Thursday, December 31, 2009

End of the Year Essay

I had to submit an essay about teaching in Korea to the local Ministry of Education and I though I would post it here because it also sums up the last half of the year which is when I totally neglected my blog. Among my New Year's resolutions (ha!) I plan on being more diligent with my updates.

2009 was once of the most exciting years in my life and one full of many exciting changes and profound personal developments. I decided to leave my home, family and friends behind in America and travel halfway around the world to begin my new career as an English teacher. I took the summer off to attend the London Rare Book School, conduct historical research in England and Scotland and to spend time with my extended family as part of the International Gathering of the Clans in Edinburgh. By the end of August I found myself in Youngyang, South Korea, eager to begin my new teaching assignment at Il-wol Elementary School.

Settling into my new life in a country where I didn’t know the language and couldn’t even understand the signs was a little overwhelming. I spent my first week in quarantine because of the H1N1 concerns so I spent most of my time walking around Yeongyang watching the farmers during the pepper harvest. Mrs. Park was very generous in setting up my apartment and escorting me around the first. She was also very helpful in navigating the paperwork, introducing me to the other teachers, and even helped me set up a bank account. In fact everyone that I met was very kind and helpful to this new stranger in their town and school.

I wasn’t really sure what was expected of me at first and as a new teacher I was very nervous about exactly how I would handle a class full of children who spoke little English. In particular I was scared about having to teach the after-school program at the two branch schools as I knew I wouldn’t have the safety of the textbook to use. With the encouragement of Miss Woo, I was able to think of the various themes that needed to be explored and also saw that I was worrying too much about details instead of just relaxing and enjoying the time with the children.
In September I started teaching at the YES Center and was grateful for the opportunity to meet English teachers from the other schools. They helped me understand the way things are done here and reassured me that they all went through the same awkward adjustments. They were also very helpful in showing me how to do things like paying bills, getting a taxi and taking a bus. Harry Tritt and his wife took me on one of their trips to Daegu and showed me how to get around by bus and subway.
In October, the teachers went on an overnight trip to southern coast and I was able to experience my first stay in a Korean hotel. In addition I joined in the hikes to visit some temples and traditional villages. I think American schools could learn a lot about team-building by such group excursions. We seemed to enjoy each others company and even though I really had no idea what was going on most of the time, everyone was very kind and made sure that I participated in all of the activities.
By the end of October I was feeling really confident in my teaching and found that the children responded well to the lessons that I had prepared. I spent many hours doing research online and gaining tips and lesson ideas from other English teachers. I learned how to create flashcards, games, and teaching tools joined several online teaching forums which helped me expand my basic skills. I think my hard work paid off as the children seemed to show more confidence in their use of English and were always glad to see me and try out their language skills. They particularly enjoyed the games and each week it became a challenge to find new activities to keep them interested. Students stretched their imaginations with role plays and my insistence on their talking English in the classroom. I stretched my imagination by using my inability to use Korean as a tool for teaching. Together we seemed to find a common ground that bridged any cultural divide.
One of the most exciting events at our school was the Book Festival. In my former life I was either a librarian or a bookseller and I was so excited to see so much time celebrating books and families.
It was thrilling to see such excitement surrounding reading and to see children enjoying themselves as they made bookmarks, created a newspaper or read books with their family members. Everyone made a leaf to go onto the book tree that celebrated their family. The evening culminated in a Golden Bell game and wonderful closing ceremony.

Because the school year is different in South Korea from anything that I knew in either America or England, I suddenly found that my school year was ending just as I was hitting my stride. December brought a flurry of activity around the end of the school year as sixth graders were preparing to finish their time at the elementary school. In fact our last week of school culminated in an overnight trip for all of the children to Gyeongju. Here we visited a museum and tombs which were very educational for me. I was particularly fascinated with prehistoric rock art on display and can’t wait to share them with one of my friends who is a scholar in this field. I think the children were more excited with our afternoon at the amusement park although they also enjoyed our evening visit to the jimjilbang.

As the year draws to a close, I am happy with my decision to change careers and experience a new culture. I have adjusted to the different foods, picked up a little vocabulary, and made many new friends.

Perhaps best of all, I begin every day at the school with young children squealing “Hello Fiona teacher” and grabbing my hand as I walk down the hallway.

It has given me a renewed sense of purpose and made me feel at home in “The Land of Morning Calm”.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Final Hour

down to the last hour of Dewey's Fall Readathon and time to fill out the survey

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? the one where I fell asleep - Hour 4

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? I just started Alexander McCall Smith's "44 Scotland Street" and may just stay up reading it - it comes in small chunks and really grabs you - wonderful writer

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
I really don't know - this is my second readathon and for me it is was so different but then I missed the 6 hours when I was asleep

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? Great cheerleaders and lots of small, easy mini-challenegs

5. How many books did you read? 3

6. What were the names of the books you read?
Pride and Prejudice
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
44 Scotland Street

7. Which book did you enjoy most? 44 Scotland Street- hard to put down

8. Which did you enjoy least? What We Talk About When We Talk About Love - it was okay and I'm glad I read it - Carver is considered a modern master and I don't remember reading anything of his before

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? n/a

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I would definteitely read again as long as it fits into my schedule

2 down

Just finished Raymond Carver's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" so my total is 2 books and 376 pages....a lot less than last readathon but then I was here for the whole 24 hours and didn't fall asleep after three hours

time to start Alexander McCall Smith's "44 Scotland Street" which I picked up this summer when in Edinburgh.

1 book down...

Just finished "Pride and Prejudice" for the readathon and wonder why it took me so long to finally get around to reading Austen. What fun... must do more some other time.

So my pathetic total so far is 1 book, 217 pages...would have been a lot more but I fell asleep about three hours into the readathon

Next up...Raymond Carver's "What we talk about when we talk about love"

oh, and that would be me just now sitting on the balcony, reading


My "charity" as such for the Readathon is Kiva which is a microlending organization. I like the microlending principle and would much rather invest in people instead of just giving a handout. It's also very good because it cuts out the administrative waste that you find in so many charities. I'm starting with a base of $100 but will increase it by $10 for every comment that gets posted here. Thanks for reading

Mini-challenges for the readathon

first we had to get up and dance to something on our music player - I chose Virtual Insanity because we used it during the silent rave at Denver's Union Station. I like to use it to get motivated t do housework.

Next we had to list 5 childrens books

easy one for me

Alice in Wonderland
The Wind in the Willows
I am Papa Snap and these are my favorite No-such stories
The Old Woman Who Named Things

I could go on and on but I really need to finish Pride and Prejudice

Dewey and the Readathon

I never knew Dewey but have heard about her from many bloggers. This readathon has been carried on in her memory by so many of those online friends of hers. This is such a great idea and I only wish that I could have introduced her and her friends to my book friends, Gorpies, which was an offshoot of the old Books & Literature chatroom on Yahoo. Isn't the internet a wonderful thing?

