All posts by Abby

Board plans

I figure that I have time for one last bulletin board display in the old library building.  I’ve checked with Mary, my library director and boss extraordinaire, and she agreed with my idea for this last board display: a preview of the new building.  I’m not quite sure how I’ll pull this together, but my sketchy thought is to post photos of the interior of the new children’s room, give the highlights of the new facility in terms of children’s programming and collection space, and, when we know the exact timeline, post a running countdown to the move.  I know I’ve said this before, but this new building is beyond belief, and I’m beyond thrilled by the future of the Harvard Public Library.  Come in and see the new bulletin board, to be installed in the next couple of weeks!!

And what about all those books?

Ok, I confess, last weekend I wrote about a lot of books that I was going to read over the holiday.  I didn’t read them last week.  Between the Christmas Eve-Eve party, the Christmas Eve church service, some last minute shopping, and our extended Christmas Day travels, we just weren’t home very much last weekend.

So the plan was to do lots of reading this weekend.  It’s Sunday; how am I doing so far?  Not so good!  One of Jim’s childhood friends came by yesterday with his wife (he and Jim had a fabulous jam session together), we had dinner with Jim’s mom and Bob yesterday evening, and, of course, I snuck in a little shopping at the Warehouse Store in Maynard, which is sadly going out of business.  No reading yesterday.  Today, a sleepy start by the fire with coffee cake and tea with honey, then food shopping, a walk, and soon a second walk.  It’s a beautiful day, and I can only get outside on the weekends (we’re not allowed to leave the library building during our working hours, and it’s dark and cold when I leave work in the winter).  Got to take advantage of my outdoor time.

Trying to fit a social life and outdoor time and chores into my limited out-of-work hours leaves very little time for reading, though of course reading is at the heart of my career.  I don’t have a solution to this problem; I only know that, as much as I love my job, I need to nurture the other aspects of my life, too.

Speaking of the new building

I’m just about to get ready for work, and trying to figure out what to wear today.  Maybe today would be a good day to wear less-than-fabulous clothes and scrounge around in the stacks for books that are in terrible condition and need to be replaced.  It’s a big project, very time consuming, and obviously very dirty.  I’ve already completed about half of the juvenile fiction section, and it would be great to finish the other half today, leaving just (just???) the juvenile nonfiction section and the early reader section.

Not only is weeding a necessary and essential part of any librarian’s position, it feels especially important to me right now as we enter the last months before the move to the new building.  Who wants to see scuzzy books in a gorgeous new facility?  Who wants to handle, let alone check out, a children’s book that was tastefully rebound in 1949?  (I kid you not, I’ve found many of those.)  The heat is on, so to speak, and I think I’ll see what progress I can make today.  Good thing I took a Claritin this morning…all that dust…

Books galore

Life is good – I’ve got a three-day weekend, and a huge pile of books waiting to be read.  Some of the books are a bit dry (asthma books aren’t exactly thrilling reading, but they are necessary reading), but most of them are pretty exciting to me.  I splurged just before leaving work on Friday, and checked out two new books in our advanced reader section.  These two books have received great reviews, and I’ve been anxious to read them, but wanted to give the library patrons first shot at taking them home.  But heck, they were fair game for me when they were still on the shelf at closing time!  So here is one of the books on my agenda for this weekend:

Larklight  by Philip Reeve

I first heard of this book through the Booksense flyer that I picked up at Nantucket Bookworks in September.  Since then, I’ve read many enthusiastic reviews of Larklight, and Philip Reeve is the featured author in the November issue of School Library Journal.  One of the reviews I read said that this book is difficult to place into any one genre (wish I’d realized that before I slapped the SciFi/Fantasy sticker on the spine), which I love.  I’m always intrigued by books that push conventional boundaries.

The book flap describes Larklight this way:

“Art Mumby and his irritating sister Myrtle live with their father in a huge and rambling house, Larklight, which is traveling through space on an orbit far beyond the moon.  When, during an ordinary sort of morning, they learn that a gentleman is on his way to visit, a frenzy of preparation ensues.  But it is entirely the wrong sort of preparation, and a dreadful, terrifying and marvelous adventure begins.  Art, Myrtle, and the extraordinary space pirates they encounter journey to the farthest reaches of known space, where they desperately attempt to save each other – and the universe.   Utterly unique and devilishly witty, Larklight is a fantastic Victorian space adventure with a gravitational pull all its own.”

Tomorrow:  the other book…

Back online…with style

Well, it took awhile, but I’m finally back online, and posting to my blog with the help of Microsoft Word.  In the past, using our ancient computer, I had to write all of my blog entries while online, posting directly onto WordPress.  (Our old computer was so outdated that it didn’t have enough memory to install a word processing program.)  Not only was it a bit precarious, since a slipped mouse click could lose my posting, it was also not particularly comfortable.  Our “computer room” is the supposed four season porch at the front of our small home, and, being a porch, it’s not well insulated.  Boiling hot and stuffy in the summer (the windows don’t work very well), and freezing cold in the winter (even with fuzzy slippers on, I have to prop my feet up off the floor to prevent chilled extremities).  Not an ideal situation, and not conducive to excellent blog entries in the summer or winter. 

