The Book Return – Episode I: Ew, Jersey

by Britney

We chose to start our The Book Return journey with the fantasy genre because it’s a genre that we love. (You may have been able to tell that from listening to us.) Fantasy has a way of capturing your imagination and your heart, and taking you along on a magical adventure. As Zach mentioned in the podcast, there are so many types of books that fall into the fantasy genre, there’s something wizardy for everyone.

While there is bound to be a learning curve for us – as there inevitably is with any new activity – we hope that you, our listeners, find something you enjoy in our conversations. It’s our goal to have patrons come in the library and want to talk with us about things they’ve heard on the podcast, ask questions about things, and give us suggestions for future episodes!

If you haven’t heard the first episode of The Book Return yet, and want to get in on the fun, you can find it here:

https://sites.libsyn.com/445149/site

The Book Return can be found on Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Pandora, on our website, and here on the blog. Just download the appropriate app for your device, subscribe to the podcast, and the new episodes will be waiting for you when we post them!

Join us for Episode II where we discuss the horror genre and spotlight horror authors, talk to a special guest about our “haunted library”, and more.

Thanks for spending your time with us!

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Many Happy Returns

by Britney

It’s no secret that the weather is changing. For me, fall is the time to start new things. As someone who detests summer and adores the fall and winter, cooler mornings and snappy breezes motivate me. I do my best thinking this time of year. So when I start looking for new things to do/add/introduce at the library, I usually do it in the fall.

One of the things that became apparent in the past few years, with the necessary shift to a more prominent online presence, was that the library really needs to up its digital offerings. Society is continually on the move, and if we as a library want to stay relevant, we need to be moving forward, too. So we as a staff started to brainstorm ways we could make the library’s digital footprint more defined. Thus, The Book Return was born.

What’s The Book Return? I’m so glad you asked. The Book Return is the library’s new podcast, featuring insights into library services and secrets, book news, genre and author spotlights, bookish topics, and (most importantly) completely irrelevant and irreverent commentary from your favorite librarians. Want to know all the author gossip? We got you covered. Interested in knowing which books are being turned into movies? We’ve got the news! Always wanted to know how we choose which books get added to the library collection? You’ve come to the right place! We are happy to be your spies for all things books and authors. This is the connection to your library you never knew you needed!

We’re putting the finishing touches on the first episode, and hope to have it available next week. Stay tuned for more details. And until then, stop in and see us at the library!

End of Days

by Kelly

Not to be overly dramatic with the title lead in, but I needed a way to depict the culmination of my library career and there seemed no better phrase than “end of days” to announce this moment in my life. That’s right, after thirty (three/zero) years of library service, I am stowing away my book cart and taking some magic I gathered from this library away on my new adventures.

Thirty years is a long time to do anything, no matter how enjoyable it is. My library career began by chance in 1992 when I was assigned a position at Central Michigan University’s Park Library as part of my financial aid work-study award. Whether assigned by fate or chance, the four years I spent on the second floor reference department ended up being influential enough to set the trajectory of my life.

Upon my college graduation, I briefly returned home (to Sheridan) to get my affairs in order, stopping only long enough to rest for the summer. Or so I thought. As fate would have it, again, a local library was hiring. My college degree was in sport marketing and management, not libraries. I had other plans. But, at the urging of my mother, I applied, thinking I would stay only long enough to save some money before I headed out of town, state, etc. to work for a professional sport venue. Oh boy, was I wrong.

I stayed twenty years at the Flat River Community Library in Greenville, serving the community, planning programs, and learning genealogy and local history. I began teaching classes and running clubs, and completed a huge and lasting project by collaborating with The Daily News to digitize their newspapers and provide perpetual online access to them, a highlight of my career. In 2017, after I felt that I had done all that I could do at FRCL, I moved on to a new county and to the Alvah N. Belding Library.

