It’s true: these days many questions can be answered through an internet search. In spite of this, libraries endure.
Not only do they have a transformative effect on individuals and society, libraries themselves have evolved over the years to keep pace with changes in how people seek and use information. What remains constant: the library makes access to knowledge available to all. It’s still the place to head when searching for deep understanding of a given subject.
Libraries hold the many strands of human history, and the mysteries of the world as it was before we came along. They’re portals through which we can step into the shoes of explorers and scientists, brigands and baseball heroes. For so many of us, the library was where we realized that places existed beyond the realm of our experience, and where we kindled our ambitions to travel.
April is a fitting month for this little homage to the library. In the United States, April is School Library Month and also when National Library Week is observed (2018 is its 60th anniversary!). Over this month, libraries across the country and around the world will celebrate and promote library use, recognize the work of library and information professionals, and acknowledge the important role libraries play in community life.
We should also feel free to support our libraries the other 11 months of the year by using our local branch, or through volunteer work or financial donations. (At TOM BIHN, we’ve donated over a hundred Daylight Backpacks to rural and tribal libraries.)
It’s also worth considering a visit to a library when you travel. In addition to books and periodicals, many libraries contain galleries or archives, and some have troves of artifacts from the past. Some host traveling exhibits. And some are worth visiting simply to marvel at their architectural beauty. You may have to whisper, but libraries endure because they provide a glimpse into a community’s daily life that’s unlike any other.
Here are some fun library factoids—share, discuss, and dispute in the Comments.
Northernmost library in the 50 states: Tuzzy Consortium Library, Utqiagvik (Barrow), Alaska
Southernmost library in the 50 states: Naalehu Public Library, Big Island, Hawaii
Westernmost library in the 50 states: Unalaska Public Library, Alaska
Easternmost library in the 50 states: Peavey Memorial Library, Eastport, Maine
Largest library (in terms of number of holdings) in America—and the world!: Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Smallest library in America: The Book Booth, Clinton Corner, New York. With dimensions of 3’ x 3’ x 8’, it’s housed in a retired British phone box and has room for two people. It’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
American library with the biggest books: Kansas City Central Library, Missouri. Okay, they’re not real books, but the library’s parking garage is decorated with 25-foot tall book spines. Titles were nominated by locals and 42 were selected.
American library with the fewest number of books: Haskell Free Library and Opera House, Derby Line, Vermont. This library straddles the U.S./Canada border. It has a collection of 20,000 books, but all of them are on the Canadian side.
Sketchiest library: Brooklyn Art Library, New York, the repository for the Sketchbook Project, containing over 35,000 sketchbooks by artists from around the world.
Seattle library with the craziest exterior: Central Library.
Seattle library with the coolest interior (and our featured image): The reading room of Suzzallo Library, University of Washington.
We’ve increased the size of our original Passport Pouch so that it fits passports in protective plastic sleeves, thick passports with many pages, or as many as four passports—without making it too big to comfortably wear cross-body or around one’s waist. (The Passport Pouch can also simply be stowed inside of a bag.)
The previous dimensions of the Passport Pouch were 5.0″ (w) x 6.3″ (h) / 125 mm (w) x 160 (h).
The dimensions of the new Passport Pouch are 5.5″ (w) x 7.1″ (h) / 140 (w) x 180 (h) mm.
We also now offer our Passport Pouch in two versions:
Passport Pouch, Standard
A simple, straight-forward and well-made passport pouch, it gets the job done well. $22. Ships by April 13th.
Passport Pouch, RFID Blocking
Underneath its interior lining of Aether fabric, this version features a layer of a special metalized fabric that will effectively block detection or reading of RFID chips. $25. Ships by around late April.
You can sign up on the Passport Pouch page to be notified via email the moment either version of the Pouch is ready to ship.
Our Portable Culture Portrait blog series features TOM BIHN Forum members, the bags they carry, and the items they carry in their bags. It’s inspired by our Portable Culture tagline. This edition features Forum member Mausermama. The previous editions featured Forum members platisc, ceepee, sea_otter3, NWHikerGal, widepipe, Rocks, JonC, cdh, Badger, haraya, imahawki, Amy, Perseffect, jujigatame and bchaplin.
What’s the most useful item that you carry?
That’s a very challenging question for me! I guess if I had to distill it down to one item, it would be the key strap as paired with the magical o-ring. As a child, I frequently heard my parents tell me, “You’d lose your head if it wasn’t attached.” They were right. It seems until I found TOM BIHN, I was always misplacing one item or another, usually my keys.
