Friday, March 27, 2020

Introducing Tips for Using Library Digital Resources from Home with Alex

Stuck at home and want to know how to access digital resources from the library and beyond?  You're in luck thanks to our new series of short videos, Tips for Using Digital Resources from Home with Alex.  In this new, weekly series, Reference Librarian Alex will be introducing you to how to best utilize digital resources from home.  These will include library resources and databases, as well as other recommended websites and digital tools to boost your research and quality of life.  Check out the first episode all about tips and tricks for searching for genealogical information with the Worcester Public Library's genealogy databases here:  Look forward to new episodes being posted to our social media every Saturday morning.

Temporary remote access to Library edition now available to WPL card holders

We are super excited to inform you that the providers of database (library edition) are temporarily allowing remote access to our patrons!! We are all stuck at home due to the current situation with Coronavirus, but you can still continue your genealogy research from home! Look up your Irish ancestors, your grandfather's military records or just work on your family tree!! Hooray!!, the largest and most comprehensive of genealogy databases contains thousand of collections and millions of names. This popular database provides access to census records, voter lists, ship's passenger lists, vital records, military records and much more.

Go to to access this resource from the library. Under Resources, click on Online Databases. Under Subject category, select Genealogy. You will need a WPL library card to log in. Have fun exploring your family's rich genealogy!

Movie Matinee Friday- Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart

Although the library is closed, you can still enjoy our Friday afternoon movie matinee from home via Kanopy. In honor of Women`s History Month, the main branch had scheduled a showing of Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart.
This documentary sheds light on all aspects of Lorraine Hansberry's play, A Raisin in the Sun. It discusses the daunting challenge of securing investment and a venue for the production of a story about a working class Black family, as well as the casting process, artistic debates and its public reception. The film features interviews with the play's original cast members, including Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Louis Gossett, Jr. and Glynn Turman, director Lloyd Richards, and producer Phil Rose.

About Lorraine Hansberry

Lorraine Hansberry was born on May 19, 1930 in Chicago, Illinois to Carl Augustus Hansberry, a real estate broker, and Nannie Louise, a driving school teacher and ward committee member. After attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison for two years, Hansberry decided to pursue a career in writing and move to New York, where she attended The New School. In 1951, she moved to Harlem, where she continued her work as an activist.

Her best-known work, A Raisin in The Sun, premiered on Broadway on March 11, 1959, becoming the first play on Broadway to be produced by an African American woman. At the age of 29, she became the youngest American playwright and fifth woman to win the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. After the success of A Raisin in The Sun, Hansberry continued to publish essays, articles and write other plays. Her play The Sign in Sidney Brustein`s Window ran for 101 performances on Broadway. On January 12, 1965, at age 34, Lorraine Hansberry died of Pancreatic Cancer. This was also the night of the last performance of The Sign in Sidney Brustein`s Window.

To watch the documentary Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart via Kanopy, click here, then sign into your account.

If you do not have an account, you will have to create one. Click here for instructions.

Kanopy is free with your WPL card. Your account has 2 watch credits per month. If you do not use your credits, they do not roll over to the next month. You will see a "play credit tracker" at the top right of your library's Kanopy platform to alert you of how many play credits you have remaining for the month.

In response to COVID-19, Kanopy is offering credit-free viewing for select films. If you watch any of the movies on this list, you will not be using your credits. Once you log into your account, click the “credit free viewing' link on the top.

If you have any questions regarding your Kanopy account or how to use Kanopy, please email Tara Jankowski at

Thursday, March 26, 2020

April Fools' Day

Have you ever told someone something not true, and then shouted "April Fools!"?

April Fools' Day is an annual observance on April 1. On that day each year participants play practical jokes or tell big whopping lies. Then, when their victim falls for their nonsense, the first person shouts out "April Fools!", which is intended to make the victim feel abashed for falling for the original silliness. The victim becomes the "April Fool" and the perpetrator laughs.

So where did this very odd custom come from?

