Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Monday at the Reference Desk: a Digression

At the Reference Desk: "But I digress"

A colleague of mine and I have noticed that we often wander from topic to topic, and have taken to saying,
"But I  digress" with a laugh to get ourselves back on topic after wandering around a bit into the weeds of arcana. (Ok, what are the weeds of arcana? But I digress.) Often the original topic or project eludes us after a while. Is this a hazard of being a reference librarian? Here is a typical day on the Reference Desk. The 'research librarians,' as we are sometimes called, specialize in being generalists. (Is that possible, a specialized generalist?)  Anyway, because anyone can ask us anything and often do, our days probably encourage this flexible habit of mind. (Flexible habit of mind, right LOL, some days we are just confused by all these digressions.)

Q: (Patron walks in with a tablet in hand) I heard that I can download books from the library to this. Can you show me? I am going on vacation and want to load my tablet up with books.
A:  Yes, let's have a seat and get you started. What kind of tablet is that? A rare Android. Aha. (I have an iPad so this is slightly foreign territory, but we persevere.) ( I  try not to think of Rara Avis which pops  to mind at the sight of his battered Android tablet.)
Twenty minutes later the patron is up and running with the Overdrive App, able to find books on eLibraryNJ and to download them to his tablet. Go to our 'All Things E' page to find the library's many downloadable resources. Patron is happy the books are free to borrow and are never overdue. I point out Project Gutenberg to him because he likes old, out of copyright, titles. Not a digression, but pertinent, right?

Q: Do you have a certain very popular title available for me to take on vacation tomorrow?
A: That very popular title is out, but it is available on eLibraryNJ one of our online resources for downloading books.
Repeat the lesson above, but without the tablet. Patron goes home with our downloadable tip sheet in hand with our phone number and reference email address in case she has more questions. We answer techie questions on the phone or by email. My hand waving/gesturing communication style does not work at all on those non-synchronous and impersonal mediums, but "needs must.' (Huh? I can't talk with my hands by email, is what I mean.)

Q: Where are the summer reading books for Governor Livingston High School?
A: Over here.... (Librarian resists impulse to say 'walk this way'  like Igor in 'Young Frankenstein...')
Librarian and student walk over to the summer reading area and talk about which books would be most fun/shortest/least awful to read.Let's face it, it is almost August and no one wants to read 'War and Peace' or 'Moby Dick' by Labor Day. No, those tomes are not on the local reading list.

Q: Where are the summer reading books?
A: (see above)
Hmmmm - questions are coming in two by two today. (It's a Noah's Ark day, but I digress.)

Q:  Publicist calls from local free paper and asks if he can take our events off our website and put them in the paper?
A: Yes! And we send you press releases too...

Q: Patron wants to know where local sandwich places are so he can take a break from studying.
A: OK, so I wave my hands a lot when I give directions to the 3 places near the railroad station and the sub shop.
Follow-up Q: Can I leave my stuff here while I run out for coffee and sustenance? (OK, he did not say sustenance.)
A: Well, sort of, but be sure to be back by closing time and we can't keep a close eye on your things, so don't leave your laptop etc.

Q: Do you have a thumb drive I can borrow?

Reference Desk Gargoyle
A: Yes, we keep a spare USB drive at the Reference desk. (We thought about attaching it to a giant thing to remind people to return it, but we ended up just attaching a (now) ratty piece of paper to it, saying it was for patron use. So far, it keeps coming home to us. We also toyed with the idea of using a gargoyle keychain, but I digress.)

Q: Can you find dryer reviews in Consumer Reports?
A: Yes, the back of the latest issue has an index and the yearly buying guide has the information too. (Suiting action to words, librarian produces CR reports on clothes dryers.) Patron and librarian bemoan the problems of mold in front-loading dryers, but I di.....)

Q: Why is your children's program listed as being at 10:30 pm?
Updating the Kids Page View
A: Because I miss-typed on the website. Whoops! (thanks to all you sharp-eyed readers for letting us know about typos and omissions on our website. Call or email the reference desk. Not to be defensive, but I update the website while people ask me about sandwiches and dryer reviews and summer reading... wait, what was the question?)

And finally,
Q: Do you have audiobooks of Oprah's Book Club selections?
A: Follow this link to Best Sellers and Award Winners that lists Oprah books and link directly into our catalog. (Full disclosure, Lisa, remembered this link on our website, so two head are always better than one when answering questions, even though two people can lead to digressions at times.)

More reference questions can be found in these posts:
Typical Questions 
Reference Questions Roundup
One Day at the Reference Desk

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Are the coffee table and its books facing extinction?

The Coffee Table: disappearing trend?

Recently I read that many families are eschewing the typical coffee table with couch decor usually seen in living rooms and family rooms. Right away I wondered, what do you do about all those lovely coffee table books you own? Wikipedia defines a coffee table book as an "oversized, usually hard-covered book whose purpose is for display on a table intended for use in an area in which one entertains guests and from which it can serve to inspire conversation." Could inspired conversations be in danger with this tableless trend...?

