May Question of the Month – An irregular series

ask_a_librarian_button.gifThe reference librarians at The Seattle Public Library are pretty darn amazing. They don’t know everything, instead they know where to find everything. As part of an irregular series of posts we salute the talented and dedicated reference staff at your local library. Names and other identifying information have been removed from the questions we showcase.
Got a stumper? Click on Ask a Librarian. It’s what we do.

“On antique cutlery dating from the 1600s-1900s, was it the convention to have the man’s family initials engraved or the woman’s family initials? “

     “We checked in several books including:
The story of cutlery from flint to stainless steel by Joseph Beeston Himsworth from 1953 and
The cutlery trades; an historical essay in the economics of small-scale production, by Godfrey Isaac H. Lloyd from 1913

But the Encyclopedia of food and culture by Solomon H. Katz, 2003 provided the clearest answer:

At that time (18th century), women could not legally own land or other property, so the scope of their lives was limited to home and family. For this reason, silverware was significant as a woman’s contribution to the financial part of a marriage, and it was often purchased for her one piece at a time and kept in what was called a “hope chest,” along with other household goods such as linens and quilts. Because it was bought with a woman’s taste in mind, most silverware was designed for women. Silver flatware, along with other household goods, has traditionally been monogrammed with the bride’s initials.”

Shelf Talk(s) with Cory Doctorow, pt. 2

image of cory doctorow courtesy of joiLibrarians like Cory Doctorow a lot, not least of all because we both tend to think that information wants to be free, and we both get a kick out of giving books away. However, if you want his actual analog pen-and-ink signature on his latest book – Little Brother – Cory will be appearing at the library’s Ballard Branch on Sunday, March 18 at 2 p.m, where he can oblige you. Generous guy that he is, he recently obliged us with a mind-expanding phone call, and here’s some more of that conversation (here’s part one):

Q: Congratulations on your latest project, your new daughter.

Oh yeah – my wife just sent me the world’s most awesomely cute one minute video clip of getting ready for bath time and I swear to god its just hypnotic, I’ve watched it a hundred and fifty times.

Q: (In addition to the effect this experience will have on your writing), how do you think having a child will effect your views on your creative children, and giving them away on the Internet?

…you know, it did get me thinking. I wrote a column for Locus magazine that just came out called Think Like a Dandelion – actually the title’s an homage to a James Patrick Kelly book called Think Like a Dinosaur – and its about the different reproduction strategies of plants and mammals. And I understand why as a mammal my intuition is that I need to be really closely attuned to the disposition of my reproductions, of my offspring. That is our reproductive strategy. But it’s not the reproductive strategy of a dandelion. The reproductive strategy of a dandelion is to be just utterly profligate to just blow your seeds Continue reading “Shelf Talk(s) with Cory Doctorow, pt. 2”

Shelf Talk(s) with Cory Doctorow, pt. 1

Cory Doctorow is coming to Seattle this weekend, on tour to promote his latest book – Little Brother – a smart dystopic thriller aimed at young adults, but with something to say to everyone. (Comparisons are odious, but if Gene Shalit were here he might say 1984 meets Catcher in the Rye. I’d add in Eric Frank Russell’s Wasp.) He’ll be appearing at the library’s Ballard Branch this Sunday at 2 p.m (in collaboration with our good friends at the Secret Garden Bookshop). Of all the great things that have been said about Little Brother, here’s a bit from Neil Gaiman: “I’d recommend Little Brother over pretty much any book I’ve read this year, and I’d want to get it into the hands of as many smart 13 year olds, male and female, as I can. Because I think it’ll change lives…”

If you’re unfamiliar with Doctorow, popular editor and blogger at, author and outspoken advocate for intellectual freedom and the creative commons movement, a few hours spent surfing through his prolific work and thought may change your life too, or at least the way you view your rights to information, to privacy, and to making a contribution to this world. It is also a bracing tonic for the mind: Doctorow’s range of interests – from hacks to cool gadgets to public policy – are head-spinning.  I had a chance to talk with Cory the other day, and wanted to share some of what he said.

Q: Little Brother seems to bring together a lot of your diverse interests in one place. When did you know this was going to be a book for younger readers?

It was absolutely conceived of as a young adult book… I had friends who went and done successful – artistically, commercially – young adult books… and they really sold me on the idea that it was just a lot of fun, and that particularly that Continue reading “Shelf Talk(s) with Cory Doctorow, pt. 1”

Cheese Festival at the Market — and some cheese in fiction

cheese shop photographed by teejayhantonThis weekend is the fourth annual Pike Place Market Cheese Festival, where you can learn how to make cheese at home, taste artisanal cheeses from all around the world and listen to cheese experts extol the virtues of cheese in all its stinky, delicious variety. I hope you have a good time. I won’t be there. I’ll be at the library (someone has to keep the place open!), but I might be reading a cheesy book.

There’s no problem finding children’s books about cheese. There’s The Mysterious Cheese Thief by the aptly named Geronimo Stilton, The Cheese by Margie Palatini, in which the question “why does the cheese stand alone”? gets answered, and the classic Anatole by Eve Titus, in which a mouse becomes a connoisseur of fine French cheeses. And for the younger set there is also a book suitable for an election year: A Big Cheese for the White House: The True Tale of a Tremendous Cheddar by Candace Fleming. No matter who becomes our next Big Cheese, kids can still enjoy this book set in the time of Jefferson’s presidency.

The pickings are little slimmer for adults, but here are a few titles to read with your brie Continue reading “Cheese Festival at the Market — and some cheese in fiction”

Reflecting on Baltic Rites of Spring IV

Traditional Estonia Village Dance performed by Thousand Winds dancersphoto courtesy of Leszek ChudzinskiAfter weeks of cold weather, co-hosts Leszek Chudzinski and Maryte Racys awaited this year’s Baltic Rites of Spring with trepidation. To produce a joyful celebration, Primavera’s arrival at 1000 Fourth Avenue (the Central Library) in Seattle was an absolute must. Would She ever arrive?

Finally, She appeared on April 26! Trumpets flared and Thousand Winds, the Estonian Seattle Dance Group, took the world over. They evoked the spirit of Tallinn, their ancient capital, the Baltic Coast, forests and meadows. As they danced, we rejoiced with them. Soon, too soon, the Thousands Winds swept off the stage; promising to return, one day.

Lietutis performing a Lithuanian Star pattern, photo courtesy of Leszek Chudzinski

 The applause had not died out, images of merry dancing were still swirling in the air, when Lietutis, (Gentle Rain), the Lithuanian Dance Group , stormed the stage. First, the adult dancers made the world fly with the Fight of the Swallows, and other traditional dances.

Next, 12-year-old Vaiva Palunas sang a cappella like a meadowlark, as if in a chapel. The Lietutis Children’s Group pranced on stage and won everyone’s hearts, for children never take a wrong step and get Continue reading “Reflecting on Baltic Rites of Spring IV”