Monthly Archives: September 2019

Back in Vermont and a Short Trip Up North to Québec City

Two Turtles on a Duck: Paying Attention to Small Things in Rural Vermont


After two weeks on the road, we now spent two weeks visiting friends and family and just chilling out in rural Vermont. One of the big benefits of staying in one place is slowing down and noticing the small things that get lost when moving fast. Like watching the two resident turtles climb on the back of an old, wooden decoy duck in our pond and spend the rest of the day blissfully floating in the sun. Here is a sampling of what we saw while paying attention to the details.


RD at the Farm, VT

Five Libraries That Were Churches, One A Former Prison and One on the Border With an Opera House 


Our Library Road Trip continued with a four-day journey to the French speaking Canadian province of Québec. We traveled through agricultural lands and a large mining district around the town of Thetford Mines. As we drove through this area, we saw the raw, rugged landscape of industrial mining. In the twilight, this place was both beautiful and horrible at the same time.

We arrived at beautiful Québec City after dark. We drove on to where we were staying at the pastoral and enchanting Ile d’Orléans. This island is located 15 km from Québec City in the middle of the St. Lawrence River with gorgeous views of downtown and the surrounding farmland. We were here many years ago with our son Walker and we were curious to see how it had changed. Because it was so late and no restaurants were still open on the island we dined on crackers, some good Gouda cheese, apples from our place in Vermont and some excellent local beer. Delicious!



One of the important things we learned on this part of the trip was that Québec has experienced a large drop in people attending church. In 2014, 434 churches in the province were unable to support their religious functions and were awaiting transformation into something else. That was up from 270 churches in 2012. Thirty-one churches have been converted into cultural purposes such as concert spaces and libraries. I am not sure why there is such a change in faith. It does seem that the people here are less religious than their conservative Catholic ancestors. In the past, the church was a major force in banning books that were considered not pious enough. Ironically, some of these same churches have now become public libraries.

The first place we visited was the elegant Library Monique-Corriveau housed in this former church since 2013. The church was built in 1964 and was considered a prime example of Québec’s modern architectural heritage. It was named after a local author who wrote a children’s book for each of her ten children. This modern structure had a distinctive steeple sweeping up from the front of this large building. Inside, the active library retained some of the references to religious architecture. The big, vaulted room still felt a little like a place where prayer was expected. I was surprised to find a piece of public art in the form of a dress made out of discarded pop-tops. This library does much work to help new immigrants including help with job searches, CV writing, internships, citizenship help, housing, health, schools, cultural codes, etc. Of course, everyone spoke French and the patrons seemed to represent a diverse background. I imagined that some of them were immigrants from French-speaking countries.

Library Monique-Corriveau, Québec City, QC

Library Monique-Corriveau, Québec City, QC

In the central Québec City neighborhood of Saint Jean-Baptiste, we discovered the amazing Library Claire-Martin. ­­It was named after a famous Québec author who lived to be 100 years old and was still publishing new books at 94. The Library is located in the former St. Matthew’s Anglican Church and is next to a cemetery dating from 1772 to 1860 where many famous people from the history of Québec’s English-speaking community are buried. After a great fire, the church was rebuilt in 1848 in a Neo-Gothic style and was later rebuilt again in the early 20th century. This library feels much more like a church than the last one and even retains a small alter and baptismal. It was breathtaking to see the transformation. We were impressed by the vision to take an old church and make it into a vital and active contemporary library. I envy the librarians that work here.

Library Claire-Martin, Québec, QC

Library Claire-Martin, Québec, QC

Library Claire-Martin, Québec, QC

Library Claire-Martin, Québec, QC

After spending much time photographing the extraordinary interior I wandered towards the outside to the back of the library. There, next to the ancient cemetery, I discovered a wonderful reading sculpture. Over the years, I have photographed many sculptures like this outside libraries. This one depicted a young woman reading a book. On the book someone had placed a photograph of a young boy. It was incredible to see and photograph it and I left with more questions than answers.

