Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Treasures from the Worcester Room: Books of Appreciation from England

One of the great things about Worcester is what a welcoming city it is. You can see this today in how Worcester has embraced the refugee community.  One of the best examples of Worcester's welcoming attitude is the case of the schoolchildren from England who lived in Worcester during the Second World War in order to be safe from the Nazi bombing campaign against England.  While not widely known today, this act of kindness by the people of Worcester inspired a generous donation that still benefits our library.

Recently, when going through books in our Closed Stacks collection in the basement, we came across a book with a bookplate saying "Presented to the Worcester Free Public Library by parents of children from Sherrardswood School, Welwyn Garden City in the County of Hertford, England, in token of their gratitude to those in Worcester who cared for their children during the War of 1939-1945." Obviously we were intrigued by this and decided to further investigate the story.

Looking through our records and papers in the Worcester Room, I found a binder with a number of papers documenting both the children's stay in Worcester, and the donation of books by grateful families in the aftermath of the war.  I was able to find newspaper clippings, correspondence between the Library Director during that time and the parents of the children, and a list of all of the books that were donated.  Over one hundred books were donated in 1948 to our library, most having to do with British history or culture.  Many of these books are still in our collection, available for library users to borrow, and, according to their website, the Sherrardswood School is still in existence today. Just one more example of a connection that the city has made with communities across the globe.


Monday, November 21, 2016

November 2016 Staff Book Recommendations

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
By Bejamin Alire Sáenz

Another gem from a Renaissance man: poet/author/curator Bejamin Alire Sáenz has recently introduced his latest quirk of a YA novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Aristotle has a lot to be bitter about. His dad barely talks, let alone answers any questions about his time in Vietnam. His own mother has more friends than him. His sisters are all grown up and never around. His brother is in prison, but he might as well be dead because nobody even mentions his name anymore. It’s the late ‘80s and school’s out for the summer, but Aristotle doesn’t really have anything to look forward to other than swimming (or attempting to, anyways). He’s pretty much accepted the fact that he’ll walk through the rest of his high school career a loser (and he’ll fight anyone who gives him crap about it.) But one day at the pool, a guy named Dante gives him some swimming tips. From there, everything changes. 

At first glance, Dante’s personality is the polar opposite of Ari’s. He’s crazy about his parents, he’s confident, secure in his loner-dom, he’s emotionally expressive, he’s a brilliant poet — he’s everything Ari’s not. But they have an unmistakable bond, and it’s not just because they both have weird, philosophical names. They share a poignant sense of being “othered” due to their Mexican identities, and a profound, wholly unique view on their world. Throughout the story Ari softens his rough edges, finding new ways to open up to Dante more and more. Perhaps he’s inspired by Dante’s poetic expression and flattered by his attention, or perhaps he simply cares so much about him that he wants to let him in his world. Ari learns to see himself the way Dante does… At the risk of revealing spoilers, I’ll stop here. 

Though the plot moves fairly slowly at first, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is generally a quick read; the chapters are short and it’s heavy in dialogue. And the storyline really picks up toward the end, as more “secrets of the universe” are revealed. It’s a tad on the angsty side, even for a young adult novel, but Ari and Dante ultimately became my heroes by the end. Recommended for ages 13+.


Cry Wolf
By Patricia Briggs

I’ve never been a big fan of monsters. As a little girl I had nightmares about them crawling through my window, vampires scare me to death (I mean who really wants to be forcefully bitten on the neck with cold, sharp fangs? Ouch!), and if I ever saw a zombie, my blood-curdling screams would probably make the zombie run the other way. In spite of all this, I recently found myself choosing, reading, and thoroughly enjoying a paranormal romance book. Patricia Briggs’ Cry Wolf, the first book in her Alpha and Omega series, is an entertaining, suspenseful, and gripping story about a completely different kind of creature that goes bump in the night: the werewolf, i.e., Jacob, Professor Remus, and other misunderstood four-legged furballs. 

In Cry Wolf, we meet Anna who was turned into a werewolf against her will, and Charlie, a powerful, politically savvy werewolf who is determined to protect Anna at any cost. The action is non-stop and includes multiple fight scenes. Briggs has painstakingly created a detailed world and culture centered around the werewolves’ ability to survive the bone-chilling mountains in winter. However, characters’ depth, shown, for example, when Charles’ unshakeable belief in himself and others faltered, was what really made Cry Wolf a special read for me. Perhaps I’m no closer than before to reading stories about vampires and zombies, but if I find a book featuring one that’s as well written as one of Patricia Briggs stories, I may just be converted. 

Check out more of Patricia Brigg’s stories conveniently located in the Sci-Fi section at WPL’s Main Branch!

Alpha and Omega
1. Cry Wolf (includes prequel Alpha and Omega)
2. Hunting Ground 

3. Fair Game
4. Dead Heat

Also if you prefer a different kind of canine in your stories, try Briggs’ coyote shape shifter paranormal romance series: Mercy Thompson. The first book in this series is titled Moon Called.


The Circle
By Dave Eggers 

Google employment benefits are the stuff of fairy tales for most American workers: free onsite daycare, five-star cafeteria food, office cots for power naps, massage credits for work well done. If for no other reason than sheer entertainment, read this exaggerated, fictional account of Google life; you can tell author Dave Eggers really had fun creating his made-up company The Circle. 

