Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Probable Future

The book group will discuss The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman this Friday. Generations of women in the Sparrow family have woken up on their 13th birthday with a magical gift. Thirteen-year old Stella can foresee how people will die; her mother Jenny dreams the dreams of other people at night; and her grandmother Elinor knows when she is told a lie.

When Stella asks her father to warn a woman she sees about her murder, he becomes a murder suspect himself. The ensuing media frenzy in Boston sends Jenny and Stella back home to the village of Unity, whose dark past is entangled with the Sparrow women's history.

Alice Hoffman gave a long interview to Jennifer Morgan Gray about The Probable Future. Publisher's Weekly also had an interview on the book. Discussion questions are available at ReadingGroupGuides. The New York Times also published a couple of reviews, one by Janet Maslin and one by Janice Nimura.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mystery Series Worth Reading

Sometimes a book series starts with a bang, ends in a whimper and dodders around in the interim, but readers are loyal and will wait out a few weak entries if they like the characters and setting and mood. Looking at my reading journal for 2011, I noticed that I read several continuations of mystery series that have mostly stayed strong from the first book. For "cozy" mystery fans, I recommend Susan Wittig Albert's China Bayles series, set in Texas and featuring herb-growing sleuth China Bayles. In Mourning Gloria (2011), the series is at top form. For fans of the British cozy, try Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce series. This series is sometimes classified for teen readers, but it is suitable for all ages. Flavia is really a pretty obnoxious pre-teen sleuth, but lovable in her own quirky way. Speaking of quirky, try Christopher Fowler's Bryant and May series. Set in London, two old friends in the police "Peculiar Crimes Unit" solve mysteries with their unconventional methods and treasure trove of cerebral trivia about London's history.  Chris Evan's Good Thief's Guide to (insert city name here) series never fails to entertain. His good thief/narrator's adventures remind me of the caper movies so popular in the 1950's and '60's. Topkapi, Charade etc.
On the darker side of mystery series, I can always count on Jacqueline Winspeare's Maisie Dobbs series and Louise Penny's Inspector Armand Gamache series.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Teach Yourself to Knit

1. You need needles and yarn. Since 50 million people make stuff out of yarn, it's very possible that you could borrow some. Eventually you will need to go to the knitting shops in Chatham, Madison or Westfield or to Michael's in Watchung.

2. Judy of YouTube will show you, very slowly, and over and over again if you like, how to cast on and how to do the knit stitch.

3. Once you have got those basics down, try the purl stitch, how to add a new ball of yarn and how to bind off.

4. The Knitting Answer Book will teach you how to fix your mistakes. Yarn Harlot will teach you that it's OK to just fudge it. (But please, do not iron a piece knitted out of plastic yarn!)

5. Make a scarf (a.k.a. proof that you can knit.)

6. Check out the library's extensive collection of knitting books in the room behind the circulation desk. (It is OK to go back there. Even if it's just to get a glimpse of the book elevator instead of looking at the knitting books.)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Making the Internet Easier to Use on the Kindle Fire

The other evening I was helping a patron who wanted to learn how to download eBooks to her Kindle Fire. Not only did she want to download the eBooks to her Fire, she wanted to use the web browser on her Fire to check them out. But eLibraryNJ.com is so graphics-heavy we could never get it to finish loading on the Fire.

If you are having problems like this, or even if your fingers just always click on the wrong thing when you're on the Internet, consider changing your Kindle Fire's settings to show you the mobile version of web sites:

Go to the "Web" tab on the home page.
Tap the symbol at the bottom of the screen that looks like a box with 3 lines in it.
Tap Settings.
Scroll your finger from the bottom of the screen to the top until you see "Desktop or mobile view" down at the bottom.
Tap "Desktop or mobile view"
Tap the circle to the right of Mobile: Optimize for mobile view

Voila! After you follow these steps, and go to eLibraryNJ in your Fire's browser, you will see the much simplified mobile version of the site.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ten Most Circulated 10 Biographies of 2011

Yesterday's post about BHPL's top-circulating nonfiction of 2011 did not include books shelved in the library's biography section. It's an interesting group of books about presidents, aristocrats, and entertainers, plus a few perennial favorites.

