Thursday, June 26, 2014

Powerspeak--Online Language Learning Database

Have you ever wanted to learn a foreign language but didn’t know how to start? Or were you once nearly fluent in another language but haven’t spoken it for so long you’ve forgotten almost everything you knew? Do you know any native Spanish speakers who want to learn English? Here’s a convenient solution: With a Worcester Public Library card, you can access a comprehensive online language learning curriculum with Powerspeak Languages. For FREE! 

First, visit the library's website at and click on Online Databases in the left column. You will then see a long list of online resources available to you, categorized by subject. Scroll down to Language Learning and select Powerspeak Languages. To use Powerspeak in the library, click on the library icon. If you are not in the library, no problem. Anywhere you have an internet connection, you can log in remotely by clicking on the house icon and entering your library barcode. It’s like having your own personal language tutor available 24/7. 

Geared for adult students, Powerspeak offers training in Spanish, French, German, Mandarin and ESL for Spanish speakers. Up to 1000 interactive exercises per language are divided into six units, and each unit is comprised of interactive lessons organized into Sections entitled Activities, More Practice, and Dig Deeper. Exercises include mix-and-match vocabulary drills, grammar instruction, conversation teaching, and pronunciation practice in which you can record your voice and then compare it to how it should sound. At each lesson’s conclusion, any errors you made are reviewed. Colorful graphics abound, but the user interface is clean and simple to navigate. Your progress through the course is tracked by Powerspeak, which is encouraging; by completing a few lessons per day, anyone can greatly improve their proficiency in months or even weeks. ¿Interesado? Haga clic aquĆ­.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

See what others are saying about our Computer Classes

Two months ago we started a series of intermediate computer classes on various topics called Technology Demystified. We have held sessions in LinkedIn, PowerPoint, Facebook, and Gmail. Here's what some students have said:

“Very clear, patient, not rushed.”

“Good explanation of topics.”

“The LinkedIn Demystified class gave me all the information I need to proceed.”

“Katie was calm, helpful and great at answering questions. It added some more confidence to my LinkedIn abilities.”

“I learned a lot. It will help me in my work and in my life.”

During July we have three more such classes! : 

Facebook: Friday, July 11, 11:30-1 pm, 3rd Floor Lab
Explore the uses of Facebook, set up an account, find "friends," and understand privacy settings. 

Windows 7: Friday, July 18, 11:30-1 pm, 3rd Floor Lab
This class is intended for those who either have a computer with Windows 7, or frequently use the library computers.  We will teach you special tips and shortcuts on using Windows 7, including free programs to download on your personal computer to keep it running smoothly. 
Please do not bring your computer to class.

PowerPoint: Friday, July 25, 11:30-1 pm, 3rd Floor Lab
When you go to almost any lecture today, you will notice that the speakers have organized their information into PowerPoint slides. If you are working or in school, you will eventually be asked to give a talk using these slides. This class will prepare you, start to finish. The only thing left is dealing with your nervous butterflies!


New! Worcester Public Library now has free unlimited access to Glassdoor, the popular career website. Through the Library Partnership Program, patrons have access to all career content on the site and do not need to set up an account. Use this website for the following career related topics:

Jobs: Search more than 15 million jobs and apply for specific ones. Set up job alerts to get new and relevant jobs sent to your inbox. In addition to full and part-time jobs you can also find internships, contract and temporary jobs.

Salaries: Found a 
company you are interested in working for? Browse company-specific salaries, bonuses, and other compensation details to see if this will be a good fit for you. 

Interview Questions: Research actual interview questions and details posted anonymously by employees.

Company Reviews: Read company overviews and ratings including pros and cons of working for a particular employer. Learn about employee ratings on culture, benefits, and other benchmarks of a particular company. 

For unlimited access to Glassdoor through the Library Partnership Program, go to Worcester Public Library's page on Employment resources and click on the Glassdoor image!

Monday, June 16, 2014

June 2014 Staff Book Recommendations

June 23, 2014

J.M.W. Turner 
By Peter Ackroyd 

J.M.W. Turner is a short biography in Ackroyd’s Brief Lives series. J.M.W. (Joseph Mallord William) Turner was born to a barber and butcher in London in 1775 and went on, in a remarkably long, varied, and busy career to become a master artist who used light and atmosphere as no one had before him. 

