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Weekly Shhhout-Out

Roaming librarians file dispatches from the world of information.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Madwoman in the Attic

Everyone has their own favorite genre for beach reading, whether it be the latest blockbuster from Dan Brown or James Patterson, a political thriller, murder mystery, or historical saga. My own favorite is what I like to call the “madwoman in the attic” genre exemplified by the classics Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Woman in White. What better way to beat the heat on the beach, by the pool, or in your own back yard than with the spine tingling chills of Victorian melodrama set on bleak, windswept moors or haunted fog-shrouded London streets. And once you have exhausted the reading lists of actual Victorian authors you will find that there are plenty of modern novelists writing in this genre. Madwomen in the attics, ghosts, orphans, desperate heroines, lunatic asylums, disputed wills, evil relatives, unsuitable suitors – mix, stir, and let the chills begin. Here are some of my favorite modern Victorian tales:

The AsylumThe Asylum by John Harwood
What could be worse than waking up with no memory of the last two weeks and finding yourself with a different identity? Waking up in those same circumstances in a lunatic asylum, which is what happens to Georgina Ferrars. When she learns that another woman is living in her home under her own name she must fight to regain her true identity and her freedom.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
This book is on my Top Ten Favorites list and features one of the most stunning plot twists ever written. Set in a London underworld reminiscent of Oliver Twist, it includes a harrowing episode of forced imprisonment in a lunatic asylum, among many other reversals of fortune.Fingersmith

The Painted Bridge by Wendy Wallace
When her new husband tricks her into entering a lunatic asylum Anna Palmer finds herself a prisoner. Are her visions a sign of madness or a key to her escape? This novel is based on true stories of women wrongly incarcerated by family members in Victorian times.

The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue
Naïve spinster Fido Faithfull’s friendship with the unhappily married Helen Codrington draws her into a scandalous divorce case. This novel is based on an actual Victorian melodrama that played out in sensational newspaper headlines at the time.

Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn
One of a series of Victorian mysteries featuring Lady Julia Grey and her romantic interest, the enigmatic Nicholas Brisbane. Here they investigate madness and murder at the deliciously named Grimsgrave manor on the Yorkshire moors. The ghosts of the Bronte sisters hover over the narrative.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale
Subtitled “a shocking murder and the undoing of a great Victorian detective” this is actually a nonfiction book that reads like suspenseful fiction. The murder of a small child takes us deep into the life of a seemingly ordinary Victorian family. Whicher was already a famous detective when his belief that the crime came from within the family led to the downfall of his career, but years later he was proven right. Whicher was the inspiration for Wilkie Collins’ Sergeant Cuff in The Moonstone and a host of later fictional detectives. 

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
This modern Victorian novel tells the story of Jane Eyre from the madwoman in the attic’s point of view. It is the tale of Mr. Rochester’s first wife, from her upbringing in the hot, steamy Caribbean to her loveless marriage and voyage to a bleak, chilly England. The novel replaces the generic “madwoman” of Jane Eyre with an astute psychological portrait of a troubled woman. Critically acclaimed as a modern feminist classic. 


     Rita T.Rita T.

POSTED: 3:58:00 AM |

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer Reading Time!

Yes, it's June. Time to come to the library and sign up for the Summer Reading Club.


On our website you can find booklists for all ages--preschool to high school--as well as exciting events for kids and teens in all or library branches. We'll be posting pictures on Flickr and Tumblr all summer. Kids can sign up on-line and keep track of their reading under their own log-in. If your child prefers to keep a hardcopy record, I've found a nice guide for creating a summer reading journal.

Experts, such as Karl Alexander, Professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, assert that children who don't read during the Summer can fall behind at school. This will impact the rest of their educational career.  On the Reading is Fundamental website they call it "The Summer Slide"  and say "Children who do not read over the summer will lose more than two months of reading achievement. Summer reading loss is cumulative. By the end of 6th grade children who lose reading skills over the summer will be 2 years behind their classmates." Excellent sites, such as RIF and Reading Rockets, provide links to research that backs up this statement, and provide resources, articles and information about summer reading and summer learning loss. Librarians on the Internet also offer advice for summer reading activities.

