-lution!

It’s that time of year when we make resolutions about how to improve our lives for thLogo-we're for watere upcoming 12 months!  This year, how about a Water-lution?!  Resolve to save water–it may be easier than losing those “last” 5 pounds!  There are easy ways to save, especially when the WaterSense program can help identify appliances that are water efficient and will maintain their water savings over the years.  Sounds good, right?

When purchasing and installing products with the WaterSense label, you know you’ll get the water savings…unlike all that working out and dieting!  Is that 5 pounds ever going to go away?!?

WaterSense labeled products are backed by independent third party certification and meet EPA’s specifications for water efficiency and performance. So, when you use WaterSense labeled products in your home or business, you can be confident you’ll be saving water without sacrifice.

Also, the City’s toilet replacement program only rebates WaterSense labeled toilets.  Another good reason to look for WaterSense.

By clicking on the We’re for Water logo, you can take a pledge to save water and there’s great tips to get you saving.  It’s easy!  And there’s a money-back guarantee!  Just kidding…this is a free pledge.  (Though you could save money by fixing leaks.)

Happy New Year!

 

 

Winter Waterland

I’ve frozen irrstarted hearing the question: “how much to I water the lawn in the winter?”  from the newly moved here Texans; of course, the answer depends on who you talk to!  As you know, the winter months are a great time to cut back on water use, reduce water bills, and make sure things are running properly and efficiently at your property.  Winter is ideal, because during these cooler months, your irrigation system doesn’t need to run as often, or at all, and many utilities use the average of the winter water consumption to determine the wastewater charges for the rest of the year.

Central Texas doesn’t typically have the long, hard freezes that more common to the northern areas of the state and country, so often “winterizing” the irrigation system isn’t as a necessity as it is where freezes are more prolonged.  In our region, the most valuable adjustment you can make is to reduce the watering schedule or simply turn off the irrigation controller during the winter months.  Because the temperatures are cooler, less water is lost to evaporation and transpiration and plants simply do not need as much to replenish what is lost.

In addition to cooler temperatures, winter is typically our rainy season too, so it’s best to take advantage of the free, nitrogen-rich rainfall.  During normal winter conditions, the irrigation doesn’t need to be turned on more than once per month, if at all.

If you DO want to turn it off completely and winterize your system as a precaution and to ensure water savings, there are a few quick steps to take, or call a licensed irrigator to do it for you.backflow_cover

  1. First locate the backflow prevention device or the main valve to the sprinkler system.  Both are usually located very close to the water meter.  The backflow is located in a box that typically has a green, rectangular, plastic lid.  See the picture on the right.
  2. Next, turn the water off to the system at the backflow device.  Do this by opening up the green lid and turning one of the handles so that it is perpendicular to the metal device.  In the picture, the handles of the backflow are blue.  The arrows are pointing to the handles.  It’s not necessary to turn them both, just one will be fine.
  3. Then manually run each station for a minute or less to blow the rest of the water in the lines out; this eliminates the chance of any residual water freezing in the lines and causing pipe breaks or cracks.backflow device edited

4. Turn the system controller off when all the stations have run and leave the system off for the duration of the winter.

Again, this type of winterizing is not always necessary here, due to the lack of long, hard freezes; however if your irrigation system isn’t going to be used all winter, it certainly is worth the time to turn it off and clean the lines out.

 

Round Rock Night before Christmas 2014 (or, The Truth about Our Favorite Public Library Customer)

 

‘Tis Christmas Eve
night, and Round Rock’s slumber-bound,
In the mood for a
holiday story profound.

We desire an account of
Saint Nick’s successes
With gifts all conveyed
before dawn coalesces.

But what if, instead,
this page shared revelations
Concerning the hero of
our expectations?

For Santa’s not perfect:
he’s prone to distraction.
His helpers must
frequently re-direct action.

It now can be told that
the elves micromanage—
But kindly and always to
Santa’s advantage.

For starters, they have
to hide Santa’s e-reader
Beneath a tall,
festively-trimmed North Pole cedar.  

They’ve learned that
their leader’s delivery pace quickens
When he yearns to get
back to John Grisham or Dickens.

The elves also know that
attractions in Round Rock
Represent, for tight
schedules, a stumbling block.

When the windows of
ArtSpace or sculpture displays
Snag Santa’s attention,
they drag him away.

Ditto for the fabulous
Rock’N Lights drive,
Of which (most
regrettably) Santa’s deprived.

On the other hand, Santa
applies to his mission
Perceptions ascribed to
a master tactician.

