Summer “Sure Bet” Staff Picks

by Kelly

As library staff members, we get to see what you read every day. Don’t worry, we don’t judge. We love seeing the variety of books that walk out our doors with our patrons! From helping you find books on our shelves, checking them out for you, and sending you on your way, we are part of your reading process.  But what do we read, you may wonder? With summer in full swing, we’re sharing a bit of our reading world with you. These are “sure bet” titles for you to take with you on vacation, read in a hammock, or simply curl up to in the air conditioning.

Summer reads

Britney recommends:

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. This book is total #squadgoals! Set in space, this team of misfits find themselves targeted by powerful governments when they stumble onto a secret that can change the fate of the galaxy.

Murder in the Reading Room by Ellery Adams. This cozy mystery, partially set at the Biltmore House, has everything you need—rare books, secret societies, adventure, and murder!

 

Betty recommends:

What We Keep: 150 People Share One Object that Bring Them Joy, Magic, and Meaning, by Bill Shapiro.

Country Living Tiny Homes: Living Big in Small Spaces edited by Caroline McKenzie.

Both of these titles are great books for lazy-day browsing, filled with wonderful photos.

 

Zach recommends:

Malazan Book of the Fallen series, by Steven Erikson. A sprawling nine-book fantasy series that reaches across four continents. Full of magic, humor, and compassion, you’ll feel sad to finish the final pages of this beautiful series.

 

Janelle recommends:

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Steward. If you like quirky characters, plot twists, and writing that celebrates inventive thinking, then this is a great summer selection for you. This book proves that when we harness the power of our differences to work together, amazing things can happen.

On Writing by Stephen King. This nonfiction narrative/informative blend is a unique book and fantastic read. Although it’s not an autobiography, King shares many memories (in a way that only he can) that reveal how his childhood and life shaped his work as a writer.

 

 

Olivia recommends:

Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan. A vibrant graphic novel with action that would please any 80’s summer blockbuster fan. The perfect read for a lazy summer night.

 

Kelly recommends:

Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne. This quirky, fun, fantasy adventure will have you hooked from chapter one. This book is great for fans of The Princess Bride and Monty Python-esque comedy. Rollicking fun.

While you are at it, read No Country for Old Gnomes, a just-released follow-up adventure by the same authors.

We hope you enjoy your summer, and all the reading you can fit into it!

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Millay Into May

by Kelly

April is national poetry month, and with the month of May sneaking up around the corner, I would be remiss to miss the chance to talk about a few of my favorite poems and poets.

Poetry has been a long-standing favorite form of writing for me. From learning funny limericks in my younger years and trying my hand at Haiku, poetry wound its way into my heart at an early age. My high school and college years brought me close to the works of some of the greatest poets of all time.

Shakespeare’s timeless sonnets, Edgar Allan Poe’s eerie and haunting poems “Annabel Lee” and “The Raven”, and John Milton’s masterpiece “Paradise Lost”, which was written upon his sudden blindness, are favorites of mine. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride”, as well as Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” are classics that should be read by all.

However, the one poet who stands out to me above the rest is Edna St. Vincent Millay, America’s third woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Named after St. Vincent’s Hospital where her uncle’s life was saved just before she was born in 1892, Vincent, as she was called, lived a life in carefree poverty, spoke her mind, and was raised by her single mother to be fiercely independent as well as an activist for women’s rights.

At the age of nineteen, Millay wrote what I consider to be the best poem of the twentieth century, a 200-plus line lyric poem titled “Renascence”. Written in the first person, this piece broadly encompasses the relationship of an individual to humanity and nature. Millay expresses through this work the feeling of empathy and taking on the pain and suffering of the world, to be ‘reborn’ with a new understanding and appreciation for life. Also known for her sonnets and short poems, Millay was a favorite of Jacqueline Kennedy whose daughter Caroline read “Memory of Cape Cod” at the former first lady’s funeral.

Millay died in 1950 at the age of 58. Her works of poetry are printed in several volumes, and the biography “Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay”, by Nancy Milford is a great read for anyone who wants to learn more about the fascinating life of this great American poet.

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Book Review: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

by Britney

I didn’t grow up a “Harry Potter kid.” In fact, I was already in college when the Harry Potter books came out. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t fall completely and utterly in love with J.K. Rowling’s fantastic wizarding world. Even now, having read the series multiple times, they still hold a sort of intangible magic for me.

