Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Cold Comfort Farm

Cold comfort is what half the township experienced last week, with an extended power outage after more than a foot of snow fell.  So it's fitting that the library's evening book group will be discussing Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Dunkin' Donuts on Springfield Avenue.  (We hope to be able to return to the library for next month's meeting.)

The novel is 57th on The Guardian's list of 100 best novels in English. Cold Comfort Farm's heroine is Flora Poste, a sensible young woman who moves from London to a farm owned by her uncivilized and passionate rural relations, attempting to reform their lives.

It's also funny (for a classic).  For me, the humor came not from the way Cold Comfort Farm parodies other novels, but from its characters and language.  For example, Mrs. Beetle intends her four grandchildren to form a jazz band one day, so they are referred to as "the jazz-band," as in, "Agony Beetle and the jazz-band arrived with their arms full of nasturtiums. . . " Flora's cousin preaches fire and brimstone at "the Church of the Quivering Brethren" and his cows are named Graceless, Aimless, Feckless, and Pointless.  Gibbons also skewers the theory that Branwell Bronte wrote his sisters' novels in a humorous fashion.

There are discussion questions available here. I have added some of my own below:

1. Did you like the book or not? Did you think it was funny or not?

2.  How did you feel about the dialect in the book? Did it make it harder to read? Or did you enjoy Gibbons' creativity?

3.  Could you recognize which books or kind of books that Cold Comfort Farm parodies?

4.  Did you pick up on a couple of instances of mild anti-Semitism in the book?  (This depends on the edition you read, as the one I read had changed "Jew shop" to just "shop".) Did you think Mr. Mybug/Meyerburg was intended to be Jewish?

5.  Although Cold Comfort Farm was published in 1932, Gibbons set the novel in the near future, 1947 or later.  What are some of the clues to the time of the setting in Cold Comfort Farm?

Monday, February 26, 2018

Book Reviews and Selection: Behind the Scenes at BHPL

The very best thing about reading book reviews is the reviewers.  I read one weekly source and constantly wonder at the titles chosen.  I’m not sure if the titles are eclectic or if the reviewer is eccentric.  My favorite is conflicting reviews.  Today I read in one source that a particular book has exquisitely rendered characters.  A different reviewer, reviewing the same book, stated the characters just aren’t that interesting.  I can’t decide if I should order the book or, if ordered, if I should read the book.  My choice may be influenced by how popular the author is.

Reading reviews to select titles for the library has become more complicated and time consuming over the years.  The number of reviews is only a percentage of the number of books published and both numbers just keep growing.  To read reviews of upcoming titles, I start with Library Journal, PW, and Booklist. Then, on weekends, I check reviews in the New York Times and the Star Ledger.  Since BHPL has both People magazine and O, the Oprah Magazine as downloads, I try to glance at them.  Another source, popular with those who drink their coffee with the morning news shows, is the morning news shows.

Ordering is the next step. The library uses Ingram for most of our book and audiobook orders, the exception being audiobook titles available only from the publisher. As I am reading reviews, I am checking the Ingram site which frequently contains abbreviated reviews from several sources for the more popular mainstream titles. Sometimes the quantity of copies stocked by Ingram, or lack thereof, is a good indication of anticipated demand, or lack thereof.

If a title is selected for purchase, the next decision is the variety of formats needed. Will the title attract the audiobook audience, or is the author popular in large print?  If we order the title as a download, do we need both the e-book and e-audio? With downloads from OverDrive, the vendor behind eLibraryNJ, we expect the purchasing consortium (a group of public libraries in central NJ) to order multiple copies of the most popular titles. Some publishers do not allow the consortium to order their titles, but individual libraries may order the title for their patrons' use only.

Many e-book titles disappear after a certain amount of time or a certain number of checkouts.  At the same time, e-book and e-audio titles from the large publishing companies continue to increase in price.  In the not too distant past, popular e-books were in the $40 range.  Then the price jumped to $60 and now a few titles are $81.  They skipped right past the $50 and $70 ranges.

