Tuesday, January 30, 2007

ILL Notification by Email

JerseyCat Interlibrary Loan service now offers notification by email. If you are a patron who uses the interlibrary loan services of BHPL, talk to the Reference Staff about receiving your notices of arrived ILL's by email. We will continue to phone ILL patrons until we are sure the new system works and will use email only at the patron's request.

Mail Fraud: the Nigerian Scam

Following up on the post of last week, the patron who brought in a check she received in the mail with the stipulation that she send funds to the company so that she could then cash the check, took the letter to the U.S. Post Office and was told that it was mail fraud. Here is the U.S.P.O. site for reporting mail fraud.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine

Patrons frequently ask reference librarians about herbal remedies and "alternative" health care, so we're always on the look out for a credible book or internet site on those topics. The Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine, edited by Brent Bauer, MD (Time, 2007) covers complementary and alternative medicine (CAM.)
Part one is an introduction to "the Best of Both Worlds,' followed by practical advice about healthy habits including exercise and nutritional advice. There are quizzes to assess your knowledge and current health habits.
Part two has chapters devoted to herbs, mind-body medicine, energy therapies and hands-on therapies.
Part three is arranged into "Treating 20 Common Conditions," such as arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, weight management, stress and other chronic conditions.
The book lists the top ten alternative therapies and the top ten supplements which studies show might be effective. Each entry for an herb has a description of it's uses, efficacy and a box titled "Our take" which succinctly tells whether the herb is useful or harmful. There is also a little symbol of a traffic light lit red, yellow or green to indicate whether the product is safe or not. For example, cinnamon as a treatment for diabetes is given a yellow light and the cautionary advice: "Don't set aside proven diabetes medications for cinnamon."
This is a clearly written book, with concise entries, in rather large type-face. There are many illustrations which complement the text and the coverage of CAM is broad, but not deep. It makes a good, cautious, well-balanced introduction to the subject of integrative medicine. Unfortunately, there are no footnotes or bibliography to substantiate the text although there is a list of organizations and their websites at the end of the book and an index. The introduction does refer to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) as a source of information.

If it seems too good to be true...

then it probably isn't true, right?
Today at the Reference Desk started out with a patron who wanted to know if an unsolicited letter and "check" for a large sum that she received in the mail was legitimate. Naturally I thought not, but according to the rules of the reference game, hunches need to be documented. I referred her to this page at Snopes.com which describes this "advance fee fraud", the "Nigerian Scam" or the "4-1-9." We also recommended she take the letter to the U.S. Post Office because it might be mail fraud. More on that when we hear back from our patron.
Next, a patron wanted to know how much oil the U.S. uses to produce electricity to run the auto plants that make the cars that use gas. The question was taking the form of The House that Jack Built, so after a little negotiating, the question became, any figures on barrels of oil used by the U.S. would be useful. The U.S. Department of Energy has a terrific site for all kinds of energy statistics and charts and articles at the EIA (Energy Information Administration.) The relevant printouts of charts and stats await pick-up at the Reference Desk.
A legally blind patron wanted a really good magnifying glass. We keep a full-page "Magna-Page" magnifying glass by Bausch and Lomb at the Reference Desk which he found helpful. We also referred him to the NJ State Library for the Blind and Handicapped for other resources that he might be able to use.
One of our "regulars" wanted the names of manufacturers of a certain chemical. We faxed a page from Thomas.net. In the old days Thomases was a huge, space-hogging, hernia-inducing set of green volumes. Now it's online.
A patron stopped by to see the newly arrived reference edition of Top Doctors, the N.Y. Area. That directory is one of the most frequently used medical reference books, along with the NJ Monthly magazine's issue about best NJ doctors and the Official ABMS Directory of Board Certified Specialists.
Briefly, we were asked to track down a missing Martha Stewart recipe for "yeasted coffee cakes" (could not find the exact one), books with house plans, information on downloadable audiobooks and "Play-a-way" audiobooks, help finding books on the shelf, help with the catalog, help with the copier, book recommendations for a book club, and a follow-ups on a question and an interlibrary loan request from yesterday.
At that point it was about 10:30 am and I looked out the window to see what weather could be causing people to come in or call the library rather more than usual. No clue from that line of reasoning though. Hot, cold, wet, dry, cloudy etc etc seems to have no correlation to library usage. You never know who or how many will come in or call with what type of question and the strange thing is that most people don't even know that librarians answer questions about anything other than books.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Book Awards Announced at ALA Midwinter Meeting