Supplying his sleigh
with an awesome sufficiency,
He briskly embodies a
modern efficiency.

His app-laden phone can
pinpoint chimney mounts,
And the cookie-and-milk
tracker calories counts.

GPS-guided reindeer
precisely chart courses,
So you’d think all
things digital Santa endorses.

Well, you’d be mostly
right (though no techie device
Has proven to properly
check his lists twice).

No, Santa’s a type both
admired and exemplary:
Respecting tradition and
21st century.

And that is
what–library staffers exclaim–
Endears him to us even
more than his fame.  

Like Santa, we offer a
new-and-old fusion,
So customers’ smiles are
a foregone conclusion.

With our databases,
classics, and fiction debuts,
We even helped Santa
check product reviews.

He never would outsource
the checking of lists
But is glad when the
library lends an assist

With elf-pleasing story
times
, demographics, and guidance
On suppliers of toys and
requested appliances.

We pretend that we don’t
comprehend his ID,
Detect his disguise and
his purpose foresee.

He’s a library patron
adored and ambitious
So on Christmas Eve we
set out something delicious.

No baked goods or
dairy—no, we intervene
With a tall foamy mug
brimming full of caffeine.

And thus fortified for
the rest of his flight,
Santa’s certain to wish
one and all a Good Night

And Peace, Joy, and
Happiness, Joyeux Noel,
From all of your friends
here at RRPL!

——————————————————–

From 2013:  “Rocksssanne’s Christmas Eve Ramble”

And, 2012’s “The Night Before Christmas at Round Rock Public Library”

The gift that keeps on changing

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like a wrapping a present and not giving it.  –William Arthur Ward

There!  With someone else’s graceful expression, I address the ThanksgivingBlackFridayChristmas mash-up constructively — unlike what happened at home:  Schlepping laundry across the TV-viewing area last week, I spied a beloved holiday (hint: not Thanksgiving) production radiating merrily from the screen.  In tones better reserved for violent or slanderous content, I huffed, “Are you kidding me???” and stomped out. 

“Told you,” my daughter observed to my husband.

Thanksgiving, until recently, represented our last chance for appreciative reflection before the onslaught of commercial appeals to max out our credit cards in pursuit of Holiday Magic. However, as confirmed by increasing numbers of retail employees obliged to depart family gatherings early or miss them altogether to staff pre-Black Friday promotions, standards continue to evolve. 

Chief among blessings I count are novels that explore facets of contemporary experience, thus helping us acquire greater perspective and process change.   

These forthcoming books — I’ve already designated them for library purchase — could accomplish that:

John Vaillant’s The Jaguar’s Children (Jan. 2015) imagines the plight of illegal immigrants abandoned in the Arizona desert in a broken-down water truck that has been welded shut in what Luis Alberto Urrea (The Devil’s Highway) calls …a real-world horror worthy of Stephen King.”

Detroit’s financial troubles precipitate the plight of a hard-working family in Angela Flournoy’s The Turner House (4/21/15) as their cherished investment falls victim to economic decline.

Readers heartened by the posthumous awarding of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to three civil rights workers slain in 1964 should watch for Ravi Howard’s Driving the King (1/6/15), set in 1950s Montgomery but based on an actual incident in Birmingham.  After a friend leaps onstage to defend Cole from a white audience member’s attack and consequently draws a prison sentence, Cole hires him as his chauffeur/bodyguard in Los Angeles. 

The Navy studies of combat roles for female soldiers could spark interest in these stories about other women in traditionally male spheres:  Angelina Mirabella’s The Sweetheart (1/20/15)–women’s professional wrestling in the early 1950s, and Anna Freeman’s The Fair Fight (4/14/15) –a female bare-knuckle fighter pursuing fame in 18th-century England.

If you’re intrigued by trends in workplace culture, try these soon-available novels, both of which have elicited comparisons to Kafka:  Swedish actor/playwright Jonas Karlsson’s The Room (2/17/15) features a government employee who surmounts his co-workers’ disdain by creating a special private workspace not visible to others.  The Guard by Peter Terrin (1/6/15) envisions a not-too-distant future in which Harry and Michel, confined to the basement of the luxury apartment building they are hired to secure, begin to sense that no one is left to protect…

Not (thankfully) related to actual events, Robert Repino’s Mort(e) depicts an Orwellian upending of society–ants, in league with four-legged creatures, have taken over the world.  Look for it on 1/20/15; in the meantime, be especially kind to your pets.  