Music to read by

Another challenge involves posting the lyrics to songs that you like to read by. The only one that quickly comes to mind is by Carole King but I prefer Rod Stewart's version - I'm humming now and need to get back to reading

So Far Away

So far away
Doesn't anybody stay in one place anymore
It will be so fine to see your face at my door
And it doesn't help to know that your just time away
Long ago I reached for you and there you stood
Holding you again could only do me good
Oh how I wish I could
but you're so far away

One more song about moving along the highway
I can't say much of anything that's new
But if I could only work this life out my way
I'd rather spend it being close to you
but you're so far away
Doesn't anybody stay in one place anymore
It will be so fine to see your face at my door
And it doesn't help to know you're so far away
So far away, yeah you're so far away

Traveling around sure get's me down and lonely
Nothing else to do but close my mind
And I sure hope the road don't get to own me
There's so many dreams that I've yet to find
But you're so far away
Doesn't anybody stay in one place anymore
It will be so fine to see your face at my door
And it doesn't help to know
you're so far away, you're so far away
You're so far away, you're so far away
Oh I need to get in touch with ya baby
You're so very, very, very far away
You're so, so far away

Yoga break

Time to take a mini-challenge break that involves yoga. After looking at Jehara's blog I decided to try the legs-up-to-the-wall pose she first suggested. Wow...I had no idea I could still do stuff like that. Next I tried the downward-facing-dog and really felt the stretching. Finally I did the corpse pose and really felt rejuvenated. Now to finish Pride and Prejudice

Halfway through?????

So the readthon is officially at the halfway point and a survey has been posted, so here goes

1. What are you reading right now? Still reading Pride and Prejudice

2. How many books have you read so far? this is my first - I fell asleep - aarrgghh!!!

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? 44 Scotland Street - I picked it up in Edinburgh this summer and haven't had a chance to start it

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? Nope - this is my one day off this week

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? I fell asleep shortly after midnight and missed a big chunk of reading time - fortunately it left me refreshed to jump in for the rest of the day

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? The number of folks participating

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? This is such a fun event and I enjoy the diversity of activites - I think you all are doing a fabulous job

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? I would definitely pick out a lot of short tiles and get lots of rest before starting - I had to work and had just come back from a two-day trip - no wonder I fell asleep

9. Are you getting tired yet? no any more

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? pace the food and drink and eat lots of healthy stuff not so much junk food

RIF challenge

one of the current challenges from the Readathon is to post something that appeals to the Reading is Fundamental (RIF) campaign. I treasure this picture of my son Chris (now 25) reading Hop on Pop from our time in Omaha.

Thanks to my friend Debbie I have a copy of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish that I use with one of my favorite first graders here in Korea. I tell the other teachers that I learned to read courtesy of Dr. Seuss and there is no reason that Korean children can't enjoy him too.

Well...that was interesting

Yikes...I fell asleep sometime after midnight and just woke up...I missed a lot of reading time but I did get my location in the great collective map so I need to gear up and finish "Pride and Prejudice so I can fix breakfast

happy reading

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hour 2

I'm well into Pride and Prejudice and really enjoying it. The challenge for this hour involves tweeting with the hashtag #readathon and I have done my duty. A screenshot will be added in a bit. During the first hour I managed a cup of tea and three lovely Crown "Coffee tea & charming" cookies - you have to understand that in Korea things are packaged in unusual ways with "interesting" English used sometimes at random.
Here are the questions from the website

Where are you reading from today?

I'm starting with "Pride and Prejudice"... not really sure after that

3 facts about me …

I've been a librarian and bookseller but now I teach English in South Korea
My best friends online are a bunch of chatters from the old Books & Lit room in Yahoo chat - we first chatted in 1996 and have our own group now called "Gorpies"
Before I sold off everything that I owned, I estimated that I have 50,000 books in storage leftover from my used bookstore

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
I have about 10 and assorted e-books

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
I only hope to complete the 24 hours - not sure if I can because it starts so late for me

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time?
I did this last Spring for the first time - just sit back, relax, have lots of tea and enjoy the read - don't stress over how many pages you actually read and keep a stack of easy stuff for the last couple of hours

First Hour

It's evening here in Yeongyang and I am somewhat tired. A long day of teaching English to indifferent students coming on the heels of a two-day trip to the South coast of Korea with the other teachers at my school. I'm not sure how I will do in this readathon but I'm sure going to try and make it through. Last Spring I did all 24 hours but it started early in the morning as I then lived in Denver. As I recall we have a Spring snowstorm and I was glad to have a reason to huddle under the covers.

When I landed here in August all I brought with me was two suitcases with clothes and a few books. Thankfully my predecessor left behind a few books in the apartment and I have chosen one as my first book. It may come as a shock to some of my book-loving friends, but I am about to confess publicly that I have never read any Jane Austen novel (that I can remember). It's not that I don't love her style and haven't seen just about every tv or film version of her books, but for some reason she is on my list of famous writers I am pretty sure I have never read. So, I am picking up "Pride and Prejudice" to start the readathon. The copy in the apartment is a slightly abridged version with a Korean translation so I have downloaded the original and will read it on my laptop. I'll be back in an hour with a page count and food update.

Cheers...and happy reading


blowing off the blog dust and gearing up for Dewey's Read-a-thon which starts tonight. I moved to South Korea at the end of August and have been too busy starting a new job teaching English to bother with the blog. Now that I have too much free time, I need to get busy writing again

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Turnbull Stuff

The Turnbulls will be gathering July 18th in Hawick, Scotland - will you be there?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

43 Things

I took the 43 Things Personality Quiz and found out I'm a
Traveling Reinventing Romantic

and I think that there is an element of truth in that description

Monday, April 20, 2009

Blue Books / People's Pocket Series

I have had several people comment or ask questions about a small, incomplete set of books that I have. My last posting for the Read-a-thon noted that I was reading one for my last book. Kent State University Library has a collection of them and their description of of the publisher is reprinted here:

Emanuel Haldeman-Julius (1888-1951) began publishing his "Little Blue Books" in 1919 in order for classic works of literature to be available for a much lower price than usual, at five or ten cents each. His association with the Socialist party led him to buy the Socialist paper Appeal to Reason along with their printing press, which he used to publish a number of his books. The books became widely popular, and by 1949, over 300,000,000 had been sold. The series includes over a thousand titles spanning a wide range of material, from novels to philisophical tracts to advice manuals. The first several hundred books include mostly previously published pieces, but the series later expanded to include original works as well. Some of these are edited versions of more extensive pieces and some are completely original.

