Happy Birthday, Lois Duncan!
Monthly Archives: April 2019
Visiting Other Free Libraries
Another in an occasional series of Little Free Libraries in Portland and Beyond.
I was recently in Forest Grove, OR, for a full-day professional development training. I went walking at lunch and stumbled across two little libraries. I couldn’t find charter numbers or signs on either of them, so I don’t know if they’re registered with Little Free Libraries or not, but they seemed to be busy!
This one was right outside the Tim & Cathy Tran Library.
This one was in front of the Early Learning Center.
I looked on Google to see if maybe there were more little libraries I’d missed. Looks like these are the only two so far, according to this article. I couldn’t find them on the Little Free Library map either, but if they’re run by students, that’s not terribly surprising. Next time I’m out there, I’ll have to bring some books!
(Also, if you’re out there, look for the Art-O-Mat machine in the art gallery!)
Poem of the Month: Swear Words
Recent Reads: Magazines
I read a lot of magazines. They’re kind of perfect for reading with meals. I usually have my breakfast alone, and it’s nice to have something to look at. I can’t read books at meals – the book doesn’t stay open, it takes too much concentration to manage the pages and breakfast and keeping track of the story. Magazines don’t take nearly as much effort for me while I’m eating.
I subscribe to a small handful of magazines, and get the rest at thrift stores and from friends. Sometimes I’ll trade out magazines in a waiting room (I usually check with the front desk first). Most of the stuff I like to read, it’s not time-sensitive like news is, so it doesn’t matter if I find copies that are a year or three old. I’ve tried putting them out in the Little Free Library with mixed results – sometimes they’ll sit inside for weeks before I finally toss them. Other times, they disappear in a day or two. Once in a while, the magazines disappeared – along with everything else in the LFL!
I do prefer hard-copy magazines. Sometimes I’ll tear out pages to save (I don’t usually put them in the LFL or waiting rooms in that case). Hard-copy magazines are easier on my eyes. I get frustrated easily with trying to maneuver within online magazines. And, as with books, I like the feel of the pages in my hands.
My favorites related to food/cooking, making stuff (especially crochet and a few other crafts), gardening/homesteading, science, literary arts, world news, and local reporting. I’ll occasionally read lifestyle magazines too, if they’re available for really cheap or free – I do sometimes like reading O and Martha Stewart Living and GQ.
What kind of magazines do you like to read?
Being read to: Cat edition
One of our housemates, Durango Blue, likes being read to.
Your Kids Can Now Watch Astronauts Reading Stories From Space
Your Kids Can Now Watch Astronauts Reading Stories From Space
by Sarah Aswell at ScaryMommy
Reading to kids is wonderful and everything, but reading to kids from space is super awesome
If you need to mix up your bedtime story routine a little bit, the Global Space Education Foundation has just the thing for you: Story Time in Space. It’s exactly what it sounds like — astronauts on various missions in space read popular children’s books while floating about, and the videos are edited and shared with kids way down on Earth.
The results are adorable as well as educational and inspiring. Check out astronaut Kathleen Rubins reading Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty and try not to get choked up at how amazing this all is.
The concept was developed by Patricia Tribe, the former director of education at Space Center Houston, and Alvin Drew, the first NASA astronaut to read a story in space for the program, during the final mission of the space shuttle Discovery. The pair were looking to find a way to encourage reading among kids while also promoting STEM education, and landed on the idea of having on-duty astronauts reading science-based kids’ books, gravity-free.
Since the initial reading, all of the story times have taken place on the International Space Station, as it hurtles through nothingness at 17,500 miles per hour around the planet. It’s only a guess, but this may be slightly more interesting than your kids listening to you feign excitement while reading The Mitten again.
“What better role models to engage kids in science and to engage them in reading?” Tribe told the Huffington Post. “You’re not only looking and listening to the books, you’re looking around the International Space Station.”
Astronaut @Tim Peake tweeted from the ISS about his reading of The Incredible Intergalactic Journey Home by Lost My Name book that he has read for us!
“I enjoyed reading this “Story Time” for the kids- my boys will like this too
check out the pic!!! So excited!
Not only are does Story Time in Space aim to make reading out of this world, it also stresses the importance of diversity. Tribe and her team select books for a wide range of reading levels (though all can be read in 15 minutes or less) and from a wide range of STEM topics, from physics to engineering to biology. The group also selects a diverse set of astronauts to read the books, so that kids can see that people who look just like them can reach for the next frontier. For example, Japanese engineer and JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata read Max Goes to the International Space Station in Japanese for the program this summer.
The Story Time from Space program is also expanding. The group is working on adding a set of nine simple science experiments for kids that were conducted from the space station, involving concepts like energy transfer and surface tension. In addition, more books are on the way, including A Moon of My Own by Jennifer Rustgi, The Rhino Who Swallowed A Storm by LeVar Burton and Susan Schaefer Bernardo, and Moustronaut by Astronaut Mark Kelly.
While those projects are being completed, Earthlings can enjoy the rest of the collection, which includes Max Goes to Mars, by Jeffrey Bennet, as read by astronaut Mike Hopkins.
