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“Mecca” or BookExpo is the trade show where 27,000 publishers, book sellers, authors and librarians congregated to discuss the book industry.  Nowhere else is it possible to get an adrenalin rush so intense about the publishing industry. Each day you are fed great opportunities to meet and greet the top echelons of writing, reviewing, publishing and libraries.  Picture an improbable panel of Alec “still intensely angry” Baldwin, the friendly sports giant Magic Johnson, author Philippa Gregory of The Other Boleyn Girl fame, and Andre Dubus, author of The House of Sand and Fog.  Glow in these mega personalities and yes talents and see how they interact playfully and with barbs and you may get a taste of some of the craziness of BookExpo.

But seriously there is much to learn especially about the new books coming our way.   Some receive immense praise from their publishers and reviewers and rightfully deserve it.  Poet Billy Collin’ s new books Ballistics and Other Poems is receiving rapt attention. The Last Lincolns: The Rise and Fall of a Great American Family by Charles Lachman has received great marks from respected library colleagues.  And many people are waiting not so patiently for Dennis Lehane’ s new book The Given Day  (October) and The Hour I First Believed (November) by Wally Lamb and Volk’s Shadow (July) by Brent Ghelfi. 

Others well..maybe one of the hottest titles about a woman’s physical and spiritual journey left some people a little cold.  Its publisher remarked that it was so amazing “it changed my life!” So yes some of us picked it up. And yes some of us kept reading it and were sadly disappointed.  Perhaps this was not the right book at the right time for this reader. Perhaps the praise was just hype.  Another book set in Massachusetts received even more hype and I have heard respected colleagues say they tried to read it but couldn’t.

Librarians are given the opportunity to read reviews and get their hands on advanced copies of books. We make a real effort to discuss, evaluate and select great books. We may not always make the right choice for each and every reader. However we are not beholden to specific publishers nor writers in the same way and we try to offer a professional opinion about what may be a book you would enjoy. 

Look for exciting new titles we have reviewed, discussed and bought for our community. Join us in conversation about what you think of good and not so good reads. Let’s generate our own buzz about great books!

Spring colors and herbs await volunteers

Most libraries in America were established by groups of book-loving volunteers.  People donated their books to start the library usually housed in a private home or church.  (The Fairfield Memorial Library was established in 1876 and was first housed at the Fairfield Academy building.) Today this partnership continues with 100 volunteers helping at the Fairfield Public Library. 

Last Thursday on May 15 we honored our volunteers. The word “volunteer” stems from the French word “voluntier” meaning willing — just like our 100 volunteers who are always willing to help us.  These wonderful people contributed close to 3,000 hours of work to the Library this year. About 30 people keep our shelves organized in our adopt-a-shelf program. Teens who need community service hours help us the first Saturday of each month and contributed 228 hours since October.  Individuals work alongside us at events such as receptions, concerts, and author programs.  Some people conduct special programs for children and help with registration for programs such as the Summer Reading Game. Others help out regularly with mailings. The Art Committee helps to prepare for all the art shows.First Selectman Ken Flatto and Town Librarian Maura Ritz lunch with volunteers

We need people right now to help us with our Book Sale. We are expanding the sale and hope to train people to organize, market,  and sell books each day of the week. If you are interested please sign up for one of the training sessions next week May 21 at 10 am or 7 pm by registering via our website www.fairfieldpubliclibrary.org.

We need people to deliver books to the spinners generously donated by the Friends of the Fairfield Library at Lake Mohegan, the beach, and the train station.

We would love to work with people during receptions, concerts, author talks and other programs. Co-hosting an event is a wonderful way to enjoy a cultural program while helping others.

Volunteers enjoying thank you lunch!

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer email Karen Ronald at kronald@fplct.org or call 256-3158.

 

 

 

Don’t you just love/hate when you have just enjoyed a fabulous book? You rush through your chores. You drive faster in order to get home to read. You ignore family members until you are finished the book. And then when it is finished you experience post-great-book trauma syndrome. You so want to find the next great read but recognize this may take some time before you find it. In fact, as one of our librarians remarked this morning:  “I feel sorry for the next book I read.” Isn’t that the truth? Once your reading appetite has been satiated by such a book it is hard to lower your standards and return to the normal joy of reading just a good book.

