Here’s a link to Tate’s latest post on YA books:
Here’s a link to Tate’s latest post on YA books:
I was talking to a friend this week about how you can get a little depressed if you live in this area of Virginia. Jobs are in short supply, and this region seems to keep winning the cup for highest unemployment in the Commonwealth. That’s really not a prize we want to take home.
My job is all about connecting people with the information they need, and in the field of job searching and workplace skills, we like to think we can really help. Obviously, we have a considerable selection of books in our collections that help a job searcher navigate everything from the cover letter to the resume to the interview and the thank-you note. We even have books providing advice for those who have degrees in the humanities [yes, English majors CAN get hired], as well as for those who have been fired and are trying to start over.
I’d like to highlight an online resource we have, too. It’s called Learning Express. Often we recommend this to students because it provides a considerable number of practice tests for everything from the GED to the GRE. But it has begun to beef up its resources for job seekers, and I think it truly has something to offer.
The section of this online resource called job search and workplace skills offers sections on business writing; job search, resume, and interviewing skills, and additional help for those who are not native English speakers. Under each of these categories are several resources–e-books as well as practice tests–that will help a job seeker prepare. It even includes a book on public speaking.
I just worked with one job seeker on his resume using the tips we found in “Goof-Proof Resumes and Cover Letters” and by the end of our time together, his resume was significantly improved.
Give this resource a try. You can find it by going to our webpage, www.pcplib.org. Click on the “Research” tab at the top of the page, and then on “Homework Help” near the bottom. Call us if you need help setting up a login and password.
Meanwhile, my friend with the new resume has an interview on Thursday. Maybe he can help us NOT win the cup for highest unemployment in this next quarter.
My colleague Tate from our staff is authoring a blog on young adult books and other things of interest. Take a look here:
There’s just something about summer. Maybe it’s the fact that, unlike many of you I would guess, I’m not much for getting outside when the weather is hot. I’d rather stay inside in the cool and shady house with a nice big novel and a glass of tea.
Now this is not to say that I don’t like reading in the other seasons. In fact, there is nothing better than sitting in my beach chair at Huntington Beach State Park, South Carolina, watching the waves break and making my way through an interesting novel. Winter by the fire with a book and a cup of cocoa–check that, too. Even spring reading has its charms.
But I just want to give a quick thumbs-up to the two books I am reading now and recommend them to your attention. Note that I say “reading”–I have not finished either.
The first is Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton, a book released in 2009 and published by W.W. Norton. I have written about a book having to do with the art world last summer [Provenance]. Perhaps summer brings out the art lover in me. At any rate, this is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the art subculture. Thornton attends an art auction at Christie’s, a “crit” in art school, and the Art Fair in Basel, as well as visiting the offices of Artforum magazine. Behind all this is an intelligent writer who is investigating the commercialism of art, the transformation of art into commodity. It’s not a long book–under 300 pages, and the characters you meet along the way will keep you engaged.
The second is currently on the New York Times bestseller list. It’s Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder. I had read Patchett’s Bel Canto, a work that haunted me for days after I read it, so it was with eagerness that I waited for State of Wonder. It does not disappoint.
In brief, the book follows the journey of Dr. Marina Singh, who works for a pharmaceutical company, to the Amazon to track down her former teacher, Dr. Annick Swenson. Swenson is working on a new drug and does not want to be found; in fact, Marina’s colleague Anders Eckman preceded her to Brazil and died in the process of trying to convince Dr. Swenson to return. The atmosphere of the novel is nearly as oppressive as the heat of the Amazon; Patchett’s powers of description are considerable. The characters are layered and rich. Though I am only about halfway through this book, I can tell you that you will not be bored by it–it grabs you in its web and pulls you along.
So there you have it–two quick recommendations for summer reading. Take one up, preferably indoors and with a cold glass of sweet tea.
As you know if you have read this blog for any time at all, I listen to lots of audiobooks on my forty minute commute to Chatham each morning. But once in a while, I take a break and listen to podcasts instead.
If you are not sure what a podcast is, here’s a definition for you: it’s an audio file similar to a radio broadcast, which can be downloaded and listened to on a computer, mp3 player, mobile phone, or other properly equipped device.
In my case, I subscribe to several of these podcasts. On Saturdays I connect my iThingy to my computer and open iTunes, where the newest of my podcasts live and wait for me. They are synched to that iThingy device, and at the same time the ones I have already heard magically disappear.
On Monday morning, I plug my device into the stereo of my wondrous Honda Civic, workhorse of Highway 57, and start listening to all this collected wisdom I acquired on Saturday.
This week, I was catching up with Planet Money, which is a segment on NPR. They interviewed James Heckman, an economist. It was riveting.
