Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Old Magic of Christmas: Interview with the Author

Before the library closed (to prepare for its move to 110 Roosevelt Avenue), we managed to interview New Providence author Linda Raedisch, whose books are published by Llewellyn Worldwide. Her 2013 book The Old Magic of Christmas is about European folklore, superstitions, and pagan traditions that are as much a part of our Christmas celebration as nativity scenes and Midnight Mass. (Actually, Midnight Mass does get mentioned in some of Old Magic's spooky stories.) 

BHPL: How did The Old Magic of Christmas get its start?
LR:I started making my own Christmas cards when I was 13, so I'm always on the lookout for interesting Christmas subjects that I can draw in pen and ink and photocopy.  I had already heard of the Buttnmandl, the Belsnickle and the Italian witch Befana who delivers gifts on Epiphany, so I just went from there.  You find one source, read the bibliography, and that leads you to more sources.  Many of the books I used were old and out of print.

When I was researching my first book, Night of the Witches, I discovered that Bohemia, which is now part of the Czech Republic, has held onto a lot of old and unusual traditions.  At Christmastime, Bohemia is a real treasure trove of spooky characters that go from door to door on different days.  I included all of them in Old Magic, and now it's been translated into Czech!

BHPL: Christmas proper is only part of your book. I enjoyed learning about other, little-known "feasts" which fall between from November to February in our modern calendar. Is there one that you celebrate or is of particular interest to you?

LR: Our family has always celebrated Advent Sundays at home.  We don't do the wreath of greens; we do the four-armed wooden candelabra, usually with white candles, but I went with beeswax this year.  We now have five of these candelabra circulating among the three households of my immediate family.  You light one candle on the first of the four Sundays before Christmas.  On fourth Advent, which falls on Christmas Eve this year, you have all four candles burning.  

I actually enjoy these quiet little feasts of cookies and candlelight more than the big event of Christmas Day.  In the Middle Ages, Advent was a season of penitence, like Lent.  I don't want to go back to that, but it's nice to have that pause late on Sunday afternoons to stop whatever you're doing and light the candles just as it gets dark.  It's also a good time to read ghost stories!

BHPL: The chapters called A Christmas Bestiary and A Christmas Herbal are among my favorite chapters. Are you partial to any one of the animals and plants you write about?

 LR: I think I like the Spectral Dogs best: Black Dogs, Caplethwaites, Barguests, Yeth Hounds, all of those.  I like how they pop up out of thin air,  travel alongside you as you're walking or biking home at night, then disappear again with a flash once you've reached your destination.  They're not just for Christmas, but they're especially active this time of year.  The Capelthwaite was probably the inspiration for The Hound of the Baskervilles, and there was a huge Black Dog in Staffordshire that went by the name of "Padfoot," which I'm sure will ring a bell with Harry Potter fans.  Here in New Jersey, the Ramapo Mountain People have stories about ghost dogs similar to the ones in England.   I didn't know that when I was writing the book, or I would've included it.

My favorite Christmas green is the Black Hellebore, or the Christmas Rose.  I'd seen plenty of them on German Christmas napkins and wrapping paper, and in illustrations of The Legend of the Christmas Rose, but I'd never seen one in person until several years ago.  For something that blooms in the winter in the Alps, it's very delicate looking.  The petals are iridescent.  

Juniper is nice for burning during the Twelve Days of Christmas, December 25-January 6.  It makes a nice, fragrant white smoke that is supposed to keep witches and werewolves away.  In Austria, they smudge the cow stalls with buckets of smoking Juniperus communis during the Twelve Nights, but here you can use Juniperus virginiana.

BHPL: The Old Magic of Christmas has several recipes and crafts. Is there one in particular that you make every year?

LR: I fold the White Witch Window Stars every year.  Between Christmasses, I keep the old stars pressed inside Makoto Suzuki's Wooden Houses because it's the biggest book I own, but when I take them out at the beginning of December, some of them will have turned yellow, so I have to make new ones.  During the day, the sun shines through them from the outside, then at night they're lit up from the inside.  They're very pretty, and very simple to make.  And you don't have to stick to the White Witch pattern; you can experiment.  The possibilities are endless.

BHPL: Can you tell us about your latest book, The Princess in the Mound: A Visitor's Guide to Alvenholm Castle?

