Friday, January 30, 2009

Listen, New Jersey: More Audiobook Downloads!

If you've got an iPod or iPhone and live in Berkeley Heights, you can finally download free audiobooks onto them, thanks to a service called ListenNJ that BHPL has joined. If you don't have an iPod, ListenNJ has even more audiobooks that (only) work with non-iPod audiobook players.

To see how this works, go to and browse by the type of book you want to read (or if you have an iPod, browse the MP3 audiobooks). You'll need to have your library card handy. If no one else is listening to a book you can download it immediately. Otherwise, join the waiting list and you'll be emailed when it's your turn to download a book.

Also, if you have a non-iPod MP3 player, you can check out the audiobooks we subscribe to via netLibrary. Just go to the library home page and click on the netLibrary logo at the bottom of the page.

Book Awards Announced at Library Convention in Denver

The American Library Association meets twice a year, in June and in January. At last week's Midwinter convention in Denver, children's book awards were announced. Neil Gaiman won the 2009 Newbery Medal for The Graveyard Book. Beth Krommes won the 2009 Caldecott Medal for The House in the Night, written by Susan Marie Swanson. The Newbery award celebrates writing and the Caldecott is awarded for illustration.
This week the literary world said goodbye to John Updike who died Tuesday. Best known for his series of books about the fictional Rabbit, Updike chronicled life in post-war American suburbs.
At BHPL, Oprah's book selections and movie tie-ins continue to drive the holds list. If you need book recommendations tailored just for your tastes, be sure to ask at the Reference Desk. We use Novelist to find lists of "Read-alikes." (If you liked such and such then try so and so, in other words.) We call this kind of question, "readers advisory." But the lingo of the librarian world doesn't have much meaning outside of the profession sometimes. So even though we do offer Readers Advisory service to our patrons, just come up and ask for something good to read and we'll see what we can come up with.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bird Book with Bird Songs

Yesterday, a patron came to the Reference Desk asking for the bird book that actually makes birdcalls. Sure enough, BHPL has not one, but two such books. The patron took one and I took Bird Songs from Around the World by Les Beletsky to play with. Turn to any page, find the number of the bird, punch it into the little gadget on the side of the book, press play, and the song of that particular bird calls out to you loud and clear. I played the Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo and the library took on the air of a Tarzan movie. The Rufous-Bellied Chachalaca has a great name, an impressive profile and a raucous call. I tried a few more bird calls until it occurred to me that maybe birdcalls in the library might not be creating the studious atmosphere we aim for here. The book is on the shelf at 598 BEL. The 200 sounds come from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
If you like birding or want to begin, check out Cornell's Citizen Science section of the Ornithology Lab, take a virtual tour, watch bird videos and you can even join the lab for a chance to win a free IPod loaded with bird songs.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Faster Internet!

On Friday the Berkeley Heights Public Library upgraded to Verizon FIOS, which means the Internet at the library is now much faster than it used to be (especially in the afternoons, when YouTubing middle schoolers all jump on the computers). Our maximum download speed is now 20 megabits per second. Come in and enjoy!

Friday, January 23, 2009

How Good is Your Hospital?

Yesterday we had a patron ask if there was a free source for the ratings that assigns to hospitals. We've ordered a reference directory called Healthgrades Guide to America's Hospitals and Doctors. Until it comes in, you can check out This government web site has the same data (collected from Medicare and Medicaid patients) that Healthgrades uses to grade hospitals. You can find out general statistics, or statistics specific to a certain type of medical condition or surgical procedure, for each hospital.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Tales

What with 15 mile an hour winds and temperatures in the 20s, today's inauguration is shaping up to be pretty typical of the wretched weather described by Paul Boller in Presidential Inaugurations, "an informal, anecdotal history from Washington's Election to George W. Bush's Gala". But at least it's not snowing. Andrew Jackson had to be inaugurated in the Senate chamber due to a blizzard, and a reluctant Taft was also inaugurated there because the outgoing president, Teddy Roosevelt, and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge told him that the Chief Justice's health wasn't up to an inauguration out in the snow. When it rained on Hoover's inauguration day, Calvin Coolidge remarked to his wife that "it always rains on moving day."

