Reduce Stress by Reading

It’s that most wonderful time of the year – the world is full of glittering holiday lights, and the joyful sounds of holiday music. We look forward with eager anticipation to sharing evenings with family and friends, and to watching their delight and surprise as they open their holiday gifts. But as December days fly by, a rising sense of panic begins to take hold. If only we had more time for the gift buying, cooking, decorating, sending of cards and mailing of packages. Our lovely feelings of holiday cheer begin to morph into feelings of anxiety and stress. In fact, according to a recent poll, more than 80% of us find the holiday season to be ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ stressful. If you’re beginning to feel more stress than cheer, here are some suggestions that may get you back in the holiday spirit.

Take a breather and curl-up with a good book. Reading is a great way to unwind and forget the stress that often accompanies the holidays.  According to recent research, reading is the best way to relax and even six minutes can be enough to reduce the stress levels by more than two thirds. And it works better and faster than other relaxation methods, such as taking a walk or drinking a hot cup of tea. Reading clears your mind, slows your breathing and helps to restore inner calm. Pick a book that is light and entertaining or a good escape; or take time to catch up on a favorite author or series. It’s a sure way to take your mind off that holiday to-do list.

Read to a child. We all have a special memory of being read a holiday favorite. Everyone loves the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol or the charming ‘Twas the Night before Christmas,” by Clement Moore. There are dozens of other enchanting holiday books in the library’s collection. Take time to browse and find that special book to share.  A quiet moment reading with a child will remind you why the holidays are a special time for you and your family.

Listen to music. The soothing power of music is well known. Listening to music you enjoy can relax and calm you, whether it’s Jingle Bells or the latest from Jay-Z. Borrow one of the library’s holiday CDs, download a classic from our Freegal music service or listen to the latest pop album with Hoopla. Singing along with your holiday favorite can also help to release tension and reduce stress.

Come-in to the quiet and take a holiday from the holiday. Get out of the house and all that reminds you of what remains to be done. The library offers a peaceful space to relax away from the hustle and bustle of the season. Browse our shelves, pick-up a book, get comfy in a chair and read. You’ll soon find yourself transported away from any anxiety and frustration the season may bring. Enjoy the season and include reading in your holiday plans this year!

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Posted in Readers

Reading Historical Fiction

I will confess that I have not always been a fan of historical fiction. I agreed with Antonia Fraser’s comment, “I can’t read historical fiction because I find the real thing so much more interesting.” Why, I reasoned would anyone want to read fictional stories about people and events, when they could, just as easily, pick-up a non-fiction book and read the real thing? I’m not alone in my former disregard of historical fiction. Many people still hold an almost arrogant contempt for what they view as “history lite.” However, I’ve recently come to an understanding and appreciation of this hugely popular reading genre.

A novel is considered historical fiction when the plot takes place in a setting located in the past, and portrays the manners, social conditions and other details of the period. The story often focuses on a specific event in the period and presents some of the actual events at the time through the presumed voices of actual or invented people. Examples of historical fiction can be found throughout literature – think Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind, Umberto Eco,The Name of the Rose, or Hilary Mantel, Wolf-Hall. The genre is so large that there are subgenres – documentary fiction, historical romance, fictional biographies, historical mysteries, alternate history and historical fantasy, such as the popular Diana Gabaldon Outlander series.

Why read historical fiction? Here are a few reasons to consider. Historical fiction helps the reader to re-image history. It illuminates the past and enriches our understanding of people and events. It offers an interpretation of human character within a specific set of circumstances, helping us to experience the social and human motives when led men and women to act as they did. It gives us insight into the mind of past society and helps us to connect the present with the past.

Historical fiction speaks to us, especially in times of political turmoil. Reading historical fiction not only puts our current events into a historical context, but also helps us understand, imagine and empathize with what people lived through in other times and places. Read Dickens’ famous opening to A Tale of Two Cities written in1859 about 18th century France –

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Can we be sure that we are reading about the French Revolution, mid-nineteenth century England, or twenty-first century America?

