Thursday, April 28, 2011

Happy Walpurgis Night!

Walpurgis Night will be celebrated on Saturday night, April 30, so get your noisemakers and bonfires ready. Most importantly, to learn more about the "European Halloween," read Linda Raedisch's book Night of the Witches, folklore, traditions & recipes for Celebrating Walpurgis Night (Llewellyn Press 2011)

An excerpt from the book:
'Spring has come to the northern forest. The evening wind blows cold as the breath of the frost giants. Just overhead, there is a sound like the rushing of crows' wings. Can it be a coven of witches has flown over these woods? On any other night, you would probably swear that there was no such thing as a witch--at least, not the kind that streaks through the sky on a broomstick with guttering taper and billowing cloak. But this is no ordinary night; it is the thirtieth of April, the eve of May. Tonight is Walpurgis Night.'

Photos of Linda's witch boxes and paper masks recently displayed at the New Providence Public Library.
Read our interview with Linda

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Pocket Notebook

The Pocket Notebook

Writing is a very personal thing.  Everyone has their own style and habits.  Some write late at night while others prefer the early morning.  Some love to write out a first draft in long hand and others enjoy composing at the keyboard.  Whichever style personally inspires you is the right style.  For myself, I try to carry a small pocket notebook with me at all times.  I find it to be the writer’s best friend and you may agree.  In this day and age of the electronic handheld device, many people just don’t see the need to carry paper anymore.  But a good old fashioned pocket notebook can be a reliable and inexpensive alternative.  Carrying one with you can be helpful because you never know when inspiration may strike.  Ideas, words, and conversations overheard can always prove to be the trigger for a good story.  Hemingway said, “Nothing is ever wasted on a writer.”  By having that notebook with you, you’ll be able to record those sporadic inspirations and make use of everything.  A notebook can also be a great place to try out ideas or scenes before committing them to your story.  It’s a comfortable place to practice, outline or even jot down future titles and character names.  Best of all, while there are more expensive alternatives, a pocket notebook can be purchased for as little as 99 cents at a local drugstore.  You’ll never need to charge a battery and if you accidentally drop it on the pavement - it won’t cost you $200 to replace.


Thanks to Bob for this contribution to the library blog. To see Bob's other blog posts, click here, or type 'Daniher" into the search box at the top left of this blog - Anne

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Local Historian Laurel Hessing's Translation of Israeli Play to Open in New York

On May 5, 2011, Winter Wedding, a play by Israeli playwright Hanoch Levin will open at the Theater for the New City.  Berkeley Heights' own Free Acres historian Laurel Hessing co-translated the play from the original Hebrew and will be visiting the library blog during the first week of May to discuss not only the play, but her own work as a playwright, historian, translator and editor.

Be sure to visit the links below for more information on the play, including how to get tickets.  Check back with the blog soon when Ms. Hessing visits to discuss her work.

Related links:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Do You Use the Library Databases?

If you have ever used the Berkeley Heights Library's online databases, for any reason, we'd like to ask you 5 multiple-choice questions to help us figure out how to serve you better. You can fill out the quick, anonymous survey here.

Here are some cool, free things you can do from home using the library's databases and your BH library card:

1) Search for companies in a particular industry in a radius around a particular town with ReferenceUSA.

2) Read articles from major newspapers for free - the New York Times, Star-Ledger, Wall Street Journal and more.

3) Take a language course through Mango Languages, or an online continuing ed course through Universal Class (computer classes & more).

4) Look up book lists recommended for grades K-4, 5-8, 9-12 or adults, using Novelist. Novelist covers all of the genres, both fiction and nonfiction.

5) Stun your book group with your wise comments after you look up the book you're reading in Literary Reference Center.

6) Entertain young ones with BookFlix, which are animated video versions of classic children's storybooks.

If you have any questions about how these databases work, call the reference desk at (908) 464-9333.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bunnies, Flowering Trees and a Library: Who Could Want Anything More?

Spring has arrived at BHPL!

Park in the back of the library so you can see the glorious forsythia hedge.

Brownie the bunny (a mini rex) stopped by the library with his human family.

I was told that the devoted Brownie follows her around the house. I think we could all use more bunnies in our lives.