Library Claire-Martin, Québec, QC

Library Claire-Martin, Québec, QC

Library Claire-Martin, Québec, QC

Library Claire-Martin, Québec, QC

We were happy to have visited these two remarkable libraries but at this point we needed to get some exercise. The Plains of Abraham were the site of one of the most important battles in 18th century North America. The British besieged the French here in Québec City and eventually won control of all French dominated Canada with profound repercussions for many centuries afterwards. The Citadel is the largest fort in North America. The walk along the high cliffs and the old Citadel were amazing in the sunset light. Later in the walk, we are inspired by the famous Hotel Frontenac in the Old City and depressed by the views of a cruise ship half the size of Québec City. Otherwise, the views were spectacular, the weather crisp but nice and the tourist crowds were minimal at this time of the year. We ended the evening at a hockey-themed creperie watching the Canadians destroy the American team while enjoying our delicious crepes and great local beer.



We got up early the next morning and headed back to the Old City. We went to the Morrin Center Library which use to be a prison in the early days. It later served as the home of Morrin CoIlege which was Québec City’s first English-language institute of higher education. It later became home to the Literary and Historical Society of Québec and is now the oldest subscription library in Canada and has become a center for English language and culture in Québec. Although only 4% of people in Québec are English-only speakers, many people come here to learn English. It had a famous statue of the British General Wolfe who defeated the French and wrested control of Canada for the British in 1759. This was not popular in this city of Québécois loyalty and in the 1970s a young Argentinian man threw a Molotov cocktail and burned part of the statue and library. Fortunately, the library survived and today it is an extraordinary place.

Morrin Center Library, Québec City, QC

by was the equally extraordinary library called the House of Literature (Maison de la littérature). It was in the former Methodist Wesley Temple in a large Gothic revival church constructed in 1848 that now contained a library, exhibition space, concert/lecture hall and a bistro. Next door was a new annex that was a center for literary creation. The library still contained the church’s tall leaded windows showing the vault at every level of the building. The interior was entirely white to magnify the natural light.

House of Literature, Québec City, QCHouse of Literature, Québec City, QC

After a great lunch at the hipster restaurant called Maelstrom, we went to the impressive Musée de la Civilization. This museum was funded, in part, by the power company Hydro-Québec and I wondered if it may have been an effort in green-washing. But inside the museum the section on the Native people of Québec seemed honest, hard-hitting and gut-wrenching. We were impressed by this display and, at the same time, aware of the controversial funding that made it possible.

We headed back to our place on the idyllic Ile d’Orléans in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. We stopped at a cider place overlooking the river and pondered the beauty of the place and the experiences of the day while sipping hard cider as the sun set.



Before we left Québec City, we made one last foyer into hipsterland by having a great coffee at Cantcook.


We then drove three hours to the town of Asbestos, QC. By its name, you can tell what they used to mine here. This area is in a vast mining area and is also in the heart of conservative-voting Québec as seen by the election signs everywhere. As we had seen before, the library used to be a church. Although the building was smaller than the Library Monique-Corriveau in Québec City, this one had a similar grandiose, sweeping steeple with a cross still on top. So much for the separation of church and state.

Our next stop was 1 ½ hours southwest in the fairly large Canadian city of Magog. The Library Memphrémagog was in a former church made out of high, gray stones with two massive steeples. This must have been an impressive church and it was now a very large, impressive library. There were few references inside to the religious origins except for the spectacular stain-glass windows and a small chapel off the children’s library.

The last library we visited was one that I had photographed before in 2005 for my American Public Library project. An image of the library is in my book The Public Library: A Photographic Essay. It is called the Haskell Free Library and Opera House and, incredibaly, it straddles the Canadian/American border in the little towns of Stanstead, QC and Derby Line, VT. I only had photographed the library exterior (which was closed at the time) on our earlier visit and I was curious to see the borderline that runs through the library. I asked the Border Patrol agent parked in his SUV in front of the library how do we enter the library since we were coming from Canada and the library’s front door was on the US side of the border. He said as long as we stayed on the sidewalk, we could enter the library. But he warned us not to cross the street or that would be an illegal border crossing and he would have to arrest us. Needless to say, we stayed on the sidewalk!

Haskell Free Library and Opera House, Stanstead, OC/ Derby Line, VT

Although I included this library as part of my earlier study of American public libraries, Ellen and I both felt this one was appropriate to include in our study of Canadian and even global libraries. The Haskell family built this library on the border as an early 20th century expression of international respect and cooperation. That seems quaint today in our era of tightened borders. I imagined that the Border Patrol found this place problematic. But I hope in the future, libraries could be placed upon political boundaries around the world as a way of building cooperation and promoting peace. What would a library look like on the border, say, between Palestine and Israel? Or Ukraine and Russia? Or even Mexico and the United States? I think that the Haskell’s were on to something that still resonates today.

