Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a safe and happy holiday!  And now, relax with some festive, rights-cleared images for educational and noncommercial use from our Brittanica ImageQuest eResource.

Thanksgiving Parade. Photographer. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 8 Oct 2015.

Autumn leaves may indicate the year is dying but they make sure it goes out in a blaze of glory. Next weekend, Thanksgiving, should find the forests of the Muskoka area at their best but it will be another week after that before the trees of Southern Ontario his their peak. So let's go for a drive then.. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 8 Oct 2015.

American Football. Photographer. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 8 Oct 2015.

Lemurs Enjoy Thanksgiving Feast At San Francisco Zoo. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 8 Oct 2015.

Thanksgiving Greetings. Fine Art. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 8 Oct 2015.

All branch libraries are closed today and tomorrow but our website offers resources like downloads & databases 24/7! Regular hours resume Saturday, November 28th.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Sketchbook Project

My fascination with community art projects has found a new object!  It is called the Sketchbook Project.  The book that introduced me, The Sketchbook Project World Tour, was recommended to me by a customer who loved it.  I always love hearing what my customers have enjoyed reading, and even better when I have the chance to look into their favorites, as I did with this one.  

The project this book is based on is a really neat thing.  I don't know how to not understate it.  And although it reminds me of other community cultivating projects I've posted about, such as Storycorps, Humans of New York, and PostSecret (links are to my posts), I'll try not to do it disservice by just repeating the super cool similarities. The book is a sampling of sketches from the crowd-sourced Brooklyn Art Library, which houses 33,868 sketchbooks by people from 135 countries who paid an entry fee to participate in the project and received blank Sketchbook Project notebooks (currently priced at $28 for non-digitized or $63 for digitized) to fill with their art and send back to become permanent pieces in the library.  Each piece of art featured in the book is only one spread from the sketchbook that it came from, but if you visit the library in Brooklyn, you can browse all of the sketchbooks!  You can also search for and check out sketchbooks online, and when you do, the artist whose work you are viewing is notified.

In reading about the Sketchbook Project, I discovered that the founders started it because they did not like the way that normal art places were so exclusive.  Therefore, anybody of any age or experience can join in on the project - it is not just for professional artists.  That being said, most of the art in The Sketchbook Project World Tour could've fooled me.  The creative capacity that we've been endowed with and how much breadth and depth there is in the variety of art that we can create, even as novices, takes my breath away. 

Just in case anybody decides they are going to enter the Sketchbook Project and needs some inspiration or instruction, I'm tacking on to this post another fascinating book that I found - Zendoodle: Oodles of Doodles.  (By the way, please let me know if you do enter, I would be so excited to hear about it!)  This book offers unique approaches to Zentangle® and it, too, includes examples of artwork in many types of media and with lots of unique approaches.  Even if you don't pick up pen (colored pencil, paint, or chalk) and paper to try it out, this book is beautiful and great fun to browse through. 


10 Incredible Journals From the Brooklyn Art Library

A Home for Sketchbooks of the World

Inside the Brooklyn Art Library and the Sketchbook Project 2012

Inside a Stranger's Sketchbook

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Poetry in the Digital Age

I know I said I was going to post a guide to YA fantasy novels, and I still am, but today, I have to talk about something new (to me) in the poetry world.

Recently, the New York Times published an article about young poets publishing their poetry on social media sites such as Instagram and Tumblr, and the success those poets have seen as a result. For example, according to the New York Times article, poet Tyler Knott Gregson has 560,000 followers on Tumblr and Instagram, and his first book, Chasers of the Light, has more than 120,000 copies in print. A post on Gregson's website states that his book All The Words Are Yours is a semifinalist for the 2015 Goodreads Choice Award for Poetry Book of the Year, an award that Goodreads members vote on.

The New York Times article has dubbed poets like Gregson "Instapoets," a term I find fascinating. Much like vloggers on YouTube and musicians on Myspace, Instapoets are becoming online celebrities, and I'm curious about what this means for poetry.

I've had several conversations with colleagues about this, and the general consensus is that these Instapoets will not be a gateway for readers who might search out other poets, like Louise Gluck, Ted Kooser, and Mary Oliver. It's also been the general consensus that the quality of poems written by Instapoets might not be that good--and after reading Chasers of Light, I have found that Gregson's poetry does lack depth, and that much of it is cliched.

As the New York Times article mentions, the chances of Instapoets impressing literary critics is small, but perhaps this is beside the point. The amount of online followers Instapoets like Gregson have, and the amount of books Instapoets are selling both indicate that these poets are filling some kind of need for their readers. Presumably, writing poetry also fulfills a need for Instapoets, because otherwise, why would they be writing? For me, it becomes problematic when those writers then share their poems without first revising them at least once.

