May Day, Beltane

May Day is a pagan festival to mark the return of spring in ancient Celtic/Gaelic traditions. Quarter day festivals mark the change of seasons, each with special rituals and symbols (Imbolic, Beltane, Lagnnasadh, Samhuinn). May first was the first day of summer (hence the solstice June 21st is Midsummer), and many bonfires were lit to mark a time of purification and transition. The community bonfire also supplied the flame to renew each home hearth with hope of good harvest, health and to bring good luck. It was the second most important festival of the Druids.

Various traditional May Day celebrations included the gathering of wildflowers and green branches, the weaving of floral garlands, Morris dancers (who wake Jack in the Green), crowning the queen of May, and decorating the Maypole, around which people danced. This holiday with its roots in the fertility celebrations of pre-Christian Europe is associated with much raucous activity. May Day, is a day on which you should wash your face with morning dew at sunrise to keep yourself looking young and beautiful. You should also gather wildflowers and green branches, make floral garlands and bouquets with ribbons to decorate your home and village. May baskets were a particular charm, small bouquets that were left anonymously on a doorstep (if you caught the person, you got a kiss). Lily of the valley and violets were often used; the lily of the valley is also commonly called May flower and is a lucky charm.

At Oxford University, otherwise intelligent young scholars jump off the Magdalen Bridge into a section of the Cherwell River that is two feet deep, even though the bridge is closed off as a precautionary measure. At St. Andrews in Scotland, students gather on the beach the night before May Day, build bonfires, and then at sunrise they run (occasionally naked) into the frigid North Sea. In Edinburgh Scotland, it is customary to climb Arthur’s Seat to greet the sunrise (and the all important dew), with dancing Druids and song. Since the late 1980s, there has been a Beltane Society which revived and developed Beltane as a Community Arts Project with street performances, including bonfires, drumming and revelry on Calton hill. Over 15,000 people annually attend. In the United States, the Puritans frowned on this celebration, but many customs are still followed on the east coast. In Hawaii, there’s hula dancing to the “May Day is Lei Day” song. In Minneapolis, there’s the May Day Parade that marches south down Bloomington Avenue. It’s organized by the In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, now in its 37th year and attracting about 35,000 people.

Europe christianised many pagan holidays, but not this one. To celebrate this popular holiday, workers stayed home against their employers’ wishes. It became known as a people’s holiday. A conference of world Socialist parties held in Paris voted May 1, 1890, as a day of demonstrations in favor of the eight-hour day. May first is also the Feast of St Philip and St James, so they became the patron saints of workers. May Day is also called Labor Day for much of the world, a day to commemorate the economic and social improvements of workers. In the US, President Cleveland moved Labor Day to September to disassociate it with the radical left as it evolved from the 1886 Haymarket Square riots. In 1958, U.S. Congress under Eisenhower proclaimed May 1 “Loyalty Day” and also “Law Day” – two holidays that have not caught on. May Day is still a prominent holiday in communist countries like Cuba and the People’s Republic of China.

NB the international distress signal code word “Mayday” has nothing to do with Beltane. It’s derived from the French m’aider, meaning, come help me.

Friends, Author Visits

A wonderful long time friend of the library has donated a video camera (digital) to our communications liaison person (Ginny Verbe). Within the space of 4 days there were already 32 videos created. We have several interesting video clips of the Volunteer Recognition Programme that the Library put on for the Friends. There are several clips on the RACE exhibition process/documentation, as it is being put together. Yes, we DID get the full recording of Robert Alexander’s lecture last week! We hope you will be able to view these shortly! There is a wonderful potential to have these and other clips available online. And we hope to have them in the Library as well. Watch this space!
Ginny has been instrumental in keeping the Friend’s blog, website and facebook pages up and running. She is also responsible for the Library’s monthly newsletter, which I recently heard a patron exclaim that he finds that calendar and then plans his monthly schedule because there are so many wonderful programmes in the Library.

Rochesterfest, Amuzing Race, Library Foundation

Saturday, June 19, 2010
Rochesterfest Event

Competitors are being sought for the Rochester Public Library Foundation’s 4th annual Amuzing Race, being held on Saturday, June 19, 2010.

The Amuzing Race is designed to mimic the popular television show โ€“ The Amazing Race (Sunday evenings on CBS). Teams of 2-4 individuals work together to solve clues to reach destinations or “legs”. At each leg, they receive new clues; some legs involve completing a task or a cooperative challenge.

