Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Celebrate Halloween - Give Blood

Too old to trick-or-treat? Give blood on Halloween, the Day of the Dead or ASAP. Here is a link to the Summit Area Red Cross and the Blood Center of New Jersey. Wherever you are, just google "blood donation" and your geographical area to find a place near your home. There is usually a blood shortage and the pool of eligible donors seems to be growing smaller with more restrictions being added from time to time, so if you can donate blood, you should do it.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Who Needs Libraries?

The last three posts were about public perceptions of libraries. Putting it that way kind of takes all the fun out of the posts though doesn't it? Comedians Bill Maher and Jerry Seinfeld touched on the stereotype of shushing, timid librarians, but basically seemed to be pro-library, if a bit condescending towards the people who run them. Oh well, librarians are used to it and won't lose any sleep over it. But the piece in the London Times by a guest contributor was worth considering because it's a bit worrisome that people want to abolish libraries. The opinion piece is based on a few false assumptions. One is that libraries are about, or should be about, books and only books. Another assumption is that the internet has replaced the need for books to do research. Finally, she assumes that everyone has the financial means to buy books and own a computer. The writer is wrong in all cases. Public libraries are about universal free access to information for education and entertainment. The form of the materials in these "people's universities" is not central to the mission of the library. At one time library materials were almost exclusively books. Now libraries offer information in many formats: videos, dvd's cd's, books on cd, downloadable audiobooks and music, databases and, yes, books. The library also serves as a community center, a place where people search for jobs, learn English, get help with taxes, attend free programs of all kinds and so on. Where else would these activities take place FOR FREE if not in a public library? What institution in any country would be willing to take on these services? And what profession would be willing to offer these services other than the library profession?
The second false assumption in the Times article is that the internet replaces the library as a source for information and research. The problem is that there is still a generation, baby boomers and older, who often do not know how to use the internet, do not own a computer and need help sorting out the rubbish on the internet from the truth. This is the generation that libraries and librarians help and teach every day.
Finally, not everybody has the money, or wants to spend the money, to buy books or to own a computer to access the internet. The Times piece is not totally without merit though, it is true that libraries are changing and may not always take the form they do now, but the reports of their near demise are premature, I think.

Comedians Maher and Seinfeld on Libraries

This piece has been turning up in librarians' email lately. Enjoy.

New Rule: We Don't Need Drug Tests for Librarians

They can't have very nice lives - librarians. It's like being a teacher, only without the opportunities for dating, because the only kids you meet are the nerds. So the last thing America's shsssshing minority needs is the indignity of a urine test. But that's just what we're doing. I'm not sure this is the best use of our time.
The last time a librarian did something really stupid and reckless on drugs was when Laura married George.
Last year, Florida's Levy County introduced drug testing for library volunteers. Whose average age is between 60 and 85. The volunteers were required to drive to another city - Gainesville - and urinate in a cup "within hearing distance" of a laboratory monitor. That'll teach 'em for offering to work for free. "Okay, grandma, now get pissing. And I'd better hear a nice even unbroken stream."
And then something weird happened. Inexplicably, the number of volunteers dropped from 55 to two. It's almost like they didn't enjoy being degraded. And they call themselves the greatest generation.
I know what you're thinking. If Aunt Iris has nothing to hide, she can get a little of her own urine on her hands and prove she's not strung out on junk. Then we can feel safe, and she can go back to mis-shelving the Readers Digests. But then a second thought occurs to you, later, when you really, really think about it. And that thought is this: What the f*** is wrong with us? Are we high?
They're not flying planes. They're showing the homeless how to use the microfiche readers. For free. The only people who profit from this are the stockholders of the drug testing company, who stood to make $33 a head, money the library would have otherwise just wasted on books.
A spokesman for the libraries said she wouldn't make the volunteers drive to Gainesville for their cavity searches anymore. And she also thought the problem wasn't the drug test itself, but the method they used. That's why they're looking into switching from urine tests to mouth swabs. The same method used by the Florida Department of Corrections.
Bill Maher is the host of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" which airs every Friday at 11PM.
Sienfield weighs in on libraries too...
"What's amazing to me about the library is it's a place where you go in you can take out any book you whant they just give it to you and say bring it back when you're done. It reminds me of like this pathetic friend that everbody had when they were a little kid who would let you borrow any of his stuff if you would just be his friend. That's what the library is. A government funded pathetic friend. And that's why everybody kind of bullies the library. I'll bring it back on time ... I'll bring it back late.
... Ooh, what are you going to do? Charge me a nickel? "
and Lt. BOOKMAN,library investigation officer, counters...
"Well, let me tell you something, funny boy. Y'know that little stamp, the one that says "New York Public Library"? Well that may not mean anything to you, but that means a lot to me. One whole hell of a lot. Sure, go ahead, laugh if you want to. I've seen your type before: Flashy, making the scene, flaunting convention. Yeah, I know what you're thinking. What's this guy making such a big stink about old librarybooks? Well, let me give you a hint, junior. Maybe we can live withoutlibraries, people like you and me. Maybe. Sure, we're too old to change the world, but what about that kid, sitting down, opening a book, right now, in a branch at the local library and finding drawings of pee-pees and wee-wees on the Cat in the Hat and the Five Chinese Brothers? Doesn't HE deserve better? Look. If you think this is about overdue fines and missing books, you'd better think again. This is about that kid's right to read a book without getting his mind warped! Or: maybe that turns you on, Seinfeld; maybe that's how y'get your kicks. You and your good-time buddies. Well I got a flash for ya, joy-boy: Party time is over. Y'got seven days, Seinfeld. That is one week!"

