Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ask the Librarian - Yan Qu

Here’s another story on one of the people who make our library system extraordinary. Yan Qu, who works at the O'Connell branch,  has been a librarian for over 15 years. She studied in China at Qiqihar Teacher’s College where she majored in English Language and has also received a master’s degree from Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science

What made you want to become a librarian and what do you love most about your job?
I wanted to become a librarian because of my passion for books and public service. I was an English major back in China, and some of my fondest memories revolve around curling up in bed at night and reading the works of Shakespeare, Sawyer, and the Bronte sisters. I wanted to read more English literature, but in the late 1980s, China was just beginning to open up to the rest of the world, so there was a dearth of good works written in English. Thus, I always had the big dream that if I ever made it to America one day, I would become a librarian so I could read all the English books I wanted! I count my blessings every day.

Besides having access to all the books in the world at my fingertips, the best part of my job is the everyday interactions I get to have with the East Cambridge community. The community is very diverse, with our patrons coming from all stretches of the world. Every day, I get to learn something new- whether it is bits and pieces of a new language or a recipe from a delicious exotic cuisine. That is one of the main reasons that I started our seasonal potluck dinners. I wanted to bring the diverse cultures of East Cambridge together in one night, so that everyone could have a good time and learn from one another and the bonds we share, including a love for good food!

After fifteen and half years of working at the public library, I feel that I can’t be any happier. It is the little things that can cause my heart to skip a beat, such as a simple “thank you” from a patron who finally got the latest James Patterson book he wanted, or the spark in a young patron’s eyes when she gleefully arrives at our Arts and Crafts sessions. The library is a pillar of the community, and I strive to make it a second home for all of our patrons.

How has technology changed your job? What is your opinion of e-books like the Kindle?
I can still remember the days when I had to stamp the due-date cards! Computers have revolutionized every single aspect of our lives. I embrace new technology, and I always find ways to adopt new cutting-edge technology to enhance our services. I personally don’t own a Kindle yet, because I am very loyal to books in paper format. The smell and feel of holding your favorite book is just something no e-reader can replace. There will always be a place for books, but I do envision that in the near future, we will be lending all genres of popular books by download.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you in your role as a librarian?
The funniest (and cutest) thing is probably all the names our younger patrons call me. Some kids call me Ms. McDonald, because we offer Toddler Sing on Wednesdays and I love to sing “Old McDonald Had a Farm.” Another boy enjoys calling me “Ms. Library” which I find extremely adorable. He thinks I know all the book titles in the world, but I actually don’t. Please don’t tell him that!

What is something that people may find surprising about your role as a librarian?
We not only offer books, but also provide opportunities to reconnect with long lost friends. During one of our potluck dinners, a Japanese woman named Junko suddenly started to cry when she recognized another Japanese woman named Yuke who had been her midwife twenty years ago when both of them were still living in Japan! Another one of our patrons reconnected at the library with her classmate from four decades ago, and the latest rumor is that the two might be dating!

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library click here.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Open Secrets

Imagine a garden, an open field on a street in Cambridge filled with lupines whose purple flowers are checkered with hundreds and hundreds of white daisies and red roses. 
Imagine a front yard, where peonies and lavender and irises are so full of color that you have to stop and look even when you want to get back in your car.
Imagine those gardens, and you’ll be thinking of the latest addition to the Secret Gardens of Cambridge, the “Open Secrets” of next June’s garden tour. 

Friends of the Cambridge Public Library member
Sherry Leffert photographed this dewy daisy on
Wendell St.

How about a church on Massachusetts Avenue, where the grounds surround the building and bloom from May until October?  Or the Oldest House in Cambridge, which until the end of the 19th century determined the edge of the Cambridge Commons and now boasts a lavish splash of annuals on its grounds near Linnean Street?  All of these and more are going to be a part of next June’s “Secret Gardens” tour, and we’re hoping you’ll include them on your calendar.

By definition, a “secret” garden is one that is hidden from the street—one that you only have access to by knowing  its owners or a close friend.  But the “Open Secrets” are just that—open to the public, to be enjoyed without intruding on anyone’s property or time.  There’s a community garden in East Cambridge where you’ll see funky gates, raised beds and metal sculptures in a limited but well-used space.  The glass flowers of Harvard’s MCZ are open to the public the day of the Secret Gardens’ tour, and make a perfect addition to the concept of an “Open Secret.”
What is more perfect than a rose in June?

So get ready for next year’s “Secret Gardens of Cambridge”: more than two dozen gardens throughout the city that are open for one glorious Sunday in June. And remember that some secrets are open. You never know when you’ll want to tell a friend.

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library click here.