Thursday, July 31, 2008

Berkeley Heights' Homegrown Author

Roberta Isleib, a clinical psychologist and the author of Advice Column mysteries and Golf Lover's mysteries, will be coming by the blog on September 9 for an interview about her newest mystery, Asking for Murder. Roberta is originally from Berkeley Heights and in a strange twist of fate her books are published by Berkley. There's even a story on her web site, Paying the Piper, that is set at Governor Livingston.

The Advice Column mysteries are set in Connecticut, where Dr. Rebecca Butterman counsels her patients and is an adjunct psychology professor at Yale. In her free time she solves murders, naturally, and also writes an advice column for an online women's magazine. If you'd like to catch up on the series, the first two installments are Deadly Advice and Preaching to the Corpse (available in the large print section at BHPL under ISL).

I enjoyed all the little bits of information about psychology that you pick up as the story unfolds (like never sit between a patient and the door!). There is also a very funny part in Deadly Advice in which Dr. Butterman can predict what her own psychoanalyst will say during their sessions (which she needs because her own personal life and history is not neat and tidy).

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Plainfield Ave. Road Work

The railroad crossing on Plainfield Avenue will be closed on or about Friday, August 1. (So come the other way if you're coming to see The Learned Ladies performed in the BHPL parking lot.)

Plainfield Avenue will be closed for road resurfacing between Springfield Ave. and Mountain Ave. on or about Tuesday, August 5, between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., for about four days. You'll need to park on a nearby street and walk to the library. Or, plan your visit to the library between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Tuesday, August 5 or Thursday, August 7.

On top of that, on or about Thursday, August 7, Plainfield Avenue will also be closed between Mountain Ave. and Drift Road for a couple of days.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Happy Birthday, Beatrix Potter!

Google's logo today features Mr. McGregor chasing Peter Rabbit with a raised rake. It reminds us that we should wish Happy 142nd Birthday to naturalist, artist and children's author Beatrix Potter and Happy 115th Birthday to Peter Rabbit. Peter, eternally youthful, continues to risk his life in Mr. McGregor's garden, where his father went before and ended up in a pie, as Peter's mother warned him. Beatrix Potter's stories can be very hare-raising...

Llibrary of Congress Teams with Flickr

Flickr, the web photo-hosting site, and the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institutions and other museums around the world have created a collaborative project called The Commons. Click here. USA Today has an article, click here, that describes the photography project. LC started by posting over 3,000 photos from its collections on Flickr. Anyone can add comments or information about the pictures. Check it out!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

More Professional Parking Lot Theater!

The Next Stage Ensemble of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (a company of talented early-career actors who blew the audience away with Richard II last week) will perform Moliere's comedy The Learned Ladies this Friday, August 1, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the back library parking lot. Please bring your own chairs.

The Learned Ladies is about two sisters and their mother, a domineering bourgeois (i.e. non-noble, middle class) woman who runs a literary salon. One sister, Henriette, wants to marry her lover, Clitandre, and has the approval of her father. Henriette's sister Armande sides with her mother to oppose the marriage. If Henriette insists on getting married, they believe she should marry Trissotin, a poet from their salon. For more information about the plot, check out Wikipedia.

The choice of "Trissotin" as the name for the mediocre poet was a jab at Cotin, a writer that Moliere disliked. Originally Trissotin's name in the text was Tricotin (meaning "three times Cotin"), but then Moliere changed the c to an s. "Sot" means fool.

Just as Queen Elizabeth I admired Shakespeare's work, Moliere's plays were performed for Louis XIV of France. They weren't contemporaries though; Moliere was born and wrote 60 years later than Shakespeare.


Moliere's life was also the stuff of drama. He married the younger sister of his long-time lover late in life, and gossips said that his wife was actually his own daughter. On the last day of his life, despite feeling very ill and weak, he insisted on playing the part of the hypochondriac in the Imaginary Invalid, and had a fit on stage.

I don't know which English translation will be performed, but most theaters perform Richard Wilbur's verse translation. There is another translation that you can read online by Charles Heron Wall.

Friday, July 25, 2008

What's New on the Non-fiction Shelf?