Some historians date the custom to ancient Roman times and a festival cycle called the Hilaria. During Hilaria, a multi-day holiday celebrating the fertility goddess Cybele and the resurrection of her son Attis, there was much merriment and the playing of tricks on one's co-celebrants. The Hilaria were originally celebrated twice a year: in November and at the spring equinox and the renewal of life. Not far from "Hilaria" to our word "hilarity"!

Other historians point to 16th century France and changes in the calendar. In the Julian calendar, New Year's Day was in April. In 1564 King Charles IX had his country change to the Gregorian calendar, and in this system the first day of the year is January 1. This was not a popular decision, nor was news about the edict easily communicated to all of his subjects in those pre-internet days. Those who didn't get the message, or believed the king shouldn't interfere, were mocked. They were called Fools. In modern-day France people who fall for these lies or pranks are called Poisson d'Avril, which means "April Fish".

Today, the USA, Poland, Lebanon, Israel, France, Italy, Belgium, the Scandinavian countries, Ireland, and the UK all have some version of April Fools' Day, each with their own "foolish" customs.

Although most hoaxes played on April Fools' Day are small-scale and mild, some have been implemented on a much larger scale:

In 1957 the British Broadcasting Corporation had a TV program showing people harvesting spaghetti trees. On April 1, 1998 a radio announcer from England called South African president Nelson Mandela claiming to be Prime Minister Tony Blair. On April 1 in 1996, Taco Bell, the fast-food chain, took out ads in 7 newspapers, announcing that they had purchased the Liberty Bell. And just last year on April Fools' Day mutual-help website StackOverflow updated its homepage with unicorns and sparkles.

Want to read about more pranks? There's an eBook you can download called Pranklopedia. Just click here

But on April 1 this year, be kind to your friends and colleagues: with COVID-19, we have enough on our shoulders.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

WooReads Adult Patron Book Reviews: Biographies

Weekly patron book reviews are back! Given the current state of things, we all have a little more time on our hands. Being cooped up at home does not mean being bored. Enjoy these books reviews submitted through our WooReads: Adult Reading Challenge (Beyond Summer). Join our challenge to log your reading and share your book reviews.

Intrigued by the reviews below? These titles are available in e-format through Overdrive. Borrow or put a hold on a title today.


By Elton John

Comprehensive and honest look at one man's rise to the top, decent into addiction, and return to a healthy and fulfilling life. Elton's self-deprecating and humorous descriptions of family, fame, fortunes and philanthropy go right up to 2018 with his final on-the-road tour and brush with cancer. Anyone who grew up with his music or came from a family with difficult parents will relate to the remembrances, reminiscences, and cautionary tales.

~Linda J.

Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom

By Catherine Clinton

Excellent readable biography of Harriet Tubman.

~Jeanne C.


Michelle Obama

A-MAZE-ING!!!! Such a great biography about growing up with struggles and overcoming them and working hard to get where she wanted to be and what she wanted to be! Glad I chose the audio version because I feel it wouldn’t have had the same impact on me if it was me reading it because her soul and passion was put into reading it and after all is it her story!

~Tammy F.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Big Library Read, "Funny, You Don't Look Autistic" by Micheal McCreary

In light of the recent closure of many libraries due to the spread of COVID-19, our ebook provider, Overdrive, has released the next title for The Big Library Read a week early. Funny, You Don't Look Autistic by Micheal McCreary will be available from March 23 - April 13, 2020. Users from libraries around the world can participate in this global digital book club. The Big Library Read connects readers with the same ebook at the same time without any waitlists or holds.

From The Big Library Read page, "Like many others on the autism spectrum, 20-something stand-up comic Michael McCreary has been told by more than a few well-meaning folks that he doesn’t “look” autistic. But, as he’s quick to point out in this memoir, autism “looks” different for just about everyone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)."

After you read the book, join the discussion here!"

To borrow the title, go to Under Resources, select eBooks and Digital Media. Then click on OverDrive to go to the digital catalog to check out the book.