Other fun facts from Presidential Inaugurations:
John Quincy Adams was the first president to be sworn in wearing long pants (1825).
Franklin Pierce was the first president to deliver his speech by memory (1853).
The first televised inauguration was Harry Truman's (1949).

Monday, January 19, 2009

Honoring Martin Luther King

The Berkeley Heights Public Library is open today, Martin Luther King Day, for the convenience of our patrons who have the day off from work or school.
YouTube offers a video of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech August 28, 1963.
The concert at the Lincoln Memorial last night to celebrate President Elect Barack Obama's Inauguration is also on YouTube.
Two historic events 46 years apart fill the Mall - from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument and beyond.
Ask at the Reference Desk about our African-American History online database from Facts on File, available from our homepage.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Artist Andrew Wyeth Dies

Artist Andrew Wyeth died today at age 91 reports the BBC. Wyeth's realistic portraits and landscapes are exhibited at the Brandywine River Museum near his home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Andrew Wyeth's father N.C. Wyeth was the illustrator of children's classics Treasure Island, Kidnapped and other popular adventure books. Andrew's son Jamie Wyeth carries on the family tradition as a realist painter of note. Search the BHPL catalog for Wyeth as subject to find books on the artists of the Wyeth family.

At right Not Plowed by Andrew Wyeth, 1985 watercolor

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Magpie by Claude Monet

It's snowing this morning here in north/central New Jersey and the conversations of staff and the few patrons who have braved the weather to come to the library are about road conditions, school closings, the forecast and the general nuisance factor of the snow. All the practical consequences of the weather preoccupy us, but artists see the world differently, they say. Here is Monet's snowscene, The Magpie, to prove the point. His interest was the quality of the light and the shadows, certainly not whether the hardware store was out of snowshovels and salt. Did he take his easel outside to paint this (en plein air?) Did he shovel a spot to create an instant outside studio? Were his boots warm enough? It doesn't matter now. Monet saw beauty where we see traffic jams and backaches.
The Magpie, owned by the Musee D'Orsay in Paris, is described on the museums website.
"This painting of a place in the countryside near Etretat, executed on the spot, uses very unusual pale, luminous colours, a fact highlighted by the critic Felix Fénéon: "[The public] accustomed to the tarry sauces cooked up by the chefs of art schools and academies, was flabbergasted by this pale painting." The novelty and daring of Monet's approach, which was more about perception than description, explain the painting's rejection by the jury of the 1869 salon."
Searching the BHPL catalog for Monet as the subject turns up 25 titles of DVD's, children's books and art books. Take a look at:
Linnea in Monet's Garden, the children's book by Christina Bjork or the DVD
Monet's Table, the cooking journals of Claude Monet to see his beautiful house in Giverny with a kitchen and dining room to envy.
Monet's Water Lilies by Vivian Russell, the paintings of his water garden or visit the newly restored paintings at the Museum of Modern Art in New York city.
Post Script: the blog's amazing hit counter tells us that this post gets lots of hits from Google searches, which I thought was odd. Why all the interest in this painting? My theory is that people are really looking for a website called Money Magpie which is a personal finance site. If you stumble upon this post, let me know how and why you got here. If the comment process is too difficult, email the Reference Department at thanks. October 7, 2009

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Go to the library and ask for...

WiFi access?- yes, BHPL has WiFi for free, no passwords.
Book sale? - yes, BHPL always has a book truck of books for sale.
Consumer Reports? - yes, to check out, for use in the library, and online from home computers.
Phone books? - yes, NJ, Manhattan and Philly, but mostly we use Reference USA online.
Tax forms? - yes, they are now arriving :-(
Last Sunday's New York Times? - yes, hard-copy and online (back to 1851 online.)
A book from another library? -yes, we will send for it by interlibrary loan.

