Monterey Public Library Blog

JULY 6, 2013
Stuff the Bus
Do you remember the excitement of going back to school?  Pulling out the coolest binder from your brand new backpack?  It was awesome, right?  Well you can help a child in need start school with that same excitement.  Stop by the Library to made a donation of new school supplies to United Way Monterey County's "Stuff the Bus" school supply drive.  Needed are all types of school supplies - backpacks, binders, folders, notebook paper, scissors, crayons, pencils, glue sticks - you know the drill!

Thanks for helping students get to back to school fully equipped and ready to learn!

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Category: In the Know

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JUNE 20, 2013
The Beatles the Biography by Bob Spitz

Fifty years ago, in the spring of 1963, an up and coming British band with one previous hit  (“Love Me Do”), found its new single “Please, Please Me” in the U.K.s #1 records chart spot where it remained in the Top 10, for about 7 months. Less than one month later, their next single release “From Me, To You” opened at #1.  Five months later, “She Loves You” made  #1, and in November, after 13 weeks in the Top Ten, it had sold over 1 million copies in the U.K.  Before “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was released, it had already sold 950,000 in advance orders, and it too, shot to #1. Beatlemania was about to explode on the international scene, where mobs of screaming teenagers met (and eventually terrified) the musical foursome everywhere they appeared. 

I was a Beatlemaniac, although not of the shrieking mob variety. I was in the 6th grade when the Beatles hit the American music scene.  I was besotted with their music. I had photos of the Fab Four taped to my bedroom walls and listened to their recordings incessantly.  I moved the stacking release bar on my record player to the right, so that as soon as the record was over, the tone arm would be tricked into thinking another record had fallen onto the turntable, and the recording began all over again.  When my parents would finally demand mercy, I would simply turn the record to the B-side and do the same thing all over again.  I read the fan mags and learned all the puff about them that was put out in the press (“Paul’s favorite color is green,” “John’s favorite food is steak and chips,” “Ringo Starr isn’t his real name.”)  But I knew nothing, absolutely nothing about these four people, their lives, their careers, their ideas and aspirations - and if pressed at the time, I probably could not have explained what was so special about their music, except that they sounded different from everyone else, and besides, they were the Beatles.  I mean, THE BEATLES, people!

But who were these four “WWII babies”, raised in bombed out areas of England’s tough Liverpool neighborhoods who (except for middle class John Lennon) came from poor working class backgrounds, grew up in government subsidized housing, and who, by their early teens, were teaching themselves to play American rock tunes on pathetically inferior instruments?  And how, with absolutely no connections to the music business, did they manage to breathe life into the anemic British pop rock scene, redefine it for an international audience, and become the most popular rock band in the world?  What were the truths behind the myths that swirled around these young men?  Why, after just a few short years of success, did they stop performing live and become a studio band?  And how did mere rock musicians manage to ride atop the crest of change, and in many cases influence the tastes and ideas of a generation poised for major social, political and cultural shifts? 

Get the answers by reading The Beatles – the Biography by Bob Spitz. This is not a new book, it was published in 2005, but it is very comprehensive. And don’t be afraid of the size (it’s got over 900 pages if you include footnotes.)  You can read it in spurts, but if you’re like me, you’ll have a hard time putting it down.    
 

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Categories: Lets Talk BooksStaff Reads

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JUNE 7, 2013
Remembering Stuart Walzer (1924 - 2013)
About ten years ago, Stuart Walzer dropped by my office and introduced himself to me.  A retired attorney, who had recently resettled in Carmel, he told me that he had founded the L.A. County Bar Association’s Lawyer’s Literary Society, and he was now interested in volunteering to facilitate a regular group book discussion at the Library.  I was overjoyed, because this was a frequently requested program that I had hoped to put in place in the Library for nearly two decades, but never had quite the right person to help put it all together. 

At the time, I had belonged to a private “living room” book discussion group comprised of girlfriends and like-minded friends of friends for several years, so I knew how these things operated.  But facilitating discussions that are open to the public, where there are likely to be people of various ages and backgrounds, with a diversity of ideas, temperaments, and opinions, there is potential for conversational detours that could become tricky to navigate. But here was Stuart Walzer, not only a brilliant, well-read man, but a specialist in matrimonial law – a highly tolerant, diplomatic person with vast skills in getting conflicting parties to come to terms.   There are a great many things that I do not know, but when a good opportunity knocks, I know enough to open the door. 

