MacKay Branch Library, North Chelmsford MA

The area of North Chelmsford has had a library since the late 19th century, then run by the North Library Corporation. The original building was on Gay Street and in 1906 hired an 18 year old local woman named Anna Campbell MacKay to be the librarian.
 

MacKay died tragically of kidney disease at age 35. Her brother Stewart MacKay donated the family home in North Chelmsford to the town in 1947 to be used as a library in honor of his sister.

 

Many details of the original home have been maintained over the years, including the stained glass window in the entry way and the parlor with its fireplace and beautiful mantle.
 


 

What I love about converted buildings is the reminders of their prior use. Imagine the days lived in the rooms where now books reside. There are nooks on the top floor where young Anna might have snuggled up with her own books. There are stairs and doors, locked to library patrons, that suggest secret passage ways to magical realms.

 


 

On the top floor is a toddlers room painted with whimsy. What games did Anna and Stewart play up under the eaves in their childhood?

 

Alas, the Anna C. MacKay Branch Library is under threat of budget cuts. In the minds of local bureaucrats, why not cut funding for branch libraries? There's the shiny main library that everyone can use. Let's save some money.
 

Never mind the historical relevance of this library. Never mind the convenience to those within walking distance, who can take a stroll with their children to enjoy story time. Never mind that branch libraries often provide different services, often more personable services, than the big main library building. Let's hope the MacKay branch survives.

 

Many thanks to librarian Bonnie Rankin for her time and the history of the library that she wrote. And many thanks to my colleague at TJ's, Stuart, who has reminded me for the past six months to go visit this library.

Angry Robot Wants Your Book

Angry Robot Books has opened their digital doors to submissions for the month of March. Check out the details at the Angry Robot Website.
 

Many thanks to Steve B. for the heads up on this a while back.

Three Journeys

A few notes on books I've read recently.

The first is Common As Air by Lewis Hyde. The book examines the history of cultural commons, from 17th century England to the foundation of the United States to present times.
 

At stake is the historical idea of "art and ideas ... [belonging] by nature to a cultural commons, open to all" with limited grants of monopoly allowed by the government. The more recent attitude, particularly by media corporations, is that "creators have a natural, unending right to their work and that the property secured by this right does not differ in kind from property in land or houses."
 

Hyde makes a wonderful argument for defending the former against the enclosures of open ideas, art, and science. Those enclosures by way of patent law and copyright extension are doing much more harm than good.
 

To boil down one idea that Hyde mentions: everything that we create owes something by different degrees to what has come before. Or as Newton famously wrote (borrowing the quote from Bernard of Chartres) "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants."
 

Which brings us to the second book, Tenth Orbit and Other Faraway Places by Gustavo Bondoni. I don't know all of Bondoni's influences and can only relate what has come to mind while reading his work. The first story in the collection, "Twilight", combines the type of story idea Asimov was famous for with the humanism of a Vonnegut tale. In "Defending Fiordland", the term hunter-killer reminded me of the novel Dune (and who knows if Frank Herbert borrowed that the name from WWII terminology).
 

I don't mean to minimize Bondoni's writing. The title story, "Tenth Orbit", is my favorite. It brings to mind no one except the author, and it is one of the best short stories I've read in the past few years. It was Bondoni's first published story, and from there he began his own journey.
 

Last is a huge collection of five books by M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating. Describing Fisher's work presents a dilemma. Saying she writes about food doesn't do justice to how she describes the many travels she has had. Calling her a travel writer doesn't do justice to the culinary research she bestows to the reader. Journalist? Memoirist? Perhaps the sum of descriptions will suffice.
 

In her introduction, Fisher cites her own influences and the type of books she hopes to emulate (or avoid being like). I have only just started Fisher's book, and it is one of many I have read in the past few years. These food books have influenced my current work in progress which features a character who is a personal chef.
 

Best wishes for your own journeys in reading, writing, or wherever a notion takes you.
 

P.S. Regarding the photos above, two images came from the Flickr streams of elPadawan and Mike Licht through the creative commons license. The image art for Tenth Orbit and Other Faraway Places was created by Brad Foster. Not sure if the rights to that image are held by the artist, the publisher, or the writer. I have a feeling they won't mind me using it.

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