DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!

September 2011

Sep 28 2011

Banned Books Week

by Joseph M

We’re currently in the middle of Banned Books Week, where we take a moment to think critically about topics like access to information and censorship.  Something that always strikes me when I’m looking at the lists of the frequently challenged and banned titles is the number of books I read and really enjoyed in high school, such as To Kill A Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies.  It’s hard for me to imagine not having the opportunity to read and discuss these classics just because someone else out there thinks they are inappropriate.  What are some of your favorite banned books?

In keeping with the theme, I’d also like to take a moment to mention a little something called The Library Bill of Rights.  Adopted by the American Library Association council in 1939 and amended over the next six decades, it is especially relevant to this topic, so I’ve included it below:

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

VI. Libraries that make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

As someone who is passionate about providing access to information for our communities, I feel heartened knowing about these guidelines.

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Sep 26 2011

Toughest Reference Questions

by Jesse M

One of the most interesting parts of working in a library is the questions you field from patrons. In addition to being known as a place to get books, music, DVDs, and internet access, the library also has a reputation for being a place where you can get an answer to your question. Any question is fair game, no matter how convoluted, random, or off the wall.

Recently, the Christian Science Monitor featured an article wherein the author asked librarians to send him their toughest reference questions. Here’s a sample to give you an idea. A librarian was asked about astronomical phenomenon of November, 1831:

“Back when I worked at the American Museum of Natural History, I got an e-mail from an author writing a biography of an amateur astronomer who crossed the Atlantic from London to New York during November 1831, asking what notable astronomical phenomenon he might have noticed.

To answer this question, I had to create star charts for the beginning, mid and end points of the journey and then check records for eclipses, occultations, conjunctions, auroral displays, meteor showers and whatever else I could think of.

As it turns out, the Leonid meteor shower was notably strong on Nov. 13 of that year (although less impressive than the following two years) and would have been visible in the east in the mid-Atlantic in the early morning as the nearly full moon set in the west. Weather permitting, of course.”

As you can tell, librarians often go to great lengths to provide answers to the queries posed to them. The search for an solution can be a lengthy and often frustrating process but eventually finding the answer your patron is seeking highly rewarding experience.

If you’re interested in reading more about interesting reference questions librarians get asked, I recommend checking out blog of the Swiss Army Librarian, specifically his reference question of the week. There are archives going back several years.

For readers who are library workers, what are some of the toughest references questions you’ve fielded? For readers who are library patrons, what are some of the difficult questions you’ve asked?

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Sep 23 2011

Sometimes it’s just Wilder

by Patricia D

I had an epiphany in Iowa and it wasn’t the stunning revelation that in a diner in Iowa meat is a serious subject.  It also wasn’t that the land I thought would look hopelessly boring was surprisingly beautiful, with gently rolling green hills and wide open space.  Nope.  None of that.  I was at a rest stop, near the Nebraska state line and there were historical markers—one describing the Hungarian utopian community founded not too far away and one detailing the Trail of Tears.  I knew I was in Laura Ingalls Wilder country.  In fact, I had driven right through Mansfield, Missouri on my way to this Little Rest Stop in Iowa.  I’d spent a few nights in Independence and I drove home through northern Illinois and Wisconsin.  I wasn’t following Laura; I was doing genealogical research and was following my family.  I hadn’t thought about the Little House books in years but there in Iowa I was vividly reminded of the chapter  where Laura describes the days and days of weary people, forced from the land of their grandparents, walking past the Ingalls cabin out there on the edge of the westward expansion.  The Trail of Tears.  Until that very moment Laura’s books had been a favorite childhood read but I didn’t have a visceral connection to them.  I stood  stunned in front of that bronze sign in the golden October sun, the understanding of my family’s history and their place in the history of the very land on which I was standing no longer an academic exercise in fact checking but a bone deep fact.  All thanks to a connection made for me by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

My relationship with Laura and her books is complicated.  She traveled hard on a difficult road to make a good life for herself, excelling at a time when women seldom did, but there are so many questions about her that leave me conflicted.  There’s the question (covered in Ghost in the Little House: a life of Rose Wilder Lane by William Holtz) of exactly how much of the books Laura actually wrote for starters.  There’s the fact that her books are fiction yet most folks believe in their deepest souls that they are biography.  I lost track of the how many times I had to explain why the books were in the fiction collection—this is also a problem with the Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines.  There’s also the overt racism, which I didn’t notice as a child but I found appalling while reading to my own child a few months ago.  Fortunately, she can’t read very well yet (never thought I’d say that!) so she has no idea how much of the text I skipped or changed.  People will argue that Laura was only parroting what was appropriate for the 1870s but you know what?  I don’t care.  That was not a conversation I’m ready to have with my child.

