Saturday, May 30, 2009

Programs at the Library Today

This morning, Library Assistant Linda Raedisch taught a Native American beading workshop. Participants used the overlaid stitch technique favored by Woodland tribes to bead leather which they then sewed into pouches. The beaders were finding the work very exacting and the beads very, very small, but they soldiered on and enjoyed the project. There will be posts on the BHPL Children's Blog next week with pictures of the crafts program. For now, here is a photo of mocassins that Linda made.

This afternoon, John Stochaj visited with the 4-H Nifty Heelers, puppy raisers for the Seeing Eye in Morristown. Five beautiful puppies and their families charmed a large audience of children and adults, while Mr. Stochaj explained what responsibilities are involved in raising a pup for 18 months before it is turned back over to the Seeing Eye to be assigned to a blind person. A more complete story will appear on the BHPL Children's Blog next week. Meanwhile, here is Pepper the German Shepherd Dog who posed for pictures like a Hollywood starlet for the paparazzi.

Friday, May 29, 2009

What People are Reading

There are several ways to find out what people are reading: the bestseller lists of course, and running statistical reports of library circulation records, or skimming the holds and reshelving carts to see what people just returned and are about to take out. The holds cart (where we shelve books reserved by patrons) usually reflects the bestseller list, but the carts holding books waiting to be reshelved are real goldmines of random titles on every subject and by every author past and present. If you like arts and crafts, browse the 700's cart (700's are the Dewey numbers for those subjects.) This week I found eco-craft: recycle, recraft, restyle by Susan Wasinger, a nifty book about using everyday objects to create useful and unique household items. Ms. Wasinger has an amazing ability to repurpose mundane "trash" like old milk bottles for example to make quite stylish furnishings. A plastic milk jug light fixture looks very modern, like something from Ikea. Really. The idea of making art without an expensive trip to an art supply store is great. What's the worst that can happen? If you don't like the result, toss it in the recycle bin where it was headed anyway.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Teddy Bear Authority: calling all arctophiles

Being a Teddy Bear expert seems like an enviable job, doesn't it? No doubt it involves lots of hard work and mastery of arcane Teddy lore, but still, it makes you wonder why high school guidance counselors don't mention this to kids who don't seem to fit into any conventional career track. What made me think of this is that Teddy Bear authority and former Christie's Auction House Teddy expert, Leyla Maniera, wrote Christie's Century of Teddy Bears, a beautifully illustrated book with chapter headings like: The Birth of the Bear; The Bear at War; The Roaring Bear; and the Bear Boomers. There is a section on Literary Bears (p.114) which covers Winnie the Pooh, Paddington Bear and Sebastian Flyte's bear Aloysius from Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. In that case, actor Anthony Andrews is actually as cute as his bear. Most Teddy Bears are pretty cute except for the early ones. Aside from the fact that old bears can have matted or missing fur, sometimes they are just too skinny and kind of creepy looking with teeth visibly bared (beared?)

The Wikipedia Teddy Bear article points out that Teddy Bear collectors are known as arctophiles. Arctophiles may be interested that a keyword search for the phrase "Teddy Bear" in the BHPL catalog resulted in 77 titles and a search for the keyword "bear" resulted in over 250 titles. Our catalog cannot count higher than 250, so it just says "over 250" when a search finds too many hits for its little computer brain to process. More than 250 bears was more than the catalog could bear. Sorry.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Freecycle Giveth and Freecycle Taketh Away

If you have a book (or some other thing that still has some use) that you don't want anymore, and you can't bring yourself to recycle it, you might consider Freecycle. I sent a patron to this site today, because we couldn't think of any libraries that would accept his 20 year old encyclopedia set.

Freecycle is a group of locals who post items that they would like to give away on an email listserv, and anyone who wants the item can reply to the email. Usually the winner is the first person who is willing to pick up the item. If you are concerned about giving out your home address, you could arrange a time and place to meet in public to hand over the stuff. People give away bicycles, mattresses, snowblowers, clothes, kitchen utensils, you name it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mary Cassatt!

You may have noticed that the search engine, Google, changes its plain old home page logo from time to time. Today, to celebrate the painter Mary Cassatt's birthday, Google's logo incorporates the beloved American Impressionist's painting of a mother bathing her child (La Toilette, 1891.) Click on the logo to find links to websites about Cassatt.

The Berkeley Heights Public Library has a large collection of art books which are housed behind the Circulation Desk. A catalog search of Cassatt shows that the library has about eighteen books and other materials on the painter. The library subscribes to American National Biography online which has a lengthy biography of Cassatt. To view the ANB and other library databases, click on "Remote Databases" from the library home page.

Websites about Mary Cassatt:

The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where Cassatt studied before moving to Europe

Monday, May 18, 2009

Questions of the Day

Today someone asked me if we had any books on panning for gold, which he wanted to do on his vacation. I typed in panning gold in the catalog but got nothing. So then I tried gold. We have histories of the gold rush, but he really wanted something how-to or "geological" about gold. The catalog wasn't helping (in hindsight I should have also tried searching for something more general, like minerals), so I got up to take a look at the geology books (in the 550s). There I found something called The treasure hunter's gem & mineral guides to the U.S.A. : where & how to dig, pan, and mine your own gems & minerals. Unfortunately we just have the Northeast edition, so we'll have to borrow the Southwest volume from another library.