Excitement and economists–those two terms don’t go together at all. That may be, but this time was different. They were talking to him about the importance of preschool education.
Stifle that yawn.
What was interesting about this podcast to me was that the research Dr. Heckman has done on preschool education indicates that society could have a strong return on investment in it. If we put a dollar into preschool education for children with fewer advantages, society could reap over thirty times that in decreased costs in prisons, job training classes, and other programs.
Here’s the gist of the show. There have been studies done about the effectiveness of job training programs provided to young people who have not had many advantages in life, and the studies indicated that the outcomes of these programs are disappointing. Why is that? Well, it turns out that in the work world, it is not all about your job skills per se, but the “soft skills.” It’s’ the ability to get along with others, make eye contact, show up on time, smile, control your temper that really counts in the workplace. Some people get these soft skills at home, but others do not.
A study of young people who came from areas of economic deprivation in Ypsilanti, Michigan, dating back to the 1960s [the Perry Preschool Study] shows that a gap opened up between the children in a preschool program and those in the study who were not that is measurable even by the age of five. These children were followed into adulthood by the researchers; in fact they were followed for forty years. The children who went to the preschool were ahead of the ones who didn’t by the time they entered school. But the fascinating thing is that after they graduated from high school, huge differences opened up. At age 27, the control group [the ones who did not go to preschool] had nearly three times more arrests. That group earned only two-thirds of what the other group did.
It goes on–the girls who went to the preschool were fifty percent more likely to have a savings account than the others by the time they are 27. They were more likely to own a car.
The Planet Money team admitted that the Perry Preschool Study is a small study, but subsequent studies have only reinforced the results.
So what’s going on here? What’s so special about preschool? Well, at preschool, there is structure and routine. Children have playtime and circle time. They talk about the calendar. They talk about the weather. They have little chores to do. They play outside and they take a nap. They learn how to paint, and to build with blocks. They have all these little interactions where they learn to negotiate, to talk to each other, to share–these are the skills that these preschoolers get, and the control group does not, in the Perry Preschool Study. A teacher at a preschool in Brooklyn pointed out on the show that this is also the age at which kids learn empathy and problem solving, and form social bonds. There’s a small window for that. If children don’t develop these soft skills by 5 or 6, it becomes harder and harder for them to do so. Later on in life, job training doesn’t work because the students do not have these skills.
So the economist’s conclusion is that spending money on preschools is one of the smartest things we can do with our dollars as a society. There is a big return on this investment in children.
We are in the first weeks of summer reading program here at the library. Can you figure out why I mention this podcast? What preschools do is often parallel to what we do here, though we do it on a smaller scale. We teach early literacy skills in every preschool story time and in every summer reading program. Studies of these have shown how important they are to gaining and retaining reading skills. I think it would follow, if someone would do a study, that the soft skills our preschoolers learn during our sessions would also be important in the same way that they are in these studies.
If you want to hear the podcast, it’s here:
with a follow-up here:
Beginning on Monday, May 2, the Pittsylvania County Public Library system will expand its services to include eBooks as well as downloadable audiobooks, music, and video. Patrons of all branches of the Pittsylvania County Public Library system, along with five other area library systems, will be able to download from their library’s website. The new service, which is called OverDrive, allows library card holders to check out and download the digital media anytime.
Users will be able to browse the library’s website, check out with a valid library card, and download to their computer or many common mobile devices including iPad®, iPod®, iPhone®, Sony® Reader™, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, and those working on the Android or BlackBerry platform. A complete list can be accessed at http://overdrive.com/resources/drc/. Amazon Kindles will soon work with the service as well. Some of the audio titles offered can also be burned to CD. Titles will automatically expire from the device at the end of the lending period.
According to Diane S. Adkins, Director of the Pittsylvania County Public Library system, library users are very interested in downloadable media: “Especially since the beginning of the year, we have been asked repeatedly for this service. We were happy to be able to say that we would soon be providing it. The fact that we are working with five other libraries has made it possible.”
The new service is provided through the Virginia Piedmont Library Consortium. Consortium members include the public libraries of Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, Campbell, Lynchburg and Pittsylvania. The Consortium is sharing in the cost of the service, making it affordable for the member libraries.
For more information, email the library at firstname.lastname@example.org. The service will be available beginning on May 2 to all patrons of Pittsylvania County libraries who have a valid library card in good standing, and a PIN. The library’s website is www.pcplib.org.
What do you know about German POWs held in the United States during World War II?
If you are like me, your answer would be “Not much.” In fact, I knew almost nothing about it until we were contacted by the Traces Museum of St. Paul, Minnesota, to see if we would be interested in hosting a traveling exhibit on the topic.
