Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Winter Sports at the Library

Jenna Hecker is the Technology/Reference Library at the Morrill Memorial Library. She is a guest contributor to the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin. Read all past columns which are archived here.
I made the mistake of dating a winter sports enthusiast. I am an indoor sort of person, especially in winter. I had always pictured skiing as sitting in a lodge with a hot cup of cocoa. I have never been interested in careening down a mountain and had hoped, if asked to do so, I could skip right to the relaxing-and-warming by a fire part. I buy winter weather gear to stay warm, and never think about snot-wipe functionality, the way my boyfriend does. So when I found myself agreeing to skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing this winter, I knew I was in over my head.

Until I agreed to embark on a season of outdoor activities, I had very little information on what winter sports were actually like. I decided to start slow – Snowshoeing can be done at your own pace because it is essentially walking on snow. I bundled up to near immobility, layering myself with underwear of various sorts, pants that were wicking, pants that were waterproof, and, inexplicably, two different hats. The snowshoes, though bulky and inconvenient to walk around one’s apartment in, allow you to pleasantly float above snow instead of sinking into it. I soon found myself shedding layers, and enjoying the snowy forest world around me. Snowshoeing felt easier to me than regular hiking – I wasn’t obliged to move any faster than I liked, and was able to carry a thermos of hot cocoa rather than a pack of water. By the end of our snowshoe adventure, I had shed several layers, and had gotten a bit of a workout. Plus I had seen the quiet serene winter woods. I am thoroughly sedentary, so if I can survive an afternoon of snowshoeing, anyone can. If you are interested in snowshoeing I suggest checking out Snowshoe Routes New England: Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine by Diane Bair and Pamela Wright for some ideas of places to go. For more information for beginner snowshoers check out The Snowshoe Experience: A Beginner's Guide to Gearing Up & Enjoying Winter Fitness by Claire Walters.

I knew I would have to get more information before I tried downhill skiing. I decided to head to the sports section of the library to ease my fears, and help me at least learn the terminology and etiquette before I hit any slopes. Downhill skiing has me the most nervous, so I started my search with The Essential Guide to Skiing : 201 Things Every Skier Must Know by Ron LeMaster. The books is informative for novices and experts alike, guiding me how to walk in my ski-boots and going over the ins and outs of renting equipment, and how to attach a set of skis to a car roof. The book is less of a how-to-ski technique guide and more of an encyclopedia of skiing. To try to learn some of the basic technique (while sitting comfortably in my chair) I took out The New Guide to Skiing by Martin Heckleman. Though there is a world of ski-instruction books out there, I found Heckleman’s guide to be easy to follow because of the stop-action photography that accompanies his written instruction. For fireside ski-chatter I decided to read The Story of Modern Skiing by John Fry about the evolution of the sport. If I survive my first ski attempt I have added The Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast : 50 Classic Ski Tours in New England and New York by David Goodman to my list. Goodman’s guide lists lots of little-known ski areas around the Northeast, and includes topographic maps, and lots of other great references to help you plan your trip to fabulous and remote ski destinations.

The third leg of my tour of wintertime sports is a trip to a cross-country ski lodge in Northampton, Mass. Until recently, my only experience with cross-country skiing was angering nearby skiers by tromping over theirs tracks while snowshoeing. I knew that thankfully, cross-country skiing did not involve a mountain or fast speeds, so I delved into my research of it with a bit more confidence. I began with Cross-Country Skiing : Building Skills for Fun and Fitness by Steven Hindman. I chose Hindman’s guide because it gives you techniques you can use anywhere – from a city park to a backcountry trail. The snowshoe lodge I found in Western, Mass. is a lovely no-frills style place. Meals are included; you bring your own linens and pay extra for ski rental. No instruction is available, so I hope my guidebooks do their job. If you are looking to find a lodge for some rest and exercise, I suggest checking Cross-Country Ski Vacations: A Guide to the Best Resorts, Lodges, and Groomed Trails in North America by Jonathan Weisel. Though the guide is a bit older, it is a great guide for finding a lodge that is the right fit for you – from a cozy B&B to a major cross-country ski center.

In the new year, I am resolving to keep an open mind about new experiences, and to get out and adventure more. If these are your goals too, I suggest you check out all of the great resources we have at the library to turn you into a winter wilderness adventurer.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

'Tis a Brand New Way of Reading

Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her entire article in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

‘Twas the night after Christmas and my goodness, come look!
It’s an Amazon Kindle and a Barnes and Noble Nook.
The stockings are hung by the bookcase nearby.
But the library’s busy and I’m telling you why.
You’ve been given an eReader and you haven’t a clue.
My goodness, oh my and what do you do?

