Afternoon Tea

Tea CupsOn a warm summer afternoon  in July, dozens of Plymouth Public Library patrons gathered to celebrate the institution of Afternoon Tea.  The theme tied in with the popular epistolary novel, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society that chronicles the occupation of the British channel island of Guernsey by Nazis during World War II.  It was chosen as a focus for the town’s city wide reading program, Plymouth Reads, 2018

Guests were invited to sample an array of sweet and savory scones , tea cakes as well as  finger sandwiches enhanced by lemon curd and jam.  Fragrant pots of “Afternoon Revival” or Darjeeling tea were served on delicate Limoges china. Local tea expert and entrepreneur  Lisa Tavakoli  provided a short but fascinating overview of  the British consumption of tea and related how, in spite of hardship, tea remained an absolute necessity to the British people during the dark days of the war.

After enjoying  light refreshments, library outreach coordinator Thomas Cummiskey invited people to write  Plymouth themed postcards that  will be sent to  residents who use the local Guille- Allès Public Library in Guernsey.  Some older residents  shared memories of Plymouth during World War II and others discussed  similarities between two communities that have both a strong maritime tradition and serve as a popular tourist destination.

Participants were invited to continue the dialogue in the coming month when Netflix is slated to release a movie based on the book.

The library will hold a live skype from Guernsey and later screen the film followed by a discussion program.  The opportunity for everyone to come together and engage in a calm and enjoyable discussion over a cup of tea is a welcome reminder of the unique service that the Plymouth Public library provides to its community.

Get Your Garden Growing at your Local Library

The seed library at the McAuliffe Branch of the Framingham Public Library
The seed library at the McAuliffe Branch of the Framingham Public Library

If you’re planning on starting a garden this spring, your first step may be to stop by a Massachusetts library. From the Berkshires to Cape Cod, libraries across the Commonwealth have opened up “seed libraries” where you can get flower and vegetable seeds to start your gardening project. All you need is your library card!

Massachusetts isn’t the only state with seed libraries. In an article published by Atlas Obscura, it says that “Hundreds of public libraries around the U.S. have adopted similar initiatives to offer free seeds to library-goers” adding, “In less than a decade, (the) list of seed libraries has grown to include around 500 programs from Oakland to Dallas to Martha’s Vineyard. Many more are in early development stages…” In addition to the fun and excitement of growing your own garden, “Seed-sharing programs aim to expand access to crops and educate the public, while also protecting scarce agricultural resources.”

According to the Tower Hill Botanical Garden in Worcester, there are 26 seed libraries across Massachusetts where you can get a variety of plant seeds to begin your garden. Some seed libraries also contain heirloom varieties that are native to the region. Although you are welcome to all the seeds you need, some libraries ask that you be conscious of how much you take to guarantee that there will be enough seeds for everyone, and others may ask that you bring back some of the seeds you’ve grown at the end of the season to replenish the stock. If you have questions, call the library to find out more information about their rules and hours.

Gardening resources at the West Tisbury Public Library on display.
Gardening resources at the West Tisbury Public Library on display.

In addition to seeds, you can get important information on topics such as what you are planting, the best methods to grow, and how to care for a garden from the library’s resources and collection. Databases available through the MBLC and MLS offer gardening information on a variety of topics including growing veggies in a small space, controlling weeds without chemicals, and bugs that are beneficial to your garden. Some libraries even lend out gardening tools to help you get started. Contact your local library to find out what resources are available to you there.

This spring, before you head outside to garden, head inside to your local Massachusetts library to get all the seeds, information, and even tools you need to get going. Happy gardening!

Key Findings and Recommendations in School Library Report

By Judi Paradis, Librarian at Thomas R. Plympton Elementary School

The Special Commission on School Library Services in Massachusetts submitted its final report to the Legislature this month.  George Comeau served on this Commission representing the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.  The report of the Commission includes key findings regarding equity and access issues in the Commonwealth’s school libraries.  The Commission provided legislators with a series of recommendations for improving equity in Massachusetts public schools, and provided a comprehensive plan and timeline for their implementation.  In a letter to the Massachusetts Legislature, the Commissioners urged legislators to accept their recommendations and work with DESE to ensure their implementation.