The key to poetry, and to any writing, is knowing when to revise, and knowing when to let something go (or, as many writers may call it, knowing when to kill your darlings). I have to wonder about Instapoets: How often do they revise their poetry, if they revise it at all? If they don't revise their poetry, why? Is it because they think they have written something that is perfect, which rarely happens in first drafts of anything? Is it because they simply don't know how to? There are so many possibilities, and I have my opinion about why Instapoets might not revise their work (assuming, of course that they don't).

At the end of the day, Instapoetry doesn't work for me. Despite how it's shaping poetry in the digital age, and despite the positive response Instapoets are getting, I just can't get behind it. When I read poetry, I want to read about ideas I haven't read before. When I read Instapoetry (or, as one of my coworkers calls it, pop poetry), I feel like I'm reading the same poems over and over again.

I'm also curious: What would happen if traditionally published poets like Ted Kooser and Mary Oliver tried what Gregson does, and posted their poems on social media? Would they get the same following, or would they not get much attention (or, perhaps they would get attention solely for doing what the Instapoets have done, and not get attention for their poetry)?

What are your thoughts? Do poets like Tyler Knott Gregson, Lang Leav, and Robert M. Drake appeal to you, or do you think Instapoets are just a fad that will soon disappear? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, November 19, 2015


It's National Novel Writing Month!  Have you taken up the challenge to write a 50,000 novel in 30 days? The folks at the NaNoWriMo website make it so easy - sign up for free, track your word count, get pep talks from famous authors, attend write-ins locally, and, for those who find it hard to commit, you can even print out and sign a Month-Long Novelist Agreement and Statement of Understanding, acknowledging that "the the month-long, 50,000 word deadline [you] set for [yourself] is absolute and unchangeable."

Why NaNoWriMo?  You love writing.  You love the challenge (or could use a motivator).  Also, according to the website: "Over 250 NaNoWriMo novels have been traditionally published. They include Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Hugh Howey’s Wool, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Jason Hough’s The Darwin Elevator, and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder."

If you have been participating your word count should be just past the halfway mark, around 28,000 words as of November 17th. Just two weeks left to go! We are participating this year, and we are running way, way behind at around 14,000 words.  One of our writing buddies, in Alaska, just did an 11-hour lock-in writing marathon.  It might come to that for us! Our region (USA: New Mexico: Albuquerque) has many helpful events scheduled, including Write-Ins at a variety of locations. There are also Word Sprints on Twitter, Virtual Write-Ins, and more - check the Official NaNoWriMo calendar.

If you are feeling like you could use some inspiration, there's a Get Inspired page on the NaNoWriMo site, or, consider checking a writing guide from the library catalog!  Some standouts include:

No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty [eBook]

The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life by Priscilla Long

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott [eBook]

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King [eBook + eAudio]

Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life by Natalie Goldberg

How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead: Your Words in Print and Your Name in Lights by Ariel Gore 

Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K. Le Guin [eBook] 

Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers by Carolyn See 

Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro  

On Writing by Eudora Welty 

Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots by William Wallace Cook [eBook]

A Kite in the Wind: Fiction Writers on Their Craft edited by Andrea Barrett and Peter Turchi [eBook]


For more writing guides, try a subject search of "Authorship - Handbooks, manuals, etc." or "Authorship".

If you haven't been participating, there's always next year, or there are other NaNoWriMo-style events during the year - Playwriting Month, Gothic Novel Writing Month, 24 Hour Comics Day, Script Frenzy. 


The NaNoWriMo Blog

Best Books for Writers [Poets & Writers]

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

#librarianproblems #rant

Does anybody else have the problem of checking out too many books at once - so that so many accumulate that you get overwhelmed and end up returning several that you've barely begun reading? I had to do that this weekend.  About 5 books that I decided I would probably never finish at this rate came back to the library.  I have to tell myself that if they're important enough, I'll remember them later. I don't even make a list of them, because that would just add to my overwhelm. Which is not really consistent with the fact that I have a running list of possibly hundreds of "to read" books.  I use it so that I can completely ignore all of the books I want to read.  I tell myself that if it's important enough, I'll have an urge to read it whether it's on the list or not, and that this list is just to refer back to in the event that I run out of things to read.  Like THAT will ever happen!  I'm a book addict working in a library.  But at least I borrow instead of buy - my house would be made of books and I would be completely broke if I did that. 

I know I have librarian problems,* but I'm also aware that my threshold is very low.  Because I know that I get overwhelmed when too many items are on my account, I try really hard to say no to most of the books I drool over as they pass under my nose at work.  (Thus, the "to read" list, which I'm realizing also makes me feel like someday I might read all of the books I've ever wanted to read... more wishful thinking.)  As I said earlier, I returned about 5 books, but all I had checked out were 11 in total at that point - which is relatively few in light of the 50 item limit that full privilege cardholders have.  But I don't have time to read 11 books at once!  And if I focus on just one, it will take me a month to finish it unless I become totally antisocial or stop doing the dishes.  (I may not read very much.)