I’m a longtime knitter, and I first read about TOM BIHN and the Swift through the Knitty online knitting magazine. It sounded like a great bag, reliably sturdy and intelligently designed, and it had these things called o-rings. I especially liked that it’s a domestic company that pays its workers a living wage. I was intrigued, but the price tag made me hesitate for a couple of years (I can be slow sometimes). Eventually I pulled the trigger, but it was on a different bag, the Imago. I ordered it along with an extra key strap. When it arrived, I loaded my knitting and EDC items into it and discovered something wonderful. I no longer left my keys or wallet behind because they were now tethered. What I gained by buying that bag was not just a fabulous bag, but extra time in my day and peace in my life. From that point, I became a TOM BIHN convert.
I eventually did buy a Swift (and a lot of other TB bags and accessories), but the Imago and those awesome key straps and o-rings paved the way. I really love how modular they make the entire TOM BIHN system. I don’t have to be married to any one particular bag. It only takes a few seconds to slide my basics out of one bag and into another. Case in point, my Maker’s Bag Freudian Slip. It travels from my Swift to my Maker’s Bag to my Pop Tote effortlessly.
What’s your most treasured item?
I’ll break it down into non-TOM BIHN and TOM BIHN categories. For non-TOM BIHN, I think I would have to say my wedding ring. This upcoming spring my husband and I will have been married for twenty-five years. We married young and have been married for more than half of our lives. To me my ring is a tangible symbol of our love and commitment to each other. A close second would be my mother’s wedding ring. I lost her a few years ago, and my father gave me her wedding ring. They were married for forty-six years. When I look at her ring, I’m reminded of the love they shared in their time together.
My most treasured TOM BIHN item would have to be my Imago. It’s a lovely Navy/Cork/Wasabi combination, and every time I carry it, it makes me smile. Sadly, I don’t carry it as often as I used to because cross body bags are physically a little harder on me these days. Instead I tend to favor either my Luminary, Synapse 19, or the new Pop Tote (my new favorite bag, by the way!). I love the Pop tote because it is reminiscent of the Swift, but it’s lighter and zips closed.
Which item do you use more often than you thought you would?
Oh, that’s an easy question! Definitely my Travel Trays. It started with one and has quickly blossomed into several, each in a different color. I bought it because so many people on the forums raved about them, but I didn’t really see the appeal. Then I got it and plopped in my yarn and tools. Voila! It was another way to keep me organized and from losing knitting tools like stitch markers, cable needles, etc. My “obsession” with Travel Trays has grown. I now have at least one in most of the rooms of my house. My office boasts two: one to catch loose change and other pocket detritus, and the other to keep track of my stapler, binder clips, lip balm, tape, paper clips, and what-have-you.
I have three in my bedroom. One holds my essential oils, another keeps my watch, rings, fitness tracker, and phone in one spot for the next day. The other, alas, catches junk that I should put away but don’t. Once a week or so I take it around the house and put everything back where it belongs.
Travel Trays have become my go-to gift for birthdays and Christmas. I love their price point, and people who receive them always tell me how much they love and use them. They’re cheery and colorful organizers. I doubt I’m done collecting them, either. There’s always something else I can corral.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am finishing up educating my three children, who I homeschooled from the beginning. My oldest is in college double majoring in English and Philosophy. My middle kiddo is graduating this spring. He wants to major in computer science. My youngest is starting dual enrollment this January. She’s currently in her sophomore year. Eventually she hopes to work either in veterinary medicine or as a park ranger in our national parks system.
Now that I don’t have to spend quite as much time with my children teaching, I spend my time teaching other students. I tutor students with dyslexia using a special Orton-Gillingham program called Barton Reading and Spelling. Additionally, I work virtually for the Institute for Excellence in Writing in a number of rolls. I am the content editor of their blog, one of their homeschool educational consultants, and a moderator on their forums. When I’m not doing those things, I teach high school composition and literature to a small group of homeschooled students.
Our Portable Culture Portrait blog series features TOM BIHN Forum members, the bags they carry, and the items they carry in their bags. It’s inspired by our Portable Culture tagline. This edition features Forum member platisc. The previous editions featured Forum members ceepee, sea_otter3, NWHikerGal, widepipe, Rocks, JonC, cdh, Badger, haraya, imahawki, Amy, Perseffect, jujigatame and bchaplin.
What’s the most useful item that you carry?
