Librarians head to Denver for a quiet riot

Shhh. Has this city seemed particularly quiet the past few days? Maybe it's the weather. Or maybe it's the 10,000 librarians who've gathered at the Colorado Convention Center for the American Library Association's midwinter meetings!

That means there are 20,000 sensible shoes walking the streets of Denver, says Denver Public Library spokeswoman Celeste Jackson. But not that sensible. Check out some of the drink selections at the Hyatt Regency developed especially for the ALA: the Overdue, made with rum, orange and pineapple juices and raspberry purée; the Boolean Operator, with mango rum, crème de cacao and cream; and the Happy Librarian, a mix of tequila, triple sec, fresh lime, cucumber, cilantro and Green Tabasco.

So how can you tell a librarian? Well, aside from the sensible shoes, they're all carrying bright-orange ALA bags handed out at registration. Why orange? Perhaps because the International Sportsmen's Expo overlapped with the ALA, and the book-lovers didn't want to be mistaken for deer or pheasants.

If there is an unfortunate hunting accident, however, know that DPL staffers are ready to handle almost any medical miracle: Last Tuesday morning, a woman gave birth to a girl in the central branch. Jackson says mom and child should have their library cards coming soon in the mail.

Aside from its first-class maternity ward, the DPL is full of surprises. Five more:

* If you join the Friends of the Library (for as little as $50 a year), you get ten coupons, each good for $1 off an overdue fine.

* The fines don't actually go to support the library; rather, they are deposited in the city's general fund, and since Denver is looking to collect all the money it can these days, no "amnesty days" are planned.

* Even better: Senior citizens 65 and older don't have to pay overdue fines.

* The library just began selling reusable green tote bags for $1 each.

* You can still surf porn at the library, but it's getting, uh, harder. "It's certainly protected speech, but it's not something we are looking to protect any longer," Jackson says. This issue has been a thorn in the library's side for several years. While the institution wants to help its customers do research without being censored, it doesn't want to turn its branches into X-rated theaters. For now, the library has installed filters on most of its computers. But there are still four filter-free monitors at the main branch and one at each of four other branches, where librarians have been instructed to ask patrons who are indulging in sins of the flesh to cool off.

Awkward? Yes. But not after a few Happy Librarians!

Just say neigh: The first time Rachel Hultin saw the gigantic blue "Mustang" sculpture at Denver International Airport, she nearly drove off the road. "I was shocked, jarred," says Hultin, a real-estate broker and developer. And when the subject came up over drinks with friends three weeks ago, Hultin learned she wasn't alone in her feelings.

No kidding: The Facebook group she created, "DIA's Heinous Blue Mustang Has Got to Go," has swelled to 263 members. When Hultin asked her followers to write poems about the $300,000 horse, she got thirty responses within 24 hours. She now plans to deliver the poetry to the city in hopes that it will consider moving the sculpture.

"I think art is sort of the subconscious of the city. If you've never been to Denver and this is the first thing you see? It doesn't say that Denver is a warm, inviting place to be," says Hultin, who has posted the poems at www.byebyebluemustang.com.

"And it's killed one person," she adds, referring to creator Luis Jimenez, who was crushed when a piece of the horse fell on him. "You don't know if you're next."

 
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