LR: Llewellyn, who publishes my nonfiction books and articles, does publish a little bit of fiction, but it's not really the kind I write, so I decided to have a little fun and strike out on my own with this one.  It's a fantasy novella written in the form of a slim little museum guidebook, the kind they might sell you at the ticket counter of an old European manor house so you can guide yourself through the rooms.  Most of those guidebooks don't tell you about the ghosts living in the house, but when I created Alvenholm Castle, I put lots of ghosts in it.

In some ways, Princess grew out of Old Magic. The central plot, if there is one, evolved from the dissection I did of the old Scandinavian tale, "The Finn King's Daughter" in chapter two of The Old Magic of Christmas: "At Home with the Elves."

And the character of William Peter Baldwin Jones/Witchety Willi in Princess is my response to the Black Peter controversy.  Black Peter, or Zwarte Piet, is the Moorish page who goes up and down the chimneys for St. Nicholas on December 6 in the Netherlands. I thought, wouldn't it be interesting if there was a little village in northern Europe where most of the population were proud to trace their lineage back to a black university-educated chimneysweep?  Of course, Willi is also a time traveler, but they don't make a big deal about that at Alvenholm: time travel, haunted cupboards, whispering walls - - it's all just business as usual.

BHPL: Thank you, Linda. Readers, if you wake up in the middle of the night this holiday season, you’re going to want to stay in bed (and read this!) instead of venturing into the living room alone with its poisonous Christmas greenery and household sprites lurking near the fireplace. The ghost stories Raedisch recounts - with their creepy historical details - makes Christmas a deliciously spooky holiday.

Related links:

BHPL Book Blog interview with Linda Raedisch about her first book, Night of the Witches.
Leonard Lopate Show interview last year with Linda Raedisch about the solstice and Yuletide traditions.

 Examples of art by Ursula Raedisch, who illustrated The Princess in the Mound.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

eBooks and Other Things Affected By the Move

On Monday, the library's server will move to the new location.  It may be down until sometime on Wednesday.

This is not what our server looks like. However, it does serve up magical, rainbowy things like ebook access.

12/20 Update: Everything is working except for We will let you know when our access to is restored, hopefully soon.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Before & After

This week someone called the library and asked if we had a book on our shelf. Well, no. We don't have any books on the shelves anymore.  Everything was boxed up and items not going with us to 110 Roosevelt Ave. were moved into storage.

While packing up the library, we ran across the photographs below, taken of the library when it was still new. I retook the same photos today for comparison.

Do you remember the old date due cards and the sound of the Gaylord machine stamping the dates?

 Circulation desk: late 1950s 

 Circulation desk today

The children's department used to be located in what is now the basement meeting room:

 Children's department in the late 1950s

What is now the meeting room (as it looks today)

And here is a side-by-side look at the staff room. 

Staff room in the late 1950s

Staff room today

Want to know more about the move? Check out director Stephanie Bakos' YouTube interview and a letter she wrote to TAPinto Berkeley Heights.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! It's BHPL's Last Day Till January

Today is the last day that BHPL will be open, until sometime in January when we reopen at our new location at 110 Roosevelt Ave.

Come in and take a last look at the library before we close at 9 p.m. tonight. If you are a Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! fan, and even if you're not, read host Peter Sagal's lovely essay about his memories of the Berkeley Heights Public Library, which was published in "This is What a Librarian Looks Like."

"That stairway. It was a dark upward passage into mystery, replete with Freudian and Jungian meanings, which I couldn't understand because all the books about that sort of stuff were upstairs. . . " - Peter Sagal
How to return your books while we are closed:
If the item is due in December or January, you have three options:
  • return it to the bookdrop at 290 Plainfield Ave. by December 20 
  • hold onto it and return it by February 1st, fine-free, at 110 Roosevelt Ave.
  • if you are using another local library, you may return BHPL items there also. (Remember to take ID and your BHPL card with you if you want to check out items there.)

If the item was due in November or earlier, fines will stop accumulating while are closed, and begin again when we reopen.

Please keep visiting the library blog - not only will we be posting information about the move, but we also have an author interview coming this month with Linda Raedisch about her book The Old Magic of Christmas.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Era Ends on Monday

With the library board's announcement that the library is closing at 9 p.m. on Monday, December 4, 2017, it's officially the end of an era.  The Free Public Library of Berkeley Heights has been located at 290 Plainfield Avenue ever since it first opened to the public on September 20, 1953. Parts of the library building go back even further, as it was originally built in 1925 as the first Mt. Carmel Hall. The township purchased it from the Mt. Carmel Society in 1952 for $10,000.

