Friday, June 22, 2012

Cooling It with the NPL A.C.!

It's a Friday afternoon, and frankly, it's a little slow, considering the heat and humidity of the day, and what this little palace of literacy has to offer its patrons.

I moiself would have been happy to camp out in the Fiction Room these last two days. Throw down a sleeping bag after closing? For people who have even larger issues with the heat, I'd recommend the Children's Room, since our own Beth Reynolds has been hovering there in a sweater today.

A sweater!

One of the pleasures of working here has been the memories of people who've been coming here for years. They show me the footprint of the original structure and tell me how it used to be, before the addition of air conditioning. Triple digits!

As one of those sissies who starts to whine about my longing for ocean air once temperatures and the heat index begin to rise, I can only imagine.

Do remember us during your next case of the vapors. It's cool here, we have lots of books and magazines with which to while away an afternoon, and our sense of welcome is  palpable.

Come on down!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Where Do You Stand on the Spoiler Question?

How surprised do you need to be in order to enjoy a story?

The topic came up last year when Ann Patchett's State of Wonder came out. The reviews were full of spoiler alerts, lest the final twist in plot be revealed in an untimely fashion. In a sense, spoiler alerts tell us that a surprise is in the offing--and for many, that surprise is a motivation for reading, and even purchase. 

The ending to State of Wonder certainly did come as a surprise, not an entirely pleasant one. However, the reader in me doesn't require pleasant surprises in every book. 

According to research published in the journal Psychological Science, knowing the ending of the story before you read it needn't hurt your experience of the story. It can actually help you to enjoy the story more. 

How is this possible? 

According to The Spoiler Paradox, storytelling serves a number of purposes beyond entertainment. The human "theory of mind" means that our ability to attribute thoughts, desires, motivations and the intentions of others is useful in predicting and explaining the behaviors of others. Stories are part of our development of these skills. The time-honored classic tales (think Oedipus, Job) frequently communicate complex ideas. Knowing the outcome can simplify the story and enable the reader to engage more deeply in the processing of the details.

This perspective makes sense to me. I have read many, many biographies of the life of Jesus. I certainly know the "story." Yet as I read through the various interpretations of those events, I find myself more engrossed in the writers' interpretations of them as I strive to understand the concepts that have made him such a compelling historical and religious figure.

Not every story has the depth and complexity to survive "spoilage". Whodunits tend to depend upon the constant nudging the reader's cognitive dissonance for slogging through multiple volumes (she wrote, thinking of the Stieg Larsson trilogy). But for stories which challenge our multiple levels of understanding, surprise may take a back seat to our greater comprehension of the details that have brought us to the inevitable end.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Remembering Joan White

In this dark season, NPL has lost one of its warming lights--volunteer Joan White.

Joan was a faithful occupant of a Thursday afternoon slot at the Circulation Desk, one which she filled with a cheerfulness and a willingness to help. She was with us through two library directors and several versions of software and their various updates, the latter probably much more challenging than the former.

Joan took a break from us to receive treatment for cancer, then returned as soon as she was able. There wasn't a patron to whom she did not extend a warm welcome. When she announced her need for a second break, we hoped against hope that we would be seeing her again soon.

Joan didn't say much about her achievements; we had to read her obituary to learn about her many academic accomplishments and her highly regarded nursing career. It simply didn't occur to her to blow her own horn. She no doubt knew that the joy was in the moment, and it was in the moment that she remained, good-natured, deeply committed to her family, and generous with her time --to our good fortune-- to Norwich Public Library. 

Joan, we thank you for your many kindnesses, and we treasure your memory.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

So Worldly. So Welcome. Your Card.

June 20 is hurtling toward us like a meteorite.

No, the world isn't ending, but on that date our little world will go through some changes. 

Since the summer of 2009 we have been using an open-source software system, Koha, and moving toward the full implementation of the consortium which includes other member libraries.

As so often is the case with big steps forward in technology and time, it'll be some time before we can pursue all the opportunities that come with such a move. We know that it is very likely that if you come to the desk and tell us that your name is Barbara Smith, every Barbara Smith in Vermont may pop up on the computer with your name... or at least every Barbara Smith who patronizes a consortium library.  The presentation of your card will lead us more directly to your record.

One of the great pleasures of the small town library is the opportunity to get to know the names and reading interests of our patrons. We love the more personal nature that is a part of our size. Typing in the names of patrons who are without their cards has given all of us a chance to come to know you. The knowing of our patrons makes us all the more determined to make the consortium work for both you and the library. 

In this we need your help. Please come to the library armed with your card, and should it have slipped away over the years, help yourself to one of our two new designs, I read, therefore I am, created by patron Ken Davis, and the warm and glowing look of the library as interpreted by Libby Tolman.
Both designs come as both cards and keytags. If your purse has a habit of swallowing your card, try the tag on your keychain.

It takes all of about 10 seconds to give you a new card, so let us know if you are in need of one.

Koha has already given us opportunities to extend to you. If you have signed up to receive an email when your books and DVDs are due, you are benefiting from Koha. 
And your card has so much more to offer: participation in the online language lessons from Mango; use of Listen Up, Vermont! for downloading audio books and e books, where these services ask you for your library card number.

