Category Archives: Libraries

Pictures can help you write your memoir

 

For those of us writing a memoir or who want to do so, sometimes we get stymied. Where do we start? What do we focus on? What happened in our life that really affected us?

Of course, we may have a specific area of our life we want to focus on. But our memories can play tricks on us. Our memories can “hide” a wealth of information about our past, the people in it and our emotions during those times – even if we think we know how we felt.

So, use pictures to trigger your memory and its whole enchilada. I don’t mean just old family and friend photos. But buildings – your school, the house you grew up in, streets, transit (cars and public), old new-story photos, old ad, even cemeteries.

And even the above which may not be your family photo, may not be a streetscape you are familiar with. You are thinking of the time and what is actually in the picture and transferring it (in your  mind) to your story.

As some of you know, I teach various memoir writing workshops and courses at Toronto Public Library branches. And as the above hints at, the next one, on April 16, is called Using Your Pictures to Create Your Memoir. Most of my memoir writing workshops and courses have something about pictures, particularly those old family and friend photos. An interesting thing I keep discovering is that even if the picture is of my family or friends or me or the house I grew up in – it will always trigger some memory (not connected to me) in some of the participants.

“Oh, the picture of your dad reminded me of my dad.”

“The picture of your house reminded me of the house I grew up in.”

“That picture of your friends reminded me of something that happened with my sister/some of my friends.”

The pictures take on a generic form. And that can happen with transit and streetscapes. For example, a picture of a streetcar can bring up memories of you riding in a streetcar in the past,  lead to something (good or bad) that happened to you while riding a streetcar. Who were you with? What was your relationship to them? And taking it beyond the streetcar ride, what else happened to you and them, especially if a sibling, parent, or close friend? How did you feel towards them? Does it bring up emotions – sad, happy, angry, etc.? And this can lead to more stories with them and maybe with the streetcars. Maybe your dad drove a streetcar or a bus. What were his stories about that?

You can see where a simple picture can lead you in your memoir writing.

Here are the details of my workshop. If you are in the Greater Toronto Area and are interested in taking it, there is still time to register. And it is free. Yes, I get paid by the library for teaching these workshops.

Using Pictures to Create Your Memoir

Tue Apr 16, 2019
2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
90 mins

Location

S. Walter Stewart Library

S. Walter Stewart

In this memoir-writing workshop, author and editor Sharon A. Crawford shows how old photos, news stories, ads, streetscapes, and pictures etched in your mind can help create your memoir. Includes how to do picture research and research kick-started by pictures. Through discussion and writing exercises with feedback, you will get a start on your memoir. To register or for more information, please call 416-396-3975.

Meantime, look, really look, at the photo at the top of the post. And see where it leads you in your life.

And the picture below my signature.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Family and Friends, Libraries, Life, Only child memoir, Writing workshops

Only Child says focus and it might happen

Only child in doorway to her office

Only child in doorway to her office

Last week I blogged about Karma – what goes around comes around, something I firmly believe in even if I don’t see it. But there is also the belief that if you put it out there, the Universe, God or whomever might deliver.

No, I’m not turning into a believer here, but by accident I discovered a twist to this.

As many of you know I have turned into a very cranky angry person, thanks to all the crap that has been shoved my way and thanks to that, all the areas in my life where I feel cheated. So it has made me push a lot in my complaining. Besides the health area (which I will stay off this time), I have been complaining loud and clear about my financial position, about living below the poverty level. I just did my income taxes for 2015 and that confirms it – even lower income then for 2014 and 2016 was looking even worse, what with the powers that be at Service Ontario cum CPP, cutting back on my monthly CPP income and adding insult to injury by deciding to take off all the “extra” in May. Of course, I filed a dispute.

Along with this bad financial situation is the lack of sufficient work coming in for the first part of this year. I am teaching a fiction writing workshop at the S. Walter Stewart Library branch later this year in October.

So, I’ve been yelling about these two – financial and lack of work to bring in money – but also putting my invisible money where my mouth is, so to speak. I’ve been pitching both my writing workshops and speaking engagements for my Beyond fiction books to various branches.

Voila.