That’s a lot to live up to.

So when I heard that J.K. Rowling was penning a new series – one for (gasp!) adults – I was skeptical. And also intrigued. What would she write about? Would it have any of the elements of Potter? Of magic? I waited in anticipation. I certainly did not expect the hero to be a surly, ex-military amputee detective with an addiction to cigarettes and beer. But man, oh, man, am I glad he is. Because I ❤ Cormoran Strike. He’s the kind of hero I can relate to – flawed, hates mornings, and is suspicious of everyone. My kind of guy. And his sidekick, Robin, is #girlgoals.

I devoured the first three books in the series, The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm, and Career of Evil. I loved them. And when British TV produced a 3-miniseries production for each of the existing books, I spent three sleepless nights watching them. (They are wonderful, by the way, and the cast is brilliant.) So when Lethal White was released, I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, finally, I’d have some answers about things left up in the air at the end of Career of Evil. So, I read all 650 pages as fast as I possibly could. And this is what I discovered:

I am normally not a crime fiction reader. It’s not my go-to, as I don’t have the stomach AT ALL for blood and gore, or for children in peril. That said, if this series ran to 37 entries, I’d read every single one, and that’s a testament to Rowling’s skill as a writer. Her ability to meticulously plan a super complex plot without dropping a single thread is nothing short of amazing. Not only that, but her characters are unique and developed, not just caricatures, and I genuinely care about them and what happens to them. She makes me feel every raw rub of Strike’s prosthesis, so that I flinch when he takes a step; she makes me feel Robin’s bone-deep trauma when she has a panic attack; she makes me want to throttle Matthew for being such a selfish wanker. I become invested in these books, immersed in Strike and Robin’s adventures, in their danger, in their success, in their very survival.

I’m not going to lie – this book was a beast. And I may even go so far as to say that parts of it were a *bit* repetitive. But not to the point where I was annoyed, or ever lost interest. In fact, I think the repetition may have been done purposefully, to really drive home some of the themes.

I liked the further character development that took place in this book. Strike is in a semi-normal relationship, but he refuses to commit to any more than “casual.” He is focused on his business, and experiences something that makes him want to become closer with his family. He borderline acknowledges his feelings for Robin, and summarily refuses to act on them (even though I keep screaming inside for him to just kiss her, already). He makes some almost hilarious – but also heartbreaking – mistakes about Robin that show what a blind spot he has where she is concerned. And he is also a brilliant, brilliant investigator, as always. Robin is one of my favorite fictional characters. I love her grit and her bravery in the face of danger, and I also empathize with her in her impossible situation at home. I am constantly frustrated with her because she capitulates to Matthew and lets him treat her like she’s inadequate, yet simultaneously understand that she suffers from PTSD, and that Matthew is, in a way, her constant. It’s maddening. There are times in this book where she’s so far out of her element she has every right to mess up or refuse, but she doesn’t. And, in fact, she succeeds admirably. And when she *finally* has her say, it’s a beautiful thing.

The mystery in this book is very complex with a lot of moving parts that don’t seem to make any sense at all. But once those pieces start falling into place, and the threads start getting pulled tighter, the revelations are astounding. I must say I did guess the culprit, but not because it was obvious, or predictable; rather I just didn’t like the character, because I don’t like that type of person, and was predisposed against them and wanted them to be guilty. 🙂

Overall, a wonderful addition to the Strike saga. If you like mysteries with a low level of yuck but a high level of intrigue, give this series a try.

The Joy of Something New

by Janelle

There are new colors on the tree leaves. Green is giving way to bright yellow, fiery orange, and deep crimson. Every season announces itself in a unique way, and fall at the riverside Belding library is breathtaking. New colors burst around it every day. Are you a seasoned patron of the library, or are you brand new?

I’m new! At least, as a worker, I am new. I had volunteered (and had an amazing time!) at the library for WordCamp this summer and I’d visited the library on a weekly basis for a long time. But now, I have the privilege of co-directing the youth services programming with my fabulous partner in not-crime Olivia Carlson, under the headship of our fearless leader Britney Dillon. Everything feels wonderful and new.