Getting back to 2017: library staff are preparing for a move to 110 Roosevelt Avenue, which was the rectory of the Church of the Little Flower, and before that, a convent.  The Library Board said in an announcement yesterday that "there is considerable work to be managed and completed in order to make the property at 110 Roosevelt Avenue suitable and safe for use as a public library building (construction, permits, approvals, moving library property, moving and reconstructing network and Wi-fi access, etc.)" 

However, 110 Roosevelt Avenue is just a waypoint on the library's itinerary. A new municipal complex is being planned for Park Avenue, with a new library located on the second floor, but it is still in planning stages.

Moving a collection that is in flux is not a simple thing.  Some things you need to know:

  • You may no longer place reserves (or "holds") or interlibrary loan requests.
  • The book drop will be available until Dec. 20. After that, you can return items to other local libraries.
  • If you return items by February 1, you won't be charged overdue fines, as long as the original due date was December. For items due before December, fines will not accumulate while the library is closed.
  • Please don't donate books to us. Please do come buy something from our book sale - $0.50 a book or $5 for a bag of books.
  • Electronic resources (databases, ebooks, etc.) will still be available. However, in late December when the network components are moved, ebook access may go down for a time.
  • Your Berkeley Heights Library card can be used at these local libraries. Please note, you will need to take your library card and driver's license with you. Please come in ASAP and pay any fines and renew your card if it's expired or expiring soon, if you plan to use other libraries. The expiration date can be found on a sticker on your library card.

The Free Public Library of Berkeley Heights' goal is to reopen as soon as possible.  Keep an eye on the Library's home page or Facebook page for a reopening announcement.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Eels, Lobsters and Turkey: “The American Plate” by Libby O’Connell

I’ve been taking “bites” from Libby O’Connell’s “The American Plate: the History of American Cuisine in 100 Bites” for a couple of years now. I first heard about the book over the radio when Leonard Lopate was interviewing Dr. O’Connell, chief historian at the History Channel.  When I tuned in, the author was telling Leonard Lopate how the Puritans enjoyed eating eels, and they used lobster, which they found bitter, as bait to catch the eels.

It’s hard to read “The American Plate” straight through, as it’s a combination encyclopedia-cookbook. But I have enjoyed reading an occasional chapter on my Kindle. Syllabub anyone?  The book goes from maize and squash up to sushi and super foods.

The chapters called “Turkey” and “the Rise of Thanksgiving” are so interesting. For example, although turkey is native to North America, its English name reflects the fact that Turkish traders were the first to bring turkeys to England. The Turks imported the turkeys from Spain, which got their birds from their American colonies.

I also had no idea that Thanksgiving used to be political. In the Northeast, where Thanksgiving was primarily celebrated at first, abolitionist speeches were made on Thanksgiving. So one Virginia governor (Henry Wise, 1856-1860) refused to let his state observe the holiday. Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, right after Union victories.

If you want to find out what was served at the first Thanksgiving feasts - not just in Plymouth but at earlier ones in St. Augustine and Virginia too - read “The American Plate”. Hint: it may not have been turkey. And no, not cranberry sauce either. (Although we don’t have this book at BHPL, we can borrow it for you from another library.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

BHPL's "Bestsellers"

Wondering what your neighbors are reading in Berkeley Heights? These "BHPL bestseller" lists are based on circulation statistics and current holds. 

Most Popular New Fiction at BHPL

Top Four Novels
1.   Don't Let Go by Harlan Coben
2.  Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
3.  Camino Island by John Grisham
4.  Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly

Tied for Fifth Place
5.  The Breakdown by B.A. Paris
5. The Duchess by Danielle Steel
5. Secrets In Summer by Nancy Thayer
5. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
5. The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

Tied for Tenth
10. Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
10. Dangerous Minds : a Knight and Moon Novel by Janet Evanovich
10. The Store by James Patterson
10. The Rooster Bar by John Grisham
10. Origin by Dan Brown
10. The Midnight Line: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child
10. The People vs. Alex Cross by James Patterson

Most Popular New Nonfiction at BHPL

Top Nonfiction (books by and about Hillary Clinton and possibly what she's reading)
1. Shattered : Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen
2. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
3.  Option B : Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg
3.  What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

The Next Three Nonfiction:
5.  Astrophysics For People In a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
5.  Killing England by Bill O'Reilly
7.  The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down : How To Be Calm and Mindful in a Fast-Paced World by Hyemin

