National Library Week: What is it all about? Thursday, Apr 2 2015 


Hooray for libraries! National Library Week begins in just TEN days! We can hardly wait but maybe you’re wondering, “What is that all about?” Lucky for you I majored in history and would love to tell you the story…

National Library week (NLW) is sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and is a time to celebrate libraries, librarians, and all that libraries have to offer us and provide for us. This event is hosted every April and always has a theme. This year, NLW is April 12 – 18 and the theme is “Unlimited Possibilities @ Your Library ®.”

The first ever NLW occurred in 1958. The ALA explains that “in the mid-1950s, research showed that Americans were spending less on books and more on radios, televisions and musical instruments. Concerned that Americans were reading less, the ALA and the American Book Publishers formed a nonprofit citizens organization called the National Book Committee in 1954…In 1957, the committee developed a plan for National Library Week based on the idea that once people were motivated to read, they would support and use libraries.” The theme in 1958 was “Wake Up and Read!” The celebration was so successful it became an annual event.

Through NLW there are some more specific celebrations to be had. For example, April 14th is National Library Workers Day, the day we get to say “thank you” to all of the librarians who help keep our libraries working. April 15th is National Bookmobile Day and April 16th is Celebrate Teen Literature Day.

You must be on the edge of your seat wondering, “How can I get involved with this awesome celebration of libraries?” With this year’s theme being “Unlimited Possibilities @ Your Library ®” the ALA is asking everyone to share what they’ve made with the help of their library. Maybe you checked out a knitting book and made a scarf, maybe you made a video in the building, wrote your memoirs, or maybe you were simply able to finish your homework in a quiet space. Whatever it is, share it on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #librarymade. At the Athenaeum we would just love to see what we’ve helped you make but the ALA is also offering a chance to win a $100 gift card beginning April 13th. Now you are completely prepared to embark on the week-long celebration that is National Library Week!


#librarymade promotion details:

Staff Picks Spring 2015 Thursday, Mar 19 2015 


“When spring comes to Paris the humblest mortal alive must feel that
he dwells in Paris.”
Henry Miller

“He who contemplates the depth of Paris is seized with vertigo.
Nothing is more fantastic. Nothing is more tragic.  Nothing is more sublime.”
Victor Hugo


The latest installment of staff picks will immerse you in the streets of Paris.  The selection, like the city, is multifaceted.  It features, for example, espionage, mystery, drama, comedy, gourmet cuisine and a nineteenth century giraffe!  So, whatever, your reading preferences, leave the darkness of winter behind and explore the City of Light!

Zarafa: A Giraffe’s True Story; from Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris – Michael Allin

The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery

Gourmet Rhapsody – Muriel Barbery

Brassaï: For the Love of Paris – Brassaï

Mission to Paris – Alan Furst

The Other Paris: Mavis Gallant

Paris Notebooks: Essays and Reviews – Mavis Gallant

Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home – Ina Garten

Paris to the Moon – Adam Gopnik

A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway

A Giraffe goes to Paris – Mary Tavener Holmes

Strangled in Paris – Claude Izner

Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris – Sarah Kennel

Henri’s Walk to Paris – Leonore Klein

Missing Person – Patrick Modiano

Suite Française – Irene Némirosky

By Kirsty Dain, Circulation Assistant

Unicorns in Residence : Providence Friday, Mar 13 2015 

 Unicorns Providence logo copy


“Within her granite walls, filled with the genius of mankind, we learn to discover that what we thought was impossible, might be possible ….” Sylvia Moubayed, Executive Director, Providence Athenaeum Annual Report, 1981.

The Providence Athenaeum is participating in a citywide interactive arts experience, Unicorns in Residence: Providence, inspired by the work of NYC-based contemporary artist Camomile Hixon. To learn more about this art experience, which will run Spring-Summer 2015, please visit the website.

The following books from the Athenaeum’s collection are on display at the library through April 2015.

Be sure to stop by and have a look!


Travels in Tartary, Thibet, and China by Evariste Régis Huc. London: Office of the National Illustrated Library, 1852.

“The unicorn, which has long been regarded as a fabulous creature, really exists in Thibet. You find it frequently represented in the sculptures and paintings of the Buddhic temples. Even in China, you often see it in the landscapes that ornament the inns of the northern provinces. … We have not been fortunate enough to see the unicorn during our travels in Upper Asia.”


Land of Forgotten Beasts by Barbara Wersha,  NY: Athenaeum, 1964.

“I am a Unicorn,” the beast replied, “a legend that men believed in long ago. I was the prize of emperors and kings, and they hunted me throughout the forests of the world, hoping to cut off my horn. Sometimes they would try to trick me by sending a beautiful maiden into the woods, for they thought that I would be drawn by her gentleness and fall asleep in her lap. But I was never captured ….”