For a full decade, Stuart and often his wife Paula, facilitated 172 book discussions at the Library, cultivating a devoted group of readers who enjoyed lively, congenial discussion of mid-to-high level literary fiction, including both contemporary works and classics.  I have participated in many of these sessions and always came away deeply satisfied with the shared experience of discussing literature that I had enjoyed in private.  Wearing my library hat, I always recognized the value of building community around books and reading. 
Stuart passed away at age 88 on May 8.  This kind, wise, deeply intellectual man with his vast range of interests – a Renaissance man really – will be sorely missed by many people.  We at the Library will always be grateful to Stuart for founding the Library’s Literary Circle and for offering this special activity to our community.  We send our heartfelt condolences to Stuart’s family, and will always remember him with fondness and gratitude.   

The Library will honor the tradition of the monthly Literary Circle established by Stuart, with yours truly attempting to fill his  very large shoes by facilitating the discussions. Currently on its usual summer hiatus, the Circle will meet again on Monday, August 26, at 6:30 p.m., in the Library Community Room.  We’ll be discussing Adam Jonson’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Orphan Master’s Son.  I look forward to reacquainting myself with the regular Literary Circle participants and to meeting newcomers, who are always most welcome. 

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Categories: In the KnowUpcoming EventsLets Talk Books

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MAY 9, 2013
A Message from Outer Space!
Astronaut Tom Marshburn greets Santa Cruz Public Library from the International Space Station.

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Category: In the Know

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APRIL 20, 2013
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Be sure to add to your reading list Barbara Kingsolver’s newest novel Flight Behavior, which draws from the author’s experience with Southern Appalachian life and her abiding concern with environmental issues. 

We meet twenty-something Dellarobia, who is trapped in an unhappy marriage, with two small children, scraping out a living from a failing farmland, in a small, unforgiving Appalachian town.  Mistakenly thinking that an extramarital fling will give her respite from the suffocating boredom of her daily life, Dellarobia trudges up the rugged mountains
behind their farmland (comically, in her blistering 2nd hand red-hot cowgirl boots) to meet her intended paramour in the hunting blind.  Her plan is upended when she reaches the mountaintop and is gobsmacked by the sight of millions of fiery orange Monarch butterflies, displaced from their normal migration habitats because of deforestation and over-development.

As word spreads through the community, the phenomenon is interpreted by some as a religious miracle, and by others, who meant to begin cutting trees on that very land, an evil curse.  When the media pounces on the story and it goes national, Dellarobia’s farm and the mountaintop are beset by students and scientists, who encamp for months studying the potential for extinction of this fascinating insect, and unwittingly give Dellarobia’s life new purpose and direction.
 
This is a great selection for book groups!

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Categories: Lets Talk BooksStaff ReadsIn the Know

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APRIL 18, 2013
National Library Week
April 14-20 is National Library Week, a time set aside by the American Library Association to recognize the importance of libraries to communities. 
 
Often when we think of libraries, we think of books.  Today’s libraries still offer books and lots of other resources for information, recreations, and self-directed lifelong learning,  But just as important is the library’s role as a community center where people can gather to enrich their lives, engage with their friends and neighbors to address ideas and local issues, share cultural experiences, and find a public place where they are always welcome.  
 
In the words of the American Library Association, “Librarians work with elected officials, small business owners, students and the public at large to discover what their communities needs are and meet them. Whether through offering e-books and technology classes, materials for English-language learners, programs for job seekers or those to support early literacy, librarians listen to the community they serve, and they respond.”
 
This week, celebrate your local library!
 

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Category: In the Know

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APRIL 13, 2013
National Poetry Month is Here!
April is National Poetry Month and a time to celebrate what Carl Sandburg described as "...the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits."  Whatever your personal take on poetry, please take time this April to enjoy reading your favorite poems.  If you don't have a favorite, ask a librarian to recommend one to you, and savor one of those slim volumes!

If writing poetry is your pleasure, join poet and teacher Patrice Vecchione for a Poetry Writing Workshop on Saturday, April 20, 2 - 3:30 p.m.  Adults and teens age 14-up are welcome.  It's free of charge, thanks to the Friends of the Monterey Public Library and a grant from Poets and Writers, Inc., but reservations are required.  Call 831.646.3949.  Visit www.monterey.org/library for more details.

By the way, Patrice has a brand new book of poetry out, and will be selling and signing copies of it immediately following the workshop!

