Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Are the coffee table and its books facing extinction?

The Coffee Table: disappearing trend?

Recently I read that many families are eschewing the typical coffee table with couch decor usually seen in living rooms and family rooms. Right away I wondered, what do you do about all those lovely coffee table books you own? Wikipedia defines a coffee table book as an "oversized, usually hard-covered book whose purpose is for display on a table intended for use in an area in which one entertains guests and from which it can serve to inspire conversation." Could inspired conversations be in danger with this tableless trend...?

The library has a display area called 'What’s Trending This Week.'  We use this area,  located between the new fiction and nonfiction books, to display books about current events, the seasonal holidays, and even silly “holiday” books like Square Root Day which fell on 4/4/16. For the Fourth of July we displayed some beautiful coffee table books about the Jersey shore. One afternoon, a patron sat in our lounge area and perused all of the big books in this display. We discussed the display and both recounted our favorite beach memories.  The coffee table books on display had served their conversation boosting purpose!

In our art section (the 700’s room behind the Circulation Desk) we have many stunning coffee table books in a separate area called, in library lingo, - 'Oversized.' Some favorites are: New York Gardens in Bloom , Dr Seuss’ The Cat Behind the Hat , Edward Durell Stone , Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs , Henry Moore Sculpture. Many additional artists, gardens and artsy topics can be found in our collection. A patron favorite is Skyscrapers by Andres Lepik which depicts buildings like the classic Flatiron Building built from 1901 - 1903 and the Turning Torso of Sweden built from 1999 - 2005. Travel, food, art, sports, the Jersey shore and many more coffee table books can be borrowed from the library. Hopefully they inspire a lively discussion at your next gathering. Just head for the 'Oversized Book' area pictured below.

~ Ann-Marie Sieczka
July 15, 2106

Clarification: The oversized collection mostly contains art books now, Ann-Marie reminds me. We intershelve/interfile big books on other subjects on the regular shelves when we can fit them. Even if a book is shelved sideways, we hope that people will stumble upon it and start browsing. For more thoughts on the problems of oversize books in libraries, where to put them, do they get used, are people willing to lug them home, read this blog post from library blogger Holly Hibner: 'Oversized Books.' 
Such is a day in #librarylife. - Anne deFuria

Oversized Books at BHPL

Big Art Books Shelved on Big Shelves

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Interview with Author Laura Sassi