The American Library Association announced the winners of various book prizes, including the well-know Caldecott and Newbery Awards at their Mid-Winter meeting in San Antonio yesterday. See this Publisher's Weekly piece for details and this piece from the One-Minute Book Reviews Blog in which reviewer/blogger Janice Harayda points out that Flotsam by David Wiesner, which won the Caldecott Award for best illustrated children's book, has New Jersey connections. Wiesner clearly recalls his youthful vacations "down the shore" at Long Beach Island in this wordless picture book.
This led me to thinking yet again about why there is no central place(that I can find) which keeps track of New Jersey authors and literary connections. Some authors are listed at the New Jersey Literary Hall of Fame. A glossy flyer for the newly reestablished New Jersey Center for the Book got my hopes up, but, noble a cause as it may be, the website does not yet seem to make any mention of New Jersey authors as a group. I thought maybe Rutgers libraries or Rutgers Press might pull all that information together as they have done so beautifully for North Carolina authors on the UNC Chapel Hill library website (part of the North Carolina Collection at the Wilson Library.)
If you put the search terms "New Jersey authors" into the google search box at the top of this blog, the posts on this subject will pop up.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Case of the Missing Books, a mobile library mystery by Ian Sansom

The first in a proposed series about Israel Armstrong, rumpled and befuddled bookmobile librarian in small town Northern Ireland, The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom (2006) introduces not only Israel, who travels from London to start a new job as town librarian at the Tumdrum and District Library, but also a whole cast of local eccentrics. The story is a classic “fish out of water” tale. The plot: an overeducated newcomer from the big city comes to a small town where wiley locals contrive to pull the wool over his eyes has been done before of course and is done charmingly here. The book reminded me of Bill Forsyth’s 1983 movie, Local Hero, or more recently, Waking Ned Devine or Saving Grace, all movies based in the U.K. where the townsfolk’s mistrust of authority binds them together, results in heart-warming hijinks, features endearingly nutty locals and ends happily.
The Case of the Missing Books, a mobile library mystery is the funniest book I’ve read in a while and I will recommend it to anyone who, having finished all the #1 Ladies Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith, is looking for a gently humorous, character driven, “cozy” kind of mystery. The Sansom book has comic touches that speak to the experience of librarians in public libraries everywhere, but should be enjoyable for fans of satirical books like a Confederacy of Dunces. Here is a review in the Guardian.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks (1993), a WWI romance and historical novel, follows the story of Englishman Stephen Wraysford from his 1910 business trip to France through his harrowing service in the trenches during the war. In part one, Stephen falls in love with Isabelle, the wife of the business man he is boarding with. In part two the book becomes a war novel when Stephen is assigned to work with the tunnelers on the Western front in France. Part three introduces Stephen's granddaughter in 1978 London who has become interested in family history and her grandfather in particular. The books weaves these storylines together, but the war story is the backbone of the book and the best written.
Some of the online bookgroup that I read it with thought that the modern plot line was unconvincing, contrived and generally awkward or not essential to the plot. Most of the readers found that they didn't "care about" the characters. All felt that Faulks writes beautifully. Generally this was not a popular book with the book group, but I found it picked up considerably after about sixty pages and it moved quickly and pulled me as it went along. I also found the war scenes and facts, although disturbingly graphic, compelling and informative.
Readers who enjoy history, particulary military history, might consider reading this book and be willing to overlook the problems with the characterization and plot. I would recommend it with those reservations for individual readers, but perhaps not for a book group.
This PBS website about WWI is well done.
The catalog subject heading for WWI is: World War One, 1914-1918

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Vegetable Orchestra and other requests today

One really strange reference question can make a librarian's day. Odd perhaps, but there it is. An interlibrary loan or possibly a purchase request just crossed the desk for any recording by the First Vienna Vegetable Orchestra. You can listen to clips of their music on their website. The orchestra's instruments are made of vegetables with certain kitchen utensils as backup. Listening ever so quietly in the library, the clip sounded rather other-worldly new-agish, not that that's a bad thing. The website also notes that they make soup out of their instruments at the end of concerts so the audience can enjoy the experience twice. Many thanks to the patron who brought this to our attention. Sadly, the recordings of the FVVO are not available in this country and the BHPL cannot at this time make their CD's available.

I was thinking of mentioning that we have a new database going live today that gives the price of antiques, or other random news, but who can top a vegetable orchestra? I can go home at the end of the day knowing I am learning and growing and have made a difference... ???

Saturday, January 6, 2007

RSS Feeds New on BHPL Blog

Proudly announcing new little technical additions to the blog this week: at the upper right, you will notice buttons for common RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds - Google, Yahoo, Bloglines and NewsGator, as well as the Site Feed link on the right-hand blog-roll and also down near the picture of Hazel the Cat at the bottom of the page. If you don't know what RSS and feeds are, (I am barely a step ahead of you, see my July post for my early forays into RSS land) but if you would like more information, try this link to the Wikipedia article or call us at the reference desk to find out how you can subscribe to the BHPL blog by RSS.
We will be offering computer classes later in the month or early February, but are available by appointment to help you with email or other computer problems. Look for computer class schedules soon in the Reference Department.
Speaking of techie stuff, Blogger upgraded not long ago and this blog lost some bells and whistles in the changeover. We are looking for those lost b and w, like the NYT Book Review that used to be at the bottom of the blog, as time permits. Upgrades are always a mixed blessing, double-edged sword, have pro's and cons. What other aphorism can be used to avoid saying: Please never change, I love you warts and all! to your computer programs?