1. Decision Points by George W. Bush
2. Cleopatra: a Life by Stacy Schiff
3. American Rose : a Nation Laid Bare, the Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee by Karen Abbott
4. Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage by Hazel Rowley
5. Night by Elie Wiesel
6. (tie) Wait for Me! : Memoirs by Deborah Mitford, the Duchess of Devonshire
6. (tie) Growing Up Laughing : My Story and the Story of Funny by Marlo Thomas
8. (tie) This Time Together : Laughter and Reflection by Carol Burnett
8. (tie) A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
10. Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

BHPL's Top 10 Most Popular Titles in 2011

The 10 most-circulated fiction titles at Berkeley Heights Public Library in 2011:

1. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
2. Room by Emma Donohue
3. Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich
4. Now You See Her by James Patterson
5. Hell's Corner by David Baldacci
6. (tie) The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
6. (tie) Tick Tock by James Patterson
8. Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult
10. (tie) Don't Blink by James Patterson
10. (tie) Buried Prey by John Sandford

And the 10 most-circulated nonfiction titles in 2011:

1. Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue
2. Kitchen and Bath Ideas published by Better Homes and Gardens
3. Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo
4. Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxin
5. The Greater Journey : Americans in Paris by David McCullough
6. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
7. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
8. Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
9. Life by Keith Richards
10. I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What Kinds of eBooks Does the Library Have?

Here's a recap of a little of tonight's presentation on library eBooks. As of today there are about 4,000 eBooks that Berkeley Heights residents can download from eLibraryNJ.com. You're limited to 5 at a time, and about 90% of the eBooks have a waitlist today. The eBooks work on Kindle, Nooks, and iPads (among others).

This pie chart is not 100% accurate since some of the books overlap categories and I just used Advanced Search to figure out the different types (not an exact science), but it will give you an idea of what kinds of books are available.

Basically, anything you can check out from the library is what you can expect at eLibraryNJ: nonfiction, romance, mystery/suspense/thriller, other kinds of fiction, children's books. The library's eBooks were all published in the past few years (or a little less recently if it's part of a series that is still popular.) There are a lot of bestsellers, too. However, if you're wondering why we don't have certain bestsellers (like the new Steve Jobs book) it's because we can't get books from Simon & Schuster, Hachette, HarperCollins and Macmillan.

Also, it's important to sign in before you search. BHPL is buying eBooks for the use of BH residents only, but you will only find those books if you are signed in.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Berkeley Heights Public Library 2011 Annual Report

By Stephanie Bakos, Library Director

Every January when I start reviewing the previous year my mind starts to spin. Will I morph into Tony DiNozzo from NCIS and start spouting movie titles or will I revert to my years as a Children’s Librarian and think in terms of fairy tales? The winner for 2011 is any easy choice – Clint Eastwood’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Before starting the narrative, here are the basics: *

Total circulation:
54,943 Adult
57,949 Juvenile
34,594 Audio-Visual (including downloadables)
1,791 Juvenile Audio-Visual
1,270 Interlibrary Loan

New patrons: 622

Titles added: 5,194 Books
1,073 Audio-Visual (DVDs, Audio-books,CDs, etc.)
1,036 Downloadable e-Books and audio-books

*The Children’s Department was closed for 10 weeks, decreasing circulation and purchasing

Ugly is the only adjective to describe what Tropical Storm Irene left behind in the Children’s Department. Instead of celebrating the third anniversary of the renovation, we were hiring a restoration company to pack the books, remove the carpet, sanitize, anti-microbialize, remove drywall, and install large fans and dehumidifiers. It was over two and a half months from the first drop of rain until the second Grand Reopening.

Bad is also sad. BHPL lost two good friends and colleagues. Ginny Lynch, Head of Technical Services, and Stella Blyskal, retired Head of Circulation, died in 2011. Both are greatly missed.

Good, fortunately, outweighs the Ugly. In fact, so much good happened that it is necessary to create the following list:

Strategic Plan: The Board of Trustees, with input from focus groups, created and implemented a plan for the next three years.

