Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Eat That Frog

Today's setting on the library Staff Room table caught my eye. No one is owning up to these wacky hijinks, but it seemed to beg for a blog post of its own. The book Eat That Frog has been floating around the Staff Room for a few days. In short, very short, it's a self-help book that advises that to get really organized and motivated at work, do the one task you most dislike first thing. Eat that frog right away and everything after that gets easier, plus you will feel so proud of yourself for getting the worst task done. Maybe a little nauseated, but still... it's nice to cross 'eat the frog' off one's to do list, right? I know there is more to this book. There's even a sequel called Kiss That Frog, so there must have been a lot of material to cover. The library owns both these titles and others by Brian Tracy. For a novel approach to getting organized, try eating, I mean reading, these books.

For more self-help books, take a look at the book display near the Reference Desk or search the catalog using the keywords 'success', 'time management', 'self-help techniques' and 'procrastination.'

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

FAQ: Tax forms at the Library

It's that time of year again. No, not the time for Cadbury chocolate bunnies. It's the time when reference librarians across the U.S. field dozens of questions daily about tax forms. This year, delivery of Federal tax forms is later than ever. It seems that this has something to do with Congress delaying making a decision about the budget at the end of 2012. I know: shocking, isn't it? We all know that Congress is a model of cooperation and efficiency, so it is really shocking to realize that their procrastination, ruminations and lamentations at the end of last year did have real world consequences. We, on the front line of free tax form hand-out points, know this. Libraries don't have many tax forms to hand out this year. We are very sorry about this. We are as sorry as we can be. If we did have forms, we would put them out and you could take them home and do your taxes and the IRS would get their money and librarians would feel happy that we provided this public service and our patrons would be, well not happy to fork over their money, but at least able to cross 'paying taxes' off their to do list. Everyone is frustrated. We hope this schematic (isn't that what we call a chart these days?) will help answer the all-important questions you may have about The Case of the Missing Tax Forms.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

U.S. Presidential Memorabilia

Memorabilia  of United States Presidents from the collections of local historian and collector Larry Fuhro are on display at the Berkeley Heights Public Library through February, 2013 in the upstairs lobby.

Celebrating the Month of Presidents, the display features glass and ceramic figurines, commemorative plates, broadsides and labels with fun presidential facts. We asked Mr. Fuhro to tell us about his collection:
Toby Pitcher of Herbert Hoover (left) from the Patriotic Products Company Gold Medal China 1928
BH: When and why did you begin collecting presidential memorabilia?
LF:  I really don't know why, but around age fifteen I developed an intense interest in history and collecting. I started a museum in my father's garage and charged ten cents admission. That would have been the late 1950's. There was no room in the garage then for my father's car because the museum was in it, but he supported my collecting interests and drove me around to the estate sales. I did yard work to finance my hobby.
BH: What are some of your favorite pieces in the library display?
LF: Glassware. It's splashy. Everyone likes that.
BH: I was drawn to that, especially the glass log cabin that held syrup. I remember people putting those on window sills to let the light shine through.
LH: Yes, that's a 'product premium' from the 1930's. People wanted a mug or a plate, something to feel a connection to the president.
BH: I think now people would buy something their kids saw advertised, say a muppet figure that comes with a fast food meal, but not a presidential plate. The Franklin D. Roosevelt memorial plate with the cobalt blue border and gold design struck me as very ornate and expensive. I don't know anyone who has that sort of thing nowadays. It is in contrast to the bobble-head figurine of President Obama which is kind of jokey and toy-like.

LH: Yes, that FDR plate was very expensive at the time, $25.00 in 1945. There was a different feeling [in the early to mid-twentieth century] towards the presidency. More respectful or reverential. Now, modern figurines tend to be caricatures, sarcastic put-downs. The last non-controversial president was probably Eisenhower, 'the grandfather in the White House.'

Syrup jugs, white to the left, clear on the right bottom

BH: I did notice another plate especially, the lithographed tin plate of the 1908 election of William Howard Taft and James Sherman. It's very ornate and didn't look like tin to me.
LH: Yes, tin coffee boxes and food containers were very common at the time.
BH: Where did they sell these memorabilia? How did people get them?
LH: Up until 1929, door to door salesmen with catalogs of presidential memorabilia sold the types of items you see in my collection. People seemed to want a talisman of the office of the presidency. When President Garfield was assassinated in 1881, there was a national outpouring of grief. Lots of memorial pieces were sold. This was not so much the case with the death of President Kennedy. People's attitudes toward the presidency were already changing.
BH: I know lots of people kept the newspaper or Life Magazine from the day or week of Kennedy's assasination, but I don't recall the collectible fervor that you describe.
LF: No, there wasn't and I can tell you as a collector that the newspapers from those historical events like Kennedy's assasination are very common and not very valuable as a result.
BH: Which presidents are the easiest to find memorabilia  for?
LH: Taft, of all twentieth century presidents, is easiest to find. He is know for his girth, a topic in the news lately concerning New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Taft weighed between 330 to 350 pounds and famously had a large bathtub installed in the White House to accommodate his size.
BH: Tell us about your caricatures of the presidents which are in the display.
LF: I used to be a graphic designer before my teaching career. I wanted to make a book of caricatures of all the presidents, but I'm missing about eight.
BH: Who is missing?
LF: Some presidents are hard to caricaturize, like Eisenhower and FDR. I haven't done the presidents that I find are difficult to capture the likeness.
BH: Who is the easiest?
LF: Lincoln, make him taller, make his hat taller.
BH: I think you should go for it and finish that book.

