Sign up for Free Technology Instruction at the Somerville Public Library!  Book a half hour one-on-one lesson for any technology device or program:
• Setting up an email account
• Introduction to Facebook
• The Internet
• Microsoft Office
• Applying for a job online
• Using a laptop/computer
• Smartphone
• eReader
• Tablet
To schedule an appointment, call Heidi Downing, Technology Librarian, at 617-623-5000 x2920, or email her at hdowning@minlib.net.

Share

Comments No Comments »

SPL is partnering with SCATV, the Massachusetts Cultural Council,f and The Growing Center to host a summer movie series!

The summer cinematic fun begins July 1 with the classic comedy horror rock musical (I love it that I have an occasion to use those five words sequentially) Little Shop of Horrors. Details below:

CINEMA (1)

Share

Comments No Comments »

This came in yesterday’s mail. And no one has any idea why. newspaper

Yes. That is a Greek newspaper.  The library has a history of getting periodicals that it doesn’t subscribe to. For a few months several years ago we got the now-nonexistent science magazine Seed. Then the London Review of Books showed up regularly for about a year. For several years the library also received free copies of a journal devoted to art and writing by descendants of ethnic Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia in 1945.

However, my favorite work-related mail mishap has nothing to do with newspapers or magazines. A small shipment of books we purchased was sent to Germany by mistake. The Germans who got it opened the box, put in some bars of excellent chocolate, and paid to have it shipped here.

Share

Comments 3 Comments »

Join us at the Central Library at 7 pm this Wednesday for our annual talk on researching the history of your house and your family.

I will cover the basic principles and resources of genealogical research and Kristi Chase of City Historic Preservation will show you how to discover the history of your house: who owned it before you, when it was built and how it’s changed.

 

Share

Comments No Comments »

twainOn this day in 1883 Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi was published. For readers who know Twain primarily as the author of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Life  is a bit of a surprise, but it’s actually a quite typical book for Twain: part memoir, part travelogue, part rumination. The core of the work is Twain’s account of his pre-Civil War training to become a steamboat pilot; but it’s also a work of  regional history and a love letter to a phenomenon of nature: the Mississippi River. In one passage, he recalls seeing the river at sunset early in his steamboat career:

A broad expanse of the river was turned to blood; in the middle distance the red hue brightened into gold, through which a solitary log came floating, black and conspicuous; in one place a long, slanting mark lay sparkling upon the water; in another the surface was broken by boiling, tumbling rings, that were as many-tinted as an opal…

And like all of Twain’s works, Life has some moments of comedy, although they probably won’t seem that funny to adults today. But mostly this book is a reflection on a vanished world, when the Mississippi was a highway for trade and travel for the middle of a continent, and the pilots who navigated ships safely up and down it were esteemed as masters of a valuable and complicated craft. Twain wrote Life on the Mississippi at a time when all that was gone, when the railroads had become the most important means of shipping and mode of travel in America and cities such as Memphis, St. Louis and New Orleans were completely different from what they were in his youth.

It’s worth a read, and yet far from his best. For the record, it was one of my favorite books when I was fourteen. I keep meaning to go back to it, but so many books, so little time.

If you’re interested in learning more about Mark Twain and this period in his life, you might want to pick up one of any number of the fine biographies of Twain, such as Ron Powers’ Mark Twain: A Life.

Share

Comments No Comments »

booksaleCome to the Central Library next weekend and stock up on books! Ones you can keep forever! There will be thousands of books covering dozens of subjects in at least four languages.

Our book sales happen thanks to the hard work of the Friends of the Somerville Public Library. Proceeds from SPL’s book sales pay for our museum passes and programs.

 

 

 

Book sale schedule:

Thursday, May 14      5:00-8:00 pm preview (For Friends who joined at the $50 level or higher)

Friday, May 15             12:00-4:00 pm

Saturday, May 16        10:00 am-4:00 pm

Sunday, May 17            1:30-3:30 pm

Share

Comments No Comments »

In recognition of Choose Privacy Week (although it’s almost over), here are some recommendation and tips for making your online life a little more private.