When I try to imagine where that venerable institution known as the library will be in the next 5 to 10 years, I am flummoxed. What I do know is that, given the cast of creative and committed people with whom I work, NPL will be leading the way to meaningful innovations.

Now, go look for that card! If you need a new one, we promise to treat you like royalty.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Teams of Rivals

I'm in trouble.

It turns out that there is only one s in impresario. And I don't know what sort of beat one finds in in isarithm, if any at all. 

And the Marion Cross Spelling Bee is only a week away.

I could whine about only getting my study words this week, but complaining would be hypocritical. I don't study, anyway. What I do instead is haphazardly look up words that are unfamiliar to me. 
Not all of them, mind you. Just the ones that tweak my curiosity.

Quite a few words regularly catch my eye.

This year I have learned that hoick isn't nearly as disgusting as I had expected it to be. It means to 'yank suddenly'. Ditto firnification. Jipijapa? The eponym for the Panama hat, which isn't made in Panama, but in Ecuador. 

You can make a note of that.  I did. Jack Candon, honorable emcee, please don't leave out jipijapa. I have my heart set on spelling it.

In the coming days I'll turn to my study list, flip through the pages filled with long columns of dirty tricks played by the English Language,  become immediately overwhelmed, and desultorily look up some of the words that catch my eye. 
This is my way of informing the fierce competitors that make up a significant portion of the Norwich population that I'm no threat to whatever rivalries you may be developing. 

I know you, Norwich. You didn't rise to your current socioeconomic level without a healthy dose of competitive spirit. With all our medical professionals out there, I expect lots of the scientific terms on the list to be long mastered by some of the contestants.

I expect something mighty from you, come April Fools Day. I'll be the Fool; you'll paw the ground before rearing up before the spelling bee trophy, that pretty little filly of the contest.

Back to what interests me. Jow is the tolling of a bell, or the act of tolling the bell. I can see why John Donne passed it by in his Seventeenth Meditation. "Ask not for whom the bell jows..." Never mind.

Getting clobbered by people who actually study is okay with me. Dilettantes make lousy competitors. 

As for me, I'm thrilled with one of my shiny new words. A word for our times. It's kakistocracy

Is that wonderful, or what?

The fun starts at 6:30 at the Marion Cross gym. Win or lose, it's interesting and hilarious.

p.s. to rival teams:  Don't forget to capitalize Quaalude.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Rule, Brittania!

Call the library on any Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, and you're likely to get an Anglophile's dream--a British accent.

Anglophiles, I know you're out there. Recently a patron requested a list of all the mystery novels written by British authors, "because they just do a better job."
Please excuse me while I put an ice pack on my wounded American pride.

Recently I've noticed an interesting little phenomenon: on Monday, volunteer Jean Lawe (left) answers the phone, only to correct the caller, who assumes that she's Sophia Crawford, a Friday stalwart (center)

They exchanged some good-natured banter at our recent volunteer party on patrons' assumptions that one-Brit-accent-fits-all.

That is, except for Kenneth Cracknell, (right), Wednesday volunteer and  treasurer of the Friends of the Library. Nobody mistakes Kenneth for Sophia.

What these three share, besides their accents, are a conviction that libraries matter, community spiritedness and ready wit, along with a super-sized dose of intelligence. 

Patrons, here's your cheat sheet: Jean on Monday, Kenneth on Wednesday, Sophia on Friday.

We're thankful for them all.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Celebrating a Natural Connection

Some of my fondest memories of my youth are associated with reading and eating. (I say youth because in those days I could combine these two joys with impunity).

It's therefore no surprise that I greeted the fall fundraiser, BookFeast, Read It and Eat, with more than a glimmer of recognition. A story walk that's combined with breakfast crepes! A master baker who writes cookbooks! Foodies who blog! The possibilities are endless.

I even found a blog entry that focused on the best and worst foods to eat while reading

Along with the events that comprise this fundraiser, we have some amazing books on display. One that I find most compelling is What I Eat, a series of photographs of  people and their basic diets.  Also available are such diverse treatments of food themes as Eat My Words: Reading Women's Lives through the Cookbooks They Wrote, What Einstein Told His Cook: Food Science Explained, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, My Year of Meats, and Confessions of a Closet Master Baker. Add to these titles those from our considerable collection of cookbooks and our subscriptions to Cook's and Bon Appetit, and you have just about everything you need to personalize this connection.  

Clearly there are lots of ways to bake this cake.The events take lots of forms, too:  Tuesday, Nov. 2 Jeffrey Hamelman talks about his life as a baker with King Arthur, with a lunch catered by King Arthur and Lisa Cadow. Thursday, Nov.4, Lucinda will lead kids and parents on a story walk with breakfast crepes to be prepared by Lisa Cadow. (Definitely an event for the Dawn Patrol, since it begins at 7:15 a.m. on the library lawn.) Friday night, Nov. 5 will be foodie-movie night in the Community Room, featuring Mostly Martha

And on we go, eventually heading for the Gala cocktail party Nov. 18, from 6-8, the piƩce de resistance, featuring both cocktails and hors d'oeuvres to die for.

In the meantime, don't be distressed if someone at the circulation desk tells you that the item you're checking out is restricted. It only means that you've won a chocolate doubloon from Champlain Chocolates.
That kind of restriction I could definitely live with.