Another person was looking for audiobooks for an elderly man who has a short attention span. The usual 7 discs or more that most audiobooks have is too long for him. I gave the person several radio plays (just look up "radio plays" in our catalog) that are only a couple of CDs each. Since he was interested in history, I also suggested our Teaching Company history courses on audiobook, because there are a couple of lectures per disc.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Get Caught Reading's 10th Anniversary

I'm really excited that the tenth anniversary of Get Caught Reading is this month! Now that, I thought, is something people really want to hear about. Founded by former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder when she headed the Association of American Publishers, Get Caught Reading partners (don't you just hate verbified nouns or visa versa?) with celebrities, real or imagined, to promote literacy. Mainly, this seems to involve creating posed posters of celebs like "Laura Bush, Drew Carey... or Donald Duck" (I quote the AAP website) reading books. This is very similar, identical actually, to the American Library Association READ posters campaign which features celebs, r or i, reading b's.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Librarians love literacy. And books. And stuff like that. But wouldn't it be cool if the paparazzi would chase down celebrities and really catch them reading whatever it is they really read besides scripts? News flash: Joe Famous-Person caught exiting a nightclub's back door trying to hide a well-thumbed copy of War and Peace, begging for some space to finish the last 700 pages, throws the heavy tome at a photographer. The photographer sues for mental anguish and assault with a deadly book . Now that's a poster that would promote reading!
And since I'm imagining the impossible here, let's imagine a world where professional library organizations don't feel the need to come up with these dorky, embarrassing campaigns to promote reading and libraries. Or maybe ALA and AAP would promise to cease and desist if the American people promise to check out ten books a week from their local libraries. Is it a deal?
Picture: What is Joe Alexander reading?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What I Read on my Staycation cont'd

Reviewing Chris Ewan's the Good Thief's Guide to Paris on this blog led me to another thief/detective combo, Lawrence Block's Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery series. In the Burglar in the Rye, Bernie tracks down the letters of a reclusive author (who drinks rye whiskey, hence the title) and aside from learning the charms of rye whiskey, Bernie encounters a colorful cast of characters who live at the Paddington Hotel -including another thief who complicates the job considerably. The plot comes together in the end as Bernie explains it all in a classic "this is how it was done" drawing room scene.
I tried a Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery a while ago and didn't finish it, but I liked this one very much. Which just shows that sometimes it pays to try several books in a series or by a popular author before you decide if his writing suits your reading style. For fans of light mysteries with snappy dialogue and oddball characters.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Little Sleep, a novel

Paul Tremblay introduces private investigator Mark Genevich of Boston in the hard-boiled mystery The Little Sleep. The book is not a satire of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, but it does follow the conventions of the noir mystery model. True to that form, P.I. Genevich contends with personal demons, finds himself out-muscled and out-gunned by people who seem to know much more than he does about a mystery involving compromising old photographs. He stumbles from Boston to Cape Cod and back, uncovering decades old secrets, gets roughed up in the process and finally finds the answers were very close to home all along.
Genevich smokes like a chimney, but tobacco and alcohol are not his demons. This detective suffers from narcolepsy which causes him not only to fall asleep throughout the day, but also to suffer hallucinations and cataplexy at any given moment without warning. In addition, Mark Genevich is badly disfigured from the car accident that killed his best friend and left him narcoleptic ten years before the novel begins.
By consuming massive amounts of caffeine and nicotine, Genevich perseveres in his pursuit of the answers to the mystery that landed on his desk while he was falling into a narcoleptic state.
Take a look at the author's Little Sleep Blog for a list of his appearances and for a sketch of Mark Genevich as his creator imagines him.
This book was one title out of a large bookbag full which I took on vacation last week. I highly recommend this mystery, but I'm not sure I can pigeon-hole who would like it: Robert B. Parker fans perhaps, readers who like a good dose of sarcasm and sharp dialogue with their mysteries along with a big helping of quirky characterizations. It was a little slow to start, for me, but now I'm eagerly waiting for the next book in the series, along with the Flavia de Luce mysteries reviewed in the previous post. Out of a large bag of books, these two were standouts.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

It's 1950 in a manor house in England where precocious eleven-year old Flavia de Luce solves the mystery of the dead man in the cucumber patch in Alan Bradley's first novel, the Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Motherless Flavia is bright and independent, a wiz in her chemistry lab, and a thorn in her older sisters' sides. Not trusting the local constabulary to solve the crime, Flavia peddles furiously around the countryside on her bike, Gladys, investigating clues in the library newspaper archives and interviewing "suspects."
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie combines a good mystery and the introduction of a new and singularly quirky young detective. This book will do well with book clubs and the summer reading crowd.
Alan Bradley has finished the second in what will be a series of books featuring Flavia de Luce, girl detective. Flavia, like Sherlock Holmes, is a fascinating character: very bright, eccentric and intently focused on details, but like Sherlock she is not entirely likeable and not above trickery in her pursuit of the perpetrator of a crime. I recommend this book highly for all mystery lovers and for readers who enjoyed Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.

