Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween

While the library does not give out candy, if you go up to the circ desk and say "Trick or Treat" on Saturday, they will lend you a book for free.

The Cat in the Hat was shelving books in the Zoological Science section today.

The library's early literacy workstations have inspired one little girl to dress up as Stellaluna this Halloween. Stellaluna is the story of a fruit bat that gets separated from her mother (something we hope does not happen to the costumed Stellaluna).

Years ago at another library I once wore butterfly wings on Halloween, a decision I came to regret whenever I was called on to answer a serious reference question that day. Dressing up some year like a retro librarian with snazzy glasses and sensible shoes is still a possibility.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Prep School Library to go Bookless

USA Today reports that New England boarding school, Cushing Academy, has decided to discard most of its book collection and replace it with electronic books and databases. The library had about 20,000 volumes which is now down to half that number, in the physical sense, but pumped up into the millions of volumes in the virtual sense. The library circulates Kindles onto which the librarians will download whatever title a student needs for a course. This decision has caused a strong reaction on blogs, according to USA Today reporter Greg Toppo. A small private school library with a generous budget and a small student population to serve seems to me to be the ideal petri dish for this bookless experiment. Rather than gnashing teeth with fear and loathing over this library's plan, librarians, publishers and anyone interested in the question of how fast print will be replaced by online information should be glad that Cushing Academy is trying on the future for size.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Library Joins Facebook

Now you can be a friend of your local library:
Berkeley Heights Public Library is now on that exclusive online community of a mere gazillion people - Facebook. We'll show you pictures of our library family, friends and events and you can show us yours! In addition to FB-ing, BHPL librarians tweet, blog, email, fax, phone, semaphore, FTP, Photoshop, have a Flickr account for pictures, a Gmail account for the staff calendar, a PBWiki for staff training, an email newsletter and lots of other web 2.0 apps we've tried a couple of times and lost the passwords for.(If you find those accounts wandering around, let us know.) All to reach out to the community with the good news that libraries support good over evil and have lots of swell materials and services, all free, free, free, as long as you return what you borrow on time. If not, you will be hit with the punishing fine of ten cents a day. You can't afford not to be a friend to your local library, can you?

The Anthologist Could Give Writer's Block a Bad Name

A friend recommended Nicholson Baker's latest book, the Anthologist , noting that it would be right up my alley. The book is 256 pages of fictional poet Paul Chowder's stream of consciousness angst about writing the forward to an anthology of poetry he has compiled. To call his condition 'writer's block' is an understatement. Paul procrastinates, ruminates, dithers, worries and babbles. I'm wondering why my friend thought I would be uniquely qualified to appreciate this book. That can't be a good testament to the incisive, decisive habit of mind we all try to cultivate. The only way to get a sense of the book would be to quote it, but it is currently checked out. So, just imagine being inside of the head of a person who thinks about everything and nothing, who jumps from one thing to another and meanders off on various topics, including, but not limited to poetry and this person is gentle and thoughtful and not very confident and mourning the fact that his girlfriend left him and anxious that he can't seem to write a single coherent thought and his thought patterns somewhat resemble a cross between Alexander McCall Smith's philosopher Isabel Dalhousie and the Mad Hatter and if this sentence makes you dizzy then you get the feeling I had while reading the Anthologist.
What I liked about the book: the narrator is likeable, unless you hate people who dither and babble.
You can learn a little about poetry, but you don't need to know about poetry to appreciate the book.
It's short.
It's completely different.
What I didn't like about the book: I had to read it in small doses; a little dithering goes a long way.
Spoiler alert: it had a happy ending.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Is There a Librarian in the House?

People don't become librarians for the fame, fortune or excitement, but there's a little Walter Mitty in all of us...
Marian the Librarian is flying to a librarian convention, nodding off in her middle seat, which she has thoughtfully not tipped back to avoid annoying the passengers behind her, and trying not to snore or drool or touch either arm rest lest she infringe on her seatmates' personal space, she hears the P.A. announcement,
"Is there a librarian on board? we have a slight emergency in Business Class requiring immediate biblio assistance."
Marian jerks awake instantly, eye's pop open, she nods apologetically to the passenger in the aisle seat and indicates she needs to get by. Grabbing her bookbag from under the seat, she hurries up the aisle to the Flight Attendant and whispers,
"I'm a librarian. How can I help?"
"There's a passenger in extreme distress, hyperventilating over a book he's reading and looking pale and clammy, almost like he's in shock," the FA explains as she leads Marion through Business Class to a seat where, indeed, a male passenger, middle-aged, well-dressed, is breathing unevenly with his hands gripping the latest Dan Brown best seller tightly.
"Oh dear, that's the third case I've seen this week. Deadly Prose Syndrome with Implausable Plot Complications. We have to act quickly."
Marian carefully pries the stricken man's fingers from the Lost Symbol and places it in a sick bag for disposal.
"I'm afraid the only treatment for this patron, er patient, is an immediate infusion of The Classics or failing that, any book with sufficient character development, three-syllable words and dependent clauses to act as an antidote. I think this will work."
Marian riffles through her black bag and pulls out Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and places it gently in the man's hands.
"That should do it. I may have to read it aloud to him at first but then his ability to read on his own should kick in and he'll be right as rain."