The library is featuring the historical fiction genre during November and December. If you’re a fan, stop-in and browse the display.

Posted in Readers

Discover the Virtual Library

We’re all familiar with the expression What you see is what you get – meaning that nothing is hidden. There is nothing more to see than what you see at the surface. It’s also an acronym used in computing and web building, pronounced wizi-wig, which refers to the situation in which the display screen portrays an accurate visual rendition of the web page. This, however, is not an expression that applies to today’s public library. What you don’t see is just as important as what you do see.

When you walk into our library today, you’ll see shelf signs for Fiction, Non-Fiction, New Books, DVDs, Audiobooks, Large Print Books and a dozen more materials. What you won’t see are shelf signs for Downloadable Books, Streaming Videos, Electronic Databases or Online Encyclopedias. You won’t see shelf signs, because no shelves are needed. These resources are only available online, and online resources are invisible to anyone browsing through the library shelves. In the public library, what is not visible is just as important as what is visible.

Today’s library user needs to be aware that there are two libraries existing side-by-side – one in physical space and one in virtual (online) space. Each space offers unique and valuable resources.

We invite you to browse the online virtual library and to become as comfortable in that space as you are in the physical library. Explore the OverDrive service for e-books and downloadable audiobooks. Download the OverDrive Libby app to access this unique resource on your smartphone or tablet. Login to Hoopla for streaming video, audiobooks, ebooks, music, comics and television shows. Use the hoopla app to cast a hoopla video to your television. Create an account in Freegal to download and keep your favorite music – from the most recent pop hits to classical. Browse through the RBdigital collection of popular magazines – including Better Homes & Gardens, HGTV, ESPN, Country Living and dozens more. Read the magazine online or download and keep it as long as you like; or use the Flipster app to consult our online edition of Consumer Reports. You’ll find all of these resources in our eLibrary. They are available to you at any time – day or night – on the library’s website, raynhampubliclibrary.org. They’re not on our shelves, but they are waiting for you online. You can access them through your computer workstation, smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Need help in discovering these wonderful resources? We’ve prepared brochures on each of the services to help you get started. We also offer one-on-one assistance very Thursday morning at 11:00. Just drop-in to get your questions answered. You can also schedule an appointment at a time convenient for you. Experience the library is a totally new way; join us in the eLibrary.

 

Posted in Services

Preserving Our History

As you grow older, I’ve heard it said, it’s the places you remember, not the people. I’m not sure I agree with that statement, perhaps I’m not old enough, but it does give me pause for thought. When I think back to the places I knew as a child, I can still walk from room to room in my memory, recalling specific details – the blue Chambers stove that was my mother’s pride and joy, the parlor grand piano that filled our living room, the oversized stuffed chair that stood by the fireplace. I can hear the creak of a stair step, sense the stillness of a room on a hot afternoon, and feel the sharpness of dry grass on my bare feet. I can walk – in my mind – the eight blocks from my home to my grandfather’s recalling every house, every step, and every crack in the sidewalk along the way. Such memories are comforting; they provide me a sense of connectedness to the past – to my history.

It’s important for each of us to remember our history. Remembering allows us to understand our past, which in turn allows us to understand our present. However, as time passes, places change, buildings disappear, landscapes alter, and memories fade. That is why preserving our memories – our history – while we can is important. This applies to communities as well as individuals since the collective history of a community is made of individual histories. The history of any community is the history of the people who settled there, reared children, worked hard to make a living, and strived to live in dignity and peace with their neighbors. In libraries, we call this collective history Local History, and preserving local history is an integral part of our service to the community.

When you visit our webpage, raynhampubliclibrary.org, you will see the tab, Local. This tab opens to Raynham History. On this page, you will find the preserved memories that form the history of Raynham – local histories, anniversary celebrations, cemetery records, public school reports from the 19th century, biographies of young men from Raynham who died in the service of their country and a collection of photographs of old Raynham in Raynham Remembers. The library’s Local History collection is in its infancy, but it is a beginning.

