Monday, March 31, 2008

The Final Word on Spanish Cooking

Looking for perfect paella? Tasty tapas? We have the cookbook for you: 1,080 Recipes by Simone and Inés Ortega. First published in Spain over 30 years ago, this book is the Spanish version of our trusty Joy of Cooking. This recent revision has been worked on by Simone (the original author) and her daughter Inés, and for this English version they have also added extra explanations of the special techniques and ingredients found in some of the recipes. This book covers it all - vegetables, meats, desserts, appetizers, eggs, sauces and stews - and has some additional bonuses. In the back of the book are a variety of menu suggestions from famous chefs familiar with Spanish cooking. You could cook a lobster paella from a Valencian restaurant beloved by Ernest Hemingway, or rhubarb flan from the highest-rated Spanish restaurant in New York City. There is also an interesting list of cooking tips and a glossary of terms in the back of the book. I'll pass on the stew of lamb's organs (which are apparently hard to obtain outside the Mediterranean, anyway), but sign me up for the ricotta cheese with peaches in syrup (queso fresco con melocotones en almibar). Yum!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Library Elf

Many months ago, we told our patrons about a great way to keep track of their library books: Library Elf. This free service (not run by us, but by a Canadian company) would send emails alerting their members when they had overdue books, books on hold waiting for them, and even when their books were almost due. It was a fabulous way to avoid fines, it was free, and they were supposedly immune from the provisions of the Patriot Act (if you don't know what this act means to your personal liberties and privacy, you should: American Library Association site).
Unfortunately, with our new system, Library Elf no longer works. The company did send out an email to their Ketchikan members alerting them of this, but if you missed the email and you rely on their messages to get your books in on time, I'm here to tell you that you need to go back to the old-fashioned way of tracking your books: look at the little date due slips we put in them upon checkout.
Another related piece of news: at this point we still have not been able to get our system to print overdue notices. We have just installed a software patch that we are pinning all our hopes on, and we will try again on Monday, but in the interim you might just want to hop online and check your account manually: Library Catalog. Click on 'My Account' and then on 'Review My Account'. In order to log in, you will need to enter all 14 digits on your library card barcode. The PIN is the last 6 digits of said barcode (if you hate this, you can change the PIN to something more memorable). Keep your fingers crossed for us on Monday!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Lobster Tales

We have two new books that share very little except the fact that I can use them to make an appalling pun for this posting.

Atomic Lobster, by Tim Dorsey, is a follow-up to his popular novels Hurricane Punch and Big Bamboo. Set in Tampa, the series involves slapstick action, over-the-top characters, sex, violence and lots of laughs. Fast-paced and crazy, this is a good choice for readers who like a little blood with their humor.

Last Night at the Lobster, by Stewart O'Nan, takes place at the other end of the Atlantic seaboard, in a snowy Connecticut town. Focusing on small-town, working-class life, Last Night tells the story of a conscientious manager of a chain restaurant that's being shut down. Determined to make the last night a triumph of organization and good service, Manny finds he is alone in his relentless drive to be positive. Not a lot of action, but very true to life.

And if fiction just isn't your bag, then try The Lobster Chronicles: life on a very small island, by Linda Greenlaw. The fishery might be a bit different, but the life is very similar to that of Southeast Alaska.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

New fantasy

We have a couple of new entries in fantasy series by popular authors.

Renegade's Magic is the third installment of Robin Hobb's "Soldier Son" trilogy (after Shaman's Crossing and Forest Mage). In this book, soldier Nevare Burvelle becomes a fugitive when condemned for a murder he did not commit. On the run and shunned by everyone except Lisana, he beings to realize that the Speck magic that has caused him so much pain and despair might actually be harnessed and used for his own purposes. But what will happen to the new Nevare?

