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Posts Tagged ‘public library

“Many people, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book”*…


For 20 years, Columbian rubbish-collector Jose Alberto Gutierrez has been holding on to the books he finds while on his rounds in Bogota.

After two decades his collection totals more than 20,000 books – many of them thrown away by the people of the Colombian capital, now given a new life in the huge library Jose has amassed.  The books take up several rooms in the Gutierrez family home, from where they’re lent out to neighbors through a free community library, which Jose runs with the help of his wife, Luz Mery Gutierrez, and their three children…

Check it out at: “This dustbin man built a huge public library from books other people had thrown away.”

* Jane Smiley, Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel


As we pile ’em high, we might recall that it was on this date in 1916 that the first and only edition of the magazine Cabaret Voltaire was published, containing work by Hugo Ball, Kandinsky, Jean (Hans) Arp, Modigliani, and the first printing of the word “Dada.”  The (not so) periodical was named for the nightclub that Ball has started earlier in the year in Zurich with help from friends including Arp and Tristan Tzara.



Written by LW

June 15, 2017 at 1:01 am

Check it out…


Public libraries are repositories of books, of course; and of late, a source of e-book, CD, and DVD loans.  But lest we think that that our options are limited to intellectual property, we can also take out fishing poles, puppets, state park passes, even seeds for our gardens…   Check out a representative list of items on offer at “Weird Public Library Stuff.”


As we renew our cards, we might spare a thought for Francis Lieber.  A  jurist, gymnast and political philosopher, he edited an Encyclopaedia Americana and authored the “Lieber Code” during the American Civil War (AKA the Code for the Government of Armies in the Field (1863), which laid the foundation for conventions governing the conduct of troops during wartime).

Lieber, who believed that training the body was as important as training the mind, fell in with Charles Follen, who opened the first gymnasium in the U.S. in 1826.  Then, on this date the following year, Leiber followed suit, opening the first public pool and swimming school in the U.S.  It was such a phenomenon that then President John Quincy Adams visited and took a dip.





Readers will recall “The Monty Hall Problem”:

Suppose you’re on a game show, and you’re given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what’s behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, “Do you want to pick door No. 2?” Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?

As explained in “Riddle Me This…,” the Bayesian peculiarities of the answer are not always intuitively obvious.  Indeed, as Discover reports,

Over the years, the problem has ensnared countless people, including professional mathematicians.  But not, it seems, pigeons.  Walter Hebranson and Julia Schroder showed that, after some training, the humble pigeon can learn the best tactic for the Monty Hall Problem, switching from their initial choice almost every time.  Amazingly, humans who get similar extensive practice never develop the optimal strategies that the pigeons pick up.

The original paper “Are birds smarter than mathematicians? Pigeons (Columba livia) perform optimally on a version of the Monty Hall Dilemma” from the Journal of Comparative Psychology is here… but the Discover article is a good– and for the humans among us, chastening– summary.

As we retreat to our fingers for counting, we might recall that it was on this date in 1833 that the first tax-supported public library was founded, in Peterborough, NH.  The original collection consisted of about 100 books and was kept in Smith & Thompson’s General Store, which also housed the Post Office.

Smith & Thompson’s (on left) in 1870

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