I have discovered a Facebook page for collectors, a fabulous collecting site, another collectors page, some for sale, a curious bio about the couple and an online edition of his novel "Dust", and, of course, a Wikipedia article.

I often wondered why I was drawn to them and then saw that Harlan Ellison remembers them from his mis-spent youth. Guess I'm in good company.

I'll be posting my modest collection on E-bay shortly as I clean out stuff from my apartment

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hour 24

just finished "Paperback Thriller" by Lynn Meyer - meh!
and Miraculous Revenge by George Bernard Shaw (People's Pocket Series)

current tally

8 books
1214 pages (slow reader - easily distracted) yeah !!! I made it past 1000
7 cups of tea (hmm...isn't that a book title)
1 Peach mango green tea Crystal light
1 bowl of Honey bunches of oats with peaches
1 small pizza
graham crackers with peanut butter
1 orange chicken dinner
1 banana
1 apple blossom with cream (gotta get that freezer cleaned out)
Many pieces of Hersheys all Natural Extra Dark assortment

Here are the challenge questions for the last hour
1. Which hour was most daunting for you? that would have been around hour 20
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Don't have a clue
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? It depends how large you want this to be but better publicity might have helped
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? I was skeptical about many of the challenges but they really kept me focused and gave me a break each hour
5. How many books did you read? 8
6. What were the names of the books you read?
The Longest Trip Home by John Grogan
Dr. Ebenezer's Book and Liquor Store by Gerald Rosen
Help I'm a Prisoner in the library by Eth Clifford
How to Travel with a Salmon by Umberto Eco
Rab and His Friends by Dr. John Brown
Exploring the Book of Kells by George Otto Simms
Paperback thriller by Lynn Meyer
Miraculous Revenge by George Bernard Shaw
7. Which book did you enjoy most?
The Longest Trip Home - it had me in tears by the end
8. Which did you enjoy least?
Paperback thriller - it was dated and pretty boring for a thriller
9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
I would probably do this again and would just like to read but probably do it for charity

I'm going to finish out the hour by reading from my collection of Little Blue Books

Hour 23

only 2 more hours to go - I was going to chuck out the book I'm reading because I'm finding it a bit tedious but did a quick google only to find out that it is included in a study on feminism and the crime novel - so I guess I'll plod along and finish up the exploits of Sarah Chayse and the mystery of who has burgled her office

I'm not doing the challenge this hour because it is for those readers who are doing the readathon for charity - maybe next year

Hour 22

this is insane - why am I still up trying to read?? what was I thinking?? just as I was about to nod off the BBC news at the top of the hour came on and I decided to check for the hourly challenge - apparently we need to write a silly limerick

so here goes

There once was a Denver book reader
Who thought that she had it within her
To summon the power
For twenty-four hours
To read without being a sleeper

Now I will try and finish my book

Hour 21

I really feel like I am starting to fade but I'll try one more challenge. This hour we are supposed to blog about Dewey who started the Read-athon. I never got to know her while she was alive but after poking around a bit on her website, I have to say I would have loved to have known her. I am especially taken with the Weekly Geeks which is a good way to keep readers on task and clean up unfinished business. Dewey must have been the mother hen and I'm only sorry that I came to the party a little to late to know her.

I think that is all I have in me for now

Hour 20

woohoo - I made it this far so I might as well keep going

from my stack of unread books I have chosen "Paperback Thriller", a piece of 1970's crime fiction that I suspect is not all that good

I'll let you know more next hour (javascript:void(0)assuming I am still awake and reading)

the challenge this hour was for people who have participated in all four of Dewey's Read-A-thons so that lets me out for another hour

back to the book

Hour 19

I just finished "Exploring the Book of Kells" which does have some lovely illustrations - a charming little book

ok - this hour the challenge is to visit three readers and post comments on their blogs - watch out because here I come

Blondie Rocket

then I have to go and find something new to read

current tally

7 books
1012 pages (slow reader - easily distracted) yeah !!! I made it past 1000
7 cups of tea (hmm...isn't that a book title)
1 bowl of Honey bunches of oats with peaches
1 small pizza
graham crackers with peanut butter
orange chicken
apple blossom with cream

Hour 18

the challenge this hour is to post about books we have re-read.

For the readathon, the only one one which is a reread for me is Dr. Ebenezer's Book and Liquor Store by Gerald Rosen. I first encountered this book in 1980 and have cherished it ever since, often sending it to my friends who are also booksellers. It is a weird, funky, San Francisco hippie tale about a burnt-out scientist who runs a book and liquor store (look for my earlier posts) - it's really quite silly but I have read this book probably once a year since 1980 - I love it because it made me think about the kind of bookstore that I would have one day - while I didn't sell liquor in mine, I did have a cast of characters like Doc did, characters that I dearly miss since closing my store some four years ago. Is it any wonder I used for one of the first challenges?

Other books that I reread include "Parnassus on Wheels", "The Wind in the Willows" and Kafka's "The Metamorphosis". They are old friends to me and I find some nuance that I missed before every time that I read them.

Hour 17

I just finished Umberto Eco's "How to Travel with a Salmon" - I like the blurb on the back
"Imagine an urban Garrison Keillor, raised on Kafka, schooled at the Sorbonne and utterly indifferent to cats and you've got a fair picture of Umberto Eco"

I picked up a small book that I have had in my possession for many years and decided to read it - Rab and his friends by Dr. John Brown - a sweet little piece written by a Scottish doctor about a dog and his master - here is the description of my copy, printed in 1908 by T.N. Fouls
Little Prose Masterpieces Series
Each volume of this series measures 5 1/2 by 2 3/4 inches. Printed on fine hand-made paper. tastefully decorated, with large initials in red, and in Japanese vellum wrapper, 6D net

I loved is so much I scanned the cover for everyone to see

the current tally is

6 books
940 pages (slow reader - easily distracted)
6 cups of tea (hmm...isn't that a book title)
1 bowl of Honey bunches of oats with peaches
1 small pizza
graham crackers with peanut butter
orange chicken
apple blossom with cream

Hour 16

the challenge for this hour gave us a choice, the first of which dealt with Peeps. Now my natural inclination would have been to take anything to do with Peeps but alas, I am Peepless. Instead I had the most fun trying to guess accents. I love this site and if it wasn't so late for me I would try and do it all over again. My score was a pretty pathetic 28 although I managed to pick up some bonus points by guessing the city as well as the country. Some of the clips were too short for me to be really sure but I found it an incredibly useful site which I hope to be able to use when I move to South Korea to teach English.

now to finish off Umberto Eco

Hour 15

I'm halfway through Umberto Eco's (the Name of the Rose) "How to travel with a Salmon" - what fun - this collection of essays are garnered from his culture columns - they runt the gamut from traveling with a salmon and his frustration with the hotel's computer to his justification for building a personal library. He has given me the perfect retort to those people who look at all of my books and say "Have you read all of these?" "No, these are the ones I have to read by the end of the month. I keep the others in my office"

this hour's challenge is do something creative to express the day - I'll have to think about that one


update - here is my entry for "You know you're participating in a Read-A-thon when..."

