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Our Sense of Place

That’s what we want in stories — and libraries

For sharks like Mary Lee, the great white star of this week’s Creature Feature, mobility is the law of life. Though even she can’t be two places at once — despite a suggestive reading from her satellite transmitter that she was swimming toward Chesapeake Beach on May 29.
    For others of us, it’s hard to be anywhere but where we are. Though firmly rooted creatures like trees and oysters broadcast their seeds in uncountable abundance to transcend their immobility.
    Like Mary Lee, some of us are citizens of the world. Where are you from? is a question that means little to the child of a military family. But live in a place a while and you put down roots, sipping up through them the terroir of our lands and waters. So it’s with a satisfying sense of affinity that I welcome sister St. Louisan Kristen Minogue as a Bay Weekly writer this week. By way of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, science writer Minogue finds herself transplanted to Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, off Muddy Creek Road deep in woods that barely look like Edgewater.
    At Smithsonian, a big part of her job is bringing research into the language and experience of people who don’t speak science.
    “I’m very glad to see a new generation committed to good science journalism,” the director there, Anson ‘Tuck’ Hines, told me “to translate science for the general public, including resource manager and politicians.”
    In this week’s feature story, Minogue tells another story learned from evidence, highlighting people who came before the scientists in the 3,000-year history of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center land. Even for people rooted in a place, seeing through time takes specialized vision. Read it and you may feel, as I did, the mobility of a traveler through time.
    We do more time traveling this week in Diane Burt’s profile of baseball fan Ray Cox, whose appreciation of the Nationals rises from his teenage association with The Senators, a batboy on the field as history was made.
    Where are you from? From what place do your ­stories rise? We want to know.

A Library of Another Place — and Another Color
    In the ordinary way of things, I’m stuck in place like an oyster. But over the weekend, I adopted the mobility of a shark for a quick trip to San Antonio. Libraries were still on my mind from last week’s paper, and in my luggage to share with the editors of that city’s daily newspaper, the Express News. So the central San Antonio Public Library popped my eyes open wide. A six-story stack of red-earth and burnt-sienna rectangles highlighted in purple and silhouetted against a true blue sky, the 20-year-old Central Library encloses 240,000 square feet of space and 580,300 books plus all the other media and services that make a modern library.
    That $28 million bond purchase — plus $10 million to equip and furnish — has paid off, as a place defining its city while serving a system of 24 libraries and a county of 1.8 million people.
    Out of the debate over Anne Arundel County libraries, I hope we build places that, inside and out, reflect us as well. Budgeting decisions are only a week away. Now’s the time to share your vision with your elected representatives, your county executive and councilmen at www.aacounty.org.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com