Sullivan Free Library's Blog

June 28, 2010

Memorial Gifts

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When a friend or family member passes away, it’s hard to know what to do to show how much you care.   Sending flowers and making food are time-honored ways of giving support, but often families are overwhelmed when receiving  many at once.

Some people  designate a charity to receive donations in lieu of flowers such as hospice or another organization that has been particularly helpful or meaningful in their lives.

When there are no specific  suggestions from the family, another way to celebrate and honor the life of a loved one is to make a donation to a local library in their name.  If the person had  interests or hobbies, the library can purchase books in those subject areas and place a bookplate memorializing the person.   Larger donations could purchase needed furniture or equipment with a plaque acknowledging the person in whose name the gift was made.  Most libraries have donor walls or plaques acknowledging gifts over a certain amount.

Public libraries received thousands of visitors every year;  what better way to memorialize an individual than through a book or item that will be seen and used by so many?

Our library has a rocking chair that has been in our children’s library for longer than I have been here.  It has a small tag identifying the donor, but until recently, I didn’t know the story behind it.  A former Board member told me last week about how this particular man came in the library one day (in a different building at the time), looked around and said “This place needs a comfortable chair where a man can come and get away from his wife from time to time!”.   In consultation with library staff, he bought the rocker and donated it to the library.    It has since been used by librarians reading stories to groups of children, by parents rocking their babies to sleep and occasionally, by an adult who needs a comfortable place to doze off.   That chair has a lot of history.

Many years ago, the library lost a treasured staff person to a heart condition.   Many people made donations in her name, which were used to purchase an upholstered platform rocker and ottoman.   It was placed in a quiet corner of our then tiny library.   A piece of embroidery made by that person was framed and hung behind the chair, and library patrons  had a comfortable place to read the newspaper or  just sit and relax.   When the library moved to a larger building, those were the first two pieces of furniture in a whole area devoted to quiet reading.   We like to think that E. would be happy to be in the new library with us.

At the library, we are always honored to be chosen a recipient for memorial gifts and do our best to work with the donor  to find something that is meaningful to all involved.

June 25, 2010

The Importance of Summer Reading

All around the country, libraries and bookstores are gearing up for extensive summer reading programs for children.   This is not just a marketing strategy to raise circulation and book sales, but based on hard evidence:  children who read over the long summer break are more likely to do well when they return to school in the fall.  Young readers who don’t continue to read over the summer — especially those who are reluctant or at-risk — are likely to lose crucial ground. One summer off can sometimes mean a whole school year of struggling academic performance.  Summer reading loss is cumulative. Children don’t “catch up” in fall because the other children are moving ahead with their skills. By the
end of 6th grade children who lose reading skills over the summer are two years behind their classmates.

Children need to read outside of school. Research clearly shows that the key to stemming summer reading loss is finding novel ways to get books into the hands of children during the summer break.   Studies suggest that children who read as few as six books over the summer maintain the level of reading skills they achieved during the preceding school year. Reading more books leads to even greater success.

The summer reading programs sponsored by public libraries offer an invaluable service to families by providing free programs and resources to help children maintain reading skills.  Libraries offer incentives to motivate children to read, a wide range of interesting titles at all reading levels and fun programs to get children in to the library involved.

The importance of summer reading is so widely recognized that bookstores and other establishments offer incentives to encourage children to read as well:

Barnes & Noble

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/summerreading/

Borders

http://www.borders.com/online/store/MediaView_doubledogdare

Applebees

http://www.tlcneighborhood.com./page.php?id=1

New York State

http://www.summerreadingnys.org/

Be sure to visit your local library or one of the links above to find ways to encourage your child to read this summer.  Remember: the best way to encourage skill development in your child is to be a good role model–so check out the Adult Summer Reading programs as well!   Both locations of the Sullivan Free Library have programs for both groups this summer.

Resources:   http://www.dpi.wi.gov/pld/slp-research.html

http://www.dublin.k12.ca.us/vnews/display.v/ART/4bfd387b9ac88

http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/summer/research.htm

June 21, 2010

Librarian Steps Up

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Libraries and librarians are the keepers of information.   Over the weekend, I heard an interview on National Public Radio that was a wonderful  example of a librarian stepping up to fill an information void.