Friday, January 5, 2007

Angelo Saverino, author and New Jersey resident, to visit library

Join Mr. Saverino as he discusses his new book, The Heart of the Order, on Saturday, January 20 at 1:00 PM. The book gives readers a first hand account of life as a professional sports agent. Saverino tells what really happens in the clubhouse, behind the closed doors. Yet, this is not just the story of one man’s experiences as a sports agent or his years as a young baseball fan. It is also about how his early life, in a very Sicilian household in the Italian neighborhood of New York’s East Harlem influenced his business decisions and adult life in general.

This program is free and open to the public, but please call the Reference Desk or come in to reserve a place. (908) 464-9333

Third Thursday Movie Night: Library Film Program Schedule

On the Third Thursday of each month a foreign / independent film is shown at 7:00 p.m. in the library meeting room of the Berkeley Heights Public Library.

On Thursday, January 18th join us for the film Something Like Happiness (Stesti in Czech) While her boyfriend pursues wealth and success in America, Monika waits, ever-hopeful that he will arrange for her to join him. Tonik has fled his stifling conservative family and lives with an eccentric aunt: together they struggle to defend her derelict farmhouse against the encroaching industrial development nearby. Dasha has two small children and a feckless married lover. Fragile, unpredictable, edging ever nearer to the brink of despair, she turns viciously on those closest to her. Though none would admit it, each craves something the other has and it's these unspoken longings which bind them in difficult, complex, passionate friendships. This film is in Czech with English subtitles.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Maplewood Library Closure

The Star Ledger weighed in yesterday on the issue of closing the library because of unruly teenagers. The Star Ledger can be found on NJ.Com, but only today's news and the last two weeks are available from the site. If you need information from the paper before that time, call the library, because the BHPL subscribes to the entire Star Ledger database online dating back to 1989.
Here is the description of the database librarians can access: "Contents: The Ledger archive contains the full-text of stories from all sections and editions dating back to January 1996. A less than complete set of stories (no page numbers, sections, some missing stories) dates back to May 1989. Often-requested stories, prior to 1990 are being added manually. Since 1998, graphics and chart images have been appended as hypertext links to the stories they accompanied. The archive does not include materials from the real-estate sections, special advertising sections, or agate listings appearing in the sports pages. PHOTOGRAPHS are NOT included. Updated daily, usually by noon of publication day (Sundays and Thursdays excepted)."
The database also includes other New Jersey papers: The Times of Trenton, the Jersey Journal, the Hunterdon County Democrat, the Express Times and NJN Publishing's small local papers like the Independent Press.

More on Maplewood Library Closure

The Barista of Bloomfield Avenue blog has a huge response to her post about the Maplewood Library situation. To review, Maplewood Public Library, Maplewood, New Jersey, has decided to close during after school hours because local middle-schoolers have been loud and disruptive as reported in the New York Times. Yesterday's Star Ledger also covered the closing and today's Star Ledger's editorial page addresses the problem too. More on this topic later.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Maplewood Library Closes During After School Hours

The Maplewood Public Library in Maplewood, New Jersey, has decided to close its doors during the after school hours. The library board made this controversial decision after years of trying to handle the large crowd of often unruly middle school students.
The New York Times headline read, "Lock the Library! Rowdy Students Are Taking Over." The article went on to state, " Every afternoon at Maplewood Middle School’s final bell, dozens of students pour across Baker Street to the public library. Some study quietly. Others, library officials say, fight, urinate on the bathroom floor, scrawl graffiti on the walls, talk back to librarians or refuse to leave when asked. One recently threatened to burn down the branch library. Librarians call the police, sometimes twice a day.
As a result, starting on Jan. 16, the Maplewood Memorial Library will be closing its two buildings on weekdays from 2:45 to 5 p.m., until further notice."

It will be interesting to see what happens next, but this should be a wake-up call to everyone in Maplewood, and possibly everywhere, that something needs to be done about latch key children. Predictions: there will be much bemoaning of teens' worsening behaviour these days, and discussion of the rights of the teens and other patrons to use the library; further prediction - the problem will remain unless the parents and the town step in. Teens with nothing to do after school and no one to supervise them is the contributing factor here that will not go away. Is babysitting an appropriate use of library and librarians' time?