Best Books I've Read this Year
Composed by Sheryl Groskurth, director of the Cedar Falls and Waterloo Public Libraries
The library world is all about outreach. We should not sit at our desks and wait for people to find us and our services. So whenever we can, we go outside our walls to tell the library story. Although there never seem to be enough hours in the day to just do the basics that keep our building running, we squeeze out the hours to visit farmers markets, service groups, summer school and other school programs when we think the audience will benefit from our presence.
This morning I was invited by Ruby Abebe to visit the Black Hawk County Jail, and tell a Life Skills class about what the library has to offer them once they are released. We listened to their backgrounds, their future plans, and their frustrations. I was surprised to know that with some services, I was preaching to the choir. I talked about free computer use to create resumes, cover letters and business plans. Some asked questions about grant sources and non-profit status. I told them about the Learning Center staff, who can help them locate those resources online. Some were discouraged about their lack of high school diplomas, so I told them that GED students frequently stop in for a little help on paper-writing and math brush-up. All have dreams of what they want to do when they get out, and are realistic about the brick wall that went up because of their jail time.
Many raised their hands when I asked if they had ever been to the library, and when I started talking about the free movies, several guys jumped in and gave information about our movies before I had a chance to. Class was held in the jail library, so I had a chance to scan the shelves. About ten years ago, another librarian and I organized their collection, ordering hundreds of paperbacks to replace old titles. If the same books are sitting on the shelves today, they’ve been well-read and are due for replacement. The guys suggested some authors for the next round. I enjoyed my visit today. It was very satisfying to visit with this group of library patrons.
I remember the first time I saw an actual image on the internet, back in the nineties, right down to where I was sitting. It was like magic, and not just because it was the Disney website. Almost twenty years later, my expectations of the internet are pretty demanding. It should answer my every search instantly. Its eagerness to please has jaded me. Until Pinterest invited me to browse.
If you don’t know Pinterest, it begins like “bookmarks” or “favorites.” I pin an image from a website to one of the bulletin boards I’ve created. I pin from websites that contain recipes, home ideas, funny cat pictures and the like. Nothing new there, I’ve created hundreds of bookmarks. But with Pinterest, I’m creating a collage of memory-jogging images. And, I’m adding the magic of sharing them with both Facebook friends and random people. In return (and here’s the magic) I get to see theirs.
I pinned a chocolate peanut butter cake recipe one evening, and by the time I logged back on the next morning, 85 people had repinned that recipe to their boards. Storage ideas, book reviews, fabric, recipes, book art, Downton Abbey and so much more stream through my Pinterest.
When I learned about Pinterest, I felt like the internet had been hiding something from me. How do you learn about exciting new sites? The public library is a great place to explore. Technology classes on ereaders, digital pictures, travel arrangements, Google +, and so much more happen on a regular basis. They’re fun, and they’re free. Visit our website, call or stop by to sign up.
My favorite book this month is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Winner of the ALA Alex Award, this young adult novel’s movie rights have been purchased by Warner. Set in a poverty and hunger stricken 2044, the line between real and virtual lives has been blurred. The hunt for a billion dollar treasure is launched, enticing every gamer in the world. Cut-throat competition keeps the reader turning pages, while 1980’s trivia is blended nicely into the clues. While intended for teens, I think it reads well for adults, too. It’s just one of thousands of great new books, so we hope to see you soon at the public library.
Although I’m fascinated with the escalating availability and versatility of electronic gadgets, I keep a pretty simple inventory. Recently I added an ereader to the stable, and it took me about 3 pages to realize I have a new addiction.
I took my little ereader on a date of sorts to a local bookstore. Its face lit up when I took it out of the case, and it realized it was among friends. Even though I plan to borrow most of my ebooks, I had to buy just one (well, two) to see what it felt like. I have to admit, it felt good, the ease of getting it, the lightness of holding it while I read, and knowing I won’t have to dust it on my shelf. I just can’t lend it to friends. I could lend them my entire ereader, but then I’d have to buy another, since I’m not sure I can be without it. Publishers of electronic books want to make sure that we can’t send their books willy-nilly through cyberspace, and I understand they are entitled to a sound economic model.
Digital rights management is a controversial debate, and libraries are part of it. Some publishers refuse to publish books electronically, even though I have yet to meet anyone who’s figured out how to share them illegally. I’m sure there’s someone out there, but there always have been those who pirated, and the publishing economy has survived. We may need to develop a new model to work with ebooks, and I applaud the publishers who are trying to make this happen. I applaud even louder for the SOPA protestors who demonstrated what happens when we overreact to online piracy.
In the meantime, enjoy those who do provide electronic access by using your local public libraries’ collections of downloadable ebooks. No snow, no traffic, and no searching the shelves. Directly from our e-stacks to your home, downloadable books are environmentally friendly, convenient, and fun.