Hour 14

I'm finished with Doc Ebenezer - I love this book and if you need a copy you can easily find one online

ok the challenge this hour has to do with Non-fiction books. Tammy wants to know:
What is you favorite non-fiction book and why?
What genre(s) do you enjoy and are there particular writers that you would recommend to others? If you don't read non-fiction, why not?

I am a huge fan of non-fiction and as a matter of fact my next book to read is a collection of essays by Umberto Eco. I generally love history, science and biographies. Non-fiction authors that I have recently read include John Baxter (A Pound of Paper), John Grogan (The Longest Trip Home), Nicholas A. Basbanes (Patience and Fortitude), Paul Collins (Sixpence House) and Lawrence Goldstone (Out of the Flames) - I love books about books

so my score so far is
3 books
654 pages (slow reader - easily distracted)
3 cups of tea (hmm...isn't that a book title) add another cup
1 bowl of Honey bunches of oats with peaches
1 small pizza
graham crackers with peanut butter

Hour 13

before I post my answers to the new challenge here is another quote from Dr. Ebenezer

He has often said that your twenties are when you find out there are walls in the world and throw yourself against them in your rage. Maturity is when you see there are also doors, and then you accept the walls and begin to walk through the doors.

ok here are the questions

1. What are you reading right now? Dr. Ebenezer's Book and Liquor Store

2. How many books have you read so far? this is my 3rd

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I have a collection of Umberto Eco essays I want to try and read

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? nope -a snowstorm canceled everything that I had already planned to do

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? the only interruptions were doing the challenges - I live by myself

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? How quickly the time flies - I can't believe that I have been doing this for 12 hours

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Hard to say - some of the challenges will only work for the first couple of people answering them (like the first line one)

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? I would plan a better collection of books in advance - really break them up for style and length

9. Are you getting tired yet? not yet

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? Keep the teapot full - it seems to work for me

Hour 12

wow - nearly halfway through - the challenge this hour was to join Bookcrossing and let Debbie at Readerbuzz know your id and pick three books from her list - that was a cinch since I've had a bookcrossing account for a long time but really hadn't used it since I took the crazy cross-country trip to see the Pirates and visit Dennis which is when I started this blog - funny how things come full circle isn't it?

so my score so far is
2 books
430 pages (slow reader - easily distracted)
3 cups of tea (hmm...isn't that a book title)
1 bowl of Honey bunches of oats with peaches
1 small pizza
graham crackers with peanut butter

time to rummage for something interesting

Hour 11

well I needed a break so I did a quick read of "Help! I'm a prisoner in the Library" - cute story of two girls who wander into a library during a snowstorm and get locked in - silly and lighthearted but good on a snowy readathon day. For this hour's challenge we are supposed to write a letter so I think I will write one to the girls locked in the library

here is my letter

Dear Mary Rose and Jo-Beth:

I know you girls were scared when your dad left you in the car but what were you thinking when you left the car to look for a bathroom? I mean, couldn't you have just squatted outside the car and then quickly gotten back in and locked the doors like your dad said? I know you were scared of Miss Finton at first, but did you have to eat her chicken? I don't care if the power was out, it would have taken a long time before the food would have gone bad. I'm glad you have a new baby brother but I hope you teach him to do what your dad says so he will stay safe.

ps next time you want to visit a library you can come to mine

(to the girl in "Help I'm a prisoner in the library)

Hour 10

I'm about halfway through Doc Ebenezer (It's a quick read if you have read it before) and had forgotten some of my favorite passages - time to share

"When I first thought of the store, I figured a guy would come in with a problem and I could listen to him and recommend Plato or the Buddha or Sigmund Freud or whatever. But then I realized, with some people, their problems are so bad all you can recommend is Johnny walker and come back tomorrow and we'll try to start again"

if you have ever had your own store you can appreciate the comings and goings - ting-ling

the challenge for this hour has to do with Books crossing over to TV - think I'll pass on that one although I have another three hours to complete it


update to answer the challenge

I'm not big on series books although I got initially hooked on the Sue Grafton's A is for Alibi ... and so on. She got pretty boring by the letter J - I think they would make a good series for TV

The books that I love that need to be made into movies include "Parnassus on Wheels", "Eat, Pray, Love", "The Rule of Four", "The Shadow of the Wind"

I don't watch a lot of TV any more but the series "House" might make for good medical thrillers a la Crichton

Hour 9

well that was wild - I'm trying to finish up Grogan's book and I hear my sister on the radio - she was the Wait wait Don't Tell Me contestant and somehow or another I missed her post about it

anyway I finished "The Longest Road Home" and have to tell you that it was a wonderful book. It is about Grogan's relationship with his father and life in a crazy Catholic household. The last third of the book deals with his father's illness. Somehow or another much of what he had to say hit home for me as I am preparing to make a trip home to visit my folks before I leave the country. My dad is starting to fade and is getting ready for a knee replacement and somehow or another I am overly concerned.

so my tally is 1 book, 334 pages, 2 cups of tea and 1 walk - time to start book number 2 "Dr. Ebenezer's Book and Liquor Store" by Gerald Rosen (I've read it before but haven't touched it in a long time)

I'm not bothering with the challenge because everyone else has posted the correct answers to the first lines - I sort of expected/hoped to see "Mother died today or was it yesterday" but alas, it was not to be.

Hour 8

this is a pretty easy challenge and I will get it out of the way so that I can finish my book

Jessica at the Curious Reader wants to know stuff about our local library. This is great because as we all know, this is National Library Week. Rather than answer about the library where I work, I think I'll talk about the library that I use.

1. What is the name of your local library? What city is it located in?
I go to the Blair-Caldwell branch of the Denver Public Library. A pic is posted in my walk post..

2. How often do you go to the library? If you're a regular, do the staff know you?

Lately I have been going there almost daily. I am on a movie and book marathon before leaving the country and I can order what I want online and it gets to the branch which is right by the light rail station that I use almost every day. The staff may not know my name but we chat about my selections in music and movies


3. Do you browse while you're there or just pick up items you have placed on reserve?

It is a fairly small branch that is always crowded. I browse for music and movies and then am always surprised that something I requested has arrived when I go to check everything out.

4. What is your favorite thing about your local library?

It is a clean, well-lit building that houses an incredible research collection and assorted community rooms. It really is the heart of the Five Points neighborhood. I love my library even when the bums outside give me a hard time.

Hour 7

so here I am, up to my knees in tears having finished Chapter 30 of Grogan's book (this is the chapter in which he describes the box he built for his father) when I remember that another hour has passed and there must be a new challenge - of course!! now we have to talk a walk and take pics and post them on our blogs - yikes!!! it's already quarter after so I dashed out the door with my camera and umbrella and did the literary tour of Fiona's neighborhood (at least what you can see in 3 square blocks)

First off, it snowed in Denver yesterday and now it has turned to rain - the great big piles of white fluffy stuff are turning into soggy mush. So please bear with me. I will do some initial posting, make the link necessary and then come back and finish the post.

The first pic is facing West from my front porch. If it wasn't raining you would see the Rocky Mountains.

Next I am facing East across a vacant lot - I just wanted to show the snow

Going East another block I am seeing the famous Sonny Lawson ballfield, made famous by Jack Kerouac who spent a lot of time in this neighborhood. Two days ago this park was full of springtime softball and lots of bums - I forgot to mention this would be the Kerouac Literary Tour of my neighborhood

Turning North along Welton Street I had to show you my favorite haunt, the Blair Caldwell branch of the Denver Public Library - everyone should have a fabulous library within walking distance of their home.

Continuing North a couple of blocks I wanted to capture the heart of the Five Points neighborhood and favorite Jazz haunt of Mr. Kerouac, the famous Rossonian Hotel and bar.

At this point I figured I was running out of time so I headed West towards Curtis Street, turned South and hit the Puritan Pie Company that Neal Cassady wrote about. Neil and Jack spent a lot of hours hanging around here.

Across the street is the site of Neal's boyhood home, now an ultramodern collection of lofts.

And then looking back across the street you have the building where Neal's father had a barber shop.

Later I'll add pics of some of the other Kerouac haunts in Denver.

Hour 6

this hour's mini-challenge involves creating a comic that has something to do with the readathon. Well that counts me out as I lack the artistic gene. Instead I will post a link to one of my favorite comics, Unshelved, the most recent of which seems appropriate for today

Hour 5

well the challenge this hour had to do with posting Youtube videos of something funny - I couldn't resist adding the first episode of Black Books

ok - back to Grogan

Hour 4

This hour the challenge was to visit three blogs and post comments. If you want to see my comments cruise by the following blogs


manga - eccentrics - knitters - quite the eclectic crew we have here

I'm on my second cup of tea and loving Grogan's tale of growing up in a Catholic family in the sixties and seventies - I am about to embark on his college years - for those of us who lived through similar times it is a sheer pleasure to know that somebody remembers what it was really like

Hour 3

I lied - I couldn't get the challenge out of my head so I picked up one o my favorite books that I haven't visited in some time, Dr. Ebenezer's Book and Liquor Store by Gerald Rosen.

Here is the blurb:

Dr. Ebenezer's Book and Liquor store is a touching and wonderful comic novel about the search for love and purpose in trying times. Dr. Ebenezer, a disillusioned nuclear scientist, gives up his family and career and embarks on a quest for truth in the back streets of San Francisco, a world of unorthodox ideas and unconventional sex. His unique emporium, a combination book and liquor store, provides a haven for people in search of knowledge and comfort. Odd characters drift in and out of his store and his life - a showgirl turned poet, a one-legged hippie alcoholic, a Japanese-American waitress trying to reconcile her Western upbringing and her Oriental heritage, a mad biologist fired from his teaching job for biting a student.

and now my tableau

I'm going to add that I took a look at the next challenge and have to say that I didn't recognize any book from the cover clips - I need to read more books!!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hour 2

Well I got some more reading done but I was distracted by the Hour 2 challenege which was to create a tableau for one of the books in my pile - every technology failure that one can imagine has taken place so I think I will skip this one - back to Grogan

Hour 1

I'm starting with John Grogan's (Marley & Me) bio "the Longest Trip Home". I've been putting this off but we are reading it for our book club next week.

Where are you reading from today?
I'm in Denver. Right now it's very early, snowing outside and I'm in bed reading while listening to NPR - I love Saturday mornings

three facts about me
I'm a librarian
I've been a bookseller
I've also been a pizza delivery expert

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
I don't have a specific number but I have an apartment full of unread books

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
no specific goals because I have never done this before

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time?
I'm a newbie so I don't know

Dewey's Read-A-Thon

A snowstorm gives one a lot of time to stay indoors and curl up with a good book..or several good books. Tomorrow morning (6am MST) the 24 hour read-a-thon starts and everything that I had previously planned to do has been canceled. Guess I have no excuse to ignore that stack of books just waiting to be read. It's not too late to sign up and there are prizes to be won.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

CPSIA, Libraries, Testing...I'm so sick of this

A wonderful blog post from a part-time librarian about the costs of testing, even in light of the post-1985 ruling
Total library inventory: 34,668
Total est. juvenile inventory: 10, 601
Percentage of juvenile inventory: 31%

Estimate of inventory pre-1985: 75% or 7951 units

Now if we have to test pre-1985 inventory at $500/book: $3,975,375

please read her entire eloquent post - I just even more depressed now

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Gee...another Friday another CPSIA PR piece

ok I admit it, I was busy having fun this weekend and didn't look around hard enough for the late breaking CPSIA news on Friday. Seems those fun guys over at CPSC have issued rules that
will not impose penalties on manufacturers, distributors or importers of children’s products made with natural products, some children’s books, and dyed or undyed textiles used for children’s apparel under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

The CPSIA limits for lead and certain phthalate compounds in children’s products take effect Tuesday. Retailers must not sell items intended for children under 12 that contain more than 600 parts per million lead, or more than 0.1 percent phthalates.

Joseph Martyak, CPSC chief of staff, said Feb. 6 that the commission decided not to enforce on such products as wood and cotton that rarely contain lead. The commission is still drafting rules covering these items, but decided an enforcement stay was a common-sense approach.

However, the stay does not include articles made of leather, vinyl or polyvinylchloride (PVC), including zippers or metallic thread. The stay is limited to books published after 1985, since printing inks bearing lead were banned that year.

So do libraries have to remove all children's books published prior to 1985 or not? And since enforcement is really in the hands of the State AG's, there is nothing to stop them from going forth with prosecutions. AARRGGHHHHHHH!!!!!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

If it's Friday after hours it must be time for late-breaking news from CPSC

Everyone should know by now that news that you want to bury should be released late on a Friday afternoon and our friends at the CPSC didn't let us down. Today they announced a one year stay of testing related to CPSIA but they really didn't let anyone off the hook. They make it clear that they expect retailers to comply with the law but basically they won't require testing until the mess can be sorted out.

ALA is reporting that an announcement will be made on Monday regarding libraries but they have no indication that a blanket exemption for books will be made.

The fight goes on...the issue is still very much alive ... I'm tired

Today's CPSIA News Round-up

CNN has a story on CPSIA and Libraries

"While we understand the process the CPSC must carry out in order to ensure this law is properly enforced and that the safety of our nation's children is protected, we believe the commission is wasting time and resources by zeroing in on book publishers and libraries," Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the American Library Association Washington office, said.

Publisher's Weekly is carrying a summary on the request for exemption for books

The CPSC General Counsel has said the Commission would issue a statement interpreting the impact of the Act on schools and libraries—separate from any statements about books as a whole—possibly in the first week of February. The Act is retroactive, meaning that testing would be mandated for all books on store shelves and in libraries and schools, even if manufactured or shipped prior to February 10.

Cute story from local Fox Affiliate with a little boy who wants his books

Daniel Awerbuck says that he would choose a book over a video game any-day. He often comes to the Monterey Public Library and reads books for hours on end. The library says that the law will affect forty thousand children's books that were checked out over ninety thousand times last year. Library Director Kim Bui-Burton say it would be a huge loss to the community and children.

An interesting take on CPSIA and print-on-demand industry

We are a book publisher who thanks to your newsletters have become aware of the benefits of using print-on-demand when introducing new titles or reprinting slower selling titles. Since most of our titles are for children the CPSIA legislation will make it impossible to use print-on-demand for books designed for children 12 and under. At that time third-party testing of at least one book from each and every print run is mandatory. The cost ranges from $120 and up. Your articles project large increases in digital print. How will the loss of the children’s book market affect digital print companies? Are digital printers looking at ways to address this problem?

I could go on and on but quite frankly I need to get some lunch and digest all of this

Thursday, January 29, 2009

ALA - CPSIA - are we ready for some action?

The newest ALA District Dispatch says:

“It is unfortunate that less than two weeks before the new law is set to effect, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has still failed to clarify whether libraries will be exempt from these burdensome requirements,” Congressman Lee said. “While I support any and all efforts to protect our children from harmful chemicals, this is an instance in which good policy has wrongly taken a backseat to good intentions.”

Congressman Lee first contacted the Commission about this issue on January 9, when he discussed it with the Commission’s acting chairman, Nancy A. Nord. That conversation followed up on a request Congressman Lee made to ensure consignment or thrift stores would be exempt from the same burdensome requirements that the libraries are now confronting.

so.. like... what are we supposed to do on February 10th?

I also just read that ALA has submitted comments and

urged the Commission to: (1) Issue guidance or other notification confirming that the new lead limits do not apply to library books and related materials; and (2) Determine by rule that ordinary books do not inherently contain lead or contain lead below the CPSIA lead limits. We believe both of these determinations are consistent with the language and intent of the CPSIA.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

This week at ALA

So ALA is meeting in Denver and I only had time to visit the exhibits and not stage some goofy action - turns out I didn't need to - according to Library Journal at the meeting on Sunday the ALA call last week to get Librarians active is doing the trick

So many calls were made, ALA executive director Keith Fiels said yesterday at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Denver, that “this commissioner has subsequently begged us to stop calling.” Now ALA is targeting the other commissioner, Thomas Moore. “I’m sure he can’t wait to hear from you,” ALA President Jim Rettig said, with a touch of irony.

Fiels said, “The commission does, we’ve been told by Congress, has the ability to grant an exemption, either to libraries or specifically for books. If that does not occur, I believe Congress will take action. This is all in negotiation. We’re working against a February 10 deadline.

keeps those phone wires burning folks

Saturday, January 24, 2009

and even more on books and CPSIA

from Publisher's Weekly

Last week, CPSC issued a letter to the AAP further clarifying some of its previous guidance. While not resolving many issues, the letter did confirm that retailers and distributors can rely on a general Certificate of Conformity to continue to sell or distribute books after February 10. Allan Adler, AAP’s v-p for Legal and Government Affairs, notes that many big-box stores and major bookstore chains have been insisting on proof of third-party lead testing leading up to the Act. “Retailers have been very nervous and have been issuing demands to publishers,” he says. “Now they may be able to calm down.” For the purposes of the February 10 deadline, publishers and manufacturers need to provide proof that they have tested the products for lead using some reasonable internal guidelines; the third-party testing requirements kick in in August.

More ALA and CPSIA stuff

District Dispatch from ALA today

“It is completely irresponsible and unacceptable for the CPSC to continue to leave this matter unresolved with the February 10th deadline drawing closer each day,” ALA President Jim Rettig said.

“It is apparent that the CPSC does not fully understand the ramifications this law will have for libraries – and for children – if libraries are not granted an exemption. At this point, we are advising libraries not to take drastic action, such as removing or destroying books, as we continue to hope this matter will be rectified and that the attention will be paid to the products that pose a true threat to children. However, we find it disappointing and shameful that a government agency would continue to leave this matter unsettled when clearly the outcome would virtually shut down our nation’s school and public libraries.”

Latest on CPSIA and ALA and book

courtesy of my State Librarian - sounds like ALA wants librarians to bombard CPSC

A public meeting was held January 22 with Kristina Hatlelid, Directorate for Health Sciences, and other Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) staff to allow Allan Robert Adler, of the Association of American Publishers, and major publishing companies to discuss the lead content of books. The meeting was a time for the publishing companies to explain their research to the CPSC staff that proves that normal books (non-play, paper books) do not contain lead in the amount specified under the CPSIA. The publishing companies have compiled a group of 300 test results that can be viewed here .

After the meeting, Cheryl Falvey, General Counsel for the CPSC, stated that a decision should be made by the first week of February. She advised libraries not to take any action at this time, and we are hopeful that the Commission's decision will exempt libraries.

Even with her assurances, we must let the CPSC know how important an issue this is to libraries. You can visit their Web site, found here , to submit your comments to the Commission. Explain to the Commission that it is simply impossible for libraries to remove all children's books from the shelves and/or ban children under 12 from the library and still provide the level of service that is needed.

Please feel free to use the sample language below, but personalize it to make your comments known. Studies have shown that individual letters are significantly more effective than form letters, so let's make sure they understand how important their action will be.

As always, thank you for all that you do. The only way we will be successful in ensuring that children will have access to safe books is with a strong grassroots effort. Your comments to the CPSC need to be submitted as soon as possible, so please tell all your friends and family - we need as many people as possible to communicate that this oversight could have lasting ramifications on our children and our


Dear General Counsel Falvey:

It has come to my attention that the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 has been interpreted to include books as a product that must be tested for lead. While I can understand the need to protect children from toxic materials, publishers have already tested the book components and found that the lead levels are lower than the regulations require three years from now. Additionally, all book recalls in the last two decades have been because of toys attached to the books that posed a choking hazard, not the books themselves.