Let’s just hope that these awesome videos don’t ruin regular books read in gravity, from the ground, by plain old mom who probably isn’t even an astronaut.
The Smell of Old Books & New Books
from Compound Interest
What Causes the Smell of New & Old Books?
Everyone’s familiar with the smell of old books, the weirdly intoxicating scent that haunts libraries and second-hand book stores. Similarly, who doesn’t enjoy riffling through the pages of a newly purchased book and breathing in the crisp aroma of new paper and freshly printed ink? As with all aromas, the origins can be traced back to a number of chemical constituents, so we can examine the processes and compounds that can contribute to both.
As far as the smell of new books goes, it’s actually quite difficult to pinpoint specific compounds, for a number of reasons. Firstly, there seems to be a scarcity of scientific research that’s been carried out on the subject – to be fair, it’s understandable why it might not exactly be high up on the priority list. Secondly, the variation in the chemicals used to manufacture books also means that it’s an aroma that will vary from book to book. Add to this the fact that there are literally hundreds of compounds involved, and it becomes clearer why it evades attribution to a small selection of chemicals.
It’s likely that the bulk of ‘new book smell’ can be put down to three main sources: the paper itself (and the chemicals used in its manufacture), the inks used to print the book, and the adhesives used in the book-binding process.
The manufacture of paper requires the use of chemicals at several stages. Large amounts of paper are made from wood pulp (though it can also be made from cotton and textiles) – chemicals such as sodium hydroxide, often referred to in this context as ‘caustic soda’, can be added to increase pH and cause fibres in the pulp to swell. The fibres are then bleached with a number of other chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide; then, they are mixed with large amounts of water. This water will contain additives to modify the properties of the the paper – for example, AKD (alkyl ketene dimer) is commonly used as a ‘sizing agent’ to improve the water-resistance of the paper.
Many other chemicals are also used – this is just a very rough overview. The upshot of this is that some of these chemicals can contribute, through their reactions or otherwise, to the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, the odours of which we can detect. The same is true of chemicals used in the inks, and the adhesives used in the books. A number of different adhesives are used for book-binding, many of which are based on organic ‘co-polymers’ – large numbers of smaller molecules chemically chained together.
As stated, differences in paper, adhesives, and inks used will influence the ‘new book smell’, so not all new books will smell the same – perhaps the reason why no research has yet attempted to definitively define the aroma.
An aroma that has had much more research carried out around it, however, is that of old books. There’s a reason for this, as it’s been investigated as a potential method for assessing the condition of old books, by monitoring the concentrations of different organic compounds that they give off. As a result, we can be a little more certain on some of the many compounds that contribute to the smell.
Generally, it is the chemical breakdown of compounds within paper that leads to the production of ‘old book smell’. Paper contains, amongst other chemicals, cellulose, and smaller amounts of lignin – much less in more modern books than in books from more than one hundred years ago. Both of these originate from the trees the paper is made from; finer papers will contain much less lignin than, for example, newsprint. In trees, lignin helps bind cellulose fibres together, keeping the wood stiff; it’s also responsible for old paper’s yellowing with age, as oxidation reactions cause it to break down into acids, which then help break down cellulose.
‘Old book smell’ is derived from this chemical degradation. Modern, high quality papers will undergo chemical processing to remove lignin, but breakdown of cellulose in the paper can still occur (albeit at a much slower rate) due to the presence of acids in the surroundings. These reactions, referred to generally as ‘acid hydrolysis’, produce a wide range of volatile organic compounds, many of which are likely to contribute to the smell of old books. A selected number of compounds have had their contributions pinpointed: benzaldehyde adds an almond-like scent; vanillin adds a vanilla-like scent; ethyl benzene and toluene impart sweet odours; and 2-ethyl hexanol has a ‘slightly floral’ contribution. Other aldehydes and alcohols produced by these reactions have low odour thresholds and also contribute.
Other compounds given off have been marked as useful for determining the extent of degradation of old books. Furfural is one of these compounds, shown below. It can also be used to determine the age and composition of books, with books published after the mid-1800s emitting more furfural, and its emission generally increasing with publication year relative to older books composed of cotton or linen paper.
So, in conclusion, as with many aromas, we can’t point to one specific compound, or family of compounds, and categorically state that it’s the cause of the scent. However, we can identify potential contributors, and, particular in the case of old book smell, a number of compounds have been suggested. If anyone’s able to provide further information on ‘new book smell’ and its origins, it would be great to include some more specific details, but I suspect the large variations in the book-making process make this a tough ask.
In the meantime, if you can’t get enough of that new book or old book smell, you might be interested to learn that the aroma is available in perfume form.
The graphic in this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. See the site’s content usage guidelines.
References & Further Reading
- ‘Characterisation of compounds emitted during natural ageing of a book’ – Agnès Lattuati-Derieux & others
- ‘Degradation product emission from historic & modern books’ – A J Clark & others
- ‘Material degradomics – on the smell of old books’ – Matija Strlič & others