Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Easy Walks near Berkeley Heights, New Jersey

I have been trying to increase the number of steps I take daily by adding short, level, easy, local, no-excuses walks to my daily routine. I use a pedometer which counts my steps and relays them by Blue Tooth to the free app that goes with the pedometer. This pedometer's name rhymes with SnitPit and I like it a lot, but I am not recommending one device over any other. I have become a bit obsessed with finding places to walk in good weather and in bad, but I prefer to go somewhere nearby. Here is a list of some of my favorite places so far and some books that list and describe where to go hiking and sightseeing in New Jersey. Let me know of some of your favorites by emailing reference at

Leonard J. Buck Garden, Far Hills, 07931
Reeves Reed Arboretum, Summit, NJ 07901
Greenwood Gardens, Short Hills, NJ 07078
Frelinghuysen Arboretum, Morris Township, NJ

Wildlife and Animals:
The Raptor Trust, Long Hill Township, NJ 07946
The Great Swamp, New Vernon, NJ 07976
Fosterfields Living Historical Farm, Morris Township, NJ 07960

Local Parks and Historical Sites:
Historic Speedwell, Morristown, NJ
Passaic River Park, Summit,NJ
Bryant Park, Summit, NJ

Off the Beaten Path New Jersey, a guide to Unique Places by Kay and Bill Scheller (2011)
New Jersey Day Trips by Patrick Sarver (2011)
BackRoads New Jersey, Driving at the Speed of Life by Mark Di Ionno (2002)
and many more titles can be found at Dewey Decimal #917.49

At the Reference Desk: quick, look this up for me!

Asked lately of the BHPL Reference Librarians: details of the questions were edited to preserve the privacy of the patrons.

Questions by phone:

Q: I need names of dermatologists in Livingston, NJ. Can you 'Google' that for me? I don't use computers.
A: We 'Googled' that question because the patron was in a hurry. We often look up physicians in the reference book 'The Official ABMS directory of board certified medical specialists' or use the American Medical Association's Doctor Finder webpage, but if patrons just want us to quickly search the internet with the understanding that the results are random and not a recommendation, we will do that for them. Using reference books and the AMA website takes longer than Googling.
Follow-up Q: That's a doctor who treats skin stuff, right?
A: Right.

Q:Is it illegal to sell a used mattress in New Jersey?
A: We quickly realized this is a complicated issue and while we were looking for the easy, quick, fast answer that the patron wanted, he changed the question to ask for a list of used furniture stores in the town where he lives. He does not use computers. If we were, we would mark the answer to this question, 'No, but it's complicated.'
Note: here is an article from about tougher proposed laws on the sale of used mattresses. We infer that used mattresses can be sold in NJ, but have to be sanitized first and carefully labelled following guidelines. Here is a PDF from the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs about used mattresses.

Q: How do I register to vote?
A: We recommended this Union County website for all kinds of election deadlines and other information.
The printable New Jersey Voter Registration Application is here

Follow-up Q: Can I register to vote at the library or a Post Office?
A: No. We have applications available (see above), but we cannot register voters.

Questions at the public internet computers:


Q:What email do I use?
A: We don't know. Is it Gmail, Yahoo, Verizon?
 Follow-up Q: What is my email user name and password?
A: We don't know.
Q: My home computer remembers. How do I find out what my password is?
A: Did  you write it down somewhere?

Q: Can I quickly print out something from my email on your computers?
A: Yes
Follow-up Q: Where is my email?
A: What kind of email do you have? (see above conversation.)

Questions at the Reference Desk in person:

Q: What ever happened to the Dewey Decimal System?
A: We still use it.
Q: Really?
A: Yes. 

 Q: I don't know the title or author, but I want to know if you have a book called something.
A: Can  you describe the book?
Q: Oh, you know, everyone is reading it.
A: Is it a bestseller?
Q: Can you get it for me?
A: It depends on what it is.
Q: I'll call my friend who recommended it.
A: OK, let us know what the title is and we'll take it from there.
Q: I'm sure you have it.
A: Probably, but it might be checked out.
Q: Yes, that's probably why it's not here.