All this and I’m still fascinated enough to go off on a Laura Ingalls Wilder research binge.  However, I’m not the only one.  There’s a scholarly collection of essays (Constructing the Little House: Gender, Culture and Laura Ingalls Wilder by Ann Romines), there are biographies (my favorite, by Daniel Zochert is out of print and unfortunately long gone from our collection),  and there are also collections of other of Laura’s writings: The Little House Reader: a collection of writingsLittle house traveler: writings from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s journeys across America  and West from Home: letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder, SanFrancisco, 1915, all by Laura and all non-fiction.  My current favorite of all of the fact based Laura books is The Wilder life: my adventures in the lost world of Little house on the prairie by Wendy McClure.  It’s a wonderful book, not only for Wendy’s open admission of her geeky obsession but also because, without her, I never would have known that there are folks out there who have canned butter and Velveeta in preparation for the coming end of the world.

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Sep 21 2011

Spine-tingling fiction…then and now

by Dea Anne M

September 21st is the birthday of Stephen King, arguably the world’s most widely recognized author of horror fiction. Since the publication of Carrie in 1974, King has published many horror novels, novellas, and short stories as well as fantasy and non-fiction. His work overall is characterized by “everyman” type characters and is particularly sympathetic toward children and adolescents. I haven’t read a Stephen King book in quite awhile, but I was a big fan at one time. I think The Shining is one of the most effectively frightening tales that I have ever experienced and I have a particular weird fondness for King’s epic, almost painfully  earnest, story of good versus evil The Stand ( I’ll even occasionally sit down and re-watch the 1994 television mini-series based on the book starring such 90’s luminaries as Gary Sinise and Molly Ringwald…a  little over the top, but fun!).

Are you a fan of the horror genre looking for something new? Here are some fresh voices you might consider:

Allison Hewitt Is Trapped: a zombie novel by Madeline Roux features a bookstore clerk/graduate student heroine who, while trapped by zombies at her place of work, begins a blog to try and connect with the outside world.

Another zombie story, Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory is the tale of how the title character, an undead infant, is rescued and reared by a human family and finally comes of age to explore and embrace his heritage.

Hater by David Moody is, according to the Publishers Weekly starred review, a “nail-biter” of a debut novel and concerns a regular working guy attempting to keep his family safe in a world gone mad with a violence-inducing virus. A film version is currently in the works and is supposed to be directed by Guillermo del Toro of  Pan’s Labyrinth fame.

On the YA front, White Crow by Marcus Sedgewick tells the story of sixteen- year-old Rebecca, her new friend Ferelith, and their exploration of a remote village’s sinister history. According to Booklist “This book is one thing very few YA novels are: genuinely scary.”

Finally, my own favorite horror offering of the past few years has got to be Justin Cronin’s The Passage. Emotionally nuanced (Cronin has previously published literary fiction) and told in an epic style reminiscent to me in some ways of The Stand, the story concerns the human survivors of a man-made plague attempting to survive in a world populated by “virals” or “dracs.” These vampires are not the the brooding teenagers of Twilight or the alluring undead of the Sookie Stackhouse series. This novel is, in my mind, completely original and highly recommended.

 

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Sep 19 2011

It’s the Berries!

by Greg H

Several three to four foot tall bushes  with striking purple clusters of small berries grow just outside the staff room doors at the Hairston Crossing branch.  I’ve been told that they are called Beauty Berries, a  plant I’d never heard of before I saw these.   They look succulent enough to eat, and could be eaten, but their taste is such that even wildlife  will only feed on them as a last resort.  This started me thinking about the berries in my life, the ones outside of a supermarket,  that could be eaten as a first resort.

My grandmother first introduced me to the joys of berries, if only indirectly. When I’d visit her we would sometimes walk to the home of her friend Mrs. Gorski who had red raspberry plants growing along the edge of her back yard. Mrs. Gorski would give me a bowl of raspberries doctored with milk and sugar.  They were so good that I didn’t mind sitting there on the porch while two matronly women talked at length over my five year old head.

