American Library Association calendar of events

Here are some sites featured in the May 2014 issue of American Libraries which may be helpful or of interest.  Hope they help provide ideas!

Choose Privacy Week

National Library Legislative Day

September is Library Card Sign-Up Month

Banned Books Week: September 21-27

Banned Websites Awareness Day: September 24

Teen Read Week: October 12-18

National Friends of Libraries Week: October 19-25

November is Picture Books Month

International Games Day: November 15

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Interesting Public Library Programs & Topics

Mastering Relationships @ Your Library  Using movies to discuss one’s marriage, per studies it can reduce divorce rates.  The list includes a couple of Katherine Hepburn movies, including, one of my favorites, “Desk Set.”  

Community Engagement This article featured a library in Kentucky which featured checking out experiences.  Among those listed were binoculars and books for bird watching, guitar lessons, fishing poles, and passes to tour the local fire & police departments.  It was even possible to check out night vision goggles!

Slow Cooking This winter has definitely been bitterly cold and lingering.  Libraries have tons of cookbooks and this article features slow cooking (aka crock pots) cookbooks.  The article includes recipes and information on several cookbooks including one for French cooking.  I would not have connected French cooking with slow cooking but it might be interesting.  

Enjoy your public library and see what exciting things they have available!

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A Librarian’s Busman’s Holiday

An article in the May 2013 issue of the “American Libraries” magazine discussed libraries at U.S. National Parks.  That could be considered a brilliant holiday for a librarian!  Yosemite National Park, for example, has 2 official collections plus the Sierra Club has a collection there.

There are 4 central office libraries and about 37 park libraries.  There are libraries from the African Burial Ground National Monument in Manhattan to Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park in Hawaii.  Depending on locations then one could do one or more per year.

I think it would be cool to have a library as a fall back position on a rainy day and the rest of the park to visit over the course of a week or so, depending on the size of the park.  And if one worked at one of these libraries, maybe when the work is slow and there aren’t any visitors, there might be opportunities to sit outside and enjoy the views.  After all, why work there if you can’t enjoy the location?

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Kids, Mentors, & the Library

While there are many formal (i.e. Big Brothers/Sisters or Kinship)  and informal means to connect with or be matched with a mentee, there is the question of what sort of activities to do with the kid or teen.  Mentors can take their mentees to concerts, outside activities, play board games, meet for cocoa or soda pop,….  But what about libraries?

Libraries may seem irrelevant to the mentee with their nose in whatever electronic device(s) they have access to but they may be surprised with what is available to them.  Especially since it’s free.  If you don’t have knowledge of a topic for homework or good resources for something else they are interested in then the librarians will happily point them towards great books, DVDs, electronic resources,….  In many libraries there is also homework help from elementary through high school.  Storytime, sometimes in various languages, is usually available at some point during a week.  Teens may not know that some libraries offer book clubs or discussion groups for books and shows they may be interested in.  The St. Paul Public Library, for example, has a “Dr. Who” Discussion group.  The St. Paul system also has concerts occasionally, movie discussions, etc.

The author of the article “Mentoring: How a trip to the library benefits youth” remarked that youth may think they have to read an entire book if they check it out.  I don’t know if he’s aware of Nancy Pearl but in one of her books she has a guideline on whether to continue reading a book or not.  Her guideline is that if you’re under the age of 50, read 50 pages and if you like it, then keep going.  If you don’t, put it back; life’s too short and you can always pick it back up again another time.   Her guideline for anyone over the age of 50 is to subtract your age from 100 and read the difference.  Likewise, keep going or put it down.

Perhaps your mentees will be reluctant to go to the library but if you know their interests and corresponding library offerings, they may become willing to go.  All it takes is the first few steps to get in the door and peak their excitement.

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A Librarian & Her Tea

I’m a librarian and have been described as a tea snob.  I did some quick searching online today and couldn’t find anything describing whether this was a librarian stereotype or not.  Although Jo Dereske has written a series of mysteries of a librarian who drinks tea and overall fills the stereotypical librarian role.  I like coffee but I had a bad cup a couple of years ago at one coffee shop so now I’m very careful of when & where I have coffee.  Plus who makes it.

I spoke with the owner of a different coffee shop a few years ago about the difference between espresso and regular coffee.  It seems almost counter-intuitive to me but according to Andrew espresso has less caffeine and acid than percolator or even drip coffee.  He explained that although espresso is stronger than regular coffee, because espresso isn’t in contact with the water as much as regular coffee then less acid and caffeine are drawn out of the grounds to your drink.  Espresso does bother me less than regular but I still need to watch how much I drink, when, and who’s making it.

Tea on the other hand, I can drink by the pot all day and evening.  I typically drink black tea and some oolong.  Puerhs, the only deliberately aged tea, can be pretty strong and now that I’m out of graduate school I’ve cut back on them.  Green and white tea are so fussy in regards to water temperature that the only time I drink them is when a good tea shop makes a pot for me.  Due to my preference for black tea I find green and white teas, as well as tisanes (aka herbal), to be rather weak by comparison.