What I did not know when I first stepped into the Belding Library was that I was stepping into magic. My first huge project on the job was serving on the Centennial Committee to plan and prepare for the library’s 100th anniversary and uncovering and unveiling the library time capsule that was built into the library foundation in 1917, one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Read more about it here  https://www.alvahnbeldinglibrary.org/library-cornerstone-and-time-capsule/cornerstone-removal.pdf/view . Next, I got to participate in three separate paranormal investigations with hopes to uncover the hot topic question is the library haunted? And above everything else, I got to work in a community that truly loves, values, and appreciates the library and everything it has to offer.

It is a magical thing to work in a building that people love to visit, and, working with and for people who love the building and everything that comes in it. In the end, I did not choose to leave this profession because my love for the library faded. Instead, I knew it was time for me to share the love with others. The Alvah N. Belding Library has recently hired a new crew of staff members who walk in each day excited, enthused, and enthralled by the magic that this building creates, just as I have done over the years. There is no better gift for me on my final days of service than to see the generating of new ideas, projects, and programs that are bubbling up from a doorway that I opened that will spill over to positively affect the community.

So, farewell beautiful library. This may be the end of my days…but yours are always just beginning with each new and old face that walks over your threshold and into the magical world that lies within. Thank you for giving me some of the best years of my life, I will miss you and all of your people.

XO, Kelly

In Defense of Libraries

by Britney

Historically, the library has been a home for books, a place of research and reading and learning. But the library has never been stagnant, and, over the years, as an institution it has evolved and developed into much more. Oh, there are still books – lots and lots of books, and people still come to the library for research and learning, but now the library represents a wide variety of things to many people.

At my library just this week there has been a crafting time, a scavenger hunt, a STEAM program, a therapy dog program, and a story time; in the next week there will be a concert, a summer reading party, and two different book club meetings. We offer programming of all kinds for all ages including both educational programming and entertainment programming. And we don’t just house books. The library also has audio books, movies, music, board games, activity packs, yard games, tools, puzzles, a whole slate of digital materials services, and countless other materials and services available to patrons. We have local groups who meet within the library; we have kids who come here every day after school; we are involved in local community events; we team up with other libraries to hold countywide events and programs. In essence, the library functions as our community center. But the library backbone has always been books.

I recently attended the American Library Association Annual Conference in Washington DC. It’s the first time the conference has been held since covid, and it was so wonderful to be able to meet together again. The conference brings together librarians, book publishers, authors, and vendors of various bookish-related products in a way where there can be wonderful conversations, collaborations, interactions, and discovery. And one thing that everyone has in common: wide support of libraries.

One conversation that kept coming up over and over again throughout the conference was the prevalence of book challenges and attempts at censorship libraries are dealing with across the country. Throughout history, in instances where book bans and censorship were attempted or implemented, the consequences were tragic. And the book community is armoring up to mount a strong defense in support of authors, readers, and the First Amendment. And one of the main places being defended is libraries, because libraries welcome readers, support authors, and champion the First Amendment.

Several author/publisher panels dealt with this subject, and one concern voiced by authors was that the recent attacks on books would cause authors to begin to self-edit, to not write books they felt inspired to write for fear of them being challenged.

Intellectual freedom is paramount to society moving forward. Individuals being able to have free and unrestricted access to information is invaluable. True. But tied in to that is the fact that when libraries are attacked because of books a particular individual or group doesn’t like, it endangers all the other services that community members count on the library for – their safe place in the city, their access to internet, their opportunity to socialize, their educational opportunities – their community lifeline. Libraries are important. Libraries are timeless. And they deserve to be defended.

A Galaxy of Possibilities

by Britney

By Britney

One glance around my office will tell you that I am a shameless Star Wars nerd. A variety of books, action figures, and posters decorate my counters and shelves.  Since I was a small child I have been fascinated by the characters who populate the Star Wars galaxy, the adventures and intrigue, and the stories themselves. With the new additions to the film and TV world of Star Wars, I have been excited to see all the new material from a galaxy far, far away.

