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The dog days of summer are upon us and change is in the air so I'm finding it hard to focus. Here are just a few of the things I've been thinking about this week.....
- I'm older than I thought. Last weekend, I went to a Bowie Baysox baseball game and the Naval Academy freshman class was in attendance. None of them sang along with Tom Cruise and Co. when the "You've Got That Lovin' Feeling" scene from Top Gun was shown on the centerfield scoreboard. We soon realized that these kids weren't born until 1995 -- 9 years after that movie was released. That also means no one in college these days was born pre-World Wide Web
- It's not too late to sign up for our Summer Reading Club. The deadline for sign-ups is August 11. Kids and teens welcome! So far, our summer readers have read over 45,000 books!
- All summer long, royalty from the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair have been visiting our branches, educating us about farm animals and the various art and craft exhibits. Now it's time for the big payoff. The 65th Annual Mongomery County Agricultural Fair kicks off this wFriday and lasts until August 17. As their tagline goes, "There's plenty to see from A to Z!"
One of the fun questions librarians love to get is when patrons need help remembering the title of a book. Sometimes it's a beloved picture book from their childhood. It might be a book they saw in a newspaper but they can't remember the title.
So here are some good places we look, and you can too, to pin down that elusive title.
In recent weeks, some exciting changes have been made to several of our electronic resources. The online catalog, Interlibrary Loan/Marina interface, and Overdrive have all been updated within past few months. And that’s only the beginning!
Will MCPL’s online catalog boldly go where no catalog has gone before? Well, not quite, but Enterprise does have a few nifty new features. By logging into your account, you can create your own lists of favorite reads, books you’ve read or would like to read, etc. You can also text links to the catalog record of any book you are looking for right to smartphone or tablet device. No more jotting that title down on paper before you run into the library to look for it! For those who prefer the old version of the catalog, it hasn’t gone away and can be found here or by clicking the “Classic Catalog” link on the upper lefthand side of the new catalog.
In mid-January, Marina, the State of Maryland’s Interlibrary Loan service, introduced a new interface for its online catalog called Relais. Relais more clearly identifies items by type (book, audio, video) and whether they are currently holdable or not. It also provides customers with an estimated date when many items that are presently unholdable because they are unavailable or new will become holdable. Perhaps the biggest change is that requests for materials that are not found in Marina (and must be searched for in a wider area using OCLC) can only be made by logging into Relais. The form is generated when a search brings up no results and can also be accessed by click on “Your Account” at the top of the screen.
OverDrive users may have noticed that the checkout process has been streamlined. The step of adding a title to your basket has been eliminated so that items can be checked out after the first click. The new interface also makes it easier to tell if an item is available or not. If the book or headphones icon in the upper right corner of each title image is grayed out, it’s unavailable and must be placed on hold. If the icon is solid black, you can download it right away. You can also more easily refine your search results to only available titles by clicking on the “Available Now” box at the top of the search results screen. (Searching with OverDrive Media Console on your tablet or smartphone? You can refine your search in the same easy way.) There’s also a new “OverDrive READ” format. These eBooks opened right from any browser, eReader, or tablet without having to download any special software or apps.
It was gratifying to see an article in last week’s Washington Post about how libraries have weathered bad times and are adapting to the digital future. So often in recent years, the stories in the press have been about libraries losing funds, closing, or becoming irrelevant. The first two were certainly true, but the last was often overblown and misinformed. Libraries like MCPL are still used heavily by the public, and also have made an effort to participate in social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to transcend the library walls. Most public libraries now provide access to downloadables such as e-Books and music, as well as provide a plethora of databases which offer articles and books that can be read on-line in the library or at home. Library users can study for exams and learn languages on their home computer with interactive software, as well as kick back with a book downloaded to an electronic device. Increasingly public libraries, academic libraries, state libraries, and national libraries all have been making their unique resources available online. An example of this is The New York Public Library's Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, which, with the aid of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), is busy transforming NYPL's historical paper map and atlas collections into a powerful digital resource. The Library of Congress, of course, has some amazing digital resources, as does The British Library.
During the cutbacks of recent years, I have often been heartened by the support for libraries that I have encountered on-line and in the press, and realize that there is an unyielding love for books that refuses to be denied. One lovely response to the closing of libraries is the guerilla movement of free mini libraries. Common sense dictates that these can’t really take the place of a well-run, government funded library, stocked with new materials by educated professionals, but the little boxes on poles that have popped up, made from repurposed mailboxes, doll houses, cranberry crates, and metal milk cartons, warm the heart. Want to see some or make your own? Visit the Little Free Library Website.
In England, a place hard hit by library closings, the iconic red telephone boxes once found all over the UK are being repurposed as libraries thanks to the effort of local communities and British Telecom.
Books can be put to use in other forms of art, too, however. In Melbourne, Australia, a massive river of 10,000 discarded books donated by public libraries and collected by the Salvation Army, was created last June for the Light in Winter festival. Each book held small lights within its pages, creating a beautiful effect. On the final night of the installation, visitors were encouraged to take the books home with them.