We have two authors coming to the Library whose books are perfect in terms of finding the next great read. On May 31 at 10 am at the Main Library Jim Malusa author of Into Thick Air, will share his experience of riding his bike to some of the largest depressions on earth on six continents. Jim, a botanist with a great sense of humor and Discovery Channel contributor,  will present a slide show and discuss his adventures biking and writing. Consider joining us and have Jim sign a copy of his book – a great gift for Father’s Day. Please register for this event by going to the Library’s website:  www.fairfieldpubliclibrary.org  or calling 256-3160.

Two weeks later on June 14 at 1 pm the Main Library will be hosting another writer – Michael White. Michael, a professor at Fairfield University, will discuss his latest book Soul Catcher. He has written five books, and Soul Catcher is his third historical fiction work.  He will discuss the research he conducted in preparation for this book. His writing is beautiful and the story is riveting. For those of us who procrastinate on the gift-buying front here is a last minute opportunity to buy a book for your father and have it signed by a very talented local author. Please register for this event by going to our website – www.fairfieldpubliclibrary.org or calling 256-3160.

 

Last weekend Suzanne Fisher Staples author of  Under the Persimmon Tree spoke to the audience of our second Readers Theatre production. Ms Staples who worked as a reporter in war-torn Afghanistan and Pakistan (where she gained her inspiration for her book) reminded us that stories are one of the best ways people connect. People shared their ideas and emotions by storytelling long before the written word.  Writing is a way by which people connect by exploring different worlds in different times, cultures and lives. Writing is also a way we see the commonality of humanity. David Oliver Relin’s book – Three Cups of Tea – does this for us. We realize families in the poorest, most rural areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, consider education a core value — just like families in Fairfield.

The Fairfield Public Library has embarked on its long-range planning process. We hope the plan we develop reflects what the community wants in its library. We can continue to analyze statistics, trends, and read professional literature, however the best way to find out what the community wants is to listen. We handed out about 500 surveys recently. We also posted the survey on the website and on the computer lab. We want to gather as many ideas as possible over the next few months. Please email us, phone us, or come in and visit us and share your story of what you would like to see in your community library. Let us know how you think the library should be an integral part of your life story and the story of our community.  

The Assistant Director visited another Book Group  last night here in Fairfield. The mission of the evening was to discuss Three Cups of Tea — the library’s selection for One Book One Town. One Book One Town is a celebration of reading this book as a community.  March is the month of festivities when we invite everyone to join in.

What was immediately apparent about this Book Group was the obvious close ties between members. Someone shared their sad news about the death of a loved one. Another reminisced about all the years they have been together. Eighteen years of sharing good and not-so-good reads, of life changes, of friendships ebbing and flowing. What a wonderful coming together of people.

Can’t we do that in libraries too? Can’t we offer regular places and times for people to gather, communicate and experience. The answer is yes. The answer is we are doing this more and more in Fairfield. We have book clubs at the Main and Branch libraries.  We have a conversation group. Shortly we will have regular writing groups. We have music programs. We have Friday afternoon game days for teens.  We have the “Little Farm”  in the Main Children’s Library where parents and other caretakers gather while their children play.  And we hope to have more. Please let us know what you would like to enjoy at the library. Please fill out a survey and share your thoughts.  Respond to this blog and share your ideas.

The public library – the community library – thrives best when it reflects the richness of its community. 

The Assistant Director and the Branch Librarian ventured out to another Book Group on Wednesday night to discuss Three Cups of Tea.The Book Group was lively, largely made up of Fairfield moms with great ideas and  enthusiasm for reading and life. We discussed some elements of the life and character of the book’s subject – Greg Mortenson and the pivotal moments in his life.  This book has so many aspects to it is a natural to prompt lengthy and provocative discussions.

The most profound comment made last night was made by a young mother who said:  ” We needed this book right now.” MUSIC TO THE EARS OF LIBRARIANS EVERYWHERE! What did she mean?

