Friday, February 22, 2013

#15 Mount Pleasant Branch

Mount Pleasant Branch
1 Kingsway

This is one of the library branches that is new since last time I lived in Vancouver. I couldn't find it the first time I looked because I thought it was still in a nearby stripmall!

It's now located in the much nicer community centre place that features various fitness things (including a climbing wall), child care services, and some other stuff. But clearly the most important (ie. only thing I went to) is the library itself!

The library contains all the things you want: computers, graphic novels, presumably some books somewhere, and a library discard cart! Yes, that all important place where libraries sell books that they've either decided to stop circulating for a myriad of reasons, or things that people have donated that the library doesn't actually want.

I always look at discard carts at libraries because, despite not really wanting to own any books (I keep giving them away after I've read them), and despite being in a building that will give me books for free, I still need to see what is available. It is like some sort of disease. This time I hit pay dirt and found an incredibly awesome/bizarre book that cost me an entire 33 cents (ie. all the change I had on me at the time): The Dredd Phenomenon - Comics and Contemporary Society by John Newsinger.

Yes! A book about Judge Dredd and British politics published in the late 1990s. What library wouldn't want a copy of this? Apparently the VPL, as this was never even catalogued. Still, their loss was my gain! I have been on a Judge Dredd/2000ad kick since the movie came out last fall (or even longer?). I keep listening to both the soundtrack from the movie and the fictional soundtrack created by one of the people from Portishead, recently bought some back issues and collections from a comic book shop's going out of business sale, and keep trawling through the library's catalogue to find more. (If you're at all interested in reading about Judge Dredd you should check out this incredibly exhaustive blog that just recently came to completion.)

If you've read...well, basically any other book about comics ever, you might find The Dredd Phenomenon a bit strange. It begins by discussing Thatcherite Britain and the rise of "New Labour" for several pages before comics are even mentioned. After that it doesn't even come as a surprise that the other books the publisher have released include ones on progressive politics and alternative forms of education, and that the author is apparently a professor of Marxist history.

The book is a politicized look at the history of the UK comics scene, 2000ad and Judge Dredd in particular, other works by popular UK creators, and how they all reflect the social and political trends throughout the '80s and '90s. It has a decidedly leftist bent, and the discussion of how the comic satirizes right wing politics manages to justify my enjoyment of a character who is more or less a fascist police officer. I haven't managed to finish the whole thing yet (despite it's short length), but so far it's been pretty fascinating, even if Sláine is repeatedly misspelled.

So let this be a lesson to you, check the library discard cart, because you might just find what you didn't even know you were looking for.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

#16 Oakridge Branch

Oakridge Branch
191 - 650 West 41st Avenue

Some of the branches in Vancouver can be a little hard to find if you don't already know where they are. The Oakridge Branch is located in the Oakridge Centre, a mall/shopping centre. Except, you can't actually get into it from inside the mall as the entrance is outside. And as the entrance is way around the back facing a vast tundra of parking lots it seems like some people might end up wandering around the mall wondering where this library actually is.

I missed the tour that one of the student groups in my program organized (I had class or something), but I've still managed to go to this library twice. Once I met up with some fellow students who had ventured to the horrors of the maul mall to try to buy things (the Lego store is neat!), and I went here so I could print off my ticket to the electro swing dance party I was going to that night.

This is also the library where I asked a reference question for one of my assignments! I asked the reference librarian how I could check out the ebook versions of comics I heard the library had available. The librarian didn't know, but they knew how to find out the information.

Anyway, there are ebooks of comics available here (hopefully that link works) on the VPL website, or try searching around on the BCLibraries site. You might have to click around a bit, as the comics aren't very well organized and there are a bunch of picture books mixed in with them.

Unfortunately I haven't been able to check out any of them as I'm running Linux on my computer, which is incompatible with the software needed to download the files. Boo.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

#3 Central Branch

Central Branch
350 West Georgia Street

The Central Branch! The jewel in the crown of the VPL. It's huge! So many books and DVDs and comics and zines (including some by me) and everything else!

I've been to this library so many times and done lots of things at it, so I'll concentrate on one recent trip where I did something awesome: used microfilm readers! Yes! That ancient technology you've maybe seen in movies, but never actually used yourself.

I'd been doing some reading about censorship in Canada for a course, and saw a reference to an article published in 1950. I went to the central branch and they showed me where the newspapers were kept, and how to use the reader. You can even scan the old newspapers!

(From the Daily Colonist, Victoria, BC,  January 21st, 1950, p. 18.)

