Friday, August 31, 2007

USA Today Turns 25

USA Today, the national newspaper, will celebrate it's 25th birthday September 15. According to an interview with Al Neuharth, founder of the paper:
"When we decided to create a national newspaper we knew it had to be vastly different," said Al Neuharth, founder of USA TODAY and former chairman and president of Gannett. "USA TODAY was designed to make newspaper readers out of the television generation. The innovation set in place 25 years ago did change the face of the new media and continues to have influence today."
This article in the Dallas Business Journal elaborates:
Neuharth acknowledged that American newspapers are, by and large, in an uphill battle to retain and grow readership. But this "the-sky-is-falling" mentality has come and gone before. If newspapers can adapt to an electronic world and pour resources into Web sites, he said, they will survive this false alarm, too.
"Radio was supposed to be the death of newspapers," Neuharth said. "And TV was absolutely supposed to be the death of newspapers."

USA Today is currently running a series of articles on 25 years of change and innovations. Today's article is about 25 changes in travel and tourism. Take a look at this article about the 25 most significant books in the last quarter century. Topping the list is the first Harry Potter book.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Berkeley Heights Library Blog Featured in New Book

The author of a book on library blogs popped up in the Reference Department email to tell us that the BHPL blog is featured in his book about library blogs, a kind of how-to for putative librarian bloggers. We are flattered that we fit the criteria to make the list. The criteria seems to be mainly persistence in posting, and a certain longevity: we plead guilty to those characteristics in the ephemeral blogosphere where many entities and people begin blogs but do not keep them up. The book is Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples by Walt Crawford.

Speaking of library blogs, BHPL has a new blog for the younger set, The Berkeley Heights Kids' Page which is linked to our home page from the tabs just under the picture of the library. Check the Kids' Page often to find out about programs and storytimes offered in the Children's Room.

Local Berkeley Heights News on Topix

Local Berkeley Heights news stories can be found on a new website called Topix. According to the Topix "About Us" page:
"Topix is the leading news community on the Web, connecting people to the information and discussions that matter to them in every U.S. town and city.
A Top 25 online news destination (Hitwise, February 2007), the site links news from 50,000 sources to 360,000 lively user-generated forums. Topix also works with the nation's major media companies to grow and engage their online audiences through forums, classifieds, publishing platforms and RSS feeds."

Topix is looking for editors from every community. Currently, the Berkeley Heights news is edited by a Topix "roboblogger" and by the Berkeley Heights Public Library blogger (me), but anyone can apply and add news stories to the site.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

One in Four Did Not Read Books in 2006

The Associated Press reported the results of their reading poll the other day. The article states,
"One in four adults read no books at all in the past year." Furthermore, women read more than men, mid-westerners more than easterners, Democrats more than Republicans. The bottom line is that the U.S.A. is not a nation of voracious readers on the whole.
In response to the poll, former Democratic congresswoman Pat Schroeder, president of the Association of American Publishers, takes the opportunity to comment that conservatives only want simple slogans rather than the in-depth analysis that liberals prefer. The White House volleyed back that quantity should not be confused with quality.
If this is what passes for an exchange of sparkling repartee, then both parties should return to the books to find inspiration for a really interesting exchange of ideas.

"I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book."
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."
Groucho Marx (1890 - 1977)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Blogging from Afghanistan

Today The Sandbox, the website where soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan can post their thoughts, ran this piece from Captain Benjamin Tupper of upstate New York, telling about his uneasy dreams while waiting to return home.
The Sandbox is described this way:
"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 Library of Congress subject heading for books by soldiers serving in Afghanistan is:
United States - Armed Forces - Afghanistan
For Iraq, one of the headings is
Iraq War, 2003 -- Personal narratives, American, for which there are 30 hits in the BHPL catalog.
Observations of the war often start out as weblogs; some are published later as books.
The Blog of War: Front-Line Dispatches from Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Internet: Library Death Eater or Not?

This recent article in the Boston Globe debunks the idea that the dawn of the internet would be the demise of public libraries.
"Library directors remember the talk, not long ago, of technology rendering libraries obsolete. But statistics show that the opposite has occurred.
Over the past decade, library circulation has climbed, driven partly by demand for audiovisual materials and enabled by the Internet, which has allowed patrons to easily scan catalogs from home and request interlibrary loans with a few mouse clicks."

So, it turns out that for many libraries the change the internet brought about was not fewer users, but different kinds of library usage. More interlibrary loans, more database and other online services and content being offered 24/7. The new virtual library is open around the clock and provides information through the internet. It also turns out, and the Globe article does not go into this, that patrons need as much assistance from librarians now as back in pre-automated days. Help with computers, the automated catalog, the downloadable books and other online content demand librarians' times and cannot be solved by "googling."