Reader and Raelynx: a novel of the Twelve Houses is the latest book by Sharon Shinn. In her fourth book set in the troubled world of Gillengaria, Shinn continues to mix up a wonderful blend of magic, mysticism and romance. The mystic Cammon has been summoned to help vet the suitors for the Princess Amalie's hand, but the pair end up falling in love instead - a love doomed by their different stations in life.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pithy stories

We have a new book that we have catalogued into the mystery genre, but it would really appeal to anyone who loves short stories or witty writing. The Vicious Circle: mystery and crime stories by members of the Algonquin Round Table features short stories and plays by such famous writers as Dorothy Parker, Edna Ferber, Ring Lardner and George S. Kaufman. The authors of the stories in this book have won Tonys, Oscars, and Pulitzer Prizes for their work, and they were a creative force to be reckoned with back in their heyday. Most of the stories here could be considered crime or mystery writing only in the loosest sense, and some of them have nothing whatsoever to do with crime. But they are funny, entertaining, clever, perceptive and depressingly true. Dorothy Parker's story of an aging, blowzy mistress confronting her empty life is very sad, while S.J. Perelman's parody of detective fiction is hilarious.

"Then I holed up in a phone booth and dialled a clerk I knew called Little Farvel, in a delicatessen store on Amsterdam Avenue. It took a while to get the dope I wanted because the connection was bad and Little Farvel had been dead two years, but we Noonans don't let go easily. "

You don't have to be a fan of mystery novels to love this book, you just have to be a fan of great writing. (As a side note, the little biographies of each writer that editor Otto Penzler includes are an interesting read just in themselves, as is his introduction to the book. And I don't ordinarily read introductions).

Monday, March 24, 2008


I'm usually not a big fan of soundtracks, since they often seem to be lacking something without the movie playing along with them, but we have a couple of new CDs that just might be the exception. Part of the reason for this is that their movies are actually about the music and songs, rather than the soundtrack just being a pretty little thing in the background.

I'm Not There is a 2-disc set that features covers of 34 Bob Dylan songs. Artists include Los Lobos, Eddie Vedder, Richie Havens, Yo La Tengo and the folksy duet of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova (winners of the 2008 Academy Award for best song - see my blog of January 24). In case you haven't guessed, I'm Not There is the recent biopic of Bob Dylan for which actress Cate Blanchett was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Regardless of whether or not you liked the film, if you're a fan of Dylan's music you will be intrigued by these interpretations of his work.

Walk Hard: the Dewey Cox story takes a poke at all the music biopics that seem so popular lately, and the tried-and-true formulas some of them seem to follow: struggling musician from nowhere gets a big break, is catapulted to stardom, descends into a frenzy of sex, drugs and alcohol, fails to accommodate changing musical tastes, gives up the booze and pills, returns to their musical roots and finds redemption on the pop charts (as well as a second wave of fans). The songs on this album track the evolution of musical styles from Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash to Ziggy Stardust and disco. John C. Reilly is always likable, and he does a creditable job with the songs on this album. For fans of A Mighty Wind and This is Spinal Tap.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Cosy Little Read

One of the lovely things about books is that they're so comfortable to curl up in a chair with (as opposed to a Kindle, for instance). This cannot be said of our newest art book - 30,000 Years of Art: the story of human creativity across time and space. Produced by the slick arts publisher Phaidon, this baby clocks in at about 25 pounds. But since it truly does attempt to cover all of human artistic expression, you can understand why it's a bit hefty. Taking a chronological approach (instead of using geographical or cultural delineations), this book begins with "Lion Man of Hohlenstein-Stadel" from 28,000 B.C. and ends with a piece currently under construction: "Roden Crater" by James Turrell. Along the way, readers can explore the whole spectrum of art and expression from across the globe. Each page features a large color photo of the piece, its time and place of creation, the artist (most of the pieces were created by unknown artists), the medium and the current location. Considering some of the recent news stories about repatriation of artistic and cultural treasures, it's very interesting to see how many of these global pieces are in museums and galleries of Europe and North America. There is also a short descriptive analysis of each piece. The most fascinating thing about this book is that it allows you to look at artistic styles across cultures. For example, you can see pieces produced in 1350 from Japan, Tibet, Nepal, New Zealand, Turkey, Zimbabwe, China and Thailand. The appendices contain a cultural/political timeline, and an artistic timeline that places each piece in the book in context with each other and major global events (wars, plagues, inventions, etc.). This is a wonderful book not just for students of art, history or culture, but also for anyone interested in the way humans communicate their deepest feelings and desires visually. Just don't try to read it in bed.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Software Update