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bye Bye Libraries, or, Buy Your Own Darn Books

This column in the (London) Times Online from a guest contributor caught my eye: The Personal Library - Now There's an Idea . Author Helen Rumbelow states that the "public lending library" is a Victorian idea, that like the public bathhouse, was useful in it's time, but it's time is past. She lists several reasons why libraries are no longer a good idea:
1: "we can afford (to buy) our own books." "for a few quid Amazon will deliver to your door." "Let us admit that people can buy their own books if they want to." Or, if not, she suggests getting books at a thrift store or reading them in a bookstore.
2: "the internet happened. ...anything you could want...the computer could do better."
3: "book-borrowing has dropped by 40 per cent while the cost of the service — now at £1.3 billion — has risen by the same proportion."
4. but, she opines, "to be anti-library is thought to be anti-book, literacy and all nice, decent British virtues that come with being shushed by a lady in a cardigan."

As I reread this (yes, while wearing a cardigan) I am simultaneously astounded at her unsubstantiated assumptions and resigned that many people apparently would agree with Ms. Rumbelow. People often ask me if I have been replaced by the internet. The answer is "no." At least I don't think all the people who I helped with their research today, and the people who take my computer classes think that I am a computer-in-a-cardigan. In fact, reference librarians are busier than ever. Next blog post, after I calm down and rest from all the "shushing" I did today, I will tell all about the modern public library and why it is not an anachronism and why librarians are not cardigan-wearing dinosaurs (ok, maybe the cardigan-wearing part is sometimes accurate...) but excuse me, I see a patron wandering around in the stacks looking for a ....BOOK!

Richard Ford Down the Shore

The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford is reviewed in this article in the New York Times. Ford brings back Frank Bascombe, the main character from Ford's previous titles the Sportswriter and the Pulitzer Prize winning Independence Day. The NYT review states, "He’s wiser than the Frank of the two previous books, a little crankier, and has also acquired a Tibetan business partner, Lobsang Dhargey, who goes by the nom de real estate of Mike Mahoney. Their office and Frank’s beachfront house are in the made-up town of Sea-Clift, a version of Seaside Heights, Seaside Park and Ortley Beach." In the Times interview, Ford expresses real fondness and familiarity with the Jersey shore: "Mr. Ford, who was born and reared in Mississippi, discovered the Jersey Shore in the late 1970’s, when he and his wife were living in Princeton, where he had a teaching job. After years of being “university mice,” he said, they felt newly liberated, but they were also house-poor, and so for recreation on the weekends they hopped into the car and just drove around. The shore quickly became one of their favorite destinations, and even after they moved away, he continued to feel what he now calls a “tidal pull” in that direction." The review and the author's comments about his book seem to indicate that the book has humor but not at the expense of New Jersey and not by using Jersey stereotypes.

Books on a Desert Island

"What books/food/music would you take if you were sent to a desert island?" Is that a question you have ever considered or posed? On Nancy Pearl's website, Booklust, there is a section called Desert Island Books which features lists posted by readers of the ten books they would take with them if stranded on that proverbial island. Nancy Pearl, of course, is the rock-star famous librarian and readers' advisor extraordinaire whose "Librarian Action Figure" has taken the world of majorly geeked out bibliophiles (read: librarians for one) by storm. I can say that because I travel in those circles myself. The rule of politically incorrect comments seems to be that you can diss a group if you are of that group, so don't email any outraged comments about stereotyping librarians, please. But, back to desert island books, you can add your own list to Nancy Pearl's site or you can click on "comment" at the end of this post and post your list here.
You can cheat by saying which AUTHOR's books you would take if you want, but then it's only fair that you can only take one author's works. To answer my own question - I would choose P.G. Wodehouse, my favorite writer, a very prolific one and one whose works would definitely keep me distracted from the harsh realities of life on a desert island. I would feel guilty about not choosing Shakespeare, but should a person feel book-guilt when in exile?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Medical Science of House (the TV Show)