Joey Green's Fix-it Magic (643.7 GRE) is one of those books full of useful, and often surprising, information which is fun to browse through. The cover of the book promises, "MORE THAN 1,971 QUICK-AND-EASY HOUSEHOLD SOLUTIONS USING BRAND-NAME PRODUCTS." The cover also has bullet points of examples:
  • "Fix a broken dishwasher with Tang."
  • "Remove tree sap with Jif Peanut Butter."
  • "Eliminate soap scum with Pam Cooking Spray."

The book is arranged alphabetically by the thing that needs to be fixed: barbecues, bathtubs, books, etc. In the Cats and Dogs section, Mr. Green claims that washing a pet with Alberto VO5 conditioner will kill fleas and make his coat shine beautifully. According to the biographical blurb, the author has been on Oprah's show and other TV shows persuading celebrities to shave with peanut butter, clean jewelry with Efferdent and other zany fixes.

Enjoy this book, but it might be a good idea to exercise some caution when fixing anything valuable.

Joey Green's Wacky Uses website

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Children's Room Renovation

BHPL's Children's Room closed Monday for the duration of the renovation of the lower level of the library. The lower level will be closed for about two months. Those of you who have ever renovated anything will know that time estimates are just that, optimistic estimates. However, services to children and their families will continue being offered: a small collection of juvenile books, CD's, DVD's and other materials as well as the Summer Reading Program prizes have been brought upstairs and are located in the (adult) Fiction area.
The BHPL's children's librarian is now armed with a laptop and sturdy walking shoes, but no desk. She has become a roaming librarian, which happens to be a fad in library land. Her "reference rovering" is due to lack of desk space rather than idealogy though. She and her staff and teen volunteers and pages have done a yeoman's job of organizing the move and this involves carrying lots and lots of books upstairs. Imagine moving thousands of books, and recataloging them so that the location says upstairs (JUP) so that patrons know where to find them. In a nod to new signage and patron service training, a small, stuffed yellow dog (or maybe bear) has been plopped on the end of the children's bookshelves so that we can point and say, "see the yellow dog, hang a right to find the children's books." There are also conventional signs.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Berkeley Heights Online: New Local Website

Take a look at a new website of local interest, Berkeley Heights Online, which debuted July 17. Berkeley Heights Online provides a calendar of local events, relevant articles and weblinks, forums for BH residents to contribute to, classifieds and links to local agencies and resources among other features.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Festival, Berkeley Heights, NJ

Today was the last day of the Festival of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Berkeley Heights, NJ. which started Saturday, July 12 and ends tonight with fireworks at the River Road site of Mt. Carmel Hall. Today's procession, punctuated by the sporadic boom of firecrackers, brought the statue of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel down Plainfield Avenue past the library to the Church of the Little Flower for morning Mass.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Society was founded in 1909 in Berkeley Heights and celebrates annually on July 16, the Saint's day. In Italy, many towns celebrate the day of their patron saint and Italian immigrants brought the tradition to many Italian-American communities in the United States.
The Mt. Carmel Society built their first hall in 1925 next to the church. In 1952, the Society sold the hall to the town and the Berkeley Heights Public Library, previously in a small real estate office, moved in. The Mt. Carmel Society subsequently moved to its present River Road location.
Related links:
Click here for a video of last year's fireworks.
From the Passaick to the Wach Unks, a History of the Township of Berkeley Heights. (Ready Ref 974.936 FRO) p. 270
Illustrated Lives of the Saints by Rev. Hugo Hoever (Ref 282.0922 HOE) p. 310 (July 16)
The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd edition, vol. 3, (Ref 282.03 NEW) articles on Mt. Carmel and the Carmelites, pp. 125 - 147.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"Richard II" Fun Facts

One of the unusual things about Richard II (coming Friday!) is that it's written completely in verse. In particular, it's in iambic pentameter (10 syllables to a line, with every other syllable stressed), and there are often rhyming couplets (two lines in a row that rhyme). Usually in Shakespeare, characters from the lower classes speak in prose, but in Richard II even the gardener speaks in verse. The only other Shakespearean play like this is King John. Not being an expert on Shakespeare myself, I got this information from the excellent Old Vic Theatre's Educational Pack on Richard II.