New things can be a little scary. If you’ve never set foot in our library, it may be daunting. You’re literally stepping into a place where over 100 years of history is meeting 2018 reality. The door frames, the fixtures, and even some photographs have stood the test of time behind the library’s columned entrance. Concurrently, our new addition is bright and beautiful with huge picture windows that overlook the Flat River, and there are many engaging activities for kids.

As I’m learning the ropes (and books) here, I’m discovering amazing things I never knew about the library. Not only do we carry books on CD, we also have CD players available for patrons to check out if they don’t have one at home! There are fun Early Literacy stations with unusual activities for kids to try with books – have you ever driven a school bus over the words on the page of a book? It’s fantastic.

The greatest joy of being a new children’s librarian is meeting the kids who come through our doors. They are unique, wonderful, and full of wonder. A library is a great place to be full of wonder. I can’t wait to meet more children at our programs and everyday fun activities/happenings at the library.

If you’re new, you won’t be new for long with this bunch. The entire staff at the Belding library is amazing. We’re excited to see you, happy to help out, and seriously patient with newbies (I know from personal experience!) Come on in and get connected! Who knows where your new experience here will take you to next.

 

What’s the Big Deal About Escape Rooms?

by Stefanie

“Is this part of it?” one kid asks me. He’s holding up a clock that I had propped up in a corner of our program room, one of several dozen random (or, seemingly random) objects scattered on tables, on countertops, and even on the floor.

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I’m careful with my poker face. “I don’t know. Is it?” I throw back at him. He looks at it again, then puts it aside on the table marked “Important Things.”

He knows if he really needs help, I’ll give it to him. But instead, he figures it out on his own a few minutes later (as it turns out, the time on the clock is also the combination to a lock across the room). And the group gets way more excited about it, because they crack it all on their own.

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A bunch of objects scattered around – some significant, some not – may not sound like your typical library program. But this type of event has quickly become one of the most popular library programs int he U.S. It’s called an escape room, and the one we did for the teens his July was by far our most popular teen program of Summer Reading. In fact, the gears are already turning in my head, determining when and how I’m going to do the next one.

Ten years ago, no one had ever heard of an escape room. Now, there are almost 3,000 permanent escape rooms around the world. And this number doesn’t include the pop-up escape rooms that can be found at conferences and in public libraries. One can easily fall down a rabbit hole on Pinterest looking at suggestions on how to set up an escape room for your friends in the privacy of your own home. Permanent escape rooms create elaborate and detailed adventures tailored to different themes and skill levels, and can cost $30-50 per person (or more) for an hour-long event. They are hugely popular, and public libraries, as they usually do, are trying to capture the zeitgeist in their program offerings.

The concept of the escape room – although it has elements of medieval hedge mazes and role-playing games – can be traced directly back to video games based on the same concept: you’re in a room, and you have to solve a mystery to get out. The first of these games, Behind Closed Doors, was released in 1988, when PC games were still text-only. The escape room concept became truly popular, though, as a result of a 2004 Japanese video game called Crimson Room. From here, real world escape rooms were born, starting in Japan but then spreading into Europe and the U.S., with the first American company opening in 2013 in Seattle (probably not coincidentally in the same city where the first Starbucks opened).

The concept is deceptively simple. The room is the framework, and wraps the mystery up into a nice package while also providing the challenge: the clues almost always lead you to a key that allows you to “escape the room” (hence the name). But you’re surrounded by clues or potential clues, and it’s up to you to work your way through all the puzzles to get to the end. So the room is both the problem and the solution at the same time. Themes vary from the classic Private Eye mystery to the X-Files to Ancient Greece. The puzzled are generally organized so that no specific knowledge is needed. You need only bring your puzzle-solving skills to the table.

But most importantly, you’re working against a timer to solve the mystery. The adrenaline rush of racing to finish in time is a huge aspect of the appeal. To this we can add the immersive experience created by all of these themed adventures. Rooms set in specific time periods put huge effort into verisimilitude, and even fanciful rooms set in fictional worlds aim to include so much detail that players feel like they’ve stepped onto the Holodeck (apologies to non-Star Trek fans: this would be the computerized room that whisks you into any scenario, place, or story you can think of). In other words, it is a perfect pairing for libraries, where readers come to find the next book that will throw them into a new immersive fictional (or nonfictional, for that matter) experience.