This summer, many local students will be reading the past winners of the Maryland Black-eyed Susan Award, as well as the latest nominees so they can place their votes. The National Endowment for the Humanities has some reading suggestions, and the library has many of the books there and  on the American Library Association summer lists. if you still feel you don't have enough lists, look up other library systems across the county. Everyone  is doing it!

Your social network is a good source of summer reading ideas. If you are registered for Goodreads, you can swap ideas with your friends, and popular blogs like The Huffington Post are chiming in with their lists, as well. And we're good, we're very good--our libraries have those books, too.

The library isn't the only place to find summer reading clubs--bookstores, banks, grocery stores, cinemas, and restaurants have been known to have them. Maybe you can find one of those alternates around here.

Unless you think we've forgotten the grown-ups--we do have plenty of lists for them, too. Or you might check Salon for a hot summer reading list.

And to end, I thought I'd share with you adults Jimmy Fallon's guide to what not to read on the beach.


Annette K.Annette K.

CATEGORIES: Annette K. , Summer Reading , Reading , Books , Children's Books
POSTED: 8:00:00 AM |

Friday, June 14, 2013

A few words about privacy

Privacy is about control over information, not about secrecy. It is about having the right to define what is exposed and what is concealed. Privacy is about choice.

Debunking "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear"

One – The rules may change: Once the invasive surveillance is in place to enforce rules that you agree with, the ruleset that is being enforced could change in ways that you don’t agree with at all – but then, it is too late to protest the surveillance. For example, you may agree to cameras in every home to prevent domestic violence (“and domestic violence only”) – but the next day, a new political force in power could decide that homosexuality will again be illegal, and they will use the existing home cameras to enforce their new rules. Any surveillance must be regarded in terms of how it can be abused by a worse power than today’s.

Two – It’s not you who determine if you have something to fear: You may consider yourself law-abidingly white as snow, and it won’t matter a bit. What does matter is whether you set off the red flags in the mostly-automated surveillance, where bureaucrats look at your life in microscopic detail through a long paper tube to search for patterns. When you stop your car at the main prostitution street for two hours every Friday night, the Social Services Authority will draw certain conclusions from that data point, and won’t care about the fact that you help your elderly grandmother – who lives there – with her weekly groceries. When you frequently stop at a certain bar on your way driving home from work, the Department of Driving Licenses will draw certain conclusions as to your eligibility for future driving licenses – regardless of the fact that you think they serve the world’s best reindeer meatballs in that bar, and never had had a single beer there. People will stop thinking in terms of what is legal, and start acting in self-censorship to avoid being red-flagged, out of pure self-preservation. (It doesn’t matter that somebody in the right might possibly and eventually be cleared – after having been investigated for six months, you will have lost both custody of your children, your job, and possibly your home.)

Two and a half – Point two assumes that the surveillance even has correct data, which it has been proven time and again to frequently not have.

Three – Laws must be broken for society to progress: A society which can enforce all of its laws will stop dead in its tracks. The mindset of “rounding up criminals is good for society” is a very dangerous one, for in hindsight, it may turn out that the criminals were the ones in the moral right. Less than a human lifetime ago, if you were born a homosexual, you were criminal from birth. If today’s surveillance level had existed in the 1950s and 60s, the lobby groups for sexual equality could never have formed; it would have been just a matter of rounding up the organized criminals (“and who could possibly object to fighting organized crime?”). If today’s surveillance level had existed in the 1950s and 60s, homosexuality would still be illegal and homosexual people would be criminals by birth. It is an absolute necessity to be able to break unjust laws for society to progress and question its own values, in order to learn from mistakes and move on as a society.

