Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Thinking about library programs

As I get ready to begin my semester-long internship in the children's department of the library in town, I've been thinking quite a bit about library programs. I didn't really go to programs at my hometown library as a kid; what with organized activities, neighborhood friends, and an active reading life at home, going to the library for story hour and other programs never really was in my schedule. That means I'm going into this internship as something of a library program novice. I helped with a few over the summer as a volunteer, but that's about it.

To help myself prepare, I've been reading a bit about some library programs, in public library children's departments in particular, that seem to be successful and worthwhile. I find two of them really intriguing:

1) Children reading to therapy dogs -- You've heard of seeing eye dogs, canines specially trained to aid the visually impaired. Therapy dogs are somewhat similar in that they've been carefully trained to perform specific tasks. Therapy dogs are used in all sorts of situations, from inpatient rehabilitation centers to public libraries. When therapy dogs are added to a library's program schedule, it seems that it's almost always in the children's department. It would seem that children who are struggling or shy readers see marked improvement in their reading when they "practice" by reading to a therapy dog. These pooches pay attention, see, and they don't judge if a child stumbles over words, reads slowly, etc. My library offers a program like this one; I'm looking forward to sitting in on it this semester.

2) Raising a Reader -- It's been suggested time and time again that exposure to books in a huge indicator of children's future success. It makes a lot of sense, then, for libraries to adopt some sort of program wherein young children take home a bag full of books every week or two. With the help of such programs, books become a part of the homelife of every child who participates. The child also gets to know the library as a safe space in which he or she can always find more books. I really like the idea of having programs in place that set up children to be readers and library users. I saw a similar program in the UK this summer, and am happy to see that similar programs are in place in the US.

What about you? What are some library programs that you particularly like/remember liking as a child?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gnocchi Quiche

Look, I know I'm not a food blogger any more. I enjoy not having the stress of cooking a new recipe every week, hoping it turns out, and sharing it with you. In fact, since I've stopped food blogging, I think the quality of my new recipe trials has improved (sorry to not share...). Something about the pressure being gone...

But I have to relapse just a little bit and talk about food today. Not food I made, but food I bought. You see, there's this great little French restaurant here in town, Le Petit Cafe. Their food had been beyond delicious each time I've been there. Last fall, they started having a little window from their kitchen open up during the hours the nearby farmers' market is open. Sometimes, even though I've eaten breakfast before leaving my house, I cannot walk by that window, with the morning's menu on a little chalkboard, without getting something to eat. Today was one of those days.

Gnocchi quiche. That's what I got this morning. I perhaps might have taken a picture of it to share with you, only I ate the thing before I had a chance. It was just too good to divert my attention, even for 30 seconds. You see, this restaurant has the best quiche anyway. The best quiche of anywhere (could be that the proprietors and cooks are from France...). And today's was practically sublime.

Into their regular rich, smooth, creamy, eggy quiche base, today they added wheat gnocchi. These gnocchi are so perfect that the only thing you taste from them is texture. Have you ever tasted texture? Wow, it's great. They sprinkled the top of the quiche with a bit of Parmesan cheese, adding a salty, savory quality to the whole thing. It was perfection.

Moral of this story: if you live in the area, get down to the farmers' market and make a stop at the window of Le Petit Cafe. And if you don't live near here? Well, I guess you'll just have to be jealous.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I've had a thing for mixed cds for as long as I can remember. I absolutely love getting mixed cds from people (even when accepting said cds could be considered poor judgment). I think that a lot of the appeal of getting a cd of music deliberately and thoughtfully compiled by another person stems from the fact that I am not very good about finding new music for myself.

You see, I know what I like when it comes to music. The problem is, I don't know how to describe what I like. If I hear it, I'll be able to tell you if I like it. Sometimes, if a particular song is playing during and event or at a place that I enjoy, I like the song just because of the association with good times. Sometimes I'm really attracted to lyrics. But really, when it comes down to it, if I like it, I like it. If I don't, I don't. Can't really explain it better than that.

So, yes, I love getting mixed cds because, inevitably, my friends do a much better job at finding music I like than I do. I love the thrill of hearing something new. I love wondering what's going to come next after one song ends. I love it all.