The Commission, which included legislators, members of the library and educational communities, and community members, contacted two respected researchers to conduct a comprehensive academic study to evaluate school library programs for equity using a series of data points specified in legislation passed by the Massachusetts Senate in 2013 (Bill S. 1906).  The leading researcher, Dr. Carol A. Gordon, is a retired Associate Professor in the Department of Library and Information Science at Rutgers University where she served as the Co-Director of the Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries (CISSL).  She was assisted by Dr. Robin Cicchetti, Head Librarian at Concord-Carlisle Regional High School.  The study was distributed by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and data analysis assistance was provided by CISSL.

The Massachusetts School Library Study: Equity ad Access for Students in the Commonwealth provides a report of the research conducted by Drs. Gordon and Cicchetti along with five broad recommendations that as goals for a long-term plan.  The complete report is available on the website of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and you can find it here.  Analysis of the data and the resulting findings show there are statistically significant differences in measures of status and equity for students from urban and rural districts compared with students from suburban districts.  Based on these findings, the Commission  recommends:

Recommendation 1.0. Improve Access to School Libraries and School Librarians

  • Recommendation 1A. Every public school in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has a school library and a certified school librarian.
  • Recommendation 1B. Establish the position and responsibilities of the School Library Curriculum Specialist at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
  • Recommendation 1C. Support a culture of inquiry in schools that sustains inquiry and resource-based learning, collaborative teaching, and the integration of digital technology to improve access for all students

Recommendation 2.0. Improve Access to Information Resources in School Libraries:

  • Recommendation 2A. Increase access to print resources in school libraries.
  • Recommendation 2B. Increase access to electronic resources in school libraries.

Recommendation 3.0. Improve Access to Information Technology:

  • Recommendation 3A. Improve access to Internet and digital devices in school libraries.
  • Recommendation 3B. Increase access to Information Technology through staffing.

Recommendation 4.0. Improve Access to Library Instruction and Help.

  • Recommendation 4A. Promote best instructional practices in the school library.

Recommendation 5.0. Improve Access to Funding:

Funding cuts across all the dimensions of school librarianship.  Guidelines for Budget Allocation and Expenditure should be developed to support Recommendations 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0.

The Commission thanks The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners for providing support for this important work.  We look forward to seeing our recommendations adopted to improve school library programs for all Massachusetts public school students.

The Eastham Public Library: A Port in the Storm

By Norma Marcellino, Chair, Eastham Public Library Trustees

By early Saturday morning, March 3, 2018, around 80% of Eastham residents were without power-the Library included.  The new Library has been opened for about 15 months and has a generator which works in the community rooms. Our intrepid Director, Debra DeJonker-Berry arrived round 7:00 a.m. and had the heat in the area up and running by 8:00 a.m.  The Trustees held a meeting from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. and the Library opened at 10:00.  Our residents started coming in and soon the large Meeting Room was set with tables and stations for everyone to charge their devices and use their computers.  A large coffee pot provided a hot beverage and computers were brought into this area so the Staff could sign out materials for the public. The Children’s Room was unavailable but games and materials for them were moved into a Conference Room and Periodical area.

A musical group of ukulele players, scheduled as part of a Saturday Music Series, entertained everyone in the afternoon in the reading room.  At the Library’s closing time of 4:00 p.m. it became an official “Warming Station” for the Town and remained open until 10:00 p.m.  A Disaster officer for the Town, Steve Kleinberg, was the supervisor.  The Police Chief decided to reopen the Library on Sunday at 8:00 a.m. (we are not yet open on Sundays) and since the Library’s power came back, library staff volunteered to come in to offer full Library services until 4:00 p.m.  The Police Chief sent a call to all the Town residents informing them of this timeline.

On Saturday, 499 people came into the Library, and there were still about 20 people there at 10:00 p.m. The Fire Department/Red Barn even sent pizzas over to those there on Saturday evening.  As someone without power who took full advantage of a place to charge my phone and warm up, I can attest to the amazing amount of good will that these offerings generated.  The atmosphere was electric and the Thank You’s to the Staff and Volunteers were many and heartfelt.  There was a wonderful sense of pride in our Town.  The Director worked closely throughout with Town officials.  She and the Staff made many decisions and will go forward from this experience for future events.  The Eastham Public Library became the “Community Center” we all envisioned during the many years of planning for the building and the building process itself. We are very proud of our Library but never more proud than we were on March 3rd and never more grateful to the citizens of Eastham for their support.