Read-a-likes: If you liked A Thousand Spendid Suns

If you liked the Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, try the following books in this list researched and assembled by the BHPL Reference Department.

The quotes are from the reviews linked to many titles in the BHPL catalog.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See - China. "Foot binding; nu shu, a secret language used exclusively by the women of Hunan Province for 1000 years; and laotong, the arranged friendship between little girls meant to last a lifetime, provide the framework for See's riveting look at a little-known chapter in 19th-century Chinese history."
The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra - Afghanistan. "Contrasts the criminally absurd world of the Taliban's theocracy with touching and ultimately heartbreaking relationships of love and sacrifice."
The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif - Egypt. "Soueif weaves the stories of three formidable women from vastly different times and countries into a single absorbing tale."
The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad - Afghanistan. (nonfiction) "Its real strength is the intimacy and brutal honesty with which it portrays the lives of Afghani living under fundamentalist Islam."
Madras on Rainy Days by Samina Ali - India. "Ali explores the stifling world of Indian Muslim domestic life and the odd partnership forged by husband and wife in an arranged marriage fraught with secrets."
Nadia's Song by Soheir Khashoggi - Egypt. "Khashoggi's third novel blends romance, class conflict, and familial betrayal, all set in the context of half a century of Egyptian history."
Kabul Beauty School : an American Woman Goes Behind the Veil by Deborah Rodriguez. Nonfiction. "Rodriguez (a hairdresser) understands the needs and fears of the Afghan women who befriend her because she, too, has left a brutal husband back in the United States."
The Cry of the Dove by Fadia Faqir. "Salma, a member of a bedouin tribe in Hima, the Levant, at 16 becomes pregnant out of wedlock - considered by her tribe a crime punishable by death. . . Salma is imprisoned eight more years before being secretly released and sent to Southampton, England."

Friday, August 10, 2007

Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai

The library's evening book club will be meeting Tuesday, August 14th at 7:30 pm to discuss Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai. It was her first book (of 3) to be nominated for the Booker Prize. (FYI: her daughter Kiran won it last year for her own novel, The Inheritance of Loss).

Anita Desai explains how the novel is partly autobiographical in an interview:

The setting is autobiographical, but [being partly set in 1949] it is also about India becoming independent and de-colonized. It is set in my home city of Old Delhi, in a period of my childhood, during a time when I was becoming a woman. It was the coming together of two momentous events in my life, growing up and India transforming from a colony to independence. Even such a quiet, protected, enclosed place as the family’s home could be affected by the great events of history. But Bimla in this novel and also Moyna, in the story “Rooftop Dwellers,” stay alone to represent the growing independence of women in India and having the choice of not getting married."

Clear Light of Day is notable for the atmospheres and textures that it conveys. In her review of the book in the New York Times, Anne Tyler says,
This is a book without apparent movement. It hangs suspended, like the family itself, while memories replay themselves and ancient joys and sorrows lazily float past. . . But above all else, what keeps us reading is the invisible motion - first the journey downward as the sisters sink into the past; and second, the interior journey that Bim undertakes as Tara's visit lengthens.

Here are a few discussion questions to be thinking about as you read the novel:
1. How are Tara and Bim different? Tara says that they are more alike than ? Which one can you identify with the most?
2. How is the book structured chronologically and why?
3. How are poetry and reading important in the lives of the Das family? What are the 3 types of readers the author describes on page 120? Are you a passive or an active reader?
4. What is the atmosphere of the house? Do you think Bim has changed it for the better, as Tara says, or is it still a malevolent place?
5. What part of the parents' neglect was most horrifying to you? How did this neglect continue to affect the children's lives and choices once they became adults?
6. What does the title mean? (It is taken from page 165.)
7. How is the role Bim now plays in the family like her aunt Mira’s? Why is she so angry at her family?
8. What is the significance of the story of the pearl that turned out to be a snail, which is retold more than once in the book? Why is Baba compared to a snail on page 103?
9. Pay attention to the passages that mention the well, especially those on pages 149, 152 and 157. What different things does the well come to stand for in the characters' minds?
10. What parts of the book did you think were funny?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Book Suggestions from LibraryThing