But, as a hard-core Star Wars fan, one of the greatest discoveries I ever made was the world of Star Wars print media. Yes, friends, there are Star Wars books. Many, many books. And comics. And graphic novels. Books for all ages that open up a whole new world. Or universe. Or, I guess I should say, galaxy.

The world of Star Wars novels started with the OG George Lucas’ three original stories, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. These were adapted into novels by Lucas, Donald F. Glut, and James Kahn, respectively. And the phenomenon just grew from there. As fans consumed each new book, more were written. Currently, there are more than 500 Star Wars books in print. Yes, you read that right, more than 500. There is a wealth of material out there for people who want to experience more adventures with our galactic heroes.

But, in honor of the new TV series that released last week, today I’d like to introduce you to my favorite books written about my favorite Star Wars character, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray – This book, published in 2019, focuses on the relationship between Obi-Wan Kenobi and his master, Qui-Gon Jinn and how they learn to trust and respect each other. Set against the backdrop of an assassination attempt, Jinn and Kenobi travel to the royal court of Pijal for what may be their final mission together. There is tremendous character development in this book, and readers get to see Kenobi come into his own. The scenes between Jinn and Kenobi are beautifully written, and Gray weaves important character moments into the action. This is a definite must-read for anyone who wants to learn more about a young Kenobi.

Brotherhood by Mike Chen – Just published this year, this book is set at the beginning of the Clone Wars, and has Kenobi in the role of detective, trying to get to the truth about a bombing that takes place on Cato Neimoidia. Enemies of the Jedi, Count Dooku and Asajj Ventress, are on site and are blaming the Republic for the bombing and loss of life. As always, though, something goes wrong, and Kenobi finds himself in danger only his former padawan, Anakin Skywalker can help him escape. There is political intrigue, betrayal, and some really exciting Jedi action, which is great, but more importantly, the character building of both Kenobi and Skywalker is masterful. I definitely recommend this book for anyone who is a fan of Kenobi or of Anakin Skywalker.

Some other great Star Wars books I recommend:

Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View – tells the original Star Wars story from the perspectives of supporting characters.

Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig – takes place directly after the Battle of Endor and deals with the fallout.

Dark Disciple by Christie Golden – follows Jedi Quinlan Vos and Sith acolyte Asajj Ventress on a joint mission.

A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller – introduces Kanan Jarrus and Hera of the Ghost crew in their first meeting and heist.

Honor Among Thieves by James S. A. Corey – follows the OG trio of Han, Leia, and Luke as they rescue a rebel agent from the Empire’s clutches.

Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed – follows a squad of misfit New Republic pilots as they hunt down a deadly Empire TIE fighter squadron.

And, if you’re a graphic novel fan, I definitely recommend Darth Vader by Charles Soule, and Doctor Aphra by Kieron Gillen. Soule’s stories add rich layers and history to the character of Darth Vader; Gillen’s stories introduce audiences to space archaeologist Dr. Chellie Lona Aphra.

Check out these and so. many. more. Star Wars books at the library!

The NEW Bread and Butter Authors

by Kelly

How diversified would you say that you are in your fiction reading? What authors do you tend to gravitate to, and, is it time for you to shake up your bookshelf and invite some newcomers in? While the fiction bestselling market is still being upheld by some old-time greats (Grisham, Evanovich, Baldacci, to name a few), it’s time to step aside James Patterson, there’s a line of authors behind you waiting to be read.

There’s no denying that our usual bread and butter fiction authors still got game, but, it’s time to let some of today’s up-and-comers take the stage, authors who are consistently releasing great reads in many fiction genres. Many of these you may not yet be familiar with. Here is a short list of the new bread and butter authors you should be reaching for:

RILEY SAGER: first published in 2017, if it’s a thrill ride you are looking for, this author will have your adrenaline pumping with edge-of-your seat plots and a storyline that will keep you reading all night until you finish. Since his debut novel Final Girls, Sager has been thrilling and chilling readers in a slasher style fancy with twists and turns and not-so-predictable endings. To date, Sager has five novels flying off our shelves, with a new title to be released in June.  

