Archive for the “News You Can Use” Category

Due to snow.

To pass a little of the time, read this poem by Wallace Stevens, because I like it.

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.


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The Somerville Public Library will close at 4:30 today due to the impending storm.


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jfkAll main exhibits at the JFK Library and Museum are closed until mid-March while the museum undergoes renovations. However, there is a small exhibit on the Cuban Missile Crisis open to the public. Admission is free.

The research rooms will still be open, but as always researchers should call in advance to schedule their visit. 617.514.1600 .


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spyConcerned about your privacy (or lack thereof)? Join us at the Somerville Public Library, 79 Highland Ave.,  Jan. 10 at 11:00 a.m., where James O’Keefe of the Massachusetts Pirate Party and other privacy experts show you how to use the web anonymously, encrypt your mail, stop companies from using your cell phone to track you, and more. This is a hands-on workshop, so please bring your laptop, tablet, or smartphone so we can help you install the latest anonymizing software and show you how to encrypt your phone calls, emails, and other communications.


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Somerville Public Libraries will close at 5 pm today and will be closed all day both Thursday and Friday.

Normal hours resume on Saturday, November 29.


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googleDo you have a Gmail account? If you’re reading this (and therefore an Internet user) you probably do, since Gmail is the most popular email service. After all, it’s reliable and it’s free, right? Well, it’s free in that we don’t pay money for it.  But as the saying has it, “If you’re not paying money for the product, by default you are the product.” Google collects information about you and what you do online and sells that data to other businesses so that when you’re online, you’ll be bombarded with ads chosen specifically for you.

Once I was emailing a friend and saw an ad on my computer screen disappear and be replaced with one related to what I was writing about. Creepy.

Have you ever wondered what information the Big G has collected about you, and how to make them stop doing that? Log in to your Google/Gmail account and follow the instructions in  this step-by-step guide from Business Insider.

And while you’re at it, considering installing an adblocking service such as Ghostery: it can make your web browsing a much less cluttered experience.


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logo-drop-shadow-2xA couple months ago, I decided to take a month-long workshop offered by the City of Somerville called Mental Health First Aid. This program, begun in Australia in 2001, aims to give ordinary citizens training on how to identify mental health issues, listen and provide some support to sufferers and offer suggestions for professional treatment.

At first, I considered the training to be part of my professional training as a public librarian. But as the class continued, I realized that many of the skills I was learning were very appropriate in everyday life – for friends, family and coworkers. We primarily discussed issues with depression, anxiety, trauma and psychosis; issues related to substance abuse; how to raise the possibility of suicide or self-harm; and ways to gently convince someone to get professional help, even if their personal or cultural beliefs prohibit getting mental health help. We kept ALGEE in mind when considering action:

A – Assess for risk of suicide or harm.
L – Listen non-judgmentally.
G – Give reassurance and information.
E – Encourage appropriate professional help.
E – Encourage self-help and other support strategies.

Through role play and group assessment of various scenarios, our class learned the best way to broach these subjects – from everyone to our closest friends and family to strangers on the street. It was very enlightening, and I’m very glad I attended. If you’d like to participate, instructor Patty Contente will be holding a new round of classes March 19, March 26, April 2 and April 9, 2015, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., location TBD. You can email her at for more information. There is a suggested, tax deductible donation of $40 to take these classes.

Here are some organizations that can help:

Somerville Trauma Response Network or call 857-221-0942
National Alliance on Mental Illness – Massachusetts
Families for Depression Awareness
Somerville Teen Connection at SHS: 617-575-5690
Guidance Center Referral Line: 617-354-2275
Mass. Substance Use Helpline: 800-327-5050
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255) or en español at 888-628-9454

And remember, having mental health issues is nothing to be ashamed of. (That was one of the first things that Patty accentuated during our classes. A mental health problem is just like any other physical health issues – like MS or heart disease – and it can be treated!) One in five U.S. adults will struggle with a mental disorder in any one year.

