Friday, February 29, 2008

Vermont Listens Up

Click on the headline above, and you can take a trip to the web site of Listen Up!Vermont, your new opportunity to download audio books online.

At last! More than a few patrons have asked us about this possibility, and now, thanks to the development of a consortium of libraries using the power of collective buying, audio books will be available for download for a borrowing period of one week.

What you're actually checking out is a license to listen to the audio book. You can renew the license at the end of the checkout period if the book
hasn't been reserved by someone else. Some of the books have little red flames (left) on their descriptors, meaning that you can burn them to a CD for long term use. You can also keep them on an MP3 player for extended use, although, alas, not on IPODs, with which they are not compatible. Download it to your hard drive, and it expires after a week. NPL is going to make three listening devices available for checkout as well.

Listen Up!Vermont has a starting collection of 250 audio books, most of which have a license to be checked out by one borrower at a time. There are 50 books available to multiple borrowers (this link will take you to that list) and therefore available at any time. By the end of the year, the site will offer a collection of 500 audio books.

To use the site, follow one of the links above. You'll need to select Norwich among the libraries, then key in the bar code number on your library card. Note: I just attempted to do this and found that as of this writing that someone is fine tuning the site. Target date for it to go live is March 1. If you go to the site and the login URL lands you at Middlebury College, you can conclude that someone is still at work. Try again periodically.

I'm impressed with the list of books currently on line. The 50 always-available books have lots of classics--Jane Austen, Tolstoy, Dickens, Conrad, Carroll, and Alcott among them. Children can experience the adventures of the Three Musketeers and Alice in Wonderland, the joys and sorrows of Little Women.

We're really excited about this opportunity. Lucinda, who has been one of the driving forces on the consortium board, has been hopping around like a merry maniac this week, eager to see her project through.

I'm already making a list of books I want to check out. Number one for me is an offbeat travel book. How's this for a title?! Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World.

This I gotta hear!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Getting Graphic

I've always loved cartoons and comic strips. When I was a preschooler I discovered the comics page in the Los Angeles Times and rose early each morning to pull the paper off the lawn and turn to page 6, part B, where Nancy and Sluggo awaited me. (They were cartoon characters of very few words, and therefore available to me.) Later I went on to develop daily relationships with Mary Worth, Terry and the Pirates, Dick Tracy, Lil Abner, and eventually Peanuts, still later Doonesbury, and on I still go, this more than half-century later, when I scan all the cartoons in the New Yorker before settling down to the articles. Comics have always been a key point in my long journey to and through literacy.

When a friend brought home Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis after reading it in a Dartmouth diversity study group, I was delighted. By both writing and drawing her story, Satrapi gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the Iranian revolution and its impact on a progressive family caught in the middle of tumultuous events. She made use of Persian miniatures in her backgrounds, and I realized that for her to restrict her story to words only would have been to deprive the reader of her vision. Persepolis is now out in movie form, nominated for an Oscar in the animated division. She's since written and drawn several other books, each one giving me an inside look into the workings of Iranian culture, a look beyond the veil, as it were.

Joe Sacco is another writer who uses graphics to complete his story. He is a reporter who draws, and I found his Palestine to be filled with the anecdotal images of his travels there, his visits with the Palestinian people. I came away with new insights into the struggles in that war-torn land.

I have been really impressed with Lucinda's additions to the Graphica
collection, as it is now called. James Sturm, one of the founders of the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, lends his talents to a wide range of topics. His James Sturm's America: God, Gold, and Golems projects a range of historical experiences, from 19th Century backwoods evangelism, to betrayal in coal country, to early 20th Century Jewish baseball. His work has a definite edge; his characters seem haunted by the history in which they find themselves.

I just read a book by Adrian Tomine which explored coming of age issues for Asian youth and which left me feeling, well... old. That's fine, because today's graphic artists/cartoonists seem to consider any topic potential fair
game for their talents. The 9/11 Report: a Graphic Adaptation isn't merely a cartoonist's "impression" of the events of that fateful day; it's a graphic distillation of the report itself, which was read carefully by co-authors Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón. It's a thinking person's version made visible.

We're lucky to have librarians so open to all current forms of expression. Check out our graphica collection and see if there aren't works that appeal to the kid and adult that co-exist in you.

Friday, February 8, 2008

In Praise of Margaret Truman

Everyone seems to remember Margaret Truman as the daughter of Harry Truman, often more specifically the soloist whose negative review caused her papa to threaten the reviewer with a broken nose and a black eye.

I remember her as a wonderful storyteller and my source for a hundred specific images of the Washington, DC she knew so well.

NPL's collection contains many of the DC based mysteries Margaret Truman wrote. I have read them all, first because I wanted to immerse myself in the atmosphere of that city, and then simply because they were good, good fun.

Her passing last week came as a surprise to me, since her latest novel, Murder on K Street, has just moved out of cataloging and onto the shelf. I was so pleased to see it; "eighty-three and still writing!" I remember glowing inwardly as I entered its ISBN into the system. I resolved to write her a note of admiration and praise.

As is too often the case, I am too late. I won't be able to pass on my compliments to the lady, but I can pass on my high regard to you. Should you like an insider tour of our nation's Capitol and some pretty good mysteries, do pick up a Margaret Truman mystery.

Her papa would have been proud.