After 18 years of photographing libraries throughout the US, I came away feeling that libraries are one of the things that help unite our currently divided United States. And I think that libraries can help do the same thing globally.


Now that we are back in Vermont, I will keep you updated on the rest of our journey. Until then…

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Toronto, Ottawa and Back in the USA

Toronto, Ottawa and Back in the USA 


Toronto is the most multiculturally diverse city in the world: over 140 languages are spoken here and over half of the city’s residents were born outside of Canada. Last night we celebrated this by going to a Mexican restaurant staffed by recent migrants from Mexico. This morning we went to the wonderful Pow Wow restaurant serving Native-American fusion food. Amazing food!


Getting back to work, our first stop was the superb Toronto Reference Library. It was pretty snazzy when built in the 1970s and it is still great today. Its giant atrium provides good views of all parts of the library and reminds me of a similar style of a library in Stuttgart, Germany that I photographed in 2016.

Toronto Public Library - Toronto Reference Library, Toronto

Toronto Public Library - Toronto Reference Library, Toronto

Toronto Public Library - Toronto Reference Library, Toronto

Toronto Public Library - Toronto Reference Library, TorontoToronto Public Library - Toronto Reference Library, Toronto

The Bloor-Gladstone branch library was located in a very diverse neighborhood that is trending towards hipster. The traditional Carnegie style library had wonderfully incorporated a new addition that was filled with afternoon light and people on computers. Like most libraries it was packed with people and the librarians have to gently kick everyone out at closing time.

Toronto Public Library - Bloor/Gladstone Branch, TorontoToronto Public Library - Bloor/Gladstone Branch, Toronto

Our last library was the Scarborough Civic Centre Library in a nearby suburb of Toronto. Our timing was good as the light was great on the library and the sparkling surrounding high-rise apartments. A group of African-Canadians dressed for a party were having a great time outside the closed library. It seemed that the diversity of this city really works as most everyone seems to get along.

Toronto Public Library - Scarborough Civic Centre Branch, Scarborough, ON

We ended our day at the Bluffs Park on Lake Ontario watching the glow of the sunset over a lake that looks like the sea. Literally everyone here was from South Asia or Africa. The easy-going vibe, the different styles of clothing and music people are dancing to helps me understand why this city is considered so attractive to migrants from all over the world. Diversity seems to work here.


Today was an easy-going drive of only five hours. I photographed an interesting looking library in upscale Perth, ON. It had a fascinating tower and canal outside the library.

But the main goal of today was the Library of Parliament in the capitol city of Ottawa. This building was undergoing a massive renovation and it was surrounded by fences and construction material. It was situated on a bluff next to the Canadian Parliament and looked over the confluence of two rivers. The soft sunset light and the harsh construction lights made for a rather striking scene. I spent some time in the one spot that I could try to capture it all. As we walked back to our car we go by the other side of Parliament and saw hundreds of people watching a massive light show on the front of this impressive structure.

Library of Parliament, Ottowa, ONLibrary of Parliament, Ottowa, ON



Our last day of driving took us from Ottawa to Montreal and then on to our little cabin in the woods in Vermont. As we were driving into Montreal, we got a text from our son Walker that we would be driving right by the French market called Marche Atwater which we had visited years ago when we got the best croissants ever. Of course, we screeched in amidst the construction, downpour and traffic and found a parking spot right in front. The croissants were still the best and it brightened up what could have been a long, slow slog-of-a-day. Thank You Walker!


Crossing back into the USA was quick and uneventful. Because it was Labor Day, we knew it might be hard to find a place for dinner. But our old favorite Sandy’s happened to be open and their classic veggie burgers were sublime. We stumbled through the dark to our cabin down a dirt road off a dirt road. It was very remote and we were astonished to find the family name on the dirt driveway to the cabin listed on our Prius navigation system. After driving 4,960 miles it was good to have a place to lay our heads down for more than one or two nights.


More later. Until then…



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Entering the Woods: Outback Ontario

Entering the Woods: Outback Ontario 


We continued our drive east. As we crossed the border of Ontario we entered the vast Boreal Forest of the Canadian Shield. Here the forest is huge, but the soil is thin, a result of the last glaciers that scraped the land clean. Approximately 50% of Ontario’s area is part of the Boreal Forest. It is sometimes called the Amazon of the North and, like the real Amazon, it is beginning to burn because of climate change. It is the world’s largest storehouse of carbon after Brazil. We stopped at a small pond and have a much-appreciated picnic of peanut butter sandwich with a side cup of coffee. I picked up a small piece of birch bark and marvel at its delicate beauty in the weird northern Canadian light.

We pulled into Thunder Bay, ON after another long drive. Just as we get to the edge of the city we spotted a library in a shopping mall. The light was beautiful and a security guard was just closing the doors to the mall. The pedestrians outside were a real mix of the city including bored shoppers with fidgety kids, a Muslim woman wearing a scarf and several desperate Indigenous people begging near the entrance. We later learned that there are several Native Reserves nearby and sometimes the relations between them and the city are tense.

We stayed at a renovated hotel which used to be City Hall. Our room had a spectacular view overlooking Thunder Bay and Lake Superior. We went to a nice restaurant near the yacht harbor and we talked about how different our perception of this area is from our son Walker’s view from a Greyhound bus two years ago.


Today is the first day since August 19th that I don’t photograph a library. We have another very long drive which takes us along the spectacular, wild northern shore of Lake Superior. The 9 ½ hour drive is slow going with heavy rains at times, two lanes and lots of trucks and construction. Music and podcasts continue to be our entertaining traveling companions. The literary highlight of the day was arriving at the tiny village of White River, ON. It contained a monument to Winnie the Pooh. The real Winnie came from here and was named after the city of Winnipeg. The young orphan bear was purchased from a trapper here by a Canadian solider on his way to Europe and WWI. The bear was later donated to the London Zoo where it became something of a celebrity. The real Christopher Robbins fell in love with the bear and his father, A.A. Milnes, wrote the famous tale about his son and the bear that became a classic of children’s literature.


We arrived exhausted after the day’s drive to the city of Sault Ste. Marie. The French name means the “Falls of St. Mary” but the falls are buried under a series of locks that connect Lakes Superior to Huron. We can see the US on the other side of the Canal but we aren’t ready to return just yet. When we get out of the car I am struck by a toxic, acrid smell from a nearby steel plant. Even an ensuing downpour doesn’t eliminate it but the smell gradually disappeared. I felt sorry for the residents of this industrial city and wondered about the condition of their lungs.



The next day we took an emotional road trip. Although I photographed the very nice library in Blind River, ON our real purpose was to make a pilgrimage to the place of the lyric of the Neil Young song “Long May You Run”. We watched the Blind River run as we listened to the song from our CD player.


We then headed to the city of Sudbury, ON which we had last visited on our honeymoon thirty-six years ago. We went there then because we were interested in the effects of mining on the landscape and Sudbury was the largest nickel producer in the world. Since the 1920s, it had been a toxic industrial wasteland of bleak black soil. So barren was the surrounding terrain that NASA came here to train in the 1960s. We continued our honeymoon beyond Sudbury to visit toxic waste sites throughout the American West. It was very romantic and we are still happily married. We re-visited the statue of the Big Nickel which is a giant stainless-steel replica of a 1951 Canadian nickel coin.

We photographed one rather nice-looking modern branch library on the edge of Sudbury. After another long drive, we arrived in the magical city of Toronto.

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The Canadian Prairie: Crossing That Awesome Space to Winnipeg, Manitoba

The Canadian Prairie: Crossing That Awesome Space to Winnipeg, Manitoba 


An unexpected surprise was meeting our friends Gregor and Maria from Poland. He is a performer for Cirque de Soilé and she is a librarian and scholar. They were traveling with Cirque throughout North America and they happened to be in Calgary now. We fell in love with their two adorable children Benedict and Maria while we had coffee in the library.