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Categories: Upcoming EventsIn the Know

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MARCH 28, 2013
Midnight in Austenland
In this second “Austenland” novel, author Shannon Hale takes us on a return journey to an English fantasy camp situated in a lovely 19th century estate called Pembroke Park, where we meet mostly a new set of characters comprised of the Pembroke staff, including actors portraying  Austenesque characters and guests  who, upon arrival, are given a suitable new identity, a wardrobe of period costume, and a crash course in Regency manners and practices.

Our main character is Charlotte Kinder, a thirty-something recent divorcee, who has decided to celebrate her newfound freedom by having a fling in Pembroke Park.  One evening, while playing a parlor game called “Bloody Murder”, Charlotte thinks she’s discovered a real murder and begins an investigation. 

This is a comic romp, a mystery, a romance, with a series of fun filled twists and turns, and even a happy ending!  This is an enjoyable light read guaranteed to provide a cozy little distraction from the hubbub of daily life.
 

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Categories: Staff ReadsLets Talk Books

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MARCH 22, 2013
Among the Mad
Among the Mad  is the 5th in Jacqueline Winspear’s wonderful series of Masie Dobb’s books, which began during WWI in England.  Masie was a nurse, who became interested in mental health and psychology while treating patients during the war, those who remained injured in their minds long after any physical wounds had healed.  It is now 1931, and Masie now uses her knowledge of psychology in her work as a private investigator.  She has been called in to Scotland Yard to help work on a case in which anonymous letters has been received from a person with knowledge of chemical weapons is threatening to use them on government officials and even the civilian population if Parliament doesn’t do something to support the forgotten men whose lives, bodies, and minds were broken by the War.  The perpetrator has already struck, killing first innocent animals, and then a junior minister from the Home office. They don’t know who might be next, the Prime Minister or even the public at large.  Either way, time is running out.

The story is shows great empathy toward the victims of war and experiment, and lets us inside Masie’s personal life.  But it is first and foremost a study in detective work – one in which the reader gets some insight to the difference between the work private investigator whose knowledge and instincts can lead in very different directions as a huge bureaucratic police investigations team. 
 
 

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Categories: Staff ReadsLets Talk Books

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MARCH 15, 2013
One Man's Walk through the English Countryside to Empathy and Understanding
Did you enjoy reading Cheryl Strand's wildly popular memoir "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail?"  Or did you, like me, want to enjoy it, but couldn't really get started?  Either way, if you're longing to read a story about a walking journey of redemption and transformation, I highly recommend "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" written by first time novelist, Rachel Joyce.  

After reading about this book, I was pleasantly surprised to find the popular award winner currently available for check-out (no waiting!) from our Northern California Digital Library.  I immediately checked-out the book, downloaded it onto my kindle, and my journey with Harold began.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a beautifully written story of a recently retired Englishman who sets out one afternoon to mail a letter to a dear friend from his past, and ends up walking over 600 miles across the English countryside, from his southern town of Kingsbridge to Berwick-upon-Tweed.  Harold's pilgrimage changes his life and touches the lives of those he meets along the way.  

The book is filled with beautiful text, full of empathy and human compassion, as well as breathtaking sections brilliantly describing the beauty of being alone and outdoors.  I found myself constantly highlighting sections on my kindle version of the book--so many beautiful, nod-your-head-in-agreement passages.  Here are a couple I found read-again worthy:

"Life was very different when you walked through it.  Between gaps in the banks, the land rolled up and down, carved into checkered fields, and lined with ridges of hedging and trees.  He had to stop to look.  There were so many shades of green Harold was humbled.  Some were almost a deep velvety black, others so light they verged on yellow." 

And...
 
"He had learned that it was the smallness of people that filled him with wonder and tenderness, and the loneliness of that too.  The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other; and a life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had been doing so for a long time.  Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that this was the dilemma of being human."

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Categories: Lets Talk BooksLibrary Tech

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MARCH 15, 2013
A House at Tyneford
A House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons begins on the eve of WWII where we meet Elise Landau, a 19 year old whose life of relative luxury is coming to abrupt end as Jews are no longer safe in Vienna.  Her parents, because of their prominence – her mother is an opera singer and her father is a novelist - believe they will be able to obtain visas and escape to the States, but Elise has no marketable skills.  So, as a stop gap, they send her to safety in England on a domestic service visa. 

