Tuesday Top Ten

top ten thankful

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

I’m cheating this week.  This week’s challenge is to list the books you are most anticipating in 2014 and I just can’t begin to think about next year yet!  The year my son will graduate from high school and my daughter will become a teenager?!  I’m in no rush…  And I really wanted to do last week’s top ten but I just ran out of time with all the pre-holiday craziness.  So, I’m cheating and going back to last week’s topic – the top ten things I’m thankful for…
top ten thankful pic

Tuesday Top Ten

toptenwords

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week the challenge was to list the top ten phrases or words that draw you to a book – that cause you to pick-up a book at the library or buy it at the bookstore.

  1. BOOKS!  Books about books, bookstores, book groups, libraries, authors – I am truly a bibliophile and will pick up anything that mentions books.  I probably could’ve made my entire list out of book-related phrases, but it felt like it would be cheating…
  2. The Beach – If I could spend my days on the beach, watching the ocean (no matter the weather) with a book in my hand I would be exuberant!
  3. Ireland – The only Irish thing about me is my husband, but I love to read about Ireland, whether it’s a story of work-weary folks struggling to survive or a story of mysticism and belief, it always seems to be a world in which I become engrossed.
  4. Italy – Although I’ve never been there, I love books about Italy – the art, the music, the architecture, the history, the food…  I really need to plan a trip!
  5. Food – I love books about food, especially those that so artfully describe the art of creating it and the joy of consuming it.  I love to cook and while these books always make me hungry, they also inspire me to try new culinary creations of my own!
  6. The South – Maybe it’s because I’ve spent most of my life shivering in upstate NY, but I always love stories of the south – the relaxed pace and the warm air.
  7. Road Trip – There’s something about the idea of heading out on the road, leaving your cares and responsibilities behind, and heading out on an unknown adventure that is always appealing.
  8. Mystery – I admit it, I love a good mystery, and even some not-so-good mysteries – be they thrillers or fun cozy-mysteries I love a whodunit.
  9. Founding Fathers – I am always intrigued by our founding fathers and others from the revolutionary time in our country’s history – admittedly Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and Abigail Adams are my favorites, but I will take more than a passing glance at a book about anyone during that time period.
  10. Tech Stuff – Must be the engineer in me still lives on to some extent, I love geek books (maybe not the technical volumes anymore, but still geeky nonetheless) – Skunkworks by Ben Rich and Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder are two that I found inspiring and fascinating.

The Cherry Cola Book Club

cherry colaI really didn’t like this book.  I really wanted to – it’s the story of a small town librarian, Maura Beth, who has been told by the city council that she has until the end of the year to show the worth of her library or it will be closed.  There is a cast of small town characters – a restaurant owner, an elderly genealogist, a retiree, a cooking show host – who rally around as Maura Beth starts the Cherry Cola Book Club in an attempt to boost library usage and secure their future funding.

Given the current state of library funding as a priority throughout the country, and the importance of libraries to their communities, this book could’ve been so much more than what it was – a sweet story with likable characters of a town pulling together to save their library – at least temporarily.

My frustration with the book was the author’s apparent lack of knowledge about libraries and librarians and what they actually accomplish in their communities.  Maura Beth has been the director for six years, has virtually no one using the library, and this is the first time she’s trying to do something about it?!  Reading this book I had a hard time understanding why she’d been getting paid at all for the past six years – the author made it seem like all she did was sit in her office and occasionally order some books.  But now that her job is in jeopardy she thinks it might be important to do something more?  And her miraculous plan is to start a book discussion group?  Don’t get me wrong, book discussion groups are great – almost all libraries already have them along with computers, internet access, early literacy programming, summer reading programs, entertainers, movie nights, author presentations, computer classes, art classes, writing groups, teen groups, job hunting and continuing education resources, reference resources, GED and ESL classes…

The problem that libraries have is not a lack of use – many libraries are seeing increased usage year after year – the problem is a lack of public funding as budgets continue to shrink and public libraries attempt to support greater need with less resources – the problem is a lack of understanding about what libraries actually do and why it’s so important to our communities.  Someone should write a book about that.

Title: The Cherry Cola Book Club
Author: Ashton Lee
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 304
Publication: Kensington, March 2013

Mr. Deary, Who cares?

So, I should probably not let today go by without commenting on the library news of the day.  It seems that British children’s author Terry Deary told The Guardian that public libraries are no longer relevant and spoke out against them at a council meeting.  He believes that people should have to go out and buy their own books if they want to read them, that public libraries hurt authors, the publishing industry, and bookstores.  He believes that schools provide access to literature for children and that grown-ups should basically pay up and shut up.  By the way, do you know how many teachers and students come into my library in a week looking for things they can’t get at the school?  You can find the full article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/feb/13/libraries-horrible-histories-terry-deary?CMP=twt_gu , if you care to read the ramblings of a mad man whose opinions have no basis in fact or reality.

