World War 1 Centennial

Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1.  On November 11, 1918, the Allied nations signed an armistice with Germany, ending the war at 11:00am that day.  Since 1919, many of the Allied nations have marked the day as a National Holiday, either calling it Armistice Day (France and Belgium), Remembrance Day (Canada), or Veterans Day (United States). 

The war began in 1914 in the Balkans when Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was set to take over the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  This set off a chain of alliance building with Germany, the Turkish Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria siding with Austria-Hungary and almost all of the rest of Europe and Russia coming to the defense of Serbia and the other Balkan nations that opposed the empire.  The United States eventually joined the war, when Congress granted President Woodrow Wilson’s request to declare war on Germany on April 6, 1917.  The United States declaration was essentially a l…

The Accidental Manager

I am sure you all have heard the quote “Find a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” That may be true, but we all recognize the difference between work and play. While work requires meeting deadlines, writing reports and being responsible for a variety of tasks, minimum exertion is required of us when we are at “play.” But, if we are lucky enough to stumble on to a career path that we really enjoy, then those work responsibilities don’t seem quite so onerous. If we are lucky enough to love our job, then (almost) everyday can be a rewarding day.

An avid reader from childhood, who could always be found with her nose buried in a book, it was only natural that I became a librarian. I loved being a reference librarian. I enjoyed reading reviews and doing collection development, leading book groups, promoting the resources of my library at outreach events, and helping patrons. Almost every patron encounter at the reference desk was a learning moment. As I searc…

Down in the Wilds of New Jersey

This post is partly about a spooky topic, but not too spooky, so I think it is still okay for after Halloween.  At the risk of sounding weird…when I was young, I read one book over and over – and now I own it – The Jersey Devil by James F. McCloy.  The newer editions look a bit different than the original edition I was used to, with a lurid red cover and a black drawing of the devil.  I never really believed there was a Jersey Devil, but was fascinated reading about the many sightings and new stories.  Because of reading this book, I grew up equally fascinated by the Pine Barrens, where the Jersey Devil was born.  If there was the possibility of a devil lurking down there, who knows what else was hidden by all those trees?  And “Barrens” always sounded mysterious to me.

Since that time, I have been to the Pine Barrens many times.  I enjoy seeing the small towns tucked away in the trees and walking the numerous trails in the state parks and forests.  The mystery has stayed with me.  S…

Facing the Unknown at Your Local Library

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear,  and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
― H.P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature
As I write, Halloween is just a few weeks away. It is that time of year when leaves begin to change color and die off, when carved pumpkins stand guard on our neighbors’ front stoops and porches, and when a surprising “boo!” is as acceptable as a “good morning” or “hello.” It is the time of year when we invite ghosts, ghouls, and other things that go bump in the night to parade around our towns like they are welcome or, even worse, celebrated! And why do we do this? Because it is fun to be scared. Right?

Wrong! It is not fun to worry about whether or not your house is haunted or a member of your family possessed! It is not fun to wonder if you may be on the receiving end of a witch’s or warlock’s latest spell. And it is certainly not fun to lose sleep knowing that at any moment you may be abducted by a UFO and wi…

Art in the library?!! Why?! Because it’s S.T.E.A.M.

We have all heard of the acronym S.T.E.M. and the importance of fostering creative thinking for both boys and girls through science and technology projects and activities.  We are fortunate that research has now shown that the arts are an important component that must also be included – S.T.E.A.M.

“Fairy Gardens & Dragon Eggs”
No longer thought of as an “extra” or “just for fun,” art projects present a challenge and require higher level thinking, problem solving, in the moment creativity and engagement!   Deep focus and enthusiastic engagement - what better way to enhance children’s learning, concentration and focus than digging into the process of making art!

“Creating Mini Mouse Houses, with furnishings!”
Open-ended-process art projects are especially important as they encourage the child to make choices and decisions, experiment with new techniques and materials, try new approaches, and stretch their imagination.  Creating are also develops small motor skills.  All comes together…

Local Music?