So there's a taste of the struggles and joys we who work at the library (and/or love books too much) face day to day.  If you would like some books about working in a library atmosphere to take home or add to your "to read" list, I've listed some below for your browsing pleasure.  (Don't take them too seriously!)

Rex Libris: I, Librarian by James Turner

Librarian for a Day  by Julie Tibbott

At the completion of the writing of this post, I have already accumulated 6 more books that I will not have time to read.  But maybe I'll give myself a pass this once since I will be on vacation for a week very soon.  I would be making up some excuse to take them home even if I weren't, though - let's be real. 

*To honor my colleagues who are actual librarians, I will admit here that I'm only a paralibrarian - I did not work my behind off in school to achieve librarianhood.  When customers call me a librarian, I have to explain that I am not, in fact, that formally educated.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Beneath the Waves

We've been thinking a lot about maritime life in the past few years, dating back to when Paul the Octopus was predicting World Cup winners in 2010. More recently, we have been reading about attempts to save Australia's Great Barrier Reef, which is in poor condition due to pollutant damage, the continuing infiltration of plastic into the world's oceans, New Zealand's commitment in ocean conservatation in its creation of an ocean sanctuary in "an area twice the size of [its] land mass and 50 times the size of [its] largest national park", and the presumed demise of world-record-holding freediver Natalia Molchanova.

But generally, we wonder, what is the world of the depths like?We've come up with a list of titles that we hope evoke the sea in all its beauty and mystery.

"In this astonishing book from the author of the bestselling memoir The Good Good Pig, Sy Montgomery explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus--a surprisingly complex, intelligent, and spirited creature--and the remarkable connections it makes with humans. Sy Montgomery's popular 2011 Orion magazine piece, "Deep Intellect," about her friendship with a sensitive, sweet-natured octopus named Athena and the grief she felt at her death, went viral, indicating the widespread fascination with these mysterious, almost alien-like creatures. Since then Sy has practiced true immersion journalism, from New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, pursuing these wild, solitary shape-shifters. Octopuses have varied personalities and intelligence they show in myriad ways: endless trickery to escape enclosures and get food; jetting water playfully to bounce objects like balls; and evading caretakers by using a scoop net as a trampoline and running around the floor on eight arms. But with a beak like a parrot, venom like a snake, and a tongue covered with teeth, how can such a being know anything? And what sort of thoughts could it think? The intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees was only recently accepted by scientists, who now are establishing the intelligence of the octopus, watching them solve problems and deciphering the meaning of their color-changing camouflage techniques. Montgomery chronicles this growing appreciation of the octopus, but also tells a love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about consciousness and the meeting of two very different minds." -- Publisher's description.  

Ocean: The Definitive Visual Guide edited by American Museum of Natural History

"This dramatic, thought-provoking, and all-encompassing visual guide reveals the power and majesty of the seas and oceans, which cover more than two-thirds of the earth's surface. Navigate the mysteries and marvels of the deep, using a combination of breathtaking photography and expertly researched text."--book jacket. 

"A journey into the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef, as experienced by explorers, scientists, and artists The Great Barrier Reef is the most spectacular marine environment on earth, a true wonder of the world. Yet the history of our encounters with it has long been elusive. In The Reef, the acclaimed historian and explorer Iain McCalman recounts in full the dramatic story of the reef and the people who have been captivated by it for two centuries. The Reef is a narrative told through the lives of twenty intrepid souls, from Captain James Cook and his voyage across a mysterious coral maze to the world's leading reef scientist, John 'Charlie' Veron, whose personal mission is to rescue the reef from catastrophe. The extraordinary individuals in the book--not only explorers and scientists but also beachcombers, photographers, divers, and indigenous peoples and the castaways they adopted--were drawn to the reef for different reasons, but all shared one thing: a passion for this vast coral country. As McCalman explores how the reef has been seen variously as a labyrinth of terror, a nurturing heartland, a scientific challenge, and a fragile global wonder, he argues that it is only by combining science and art that we will truly appreciate how this great gift of nature has shaped us and why it demands our attention. A classic work of romantic history, blending cutting-edge science with personal reflection and gorgeous images, The Reef is a beautiful book that will speak to broad audiences for years to come"-- Provided by publisher.  

The Extreme Life of the Sea by Stephen R. Palumbi and Anthony R. Palumbi

"The Extreme Life of the Sea exposes the eternal darkness of the deepest undersea trenches to show how marine life thrives against the odds, describing how flying fish strain to escape their predators, how predatory deep-sea fish use red searchlights only they can see to find and attack food, and how, at the end of her life, a mother octopus dedicates herself to raising her batch of young. This wide-ranging and highly accessible book also shows how ocean adaptations can inspire innovative commercial products--such as fan blades modeled on the flippers of humpback whales--and how future extremes created by human changes to the oceans might push some of these amazing species over the edge."

Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves by James Nestor
"While on assignment in Greece, journalist James Nestor witnessed something that confounded him: a man diving 300 feet below the ocean's surface on a single breath of air and returning four minutes later, unharmed and smiling. This man was a freediver, and his amphibious abilities inspired Nestor to seek out the secrets of this little-known discipline. In Deep, Nestor embeds with a gang of extreme athletes and renegade researchers who are transforming not only our knowledge of the planet and its creatures, but also our understanding of the human body and mind. Along the way, he takes us from the surface to the Atlantic's greatest depths, some 28,000 feet below sea level. He finds whales that communicate with other whales hundreds of miles away, sharks that swim in unerringly straight lines through pitch-black waters, and seals who dive to depths below 2,400 feet for up to eighty minutes--deeper and longer than scientists ever thought possible. As strange as these phenomena are, they are reflections of our own species' remarkable, and often hidden, potential--including echolocation, directional sense, and the profound physiological changes we undergo when underwater. Most illuminating of all, Nestor unlocks his own freediving skills as he communes with the pioneers who are expanding our definition of what is possible in the natural world, and in ourselves"-- Provided by publisher.  

The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins by Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell

In The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins, cetacean biologists Hal Whitehead, who has spent much of his life on the ocean trying to understand whales, and Luke Rendell, whose research focuses on the evolution of social learning, open an astounding porthole onto the fascinating culture beneath the waves. As Whitehead and Rendell show, cetacean culture and its transmission are shaped by a blend of adaptations, innate sociality, and the unique environment in which whales and dolphins live: a watery world in which a hundred-and-fifty-ton blue whale can move with utter grace, and where the vertical expanse is as vital, and almost as vast, as the horizontal. Drawing on their own research as well as a scientific literature as immense as the sea—including evolutionary biology, animal behavior, ecology, anthropology, psychology, and neuroscience—Whitehead and Rendell dive into realms both humbling and enlightening as they seek to define what cetacean culture is, why it exists, and what it means for the future of whales and dolphins. And, ultimately, what it means for our future, as well.* 

In her captivating new book, artist and avid beachcomber Josie Iselin returns to the seashore to reveal the unexpected beauty of seaweed. Produced on a flatbed scanner, Iselin’s vibrant portraits of ocean flora reveal the exquisite color and extraordinary forms of more than 200 specimens gathered from tidal pools along the California and Maine coasts. Her engaging text, which accompanies the images, blends personal observation and philosophical musings with scientific fact. Like her previous books, An Ocean Garden: The Secret Life of Seaweed is a poetic and compelling tribute to the natural world and the wonder it evokes.*

*descriptions taken from All other book descriptions are taken from the library catalog.  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Enduring Appeal of Abraham Lincoln

The vast amount of literature on Abraham Lincoln (1809–65) is almost unmatched in the English language, behind only that on Jesus and William Shakespeare. Interest in the 16th president of the United States has never abated, but the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth (2009) along with the sesquicentennials of the Civil War (2011) and Lincoln’s death (2015) have spurred even more interest in his character and the consequences of his presidency.
~Randall M. Miller, "Lincoln, 150 Years On"

There's still time this year to observe the sesquicentennial of the death of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States. There is indeed a wealth of material to delve into - besides the non-fiction list we've assembled below, there have been two recent related feature films, Lincoln and The Conspirator, there's a book and a movie about Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, and Jennifer Chiaverini, best known for her quilting novels, has been writing loosely related historical fiction set in the Civil War period which directly references the Lincoln family, most notably Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker. Our society's fascination with Lincoln extends to our presidents - earlier this year, The New York Times published an article called "Abraham Lincoln, the One President All of Them Want to Be More Like". His funeral train, his hat, his poetry - everything has been discussed, it seems.

The Gettysburg Gospel: The Lincoln Speech That Nobody Knows by Gabor Boritt 

Lincoln's Gamble: The Tumultuous Six Months That Gave America the Emancipation Proclamation and Changed the Course of the Civil War by Todd Brewster

Writing the Gettysburg Address by Martin P. Johnson

Mr. Lincoln Goes to War by William Marvel


Looking at Lincoln (J) 

For more new items in the library catalog, try a subject search of "Abraham Lincoln" sorted by date. 

This useful resource offers documents, articles, images, biographical videos featuring major Lincoln scholars and interactive resources on the president’s Illinois years.

Cartoons, biographies, articles, book excerpts, maps, quizzes, bio-sketches of Lincoln-era figures and his life.

Available for Google Play and iTunes. For students of all ages, an interactive resource produced in conjunction with the Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation.