A Bit of Happiness

book_saleFall is well and truly here. The sights and sounds of the season are all around us. Trees stand bare against the sky while the drone of leaf blowers fills the air. The days are crisp and cool, and at night, the comforting aroma of wood smoke reminds us of hearth and home. It will soon be time to turn back the clocks, turn up the thermostats and start planning those holiday dinners. But wait! Before we plunge head long into the holidays, there’s one more event that marks the season – the Friends’ of the Library Annual Fall Book Sale.

We are fortunate that our Friends of the Library host two sales each year – one in the Fall and the other in the Spring. Both events are important sources of income for the library. We depend on these book sales to help defray expenses. Funds are used to purchase museum and zoo passes and support our children’s summer reading program. Our Friends work many long hours to organize, sort and sell hundreds of items for each sale.

Generous donations are the key to a successful book sale. So now is the time to clean out that closet, organize those shelves and liberate yourself of excess clutter. The library happily accepts books, compact discs, videos, audiobooks, children’s books and paperbacks for the sale. Consider donating your items for this worthy cause. There are several reasons you should.

Book sales are a bargain. Library book sales make ownership of books affordable to everyone. You can spend a lot or spend a little, and still go home with a bag full of books. Book sales promote recycling – much better for someone else to read the book than to discard it completely. Book sales promote a sense of community. By donating your items, you become part of the larger effort to support library service in our community. And finally, book sales are fun. You never know what you’ll find – a new bestseller, an old favorite from your childhood, a book long out of print.

We know that money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy books, and that’s sort of the same thing. Get your bit of happiness at the Friends’ of the Library Annual Fall Book Sale on Friday and Saturday, November 4 and 5. Doors open at 10:00. For more information, contact the library at 508.823.1344.

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Haunted New England

October is upon us. The days grow shorter and the nights grow longer as the earth’s axis tilts the northern hemisphere away from the sun. We delight in the crisp, cool days and are enchanted by the orange, yellow and gold landscape that surrounds us. Our calendars are full of craft fairs, school open houses, football games, family outings and community events. It is wonderful to live in New England in October.

October also brings the anticipation of Halloween with all of its myths, mysteries, festivals and customs. There’s no better place to celebrate Halloween than in New England. The region has a long and exhaustive history of the mysterious and unexplained, reaching as far back as the 1692 witch trials in Salem. However, the 17th century witch hunt was only the beginning of the numerous strange tales and curiosities to come. New England is full of crumbling cemeteries, haunted inns, ghost ships, abandoned settlements, haunted bridges and even haunted hiking trails. And this is just a small sampling of what lies in a region known as much for its legends and folklore as it is for its quaint clapboard houses and fall folliage. Authors of horror stories such as H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King most certainly have taken inspiration from their New England backgrounds to create weird tales of the bizarre.

Christopher Daley is an author and historian who has sorted through the facts, myths, and half-truths surrounding many unexplained phenomenon occurring in New England. He blends fact with legend to produce a fascinating look at historical events and the tales of hauntings that followed them. He offers a look at The Haunted History of New England at the Raynham Public Library on Sunday, October 30, at 2:00 pm.

Included in the slide lecture are Mercy Brown “The Vampire” of Exeter, Rhode Island, the cursed Freetown State Forest in Massachusetts, the horrors of the Lizzie Borden House in Fall River, the Nine Men’s Misery in Cumberland, Rhode Island, a haunted forest in the wilds of Connecticut, the ghostly sightings at the Mount Washington Hotel in New Hampshire, the spirits of Burial Hill in Plymouth and evidence of ghosts at the John Alden House in Duxbury, Massachusetts.

Christopher Daley has been lecturing all over New England for 25 years on various historical topics. He holds a B.A. and a M.A. from Bridgewater State University in Political Science and History, and currently teaches history in the Silver Lake Regional School System in Kingston. He is the author of several articles and has just published a book entitled Murder and Mayhem in Boston: Historic Crimes in the Hub.

Whether you’re a lover of history or a lover of horror, attend The Haunted History of New England if you dare. To register for this program or for more information, visit the library’s website, raynhampubliclibrary.org, or call the Raynham Public Library at 508-823-1344.

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The Library – a “hopping” place!