“The project was created by Brazilian artists Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo, in collaboration with production company Hungry Man. Inspired by the writer and educator JL Borges, the maze will form the shape of Borges’ unique fingerprint, covering over 500 square metres, with sections standing up to 2.5 metres high.”
Video by Christopher Jobson (Creative Commons permission)
Let’s hope that people will continue to treasure libraries, books, and freedom of information way into the future, or we may end up like this. How can we defend ourselves against the forces of evil without free access to shared cultural knowledge and the ability to interpret it?
One can also find examples of how not to behave as a librarian, as in this British TV skit featuring a young Hugh Laurie (known over here for his role in House). Real librarians, of course, are totally against censorship.
Another example of how not to behave is in the video Library Thriller which, while it features music from one iconic eighties video, also references another in the attitude of the leggy, bunned librarians. I don't approve of their shushing and pointing to prohibitive signs--but I really wish I could wear those mile-high heels. I feel even more conflicted about Kickass Librarian--on the one hand, I would never talk to you, the library user, in such a manner; on the other hand, concerning privacy issues, mad librarian skilz, and tattoos--YAY!
With budget and staff cuts, and revolutionary changes in media and the way people seek information, some doom-sayers proclaim that libraries are on the way out. But if we are unimportant, how come there are so many videos about us on the Web? Librarians are survivors. We will learn to give you what you want with less staff, and we will reinvent what we do to stay relevant to a new generation. We will not give up. We are here to stay.
The big disease in the news right now is caused by E. coli and a great place to find information about these virulent organisms is on the site of the Center for Disease Control. But as the weather heats up, another scourge is on the rise. A hideous alilment that infects humans and turns them into...ZOMBIES. And, you know what? The CDC has a page for zombies, too. Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.
"We want you to view the library in a different way...It's a place that can literally save your day, whether you need to find that one bit of crucial information for your research or you find yourself trapped by a hoard of flesh-eating zombies."
The University of Florida also uses zombies to teach students how to use the campus libraries by way of their Zombie Survival LibGuide, complete with helpful videos.
"In preparation for Zombie infections which may affect UF campus services, this guide shows how library services can be accessed remotely. It also provides pathways for researching survival skills."
The budget picture for libraries has not brightened much in the thirteen weeks since I wrote the first part of my blog about bestsellers of the past century. MCPL has been able to order some more of our leased McExpress titles, which makes it more likely avid readers be able to snag a coveted title without waiting 3 months. The McExpress books are extra copies of bestsellers that MCPL rents to fill out the new collection – you borrow them just like the regular new books, and they go out for three weeks (no renewal). McExpress books can be identified by the bright red sticker on the spine that reads "B&T". You’ll find them in the new book section of any MCPL library.
The library still has a wealth of titles that you might have missed on their trip to the bestseller lists of the past decades, though, and we’ll finish up the century in this post.
The Sixties were a time of huge social change, which impacted the top bestsellers of that tumultuous decade. American attitudes toward sex were becoming more relaxed, and this is reflected in the some of the top selling books of that decade, which were decidedly more racy than the bestsellers of the first part of century. 1966’s top book was Jacqueline Susann’s "Valley of the Dolls", the story of three women’s drug and sex fueled show business careers. The decade ended with "Portnoy’s Complaint", Phillip Roths’ controversial (for the time) exploration of a young Jewish bachelor’s sexual desire and frustration – the bestselling novel of 1969.
One of the top books of the "Me Decade", as the Seventies are known, was Richard Bach’s "Jonathan Livingston Seagull". This is a slim little fable of a young seagull's quest for self perfection, and his ascendance to a higher seagull plane of existence after long study and work. This book topped the list in both 1972 and 1973 – read into that what you will. Contrast that title with these top titles of the rest of the decade – lengthy sagas all – Michener’s "Centennial" (1974) and "Chesapeake" (1977) and Leon Uris's "Trinity" (1976).
Stephen King first hit the yearly top ten in 1979, but the Eighties were his decade. He had at least one and sometimes two books make the top ten each year with the exception of 1988. In 1986 Tommyknockers was the number one bestseller, and in 1987 the novel that brought to life every small child’s clown nightmares, "It", hit the top. Tom Clancy also made the list for the first time this decade, and finished it out with the number ones for 1988 and 1989, respectively "Cardinal of the Kremlin" and "Clear and Present Danger".
Clancy and King were still hot authors during the 90’s but that decade’s bestseller lists belonged to legal thrillers from the pen of John Grisham. Grisham’s first appearance on the yearly top ten was in 1991, when The Firm reached # 7. He had the number two slot in ’92 and ’93, and then an amazing string of #1 bestsellers from 1994 to 1999. You can pick up pretty much any John Grisham title and be assured of a good read.