Making these testing regulations retroactive would require both school and public libraries to take drastic steps to come into compliance.
They would either they would have to ban children from their libraries or pull every book intended for children under the age of 12 from their bookshelves at the time children are fostering a lifelong love of
learning and reading.

In order to allow children and families to continue accessing critical library materials, please either exempt books from the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, accept the component tests that have already been done, or exempt all books currently in school and public libraries. This will ensure that our children continue to have access to safe and educational library materials.



Posted by:
Kristin Murphy
Government Relations Specialist
American Library Association - Washington Office
1615 New Hampshire Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20009-2520
Phone Number: 202.628.8410
Fax: 202.628.8419

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

ALA, CPSIA and books

As of Friday, the American Library Association

has been in discussion with attorneys, other associations and the sponsors of the original bill. Our analysis is that neither the law nor the legislative history indicates any Congressional intention to include books and even textbooks in the law. Please stand by – there is no need to take action at this time. The situation is extremely fluid and every day this week ALA has received new and sometimes contradictory information. The ALA Washington Office is taking measures to ensure this ruling (CPSIA) will not affect libraries and has sent a letter to all Congressional offices alerting them to the fact that we believe CPSC General Counsel has erroneously interpreted the CPSIA to include books. ALA is also monitoring the potential impact on other types of library materials as well.

It really shouldn't be a surprise that ALA receives new and often conflicting information every day. That is exactly how it has been for those in the trenches. It is pretty simple: Congress did not intend to include books in this law and the two person (YES - TWO FRIGGIN" PERSON) CPSC decided arbitrarily that books ARE included. No offense ALA, but I suspect you are more concerned about the big mid-Winter meeting coming up next week than this issue which is vital to everyone who cares about children. My request to consider CPSIA is still up on the Town Hall wiki.

Unfortunately for booksellers there isn't a lot of time left. February 10th is the day by which Certificates of Compliance must be prepared if they wish to continue selling in the larger marketplaces.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Day 7 of the CPSIA seige

I got on this roll about CPSIA because I was flat on my back with this flu/cold that is going around and I had way too much time on my hands. Last week folks on the used book sellers list that I belong to, started talking about it after reading the ruling that books were to be included in the products requiring testing. It really took a bit to sink in and then when I found out that Diana DeGette, my Rep, was to co-sponsor of the bill that started this whole mess, I decided to follow the urging of Nora O'Neill and sent the template letter and copy of a used children's book, Just Like Abraham Lincoln, to Degette. I also posted an e-mail inquiry to DeGette's website but as of today I have not received a reply.

On Monday I posted an inquiry to libnet, a list for librarians in Colorado, to see if anyone had heard anything about CPSIA and if it applied to libraries. Nobody had heard anything about but Gene Hainer, the Colorado State Librarian, said he would check with the American Library Association (ALA) and other State Librarians to see if they knew anything. Our library discussion centered on its applicability to Friends of the Library (FOL) sales among other things.

Gene appears to have gotten ALA hot on the trail of CPSIA and yesterday they got the ball rolling from a library perspective. Some great publicity on libraries having to pull books from the shelves or bar children from libraries, including this fabulous quote

Historically, books have been considered more dangerous to read than to eat.

Now ALA has a great wiki which includes a link to this blog - now I feel compelled to write more - lol

I've spent the week keeping my twitter updates online, posting to blogs, checking my e-mail far more than normal. I'm twitterd/blogged out - it's Saturday and I'm off to the Lafayette Oatmeal Festival, followed by a pantless ride on RTD and finishing out my day with another evening at the Festivus Film festival

Life is good!

ALA letter on CPSIA

The American Library Association has now publicly tackled CPSIA

If the CPSIA is applied to books and paper-based materials, as indicated by the Commission’s General Counsel, public, school and museum libraries will have to either remove all their books or ban all children under 12 from visiting. This cannot be what the Congress intended.


More CPSIA News of interest to booksellers

ABA has posted a really comprehensive post on the whole CPSIA mess

For its part, the Association of American Publishing wants CPSC to strictly limit what kinds of books are covered under CPSIA. In early December, Allan Adler, vice president for legal and government affairs for AAP, wrote CPSC seeking an advisory opinion limiting the coverage of books and other non-book, paper-based printed materials under CPSIA, as well as clarification regarding stock presently on retailers' shelves.

The problem for booksellers is that CPSC is even trying to regulation the manufacture and sale of books at all - never been done before

Publisher's Weekly is now weighing in as well

Not since the Thor ruling of 1979—which changed the way companies depreciate their unsold inventory, resulting in less-profitable backlist sales and faster out-of-print status for midlist titles—has a government regulation not aimed at publishing had such a far-reaching impact on the industry.

Also check out this video for good insight into the whole problem

Friday, January 09, 2009

News from the trenches about CPSIA and books

Well there is some good news on the CPSIA front. Today the CPSC announced :

The new safety law does not require resellers to test children’s products in inventory for compliance with the lead limit before they are sold. However, resellers cannot sell children’s products that exceed the lead limit and therefore should avoid products that are likely to have lead content, unless they have testing or other information to indicate the products being sold have less than the new limit. Those resellers that do sell products in violation of the new limits could face civil and/or criminal penalties.

The best blog on the subject comes from Rick Woldenberg, but we still don't really know what it means because resellers are still liable should they sell prohibited materials.

The in-coming ALA President has started a wiki to get input for their town-hall meeting at the mid-winter meeting in a couple of weeks. Anyone can join and post issues, such as CPSIA, that need to be brought to the attention of President Obama and the American Library Association.

If you want to send comments directly to the CPSC they have plenty of info on their website about commenting directly on CPSIA. For instance if you want to comment on the mandatory testing send an e-mail to

Also contact your local libraries, elected officals, school boards, US Reps ... anyone and everypone - if you don't know how to find them, ask me

Thursday, January 08, 2009

CPSIA Updates

Resellers will be exempt from testing certification - great news for used book sellers

The American Library Association will be making an announcement about their concerns over the decision to not exempt books and their planned action - as soon as it happens I'll post something here


taken from the oldbookstore list [] this afternoon

Below is from an email from our Library director from the American Library association. They are drafting a letter to the WO (Washington Office).

The Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in August and Bush signed it. It was proposed by Rep Bobby Rush and supported by Sen Diane Feinstein, who spoke in favor on the floor, displaying a photo of the son of her communications director playing in the bath with a rubber book toy. Her remarks kept mentioning the boy's favorite toy, this book. He was 8 months old.

