Friday, November 28, 2008

The Day after Thanksgiving

BHPL is always open the day after Thanksgiving, but it is slow this morning. Maybe people are shopping, travelling, digesting, back at work or just don't know that we are open.
This morning: one computer monitor didn't work (I fixed it); one printer stopped working (I put up an out of order sign aka - an admission of defeat); one interlibrary loan request came online over JerseyCat for our approval (I approved it): two phone calls for phone numbers were referred to Reference (libraries often serve as phone operators of old did); I remembered to put in the back-up tape for the library's main data server for the person who usually does it but is off visiting family; I signed birthday cards for three staff members born in December (this is top secret, don't tell them); the office email was sparse (yeah! maybe Black Friday can be the emailless holiday I've been hoping for.) Now at 11:00 am our regulars are beginning to trickle in and everyone agrees they had a nice Thanksgiving and the turkey was good.
Happy post-Thanksgiving!

Outreach at the Library

The following post was written by BHPL Director Stephanie Bakos. I posted it a week ago, just before I inadvertantly wiped out all the November and most of October's blog posts. We are gradually reconstructing the lost posts. Here is Stephanie's reflection on library outreach then and now. (Anne)
SB writes -
Years ago, when I started as a librarian at Plainfield Public Library, the Outreach Department was well staffed and quite busy spreading library services throughout the community. Staff gave book talks, showed films at the Senior Center, and visited preschools. Library websites have expanded outreach to everyone with a computer, but many of the services offered online are impersonal. BHPL’s book blog is a great example of traditional outreach and the Internet living in harmony; reader’s advisory service, offered by a librarian that you can reply to by email or phone, is available online.

Understanding that representing BHPL to the community is a major part of my job, I still have my personal outreach experiences. For several years I delivered books to a patron who owned seven cats. Even though I have numerous allergies, I was the only one who believed cat affection to be a perk. My most recent outreach is helping a book group in Arkansas. A good friend moved to Mountain Home and relies on me to provide an annual list of titles. So far, I have been a great success and have been invited to visit.

My next list will include: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows; Loving Frank by Nancy Horan; The Ginger Tree by Oswald Wynd; Montana 1948 by Larry Watson; and, The Dress Lodger by Sheri Holman. At this moment, I am reading Kissing Games of the World by Sandi Kahn Shelton and listening to 19th Wife by David Ebershoff. Perhaps these titles will appear on the next list.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

LiveMocha and the Bald Soprano

Last week I signed up for LiveMocha, a language learning site. Like Rosetta Stone, it teaches you vocabulary through flash cards and other exercises. Its strength, however, is the way it connects you with LiveMocha members who speak the language that you want to learn (and it's free).

Unfortunately I don't think anything can make learning the basics of a language more exciting. Slogging through phrases like "She wore a dress yesterday but today she is wearing jeans, the man is taller than the boy" reminds me of an absurdist play I once saw as part of a French class assignment, The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco , which begins:
MRS. SMITH: "There, it's nine o'clock. We've drunk the soup, and eaten the fish and chips, and the English salad. The children have drunk English water. We've eaten well this evening. That's because we live in the suburbs of London and because our name is Smith."
Ionesco used phrases from The English French Conversation Manual For Beginners as dialogue for part of the play, as he explained in an interesting essay that you can read (most of) here. He was also originally going to call the play English Made Easy.
Wikipedia has a nice summary of The Bald Soprano.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell

The library book group met November 11 to discuss The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. Author Maggie O'Farrell was shortlisted for the Thumping Good Read Award for a previous book of hers, which might explain why The Vanishing Act was such a fast read for me. Esme Lennox is an elderly woman whose family shut her away in Cauldstone, a women's mental institution in Edinburgh, when she was only a teenager. The book begins in the current day as the institution begins to close down and Esme's grandniece, the owner of a vintage boutique, discovers her existence.

Many women like the fictional Esme were institutionalized in the UK for reasons other than insanity.

Two different sets of discussion questions were available for the book group to ponder, here and here. (The best questions turned out to be whether or not book club members thought Esme was insane or not, and whether they were sympathetic to Kitty or not.)

People On Reserve at the Library

For a lot of extroverted, book-loving (and music- and film-loving) Berkeley Heights residents, going to the library is a social event. The lady at the circulation desk asks about your dog, you forward a funny email you read on a library computer to the reference staff. You overhear the person getting a library card give their street address - your street - and you introduce yourself as their neighbor. The Santa Monica Public Library has taken it a step further with its Living Library program, which you can read about in the L.A. Times. Individuals are available to be checked out for 30 minute conversations in the library and range from raw foodists to the homeless.

One Perfect Day by Rebecca Mead

One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding is a wonderfully snarky book that grew out of a New Yorker article Rebecca Mead wrote about the Wal-martization of the wedding business. One Perfect Day reminded me of Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, except it was less depressing (because having your wedding reception moved to the Sandals resort's exercise room due to rain is ultimately not as bad as earning minimum wage.) Two parts I especially loved: the story about the bride pinata at the wedding planner conference, and the fact that Donald and Melania Trump registered at Tiffany's, despite the fact that Donald Trump could just buy the whole store himself.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Book Blog Problem

We just lost all the November posts for this blog. I think I zapped them into cyberspace by fiddling around with the blogger software (specifically by playing with the "labels") so while we try to find our errant posts, I will summarize what I think we wrote lately.
Ellen wrote a really cool piece about a new online language learning site called livemocha and brought in a very creative analogy to a Ionesco play called the Bald Soprano.
Simultaneously this morning (a creative Monday morning) I reviewed the latest Alexander McCall Smith book which I just finished, The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday.
Recently I had posted about the National Book Awards and the Rutgers professor who won for the Hemmingses of Monticello.
Also noteworthy is that I managed to zap to smithereens my very own boss's recollections of her community outreach efforts while she worked at the Plainfield Public Library. Way to go to impress the boss!
And I also sent flying into that great cyber-trashcan of the blogosphere our reviews for the library book groups' books.
Aside from the feeling of embarrasment to have wiped out my colleagues posts, and some vanity about a few of my own that I worked hard on, I guess it's small potatoes to be unblogged or deblogged, isn't it?
We lost a few of those Reference Desk roundup pieces where we tell about the zany questions we get on any given day. People seem to like those.
But the point is that we want anyone who stumbles on this blog to know that libraries offer all kinds of nifty things, services, materials - virtual and actual, that you might like to know about. And it's all free. And we love to answer questions and help people with their research. So this blog is just one form of library outreach. And I just chopped off a bit of that outreaching.
Take it from me. Do not play with the labels in It will lead to nothing good.