Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Beautiful music

I have completely fallen in love with one of the new music CDs here at the public library - so much so that I have ordered a copy for myself from Amazon (sorry, it's not available here in town). The band is called Elbow, and their current release is The Seldom Seen Kid. You may have heard the title track on World Cafe, with its fabulous guitar riffs.
But the other tracks are just as good, if not better. 'The Bones of You' is a beautiful song about remembered love, and the power of a song to stop you in your tracks with memories. 'Some Riot' examines a friend's alcoholism and inability to avoid the wrong crowd. It ends with the question of whether the friend will stop drinking: "When will my friend start singing again?"
One of the more entertaining selections on the disc is 'The Fix', a story about doping horses, fixing races, and living it up on the Mediterranean. There's a sly, early-60's feel to the music and it just cries out to be the soundtrack of an Oceans Eleven-type movie.
The fact that I even know the lyrics to these songs is a testimony to how good they are, as I usually just pay attention to melody (it was years before I knew what the Kinks were referring to with their hit 'Lola'). The melodies here are ethereal and haunting on some tracks, and a thumping assault on others. Strings and brass flesh out the core Elbow group of guitars, keyboards, bass and drums, and the result is multi-layered and complex.
This disc is absolutely worth listening to, and definitely on my list of top-ten favorite albums.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


There is something very compelling about pop-psychology books (which probably explains why there are so many of them published each year). We are all self-absorbed enough to want to understand the underlying reasons for why we act, think, feel and look the way we do. Our newest book has the added bonus of providing scientific basis for self-excuses.
Why We Make Mistakes: how we look without seeing, forget things in seconds, and are all pretty sure we are way above average is written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Joseph T. Hallinan. He explains why multiple witnesses of the same crime never tell the same story. He looks at why error rates are so much higher among doctors than among pilots. He gives examples of how innate bias affects our decision-making and why multi-tasking is a seriously bad habit.
This is one of those books where you can pretty much open to any chapter and dive in, and the information will suck you into reading the entire book. You will probably recognize yourself somewhere in these pages (and might even find yourself saying "Oh no, I would never do that"). Chock-full of factoids and interesting anecdotes, Why We Make Mistakes is just begging to be read out loud to other people.
Fortunately for everyone, Hallinan polishes off the book with a 'how do I use all this information to help reduce mistakes in my life' chapter. Play devil's advocate when making important decisions. Get others to proofread. Don't multitask. Get enough sleep. Adapt to what you've got, and you'll be happier. Don't forget to turn your library books in on time (oops, that last suggestion was mine).
And where to find this book? On the New Book Shelves, under "153 HALLINA". Just look for the book with the crooked cover (nice touch, Mr. Publisher).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


There was a very nice article in this morning's edition of The Ketchikan Daily News about local resident Joe Sadlier, who passed away in Seattle last week at the age of 82. Among Mr. Sadlier's many contributions to the community was his service in the Navy during World War II aboard an LST (Landing Ship, Tanks). Five decades after the war's end, he was able to participate in a key event in the creation of a memorial to these LST sailors.
In the fall of 2000, Mr. Sadlier and 28 other veterans traveled to Greece to refurbish the old LST-325, which they proceeded to sail across the Atlantic. The ship is now a museum in Evansville, Indiana (http://www.lstmemorial.org/)
As mentioned in the Daily News article, this incredible voyage was documented by a film crew from the History Channel. We have a copy of this presentation - The Return of the LST-325 - on VHS, and Mr. Sadlier (who served as the ship's cook during the voyage) is featured in this documentary. An interesting and enjoyable film, it is also a nice memorial to a man who spent a great deal of his time and energy making sure that the sacrifices of our veterans were remembered, and that the schoolchildren of Ketchikan knew the role their grandparents and great-grandparents had played during World War II.
(Thank you to the Ketchikan Daily News for providing the information about Joe Sadlier's service)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

An action-packed week

Well, things have been a little busy in library-land the last few days.
The teen advisory group (TAG) hosted an evening of poetry and literary recitation on Friday, as a way of celebrating National Library Week. Seventeen people attended, and there was much laughter and good times had by all.
A group of Ketchikan librarians (including yours truly) honed their dancing chops at the Monthly Grind on Saturday night. Our dance routine was well-received, but the biggest hit of the evening seemed to be Library Lotto, especially when one lucky soul won a ticket worth 50% off their library fines!
Our library software was unintentionally upgraded to a new version over the weekend. It's not quite as big a shock as going from Windows XP to Vista, but there are still a few kinks we're working out. You may have noticed some disruption with your ability to use ListenAlaska; that has been fixed, and you can now go back to downloading audiobooks and music. Another change you may have noticed is that we no longer have the handy reminder on our online catalog, giving you the first 8 digits of your barcode for logging in to your account. We plan to reconfigure that soon, but in the meantime, your barcode starts with 23427000......
The cruise ship season starts tomorrow. To accommodate the changing demand for Internet access we always experience in the summer, we will be tweaking our machines so that we have two 15-minute terminals, and 4 1-hour terminals. That will allow our patrons to hop on and off more quickly, without long waits for reservations.
As always, we appreciate your patience as we undergo our changes....

