Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Music for the New Year

Life is so much more interesting with a soundtrack, and I have some suggestions for the weeks ahead. To make things easier, I've put them into two groups, depending on whether you're a 'glass half-full' or 'glass half-empty' kind of person:
The half-empty folk: what other choice is there except the blues?
  • Skin Deep by the legendary Buddy Guy
  • Keep it Simple from Van Morrison
  • Two Men With the Blues features Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis
  • Where the Light Is by John Mayer
The half-full folk: peppy tunes and fun lyrics to keep you happy
  • Everything to Everyone from the Barenaked Ladies
  • Tropical Brainstorm from Kirsty MacColl
  • One Thousand & One Nights by Said Mrad (a real toe-tapper)
  • Gold: ABBA's greatest hits (cheesy but infectious)
Do you have any suggestions of great library CDs to ring in the New Year? Post your ideas and share your musical tastes with the rest of us. A Happy and Safe New Year to everyone....

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ya know, I didn't move to Alaska to deal with a bunch of snow!

Well, it's been an interesting few days. The library closed down at 3 pm on Saturday, and we have just reopened this morning. We will be closing at 5 pm today (possibly earlier if the snow keeps up). Due to the heavy snowfall and poor road conditions, we will be using FINE FREE CHECK-IN for the rest of the week. So if you are snowbound and cannot get your books and videos into the drop box here at the library or at the A&P Grocery store, don't worry about it. We don't want anyone risking life and limb for the sake of an overdue DVD.
In fact, as much as we love to have people come to the library, if you don't have to come downtown, we would really prefer that you stay safe and avoid the trip. Our parking lot has not been plowed and there is a fair amount of snow in the lot, so be forewarned. This would be the perfect opportunity to take advantage of our free downloadable audiobooks from ListenAlaska
Thanks for your understanding, and keep your fingers crossed for a break in the weather.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Well, the weather outside is frightful

The snow is coming down in buckets, and we have not seen hide nor hair of a snowplow, so the library will be closing at 3 pm today so that the staff and patrons can get home before dark. We're sorry for any inconvenience...stay safe!

Nyuk nyuk nyuk

I must have a hidden Y chromosome somewhere, because I think the Three Stooges are a hoot. Highbrow critics might look down on those of us who giggle when we watch somebody getting hit in the back of the head with a plank, but hey - lighten up!
Of course, the secret is watching the right Stooges. If it ain't got Curly, it ain't worth watching (sorry, Shemp). Fortunately, we have a new Stooges collection from their early years that features the Original Three: Curly, Larry and Moe. Here are the first 19 shorts from the Stooges' work with Columbia Pictures, from 1934-1936, including their first film Woman Haters. This debut was done entirely in verse, which gets old fast, but the next film - Punch Drunks - shows the Stooges honing their craft. By the time you get to Hoi Polloi, there's nothing but laughs.
Whether you would consider this 'family fare' is up to you. I know many parents are concerned about their children watching too much violence, and the last thing you want is little Timmy practicing a Moe Howard eye poke on the kid next door. But by the same token, this is the type of slapstick humor that The Greatest Generation grew up on and they seem to handle themselves pretty well. So even if The Three Stooges Collection doesn't seem appropriate for your 8-year-old kids, I bet their Grandpa would enjoy it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dear Santa

Dear Santa, I have been a very good librarian this year. I have conscientiously weeded the collection, and purchased wonderful new materials for a variety of interests and needs. Because I've been so good, I have a long wish list.
For Christmas, I would like publishers to stop issuing library-unfriendly packaging. That means no more video cases made entirely of biodegradable cardboard which will melt like a lozenge as soon as a patron drops it in the wet parking lot (Massage Practice for Infants). It means no more CDs which don't have their title and/or artist anywhere on the disc, forcing poor librarians to write the title in teeny tiny letters on the clear plastic center of the disc (Where the Fins Meet the Frets). It means no more books with separate inserts that are vitally necessary for understanding the plot of the story but will get hopelessly lost by the time the third patron takes the book home (The Rose Labyrinth). And it means no more multi-disc DVDs that come in elaborately constructed cases that unfold to something the size of a dining room table, and with a flimsy plastic window, to boot! (The Ten Commandments 50th Anniversary Collection). Don't even get me started on spiral-bound books whose pages tear out more easily than the checks in my checkbook.
If you bring me my wish for Christmas, Santa, I promise not to shush teenage patrons, to wake sleeping patrons more soothingly, and to smile politely if a tourist asks me what I do here all winter long. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Girl's best friend