As we drive east, we really feel like we have entered the vast sea of grass and big skies of the Canadian prairies. The scale is humbling and hard to comprehend. But somehow it feels familiar and comforting after growing up in the vastness of the Sacramento Valley Today we stopped and photographed the libraries in the small towns of Brooks, Swift Current and Moose Jaw. The library in Brooks, Alberta works with a large Somali population that came here to work in the huge meat-packing plant on the edge of town. The library has many foreign-language books and the small town has many Africans walking the streets, some in their beautiful native clothing.

We are happy to enter the new province of Saskatchewan. There we photographed the Chinook Regional Library in Swift Current. The town is exceptional in its austerity and its library shows that in its beautiful but severe architecture. Moose Jaw has an exceptional name and is a welcome island in a prairie sea. The gangster Al Capone used this as a haven for his whiskey smuggling operation into the United States during Prohibition. During this time, the town approached Andrew Carnegie for a $50,000 grant to build their library. He didn’t believe their town population numbers and refused the request. The city then raised its own money and built their beautiful library for $100,000. Take that, Mr. Carnegie!


Our new Prius is working well but we realize that there are many things we need to learn about our new computer-with-wheels. One surprise was a sign that popped up on the dash that said I should get a cup of coffee because I was swerving too much. The whole trip we have been trying to live in the Eco-Zone!

Fortunately, we pulled into Regina, Saskatchewan after a long day’s drive before the car could take over and tell us to go to bed.


Today we follow our son Walker’s orders and drive 4 ½ hours north of Regina to the tiny, mostly Native community of Duck Lake, SK. We drive through several cells of torrential downpours into brilliant but sometimes cloudy skies.

Duck Lake is the site of a great 19th century battle between Metis (mixed race Native-White) people and Canadian militias. It was the start of the uprising called the Northwest Rebellion. The old Victoria school is now the Wapiti Public Library. On the side is a great mural to the Native man called Almighty Voice. Through a series of tragic events he was eventually killed by government troops for killing a cow. Duck Lake is also the site of one of the last government schools for Indigenous children that only closed in 1996. These schools were one of the darker chapters of Canadian westward expansion. Native children were taken away from their parents and were forced to abandon their Native culture. They were forbidden to speak their own language and were forced to learn how to read and write in English. They were often shunned or disowned by their families when they eventually returned. This tragedy was played out in the US as well with terrible consequences. It also brings up uncomfortable questions for our project where we have always championed education. In Duck Lake the school probably had good intentions. But here education and literacy became a form of cultural genocide rather than a source of hope and a way out to a better future. Lots to learn from the Native people of Canada!

We spent the night in the northern city of Saskatoon, SK. I fell in love with the tidy small bungalows and tree-lined streets of this city. However, our motel seemed seedy (and cheap!) and I think the immediate surrounding area was run by Vietnamese mafia. The restaurant where we had dinner was delightful and our waitress identifies herself as a modern Mennonite. There are plenty of traditional Mennonites living here and in Manitoba. They are part of the vast web of religious diversity in this country.


We visited two libraries today. The first was in a strip mall in the tiny town of Lanigan, SK. It was not pretty or historically interesting but was pretty typical of small-town Canadian libraries. The other was in the larger town of Yorkton. The architecture was brutalist and didn’t even have windows. As sad as the building was, I was still glad that there was a library in this remote prairie town. As was true of most Canadian libraries that we visited, this one was filled with people.

But most of today was spent enjoying the beautiful Canadian landscape. In between the cloud bursts and brilliant sunshine, we saw several dazzling banded rainbows. We are driving through an area settled by many Ukrainian people. As we come to the crest of a hill near the small village of Insinger, we see the beautiful spires of a tiny Ukrainian Orthodox Church. It reminds us of our 2016 trip to Ukraine and I admired the strength and courage of the people that made that long and difficult journey from there to here.

We are also inspired by the music of some great Canadian musicians including Neil Young, the McGarrigle Sisters and especially Leonard Cohen. Poetry, prairies, podcasts and pounding rain accompany us throughout the day. After a very long day we arrived in the capitol of Manitoba – Winnipeg. It has a violent reputation and is called the murder capital of Canada. Parts of it are pretty dicey but not the neighborhood where we spend two nights called the Forks.



The Millennium Centennial Library of Winnipeg is located in the City Center. It is both beautiful and a well- run library. It has two social workers on staff to deal with people experiencing hard times. It had an Indigenous People’s Center, an Idea Mill (Maker Space) and is the hometown library of Winnie the Pooh.