It's been two weeks since we fired up our new software system, and I thought I would give everyone a little update on how things are going. We've had lots of public comment about the new catalog, both positive and negative, and I want to let you know that we do keep track of issues as they pop up. There are still things that need to be tweaked with the system, and we are tackling them in order of operational priority (library triage!).
I would imagine everyone reading this has learned to use new software at some point in their lives (the pre-Windows XP days), and you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Operating the new system is pretty easy (click here, type this here, etc.). The part that we have been working away at is the database end. Our old UNIX system did not translate very smoothly into this new Unicorn product, and we're still trying to get our new database to recognize and work with all the old data. Think of it as trying to open all your old Windows files on an Apple computer. Ouch!
And to make things doubly difficult, we are actually talking about two sets of data: all the information about the items in the library collection (bibliographic data), and all the information about our library users (patron data). For example, patrons who had lost books during the last few years (and paid for them!) will find that those books have magically re-appeared on their account, and the new system is charging them overdue fines. Obviously, this issue is on the top of our triage list and will be corrected.
The take-home message here is that we are still flogging the new system into shape and you may encounter some oddities. Please feel free to mention to us if you think there is something unusual, as it may be an issue we don't already have on our list. Once again, I would like to thank everyone for being so gentle with us these last two weeks. By 2010, everything will be running smoothly, I promise!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


March is National Women's History Month, and February was African-American History Month, so I thought I would point out a couple of video series that we have on the shelf. Both series are multi-volume sets that look at hundreds of years of cultural contributions, political involvement, and the struggle against discrimination. The first set is Black History, and it is composed of short films and documentaries that were produced during the last 80 years. Some very memorable moments and personalities are included in these snippets. The other set is A History of Women's Achievement. Since each set is filled with information you may not have known, or may not have thought about, it would be very entertaining and informative to watch these two series. If you've got schoolkids at home, you should definitely watch these with them. It might spark some interesting discussions.

By the way, Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. We have a 4-volume video series that relates the struggles of American Hispanics. A History of Hispanic Achievement in America covers the 500-year story of Hispanics in North America, their cultural contributions, political highpoints and lowpoints, and the obstacles they have had to face. Definitely a series to keep in mind this fall.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Timely documentaries

Considering some of the recent events in the news, I would like to draw your attention to a few of the documentary films we have on our shelves.
Ralph Nader has entered the presidential race (again). An Unreasonable Man is a 2-hour biography of Nader, covering his early work as a consumer advocate and ending up with his news making 2004 campaign.
Recent primary elections have highlighted the issue of voting technology and technical difficulties. Hacking Democracy is an HBO documentary that looks at electronic voting, how votes are counted, and security holes in America's growing electronic voting systems.
China has recently clamped down on protesters in Tibet, once again isolating the region from the rest of the world. The History Channel looks at the isolated people of Tibet in a film titled Tibet's Lost Paradise: Shangri-La.
Globalization has become a very hot issue. Where is the World Going, Mr. Stiglitz? is a 5-part series looking at how the new world economy is affecting the environment, terrorism, developing nations and immigration. Joseph Stiglitz is a Nobel-winning economist with some very interesting views.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Magazines for the summer