That exhibit will be here for one day only on April 14th. It is housed in a bus that has been converted into a mobile museum, complete with seating for presentations.
The Traces staff call this particular exhibit “Held on the Homefront.” When I started discussing the possibility of having it here, I found that plenty of people interested in history, and particularly Pittsylvania County history, knew about those POWs. You see, there was a camp in Sandy Level and some folks who were young then still remember seeing the POWs working in the fields of their family farms.
Glenn Giles mentioned to me that Herman Melton had a chapter in his book Southside Virginia: Echoing Through History, that mentioned this camp, so I looked it up. According to Melton, most of the German POWs were sailors who had been on U-boats. They were used to alleviate a shortage of labor, and many found themselves working in agriculture. By the end of the war, there were 17,000 POWs in Virginia alone, and 168 of them were in Sandy Level, housed in what had been a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. From what I have been told, the camp is still visible today because one of the old barracks is still standing.
My dad is a World War II vet, so I casually asked him if he remembered anything like this in Ohio. He definitely did. He said that in Ohio the POWs also worked in agriculture, primarily in picking tomatoes, and that there were plenty of people who did not want them around and were frightened to have them in the community.
The fear of these prisoners was probably a normal reaction, but it is the mission of Traces to gather, preserve and present stories of people who encountered each other during World War II with the hope that we might now rise above the fears that demean us all. It is certainly a lesson that is pertinent to our own time in history.
If you want to learn more about these POWs and their life in the United States, come to the newly renovated Chatham Train Depot on Thursday, April 14, any time from 10 am until 4 pm and meet Irving Kellman, the Traces docent, and see the exhibits depicting this era in our shared history.
I come from a line of farmers. In itself, that’s not so remarkable. In 1920, farmers accounted for 27% of the labor force in the US, so there’s a good chance that you come from from a line of farmers, too. Having a farm heritage, however, is not nearly the work that being a true farmer is.
I have a love for gardens, but I know where that comes from, and it’s not the farm side of the family. It is specifically from my maternal grandfather. He was a mechanic with his own car repair business. and no slouch at it, either. I grew up thinking that anything I broke, grandpa could fix. As I grew older I discovered that was not quite true, but that’s another story. Grandpa worked hard in his garage and I believe he enjoyed it, but his true passion was his garden.
It was my grandpa that first interested me in organic gardening.
He was a disciple of J.I. Rodale long before the establishment of the Rodale Press publishing conglomerate. He hand-sold Adele Davis’s Eat Right to Keep Fit to acquaintances far and near with the evangelistic fervor of the born-again.
Grandpa taught me the fun of looking through the Burpee’s seed catalog, the wonders of sweet corn delivered straight from stalk to boiling water to the plate, slathered in butter. He instructed me in correct composting. Gardening was in my blood, and by the time I got to college and my friends were talking about the wonders of healthy food made from scratch , I was scratching my head, wondering why they didn’t know this stuff already.
We have fallen so far.
I am reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, a masterful work in which she chronicles her family’s year of eating locally, eating the produce they grew themselves, or buying only what was grown within 100 miles of their farm, for a whole year. Kingsolver makes you feel the sun-soaked warmth of that first red tomato in her hands, see the zucchini dirigibles piled on her counters in July. It takes me back to the smells of that lush garden in tiny Martin, Ohio, and those splendid days with grandpa.
As a culture, we are raising children who have no idea where their carrots come from, other than from Food Lion. They have never seen a lettuce patch struggling up through the cold dirt and into the brisk spring air. Of all the things we have lost in our mad rush toward the supposed efficiency of factory farming, maybe the most tragic loss of all is this—that of a sense of wonder a child has when they eat a green pea straight out of the pod, standing in the middle of their family’s own garden.
So what, you ask, is Overdrive?
Overdrive, simply put, is a digital distributer of eBooks, audiobooks, and other digital content. The company has worked with digital content since the 80s, but started their download service for libraries in 2002. They have half a million titles in digital format, and they work with thousands of libraries, “providing the infrastructure for managing, protecting, and distributing digital content.” 
In my last post I talked about my new Nook, an e-reader device from Barnes and Noble. I also shared that I have bought some books for it.
What?? A librarian buying books? Yes. But I don’t want to buy everything I read, and that’s where Overdrive comes in.
Digital content is our future, and it is clearly imperative for libraries to find their way into this model. As Paul LeClerc, president of the New York Public Library, said, “As young people become used to reading virtually everything online, that is going to propel a change in terms of readership of e-books rather than readership of physical books.” In fact, many observers would contend that we have reached the tipping pointfor print books.
