Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year!

I am not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions, but I am a big proponent of taking time to reflect. In our rush, rush, 24-hour news cycle world it is easy to lose perspective and get pulled along by the tide of all the stuff we feel we have to do, while totally losing track of the things that are really important. So, with a new year dawning, I find it very valuable to take a step back. To take stock and to look ahead with an eye on the big picture, without so much regard for the niggly little bits.

So, this New Year's Eve, or the day following, I'm going to try to take a little time to reflect back and to look forward. Watch some football, or a good parade, and just relax with friends and family. A lot happened in my life in 2008: <.shameless plug.>I published my history of the Village of Caledonia < /plug >, I left my job at UW-Parkside after eight years and I took this one in Mukwonago. Now my family and I are looking to move to the Mukwonago area.

All very exciting, good things, but all stressful nonetheless. And it is easy to forget that even good changes are stressful-- people aren't built to live in a constant state of stress. We need time to relax, recharge and refocus. The beginning of a whole new year is a perfect time to do that.

Happy New Year to everyone!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Rant or Rave: Stephen R. Covey

A big post-Christmas rave for Stephen R. Covey's book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Written in 1989, this book is still as relevant now as it was then-- perhaps more so as the internet, cell phones and many other new technologies have made principle-based living even more vital than it was 20 years ago. Likewise the follow up book, First Things First. I haven't yet read The 8th Habit, or his son's book, The Speed of Trust, but I have heard good things about them as well.

If you are interested in truly evaluating your life, what is important in it, how to make the most of it, and how the outside world can impact it, these books are highly recommended. Far more than just business "how-to" or "self-help" manuals, the books look deeper. With an emphasis on a principle-based approach to living-- as opposed to a personality-based approach-- I can't help but wish that more of the folks that ran/run our nation's financial sector had been following Habits 3: Put First Things First: Principles of Integrity & Execution and Habit 4: Think Win/Win: Principles of Mutual Benefit.

In other news-- I hope everyone who celebrates the day had a wonderful and joyous Christmas. The Library was closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but we are open today and tomorrow as usual. We will be closed next week Wednesday and Thursday, but will then return to our regular winter hours.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful

Seriously, this has been one of the worst Decembers I can remember in terms of the weather. Snow, cold, wind, repeat. For variety sake, the order gets mixed around a bit, wind, cold, snow, repeat. Ai Carumba, it's like a broken and annoying record.

Fortunately, it is warm inside at the Library and we will be open today, Friday and Saturday. Stop in and stock up on snow books... or perhaps, books about the Bahamas.

Speaking of broken records, does this sound familiar?: Outplay the opponent most of the game but allow them to hang around, give up a big play and lose the narrow lead late, then stage a furious comeback that either falls short or which is subsequently given away when the special teams and/or defense completely fails to do anything useful. Ye gods the Packers are frustrating and annoying to watch this year.

Fortunately, the Bucks actually look to be decent to good this year. Not anywhere close to the level of the Celtics or Cavaliers, but certainly a playoff team, and possibly a 2nd round playoff team if they can get up to the 5 seed.

Okay, I'm off to shovel. No, seriously-- a good inch has fallen since I came in this morning.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy Snow Day!

Well, the doppler radar for the area is a wide variety of colors, greens, blues, pinks and even orange, which is pretty, but not good for getting around. All the schools are closed and unfortunately, so is the Library.

Hopefully, everyone got enough books, dvds, cds and other Library materials earlier and has enough to weather the storm. So to speak. We should be open tomorrow, barring any sort of strange extension/expansion of today's storm.

I guess there isn't much to worry about in regards to a white Christmas. Enjoy the snow!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Win a Webkinz

Starting Monday, Dec. 22, the Libray will be holding an event to win a Webkinz-- either a cuddly penguin or an adorable samoyed. The more often you visit the Library and check out books, the better your chance to win! There is a limit of one entry per day, and only children and teens are eligible to win.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rant or Rave: Christopher Moore

One of the joys of working at a library is the constant exposure to new authors and artists that is available to you. On the artist side of the equation, I am currently enjoying Coldplay's work, a band I had heard a lot about but hadn't really listened to previously. I like Viva la Vida quite a bit, so I hope the band and Joe Satriani can figure out the plagiarism lawsuit Satriani has brought against the group.

But I digress. The staff here at the Library has introduced me to the works of Christopher Moore, author of Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, The Stupidest Angel and Bloodsucking Fiends. So, this Rave is for Christopher Moore. As you can probably guess from the titles, Moore's stuff is pretty irreverent-- and definitely not kid-friendly as it contains plenty of profanity and what the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) would label Adult Themes. They are also really, really funny in a quirky, Douglas Adams sort of way.

