Tuesday, April 28, 2009

First Dog's First Book

The nation's First Dog, Bo the Portuguese Water Dog who recently took up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, already has his very own celebrity biography, in stores now! The New York Times reported this news on April 15, but you may have missed it if you were filing your taxes late or got buzzed by Airforce One in NYC or got caught up in the swine flu anxiety pandemic. So in the spirit of keeping our library patrons up to date on the really important issues of the day, and in the tradition of bloggers everywhere, we are stealing news from the New York Times and re-reporting it here for you. Bo, America's Commander in Leash by Naren Aryal was apparently prewritten and illustrated before Bo was selected as Chief Dog and then the appropriate breed and name was inserted to finish the book, according to news reports. Don't you wish you had thought of this? But it's not too late to get ready for future First Family pet acquisitions. Write a book about goldfish/hamsters/dust bunnies whatever and then when the time is right, get that thing self-published and start peddling it from your very own website. I don't know if Berkeley Heights Public Library will be acquiring this Bo title and I'm happy to leave that tough call to our children's librarian. When I used to be a children's librarian, I had to decide whether to get Madonna's books for kids. Well known author and role model that she is...

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam

Chris Ewan's The Good Thief's Guide to Paris was such an engaging mystery that as soon as I finished it, I checked out the first book in the series, The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam. In an art imitates life imitates art scenario, the series' charming hero/thief/author, Charlie Howard, writes pulp mysteries and also steals for a living. Like most popular authors, Charlie explains. he has a website with information about his books, some biographical information and an email contact link. And of course, Chris Owen has a website about his books which also lists the fictional Charlie's books, so again there is a sly and circular humor here as in the books. Charlie is a dab hand with lock picks and GTGParis concludes with an illustrated lesson in lock picking which can also be found on the website. The art imitates life probably stops there though because Mr. Ewan is a lawyer, the flyleaf says, and not a thief.
If you enjoy light, funny mysteries like Lawrence Block's Bernie Rhodenbarr (bookseller and burglar) or the Saint mysteries by Leslie Charteris (Simon Templar was the thief in that series) try Chris Ewan's the Good Thief's Guide to... or if you have read them both, wait for Charlie's adventures in Las Vegas, next in the series.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Blogs Taking the Place of Magazines?

Domino, the Book of Decorating is finally back on the shelf after being checked continuously since its arrival. It's by the editors of Domino, the magazine beloved by its subscribers (but sadly, not by its advertisers) that is now defunct. I read about it in the New York Times, which mentioned a few blogs which the Domino readers were posting comments on: Apartment Therapy, Decorno and Design Sponge.

In other news the Wall Street Journal noted that in the United States there are more professional bloggers now than there are firefighters.

Do you read any blogs or publications online instead of subscribing?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Twittering Our Lives Away

Twitter seems to be an unfortunate blend of the words "fritter" and "twit". Plus it sounds like something trivial, like birds singing. Maybe this is why the world seems to be divided into those who twitter and those who roll their eyes at twittering. However, we decided to Twitter here at BHPL because sometimes we get ideas for blog posts that would be way too short, or we want to remind people about an event that's coming up, without turning the blog into Calendar Central. Our tweets show up on the blog to the right of our posts, or you can read them online here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

BH's Sister City

Courtesy of a banner hanging above Plainfield Ave. today, I found out that Berkeley Heights' sister city is Tramonti, Italy. Tramonti is on the Amalfi Coast and I seriously think we need to exchange library staffs for a year. Or twenty. Click here for pictures.

We also have some towns that are sort of our sisters because they share our initials. Belo Horizonte in Brazil, Beverly Hills (anyone who forgets the "nj" in the library's URL will be routed to their library's web site), Brooklyn Heights and Boerum Hill in Brooklyn, and Black Hawk, Colorado. If you can think of any more, please leave a comment!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ghost Maps and Basques

I have been on a nonfiction reading kick lately. I finished up The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson, which is full of interesting, morbid facts like where sewage went in pre-sewer Victorian times in London (into people's cellars, the Thames, and drainage ditches that leaked into wells). It's actually about how the spread of cholera was finally traced to contaminated water. Which is ironic because the only way to survive cholera is to stay hydrated.

Last week I started listening to The Basque History of the World by Mark Kurlansky on my iPod (thanks, ListenNJ) and therefore have no idea how far along I am in the book (lest I lose my place), except we're up to the 1500s. Basque is one of the few non- (and therefore pre-) Indo-European languages in Europe, along with Finnish and Hungarian. The Romans hired Basques as mercenaries, and they also were great whalers. Kurlansky says that Basque ships' supplies of dried cod were so much greater than what their local coasts would have provided that they may have been fishing very close to what is now the U.S. way before other explorers reached it.

I recommend them both.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What's the little dent under your nose called?