Display Cases with Presidential Memorabilia

President Obama figurine and framed invitation to the 2009 Inaugural Ball
BH: I bet your students loved these caricatures and this collection.
LH: I did use these items to teach. Touching a real object makes history real to young students. They love 'hands on' learning. I can't picture kids today collecting bubblegum cards of presidents which I collected in the 1950's, but they do enjoy seeing these pieces of history.

Memorial Plate of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1945
 BH: Thank you for displaying this remarkable collection at the library. I really think people are enjoying looking at it when they come in. All these items seem to recall some interest in the presidency that we don't have anymore as a nation. What do you think?
LH: People talk about the divisive nature of politics now. These items in the display demonstrate that there was a simpler time with a different feeling about the White House and the Presidency which now we have lost.

From a transcript of a telephone interview with the collector, Larry Fuhro, February 7, 2013. Any errors are mine (blogger Anne)

To begin to study collectibles, browse The Kovels' antiques & collectibles price list / by Ralph and Terry Kovel 745.1 Kov and similar titles shelved in the area behind the Circulation Desk in the 700's Room at the Berkeley Heights Public Library.
Or take a look at
Collecting political memorabilia / Richard Friz  324.973 FRI pbk

Friday, February 1, 2013

Self Help Books

January's book display featured self-help books to support all those New Year's resolutions. Self-help books can be found in the non-fiction stacks shelved according to the subject.  So browsing through the Dewey Decimal system, here are some self-improvement titles in the Berkeley Heights Public Library.

Religion and Spirituality - 

A Cluttered Life, searching for God serenity and my missing keys (158.1 DIN) by Pesi Dinnerstien explores the topic of messiness from all angles but not from the angle of going out and buying lots of cute boxes to put all your old useless stuff in. This is more a meditation on messiness or possibly another way to avoid actually tackling the pile of clutter, but just learning to accept it and embrace it.

The Cloister Walk, (255 NOR) by Kathleen Norris is a sort of religious/spiritual memoir and a New York Times Notable book of the year 1996 by the author of Amazing Grace.

Mindfulness Yoga, the awakened union of breath, body, and mind (294 BOC) by Frank Jude Boccio. The subtitle says it all. Many yoga books can be found in the exercise/health area (613.7), but books often end up in unexpected subject areas, so be sure to check the catalog or ask the librarian to help you track down those books which strayed from what you might consider the most 'logical' location.

Careers and Finance - 

In the business/career section we found Encore, finding work that matters in the second half of life (331.5 FRE) by Marc Freedman.

Women and Money, owning the power to control your destiny (332.024 ORM) by Suze Orman offers her usual practical personal financial advice.

Science - 

How to Build a Time Machine (530.11 DAV) by Paul Davies, while not exactly a viable self-improvement project, didn't you always want to understand physics better than you did the first time around in high school? Here's your chance and if you do succeed in making the time machine, you could go back in time to make decisions which would lead to a better you later on which would mean the new you wouldn't have to read self-help books. You followed the logic there, didn't you?

Pets - 

How to Speak Dog, mastering the art of dog-human communication (636.7 COR) by Stanley Coren. Reading this book offers the opportunity to improve not only yourself by learning a foreign language (doggish), but also to include your best friend in your new year's resolutions. It's a win-win premise! Did I mention that one of my dogs in the distant past, ate a dog training book that I had checked out of the library? Really. I guess she didn't like self-help books.

I've been fiddling with this self-help book post for a couple of days. Self-help books are everywhere in the library, in every subject area, so I wasn't sure how to approach what has become such a huge part of publishing, the bestseller lists and most library collections. I happened to pick up a copy of New York Magazine in the doctor's office yesterday with the story "The Power of Positive Publishing, how self-help ate America' by Boris Kachka. Mr. Kachka has given this self improvement genre a lot of thought, so take a look at his article for a history of this publishing phenomenon. The magazine also includes brief summaries of several self-help books which you can read online: How to Read 31 Books in Four Minutes.

Reading self-help books can be like going to continuing education classes, or professional development conferences or taking webinars. Once you have sorted the self-help wheat from the chaff, you are bound to pick up a few pointers to improve your life. If not, you can give the book to your dog. Not the library books please.

I totally expect some comments about the best and worst self-help books or advice you have ever gotten.