Tied for Eighth Place: Food and Wine Books
8. Cork Dork : a Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste by Bianca Bosker
8. Christopher Kimball's Milk Street : the New Home Cooking by Christopher Kimball
8. Dinner in an Instant: 75 Modern Recipes for Your Slow Cooker, Pressure Cooker and Instapot by Melissa Clark
8. Food: What the Heck Should I Eat? by Mark Hyman
8. The Mother-in-Law Cure : Learning to Live and Eat in an Italian Family by Katherine Wilson
8. Smitten Kitchen Every Day by Deb Perelman

More Nonfiction Books Tied for Eighth Place (Geez):
8. Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken
8. If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face? by Alan Alda
8. Confessions of a Wall Street Insider by Michael Kimelman
8. Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
8. Sisters First:Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life by Jenna Bush
8. Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Cruising through France with Nina George's The Little Paris Bookshop

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George is the subject of this week's evening book group discussion.  If you can't attend the book group meeting, try out the Book Apothecary, which was inspired by the Literary Apothecary and like him, prescribes books for every mood. Or travel by armchair to warmer French climes with beautiful slideshows of the book market of Cuisery, Bonnieux, and Sanary-sur-Mer.

The publisher's discussion questions are available at ReadingGroupGuides and here are some of my own:

1.  This book was originally published in German with the title "Das Lavendelzimmer" (The Lavender Room). Do you think The Little Paris Bookshop is a good title? Why/why not?

2. If this book were to be made into a movie, who would you choose to play Jean Perdu, Manon, or one of the other characters?

3. Which part of the book was your favorite or your least favorite and why?

4. Has a book ever healed you or changed your life in some way? If so, which book?

5. We read the English translation by Simon Pare. Did you ever feel like you were reading a translation at times?

6. Would you read Nina George's next novel, The Little French Bistro?

7. Does this novel compare favorably with other literary journeys/ travel fiction that you have read?

8.  I found myself wanting to underline certain phrases and lines. Did you make a note of any passages that you particularly liked? 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Voting for Books

I told my preschooler that it was Election Day so I was going to go vote today.  This was the response: "We're having a pretend election at school too. You stick your head in a box with a tablecloth on top. And you make a red x if you are a red pepper, and a green x if you are a green pepper."  There's another election coming up here at the library, not for how ripe you like your bell peppers, but for next years' book group selections.  And unlike most elections, the voters will have a lot of say about on what's on the ballot.

Here are some titles that seem discussable and interesting to me, and hopefully borrowable in quantity for our book group. I'm looking forward to seeing what other members of the book groups recommend. Book group members, let me know which titles you'd like to add to this list.

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell.  A Great Group Read of 2015 by Reading Group Choices. In 1950s Mississippi two mothers, one black, one white, who don't get along, find themselves thrown together by circumstance.

A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold.  Also a Great Group Read by Reading Group Choices and a book I heard discussed on What Should I Read Next?  Klebold is the mother of one of the Columbine shooters, and all profits from her memoir are going to mental health charities.

Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson. This is a nonfiction but reads-like-fiction account of the hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900. Alice who works at the library recommended it to me and it's of particular interest after this season's similarly record-setting hurricanes.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal. This was an Amazon best book of the month and follows a future celebrity chef through the stages of her life. Voted an Indies Choice best debut novel by the American Booksellers Assocation. 

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. This novel is set in 1862 in a cemetery on the night after Abraham Lincoln's 11 year old son was buried, and it's peopled by ghosts. An Amazon best book of the month that got a lot of attention.

Moonglow by Michael Chabon. The fictional memoir of Chabon's grandfather, complete with a deathbed confession and a family secret, tells the story of an entire era. I'm hoping it will be as great as Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. A New York Times Notable selection.

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong. A heart-warming account of a thirty-something year old daughter's year with her father, a history professor who has Alzheimer's. 

The Refugees is a collection of short stories about Vietnamese refugees written over the past twenty years by Viet Thanh Nguyen. It's a New York Times Notable pick, and Nguyen won a Pulitzer Prize for an earlier novel. 

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. Some years the book group reads a classic, so I thought of this 1932 comic novel which "parodies the romanticised, sometimes doom-laden accounts of rural life popular at the time" (Wikipedia). Recommended by my sister, who also suggested the forgotten classics Fanny Fern's Ruth Hall and Dorothy Whipple's Greenbanks to me. I'll never be able to get enough copies of those for the book group, so Cold Comfort Farm it is.