And the many fans of Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project will be grateful to follow developments (no spoilers here!) in The Rosie Effect, due out December 30.

Top 10 Reasons to Aerate your lawn

I came across a good website (aerate-lawn.com) the other day about lawn aeration, and the numerous benefits associated with it.  It was timely for me, as I was discussing the same topic with some colleagues recently.  Lawn aeration is crucial to having a healthy yard that requires less water.  We’ll discuss how, but first:aeration

What is aeration?  It’s the process of pulling soil plugs out of the yard mechanically, not just poking holes in the ground.  (In the top picture on the right, you can see the round, tube-like plugs of soil.)

You want the plugs pulled out of the lawn, because that’s where the benefits happen, you’re creating space for the water, roots, and air to get into the soil.  By simply poking holes in the ground, you’re creating more soil compaction.

  1. Reduces your dependency on water. Why spend more money watering your lawn than you have to?
  2. Aerating encourages your roots to grow deeper. Within two weeks of aerating, you’ll notice that the holes left by the aerator start to fill up with plant roots.  These roots are growing thicker and deeper.
  3. Lawn aerator holes help to absorb water. Rather than water having to start penetrating from the surface, it can start penetrating from one to 2 ½ inches below the surface. Not only will the holes made by the aerator hold the water, but they will also help the water to sink 2 inches deeper into the soil.core aeration
  4. It encourages thicker turf. As your roots grow down, your grass will grow quicker and thicker, creating a thicker turf.
  5. Using a lawn aerator helps build organic material in the soil.  Compacted soil just doesn’t have nearly as much organic material in it.
  6. Reduces soil compaction. Aerating also reduces compaction on the roots.
  7. Your lawn stays greener because it doesn’t need as much water to stay green, and because deeper roots have more access to nutrients.
  8. Aerating adds a layer of top-dressing to your lawn.  Aerating your lawn is like giving it top-dressing. This reason alone makes me want to aerate my lawn twice a year.
  9. Lawn aeration reduces runoff. If you’ve ever watered your lawn, only to see it all run off into the street, you know what I’m talking about. When you aerate your lawn, the water goes into the ground and not just over the top of it.
  10. Lawn aeration, as the name implies, makes it easier for your lawn to breathe. Your lawn can more readily exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide with the environment when you aerate it.

After talking with landscape professionals, I heard various recommendations to my question, “when is the best time to aerate?”  The overall answer is, really, there is no bad time, you can’t aerate too much!  But really, you want to do it while the grass is growing, so not during winter months.

Locally, many landscape companies provide this service, and there is at least one place I know of that rents an aerator.

Find many more reasons to aerate your lawn online.

Keep Water use Low in Winter and Save Year-Round

Winter seems to have come quickly this year!  It’s already the middle of November and wastewater averaging (WWA) is upon us.  3 month calendarWhat is wastewater averaging, you ask?  Well, let me tell you…

In the winter months (November, December, January, and February) the City assumes that our water usage is lower than any other time of year, simply because it’s cold out, its winter, we’re not watering our yards.  These are the months when water consumption is low, so the City uses these 3 billing cycles (Nov-Dec, Dec-Jan, Jan-Feb) to determine how much we’re going to be charged for waste water for the rest of the year.  See, the City has no meters on the waste water line; essentially the City makes an educated assumption that all water being used is going down the drains at our houses.  Since no water is being used outdoors (right?  Turn off those sprinkler systems!), then the theory is that all water is being used indoors, for necessary purposes-baths, showers, toilets, sinks, dish and clothes washers, etc.

The average of those months water use is what you are charged for waste water for the remainder of the year.  So, for example, if you use 5400 gallons on your Dec bill, 4900 on January bill, and 4500 on February bill then your WWA would be 5400 + 4900 + 4500 / 3 = 4933, which would be rounded to 4900 gallons.  So, for the rest of the year, the most you’ll be charged for waste water is 4900 gallons!  That’s good!  No matter if your water use goes higher in the summer; the waste water use is capped at 4900 gallons.

This is a number that is recalculated annually, so if you “mess up” and refill your pool or keep watering that yard the whole winter, you can fix it the next year by keeping the water use down.  So again, turn off those sprinklers!

Another way to keep water use low in winter is to check for leaks, especially in your toilets.  Watch my latest video on how to check for leaks and check your toilet to see if it’s efficient.  What I say in the video is that toilets using 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf) or less are considered efficient.  I want to add to that a little, by saying that on January 1, 2014, it became state law that all toilets sold in Texas must use 1.28 gallons per flush OR LESS.  So that means, even if you have a 1.6 gpf toilet, you can make it even more efficient, and save more water each time you flush (and reduce those waste water charges further) by upgrading to a new 1.28 gpf toilet!  The City’s water conservation program’s has a rebate program for this upgrade.  Find the details at www.roundrocktexas.gov/waterconservation.