Now, though, we have a fabulous new computer – a laptop.  Through much persistence, I was able to get a phenomenal deal on this laptop through Dell, and it ended up being even cheaper than an equivalent desktop.  Yay me.  So I’m writing this post in my favorite Ikea chair while sitting by the cozy woodstove, with the ability to spell check and edit and revise without losing my patience at our slow internet connection.  (Though Pippa-cat isn’t too thrilled at losing my lap to the computer, but she’ll just have to get used to the cat cushion on the floor.)

My brother Dan tells me that it’s advisable to create back entries to cover days that one was unable to post to a blog, so as I’m adding my usual daily “front” entries, I will also be trying to create back entries for the computerless days between Thanksgiving and today.  Thanks for your patience during that month!


Saturday was gorgeous here, and Jim and I decided to take a drive out to central Massachusetts.  (We have a dream of moving out to a quiet, rural town in central MA, where we could afford a decent sized house and have a bit of a yard to garden in; but being eastern MA born and bred, we’ll probably never act upon that dream.)

Jim drove us through Petersham, Hardwick, and Ware, and since we had packed a lunch we ended up driving into the Quabbin reservoir.  We found a lone picnic table in a perfect spot, above a stand of birch trees, looking down into a small bay where two men were peacefully fishing.

After lunch, we drove as close as you can get to the Winsor Dam, parked, and took a walk over the dam and into the rather decrepit visitor’s center.  It was sunny, balmy, and the perfect day for that walk.  We marvelled at the mowing job of the grass on the back slope of the dam; they must own a special machine to cut the grass on that angle.  I took a lot of photos, including a couple of pictures of the building that juts out of the dam itself.  The windows are dirty, and the blinds inside are drawn, so I suspect no one goes in there much these days, but I’d love to know what that building’s purpose is or was.

And then we got to the visitor center.  Jim braved the men’s room that lurks down a flight of creaky steps (if stones can be creaky) in front of the visitor’s center, but I found the equivalent women’s room to be the single most creepy public bathroom ever.  It’s located a fair distance away from the men’s room, so I knew Jim wouldn’t hear me if I screamed; there was no functioning light, it was really dark inside, it was ungodly hot and humid, and only one of the stalls appeared to be useable.  Quick turnaround; no need to tempt fate.  The visitor’s center bathroom wasn’t much better, and it convinced me that I will never, ever attend a function there that serves food.  They store their coffee urns, serving platters, and other function dishes in the bathroom, and the bathroom ain’t too clean, either.  But at least it wasn’t creepy.

After leaving Quabbin, we drove back through the towns we had seen before, commenting here and there on fabulous old houses that we’d love to live in.  One last stop took us the the Sears in Leominster, where the customers and staff alike are so much friendlier and more pleasant than their counterparts further east.  It’s really like another world just west of us; you don’t have to travel far to enjoy the visit, either.

And for that whole day, I almost didn’t think about children’s literature or work at all.

That’s a good thing.  We all need a break from the daily grind, even when we love that daily grind.

Thursday update

It’s been a good week at the library:

The Clay Painting Workshop went off without a hitch.  The manager of Fire Your Desire ran the show, and she is fabulous.  The workshop was calm, orderly, and fun for all (including me!).  And the kids painted some great looking ornaments – I was really impressed by their creativity!  The workshop has inspired me, and I think I’ll gather together some of my female friends for a “Ladies Night” at Fire Your Desire; Fridays are their chick nights, where you can reserve a table for a large group of friends, or just drop in with a few friends, and paint up a storm.  Sounds like a lot of fun to me!

The first Teens n’ Tots Saturday Storytime went beautifully, with our first teen volunteer reading along with her mom to a small group of kids and parents.  They did a great job, and I have a lot of faith that Saturday storytimes are going to grow in popularity as we regularly run them.  Also, it looks like there are two more teen volunteers who will be helping out in the future…

And then there’s the Tuesday infant and toddler storytime.  Another huge turnout this week, the biggest yet.  It’s a LOT of fun, because it’s not just a storytime, it’s also a social event.  Most parents and kids end up hanging out in the children’s room for an hour or so after storytime ends, and it’s great to see friendships being made between both adults and children.  Next week’s Tuesday storytime should be even better, because Lois, the mother of our teen Saturday volunteer, will be helping me.  Two voices will carry better than one over the noisy crowd, and Lois reads a mean story (her undergraduate degree is in elementary education).  I’m so grateful to her for volunteering her time to make a popular event that much better!

Speaking of popular events, Joanne’s Story and Craft (on Mondays and Wednesdays) continues to be a local favorite.  Joanne is incredibly creative, and each week’s craft project is better than the last.  I love seeing the kids come up from the hour-long session with a big grin on their face, proudly holding their project, saying “Mom!  Look what I made!”

In other news, Children’s Book Week is next week (the 13th through the 19th), and I’ve put up a large display in the children’s room with the titles of the library staff’s favorite children’s books.  Come check it out, and tell me what your favorite is!