The Unicorn in the Garden” Fables for our Time by James Thurber,  NY: Harper, 1940.

“The man walked slowly downstairs and out into the garden. The unicorn was still there; he was now browsing among the tulips. “Here, unicorn,” said the man, and he pulled up a lily and gave it to him.”

Additional items have been loaned from the Athenaeum’s Philbrick Rare Book Room to the Brown University Libraries for an exhibition tracing the history of the representation of unicorns by different cultures, from Medieval times to the present. The exhibition, The Unicorn Found: Science, Literature and the Arts, is on view at the John Hay Library through July 2015.

For a full listing of events and happenings related to Unicorns in Residence: Providence, please visit the website.

Thanks to Collections Librarian, Kate Wodehouse, and Librarian, Stephanie Knott for this post.



Spring YA Picks: Romance Thursday, Mar 5 2015 


Let’s be honest guys.

This winter. It’s the WORST. And I have a feeling that a true “spring” (you know, the kind with flowers and warm weather and short sleeves?) is further away than we realize. And as the wind and snow scours at my brain, I find myself pulled more and more toward romance — maybe its imagining someplace warmer, or the warm flush of new love, but something about romance novels is really turning my crank right now. I have selected a fine, fine range: Some end happily, some end tragically, some never quite get started, and some are altogether unexpected. I hope you find something you like!

Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjamin Alire Sáenz
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Jennifer E. Smith
Sister Mischief, Laura Goode
Hush, Hush, Becca Fitzpatrick
If You Could be Mine, Sara Farizan
Magic Under Glass, Jaclyn Dolamore
Matched, Ally Condie
Cures for Heartbreak, Margo Rabb
There is no Dog, Meg Rosoff
Ash, Malinda Lo
My Most Excellent Year, Steve Kluger
The Fine Art of Truth or Dare, Melissa Jensen
Nantucket Blue, Leila Howland
The Difference Between You and Me, Madeleine George

Ravenous thanks Amy Eller Lewis, Writer and Circulation Assistant.

Wolf Hall Thursday, Jan 22 2015 

The BBC’s adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies looks great. The first episode aired last night to a huge audience. Here’s a taste:


According to the New Statesman it’s as good an adaptation as the Royal Shakespeare Company’s productions in 2014.

Photo credit: Hollywood Reporter

Photo credit: Hollywood Reporter.

Athenaeum members loved Mantel’s novels, we had multiple copies of both books. The Man Booker Prize blog has a thoughtful post on the translation of the books to television. And the internet is a-buzz with “storified” live tweets from last night’s episode and a very busy #WolfHall hashtag. U.S. audiences can see this on PBS Masterpiece beginning on April 5th.

A Celebration Of All Things Bookish Friday, Jan 9 2015 

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“The London library was Roland’s favourite place. It was shabby but civilised, alive with history but inhabited also by living poets and thinkers who could be found squatting on the slotted metal floors of the stacks, or arguing pleasantly at the turning of the stair.” A.S. Byatt

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To mark the publication of Haruki Murakami’s new novel, The Strange Library, this month’s Staff Picks celebrates libraries and all things bookish. The titles span a range of different genres including, fiction, mystery, non-fiction and biography. Featured are strange and fantastical libraries, Victorian libraries, a cemetery of forgotten books, a unique Parisian bookstore and much more besides.






The Strange Library – Haruki Murakami

Library of Babel – Jorge Luis Borges

People of the Book – Geraldine Brooks

Possession – A.S. Byatt

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History – Lewis Buzbee

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler – Italo Calvino

The Novel Bookstore – Laurence Cosse

Matilda – Roald Dahl

The Artist’s Library – Laura Damon-Moore and Erinn Batyhefer

The Name of the Rose -Umberto Eco

The Book Shop – Penelope Fitzgerald

The Republic of Imagination – Azar Nafisi

Reading Lolita in Tehran – Azar Nafisi

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan

The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

Biblio Craft – Jessica Pigza


Thanks to guest blogger Kirsty Dain, Circulation Extraordinaire


Where the Wild Things Are: Foraging for Fungi Monday, Dec 15 2014 

Mushrooms and Toadstools: How to Distinguish Easily the Differences between Edible and Poisonous Fungi, by Worthington G. Smith (London: 1879)

Mushrooms and Toadstools: How to Distinguish Easily the Differences between Edible and Poisonous Fungi, by Worthington G. Smith (London: 1879)

After years spent foraging in New England forests and a week of exploring the shelves and researching fungi in the collections at the library, Susan Heuck Allen, former Athenaeum board member and Visiting Scholar in the Department of Classics at Brown University, gave a talk before the Review Club enigmatically entitled, Where the Wild Things Are. Allen described her actual subject as Foraging for Fungi, a “personal romp through the history of the human experience with fungi.” Finding colorful plates and quotes from the Natural History Collection at the Athenaeum to elucidate the history of mycology, the study of mushrooms, Allen raved about Worthington Smith’s gorgeous 3 x 2’ fold-outs (above) as “pin ups” from the golden age of illustration.


