Category Archives: Book Review

What’s Your Dewey? The 020s All Things Library

There is much talk about the relevance of libraries in an age when the world’s information is readily accessible in digital form – but is it true that the sum total of the world’s knowledge can be had by all, on call?  Does Google give us a level playing field when it comes to access?

There are many texts on this topic and  BiblioTech : why libraries matter more than ever in the age of Google  by John Palfrey
is one example that argues ‘anyone seeking to participate in the 21st century needs to understand how to find and use the vast stores of information available online’ and libraries are best positioned to facilitate this within our communities.

Palfrey discusses the threats posed to libraries (and therefore society) through funding cuts and argues libraries must work toward digitising print material and ensuring all digital material is readily accessible. Contents include sections on how libraries are used; what defines library spaces; librarians as networks; education;  copyright and what’s at stake if we lose libraries. Although there is a distinct USA bias to the text, anyone aware of the fate of libraries across the world will find food for thought.

Anyone who has studied the history and philosophy of knowledge, education and libraries will understand that the notion of universal access to the world’s knowledge is not new. Our attempts to manage human intellectual output can be seen in ancient times (Alexandrian Library for example) through to modern times (for example the British Library).


Cataloging the world : Paul Otlet and the birth of the information age by Alex Wright looks at the often overlooked contributions of Belgian Paul Otlet who first progressed the catalogue card as a means of bringing together records for everything recorded on paper. Otlet worked on creating a universal bibliography and developing a network of ‘electric telescopes’ that would allow anyone, anywhere, access to ‘books, newspapers, photographs, and recordings, all linked together in what he termed a réseau mondial: a worldwide web.’ A pioneering visionary, Otlet’s ideas seemed likely to come to fruition until  the Nazis took Brussels and seized his work. Cataloguing the world is an unexpectedly interesting introduction to recent library history.

It is well documented that the Nazis were responsible for ransacking and destroying many of Europe’s Libraries but in The book thieves : the Nazi looting of Europe’s libraries and the race to return a literary inheritance by Anders Rydell ; translated by Henning Koch, Rydell tells the hidden story of the Nazi appropriation of books from the libraries of Jews, Communists, Liberals, Catholics, Freemasons, and many other opposition groups, to be used as intellectual weapons against their owners. These books were not destroyed at the end of the war but found their way into the public library system from where a small team of librarians hope, to locate and reunite books to the decedents of the original owners.

Reading The book thieves… reminds us that one of the things that defines libraries are the people who work in them. In This is what a librarian looks like : a celebration of libraries, communities, and access to information for all by Kyle Cassidy, readers are presented with portraits and thoughts of 220 librarians of all ages, all backgrounds, all personalities and styles, to show us that librarians are not what we may expect. Through these vignettes, readers are treated to many perspectives of libraries over time and the people who have been influential in the field. Also included are original essays by well known authors, journalists and commentators such as John Scalzi, Nancy Pearl and Neil Gaiman.

Librarians have been known to defend the right to read throughout their history.  True stories of censorship battles in America’s libraries  edited by Valerie Nye and Kathy Barco tells the stories of several American librarians who have championed intellectual freedom and access to sometimes controversial material.  While the book addresses topics such as age-appropriateness, censorship, crime and cultural expression, some examples depicted can only be considered skirmishes. That being said, it is interesting to see ways in which we deliberately or inadvertently cull our library collections, restrict their access and thus diminish our community knowledge-base.

In this collection of stories, The book lovers’ anthology : a compendium of writing about books, readers & libraries by Alex Wright, offers answers to questions regarding the impact of books on humans and human society: Do books corrupt? and Do badly written books damage intellect? are just two examples being addressed through the thoughts, excerpts and essays of well known authors. Authors include Chaucer, Austen, Shakespeare, Milton, Eliot and Ruskin. ‘A treasure trove of apt quotations from more than 250 authors’ (Sydney Morning Herald); a bibliophile’s ‘essential anthology’ (Bodleian Library).

Of course there is more to a bibliophile’s obsession than just books, there is all the things that surround books – the paraphernalia and ephemera.  Letter to a future lover : marginalia, errata, secrets, inscriptions, and other ephemera found in libraries by Ander Monson  finds meaning in the objects and notations found in books. According to Monson, everything we’ve read, written, collected noted or discarded, defines us. This of course has implications for how we should deal with this ephemera and how in collected form, it contributes to our bank of knowledge.