We visited St. John’s Branch Library which is located in the most dangerous part of Winnipeg. The building was an old Carnegie Library had a really nice new addition. This seemed to be the kind of library that would really make a difference in this difficult place. One librarian was Ukrainian and had worked as a librarian there. In the basement was an amazing exhibit on the tragic Indian Residential Schools of Canada.

We also visited the incredible the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. It told a big story throughout the world but we we only had time to focus on the Canadian Indigenous People and the Residential Schools.

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The Trans-Canadian Highway: The Far West to Calgary, Alberta

The Trans-Canadian Highway: The Far West to Calgary, Alberta


We left Vancouver early the morning in the pouring rain and gridlocked traffic. Although I really liked Vancouver, it felt good to get beyond the city and start east on the Trans-Canadian Highway. We drove on to the Stó: lõ Research and Resource Management Centre in Chilliwack, British Colombia. This community center contained a small but important library and archive. It was also a positive expression of Native culture that is in the process of reinventing itself. This Library and Centre was part of the effort for the local Indigenous people to connect with their past and to build a better future. Our friend Dionne from Vancouver works with this group on fisheries issues.

Stó:lō Research and Resource Centre, Chilliwack, BC

Stó:lō Research and Resource Centre, Chilliwack, BC

Stó:lō Research and Resource Centre, Chilliwack, BC

Stó:lō Research and Resource Centre, Chilliwack, BC

Stó:lō Research and Resource Centre, Chilliwack, BC

Stó:lō Research and Resource Centre, Chilliwack, BC

Stó:lō Research and Resource Centre, Chilliwack, BC

Stó:lō Research and Resource Centre, Chilliwack, BC

The sky was low and dark as we drove east into the Kamloops Mountains. Ellen and I had never driven all the way through the Canadian Rockies and we found them to be stunning. We stopped briefly to photograph the small South Schuwap Branch Library. While sitting in the car a wild-eyed man came running out of a store, noticed our California license plate and demanded to know if we supported President Trump. I explained to him that we hated Trump and he pretended to shout back to the store that it was safe to come out because we weren’t Trumpers. We found the same reaction to our president in Europe and it is safe to say that he is the most unpopular man in the world. Four hours after leaving Chilliwack we arrived in the year-round resort town of Revelstoke.


The next day we began our drive through the High Rockies and we finally entered Baniff National Park. All the rivers had been flowing west but as we crossed the Continental Divide everything shifted and the waters of the Canadian West headed east. As we were crossing the Divide we were listening to the sublime CD “Bad Lego Man” by our friend and contractor George Crampton. The hours and kilometers slipped by as Ellen and I both exclaimed a lot of “Wows” and Look at thats”. We finally came out of the mountains and into the great Canadian prairie. We will remain in this vast landform until we reach the boreal forests of Ontario.

Calgary, Alberta is like the Houston of Canada. Cowboys and oil money mix here in a vibrant and exciting city. The Central Library is world-class and has recently been listed as one of the best libraries in the world by Time Magazine and the New York Times. I photographed the outside at dusk as the lights came on and a gathering storm grew darker and darker. The rain finally came crashing down in a flood just as I jumped back into the car. But I think the photos that I made were worth it.



We went back to the Calgary Central Library and were given a first-class tour of this exceptional place. This is one of the most intelligently put together libraries I have ever seen. They certainly have learned from what works and doesn’t work in libraries from all over. It is an exceptional community center that responds to the needs of this city. And it was, of course, filled with people – young parents with excited kids, scholars, students, homeless, tourists and people walking through studying the library itself.

Central Library, Calgary, AB

Central Library, Calgary, AB

Central Library, Calgary, AB

Central Library, Calgary, AB

Central Library, Calgary, AB

Central Library, Calgary, AB

Central Library, Calgary, AB

Central Library, Calgary, AB


Central Library, Calgary, AB

Central Library, Calgary, AB

Central Library, Calgary, AB

Central Library, Calgary, AB

Central Library, Calgary, AB

Central Library, Calgary, AB

Central Library, Calgary, AB

Central Library, Calgary, AB

After spending most of the day here I felt happy like a kid in a candy store. We headed over to the Memorial Park Library as the sky was darkening again with another storm. This was the oldest library in Alberta and was one of the libraries built by Andrew Carnegie. This beautiful building contained a Pride display, several Indigenous language books and an interesting musical instrument lending library. The deluge came as I hurriedly photographed the exterior of the library. We grabbed a dinner at a wonderful Calgary Mexican restaurant and sat at the window and watched the rain fall. I really enjoyed my Canadian tacos! Back at our hotel as I was later downloading my images from this productive day, I fell asleep. We have been running pretty non-stop since we left San Francisco and I guess it finally caught up with me.

