Monday, June 30, 2008

Path through the Woods Behind the Library

Enter these enchanted woods, 
You who dare.
Nothing harms beneath the leaves
More than waves a swimmer cleaves.
Toss your heart up with the lark,
Foot at peace with mouse and worm, 
Fair you fare.
Only at a dread of dark
Quaver, and they quit their form:
Thousand eyeballs under hoods 
Have you by the hair.
Enter these enchanted woods,  
You who dare.

From the Woods of Westermain

Meredith, George. “Enter these enchanted woods.” Columbia Granger's World of Poetry Online. 2008. Columbia University Press. 30 Jun. 2008.

Use BHPL's Grangers' Poetry database to find this and thousands of other poems online.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

All the Parking Lot's a Stage

The library parking lot (apparently once the site of a haunted telephone booth, according to Weird NJ) will host a performance of Shakespeare's Richard II on July 18 at 7 p.m. If you'd like to read it beforehand, the play's only a little over a 100 pages. And there's treason, intrigue and murder in it, plus what another BHPL staff member calls "the most beautiful speech in the English language":

This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth

We still have copies left on the shelf in nonfiction at 822.33 SHA RICHARD II. Bring your own lawn chair for the performance. The theater company returns on Friday, August 1 to perform Moliere's comedy The Learned Ladies (Les Femmes Savantes).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

If you like Eat, Pray, Love: Take Big Bites

Take Big Bites, Adventures Around the World and Across the Table (c 2005) by veteran newswoman and iconoclast, Linda Ellerbee delivers a delightful tour of the world, and recounts wonderful meals and her further adventures following her two earlier memoirs, And So It Goes and Move On. Baby boomers may remember the author from the news program, NBC News Overnight that she and Lloyd Dobyns anchored in the 1980's. The younger generation and their parents may know her from her work on Nick News. Wherever Ms. Ellerbee turns up, in print or on the air, she is usually described as irreverent, wry, funny, original, creative and so on. She is all that and more. Contemplating English food, she observes"How could a people who ate something called mushy peas have conquered half the known world? " And the toast in racks? "Let's see, we lost an empire, now how can we screw up toast?" (p. 35) Of course, English food is an easy target, but when she describes the memorable meals, the reader may start to salivate.
For readers and book clubs who liked Eat, Pray, Love, Ellerbee's book covers similar territory, with some philosophizing and recipes, but the tone is that of an old friend, if you had a friend who was a world famous reporter, klutzy but lovable, adventurous, outgoing, sharp as a tack and didn't take herself too seriously.
Post Script 10/20/2010: This post gets lots of hits, so we are adding 
more "read-a-like" titles for fans of Eat, Pray, Love:

Elizabeth Gilbert's sequel of sorts to EPL, Committed, a Sceptic Makes Peace with Marriage (2010)
Laura Fraser's An Italian Affair (2002); and  All Over the Map (2010) I read An Italian Affair a few years ago and even though the author seems a bit self-centered like Gilbert, I did enjoy reading it.
The Lost Girls, Three Friends, Four Continents, One Unconventional Detour Around the World (2010) by Baggett et al. Ellen liked and reviewed this book on the blog.
Honeymoon with My Brother, a memoir by Franz Wisner, this male version of traveling to find oneself is funny. The author's fiance dumped him, so he takes his brother on the already paid for honeymoon and then they travel for two years together. Recommended by Our Fearless Director, S.B.!

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

The Spellman Files is a great summer read for anyone who likes Janet Evanovich's bounty hunter Stephanie Plum but needs something new. Izzy Spellman is a 28 year old private investigator who still lives at home (rent in San Francisco is too high) with her family, i.e. lots of other private investigators with no respect for her privacy. Great hilarity ensues until Izzy's little sister, who has a habit of tailing strangers, disappears. It takes a little faith to get through the first chapter, but it's worth it. There's also a sequel, Curse of the Spellmans, which came out this year.
Lisa Lutz's site
Lisa Lutz's guest blog posts on Omnivoracious

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dreams of Dust

Dreams of Dust, a drama in French with English subtitles, will be shown at the library on Thursday from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mocktar, a Nigerian farmer, comes to a gold mine in Burkina Faso hoping to find work and forget his tragic past. The Essakane gold mine which inspired the writer/director and is shown in the film is real. The French-born director was unable to secure funding for the film until he became a citizen of Burkina Faso.