Just ask us.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Pooh Bear to Return after 80 Year Absence

In the best book news of the week, The London Times reports that the estate of Winnie the Pooh author, A.A. Milne, has agreed that a sequel be written. The third in the series about a bear and his boy will be released in October 2009.

In other book news this week, two movie book tie-ins already have a holds list at the library, Bernard Schlink's The Reader and Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road. The new paperback editions of the books both have pictures of actress Kate Winslet on the cover as noted by USA Today.

Looking forward, a memoir by First Lady Laura Bush will be released in 2010. The First Lady just signed this week with Scribner. Prep author, Curtis Sittenfeld, wrote the best-selling fictional version of Mrs. Bush's life in An American Wife, but readers will undoubtedly want to hear the inside scoop about life in the White House in what some call the most difficult and underappreciated of public jobs.

Spiderman fan President-elect Obama, will be featured in a new Spiderman comic to be released Januray 14.

And from The Guardian, we learn that in the U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has contributed a recipe for Chequers Steak Pie to a cookbook which will raise money for Help the Heroes, a charity which helps wounded soldiers. Each celebrity chef tells what he would cook for his own personal hero. The article notes that the PM has,
"also penned a hymn to rumbledethumps, a Scottish version of bubble and squeak, for Donaldson's School for the Deaf in Edinburgh."
Which just proves again that we are two countries separated by a common language. Rumbledethumps? Bubble and squeak? Yum?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Library Computers Upgrade Overnight

The BHPL library automation system, TLC, will undergo an upgrade overnight. What this means to our patrons is that the online catalog will look a little different. For the library staff, the Circulation system will change quite a bit. The staff has been learning the new system by viewing online training videos and visiting libraries that upgraded already, but bear with us if we hesitate while checking out materials or searching the catalog.
If you have ever upgraded your own computer software, you will know that there is a bit of a "learning curve" as the current euphemism goes. Learning curves, as you also may know, involve fantasies about throwing computers out the window and possibly speaking to it in harsh tones. TLC, like all software companies, promises that the upgrade will be an improvement and everything will be swell. We hope so. As always, please ask for help in person or by phone if you need to.

For this blog post, I was going to riff about what if humans went to sleep at night and woke up completely upgraded but somehow the instruction manual was lost and none of our friends knew how to deal with us anymore? Assuming the upgrade had a few glitches, would we answer, "I'm sorry, that does not compute" in a tinny voice to even the simplest request? Would we take all comments literally? Would we forget how to do the simplest routines but know how to split a neutron? We wish TLC could upgrade us overnight to automatically understand the new, bigger, better, more user-friendly TLC 4.0. That not being the case, we have photocopied "cheat sheets" taped next to each computer. Good luck to us all.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Reading Up on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

This month's book display centers on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including memoirs, opinion and history.

The Much-Too Promised Land: America's Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace by Aaron Miller. The former diplomat, who has 20 years of experience in Arab-Israeli peace negotiations, reviews the past attempts at peacemaking without taking sides.

The Case for Israel by the defense attorney Alan Dershowitz is written like a legal brief "for the court of public opinion," with each chapter addressing accusations against Israel.

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter. An overview of the conflict and a blueprint for peace, one that comes in on the side of the Palestinians.

Children of Israel, Children of Palestine: Our Own True Stories, edited by Laurel Holliday, is an anthology of the childhood memories of adults who grew up in Israel and Palestine, from 1948 to the present.

The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan traces the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the personal histories of the Palestinian and Jewish families that have lived in one house over time.

The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace by Dennis Ross. The chief Middle East peace negotiator for the Bush and Clinton administrations shares an inside account of the Middle East peace process from 1988 to the breakdown of talks in early 2001.

Sharon and My Mother-in-Law : Ramallah Diaries by Suad Amiry. A "surprisingly good-humored" (according to Publisher's Weekly) account of the daily life of a Westernized Palestinian woman in the West Bank from 1981 to 2004.

Aliya: Three Generations of American-Jewish Immigration to Israel by Liel Leibovitz. The story of American individuals and families who moved to Israel, between 1947 and 2001.