Summer is coming and we will soon be crawling, bleary-eyed, out of our homes into the sunshine and outdoors. When that happens, keep a few of the new library magazines in mind for some summer reading and entertainment.
Camping Life is chock full of articles about all the new gear and hotspots that campers love. Recipes, camping tips, wildlife, and trail signs are regular features, and the current issue has details on over 1,000 campgrounds around North America (including state, city, county and privately-owned sites).
Fish Alaska covers the best in Alaskan fishing from all over the state. The February issue features an article about Ketchikan's Beacon Hill Lodge. Other articles focus on safety, travel, fly fishing, recipes, tackle and salmon. If you've already thumbed through all our great fishing manuals, you should try this magazine out.
Organic Gardening is full of advice on how to boost your soil, protect your plants from pests and diseases, grow bigger and better flowers, fruits and vegetables, and do it all as safely and naturally as possible. The current issue has an article on tomatoes for every climate. (We grew a lovely crop of cherry tomatoes in our little plastic greenhouse. It is possible in Ketchikan!)
Trailer Life is all about RVs: purchasing, maintaining, outfitting and enjoying. There are lots of travel ideas, reader tips, and advice for getting the most out of your recreational vehicle. If you're thinking of purchasing an RV, this is a fabulous resource for getting ideas and warnings.
All of our back issues check out for 3 weeks, so you can fill up your arms and bring them all home to read at your leisure. We also have a photocopier, if you would like to copy articles from the most current issue.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Literary snacks

On a real pedestrian level, collections of short stories, novellas and essays are great because you don't have to commit to a 300-page book. You can read a story here and there, whenever it fits into your schedule, and if you don't like one story you can quickly skip ahead to the next. On a higher level, writers often rise to greatness when they must convey their ideas in a brief span of pages. So here are a few new offerings for the reader on the go:
The Ends of the Earth: an anthology of the finest writing on the Arctic and the Antarctic, edited by Elizabeth Kolbert and Francis Spufford. The selections include the writings of explorers, scientists and novelists whose imaginations were captured by the poles. From the Antarctic exploration diaries of Shackleton and Amundsen to Elizabeth Kolbert's discussion of the effects of global warming on Shishmaref, this book offers a little something for everyone.
Sovereign Bones: new Native American writing, edited by Eric Gansworth, gathers essays from Native American poets and writers as they muse about their identities as writers and as Native Americans. They talk about how their writing reflects themselves and their culture, as well as the way they are viewed by others.
Wolf Woman Bay, edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg is a collection of ten crime and mystery novellas. The authors of these gripping stories include Ed McBain, Joyce Carol Oates, Sharyn McCrumb and Carole Nelson Douglas. If you are a fan of crime fiction, you will enjoy this anthology.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Must be Spring....

Since our thoughts are supposedly turning to romance at this time of the year, the library has put a bunch of new romance novels on the shelf.
Mistletoe Bay, by Marcia Evanick, is a single-mom and burly handyman story set in Maine in December. Jennie Wright has three kids and a brand new business, and Cooper Armstrong is the brand-new UPS guy who is happy to help her fix up her house and raise up her three sons.
Accidentally Yours, by Susan Mallery, involves a relationship between a billionaire who needs to hook up with a wholesome single mom to improve his image and a single mom who needs a chunk of money to cure her dying son.
Big Girls Don't Cry, by Cathie Linz, revolves around a plus-size model who returns to the small town where she grew up. She ends up working as a receptionist for sexy cad Cole, who used to taunt her mercilessly in school. But now he finds himself falling in love with her sexy curves.
Dark Heart, by Sarah Brophy, is set in 12th century England. Zetta is a beautiful pickpocket, but she chooses the wrong target when she ambushes Sir Gareth de Hughues.
Down and Dirty, by Sandra Hill, features a time-traveling Viking warrior maiden and a maverick Navy SEAL. It's worth thumbing through this book just to read the horrible dialogue: a mixture of macho Navy slang and 10th century (?) Norse insults. Her response after their first steamy encounter is "In truth, methinks 'twould not merit a repeat." Hear, hear.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