If you have memories to share – photographs of family, events, postcards, letters, family histories that helped to shape the history of Raynham, we’d like to preserve them in our digital Local History collection. We scan the item, return it to you and give you a digital copy as thanks. Help us preserve the history of Raynham and that which is unique to our community. For more information about this project, call 508.823.1344.

Posted in Services

Let’s Have a Conversation

Work in a public library offers fascinating insight into a community. People of different ages, gender, ethnicity, economic status and education enter our door all day long with diverse interests and needs. It is a fundamental principle of library service that we treat each and all equally with courtesy and thoughtfulness – whether they have come to borrow a book, look for a video, connect to the WiFi, join a storytime, pay a fine, attend a workshop, get help with their mobile device, FAX a document, type a resume or send an email.

Today’s public library functions as a reading room, book lender, video outlet, internet cafe,  preschool activity center, homework resource, local history repository, art gallery, coffee shop and office suite. The public library is multidimensional in a multidimensional world; our services are as diverse as the public we serve.

One of the most important services of the public library is as a public commons. The public library is used (and has been used since its origin) as a place of gathering – gathering for the exchange of ideas, for communication of thoughts, open discussion and conversation. The free exchange of ideas is, after all, the bedrock of a democracy. These conversations can be as simple as a book discussion – where there is often consensus, or as complex as a topic of national concern – where there may be little consensus.

One such topic of national concern that has certainly dominated our personal conversations these past weeks is gun violence. The concern being generated by the horrific deaths in Las Vegas and, more recently and closer to home, the shooting of a child by a child in Taunton.

On Wednesday, October 25, at 6:30, the library is hosting a Conversation about Gun Violence, sponsored by the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a nonpartisan, grassroots organization that aims to reduce the gun violence that takes too many lives in our country every day. You are invited to join in a conversation that will answer these questions: · Why is gun violence prevention needed? · Is it about gun control? · Do we need this conversation in Massachusetts? · How can I take action to help reduce gun violence? · Can I make a difference?

While this program was scheduled months in advance, it, sadly, has gained more urgency is the wake of recent events. It’s a conversation that needs all of our voices.

Posted in Services

“Hopping” at the Library

Whenever I see friends, I am invariably asked, “What’s going on at the library?” Not long ago, I was asked the question by a friend, and I responded that the library was really “hopping.” Thereupon my friend burst out laughing. The idea of a library “hopping” was just too much for her. Her picture of a library was of a quiet, staid place where nothing much happened but the settling of dust on library shelves. I had the pleasure of telling her that things have changed at libraries; they’ve changed a lot.

As an example of how libraries have changed and become the hub of activity, take a look at our October calendar. You’ll find the traditional morning story times, preschool children’s programs and afternoon book clubs, but you’ll also find films, crafts, workshops, cooking, book talks and exhibits. Yes, we have books, but we also have opportunities for you to connect with others who share your ideas and interests. Here is a closer look at this month’s happenings.

The month begins with our Sunday Film Series. These documentary films, on the first Sunday of the month, offer a thought-provoking look at social and cultural issues, insight into the nation’s history and ask the viewer to examine contemporary life. The October film, The Orphan Trains, looked at the ambitious effort to transplant children from the streets of New York to rural America. The November film, Fly Girls, takes a look at the wives, mothers, actresses and debutantes who joined the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS) during WWII.

If you’re a film enthusiast, you might consider joining the Film Club. They meet the third Tuesday night of each month to discuss a previously selected film. This month’s meeting is Tuesday, October 17, to review A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.

The Get Crafty monthly series on the second Wednesday of each month is for those who enjoy crafts. This Wednesday, October 11, Susan St. Germain offers an evening of wreath making with pine cones.

If you’re retired or thinking of retirement, Michael Graff’s workshop on Living a Tax-Free Retirement on Wednesday, October 18, is for you. You’ll gain a good understanding of asset allocation options and income distribution strategies that will enhance your tax advantaged retirement income and cash flow.

