Archive for the “Friends of the Library” Category

A: According to Jessamyn West (the self-described “most famous librarian on the Internet” – well, maybe neck and neck with Nancy Pearl), a lot!

West was very energetic; this is the least blurred picture of her presentation.
West was very energetic; this is the least blurred picture of her presentation.

West, who is a big champion of library technology and civil liberties, gave the talk last night at Central during a thank you celebration the Friends of the Somerville Public Library threw for its volunteers. She is also an advocate of bridging the digital divide, especially in rural communities. The talk focused on the need for libraries – now more than ever.

She broke down five amazing things about public libraries:

1) The Library Bill of Rights, which turned 75 this month. This document supports the right to inquiry, access and advocacy and reminds us that libraries fight censorship and promotes inclusivity.

2) The concepts of fair use and public domain. Thanks to winning “good” copyright-related lawsuits like those involving the Wiley Books, YouTube vs. Viacom, HathiTrust and Google Books, libraries and librarians have a wealth of images and information at their fingertips online. Makes sharing so much easier.

3) The ability for creators to label their works as reuseable. Through Creative Commons, Digital Public Library of America, Europeana and Open Library (at which West just began working after leaving MetaFilter), anyone can find, share and use items legally. There’s also momentum toward loosening use restrictions on orphan works as well, which could free up even more works.

4) The libraries everywhere movement, such as Little Free Libraries. (Here are the ones in and near Somerville.) Although West acknowledges they aren’t really libraries – there’s no little librarian in there and there could be bugs! – it encourages people to become content creators and distributors.

5) Special lending collections. West pointed to Portland ME’s ukulele collection, Windsor, VT’s seed library and Santa Monica’s “human” library as ways that libraries are extending their mission and making themselves more exciting.


West praised the collaborative nature of public libraries and librarians, noting that she enjoys “stealing” ideas from other libraries, we, as professionals, encourage that. Libraries love to share, so take advantage of that!

NOTE: Here are her slides from the talk.


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Yesterday’s Boston Globe had a front page story on tiktaalik, a 375-million-year-old fish with limb-like fins and larger than average pelvic bones. Tiktaalik is of particular interest to scientists studying how animals transitioned from life in water to life on land in ancient times. If you would like to see a skeleton of this famous creature, along with a realistic-looking model of what it may have looked like in life, look no further than the Harvard Museum of Natural History, right next door in Cambridge. You can even get into the museum at a discounted price by taking advantage of the Library’s Museum Pass Program, which is generously funded by the Friends of the Library – thank you Friends!

Want to read more about prehistoric beasts? Check out the Dewey 560s, which happens to be one of the coolest nonfiction sections in the Library. Here’s a sampling of what’s on offer, but of course there are many more – have a look for yourself!

Dinosaur Art book coverThe Bonehunters’ Revenge: Dinosaurs, Greed, and the Greatest Scientific Feud of the Gilded Age by David Rains Wallace

Dinosaur Art: the World’s Greatest Paleoart edited by Steve White

Grave Secrets of Dinosaurs: Soft Tissues and Hard Science
by Phillip Manning

How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn’t Have to be Forever by Jack Horner and James Gorman

The Jesuit and the Skull: Teilhard de Chardin, Evolution, and the Search for Peking Man by Amir D. Aczel

Mammoth book coverLast Ape Standing: the Seven-Million Year Story of How and Why We Survived by Chip Walter

The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt by William Nothdurft with Josh Smith

Lucy’s Legacy: the Quest for Human Origins by Donald C. Johanson and Kate Wong

Mammoth: the Resurrection of an Ice Age Giant by Richard Stone

My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs by Brian Switek

Next of Kin: Great Fossils at the American Museum of Natural History by Lowell Dingus

The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs
by Gregory S. Paul

Taking Wing: Archaeopteryx and the Evolution of Bird Flight
by Pat Shipman

Time Traveler: in Search of Dinosaurs and Ancient Mammals from Montana to Mongolia by Michael Novacek

Trilobite!: Eyewitness to Evolution by Richard Fortey


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It’s Summer Reading Club time at all three SPL locations!  This year’s theme is Dig Into Reading.  When you join, you’ll receive: a logbook to record your summer reading (books you enjoy on your own, or stories read TO you by a caregiver or…even a librarian!), a bag to carry those summer reading books, and a calendar of our summer events!  Thanks to the Friends of the Somerville Public Library, we have many fun and free programs planned this summer!  Highlights include:

  • 3 Kidstock Theater shows at the Central Library
  • Rosalita’s Puppets at the East Branch
  • Live Animal presentations at all three libraries
  • Groundwork Somerville programs at all three libraries
  • Jungle Jim’s Wild About Reading Balloon Magic Show at Central & East
  • Ed Morgan the Music Man at East
  • plus origami, writing programs, storytimes, sing alongs, and more!

For a full list of programs, check out our online calendar of events.