Late last Friday afternoon I received an email from a librarian at the North York Public Library branch. The writer/editor who usually teaches their four-session Memoir Writing Course in June has had to suddenly cancel (why is her business). So the librarian who looks after programing there emailed me and asked if I would like to teach the course and there would be financial compensation.

He had received my name from another librarian, Janet Nanos (and I don’t mind mentioning her name and you’ll see why in a sec) who is instrumental in my East End Writers’ Group meeting almost monthly at the S. Walter Stewart branch and also for that October fiction writing workshop. Turns out the NYCC librarian and Janet used to work together so he emailed her and she recommended me. And yes, I thanked her.

I have since talked with Val, the NYCC librarian and we have firmed up what I am to teach (pretty much up to me for the content) and he confirmed my fee (same as I get at other library branches per hour). This is for June. The write-up about it will soon go on their website and I’ll post that in future when that happens in case anyone is interested in taking this course. It is free to library patrons – the only catch being you can’t have taken another version of the course previously at that library branch.

So, sometimes putting it out there will bring in some help. Sometimes you just have to yell and complain a lot to be heard.

Now, I just have to figure out how to afford to get through May with no extra income and less CPP. I have gardening and yard supplies to get, trees to be trimmed, and one of my handyman to be here to do some tasks.

Plus I have a horrendous water bill – over $230. and a lot of that has to do with the City not billing often enough. Last bill was in December and this one that just came is due May 9. Plus there is a property tax bill, etc. etc. etc.

Looks like a few health-related issues may have to be put on hold.

But all that is for another post.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under finances, God, Home and Garden, Librarians, Libraries, Memoir writing, Memoir writing course, Only child, Poverty

Only Child finds more solace in Aurora

Main street middle of Aurora looking south

Main street middle of Aurora looking south

So far this summer I have made three trips back to Aurora, Ontario, where I lived from 1975 to 1998. Twice to meet old newspaper buddies from our community newspaper writing days; but also to go to Aurora’s  Doors Open and with my friend Carol to the Farmer’s Market.

This is the small town (now a much larger town) where my ex-husband and I raised our son, Martin, where I kick-started my freelance writing, editing and writing instructing career. Where I became involved with community groups from a noisy ratepayers group to a horticultural society, to an arts and crafts group. And through my writing and the other parts of my life met and made many friends. Some I’ve kept in touch with or re-connected with.

Unfortunately, some of the older ones (i.e. older than me) have died (four I know of) and that’s scary, because it means the next of us in age, including me, are well, next on the dying list.

Death aside, just seeing Aurora – the changes and the sameness was interesting and soul-filling. I still like walking down the main street, which is a lot nicer now with the shops – some the same and many new. I can still walk along the side streets off the main street and see the old houses and their front gardens. But I do not like the big condo that looms right on main street almost right across from a boarded up grocery store (was the IGA-Sobeys chain – and my main grocery store when I lived in Aurora). I’ve heard that another condo is going up there. I kept my back to it when waiting for the big blue VIVA bus to take me back to Finch subway station in north Toronto.

I love zipping up and down Yonge St. between Finch and middle of Aurora on these sleek modern buses – once I learned how to use the machine to buy the tickets. It’s easy – just follow the step-by-step instruction which appear as you go along. And the machines are right by most of the bus stops. Service is much oftener than the old GO buses when I lived in Aurora. Same for the in town buses for Aurora and Newmarket – more often and better routes. These York Region buses also do some of the VIVA routes but make more stops.

It was good to reconnect with old newspaper buddies. I had kept in touch with  a few  –  Bob, Barb and Jim  over the years and one of the others I reconnected with – whom I didn’t really know very well back then in the late 1970s, Sheila, we have connected and phone each other and email sometimes. One of my former editors is ill and in a wheel chair but he and his wife want to join us on the next dinner outing there – sometime in October before winter rears its cold, wet, ugly head.

I also reconnected with one of the librarians at the Aurora library that I used to know. Reccia is sometimes down in Toronto, cat-sitting for her daughter when her daughter is away. Her daughter’s place is close to me, so yesterday I met Reccia for lunch at a cafe near her daughter’s place.