But there’s a darker theme spinning in the background…the plot of The Circle centers around recent college graduate Mae Holland, feeling unfulfilled by a monotonous job at a utility company until she swallows her pride and asks ex-college roomie and corporate superstar Annie to help get her hired at The Circle, the most influential Internet company in the world. Once there a few weeks, Mae’s dream job full of incredible opportunities to affect positive societal change while enjoying outrageous perks turns more sinister as her on-campus popularity skyrockets when she unwittingly volunteers for a human “connection” experiment. 

Mae agrees to wear a camera around her neck and subject herself to the world’s commentary 24/7, and while she does succeed at increasing her accessibility with the world at large, her non-Circle relationships completely unravel. Nonetheless, believing her own hype (and much to her bosses’ delight), Mae floats the progressive idea of voting, paying bills, and streamlining all social media interactions through one mandatory Circle account. Public opinion grows divisive; on the one hand, eliminating the need for many accounts and many passwords appeals to many, but wouldn’t that result in a government-sanctioned corporate monopoly? Suddenly, the best of intentions has morphed into a looming threat of totalitarianism through technology. 

What will happen once “the circle” is complete? A cautionary tale about the potential dangers of excessive social media proliferation and surveillance of the citizenry, read The Circle and reflect on your own beliefs on where modern technology is leading the world. 


Start Where You Are
By Pema Chödrön

Don’t read this book if you want to change. Pema Chödrön will not only tell you that you’re already okay, and all the things you probably don’t like about yourself are actually useful.  

Self-help books usually start with the premise that something is wrong and needs fixing, but in Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living, the emphasis is not on solving problems, but rather on self-acceptance.  Self-acceptance is not an easy lesson, but the humor and humility Pema weaves into her teachings make them easier to receive.  She even includes stories of her own blunders, making Pema feel relatable and her teachings achievable.

Chödrön, an ordained Buddhist nun, bases Start Where You Are on Buddhist teachings, focusing specifically on what are known as traditional slogans.  The slogans, along with some foreign vocabulary, add an element of difficulty to the reading, but the unfamiliarity makes for a good starting point.  Chödrön uses these unfamiliar bits as opportunities to shed light on difficult concepts, turning seemingly abstract ideas into something clear and within reach.  

What I love about this book is that it reads like Pema is speaking to you, as though you went on a meditation retreat and were presented with these lessons.  Pema acknowledges the real emotional difficulties that arise from the diversity of experiences life brings, asking you to work with the emotions instead of sweeping them under the rug and telling you to think happy thoughts. 

If you have never read a book by Pema Chödrön, are interested in learning about self-acceptance, facing the difficulties of your life head-on, or Buddhism generally, then this book is for you.  


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Health Goings On at the Worcester Public Library

November is National Diabetes Month:

In order to bring attention and awareness to diabetes, a disease that affects over 9 million Americans, there is a display on the 2nd floor of the Main Library with diabetes related titles including cookbooks. For further information on managing diabetes, support networks, and other resources, check out the American Diabetes Association and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month:
More than 5 million Americans are affected by Alzheimer’s disease. In an effort to highlight this disease there is a display on the 2nd floor of the Main Library with related titles as well as information from the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. For more information, visit the Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimers.gov. For an overview of the kind of support and research the government is pursuing with regard to Alzheimer’s prevention, read the Presidential Proclamation by President Barack Obama.

Resources in the Health Reference Center:

The 2nd floor Health Reference Center at the Main Library is a great place to find reliable information. We have many useful and reliable health reference titles which are always available for our patrons. Also in the Health Reference Center is an abundance of health-related newsletters, brochures and pamphlets focused on chronic diseases, substance abuse, healthcare, and local health information for patrons to take home.

Health recipes from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute are also available for patrons to take home. Our health recipes table has yummy and healthy recipes from the Keep the Beat recipes book like "Good for you Cornbread" and "Baked Pork chops with Apple Cranberry Sauce." Recipes are changed out every few months so keep your eye out for new ones!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Treasures from the Worcester Room: A Bookmark to the Past

It’s certainly amazing what can be found inside a book.  You can find not only the knowledge and writing that they contain, but sometimes what readers will use as a bookmark.  While the library always has bookmarks available for readers, occasionally library users will use any number of papers or household objects as a bookmark.  Our librarians have found ticket stubs, take-out menus, and even cash between the pages of books.  It’s not every day though that we find a postcard from 1895, addressed to one of our Head Librarians.

Samuel Swett Green was the second Head Librarian of the Worcester Public Library and the nephew of Dr. John Green, whose donated personal collection served as the beginnings of the library back in 1859.  Samuel served as Head Librarian from 1867-1909 and is widely considered to be incredibly influential in the development of the modern public library.  Green was also one of the founders of the American Library Association.  This postcard was sent to him in 1895 from Berlin, Germany and appears to be regarding the invoice for a book.

The postcard was found inside a book from that era, and may very well have been placed there by Samuel Green himself in 1895.  If that is the case, it is good to know that one of the major contributors to public librarianship didn’t dog-ear his pages!