What is it with little girls and horses? Imagine my surprise when my daughter, whose sole experience with horses are the ones pulling sodden tourists around in the summer, added a request for "a real hors" to her Christmas list for Santa. (She's already begun building a stable).
So if you have a little girl in your life, you might consider bringing home Horse Breeds: 65 popular horse, pony & draft horse breeds by Daniel and Samantha Johnson. It's a compact little book filled with gorgeous pictures of horses jumping, galloping, pulling carts, playing polo, racing and grazing. This book is also a really nice introduction to different types of horses popular today, with descriptions of their best attributes. The authors discuss temperament, strength, breeding history, and physical characteristics, giving the reader a nice overview. Thumbing through the book, I was drawn to the dark Percheron horses:
"Its movement is also influenced by its Arabian heritage, as the Percheron
exhibits a longer stride than many of the other draft breeds. Percherons
have historically been used for farm work, as war horses, and as driving
animals. The Percheron originated in France and is named for the Le Perche

So if you're picking out a horse to leave under your daughter's Christmas tree this year, take a gander at this lovely book. Or better yet, bring it home for her to read.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Beautiful fairy tales

I recently brought home a brand-new animated DVD from the library called Princes and Princesses to share with my daughter. The premise of the movie is simple: an art teacher and his two students conjure up (with the help of a magic robot) costumes and scenery to act out various fairy tales. There are six tales in all, ranging from European tales of enchantment and bravery to a Japanese morality play to an Egyptian fable about betrayal. What makes this film truly magical is the animation. All the stories are told using silhouettes, and the details in the scenery and costumes is amazing. Feathers, willows, filigrees and lace are all beautifully recreated in what appears to be cut-out black paper (I freely admit I have no idea how they did the animation). The workmanship is so fine, and the images are so beautiful, that no matter how old you are you will be captivated by the look of this film. The plots to the stories are all very mild, which is not always the case with fairy tales. In the one futuristic story, the lonely & bitter princess uses a destructor ray to eliminate the 'princes' vying for her love, but you never actually see anyone being vaporized.
One word of warning, however. This film was made in France, and is subtitled in English, so if you watch this with your children you will have to read it aloud to them the first time. Once they have the gist of the plot, they may not need the narration to follow the story the next time they watch it. If you enjoy reading out loud to your kids, this will be a fun challenge. If you're not comfortable reading out loud (and many people aren't), then this film might not be a good fit, especially since some of the subtitles are a bit bizarre (I suspect the subtitles were produced by a computer with voice-recognition software, because some of the errors are totally from left-field).
But whatever your comfort level with narrating the film, this is a gorgeous piece of art.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What goes on there all week?

I just got back from my annual 'prepare for the holidays' vacation. I don't actually go anywhere, I just take a week off from work to buy & wrap gifts, write cards, bake cookies and decorate my house (personally, I find it eliminates stress much better than waiting until the day before Christmas to start your vacation - it's too late to do anything by then!).
So when I got back to my desk, I found my New Books cart overflowing with a variety of things that were ready to be put out on the shelf. And since it's easy to lose track of just how many new books, videos, CDs and audiobooks we make available over time, I thought I would give you a snapshot idea of what a typical week's output looks like:
  • 24 new nonfiction books