We are looking forward to next Tuesday, July 19 when New Jersey author Laura Sassi will visit our children’s story time session at 10:30 am.  The author will bring her skunk puppets to present her children's book 'Goodnight, Ark.'  The library blog (BHP) interviewed Ms. Sassi (LS) about her writing, her New Jersey connections and how she works. We hope you visit our story time next Tuesday and follow the author on her social media accounts which are listed at the end of this interview.
BHPL:  Welcome to the Berkeley Heights Public Library blog. We are excited about your story time visit coming up next week. Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your connection to New Jersey.
LS: Thanks for having me. I am looking forward to story time too. I am former teacher who is now lucky enough to be able to spend my days writing and being mom to our two kids. When my kids were little, I wrote while they napped. Those stories, crafts, and poems can now be found in various children’s publications including Highlights for Children, Spider, Ladybug, and Clubhouse Jr.
Over the years, I discovered that I had a special passion for rhyme and telling humorous stories in rhyme, so when my kids started school, I added rhyming picture books to my daily writing schedule. Goodnight, Ark, published by Zonderkidz and beautifully illustrated by Jane Chapman, is the first official fruit of all those years of writing and honing my craft.  My second picture book, Goodnight, Manger, also illustrated by Jane Chapman, released last year and I have two more picture books in the pipeline for publication in 2017 -2018.
Laura Sassi on  her porch
As for my New Jersey connection, I am a transplant. I moved around a lot as a child and have lived in places as far flung as Mexico, France, Minnesota, California and New Hampshire. I was born in Spain.  But, I met and married a Jersey boy and have now lived in the Garden State longer than I have lived anywhere else! I guess that makes me almost an official Jersey girl, right?!
BHPL: Yes, I think we can officially call you a New Jersey girl now! Our readers are interested in your process for writing. Please share a little about that.
LS: I am a percolator. That is, I like to reflect on new stories and poems, sometimes for weeks or months, before writing a first draft. When “percolating” I always keep a pen and notebook handy so I can jot down ideas. I make lists, play with possible plot twists, settings, points-of view etc.  I think I have a whole notebook’s worth of pages in which I played around with Goodnight, Ark before I actually sat down and wrote the story.  Once I was ready to write, I wrote the entire (early version) in one sitting.  But the story, at that point, was far from publishable.  Indeed, in addition to ample percolating, I would say the use of a time filter is a key part of my writing process.  Once I have a draft I’m happy with, I set it aside for several days, or weeks, before taking a re-look. This way I approach each revision with fresh eyes.  I repeat this process again and again until every word and moment pushes the story forward in a fun, meaningful way.
BHPL:  I like your description of yourself as a percolator! Also your habit of using a notebook to keep your ideas is useful and letting a little time elapse between revisions, what you call a time filter. Do you write at a certain time of day or in a special place?
LS: I try to set aside two good hours per day to write and reflect and be creative.  I have a laptop, so my work station is 100% portable and my favorite strategy to keep from getting stiff and to keep things fresh is to move around as I write.  Early on summer mornings, I like to take my laptop or notebook and a cup of tea and sit outside on the front porch. Later in the day, I often set up shop at the dining room table. And if I’m really engrossed in a story and the thoughts are spilling out, I’ve been known to write at the kitchen counter while cooking. My favorite spot is at the little writing table nestled by the fireplace in a cozy corner of my living room.  I also like taking my laptop “on the road” so I can write outside in a local park or at the pool.
BHPL: What is it like to work with an illustrator?
LS: I was thrilled when I learned that Zonderkidz had selected Jane Chapman to illustrate Goodnight, Ark. I was familiar with Jane’s work from Karma Wilson’s Bear Snores On series. Your readers might be surprised to learn, however, that there was no interaction between author and artist during the illustration process. The first glimpse I had of Jane’s work for Goodnight, Ark was when I got an advanced peek at the cover.  A few months later I received the folded galleys and saw for the first time Jane’s wonderful lantern-lit depictions of tigers and sheep, boars and quail all scurrying up to Noah’s bed. But, even though no direct collaboration was involved, her illustrations demonstrate that a lot of thought went into transforming my words into pictures and extending the story with little bits of added humor throughout. For example, I’ll never forget my daughter giggling the first time we read Goodnight, Ark and she noticed polka-dotted boxers hanging to dry on a clothesline and a toothbrush in a cup on the sill.
BHPL: The story of the animals having trouble sleeping during a stormy night on Noah's Ark is really cute in your book Goodnight, Ark. Everyone with kids knows getting them to sleep can be a project. Did this story start with getting your child to sleep? Did it work?
LS: Yes, the inspiration behind this story is personal experience. As anyone living in New Jersey knows all too well, we’ve had some fierce storms around here in the past few years including two hurricanes and many blustery snow and rain storms. When my children were little, both they and the dog would get scared during nighttime storms and come bounding into our room and our bed! Getting them back to their own beds, in the midst of howling winds and pounding rain, was often challenging, especially when my daughter was younger. So the mother in me thought it might be helpful and fun to write a story that would address some of those fears in a humorous, yet soothing way. And, just like the animals in this story, I found that often all my kids needed was a little extra TLC - maybe a soothing song or a quiet story - to re-settle them cozily back in their own beds.
BHPL: I know parents are always eager to read a new bedtime story to create that calming effect you describe. Thanks for stopping by our blog and I will see you next week at story time!
Cover illustration of  'Goodnight, Ark'
Related links for more information  on author Laura Sassi: 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Beach Reading Minus the Beach

Beach reading minus the beach...

