Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Back to normal

The Open House last night went very well. We had about 40 people show up to tour the library, nibble cookies, find out more about possible sites for a new library building, and share their ideas. I would like to extend a special thank-you to Council Members Sam Bergeron, Jason Harris and Marty West and Mayor Bob Weinstein for coming to the event. The staff enjoyed meeting them, and there were some lively discussions in the foyer.
Last night was also the Halloween party for the Teen Advisory Group. At one point during the evening I overheard one of the TAG members trying to explain the concept of 'hippies' to a Kayhi exchange student. Believe it or not, the 'Summer of Love' was 40 years ago (which would make it seem like ancient history to someone who is 15). By a wonderful coincidence, we have a new DVD all about those weird, tumultuous times. Summer of Love is an American Experience production (so you know it is good) that looks at both sides of the culture clash: worried parents and frustrated community leaders, as well as disaffected students and teens looking for a new experience. You can't help but wonder how many of those adventurous youth are now worried mainly about their mortgages, cholesterol, hair loss and Social Security benefits. Have they finally turned into their parents?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Open House

Well, we are gearing up for our big Open House this evening. We are inviting everyone to come down to the library from 5:30 to 8 pm to tour the building, learn more about the collection and meet the staff. And just to make it more exciting, we will have games to play and prizes to win. The Friends of the Library will be hosting this event, and they will be providing coffee and desserts for everyone to enjoy. The staff and the Friends will be available to answer any questions you might have about the library, the services that we can provide to you, and the campaign to build a new library for Ketchikan. The City Council will be discussing site selection possibilities this Thursday at 7 pm, so this is a good time to learn more. In fact, the Friends of the Library have invited all the City Council members, as well as the Mayor, to come down to the library this evening. If you are unable to attend the Thursday City Council meeting, this would be a good opportunity to voice your opinions about a new Ketchikan library. We look forward to seeing everyone....we'll save some cookies for you!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Yarn Bee Time!

I actually meant to post this yesterday, but I got totally distracted by the whole cookbook brouhaha.
Today is our first yarn bee! We are inviting anyone with an interest in knitting and/or crochet to come down to the library this afternoon to meet fellow enthusiasts, nibble some yummy cookies, and take a gander at the knitting and crochet resources that the library has to offer. We are hoping to make this a monthly event over the winter, if there is an interest. Each month we would make new books and videos available to those of you who love to craft with yarn, and the gathering would give everyone a chance to socialize and spend a nice, relaxing afternoon in out of the rain. Please join us!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A controversy

When I posted my blog this morning, little did I know that I was wading into a raging controversy: accusations of plagiarism! Apparently, the Jessica Seinfeld cookbook that I raved about is being compared with another cookbook that appeared earlier this year: The Sneaky Chef, by Missy Chase Lapine. I am not even going to begin to get into whether or not the two cookbooks are similar (especially since I have never seen Lapine's book), but I will post a link to a Slate article that goes into the issue in more depth:

The part I find most embarrassing is that all the blogs and commentators seem to feel that the whole idea of sneaking pureed vegetables into your kid's food is unoriginal. The consensus seems to be "So what? Doesn't everybody know this trick?". Well, not this clueless parent. So legal issues aside, if you have been grinding veggies for years, then you can just ignore me. But if - like me - this grinding concept has left you gobsmacked, then I stand by my earlier posting.

Read the book.

An exceptional book

I am breaking two of my self-imposed blog rules here:
1. I am writing about a book from the Children's Annex collection (I don't make the purchase decisions on those books) and
2. I am writing about a book that is already on hold, so you will not be able to check this out immediately (I usually put my blog books on display at the front desk)
BUT: this book is so great I am going to get an extra copy for the Adult library. Deceptively Delicious: simple secrets to get your kids eating good food is by Jessica Seinfeld (yes, the wife of the Seinfeld). And she has come up with a cookbook full of recipes for frustrated parents. It includes breakfast, lunch and dinner entrees as well as desserts and snacks. What's the catch? Well, in every single recipe - from the deviled eggs to the pancakes to the grilled cheese sandwiches - you sneak pureed vegetables into the recipe! So you get deviled eggs with cauliflower puree, pancakes with beet puree, and grilled cheese sandwiches with squash puree. The kids eat healthy vegetables, and you don't have to turn the dinner table into World War III every night. As a parent whose child won't even eat dill because it is green, I think this is the best idea since sliced bread. And because I am not a huge fan of vegetables myself, this is a great way for me to eat more nutritionally without having to gag down entire mouthfuls of cauliflower (a particular dislike). Her advice is to make the puree ahead of time - steaming the vegetables in an automatic rice cooker and grinding them up in a food processor - and storing them in the freezer. Even if you are making boxed macaroni and cheese, it will take you all of five minutes (the noodles need to cook anyway) to thaw out some yellow squash puree and throw it in with the finished product. You don't need a lot of extra time, you can buy the vegetables when they are on sale, and your family will never know the carrots are in their food. How sneaky - and cool - is that! This book is absolutely my pick of the month. And don't worry that it is checked out. You can place it on hold by going to our catalog (the link is on the sidebar at the right of this post). Mangia!!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Patience of Job

