Friday, December 18, 2009

A One-of-a-Kind Gift

At the risk of sounding a little "too, too--" I have to say that for those of us of modest means, it's a challenge to find a one-of-a-kind gift for a special someone.

Here's a great opportunity for the bookish person in your life: the raffling off of an altered book in the form of a handbag.

Nothing says Christmas like Dickens, and here he is in a stylish purse, ready to make any number of fashion statements. Dickens, of course, made many statements, fashionable and otherwise, in the course of his rich, creative life.

This little number will be raffled off tonight at Norwich Night, that frisky celebration of the frolics and foibles of one of the Upper Valley's most interesting towns.

Chances are a dollar apiece, or 6 for five dollars.

Who will win this wonderful bag?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Book Bags at Last!

They've been a long time coming--book bags to serve the needs of local reading clubs.

It's as I told the Mascoma Foundation when I wrote the original grant application: members of a book club adopt a title for reading and discussion, then they fan out to their library, hoping to be among the first to check it out. A hold queue forms, with six-seven members, all waiting for their turn at the book. Patrons who are waiting then wonder whether they will attend their next meeting with the book unread.

We haven't been the first to identify and tackle this community need: the Howe Library in Hanover deserves that credit. Their Books To Go program is the inspiration for ours. Our more modest effort is launching with several initial offerings, with more to come, thanks to the Mascoma Foundation and NPL's own Friends of the Library.

Our book bags come with discussion and resource guides. Our bag for Loving Frank includes a set of discussion questions and a resource guide of homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Our bag for the Geography of Bliss has lots of fun material from the International Center for the Study of Happiness in the Netherlands on how one determines one's level of happiness--on a national level!

Other bags include one on Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick (just in time to revisit the first Thanksgiving) and The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz, last year's Pulitzer Prize winner.

At your next book club meeting, share this information with your members, and then see if 10 copies of a book, plus a discussion guide and resource materials won't increase the enjoyment and decrease the logistical headaches of your next get-together.

P.S.: We're planning to increase our book bag collection and welcome your suggestions.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Reveling in Story Time

One our regulars came in today, and leaned forward. "What are all the cars doing here?" she whispered. "What's going on?"

It didn't seem like such a deal to me, but I'm used to Fridays. "It's Lunch at the Library," I said. "Story time and a craft."

Children's librarian Beth Reynolds really packs them in.

You can count on a cluster of topic-related children's books and a craft to follow, once your bag lunch is consumed. Participants have made everything from paper flowers to bats to donuts. Lunch at the Library is best suited to children between 3 and 6 years old.

For the younger set (infants to age 3), there's Word Play. That's on Wednesday mornings at 10:30. As I sit and type the songs rise from the Community Room and bless this space. Beth offers stories and songs and other forms of word play for developing little talkers. Recently they've also had a chance to offer sneak previews of their Halloween costumes.

Working in a library has no shortage of pleasurable moments--delightful patrons, fascinating volunteers, amiable colleagues, numerous books. But for jaw-dropping awww, nothing beats the children coming in and out for story time.

Friday, September 25, 2009

In the Mood to Circulate? We need you at the desk.

The seasons change. Volunteers come, some of them go.

Repetition is the rhythm of the universe.

At NPL we find ourselves at a crossroads of sorts. We've lost a couple of Saturday volunteers and are in the market for new people to staff the circulation desk.

What's involved? For most people one Saturday (or fraction thereof) per month. Our Saturday hours are 10-3. Some volunteers split Saturdays, one working 10-12:30, the other taking the 12:30-3 shift.

For October we're covered, but come November, we're going to need some new (fill in the blank--talent? blood? energy?)--all of the above.

Give us a call at 649-1184 if you can help out. To work at the desk you should not get a case of the vapors from being around computers. (We can otherwise train you). You should like people and present a friendly face to the world.

It's actually a lot of fun, according to our volunteers. You see the people you know (in Norwich, a generally delightful experience), get sneak previews of our latest books, CDs, and DVDs, are in on the scuttlebutt of our current programs, activities, and general mischief. We work hard, but we do laugh a lot here. In addition, we ply you with your choice of freshly brewed coffee or tea. You, in turn, develop a sense of indispensability, for volunteers are the life blood of this library.