Ackroyd chronicles Turner’s life in a linear fashion and sheds light on Turner’s private and familial struggles. Turner’s mother Mary, a butcher, was known for her temper and was eventually confined for life in an asylum while Turner was still a young man. It was a topic he never spoke about and it may have had a bearing on Turner’s decision to not marry. He preferred to live with a partner and had some relationships – rather stable ones – during his life. He had two daughters out of wedlock. His father William became Turner’s confidant and assistant in the business of Turner’s studio and gallery. Ackroyd stresses the importance of Turner’s travels in England, Scotland, and Europe, particularly Venice, in his development as an artist and his romantic and spiritual views about nature and the classical views of nature. Turner composed thousands of drawings in his sketchbooks, some of which became iconic paintings or watercolors and etchings. 

The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem currently has a major exhibit, Turner & the Sea, which contains oils, watercolors, and his sketches and studies. It was his use of light and atmospheric effects that made his reputation and this is very obvious looking at his work. His personality seems to have been gruff – he was secretive, never spoke very much, and had a reputation as a very, very parsimonious and commercially-oriented person when it came to his work. However, his talent was undeniable. 

Ackroyd’s biography is – and I used it as such before visiting the exhibit – a good jumping off point to learn something about what made Turner tick and what his life was about. It is also an excellent base for more detailed biographies about Turner. 


June 16, 2014

An Untamed State
By Roxane Gay


The national conversation on violence against women came to a head recently after the tragic murder of six people in Isla Vista, California. News media blew up with stories of the murderer's misogynist manifesto, and thousands contributed their personal stories of sexual assault and harassment on Twitter with the hashtag #yesallwomen. This happened soon after Congress announced plans to crack down on sexual assault in colleges. Statistics show that one in five women are assaulted during their college career. Sexual assault and sex trafficking is an even bigger problem in the developing world. Women's stories need to be told. The unique, heartbreaking novel An Untamed State is one example of such a story, although it is also much more than that. 

Mirielle is a complex main character and narrator. She was raised in America to successful Haitian parents. Her father was obsessed with excellence and very demanding of his children, especially Mirielle, the youngest. After she and her siblings are grown, her parents move back to Haiti and start a construction company. They live in a lavish mansion in a place of abject poverty. Mirielle stays behind in the States and studies hard to become an immigration lawyer. She is a strong, sometimes difficult woman who does not expect the fairy tale that her life becomes when she falls in love and becomes pregnant. 

The novel begins with Mirielle's adduction in front of her father's Haitian estate. Kidnapping is common in Haiti, and her father immediately hires a negotiator and expects she will be treated well until she is ransomed. Mirielle fights the kidnappers as hard as she can, refusing to cooperate with their dehumanizing demands, and they repay her with shockingly brutal rape and abuse. Her time in their cage is prolonged by her father’s proud refusal to pay. I will say that much of this novel is difficult to read. However, it is also a testament to the human spirit and a compelling, moving story that will keep you up all night. Mirielle's experience as a survivor in Miami, rebuilding her sense of self and family, is told with startling detail. Highly recommended for all readers, especially those interested in contemporary global issues and immigrant experiences, PTSD or mental health. 


June 9, 2014

John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars: Book v. Movie

“Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.”

Spoilers Ahead!!

For the last few months any time a patron under the age of 18 has approached the reference desk I’ve been pretty well able to guess what it is they’re looking for. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green’s 2012 novel, has recently seen resurging popularity with the release of the film adaptation. Green was already a Printz award-winning author at the time of TFIOS’s publication, but this novel was a transformative step forward for the young adult writer. We’ve been thrilled that the novel and movie have inspired young people to read.

The book is the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a sixteen year old girl living with stage four cancer. Her prognosis is terminal, but the medication she’s on has so far succeeded in extending her life beyond doctors’ expectations. Hazel lives a mostly isolated life before attending a cancer support group where she meets her great love, Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor who’s in remission at the novel’s opening. The really important thing to remember about this book is that it spurns the traditional tropes of “sick-lit.” Hazel’s experience confirms that the Hollywood myth of the strong and noble cancer kid suffering through terminal illness with a smile is fallacious.

Green tells an honest, funny story about two precocious teens living with pain, never flinching away from revealing the indignities of sickness. Although the film is very true to the book in terms of plot details, it felt to me that the soul of the novel was lost in translation. Green shows us the daily realities of Hazel’s sickness: hooking up to a breathing machine every night, cheeks puffed up as a side effect of her medication, the constant, aching awareness of her lungs struggling to fill. The movie, perhaps unavoidably, glosses over these details. We don’t get to watch Hazel scrolling through the Facebook page of Gus’s ex-girlfriend, who died from a brain tumor which transformed her personality. We also don’t see Hazel’s reaction to finding Gus, incoherent and weakened, lying in a pool of his own urine during the late days of his cancer. We don’t hear support group leader, Patrick, read the growing list of those members who have passed away. Instead the movie, perhaps necessarily because of its format, succumbs to the glossy, Hollywood sad story structure that the book confronts and spurns.