If you read A.J. Jacobs' new book - The Year of Living Biblically: one man's humble quest to follow the Bible as literally as possible - you will come to an inevitable conclusion. His wife is one patient woman. Jacobs (editor at large for Esquire) decides to spend 365 days following the commandments and proscriptions in the Bible to the letter. We're not just talking about observing the Sabbath and not swearing. He stopped shaking people's hands because he didn't know if they were 'unclean' (Exodus 23:1 and Leviticus 15:19). He stopped wearing colored clothing (Ecclesiastes 9:8) and stopped shaving (Leviticus 19:27). He wouldn't make Play-Doh animals for his little boy or take pictures at his mother-in-law's birthday (Exodus 20:4). The fact that his wife didn't violate the sixth commandment during this experimental year is a testament to her love and fortitude.
This book is not only funny, it is actually quite instructive. For each Biblical verse or commandment that Jacobs follows, he describes his difficulties in adhering to it's direction in a 21st century-world, and he also gives a little history of how the rule came about and its interpretations over the years. One thing his experiment does point out is the effects that centuries of translation have had on our understanding of the text. For instance, the Karaite sect of Judaism avoid eating eggs because they feel the list of taboo birds in Leviticus 11 has never been properly translated (they're not sure which birds are really on the list, so they avoid all eggs to be safe). This is a very interesting book, and Jacobs manages to be humorous without being irreverent. A nice, fun read.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

New music

We have a little flush of new music out on the shelf, so I am selecting a small group of CDs to mention today. I've tried to pick out a little something for everyone here:
Forever Cool is another one of those weird 'duets with the dead' CDs, this time featuring the resurrected voice of suave Dean Martin. Thanks to the wonders of space-age technology, he performs duets of some of his classic recordings with Chris Botti, Joss Stone, Martina McBride, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (a match made in heaven), and Kevin Spacey. Kevin Spacey? Yeah, I thought that was odd, too, but I didn't watch his tribute movie to Bobby Darin (Beyond the Sea).
Public Cowboy #1: a centennial salute to the music of Gene Autry is performed by my favorite contemporary cowboys - Riders in the Sky. More than wise-cracking NPR stars, the Riders in the Sky are loving custodians of cowboy music (and the cowboy way), and they have tenderly recorded 16 Gene Autry classics. This is actually a re-issue of their 1996 tribute album with 4 additional tracks, but hey: it's never too late for fun music.
Toots and the Maytals have released a new album called Light Your Light, and they continue their 40-year tradition of blending fabulous reggae, ska and blues sounds. The album features a guest appearance by Bonnie Raitt and some fabulous interpretations of Otis Redding and Ray Charles hits ("Pain in my heart" and "I gotta woman").
Last year we bought the DVD, this time we got the soundtrack. Jesus Christ Superstar has some truly memorable songs, and this particular album features the original Broadway cast. I'm not a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber, but I think he and Tim Rice did a fantastic job with this rock opera. Be sure to remember this CD when Easter rolls around - you can check it out with the soundtrack to Easter Parade (Judy Garland and Fred Astaire). There's a nice contrast.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Two pleas in a pod:

Sorry, I couldn't resist that one.
I am making two pleas for assistance today:
We are missing a few Ketchikan High School yearbooks from our collection (stolen - go figure!), so if you have a yearbook from one of the following years - 1960, 1963, 1987, 1988, 1994, 1997 and 2005 - and would be willing to donate it to the library, we would be very appreciative.
Secondly, the Friends of the Library are participants in the A&P Grocery store's '1% for charity' program. With this program, the Friends collect grocery receipts from A&P and the store then donates 1% of the total sales back to the Friends. You may have seen the little collection box on top of the blue Book Drop in the A&P lobby. This has been a very lucrative program for the Friends - and by extension, us here at the library - and we need some assistance from a helpful volunteer. The receipts need to be put into bundles of 25 and the total sales on the bottom of each receipt added up. So if anyone would be willing to come in for 1/2 an hour once a week, or for a little longer once a month, or different volunteers on different weeks.....if you would be willing to help, please call (225-3331) or stop by. We love our volunteers!!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A video smattering