Interested? Call Stephanie Smith at 649-1184. She will thank you kindly.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Calling All Artists, Young and Old(er)

NPL is in search of a few good library cards.

Okay-- that statement doesn't exactly conjure up images of Tom Cruise throwing out his chest, resplendent in uniform, but the sentiment remains true.

As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of NPL's expansion, we find ourselves in our usual state of growth. That's what working with the L-Team of Lucinda and Lisa brings: lots of learning--these women have definite pioneer tendencies. NPL is the first library in the state to go over to the state-of-the-art web-based Koha software, the benefits of which I will extol in a future blog. For now, suffice it to say that this milestone calls for another creative effort from our amazing community.

So it is that NPL launches its library card design contest. Shiny new software fairly begs for a great new card, or two.

The contest calls for two new cards: a Youth card (to age 15), and an Adult card (ages 16 and over).

Deadline for submissions is September 1. Entries will be displayed at our Tenth Anniversary Party September 12, and the public will have a chance to vote on the entries till October 1.

We're hoping for lots of entries. Guidelines are available at the circulation desk.

Please take your best shot at a modest form of immortality and think about how the phrase "My Library" resonates for you.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What's It Worth?

A few weeks back I read that the nation's oldest library was in danger of closing.

I was sad, of course, but more than sad I was incensed. My closest friend, a librarian, once confided in me, as we reviewed the array of services provided by libraries, than if the public ever really figured it out, we'd be inundated.

What a better world that would be, especially in light of the current economic downturn. If ever the public could use some free --or close to free-- services, the time is now.

Use this calculator to see what your local library offers you in the way of savings. I just did, and the results made me feel quite rich indeed. Clearly, I am a high maintenance patron.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Thanks, Kids. Thanks, Doyles.

Like about any modest public institution, NPL has faced its share of economic shortfalls this year. Donations to the annual fund are down. The state library has discontinued some of its services --that sort of thing.

Enter the Doyles. Jeff and Maureen and kids Clio, Finley, and Zola were discussing what might be done to help out NPL, and the By Kids For Kids Yard Sale was born.

The idea was simple and elegant at the same time: kids could gather together the books, toys, and gear that they no longer needed and offer it up for sale on the library lawn. They pre-priced it and brought it down, to sell and split the profits with NPL.

As these pictures attest, (thanks, Peter Money!) the event was as photogenic as it was profitable. Behold--the next generation of entrepreneurs!

Best of all, we on the staff were energized and downright moved by the thoughtful actions of the community, starting with the Doyles. They made us feel so appreciated.

The entire event reminded me of a Ramblin' Jack Elliott concert I attended long ago. The audience was yelling out requests of their favorite songs. "Don't Think Twice!" hollered a fan. Ramblin' Jack obliged.

"Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out!" somebody called, when that song was done.

Ramblin' Jack fixed him with A Look.

"Oh yes they do," he said.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Local Delicacy

I've expressed my enthusiasm for The American Scholar, the magazine of Phi Beta Kappa, in these posts before. If you haven't taken a look at this lively magazine, here's a local pretext for doing so now.

Norwich's own Rob Gurwitt has published a delightful and well written piece on his Sunday pizza gatherings at the town oven. It's fun to read about the history of that oven, to read mentions of Suzanne Lupien and his own desire to use pizza making as a means for gathering community together.

You'll find Rob's article is in the latest issue of American Scholar. Also in the issue are new poems by Gary Snyder, a reassessment of the Reagan presidency, a fable by Thornton Wilder, and a piece on why your waitress might be smarter than you are. Stimulating reading!

I hadn't known about Rob's pizza gatherings before reading his article. I find myself wanting to learn more about his pizza aesthetic, having sampled his wonderful writing.

Friday, May 1, 2009

There Is Life after 500,000

I don't think that the Hooper-Goetincks walked in expecting to make a little NPL history, but when they approached the circulation desk, they must have realized that something was up.

There was Board President Barry Rotman, watching intently. Lisa Milchman was checking out a stack of materials excitedly. What was the deal? Mom Carolyn's raised eyebrows seemed to ask as staff members gathered round.

