Showing posts from March, 2011

Book Clubbing: Sicilian Settings

Recently, my book club made a reading voyage to 19th century Sicily. We read Guiseppe di Lampedusa’s classic novel The Leopard . Set during the reunification of Italy in the late 1860’s, the novel charts the destiny of a decaying aristocratic Sicilian family, the Corbera’s, whose fortunes are forever changed by Garibaldi’s invasion of Sicily. The head of the family, Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina, whose family crest is a leopard, has a particular vision of the Sicilian soul: “This violence of landscape, this cruelty of climate, this continual tension in everything, and even these monuments to the past, magnificent yet incomprehensible because not built by us... All these things have formed our character, which is thus conditioned by events outside our control as well as by a terrifying insularity of mind." … Our sensuality is a hankering for oblivion, our shooting and knifing a hankering for death; our languor, our exotic vices, a hankering for voluptuous immobility, that

Tween Creations

Creative writing is basic, like reading and mathematics. A child has a natural conduit to their creative nature. As toddlers, they spin tall tales about their blankets, about their teddy bears and about their siblings. As school approaches and children find themselves in the position of learning their letters, transcribing this learning to paper, many children find this difficult and thus find the act of writing burdensome. To rejuvenate a child’s sense of wonder with the written word, I have found it helpful to pair writing with art. Ask a child to paint their self-portrait, and then ask them to write about that person. Children are often more receptive to a visual prompt than a blank piece of paper. Using old film canisters ask the child to write down the things they would like to see in their time capsule, then decorate the time capsule and tell the child to bury it in their back yard or hide it in the attic. This stretches a child’s perception of time, a creative act in itself. Pr

Choose the Right Word!

So, you want to be adept at creating dazzling documents? Be a whiz with the written word? If you wish to b e an expert essayist, who can create brilliant bulletins and nifty newsletters, you can do so by using the tools available on the Review tab in Microsoft Word 2007. Open Word and start typing your document. If the appropriate word evades you, click on the Review tab and from the Proofing group, click on Thesaurus . The Research task pane will open on to the right of your Word document. In the Search for box type the word that comes to mind even though it may not be exactly the word that you want. Once you type the word in the Search for box, use the Enter key on your keyboard or click the green arrow at the end of your search box in order to start the search. A lis t of synonyms will appear. Scroll over a word on the list and a drop-down arrow will become visible. Clicking on it will open a menu giving you three choices: Insert , Copy, Look Up . If you choose Insert, th

Celebrate Women’s History During the Month of March!

March is Women’s History Month and the Mercer County Library System has scores of biographies of notable women as well as volumes highlighting the accomplishments of women in all facets of life. Here are just a few of those worth checking out: Elizabeth’s Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes who Shaped the Virgin Queen By Tracy Borman A re-creation of the life, times, and key relationships of one of the most iconic women in history: Elizabeth I “Although Elizabeth is famous for deriding her sex and flirting publicly with favorites like Robert Dudley, Borman explores how other women shaped Elizabeth's personality early on. The beheadings of both her mother, Anne Boleyn, and stepmother Katherine Howard at Henry VIII's behest, and half-sister Mary's humiliating subservience to a foreign prince, made Elizabeth wary of men and convinced her that she must remain a virgin to succeed as queen regnant. Elizabeth shared a passion for religious reform and lively discourse with her step

A Tale of Two Librarians (and a few laptops)

Last week I decided to purchase a new Netbook and went about doing so in a very librarian-like way, researching before making a final decision. Ironically, three days later, a friend and fellow MCLS librarian, Andrea, told me she too had purchased a laptop last week and, in true librarian fashion, told me more about the search process than the actual laptop. This got me thinking about a question we frequently get at the reference desk – which (insert product type here) should I buy? Usually followed by, if you don’t know of a model, can you tell me which brands are good? Librarian ethics say we should never insert a personal opinion in an answer, so you’ll always get a set of reviews from us instead of a specific product suggestion. The final decision comes down to personal preference and the best we can do is give you the tools to get to that decision. Perhaps knowing how two librarians would search for laptops can serve as a good example of how to research tech products, so here’s a

Teens, Technology, and… Libraries??

Technology is everywhere – it’s in our homes, our cars, even in our pockets. Today’s teens have been born into a world where technology is omnipresent. To these “digital native,” technology is as essential as the wristwatch – which most of them don’t wear because their smart phones have clocks, timers, and calendars! According to Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), teens are turning to nonprint resources at increasing rates and but not taking advantage of the high quality resources at their local library. 86% of youth aged 8-18 have a computer in their home, and 74% have Internet access in their home. (Harris Interactive, 2005) On average, 8-18 year olds spend 6 hours and 21 minutes per day using media (including TV, video/DVDs/movies, video games, audio media, computers and print media). (Harris Interactive, 2005) 71% of teens report that the Internet is their primary source for completing school projects. (Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, 200

Books to Get You Thinking

In late January the world witnessed a nationwide popular uprising of an unprecedented magnitude in Egypt, a country that had been governed from the past thirty years under the iron handed rule of President Hosni Mubarak. The eyes of the world watched history in the making as President Mubarak was forced to step down and the military took over with a promise to hand over power to a democratically elected government in the next six months. In a country where citizens are clamoring for change, the drama continues to unfold against the complex political and social fabric of Egypt. This month’s selections include books at the Mercer County Library that would help us better understand the political, cultural, religious and economic forces that shape the dynamics of the region. Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak by Tarek Osman In this well researched book, the author skillfully analyzes the complexities and contradictions of Egypt, a country with a rich cultural heritage and a histo

Take a Look Under Facebook’s Hood: 10 Account Settings to Consider

Whenever I do a Facebook workshop or presentation, I consistently get the same feedback: “I had no idea there were so many different Facebook account settings.” This tends to be followed by many “thank yous” for helping participants get their profile settings to their liking. There is no one perfect, universal setting, but it’s important to take a look behind the scenes of your Facebook Profile page to see what’s available to you. There are two things I stress with people who are just starting out on Facebook: 1) Enter as much (or as little) information about yourself as you feel comfortable; and 2) If there is a privacy setting you don’t understand, disenable it or select the highest security/privacy level available. For everything else, I tend to look to the experts for their recommendations. Stan Schroeder at Mashable recently posted a very helpful, easy-to-understand guide for Facebook users to refer to when editing their profile’s settings. In his “ Facebook Privacy: 10 Settin

Book clubbing: Madame Bovary, C'est Moi !

How would you describe Madame Bovary ? A serious, fanatical shopaholic 19th French married housewife, who indulges in self-destructive romantic affairs, has her own personal debt implosion, and instead of cutting up her credit cards and cutting out coupons, takes arsenic? Is she Gidget on steroids? The original desperate housewife? She is all of things and more. So decided my book club after finishing Flaubert’s 19th century classic novel. Flaubert took over 5 years to compose his masterpiece, polishing the language, the scenes, the characters. And in his own way, he too developed an obsession with his character. And famously declared: "Madame Bovary, c'est moi" (translation: "Madame Bovary is me"). And so I wondered, what well known novels have their fictional female characters as part of the title – if not the whole title. And what does that tell us about the story? Some titles are just the first name: think of Toni Morrison’s Sula . Other novels use the h