What I can tell you is what I see, every day.  First, let’s talk about books since that seems to be his main concern.  I do not believe that public libraries hurt book sales.  First of all, libraries actually do buy the books that are on their shelves, they don’t get them for free.  A great number of library patrons use the library as a way of discovering new authors and the proceed to go out and buy books by the same author.  These are books they never would’ve purchased had they not discovered something new at their public library.  Many of the books that I own are ones that I first read in a library and then decided that I wanted to own.  Come to think of it, most of what was on my Christmas list was books that I had first seen at the library.  I have personally spoke to many library patrons, young and old, adult and child, who have become book owners and lovers because of their public library.  As author Neil Gaiman responded via Twitter today, “libraries make readers. They don’t starve authors.”.

But really, whether or not people buy books or not because of libraries is really irrelevant.  Who cares?  Because the whole argument assumes two things.  One, that everyone can afford to buy books, and that simply is not true.  Two, that public libraries are only about giving people free books to read, which is also not true.  Books are not cheap, even if you wait for them to come out in paperback.  A voracious reader could spend hundreds of dollars a month on books, if they had the money.  You know a lot of people with that kind of extra money?  I don’t.  So, would Mr. Deary like us to limit the joy, education, inspiration, entertainment, and knowledge that can benefit readers to only those that can come up with the dough?

The public library is a great equalizer, and not only when it comes to books.  Libraries offer so much more to their communities.  And I’m not just talking about the story hours, early literacy activities, summer reading programs, computer classes, art classes, art exhibits, guest speakers, book discussions, exercise classes, teen groups, and other activities.  I won’t even start on all the proven benefits that those activities provide… What about computers and internet access?  No Mr. Deary, not everyone can afford that either.  And no Mr. Deary, they are not just using the computers to check their Facebook page.  I have personally seen the computers in my small public library used to write resumes, fill out job applications, prepare for GED exams, take online courses, do research for school assignments, find health information, and so much more.  What would those people do if they couldn’t go to the library to use a computer?  What would their options be for getting the information they need to better their life? What about the experts, yes those librarians (the greatest advocates for books and authors by the way) that you would send to the unemployment line?  What would those same people do when confronted with an overload of information and opportunities but no one to help them figure out how to find and access the right ones?  Going back to Neil Gaiman again, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.”.

We live in a time when information is abundant and literacy (of all types – basic, health, digital, financial, etc) is more crucial than ever.  When we limit access to literacy we limit the opportunities that individuals have to grow, learn, and prosper.  When we limit access to only those that can afford it, we widen the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots”.  Public libraries are not about “sentimentality” Mr. Deary, they are about creating a place where everyone is truly equal, with equal access, and equal opportunity.  Where all books are welcome.  Yes, even yours Mr. Deary.  Because public libraries do not believe in censorship, they do not believe in limited access, they believe in open discourse and freedom of information.  They are the great equalizers and the foundation of a truly democratic society.

So Mr. Deary, who cares what you think?

And so it begins…

For awhile I’ve been contemplating of finding a way to share my thoughts on books: what I’m reading, quotes that inspire me, what’s happening in the world of libraries.  Today I woke up and decided I would try to put together this blog as a way of doing that.  I am sure it will take me a little while to work out the kinks, so please be patient and hang in there with me!

A little about me and why I am inspired to do this.  I received my BSEE from Clarkson University in 1995 and spent the next 16 years working in the engineering field.  Feeling unfulfilled by my career, in 2009 I announced to my husband that I was going to go back to school to get my degree in library science.  Why?  Definitely not for the power or the money!  😉  I have long felt that the power of the written word to entertain, inform, educate, and inspire is immeasurable.  To me, there is no greater purpose than to provide everyone with open and free access to books.  There are very few things that have the same capability to change people’s lives.  The greatest good that a community can provide for its citizens is to support a public library.

So began my journey.  For the next two years my family would provide unwavering support as I pursued my MLIS from Drexel University while continuing my engineering career.  In 2011 I received my degree and was fortunate enough to receive a position as the Director of the Sherrill-Kenwood Free Library in Sherrill, NY.  The destination was worth the journey and I now spend my days pursuing my passions.  This blog is my way of reaching out to an even wider audience, sharing what I love.

Why the name “Watching the Words”?  It is part of a quote from what is probably my most treasured book, The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak.  For now, all I will say about the book is that if you have not read it, you should, immediately.

As for a brief summary about me personally, I live in Canastota, NY, a small town in upstate NY in an old farmhouse.  I share this life with my husband, Todd (still an engineer!), and our children William (16) and Madalyn (11).  Other members of our family include a cranky cat (Jo-Jo), our protector Nala (a German Shepherd), and our newest addition Hugo (a Pug puppy).  Our life here is chaotic, fun, and full.  We are truly blessed.