We’ll finish up with the 2000s. You might be thinking that this decade was all about a certain boy wizard and his various adventures against You Know Who, but Publisher’s Weekly does not include books in series in their yearly top ten. Or, possibly you were expecting star-crossed vampires and werewolves, but PW classed those as children’s books. (Ahem!) Once again, John Grisham came out on top several years in this decade, but the big hit was Dan Brown’s story of ecclesiastical skullduggery, cryptography and secret societies – "The Da Vinci Code". "The Da Vinci Code" was number 1 in 2003 and 2004, and slipped down to just number 2 in 2005.
Hopefully you've found something to enjoy in our wayback machine trip through the 20th century. If not, ask any of our friendly staff of librarians for a recommendation. We'll be glad to help!
Myth #2: LIBRARIANS GET TO READ ALL DAY, WHEN THEY AREN'T BUSY STAMPING DUE DATES IN THE BOOKS. HA! The only time I manage to grab a few minutes to read at work is during my meal break. I certainly do not have the time to read while sitting at the information desk because the steady stream of questions I answer leaves no time for reading. And the due dates... well, if you come to the library then you know we don't stamp these anymore. (Miss them? Get the T-shirt.)
Myth #3: LIBRARIANS HAVE READ EVERY BOOK IN THE LIBRARY AND ARE REALLY SMART. Seriously? There are well over 2 million items in the entire MCPL collection. No way does anyone have time to read them all. As for being really smart... well, it is well known that librarians are great folks to have on your Trivial Pursuit or quiz bowl team. We spend our days finding answers to questions about everything, so some of it is bound to stick in our heads.
Myth #4: PUBLISHERS GIVE LIBRARIES ALL THEIR BOOKS FOR FREE. Ummmm... NO! We have to pay for books just like everyone else does. Occasionally, an author or patron will donate copies of a book we can add to the collection. Many people noticed that MCPL did not have as many new books on the shelves over the last year and that some of our online resources were no longer available, which is a direct result of recent budget cuts.
Myth #5: THE LIBRARY IS A QUIET PLACE TO WORK. Have you ever been in the children's section of the library after storytime on a busy morning? If you believe myth #5, then probably not. While the library is mostly quiet, there are teen events for gaming (not quiet, especially with Guitar Hero) and storytimes with songs and games for children and programs like the Chinese Lion Dance that move through the library (banging drums and all). Even our book discussions can get pretty lively sometimes! People gather in the library, so there are (relatively) quiet conversations happening in the lobby, at the check-out and information desks, among the stacks and at the tables and seating areas. The library is full of the vibrant hum of life. If it is too quiet, that means no one is there... and we certainly don't want that.
All the illustrations below, costume and float designs, are reproduced with permission. Physical rights are retained by the Louisiana Research Collection. Copyright is retained in accordance with U. S. copyright laws.
This collection is the complete set of costume design drawings for the 1873 Mistick Krewe of Comus "Missing Links" parade. It was an important event in New Orleans' Mardi Gras history, becoming one of the first major parades to use satire and political commentary. Many of the images depict figures related to the Civil War and Reconstruction, such as Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Butler, and Louisiana Governor Henry Warmoth. Also depicted are notable figures such as Charles Darwin, and Algernon Badger (head of the Metropolitan Police).
Coral Polyp ________
Sea Nettle ________
The following are float designs by Jennie Wilde for the Mistick Krewe of Comus parades. The years for each design are shown after the title. The inspiration for the name came from John Milton's Lord of Misrule in his masque Comus. The first Comus parade was held on Mardi Gras 1857, and this became an annual event. Other organizations sprang up in New Orleans in the 19th century, inspired by the Comus model, and also came to be known as "Krewes". Parading on Mardi Gras night, Comus was the final parade of the New Orleans carnival season for over 100 years. It was much smaller and more sedate than the other parades of the day put on by Rex and the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club. The Comus parades became known for their sometimes obscure themes relating to ancient history and mythology. While other New Orleans parades might have themes like "Foods of the World" or "Broadway Show Tunes", Comus would present themes like "Serpent Deities of the Ancient Near East". The following designs are from different years with different themes.
St. George and the Dragon 1909 ________
Legend of Eyla 1910 ________
Dragon Watch 1906 ________
Fu the Celestial 1912 ________
In Xanadu Did Kubla Khan 1911 ________
Pirates 1912 ________
The Garden 1910 ________
The Cock 1910 ________
The Kraken 1907 ________
Comus in a carriage drawn by swans leashed with golden collars. The carriage is made of, or emerging from, banana plants, with bananas and banana blossoms in the lower right. 1910
We are in the thick of tax season, and some Montgomery County residents have been caught off guard by recent changes made by the IRS. This is the first year that individuals and businesses won't automatically be receiving paper tax form packages in the mail. The IRS website explains, "The IRS is taking this step because of the continued growth in electronic filing and the availability of free options to taxpayers, as well as to help reduce costs."
Most Montgomery County Public Libraries DO still order a large selection of the most popular tax forms for our patrons' convenience. To see the list of participating libraries, visit the library's 2011 Tax Information page.