We have some new nonfiction DVDs here at the library this week, so I thought I would take a minute to highlight a few.
Adoption Explained: International is a good overview of the considerations and process behind adoption children from a foreign country. In addition to explaining some of the steps in the adoption process, this DVD also looks at the emotional and societal facets of adopting internationally. A number of international adoption experts have contributed to this film, and it would be a valuable resource for anyone planning to embrace a foreign child into their family.
Dancing in the Light: six dances by African-American choreographers is a wonderful film that presents some of the best modern dance of the 20th century. Performed by a variety of contemporary dance companies, the pieces in this video include Pearl Primus' 1943 interpretation of 'Strange Fruit', a 1959 dance choreographed by Donald McKayle ('Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder') and an excerpt from Bill T. Jones' piece 'D-Man in the Waters'.
If you were intrigued by the story behind the box-office hit 300, but turned off by the heavy gore and funky special effects, you should watch Last Stand of the 300: the legendary battle of Thermopylae. This History Channel production is a much less gory, less explicit re-enactment of the famous battle where 300 Spartans held off the Persian military long enough for Athens to prepare itself for a naval battle in which they would defeat the Persians (the Battle of Salamis). As all of the Spartan soldiers die (hope that wasn't a spoiler), it's not a feel-good story. But it is definitely a fascinating point in history and a testament to the determination of those 300 Spartans.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Alaskan author success

Alaska is a small enough state that when any Alaskan does well on the national (or world) stage, we all feel a bit of paternalistic pride. Andromeda Romano-Lax is a travel writer who lives in Anchorage. We have a couple of her books here on the shelves (Walking Southeast Alaska, and Alaska: true stories). She has just released her first novel, and it is gathering a great deal of praise. Publisher's Weekly calls it "a tough debut to beat", Booklist says it is a "riveting historical page-turner", and it has been called an "impressive and richly atmospheric debut" by the New York Times.
Set in Spain at the beginning of the 20th century, The Spanish Bow follows the spiritual, political and romantic maturing of a young man named Feliu. Inheriting his father's cello bow, he discovers a deep love of music. His career as a musician takes him to the Spanish court, and eventually leads him to encounter the beautiful violinist Aviva. Caught up in the political upheavals of the time, he must choose between the paths of fascism, communism and monarchy. Famous characters and events make cameo appearances throughout the book, and in the end Feliu seems to have lived through a couple of lifetimes. Beautifully written, this is the book to be reading this fall.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A knowledge gap

Military history is a very popular subject in our library - especially 20th century American military history. So it shouldn't be surprising to find out that we have over 20 books about World War I, over 50 books about the Vietnam war, and a whopping 225 books about World War II. What should be very surprising is that we have only 2 - yes, 2 - books about the Korean war. For some reason, this is not a popular topic with authors. However, we have just put out what might well become the definitive book on the Korean War.
The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War is by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam. Completed just days before his untimely death in a car accident, The Coldest Winter covers military strategy, international diplomacy, Washington politics, battlefield accounts and two strong willed characters: President Harry S. Truman and General Douglas MacArthur. The book is extremely well researched, with plenty of maps and endnotes. For anyone who is well-versed in the events of the period or in military tactics in general, this book will be a welcome addition. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the details of the Korean War, Halberstam is such a good writer that the entire story will grip you and keep you interested until the end. And, in fact, there is no real end to this story. There is no peace treaty, no 'winners' and 'losers', no closure. The demilitarized zone still exists, there is still conflict between the two halves of the peninsula, and America is still closely involved - even to the extent of having troops stationed at the border. The consequences of the Korean War are still being felt today, and The Coldest Winter is a great way to learn more.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A new one for BBC fans