The Race will begin with check-in at the Rochester Public Library at 7:30 AM, and orientation at 8:15 AM. The Race itself will begin promptly at 8:30 AM. Teams will compete for 3-4 hours in a series of exciting and challenging legs around the Rochester area.

Proceeds from the Race will be used to help fund the libraryโ€™s online homework assistance program.

Check out the Library website, link onto the Foundation page and receive more information and updates!


Today is the birthday of William Shakespeare! We have most of his works in various forms in the Bookstore, at incredible prices! Stop in and pick up a copy of the one you want to read now. Or preview the play/performance you will see later this summer in Winona, Twin Cities, Chicago, Madison, Canada, England… ๐Ÿ˜‰
And if you can find these books (outside of the Library!) I thoroughly enjoyed Robert Nye’s take on Shakespeare both the Late Mr Shakespeare, and Mrs Shakespeare. They are gritty but full of historical detail in a new voice. The PBS special that Michael Palin did is still my favourite television programme about Shakespeare.
If any one is going to be in Chicago before the 6 June, the Chicago Shakespeare theatre is performing The Taming of the Shrew. It is brilliantly done, one of the only performances I have seen with a frame story (not the original, but a modern version written by Neil LaBute). There isn’t a bad seat in this small theatre (on Navy Pier).

Earth Day at the Friends’ Bookstore

Today is Earth Day, and it is the 40th anniversary of the movement that started with an oil slick off the coast of California. Today we have a worse ecological disaster off the coast of Australia, destroying the Great Barrier Reef. There has never been a better time to learn about your environment, and DO something.
The Bookstore has any number of nature books, environmental books, outdoor writings at fantastic prices. Then join the local Nature centers and organisations and get involved! Your grandchildren will thank you.

Earth Day at the Friends’ Bookstore

Today is the birthday of John Muir, scottish writer and american activist for nature (founder of Sierra Club). Celebrate earth day by reading one of his books – they lovingly detail and describe nature, as many of us will never see it, in all it’s reality. Better than television!
Activist and writer Bill McKibben has written several pertinent books e.g. The end of nature, the age of missing information and latest Eaarth. I also liked the list of books he recommended reading recently: Collected essays by Wendell Berry, Desert Solitaire Edward Abbey, Richart Nelson Heart and Blood, Gary Snyder Practice of the Wild, Lester Brown Plan B and Terry Tempest Williams Refuge. These are all powerful voices with brilliant prose. I have seen many of the books in the Friends’ Bookstore too!

Earth Day at the Friends’ Bookstore

Earth Day is THURSDAY so celebrate ALL week – go green and shop local! buy our new or used books in the Friends’ Bookstore!! Like all independent bookstores, we champion not just trendy authors, and carry a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction books. ALL of our books are donated: recycle and reuse for Earth Day. There is also a serendipitous element of browsing through our book collection. Relax and enjoy our friendly environment and staff. We also have the cheapest prices in town-in fact it seems like no where else has our low low prices!
OR check out our online sales for fantastic deals on Old or Collectible books. See the Friends website for quick links! Save the gasoline, reduce your carbon footprint, especially for Earth Day!

New Author! Bio of Jane Austen

OK all you Janeites!! there is a new (ish) biography that it utterly fascinating!
Jane’s Fame by Claire Harman (2009) How Jane Austen conquered the world. Well written, interesting critique, well researched, such that I am in search of her other three books now too. How did I miss the one on Robert Louis Stevenson?? She is prize winning author and a Fellow of the Royal Society of LIterature (2006) from her noted work : Sylvia Townsend Warner, Fanny Burney and Myself and the Other Fellow: A life of Robert Louis Stevenson.

Paraphrasing from my reading: “two hundred years and tens of thousands of books on Austen later… her fame and readership continue to grow.” the Dawn of janeism was around 1870 with Margaret Oliphant. In 2007 Pride and Prejudice was voted the book the UK couldn’t do without (the bible was 6th)…Til then Jane was an author “a critic’s novelist – highly spoke of and little read” in the 1830s-60s. Many people liked that there were no letters, no private information of either her or Shakespeare to keep the mystery and make the work more important…..
enjoy reading, and then peruse the footnotes, the biography, and be inspired again.

Friends’ Breakfast for Library Staff Appreciation

Today, and all week, the Library is celebrating National Library Week. The Friends hosted a breakfast as part of a Library Staff Appreciation – we can’t thank the Staff enough for all the wonderful work that they do, in so many ways, supporting so many facets of our community. THANKS, we look forward to working together for many many more years ๐Ÿ˜‰