Calling all House fans, read The Medical Science of House by Andrew Holtz. Holtz, a medical journalist, clarifies the mysteries and diagnoses in the television show House, which follows an irascible, but brilliant, diagnostician named, you guessed it, House. Take a look at this review on Diane Kristine's Unified Theory of Nothing Much blog. According to the review, the book is about more than just the television show, Kristine writes, "It's mostly a Dummies Guide to the Health Care Industry, with the show as its jumping off point, so anyone reading specifically for real insight into House might be disappointed."
If you watch the show and it goes so fast that you need a review of medical terms and conditions or a clarification of the lightening fast thinking and and Jersey-esque verbal speed and brusqueness of the doctors (supposedly in a hospital in NJ represented by Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in the opening sequences), go to the show's website which recaps each episode in detail. Of course, bringing this BHPL blog back to it's core purpose,(promoting books, libraries and specifically BHPL) we think BHPL has a very good consumer medical reference collection. Because October is National Medical Librarians Month , we want to remind our patrons that the reference staff have been trained by NJ Medical Librarians to use MedlinePlus and other credible and authoritative sources on the internet to find reliable health information and we keep current on the best medical sites on the net, such as these "Top Ten Most Useful Sites" from the MLA site. Or this webpage which deciphers the acronyms on prescriptions "RX Riddles Solved."
I hope you are reading this blog "qd" or "adlib" with "os" and "od" of course.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Meet the Author, tonight at the Library

Meet Timothy B. Benford, author of To Kill a Princess: the Diana Plot, tonight at 7:30 PM at the Berkeley Heights Public Library. The program will be held in the meeting room on the ground floor. Mr. Benford will talk about the research that went into the writing of this new book about Princess Diana that combines fiction with truth. The author will sign his book after the program; the book will be available for purchase. Check our website for directions. http://library.bhplnj.org

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Sandbox, soldiers' stories from Iraq and Afghanistan

The soldiers' stories on this website are riveting, you won't be able to stop reading. People are posting comments for each article by the dozens and you will be tempted to also: to praise, to commiserate, to send your support to U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Here is the introduction to the Sandbox:

"Welcome to The Sandbox, our command-wide milblog, featuring comments, anecdotes, and observations from service members currently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. This is GWOT-lit's forward position, offering those in-country a chance to share their experiences and reflections with the rest of us. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. The Sandbox is a clean, lightly-edited debriefing environment where all correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted. And contributors may rest assured that all content, no matter how robust, is currently secured by the First Amendment. "

Read this post, The Search, by Adam Tiffen (Airborne JD) and look at his own blog, the Replacements.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

So Many Book Awards

On Wednesday, The National Book Critics Circle blog posted a list of the National Book Awards finalists. For fiction: "Mark Z. Danielewski, Only Revolutions (Pantheon) Ken Kalfus, A Disorder Peculiar to the Country (Ecco/HarperCollins) Richard Powers, The Echo Maker (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) Dana Spiotta, Eat the Document (Scribner/Simon & Schuster) Jess Walter, The Zero (Judith Regan Books/HarperCollins". Click on the link above for the rest of the list.
Today, NBCC posts the Nobel Prize for Literature winner, Turkish novelist, Orhan Pahmun whose book Snow is BHPL's book group November selection.
The U.K." Mann Booker Prize was awarded Tuesday night to Kiran Desai. As the website for the prize states, "Kiran Desai was tonight (Tuesday 10th October) named the winner of the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for The Inheritance of Loss, published by Hamish Hamilton. The Indian-born writer has a strong family tie with the prize as her mother Anita Desai has been shortlisted three times since 1980 but has never won. This year, however, her daughter, Kiran, has won the acclaimed literary prize. Author of the 1998 universally praised Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, Desai is the first woman to win the Man Booker since 2000 when Margaret Atwood scooped the prize with The Blind Assassin. Her winning book, The Inheritance of Loss, is a radiant, funny and moving family saga and has been described by reviewers as ‘the best, sweetest, most delightful novel’.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Super Librarian!

We quote from the NJLA website here: "Who is the Super Librarian? Bedecked in purple spandex and an orange cape, the Super Librarian is part of a statewide campaign to promote some of New Jersey’s best resources: NJ libraries and librarians. For more information please see:The New Jersey Library Association website"
Super Librarian, she of the figure-hugging superhero suit flying high on a computer mouse with headphones at the ready, was devised as a marketing device to promote library use in New Jersey by giving the old bun-wearing, shushing Marian the Librarian stereotype a total makeover.
If you are looking for the perfect gift for the librarians or librarian wannabee's in your life, you can even shop at The SuperLibrarian online shop. Who can resist a dog dressed in a SuperLibrarian dog coat? The clock and the throw pillow are so UNUSUAL that they are sort of cool. Maybe the clock will remind kids it's time to go to the library to study? Anyway, the proceeds go to a good cause - New Jersey libraries.