So, you’ve been surprised, or not so much, by the gift of an eReader this year. Believe me, the library world has been surprised along with you.

Several months ago we held a Technology Petting Zoo at the library and over thirty of you showed up to learn a bit about the gadgets that we shared. Among them were the Apple products, the iPad, iPod, iTouch and iPhone. We also demonstrated a few GPS navigational devices such as the Magellan, Garmin and Tom-Tom.

By far the most popular devices that night, however, were several generations of the Amazon Kindle, the Sony eReader and the Barnes and Noble Nook.

Many of us who work at the library own and use some of these devices regularly so that we are able to share ours with you.

Only some of us, however, are reading eBooks on devices that include the iPhone and Kindle, the Nook and the Sony eReader. Less of us are downloading free e-audiobooks and e-books.

Part of the reason for this is personal preference and immediate availability of the book. Part of it too has been some of the difficulty and confusion that have been inherent in this new technology. Much like the VHS/Beta struggles in the birth of the videocassette there have been some differences in equipment and media. Unlike the videocassette battle, however, there have been many more than two devices and many, many ways to be confounded by them.

And the choices this holiday season have been mindboggling.

We’ve been trying to play catch up at the library and the companies that are supplying our downloadable eBooks and audiobooks have been anxious to help. They have produced cheat-sheets and FAQs pages. Not fast enough for us, I might add. Each month more and more devices are added to the compatibility lists and more and more downloadables are produced in various formats. It’s been enough to make our heads spin at the library.

OverDrive audiobooks and e-books are supplied through our membership in the Minuteman Library Network. We are thrilled to offer this new media at no cost to you. Both Minuteman and your library have been investing as we all make the leap into the future and more and more materials are available in various formats.

The Morrill Memorial Library has had a subscription to Recorded Books audiobooks and eBooks in conjunction with NetLibrary for several years. These free downloadables are now available for iPod and iPhone users and titles for most formats are added monthly.

These services are costly and licenses from OverDrive and Recorded Books require that our downloadables are available only to Norwood residents and to those of our patrons who work in Norwood. Check our website for instructions on setting up accounts for both of these free services.

The Morrill Memorial Library has a brand-new website found at the same URL, norwoodlibrary.org. We’ve placed links to both of our downloadable collections, OverDrive and Recorded Books Connect, Click and Listen! (They are the same links you would have found on our old website.) You can also find these links on the menu under Readers Page below our library graphic that will link you to information and FAQs to help you find the information you need.

New Apple-products users (iPad, iPhone, iTouch and iPods) can be assisted at no cost at the “Genius Bar” in the Apple store at Legacy Place and other locations. The fastest way to get help is to make an appointment with them online through apple.com. My husband, Gerry, and I have bellied up to the Genius Bar at least a half-dozen times and have left the store completely satisfied.

Barnes and Noble stores are patiently assisting patrons with their product, the Nook. Many of the OverDrive books are compatible for use on the Nook. The Morrill Memorial Library has purchased a Nook and will be able to demonstrate how to download an e-book or audiobook at an information session at the library in January. We want to be able to help you with free downloadable audiobooks and e-books from your library.

Amazon’s Kindle at present is not compatible with any free downloadables through any library. Some libraries do own Kindles loaded with library-purchased e-books for use by their patrons. Our library does not own a Kindle or circulate one at this time.

None of us are experts, but the library wants to help direct you to find the information you need for your new devices this holiday season. Information can be found on the links I’ve mentioned above. Please check the library’s calendar for a date and time for our information session or call the library directly.

If you have questions about this library column, please call the library or send me an email. For help searching in the Minuteman catalog or for placing requests for downloadable e-books and audiobooks visit the Morrill Memorial Library or call the Reference librarians (781-769-0200.) Visit the Minuteman Library Catalog, the OverDrive Digital Media catalog or the Recorded Books Connect, Click and Listen! on our website, www.norwoodlibrary.org.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Walking the Cookie Walk

Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her entire article in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Years ago I belonged to not one, but two cookie swap groups. Each November or December I baked up to twenty dozen cookies to share at events in two different homes. I spent several nights of the holiday season well past midnight and into the wee hours of morning yawning and packaging sweets while the saner members of my family slept.