  • 19 audiobooks

  • 18 documentary & nonfiction films

  • 15 feature films

  • 12 new novels

  • 11 music CDs

  • 1 graphic novel (and a partridge in a pear tree....)
I'm here all the time, so our new materials seem to go on the shelves in a steady rate to me. But if you are like most people, you probably come down to the library once a week (Library Day) and find a heap of new things on the shelf. So now you know just how many new things there are - and if something doesn't grab your attention, just give it a day or two...something great is bound to come along.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Radio Theatre From the BBC

In my ever-fanatical quest to turn people on to audiobooks, I have had a few people tell me that they've given the format a try but that they just don't like having people read out loud to them. In true 'never-say-die' fashion, I would like to showcase a special type of audiobook: full cast dramatizations.
Think of these as television that you can't see. For each of our new BBC audiobooks, talented British actors with those wonderfully plummy voices take on some of the most popular authors from the U.K. Some of these actors include Michael Hordern, Susannah Harker and Michael Williams. The stories are all classic works of fiction that are suitable listening for almost all ages (the preschooler crowd really won't be interested). Think of them as some background entertainment for when you're wrapping gifts and frosting cookies.

  • The 4:50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie

  • Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens

  • Maigret and the Minister by Georges Simenon

  • The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

  • Nemesis by Agatha Christie

  • Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

  • Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

  • A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

  • The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle

There are more on the way, so keep checking our shelves!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hobbies, sports & crafts database

We are test-driving a new database here at the public library, and we would love to have some public input about this great new resource. If you are already a patron of our online car repair and small engine repair databases, then this one is very similar but with a completely different focus: hobbies, crafts and sports.
This online database contains magazine and newspaper articles, book excerpts, patterns, photos, even videos on a wide range of recreational topics, from fishing to fabric painting, caving to card games, knitting to knives. With almost 150 different craft & hobby topics to choose from, you can look for embroidery patterns, hints on fly-tying, advice on cake decorating and glass working, and recipes for beer brewing.
Simply go to our website and click on the pair of gold scissors in the middle of the page. Once you're in the database, you can either browse by topic or search for something specific. You can even look through their selection of Kids' crafts and Christmas crafts. This is a 30-day trial, and we are eager to hear what our patrons think of this new service. Once you've had time to poke around, please email us and tell us what you think....

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Terry Pratchett's Discworld

I will be totally upfront about this: I have never read a Terry Pratchett novel. A member of our library staff is a huge fan, however, and she has given her seal of approval to two new videos in our collection. These DVDs are animated versions of two of Pratchett's popular fantasy novels, Soul Music and The Wyrd Sisters. These British productions (author Pratchett is also British) feature somewhat cartoony animation, and I'm afraid I can't comment as to the authenticity of the adaptation. But these films made our staff fan chuckle, and since the popularity of the Discworld series is due to the spot-on parody of the Fantasy genre, I imagine that if the film makes you laugh it is a successful adaptation.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Creativity knows no bounds

The concept behind one of our new books is quite intriguing, and when you think about it, seems to make a lot of sense. The Writer's Brush: paintings, drawings and sculpture by writers is a fascinating book on many different levels. Donald Friedman has collected the visual work of almost 200 famous writers, from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (born 1749) to Jonathan Lethem (born 1964). Alongside the color photos of the art, Friedman includes a short biography of the artist/writer and an explanation of how their lives intersected with that of visual art. In some cases, these creative minds were formally trained in painting and sculpture and drifted into writing later in their lives. Dorothy Dunnet went to the Edinburgh College of Art and had a career as a painter before she began writing historical novels.
Other writers showed a natural aptitude for expressing themselves in paint. Edmund Lear, the most famous creator of limericks, was a self-taught artist who supported himself and his sister with his landscape and zoological paintings, while Thomas Hardy's artistic skills led him to be an apprentice to an architect. Other writers in this collection are expressive without being artistically gifted. Mark Twain and Dylan Thomas produced lighthearted doodles, while Marcel Proust's sketches are crude but numerous. These creative writers felt compelled to express themselves on paper, albeit without words.
In many cases, this book helps to illuminate the inner thoughts and feelings of the writer (Edgar Allen Poe's sensitive portrait of his beloved wife) or highlights their sense of humor (John Updike's college cartoons) or shows them in a relaxed, meditiative frame of mind (Xinghian Gao). Whether you're a fan of literature or visual art, this is a very interesting book and it makes you think about the creative process.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