The news in states along the border with Mexico is full of stories violence and death associated with the actions of drug cartels but there is no one agency, in the U.S. or Mexico,  that tracks those statistics.  Molly Molloy, a librarian at New Mexico State University decided to fill that void by compiling her own list of resources to track the problem.  Molloy has been cataloging information about the Mexican border since 2000, and realized that the statistics were on the rise, but there was no one reliable  source of information on the subject.  Molloy began collecting newspaper articles and records and keeping her own account.  By her records, drug-related deaths in  Mexico rose from 320 in 2007 to over 2,700 in 2009, an alarming trend.

I think this is an amazing example of how librarians positively impact our society.   Molloy saw a need that was within her specialty and decided to do something about it.  She put a name to a problem and came up with a way to track information that can hopefully be used to raise awareness of the problem and bring about solutions.

To listen to the NPR interview, visit:  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127964621

To see Molloy’s work, visit: http://lib.nmsu.edu/staff/mmolloy/border_crime_justice_resources.htm

June 19, 2010

Fathers in Fiction

As we get ready to celebrate Father’s Day here in the US, it is a good time to remember some of the famous father figures, good and bad in fiction:

Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The perfect father, Atticus Finch was both gentle and stern.  He showed Jem and Scout how to be good people by example.

Archibold Craven in The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Poor tortured Mr. Craven, couldn’t let go of the past and let himself love his young son.  Thank goodness for cousin Mary who shows up and makes them all bond.

George Darling from Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

The stressed-out-from-work father who tells Wendy she must grow up and stop believing in fairy tales, but by the ends, is a true believer himself.

Mr. Bennet in Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

Poor  Mr. Bennet, who only wanted to be left alone with his books and papers but was always being hounded by the impossible-to-please Mrs. Bennet and five daughters.   But in the end, he was there for them all.

King Lear from King Lear by Shakespeare

Was a father ever more misguided than King Lear, who demanded to know which of his three daughters loved him best and started a chain of events that left him blind and alone?

Pap Finn from Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

One of the most unsympathetic father figures in literature, Huck’s father is a drunk who beats his son and disapproves his efforts to get an education.

Unnamed Father in The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A father and son struggle to survive in a post-apocolyptic world.  We never learn their names but the message is clear–a father will do anything to protect his child.

Pa Joad in The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

In the height of the great depression, Pa Joad packs up his family and heads west, hoping to secure a better future for all of them.

Ted Kramer from Kramer vs Kramer by Avery Corman

Who can forget the scene from the movie starring Dustin Hoffman as he dashes from the playground to the emergency room, clutching his bleeding child to his chest?  This 1977 novel and subsequent movie changed the attitudes of the time toward fathers and custody and showed that it’s not only mothers who can nuture and care for children.

June 16, 2010

Hidden Gems

I often wonder at the way  some writers become bestselling authors when others with equal or greater talent do not.   As with the field of acting, much of it is likely due to chance –making the right contacts, catching the attention of the right talk show host or getting on the book discussion circuit.

Here are a few novelists  that I consider to be underrated and deserving of wider readership:

Paul Torday:  is a  British novelist who is best known for his  satire “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” (2006),  a hilarious look at British bureaucracy  and what can be accomplished when enough money is behind a project, no matter how far-fetched that project might be.   He has also written three other novels, which are not satires, but each compelling in its own right. The title of his second book,  “The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce” (2008) was changed to “Bordeaux” when published in the US and is the psychological study of a man who falls under the spell of a large collection of wine of questionable quality.  “The Girl on the Landing” (2009) is another psychological study.  His most recent novel, “The Hopeless Life of Charlie Summers” (2010) is a compelling look at the disparity between social classes, set among the recent crash of financial markets around the world.

Andrea Barrett is an American writer of short stories and fiction who has won numerous awards, including the National Book Award in 1996 for her collection of short fiction titled:  “Ship Fever”.  She writes historical fiction with strong female characters.  Her 2007 novel “The Air We Breathe” is set in the Adirondacks in the early 1900’s when the area was widely known for sanitariums for curing tuberculosis.