My love of mixed cds is perhaps reflected in my appreciation of really good playlists. Some people seem to think that iTunes and the ease with which it allows average folk to arrange music playlists is ruining music. I am very much not one of those people. I am continually impressed by the amazing and eclectic playlists one meets with on a regular basis nowadays: at restaurants, at parties... and at picnics.

Picnics like the one that went on outside of my new house today (I moved! To a house!). The neighbors had some folks over for pizza and beer on the lawn, which in and of itself is probably nothing out of the ordinary on a large college campus. What about it was completely awesome, though (aside from the fact that it was a picnic, and I love picnics)? The playlist.

There were great mellow, indie rock, and pop-ish tunes at the beginning, when people were arriving, mingling, and just getting into the picnic vibe. Then there was some amazing piano jazz and thirties-sounding stuff while they were eating; great background music to small groups of people chatting and chewing. Now we're at the stage of the party when everyone has moved inside (mosquitos, boo). And to go with, there's total "house party" music: a good amount of bass-thumping hip hop, 80's-sounding rock, and a few choice songs that have turned into impromptu karaoke. (It's not creepy that I've been hearing all of the music. The walls at my new house are not soundproof at party volume.) I love it! I don't yet know these neighbors, but I am already super impressed by their playlist.

If I could choose to hone only a handful of skills over this last year of graduate school, the art of the playlist would definitely be one of them.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

This week in library links

I don't think anyone will argue that in recent years we've seen an explosion of "comic book movies" on the big screen. Whether this surge is due to the popularity of comic books and graphic novels themselves, or too their potential mass appeal, is a good subject for consideration. Another good topic for debate: how can libraries "read" this phenomenon in order to better serve their patrons? Which comics and graphic novels with movie tie-ins are worth having in the library? What are your thoughts?


If you've ever been to a book fair, you've probably seen a few of the strangers titles that are out there in the world of published books. I've got one: How to Gorge George Without Fattening Fanny, a 1970s diet-style cookbook by a model. (I bought it in college while researching my thesis on food and identity.) It seems that, for the past year, AbeBooks, an online bookseller, has dedicated a page to these odd tomes. Ever wanted to know the history of dentures? About Gloucestershire cheese-rolling? How to knit figures of famous historical figures? It's all there in the Weird Book Room. What are your favorites?


Sometimes the timeline of when I decided I wanted to be a librarian gets a bit jumbled in my head. I know that somewhat early influences were the movie The Mummy and an article in Bitch magazine about librarians in film. The Huffington Post has updated this "librarian" movie list to include 11 films featuring librarians in important roles. Sadly, they're missing The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag, which really deserves to be a librarian classic. Are there any other films you think should be on the list?

Friday, August 13, 2010

A few links for your perusal

I just got back from an extremely relaxing week in northern Wisconsin with my best friend and her family. It was a great week of sun, swimming, boating, and overall enjoyment. Being away, however, meant that I returned this evening to 80+ e-mails. Yikes.

Here are some links that I would particularly like to share:
1) Another potential alternative library: a vending machine-type set-up in a train station!
2) Amazon.com recently announced that their e-book sales have surpassed hardcover sales; the trend for e-books seems to be showing up in libraries, too, very much to their benefit
3) Remember those "READ" posters that hung in (it seems like) every school library you ever visited? The list of celebrities who have appeared on those posters over the years is pretty impressive
4) If you enjoyed Bride and Prejudice, get ready for Bollywood's Aisha, a new take on Emma
5) And, because I can't resist, a Jane Austen-inspired wedding.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A retro phone booth library

Having just returned from my month doing library things in the UK, I was amused to see that one of the articles linked from this week's ALA e-newsletter features one of those ubiquitous red telephone booths, repurposed with a library bent.

In North Somerset, the community purchased (for one pound!) the phone booth; restored it; and turned it into a library. Now the space functions as a 24/7 book swap library; anyone can take out a book on the condition that they replace it with another. What a great way to keep the shelves of this library stocked with an every-changing array of titles!

If I were still in England this week, I would maybe need to go check this out for myself...