Eventually traditions changed, as they sometimes do. My children left for college and I focused on my career. I was burned out, so to speak, on holiday baking. However, I’ve felt a bit guilty without any homemade cookies to give away or serve at home during the holiday season.

When I heard about the Cookie Walk at the First Baptist Church of Medfield they had me at “sugar cookie.” I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but I was assured that all I had to do was show up at with some cash on the second Saturday morning in December. In return I was guaranteed to leave with a box full of home-baked holiday cookies. It was a Holiday Win-Win. A fundraiser and a timesaver.

Never one to be late, I showed up right before 9 a.m. that first year. The brick path leading to the church hall was empty and silent in the early morning chill and congratulated myself on my early arrival.

It came as an utter shock when I opened to door to a bustling, anxious, ready-to-cookie-walk crowd. I was directed to the end of a line that snaked through the parish hall that led through several church classrooms and that circled around the interior of each room. The line seemed never to end and before I stopped I must have squeezed by over one hundred people.

Oh, this was serious cookie stuff. This crowd knew to arrive as early at 7:45 a.m. I worried that there would be only a few broken and forlorn cookies left for me. I admit I felt a little better when other naïve latecomers sheepishly crept by.

I quickly learned the rules which were displayed for our reading pleasure on the walls of the hallways. I must first pay for an empty bakery box or two, don vinyl gloves and follow cookie etiquette. No samples, no shoving, no hoarding. No greedy lingering around the frosted Santa faces or the sugar-coated reindeer. I must simply move around the outer edge of a large square configuration of tables, filling my box short of the rim. In the end the top must close flat and be taped shut by an official Cookie Walk volunteer.

I’m happy to report that when I reached the front of the line that first year there were still plenty of cookies left for me and for the people behind me because there were endless containers of cookies in the center of the room. While the crowd was cookie-walking the church volunteers were constantly refilling the fifty-odd platters with a fresh supply of thousands of cookies.

These good ladies of the First Baptist Church of Medfield’s Women’s Society knew what they were doing. They had been meeting for weeks baking and decorating as a team. I marveled at the coordination and organization. And I left with some seriously delicious Christmas cookies that looked like nothing I could have created myself.

This past weekend I woke up early on a frigid Saturday morning and headed out well before 8 am. I waited in line with a friend for well over an hour sharing war stories of past years with others around me. In the end we filled our boxes with beautiful, familiar cookies to share with family and friends. As usual, the cookies were sold out within about 90 minutes.

I found out through some research that thousands of churches, school and libraries organize cookie walks as fundraisers all over the country. There’s even an out-of-print book by the Cookie Cooks of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Waterboro, Maine, “When Cookies Walk.” I apparently came late to the Cookie Walk party but I’ll be going back year after year as it becomes a part of my new holiday traditions.

If you’d rather get a jump on baking holiday treats next year there are some great books at the library. “Christmas Cookies from the Whimsical Bakehouse” was written by bakery-owners and mother and daughter team, Kaye and Liv Hansen.

Another mother and daughter couple, Margie and Abbie Greenberg, followed their first book, “The Flour Pot Cookie Book” with a new one in 2009. “The Flour Pot Christmas Cookie Book: Creating Edible Works of Art for the Holidays” includes many fondant and icing recipes which are essential to decorating cookies that are both delicious to eat and lovely to look at.

“Cookie Craft Christmas: Dozens of Decorating Ideas for a Sweet Holiday” by Valerie Peterson has close-up photographs of each cookie. For year-round cookie baking sure to impress with over 150 colorful cookies check out “Cookie Craft: From Baking to Luster Dust, Designs and Techniques for Creative Cookie Occasions” by Janice Fryer and Valerie Peterson.

If you’ve been invited to join a group read “Cookie Swap: Creative Treats to Share Throughout the Year” by Julie Unger or a new addition just this fall, “Cookie Swap!” by Lauren Chattman. If you are really in the mood for serious cookie-baking, “Good Housekeeping: The Great Christmas Cookie Swap Cookbook: 60 Large-Batch Recipes to Bake and Share."

For help searching in the Minuteman catalog or for placing requests, visit the Morrill Memorial Library, call the Reference librarians (781-769-0200) or visit the Minuteman Library Catalog on our website, www.norwoodlibrary.org.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Stories Showing Up on the Shelves

Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her entire article in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well, actually, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas a few months back.