No matter how busy you are, no matter how mediocre a cook you may be, there is something about Christmas that brings out the baker in all of us. Innumerable gatherings, treats for coworkers, class parties and clamoring children are all excuses for us to dig out the apron and get covered with flour and molasses. In order to inspire you on to great and glorious things, we have quite a few Christmas cookie books on the shelf for you to choose from.
Rose's Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Beranbaum is the most comprehensive of the bunch, with a whopping 60 different cookie recipes to drool over. Special treats for gift giving, ornament-worthy cookies, fun recipes for kids and dinner party gems are some of the themes in this book. The recipes are presented in both standard measure and weight amounts and give instructions for using either a food processor (for us lazy folk) or an electric mixer (for the more traditional). [If you're the type of cook who makes cookies using nothing but a wooden spoon, you probably don't even need recipes!]
Christmas Cookies: 50 recipes to treasure for the holiday season is by Lisa Zwirn. Her cookie recipes are grouped by method (drop, rolled, hand-shaped, bar, etc.) which is nice if you are particularly adverse to certain types of cookie manufacturing. Personally, I loath making rolled cookies and will probably just skip over that entire chapter. The recipes are all simple and easy to follow, but only about a third of the recipes are accompanied by photos. Call me unimaginative, but I can't get fired up about making a cookie without a glossy color photo spurring me on to glory.
Christmas cookies, candies & cakes comes from the people at Woman's Day. If you're used to seeing the beautiful photos of cakes and sweets on the cover of this magazine (right next to the headline about losing 10 lbs in 2 weeks on their amazing thyroid diet), then you know the kind of gorgeous treats to expect. The sugar cookies are more elaborately decorated than most people have time for, but the peppermint cream puff ring is to die for. The bars in this book strike a nice balance between layers of ingredients (raspberry schnitten has jam, roasted hazelnuts and chocolate) and the ease of throwing it all into a pan to bake.
The Christmas table: recipes and crafts to create your own holiday tradition by Diane Morgan is your one-stop-resource for all things edible at Christmas. Pre-prandial beverages and appetizers, side dishes and main courses for your holiday party, food gifts, Christmas breakfast, cookie exchange parties, holiday decor and flashy desserts are all covered here. There is even a helpful chapter on what to do with all the darned leftovers. If you need inspiration for your upcoming dinner party, this is the book to grab.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


With the recent closure of the Blockbuster store here in Ketchikan, our video options have narrowed somewhat. Many people - my mother included - seem to be turning to Netflix to supply their movie watching needs. Before you direct your browser to your Netflix account, however, I ask that you give the library catalog a try. In the last month, there have been half a dozen times I have heard people mention videos that they ordered, only to think to myself "Well, we have that at the library". John Adams, Edward the King, The 3:10 to Yuma....we have all of those movies available for free at the library.
We won't drop them off in your mailbox, like Netflix, but you can browse our selection online and place holds on the titles you want. We will pull them off the shelf for you and have them waiting at the front desk for you to pick up. You can even come down and wander around our shelves to see what looks good. Best of all, you don't have to wait for them to arrive in the mail.
We have over 4,000 films just in the Adult library alone, and our collection includes both DVD (1,200) and VHS (2,855) formats. Rather than relying on the blockbuster films that are available for rent, our collection features lots of classics, critically-acclaimed movies, foreign films, documentaries, BBC & PBS productions and how-to videos. Whether it's a silent film featuring Rudolph Valentino, an Academy-award winning documentary or a family-friendly show like All Creatures Great & Small, there is something on our shelf that will interest anyone. Just give us a chance...