The little dent under a person's nose is called the Philtrum. The edges around it are called the Philtral ridges, according to the Dorling Kindersley Ultimate Visual Dictionary which is kept on the Ready Reference shelf near the Reference Desk. In the old days, before the internet came along, reference librarians kept a few reference books near the phone for answering common questions quickly. The books usually included a general almanac, dictionary, thesaurus, atlas, the CIA Factbook, The Statesman's Yearbook, a secretary's handbook, maybe an etiquette book and so on. Now many of these books and the facts they contain are available online and can be found by "googling" the question. But can you believe what you turn up by googling? I "googled" the phrase "thing under the nose" and up popped a yahoo answer which did in fact have the right answer. A lot of librarians and doctors and nurses and other professionals donate their time to answer yahoo questions, so the information can be reliable, but not always. At Wiki.Answers.com the question remains unanswered as I write this. I could create an account with Wiki.Answers and answer the question, but since I already answer questions on Yahoo, I don't want to spread myself too thin. It's hard to remember too many user names and passwords, so I leave that up to someone else. Now that you know, maybe you can become a Wiki.Answer person.
Meanwhile, the DK Ultimate Visual Thesaurus still lives on the Ready Reference shelf because it's really fun just to browse through it. I even gave a visual dictionary to my kids one Christmas. That's the danger of being a librarian's kid, I guess.
What's the space between your eyebrows called? The Glabella.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Do You Have a Poem in Your Pocket?

April is National Poetry Month and this year there is a push to have a poem in everybody's pocket on April 30. You can read about it on the Poem in Your Pocket website. You can also find a poem on the website to print out and put in your pocket so you will be ready in case anyone asks if you happen to have a poem on you, kind of like borrowing a cup of sugar, but not. This is how the Pocket Poem People explain it all in simple terms.
"Celebrate the second national Poem In Your Pocket Day on Thursday, April 30, 2009!
The idea is simple: select a poem you love during National Poetry Month then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends on April 30, 2009."

BHPL has shelves of poetry books. Just yesterday, a patron asked for a poem. She said she had looked through all the books and couldn't find one she liked. And she said she really didn't like poetry anyway but had to find one to read at a meeting and the topic had to be spring. I resisted reciting "Spring is sprung, the grass is riz, I wonder where the flowers iz," because I don't know the second verse. And it seemed silly. We did finally find a book of poems for her. Today I set up a display of poetry books featuring what I think of as poetry books for people who think they don't like poetry. Maybe they just haven't found the right poem.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Berkeley Heights Schools on Spring Break

The local schools are closed for the week and you might expect that the library would be quieter than usual. It is true that the mobs of middle schoolers did not thunder into the library at 3:00 p.m. yesterday, but it was a very busy Monday nonetheless. And as luck would have it, many patrons had real stumpers for reference questions and gnarly computer problems which they called from home about. Several people wanted specific books, but they had lost the little pieces of paper on which they had written the title. Which made it hard to find the book. Impossible actually for those who did not know the author or the subject as well as having lost the scribbled-down title. Sometimes, mirabile dictu, (I always wanted to say that in a sentence) Ellen or I can guess the book title based on a few clues, but yesterday, the force was not with me in that respect. In fact, with the phone ringing and people waiting with questions at the Reference Desk, the Reference Force seemed to desert me and that left me a bit rattled. Application forms for non-profits? Um, uh. Sounds simple doesn't it? Let me know if you can find a good (and easy and fast) answer to that one. Even the charts in the Statistical Abstract of the United States seemed to be mistaken, but I didn't have time to iron out that problem before the next one presented itself. I can't remember what it was but I now know how to finish this sentence: you know you are busy when... you don't even have time to write the question down on the Reference form before the next question pops up. So that means that when I go looking for yesterday's questions which should be scribbled on our orange reference forms, I might not be able to find them. I thought I put that question somewhere... something about best books for getting organized?

Friday, April 3, 2009

To Nub or Not to Nub

I'm reading By Hook or By Crook by David Crystal. It's a stream of consciousness linguistics/ travel book, whose sudden jumps in topic can be a little disconcerting. It's a lot of fun read in small chunks, though. Shakespeare is one of his favorite topics (and it comes up a lot in his thoughts as he drives across Britain).

When Shakespearian actors forget their lines, they can improvise with a passage of blank verse that doesn't mean anything but sounds like Shakespeare. They alert their fellow actors that they're going off script with the word "nub", and "Milford Haven" signals the end of their improvisation. This is a famous (and funny) nub that Crystal quotes, by Donald Wolfit.

"List, I sense a nubbing in far glens, where minnows swoop the pikey deep which is unpiked less pikey be, cross-bolted in their crispy muffs and choose the trammelled way . . . Oh freeze my soul in fitful sleep lest wind-filled sprites bequim the air and take us singly or in threes in mad agog or lumpsome nub, aghast to Milford Haven."

This is probably a better known piece of Shakespeare trivia, but one that I didn't know: you aren't supposed to say "Macbeth" unless you're performing it. It's considered bad luck for actors to say it otherwise; so it gets called the Scottish Play a lot. And if you do slip up and say Macbeth, the antidote is to immediately say "Angels and ministers of grace defend us," which is a quote from Hamlet.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Holocaust Survivor Speaks on Saturday

Ursula Pawel, a Holocaust survivor and the author of My Child is Back! (part of the series Library of Holocaust Testimonies) will speak at BHPL this Saturday, April 4 from 2 PM to 3 PM. Ms. Pawel will recount a personal story of surviving Hitler's rise to power in 1933, the restrictions against German Jews, and ultimately the Holocaust. She spent three years in concentration and labor camps and undertook a 500-mile bicycle trek from Poland through Germany, looking for her mother after liberation.

Ursula and her grandmother in 1931.
This program is offered through the Horizons Speakers Bureau of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. This program is free and open to the public. Registration is suggested; call the library at (908) 464-9333.