Lisa flipped a computer window and stood back. There, in the statistical window of the circulation program stood the number, round and firm: 500,000!

She shared the news with Carolyn (right), Dylan (center), and Blake (left). Then came the prizes: a gift certificate to the Norwich Book Store, a bar of Champlain chocolate, a wooden nickel for dismissing a fine, served up in a bright blue NPL bag with a balloon bouquet attached. We all applauded.

Library confidentiality policies prohibit me from revealing the title of the point-tipping check-out. The Goetincks are prolific patrons, anyway. It almost doesn't matter what the title was, or which of their many actually pushed us over the finish line. They're mad readers, all of them.

After the glow of the moment passed and the Hooper-Goetincks continued on their errands, we savored the spike of energy, then felt it drop a little. Now what? some part of me asked. It wasn't even lunchtime yet. Talk about an anticlimax!

The feeling moved on. My desk was covered with a teetering tower of new books and a few DVDs. They needed entering into the state system and labels applied. I flipped through Don Metz's New Compact House Designs and resolved to check out "Frost/Nixon" when it comes out of cataloging. Ditto with reading The Artist's Way, and this weekend I'll find a new block pattern in Quick Quilts from the Heart. YES!

500,000 is a number, and like other steps in a sequence, it's quickly bested by succeeding ones. Still, it tells us that we're being used, that we have a role to play in this community, and it's a role we rejoice in playing.

Friday, April 17, 2009

What Does Half a Million Look Like?

Some time in the next week, NPL will have its 500,000th checkout. There's a statistic that fairly begs for visualization. Whee!

We measured the spine of a "typical" book, stacked it and its fellows by a cool 500 thou, and spun it into the mathematical, the theoretical. Where would you be if you were to climb such a stack of books?

We suddenly found ourselves eleven miles up, teetering into the stratosphere. I immediately requested dramamine for the dizziness that enveloped me.

However, I regained my composure before it arrived. In libraries, ultimately the theoretical must yield to the concrete: to children emerging from story time with a stack of books on today's theme; to the commuter who needs a good story to stay alert on the road. There are the live wires who come in after the latest title they've heard about on "Fresh Air," or the reading club member asking to be placed on the list for the book of the moment. Add to these the mom or dad who need a Harry Potter DVD to get the kids through a rainy Saturday, the Consumer Reports reader on the verge of a major purchase, the gardener in need of a landscape plan, the cook in search of a recipe, and from there, the sky's the limit. Such are the instances that have brought us to this point, each of them lovely in their way.

We're wondering who will check out our 500,000th item. This milestone will probably occur in the next week. Attainment of the magic number will be lucky for the patron who hits it: a gift certificate at the Norwich Book Store and delicious candy from Champlain Chocolates. What's not to like?

The suspense is sweet! (Pun intentional.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Celebrating a Creative Community

In your Sunday perambulations, be sure to drop by NPL to see a display of books by some very special young authors and their families.

Thanks to a grant written by Children's Librarian Beth Reynolds and provided by the Winnie Belle Learned Fund, 35 area families worked with illustrator Matt Phelan to create books based on memories, journeys, and imaginings, and they'll be on exhibit Sunday afternoon, April 5, from 3 to 5 p.m.

"The point of this activity was to get kids to visualize as they read," says Beth.

Deadlines being what they are, 15 of the books have made it back to the library for the showing. Beth hopes that a few more trickle in before showtime.

Matt Phelan was wonderful to work with, says Beth. "He talked to the children rather than down to them."

Not only did Phelan share his sketchbooks with his students and their families: he also gave a presentation to 40-some middle school students on illustration as a career.

Also on display Sunday are shawls knitted by another library group, Shawl We Knit (you may groan here).

As public buildings work to reduce the consumption of heating oil, NPL staff have decided to offer cozy shawls to be worn by library patrons as they peruse their favorite tomes. They'll be available for check-out in future chilly months. A group of community-spirited NPL patrons and staff have gotten together for knitting and conversation to meet this need.

So drop by for a sip of apple juice from a "champagne fountain" (the irrepressible Lisa Cadow's catering touch) and other goodies and celebrate the efforts of these creative and community minded folk.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Audio Update: Listen Up, Vermont!