I say 'new' - it's new to us. Originally produced in 1987, Porterhouse Blue is an over-the-top satire of the prestigious British university system. Based on a novel by Tom Sharpe, the film is set at an august British university (a barely-disguised version of Oxford) and involves the efforts of a progressively-minded new master, played by Ian Richardson. The turbulent 1960's are in full swing outside the gates of the school, but inside the gates time stands still. Students seem to spend most of their time drinking, carousing, and being pompous twits, and their academic success is predicated on their lineage, not their intelligence. Richardson's attempts to introduce reforms into the financially-troubled school are met with resistance from faculty and staff, particularly the head porter (David Jason), who has managed to compile an impressive inside knowledge of the students and faculty in his 45-year tenure. A subplot involving a randy graduate student and his housekeeper manages to inject a bit of 'Benny Hill' humor into the story, as all the plot threads come together into a big, explosive (literally) ending.
This isn't exactly high art, but if you like British humor you will enjoy the story, and you can't go wrong with two talented actors like Ian Richardson (House of Cards) and David Jason (Darling Buds of May). The setting is beautiful, the characters are archetypal upper-class Brits, and it's a nice change from reality TV.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Our raison d'être

For some reason, there has been an increasing amount of discussion about the future role of libraries (these discussions aren't taking place down at the local bar, of course, but they're out there somewhere). People with an eye to the future seem to feel that with the exploding growth of the Internet, libraries are becoming unnecessary. Want a good book? Download it. Want to watch a documentary? Download it. Looking for information about your illness/garden/retirement plan/marriage/hotel options? Google it. These proponents of the digital future (remember the promise of the paperless society?) forget one thing: the importance of human contact and compassionate assistance.
Here is a lovely quote from David Tyckoson -

"Librarians rarely save lives, but we shape lives on a daily basis. Through the process of interacting with the librarian, members of the community - and the community itself - grow and evolve. By communicating with a teenager today, the librarian may be keeping that child out of jail tomorrow. By working with the unemployed today, we may be getting them back into the workplace tomorrow. By working with new immigrants today, we may be helping to develop the community leaders of tomorrow."
from “Reference at its Core: the Reference Interview.” Reference and User Services Quarterly 41 (Fall 2003): 49-51.

just some food for thought..........

Thursday, October 18, 2007

32 new reasons to come to the library

It's 'hunker down with a book while the rain pounds against the windows' season here in Ketchikan again, and we have thirty-two (yes, 32) new novels that went out onto the shelves yesterday. Brevity is the soul of wit, so I won't go into long descriptions of each book. Suffice to say that you can choose from:

an Arapaho mystery (The Girl With Braided Hair)
a Christian/Asian-American/Chick lit novel (Sushi for one?)
a comedic story of migrant workers in Britain (Strawberry Fields)
small-town politics (Hartsburg, USA)
or a police thriller set in a futuristic colony world (Kop).

You could also enjoy new novels from such popular authors as:
Ken Bruen (Ammunition)
Rosalind Laker (Brilliance)
Phillip Roth (Exit Ghost)
and Olen Steinhauer (Victory Square).

There's a little something for everyone this week, so enjoy!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

If only it was that easy...

We all seem to go through life hoping beyond hope that there is a simple, painless solution to all of life's difficulties. Eat less and exercise more? Surely there's just a pill I could take to lose weight. Does your house look like a bomb went off in it? Mine does, and I love the fantasy that there is some easy way to organize all the clutter. Perhaps the answer lies in one of our two new books on organization: The Organized Life: secrets of an expert organizer by Stephanie Denton and Easy Home Organizer: 15-minute step-by-step solutions, by Vicki Payne. In both of these books, the authors promise that a clutter-free life is easy to obtain and easy to maintain. You just need a plan, a checklist, and about $10,000 worth of boxes, baskets, jars, containers and totes (and about half an acre of closet space). Payne is a big proponent of labeling and slide-out shelving. She also has a project idea where you use fabric and upholstery braid to convert a plain cardboard magazine holder into an attractive cardboard magazine holder. (Frankly, if I had that kind of spare time my house wouldn't look like a dump). Denton takes more of a 'hints from Heloise' approach. The book has very few photos, but page after page of suggestions and tips for creating a more controlled life. She is all about efficiency. One fabulous tip: choose a gift theme at Christmas - her example is 'books' - and that way you only have to go to one or two stores to do your Christmas shopping. (An overabundance of shopping destinations is a serious issue in Southeast Alaska. Don't let it get you down this year). So go ahead and check out both books and see which organizational style works best for you. And when you get your house all organized, you can come do mine.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Band of Sisters