Those red raspberries became for me the standard against which other berries would be compared.  Black raspberries, for example. They grew like the weeds that I guess they were among the abandoned coke ovens across the railroad tracks at the bottom of our street.  In my eyes the only advantage the black raspberries had over their red cousins was this ability to grow everywhere.  They were tart where the red raspberries had a more pleasing flavor and their bushes were guarded with plenty of thorns.  Furthermore, picking them meant wearing long denim jeans in the middle of the stifling summer heat to protect us against sticks and scratches and poison ivy.  Once in a while we might find a blackberry that was big enough and ripe enough to taste almost as good as a red raspberry; if we collected enough of them in our empty Maxwell House coffee cans they could be turned into pies, possibly a la mode,  before the afternoon was over. That nearly instant reward made the heat and the thorns easier to endure.

Blueberries were next on my berry countdown. My Aunt Bib and Uncle Tony owned a cabin in north central Pennsylvania and we would sometimes visit for a weekend. On one such visit they took us to a wide field of nothing but blueberry bushes. I’d never seen them in the wild until then.  We were issued our containers but, before we were turned loose,  Uncle Tony advised us to be aware of snakes who just so happened to also like blueberries. While I’m sure that there was a kernel of fact to my uncle’s warning, I’m just as sure that he enjoyed watching our eyes get big as he issued it. Aunt Bib turned most of those berries into pies as well, saving enough for blueberry pancakes the next morning.

Those were the wild berries of my childhood. Yes, there was a brief dalliance with an elderberry bush that grew on some undeveloped property at the top of our street but, while it was interesting to know that they could be eaten, those berries were ultimately deemed too small and sour to hold our attention. And I know there are more out there.  Thanks to Ikea, I’ve tasted lingonberry jam but that doesn’t really count. Just where are the huckleberries, pokeberries and gooseberries of which I’ve heard tell?

The Library has the following books to aid the intrepid berry enthusiast:

The Berry Bible: with 175 Recipes Using Cultivated and Wild, Fresh and Frozen Berries by Jane Hibler

The Berry Growers Companion by Barbara L. Bowling

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Sep 16 2011

Christian Fiction

by Amanda L

Have you read any Christian Fiction lately? I remember a decade ago, people telling me that Christian Fiction was too preachy and flowery. Today’s Christian Fiction stretches just about any genre (category) that you will see in regular fiction. As some people would say, it’s not your mama’s Christian Fiction.

Below is a sampling of the types of subgenres and a few authors you might want to explore within those genres. The better known author in each subgenre is listed first.  I hope this helps you explore this genre or expand your choices. Interested in one of the authors listed? A list of books by the author can be located by clicking on the author’s name.

African-American

Jacquelin Thomas  Rhonda Bowen Tifanny L.Warren
Kendra Norman-Bellamy Victoria Christopher Murray 

Amish

 Beverly Lewis Beth Wiseman Mary Ellis

Contemporary

 Francine Rivers   Robbin Jone Gunn
Robin L. Hatcher Kim Vogel Sawyer
 Karen Kingsbury

 Fantasy

 Ted Dekker Tim LaHaye
Jerry B. Jenkins Wayne T. Batson

[read the rest of this post…]

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Sep 15 2011

Help Literacy, and Get Fit Doing It

by Laura H

Participating in the upcoming Literacy Alliance of Metropolitan Atlanta’s 5K Run or Walk in Decatur at 8 AM on Saturday, September 24 is a no brainer for many reasons. First, you can select DeKalb County Public Library as your choice to receive 70% of the $20 registration fee—a real boon for us in this year of dramatically cut county budgets.  Also, you can get some exercise with your family or friends—either running or walking all or part of the 5k route through downtown Decatur. Most importantly, you’ll help raise awareness and promote interest in the wide spectrum of literacy needs in our communities. If you won’t be in town or available at that time, you can register as a “phantom” walker to lend needed support.

What else can you do?

  • Talk up this event with everyone and be sure to tell them to check DCPL on their registration to receive the incentive funds—otherwise, we won’t!
  • Register now on-line at www.literacyallianceatlanta.org—cost goes up after the 22nd.
  • Use this opportunity to let those you care about know you are interested in supporting the literacy needs of our community—especially those of adults and families. This media moment gives us a chance to highlight the fact that work readiness and GED completion is even more critical in this economy.

If you have questions please call Literacy Services at 404.370.8450 ext. 2240.