Seed libraries : and other means of keeping seeds in the hands of the people by Cindy Conner is a reminder that libraries are not just about books but can be collections of items for preservation and education. Seed Libraries is a practical guide to saving seeds through community programs and includes Step-by-step instructions for setting up a seed library and ways to maintain the collection and attract patrons. It also provides examples of existing libraries. (

Although Creepy libraries by Troy Taylor is aimed at children it provides an interesting view of 11 libraries around the world that are reputed to be haunted places. Readers ‘will discover one that is home to the spirit of a young girl who is depicted in its beautiful stained-glass window, one that is filled with ghosts who are distressed because it is built on top of their burial place, and one that has now turned into a bookstore yet is haunted by library patrons of the past—as well as a phantom cat. The creepy photographs and chilling nonfiction text will keep children turning the pages to discover more spooky stories’ (

 While Creepy Libraries looks at ‘other wordly’ library occupants, Staff-less Libraries: Innovative Staff Design by Carl Gustav Johannsen considers the recent trend toward unstaffed libraries as a way to meet the challenge of decreased funding and increased demand. The book considers the pros and cons of this model and presents international experiences and examples. Contents include definitions of the ‘Open Library’ concept, historical perspectives, community profiling and technological implications. An academic text, this book is aimed at professionals and managers.

Not overly convinced of the staff-less library approach,  Improbable libraries by Alex Johnson provided an inspiring account of how librarians around the world are undaunted in overcoming financial, geographic or political challenges to reach out to those in reading need. The book showcases the changing nature of library structures and functions, with insightful interviews and over 250 colour photographs. Open-air garden libraries, pop-up libraries, mobile libraries (using bikes or camels) and the Little Free Library phenomena are all included in this exploration of these communal spaces and places that bring us together. The simple truth is … people like going to libraries. Indeed, going to the library is like getting a pay rise, according to a survey conducted in 2014 by the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport. (

Nola Cavallaro


What’s Your Dewey? 573s – Senses (As I See It).

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, ‘sense’ is an ability to understand, recognize, value, or react to something, especially any of the five physical abilities to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. When we talk about our senses, we generally refer to the mechanisms by which our bodies react to internal or external stimuli which are many and varied within the animal kingdom. Most books that deal with the generally understood topic of the senses are to be found in the 573s – Specific physiological systems in animals, regional histology & physiology in animals.

There are many children’s books devoted to the 5 human senses. They are either sense organ specific (devoted to each of the ear, nose, eyes, skin or tongue) or general and refer to all of the 5 senses. While they are all very informative and a requisite topic for growing young minds, the ones that most intrigue are those which look at lesser known animal sensorial abilities.

Top 10 Super Senses by Virginia Loh-Hagan
This title includes many interesting facts about animals and their senses including the 15,000 taste buds of pigs, the tarsier’s exceptional night vision; and the 25,000 touch receptors in the star-nosed mole’s nose.  It is written with high interest, low complexity text and includes clear illustrations, glossary and simplified pronunciation. Preview here:

A Natural History of the Senses
  by Diane Ackerman
Ackerman’s book, variously described as inspiring, charming, intriguing, knowledgeable and even pure ecstasy, has received many accolades. Each of the 5 senses are presented as realms for discovery with unique takes. Smell is named the ‘mute’ sense  with a personality that can be mapped; the skin has ‘eyes’ in the section on Touch; earth calls us in Hearing; and the walls are round in Vision. The New York Times says of it ” Delightful . . . gives the reader the richest possible feeling of the worlds the senses take in.”
Quick Look:

A Tour of the Senses: How Your Brain Interprets the World by John M. Henshaw
A tour of the senses takes readers through the common understanding of the senses that help us interpret our surroundings, to the science behind the process underpinning Stimulus, Sensations and Perception. Henshaw explains how we see, feel, taste, touch, and smell. Making reference to Aristotle’s classification of the five main senses and examining sensory research today, Henshaw argues well for a reinterpretation of the number of senses available to living organisms. An interesting approach to the topic, well researched and easy to read.

We have the technology : how biohackers, foodies, physicians, and scientists are transforming human perception, one sense at a time by Kara Platoni.
Bioscience, metaperception, neurobiology, metasensory experiences, AI and augmented reality are all topics addressed in this witty, candid, intriguing and disturbing book by Platoni. An academic and science reporter, Platoni researches the ways we extend our ‘sensory experiences to make the world more real’. There is much food for thought to enlighten and challenge in this book.

Neurocomic by Matted Farinella & Hana Ros [graphic novel]
Farinella, graphic jounalist and scientific illustrator and Ros, neuroscientist  and documentary writer, introduce the complexities of the brain in graphic novel format.  ‘Neurocomic is a journey through the human brain: a place of neuron forests, memory caves, and castles of deception. Along the way, you’ll encounter Boschean beasts, giant squid, guitar-playing sea slugs, and the great pioneers of neuroscience. Hana Roš and Matteo Farinella provide an insight into the most complex thing in the universe.’ (

Meet The Award Winning Authors Tricia Stringer and Meredith Appleyard

Spend the morning with two of South Australia’s winning authors. Wednesday May 3, 10am – 12noon. Details below.