The Iraq War, which has been going on for 52 months - longer than American involvement in World War II - has seen a dramatic change in the role of women in the military. Female military personnel are flying, patrolling and fighting in combat zones and the importance of their presence is increasing. Band of Sisters: American women at war in Iraq, by Kirsten Holmstedt, relates the experiences of 12 women who have been deployed to Iraq. She has interviewed both enlisted and officers, and members of four branches of the service: Army, Navy, Air Force and the Marines. Each story is different and each person is unique, but the underlying thread is the determination of these women to do their duty, to serve their country, and to protect their fellow soldiers and sailors. According to Holmstedt, over 155,000 women have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, with over 430 casualties and 70 deaths. In addition to undertaking the same duties and making the same sacrifices as their male comrades, these women have been instrumental in establishing community relations and maintaining security in a region where men and women do not mingle. The women in this book have been shot down, blown up, and shot people themselves. Their stories are gripping and emotional, and this book is a powerful read.

Monday, October 15, 2007

It's all part of the service

One of the most important things that a library can do is provide access to things you might not ordinarily find or purchase for yourself. It might be a cutting-edge novel, or an unusual piece of music, or a frivolous magazine. Beautiful picture books for adults (coffee-table books) are some of the most enjoyable things to select. We have a lovely new one on the shelves: Art of the Classical World in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Greece, Cyprus, Etruria, Rome. Five members of the museum's Department of Greek and Roman Art collaborated on this book (Carlos Picon, Jan Mertens, Sean Hemingway, Christopher Lightfoot and Elizabeth Milleker), while Richard De Puma contributed his expertise on Etruscan art.
The book has page after page of beautiful photos of statuary, frescoes, jewelry, pottery, coins, vessels, and architectural elements. The sections are broken up into geographical and chronological units, with a brief introduction before each section. The photos are well-selected to provide as much detail as possible. Each photo is numbered, with the descriptive information (including maps!) in the last part of the book. On the one hand, it makes a fabulous book for browsing. It is so easy to pore over each page, focusing on the visual information contained in the photo without any text distractions. On the other hand, it's inconvenient to be flipping back and forth between the photo and text sections. You might even be tempted to forgo the textual explanations all together, in which case you would lose a lot of the information. So I guess that my point is that this is a great browse, an awkward read, and a beautiful book.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ultimate quick meals

The whole 'meals-in-minutes' concept is very big in these hectic times of working parents, over-scheduled children, and rising obesity rates. How to feed the family quickly without resorting to the drive-thru window? How do you provide healthier meals for your family? Well, you can kill two birds with one stone by using Ani Phyo's new cookbook: Ani's Raw Food Kitchen: easy, delectable living foods recipes. A word of warning here - these recipes are for vegan, raw food. That's right, no cooking (dehydrating in your oven is O.K., though). And she provides the recipes for making your own meat and cheese substitutes from various nuts and seeds.
I know in my heart of hearts that I will never make the foods in this book, and that I could never embrace a vegan diet, let alone a raw food diet (or maybe I could do the raw food, but not the vegan. Who knows?). But I will say that this book makes me want to try. It is an inspiring book because it all sounds like such a great idea: a diet full of grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables that you haven't boiled/steamed/fried into nutrient oblivion. Phyo is trim, vibrant and healthy-looking, and she makes it all seem so easy. I'm also totally enamored with the idea of tossing a few fresh vegetables and condiments together and Presto! you have dinner. Most of the ingredients in her recipes are available here in town, although the freshness will be dramatically different than what Phyo (a Southern Californian) is used to . She's a good motivator and a great role model for healthy, ecologically responsible living. If you are already a vegan or vegetarian, then you will really like this book. And if you're still eating Big Macs, perhaps you could start to sneak one or two of her recipes into your weekly menu (lunches might be best, people seem to be more flexible about what they eat for lunch). Maybe some day I'll try one of her recipes.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Thoughts on teaching

We're approaching midterms (both high school and college), so it seems a good time to roll out three new books that focus on education in America.
The Last Word: the best commentary and controversy in American education is a collection of opinion pieces about educational techniques, goals and trends. These short pieces originally appeared in Education Week, which is the staple periodical of the teaching profession. The essays are arranged by subject, not chronologically, so it makes it easy to read about a particular topic of interest.
Letters to a Young Teacher, by Jonathan Kozol, is a book of advice and support for anyone who is beginning their teaching career. Kozol addresses many of the important, and sometimes controversial, aspects of being an educator. Some of his most thoughtful points come in response to questions from a first-year teacher who invited him into her Boston classroom. This book will provide valuable insight for new teachers. For experienced teachers, it will be a reminder of why they choose this particular career path and will make them think about their views on education.
Dr. Rudy Crew is a superintendent with experience in New York City, Boston, Tacoma and Sacramento. Currently the superintendent of the Miami-Dade County system, he has co-authored a book about how to re-energize American schools. Only Connect: the way to save our schools is a call for all the stakeholders in American education - parents, business leaders, legislators, and administrators - to help students and teachers thrive in a supportive, high-quality educational environment.
It pays to remember that children become workers, voters, taxpayers and leaders. Someone else's 9-year-old may not have much impact on your life now, but in 30 years that child will be making the decisions that shape your world.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The art of books

Remember the good old days, when a book was a piece of beauty in and of itself? Nope, me neither. My entire life has been dominated by large publishing houses pushing out poorly-bound books with cardboard covers and dime-a-dozen book jackets. But open up Miniature Books: 4,000 years of tiny treasures by Anne Bromer and Julian Edison, and see what an art reading used to be. Each item in this absolutely fascinating book is no taller than three inches. Books hidden in corks, walnuts and lockets. Books bound in enamel, silver, and mother-of-pearl. Hand-written, hand-painted, hand-marbled, hand-tooled. Handy books. Books of scripture, political propaganda, and erotica. Every single page of this wonderful book is full of things I would hock my eye teeth to get hold of. The text flows nicely and will give you many 'Oh wow!' moments. Artists will appreciate the usefulness of the art, and readers will appreciate the beauty of the words. This book is highly recommended and guaranteed to send you scurrying off to eBay to start your own collection of miniature books.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Indigenous Cuisine

Usually, when I read yummy cookbooks, I am accustomed to finding a whole bunch of ingredients that I can't get here. So what a nice change to read a cookbook where everyone else in the country might have to special-order the ingredients, but I can get them easily. Where People Feast: an indigenous people's cookbook by Dolly and Annie Watts is full of recipes from the famous Liliget Feast House in Vancouver, Canada. The authors - from the Gitk'san nation of British Columbia - include gastronomic staples like crème frâche and crab mousse. But they also include rare recipes for things like Fireweed Tea, Stir-fried Herring Spawn on Kelp, Lemon Smoked Ooligan, and Venison Meatballs. They have a nice index in the back of their book where recipes are listed by ingredient. For instance, there are 6 recipes listed that use ooligan, and 4 that use huckleberries. They have some really interesting descriptions of traditional ways of cooking and smoking, as well as explanations of how to prepare little treats like salmon berry shoots and pine sap. The recipes are all very easy to follow, and the preparation is simple. It just goes to show you that you don't need 14 hours and a certificate from the Cordon Bleu to prepare a delicious meal, especially if you're using fresh local ingredients (and how often do you get to do that?)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Another Success!

The annual Friends of the Library booksale was a resounding success! We made just under $5,200. We also raised a lot of attention about the new library building project. There were a couple of posterboards up with maps and information about the 9 proposed sites for the new building, as well as brochures with the same information. If you would like to see the posters, or pick up a brochure, please stop by the library.
We would like to thank everyone who donated books and everyone who bought books. We would especially like to thank everyone who helped make the sale happen: lugging boxes of books from the storage units to the mall, sorting thousands of books onto the right tables, staffing the cash table and answering questions, and dragging all the leftover books out to the recycle bins.
I would like to make a special note of the Teen Advisory Group. The TAG is a relatively new part of the library family (they began in June of this year), so this was their first time helping out with the book sale. We had about a dozen teens show up on Sunday afternoon to box up all the unwanted stuff, they hauled it all downstairs, and they picked up all the leftover trash. They were a great help, and we really appreciate their efforts.
Thanks again, everyone!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Campaign 2008

Carl Bernstein's new biography of Hilary Rodham Clinton - A Woman in Charge - has just been put on our shelves, and it made my thoughts turn (unwillingly) to the presidential race. The actual election is 13 months away, and most people outside the Beltway might not be prepared to think about the 2008 presidential election quite yet. But if you have a high pain threshold and would like to delve in now, we have some books that would be good research tools.
Writing a book about character and leadership seems to be an inevitable part of running for office, a little like appearing on David Letterman. And while these books are carefully crafted, written and vetted to make sure the candidate appears in a positive light, you can sometimes get a sense of the person behind the message. At the very least, you can get a sense of how they would like to be seen. So try the writings of the four biggest names on the campaign trail at this point:
Living History by Hilary Rodham Clinton
Leadership by Rudy Giuliani
Why Courage Matters by John McCain
Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
(Just so you know, the books were listed alphabetically by author not according to poll standings: the difference between a librarian and a reporter. Another interesting point - 'Rodham' gets flagged by the spellchecker, while 'Giuliani' does not. There's a factoid waiting for a conspiracy theorist).