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Electronic reference books

We are very happy to announce that we have added electronic reference books to the public library collection. Space-saving, full-text searchable and always-available, these online resources allow us to provide you with high-quality reference materials that are accessible to you any time of the day or night from your home computer. Unlike a Kindle or ebook, you don't need any specialized equipment to use these materials...you just need to get on the Internet.
Because they're online, we can incorporate them into our collection without having to discard any books to make room for them (as you might know, we are currently at full capacity. Any book we add to the collection means the removal of another). We are hoping that this format proves popular, and that we can expand this collection in the future. Our current offerings are:
  • Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine
  • Gale Encyclopedia of Senior Health
  • Gale Encyclopedia of Surgery and Medical Tests
  • American Indian Food
  • American Indian History
  • Historical Dictionary of the Civil War and Reconstruction
  • The New Nation
  • Phillip's Atlas of World History
  • The Story Behind the Song
  • World War II in Asia and the Pacific
  • World War II in Europe, Africa and the Americas
To access these books, you can go to the E-reference section of our website, and click on the book that interests you. At this time, you will need to enter a password (call 225-3331 for the password). We are working with our local Internet providers to establish password-free access, and hopefully that will be available during the coming week.
So browse around these new titles, and experiment with the format. As always, we love to hear what you think!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Don't just listen to me...

I'm always yapping at people about books that have caught my eye, or that I think people would really enjoy reading, but I thought I would share a few patron suggestions that I have received recently:
A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin. If our library patron were stranded on a desert island, this is one of the books that he would like to have with him. Helprin examines the weaknesses of humanity with a dark sense of humor, but also has a message about the redeeming qualities of human nature.
Death: a life by George Pendle. The patron didn't actually say anything to us about this supposed autobiography of Death (his father is Satan and his mother is Sin), but since he put in an Interlibrary Loan request for other books by this author, he must have liked it.
Bangkok Haunts by John Burdett. This patron just returned from a visit to Thailand, and said that Burdett's Bangkok-based mystery series was more informative about life in Thailand than the Lonely Planet guides.
It's always interesting to see what people are reading, and what books they find so good that they can't help wanting to share them with others......

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Move over, Dagwood

For anyone who thinks that a sandwich is a fine thing to snack on between meals, or to stuff in a brown paper bag for lunch, but doesn't constitute an actual meal....think again. The recipes in our new cookbook 'wichcraft: craft a sandwich into a meal - and a meal into a sandwich will show you that layering meats, cheeses, vegetables and spices between slabs of thick hearty bread can be a perfect dinner.
Forget about wimpy slices of American cheese and greasy bologna, smeared with mustard that's an eye-popping yellow. We're talking about "Roasted Turkey with avocado, bacon, balsamic onion marmalade and mayonnaise", "Red-wine braised flank steak with roasted peppers, onions and Gruyère", and "Roasted shrimp salad with tomatoes and olives". Elevate the traditional Reuben into "Pastrami with sauerkraut, Gruyère and whole-grain mustard sauce", or spice up a boring chicken salad with walnuts, roasted tomatoes, pickled red onions and frisée.
The really wonderful thing about using these sandwich ideas as dinner meals is that - with a little planning - they can be very quick to prepare. If you make up the relishes, pestos, pickled vegetables, marinated meats and roasted vegetables ahead of time, you can quickly pull the necessary ingredients out of the fridge and assemble your sandwiches quickly. Leftover meatloaf, chicken and pork roast can be used as the basis for these creations, and fresh vegetables are a must (as is good, hearty bread). Mmmm....is it time to eat yet?
(Note to the cookbook publisher: having the table of contents with the pictures right next to the recipe listings was an excellent idea!)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Vampire/Romance/Mystery/Comedy Fiction

Fusion cuisine has taken over American kitchens, and this idea of melding different tastes and flavors seems to be seeping into bookstacks as well. The Romance Writers of America produce a quarterly publication called Romance Sells, which is basically a catalog of current romance releases. Two of the biggest sections in this catalog (subgenres) are romantic suspense and paranormal romance, in which the love story is spiced up a little with things like attempted murder and werewolves.
One of the stars of fusion fiction has to be Charlaine Harris. Her Sookie Stackhouse series - which has been transformed into the HBO series True Blood - is a mystery series with a light comedic touch and romantic subplots, and always involves vampires. These books are incredibly popular and have been flying off the shelves since we added them to the collection. The first book in the series is Dead Until Dark, which introduces Sookie: a mind-reading cocktail waitress with the ill-luck to fall for a handsome guy who just happens to be a vampire.
As a double bonus, we not only have the Sookie series, but we just got one of the novels on Playaway: Dead to the World. This is your chance to discover both an amusing author and a convenient audio format, and isn't that efficient?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