I'm always running behind the times,
Just like this train...
Shaking into town with the brakes complaining...

--Joni Mitchell

There's hardly any technology that's out there and in full bloom that I'm not the last to acquire. When vinyl was replaced by cassettes, and cassettes by CDs, I was literally the last on my block. Now I've latched onto an MP3 player, aware that the rest of the world revels in iPods.

You can bury me with a Blackberry. It'll be the only contact I have with one, and by then they'll be obsolete.

But I digress. However outmoded the MP3 player may be, I'm having a great time using it to download books through Listen Up, Vermont!, the consortium of Vermont libraries that has led the way in providing downloadable audiobooks state-wide.

What fun it is to go to the web site, queue up for books, then download them to my computer and then transfer them to my little 8-gigabyte MP3 player. The entire experience has me feeling almost contemporary. You can also burn the books to CDs or listen from your computer.

I love the selection. I've listened to a ridiculous range of materials: Milton's Paradise Lost, Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch mysteries, the new biography of Andrew Jackson, the autobiography of Helen Keller, and Whitman's Leaves of Grass. They play as smoothly (as Linda Richman would have it) like buttah... no cracks or skips or digital woozies. And the collection continues to grow.

I have DSL at home, so downloading is quick and easy. If you who live in the glorious countryside have a slower dial-up capability, come into the library, as some of our patrons are doing, and download books here. Bring your iPod or MP3 player, and we'll help you get started.

Use this link to check out the growing selection, then dust off your library card and join me in taking advantage of one of NPL's hottest new deals.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

If You Don't Have Time to Build a Tower...

Too many books? Too little time?

If your schedule doesn't permit the construction of an imposing tower or cozy cabin out of all your excess books, you may want to give them to NPL's Friends of the Library

Their next book sale will be held on March 27-28, and they're looking for donations.

If you have books to donate, bring them into NPL during our normal business hours.

If their bulk and number threaten to overtake you, give us a call. There are members of the Friends who will come over to pick them up.

Please don't include textbooks, Reader's Digest condensed books, or books with mold or mildew in your donations. They just don't sell.

The Friends are hard at work, helping to raise funds to keep NPL alive and thriving during some very challenging times.

They're the best of Friends!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Back to Basics, 2009

Lisa. Lucinda. Librarians. Lovely, lively, literate librarians.
Lots of library patrons have them confused. Occasionally it can be a tad embarrassing.

I can relate. When I was in high school a perfectly sweet girl called me Chris, even though my name is Lulu Dewey. At some point it became clear to me that there would never be a good time to correct her assumption. I accepted it as an opportunity to be someone else occasionally. Just what was Chris-like about me, anyway?

However, we are blessed with a Lucinda and Lisa, one apiece, who bear their names beautifully and fill them with possibilities that needn't be swapped or shopped around. After yet another instance of mistaken identity, Lucinda tossed me a challenge. "Write a blog on how to tell us apart."

Sometimes this job is a little too much fun, I thought. My first impulse was to employ mugshots. A
distinction-maker with all the charm of a Wanted poster. My mind does seem to run in tacky directions, but as the results above indicate, I am sometimes indulged.

Tina Avery, our cataloger, and I tried to put our impressions into words. "Uh... Lisa lives north of here; Lucinda lives south. Lisa has long hair, Lucinda short. Lisa is a blonde. Lucinda's a brunette."

Blah, blah, blah.
Dud City. Language has its limits when you're trying to describe these excellent women.

Both are funny, caring, compassionate, kind. They work together beautifully in an atmosphere of mutual enjoyment and respect. Both are Twenty-First Century techies, comfortable with the fast-paced changes that confront librarians in these times.

Should you be in search of an interlibrary loan, Lisa is the goddess of that opportunity. Lisa buys the fiction.

Should you want to discuss the direction of the library or discuss in depth the need for more hours or a smaller budget, Lucinda is your woman. Lucinda buys the non-fiction and the audiobooks.

But what most distinguishes these two is... um... themselves.

Got that? Now we move on to...Pop quiz! Match the librarian with the name below:

On the left:

On the right:

If you placed Lisa on the left, and Lucinda on the right, you're correct!

A's for everyone!

And a happy new year to YOU.