That’s the weekly update!  I’ll be posting the promised JE titles tomorrow or the next day, since there are some great new titles in that section

New J non-fiction

Hmmmm, not so long ago I was bemoaning the lack of good J non-fiction.  Methinks I spoke too soon, because there are so many fabulous – not good, but FABULOUS – J non-fiction books available right now that it can be hard to choose (oh, for a limitless budget!).  Here are some of my newest favorites:

The Cat in Numberland by Ivar Ekeland

For any of you who missed my post of a few weeks ago about this unique book, here’s another mention of it.  I LOVE this book!

Transformed: How Everyday Things are Made by Bill Slavin

Yup, I’ve mentioned this book in the past, too.  It’s now on the shelves in Harvard, ready to go; good for reports and for browsing.

Smart Feller, Fart Smeller by Jon Agee

This one is for my dear husband, who loves a certain joke: “One smart feller, he felt smart, two smart fellers, they felt smart, three smart fellers, they all felt smart.”  Try saying that several times fast, and see what happens.  Tee-hee.

Tomorrow:  some new early chapter books, the category known as “JE.”


I started at the library on November 7th of last year.  Within a week and a half, I was in charge of a huge after-school program (Harvard has “early release days” once or twice a month, and the library usually has programs on those days).  Over the years, this program has been called “Ornament Decorating Workshop” and “Claytime”; it’s the most popular early release program of the whole year.  Last year, there were two sessions of thirty kids each, all anxious to paint clay ornaments and coasters.  Lots of parents attend, too, so the program room was PACKED.  I have a memory of myself standing by the door, desperately trying to figure out which kids were there and which kids hadn’t shown up, and who might be crashing the party.  It was, well, awful:  I didn’t know a soul in Harvard, and no one knew who I was, and chaos reigned.  The worst part was as the kids finished, because I had to write down what type of ornament the child had painted and a description of the paint job (”Emily – flamingo – yellow with purple spots”), a totally necessary step so that the ornaments could be identified after firing.  And remember, glazes are a different color before firing than they are after firing.  Was Emily’s flamingo really yellow, or was it brown?  You try doing that with a mob of thirty kids you’ve never met before and with glazes you can’t identify.

So, guess what.  This clay painting workshop is coming up again, on Wednesday.  I’ve changed the name of it to: “Clay Painting Workshop with Fire Your Desire,” for two reasons.  I’ve changed vendors from Claytime of Shrewsbury, very nice people but too far away, to Fire Your Desire of Acton, also extremely nice people, and just around the corner from my house.  And I did have some complaints last year about this being described as an ornament painting workshop.  We’ll still be painting ornaments, but they’re not necessarily Christmas tree ornaments.  This workshop is for kids of all beliefs and denominations.

But what about the chaos?  I’m still a bit nervous about this event, and truthfully can’t wait for it to be over, but at least I know a fair portion of the kids and adults who will be attending.  And Fire Your Desire is making the logistics a lot easier for me; Susan, the owner, is letting me pick up all the paints, ornaments, and other supplies first thing in the morning, so I can take my time getting set up.  She’ll also be sending someone over to help out with the actual workshop.  Most importantly, Susan provides me with firing slips for all the kids.  I am SO thrilled about this!  I can write out the slips ahead of time with each kid’s name, and then there is room to jot down what two ornaments the child decorated, with descriptions.  Much, much easier.  I hope.

Just two final notes here:  a great big thank-you to Susan at Fire Your Desire, since she’s fabulous to work with AND she cut us a great deal, letting each child paint two ornaments for last year’s price for one ornament.  And a HUGE thank-you to the Friends of the Harvard Public Library for funding this event.  Too often the generosity of the Friends is under-recognized by program attendees; events like this one are free to all because the Friends work hard to raise funds and then generously give those funds to the library for programming and other uses.  Without the donation of the Friends, this workshop would cost $5 per child.  THANK YOU, FRIENDS!!!!!


On Monday night, my student “John” and I used Gail Carson Levine’s new book Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly as the basis of his lesson.  John is a really really bright fifth grader with a strong vocabulary, excellent spelling skills, and the ability to clearly and concisely verbalize his thoughts.  John just doesn’t like to put those great thoughts down on paper, and this is the reason that I brought Levine’s book along for this week’s lesson.  According to the bio on the book flap, she has presented writing workshops for kids many times over the years, and this book was born out of her experience teaching.  The first chapter of the book is titled “A Running Start,” and after nine lines of introductory text, Levine throws out some great story starters and instructs her readers to write for at least twenty minutes.

Turned out this was a fabulous way to get John writing.  He and I each picked a story starter, and then silently wrote for twenty minutes.  I turned out two pages of an unfinished story, and he wrote a full page of a great, finished short story.  This lesson was all about flow, getting words on paper, and keeping in the writing groove, so after reading our stories aloud, we moved on to read a bit that Levine has written about shushing our inner critics, and then we used another of her story starters to write for another twenty minutes.  Once again, though his hand was tired, John turned out some great writing; those thoughts of his got down on paper, a real victory for him.

We’ll continue to use this book for our next couple of lessons, and I highly recommend it to anyone of any age who wants help getting started writing.  It’s fun and wise and witty; a pleasure to read and to use.