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart. This based-on-a-true-story novel is about one of America's first female deputy sheriffs, and it's set right here in New Jersey in 1914. NPR's Morning Edition has the story.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Books in Bookstore Settings

The dream of having a little bookstore of one's own is so common and so enticing that novels about bookstore owners is a sub-genre of its own. These books are popular with the library staff:

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson mentioned in this blogpost

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin reviewed in this blogpost.

Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley  You can download this charming 1917 novel for free online

Reading about bookstores is closely linked to other bookish dreams such as:
So you want to own your own little library? Well just get one from...
The Little Free Library

Do you dream of delivering books by donkey?  Take a look at this video of the

You can follow the Biblioburro and Little Free Library on Facebook to keep up with your bookish day dreams.

Have your friends emailed you the slideshow of beautiful libraries worldwide to drool over, or do they just send those things to librarians? Well here is the slide show

The Berkeley Heights Public Library has a Pinterest account where we indulge in library dreaming. Follow us here

And finally, pictured here is the temporary library location of the Berkeley Heights Public Library where we will be open to the public until our dream library is built at the new Berkeley Heights Municipal Complex on Park Avenue. Stay tuned for details of our move. Until then, happy book dreams.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Mysteries for the Squeamish

We had a patron, in fact quite a few over the years, who liked mysteries, but did not want any sex or violence in the books. That kind of mystery is generally called a 'cozy' or an 'English village mystery.'  The reference librarians started to keep a list of books for these readers, lists of what the patrons read and liked and what we would recommend next time they stopped by. I found my crumpled old list in the process of cleaning out the files in the Reference Department in preparation for the library move.
Here is the list of mysteries that would appeal to people who like the TV series 'Midsomer Murders' or who love Miss Marple.
Anything by Spencer Quinn as narrated by the Chet the Dog
Anything by Dorothy Gilman especially the Mrs. Pollifax series.
Anything with a priest in it like The Story Teller by Margaret Coel; Her Death of Cold by  Ralph McInerny;  anything by Father Andrew Greeley.

Any of the books pictured below are recommended for the squeamish mystery reader. Aside from a dead body or two, usually  killed out of sight at the beginning of the mystery before the reader becomes attached to the character, these mysteries will present a challenging puzzle without grossing the reader out with gory forensic details.

Related websites:
Cozy Mystery List
The Immense Popularity of Cozy Mysteries

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Halloween Displays at the Library

In October we see some really adorable displays pop up in the Children's Room. Where do all these things live between holidays? If you wander into the Children's Department storage spaces, they are jammed with stuffed animals, toys, and figurines for every holiday. Dare to open a closet door and risk a deluge of falling plush pumpkins and autumn leaf garlands. We are pretty sure Ms. Laura, the Children's Librarian, keeps the holiday decoration overflow at her house. Like every Children's Librarian, her head is packed with titles that match each and every festive occasion - and homework assignment too. Come take a look, and check out some books for your children on this and other holidays. Our holiday book collections and homework-appropriate titles will move with us to the new location, and I bet the displays will too.
Curious George in a Pumpkin Costume

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Books into TV Series: you can borrow both from the library

Mysteries rely on the setting to engage the reader - from country house to gritty urban locales to exotic places around the world, readers travel with their favorite detectives. Here are several dark and moody police procedural series that take place in northern England that have been turned into equally engaging television series.

'Vera,' based on the novels by Ann Cleeves, starring the irascible, but highly effective, police detective Vera Stanhope. Vera unflinchingly solves crimes in the windy chill of beautiful Northumberland, UK.

'DCI Banks,' another blunt and edgy police detective, comes to life based on the books by Peter Robinson. Banks solves crimes from the windswept and rainy moors of Yorkshire to the urban areas of Leeds.

Away from the wild moors and urban projects of Northern England, we go to the beautiful university city of Oxford to follow another character whose TV life became more well known than the books.
'Endeavour' imagines the early life of Inspector Morse, the Oxfordshire detective created by Colin Dexter.

The more whimsical comedy-drama, 'Midsomer Murders' is the long-running television series based on Caroline Graham's mysteries. There are more episodes of the television show by far than there ever were of Ms. Graham's books. Ms. Graham's and Mr. Dexter's books are out of print and hard to find, but well worth it if you can track them down.

Off to Scotland for the 'Shetland' series based on the novels of Ann Cleeves: 'Red Bones,' 'Raven Black,' 'Blue Lightening,' 'Dead Water.' Again the beautiful, but at times slightly menacing, landscape and weather makes a perfect backdrop for these mysteries.