No, it not the same as beach reading on a beach.  I have hit a new high, or low, on starting books and not reaching the end.  Right now I have three perfectly respectable, well reviewed books on my iPad.  Over the weekend I switched back and forth, reading ten pages here and there and never engaging fully.  When I couldn’t fall asleep last night I reached for Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie, an oldy but goody that always makes me laugh.  I didn’t fall asleep until 2:30 am, but I was smiling.
The problem is the lack of a beach.  While listening to waves and seagulls I could relax and read peacefully.  I could remember the early days of marriage and identify with the married couple in a contemporary romance.  With a beach I would not have the urge to shake them and tell them to grow up.  I could appreciate the description of wealth and opulence in an earlier version of New York City.  With a beach I would not be tempted to tell the characters to stop being so annoying and entitled and look beyond their small, selfish world.  I would feel more compassion for the fictional depictions of great authors and artists at an earlier point in American history in a part of the country due north of here.  On a beach I would sympathize with the weight of their lofty thoughts and idealism and resist the urge to tell the main character that morphine is not a good way to treat migraines.
I need a beach.  A little more sleep would also be good.

- S. Bakos

Further reading: Click on our blog label cloud for more posts about 'beach_reads'

Friday, July 8, 2016

Author to Visit Library Blog in July

New Jersey author Laura Sassi will present a story time on Tuesday, July 19 at 10:30 am. Ms. Sassi, author of the children's picture book, Goodnight, Ark, will bring her skunk puppets to entertain our regular Tuesday morning Story Fun toddlers and preschoolers. She will also be available for an interview on this blog next week. Stay tuned for that interview about her writing and creative process.

This blog's first author visitor was Susan Wittig Albert in the post 'The Other Half.' In that blog interview, the author and her husband Bill Albert, who co-wrote under the name Robin Paige a series of Edwardian mysteries, discussed their prolific careers and writing habits.

I just finished Ms. Albert's latest book, Blood Orange,  a China Bayles Mystery. As usual in this long-running series, the reader learns about growing and using herbs from the narrator/amateur sleuth China Bayles who runs an herb store and tea shop in Texas. Recipes mentioned in the story are included at the end of the book. The China Bayles series should appeal to fans of regional cozy style mysteries set in different parts of the U.S.A. and featuring various small business owners. For other culinary mystery series, try Cleo Coyle's coffeehouse series, Laura Childs' tea house series or Lucy Burdette's Key West food critic series. Ms. Burdette also wrote as Roberta Isleib and lived in Berkeley Heights. Look for our interview with her in this post about her book Looking for Murder.

Related resources;
Click on the labels 'Author visit'  or 'New Jersey Authors' in this blog for related posts. The tag cloud lives in the right-hand column of this blog.

Visit our Children's page for the roster of summertime programs for children at the library

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

What to Read While Sick

This winter, yours truly disappeared from the Reference Desk for several months after contracting a rare condition called Guillain Barre Syndrome. On the day that I headed to the emergency department of the local hospital, I threw the book I was reading into my purse:The Road to Little Dribbling, adventures of an American in Britain by Bill Bryson. Mr. Bryson is one of my favorite authors, a very funny travel writer and humorist, so I was not going anywhere without his book. But it turned out to be too big and too heavy to pick up and hold as my hands were growing weaker quickly. As strength gradually returned to my hands, I finally did finish the book. It was great. It took my tired mind a month to get through it, but finish it, I did. Then I re-read Mr. Bryson's travel books in reverse chronological order after I got home by raiding my daughter's bookcases. I was looking forward to the bit about how hard it is to understand Glasgow cabdrivers and it did not disappoint. My daughter and I used to read aloud this bit and other Bryson gems to each other, but could never get through them without breaking up. He is that kind of funny. I guess the greater lesson might be: don't take heavy books to the ED, you might be too sick to read/hold them. On the other hand, humor is the best medicine. So take the book anyway.