Not to be all whiny or anything. The film certainly had its bright spots. Laura Dern as Hazel’s mother was absolutely wonderful. The confrontation of Peter Van Houten and the Anne Frank House scene were both spot on. Watching Hazel struggle up the stairs, carrying her oxygen tank on her back, and hearing the words of Anne Frank, another child who struggled with the pain and cruelties of the world, was the shining point of the movie. In the end, I guess I’ll conclude as I usually do when talking about a book-to-film adaptation: make sure you read the book first! The movie is good, but the book might change your life.


June 2, 2014

How the Hot Dog Found Its Bun

By Josh Chetwynd

How the Hot Dog Found Its Bun: Accidental Discoveries and Unexpected Inspiartions That Shape What We Eat and Drink is one long title for a book that is relatively short but very much fun to read. Written by Josh Chetwynd with illustrations by David Cole Wheeler, this book is a collection of the origins of common food and drink items (and also kitchen utensils) we consume and often take for granted, from buffalo wings, to popsicles, to Kool-Aid, to paper towels and many, many more products. Chetwynd’s book is divided into categories such as Starters and Small Plates, Main Courses, Desserts, Candies and Snacks, Additives and Extras, Drinks, and Kitchen Inventions and Innovations. His anecdotes are comical, weird and serious – often all at once.

For example, the tale of tabasco sauce, also the subject of a recent Sixty Minutes segment, is an interesting enterprise that rose from the ashes of the Civil War. The McIlhenny family had lost all their land and crops on Avery Island in the Civil War except for some Mexican capsicum peppers. When McIlhenny returned to Avery he took the peppers, mixed them in salt from his island salt mines, added vinegar, combined them in an old cologne bottle and liked the result. He wanted to call it “Petite Anse Sauce”, since Avery was also known as Petite Anse, but after objections to using the family property’s name, he settled on “E. McIlhenny Tabasco Pepper Sauce”.

The idea for the name twinkies, by bakery manager James Dewar, came from seeing a billboard advertisement in St. Louis for Twinkle Toe Shoes, which he shortened to “make it a little zippier for the kids”. They were originally stuffed with strawberries so were available only seasonally. He switched to bananas since they could be found year round but rationing in World War II forced Hostess to switch to the vanilla flavored filling familiar today. The Twinkie segment does refer to the infamous “Twinkie Defense” used in the San Francisco Moscone and Milk murders in 1978. So, if you occasionally enjoy browsing this type of background information about common products ,sit back and grab a Twinkie - but maybe not a Graham cracker. You’ll have to look at this book to find out why!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Credo Reference

Have you tried using Credo Reference for your research needs? Credo is an online reference library providing full-text access to over 500 reference books in various subjects from several publishers. Whatever your research topic, you will find information here to help you. Need a definition? An Image? Need help pronouncing a difficult word? Or need a famous quotation to kick off your research paper? Use this database to find quick answers to these questions. 

Use basic or advanced keyword search to find articles, images and maps. Reference materials such as dictionaries, thesauri and encyclopedias cover subject from Art, Business, Geography and History to Science, Technology and Zoology. 

Click on Find a Book to a complete list of title that are available. Use Find Topic Pages to get an overview on any topic. Over 10,000 topic pages are available to get you started on any topic. Once your research is completed, you can print, email, share and export your findings so they will be available for you at a later date. 

To access the database, go to and click on online databases in the left column. Click on Credo Reference under Quick Access. A valid Worcester Public Library card is needed.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Worcester Public Schools Summer Reading Lists

Summer is here! While school is out many of you will have summer reading requirements.

We've tried to make the process of checking out your required summer reading books a little easier by making lists in our online catalog. You can see what is available for your grade and put a hold on any title that is currently checked out.

Grades 7-12 have recommended reading lists; students must choose three of these, or any other three books. Click here for the fiction for grades 7-8 and click here for the non-fiction for grades 7-8.

Click here for all titles for grades 9-12.

The lists for other grades are much larger, with many options, and can be found at the Worcester Public Schools' website here.

Summer reading for school can count as summer reading for the library's program. Register here and log your reading throughout the summer to win prizes! Stop by the library for more information.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

3 Ways to Organize Family History Research Online

If you’ve attempted genealogical research, even just for a few hours, you probably realize that documents, sticky notes, and ancestor charts quickly transform into an incomprehensible mass of paper on top of your desk.  Even if you are saving all your records digitally, organizing the information can still be a challenge.  Luckily there are websites which offer free family tree building services and data storage.  They’re easy to use and immensely helpful.  Today we’ll highlight a few of those sites.

