Weird Squirrel Behavior: A Reference Question

From the Ask a Librarian Reference Desk:

“The squirrels in my neighborhood are clipping little twigs off of ornamental trees and throwing them on the ground. So many twigs everywhere! Why are they doing this?”

Dear Patron,

Thank you for contacting The Seattle Public Library for assistance unraveling your squirrel-related mystery! Experts in squirrel behavior, such as the folks who work for University Extension programs and wildlife organizations, are not entirely sure why squirrels do this. They have two main theories:

  1. They’re eating parts of the tree — The cambium layer beneath the bark of trees is rich in minerals and other nutrients, which can be in short supply during winter. Squirrels may be trimming branches and peeling bark to gain access to this food supply. (See the University Extension Ask an Expert database and Michigan State University Extension.)
  2. They’re cutting clippings for nesting material – Some Squirrels build nests, called “dreys,” in tree branches using a combination of leaves, twigs, bark and other vegetation. Some even build two or three nests at one time, to create multiple avenues of shelter and escape.  It could be that your squirrels have a construction project and are throwing rejected building materials on the ground below. (West Virginia Wildlife Magazine speaks to this.)

Continue reading “Weird Squirrel Behavior: A Reference Question”

In a Cloistered Monastery – A Reference Question

Picture of a turn.“The architecture of cloistered convents features a small door to the exterior designed specifically to allow groceries and other small supplies to be delivered while maintaining the privacy and separation of the nuns. What is the formal name for such a door (it likely has a name in Latin) and what is the English translation of that word?”

This question came in to the Level 7 reference desk at the Central Library on a busy day during the week before Easter. We hunted around a bit online and did not immediately find a fitting term, so we took the patron’s contact information to dig a bit deeper. Continue reading “In a Cloistered Monastery – A Reference Question”

Evolution of a Sustainable City

This September, I set up a display on the Central Library’s 7th floor called “Sustainable Cities” to complement a traveling exhibition we were showing at the time elsewhere in the building. The display featured books and documentaries about how to design and build an urban environment that would offer more economic and energy security, better transportation options, cleaner air, and higher quality of life than current cities generally do.

Just for fun, I designed the display about sustainable cities in the form of a miniature sustainable city. Between the books and DVDs on their traditional wire stands there were paper apartment buildings, a cloth representing green space, a lake made from a blue placemat, tiny paper bicyclists, and a person or two in a wheel chair to remind us of the need for accessibility. We then challenged patrons with this question:

What would we see in YOUR sustainable city? Continue reading “Evolution of a Sustainable City”

Futurama Redux: Urban Mobility After Cars, a Traveling International Exhibition


One of the highlights of the 1939 World’s Fair was a massive exhibit called “Futurama,” created by General Motors. It promised that within twenty years the working man would live in a glorious future filled with friendly suburbs, gleaming skyscrapers, and extensive highways—all of this made possible by the comfort and convenience of the personal car.

More than 75 years later, most of us are living in the car-centric future prophesied at the World’s Fair, but it is not quite the utopia GM envisioned. Pollution, traffic congestion, and the looming end to fossil fuels leave us wondering: What comes next?

The international exhibition Futurama Redux: Urban Mobility After Cars offers fascinating answers to this question. Continue reading “Futurama Redux: Urban Mobility After Cars, a Traveling International Exhibition”

Honoring Jim Henson and the Art of Puppetry

When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there. – Jim Henson

On Saturday, May 13th, The Seattle Public Library is delighted to be hosting an all-day, all-ages puppeteering event called Jim Henson Con with fantastic co-sponsor, Geek Girl Con. The event will not only honor a beloved genius whose creations have captured the imaginations of people worldwide, but celebrate the art of puppetry and all of those who practice it, whether professionally or simply for the love of the craft.

Among the activities at this convention will be performances by professional puppeteers Jennifer Carroll, Rachel Jackson and Jason Mondine, puppet making opportunities, and Labyrinth and Rainbow Connection sing-alongs. Special guest Karen Prell, who worked with Jim Henson and was the voice of Red Fraggle in Fraggle Rock and the worm in “Labyrinth” will also speak at the event, which is very exciting!

Make or bring your own homemade puppet or Henson-inspired costume and you can participate in our runway show, complete with fabulous prizes! Check out our Facebook event page for the full agenda. Continue reading “Honoring Jim Henson and the Art of Puppetry”