Take care and be well!


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Do you use Whisper, the  social networking app that provides a safe virtual space to say things you wouldn’t on Facebook? That supposedly guarantees anonymity? Well, according to The Guardian, Whisper not only tracks its users, the company staff monitor the activity of users who might soon be newsworthy, and they maintain  a searchable database of posts, including posts users think they’ve deleted. Whisper also recently revised its terms of service: even if you have turned off your smartphone’s geolocation device, the company can still more or less determine where you are–within about 1600 feet.

As you can imagine, Whisper executives aren’t happy with The Guardian, going so far as to call the paper’s reporting on the company “a pack of vicious lies.”

Meanwhile, Buzzfeed has temporarily suspended its business partnership with Whisper over the issue of tracking.

I’m sure this is only the beginning of a big brouhaha.  Stay tuned….


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When you check out a book (or anything else) from the library, that information is supposed to be private. Safety is essential for personal exploration and growth, and one way to help people be safe is ensuring that what they read or watch or listen to is known only to them and whomever they decide to share that knowledge with.

One of the software programs developed for reading ebooks is Adobe Digital Editions. And recently various sources reported that the latest version of the program, Digital Editions 4, is guilty of heinous violations of user privacy. Digital Editions 4 sends to Abode servers extensive unencrypted information about what every single user is reading: not just what books they’re reading, but even what page they’re on. And this information is available to anyone who can hack web traffic or who has access to Adobe’s servers. Adobe employees can do the digital equivalent of looking over your shoulder while you’re reading. And if you were wondering, yes, Adobe Digital Editions is one of the e-reader platforms available for Minuteman titles.

Apparently unencrypted transmission of user data doesn’t occur with earlier versions of Adobe Digital Editions.

The American Library Association has demanded an explanation from Adobe, which has responded that its collection of user data is strictly for purposes of “license validation,” but adds that an update to the process of transmitting user data will be available no later than the week of October 20.

And Adobe may soon have other problems in addition to the bad press. Most states have privacy laws about library books, so the company may be answerable for their actions in courts across the country.


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aam_2012-2October is American Archives Month, the purpose of which is to promote awareness and value of archives in society – as our country’s collective memory. The city of Somerville has its own archives, as does the SPL in the form of our Local History Room. I love old pictures, so I enjoy visiting the city archives’ tumblr, too.

While it’s unlikely you actually work at an archive, you may want to create your own personal archive. Right now, it may be a shoebox full of old photos and letters, or it may be a folder on your computer’s desktop. Or, if you’re like me, it’s a mixture of both — and more, spread across social media accounts, the cloud and a rusty old filing cabinet.

I’d like to highlight a few online resources to help you organize and build your own personal archive – one that can last for generations. The Library of Congress has a lot of great tips for preserving records, photos, audio, video, websites and emails.

Tips include:

-Locate and inventory all your files, whether they are on *gasp* floppy disks or on websites or in a tangible file folder.
-Decide which ones are important enough to keep and if the final draft or other versions are necessary to keep.
-Organize the items by giving them descriptive names, placing them in a folder also with a descriptive identifier and making a sort of key to your collections, a few sentences to remind yourself what’s in there.
-Make copies and store them in different places. At least two copies are recommended, one on your computer’s hard drive and one on a disk or thumb drive. It is suggested that you store one copy at home and another at a friend’s or relative’s or even in a safe deposit box. Make sure you check your physical copies every few years to make sure writing has not faded.

Here is a brief brochure in pdf format to help you get started and a longer one if you really get into your personal or family archiving project.

And, check out these books from the Minuteman System:

Personal archiving: preserving our digital heritage, edited by Donald T. Hawkins

How to archive family keepsakes: learn how to preserve family photos, memorabilia & genealogy records by Denise May Levenick

The unofficial family archivist: a guide to creating and maintaining family papers, photographs, and memorabilia by Melissa Mannon


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