Memorial Park Branch Library, Calgary, AB

Memorial Park Branch Library, Calgary, AB



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North to Vancouver, and then East…

My apologies for not posting this earlier. It turns out I could drive, photograph, edit the images and write the blog during our two-week journey across Canada. But at the end of many long days I wasn’t able to put it all together and post it. I now have the time to assemble the pieces and I will begin to send these out on a regular basis.


North to Vancouver, and then East…


Ellen and I started our Canadian Library Road Trip by driving nine hours straight to the edge of Eugene, OR in our new Prius. Northern California was absolutely beautiful despite the 104-degree temperature outside. Mt. Shasta was stunning against the brilliant blue sky. Even in August, the higher reaches were still blanketed with snow after our heavy snowfall winter. California was able to dodge the bullet of drought this year as the slow Sierrian snow melt keeps our rivers full. Even the mighty Sacramento River was brimming with water as we crossed over it near Redding.

One of the great benefits of living in the digital era is the invention of the podcast. Some of our favorites include The Daily, FiveThirtyEight Politics, The NPR Politics Podcast, Pod Save America, The Argument and Up First. I think you can see a theme developing here. Our son Walker helped develop some of this list. Please send us your suggestions as well. We are all ears.



After a quick visit with our friends Kenny and Margo Helfhand, we had to make a stop at one-of-the-greatest-bookstores in the world – Powell’s Books in Portland, OR.  We continued on and finally arrived in Seattle to stay with our friends Peter de Lory and Kay Kirkpatrick. Peter is an old friend and great photographer. Kay is a public librarian by day and a wonderful public artist the rest of the time. Their wonderful house was filled with books and photographs. Of course, we felt instantly at home in their cozy house.


Our trek continued north to that wonderful country with great healthcare called Canada. We just made it in time to our first appointment at the Central Library of Vancouver. This is considered one of the great libraries in Canada and is featured in many books as one of the great libraries of the world. We were given a fascinating tour by a young librarian who showed us every part of the library. We were exhausted at the end because there was so much to see and absorb.

Central Library, Vancouver, BC

Central Library, Vancouver, BCCentral Library, Vancouver, BC

IMG_1562Lightroom (DSC_4789.NEF and 1 other)

We ended our day by staying with one of my former Stanford students Dionne who lives in West Vancouver. An added treat and a great birthday present was meeting her parents again who were visiting from India. Bunny and Vickti live in Mumbai and he is a retired pilot for Air India.


The next morning, we made a beeline back to Vancouver. Our destination was the néća?mat.ct Strathcona Branch Library. It was located in the East Hastings area of East Vancouver which has been called one of the poorest postal codes in all of Canada. Like our home of San Francisco, as Vancouver has boomed the widening income gap has displaced many people and swelled the ranks of the homeless. Even coming from San Francisco, we were astonished by the number of people living on the sidewalk. The area felt very chaotic and we found out later that it was considered a very dangerous place. Fortunately, we found a parking spot right in front of the library. The librarian explained that the neighborhood desperately needed a library and it opened two years ago. It was obvious that it was well used and well loved. The Native American name of the library was an effort to provide hope and pride to the Native population. Tragically, a large percentage of Vancouver’s homeless population are First Nation people. This place is an example of a library as healing.

Strathcone Branch Library, Vancouver, BCStrathcone Branch Library, Vancouver, BC

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the University of British Colombia’s Museum of Anthropology. This contains one of the world’s finest collection of Native American art and artifacts. Ellen and I had recently spent some time during our Fulbright in Greece, Italy and Israel going to see extraordinary museums and collections. But we were entranced by the collections at this museum. I began to see the importance of the Indigenous culture to our understanding of Canada. We hoped to see more of it as we visit libraries across Canada.






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