Amazon's Kindle And Library E-book Provider Overdrive to Join Forces

The big news in N.J. library land is that Amazon and Overdrive have agreed to play nicely together. Having poured through the muckety-muck techno-babble and press releases so you don't have to, BHPL blog offers this explanation to library users:
If you have a Kindle e-reader from Amazon, up until now you had to buy your e-books strictly through Amazon and were not able to download the ebooks that NJ libraries contract for with a service called Overdrive, or as we call it here in Joisy, "ListenNJ."
Recent gobbledygook press releases have indicated that "later this year" Kindle owners will be able to get free e-books through their local library website, just as owners of Nooks, Sony Readers and other hand-held, e-book reading devices already do. So that's good news all around. Libraries support the idea of sharing resources, buying cooperatively so that our patrons can borrow materials for free. That model has worked since Melville Dewey and Andrew Carnegie were just a twinkle in their daddy's eyes, so we are glad Amazon has joined in. We will keep you updated on this situation and we at the Reference Desk are really glad we can now tell Kindle owners that their new purchase or foray into the future of books, ie: deciding to buy a Kindle instead of another e-reader, does not leave them out in the e-book cold protected only by their Amazon account and a credit card.

Here is the press release:

4-21-11 From Overdrive:
Kindle Library Lending and OverDrive – What it means for libraries and schools
Amazon and OverDrive announced the Kindle Library Lending program, which will enable Kindle customers to borrow and enjoy eBooks from our library, school, and college partners in the United States. The program is scheduled for launch later this year, and will significantly increase the value of the investments that libraries have made in OverDrive-powered eBook catalogs.
Many of our partners will immediately receive inquiries about this new program, so here is a brief introduction into what can be expected when the program launches:
The Kindle Library Lending program will integrate into your existing OverDrive-powered ‘Virtual Branch’ website.
Your existing collection of downloadable eBooks will be available to Kindle customers. As you add new eBooks to your collection, those titles will also be available in Kindle format for lending to Kindle and Kindle reading apps. Your library will not need to purchase any additional units to have Kindle compatibility. This will work for your existing copies and units.
A user will be able to browse for titles on any desktop or mobile operating system, check out a title with a library card, and then select Kindle as the delivery destination. The borrowed title will then be able to be enjoyed using any Kindle device and all of Amazon’s free Kindle Reading Apps.
The Kindle eBook titles borrowed from a library will carry the same rules and policies as all our other eBooks.
The Kindle Library Lending program will support publishers’ existing lending models.
Your users’ confidential information will be protected.
The Kindle Library Lending program is only available for libraries, schools, and colleges in the United States.
We’re thrilled that our library, school, and college partners will be able to provide Kindle customers with access to eBooks from their digital collections. And we look forward to providing you with more information on the launch of the Kindle Library Lending program as it becomes available.
Karen Estrovich is manager of content sales for OverDrive.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Quirky Queries

Some of the interesting reference questions we've had recently that have stuck in my memory:

Information about the paper mill that is in ruins below Seeley's Pond in the Watchung Reservation. After looking through a binder of photographs and maps, the patron discovered that it is named Twin Falls Mill, and left with a DVD from the library's collection, Down by Seeley's Pond.

Background information about a historic home that was up for sale. Luckily I have paged through the index-less history of Berkeley Heights, From the Passaiack to the Wach Unks, enough times for the family name "Oechsner" to ring a bell.

Do we have Pillars of the Earth in large print? No, and the only way to get it is to join Doubleday's Large Print Book Club and buy it from them, or read it on an eReader. The regular print version is 973 pages long so that would be quite a tome in large print. If you are willing to read it on a computer, Nook or Sony Reader, it can be downloaded free with a library card at

Lots of middle schoolers and their parents looking for the history of a particular invention: television, trampolines, x-rays, Coca-Cola, and the submarine, among others. Here is a hint to keep your parents from tearing their hair out: see what the library has before you choose your topic.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Vanity Fair by William Thackeray

Like other major authors in Victorian England, Thackeray originally published Vanity Fair as a serial in a newspaper. He engraved the illustrations himself. It is the story of Becky Sharp, a clever and often manipulative orphaned governess who wants to rise in British society.

Vanity Fair was written in 1847, the same year as Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, but it is set over 30 years earlier, near the end of the Napoleonic Wars. If you are looking for some good Victorian classics to read, you can look through the time line at Victorian Web.