Or simply go to Overdrive or Libby on your handheld device and borrow the title in the app.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Diane Arbus, Photographer

Portrait of Diane, taken circa 1949.
Diane Arbus was born in March of 1919 into a talented family. Her parents owned a large department store in NYC, her sister was an artist and designer, and her brother was the United States Poet Laureate. Diane, however, got her parents’ disapproval at the age of 14, when she professed her love for the man she would marry 4 years later.

Her husband, Allan, worked as a fashion photographer for the Arbus’ department store, and Diane joined in. She also took photography classes and created photos on her own. At first she took photographs of children and her family members, but today Diane Arbus is remembered for different subjects.

At first she explored different neighborhoods, waiting for the moment a passerby noticed her before snapping a photo. In this way she caught images of interracial couples, young boys smoking cigarettes, and even friends walking through Central Park with hot dogs. Later she photographed what were considered to be fringe groups: circus performers, nudists, cross-dressers, the disabled, and others.

Masked woman in a wheelchair, 1970.
Some who viewed her photos were made uncomfortable by them, and some considered themselves to be insulted by them. But Diane was known to grow her relationships with her subjects so that she was trusted, and her goal was never to exploit them. After Diane's death, some people speculated that she documented fringe groups because she herself felt like an outsider.

If you want to learn more about this controversial photographer who is still considered important today, here are some online reading suggestions as well as some books you might want to check out later.

Online Reading to Browse from Home

"A Fresh Look at Diane Arbus" by Tessa DeCarlo @ Smithsonian Magazine

"Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer" by Anthony Lane @ The New Yorker
"How Diane Arbus became 'Arbus'" by Arthur Lubow @ The New York Times

Books in Physical Formats

Diane Arbus: Revelations by Diane Arbus
Her subject matter and photographic approach have established the greatness of Diane Arbus. She had a gift for rendering strange the things we consider familiar, and uncovering the familiar in the exotic. Her treatment of her subjects and her faith in the power of photographs has produced a body of work that is shocking in its purity. This book reproduces 200 full-page duotones of photographs spanning her career, many never before seen. It also includes an essay by Sandra S. Phillips, senior curator of photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and a discussion of Arbus’s printing techniques by Neil Selkirk, the only person now authorized to print her photographs. A 104-page Chronology by Elisabeth Sussman, guest curator of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art show, and Doon Arbus, the artist’s eldest daughter, illustrated by more than 300 additional images and composed of previously unpublished excerpts from the artist’s letters, notebooks, and other writings, makes this a kind of autobiography. 

Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph: Fortieth-Anniversary Edition edited by Doon Arbus
When Diane Arbus died in 1971, she was already an influence—even a legend—for serious photographers, although only a small number of her pictures were known at the time. The publication of Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph in 1972—along with the posthumous retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art—offered the public its first encounter with the breadth and power of her achievements. The response was unprecedented. The monograph, composed of 80 photographs, was edited and designed by the painter Marvin Israel, Diane Arbus' friend and colleague, and by her daughter Doon Arbus. Universally acknowledged as a photobook classic, Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph is a timeless masterpiece.

An Emergency in Slow Motion: The Inner Life of Diane Arbus by William Todd Schultz
Diane Arbus was one of the most brilliant photographers in the history of American art. Her black and white portraits seemed to reveal the psychological truths of their subjects. But after she committed suicide in 1971, the presumed chaos and darkness of her inner life became inextricable from her work. William Todd Schultz's An Emergency in Slow Motion reveals the creative and personal struggles of Diane Arbus. Schultz veers from traditional biography to interpret Arbus's life through the prism of four mysteries: her outcast affinity, her sexuality, the secrets she kept and shared, and her suicide. He seeks not to diagnose Arbus, but to discern some of the motives behind her public works and acts. His analysis is informed by the recent release of some of Arbus's writing and work by her estate, and interviews with her psychotherapist.