The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney

The evening book group will meet tonight at 7:30 p.m. to discuss The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney. It is partly a mystery, partly an adventure, and also, a kind of a western (a Canadian furtrapping kind of western, not the cowboy kind). I recommend it for its fast pace and great characterizations.

The Tenderness of Wolves won the Costa Award (you may remember it being called the Whitbread Award) which is given to the most enjoyable book of the year by a writer based in the UK or Ireland. I'm going to start reading more of the Costa Award winners because I just realized that The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, which I also really enjoyed, is a Costa winner too.

Stef Penney had an interesting interview with the Guardian the morning after she won the Costa.

You can read the publisher's discussion questions here.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Coast to Coast

I know it's Mother's Day but I'd like to say congratulations to my dad . . . he has just ridden his bike from San Diego, CA to St. Augustine, FL, at the age of 70!

They followed the route mapped by the Adventure Cycling Association called the Southern Tier.

One of these days I'm going to have to try riding my bike all the way to the library.

Friday, May 8, 2009

New England Fiction

April showers bring May flowers . . and book displays on New England fiction.

Stern Men by Elizabeth Gilbert is "a kind of delicious ethnography of lobster-fishing culture, if such a thing is possible, as well as a love story and a bildungsroman. . . This writer gives us a tough, lovable heroine against an iconoclastic, rural backdrop." The book is set "on Fort Niles Island, off the coast of Maine, among lobstermen" (from the Review).

Old School by Tobias Wolff
"Set in a New England prep school in the early 1960s . . . The unnamed narrator is one of several boys whose life revolves around the school's English teachers, those polymaths who seemed to know 'exactly what was most worth knowing'. For the boys, literature is the center of life, and their obsession culminates in a series of literary competitions during their final year. The prize in each is a private audience with a visiting writer who serves as judge for the entries" (from the Review)

An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke is "the chronicle of a man who, as a teenager, accidentally burned down the Emily Dickinson House in Amherst, Massachusetts, killing two people. ('It's probably enough to say that in the Massachusetts Mt. Rushmore of big gruesome tragedy, there are the Kennedys, and Lizzie Borden and her ax, and the burning witches at Salem, and then there's me.') After serving ten years in prison for the crime, Sam Pulsifer moves on with his life, but the emergence of a copycat who's turning New England's literary landmarks to ash puts Sam back in the spotlight and on a quest for the truth" (from the Review)

Addled by JoeAnn Hart is a social comedy centered on the Eden Rock Country Club. After her husband accidentally kills a goose while playing golf and sequesters himself in their garage, and her daughter starts a protest to force the club to go vegan, Madeline is in for a tough summer.

Twice-Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne includes ghost story set in a pre-Revolutionary Boston and other stories about Puritan New England.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Space, A, B, C . . . Mc, M . . .

If you are wondering about the strange title of this post, it's how librarians think of the alphabet. New York gets put before Newark, because a space takes precedence over an a.

Some libraries still put books beginning with Mc and Mac before books beginning with, say, Mab. BHPL just switched to shelving Mcs in "regular person" order a year or two ago: in between the Ma's and the Me's. And I can't remember anymore whether St. is supposed to be shelved under Saint or St.

These are the kinds of things that drive fiction shelvers crazy. In the nonfiction section, the Dewey decimal call numbers ought to be easy, right?

Not if you got used to Library of Congress classification while you were in college. LC treats the numbers that come after letters in call numbers as whole numbers (so PS3551 comes before PS3560). Dewey treats numbers after the decimal point like decimals, so something ending in 412.19 comes between 412.1 and 412.2.

If you aren't confused yet, consider the fact that Harvard and Princeton have their own special classification systems, Widener and Richardson, respectively. But most of their books are classified by the Library of Congress system.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sneak Peek at the New Catalog

BHPL will soon be replacing Aquabrowser with a new online catalog (one that shows BHPL's newly acquired stuff, and not stuff that we no longer have - 2 issues we have been having with Aquabrowser for months). The library's catalog computers will now have a "book river" with book covers from BHPL's collection marching across their computer screens instead of a screen saver.

The staff have been testing the new catalog on their home computers, and about half of them find it very slow (probably because their computers aren't state of the art). So our home page will link to that reliable stand-by, the classic catalog, and within the classic catalog there will be a link to the newer catalog for everyone who wants it. For those of you with lots of RAM who don't like the classic catalog, just bookmark the book river or the new catalog's search interface (we don't know the URL yet or I would link to it). One of the nice things about the new catalog is that you'll be able to choose a different username instead of remembering your 14 digit library barcode number - plus, it will remember you once you log in.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Swine Against Flu

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website offers key facts about the Swine Flu virus.
The Library Pig uses Clorox wipes and paw sanitizer, but he knows that snout masks will not protect him from the very, very, very small H1N1 swine influenza virus. He tries to sneeze or cough into his elbow if he needs to - which isn't easy for a pig with short trotters.
Swine Flu and You from the CDC website