Showing posts from April, 2015

Books to Get You Thinking

Each year the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Awards are presented for some of the most outstanding books published in America in six different genres - Fiction, Nonfiction, Biography, Autobiography, Poetry and Criticism. Board members from each of the genre committees nominate books in their category which are then read and evaluated by all the members to decide on the winner and finalists. The 2015 Award ceremony was held at the New School Auditorium in New York on March 12. In addition to the winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards, the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Toni Morrison, a writer who has made an indelible mark on the American literary landscape.

Lila by Marilynne Robinson won the Award in the category of fiction. This is the author’s third book in a trilogy set in the fictional little town of Gilead, Iowa. The book is centered on the life of Lila, a woman who had been abandoned by her parents and whose earliest childhood was …

Happy 215th Birthday, Library of Congress!

On April 24, 1800, the Library of Congress was established to provide reference and research materials for Congress’ use. While the library’s primary mission still includes providing materials to support Congress in fulfilling its constitutional duties, the library is also dedicated to “further[ing] the progress of knowledge and creativity for the benefit of the American people.”Note1 "Welcome Message from the Librarian of Congress" About the Library. The Library of Congress. Web. 30 Mar. 2015. Whether accessing the Library of Congress’ print materials, digital archives, research databases, or historical audio/visual materials, researchers from around the United States and the world have access to myriad resources. The library has come a long way from its original 740 volumes and three maps! Note2 "Today in History, April 24" American Memory. The Library of Congress. Web. 30 Mar. 2015.

You ca…

Fantasy in the Round

When I was little, I loved carousels. Who did not? The colors, the music, the spinning circle; the waving to Mom and Dad every. single. time. I passed them (odd how their smiles started to look just a tad forced by the tenth turn). Most of all, the horses. Fantastic, brightly painted, caparisoned, fierce-eyed horses with tossing manes and proud tails, marching, prancing, galloping, leaping, soaring, whirling. What kid could resist?

The first carousel I remember was in Forest Park, Queens. I actually still recall – and this was a VERY long time ago, mind you – the thrill when I graduated from the small staid beasts on the inside row (for babies!) to the huge (to me) outside stander, and from there to the ultimate ride: an outside jumper. Or, as my tiny self called it, “a nup-and-down horse.”

And then, of course, I grew up enough to perceive carousels as a childish pursuit, and became far too self-conscious to admit even to myself that they still had the power to draw me in.


Toddlers & the Library

Bring your toddler to any branch of the Mercer County Library System to have a fun experience while learning, socializing and reading books!

We encourage you to make the most of our resources and children’s services with your toddler. Using the library is a terrific way to spark your toddler’s interest in books and reading. Besides books, resources to help engage your toddler in reading include story-time sessions, knowledgeable librarians, reading lists by age and topic categories, multimedia materials and colorful reading areas designated for young children. In addition, watching other children read and choose books helps reinforce a positive attitude toward books in your child. Going to the library can also serve as a great opportunity to bond with your toddler. Reading books together helps build closeness with caregivers, provides children with an opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned, and gives them access to new information.
Here are some tips and guidelines for pl…

Re-visiting Celluloid

Last month I read a news story on the Entertainment Weekly website about the movie The Breakfast Club being re-shown (the 30th anniversary of its original release in 1985), for a limited time, in select movie theaters across the country. The headline for the article gave me pause because all at once it reminded me of how quickly I am approaching middle age (ouch). My other immediate reaction was to question the value of seeing an old movie projected onto a large screen in a theater: What is special about seeing an already widely available movie (that virtually anyone can see for free one way or another) in a movie theater? Is doing so somehow a more authentic way to “experience” a movie? But is not a movie’s cultural value inherently separate from where it is watched (although as I type these words I distinctly remember, for some reason that eludes me, seeing Raging Bull projected outside in the open on a Friday summer night in Dublin years ago). Or are re-released-in-theaters movie…

Gardening 101

We have all heard of the benefits of gardening: it relieves stress and improves our mental as well as our physical well being. Being out in the fresh air, surrounded by dappled sunshine and fragrant flowers, is sure to uplift anyone's mood. Gardening activities such as weeding, digging and planting are great low-impact exercises that can help keep us agile. Gardening is a fun activity that all members of the family can join in and enjoy. Not gardening-savvy? Fear not, the Mercer County Library System has a variety of books to help you with all your gardening needs.

Gardening books come in all shapes and sizes. Some books are chock full of practical advice and gardening wisdom. These books are not meant to be read in one sitting, but are to be used as a handy reference to find answers to any gardening questions that you may have. Then there are these coffee table books with beautiful illustrations of lush green lawns, tidy borders, and gorgeous flowers. These books are a pleasure …

MOOCs and More: Free Online Learning

Distance learning is not a new topic in technology, as many schools have offered some form of online or televised classes for many years. New Jersey’s Thomas Edison State College has been offering degrees based on distance learning as an accredited school for decades. But now that more people have high speed internet and an interest in learning a broad range of subjects, online education is booming and many classes can be taken for free as long as you are not seeking credit. The classes are not even limited to college level philosophy either; there are places you can turn to if you need to learn English, take up a new hobby or want to brush up on life skills, like balancing a checkbook or crafting a cover letter.

The site with perhaps the broadest array of topics is GCF Learn Free, which is run by Goodwill, offering a full catalog of free tutorials. Some of the topics are covered in a video, others use flip charts to walk you through the steps needed to complete a task and some te…

The Art of Origami

While I have never gotten very good at it, ever since I was a child, I have loved doing origami. There is something about folding a square of paper in to something else that is very logical and concrete, and yet always seems a bit magical. Origami, the art of paper folding, has been practiced for centuries, originating in ancient Japan and traditionally involves only folding, with no cutting or gluing. The word origami comes from the Japanese words “oru” (to fold) and “kami” (paper).

What I think I love about origami is its versatility. It is a creative process, but can also be used to teach logical concepts and math. It can be done with fancy paper created just for origami projects, with scrap paper cut into squares, even with dollar bills! And it is easy to find origami projects that are extremely simple and others that are very complex. It can be done simply to pass the time or can be more meaningful. There is a well known story about origami called Sadako and the Thousand …