This led me to looking up Canada's Criminal Code and I discovered that crime comics are still illegal! Most of this section is about "obscene" material in general, but the following sections are about comics specifically (and haven't been repealed!).
163. (1) Every one commits an offence who
(b) makes, prints, publishes, distributes, sells or has in his possession for the purpose of publication, distribution or circulation a crime comic.

(7) In this section, “crime comic” means a magazine, periodical or book that exclusively or substantially comprises matter depicting pictorially
(a) the commission of crimes, real or fictitious; or
(b) events connected with the commission of crimes, real or fictitious, whether occurring before or after the commission of the crime.
So yeah, Detective Comics is still illegal in Canada. Here's a blog post that goes into some more detail about this.

All this research about comic books in Canada reminded me of a copy of a photo I'd once seen of a comic book burning in Vancouver. I looked it up online, and found copies of the photo, but not to when it was published. Instead sites had taken it from a book called Vancouver Noir (which I weirdly saw lying on a chair at a UBC library earlier today). They had a copy of the book in the Special Collections section of the library, and after filling out a request form I was able to look through it and discover what issue of which newspaper the photo had come from! I found the microfilm and was allowed to bring it downstairs to scan.

 (From The Vancouver Herald, December 13th, 1954, p. 1.)

"He said if parents would "sharpen up," children would soon be devoted to "classy" books and forget lower-type comics."


As a special bonus here are some comic strips from the issue of the Daily Colonist I scanned.

Buck Rogers by Bob Barton and Murphy Anderson
I have absolutely no idea what that interplanetary code says. I'm not sure if it's because of my inability to transcribe the morse code, or because it's double encrypted. This Buck Rogers Secret Code Book didn't help at all! (It is from a different decade though...)

Scarlet O'Neil by Russell Stamm
I have no idea what's going on in this. (Somehow this is about a superheroine who can turn invisible.)

Johnny Hazard by Frank Robbins
Will Johnny ever solve the case of the discarded garments?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

#18 Renfrew Branch

Renfrew Branch
2969 East 22nd Avenue

I didn't intend for this to be the first branch I visited, but a series of events happened (as they tend to do), and so this was the first library to go on the blog.

Someone had posted that ValueVillage was having a 50% off sale the next day. Exciting! Except that you now need a membership card of some sort to take advantage of the sales, and they don't issue those the day of sales so I had to get one in advance. I filled out the application form I found on their website and checked to see which libraries were open that day.

Sadly, the library near the ValueVillage was not open, and neither was the one closest my house, but this one was. It is nearish to my house, but not in an area I would ever go. Or so I thought. Once I showed up I realized that I'd actually been to this library before. Years ago I'd been to the Renfrew Park Community Complex which is located directly next door (or maybe actually connected) to this library for a job interview or something. My memory is hazy, but I'm reasonably sure I went into this library, probably to look at comics.

And that is what I did here again! I looked through their graphic novel collections, borrowed the Return of King Doug (I didn't think it was that good), and managed to print off the membership application form after asking at the reference desk where the printers were located.

Of course, I didn't even buy anything at the thrift store in the sale, though I guess at least my friend managed to get a discount on some stuff.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Plans and Maps

I started my Master's at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at UBC last month. I'm enjoying it so far, but since I'm clearly not busy enough with a social life, homework, and all those societies and stuff, I thought I needed another project.

That project is (obviously) going to every branch of the public library in Vancouver! I really love public libraries, I remember going to them as a kid, and I've used them all over the world. I've had library cards in most places I've lived (and been a heavy user), and looked up tourist information, killed time reading comics, or used the internet in libraries in loads of places to which I've travelled.

The Vancouver Public Library website lists 22 different branches in Vancouver (this doesn't include Richmond, Burnaby, or anywhere else! We'll see if we get to those libraries at some point), and they're spread out pretty evenly across the city (see map below). Some of them are near my house, some of them are near places I go anyway, others are further out of the way, but I only have class two days a week, and if I send my library requests to those branches I have to go pick them up (I'll get fined if I don't...).

Of course the problem is that once I go to one of these libraries, I feel I have to actually use it. Which means, at the least, getting something out. I've got an ever increasing pile of things to read, and an ever increasing guilt that I should be reading stuff for class instead.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Britannia Branch

My first library ever! I used to live near Commercial Dr. and I actually remember getting my library card when I was five or something, and checking out a book on how to make origami cups (among other things). Fun times!

This library has stayed mostly the same since then, except I'm not sure that the art gallery/ loungey area was always there? It could have been that I'd just never noticed it.