The library has a display area called 'What’s Trending This Week.'  We use this area,  located between the new fiction and nonfiction books, to display books about current events, the seasonal holidays, and even silly “holiday” books like Square Root Day which fell on 4/4/16. For the Fourth of July we displayed some beautiful coffee table books about the Jersey shore. One afternoon, a patron sat in our lounge area and perused all of the big books in this display. We discussed the display and both recounted our favorite beach memories.  The coffee table books on display had served their conversation boosting purpose!

In our art section (the 700’s room behind the Circulation Desk) we have many stunning coffee table books in a separate area called, in library lingo, - 'Oversized.' Some favorites are: New York Gardens in Bloom , Dr Seuss’ The Cat Behind the Hat , Edward Durell Stone , Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs , Henry Moore Sculpture. Many additional artists, gardens and artsy topics can be found in our collection. A patron favorite is Skyscrapers by Andres Lepik which depicts buildings like the classic Flatiron Building built from 1901 - 1903 and the Turning Torso of Sweden built from 1999 - 2005. Travel, food, art, sports, the Jersey shore and many more coffee table books can be borrowed from the library. Hopefully they inspire a lively discussion at your next gathering. Just head for the 'Oversized Book' area pictured below.

~ Ann-Marie Sieczka
July 15, 2106

Clarification: The oversized collection mostly contains art books now, Ann-Marie reminds me. We intershelve/interfile big books on other subjects on the regular shelves when we can fit them. Even if a book is shelved sideways, we hope that people will stumble upon it and start browsing. For more thoughts on the problems of oversize books in libraries, where to put them, do they get used, are people willing to lug them home, read this blog post from library blogger Holly Hibner: 'Oversized Books.' 
Such is a day in #librarylife. - Anne deFuria

Oversized Books at BHPL

Big Art Books Shelved on Big Shelves

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Interview with Author Laura Sassi

We are looking forward to next Tuesday, July 19 when New Jersey author Laura Sassi will visit our children’s story time session at 10:30 am.  The author will bring her skunk puppets to present her children's book 'Goodnight, Ark.'  The library blog (BHP) interviewed Ms. Sassi (LS) about her writing, her New Jersey connections and how she works. We hope you visit our story time next Tuesday and follow the author on her social media accounts which are listed at the end of this interview.
BHPL:  Welcome to the Berkeley Heights Public Library blog. We are excited about your story time visit coming up next week. Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your connection to New Jersey.
LS: Thanks for having me. I am looking forward to story time too. I am former teacher who is now lucky enough to be able to spend my days writing and being mom to our two kids. When my kids were little, I wrote while they napped. Those stories, crafts, and poems can now be found in various children’s publications including Highlights for Children, Spider, Ladybug, and Clubhouse Jr.
Over the years, I discovered that I had a special passion for rhyme and telling humorous stories in rhyme, so when my kids started school, I added rhyming picture books to my daily writing schedule. Goodnight, Ark, published by Zonderkidz and beautifully illustrated by Jane Chapman, is the first official fruit of all those years of writing and honing my craft.  My second picture book, Goodnight, Manger, also illustrated by Jane Chapman, released last year and I have two more picture books in the pipeline for publication in 2017 -2018.
Laura Sassi on  her porch
As for my New Jersey connection, I am a transplant. I moved around a lot as a child and have lived in places as far flung as Mexico, France, Minnesota, California and New Hampshire. I was born in Spain.  But, I met and married a Jersey boy and have now lived in the Garden State longer than I have lived anywhere else! I guess that makes me almost an official Jersey girl, right?!
BHPL: Yes, I think we can officially call you a New Jersey girl now! Our readers are interested in your process for writing. Please share a little about that.
LS: I am a percolator. That is, I like to reflect on new stories and poems, sometimes for weeks or months, before writing a first draft. When “percolating” I always keep a pen and notebook handy so I can jot down ideas. I make lists, play with possible plot twists, settings, points-of view etc.  I think I have a whole notebook’s worth of pages in which I played around with Goodnight, Ark before I actually sat down and wrote the story.  Once I was ready to write, I wrote the entire (early version) in one sitting.  But the story, at that point, was far from publishable.  Indeed, in addition to ample percolating, I would say the use of a time filter is a key part of my writing process.  Once I have a draft I’m happy with, I set it aside for several days, or weeks, before taking a re-look. This way I approach each revision with fresh eyes.  I repeat this process again and again until every word and moment pushes the story forward in a fun, meaningful way.
BHPL:  I like your description of yourself as a percolator! Also your habit of using a notebook to keep your ideas is useful and letting a little time elapse between revisions, what you call a time filter. Do you write at a certain time of day or in a special place?
LS: I try to set aside two good hours per day to write and reflect and be creative.  I have a laptop, so my work station is 100% portable and my favorite strategy to keep from getting stiff and to keep things fresh is to move around as I write.  Early on summer mornings, I like to take my laptop or notebook and a cup of tea and sit outside on the front porch. Later in the day, I often set up shop at the dining room table. And if I’m really engrossed in a story and the thoughts are spilling out, I’ve been known to write at the kitchen counter while cooking. My favorite spot is at the little writing table nestled by the fireplace in a cozy corner of my living room.  I also like taking my laptop “on the road” so I can write outside in a local park or at the pool.
BHPL: What is it like to work with an illustrator?
LS: I was thrilled when I learned that Zonderkidz had selected Jane Chapman to illustrate Goodnight, Ark. I was familiar with Jane’s work from Karma Wilson’s Bear Snores On series. Your readers might be surprised to learn, however, that there was no interaction between author and artist during the illustration process. The first glimpse I had of Jane’s work for Goodnight, Ark was when I got an advanced peek at the cover.  A few months later I received the folded galleys and saw for the first time Jane’s wonderful lantern-lit depictions of tigers and sheep, boars and quail all scurrying up to Noah’s bed. But, even though no direct collaboration was involved, her illustrations demonstrate that a lot of thought went into transforming my words into pictures and extending the story with little bits of added humor throughout. For example, I’ll never forget my daughter giggling the first time we read Goodnight, Ark and she noticed polka-dotted boxers hanging to dry on a clothesline and a toothbrush in a cup on the sill.
BHPL: The story of the animals having trouble sleeping during a stormy night on Noah's Ark is really cute in your book Goodnight, Ark. Everyone with kids knows getting them to sleep can be a project. Did this story start with getting your child to sleep? Did it work?
LS: Yes, the inspiration behind this story is personal experience. As anyone living in New Jersey knows all too well, we’ve had some fierce storms around here in the past few years including two hurricanes and many blustery snow and rain storms. When my children were little, both they and the dog would get scared during nighttime storms and come bounding into our room and our bed! Getting them back to their own beds, in the midst of howling winds and pounding rain, was often challenging, especially when my daughter was younger. So the mother in me thought it might be helpful and fun to write a story that would address some of those fears in a humorous, yet soothing way. And, just like the animals in this story, I found that often all my kids needed was a little extra TLC - maybe a soothing song or a quiet story - to re-settle them cozily back in their own beds.
BHPL: I know parents are always eager to read a new bedtime story to create that calming effect you describe. Thanks for stopping by our blog and I will see you next week at story time!
Cover illustration of  'Goodnight, Ark'
Related links for more information  on author Laura Sassi: 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Beach Reading Minus the Beach