All I want is a room somewhere (else)

It’s tempting to channel Eliza Dolittle, imagining what would be architecturally “loverly” even before blueprints for the new library get underway.

 

Recently I speculated how our workflow would benefit if staff offices were situated close together, so that we could quickly step over and consult with someone involved in cataloging, processing, or some other aspect of collection development.  Julie, who’d just trekked across second floor from her office to return a journal to the Reference office, nodded:   Yeah,” she agreed, “like the Panopticon in Horrorstor!”

 

Now, that Panopticon is a dreadful (and thankfully fictional) destination.  But take away the torture devices and utter despair, and you have an undeniably collaborative floor plan.  We gave Julie a thumbs-up.

 

But then ideas from unexpected sources are always energizing.  My current TV favorite, Flea Market Flip, could run for decades before I’d tire of cheering its intrepid contestants. With budget and list in hand, they troll through acres of random stuff, suddenly halting to exclaim over sad, damaged chairs, rusty industrial parts, and unstylish bedroom suites. Combining vision and an encyclopedic knowledge of crafts (and usually spray paint) they rehabilitate their finds into trendy creations sold at a profit.

 

Though not a fan of the ubiquitous Midcentury end table projects, I admire the fusion of thrift, repurposing, and out-of-the-box inspiration. 

 

That said, I clearly need to balance imagination with attention to more conventional goings-on.   Here it is November–National Novel Writing Month–and I’m not participating due to zero plot ideas.  But other authors have been alert to life as we know it.  Their titles demonstrate the appeal of burnishing already-relatable themes–less spray paint, more polish:

 

Monica McInerney’s Hello from the Gillespies   entertainingly considers the Annual Christmas Letter tradition.  Recipients of other families’ oh-so-perfect holiday newsletters (a demographic which includes everyone I know) have surely wondered which events went unreported.  And consider the soul-freeing option of at least momentarily committing to holiday-themed paper (or email) all the disappointments and frustrations blotting one’s past year.  What could possibly go wrong there?

 

William Hazelgrove gift-wraps another Yuletide standard, the Santa Claus question, in Real Santa.  A classic scenario–father recently unemployed yet determined to preserve a child’s delight in magic—ramps up extravagantly; this father knows the right people (or so he believes) and spares no expense.  From the Booklist review:  “If somebody doesn’t make a movie out of this book, there’s something wrong with the world.”

 

Julie Schumacher’s heartwarmingly satirical Dear Committee Members stars English professor Jason Fitger in a Grinch-y role.  Fitger’s department is underfunded, downtrodden, and forced to dodge plummeting chunks of plaster while the Economics department one floor above gets a posh renovation.  Furious and faced with a constant inflow of requests for letters of recommendation, Jason finally (and luckily for fiction fans) resorts to decrying wrongs and venting outrage via all those LORs.

 

Imagine availing oneself of an established informational channel just to publicize one’s observations!  What kind of person would do that?

 

Pre-owned and priceless

Some museum curators travel the globe to acquire items of significance.  A more budget-friendly strategy:  pick up the phone and graciously accept when, out of the blue, a caller offers to donate and deliver something exceptional.  Actually, that’s the only approach if your institution operates on almost no budget with a part-time staff of one.

That’s my mom.  The artifact just acquired by the Fannin County Museum of History: a custom hand-tooled saddle that belonged to famed cowboy photographer Erwin E. Smith, she reported last week.  (FCM, incidentally, honors another local boy– electric guitar pioneer Charlie Christian.)

The donation sounded beautiful and impressive, but I did wonder if a photograph or something documented its belonging to Smith.  Should I ask about provenance? I worried—just as Mom’s excited description continued with “…and along the edge, Mr. Smith’s name embossed in big letters.”  Provenance—check!

For our Antiques Roadshow-viewing household, ownership history creates the most rewarding moments: handwritten notes evidencing humor or kindness, furniture fakes attesting to trusting natures, photographs demonstrating how far back in time a necklace was worn—or how proudly a uniform was displayed in the subject’s last portrait in this life.

With some discoveries come jaw-dropping insurance valuations that prove how documentation translates into dollars.  No wonder readers seeking books about art and museum treasures so often find them cataloged with the terms “forgeries” or “theft”.