It’s not really difficult to come up with the advantages of digital books. For one thing, there is little physical boundary. If you have a library card, a computer or e-reader, and Internet access, then you can download a book. That means you will be able to access content—books, audiobooks, and music—through, for example, the library’s webpage—in much the same way that you can access magazine articles from our webpage by clicking on Find It Virginia. http://www.finditva.com/
Another advantage to libraries is a bit more pedestrian—it takes no real estate to shelve a digital book. We can store lots of content without the traditional model of a book with physical pages and shelves to rest them on. In fact, we don’t even have to do any physical shelving of a digital book—you check it out, you return it, and the technology “puts it back on the shelf,” thus saving staff time [and, potentially, salaries] as well.
You can probably think of some of the disadvantages, too. If you can’t, then I’ll be happy to supply some.
Here’s the bottom line for me, though—say “library” and what’s the first word that comes to your mind? For most people, it’s books. Books are our brand, as I have talked about before. If people expect books in libraries, and the way those books are formatted is no longer between two pieces of buckram, but in e-Ink on a digital e-reader, then it’s important for libraries to find a way to supply books in that format. So–
Coming soon to a library near you: digital books.
At the end of 2010 we joined a consortium of libraries north of us who were banding together to start offering eBooks and downloadable audiobooks, as well as downloadable music and video to our patrons. We have signed a contract with Overdrive. Though our first collections will not be huge due to the high costs associated with this format, we hope you will find this to be an exciting new addition to our services. Look for Overdrive to debut in Pittsylvania County in late March.
When we’re set to go, I’ll let you know.
 (Gladwell, 2000)
 A caveat. I alluded to this in my earlier post. Kindles will not work with Overdrive. Amazon has made the decision not to allow library patrons to access content through the library. In other words, you can buy books from Amazon, but they won’t let you borrow them through your library so you can load them on your Kindle.
Back in the summer, I had a brilliant idea for a birthday gift for my daughter. She’s a busy woman, a professional with a very active three year old son, a husband with a demanding career, and is on the road a lot with some national board and fellowship responsibilities. She loves to read, but it’s hard to lug extra weight around, either in a briefcase or onto public transportation.
Enter the Nook.
When Amazon released the first of their e-book devices, the Kindle, I turned to a colleague and said, “This is the first one of these things that makes me nervous about the future of libraries.” For the first time, someone had released an e-reader with wireless capabilities. That, to me, is a game changer. Want a book? Just get out the Kindle and download it in less than a minute from the Amazon website. Want to read the New York Times every morning? Order your subscription for the Kindle and there it is, waiting for you to consume with that first cup of coffee. No cables to connect, nothing to recycle.
But the first Kindles were pricey, and though they looked attractive and had their devotees, I didn’t think they were for me. I like the feel of paper—not e-Ink paper, but the real deal.
Then I bought one of these things for my daughter.
I opted for the Nook rather than the Kindle, primarily because of two things. First, my sister-in-law works for Barnes and Noble. Help your family when you can, people. Secondly, the Nook will work with Overdrive, the primary e-book technological solution used in libraries today. The Kindle does not play well with others.
My daughter loves libraries. I love libraries. The Nook made sense.
That Nook is in Miami with her right now, a thin little device that can carry thousands of books and other texts so that she can actually get her luggage on board under the weight limit. She loves it.
So why was I surprised when she returned the favor, getting me a Nook for Christmas? Though I think of myself as pretty much on top of technology, I was not exactly sure this was a device I wanted. For one thing, I’m a tightwad. I can get my books from the library; why would I pay? [See my post “Cool Cats and Web Tools” to note that I have a house full of books that I have paid for. Never mind. Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds]. Though I note with fascination the things smartphones can do, I still carry a phone that is one small notch above a Jitterbug. Yes, I bought a netbook with Linux as soon as Dell had one on the market, but I usually use my full-sized laptop. [It’s all about the eyesight after 60]. So though I was grateful for the wonderful gift, I had to wonder whether it was really going to be right for me.
It’s right for me.
I downloaded the free book they offered one Friday [tightwad, I tell you!] and read all 281 free pages of it, even though it was not the world’s best literature. I discovered that it was in fact easy to read on a Nook. It fits my hands nicely, the pages look like a paper book, and turning the pages involves one slight motion of my thumb. The display is not backlit, it does not flicker even slightly, and my eyes do not feel as if they need to be removed and washed after I read an hour.
But the deal closer for me was this. I was starting to read the second of the Stieg Larsson books, The Girl Who Played with Fire, as an audiobook. I heard about ten minutes on audio and decided that I wanted to read it the regular way. The library’s copies were all checked out, and then I remembered my Nook. The best moment of all? That came when I discovered it was on sale for $5.
Sixty seconds later, I was reading.
Next time: more about Overdrive