What I really like about Vanity Fair is the storytelling. I have a hard time explaining what that is exactly, but I found a definition that's perfect here: "scene-by-scene construction, drawing characters, finding a moving voice to communicate the drama, and conveying the facts in a way that will draw readers into the story".

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

There is no new library tax in Berkeley Heights

"There is No New Tax or Increased Spending for the Berkeley Heights Public Library

Berkeley Heights Public Library Board of Trustees

Tuesday, April 12 2011

A recent newspaper article suggests that there might be a new tax assessed on Berkeley Heights citizens to support our Public Library. That is not the case. A recent law signed by Governor Christie changes the way our local property tax bill displays how much of our taxes goes to support our local library.

Municipal Libraries, under state law and a citizen’s referendum, receive their support from local citizens via local property taxes collected by the towns. Funding goes into the Town’s general fund and is calculated as part of the Town’s budget CAP. The Town is directed by law as to what that percentage should be and the citizens never see exactly how much is raised to support the Library just like other town services, i.e., police, sewer, etc.

There is no new tax, there is no increased spending, the Town will have Library support calculated out of their CAP so there is no increase in local property taxes. Eventually there will be a different tax bill that shows dollar amount support for our Library.

The Local Finance Board, part of the State Department of Community Affairs, specifically summarizes the new law as follows:

“The law provides a dedicated line item on property tax bill to fund municipal free and joint free public libraries. It does not result in any increased taxes, but changes the way the minimum library appropriation is displayed to the public.”

We invite you to come visit our Town’s Library on Plainfield Avenue. If you haven’t been there in awhile, there’re lots of changes."

Link to the article:

This blog post is a reprint of an article in The Alternative Press

Eileen Shanley's Watercolors

Watercolor paintings and greeting cards by Eileen Shanley are on display in the front entrance of the library this month.

Eileen has not been painting in recent years, but her daughter encouraged her to exhibit her art at the library. We think it's an excellent idea to take these paintings out of storage!

Monday, April 11, 2011

I Love Slideshows

Just hopping in to say how much I love slideshows. Don't you? Look to your right to see the latest pictures of Berkeley Heights Library programs. I especially like the pictures of the woods behind the library.

Image: our amphibian blog poster, Fleur T. Frog

PS: If you can't see the slideshow, try clicking on the spot where the Picasa library slide show is supposed to be; that should take you directly to our Picasa account where we store library photographs.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

The library's Tuesday night book group will discuss science writer Mary Roach's Packing for Mars: the curious science of life in the void Tuesday night, April 12, at 7:30 pm. Obviously sending anything to Mars is an engineering challenge, but sending humans is especially challenging because the human body just does not take well to being cooped up in a small, gravity-free, crowded space for months on end. The lack of exercise, the problems of what to eat and drink and how to eliminate what has been consumed are just some of the issues NASA faces while planning to send a manned mission to Mars. Ms. Roach has previously written the non-fiction books Stiff which is all about dead bodies; Spook, about life after death; and Bonk, yup, all about sex. So clearly the author enjoys researching subjects others might avoid even thinking about, much less researching in great detail and she is willing to ask any question and submit herself to very odd experiments to get her story.
In Packing for Mars, the author takes flight in a C-9 aircraft that by flying parabola formations can simulate weightlessness. So to answer, what to pack for Mars, the answer would be barf bags. Ms. Roach explains why vomiting into one's space helmet is a life-threatening event. Who knew? But the book isn't all vomit and other bodily fluids, although those topics do figure prominently. The author explores every aspect of what kind of punishment the human body is in for in outer space by trying various NASA simulators. Even if you never thought you were interested in space flight, you might enjoy reading this book: it is escapist non-fiction, non-fiction for fiction readers, appropriate for older teens and up. I chose this title because it seemed like a nice break  from the psychological women's fiction which are so often chosen by book groups. I'll post on Wednesday about the book group's reaction to the book.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Books for Flight

Why, yes, spring break in Berkeley Heights was last week, but tuck these books away for when you're looking for a book that transforms the way you think about flying.

Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles. Publisher's Weekly called this a "crisp yowl of a first novel". Bennie's flight to his daughter's wedding is canceled and he's stuck at O'Hare. What begins as a "demand for a refund quickly becomes a scathing yet oddly joyful reflection on his difficult life, and on the Polish novel he is translating."

Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, best known for The Little Prince. This is #3 on National Geographic's list of the Top 100 Adventure Books. The dust jacket says, "Saint-Exupery recounts his experiences as a mail pilot in the late 1920s and early 1930s - the perils and beauty of flying over the peaks of the Andes, near the waterspouts of an African typhoon, across the lonely reaches of the Sahara Desert, through the silent world above the cloud line . . . Frequent crash landings in mountains and desert tested the endurance and courage of Saint-Exupery and his companions against their own physical limits and the harsh indifference of the elements."

Air: Letters from Lost Countries written by G. Willow Wilson. This is a graphic (i.e. comic strip) novel about a flight attendant who falls in love with a traveler who is either a frequent flier or a terrorist. During her search she travels countries that don't exist on maps and becomes the target of a race to find an artifact that could change flight forever. "It starts off as Rushdie and then parachutes off into Pynchon" according to Neil Gaiman. This one isn't going to last your whole flight so you may want to pick up the sequel, Air: Flying Machine.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ten Years of Book Groups at BHPL

2011 is the tenth anniversary of the book groups at Berkeley Heights Public Library! I think some of our founding members are even still with us. Congrats, guys (or should I say gals?)! To put how long that is in perspective, the morning book group just finished discussing its 121st book on Friday, A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick.

We also selected what they'll be reading over the next few months. Since we liked The Photograph by Penelope Lively so much last year, Moon Tiger is up in June. It's the novel that won Lively the Booker Prize. Then, another Margaret Atwood novel, Alias Grace. The morning book group last read her Handmaid's Tale back in 2002. In September we're discussing Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxin, which I suggested after I saw it on the Brookfield, WI Public Library's "Great Lives" Biography Book Group's list. And lastly we have The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, the hugely popular nonfiction story of an African-American woman whose cells have been used for scientific research since the 1950s.

Books that didn't make the cut were The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, Faithful Place by Tana French, A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor, Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian, Winter in Madrid by C.J. Sansom, I Capture the Castle by Dorothy Smith, The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich, and Sisters of Cain by Miriam Monfredo. They are all really good books or they wouldn't have been nominated, but we passed on them since they interested fewer than half of the group.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Author Visit: Linda Raedisch

Today, we welcome local author, Linda Raedisch to the Berkeley Heights Public Library (BHPL) blog to discuss her recently released book, Night of the Witches: folklore, traditions & recipes for celebrating Walpurgis Night (Llewellyn, 2011) Illus right: Linda's greening candles.

BHPL: Welcome. I was not familiar with Walpurgis Night until I read your book because it is not commonly celebrated here in the States. How did you get interested in Walpurgis Night?

Linda: I think it might all have started years and years ago with a postcard my aunt and uncle sent us from their vacation in the Harz. There was a nice picture of the mountains and a little note on the back about how the region was famous for its witches. I'd never heard of a place famous for its witches, except Salem and Bernalillo, so I kind of filed that tidbit away. Then later, I got a subscription to German Life magazine. Every couple of years they do a piece on Walpurgis Night celebrations in the Harz, so there were those witches again. While I was working on a book about Halloween, I got the idea that it would be fun to write a whole book about Walpurgis Night, something that hadn't been done yet in English.

BHPL: Bernalillo?

Linda: It's outside of Albuquerque, but that would be another book.

BHPL: a clarification for our readers: the Harz is a mountainous area of northern Germany with the highest mountain being the Brocken.

BHPL: Okay. You've described Walpurgis Night as the European Halloween. Is it as popular there as Halloween is here?

Linda: Well, Walpurgis Night is exactly halfway around the year from Halloween, and in many ways it's the inverse of Halloween, even though it looks a lot like it. In America, we've been consistently trying to kill Halloween, but it's a very organic festival, so it keeps coming back and now it's even spreading. Halloween is centered on the very real tradition of trick-or-treating, while the German Walpurgisnacht is really based on rumors- - rumors dating to the time of Charlemagne. There were supposed to be strange pagan things going on in the Harz, witches were supposed to fly to the Brocken every April 30. There were accepted ways of scaring those witches away, such as noisemaking and bonfires, but nothing so standardized as our trick-or-treating. The traditions were very localized, varying from village to village. In fact, in the extreme northern part of Germany where all of my relatives are, it isn't celebrated at all, though they've now adopted Halloween.