For search engines, ditch Google and start using DuckDuckGo. The latter doesn’t track you, doesn’t store any of your personal information, and you don’t see annoying sponsored content sites popping up in your search results.

Ghostery is a browser extension that identifies web bugs, objects embedded in web pages that track your online activity. Ghostery tells you which companies own them and gives you the option of blocking them. Ghostery is available for Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, Google Chrome (ironically) and Safari.

Cryptocat is a chatting and filesharing app that encrypts your online communications before they  leave your phone or computer. Note: anyone you’re communicating with should have the app as well.

And Over at ZDNet, Violet Blue has a guide to all the ways companies monitor our online shopping and what we can do about it.

 

Share

Comments No Comments »

moon-mineretJoin us at the Central Library on Thursday, May 7th at 7:00 p.m. for “I Am Neither of the West Nor the East: What Islamic Spirituality Can Offer the Secular West,” an exploration of aspects of Islamic tradition, philosophy and culture that have inspired members of the secular and Christian worlds. Poet, filmmaker, and Harvard doctoral student in Religion Kythe Heller will give a talk on the critically acclaimed memoir, The Butterfly Mosque, the story of G. Willow Wilson, a secular American woman who converted to Islam, and discuss the work of Rumi (1207-1273), a Sufi mystic who is currently the best-selling poet in the United States.

Share

Comments No Comments »

william_shakespeare_1609April 23 is traditionally considered the birthday of William Shakespeare. So Happy Birthday, Will. In addition to writing some of the most beloved works in the English language, he also coined over 1700 new words, make nouns into verbs, combining words never combined before, adding suffixes, and sometimes just outright making up words. His contributions to the language are monumental, you might say.

I hope the above factoid leaves you in a state of amazement. Myself, as a former English major and lifelong language geek, I’m a little jaded when it comes to literary trivia. And you probably think I’m a pedant for writing about this. In any case, it’s laughable to think anyone reads or goes to Shakespeare plays for vocabulary lessons. We go to Shakespeare for the madcap comedy of Twelfth Night, the cold-blooded butchery of Titus Andronicus, the lustrous poetry of The Tempest. In his plays we hobnob with Falstaff, delight in the radiance of Beatrice and marvel at the savagery of Macbeth. Shakespeare’s imaginative worlds are as varied as they are majestic.

I’ll stop now because I’ll bet you’re tired of this rant.I honestly don’t know why I keep blogging about Shakespeare. He has countless other champions.

Share

Comments No Comments »

When Wikipedia first appeared in 2005, the excitement of Internet culture pundits was almost palpable.  An online encyclopedia that shared the knowledge of countless people from all over the world embodied the democratizing spirit of the web. “Behold the power of the people,” gushed Wired.  And the idea behind  Wikipedia is inspiring: it’s no respecter of persons or credentials. Wikipedia contributors just have to be willing to  do some work.

But as many of us foresaw from the beginning, the best thing about Wikipedia is also the worst thing about Wikipedia: if anyone can contribute, the door is open to a world of  biased editing and misinformation. In 2005 someone deleted paragraphs from Diebold’s Wikipedia entry that were written by a critic of the company’s voting machines. This anonymous editor left a digital trial that led back to the IP address of a computer in Diebold’s offices. Last month it was discovered New York City cops were  editing Wikipedia entries on cases of police brutality, including the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed man who was choked to death by NYC cops. The account of the police confrontation with Garner was re-written to make Garner sound more physically threatening. And recently the estimable Jessamyn West investigated the veracity of a Wikipedia claim that Louisa May Alcott had disparaged Henry David Thoureau’s personal grooming choices (she hadn’t).

This isn’t to say that Wikipedia is worthless. Some of its contributors do great work. In 2007 Noam Cohen of The New York Times praised Wikipedia contributors for the “polished, detailed article” they wrote and edited on the Virginia Tech shooting in the hours immediately following the event.

However, don’t trust Wikipedia uncritically. I always tell people to use it as a starting point for learning about a subject, but check the citations and external links that usually accompany an entry. If there aren’t any citations, be suspicious. Whenever possible consult more than one source when trying to learn the facts about a subject.

Share

Comments No Comments »