What’s Your Dewey? 600 Invention (…or did I just make that up?)

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, the term ‘invention’ refers to something that has never been made before (a new design), or the process of creating something that has never been made before. Just looking around me from a very humble vantage, I am surrounded by a multitude of inventions, they are, after all, what makes our world so accessible to humans. I can only suppose that any book on inventions is limited at best – even if it does include 1001 of them.
1001 inventions that changed the world by ed. Jack Challoner ; preface by James O’Loghlin.
Described as an alternative history of the world as viewed through the lens of human ingenuity, this book chronicles the many life-enhancing and life-saving inventions that have graced our lives. From paper to pills, wheels to PCs, stories behind some inventive breakthroughs are revealed. The team of researchers, writers and illustrators includes historians, anthropologists, scientists and designers. Detailed illustrations and photographs accompanied by quotations from many inventors, makes this a fascinating and engaging book – even if it doesn’t include every invention you can name!
 Mistakes that worked : the world’s familiar inventions and how they came to be  by Charlotte Foltz Jones ; illustrated by John O’Brien.
To quote the book’s introduction; ‘Call them accidents. Call them mistakes. Even serendipity. If the truth were known, we might be amazed by the number of great inventions and discoveries that were accidental, unplanned and unintentional.’ Some of these examples include cheese, Velcro, potato chips, silly putty, penicillin and safety glass. The Introduction concludes with a quote from Bertolt Brecht ‘Intelligence is not to make no mistakes. But quickly to see how to make them good.‘    The book contains six sections: Tummy fillers; Doctor, Doctor; Fun, Fun, Fun; All Kinds Of Accidental Things; Where In The World? and What They Wear, and includes a National Inventors Hall of Fame. Although there is a clear USA bias and the text is aimed at children, the book contains some very interesting facts, humorous cartoons and is readily accessible to all readership. Quick look inside:
 The way things work now by David Macaulay with Neil Ardley.
In the latest edition of  Macaulay’s The Way Things Work series of books, recent technology, from Touch Screens to 3D Printers, join the ranks of machines and developments that are laid bare for readers to appreciate their inner workings. Divided into 5 parts and packed with accurate, scientific information (delivered with humor by the ever-present woolly mammoth), the book guides readers through fundamental mechanical principles, linking developments of the past with glimpses of the future. Macaulay’s books are always a favorite with this inquisitive mind.
Take a quick look here:
Inventions that could have changed the world… but didn’t! by Joe Rhatigan ; illustrations by Anthony Owsley.
Ostensibly aimed at children and young teens, this book has a great deal to offer readers interested in those inventions that either didn’t quite hit the mark, or went terribly wrong. Inventions include an Alarm Bed (it ejects the sleeper to wake him up), the three-wheeled Dymaxion Car (a front-wheel drive, bullet-shaped V8 prototype that crashed, killing its driver), and a gas-powered Pogo Stick. Included in the book are black & white copies of patent applications and color cartoon reconstructions by Owsley. While the book’s premise suggests these failed enterprises did not change the world, I can’t help but think there is much to be gained from the creative process regardless.
Free to make : how the maker movement is changing our schools, our jobs, and our minds by Dale Dougherty with Ariane Conrad ; foreword by Tim O’Reilly.
The Maker  movement sweeping our educational and recreational environments is what Dougherty calls the ‘renaissance of making’. Free to Make explores the way in which the phenomenon is transforming our schools, workplaces and local communities around the world. According to Dougherty, ‘The Maker Movement signals a societal, cultural, and technological transformation that invites us to participate as producers, not just consumers’. The book analyses the way the internet and open source sites have assisted a global creative climate and provides readers guidance through the various stages of development and production, from the original burst of creative excitement to the process of finding and securing manufacturing success. This is a comprehensive look at the ‘Maker revolution’ and a positive reaffirmation for those who have always been a creative Maker.

 Inventology: how we dream up things that change the world by Pagan Kennedy
In Inventology, Kennedy examines the creative process where wishes, dreams and problem solving transform into new products and technology. Kennedy interviews more than 100 inventors from different fields (psychologists, engineers, scientists and economists for example), in her search to find answers to what drives the creative process. Through these interviews, the book explores landmark inventions; colour printers, mobile phones and wheeled suitcase to name a few. The book is divided into five sections exploring different strategies for invention with recommendations for future-thinking and self-empowerment. While the book makes many interesting observations and provides encouragement to would-be inventors, it may be considered too academic for some readers.
There is of course one invention this series of What’s Your Dewey? articles relies heavily on,  that is DDC –  the Dewey Decimal Classification system. DDC was published in the United States by Melvil Dewey in 1876 when he was 21 and working as a student assistant in the library of Amherst College. You are, however,  unlikely to  find books about this invention that revolutionised information management and libraries, among the books shelved in the 600s. These, you would need to find at the 025s (Library and Information Sciences) or the 920s where you may find a biography or two on Melville Dewey, often referred to as, an Irrepressible Reformer.
Nola Cavallaro

#invention #bookreview

What’s Your Dewey? 646.5 A Hatter’s Choice

Hats have been part of our attire for centuries and for centuries they have gone in and out of fashion. They have been equally defining of an era, a character, a social status and a must for healthy outdoor living.  A Lithuanian proverb says: For every head a hat and yet a quick walk through any busy shopping or entertainment centre in Australia suggests the converse – no-one (not really) wears a hat. That is of course with one obvious exception – Race-day!  On Cup-day, in any state of Australia, the  fascinators come out and they can indeed be fascinating!