Bellroy’s Phone Pocket is something that continuously satisfies me. It’s a combo phone case and wallet that often houses quick-grab documents like receipts or tickets. It’s a beautiful accessory that I enjoy holding in hand as much as tossing into the sling-accessible side pocket of my S19 or into the bottle pocket of my shop bag. I operate a small inn, so my work follows me onto sandy beaches and dusty trails long after I depart the office. I’m constantly in and out of this thing for my phone, responding to guest needs or inquiries, so I’d be hard-pressed to find something more useful outside of the phone itself. Carrying the device that keeps me connected, along with all my cash, coin and documents for the day has to qualify this piece as my most useful. Plus, it’s just always nice when the repetitive motions of everyday duties can be pleasant interactions.
What’s your most treasured item?
Over the past few years, I’ve developed a strange relationship with all of my material possessions. As minimalism and the art of de-cluttering have gained traction, my own goods have continuously been pared down in a quality-over-quantity ideal. As a result, I feel that mostly everything that I do own and use brings me great joy each time I reach for it – and if it doesn’t, I’ll start debating an upgrade! This leaves me in a space where I feel grateful for everything that I have, but don’t necessarily favor or treasure one thing over another. There is no pocket-watch that’s been handed down from generations, or secret diary that makes its way onto every trip (though I do journal quite often). My old Smart Alec kickstarted this philosophy (like any great backpack can), as the great thing that carried my things. It was my best friend, and accompanied me through many countries and great adventures, as I strived to fill it with contents that could match its subtle beauty and durability. Now, for the sake of picking a single item (outside of my Aeronaut 30 which is another best-friend type bag), I’d say my Outlier Slim Dungarees. I’ve always valued comfort and function in my clothing, even as a kid who complained that my jeans were restricting. I’ve worn my Slim Dungaree pants and felt comfortable and confident on airplanes, to formal meetings, at work, in the ocean, on the basketball court and beyond. Like my bags and gear, I don’t have much clothing, but the garments I do have definitely don’t restrict me anymore, and all follow the “Be Prepared” motto that I try to still live by.
Which item do you use more often than you thought you would?
My Small Shop Bag. I wrote a bit of a love-letter post when I received it because it instantly exceeded my expectations. For over a year, my Small Shop Bag functioned as my EDC bag, and it rested perfectly in my bicycle’s trunk to and from work. Now, its days are a bit more varied. I use it to transport large items like my tongue drum or a basketball. It’s always with me on trips to make ends meet if I overpack, purchase anything additional, or just want quick-access items under my airplane seat. Fearless, durable, and easily cleaned, it never ceases to surprise me – like when it happily smuggles in pizza slices to my local outdoor cinema. It’s now most often (and gloriously so) a beach bag, carrying with ease my phone, wallet, goggles, blanket, snacks + water, nook and more. It seems to hold whatever I need with a minimal footprint, and if/when not in use, it packs into a large Q-Kit perfectly. It’s just a bag that I love looking at and have used in so many different ways on all sorts of unexpected occasions. Love it.
Tech and Accessories
- 11” Macbook Air (in vertical cache, stowed in A30 backpack strap pocket)
- Nook GlowLight (in pouch)
- Medium Double Organizer Pouch (used for travel documents, receipts, etc.)
- USA /EU USB adapters, micro usb plug, lightning charger, Anker portable battery (inside a small Q-Kit)
- Assorted toiletries – thumbs up for Schmidt’s Deodorant and essential oils (inside a size 6 stuff sack)
- Bellroy Phone Pocket (phone, wallet, quick-documents), Bellroy Key Cover, Apple headphones, Moleskine notebook, Person sunglasses (inside Navy parapack Side Effect)
- Assorted toolset (often a multi-tool like a leatherman, this trip happened to have this set)
*NOTE* – Not pictured but typically packed is a stacked First Aid Kit inside TOM BIHN’s First Aid Pouch)
- Mission Workshop Orion jacket (inside a Pocket Travel Pillow)
- 2x Outlier Mojave Pivot short-sleeve shirt
- Outlier Air Forged Oxford
- 2x Outlier Runweight Merino Tee
- Outlier Ultralight Track Jacket
- Outlier Futureworks
- Outlier Slim Dungarees
- Outlier New Way Shorts
- Outlier Ultrafine Merino Magnetic Bandana
*NOTE*: pictured is a Medium eBags packing cube. I’ve since upgraded to TOM BIHN’s Aeronaut 30 Packing Cube Backpack, which I love.