Reccia found me sitting on the park bench outside Aurora Public Library August 15, when I was waiting for Sheila and Rob to pick me up for dinner. It was just after the Doors Open – which gave me the opportunity to see the restored Hillary House in Aurora (doctor’s house it used to be called as there were four succession of doctors, from the mid-1800s. I actually knew the daughter of the last doctor there in the late 1980s and early 1990s  when she was in her late 80s. She has been dead for a few years).

I also got into somewhere I would never get in except for Doors Open – the Masonic Temple. It reminded me of a church – no wonder it was originally a church as I found out from the Mason who gave us the history. Currently, this carpeted place has sky blue velvet armchairs along the outer perimeters, a lectern at the back and three throne chairs on a small elevated platform at the front. Empty space in the middle except for a table with a Christian Bible, the Torah  and other religions’ “bibles.”

Carol and I drove up this past Saturday for the Aurora Farmer’s Market. Quite large and quite a variety – soaps, gluten-free baked goods, fresh produce from the farms, jewellery, etc. Yes, I bought something from each of those categories. Afterwards we drove (well, Carol did the driving) to Goodwood Ontario to Richter’s Herbs and I finally got my sage plant to replace the one killed over the winter, plus more rosemary, basil and some thyme. Afterwards we drove to Newmarket and ate outside at a restaurant overlooking Fairy Lake. By the time we got there, we were eating Lupper (Lunch and Supper).

And I plan to go back for that newspaper get-together dinner in October – on the blue VIVA bus.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under Friends, Libraries, Only child, Public Transit

Only Child searches for Dad’s history

Only child's Dad when he worked for the railway

Only child’s Dad when he worked for the railway

I am trying to piece together my late father’s history – his ancestors and his life in Toronto before I came along. Not too easy when Dad was born in Montreal and the family moved to Toronto when he was a child.

A year ago I began this quest – one of my cousins had started a trace on the Langevin (and Verey – the latter her direct family connection, not mine) ancestry on www.ancestry.ca. I’m not on there yet but one of my friends is and she offered to do some checking there. She found my cousin’s partial family history and also an anomaly – further digging by my friend found another last name (maiden one) for my paternal grandmother. Which is the correct one?

I am not close to my Dad’s side of the family and it has been over five years since I talked to some of my cousins. But I emailed the family genealogist using an old email address. You guessed it – the email bounced back as no one at that address.

However, life jumped in, including dealing with the horrible boarder living here last year, house and house-related problems, plus one pleasant thing – finishing rewriting my first mystery novel Beyond Blood (published fall 2014 – Warning: plug coming. See my publisher’s website www.bluedenimpress.com for more info and my other blog www.sharonacrawfordauthor.com).

As 2014 drew to a close and 2015 rushed in, I feel much urgency to continue on this quest for Dad’s history. I have been spending some Saturday afternoons at the Toronto Reference Library looking in old City Might Directories to find where Dad lived and to try to nail down when the Langevin family did move to Toronto. (I had some idea what street so that was a start.)

And found myself on a very enjoyable but puzzling journey.

Picture me sitting at a table on the library’s second floor with Might Directories piled up in front of me. The shelves where they are stored are behind me, but I can only carry four books at a time. It is difficult with my health issues to get down to the floor to pick out the directories on the bottom shelf but I am compelled to do so.

You are not allowed to photocopy the contents – not a copyright issue but the delicate nature of the pages. These are old directories, circa early 1900s (Dad was old enough to be my grandfather) and the pages are amazing. Almost like parchment with back to back pages which appear glued together. Back then, the “technology” did not allow for any other way to do this. The print is around the same size as print telephone directories, perhaps a smidgeon larger. With my bad eyes and old glasses I have to use a small magnifying glass to read the type.

It is worth it – this going back and forth from the street listings to the name listing and I finally find my late grandfather. Thanks to my cousin’s information on ancestry.ca I now know his first name. But another Langevin surfaces in the Might Directories – a Charles Langevin and I have no idea where he fits in, except my grandfather and grandmother and their offspring lived with him for a few years. My grandfather (Eugene Langevin) shows up in the street address listing at some point and then in a later year, Charles has disappeared. Then my aunts and uncles and my dad show up living at the same addresses, including my cousin’s great grandfather (she is a cousin once removed to me). And it lists where they worked and the position they held. The listing criteria seems to be it didn’t matter if you were male or female as long as you held a job.