I will admit to being a fan of hats and have my own small but unique collection. I have been known to visit hat stores and view all the hats in clothing recycle shops.  I have also been known to garner new book titles on the topic as they hit the library shelves. Below are just a few I have viewed.

Studio Secrets: Milinery by Estelle Ramousse & Fabienne Gambrelle
Authored by renowned French milliner Estelle Ramousse, this beautifully illustrated book makes big promises but has met with mixed reviews. There are those that are clearly attracted to the look of this contemporary title but it’s the photographic content rather than the text that draws readers in. Those seeking instruction or any detailed demonstration of millinery technique will be disappointed as information is brief and aimed at introductory level only. Despite criticism, the book is attractive, contains some interesting history and can be a good starting point for those wanting to dabble.


Hats by Madame Paulette : Paris milliner extraordinaire by Annie Schneider ; foreword by Stephen Jones.
Born in 1900, Madame Paulette learned her trade between two world wars, to become the ‘queen of milliners’ and the most sought after fashion designer of the forties and fifties. Her hats featured in some of the world’s most famous movies of the time and graced the heads of notable stars such as Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Audrey Hepburn. Her creations were also sought by royalty (Princess Grace of Monaco), Paris couturiers (Pierre Cardin), photographers (Klein) and fashion magazines (Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar). This is a beautifully designed and illustrated book giving readers  an insight into a fascinating character and true fashion pioneer.
A stunning account of the life and work of the famed Parisian milliner. With clientele like Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn, and Grace Kelly, she set the standard for petite pillboxes and over-the-top chapeaux.—

Children’s sun hats by Gill Stratton.
No Hat No Play’ is now a standard rule applied to children in both our pre-schools and primary schools. Most school hats, however, are less than inspirational and many children resist the request to wear a hat out of school hours. Children’s sun hats by Gill Stratton provides simple but great advice on how to turn this around – get children involved in designing and making their own hats!  She encourages would-be home milliners to involve children in the process, from the look of the item to the choice of fabric and suggests ways to involve them in constructing the end result. This is a practical book, which begins with some pertinent and basic hat-making tools, tips and techniques. It also includes patterns and ideas for projects. The book may not help you inspire teens but is certainly great for hat-making for babies to 8 year olds. You can take a sneak peek here:

Hat shop : 25 projects to sew, from practical to fascinating compiled by Susanne Woods.
Part of the Design Collective series, this title features contributions from over 20 designers from around the world. Hat projects include designs for bonnets, caps, crowns and headbands, fascinators, scarves and tams. They vary from the fun to the serious, the glamorous to the work-a-day. Likening the book to the Lithuanian proverb mentioned above, the publishers suggest the book includes ‘a handmade hat for every head!’ The book includes hats for all age groups and styles, and can be picked up by those starting out in hat-making as it includes some step-by-step photographs and patterns (although not all photographs are clear or instructions simple).
You can look inside here:

From the neck up: an illustrated guide to hatmaking by Denise Dreher
Since first being published over 30 years ago, this title has been THE reference book for anyone serious about the art and craft of millinery. It has been used by milliners from all fields including theatre and film costume designers. Although it clearly contains information that is now outdated and some of the supplies and materials are no longer readily available, it is still considered an invaluable resource. It’s longevity can be attributed to both the historical context of hat designs  (it includes designs from many eras in history such as ancient Greece Baroque, Edwardian and Modern) and its relatively easy to follow instructions.  The book also includes over four hundred illustrations and drawings. The book not only details how to make new hats but gives good instructions on repairing damaged and vintage hats (useful for hat collectors like me).

Of course there are many, many more books on the topic and in different Dewey areas – the 391s for stylish hats and the 745s for fabulous crafty paper hats to name just two. Then of course there are the many serious and quirky quotes about hats contained in books from all over the Dewey range by characters real and fictional. So I think I’ll conclude with a quote from a Neil Gaiman book Anansi Boys:

“Some hats can only be worn if you’re willing to be jaunty, to set them at an angle and to walk beneath them with a spring in your stride as if you’re only a step away from dancing. They demand a lot of you.”

Nola Cavallaro