National Library Week

Tomorrow is the start of National Library Week. I know, I know...you've waited all year long for this exciting week-long cornucopia of all things library. Me too. So what's happening this week?
The Children's Library will be celebrating with guest readers at storytime (Wed. - Fri. 10:30 am). Wednesday's reader will be Borough Mayor Dave Kiffer. Thursday's guest will be Borough Assembly Member Janine Gibbons. Friday's guest will be Leslie Swada from the Forest Service. Kids and parents of all ages are welcome to attend.
The Adult Library (just to show that we can be fun too) will be hosting games. Stop by anytime and try your hand at a Library Scavenger Hunt, and you can win a free book. Guess how many CDs the Adult Library owns, and you can win a bag of Library Blend coffee. And every time you check out something from the library next week, you get a chance to play Library Lotto: prizes include free books, bonus Internet time, free copier use, even discounts on your library fines!
The Teen Advisory Group will be hosting RaWR II!: Readings and Wild Recitations at 7pm Friday April 17th in the downstairs library. Everyone is encouraged to share a favorite poem, quote or passage.
To cap the week off, please come to the Monthly Grind on Saturday, April 18th at 7:00 pm. Ketchikan's librarians are hosting this month's production, and you are in for a fun evening of music, dance and library-related humor & hijinks! You really don't want to miss the Synchronized Shelving display or Giant Storytime. Call 225-3331 for details...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bruce Coville

A few months ago, in an attempt to interest my daughter in reading something other than fairy stories, I brought home a Bruce Coville book (The Dragon of Doom). She wanted nothing to do with it, and did not even want to open the cover. Last week, in advance of Mr. Coville's visit to Ketchikan, I tried to interest her in another of his books. No sell (I'm sure she didn't get that stubbornness from me..)
But yesterday morning she sat with her classmates and watched Mr. Coville deliver the most fascinating, humorous, energetic and inspiring talk I've ever heard (I got to go, too!). His presentation was part storytelling, part writing workshop, and part comedy and the kids and adults in the room were enthralled. He had the kindergartners laughing at his monster impersonations. He had the 3rd graders laughing about nagging parents. He had the 6th graders laughing about his early rejection notices from publishers. And he had them all listening to the process that he goes through as he shapes a vague story idea in his head into a finished, published book. He was able to explain - in a way that a 7-year-old would understand, and a 12-year-old would find interesting - how he adds in important details, fleshes out characters, and creates foreshadowing in each successive draft for a story. He even explained to the kids how they could pick out these technical maneuvers as they read a story, and how to understand the framework behind the book.
How good was Bruce Coville's talk? The first question my daughter asked when she came home from school was "Can we read all of Bruce Coville's books?"

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

They're here! They're here!

Back in November, we introduced our public library patrons to a new format: Playaways. These self-contained audiobooks have proven hugely popular, with each title having been listened to about a half-dozen times, and until recently 75% of the collection was checked out at any one time.
The true measure of their popularity, however, has been that people have started asking when we're getting more titles. Well, ask and ye shall receive. We've just added 4 new titles to our Playaway shelves, and we have another 7 waiting to be cataloged. The new Playaways on the shelf include:
  • Extreme Measures by Vince Flynn
  • Izzy & Lenore by Jon Katz
  • Just After Sunset by Stephen King
  • A Most Wanted Man by John le Carré
We plan on continuing the growth of this red-hot collection, and we will be adding 12 new titles every quarter...so keep scanning the shelves. And if you would like to see a complete list of the Playaways we have available, just search our online catalog. Type the word "Playaway" in the search box, and hit the Title button. You'll get the full list of all 57 titles, which ones are currently on the shelf, and which ones you can place a hold on. Thanks for listening!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A new favorite author

I've been gone for the last week (a stay-at-home vacation), so I got the chance to try out some of the authors that have caught my eye in the past. One of the mystery writers I picked up was so good that I ended up reading each book in one sitting.
L. A. Garcia-Roza is a Brazilian writer, and his Inspector Espinosa series is just wonderful. The protagonist reminded me of some classic British detectives, in that he has a poetic soul and an introspective mind that puts him at odds with some of his colleagues (set in Rio de Janerio, the idea of corrupt policemen involved in drugs, prostitution and racketeering is an accepted state of affairs in this series). Unlike Adam Dalgliesh, Espinosa doesn't write poetry; but he does frequent the used bookstores of Rio, picking up translations of great English literature and an entire wall in his apartment is piled high with books. He takes a methodical approach to solving crimes and frequently catches himself daydreaming.
Garcia-Roza takes you inside the mind of all the main characters, and you see their perspectives and emotions playing against the activities of others. The murders are realistic without being too gruesome and there is little if any forensic science involved. The crimes are solved through questioning human nature and gauging motivations, as well as some interesting twists of fate. The character of Rio percolates up through the story without coming off as a travelogue (since the books were originally published in Brazil, the reader was assumed to be somewhat familiar with Rio's atmosphere, just as American readers have an idea - true or false - of New York City). Some kind of romantic and/or sexual relationship crops up in each book, and the descriptions of these encounters are - like the murders - in the middle of the range in terms of graphic detail.
For fans of P.D. James or Martha Grimes, the Inspector Espinosa series spices up solid character development with exotic locales and intricate plots. This is a new addition to my list of favorite mysteries. Start with The Silence of the Rain, then on to December Heat.