And what were the odds that I’d discover two books with “heist” in the title side by side on the Large Print shelf?  Molly Caldwell Crosby’s The Great Pearl Heist (one reviewer called it “a gem”) is a true-crime delight, recounting the 1913 theft in London of a strand of perfectly matched pink pearls valued at “twice the price of the Hope Diamond.”  (Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, stolen in 1911, was returned to the Louvre that same year.)   Ulrich Boser’s The Gardner Heist addresses the $500 million dollar theft from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (“one of history’s greatest unsolved mysteries”) that included Rembrandt’s only seascape.

In contrast to these nonfiction accounts of thieves fully cognizant of their targets’ provenance, the library’s New Fiction shelf offers Sonya Cobb’s The Objects of Her Affection, imagining a museum curator’s wife in need of some quick cash to fend off mortgage foreclosure.  Spying a cart of miscellaneous museum donations unguarded (thus, she thinks, of no particular value) she guesses that a couple of them wouldn’t be missed…

Susan Vreeland’s new Lisette’s List portrays a small art collection lovingly displayed in a humble French home, affording their owner comfort and inspiration but attracting covetous attention from occupying German forces.    Viewed alternately as trophies for Hitler and family heirlooms, the paintings act as great characters do–inspiring schemes, radiating hope, embodying unique viewpoints.

Historical fiction fans and readers who savored the artistic insights in Vreeland’s Girl in Hyacinth Blue and Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring will love this novel.  The story attests to the life-affirming power of art, and, with Vreeland’s name on it, carries a solid provenance.

Fall is Here–You Can Water Less!

Now that we’re officially into Fall and we’ve been enjoying the cooler temperatures; it’s time to reduce the watering times on your irrigation controllers.  With less evaporation occurring, the landscape doesn’t need to be watered as often as during the summer months.  My general rule of thumb is: cut watering in half during Fall and Spring.wwl fall aster

Since we are still in water restrictions (no more than twice per week watering), the easiest and maybe best way to achieve this is simply turning off one of your watering days.  Now simply water once per week, but keep all of the minutes the same.

In case you missed the blog I wrote back in early August about irrigation scheduling, I want to repeat some of that same information.  You can find the full blog here.  Basically, it’s about how to determine how many minutes to set the various zones for.

The main idea is that there are three items require some consideration when entering in how many minutes you are setting each station for-there’s no point in having specialized heads, a shady yard, and native plants if everything is going to run for 20 minutes no matter what it is.  Unfortunately, I see that happen a lot.  There’s also the consideration of soil type and soil depth; we’re not going to get into that here, but it certainly does play a huge role in irrigation amounts.

Amount of Lightamerican_beauty_berry_a

It may seem obvious, but I’m going to come out and say it anyway-shady areas require less water than sunny areas.  If you have good tree coverage and areas of the yard receive less than 6 hours of direct sunlight daily, that’s considered a shady yard.  So, when entering time into your controller, you know that the times should be higher for the sunny spots and lower for the shady ones.

Head Type

There are two main sprinkler head typesrotor and spray.  There is also drip irrigation, which technically has no head at all!

  •  Rotor heads, if you remember, rotate, so they are not watering the same area the entire time they are running, therefore, they need to run for a longer period of time than spray heads.
  • Since spray heads are stationary, they pop-up and stay watering the same spot the entire time, they can run for a shorter amount of time than rotors.
  • Drip irrigation is different. Drip typically emits water very slowly, very minimally, so it oftentimes needs to run for longer periods-30 minutes at minimum or much longer in many cases

Plant Material

Landscape (read: living plant) material is the last component of the irrigation scheduling trifecta.  It may be obvious as well, but it does need to be said-areas with no vegetation really don’t need to be watered.  The bare ground will just be muddy.  Same goes for rocky paths, they don’t grow.  Mulched areas don’t grow.  Driveways, sidewalks, patios, and decks don’t grow.  Pools don’t need to be filled by the sprinklers.

Native plants, established shrubs, or other established perennials do not, I repeat, do not need the same amount of water as the grass.  That’s why you’ve planted them-they are native!  They are made for our climate and weather conditions.   So, turn those stations off completely and just water when they look stressed (i.e. droopy leaves, limbs first thing in the morning).

You may have picked up that there’s no exact time that works for every station or even every yard!  Irrigation systems unfortunately aren’t just a turn it on and forget it.  It will take a little tweaking to determine how few minutes the yard will perform well on, and it may need to be changed every year as the trees grow and give out more shade.