Our Edible Toadstools and Mushrooms and How to Distinguish Them, by William H. Gibson (New York, 1895).

Our Edible Toadstools and Mushrooms and How to Distinguish Them, by William H. Gibson (New York, 1895).

Allen also shared the peculiar humor of mycophile William H. Gibson, Our Edible Toadstools and Mushrooms and How to Distinguish Them, by (New York, 1895). Gibson, a gifted artist and enthusiastic naturalist promoted edible mushrooms as a good food source, and along with the beautiful chromolithographic plates in his book, included recipes for preparing them. Of the Chanterelle, Gibson writes “peppery and pungent in the raw state; mild and sweet after cooking.”

In addition to her talk which focused on her experiences foraging, cooking and eating wild mushrooms, Allen exhibited various species which she had dried. To top off her multisensory extravaganza, Allen sautéed black trumpets, whose gamey fragrance permeated the Bound, and then served them with brie to share her passion for foraging and eating edible mushrooms with the delighted audience.

orange milk mushrooms




While conducting her Athenaeum research, Allen noticed that many of the books were donated by the same member, Abby F. Taft. Following a professional interest in Excavating Women (her future book), Allen found that the spinster’s father had been, among other things, governor of RI and president of the Athenaeum. Allen ended her talk sitting in Governor Taft’s chair that was donated by his mycophilic daughter in 1933.



To make your own discoveries in the Special Collections consult the online catalog, peruse the card catalog at the library, or contact Kate Wodehouse, Collections Librarian, for additional information.

Here is the full text of the Bibliography on the Natural History Collection at the Athenaeum.

MINE!: Rhode Island Collectors at the ATH Thursday, Dec 11 2014 

The theme of the Rhode Island Center for the Book, Art of the Book Program, is ownership. Book ownership marks, by libraries and individual owners, tell a story about the provenance of each book. Marks of ownership may include inscriptions, bookplates, stamps, special bindings, or binding stamps and they can be used to determine the collections, libraries, and booksellers through which the book has passed. This exhibit will showcase books from Rhode Island collectors at the Athenaeum and illustrate the institutional stamps that have been used since the founding of the Providence Library Company in 1753. Curated by Collections Librarian, Kate Wodehouse, the exhibit will be available until January 11th 2015.

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There is a wonderful post at Melville House on the history of bookplates and especially note the examples from the Library of Congress.


Aunt Ted Monday, Dec 8 2014 

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Aunt Ted, born Mary Spink in 1877, was beloved to her nieces and nephews, and a great friend to the Athenaeum. She was a graduate of Wellesley College and a Latin scholar at Brown University. Upon the death of her father, she chose to leave her studies to work and care for her mother. Her journey to and from work led her past the Athenaeum daily and she often stopped in to check out books not only for herself but her nieces and nephews as well. She was devoted to them and to introducing them to the best children’s literature.

For years, Aunt Ted hosted a family Christmas Eve celebration in her home where she would, with two day’s rehearsal, direct the children in plays based on stories she found in the children’s collection of the Athenaeum. Naturally, the children of this family could expect books, books and more books as gifts from their dear aunt.

It is easy to see why, when she passed away in 1968, her grateful nieces and nephews dedicated a corner of the Children’s Library to honor the memory of such a special and loving woman. Today, Aunt Ted’s corner is used to house our series books as well as to showcase books of special interest. One of the missions of the Athenaeum’s Sayles Gorham Children’s Library is to preserve the spirit of her generosity and her love of children’s books and to share that spirit with all children who visit here.

Thanks to guest blogger, Lindsay Shaw, Children’s Librarian

Burroughs 100 Exhibit: A Visual Homage to “El Hombre Invisible” Tuesday, Nov 18 2014 

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 A primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author, William S. Burroughs (1914-1997) is considered “one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the 20th century,” according to the 2003 Penguin Modern Classics edition of Junky. Burroughs wrote 18 novels and novellas, six collections of short stories and four collections of essays; his influence can be felt  not only in literature but in popular culture as well.


The exhibit is curated by Athenaeum member, John Chiafalo, with many items from his personal collection, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Burroughs birth in 1914.  Chiafalo donated two 1st American editions of Naked Lunch  after learning during Banned Books Week that this title was located in the Scruples closet at the Athenaeum until 1974. The exhibit will be in the Main Floor Exhibit Case until the end of the year.


The official website for Burroughs 100 is rich with features and events from around the world or if you’re interested Reality Studio hosts a William S. Burroughs community.


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