Click here to see a Lower Cape TV video about Eastham Library becoming a warming shelter.

The Island that Spoke by Hand – Uncovering the history of Deaf culture on Martha’s Vineyard

By Shelley Quezada, Consultant to the Underserved at the MBLC

The town of Chilmark on Martha’s Vineyard was once known for its larger than average population of traditionally Deaf residents.  Decades ago, in the Squibnocket area of Chilmark perhaps as many as a quarter of the population was Deaf.   On this part of the island, almost one out of every 25 people was Deaf compared with the national average of one in 5728.   Today  members of Deaf community may choose to communicate through American Sign Language (ASL) but in past decades a Chilmark a variant known as Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL) was practiced by both Deaf and hearing members of the community alike.

The Chilmark Free Public Library maintains a fascinating record of this unique community in their historical archives. As it turns out, The American School for the Deaf (ASD) founded in Hartford CT in 1817 included many students from Martha’s Vineyard who used MVSL as their primary form of communication.

Chronicled in Nora Ellen Groce’s scholarly but accessible book Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language, up to a few decades ago Chilmark was something akin to a Deaf utopia where both Deaf and hearing members of the community freely used sign language as a primary communication vehicle.  People moving into Chilmark from the outside often ended up learning MVSL in order to fit in and indeed there was high acceptance of this communication tool. Most important in examining this fascinating story is the truth that being Deaf was never considered a handicap.

The Chilmark library’s archives note they are, “lucky to have documents of their evocative memories, and to enjoy their stories of how children signed behind a schoolteacher’s back; adults signed to one another during church sermons; farmers signed to their children across a wide field; and how fishermen signed to each other from their boats.”

However, over a seventy-year span, members of the Deaf community began to attend off-island schools, got married and settled in other places so that eventually many of these Vineyard natives either left or passed away. This absorbing piece of cultural history can be further explored through newspaper and magazine articles, a recent YouTube video and the archives of the Chilmark Free Public Library’s historical archives.

Suggested Resources:

Groce, Nora Ellen .Everyone Here Spoke Sign LanguageHereditary Deafness on Martha’s Vineyard. Harvard University Press, 1995.

Chilmark Free Public Library- Chilmark Deaf Historical Archive http://catalog.chilmarklibrary.org/pdf/

Vineyard  Poole-Nash, Joan (April 3, 2014). Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language (MSVL) of the past (Public lecture/YouTube video). Fall River, Massachusetts: Bristol Community College. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_euOAP8asw

http://archive.boston.com/news/local/articles/2004/06/06/vineyards_deaf_past_is_retold_in_drama_of_signs_and_speech

Kageleiry, Jamie.  “The Island That Spoke by Hand” . Yankee. Mar 99. Vol 63 p.48.

Keen Eye for Detail Sets Shrewsbury Apart

Shrewsbury’s revamped library held its grand opening on September 21. This renovation and expansion project made room for more computers, a new community meeting space, group meeting areas, and a courtyard adjoining the children’s room.

The new space configuration and furniture setup pays homage to the design details and charm of the historic 1903 building while also accommodating the needs of present-day patrons. Self-checkout machines, plentiful power outlets, and many options for seating – whether visitors want to read for hours, charge their devices, study, or just relax in front of the window for a moment – allow for customizable, user-centered experiences in the library.

Banned Books Week 2016

It’s humpday of Banned Books Week 2016. This year’s focus is on diversity in literature; books that get banned or challenged are disproportionately written by diverse authors.

celebrate diversity for banned books week, september 25-october 1, 2016

For the uninitiated, Banned Books Week is “an annual event celebrating the freedom to read… it highlights the value of free and open access to information, [and] brings together the entire book community; librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types, in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982, according to the American Library Association (ALA).

Throughout the U.S. at libraries, schools, universities, and other institutions, “read-a-thons” and “read-outs” of books banned over the years will increase awareness of both censorship and the importance of the freedom to read. This year, virtual read-outs from around the country are featured on their own YouTube channel as well.

the top ten most challenged books of 2015 - titles & authors listed below image

2015 Book Challenges in Detail

(from the Banned Books Week website)

  1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  2. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
  3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
    Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
  4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
    Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
  6. The Holy Bible
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
  7. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
    Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
  8. Habibi, by Craig Thompson
    Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  9. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
  10. Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
    Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).