Beach reading minus the beach...

No, it not the same as beach reading on a beach.  I have hit a new high, or low, on starting books and not reaching the end.  Right now I have three perfectly respectable, well reviewed books on my iPad.  Over the weekend I switched back and forth, reading ten pages here and there and never engaging fully.  When I couldn’t fall asleep last night I reached for Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie, an oldy but goody that always makes me laugh.  I didn’t fall asleep until 2:30 am, but I was smiling.
The problem is the lack of a beach.  While listening to waves and seagulls I could relax and read peacefully.  I could remember the early days of marriage and identify with the married couple in a contemporary romance.  With a beach I would not have the urge to shake them and tell them to grow up.  I could appreciate the description of wealth and opulence in an earlier version of New York City.  With a beach I would not be tempted to tell the characters to stop being so annoying and entitled and look beyond their small, selfish world.  I would feel more compassion for the fictional depictions of great authors and artists at an earlier point in American history in a part of the country due north of here.  On a beach I would sympathize with the weight of their lofty thoughts and idealism and resist the urge to tell the main character that morphine is not a good way to treat migraines.
I need a beach.  A little more sleep would also be good.

- S. Bakos

Further reading: Click on our blog label cloud for more posts about 'beach_reads'

Friday, July 8, 2016

Author to Visit Library Blog in July

New Jersey author Laura Sassi will present a story time on Tuesday, July 19 at 10:30 am. Ms. Sassi, author of the children's picture book, Goodnight, Ark, will bring her skunk puppets to entertain our regular Tuesday morning Story Fun toddlers and preschoolers. She will also be available for an interview on this blog next week. Stay tuned for that interview about her writing and creative process.

This blog's first author visitor was Susan Wittig Albert in the post 'The Other Half.' In that blog interview, the author and her husband Bill Albert, who co-wrote under the name Robin Paige a series of Edwardian mysteries, discussed their prolific careers and writing habits.

I just finished Ms. Albert's latest book, Blood Orange,  a China Bayles Mystery. As usual in this long-running series, the reader learns about growing and using herbs from the narrator/amateur sleuth China Bayles who runs an herb store and tea shop in Texas. Recipes mentioned in the story are included at the end of the book. The China Bayles series should appeal to fans of regional cozy style mysteries set in different parts of the U.S.A. and featuring various small business owners. For other culinary mystery series, try Cleo Coyle's coffeehouse series, Laura Childs' tea house series or Lucy Burdette's Key West food critic series. Ms. Burdette also wrote as Roberta Isleib and lived in Berkeley Heights. Look for our interview with her in this post about her book Looking for Murder.

Related resources;
Click on the labels 'Author visit'  or 'New Jersey Authors' in this blog for related posts. The tag cloud lives in the right-hand column of this blog.

Visit our Children's page for the roster of summertime programs for children at the library