New Curb Appeal

If you have ever been stuck in school traffic in front of the library, you may have noticed we used to be shrubbery-challenged. However, today John Gallic, a local landscaper who grew up using the library, volunteered his services and donated the shrubs and a stone border out front. Thank you, John, BHPL is now beautiful.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Favorite Book

Every time I get asked what my favorite book is, I get a little tongue-tied. How can you just narrow it to one? On the other hand, I'm a librarian, I ought to have a favorite book. So I've been thinking about it.

Favoriting a book is a process that takes years. If a year passes and I can't remember what reading the book felt like, then it's out. (This seems to kick out the vast majority of books that I read, mysteries and nonfiction.) Last year I read a couple of books that have potential (The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond and Crow Lake by Mary Lawson), but I need to wait a few years and see if I keep thinking about them off and on.

Your favorite book should have the same effect on you the second time you read it. I'm a little worried that rereading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is going to spoil it, because I already know what happens at the end.

Then there are all the books you can't admit to loving, at least to anyone over the age of 16, which for me are the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix and How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. Also, if you love humonguous classics like Ulysses by James Joyce, you might want to keep that to yourself (it just depends on who's asking).

The only book I've read that meets all those criteria is .... The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. That's my answer and I'm sticking with it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lightbulb Jokes

I was reading High Season by Jon Loomis this weekend, a tale of a homicide detective who has moved to Cape Cod to avoid, well, homicides, which give him panic attacks and nightmares. There are a lot of lightbulb jokes (with real estate developers and cross dressers in the punchlines) told about Provincetown, MA in the book.

This led me on a search for New Jersey lightbulb jokes. The only one I could find online seems to involve disposing of the witness who saw the lightbulb get changed, so I came up with this one: How many people does it take to invent a lightbulb in New Jersey?

You would think the answer would be one, but according to American National Biography, Edison didn't even invent the lightbulb. He invented the first commercially practical incandescent lighting system, not the lightbulb, and he had a lot of people helping him at his lab.

Here are a few library lightbulb jokes which were collected by LIS News:

Q. How many librarians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. Usually 645.5. Sometimes 808.882.
(Dewey Decimal numbers for home repair and humor.)

Q. How many reference librarians does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Well, what kind of light bulb were you thinking about?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Break out the piano . . .

Today's weather is little drab, so I'm adding some color to the blog with some of BHPL's books about the 1960s.

Songs of the 1960s is just one of many, many books of sheet music for piano, guitar and voice that BHPL owns. If you never progressed past the color-coded books that you bought from your piano teacher, maybe you should give it another try with songs you actually like.

I had to add the Portable Sixties Reader to my collage if only for the the button that says "Books Must Go". And the Smokey the Bear Sutra inside.

The paintings in Optic Nerve: Perceptual Art of the 1960s will alternately give you a headache and a deep sense of calm (that's what the Rothko-ish paintings in the book do for me, at least).

A Short Life of Trouble: Forty Years in the New York Art World is by Marcia Tucker, who arrived at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1969 as its curator of painting and sculpture. (I have a special place in my heart for the Whitney, ever since I waited in line for my 20 seconds of solitude in the Fireflies on the Water installation).

Spaced Out is about hippie architecture. Think communes.

In honor of my parents, who always point out that there were plenty of non-hippies in the sixties, I've got Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age, inventor of the COBOL programming language and coiner of the phrase "to debug" (when she took a moth out of a computer).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Library Video Nominated for a Dewey Award

If there were an award for library videos, I would call it the Dewey and I would nominate Enchanted Summer for the 398.2 category (folk and fairy tales in Dewey Decimal parlance.) I can say this without being immodest because Ellen, my fellow blogger, made the video. It was a major undertaking to produce two minutes of film. Now I know why it takes hours and hours to produce a couple of minutes in moviemaking. For every minute of video shot, there are 7031 minutes of editing involved, plus incalculable amounts of time spent cursing Microsoft MovieMaker. And, being librarians who are professionally sworn to uphold copyright laws, we had to purchase the music and get permissions for it, rather than just putting any old thing we had lying around as backround music, which I'm pretty sure is what most YouTube posters do. So that took time. We had to work around the Butterfly's nap time and observe Butterfly child labor laws. Ellen filmed the Butterfly and edited all the footage and synchronized the soundtrack and did all sorts of technical stuff, as we movie people call it. Not that I wasn't involved also: I stood around trying to stay out of the way while looking helpful. I also was in charge of keeping the Butterfly's wings straight between takes. However there is no category in the credits for Wing Arranger (maybe that's what a Key Grip does?) That's ok, I'm just honored to be part of the process and it's an honor to be nominated even though I'm the one who made up the award and nominated us for it. Upcoming: nominations for library videos in other Dewey categories.
Possible nominees: click here