Interestingly, I have not read any of the books I listed above-- though I intend to read all of them in the near future-- but rather started at the end, with Moore's two latest novels: A Dirty Job and You Suck. Of the two, I liked A Dirty Job more, but they were both a blast to read (actually, listen to-- I "read" both of them in audiobook format).

You Suck was fun since it is a vampire tale and includes a character who was once the Cheddar Queen of Fond du Lac, but the ending was somewhat abrubt and not entirely satisfying to me, plus it is a sequel to Bloodsucking Fiends, and I generally try to avoid reading sequels without reading the preceding book. But it was a hoot reading You Suck shortly after Interview With the Vampire, as the two retellings of the classic vampire story could hardly be more dissimilar.

But I found A Dirty Job to be the more engaging, laugh out loud funny of the two. Part of the preference might also be due to the performers of the audiobooks-- Fisher Stevens is just awesome as the reader of A Dirty Job, while Susan Bennet is good, but not great, at reading You Suck.

At any rate-- I am looking forward to reading the rest of Moore's books. I don't think he'll make it into my very favoritist authors (Adams, Terry Pratchett, Stephen R. Donaldson), but I'm definitely anticipating some well-spent hours curled up with a good book. And if you're looking for some fresh, fun reading (or listening) and don't mind profanity and a rather peculiar viewpoint of the world, I recommend Chris Moore's stuff.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Midnight Magic Wrap Up

The weather was cold and windy, but that didn't stop everyone from having a great time this past weekend at Mukwonago's annual Midnight Magic festivities. We are fortunate at the Library to have the parade route end practically at our front door, making us a popular viewing and warming up location.

And, honestly now, what says Happy Holidays and Welcome to Winter more than... giant sausages in the snow?!

Inside, the Friends of the Library were busy with their annual bake sale. Thank you to all those that baked for this event and also to all who bought the yummy treats-- all of the proceeds will be used to benefit the Library.

In the Library's community room, folks could get a cup of coffee, hot chocolate or hot chai tea to warm up. Thanks to Katie and the great people at Espresso Love for the beverages. In addition, several local authors were available to our patrons, and many folks took advantage to get a signed Christmas present.

The silent auction and raffle ended at 7 pm, and there was a flurry of activity shortly before the deadline as folks jockeyed for the items they really desired:

In the end, everyone had a great time. Particularly these happy raffle winners:

It was my first Midnight Magic experience and it was a very good one. I'm already looking forward to next year's festivities-- I hope you will all join us!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Goodreads and Library Thing

Two different patrons have recently asked me if it is possible to track what they've read using Library circulation records. My standard response was that no, of course not. Though the Patriot Act allows an authorized federal, state or local law enforcement official to access circulation records with a court order, we don't give that information out to anyone without a court order and we do not keep those records long term.

In both cases the individuals were disappointed, not reassured. They weren't concerned about privacy issues, but instead were hoping they could take a look at their own record to see what they had already read. In one case, keeping track of the many Nora Roberts books and series was the difficulty, since Ms Roberts has written over 150 novels.

Fortunately, though the Library's circulation records cannot be used for this purpose, there are two online websites that can do what these patrons want to do-- Goodreads and Library Thing. Goodreads allows people to "add" titles to their "bookshelves", thus creating a list of books already read and also a "to read" list. It is pretty slick, though there is some front-end work of loading in the books you've already read during your life. This can be kind of fun, however, since you can also rate the books as you go and it may remind you of a few titles or authors who had drifted out of your conscienceness over time.

Library Thing is a little different, though it can also be used to track what titles have been read or which are on the "to read" list. It is essentially a "self-cataloging" web tool, allowing members (free for the first 200 titles, and only $10 a year or $25 for a life-time membership) to create their own personal catalog of book titles owned. You can also check out other member book lists, finding others with similar tastes. Indeed, one of Library Things selling points is that it is the world's largest book club. There is also a review function, genre specific groups, a blog and various other nifty bells and whistles.

Both sites are well worth your time to check out if you like reading and books. I know I spent a good two hours yesterday creating my own bookshelves at Goodreads yesterday. And it was a good two hours. Quite a lot of fun and an interesting romp down memory lane, adding books to my list that I had nearly forgotten I had actually read, yea these many years ago.