EMMA STRAUB: first published in 2012, Straub’s novels are gaining momentum. Filed under the category of general fiction/literary fiction, Straub’s stories take a different path than those of her famous father, horror and suspense writer Peter Straub. To date, her four published works have been described as “literary sunshine” with consistently bright and straightforward writing combined with warm and generous characters. Straub has a new title set to release in May.

LUCY FOLEY: with six titles under her belt since 2015, this British author is making her name on the bestseller list. Filled with gripping and twisted plots, Foley’s titles will keep you guessing (and guessing wrong) until the very end. Covering several genres including general fiction, mystery, historical fiction, and suspense, Foley’s novels will appeal to many.

FIONA DAVIS: first published in 2016, Davis’s six historical fiction publications, including recently released The Magnolia Palace are all set in some of New York City’s most iconic buildings. Taking readers to many different periods in time, Davis’s works are character-driven stories woven around the buildings that shaped their lives.

ADRIAN TCHAIKOVSKY: though Tchaikovsky has been published since 2008, this science fiction author has hit the genre hard in the past seven years, releasing multiple titles (17 in total) from multiple series lines ranging from high fantasy to space opera. Readers review his works as enthralling, epic, full of life and highly intelligent. With three new releases in 2022 alone, this author is not one to miss.

GREGG HURWITZ: since releasing the Orphan X series in 2016, Hurwitz has created a thrilling series with seven titles, the latest released earlier this year, filled with non-stop action and high-tech gadgetry. Fans of old greats Lee Child and David Baldacci will want this series on their home bookshelf. David Baldacci himself gives this author praise for his work by stating “read this book, you will thank me later”.

All of these titles can be found on the shelves at ANBL or digitally through our Hoopla or Libby apps. Visit the website Fantasticfiction.com to learn more about the authors and see their titles in order.

Our Friend Earth

by Kelly

April 22, 2022 marks the 52nd birth of the modern environmental movement known as Earth Day, a nationwide celebration created to inspire the people in America to draw their focus to the importance of creating a healthy place to live. It is a call for all of us to invest in our planet and its well-being. Alvah N. Belding Library not only has resources for you to learn about eco-conscious living, sustainability, and other earth-friendly practices, but also in itself practices and promotes the following healthy planet behaviors:

Borrow Instead of Buy- Loaning items is the core of every library’s existence. On average, the Alvah N. Belding Library circulates to our community (and beyond) over 65,000 items per year, and in its lifetime, a bestselling author’s book can be checked out to over 100 people. If each of those 100 people shopped for every bestselling book every time one was released, the amount of books that would stack up would be incredible. Libraries help reduce unnecessary waste by circulating items instead, saving people money AND saving our landfills from filling up. And, at ANBL we circulate more than just books. Our patrons can borrow non-tradition items like board games, yoga mats, tablets, lawn games, golf clubs, birdwatching kits, and more!

Grow Your Own Food- In another form of non-traditional lending, our seed library is another way that the library helps take care of mother earth. We have in our collection a large variety of vegetable, herb, and flower seeds that patrons can take home for free to plant in their own yards and gardens. Once the plants have grown and bloomed, seeds can be collected and saved to plant again and again, creating a sustainable source of eco-friendly plants, as well as a source of energy.

Reduce/Reuse/Recycle-Aside from loaning items, another great way that our library applies the actions of reduce/reuse/and recycle is through our annual book sales. We actually have one going on right now, HOORAY! SHOP APRIL 20-22 DURING OUR REGULAR LIBRARY HOURS. For our book sales, we collect gently-used books that our patrons no longer want (saving them from going in a landfill), and we sell them at a greatly reduced cost, which makes it a win-win-win for our patrons and the environment. In addition to our book sales, the library creates crafts and other programming around items that we scavenge and recycle, repurposing them into something fun and creative for you. And speaking of recycle, all of our boxes, old newspapers, and other related items are saved and go out for pickup by our recycle service twice each month.