Where the snobbishness comes in is that for the last eight years I’ve been using loose leaf tea rather than tea bags whenever available.  If I go to a restaurant, order hot tea, and they bring me a tea bag…I’ll drink it but am not happy about it.  The quality just isn’t the same as loose leaf.  I’m also particular about what I add to my tea, I don’t like the taste of sugar in my tea and only put honey in tisanes but will occasionally put milk or lemon in my tea, depending upon the tea.

So while tea may fit the stereotype of librarians, librarians can still quote J. M. Barrie, “Do you want to have an adventure now, or would you like to have your tea first?”

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Libraries prepped authors for their careers

Patience or Fortitude

“Books are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind – humanity in print.”  Barbara Tuchman (1912-1989)

The United for Libraries site  features quotations about libraries, including Barbara Tuchman’s.  Many authors have found libraries to be their “university” or source of information for their books.  Ray Bradbury is an example of someone who had a high school education but by “spending his nights in the public library and his days at the typewriter” from 1938-1943, he was able to become a full-time author.   Neil Gaiman, chair of National Library Week 2010, described the importance of librarianship as:  “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.”

Other authors such as James Alexander Thom, Barbara Tuchman and Georgette Heyer thoroughly researched their books based on history with the help of libraries.  Louis L’Amour is an author who never finished high school but due to voracious reading at libraries and whatever he could lay his hands on helped in developing his writing.

In the past many authors didn’t have access to the internet or e-books but the use of a physical library is still helpful in this computerized information age for authors, academics, the public, etc.  The argument has also been made that the stacks of books, particularly in academic libraries, should be eliminated.  The proponents of this theory believe that the patrons only come to the library to use the internet, online databases, group study rooms, and carrels.  While these are valuable there is something to be said for serendipitously stumbling upon other helpful books and materials while looking for something else in the stacks.  And while acknowledging that the internet and e-books have their place in research and reading for pleasure, the library has access to materials and resources which aren’t digitized and on-line.  

In the digital age librarians interact with patrons via instant messaging, e-mails, and phone but sometimes a face-to-face interaction is what is needed.  At a university reference desk a student came up to the desk and said she had a paper due urgently but couldn’t find any information on the topic.  Upon being asked what databases she’d looked at she said only Google.  When pressed she was unaware of Google Scholar so I asked what search terms she had used and typed them into Scholar.  The first article was exactly what she needed and she became excited.  I showed her how to extrapolate from there to find additional articles on that angle of the topic and she went to a desk to see what she could find using the techniques shown.  She stopped by later to thank me effusively because it had saved her a lot of frustration.  She could have requested the information via the instant chat or e-mail but by being shown how to do the search and a better resource she would know how to repeat it and that librarians are approachable.

Despite the ease of obtaining the information by various computerized/online methods, people can still find that personal connections and discoveries in the library are beneficial.  Explore your library and connect with the librarians, you never know what you’ll find.

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Book clubs

While book clubs have been around for quite some time they’ve been getting more media coverage in the last few years.  Many books which are being promoted as good for clubs, or have become popular with clubs, are now being published with discussion questions in the back.  I can’t recall that my book club ever pushed those questions much but we do come up with lots to discuss.

If you are new to an area and looking to meet people they can be a good place to start.  They probably vary in how books are chosen but the two clubs I’ve been in had a similar system.  One in Ottumwa met at a now defunct bookstore and we would spend time periodically kicking around options for the next few months.   It ended up being majority rules but we always met at the bookstore.  A club I’ve joined in St. Paul, begun by friends, rotates among the members’ homes and, while the person hosting has the final say in choosing a book, she’ll bring the ones she ‘s considering and if there’s one which most have already read or someone really doesn’t want to read it, then we narrow from there.     We do try to limit ourselves to books which are readily accessible at the public library so that we don’t have to buy a book.  Some interesting new books have long waiting lists but I think we may have gone back later to pick it when it becomes more available.  This group schedules the meetings through a website called Goodreads, which also allows you to list books you’ve read and give recommendations to people with whom you’re connected.

If you are looking for book clubs in an area where you don’t know anyone then many times local bookstores and the public library will have groups already set up.    The St Paul Public Library, for example,  has clubs all over town with specialties or general reading. One blog I’ve been following, Home Between Pages, has been doing periodic 24-hour read-a-thons.  People have been invited to do the same at their individual homes and, while people have had their own pile of books, it is an activity wherein people could feel a part of a “community.”  I have yet to try it though I’d probably only get 12-16 hours into it before needing sleep.