According to ShakespeareNYC, Richard II was written at the same time as Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream. The ShakespeareNYC web site also credits Richard II (the real king) with the invention of the handkerchief. For more info on that, check out this site.

Your last fun fact of the day has to do with John of Gaunt. According to Shakespeare Online, Holinshed's Chronicles (the history that Shakespeare used as a source) portrayed him as a "disorderly and rapacious magnate". Shakespeare's queen, Elizabeth, traced her lineage directly to John of Gaunt, which is one of the reasons why Gaunt became a wise and noble patriot in the play.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Library Children's Room to Close July 21st for Renovation

The BHPL Children's Room (on the Lower Level) will closed for renovations for several weeks starting July 21st. Selected chidren's books will be available on the Upper Level. Reserves cannot be placed on titles which are in storage. Many area libraries honor BHPL library cards, including the New Providence Memorial Libraryand the Summit Free Public Library. Other participating libraries include several Middlesex and Union County libraries as well as the libraries in Chatham, Madison, Bernards Township and Morristown/Morris Township. Be sure to take your Berkeley Heights library card with you, along with ID, and make sure your library card hasn't expired.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Even Librarians Watch TV

Librarians watch television of course, we just feel guiltier about it than most people if that's possible. Tonight's must-see TV (imho) is the debut of Greatest American Dog at 8:00 PM and the third episode of medical reality series Hopkins at 10:00. How can I tie this in with a library blog? OK, here you go: the Dewey number for dogs and dog training is 636.7 and we often get young families asking where the puppy picking or puppy training (usually in that order) books are. Furthermore, the BHPL Reference Department has an excellent medical reference series called Johns Hopkins White Papers (Ref 616 JOH) which covers all topics in a highly accessible but thorough format. Also if you do a publisher search of Johns Hopkins Press, there will be 72 results. Phew, don't feel so guilty now about being off-topic... How did I get from dogs to medicine? It's easy, that's how the whole day at the Reference Desk goes: computer help, reference book instruction, fiction recommendation, etc. See last post.

This brings me to an article in the Atlantic Is Google Making Us Stoopid? by Nicholas Carr. The gist is that people who use the internet a lot may be rewiring their brains to have shorter attention spans. I could make a bad joke about how I only skimmed the article and/or didn't finish it, but I did finish it and I tried to pay attention just to disprove what the author is trying to say about our changing level of literacy. I don't know if google is making internet users more stupid, but its convenience may be making people more intellectually lazy. So the question might be, is intellectually lazy the same as stupid? The discussion of how internet searching tends to lend itself to cursory research, skimming, jumping from one topic to another, shallow understanding of topics sounds a lot like the observations/criticisms of Sesame Street's format and how its choppy, fast-paced programming might be enabling attention deficit in its young viewers. There used to be a lot of that kind of commentary going on. As noted, reference librarians tend to jump from one topic to another all day long never lingering long enough to go in depth, so maybe our brains have already been rewired a la google.

Conclusion: if google makes us stupid and tv makes us guilty and both the internet and tv shorten our attention span,, that puts librarians at the cutting edge of these phenomena and um, whatever...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

You answer questions about what?

