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JazzIt's a busy time with lots of events to observe and celebrate. It's National Poetry Month, Earth Month, Passover, Easter, National Library Week, and the upcoming National Day of Puppetry. But did you know that it's Jazz Appreciation Month? Whether you're an aficionado or getting started with jazz, the Austin Public Library has over 3,000 CDs and hundreds of books that you can absorb and pore over. You can also stream jazz tracks and albums from our Virtual Library with Freegal Music and American Song.

Not sure where to start? Throw on some timeless Louis Armstrong and check out his collaborations with chanteuse Ella Fitzgerald. Explore the stylings of Duke Ellington, the originality of Miles Davis, the inventiveness of Thelonious Monk, and the ingenuity of Charles Mingus. You can head into your local branch and browse through the selection, and check out whichever titles and covers grab you. We also have plenty of movies about jazz, including documentaries, biographies, and concerts.

So come check out some Jazz through the Austin Public Library, and have something else to celebrate this month!

Jazz Sax photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

With the arrival of spring, I think I’m ready for a change of scenery. After all, the planet is re-decorating too: have you seen the bluebonnets and other wildflowers putting a pop of color around our highways and byways?

I’m out of ideas, though, so I thought I’d turn to my branch’s home decorating section (Dewey call number starting in the 747's). Not only do we have idea books, we’ve got books covering specific styles and lifestyles (green and eco-friendly, for example). If maybe just a fresh coat of paint will get you going in the right direction, we’ve got color palette theme books; if new pillows or a slipcover for your worn-out couch is more your thing, check out our fabric swatch books (only pictures, not ACTUAL fabrics) and our books on recovering upholstery. (These last are not for the faint of heart: have you ever seen a couch frame taken down to the skeleton? Gracious, but that’s ambitious!)

For more up to the minute home fashion choices than book publishing can offer, check out our Zinio magazine subscription database. With your APL Card, you can get access to the current issues of House Beautiful, Elle Décor, Country Living, and Dwell. Flip through the pages on your mobile device or tablet, just like the print version!

With all the money you save NOT buying books and magazines, you’ll have some dough left over for accent pieces!

April is poetry month. Do you want to write a poem? Perhaps, more specifically you’d like to write a Minimalist poem. I was told "keep it simple yet elegant". Easy enough, right? Well, it helps if you know what that means. I can honestly say I did not have an established definition of Minimalist Art prior to my agreeing to do this blog post. So I did a little research and sat down with artist, Andrew Stearns, whose work is currently featured at the Hampton branch.

There is a "fine line between boring and exciting", he says in defining and elaborating on Minimalist Art. He went on to say that the "success or failure of the piece lies in composition and editing...the challenge is to reach that point where you have a balance of elements". In his work he plays with color, shadow, line and form to achieve an abstraction of what we normally see as everyday objects. In Minimalist Poetry the Artist manipulates words through font, size and placement on the page to achieve a similar result. It is in this approach of "…taking out distraction to invite you [the viewer] in" where the various Minimalist Art formats agree. So while Andrew takes a photograph another may sculpt a form, compose music, or put pen to paper.

I will admit I often don't feel like I understand what to think or feel while experiencing a piece of Minimalist Art. But, viewing Andrew’s work on his website and at the Hampton Branch, then talking with him about it made me embrace the genre. The beauty of Minimalist Art lies in its simplicity. It allows you "…to go in and respond and experience" something personal. The artist may "…makes it look easy but it takes your breath away."

In fact, the collaboration of his work and invitation for patrons to write their own minimalist poem inspired me. I was struck by a black and white piece of his hanging in the hall and constructed my own poem (featured as the picture for this blog post). This was definitely a learning experience for me, something Andrew says he hopes visitors get from viewing his work. “Capturing the world in a different way and experiencing something new” is his goal as an Artist.

If you are interested in a learning experience of your own try one of the following:

 

Graduation CapHave you tried out Brainfuse yet? If you have an Austin Public Library card, your access to online tutoring, homework help, and test prep is just a click away! Brainfuse has tutors available for learners of all ages from Monday - Sunday, 2 pm - 11 pm. It also has SkillSurfer, with practice tests for elementary, junior high, and high school subjects, as well as prep for exams like the GED, SAT, ACT, and GRE. If you're working on larger projects, there's a Writing Lab where you can submit reports, papers, and resumes, and get feedback within 24 hours.

If you've used Brainfuse before, it's changed its interface to add new learning tools. If you have created an account on the Brainfuse site, you can login on an iOS or Android mobile app. Check out this short video to find out everything Brainfuse can do for you.

Have questions about using Brainfuse and the Virtual Library? Ask a Librarian!

Graduation Cap courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.