Books are an unregulated product, so no one paid any attention to this legislation which was in response to China's flooding the US market with lead-tainted toys. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recalled books only when it involved trinkets and items glued to a book....and then as a choking hazard.

AAP first learned of CPSC's intent to include books in CPSIA when the big box stores threatened publishers that they would remove their product from shelves (and ship back to publishers at their expense) unless they got certification of compliance with CPSIA. AAP met with General Counsel of CPSC and then sent a letter asking the General Counsel to "immediately issue an advisory opinion letter to confirm the limited coverage of books and other non-book, paper-based printed materials under the lead, phthalate and applicable ASTM standards requirements..."

They provided strong evidentiary support that books shouldn't be subject to the requirements referenced in CPSIA because they do not present any of the health or safety risks to children that the requirements are intended to address. This evidence can be located at a web site they created,

The problem for schools and libraries would be that all books for children under 12 (they agree that ordinary books for everyone are exempt) must be tested, new and the books currently on the shelf, including textbooks.

The General Counsel rejected AAP's request, requiring testing on the finished product, not the components,

The WO will draft a letter and fax it to every Congressional Office. Our grass roots will approach the offices of those members who were the leaders for this bill and get their constituents to write in.

Our point is that this wasn't Congress' intent and they should tell General Counsel that this would weaken the desired benefits and just clog the queues of accredited labs for testing actual kid's toys.

The CPSC is currently accepting public comments on this. So we need EVERYONE, librarians, parents, teachers, local legislators to submit comments on this....demanding an opinion form General Counsel exempting books.

Can I say, if this exemption is not forthcoming, children under 12 will be banned from school and public libraries until all the books can be removed and destroyed?

Monday, January 05, 2009

CPSIA - get the lead out!

OK I'm jumping on the CPSIA bandwagon and urging anybody who reads this blog to take up their pens and write a letter to their Congresspeople. Designed to protect children from lead and phthalates (a good thing), the new regulations require all retailers selling products for children to certify that they are lead-free. This law is retroactive and will basically shut-down the sale of used children's books.

Some thrift store industry leaders are concerned about the impact on their business and rallying their troops and a recent story in the LA Times indicated that some consignment stores will simply close.

For those who think this doesn't apply to books, one author has found out that it does.

If you are member of Joe's Used Book store group then you already know the routine but I am providing the sample letter below. We are asking folks to send a used children's book to their COngressperson as well


Please burn the enclosed book after reading. It is a danger to
American children… or at least the Consumer Product Safety
Administration thinks so.

Despite being published in the US, using lead free materials, under
the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA H.R. 4040) it
must be tested for lead. CPSIA applies retroactively to all items
intended for individuals 12 and under. The publisher of this book no
longer exists, so they will not be testing their product for lead.
Since I cannot provide the certificate proving that this book has been
tested, I am unable to sell it. In fact, no children's book, or
textbook, published before the new law went into effect in November
2008 can be sold under the new law. These books are required to be

CPSIA requires that all products intended for people 12 and under be
tested at the end of the manufacturing process for lead, even if all
the materials used in them have been certified as lead free. If a
publisher runs two books on the same press on the same day, with the
same materials, using the same workers they must test each book
separately for lead because the arrangements of words inside the book
is different.

This end-product-testing increases costs and may drive small scale
manufacturers out of business. Prices for these tests range from a
few hundred dollars to thousands, PER ITEM, depending on how many
materials it contains. Those that do survive will pass the cost on to
the consumer. The product will be exactly as safe as it was before
testing, just significantly more expensive.

This also places an undue burden on American taxpayers by requiring
ALL products intended for those 12 and under to be tested. School
districts are a major purchaser of children's items, which must
already meet rigorous safety standards. The cost of making companies
test already safe products like textbooks, microscopes, gym mats,
desks, and educational software CDs just in case a 12 year old might
eat them (lead poisoning requires ingesting or inhaling the lead),
will be passed on to already cash strapped school districts.

The CPSIA also requires permanent batch labeling of items to verify
they have been tested. This makes no sense for one of a kind items or
items made in extremely small batches. Again, this increases costs
with no significant benefit to consumers.

In addition to its effect on US based manufacturers, this would strike
a crushing blow to charity groups. Groups like Goodwill and Salvation
Army will no longer be able to raise money through the sale of
children's items. Nor will they be allowed to simply give them away.
In this economic downturn, many families rely on being able to
purchase secondhand goods to clothe their children. What will they do
with these items that they cannot sell or give away? Throwing them
out seems the only option.
Many anti-poverty programs, here and abroad, focus on helping single
individuals sell handcrafted items through collectives. Forcing those
individuals to test for lead will drive them back into poverty and
work against the government's own programs.

CPSIA should be amended to clarify that it:
1. Is not retroactive and does not apply to secondhand items.
(Manufacturers found to be KNOWINGLY selling goods that have been
recalled should still face some penalties. Retailers should not face
that penalty, as they often have no way to tell whether an item has
been recalled or not.)
2. Exempts from additional item testing; products that are made
entirely in the US from materials made in the US; items made wholly in
or from materials made in countries with equally strict standards such
as Canada and the European Union; or any combination of those two.
3. Exempts all "one of a kind" items. (Testing these as an item
destroys the item so it may never be sold.)
4. Exempts one of a kind items and small runs from batch labeling.
(The FDA has existing guidelines for this type of exemption which can
be found at: )
5. Exempts items made entirely from natural materials that are already
known not to contain lead (wood, beeswax, etc.)
6. Exempts items made entirely from certified organic materials.
7. Exempts items that have been certified as fair trade items.
8. Allows manufacturers to test their materials and process rather
than the end product. (If all the same materials and equipment are
used, it should not produce a different result. Manufacturers sharing
equipment that can be cross contaminated by manufacturing products
with lead on them should be required to test their finished products
for lead. Example: manufacturers must note food was processed on
equipment that handled peanuts, even if the actual product has no peanuts)
9. Exempts all manufacturers in the US, Canada, and the European Union
below a certain volume, based either on dollar volume or total units.
(This number should be based on the FDA exemption cited above. (#4)
It should exempt what amounts to "micro-businesses". Because of the
strict safety standards on materials sold within those countries, the
chances are low that individual artists or micro-businesses will
accidentally get contaminated materials. )
10. Exempts registered charity groups recognized by the US government
from the cash penalty if they unknowingly distribute goods that are
found to contain lead. (The fines will do more harm than good.) If
they are found to do so knowingly, then they should face the full

The regulations set forth in CPSIA will come into full force February
10th. Please act swiftly to deal with issue, before severe damage is
done to American small business and every taypayer.


P.S. Don't really burn the book. Please donate it to a local school