national_parksThey conjure images of magnificent scenery, destinations for summer vacations with family and sites of historical significance. Most American’s feel a fierce pride in these beautiful places and they should – the National Parks preserve some of the most beautiful and most important locations in our country. They are also uniquely American – before Yellowstone was set aside as the first National Park in 1872, land was preserved only for royalty or the very wealthy. Never before had land been set aside for the people and, like so many of the ideals that America has reached for, it has now become a standard for the rest of the world.

Ken Burn’s spent 8 years filming and creating the six-part PBS series The National Parks: America’s Best Idea which explores the history of the National Parks, from exploitation to spiritualism to conservation, a mirror of the character development of the American people. Co-written with Dayton Duncan, the companion book is as magnificent as the lands and peoples it portrays, heavily illustrated and with vivid writing that bring to life the characters and events that shaped the parks.

Be sure to visit the PBS website for the series which has some cool features including background information on the filming of the series, a place for you to share your own National Park stories and in-depth information about visiting the parks. And in case you missed the series when it ran in September, you can now watch the episodes online. Or put a hold on the library’s copy. And celebrate your American heritage.

April 22 is Earth Day!  This holiday has been celebrated in America since 1970, but due to the timeliness of this topic, there’s a vast array of newer materials on all things having to do with “green” and the environment.   Check out some of these titles:

from-bottom-upFrom the Bottom Up: One Man’s Crusade to Clean America’s Rivers by Chad Pregracke with Jeff Barrow.  Talk about a home-town hero! Chad started his river clean-up project right here on the Mississippi in the Quad Cities.  His Living Lands & Waters, a not-for-profit organization, has received tons of corporate sponsorship and has now expanded its efforts to clean up other rivers.

green-bookThe Green Book: the Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet by Elizabeth  Rogers and Thomas Kostigen.  This compact little book is clearly organized, which makes it easy to quickly check the areas you most interested in — be it home, work , school or travel.  Another appealing addition (interspersed between chapters) is the series of quotes from celebrities, such as Robert Redford and Martha Stewart.

hot-flatHot,  Flat and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman.  This book by a Pulizter Prize winning author has received rave reviews and has been a number-one bestseller.  Basically, the sub-title sums it up: Why We Need a Green Revolution — and How It Can Renew America.

Welcome to our first installment of the Frugal Librarian. It is an empirically proven fact that denizens of this profession possess an uncanny sense of value. In turn, they pass that savings on to you, the consumer.

However, while some folks pinch pennies, this guy has actually been known to cut off the circulation to their extremities. This is his story.

frugallibrarianSomeone was saying something the other day about reducing one’s carbon footprint. I went to my happy place spiritually where I pretend I’m paying attention. When I came out of this trance, they were gone, as was their message about conservation. Shame.

While I am a responsible consumer, I am even more motivated by the massive amount of financial green (huh, see witty the play on words??) I can save with the MidAmerican Energy Audit. Here’s what happened. I called MidAmerican and they made an appointment to dispatch a representative to my house. At no cost, this man went from room to room taking measurements. Next words out of his mouth were, “Want some light bulbs?” “Yes sir. Yes sir, I do.” “How about a new shower head?” “Sounds nifty to me.” Make all the jokes you want about how thick one has to be to not be able to screw in a light bulb. Sometimes they don’t UN-screw safely. Does that punitively affect one’s cognitive credit score?

He also calculated that if I spend roughly another 900 dollars to put more blow-in insulation in my attic, MidAmerican will cut me a check for $600. The savings on the heat bill would pay for my portion of that within one year, he calculated, citing that 85% of a building’s heat loss comes from the top.

In under 40 minutes, with a twitch of his nose, off this jolly magic man went into the chill night. “On reasonably-priced economy sedan!” he bellowed. “Merry savings to all, and to all a warm night!”