The Cooking Club meets the first Monday night of each month. It’s like a book club only instead of a novel, members meet to discuss recipes, and enjoy each other’s company. Each month they share a potluck meal prepared from the recipes they’ve chosen.

Ted Reinstein, the popular Channel 5 “Chronicle” contributor, joins us on Wednesday, October 4, to discuss his latest book, New England’s General Stores, Exploring an American Classic. Ted shares the rich history of these iconic institutions and the role they played in small town community life. You’ll be able to purchase a signed copy of the book.

Two other authors visit the library during October. We’ve invited Richard Higgins to talk about his book, Thoreau and the Languages of Trees, since this year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Henry David Thoreau. Rich joins us on Sunday afternoon, October 15. Local author, Pamie Roy reads from her debut novel, Fig Season, on Sunday, October 8, at 2:00 p.m.

The outstanding watercolor exhibit, Brushstrokes, by Marco Vizcarra, continues throughout the month, and especially for children, we showcase A Haunted Dollhouse, just in time for Halloween.

As you can see, the library offers something for every age and interest. It really is “hopping!’ For more information about these programs and other activities at the library during October, call the library at 508-823-1344, visit the library’s webpage, raynhampubliclibrary.org, or drop-by the library and pick-up a monthly calendar. The library is open Monday through Wednesday, 10:00 to 8:00, Thursday 10:00 to 2:00, Friday, 10:00 to 5:00, Saturday, 10:00 – 2:00 and Sundays 12 noon to 4:00 October through May.

Posted in Services

Tracing Your Family Tree

ancestryIrrespective of the fact that I work surrounded by shelves of books full of wonderful stories, I think that the best loved stories are not from books, but those from our own families: the stories one heard from grandmothers and grandfathers, older aunts, uncles and cousins – the stories of visits to the “old place”, the stories of things and events “before” or “way-back then,” the stories of people long gone but still remembered. This oral tradition is, after all, how literature began – with stories told and retold until they could be fixed in written form. Families are the repositories of our individual history, those particular stories that help us understand our heritage, appreciate who we are and where we have come from.

Many of the stories passed down from generation to generation become altered with the telling. Parts get exaggerated or embellished for effect, or shaded to suit the storyteller. Names, dates and connections get lost or confused. Stories you once accepted as fact turnout to be fiction. For example, I had always believed that part of my family tree were Sudetenland Deutsch; I recently discovered that they, in fact, were Swiss. This astounding fact I discovered in Ancestry Library Edition, a new electronic resource at the library.

Ancestry Library Edition is a powerful tool that searches through census records, birth and death records, immigration records, family histories, military records, court and legal documents, cemetery records, directories, photos, maps and more.  The library staff has spent time getting familiar with this new service, and as they searched through Ancestry Library Edition each of them uncovered amazing details, previously unknown, about their own family histories.

Most of us are curious about our family history; some of us actually take on the task of tracing the family tree, and a few of us become obsessed with it. There are several reasons to choose to research our past. On the practical side, it allows us to validate (or not) those family stories handed down from generation to generation. Genealogical research also offers a way to trace medical conditions in order to evaluate the risk of getting or passing on certain medical conditions. It can be used to trace land ownership, and resolve disputes over the origin of family heirlooms or other legacies. It’s a way of learning more about a parent, grandparent or connecting with living relatives.  And finally, genealogical research is a way to fulfill the desire to pass on our heritage to future generations.

But at its heart, knowing our family history is about satisfying basic human curiosity. It’s about finding answers to the questions that confound us throughout life: Where do I come from? Why am I here? What is going to happen to me? Genealogy offers insight into the lives of our ancestors, and satisfies the need to understand how we fit into the broader world around us. It helps us to connect to a family thread passing through time. If you’d like to get started on knowing more about your family history, the library offers Ancestry Library Edition on all of its public computer workstations. Need help in getting started? Just ask.

Posted in Services