BHPL: Are we trying to kill Halloween?

Linda: Yes, I think we are. Mischief Night has really taken a nose dive, and now we're telling kids, don't wear masks, don't wear scary costumes, don't go trick-or-treating in your neighborhood; go to the mall because it's oh so much safer! Walpurgisnacht, on the other hand, is a holiday that people have consciously revived. By the 1800's, when people were starting to lose their belief in witches, the concept of Walpurgis Night started to look very romantic and they worked hard to keep it going. Walpurgis Night in the Harz is now a big tourist attraction. But if I could give an award to the ballsiest celebration of Walpurgis Night, it would go to the villages of the Czech Republic. They don't call it Walpurgis Night, but it's the same day. They celebrate by eating, drinking and building really, really big fires. And then jumping over them. Even in Prague, they try to get as many people as possible to dress up as witches. They even hand out free besoms.

BHPL: Besom being a twig broom, right?

Linda: Right. The besom is the quintessential witch's broom.

BHPL: How did you come by the recipes in the book? Are they family recipes?

Linda: For the most part, no. The Quarkkeulchen comes from my grandmother, and the Rote Grutze, or Berry Porridge, has been made forever on my mother's side, but I used a slightly different recipe from hers. For the traditional Scandinavian recipes like the Sima, for instance, I consulted as many recipes as I could, then cobbled together the easiest version. There were many failures in my kitchen, most notably the Finnish May Day fritters. Big mess there the first time around.

BHPL: On to the crafts in the book: how did you come up with the craft ideas?

Linda: Many are just new, witchy takes on established crafts, like an origami kitchen witch instead of a wooden one. Most of them are easy things that you can do at home with paper and tinfoil and popsicle sticks. And then I thought of the Huckster-Witch in Faust, what sort of things would she have been selling up there on the Brocken? That's how I came up with the Witch's Brew pouch and the Walpurgis wands. (Illus left: Linda's smudge sticks/Walpurgis wands.)
BHPL: I know that some people have asked you why there is no dedication in your book?

Linda: Basically, because my editors didn't ask me. If they had, I'm sure I would've come up with something, but I'm not sure what. It amazes me how many authors dedicate their books to members of their families. I love my family, but they're not much help when it comes to writing books. In the dedication in Smoke and Mirrors, Neil Gaiman says something to the effect that he wrote the book in spite of his family, rather than thanks to them. I should say that my sister was a big help with the technical aspects of formatting the book after I had completely screwed it up in Google docs, but she already has the photo credit for taking my author photo, and I figured that was enough. Plus, I gave her a Starbucks card.

BHPL: What was your favorite part of the book to write?

Linda: The glossary! After I had met my deadline and submitted the completed manuscript, my acqusitions editor, Elysia Gallo, said, How 'bout a glossary? I asked her if it should be dry and scholarly or if I could have fun with it and she said absolutley have fun with it. So I did. Aside from that, my favorite part was the entry on the Valkyries. As I write that word, I know people will be thinking, Oh, valkyries, horned helmet, big boobs, blond braids. I enjoyed trying to blow that image out of the water. The valkyries are so much scarier than that. Truly terrifying. I really hope I run into some this April 30th.

BHPL: What books are you reading right now?

Linda: I'm listening to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie and I'm reading the Chalice by Phil Rickman

BHPL: I'll have to try those. I've really enjoyed your book recommendations in the past and I think you were the one who started the cult of Kate Atkinson here among the library staff.

Linda: Yes, I'm on the holds list for her Started Early, Took My Dog.

BHPL: Thanks for visiting our blog. I loved your book and recommend it highly. I also want to remind our readers and library patrons that you will be doing a program at BHPL tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 PM when you will share some of your delicious food and teach us how to make an origami kitchen witch - which I'm hoping will work some magic on my cooking skills. You will also be having an exhibit related to your book in the display case at the New Providence Public Library for the month of April which I'm looking forward to seeing and in the interest of full-disclosure: I have contributed two witch boxes which were really fun to make and were inspired by your book.