Environmental Commission: In the spirit of cooperation, BHPL and the EC combined forces in April to provide adult and children’s programs focusing in environmental issues.

Meeting Room: Jay Morgan completed the project necessary to become an Eagle Scout by improving the Meeting Room. BHPL now has more seating space and freshly painted walls.

Downloads: Although this area of library service continues to evolve, BHPL offers both e-book and audio-book downloads. This is a growing collection, accessible online.

Boopsie: Boopsie is wonderful! In late 2011 BHPL’s Android app became available, followed by the Apple app in early 2012. Patrons can now use their smart phones to access BHPL’s collection, databases with apps, reserve books,
check your account, and view the calendar.

Volunteers: Over twenty-five volunteers helped to return the book collection to the Children’s Department after the storm related repairs. This group worked hard and went home tired after a long week of unloading boxes, pushing book carts, and arranging books on the shelves. Thank you to everyone who stepped up to help.

Children’s Department: The reopening of the Children’s Department in mid-November was the biggest accomplishment of 2011. If possible, the second reopening eclipsed the total renovation in 2008. The bright new carpet and brighter colors in the stairway signal to everyone that a good time can be had. The addition of lovely artwork above the Circulation Desk and near both computer locations adds a touch of whimsy.

In conclusion, the artwork above the downstairs Circulation Desk sums up 2011:

Once upon a time…they lived happily ever after.

The aggravation, angst, and weather calamities are neatly described by "..." , the spaces between the once and the ever after.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Food + Dog + Love = Book

The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O'Neal is about a sous-chef who finally gets the chance to run her own kitchen, in a new Aspen restaurant that the owner names after her dog. The dog and the romance reminded me of another enjoyable light read, Turning Tables by Heather and Rose MacDowell, in which a laid-off marketing manager faces a sink-or-swim situation as a waitress at a top New York restaurant. Though I haven't read it, I think Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs has promising similiarities (a 50-year-old TV chef who falls for her producer.) And of course, there's always the all-you-can-eat buffet of culinary mystery novels.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Art of Blown Glass

The display in the lobby this month is the blown glass of Berkeley Heights teens Mark Bochner and Josh Bochner. They learned the art at Buck's Rock Performing and Creative Arts Camp in Connecticut.

Bowls are Josh's favorite pieces to make. Mark has been blowing glass for 6 years and uses a multitude of techniques, ranging from 500 year-old Italian methods to modern American styles.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The BHPL App for Smartphones & Tablets

You can now search the BHPL catalog on your Android phone, iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad with the free BHPL app! The BHPL app for the Kindle Fire is coming soon.

If "all thumbs" means "clumsy" to you, not "an efficient method of typing on your phone", you're going to love the app's truncated search. You only have to type in the first few letters of each keyword. For example, "ja ke on" will find everything we have on Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Search the library's magazine and journal article databases. Check your account. Renew your books. Look at what items are new this week. All on your phone!

BHPL on iTunes/App Store

Android Market
- search for BHPL

You might also be interested in downloading the library's eBook app, Overdrive Media Console.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Lucy by Ellen Feldman

On Friday the morning book group will discuss Lucy, Ellen Feldman's fictionalization of the relationship between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lucy Mercer in the late 1910s. FDR was Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the time, and Lucy was Eleanor Roosevelt's social secretary. The affair went on a very long hiatus when FDR's political advisers convinced him that a divorce would put an end to his dream of becoming president.

Lucy went on to marry the widower Winthrop Rutherfurd, who as a young man had been secretly engaged Consuelo Vanderbilt. (Consuelo's mother Alva forced her to marry the Duke of Marlborough instead.) Amazing by today's standards, FDR's relationship with Lucy did not become publicly known until 1966. Ellen Feldman based the book in part on Franklin and Lucy's correspondence, including letters found as late as 2008.

Discussion questions for Lucy are available at ReadingGroupGuides.com. Ellen Feldman won a Guggenheim fellowship in 2009, 6 years after Lucy was published.