It happened again last night. I let it slip that a patron had asked a question about Amtrak routes and fares to California, or maybe it was the question about the conversion from analog to digital TV broadcasts to take place next year or the patron who wanted a list of board certified gastroenterologists. Whatever it was I mentioned researching, it surprised people that reference librarians would look up that sort of information. I don't know if it's surprising that people ask or surprising that we answer, but we will look up almost anything patrons ask. The limits are something like this: we won't do anything illegal or unethical. We have a sort of unexpressed, non-specific time limit; if we don't have time, we teach the patron how to do the research or refer him to a resource that will be able to help him further. If we can't find the answer, we refer questions to a larger library, like Newark, and get back to the patron. If that fails to answer the question, again we give the patron a list of possible options to pursue. We don't practice medicine, law or give financial tax-advice, but we do provide resources, forms, books, best websites and teach the patron how to do their own research in those areas. On any given day, we print out maps and directions for people who are lost, spotted the library and wandered in, frustrated by the confusing New Jersey roads and bad signage (jughandles and the Jersey slide inspire fear and loathing in non-New Jerseyans, probably New Jersey drivers too.) We look up what people on TV said or read or cooked or did. We sympathize about the confusion about Bush's Economic Stimulus program and hand them print outs from the website that are only marginally helpful. Ditto on the infamous and mysterious Homestead Rebate we have in NJ. We find books on diseases for the sixth grade one-assigned-disease-per-student assignment. Turns out we were a little short in the books on acne. Who knew? Got to order some more in that category. We found the names and phone numbers of: Portuguese newspapers in NJ, CEO's of companies patrons wanted to write a complaint to (that and company 800 numbers are pretty commonly recurring questions.) And of course, we try to find good books to read in whatever genre a patron likes and help patrons on the internet computers and library catalog.
Why aren't these people just googling for the answers? There are two reasons I can think of: one, some people are not computer literate; two, we have access to databases and ways of searching that turn up better answers faster, or at least we hope so.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Shakespeare's Richard II

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey will perform Richard II on Friday, July 18 at 7:00 PM at the Berkeley Heights Public Library. The performance will take place outside, behind the library, bring a lawn chair for this free program.

For a very clear, short synopsis of the play, take a look at SparksNotes here. The play is the story of the last Plantagenet king, Richard II, who squanders funds and power to wage wars and is overthrown by the first Lancaster, King Henry IV.

The play starts with a dispute between Mowbray and Bolingbroke (later Henry IV) which Richard mediates by banishing both of them. Then Richard raids Bolingbrokes father's estate to fund his war on Ireland. The public is not happy with Richard's reign and when Richard returns from war, Henry puts him in prison and takes the throne.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Listen & Learn

Do you ever carelessly say "gonna" instead of "going to"? That's the way language has been changing and making new words for millennia. The Indo-European root words for "go" and "carry" (words that sounded something like "bear" and "ink") ran together to become the English word "bring". There also used to be a word that meant "repeatedly" that's now just the suffix "le" in English; it's the difference between dab and dabble, drip and dribble.

I learned this from The Story of Human Language, a Teaching Company course on CD which is a series of lectures by linguist John McWhorter. The Berkeley Heights Public Library has over 200 courses, on CD, DVD and audiocassette tapes by the Teaching Company and Recorded Book's Modern Scholar.

If linguistics isn't that interesting to you, there are science, religion, history, philosophy, art and music courses to choose from, like How to Listen To and Understand Opera (which is what my mom's listening to). You'll feel like you're in college again!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Percy and Books by Mary Oliver, a poem

This poem by Mary Oliver arrived in my email inbox today, appended to a notice from the Reference Department at Newark Public Library.

Percy and Books (Eight), by Mary Oliver

Percy does not like it when I read a book.
He puts his face over the top of it and moans.
He rolls his eyes, sometimes he sneezes.
The sun is up, he says, and the wind is down.
The tide is out and the neighbor's dogs are playing.
But Percy, I say, Ideas! The elegance of language!
The insights, the funniness, the beautiful stories
that rise and fall and turn into strength, or courage.
Books? says Percy. I ate one once, and it was enough. Let's go.

The poem is from Oliver's collection, Red Bird (2008)

I didn't mean to post poems two days in a row on the blog, but ironically, modern technology pushed me into into the world of poetry. Yesterday, I took a digital camera on my lunchtime walk, thinking I would make images that were absolutely copyright free to post on the blog. Then I used Grangers' Poetry database to find poems about (keyword) "woods" and chose a suitable poem to post, illustrated by my picture of the swampy area behind the library. Today, the New Jersey librarians' listserv brought me the usual array of notices, salespitches from publishers and bibliophilic chatter, some useful, but taken as a whole, mostly causing a strong feeling of Email Overload. Was it a reward to me for diligently going through my entire inbox, that one email brought this terrific poem? Proving that new means of communication are not incompatible with the old. Or maybe proving the adage, it's an ill wind that blows no good - even a surfeit of digital hot air in your inbox can bring a hidden gem.
PS: my Border Collie ate the dog obedience book that I borrowed from the first library I worked in.