If you can find a club which meets your interests and needs then it should prove to be a good addition to your life.  A person will meet people they wouldn’t have known otherwise, read books not normally read, and gain fresh insights on an old favorite.  If there are no book clubs in your area or ones which fit your schedule or needs then there are plenty of resources for ideas in starting one.  Goodreads, meetup, and books such as Good Books Lately : The One-Stop Resource for Book Groups and Other Greedy Readers by Moore and Stevens are good places to start.  Nancy Pearl, a librarian who writes for NPR, has written some books which could provide ideas for the books themselves if you’re stumped on what  book to choose. I hope you start or join a club, you never know where the journey could take you.

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International Games Day @ your library (November 3)

This has been occurring every November for 5 years but this is the first info I’ve seen about it.  The American Library Association began this “to reconnect communities through their libraries around the educational, recreational, and social value of all types of games.”  In addition to board games there are also opportunities for video games.  The website indicates that some libraries could host role playing games as well.

If you’re near a participating library and you know kids who may be reluctant to go to libraries, this may be a fun way to show them that libraries aren’t as dull as they think they are.  In urban areas, where there are multiple public schools, then this could also be a means outside of school for kids to get together with friends or meet neighbor kids who may go to another school.  Or even a way for kids who’ve just moved somewhere a chance to meet new friends.

Many libraries referenced in the information I read indicated that while some games were played between peers, there were also some games played with inter-generational players.   If your local library is not involved with this yet, why not see if they’re willing to do so?  Or if you or your family have a scheduling conflict on that day/time why not have a game day at home that evening or the next day?  I fondly remember all the games I played as a kid with my parents and brother at home.

What are you waiting for? Get together with folks and, as the sites say, “game on!”  🙂


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In working on the questions for my Table Topics Moderator role at my Toastmasters meeting I was contemplating the theme “what will you discover.”    A discovery, as defined in the dictionary, is “a person, place, or thing that has been discovered.”  It could also be an idea.   I’m sure everyone can think of stuff we wish hadn’t been discovered or the circumstances surrounding a discovery had been different.  But, as was said in a Brother Cadfael mystery, “There’s no profit in ifs,…. We go from where we stand.”

As a librarian I’m rather partial to Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of mechanical movable type printing in the 15th century.  While printing was invented long before him, his machine made it easier to print books, leaflets, etc. in greater quantities than before.  The older manuscripts, like the Book of Kells, are beautiful but limited quantities of those forms of manuscripts means only the elite and/or monks could have them.

When it comes to the modern e-reader, I’m of two minds about them [caveat: I don’t own one].  I’ve seen ones which friends have and while they like their e-readers and rave about them, there’s just something about the tactile and situational experience of an actual book that I’d hate to give up.

Friends and other sources indicate that it’s great being able to take a ton of books somewhere  (commuting, trips, etc) without the bulk and weight of the actual texts.  The font size and reader size can be adjusted to your needs and you can use it almost anywhere.   Plus many e-books can be borrowed free from your public library as well as the public domain books available online.

Disadvantages include the price (a quick search showed e-readers at $100+), all of your books are in one spot so if it’s lost then you lose all of them until you buy another reader, and if you buy an e-book you can’t really look through the book first.  One blogger named Robyn, succinctly listed disadvantages and advantages which I typically think of regarding e-readers.

I might have one someday but for the foreseeable future I won’t be able to afford one.  Whether someone gives me one or I never get one at all, I happily continue haunting my library.

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Banned Books Week (September 30-October 6, 2012)

Book banning is something I’ve never been able to understand.  The issue probably just boils down to a matter of trust.  If the reader doesn’t understand or disagrees with a book, or portion thereof, will they go to someone they trust to discuss the ideas expressed?  Or will they think that because they disagree with the author then others should be “protected” from the book?

I was reading almost anything I could get my hands on from an early age.  For example, I started reading Louis L’Amour in the 5th grade and attempting Nikolai Tolstoy’s The Quest for Merlin and John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress in the 10th grade (not that I got much from Tolstoy’s and Bunyan’s books  at the time and haven’t revisited them).  My brother was reading Tolkien in Jr and Sr High School as well as comic books, etc.  Our parents trusted that my brother and I would come to them if we had a problem with something we read and, likewise, we trusted them to talk to us as individuals who could comprehend the material and come to an intelligent decision about it after reading and discussing the issue.

In a week and a half is the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week.  According to the Banned Books Week site, 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982 and in 2011 alone there were over 326 books challenged.  These challenges to books occur in schools, libraries, and bookstores.  I think ignorance, lack of alternative points of view, and fear of ideas are more dangerous than knowledge, doubt or questioning, and communication.

“If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries. These libraries should be open to all—except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors. For the Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security as well as our liberty.”  -J.F. Kennedy

“Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.”  ~Voltaire

I think reading a variety of books is a brilliant idea and if a person disagrees with an author, so be it.   A reader is not required to agree with the complete or partial contents of a book, merely use it to start a respectful discussion with others.  Who knows, the reader may learn something and by thinking, learning, and questioning could lead others or be led to great discoveries.  “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (Roosevelt) is an important concept to keep in mind when communicating, reading, and learning.

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