Four – Privacy is a basic human need: Implying that only the dishonest people have need of any privacy ignores a basic property of the human psyche, and sends a creepy message of strong discomfort. We have a fundamental need for privacy. I lock the door when I go to the men’s room, despite the fact that nothing secret happens in there: I just want to keep that activity to myself, I have a fundamental need to do so, and any society must respect that fundamental need for privacy. In every society that doesn’t, citizens have responded with subterfuge and created their own private areas out of reach of the governmental surveillance, not because they are criminal, but because doing so is a fundamental human need.

For a more visceral description of the importance of privacy, read this personal account.

Metadata: keep in mind:

Metadata is often more revealing than contents of a communication, which is what's being collected with PRISM. A study in the journal Nature found that as few as four "spatio-temporal points," such as the location and time a phone call was placed, is enough to determine the identity of the caller 95 percent of the time.

In addition to the times and locations calls are made and received, metadata includes emails, visits to websites, and credit card transactions. 

If that information were combined with the phone metadata, the collective power could not only reveal someone's identity, but also provide an illustration of his entire social network, his financial transactions, and his movements.

For a humorous look at this kind of use of metadata, read Using Metadata To Find Paul Revere.

One other interesting note that may bring a smile, it appears the NSA "borrowed" their PRISM logo graphic without permission or attribution from Adam Hart-Davis, British scientist and television presenter of shows such as Tomorrow's World.

Nell M.
CATEGORIES: Technology
POSTED: 1:21:00 PM |

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Have You Considered....?

You may not know this...but the Montgomery County Correctional Facility (MCCF) in Boyds houses a library branch that is part of the Montgomery County Public Libraries system. The MCCF Library offers free and equal access to services and resources to help the inmate population find the general and legal information they need to improve and enrich their lives, and enable their successful re-entry into the community. A wide variety of reading material is available, comprised of a collection of approximately 15,000 fiction and nonfiction titles, paperbacks, reference books, encyclopedias and newspapers, including materials in Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. Inmates have access to the library on a biweekly basis, and may check out up to seven books to take back to their cells. The MCCF Library also provides inmates with resources to assist with their legal matters, as mandated by Maryland and Federal law.

As the Library's Manager, I'm ocassionally asked by folks "on the outside" what it is inmates like to read. Our customers here are just as diverse in their reading preferences as individuals in the general community. There are, however, several titles that are perennial favorites among our patronage --- books that perhaps you haven't considered perusing. I encourage you to discover (or re-discover!) these publications:

THE SECRET, by Rhonda Byrne
158.1 BYR
Fragments of a Great Secret have been found in the oral traditions, in literature, in religions and philosophies throughout the centuries. For the first time, all the pieces ofThe Secret come together in an incredible revelation that will be life-transforming for all who experience it.

THE ART OF WAR, by Sunzi (Sun Tzu)
355.02 SUN
Although its wisdom is over two thousand years old, its principles are timeless for today's boardroom battlefields. Thirteen sections present incisive strategems from assessing the foe to proper treatment of troops.

If there was any one man who articulated the anger, the struggle, and the beliefs of African-Americans in the 1960s, that man was Malxolm X. His AUTOBIOGRAPHY is now an established classic of modern America, a book that expresses like none other the crucial truth about our times.

THE PRINCE, by Niccolo Machiavelli
320 MAC
The Prince is a classic book that explores the attainment, maintenance, and utilization of political power in the western world. Machiavelli wrote The Prince to demonstrate his skill in the art of the state, presenting advice on how a prince might acquire and hold power.

...AND ANY BOOK BY JAMES PATTERSON. Patterson's novels and non-fiction works are consistently requested. He's been called the busiest man in publishing, and that's not just because of his own books. For the past decade, James has been devoting more and more of his time to championing books and reading. From the James Patterson Pageturner Awards, to his website ReadKiddoRead.com, to his College Book Bucks scholarships and his regular donations of hundreds of thousands of books to schools here in the states and troops overseas (see interviews on Fox & Friends, The Dennis Miller Radio Show and CNN.com), Patterson has passed on his passion of books and reading and supported those who do the same.

Delve in -- and enjoy!

POSTED: 8:00:00 AM |
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Last edited: 11/6/2007