To Sweden for more grey, windswept landscapes and a moody detective with 'issues', watch 'Wallander' based on the novels by Henning Mankell.

From mysteries to non-fiction and an urban setting, try 'Call the Midwife' based on the biography of an English midwife in post-war London, written by Jennifer Worth.

On a lighter note, try 'Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries' based on the Phryne Fisher mysteries by Kerry Greenwood. The intrepid Australian Flapper solves crimes in post World War I Melbourne. The costumes and Victorian architecture are fantastic in this tv series.

Related Resources: Some of these books and movies can be found in our library catalog and some can be found on our downloadable resources listed on our All Things E page.

The 'Shetland' series by Ann Cleeves is now available as a downloadable audiobook from Hoopla. The 'Vera' tv series is also available on Hoopla now. Music from the 'Inspector Morse' series is available on Hoopla.
Several of Henning Mankell's books, 'Call the Midwife' and Ann Cleeves' and Peter Robinson's books are also available on 'eLibraryNJ.'

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Consumer Reports: A Self-Help Guide

Consumer Reports is one of the most-asked-for magazines here at Berkeley Heights Public Library.  You are always welcome to come look at it here and have us print out the article you need.  But if you're lying awake at 3 a.m. worrying, here's a tongue-in-cheek guide on how to get a Consumer Reports product review online from home using Flipster.

Step 1: Dishwasher on the fritz?  Congratulations, admitting that you have a problem is the first step. 

Step 2: Go to the BH library web site and click Databases and Articles.  Click on Flipster.

Step 3: Ignore the very tempting rabbit hole called People Magazine.

Now we come to a fork in the road. If you're just interested in product ratings, and don't want to scroll through some irrelevant search results, click Consumer Reports Buying Guide. Note: Not everything makes it into the Buying Guide - mostly just expensive purchases.

However, the Buying Guide comes out in December, so depending how far away last December was, you may want to click on plain old Consumer Reports to get the most up to date review.

Step 4: Type in the product (washers or shrimp or smartphones) that is currently making you worry about future buyer's remorse or adverse health effects.  

Step 5: After you type in your search change the dropdown from "this issue" to "all issues."  In this case, issue refers to the month and year the magazine was published, not your anxiety.

Step 6: Now you can print your Consumer Reports article.  Click "print" which is located in the right-hand column and then "print all pages in view" for your article.

Parting advice: If you decide to download the Flipster app, be warned that you can't print from the app.  It is very good for reading People on your iPad, though.

Addendum:  After publishing this post, I realized the search feature in Flipster is not perfect.  When I searched for bicycle helmets and then just helmets in Consumer Reports, the latest ratings on those (August 2016) were omitted from the search results.     

There is a more reliable yet less convenient way of searching and reading Consumer Reports from home. Use your computer or laptop to go to Databases and Articles and click EBSCO. Type your product (bicycle helmets, for example) in the search box and type Consumer Reports in the publication box. Then hit search. To bring the newest article up to the top - click Relevance and click Date Newest. You may choose to read either the PDF or HTML version of the Consumer Reports articles that come up.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Reference Questions Roundup

Going through the unfinished drafts of blog posts, I discovered this one from the early days of the blog. In celebration of our twelfth year, here is our 1,232nd blog post - a litany of reference questions and an observation about one of the hardest types of question.

Do you have a map of the travels of St. Paul? Where can I find an annual report of a company? Do you have the tax form for filing returns late? Who invented Mrs. (Santa) Claus? Who is the CEO of Overlook Hospital and what is his phone number? Can you get me the Texaco Star Theater featuring Ed Wynn on cassette? What were the reviews of the play "Diary of Anne Frank" when it first appeared in Israel and Germany in 1955 and 1956? Does Columbia Middle School have a time capsule and where is it? How can I get rid of the smell of a dead deer from the road in front of my house? Can you get me the Fugitive Slave Cases, 1850 - 1860 from the United States District Courts in Pennsylvania? Where did the glaciers stop in Berkeley Heights? How can I find missing classmates for my 60th high school reunion? I need to see the Williamsburg paint colors. Can you get me Joan Hamburg's recipe for ginger cookies; she mentioned them on her radio show. How can I learn how to read an annual report? I read a book from this library that I really liked a few years ago, but I don't remember the author or title, can you find it? I need the N.J. law about unlawful dumping of trash. Do you have a form for a living will? What newspapers do they have in Omaha, Nebraska and what are the phone numbers? What should I read next? Do you have the book that gives the value of cars? Who is my N.J. state representative? Can you find an obituary in the Star Ledger - I don't know the person's name or when he died. How should I prune grape vines? How do you distill water?
We get questions like this every day in the Reference Department, by phone, by email and in person.