Stephen McCauley is the author of “The Object of My Affection” upon which the movie of the same title (starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd) is based.  He is also the author of five other novels, most recently, “Insignificant Others”.  His novels fit the description of “comedy of manners” in which the author satirizes the manners and affectations of a social class, in McCauley’s case, gay men.   He engages the reader in the ordinary lives of his characters and makes us all take a closer look at why we behave the way we do.

Joe Coomer:  I’ve always been intrigued by books with unusual titles, and discovered Joe Coomer by the title of his second  novel “Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God”, the story of three unlikely roommates living on a houseboat. He has written several other novels including “The Loop”, “Apologizing to Dogs” (2001)  “One Vacant Chair”(2003) and “A Pocketful of Names” (2005) and several  books of non-fiction, including an account of his sailing experiences “Sailing in a Spoonful of Water” (1997)

Tim Farrington has written a number of novels, including “The Monk Downstairs” (2006) and “The Monk Upstairs” (2008) about a priest who gives up his vocation and rents the downstairs apartment rented out by a single mother looking to supplement her household income.  “Lizzie’s War” (2005) is about the wife of a soldier serving during the Vietnam war, trying to cope on her own with a family and the growing protests about the war.

If you are looking for a different author  to read, try one of these hidden gems.  All of the titles mentioned here are available through the MidYork Library System.   Post your feedback here!

June 14, 2010

The Librarian

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Over the weekend, I caught part of a marathon of “The Librarian” movies starring Noah Wylie, the hunky doctor from ER.

The three movies in the series (Quest for the Spear, Return to King Solomon’s Mine, Curse of the Judas Chalice) were filmed for the TNT network but are available on DVD.  They are take-offs on the popular Indiana Jones “Raiders of the Lost Ark” movies and feature Finn Carsen, a geeky librarian with multiple degrees who seems to knows lots of  of trivial and arcane information but isn’t so adept when it comes to personal relationships. Carsen is employed by the Metropolitan library under the supervision of Jane Curtin and Bob Newhart.  The Metropolitan Library is not your typical public library; it houses history’s most mythic artifacts, including the Ark of the Covenant, Pandora’s Box, and the sword Excalibur.  As “THE librarian”, Carsen’s job takes him around the world to unearth and protect even  more precious artifacts.

In some ways, the movies pokes fun at  stereotypes of librarians but in others, they  bring glamor to the position.  Carsen may be full of seemingly useless information, but like MacGyver, he always comes up with a last-minute solution to save the day using his endless knowledge.  Brains triumph over brawn! The movies are filled with literary and historical references.   “Being a librarian is actually a cool job.”  says Carsen.

All three movies are family-friendly and available to borrow through the MidYork Library System.    What a great way to spend time on a rainy weekend or long car trip!

June 12, 2010

Guest Blog: Author C.J. Barry: My Love Affair With Words

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Our blog today is written by C.J. Barry, a local author who is a long time patron and supporter of the
Sullivan Free Library.  Her latest book, "Body Master", will be released in August.

 My Love Affair With Words

I have loved books forever.  I still remember parts of books I read when I was in grade school--the feel
of well-worn paper, the creak of the bindings, the smell of words on a page.  That was when my love affair
with the written word began.  I would read everything I could get my hands on, but my favorite books were
science fictions.  Magical worlds, strange new beings, and stories that melded humans and technology.

Unfortunately, my appetite for books seemed to always outstrip my ability to buy new ones.  We weren't
ever well off when I was growing up, but my Mom made sure we all had library cards and brought us there
frequently.  I'd leave with the maximum number of books they'd allow, and I read every single one. 
Without access to those free books, I would not be the person I am today.  Every story, every word formed
my place in this world, and gave me the freedom to imagine beyond what we see in our day-to-day lives.

Almost fifty years later, that discovery goes far beyond what I ever thought possible with the publication
of my own books.  My eighth novel comes out this August.  Eight books that I wrote every word of.  Eight
books sprung from a mind freed by public libraries.

As I watch my own children become avid readers, I find myself fiercely protective of public libraries
and all the wonderful opportunities they provide.  I want libraries to continue and remain the safe
sanctuaries that they are now for my children and my children's children.  I wish to thank all the staff,
volunteers and patrons of libraries everywhere for their support and service.  Without you, I wouldn't
have discovered and embraced my imagination.  Without that, I would not have become an author and landed
the best job of a lifetime.