3 new history titles

For the history buffs amongst you, we have three interesting new books on the shelves.
In the Bunker With Hitler, by Bernd Freytag von Loringhoven is about an authentic account of that period that you could hope to read. von Loringhoven was an aide-de-camp to Hitler, and was present at the bunker during the last nine months of Hitler's life. He was allowed to leave the bunker - with Hitler's permission - the day before Hitler's suicide. His recollection of that time is a fascinating piece of material.
Going back a little further in time we have Aces Falling: war above the trenches, 1918, by Peter Hart. The introduction of aircraft into the military arsenal changed things greatly in WWI and initially the commanders of ground forces weren't sure how to counteract the bombs that rained down on them from the planes above. But by 1918 things had shifted, as more defensive weapons and maneuvers were being devised to dampen the threat of aircraft attacks. Craft does a wonderful job of describing air warfare during the waning days of WWI.
Continue back with me as we examine another seminal historical event: the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857. For the 150th anniversary of this tragic period, historian Julian Spilsbury has written The Indian Mutiny. No one comes out good in this story, and it was a horrific summer for everyone involved. Spilsbury explains the simmering racial and religious tensions that led up to the rebellion, the horrible massacres, and the aftershocks which reached all the way to London.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

House Lust

My father grew up in a family of seven with one bathroom. Decades later, I know childless couples that wouldn't dream of living in a house without at least two bathrooms. Everybody now has to have a dishwasher, a mudroom, and walk-in closets. Making your kids share a bedroom (gasp!) is considered cruel and unusual. And how do we get these fabulous houses with all this space and dozens of amenities? We borrow a huge amount of money and purchase homes we can't possibly afford.
With dire news about foreclosure rates and plummeting home sales appearing daily, what better time to read Daniel McGinn's new book - House Lust: America's obsession with our homes. McGinn examines the change in American culture over the last few decades, and the way that more Americans have begun to use their homes to display their wealth and status. He also talks about the recent popularity of real estate investment and the growing idea that savvy deals are the quick and easy way to a fortune. He peppers his book with true accounts of home owners and investors from across the country. Reading this book is a little like reading a Gothic novel; you can see the danger coming. You know the heroine shouldn't wander around the mysterious house alone at night, but you're powerless to stop her.

Monday, March 10, 2008

TAG on call

I would like to extend a very big thank-you to the members of the library's Teen Advisory Group who came to help orient the public to our new catalog. The teens were here all day on Saturday, explaining how to search for titles, find books on the shelf, and check personal library accounts using our new iBistro catalog system. They also explained to one patron how to set up a MySpace page, and helped transfer books from the New shelves to the regular stacks. It was a nice tie-in with national Teen Tech Week and it gave the public a chance to meet our wonderful TAG volunteers.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Great Generals series

For those of you who are interested in military history, reading about great battles and military tactics is a source of enjoyment. And, of course, reading about the military minds behind those tactics is no less interesting. We have a series of biographies about great Generals that you should check out, and we have just received our sixth installment in the series: Bradley by Alan Axelrod. We also have biographies of Eisenhower, Grant, MacArthur, Patton and Stonewall Jackson. These books aren't very long (generally about 200 pages), but they are a really nice supplement to other history books that are more concerned about events and politics than personalities and motivations. The series editor is retired General Wesley K. Clark, and in his foreword to Bradley, he discusses the impact that Bradley had on the "style and substance" of the United States Army. As nice as it is to read a biography written by an historian, seeing what a person's peers have to say about them is always enlightening. If you haven't browsed through this particular series, I recommend a closer look.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Une vie française

Now that we are past all that silly nonsense about 'freedom fries', I feel safe trotting out a couple of books that celebrate French culture and society.
Paris Café: the Sélect crowd by Noël Riley Fitch and Rick Tulka is an entertaining look at one of the most quintessential of the Parisian cafés. Its small little tables hosted the likes of Simone de Beauvoir, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and Henry Miller, and it continues the tradition of being for "people who want to be alone but need company for it". There are a few recipes in the back for café staples - Onion Soup, Welsh Rarebit, Croque Monsieur - but most of the book is about the culture of the café. One of the most appealing facets of the book are Rick Tulka's sketches of the patrons. It brings the whole place to life, and you could almost feel like you are sitting there with a hot café au lait in front of you.

The French Century: an illustrated history of modern France, by Brian Moynahan, is a more wide-ranging book. A chronological look at how France changed throughout the 20th century, this book covers all aspects of French society: arts, politics, sports, fashion, history, and economics. There is attention paid to the French love of vacations, the dark history of their treatment of French Jews in WWII, and the scandals that rocked the government in the late 1980's. If you want to know about the French, this is the book to read.