Monday, October 8, 2007

Once upon a quinceañera

September 15 - October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month (you may have noticed our book display that was out the last couple of weeks). So it seems only appropriate to wind up the month by talking about a new book on our shelves: Once Upon a Quinceañera: coming of age in the USA, by Julia Alvarez. Alvarez is a very popular novelist, and we have 5 of her 6 novels here on the shelves (one of them is in our Banned Books display - very cool!). She describes all of the excitement, stress, emotion and meaning that is involved in a quinceañera celebration. Think 'wedding', and then picture the bride (the center of all this attention) as a 15-year-old. That's a pretty moody, emotionally fraught age to begin with, but to add the drama of a massive celebration involving hundreds of family and friends, catered dinners, expensive ballgowns and lavish entertainment and you can see why it is such an important part of any Latina upbringing. Alvarez spent a year attending various quince celebrations and she brings the reader into the world of a young girl on the verge of womanhood. Interspersed with these details are descriptions of Latino culture in general and what it is like to grow up as a Latina in the United States. It can be a little disconcerting as Alvarez flips back and forth between the quince celebrations she is describing and her memories of her own quince and upbringing, but the book is very interesting. Teen girls might find this book especially attractive, as it shows the teen experience through a slightly different filter.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Cluck Cluck

Ordinarily, when I think of poultry country, I think of Arkansas, not Alaska. But I can name three people off the top of my head who are currently raising chickens here in town (and I mean, within the city limits - goodness knows how many chicken ranchers there are out in the 'country'). So if you are interested in raising chickens, you might like to take a look at Keeping Chickens: the essential guide to enjoying and getting the best from chickens by Jeremy Hobson and Celia Lewis. Their book will walk you through the things you need to consider before you get your chickens, how to decide what breed would be best for you, and how to set up your chicken housing. (One thing to consider is predators. Bald eagles and bears may not be a concern in Arkansas but they certainly are here.). What do you need to feed your birds? Well, it depends on the type of bird (layer, breeder, or meat bird) and their stage of life. Don't forget about grit and vitamins! Learn about the health and hygiene of birds (we're not just talking about sex-ed) and how the whole laying process works. The authors will also discuss killing and cleaning your bird. They describe how to pluck the bird, but a local grower has advised me that it's a lot faster and cleaner to just skin it. Besides, chicken skin's high in cholesterol. Apparently, the whole chicken-raising process can be quite rewarding and less hassle than you might think. It's easier than trying to raise a herd of cows on your lawn, anyway.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

An absolute page-turner

I picked up one of the new books coming across my desk because of the cover. It is florescent, rain-slicker yellow, with a plasticized cover. It is an eye-grabber. And when I opened up Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff, I expected to just skim quickly over a couple of pages before putting it out on the new books shelf. 44 pages later, I came to and realized that I had been completely sucked in to the story. The premise - Jane Charlotte is a member of a secret organization called the 'Bad Monkeys' that eliminates evil people and she has just been arrested for murder - is not the kind of plot I generally connect with (too sci-fi, too thriller). But the writing is so good, and the character is so interesting that I could not put this book down. Basically, the entire novel unfolds as an interview between Jane Charlotte and a psychiatrist who is supposed to decide if she is insane or criminal (or both). Jane is a bit antisocial, a bit of a rebel and troublemaker, and you can tell she has led a life on the edge, but she is still someone you would like to meet and have a conversation with. I have made the ultimate personal sacrifice, and put this book out on the shelves before I finished reading it, but it's all part of my honor-bound duty as a librarian. So I can't give you any hints on how it ends, and please don't tell me what happens because as soon as things slow down, I plan on finding out where this bad monkey leads.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Book Sale Starts Tomorrow!!