Our escape room registration filled up several days before the event. We opened more slots, and it immediately filled again. The kids came ready to solve, and every group managed to finish nicely within the 30-minute time limit. The beauty of a program like this is that the core elements will remain the same: locks, invisible ink, objects tucked into secret places, messages to decode. But each time they can be rearranged and done with a different theme so that the same set of participants can return and get something totally new. This is what has made escape rooms so accessible and universally popular.

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This summer was the library’s first attempt at an escape room, but it was so popular and fun that we’ve got one planned for adults in September. So, if this sounds interesting to you, keep an eye on our program schedule, like us on Facebook and Instagram @anbllibrary, and check the website regularly. And be sure to register early!

 

 

Secrets of the Century

by Kelly

One hundred years ago, the Alvah N. Belding Memorial Library opened its doors to the community of Belding, Michigan. Paid for by Alvah Norton Belding and built in memory of his parents Hiram and Mary Belding, the library has served as a foundation for free and public education for a century.

On May 19, 2018, from 1 to 6 pm, the Alvah N. Belding Memorial Library will host a Centennial Celebration in honor of this historic library and its visionary founder.

The celebration will include performances from the Belding Pops vocal group, the Belding High School Leadership Band, a dedication by the City of Belding for the City’s mural that graces the wall between the library and the Gathering Place, and a ribbon cutting and rededication of the library itself, to welcome in the next century of library service to the community.

However, I feel the most intriguing aspect of the Centennial Celebration will be the opening of our time capsule, a secret copper box that was placed within the cornerstone of the building in 1917, during the library’s construction.

What treasures from a hundred years ago does the time capsule contain? Come to the Centennial Celebration to find out! The items inside the time capsule in the cornerstone have been hidden inside the building for an entire century, just waiting to come out! I have always found this building and the history it represents to be very special, but knowing that there is a box of secret treasure inside the cornerstone gives the library a quality that is almost magical.

The time capsule will be opened for the public to view as part of the celebration ceremony, and the items will remain on display inside the library through July of 2018, when the box and its original contents will be replaced inside the cornerstone along with some new items to be kept securely hidden for the next century. New items added to the future mystery box will  include the selected winners of our essay and artwork contest, which was open to all Belding public school students.

Please plan to join us May 19 at 1:00 pm, and be part of history in the making. The library will be a showcase of history and will offer staff-led library tours, photograph displays, musical entertainment, food, and more! We look forward to bringing in a new century with you all!

 

 

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Here a Book, There a Book

by Britney

As the director of the Belding Library, one of my responsibilities is curating the library’s materials collection. That’s a fancy way of saying…

I get to pick the books.

So, that stack of books you just walked out of the library with? The best seller, the quirky YA, the picture book for your kiddo, the manual to help you build your new bird feeder? Those were selections that I made, with the hopes that people would check them out and enjoy them, and justify the dollars I spent on them from an extremely limited budget.

No pressure or anything, right? If no one wants to check out the books I buy for the library, not only am I fully responsible for wasting the library’s resources, but I’ve let my patrons down by not providing them with materials they deem valuable. Therefore, I take my collection development job very seriously.

But I’m also a Book Lover, with a capital B.L. And as such, I want to buy all the books.  All of them, I say! But, as painful as it is for me to admit it, that’s simply not financially feasible. Sadly, heartbreakingly, the library does not have unlimited funding. In fact, because of some other financial obligations the library has, our materials budget is one of the smallest allotments we have. So every single dollar counts.

Recently, I had a friend ask me how I decide which books to purchase for the library. And the answer to this question is: very carefully.

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One of the biggest factors in building a collection that circulates well is knowing my population, and which types of books they like. I spend a lot of time looking at the books our patrons check out, and becoming familiar with what their interests are – at all ages and reading levels. I mean, there’s no point in me buying a book no one is going to read.

After that, I choose books that are entertaining, are good for creating discussion, are thought-provoking, and are bona fide must-reads. And every now and then, I get specific purchase requests from patrons for books, and try very hard to accommodate these requests.

One thing that makes my book-choosing job easier is talking to my patrons. The more I talk to people about books, the better idea I get about what they like to read, and what they want to see in the library. And on top of that, I just plain like to talk about books! So if you’re in the library and see me, chat me up about what you’re reading – I’d love to hear what you have to say, and I’d love to hear your recommendations!

At the library, we’re in the business of patrons and books – and if the two can compliment one another, all the better.

Happy reading!