There are many ways in which we can help our planet. The library is doing our part in the best ways that we can. If you have additional suggestions or ideas that are earth-friendly this Earth Day, let us know! And, be sure to visit our Spring Book Sale and stock up on gently-used books that you can keep, trade, or pass on to someone else when you are through.

Virginia, the Great

by Kelly

February 1 – March 1 marks Black History Month in America, and there’s no better time or place to share the accolades and achievements of America’s most distinguished author of children’s books, Virginia Hamilton.

Who was Virginia Hamilton? Born in 1934, Hamilton was raised in Ohio, where her family had settled in the late 1850s where her own grandfather was brought into the state as in infant on the Underground Railroad. She graduated at the top of her class and majored in literature and creative writing, while pursuing a dream of becoming a fiction writer.

In her lifetime, Virginia Hamilton wrote and published 41 books in multiple genres that spanned from picture books and folktales, mysteries and science fiction, to realistic novels and biographies. Hamilton weaves into her writing a deep concern with memory, tradition, and generational legacy, especially as they helped define the lives of African Americans. Hamilton described her work as “Liberation Literature.”

 Hamilton won every major award in youth literature, including the historic honor she received as the first black writer to receive the Newberry Medal, in 1975.  From the Hans Christian Anderson award to the Edgar Allen Poe award, and the MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Award”, Hamilton has won them all. To see a full list of her awards and the years in which she won them, click HERE

The following titles of her published works can be found on the shelf at ANBL or can be checked out through our digital collections:

M.C. Higgins, The Great. This YA book earned Hamilton the Newberry Medal in 1975, and is a coming-of-age novel about a boy who dreams of leaving his home in the mountains of Kentucky when the mining of the mountain threatens his family’s home. Reader reviews of this book on Goodreads are harsh. Not many like it, which makes it just intriguing enough for me to want to judge for myself.

The Planet of Junior Brown. Junior Brown is an overweight musical prodigy who loses touch with the world around him and is absorbed into a fantasy world filled with stars, planets, and music. Junior befriends a pal named Buddy and the story tackles the tough subjects of obesity, homelessness, and mental illness. Written in 1971, this book was made into a 1997 movie titled “Junior’s Groove”.

Her Stories, African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales. This book is a collection of 19 magical and wondrous stories of black women retold by Hamilton. Published in 1995, this collected works received two awards, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award in 1995, and the Coretta Scott King Award in 1996.

The Bells of Christmas. This picture book tells the story of the Bell family as they anticipate the coming of Christmas in 1890. Well-researched and written with historical accuracy, this story details many of the traditions and preparations for the holiday from the home of a middle-class black family in Ohio.

Your Doorway Awaits

by Kelly

Every cover of every book you open is a doorway that leads the way into a new world. A world that is designed to awe, inspire, entertain, and connect with something inside of you. But… what makes a good book? The infamous librarian Nancy Pearl stated in her 2012 TED Talk that a good book is simply “a book that you like”. Each of us has our own unique ideas for what we believe makes what we read unforgettable, or eager to forget, and it’s all based upon the doorways we enter.

There are four reading doorways, as defined by Pearl, which she discovered are the main appeal to why every reader likes the books that they like. The story, setting, characters, and language are what draws us into a book and either keeps us hooked or gives us a reason to take a trip to the library to trade our book out for something different.

Read on to discover which doorway appeals to you.

STORY- Books with story doorways are very plot-focused. The action in the book is what drives the story forward and what keeps the reader going. The pace of the story can be fast or slow, but it is the action that is the main appeal. These kinds of books are often referred to as page-turners and make you want to know what happens next.