What else did I read while sick? Well, first of all, when a librarian gets sick, the library staff naturally starts thinking about what that sick librarian might like to read and dispatches a staff member to the  hospital with a book bag full of books. Using their best readers' advisory skills, my colleagues felt that light, humorous books would seem to be the order of the day. The books had to be lightweight in both senses of the word - easy to hold and  easy to read. So all this got me to thinking about how do we accommodate our reading habits to an illness? I started in the usual way by browsing through magazines that were mostly pictures and celebrity gossip that my daughter bought in the hospital gift shop. Then I graduated to my favorite mystery author M.C. Beaton whose books my coworker had brought in the BHPL bookbag. Perfect: escaping to the Highlands of Scotland to solve murders was just the ticket. I reread Death of a Nurse and Death of a Valentine

After returning home, I reread some of my favorite children's books:

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett was even better than I remembered and was about the curative powers of hanging out in nature, breathing in fresh air and, of course, gardening. How apropos! I could not garden without falling over, but I could read about it.
Beyond the Paw Paw Trees and The Silver Nutmeg  by Palmer Brown were so enchanting and inventive and slyly humorous - good for early elementary age or a sick person wanting to escape.
The first two Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets were better the second time around.

Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder was not one of her best, but I think the idea of rereading the Little House series was good. I still like The Long Winter and Little House in the Big Woods best.

I also read from a pile of 'emergency' books that I buy from the library sale racks, mostly mysteries. Owning books has the advantage of no due dates to worry about. Admit it- you have a pile of emergency books, right? I read the second and third Smiley books by John Le Carre: A Murder of Quality and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (and then watched the movie which I borrowed from the library.) Those were the first Smiley books I ever read and obviously I now have to track down the first one, Call for the Dead, and read that because these old spy thrillers were great.

As noted in the post from earlier this month, hoping to get some perspective on my situation, I read two books about how people cope with severe illnesses: Left Neglected and A Lucky Life Interrupted. On my 'To Read' list is The Anatomy of Hope: how people prevail in the face of illness by Jerome Groopman which Tom Brokaw, author of A Lucky Life Interrupted recommended.

I did not read or listen to books on my iPad, but for some patients, listening to audiobooks is a good
option, especially if there are vision issues or trouble holding books or possibly while undergoing infusions which can take quite a while. Another option is to use Hoopla on a tablet. The library offers movies, music, audio- and e-books and TV shows through Hoopla. Patrons can put the app on their tablet and watch/listen/read up to 8 titles per month for free. Flipster and Zinio offer free browseable magazines to library card holders which look beautiful using the app on a tablet. Take a look at our All Things E page for these and other downloadables.

What to read while sick? Whatever you want is the answer. This was one time in my life when I did not feel I really should read some difficult, 'improving' tome. Thanks to all the authors who helped me get through this and thanks to the BHPL staff for those book bags full of light mysteries and quirky novels. Thanks to so many patrons, family and friends for visiting, texting, emailing, calling, sending cards and flowers. I am back at the Reference Desk, see my cartoon below, awaiting your questions.
Further Reading:
Joseph Heller, author of Catch 22, may be the most famous author to get Guillain Barre Syndrome and he wrote a book about the experience, No Laughing Matter. I just started it and it is fantastically written. I may put Catch 22 on my reread list now.

Guillain Barre Syndrome Fact Sheet from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

The library's All Things E page has links to our downloadable resources for Berkeley Heights Public Library card holders.

Before falling ill, my only knowledge of certain medical specialties was from reading funny medical blogs:
My favorite neurologist, besides my own, writes the very funny Dr. Grumpy is in the House
My favorite physiatrist, doctors who treat patients needing physical therapy is the blogger Dr. Fizzy who writes The Cartoon Guide to Becoming a Doctor
No, really, what is a physiatrist? Read this AAPM&R