I find my father not only worked as a clerk at Canadian National Railways but that previouslyhe worked with the Grand Trunk Railway before CNR gobbled it up. I finally find where his office was located – as I suspected right in Union Station in Toronto. One of his brothers, Uncle Paul also fought in World War 1, which I never knew. The directory has him still at the address but they classify him as “away on service.” And yes, he came back from the war. I also discover the Langevin family moved to Markham St. (where my cousins, their parents and my late maternal grandmother lived when I was a child) many years earlier than I suspected.

Then I get carried away and start to trace my mom’s time from when she moved to Toronto from the family farm near Mildmay, Ontario. Not sure which year so I’m working back from 1938 the year before she and Dad married. The address she lived at then (renting in a house) is in the area of Toronto where she and Dad lived when they were first married. Next investigation is to find out if the addresses are the same. An old photograph I have might give me the answer.

I can see my memoir will need some changes.

And I finally realized why I am compelled to do this family history investigation now. 2015 (November) is the 50th anniversary of Dad’s death.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Only Child and her late dad on the veranda of 139 in happier times

Only Child and her late dad on the veranda of 139 in happier times

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Filed under Beyond Blood, Beyond the Tripping Point, Canadian National Railway, Dad, Family, Hereditary, Libraries, Memoir content, Mom and Dad, Nostalgia, Only child memoir, Railways, Research memoir writing, Toronto

Only Child Revisits Aurora

Only Child revisits Aurora where she lived for 23year

Only Child revisits Aurora where she lived for 23 years

I went back to Aurora, Ontario where I lived for 23 years. This wasn’t my first trip back since moving to Toronto in 1998, but my “first” since 2009. That and the two garden centres outside Aurora that Carol and I visited provided a welcome distraction from the kerfuffle of the consumer screw-ups and mis-communications of the past few weeks.

So, on Saturday, Oct. 12 Carol and I drove (well she drove) a bit north of Toronto to the first garden centre – Black Forest just north of King City. I’d never been there before. The entrance of plants and structures was interesting and inside – well, I’m sure it is very colourful earlier in the season with flowering plants. But that Saturday it was somewhat bare over in the plant section. No offence to Black Forest but more a harbinger of what is to come. With the switch to standard time lurking (first November weekend) the roll to all being downhill weather-wise has started.

The garden ornaments were interesting and inspiring. But Carol and I bought some bulbs, which is what I had come for. I bought tulip bulbs.

On to Pathways to Perennials – a truly fairytale place to visit to temporally escape all the crap in the world. P to P has a winding road (with forest on both sides) into the actual centre and an outdoor/indoor cafe. We didn’t go to the cafe but stepped inside the gift shop. More bulbs – I bought narcissus and hyacinth and Carol bought a small mirror. Outside we toured their small garden and here’s where the impending doom of winter showed with only a few perennials still blooming or not yet dormant.

From there we drove into Aurora – lots of changes even since 2009. The pub where we would eat (outside in the summer) is no longer there but we found another one, a small chain, but one with great food and it was even warm enough to sit out on the large patio which almost surrounds the outside. Afterwards we wandered around the unique plaza, St. Andrews Village, this Shoeless Joe pub is in, including into Starbucks. The IGA grocery store (or one of its derivatives) is no longer there and neither of us could remember its actual store location.

Carol left her car parked in the parking lot there and we walked down the few blocks to the centre of Aurora. The plan was to visit the somewhat newly renovated Aurora Museum (now the Aurora Heritage Centre) but it closed at 4 p.m. and we missed it by about 20 minutes or so. Carol had never seen the newer Aurora Public Library so we made a quick visit there. Then we headed up the street a bit and crossed over to see my old friends Mike and Lorraine Evans who run the Aurora Downtown Hardware Store http://auroradowntownhardware.tel/ They’ve been there (with varying store names) for 39 years.