I won’t even address the rapid growth of self-publishing.  Not many of these titles are reviewed so they can be difficult to purchase.

Oh well, back to reading reviews.

 -Stephanie Bakos

Book Art at the Morris Museum

Remember the turkey made out of a book that the library had on display around Thanksgiving? Or the recycled-book hedgehog at the circulation desk? If you'd like to see book art while the library is closed, the Morris Museum has an exhibition, Book Art: A Novel Idea. If you can't make it in person, News 12 New Jersey covered the exhibit, which is in its last week, ending March 4.
Detail from The Interchangeable Dictionary by Doug Beube, 2014.
James Allen's book excavations are on display. He wrote that "Carving into a book takes away the original linear format so that instead of looking at one page at a time we can contemplate many of the images and words within a book in a single relief sculpture." 

Church of Our Fathers by James Allen

The exhibit features Julie Dodd's Fungal Spores. Check out her website for better photographs than I could take.
Works by Julie Dodd, including Fungal Spores

Brian Dettmer, the Book Surgeon, has carved book sculptures on display, including a huge artwork made from a recycled encyclopedia. You may have seen his TED Talk, Old Books Reborn as Art.

Friday, February 16, 2018

More Library News


Construction began on February 20 and is estimated to take 30 days.  Planned renovations include improved lighting in public areas, widening interior windows, and opening the circulation room to the hallway. ADA required renovations include a new bathroom, wider door openings and making the entrance at 110 Roosevelt Ave. accessible to wheelchairs.

As the library is under construction, please call (908) 464-9333 on weekdays between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm before you pick up your holds. Staff will meet you at the door - please do not enter the library.

Returning library items

On Saturday, Feb. 24th, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., BHPL staff will be at Town Hall in the Court Room/Council Chambers to collect returns. Please enter through the glass doors leading to the Police Department at 29 Park Ave.

New Providence Library is also accepting BHPL items that you wish to return. BHPL staff stops in twice each week at NPL to pick up any returns.

Late fines have not been accumulating since the library closed, and will not begin to accumulate again until the library opens to the public.

Saturday hold pickup on Feb. 24 at Town Hall

You may pick up items reserved through the online catalog on Saturday, Feb. 24 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Town Hall in the court room/ council chambers. Enter through the glass doors leading to the police department at 29 Park Ave. Please reserve your items by 2 p.m. on February 23.

Interlibrary Loans

If you can't find the item you need in the online catalog, you may contact the library to submit an interlibrary loan request. Please keep in mind the pickup hours (above) before placing a request.

Shakespeare in the Park(ing) Lot

The tradition of Shakespeare in the Parking Lot will continue this summer. This year will not be a typical play, but an hour-long selection "Something Shakespeare This Way Comes" on Friday, July 27th at 7 p.m. Please bring your lawn chairs.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Library News

Holds on Books

Although the library is still closed, holds may once again be placed on books in the online catalog.

Once you have received an email that your book is available, you may pick up your hold on Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (except Feb. 19, which is President's Day.) The library is operating with a skeleton staff while closed, hence the reduced hours.

BHPL is the second building in the large parking lot at 110 Roosevelt Ave., the smaller building with the blue door. Since the library does not have a certificate of occupancy yet, you will need to ring the doorbell and a staff member will bring your library books.

No Holds on DVDs and Audiobooks

Unfortunately, Holds on DVDs and audiobooks are not allowed at this time. The hallway where DVDs and CDs will be shelved will be covered in dust once construction begins, so they've been kept boxed.

Late Fines

Late fines were suspended beginning Dec. 5 and will not begin to accumulate again until March 1.  Overdue notices are still being emailed, which you may ignore.

Consumer Reports

The library web site now has a direct link to Consumer Reports on its Databases page.  You have to click "Search within this publication" to get to a search box, but that is really minor given the labyrinth that everyone used to click and type their way through.

Book Group

The evening book group is meeting on Tuesday, February 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Dunkin' Donuts on Springfield Ave. to discuss Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.