C.J. grew up reading  science  fiction novels, comic books, and her brother's Cracked  magazines.
 In high school, a creative writing teacher told her she  should be a writer, but she decided to go to
college instead. In  college, a writing professor told her she should be a writer, but she  decided to be a
 computer programmer instead. A husband, a cat and  two kids later, an adult education teacher told
her she should be a  writer.  She finally gave in, and after selling the first novel she  ever wrote, decided
that all those teachers were right. Seven  novels later, she continues to bring her unique blend of high
adventure and sizzling romance to her romantic suspense novels. 

C.J has won numerous awards  for her novels, and is a member of the Romance Writers of  America.  By day, she works as
a  technical writer. By night, she co-hosts a writing podcast, dreams  up adventures, and pens the books she was destined
to write.

June 10, 2010

Novelist

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Last week I wrote about John Warner, the self-proclaimed “Biblioracle” who offered to recommend reading material to readers who sent him the titles of the last five books they’d read.

In today’s issue of The New Yorker magazine, the “Book Bench” column discusses the same topic.  I was pleased to read the reader comments at the end of the article commenting, as I did,  how libraries and librarians provide the same service for free.  To read the article and comments, go to: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2010/06/the-trouble-with-recommending-books.html

One comment mentions the “Novelist” database that is available at many libraries, including those in our MidYork Library system.  “Novelist” is an amazing tool that can be accessed by patrons within the library or at home.  You can plug in the name of an author and find all of the books he/she has written, or get recomendations for authors with similar writing styles.

To access Novelist, go to http://www.midyork.org, and select the “Resources” tab at the upper right of the screen.   Novelist is the third database in the list.  You will need your library card number  to access Novelist, but the service is free (funded by NYS)

June 7, 2010

Pope Joan the Movie

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*Johanna Wokalek stars as Johanna von Ingelheim in Summit Entertainment’s Pope Joan (2009)

Back in the late 1990’s, our library hosted a lecture by Donna Woolfolk Cross, author of “Pope Joan”.   Cross was a wonderful speaker, and talked at length about the  extensive research that went into her controversial historical fiction book about a woman who masqueraded as a man to become Pope of the Catholic Church in the 9th century.  The book was and continues to be incredibly popular with book discussion groups.

At the time, Cross mentioned that the book was going to made into a movie.   Fans of the book have been eagerly awaiting the release, but it appears that those of us in the US still have a wait.   The movie was filmed last year in Germany and was screened in Washington, DC in January, 2010.  John Goodman (Roseanne,  The Princess & the Frog) stars as Pope Sergius and David Wenham (Public Enemies,  Australia, Married Life) as Gerold.   Unfortunately, no American distributors have picked up the rights to the film, so it looks as though we will be waiting indefinitely to see what promises to be a great movie.  It was nominated for three awards at the  2010 German Film Awards.

For more information about Pope Joan and what you can do to support the  US release, visit: http://popejoan.com/index.html

As far as her next novel, which wasalso  in the works when she spoke here in Chittenango, the website says this:  “She is now at work on a new novel set in 17th century France.”   Something else to look forward to!

June 4, 2010

Going Juvenile

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Many adult authors have successfully branched out into children’s books.   Carl Hiaasen, author of humorous mysteries for adults has written several for children as well: “Hoot” (made into a movie), “Scat” and “Flush”.   Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson have teamed up with the popular “Peter and the Starcatchers” series.   John Patterson’s “Maximum Ride”, “Daniel X” and “Witch and Wizard”  series are  read by both juvenile and adult readers.  Alice Hoffman, author of “Practical Magic” has successfully branched out with young adult fantasies.

John Grisham is the latest author to “cross over” with “Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer”.  A suspense thriller aimed at the 9-12 age range, it features a 13 yr old with a passion for the law who gets caught up in the middle of a murder trial.

Given Grisham’s popularity among adult readers, it’s a sure bet that this book is going to be snatched up by all ages.

To read an excerpt from “Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer” visit:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127475775

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