Friday, March 7, 2008

What Wonderful Patrons!

We have some of the nicest library patrons!

thank you so much to the person who gave us the bag of dove chocolates
thank you so much to the person who gave us the box of ferrero rocher chocolates
thank you so much to the person who gave us the homemade chocolate bundt cake
thank you so much to everyone who has come in and been patient and good-humored while we try to figure out how to renew your books collect your fines and place books on hold

If I was more clever, I would write that in haiku format. But instead, I did an e. e. cummings treatment.

What can you do with beads?

We have a new craft book here that is perfect for people with very nimble fingers and very sharp eyesight. The Beaded Dollhouse: miniature furniture and accessories made with beads by Nobuyo Chiba is beading on steroids. She gives you precise diagrams and instructions on creating everything you need for your tiny little dollhouse: beds, tables, sofas, bureaus, lamps, fireplaces, wardrobes, rugs. I thought that was amazing enough until I started thumbing through the pages and saw the accessories she includes in this book. There are diagrams for creating magazine racks, potted plants, chandeliers, birdcages, a Christmas tree (complete with packages), curtains, hats, dresses and - get this! - slippers. Each slipper is made of 40 seed beads (which gives you a pretty good idea of the scale we are talking about with this book). All of the furniture and trinkets Chiba presents can be measured in inches, with a canopy bed coming out at approximately 3" x 3" x 3". The doors on the wardrobe open, the drawers in the desks slide in and out, and the couch comes with tiny little throw pillows. Be sure to look at the candelabrum on page 32, or the calla lily on page 27. If you love dollhouses or you know a little girl, and you have a lot of patience, then the items in this book will be right up your alley. This is a unique crafting resource, and the finished product will draw oohs and aahs from anyone.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

We Are Open For Business!

Well, we have re-opened our doors after being closed for three days and we now have our new software system in place. We are already creating a 'punch list' of things that need to be fixed, and putting them in descending order of horribleness (which I'm pretty sure is not a word). However, when we got the call from the software people late yesterday that we were good to go, it was very exciting to use the system for the first time. Web-based training and sample databases have their place, I guess, but nothing brings it home like using your own computers and your own catalog. If you get the chance to drop in today, you will notice that we have our party faces on. There is cake, coffee and balloons and a feeling of stoic optimism. On Saturday we will have members of the Ketchikan Public Library Teen Advisory Group here to help people learn how to use our new catalog (no more green font on a black screen!). The teens came in on Tuesday afternoon to learn the catalog - iBistro - themselves, and the consensus was that it was much easier to use than our old catalog. They might be a little shy at first, but they are very helpful and will be readily available.
As a side note, I would like to extend a heartfelt 'Thank You' to whoever dropped the 5-lb bag of peanut M&Ms into our bookdrop at the beginning of the week. They're not quite all gone, but the bag has been a source of constant comfort these last few days.
So please come in, check us out, search for a book, and put us through our paces. And thanks for being patient.....

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

AkLA 2008

Well, I have just gotten back from the statewide library conference that was held in Fairbanks, and it was a great conference. The keynote speaker was Kee Malesky, who is an NPR librarian, and her speech was fascinating. Listening to her talk about working with Scott Simon and Dan Schorr was great! I didn't see any northern lights, because I didn't feel like getting up in the middle of the night, but there were large groups of tourists clambering on to buses at 10 pm to drive around looking at the lights.
I gave a session on constructing websites and blogs for small libraries (which means libraries without large budgets, staffs, or a dedicated IT department). The Google-hosted programs are free, easy to use and quick to throw together, so I hope the information was helpful. If you missed the session, or if you came and would like to see the slides as a refresher, I have posted all the information from the session here:
Step-by-step instructions for creating a website:
Step-by-step instructions for creating a blog:
Power point slides with screen shots from the Google website developer: (This one will take some time to download, I'm afraid, as it is 1.33MB)
If you do develop a website using any of this information, I would love to see it! Please email me with your link, and good luck!