LibraryThing is a website where members can make a catalog of the books they own. Anyone can easily sign up for a free account, add up to 200 books by title, author or ISBN (international standard book number) and produce a rudimentary library catalog of their very own book collection which can then be searched and shared with other people on the website. After 200 books there is a nominal fee charged to the user. LibraryThingers (LibraryThingites?) can also see which other users own the same books. Members can review and rate books. Books can be tagged with subject terms which makes the books searchable by that term.
I couldn't really imagine that there would be so many people out there who wanted to catalog their books, but there are currently almost 250,000 users who have collectively entered almost 17 million books into the website. LibraryThing offers many features that result from all this classifying and organizing of books. Under "Zeitgeist" it lists the most popular books, the most reviewed books, the biggest collections: one user has almost 15,000 books cataloged.
The website describes itself like this:
"If you want it, LibraryThing is also an amazing social space, often described as "MySpace for books" or "Facebook for books." You can check out other people's libraries, see who has the most similar library to yours, swap reading suggestions and so forth. LibraryThing also makes book recommendations based on the collective intelligence of the other libraries."
One feature not to miss is the book suggestions. Enter a title and lists of similar titles or works you might like pop up.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Free at Your Local Library: More Than You Know

The New York Times ran this article recently, Steal This Book? Don't Bother, which states:
"Chances are you are buying, subscribing to, or stealing something you can get for free with a library card."
An example of that point, which we hear about frequently at the BHPL Reference Desk, is when patrons tell us that they have bought a Consumer Reports article or other articles from a newspaper or magazine website. Don't do that. Your tax dollars have already paid for that content and much more. Librarians can either find and print out the articles for you or show you how to find it for free. Specifically, the New Jersey State Library offers JerseyClicks to all library card holders in the state. JerseyClicks holds the content of thousands of periodicals and published research sources. Take a look:
JerseyClicks, a gateway to free, published information which is not available or searchable on the internet using Google or other search engines in many cases.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Henry IV, Part I, at the Berkeley Heights Public Library this Weekend

Shakespeare in the (Not Quite) Park

Next Stage Ensemble of the NJ Shakespeare Theatre presents:

Saturday, August 4 at 7:00 pm - Henry IV, part I

Bring lawn chairs, ages 10 and up, presented in the BHPL (not quite the park) parking lot.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Haunted Books, Smoking Books and the Dewey Decimal Hotel

Boing Boing, a directory of wonderful things reveals other surprising developments in the world of books. Haunted books that move and moan on the shelf. This might really turn people off the Dewey Decimated System.
But wait, there's more: In the UK, books are being packaged to look like a cigarette pack.
And finally, the Library Hotel where the floors and rooms are arranged by the Dewey Decimal Classification system. "The Library Hotel in New York City is the first hotel ever to offer its guest over 6,000 volumes organized throughout the hotel by the DDC. Each of the 10 guestrooms floors honors one of the 10 categories of the DDC and each of the 60 rooms is uniquely adorned with a collection of books and art exploring a distinctive topic within the category or floor it belongs to."

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

NYPL Has Book-on-demand Machine at SIBL

Boing Boing, the top-rated blog, reports that the New York Public Library has a visiting machine this summer that will spit out free copies of books on demand for patrons. The machine, the Espresso Book Machine or EBM, is being loaned to the library by its inventors. For more details of this remarkable development in instant book publishing, click here.
PRWeb reported last month that,
"New York, NY (PRWEB) June 21, 2007 -- The first Espresso Book Machine™ (“the EBM”) was installed and demonstrated today at the New York Public Library’s Science, Industry, and Business Library (SIBL). The patented automatic book making machine will revolutionize publishing by printing and delivering physical books within minutes. The EBM is a product of On Demand Books, LLC (“ODB” -, the company founded by legendary publishing executive Jason Epstein and business partner Dane Neller, who joined SIBL’s Kristin McDonough for a private event there to speak about the EBM’s potential impact on the future of reading and publishing.
The Espresso Book Machine will be available to the public at SIBL through August, and will operate Monday- Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The New York Public Library's Science, Industry and Business Library is located at 188 Madison Avenue (at 34th Street).

Library on Mars: the Phoenix DVD

The Planetary Society reports that it will contribute a library of information to NASA for the 2007 launch to Mars.
"Visions of Mars is a message from our world to future human inhabitants of Mars. It will launch on its way to the Red Planet in the summer of 2007 aboard the spacecraft Phoenix. Along with personal messages from leading space visionaries of our time, Visions of Mars includes a priceless collection of Mars literature and art, and a list of hundreds of thousands of names of space enthusiasts from around the world. The entire collection will be encoded on a mini-DVD provided by The Planetary Society, which will be affixed to the spacecraft."
There is a message to future explorers from the late Carl Sagan, books by science fiction writers H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and other Mars and space exploration enthusiasts.
Someone, some-being, someday might find the disc containing Earthling ideas about the planet Mars and our future with it or on it. Maybe it will be the core collection for the Planet Mars Public Library...?