SETTING- Books with a setting doorway are very detailed in the description of the surroundings in which the story takes place. The setting could be an entire countryside as in The Lord of the Rings, or it could be as contained as the single building found in The Fall of the House of Usher. From castles, to countries, to other planets, the environment in which the story takes place will play a large role in stories with a setting doorway.

LANGUAGE- Books with a language doorway are very descriptive. The appeal of a language doorway is largely based on the written words and dialogue that is used. Words, phrases, accents, dialects, and just the richness of the way the author describes everything are essential pieces of the language appeal. A language doorway keeps you wanting to read more just to hear the words that are being said.

CHARACTER- Books with a character doorway rely on a cast of characters, large or small, as the main appeal.  We are drawn in to the story to learn about the lives of the characters who live within the book, and we are focused and invested on what happens to them. Many character stories are epic in scope, following the lives of the characters through many generations.

Think about the four doorways before you choose your next read, or reflect upon the books that you have already read to determine which doorway most appeals to you. I am drawn in to stories that are fast-paced and story-driven, and I also lean toward character-driven stories-bonus for me if the book I am reading combines both.

Use a simple google search to discover your next doorway book, or visit the Michigan Electronic Library’s NoveList database to make use of their “appeal generator” feature; you tell the generator what you like in a book, and it will give you a list of titles. NoveList can be found at mel.org.

Pick up an ADULT WINTER READING CHALLENGE packet at the library for the month of February and track your reading using the appeal terms word search to connect your book with the appeals it contains. Prizes awarded to all who finish.

Coming to You in 2022

by Kelly

The New Year is almost upon us and the library team has been brainstorming, planning, and preparing for a full year of new programs and events to educate and entertain you in 2022. We are proud to provide a variety of hands-on programs and crafts to stimulate all minds, as well as bringing in guest presenters and entertainers to enrich your life. Here’s a sneak peek into what is coming to you in the coming months at Alvah N. Belding Library.

One Stop Book Shop, a get-ready-to-read in 2022 workshop designed to get you excited to try new authors and genres, help you set and establish your personal reading goals, and will show you where and how to track you reading over the course of the year. Share in the discussion and get ready to read. January 10, 2022 at 4 pm.

Small Business Social Network Monthly Lunch, are you a beginning small business owner or budding entrepreneur? Join us for this lunch-time social and share valuable tips and tricks of starting and running your own small business. From start-up planning, to marketing and finance, join us and help each other find the tools and resources needed to get your vision off the ground. Monthly, third Thursday at 12 pm. Lunch will be sourced from a local business and will be provided by the library.

“Naval Battles of the Great Lakes”, with The Restless Viking and his partner Poppins, who discuss Great Lakes history via their blog and Youtube Channel, will be on hand to share historical insight into the battles that took place on Michigan’s own Great Lakes, including stories about “Roaring” Dan Seavey, local legend Pirate. Check out The Restless Viking’s recent adventures and video logs through the website https://www.restless-viking.com/. February 2, 2022 at 6 pm.

Flipbook Making Workshop for Tweens, a hands-on program for youth in grades 5-8. Learn the basics for making your own flip story book and craft your own mini book during this workshop. All supplies provided by the library. March 10 at 3:30 pm.

Genealogy Group, back by popular demand, the library will be home to its own network of local family researchers of all ages and levels of knowledge. Just beginning? No problem! Come mingle and learn in this lively and informative roundtable to discuss all of the ins and outs of family history research. Learn about the valuable tools, websites, and organizational tricks to keeping your research on track. Monthly, last Friday of each month from 10 am to 12 pm.

This sneak peek is just a sample of what the library has to offer in the upcoming year. Regular youth programs like Story Time and Tasty Tuesday will continue, as well as Family Night and Teen Night activities. Like our Facebook page to stay notified of events, and visit the library calendar on our website https://www.alvahnbeldinglibrary.org/ for a list of all of our upcoming events.