Music, “they say,” is a universal language. We may not understand or appreciate every style but we are all affected on some level by each of its forms. We live in Central New Jersey. It is profusely populated by musicians. All types, all levels of proficiency. On many nights of the week you can go to a nearby restaurant or club and hear someone singing or playing.

You should.

The intimacy of live music as opposed to a recording is the difference between a chain store burger and one you or your favorite griller makes. There is pride, practice and love inside. There is nuance. There is also risk. Most often, you will hear a very strong performance. Sometimes there are bumps in the road (the burger gets a bit charred). Sometimes, however, you have the opportunity to witness true inspiration. It can be as spectacular as the sky opening up and the cosmos, beginning with a look of concentration, breaks into the Mother of all smiles. It can be a lightning strike with THUNDER…it can be the whi…

Books To Get You Thinking

The previous column of Books to Get You Thinking featured titles that explored the history of civilization through a continuous cycle of inventions, innovations and technological changes that enabled a transition to the modern world. This month we look at a selection of books from the Mercer County Library System that highlight the transformative and growing influence of artificial intelligence in many different areas of science, health, finance, the labor market and employment.  During the Industrial Revolution, the introduction of machines evoked growing concerns about the replacement of human jobs. However, in the years that followed, the use of machines increased productivity levels and resulted in unprecedented growth in output and employment. Today we find ourselves standing at the cusp of another new breakthrough that has the potential of transforming the way business and economic systems run and perform while causing a displacement in the existing employment structure. The fun…

Get Local with Apps and the Web

A lot of our patrons come into the library looking for local information, which can be surprisingly difficult to find online.  Many sites are driven by national news, events, and corporations so what is happening in your own neighborhood can be a bit tricky to track down.  Below are a few suggestions for keeping up with what is going on in your community.

Find Area Events with Burbio

Mercer County Library System recently joined with Burbio to list our events on their site, giving you an extra way to find out what is going on at your local branch.  Burbio is a free website and app that lists local government, school, and other organization events all in one calendar.  The Burbio app is available for iOS and Android devices, and there is a skill for devices running the Alexa personal assistant.  You can create personalized event feeds and even sync events to your Google or iPhone calendars.  The site also pushes out notifications if event information changes.  It is a great starting poin…

Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings at the Essex Peabody Museum in Salem MA

I have always been a little skeptical about the museum experience.  Over time, though, I have come to understand that entrance fees are not inherently evil despite being conditioned by years of being able to listen to music online for free.   Museums are not necessarily profiteering when they ask for (and sometimes merely suggest) an entrance fee.  The tightwad in me balked at spending money to enter places that have a corporate upscale aspect to them (museums) but they are not always subsidized, of course.  For the money, Museums allow you to focus intently on an original work that is directly in front of you without distractions--a boon in these vertiginous times.  For opportunists, often there is a day set aside for free entry, if you do not mind the resulting crowds (including yourself) that change the museum experience into what English majors might call the Reader-Response, whereby the consumer’s reaction to the text/art becomes inherent to the art itself.    This is obvious in …

Curling Up With a Classic

I often go through phases in my reading during which I am drawn to particular types of books.There were times when I have read through lots of horror, or picked up several graphic novels in a row.But recently my kick has been classics.I have found myself re-reading things I read years ago or reading books that everyone knows but I have never picked up.It has probably been partially spurred by the beautiful reprints of many classic titles that are available now. Penguin Books in particular has reprinted many classics with eye-catching covers that tend to be simple but brightly colored.They beg to be picked up!Some of the covers may be seen below.
It has been very interesting to see how my thoughts on a book compare to popular opinion or how they might have changed over the years.What you get from a story can vary a great deal based on where you are in your life when you read that story.For instance, I read all the Harry Potter books as they came out in my young adulthood.I re-read them…