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Enchanted Summer: Our YouTube Debut

The Berkeley Heights Public Library made its filmmaking debut last night with Enchanted Summer, a two minute video that highlights the renovations of the children's room with clips of this past summer's children's programs. You will also see what really happens after the library closes and a Certain Butterfly takes charge of the Children's Department. Just as we suspected, enchanted critters come in the off hours and check out books with their wands, move books around and try out all the bean bag chairs. It explains a lot, doesn't it?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reading Agatha Christie: the Theme Book Group

At September's meeting, the library's Tuesday night book group decided to become a themed book group, which means that instead of choosing one book per month for everyone to read together, the group will decide on a topic or author each month and each reader can choose her own title within those parameters. The idea is to maintain the structure and social aspects of a book group, but to allow more freedom in the selection of materials read. Theme book groups also rely on each member to talk about their reading that month, with a moderator sometimes giving an overview of the topic. In principle, this format enables the group to be more balanced in terms of participation and less reliant on a moderator to lead the discussion. It also addresses the problem of finding a popular title which everyone agrees on, but which no one in the group has read and which is old and currently unpopular enough to be available in multiple copies by interlibrary loan. No mean feat, as any librarian/book groupie can attest.

Tomorrow night at 7:30 pm the book group will be discussing Agatha Christie, the best-selling author of all time. Each book group participant will talk about the book she has read and the librarian will give a brief presentation about Agatha Christie and the development of the mystery novel. We'll let you know how the new format worked for us. Meanwhile, here are some links to past posts on Dame Agatha :

Best Agatha Christie Mysteries to Read

If You Like Agatha Christie, Try These Authors

Best Mysteries

Related websites:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read by Pierre Bayard

"I never read a book I must review; it prejudices you so." -Oscar Wilde; from the epigraph of How to Talk about Books You Haven't Read

In the spirit of How to Talk about Books You Haven't Read, I'm going to write about it before I've finished it. Reading a book like this is a bit like reading Lemony Snicket's exhortations to put his books down, except that with Bayard's book you actually will be tempted to "not read" the book. Ways of "not reading" include skimming a book, forgetting a book once you've read it, and hearing about a book, which means you, m'dear, are a fellow non-reader of How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read.

Beyond all the satire, Bayard points out that "not reading" books frees up time to learn about a little about all the important books out there that you don't have time to read. Having some idea of how works of literature relate to each other could be more valuable than having read some works of literature completely. (Now I understand how grad students get through those massive reading lists.) Personally, I think this means librarians can stop feeling guilty recommending books they haven't read to readers who like books about women who drive space barges.

I enjoyed looking for Bayard's citations of books that he talks about or quotes. He tells you whether he's read the book; skimmed the book; or heard of the book, and gives you a few plus or minus signs to indicate his impression of the book. Thom Geier of Entertainment Weekly recommended that you "skim his wittily annotated table of contents instead"; and this is good advice, too. In fact, I might finish this book because I want to read that story about Graham Greene in chapter 5.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Shadow Knows

"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows. . . ."

Old radio shows like The Shadow are one of those things that makes me wish I had lived through more of the 20th century (right up there with the Apollo 11 moon landing, phone numbers that began with words, and cars from the 50s).

Tonight (Oct. 6) at 7 PM at the library, Old-Time Radio Man Henry Morse is going to speak about The Shadow and play a complete episode of The Shadow.

If you're interested in looking at the radio shows of yesteryear, check out this site. (I wish I could have listened to Mayor Laguardia reading "the funnies" in 1945!)

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Bit of Peace and Quiet

The Internet went down this afternoon at the library due to a regional outage, and after the initial frenzy of seeing what the problem was and putting up signs, there was more peace and silence than usual for a Friday afternoon. It made me think of
1. working with my hands (instead of on a computer)
2. listening to the cavernous silence of an empty church (preferably in Italy)
3. going to another country to learn a language
4. stretching out all the muscles that get crunched up when I'm stressed (like when 6 middleschoolers, 3 adults and all of your colleagues want to know why the Internet isn't working.)
5. poetry