December 30th 2014
While I've certainly done everything I can to keep snoops away from my computer--I've downloaded Adblock Plus, I use the anonymizing browser Tor, I've activated encryption on my laptop, and I block cookies--I sometimes wonder if it's not an exercise in futility. I normally assume that no matter what I can download to protect myself, really determined hackers (never mind big businesses or employees of the United States government) can work their way around it. However,  a recent analysis of... Read Post
December 16th 2014
NPR has a great report on Armed Services Editions, the pocket-sized books that entertained and consoled soldiers during World War II. Here is the link to request a library copy of the new book on ASEs, When Books Went to War. Have you ever wondered what was involved in making books before the rise of industrial-scale printing in the 1840s? You can watch someone make a book with a hand-operated printing press here. Grown-ups who read YA books? You're in good company. While adult book sales... Read Post
December 10th 2014
This random item has been  making rounds on the Interwebs: It made me wonder what unusual or quaintly-worded rules various libraries might have, so I did some looking around. At Oxford University's Bodleian Library it is expressly forbidden to "kindle any fire or flame in any part of the library." The Yonkers Public Library bans balloons (possible explanations: staff or patrons might have latex allergies; balloons left in public buildings have been known to set off motion-sensitive alarms... Read Post
November 26th 2014
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.
November 24th 2014
Do 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... Read Post
November 19th 2014
Our latest and penultimate Muslim Journeys event, an interfaith panel discussion, went even better than I had hoped. Everyone, including the panelists, had a great time. Rabbi Eliana Jacobowitz of Temple B'nai Brith, Rev. Jeff Mansfield of the First Church of Somerville, UCC, and Dr. Ghiath Reda of the Islamic Center talked about what their religions have in common, how they differ, and other people's misconceptions about their faiths and its members.* Alexis Jordan Gewertz of Harvard Divinity... Read Post
November 3rd 2014
The latest event in our Muslim Journeys programming series will take place on Wednesday, November 12 at 7 p.m. with the interfaith panel discussion “All Abraham’s Children: What Judaism, Islam, and Christianity Share.” at the Central Branch, 79 Highland Avenue. The program is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association, and aims to familiarize the American public with Islam, the cultural heritage of Islamic civilizations around the world. We’re... Read Post
October 31st 2014
Run, Ichabod, run!!

Happy Halloween! I am reminiscing about my favorite childhood Halloween TV specials. I always loved Disney's Halloween Treat that featured the Ichabod Crane clip, which sadly I can't find online. (The Headless Horseman scared the pants off me!) But there's plenty of other goodies to be found in that special on YouTube: http://youtu.be/ASuuZejf8VE I also loved the Garfield special, which had a scary part, but also Garfield memorably chanting "Candy, candy, candy!" as... Read Post
October 30th 2014
Every year on the evening of October 31 children in the US and Canada put on costumes and go door to door asking for candy. Some adults put on costume parties. TV networks and theaters air horror movie reruns. But why? Halloween is a corruption of the term All Hallow E'en or  All Hallows Eve, the day in the Christian liturgical year before All Hallows Day, a.k.a. All Saints' Day, which is followed by All Souls' Day. In Catholic tradition it's the time when one  is supposed to remember the... Read Post
October 27th 2014
It's late October and Halloween will soon be upon us. Someone recently asked me to post about some of the more unusual materials in the Local History Collection. And the approaching seasonal celebration of the terrifying brought an item to mind: an 1832 reprinting of the 1693 book, Wonders of the Invisible World by Cotton Mather (1663-1728). Mather was a prominent Boston clergyman who wrote Wonders to defend the judges of the Salem witch trials of the previous year. In addition to being a good... Read Post
October 24th 2014
We regularly learn about new assaults on our privacy, who's watching what we do on the Internet, listening in on our phone calls, and sharing our personal information. There are a number of software programs and browser extensions that can help us get some of our privacy back, but most of us don't have the expertise to know which ones we should really be using. Fortunately the staff of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the premier digital rights advocacy group in the US, has put together a... Read Post
October 22nd 2014
People love making lists. Especially book people, it seems.  And the people at Publisher's Weekly just tweeted a list of "The Ten Best Mark Twain Books" (their words, not mine). I was kind of surprised that they chose Mark Twain for such a list. He's certainly noteworthy. He's so influential that American literary history can and should be divided into "Before Mark Twain" and "After Mark Twain." Nevertheless, he's not on the tips of people's tongues the way Jodi Picoult or Ian McEwan are. The... Read Post
October 21st 2014
A 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... Read Post
October 17th 2014
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... Read Post
October 14th 2014
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,... Read Post