- Darn Tough merino socks, assorted underwear and undershirts (inside an A30 Travel Laundry Stuff Sack)
Everything In Its Case
Home is where the bags go. I’m a Brooklyn born self-employed traveler at heart who currently operates a small inn on the island of Santorini, Greece. I make a point to love where I live, wherever I may be, and I find this easier to do so by bringing along only the gear and bags that I deem necessary to pick up and go. Everything (material) that I love and need fits into my bags, and so the philosophy of being able to pack and move at any notice keeps an adventurous fire underneath my feet, even though I adhere to the daily responsibilities of running a business. Winter months you’ll find me back in the birthplace of New York City and far beyond – taking my bags to new lands, seeing how they react to different environments and unexpected scenarios (my favorite). I have many friends, family, and a loving partner, and they all tease me about my relationship with my bags. I just hope I never lose the love I have for such reliable companions. A special thanks to Brooklyn-based Outlier for building unfailing clothing of radical quality, and of course to the TOM BIHN crew and community for creating such thoughtful and dependable designs for everyday living and beyond.
Every year, the TOM BIHN Ravelry group knits wearable gifts for our crew. Some years the wearables have been scarves or gloves, and this year it was hats. We know a thing or two about materials and quality craftsmanship, and we’re in awe of what the group makes for us. See for yourself below; we’ve photographed each and every hat that was sent to us.
From all of us here at TOM BIHN to the TB Ravelry Group: thank you! The wearables you make for us are a big part of our annual holiday party, and everyone looks forward to choosing an item. Special thanks goes to Annie, a knitter and Ravelry member local to Seattle who coordinates the whole effort and delivers the knitted items. (Annie is also the person who knitted G.I. Joe’s hat — see below.)
Even the replica of Tom’s first G.I. Joe got his very own hat.
Want to see previous years knitted wearables?
We polled the crew here at TB about their favorite cocktails and mixed drinks and shared that with
@icarusrex for inspiration. Here’s the cocktails he came up with (of course, we had to test the recipes, and yes they’re very good) plus a couple of amateur creations of our own, just in time for New Year’s.
TB Cocktail (Sweet & Spicy)
1 1/2 oz. bourbon whiskey (@icarusrex used Elijah Craig 12 Year; we used Woodinville Whiskey Company)
1/2 oz. Zirpenz Stone Pine Liqueur (see note below)
1/2 oz. real maple syrup
3 oz. ginger beer (@icarusrex used Goslings; we used Trader Joe’s)
Shake bourbon, pine liqueur and maple syrup with ice and pour in a glass with ice. Top with ginger beer. Substitute honey syrup for maple syrup for a different flavor.
Note: We had difficulty finding the Zirpenz Stone Pine Liqeur, so we got a little creative; we brewed Douglas Fir tea, made ice cubes out of it, and added that to the drink, replacing the liquid with…. more whiskey.
Northwest Sky AKA Seattle Seagull* or “tastes like you’d expect”) (our own amateur cocktail creation)
1 1/2 oz. Tito’s Vodka
Sparkling water to fill the glass
Salt the rim of a small mason jar, camping mug, or whatever you happen to have around. Add ice cubes, packed snow, or icicles. Pour in vodka and sparkling water.
*Years ago when Tom managed the AYH hostel in Santa Cruz, he met a laconic young man from Denmark who claimed to have been raised in Greenland.
“Wow… tell me something about life in Greenland. What do you recall from living there?”
After some moments of thought, the young man replied “I remember we ate seagulls.”
“So… what do seagulls taste like?” Tom had to ask.
After some further long moments of reflection, the young man shrugged and said “pretty much like you’d expect.”
Seagulls, it turns out, taste like you’re expect them to.
Ever since then Tom has used this story to illustrate a situation when something is more or less self explanatory.
TB Non-Alcoholic Cocktail
2 oz. apple juice or apple cider
1/2 oz. real maple syrup or honey syrup
3 oz. ginger beer
Mix in a glass of your choice. Garnish with curled lemon or orange peel.
Cucumber and Fir Non-Alcoholic Cocktail
3 Cucumber slices
Douglas Fir for garnish
Optional: Douglas Fir Ice Cubes*
Combine sparkling water with two cucumber slices and ice in a glass. Cut the third cucumber slice as a garnish and add it to the rim of the glass along with a piece of Douglas Fir. This very simple drink is quite refreshing, especially for those who prefer a less sweet taste.
*Douglas Fir Ice Cubes
To make: brew Douglas Fir tea. Either collect your own Douglas Fir spring tips (the very bright green, new growth of the tree; take care not to collect all of the tips from the same tree, or same section of the tree) in the spring and dry them for use year ’round or purchase this ready-to-go tea from Juniper Ridge. Let the tea cool and pour it in an ice cube tray. Freeze.