Both sites also offer members the opportunity for social interaction with other members if they desire. But it is all optional, and you do not have to interact with anyone if you choose to use the sites just for keeping track of books owned and read.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Celebrate National Cookie Day!

Today is National Cookie Day. Celebrate with a good cookie book, just like we did at Preschool Storytime. Some of the books we enjoyed were If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff, Mr. Cookie Baker by Monica Wellington, and The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins. We also enjoyed homemade oatmeal raisin cookies.

Would you like to hear a good story? Come visit us at Preschool Storytime on select Wednesdays at 10:00 AM. Would you like some freshly baked cookies to take home? Visit us during the Library's Midnight Magic Bake Sale on Saturday, December 6 beginning at 9:00 AM.

A Very Good Night

Last night was the kickoff to Mukwonago's annual Midnight Magic celebration. Most of the festivities occur this Saturday, Dec. 6, but at 6:30 last night the Library was privileged and honored to play host to Santa. He magically lit the beautiful tree near the front of the Library:

Nearly fifty hearty souls braved the fresh snow and chilly temperatures to come out and see the beautiful tree. The tree had been prepared earlier this week by John Bronk and Peter Weinenger, and after it was lit, the crowd joined in singing a few carols. Then, it was into the Library's community room to warm up.

Inside, the kids gathered towards the front to hear Tracy Hein, principal at Prairie View Elementary School, read Clement Moore's classic poem, A Visit From Saint Nicholas, better known as The Night Before Christmas. Written in 1823, the delightful poem recalling a Christmas Eve visit from "a right jolly old elf" is still as engaging today as it was nearly 180 years ago.

After the reading, Santa answered the children's questions-- 'Santa, are you magic?', 'How do you get into houses with no chimney?'-- and then invited them all up to give him their preliminary Christmas wish lists. While they were waiting, the kids stopped over to the craft table and made their own ornaments-- with the help of their parents a few Library elves.

Overall, it was a truly magical night. A wonderful way to kick off Midnight Magic and the holiday season. The Library was honored to be a part of it, and I hope everybody had as much fun as we did. Hopefully, we see you all this Saturday for the main Midnight Magic festivities. It should be a great day, just as yesterday was a great night.

One final note-- the Friends of the Library silent auction and raffle is still going on, so stop in today, tomorrow or Saturday and place you bid or enter the raffle. There are some great prizes available and the money all goes to support the Library and its services.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Quote for the Day

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
-- Eleanor Roosevelt, 1937

Wow. If only we could all internalize the profound wisdom of that short statement. Eleanor Roosevelt was a remarkable woman.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Rant or Rave: Interview With the Vampire

Anne Rice's reinvention of Bram Stoker's Dracula has achieved tremendous commercial success and fair amount of critical acclaim as well. Interview With the Vampire and her subsequent vampire novels have won Rice thousands of devoted fans and inspired a major studio film adaptation starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. And I had always meant to read it, if for no other reason than to see what all the fuss was about, but somehow had never gotten around to it.

So, I took advantage of the Mukwonago Community Library's CD audiobook holding of the book to give it an overdue "read". As with all audiobooks, the reader of the novel is very important, and this particular adaptation features Frank Muller. Frank is a prolific audiobook narrator who does a good, though I would not say great, job with the source material. His voice characterizations are generally good and he is ever reasonably believable as the voice of Claudia, the child vampire.

As a totality, I'd have to say that my review of the book would be neither a rant, nor a rave, though it is a bit more of the former and less of the latter. Rice's re-interpretation of the vampire myths and legends is ingenious, and some of the topics she explores are quite riveting. Particularly the existence of Claudia and her conflicted relationship with her "father", Louis-- the title character of the book.

There are moments in the book that are luxurious and wonderful to experience, but in the end I was left with the feeling of having eaten too much of an overly rich food. The prose is so... prosaic, so elaborate and sensuous that after awhile I grew tired of it, wishing rather that the story would get to its point.

Additionally, I found the themes of ennui, angst and retrospection that Rice explores through the character of Louis to get rather tedious after the first part of the book. In the end, Louis is a bit of a twit. Lestat seems the more interesting individual, so perhaps I will take a look, or listen, to The Vampire Lestat, but I will admit that I am not in a hurry to do so-- much like a rich dessert, I think my palate will be best served by leaving Ms. Rice for a while.

I may also peruse the film one of these days. Mostly because I, like many critics, can't figure out why they cast Pitt as Louis and Cruise as Lestat instead of the other way around. And I'm curious to see Kirsten Dunst in the roll of Claudia.