If you're going with friends, Film Movement has provided some discussion questions you can talk about afterwards:

1. How does the cinematography create both a sense of space, especially in the vastness of the desert and the narrowness of the mines, as well as set the mood of desperation felt by most of the characters in the film?

2. What do you think happened to Mocktar back home, and what draws him to help Coumba and her daughter in Essakane?

3. Given that the gold mine is not highly successful, and Mocktar obviously has a troubled past, what do you think Mocktar hopes to find in Essakane? And what do you think he ultimately does find at the end of the film?

4. The style of the film has occasionally been described as being a docu-drama. How does the director establish a sense of reality in the film? Do you feel that this situation is close to reality? Why?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bloomsday: reJoyce

Publishers' Weekly reminds us that today, June 16, is Bloomsday in Dublin, Ireland. Chases' Calendar of Events, the standard reference compendium of holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, says, "June 16, 1904. Anniversary of events in Dublin recorded in James Joyce's Ulysses, whose central character is Leopold Bloom."

The Irish Times reports,"It is traditional to dress up and go out around Dublin on Bloomsday, visiting the locations featured in the book and taking part in readings, walks and activities associated with Ulysses .
Now a week-long festival, Bloomsday 2008 got underway last Monday and ends today with a number of events taking place in the city centre and south Dublin."

The University Archives of Virginia Tech offers a collection of Bloomsday cards featuring pictures of places in Dublin connected with Joyce's book, click here.

Quote and author photo from Lucidcafe website; click here for list of e-texts of Joyce's works.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New York Times Best Seller Lists from the Past

Today on the Reference Desk:
We post the best selling books list in a plexiglass frame on the Reference Desk every week, usually from, but just now I came across a really neat website that has the New York Times Best Seller List back to 1942, by year, by author, by number one best-seller. Here is the link to the Hawes website. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty was number one on the list the week and year I started college. Désirée by Annemarie Selinko (Morrow) was number one the year I was born. Desiree doesn't sound familiar at all. Probably my mother was reading Uncle Wiggily stories to me and my older brothers at that point.

This afternoon, a patron asked if there is a way to search the catalog for audiobooks, especially recently acquired ones. That's a pretty common request and the answer is, yes - but it isn't easy. There is a way to "tell" the catalog to "set limits" (using a radio button found only in the "Classic Catalog" format) then to choose the "Format" called "Sound (non-music)." Are you with me so far? Is this "intuitive and user-friendly?" No, of course not, which is why we publish a monthly list of DVD's and CD's acquired since the previous list. Copies of the CD/DVD list are in a binder in the Reading Room and also available on the library email newsletter, The Buzz. Click here to see the Buzz or come in to fill out a form to be put on the the free email subscription list. The Buzz will keep patrons updated about library programs, events and other news. I recommend it highly as light but essential reading. (Disclaimer: I'm the editor.)

A patron just came in looking for travel books. Of course by Librarian Law, librarians can't answer a question without asking another question first: "travel books about what country?" I asked.
- "This country."
- "Is there a specific town or city you are interested in?"I further inquired, not yet ready to give him an answer.
-"OK, that's 917.9." I scribbled it on a slip of recycled scrap paper and hand it to him. Off he went, only to be bamboozled by that pesky Dewey Decimal System. Back he came. This is what keeps librarians in business - libraries are confusing and for the most part patrons have to ask librarians to decode the catalog and actually find things for them. We don't do this on purpose. It's kind of tricky to organize 40,000 books and other items and be entirely consistent about it over time. Bookstores may have a larger inventory (more books) but fewer titles with multiple copies, which makes finding books a little easier there.

Which brings me to the final library adventure for the day: patrons often think they can buy books at the library. Here's a post from Love the Liberry, a very cynical librarian blog, about that common point of confusion between the retail and non-profit mission of bookstores versus libraries.

Moral of the story: Just ask us. You are not alone in being confused by the strange rituals and habits of libraries and librarians. We like to answer questions. Or think of it this way, if you sell insurance, I have no idea what you are doing either, and I'd rather do almost anything other than read the fine print in insurance policies.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Encyclopaedia Britannica Turns to Wikipedia Model

The venerable Encyclopaedia Britannica plans to partially capitulate to the internet trend of user-generated content by accepting articles and updates from a community of scholars and experts. This article in Wired explains how EB plans to continue to closely monitor and edit all content but will follow a model similar to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia which is free and to which most students, young people and search engines turn for information.