Which one of the above is the most difficult question? I think it is, "what should I read next?" What people like to read is completely subjective and often hard to describe. The so-called "readers' advisory" question is definitely the trickiest one to answer successfully.

So answering questions that can be answered with a fact is far easier than answering a question that requires a subjective judgement based on the taste of the person who asks the question. But if you do ask your local public librarian what to read next, the librarian will try very hard to figure out what kind of reader you are, what reading mood you are in, and will try to steer you towards something enjoyable. Forget 'book guilt,' librarians just want people to enjoy reading.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Great Courses and Pimsleur have come to Hoopla

The Great Courses are courses taught by university professors selected for the popularity of their lectures, and I have been a fan of them for some time now.  Now I can listen or watch many of them from anywhere, because Hoopla has begun streaming hundreds of the courses on demand. The Great Courses available at Hoopla are mostly audiobooks, but there many videos as well. You can get started with Hoopla at BHPL's All Things E page.

Hoopla has also recently added several Pimsleur language learning courses, including the Little Pim videos for children.  If your small child is afraid of that other early-language-learning creature, Muzzy, the green monster, then the Little Pim courses may do the trick with a panda in a starring role.  

Happy learning!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Building Codes and the Dreaded Deck Question

Faithful readers of this blog will know that the librarians in the Reference Department of this and other public libraries answer questions about any topic on earth to the best of our ability. Where is the 'Consumer Reports' issue about cars? How much is my used car worth? What is the cost value of this old stock certificate I found in my sock drawer? How can I open an offshore bank account to avoid taxes? (True question.)  If you click on 'Reference Questions' in the label cloud on the blog sidebar, you will find all the posts where we wrote about weird and interesting questions that we enjoy. The reference books you see in the pictures on this post are of local ordinances and rules about building codes. These books are used to help library patrons find information about building a deck or other construction issues. Truthfully, only a trained construction official can really slog through these codes without bursting into tears of frustration. These books will be going with the Reference Department to our new, temporary location because, much as we are perennially puzzled by the Deck Question, we can't go anywhere without our local building code books.

Laugh Out Loud

Our newest display, thanks to our Head of Circulation and Display Maven Extraordinaire, Ann-Marie, features funny books. If you are looking for something entertaining to read and to tickle your funny-bone, stop by the bookshelf near the Reference Desk and pick up a book by Bill Bryson, Erman Bombeck, George Carling, Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari, or other humorists.
Laugh Out Loud Book Display
The book 'Texts from Jane Eyre' looks interesting. The subtitle is 'and Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters.' For example Edgar Allan Poe explaining to a friend by text why he can't leave the house because of some bird. Hamlet sending depressed texts to a friend. Jo and Meg from 'Little Women' have issues. From early literature to Harry Potter's Ron and Hermione texting each other, this book will make you wonder what people in history might have texted if they'd had a smart phone. J/K (just kidding.) IMHO funny books are the best things for tough times.
More Funny Books on Display

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Marian the Librarian Returns

This blog post was first published on October 21, 2009. It features our favorite, if slightly prim, librarian, Marian. Here at the Reference Desk, we rarely have this kind of biblio emergency, but you never know...

Is There a Librarian in the House?

People don't become librarians for the fame, fortune or excitement, but there's a little Walter Mitty in all of us...
Marian the Librarian is flying to a librarian convention, nodding off in her middle seat, which she has thoughtfully not tipped back to avoid annoying the passengers behind her, and trying not to snore or drool or touch either arm rest lest she infringe on her seatmates' personal space, she hears the P.A. announcement,
"Is there a librarian on board? we have a slight emergency in Business Class requiring immediate biblio assistance."
Marian jerks awake instantly, eye's pop open, she nods apologetically to the passenger in the aisle seat and indicates she needs to get by. Grabbing her bookbag from under the seat, she hurries up the aisle to the Flight Attendant and whispers,
"I'm a librarian. How can I help?"
"There's a passenger in extreme distress, hyperventilating over a book he's reading and looking pale and clammy, almost like he's in shock," the FA explains as she leads Marion through Business Class to a seat where, indeed, a male passenger, middle-aged, well-dressed, is breathing unevenly with his hands gripping the latest Dan Brown best seller tightly.
"Oh dear, that's the third case I've seen this week. Deadly Prose Syndrome with Implausable Plot Complications. We have to act quickly."
Marian carefully pries the stricken man's fingers from the Lost Symbol and places it in a sick bag for disposal.
"I'm afraid the only treatment for this patron, er patient, is an immediate infusion of The Classics or failing that, any book with sufficient character development, three-syllable words and dependent clauses to act as an antidote. I think this will work."
Marian riffles through her black bag and pulls out Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and places it gently in the man's hands.
"That should do it. I may have to read it aloud to him at first but then his ability to read on his own should kick in and he'll be right as rain."