Q: How do I connect to wifi here?
A: Your device will find 'LibraryWiFi.' There is no password to get into the network.
Q: No password?
A: No.
Q: It's not finding it.
A: Just wait. That usually works. Or reboot your device. Or look at your settings to make sure you are not on Airplane mode or something blocking it. 
Q: OK, got it.
A: Great.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Coming of Age Books

Try asking people for examples of coming-of-age novels.  Most readers agree that these stories follow the changes experienced as a character matures from youth or adolescence to adulthood.  Perhaps adulthood should not be measured in years, but in a character’s evolving and expanding view of the world.  Maybe it is when the character realizes that he/she is not the center of the world, but a participant.  Scarlett O’Hara took so long to reach that point that I was surprised to find Gone With the Wind on one coming-of-age list.  I think readers could argue if Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird should be replaced on coming-of-age lists by Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman.
Older lists of coming-of-age novels contain books such as Anne of Avonlea, David Copperfield, and The Secret Garden.  Slightly newer lists will contain Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Lord of the Flies, and S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders.  An even newer list will have Nick & Norah’s Playlist, Secret Life of Bees, Kite Runner, Perks of being a Wallflower, Eleanor & Park, About a Boy and Fangirl.  John Green has dominated the market with Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Fault in Our Stars.  J.K Rowling gave us the Harry Potter series and Suzanne Collins created Katnis Everdeen and the Hunger Games trilogy.  We have watched all of these characters mature whether we like or dislike the adults they became.
Although I have read and enjoyed many of the titles mentioned above, my coming-of-age list would include Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Banks, Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns, Red Sky at Morning by Richard Bradford and Montana 1948 by Larry Watson.  It is an eclectic mix, spanning from 17th century Holland to the mid-century United States. Whatever your definition of coming-of-age novels may be, these books can be enjoyed long after adolescence.

-S. Bakos

Related lists:
Coming of Age books on Goodreads
11 Coming-of-Age Books from the Huffington Post
Flavia Comes of Age
Bildungsroman definition 
Great Coming of Age Novels on Pinterest
Harry Potter Comes of Age

Monday, September 12, 2016

Happy Birthday, Mary Oliver

If this blog were a greeting card, it would have a 'happy belated birthday' option. I noticed that our post on Mary Oliver's poem 'Percy and Books' has really been trending on our usage statistics in the last week. That's because Ms. Oliver's birthday was Saturday, September 10. She is 81. Happy birthday to a wonderful, American poet! Here is the link to our post 'Percy and Books' about her dog Percy. What does Percy feel about books? Well, they aren't dog treats or a walk are they?

Percy and Books (Eight) by Mary Oliver

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Notorious RBG: the Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

My Yearly Biography Reading, or maybe not...

I am not a biography person so I was busy congratulating myself on reading my annual biography, autobiography or memoir.  I had finished Notorious RBG: the Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, before I realized that it is cataloged in 347.7326 (Law, Supreme Court), not BIO GIN.  That is the charm of selecting downloadable books from OverDrive or Hoopla – I look at what is new and available and don’t consider any classification system.  Now, in keeping with my self-inflicted reading requirements, I still owe myself a biography.
Reading Notorious RBG is an adventure.  The authors, Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik, mix and match narrative, photographs, documents, cartoons and fan art.   The book has something for everyone, including a shout out to opera buffs.  The court decisions and legal briefs are described with enough detail to inform without overwhelming.  One particular decision involving voting rights, Shelby County v. Holder, has been mentioned almost daily on news programs during this election cycle so I was pleased to learn more about the background.  Perhaps the biggest surprise is the love story between RBG and her husband.   His final letter to her is heartbreaking.  Notorious RGB is a wonderful combination, mixing details about her ground-breaking legal career with enough personal information to make the woman in the formidable black robes more human.
Before the end of 2016 I must choose a biography or autobiography to read.  Books about the Kennedy family are still being published at a rapid rate, with the Roosevelts running a close second.  Alexander Hamilton is trendy and interest in Lincoln never fades.  I tend to avoid movie stars and anything too sensational – serial killers are definitely not an option.  Please send any recommendations through comments.

- S. Bakos

Related sources:

New York Times review of Notorious RBG, the life and times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmen and Shana Knizhnik (2015)

Vogue review of Notorious RBG, '15 Things I Learned About Ruth Bader Ginsburg From Notorious RBG'