Dig Into Reading is sponsored by the Somerville Public Library, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, the Massachusetts Library System, and the Boston Bruins, with federal funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.


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We’re so pleased to announce that we have a new museum pass available for Somerville residents – the Boston Harbor Islands!

Just a short ferry ride from Long Wharf gets you to the islands, and once you’re there you’ll find it hard to believe that you’re so close to the City. Having personally spent many happy days on the islands, I can highly recommend them. You can picnic under the trees or explore the Civil War era fort on George’s Island, relax on the beach on Lovell’s or Spectacle Island, watch the wild rabbits on Grape Island, pick berries on Bumpkin, and so much more.
















The Boston Harbor Islands pass provides 2-for-1 ferry tickets for up to four people. It is available on weekdays – excluding June 18th, July 4th & 5th, August 9th, September 2nd, and October 14th, which are Free Ferry Days!

This pass is funded through the generosity of the Friends of the Library.


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snap864Last Friday the Boston area entrepreneur, designer, and creator of the t-shirt empire Johnny Cupcakes came to the library. Johnny “Cupcakes” Earle delivered a talk focusing on hard work and the ways he has succeeded to truly create an experience around his brand. His talk detailed early business ventures (really early…meaning gradeschool) selling candy and learning about the benefits of buying wholesale – to later striking like lightning with the cupcake and crossbones logo that has become his trademark. I mean that literally… the logo and the phrase “do more of what makes you happy” are under copyright…

Johnny’s message of giving 110% to your projects, learning to delegate, and doing the little things right was inspiring and brutally honest. It was fantastic to see a packed auditorium with such an age range. Many were fans of the brand before but also great to see some younger attendees who are now emboldened to create their own ventures.

This was the fifth in a general series of design talks the Friends of the Somerville Public have organized, and a huge thanks goes to Johnny for adding us to his schedule. We have planned this for almost a year and was a real treat. Must also thank Eli Epstein of Union Press in Somerville for creating the handsome tickets/souvenirs that we used.     – James Fox

To learn more about the Friends please find us online at


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Here is a review of Saturday’s program by Kim Philips Millican, who is a member of the Friends of the Library.  Thank you Kim!

On Saturday, the Friends of the Somerville Public Library held a showing of “In the Blood”, a documentary by Sumner McKane that illustrated the history of the Maine lumbermen and river drivers. According to the documentary’s website (, Mr. McKane presents “a historical subject with a contemporary and entertaining presentation” which turns a history lesson into a “vivid and virtual journey into a bygone world”. This was certainly the case with “In the Blood”.

The men often worked 12-14 hours a day and were paid up to $2 a day.  They lived in the camps from October to March. The documentary showed several black-and-white photos and film footage of the harsh Maine winters. Amazingly, none of the lumberman became sick or caught pneumonia while working in the camps.

There was a known hierarchy within the communities. At the top of the hierarchy was the Camp Boss and his role was providing leadership and creating an efficient team. Other roles within the hierarchy include the under-cutter, sawyer, knotter, swamper, and cook.

The documentary included oral histories from the men who worked in the logging camps. Some of the interviews had subtitles, as the authentic accents were difficult to follow and understand. The interviews were honest, full of emotion, and gave the viewer a sense of what life was like in the logging camps. One such interview was with a gentleman whose brother-in-law died in a logging accident. He went into great detail about the accident. In the end, it took the crew 20 days to find his brother-in-law buried in the river.

One interview really grasped the attention of the audience – the raw account of the smell of the logging camp. The interviewee gave a vivid description of the stink and sweat that permeated the camp. He explained that some of the men did not bath all winter. The men slept in a row, underneath one quilt, and many of the men slept in their wet and sweaty work clothes. Another account was provided about the camp’s “stink pole” – a long pole used to hang wet clothes on.

“In the Blood” definitely had a sense of humor. For example, the interview regarding the lumbermen’s diet was quite funny. The interviewee emphasized that the men ate beans, beans, and more beans and they ate their beans with knives, as there were not any forks available. The men also ate molasses, homemade biscuits, and donuts. Hot drinks were served every day at noon.

The standing room only crowd enjoyed delicious food including Verna’s donuts, cider, and cheddar cheese.  It was a relaxing way to spend a cold and gloomy Saturday afternoon. A raffle drawing was held after the movie.


Kim Phillips Millican


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Last Saturday the Friends of the Library sponsored another great program.  We were fortunate to have a new volunteer,  Kim Millican Phillips,  tell us about the event.    Many thanks to Kim, who in addition to blogging has also joined the Friends of the Library. 

As a part of the Design Talk series, Stephen Tourlentes and Amber Davis Tourlentes, instructors from Mass Art, reflected upon Kodachrome and took the audience on a journey about the evolution of Kodachrome slides.