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Goodbye, BHPL App. Hello, BHPL Mobile Web Site

The Berkeley Heights Public Library launched its own app back in late 2011.  Back then our catalog was not easy to use on a smartphone, and neither was our web site.  After six years, the app is in need of technological updates, but upgrading doesn't make sense now that both the library's web site and its catalog have a mobile version that is designed to be displayed on small screens.

Old BHPL app

As of October 15, the Berkeley Heights Public Library app will not be useful anymore.  We wish it would self-destruct, but it won't - feel free to delete the BHPL app from your phone or tablet.  We can help you with that if you stop by the reference desk with your device. Or, you can just ignore BHPL app if you prefer.

So how do you search the library's holdings, renew your books & DVDs and check out our hours, upcoming events, etc. when you're not near a computer?  Open up your phone or tablet's browser (for example, on my iPhone I would use Safari) and navigate to the library's web site at This is what you will see:

If you'd like to make an icon for the library's web page on your iPhone or iPad, tap the blue square with an arrow coming out of the top (I've circled in red, above). Then tap Add to Home Screen.  Voila - you can pretend it's a library app.

If you liked checking out ebooks and e-audiobooks using the BHPL app, your best bet is to download the Libby app in the app store.  It's easier to get started with than the old Overdrive app, and it lets you check out ebooks and e-audiobooks, plus read them, all within the same app.

Libby app

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Climbing Over the NY Times Paywall. Also: Newspaper Sticks

Are you tired of getting the message that you've reached your limit of 10 articles this month? The Berkeley Heights Public Library now offers one-day passes to the New York Times web site.

To get your free access, go to the BHPL web site and click All Things E, then click the link to the New York Times.  You will need your library card's barcode number, and you will also need to have a login for the New York Times web site.  I had one from back when the New York Times was free as long as you logged in, but if you don't have a login, just click Register.

Of course you may also read the New York Times or another newspaper here at the library in one of our comfortable chairs.

The New York Times Book Review is kept on a stick. Fun newspaper stick fact: you are allowed to take the publication off the stick while you read it. Fun newspaper stick fact 2: our library regulars are evenly divided between those who leave the stick on and those who take the newspaper off. Which side are you on?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Cataloging: or why librarians love Melville Dewey

Melville Dewey
Okay, librarians have a reputation for following rules.  How else would we be able to find books, DVDs or audio books?  The public doesn’t understand that Mr. Dewey and his cataloging system takes us only so far and then we start bargaining and, on rare occasions, arguing.  Mr. Dewey would frown on the amount of creativity that sometimes creeps into cataloging.  Here are several examples that may never be decided to everyone’s satisfaction or comfort level:

Books on famous gardens appear in both the 700’s (art and architecture) and the 900’s (travel) –be happy they aren’t also in the 600’s (gardening, pets, cooking, etc.)  

Should a book detailing the London known by Dickens be on the shelf next to a London travel guide? Where would you place a memoir of a year living in a foreign country?  Biography or travel literature? 

Due to the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, those books appear in both the travel section and a more specific U.S. history classification.

There is not enough space on any blog to describe the various ways to catalog Shakespeare and confuse everyone searching for a regular version, annotated version, graphic version, or a version plus criticism

If an author has written 57 mysteries, should his one novel sit alone and forgotten on the fiction shelves? Perhaps this non-mystery shares the same characters as the mysteries.

What makes a book a mystery?  Does it require a dead body or just a puzzle to be solved?

Science fiction vs. fantasy vs. dystopian? Please...

The 920’s are the place where collective biographies go to be ignored and forgotten.

Although I could continue this list of the vagaries of cataloging, the answer is fairly easy.  The books should be placed where the public expects to find them.  If you think that clarifies the issue, guess again.

- S. Bakos
Where's That Book?