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Sep 14 2011

Hispanic Heritage Month

by Joseph M

September 15—October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month, which celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Hispanic Heritage Month was first observed as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson, and was expanded in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan to a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15.

Several DCPL locations are having events to commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month, including a musical performance at Decatur and craft times at Decatur, Chamblee, and Brookhaven branches.

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Sep 12 2011

A Google a day

by Jesse M

When I was in third grade, I recall my teacher asking the class a question pertaining to a subject that we hadn’t really explored yet (I believe it was geography related).  No one, including myself, knew the answer off the top of their heads.  But after a long period of silence, one of my classmates raised his hand and provided the correct answer.  While the rest of the class had been sitting dumbfounded, my classmate had flipped through his textbook to an as yet unread section and found the answer.  My teacher smiled approvingly and favored us with an aphorism that has stuck with me ever since, “The most intelligent person isn’t one who knows all the answers, but rather the one who knows how to find the answers”.

For today’s post, I’m going to share a website which provides daily opportunities to practice the art of finding the answer using one of the most powerful, and ubiquitous, informational tools available, the search engine (in this case, Google). The concept is simple. Just head to the site, A Google a day, where you will be asked a different question each day (some recent examples: “This Greek goddess of love, displayed at the Louvre, was originally from Milos. What would she have held in her missing left hand?” and “If you picked up Plymouth Rock and held it over your head, how many stones would you be holding?“). Finding the correct answer will often require multiple searches, creative ways of thinking, and use of other Google tools such as Google Maps. If you get stuck, you can ask for a hint, which is generally a suggestion of what search term(s) to use. Once you get the hang of how it works, you can try playing the timed mode to see how quickly you’re able to find the solution.

Have fun!

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Sep 9 2011

My Pearl Harbor

by Patricia D

We had scheduled a Mad Science program on bubbles and surface tension for later that morning in the Children’s Room.  I’d forgotten to buy, of all things, the dish soap.  On my way out the door to get soap a colleague said, “Hey, someone just flew a plane into one of the twin towers in New York.”  I said, “Good grief, how dumb are you that you can’t see one of those towers?”  We had a chuckle, hoped no one got too badly hurt and I headed for Publix.  By the time I got to the store the news about the second plane was everywhere and I picked out the soap in a daze.  By the time I got to the cashier the Pentagon had been hit and I headed back to work with the radio on, spreading the growing horror of the day far and wide.  I was sitting in the Decatur Library parking lot, still with the radio on, when there was a report on the fourth plane having gone down in Pittsburgh.  I love Pittsburgh and I love a lot of people in Pittsburgh.  There in my car, looking out at a perfect, crisp, blue sky I quietly came unglued while frantically trying to get my family in Pittsburgh on the phone.  I finally gave up and went back in to work, that pretty September morning forever in ruins.

We never made the soap bubbles that day—no one showed up for the program and maybe that was just as well.  Someone went home for lunch and came back with a television for the staff room.  Few people came in that day, and fewer still were interested in much beyond planes and towers.  I don’t need to go on.  Most of us have this story, most of us will never forget the mundane, idiot details of life up until 8:46  on that day, or the wrenching hours after, waiting for survivors to be wrested from the jaws of fate, their families frantically posting photos and fliers, begging into cameras and microphones for news of their loved ones.

I knew when I became a parent there were things I would have to give up—sleeping in on Sundays, privacy, getting what I want on the pizza and watching Cops.  I didn’t really think I’d have to give up NPR in the car but since Spring it’s caused me a lot of difficult conversations, and the worst ones have been this past week.  My grandma could never discuss Pearl Harbor without falling apart and I just didn’t get it.  It was thirty years ago, I’d think.  Get over it and move on.  I’m so sorry, Gram, I get  it now—I can’t  explain 9/11 to my child without coming apart and I doubt I ever will.   She doesn’t have her own 9/11 story, thank goodness, and I can’t discuss it easily so I turned to books.   There are plenty on the subject of course—just choose September 11 for your subject search—but these two are exceptional for giving life and heart to the story:  September Roses by Jeanette Winter and Fireboat: The heroic adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman.  Your little one may not be ready for the words of the middle-aged French woman who broke my heart by saying “Aujourd’hui, nous sommes tous Americains” (“Today we are all Americans”), but 14 cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy will help you explain the world’s response to our heartbreak.

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