Mike and Lorraine are a phenomena in these times of crappy customer service. When I lived in Aurora, I would go into their store, let them know what I was looking for and one of them would either find it or order it in. When I had to buy a new microwave, Mike even drove me home with it because I don’t drive and the microwave was too heavy to carry. The duo (they are married) also provided me (and other regular customers) with the names of reliable and competent handymen and I used to hire one of them regularly.

They are an interesting couple – in their mid-sixties – she has long grey hair and comes from New Zealand. He has grey hair (and it’s all there) and might be a few years younger than her. They have a daughter in her mid-thirties. And they have a cat, Leo, whom Carol and I met. Leo was sitting in Lorraine’s chair near the back and looked very content.

And yes, both Carol and I bought a few items we were looking for. When we walked in the store and I introduced Carol and said “hi” I went right into “I need to get a few things which I can’t seem to get in Toronto and don’t get the service there that you and Mike give” – or something like that. So Lorraine went into action, finding the merchandise and asking questions about what we particularly wanted from the selection they had. She even pointed out something on sale in one category.

Too bad we can’t “lift” them and their business into Toronto.

After that we drove back to Toronto and all my problems.

No, I don’t want to move back to Aurora. I know I’d just get bored after a few months. I need the city for the many cultural, etc., events and my friends here. But it was a respite from hassles. And with the great bus service up and down the main drag into the north end of Toronto, I realized I can do the visit myself. Not in winter, so not before the end of March (I have a reading from my book Beyond the Tripping Point, along with other Crime Writers of Canada members at the Aurora Public Library March 24).

I told Lorraine and Mike about it and they said, “See you on March 24.”

Check out Aurora, Ontario, Canada at http://www.town.aurora.on.ca

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Gardening, Home and Garden, Libraries, Peace and quiet

Only child on why we read

Only Child in front of some of her books, obviously some she bought, not borrowed.

There’s been much hoopla about Toronto’s mayor and his executive committee wanting to cut Toronto Public Library services, like closing branches. I’ll cover that in another post. But it’s made me think. Why do we read? Why do I read?

I’ve been a book-lover and reader since I learned to read in grade one (back in the grey ages, of course) – from the Bobbsey Twins books and Nancy Drew books my mother bought me to when I discovered the library – the then brand new S. Walter Stewart Branch and began to visit it frequently, borrowed books and read them. Since then, thanks to the library, I’ve increased my unwritten list of authors. Most of what I read is mystery novels, memoir and some non-fiction best-sellers that could be loosely described as dealing with today’s social conditions. “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell is one example. This latter category I read to be informed, but the two m’s, I read for the enjoyment, to get out of my life, to escape from the crap continually shoved my way.

True, the people in both types of books have their problems and conflicts, but they are THEIR problems and conflicts, not mine. I can get out of my sometimes miasma of living and get caught up in someone else’s life whether fiction (the mysteries) or real (memoir). Unlike life, often a solution to the character’s problems is found. Even when it isn’t, I still can take comfort in knowing I’m reading it, not living it. And sometimes I can find a solution to what ails me in my often ridiculous life, although that is usually from the non-fiction social conditions books.

When reading a book that grabs my interest, I do get tangled in the various characters’ lives and can love, hate, emphasize and even think, “that character needs some come uppance,” and know that a good author will have this happen. Real life can be a different matter. Sometimes I believe what goes around comes around, but not seeing it happen can raise doubts.

Not in a well-written book – you see it all happen. When you have to put the book down, or shut down the e-reader, to get on with your life, the book’s characters stay with you and you can’t wait to get back to them. When you’ve finished reading the book, you get that feeling of closure, that things have been sorted out (usually – a few leave you hanging which I don’t like) . In real life, often the same crap keeps happening no matter what you do and it can all be very worrying.

Reading a book – print or e-book – can take  you out of  yourself and your misery if only for awhile. My cousin buried her mind and soul into reading novels when her husband was dying. But if you have money problems, health problems, even time problems, reading a good book can help ease the pain. And the public library branches have so much to choose from. And it’s free with a library card…as long as you return the book on time.