One of the biggest annual events in our own little library-land is starting tomorrow morning at 9 am. The Friends of the Library Book Sale is always a popular way to spend a cold, rainy weekend, and you are sure to find at least one thing there that you think interesting. (Many people find boxes of things they want). In addition to thousands of books, you will also find magazines, DVDs, VHS, cassettes, and audiobooks. We have set up 40 tables - and we're hoping to get hold of more - and we are stuffing them with books from two full storage units. Some of the items available for sale will be library discards, but most of the books and videos will be donations from your neighbors. There will be mounds of history, gardening, cookbooks, crafts and computer guides. There will be piles of romance, mystery, western and science fiction novels. There will be classic literature, pulp fiction, award-winners and bodice-rippers. There will be books for toddlers, schoolkids, teens and college-bound. There will be large print books as well. Basically, there will be a huge cornucopia of learning, entertainment, how-to, enrichment, fun and escapism available for your purchase. Hardbacks are $1, paperbacks are .50¢, magazines are .25¢. The sale will run from 9 am - 5 pm on Saturday, and noon - 4 pm on Sunday. After 3 pm on Sunday, all leftover items will be free. Proceeds from the sale benefit the Friends of the Library, which in turn benefits your public library. So come prepared to spend some money and do some good!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Read this book at home

I don't cry over books. I didn't tear up when Beth March, Old Yeller, or Albus Dumbledore died, and I don't go out of my way to read 'downer' books. But I heartily recommend Obit: inspiring stories of ordinary people who led extraordinary lives, by Jim Sheeler. The title may lead you to think that the people memorialized in this book had secret pasts, or that they made remarkable contributions to science, art or humanity. But when Sheeler talks about "extraordinary lives", he is referring to those 'oh, wow' moments that we all have in our past. Every person has an intriguing aspect to their history - jazz, war memories, treehouses, poetry, a hardscrabble childhood - that contradicts the idea that anyone leads an ordinary life. The truly beautiful thing about these obituaries (which Sheeler wrote for various Colorado newspapers), is that they tease out the details of people's lives and that they present the subject as a unique individual worthy of attention, even if they never received much during their life. The stories that their family, friends, and coworkers tell about them are testimonies to the way in which one person can affect the lives of so many people. Obit is a really powerful read, and I found it impossible to get through even one of the obituaries without tearing up. I recommend reading this at home, alone, with a box of tissues handy.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Nice shoes

Some movies make earth-shattering statements on the human condition, and some movies are just plain fun. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is just plain fun. Originally released in 1994, this Australian indie film features three actors not usually known for their shapely gams and snappy dance moves. Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential), Terence Stamp (The Limey) and Hugo Weaving (The Matrix) play drag performers who travel across the Australian outback in a beat-up city bus - Priscilla, Queen of the Desert - to a gig in Alice Springs. As on any good road trip, they spend lots of time thinking about their lives, loves and friendships. But the true attraction of this movie (for me at least) is the costumes. The costume designers for Priscilla deservedly won an Oscar for their efforts, and you may remember the dress that one of them wore to the awards ceremony made of 254 American Express gold cards. One of the outfits in the movie was made of flip-flops, but my favorite image has to be of Guy Pearce dressed entirely in silver lamé, perched on a giant silver shoe atop of the bus, riding across the desert with silver wings streaming out behind him. And of course the soundtrack, heavy on the ABBA, is great also. If you enjoy going to the annual Wearable Art Show here in Ketchikan, then you will love this movie. This film is relatively earthy, with strong language and a violent scene where one of the characters is attacked by a mob, so you should preview it before deciding whether it's a movie for your whole family (even if your kids love to dress up in shiny clothes and dance around, like my daughter). If you have a wide-screen TV, so much the better.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Banned Books Week

I've missed the official start of Banned Books Week (Sept. 29th) due to my trip, but it's never too late to get a librarian fired up about defending the first amendment and intellectual freedom. So I urge everyone to come in and check out the banned books display in the lobby of the library. All of the books on display have been challenged or banned somewhere in the United States, and the poor little ones with black armbands have actually been burned
(we used the American Libraries Association website - - and UC San Diego - - as our reference list).
Some of the books may seem like familiar 'dangerous' titles: Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Harry Potter. But some of the books that have been challenged may leave you scratching your head as to the reasoning behind the uproar. My personal favorite: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, which was removed from school library shelves in Anchorage in 1976 due to objectionable language.
When you browse through our collection of subversive material, if you see anything you would like to take home and sift through in a dark room with the curtains pulled, feel free to bring it up to the desk and check it out. They are all helpfully enclosed in plain brown wrappers, so your neighbors don't have to know that you are pushing the envelope by reading John Steinbeck or even - gasp! - Dr. Seuss.