This is big news in the education and library world because this decisioin by EB shows just how much the free internet has changed the way people search for information and also how people decide where the most reliable information can be found. Generally people will seek out the easiest source for information first, rather than the highest quality source. For example, how many times have you just asked a friend for medical information rather than asking your doctor or instead of looking it up in medical reference books or websites? Maybe you double-check on your friend's information later, but initially, people often turn to the easiest way to seek answers.
This "information seeking behavior," as it might be called in scholarly articles, is frustrating to educators, librarians and to experts in various fields who feel that people are not getting the best information for making important decisions or for their education when they just "google" for the answers.

The Berkeley Heights Public Library has the hardbound EB set on the Reference shelves and subscribes to the online version so patrons can access the content the old-fashioned way or the new-fangled online way from home 24/7. To use EB online, click on Remote Databases from the library homepage, follow the prompts to verify that you are a BHPL card holder and choose the database from the list.

Currently many teachers will accept an online database as a legitimate resource for student bibliographies, but most eschew Wikipedia. To get around that restriction I've observed that students use whatever free internet sources they find by googling and then pad their papers with quotes from sources the teachers will accept and put only those sources in the footnotes or works cited page. The fact is that free sources are easier to use than databases which are still somewhat hidden and require passwords to access. That problem can be solved by educating students and library patrons, but it is an issue that keeps turning up each time a patron says, " I didn't know the library had these databases and that I can get into them from home."

Monday, June 9, 2008

Commencement Speakers 2008

In her commencement speech to Harvard on June 5, J.K. Rowling said that she could not remember anything about the commencement speech when she graduated from college. She said that eased her anxiety when writing her speech knowing that ultimately most students would forget all of it. You can read the text of her speech by clicking here. To watch the video, click here.
My old friends and I have been attending a lot of college graduations lately and comparing notes. I read the Rowling speech and it is funny and poignant and inspiring. For other commencement speakers, you can search by college or university name or speaker name at the Chronicle of Higher Education website, click here. The speaker at my daughter's graduation declined to speak due to the rain. She will remain nameless here. Maybe it was just as well because looking at a sea of umbrellas in a football stadium may have been more memorable than most speeches. When I graduated a long, long time ago in a football stadium far, far away, the university I attended had a policy not to have commencement speakers. The Dean, President, Chancellor or whatever the head honcho was called, spoke. I can't remember what he said or his name. Sorry Alma Mater. I remember there were snow flurries - in May! I remember the veterinary students had stuffed animals pinned to their caps and I was envious of that. I remember where we went to dinner and who my friends were and that the weather was sunny, barring those few flurries... but the speech? I imagine I was exorted to go forth and do good, that much was expected of people who had received such a great education, and so on.
If you just can't get enough of speeches, check out The Greatest Speeches of All Time, DVD 808.85 GRE. 68 minutes of inspiring rhetoric from people who changed history. If you have to write a speech, BHPL has books about public speaking in 808.85. You don't have to picture your audience in their skivvies, just remember they want you to hurry up so they can go eat and they won't remember much anyway. Liberating, isn't it?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

At 10:30 a.m. this Friday, June 6, the morning book group will be discussing The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. The Namesake is the story of a Bengali couple who immigrate from Calcutta to Boston; the story of their Americanized son, Gogol; and a book about the immigrant experience, families and identity and names, names, names: namesakes and pet names and good names. Jhumpa Lahiri points out in an interview that having two names is "almost too perfect a metaphor for the experience of growing up as the child of immigrants, having a divided identity, divided loyalties, etc."

Gogol's world and that of his parents and wife envelops the reader as the story unfolds slowly and methodically. The critical consensus about Jhumpa Lahiri is that her style is "quiet" but dazzling (she is the daughter of a librarian!): Time called Jhumpa Lahiri "the Quiet Laureate" this month in an article about her newest novel, Unaccustomed Earth. Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times called The Namesake "quietly dazzling" in its review. Stephen Metcalf, also writing in the Times, described Lahiri's earlier collection of short stories, The Interpreter of Maladies, to be "written in an elegant hush."

If you are wondering what "pujo" refers to - mentioned indirectly several times in the book, as in "pujo money", read about this celebration that is so important in Calcutta and to expatriates.

Discussion questions are available here at the Reading Group Guides web site.