Librarians receive lists and catalogs of books to be published in future months. Around July and August of each year seasonal books with holiday titles begin to appear. I don’t think it is my imagination but these lists seem to grow in length every year. This year we’ve put at least twenty-five new Christmas-related stories on the “new adult fiction” and speed-read bookshelves.

Popular fiction author, Debbie Macomber, added Christmas stories to her repertoire beginning in 1966 with her title “Can This Be Christmas?” This year Ms. Macomber’s latest addition to the holiday genre is “Call Me Mrs. Miracle.” Mrs. Miracle was introduced to us in 1996 and she returns in this story which is full of holiday match-making and plenty of merrymaking. This newest book was made into a Hallmark Channel movie which aired right after this year’s Thanksgiving.

“A Christmas Odyssey” is Anne Perry’s eighth Christmas novella. Perry has been writing detective novels since 1979. In 2003 she cleverly combined suspense with holiday happenings in “A Christmas Journey” and has written a Christmas novel each year since.

M.C. Beaton set her favorite sleuth, Agatha Raisin, in the 2007 Christmas story, “Kissing Christmas Goodbye.” This year, with the author’s 21st Agatha book, Beaton returns Agatha to the holiday story genre in “The Busy Body.” Often bad -tempered and irritable, Agatha Raisin is not normally associated with feel-good holiday cheer. Yet, she is always endearing and Beaton is able to imbue her Agatha character with enough holiday spirit to solve the death of the one man everyone in town would have liked to have killed.

Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s sixteenth book in her Joe Grey cat series slips neatly onto our list this year. Her latest Christmas classic includes a lonely prison cat added to her regular trio of feline sleuths. The four of them solve yet another murder in “Cat Coming Home.”

“A Christmas Mourning,” is set in rural North Carolina and it is Margaret Maron’s first book in the holiday story genre. As you might guess by the title, tragedy has struck this southern county during the Christmas season and yet another murder needs to be solved in order to save the holiday from more of them.

You might want to leave the milk and cookies off the fireplace this year. At least those of gingerbread flavor. Popular writer Joanne Fluke is the author of a table full of yummy-dessert-related murders. This year she compiles three cookie-related mysteries with recipes in a tasty collection called “The Gingerbread Cookie Murder.” The two other stories in the book are “The Dangers of Gingerbread Cookies” by Laura Levine and “Gingerbread Cookies and Gunshots” by Leslie Meier.

Another collection, this one of shorter stories, is “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by prolific romance writer Fern Michaels. The four stories, Comfort and Joy, The Christmas Stocking, a Bright Red Ribbon and Merry, Merry, include plenty of holiday romance and mistletoe.

Just when you might be thinking that the holiday stories are women’s territory only, I’m here to tell you that it is certainly not so. The New York Times bestselling author of “The Christmas Box” (1995), Richard Paul Evans, has written another holiday novel in “Promise Me.”

Miracles belong to the holiday season, of course, and they almost always show up in the Mississippi town of Second Creek. Mississippian and loyal Piggly Wiggly customer Rob Dalby continues those Piggy Wiggly stories in his holiday version, “A Piggly Wiggly Christmas.”

Greg Kincaid, a lawyer by profession, has returned to writing with “Christmas with Tucker.” It is another wonderful tale of man’s, or one boy’s, best friend. His first book, “A Dog Named Christmas” in 2008 was such a huge hit that it was also made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie.

If you can fit cozily between film noir and sentimentality, we have the holiday book for you. Kenneth Harmon’s debut book, “The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir,” combines hard-boiled crime fiction with the warmth of Christmas traditions.

Otto Penzler is the owner of the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City and for the past 17 years he has paid leading mystery writers (including Mary Higgins Clark, Thomas Cook, Ed McBain) to create a Christmas story that includes mystery, crime or suspense. An additional catch? Some of the story must take place in his bookshop. This year he has collected all the stories into one book, “Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop.”

Painter Thomas Kinkade switches his medium from paint on canvas to ink on paper when he writes the Cape Light novels with Katherine Spencer. This year he has co-authored the seventh holiday story in the series, “On Christmas Eve.”

We’ve combined these titles and other 2010 holiday stories on our website with links right to the library catalog. Or pick up the flyer in the library. For help searching in the Minuteman catalog or for placing requests, visit the Morrill Memorial Library, call the Reference librarians (781-769-0200) or visit the Minuteman Library Catalog on our website, www.norwoodlibrary.org