Why do you read books (print or e-books)? I’d like to know.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Bobbsey Twins, Books, E-books, E-books vs print books, Escaping problems, Libraries, Life demands, Malcolm Gladwell, mystery novels, Nancy Drew, Only child, Only child memoir, public library services, Reading, Toronto service cuts

Only Child bemoans possible library changes

S. Walter Stewart library branch. Only Child is a frequent visitor here and at other Toronto library branches.

They’re dumping the librarians and replacing them with technologists and educational students and moving the books to storage. At least that’s the thought in one instance and the reality in a couple of others…so far.

Ian Brown, a staff writer at the Globe and Mail, writes eloquently about this in the newspaper’s Focus section, May 21, 2011.  See “Don’t discard the librarians” http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/dont-discard-the-librarians/article2030514/ for full story. I agree with Mr. Brown 100 per cent.

The chief librarian at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario thinks academic libraries should go digital with only information technologists and post-doctoral students as staff. Denver, Colorado library has just shoved 8o per cent of its books into storage. And the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School board in Ontario is closing its school libraries and getting rid of all but four librarians. The books will go into the classrooms.

The sorry part is that it’s not due completely to all the digital changes. The cost factor comes in as does a slur on the nostalgia of visiting the library.

As an only child growing up in Toronto, the library and the books provided me with an escape mechanism from my not-too-happy world. About the time my dad was in the hospital for his second round of battling cancer (this time in the brain), my grade school teacher walked her class from Holy Cross School to the newly built S. Walter Stewart Public Library. I was in heaven with all the books, especially the teen book section and have been an avid library patron since. And after moving back to Toronto, this branch has been one of three or four branches I go to regularly (except when it closed for nearly two years for renovation).

Nostalgia aside, even I realize that there is the digital factor. But these “want-to-ditch-the-librarian advocates” need to get their heads around a few facts:

1. Like Mr. Brown says in his article, if you go into any branch of the Toronto Public Library, for example, it’s busy, not just with people borrowing books, but there are lots of activities for children, teens, adults and older adults – workshops, story-time, author readings, and yes, even computer training. Heck, I got my library workshop teaching gigs from the librarians. And we’re going to rely on information technologists and post-doctoral students to find the information we need? Even with the Internet and Wikipedia, librarians can help you find what you might not be able to find otherwise – whether from your computer, Blackberry or in person at the library. Some people prefer to or have to go into the library to do their research – not everything is digital. Over the past 25 plus years, libraries have evolved from just books to CDs, videos (remember them?), DVDs and are now hubs of the community. Go into your library branch and see what programs they offer. Many are focused on the ethnic groups living in the area. Lots of ESL for those where English is a second language. Try to do that with your computer and a technologist at the other end. That will give you practice in speaking English with others?

2. The Toronto Public library has 99 branches, including a very large reference library. Branches are continually being renovated. Why do this if libraries and librarians are redundant?

2. E-books (and yes libraries “carry” them and you can download them onto your Kindle) have brought in MORE readers to the library – different readers than those who read print books only.

3. You can renew library books, put books on hold on the Internet AND go in to the library to pick them up.

So libraries are combining the old with the new.

And that’s what I think has to continue happening, rather than dumping the old. Think of previous instances of technological change. When TV arrived (back in the grey ages when I was barely kid age) did the radio disappear? Has either the radio or TV disappeared with the Internet? No, they’ve combined to reach the public. Ditto with the music industry. We need to learn from the music industry how to do it right. You can download music, buy CDS, listen to music online (and on the radio), watch performances online (and on TV) and even buy LPs. Some of us remember them, the precursor to those small tapes. Well, many popular musicians now record CDs and LPs. Newspapers and magazines have combined print and online, with the latter a good way to post new updated articles (instead of waiting for the next issue) as well as further information to print articles. I read newspaper and magazine stories in print and online. And yes, I write for both print and online magazines.

The bottom line is not about nostalgia or holding a hard copy of a book in your hands. It’s  giving everyone choices by combining the old with the new, not killing the “old school.”

What do you say? I’d like comments here.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Digital libraries, E-books, E-books vs print books, Librarians, Libraries, Libraries as communities, Libraries going digital, Only child, Technology and libraries