Here are a few reasons:

1. We need to read to understand others and ourselves – books like Three Cups of Tea is a biography about Greg Mortenson. Greg does not lead the “average” life and we learn to appreciate how unique he is and how this makes him capable of being a successful mountain climber and then a really impressive – dare I say – awesome – humanitarian and hero. 

2.  We learn about different cultures from the American way of life. We may not appreciate all the aspects of a different way of life but it does give us a window onto other ways of living.  For example, often we value material goods, compete with each other for status and wealth in the western world and we are not always happy. In poorer far more dangerous and precarious places like Afghanistan and Pakistan Greg encounters people who find satisfaction in drinking tea together and being accustomed to life unfolding in possibly a more “natural” less forced way. Greg learns patience from an illiterate wise man.

3.  We need this book to have a glimpse at a group of people – Muslims – many people have demonized this religious following in the aftermath of 9/11.  By spending time with these gentle, proud and welcoming people Greg encounters we understand their concerns are similar to our own. We realize we share the same dreams and aspirations with families the world over. Parents want their children to be safe, get good educations, and be happy in life.

And what about the more mundane but equally universal reasons for “needing” to read this book or any other? 

4.  The book is enjoyable to read. It is a cliffhanger. Many times we don’t know if Greg is going to survive let alone accomplish his mission.

5.  Three Cups is well written and humorous in parts.

6.  It is a great book for Fairfield. Men and women like it. Teens have read it. Excellence in education is a core value in our community.  Providing an education for girls and boys in Pakistan and Afghanistan is the catalyst for their lives to change profoundly.

7.  This book has prompted our community to gather together in libraries and other community centers, on the commuter train, in book clubs and share an experience.  One of the best gifts to offer anyone is a wonderful book and even better – when you can share and bond through that experience.

Our young mom-reader was right:  Three Cups of Tea is the right book at the right time for the individual reader, the book club, our community, and for readers anywhere.

As we approach the coldest most dreary days of winter it is always rewarding to know the Library welcomes you to come in out of the cold and join us!  Did you know that winter is one of our busiest seasons? People are looking for things to do together indoors. Several people who attended the Winter Words Writers Conference in December asked if we could start a Writers Group.  Burgeoning writers, “wanna be writers,” and published writers want a regular meeting to network, discuss and largely support each other through the writing process. Well good news! On Saturday, February 23 from 10 to noon the Library invites writers to come to the inaugural meeting of such a group.  Published author Linda Howard will lead the first meeting and share her experience and expertise about how to ensure you get the very most out of this group. Linda has run writing workshops at the Trumbull Library for five years, has published two books, has written scripts for plays, and she is presently working on a novel.  Please call the library 256-3160 to register.

 Winter is also a great time to catch up on reading while hibernating.  Since we announced that Three Cups of  Tea is our selection for the One Book One Town event in March we have heard from so many people about their appetite for reading. Someone on the library staff described it as “chain reading.” As soon you finish one book you greedily dive into the next.  Members of book clubs feed and share their appetite for reading. The “librarians on loan” program with the Assistant Director and Branch Librarian going to book club meetings and presenting their ideas about the book Three Cups of Tea has reinforced our belief that the love of reading is alive, well, and thriving in Fairfield.  A few words about the book. It is a biography about the life of Greg Mortenson. It is a cliffhanger — you are on the edge of your seat several times during the book when Greg is in serious trouble. And who is Greg by the way? He is not famous. He does not accomplish what he sets out to do initially. His charm stems from his rather unusual and endearing way of life. He grows on you as you see how he lives as a real “outsider” from the average American life. He is passionate about mountain climbing for a large part of his life until fate intercedes and his passion turns to helping people in some of the most remote, dangerous and poorest places on earth.  Furthermore children are the catalysts for this change.  The plight of children in Pakistan inspires him to help them and children in America help to realize his dream.  We tend to forget that a large part of the credit for the story is due to the accomplished writing of David Oliver Relin – an award-winning journalist.  Mr. Relin carries us along in an informative manner as we share Greg’s journey. There are tickets available to hear Mr. Relin speak on March 20 at 7 pm at the Roger Ludlowe Middle School auditorium. Call the Library at 256-3160 to reserve a place and come in and pick up your ticket.