Friday, October 6, 2006

NextReads Newsletters by Email

What should I read next? If that's a question you ask yourself after finishing a book, you might like NextReads Newsletters. BHPL now offer subscriptions to NextReads free email newsletters which describe upcoming titles and older books by subject interest. The titles are linked to the library’s online catalog so patrons can check availability of materials at any time.
NextReads is available for fiction and nonfiction readers' advisory, 24/7.

How to Sign Up: Patrons can sign up for this new library service by going to the
Berkeley Heights Public Library’s website http://library.bhplnj.org/, then click on the “Weblinks” icon which will lead to the NextReads link.

NextReads provides twenty adult-level reading lists crafted for discriminating readers. Lists are sent out to the subscriber’s email inbox on monthly or bimonthly basis. The lists combine new releases, read-alikes, classics and forthcoming titles, not just the bestsellers. Both fiction and non-fiction lists are available and patrons may subscribe to as many or as few as they choose by selecting from genres such as Romance, Science Fiction, Armchair Travel, History, Biography, Mystery, Horror, Inspirational fiction and more.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Introduction to Computers: a BHPL Class

Welcome to Berkeley Heights Public Library's Introduction to Computers Class. This is today's lesson.
Read the following text; point the cursor at the purple text so that the arrow becomes a hand; then left-click to go to the practise pages.

First: the Mouse - you need to know how to handle a mouse, so here are links to websites that will teach that skill. Click on the links below to go to "mousercize" lessons.
Mouserobics! is cute or annoying or both, but it does cover all the basics, so practise on this website by left-clicking on the word "Mouserobics" in the line above. Next try this site:
Mouse Exercises from SeniorNet, and this site from the Washoe County Nevada Library System which are both good sites for learning how to use the mouse.

Second: the Keyboard - you have to know your way around the keyboard. Here is a link to a keyboard tutorial. Point and click to any key on the keyboard picture to find out what the key does. The keyboard diagram comes from a Computer Training Tutorials site which is a couple of years old, but still useful. Click here.

Three: Vocabulary - you should familiarize yourself with some computer vocabulary. Go to this site. Your class handout also has a glossary of terms at the end.

Four: Shutting Down the Computer - when you are done using your home computer, this is how to turn it off properly. At the library, just log out using the red button on the lower left of the screen. Click on "Yes, reset the terminal."

Five: Practice what you have learned today by using this site from UNC and by returning to the sites listed in this lesson.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

To Kill a Princess: the Diana Plot - author to visit library

Timothy B. Benford, best-selling author and Mountainside resident, introduces his new novel, To Kill A Princess: The Diana Plot, at the Berkeley Heights Public Library on Wednesday, October 18, at 7:30 PM. His new book examines conspiracy theories in the death of Princess Diana. Released on the 9th anniversary of her death, the novel poses the question: Accident or Murder? Though a fictional story, the plot unfolds simultaneously with real events and actual dialog from the last five years of Diana’s life. “It’s really like reading two books at once,” Benford said. “One is the novel, the other relates factual incidents in Diana’s life, and the fiction keeps pace with those real events. I’ve taken great pains not to have the fiction cross over into the facts and vice versa.”

A former newspaperman and magazine editor, Benford’s eight published works include: the nonfiction World War II Quiz & Fact Books; World War II Flashback; Pearl Harbor Amazing Facts!; The Space Program Q&F Book; The Royal Family Q&F Book; the true crime book, Righteous Carnage (the List murders in Westfield) and the novels, Hitler's Daughter and The Ardennes Tapes. His works have been translated into French, Spanish and Polish, made into movies, television documentaries, CDs, used in trivia games, and have been book club selections. He also contributes articles on travel, history, antique cars, politics, coins, and crime to the New York Times Syndication; Associated Press, Travel & Leisure; Caribbean Travel & Life; American Legion; New Jersey Monthly and more than a dozen other publications in the U.S., Canada, and Australia.
After the program, copies of the book will be available for purchase and may be signed by the author.
This program is free and open to the Public, but please call the Reference Desk to reserve a space.

Monday, October 2, 2006

Woodward's book: State of Denial in the News

The top book in the news this weekend of course is Bob Woodward's third book on the Bush administration: State of Denial, covered here on the BBC News website:
"Veteran US journalist Bob Woodward has claimed that the true extent of insurgent attacks in Iraq has been hidden by the administration.
He makes the claim in a book, State of Denial, due to be released on Monday."

BHPL patrons can put a hold on the book from the online catalog.

Last week, or maybe the week before, was Banned Books Week which passed uneventfully. Here is a USA Today article about that most frequently banned book these days, Harry Potter (the series). The article states:
"A Georgia mother takes her fight against Harry Potter books to the state's highest school officials this week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, as her push hits the year mark and keeps going."
The Georgia mother believes the books promote witchcraft.