Many thanks again to @icarusrex. See also: his article on Mile High Bartending.
From all of us at TOM BIHN: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Here’s a few photos from last week’s holiday party at the factory. You may be asking: what’s up with all of the beautiful knitted hats? Each year the TOM BIHN Ravelry group knits hats for our entire crew. We’ll post more hat photos next week — stay tuned!
Happy Holidays to all of you from all of us!
The guest of honor: June Johnson, Production Emeritus. June was our Production Manager and retired a several years ago. Everyone misses her and tries to convince her to come back to work!
Much has been said and written about giving gifts that are not things, and about how experiences ultimately mean more to us than stuff. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve observed that more than ever before, I cherish time spent with family and friends, travel to new and old places, fresh air, wildlife, and nature more than a garage full of objects. With that in mind, I’ve in years past given movie, concert or opera tickets as gifts, or even a gift certificate for a massage or kayak rental. So far, so good.
As we set out to create a 2017 version of our Bags and Beyond Gift Guide, we realized we couldn’t improve much on the list of things already in it, and that some of us were giving other types of gifts this year – food, drink, experiences, and…. books.
I am very fond of books and I’ve begun to give them as gifts. The thing of a book is often more the experience of reading it than the possession of it. Coffee table books of art, wildlife, and photography, as well as illustrated works like Eric Sloan’s A Reverence for Wood or Roger Jean Segalat’s How Things Work series, (and yes of course graphic novels, my dear friend Erin the librarian) are exceptions.
My advice this year is: if you feel compelled to give a gift that is a thing, find your way to your local bookstore and buy books. If you see nothing there that seems appropriate to the person on your list, or if you’re like me and everything looks wondrous and beguiling, gift certificates are there for you. Shopping remotely for an out-of-towner? Go to Indie Bookstore Finder and then call the bookstore closest to your friend and buy a gift certificate. Seriously consider the local bookstore rather than the easy way out of online shopping — remember, if you don’t support your local bookstore, it may not be there the next time you look.
Now, back to where I was headed with this…
These past few years I’ve become rather addicted to audio books. I listen when I drive, while I do housework, and even in my studio as I’m working on a new design. I listened to 57 hours of Sherlock Holmes while designing The Hero’s Journey (though I guess I really ought to have been listening to Joseph Campbell); Anna Karenina and The Boys in the Boat while designing the Luminary; News of the World and A Brief History of Time while designing the Pop Tote; Far from the Madding Crowd and The Heart of Everything That Is while working on The Moveable Feast. When a story has really grabbed me, I’ve even been known to listen, unbelievable as this may sound, as I hike. (One must exercise some reasonable caution: as I listened to Sissy Spacek read To Kill a Mockingbird, I had to pull the car over and wipe the tears from my eyes.) I’ve always a few books in queue loaded on to my smartphone, along with some language lessons to break things up (Cantonese and Swahili: I just want to be able to say “hello” and “thank you”.)
I love my audio books.
So with that in mind, and in the spirt of giving things that are not things, this year I am offering up what is perhaps the simplest gift guide ever: after you’ve pillaged the local book store, give Audible.com subscriptions. Yes, I know they are part of Amazon.com, and are therefore somehow cahooting with Darth Vader, but it’s an amazing service: there are not enough hours in the day to ever make a dent in their selection. [Editor’s note: we sent Tom’s post out to our email newsletter list yesterday morning and reader H.C. wrote back to offer an independent bookstore equivalent of Audible — Libro.fm.]
Best wishes to all of you for a grand holiday weekend with friends, family, dogs, cats, and anyone else who is dear.
We asked around and here’s the books the rest of the crew here at the factory plan to give this year:
Six Seasons: A New Way With Vegetables by Joshua McFadden
The How Not To Die Cookbook by Michael Greger
The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs by Karen Page
Clean Cakes by Henrietta Inman
Coffee Table Books
Where The Animals Go: Tracking Wildlife with Technology in 50 Maps and Graphics by by James Cheshire, Oliver Uberti
Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapesby Thomas Rainer, Claudia West
The Philosophy Bookby Will Buckingham
Hey Seattle folks!
Join us for a rare Saturday opening of our Factory Showroom on December 16th from 10:00am – 2:00pm. We’ll have hot coffee, homemade cookies, and, of course, bags…
4750A Ohio Ave S – Seattle – 98134
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