FamilySearch is the online presence of the Family History Library, the largest genealogical collection in the world.  This website is free, easy to use, and offers a variety of neat services for users.  The first feature is the family tree, which you can view in the traditional style or as a fan chart (a visually striking representation of family lineage illustrated left).  For each family member users may enter name, vital information including birth, death and marriage dates, a “life sketch” or brief biography and various relationship types.  Please note that this service does not allow users to enter same-sex partners.  I find this to be quite limiting as well as an unnecessary and troubling bias.  Some individuals may wish to use an alternative tree-building service such as Geni (highlighted below).
Additionally FamilySearch allows users to submit “Memories” including photos, stories and documents.  Please note that anything uploaded or submitted on FamilySearch is viewable by all its users.

Geni (short for genealogy) is another fun, free, easy to use website for keeping track of your research.  You can sign up for a free account, or upgrade for more access to other users’ trees and research materials.  Unlike FamilySearch, Geni only allows for one type of family tree, the traditional tree structure.  However, Geni does allow for same-sex relationships on your tree and, in my opinion, is a little more intuitive to use than FamilySearch’s version.  One important note: make sure that your Flash Player is up to date.  Although Geni will redirect you to an HTML5 version of the tree-builder, the Flash version is much easier to use and nicer looking.
Like FamilySearch, Geni also allows you to upload photos.  Again, please be aware that anything you upload to the website is viewable by other users.

While Flickr doesn’t allow us to build family trees or record stories, it does give users one Terabyte of space for uploading photos.  These could be photos of our ancestors, family heirlooms, documents, anything really.  Flickr is very user friendly and allows you to choose the license type and privacy settings for each item or group of items that you upload.  That means that you can restrict your photos to friends, family or yourself, or you could make them open to all.  You’re able to organize photos into albums as well as by tag, offering users a simple way to catalog their family archives. 

If you’re interested in finding out more about genealogical research at WPL, check out our website or come to the third floor of the library.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Science Fiction Book Talk

Coming up on June 16 at 11 AM here at the Main Library, we have a Sci-Fi Book Talk. Come learn about recommended science fiction titles, from classics to new books. Whether you are already a sci-fi reader or would like to get started, we would love to see you! We will have copies of many books available to check out. If you have a favorite you'd like to share, please bring it along!

Before the talk, take a look at some of the books we will be discussing. We have created one list of Sci-Fi and one of Sci-Fi Genre Mashups, books that are mainstream with sci-fi elements like clones or time travel. If you don't consider yourself a sci-fi reader but are looking for something new and different, this later list is for you. These lists are in our catalog so you can see what is currently available or place a hold if you'd like to pick it up later.

The book lists are also posted as boards on the library's Pinterest page!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

From the Children's Room

June 1, 2014

As we head into June, we are ready to Fizz, Boom, Read! We have many exciting, science-filled programs on the docket for the summer, which we’ll be kicking off on Saturday, June 14th with a day filled with festivities. In the morning, help us plant our garden on Library Lane (the picture is from last year). In the afternoon, we’ll Go for the Stars during a hands-on, multimedia space program. All are welcome!

Be sure to sign up to participate in summer reading while you’re here, and keep an eye on our calendar for fun, free activities! We are also proud to announce our partnership with the Worcester Public Schools and their mobile summer meal program. After school lets out at the end of June, they will be bringing free lunches to the Main Library every day at 1 pm for ages 0-17. Meals will also be provided at our branches. The start date and complete schedule will be available mid-June. We look forward to serving the whole child this summer, body and soul!

May 1, 2014

May means art in the library, and we are looking forward to the big exhibit put on by Worcester Public Schools and featuring work by students from all over the city. To celebrate their achievements, we will also have art in the Children’s Room. On May 2nd, we will have our third Artist@Work, sculptor Michael Alfano, doing a hands-on demonstration. Everyone can craft on May 9th, when we will make something special for the mothers in our lives, and on May 23rd, when we will celebrate spring and (fingers crossed) warm weather. Literature can be art, and the week of May 12th is Children’s Book Week. Librarians will choose some of their favorite books for random readings; we hope you’ll be here to share them with us!

We are gearing up for summer, when we will FIZZ, BOOM, READ from June 9 through August 16, but be sure to stop by in May for our regularly scheduled programs. These include Baby Time, PJ storytime, Read to Nemo, Videogaming, Baby Massage and Yoga, Icky Sticky, Acting Out African Folktales, Family Films, and Lego Club. Although storytimes are out of session, we will have a drop-in storytime for ages 5 and under on Thursday mornings at 10 am. All programs are free and open to the public. For more details, including ages, times, and registration details, keep an eye on our calendar and on Facebook.