She is sent to an estate in Tyneford, a tightly knit, sleepy little rural seaside village.  The Lord of the manor is the 40ish Mr. Rivers.  He’s a kindly man, but he maintains old world reserve and draws a clear line between the family and the staff.  So, Elise who had her own servants in Vienna doesn’t fit in with the servants or the family. 
She’s lonely, she’s had no word from her parents and she’s terrified for them, war has broken out, and Elise is crestfallen.  That is, until Mr. River’s son, Kit, returns home from school at Oxford.  He and Elise become fast friends, and even fall in love. 

Meanwhile, the village is changing quickly.  The local lads are going off to war, Mr. Rivers has to work the fields himself to help keep the estate running. The distinction between “upstairs” and “downstairs” begins to melt away as people pull together to soothe the sorrows that war brings to the home front. 

This lovely novel explores family relationships, the remnants of the dying household service system, class snobbery that brushes both ways, disappearing village life.  It’s both sad and sweet and has a satisfying ending. I think it would make a great selection for book discussion groups.l 

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Categories: Lets Talk BooksStaff Reads

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MARCH 14, 2013
Best Library in Monterey County
For the 5th consecutive year, Monterey Public Library has been voted "Best Library in Monterey County" in the Monterey County Weekly's Reader's Poll!  We admit that have a great staff - friendly dedicated folks who engage the community, deliver materials and services to delight, educate, and inspire, including books, movies, music, cultural programs, Internet access, information, and resources for self-directed life-long learning. We have a vibrant early literacy program, creative activities for children and teens, and a local history collection that is a treasure trove of written, audible, and visual meterial that preserves our community memory. 

This doesn't sound particularly humble, but we can't help being pretty proud of the work that we do!  At the same time, we happen to think that all the libraries in Monterey County do a great job, and when a library - any library - is recognized for the benefit it brings to a community, it reflects well on all libraries.

Nevertheless, we  gratefully accept this honor and thank MC Weekly readers for the vote of confidence!

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Category: In the Know

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MARCH 7, 2013
Judging Books by Their Covers
I do it all the time, whether browsing in a library, book store, or online.  The New York Times recently published their favorite book covers of 2012 in a slideshow of 19 images.  There are some great book covers among this selection but one that really caught my eye was in slide number 12, from Penguin’s Drop Caps series of 26 classics with covers filled with fanciful illustrations, surrounding the enlarged first letter of the author’s last name.  The designs are a collaboration between Jessica Hische and Penguin Art Director Paul Buckley.  Personally, I think these book covers are gorgeous, but I’ll let you be the judge. 

P.S.  This illustration is an example of drop caps from the Book of Kells.
 

 

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Categories: Lets Talk BooksStaff ReadsIn the Know

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FEBRUARY 23, 2013
John Scalzi on Libraries
John Scalzi is, among other things, a science fiction writer whose popular works include the Old Man's War series and Redshirts, which takes a Star Trek in-joke and turns it into an unusual story that is hilarious and moving at the same time.

Scalzi is also the "proprieter" of one of the longest-running blogs on the Web, Whatever. This morning Whatever features his Personal History of Libraries. I highly recommend the entire post, but here are a few excerpts:

Finally I arrive at my present library, the one in Bradford, Ohio. It’s a small library, but then, Bradford is a small community, of about 1,800. For that community, the library holds books, and movies, magazines and music; it has Internet access, which folks here use to look for jobs and to keep in contact with friends and family around the county, state and country. It hosts local meetings and events, has story times and reading groups, is a place where kids can hang out after school while their parents work, and generally functions as libraries always have: A focal point and center of gravity for the community — a place where a community knows it is a community, in point of fact, and not just a collection of houses and streets...

My library is used every single day that it is open, by the people who live here, children to senior citizens. They use the building, they use the Internet, they use the books. This is, as it happens, the exact opposite of what “obsolete” means. I am glad my library is here and I am glad to support it...

I am, in no small part, the sum of what all those libraries I have listed above have made me. When I give my books to my local library, it’s my way of saying: Thank you. For all of it.

Thank you, John, that's exactly why we are here.


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Categories: In the KnowLets Talk Books

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FEBRUARY 20, 2013
Chocolate & Wine Benefit Update
The Friends of the Library's 8th annual Chocolate & Wine Tasting Benefit was a huge success. Tickets sold out, there was a lot of delicious chocolate and wine, lots of conversation and fun, a great silent auction, and good music.  The Friends raised over $14,000 for books and other library resources.  What a magnicifent example of community spirit!  A huge heartfelt thanks to the Friends, our guests, and all the local bakeries, grocers, candy makers, restaurants, wineries, and other businesses and individuals who contributed, and to the local media who helped get the word out.   

