Sunday, March 1, 2009

milwaukee challenges: a trip to the martin luther king library

On the last day of February, I squeaked in part two of one of my self-issued challenges for the year.

To refresh: I'm talking about Milwaukee Challenge #1: Read my way through Milwaukee's Public Libraries, in which I pledged to obtain my 12 books--for an online "Support Your Local Library" challenge--each from a different branch of the city's libraries. Even though the official challenge doesn't have a "one-per-month" limit, that's how I've elected to pace myself.

You may recall last month I visited the East Library. Although I'd originally selected Rabbit, Run by John Updike as my book of the month, I gave up. I'm sorry but it's incredibly rare that I just don't get into a book, but this was one. And you always feel bad when it's supposed to be "important" literature. But crap, man, I really, really, really dreaded having to pick this sucker back up every time I closed it for the day. I got about halfway through and after conversing with a friend about it, who had pretty much the exact same opinion as I, I realized it was okay to let go. Maybe I'm not fully embracing my English major, but I need books with plot or at least where the external internal dialogue doesn't make me want to punch the main character. Yeah, yeah, I understand the anti-hero, but this was too the extreme. Sorry if anybody thinks I'm less intelligent now.

Conversely, I sped through another book I grabbed from the "new fiction" shelf--A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar. This was a funny and poignant story of both the Islamic female and American immigrant experience. I loved it. Couldn't put it down, in fact. I'm anxious to check out Jarrar's other works.

Though I'm still working on It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways and the Search for the Next American Music by Amanda Petrusich, I made myself get to the Martin Luther King branch yesterday before the close of the month.

Located at Martin Luther King and Locust Street, the King library looks a lot like the East library from the outside--squat, post-modern architecture.

The inside, however, couldn't be more different. Although the building opened in 1971, the inside is fully modernized. It's bright and sunny and has many modern computer terminals. It's got a cute little children's area and a nice area for young adults. There were actually a few kids there studying on a Saturday. Great to see in this part of the city!

I didn't see a "Librarian's Choice" display, but I did notice their "African-American Collection which includes both current and historical works of fiction and non-fiction reflecting African-American life and culture." From this I selected my "book of the month": Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica by Zora Neale Hurston. I also found a book called The History of Black Catholics in the United States by Cyprian Davis. I'm not sure if I'll get through it, but I figured it may help with my other challenge. And in the "one of these things is not like the other" category, I happened to pass by Anthony Bourdain's The Nasty Bits while walking through the shelves, so I picked that up too.

Learning my lesson again to read up before I visit places, I missed a couple features of note at this library:
…an African American Archives collection that focuses on local African American history and persons.

… a sizable collection of permanent art, some pertaining to Dr. King, and a unique accordion book by Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr. which contains Dr. King’s most noted quotations and adinkra symbols associated with the Ashanti people.

...NewRecently reinstalled photo exhibit titled: Milwaukee Leaders. Originally introduced in 1989 as “Black Role Models in Milwaukee,” the Milwaukee Leaders collection honors those chosen by members of the community as exemplifying strong role models for their own generation and for those that follow.

There were no newsletters for me to pick up this time, but I did take the time to walk through the neighborhood up Locust on my way to bid adieu to Atomic Records. I will post on that adventure in the coming week.

At the recommendation of my friend Angie, next month's library will be the Villard Avenue Branch. It's Women's History Month, so I'll try to fit with that theme.

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