Here’s a watering schedule I follow, when irrigation is necessary during the Fall (October, maybe November) months:

 

PlantExposureType of Sprinkler HeadDaysRuntime (minutes)
St. Augustinesunsprayas needed, max. 1x/wk10 to 15
rotoras needed, max. 1x/wk15 to 20
shadesprayrarely, 1x per 2 wks15
rotorrarely, 1x per 2 wks20
Bermudagrasssunsprayrarely, 1x per 2 wks15
rotorrarely, 1x per 2 wks20
shadesprayrarely, 1x per 2 wks10
rotorrarely, 1x per 2 wks20
Zoysia japonica (wide blade zoysia, El Toro, JaMur, Palisades)sunsprayas needed, max. 1x/wk10 to 15
rotoras needed, max. 1x/wk20
shadesprayrarely, 1x per 2 wks15
rotorrarely, 1x per 2 wks20
Buffalograsssunsprayrarely, 1x per 2 wks10 to 15
rotorrarely, 1x per 2 wks20
shadesprayrarely, 1x per 2 wks15
rotorrarely, 1x per 2 wks20
Common shrubssunsprayrarely, 1x per 2 wks10 to 15
rotorrarely, 1x per 2 wks20
shadesprayrarely, 1x per 2 wks15
rotorrarely, 1x per 2 wks20
Common groundcoverssunsprayrarely, 1x per 2 wks10-15
rotorrarely, 1x per 2 wks20
shadesprayrarely, 1x per 2 wks15
rotorrarely, 1x per 2 wks20

That ship has sailed. Hope there were books aboard…

Did you celebrate New Year’s last week?

Beginning October 1, City of Round Rock is operating in fiscal year 2014-15.  Friends of the Round Rock Public Library hosted a clever “End of Fiscal Year” event on September 30 for staffers with homemade goodies, non-alcoholic fruit “champagne” in glamorous bottles, and a cake.   Now, that’s how an annual wrap-up of acquisitions, deliveries, and accounting was meant to be observed!

As the sugar rush subsided, I realized that Banned Books Week had passed without much hoopla this year (see aforementioned FY deadline)–though Ron Pitchman’s photo with a copy of Captain Underpants on the library’s Facebook page was decidedly a highlight.

But we believe in honoring BBW’s principle—“freedom to read”—all year, every year.   Libraries ensure access to resources so that everyone can select (or not!) according to his/her own taste and needs while allowing others the same privilege.

Controversial literature has been with us always.  We’ve heard those back-in-the-day anecdotes about books kept behind the library counters or simply not acquired in some locales due to prevailing standards and tastes.   Now, many of those once-maligned titles occupy slots on recommended reading lists for college bound students.

Those lists come in handy (suggestions, not mandates) when customers ask to be shown “the classics section”– a shelving area that doesn’t exist physically but certainly occupies mental real estate.  We believe that classics represent enduring works–the best of the best.  But “best” in what regard—admirable prose, relevant theme, beloved characters?  For some, the “classic” designation is reserved solely for titles proven to be genteel or “safe”.

Of course, there are ways to avoid tricky literary judgments.  Some recent fiction offerings suggest that we can simply wait for circumstances to whittle down our options.

Citizens in Ally Condie’s young adult-level Matched trilogy are never overwhelmed when selecting works of art, poems, or books.  With only one hundred Society-approved choices for each, little deliberation is required.  All other options have been eliminated; the cultural landscape is devoid of “clutter”.

(As a librarian, I should regard this scenario with horror.  I do, after first pragmatically reflecting how simple it would be, with only 100 titles on offer, to stay within budget while supplying oodles of copies –print, large print, audio CD, MP3 player, downloadable audio, ebook…)

Erika Johansen’s The Queen of the Tearling imagines a society with medieval trappings existing after, not in advance of, a high-tech age.   Following a world-shattering event, this society’s ancestors set sail for a new land where books now exist, but only those salvaged from the earlier life.  The printing press has not yet been re-invented.

As the newly crowned young queen (a major fiction fan) encourages castle workers and their children to borrow her volumes freely, a royal guardsman unable to comprehend the readers’ enthusiasm comments “I don’t understand your fascination with the damned things.  They don’t feed or protect you.  They don’t keep you alive. But I see that they’re important to you”.

That’s a nice take on “freedom to read”; even better is Johansen’s observation that, while books by Tuchman, Rowling, and Tolkien are especially treasured in the royal library, “there seemed to be something for everyone.”