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Categories: In the KnowLibrary Tech

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FEBRUARY 9, 2013
A Visit from the Goon Squad
In Jennifer Egan's novel – if it can even be called a novel - is more like a collection of stories, or better yet a collection of  characters, is one that I find very challenging to describe, so I’m glad that you read it, and want to talk about it, too.  Bennie the former punk rocker, now a successful record executive.  Sasha a troubled young woman who works for Bennie.  Scotty, now a middle aged musician on the skids.  There are thirteen chapters in all, each told by one of the protagonists.  We first meet several of these characters as teenagers in the 1970s, and the stories span a period of about 40 years into the future 2020, and take the reader back and forth in time.   As far as setting is concerned, we wander from the therapy couch, to punk clubs of San Francisco, to a plush Park Avenue office, to New York’s polluted East River, to an African safari, to the streets of Naples, to an airfield in a Banana Republic.  Some of the characters are very sleazy, some are very vulnerable, some a little off-kilter.  The author sometimes deals with her characters harshly, and at other times, sympathetically. 

One of the characters in the book says, “Time is a goon squad, right?”  A good squad being something that bullies and punishes people.   And indeed time messes with everyone in this book – as time brings with it disappointments and loss and sorrow that haunt the past, present, and future.  And yet the book is not without humor.

So, this book sounds like it might be a mess, right?  Wrong!  It is small miracle of craftsmanship, and it has a very uplifting conclusion.  

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Categories: Staff ReadsLets Talk Books

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FEBRUARY 8, 2013
Chocolate & Wine Magic
Be a part of the magic when the Friends of the Monterey Public Library present their annual Chocolate & Wine Tasting Benefit on Friday, February 15, 7-9 p.m.  Enjoy a dazzling array of chocolate and sample wines ranging from Prosecco to port.  Rounding out the event is a silent auction and live music.  The magic comes in when all the proceeds are transformed into books and other library resources for our community of readers, listeners, viewers, and learners!  Come and be part of the magic!  

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Category: Upcoming Events

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FEBRUARY 5, 2013
Storyteller Children's Author Diane Wolkstein Mourned
Diane Wolkstein, folklorist and children's author has passed away at age 70.  She was in the forefront of the storytelling revival movement, becoming New York City's "official" storyteller in 1967, earning a salary of $40 per week telling stories in the city's parks.  

She went on to be a major force in the national storytelling circuit, and appeared in the Monterey Public Library's Stories for Adults series in 1988.  Over time, she enlarged her original repertiore of fairy tales to specialize in folktales from every part of the globe.  She retold her versions of these stories in over two dozen children's books.  

Goodbye to a storytelling pioneer. Read more about the life and work of Diane Wolkstein 

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Category: In the Know

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JANUARY 26, 2013
Pride and Prejudice 200 Years Young
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”So begins Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice published 200 years ago, January 28, 1813. 

This tale is set in genteel rural England during an era in which marriage was of utmost importance to young women, and particularly so for the five Bennett sisters, whose family fortune was entailed away from the female line, leaving them with nothing else to attract prospective husbands but their beauty and wit – which the sisters possess in varying degrees. The story centers around the second eldest sister, the feisty and quick–witted Elizabeth, whose relationship with the haughty Mr. Darcy gets off on the wrong foot, leading to a series of misunderstandings. 

Jane Austen’s clear-eyed understanding of a woman’s place in Regency society, her wise observations of people and manners, her sparkling dialogue, and ironic sense of humor make this story fresh and fun to read even at the ripe old age of 200 years.

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Categories: Staff ReadsLets Talk BooksIn the Know

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JANUARY 23, 2013
Dearest Jane
Join us for a performance of "Dearest Jane" a one-man show written and performed by Howard Burnham on Tuesday, February 5, at 7 p.m.  In the show, we meet the elderly Revenend Henry Austen in 1850, as he recalls his beloved sister, Jane.  Celebrate the bicentennial of the publication of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  

For ages 16-up.  Admission is free, but reservations are required. 831.646.3949 or email mccombs@monterey.org

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Categories: In the KnowUpcoming Events

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JANUARY 5, 2013
The Library's Open But the Terrace Remains Closed
Repair work is still underway on the upstairs terrace, but steady progress is being made.  We don't have a completion date at this time, but we'll keep you posted.  

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Category: In the Know

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