Kodachrome was a type of color reversal film. It was introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1935 and utilized until 2010. Kodachrome was known for producing photographs with rich colors and ultra-fine details. Both professionals and amateurs used it around the world. Of interest, there were enough professional photographers in Boston using Kodachrome to justify daily flights to deliver the film for development.

Kodachrome film was developed using a 14-step process. The detailed process, which required a chemist on the processing line, produced photographs with vivid colors and incredible archival properties.

As camera phones and computer applications, such as Instagram, gain in popularity, society is developing a greater appreciation for photography. As a result, many of the Kodachrome slides and pictures are resurfacing.

Throughout the presentation, Mr. Tourlentes showed classic Kodachrome slides. The audience was impressed at how the photographs popped with saturated colors and crispness. An example of the slides shown includes photos taken by Bill Manbo inside a Japanese-American Internment camp. In an era that was previously captured in black and white, history can now be revisited through the color archives created by Kodachrome photographs.

The standing room only crowd shared their personal photography experiences. Of interest, Mr. Tourlentes mentioned his favorite camera is a large-format 8” x 10” Deardorff camera. The group also discussed digital photography and whether the formats in which they are saved will be accessible in years to come.

Kim Phillips Millican


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Last Saturday there was a community discussion with the founders of Cuppow.   The event was sponsored by the Friends of the Library.  Sara Fix is a patron and volunteered this write up of the event…many thanks Sara!


If you care about the environment, if you support local businesses, or if you’ve ever spilled coffee on your shirt, you could learn a lot from Joshua Resnikoff and Aaron Panone, creators of Cuppow.  These two friends created a plastic device that can turn a canning jar in to a travel mug. The Cuppow was their solution to too many stained shirts, expensive metal water bottles, and easily misplaced containers.  The canning jar is their container of choice, as it is a ubiquitous object, it does well with boiling temperatures, and it is cheap to replace if broken or misplaced.


What is more impressive than Cuppow itself is the story behind it. These two humble guys never expected such great success.  They were surprised when they sold their first 500 pieces in less than 24 hours. They didn’t own business books, they didn’t know how to ship all these products, or how they would make more. They were just doing something that was fun, something they were good at, with all their friends, and a good amount of gumption. They were not afraid to ask for advice, or to delegate and include others in their business. They are grateful for FRINGE, a Union Square collaborative effort, including Mike Dacey from Repeat Press. FRINGE provided them with expertise and support, with branding, packaging, production, website, and photography.


Joshua and Aaron have one important rule: Everyone gets the same price on the product, no matter what you can do, how many you want, or who you are. It is also important to them that their product is manufactured locally. In the last 10 months of sales Cuppow has brought back $426,832 into the economy, 81% in Massachusetts.  These guys are extremely ethical, sticking to their guns, and never wanting to seem desperate. Other entrepreneurs, hipsters, mothers, and anyone listening, certainly felt inspired by their story of success and encouraging advice.



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Last week marked the conclusion of our teen creative writing program. The feedback and enthusiasm from everyone has been impressive.

Ethan Gilsdorf led a month-long series of workshops. Participants were given various prompts and exercises. Some of the prompts were silly and random. The classes went so well that Ethan extended it for two more sessions. It was great to see all the writing; people were really engrossed in what they were doing.

This was a teen driven program. They initiated this. Each week brought a different group of people to the table. In all, a total of fourteen people attended.

Part of the success was due to the fact that we were able to collaborate with two local high schools; Somerville High School and Prospect Hill Academy. Both schools were happy to be a part of this and encouraged students to attend. Ethan created something magical the students responded to. That, combined with outreach, was one of biggest reasons this was so successful! We will definitely do this again!

Many thanks go to the Friends of the Library for sponsoring this program.


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On Tuesday, October 9th, the Friends of the Library invite you to attend their Somerville Public Library Benefit at Flatbread Company (45 Day Street in Davis Square.) A portion of the money from each pizza sold during the benefit will go directly to support programming and events at the three Somerville Library branches. Eat-in or take out. There will also be a small curated book sale and a wicked raffle. Prizes include;

  • 2013 Burton snowboard
  • $100 in LLBean gift certificates
  • Framed print from Union Press
  • One-year membership to the Friends of the Somerville Public Library and our 24oz canvas book bag (huge and indestructible, made in Charlestown, MA – you want this…)
  • Pounds of coffee from Entimos and Magpie Coffee Roasters
  • Skate deck from RAW
  • Plus gift certificates to local favorites; Somerville Theatre, Posto, The Painted Burro, Picture Renewal, Ball Square Fine Wines, Somerville Grooves, Redbones, Porter Square Books, and even Flatbread itself!

The Friends of the Somerville Public Library is a not-for-profit organization that helps the libraries to provide programs, services, and materials not covered by the library’s normal operating budget. If you would like to become a member of the Friends, or have questions about the Flatbread Benefit, please contact the Friends by email at: FriendsSomervillePublicLibrary[at]


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