Not too long ago, I was asked by a friend what was going on at the library. 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, sober 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 community 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 jewelry making, genealogy, coloring for adults, lectures and films. 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 Sunday Series of documentary films on Sunday afternoons presents a thought-provoking look at social and cultural issues, offers insight into the nation’s history and asks the viewer to examine contemporary life. The films are shown the first Sunday afternoon of each month at 2:00. The November film, Defying the Nazis, examines the life of a couple from Wellesley who helped save scores of refugees fleeing the Nazi occupation across Europe.

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

Family Night at the Library, the second Tuesday of the month, offers a program that the entire family can enjoy. On Tuesday, October 11, Maria Armour brings her bat collection to the library. Maria is a biologist at Bridgewater State University who specializes in bats. This is an opportunity to learn about bat habitat, feeding habits, bat families, size and behavior.

The Get Crafty monthly series on the second Wednesday of each month is for those who enjoy crafts. This Wednesday, October 12, Susan St. Germain offers an evening of jewelry making. You’ll create necklaces and earrings to impress and dazzle your friends.
Looking for a way to relax? Drop-in on Thursday mornings, pick-up a coloring book, colored pencils and discover your artistic self. 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 18, to talk about Carnival of Souls.

Interested in tracing your family tree? Jim Tilbe joins us on Wednesday, October 26, to help you get you started. Jim offers a beginner’s guide to genealogy research using many free online resources. And just in time for Halloween, author and historian Christopher Daley presents a look at the history of haunted New England on Sunday, October 30.

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.

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A Book for the Times

Of all the great modern American novelists, including Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Dos Passos, Steinbeck and Faulkner, Sinclair Lewis has always been my favorite. His works were required reading for my generation, and I read them eagerly – Main Street, Babbitt, Arrowsmith, Elmer Gantry, and Dosworth. In 1930 Lewis was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first American writer to be so honored.

Sinclair Lewis had a writing style that was considered radical for the time. His work was largely a satire of American culture, society, and behavior. In Main Street, he questioned the myth of the wholesomeness of small-town America, and exposed the underside of life in isolated and insular communities – the small mindedness, bigotry, jealousies and petty resentments. In Babbitt, Lewis created a character so richly drawn that the word “Babbitt”, referring to a materialistic, complacent, and conformist businessman, entered the English language. His novels satirized both American life and the characters within it. Readers loved it.

Sinclair’s writing has withstood the test of time, and is still considered some of the greatest literature of the twentieth century. It can be said that great literature is a story that captures the time period in which it was written while exploring universal themes of the human condition – alienation, conformity, isolation, suffering, good and evil, humanity or the lack of, power and the danger of unchecked ambition, among others. No matter how dated the setting or characters, great literature is able to connect with every generation and audience because it speaks to these universal truths.

Sinclair Lewis had a talent for holding up a mirror to American life. He had an amazing eye for society and an incredible ability to create characters that reflect the very best and the very worst of society. His characters include con artists, feminists, liberated women, hack politicians- both political populists and fear mongering isolationists, do-gooders and doubters.  He writes frankly about racism and about how politicians use fear and distrust for their own ends.  He discusses religion and religious scams.  His novels read as if they were written this morning rather than more than 80 years ago. Read his novels and nothing in contemporary American life will surprise you, not even the current political malaise in which we find ourselves.

In fact, it is the current political situation that has brought Sinclair Lewis to mind. One of his last great novels, It Can’t Happen Here, was published in 1935. It’s a cautionary tale about the fragility of American democracy. Americans of all political persuasions are likely to find It Can’t Happen Here, though firmly grounded in the politics of the 1930s, a fascinating if disturbing read this election season.

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Library Programs

survey_ImageLibraries are many things to their communities. They are learning labs for the very young – where the pre-literacy skills taught in storytime prepare children to read, listen and learn. They are repositories of wonderful, engaging ideas – in books, film and music – that entertain, enhance leisure time and stimulate imagination and creativity. They are a wellspring of the practical information people need to improve their quality of life and to increase individual options in a complex society—information about health, education, business, child care, technology, the environment, employment and much more. They offer homework resources to ensure that children succeed in school, and technology training to ensure everyone has the skills to succeed in the digital age. Libraries also provide opportunities for people of all ages to connect with ideas and with each other through programming.

Library programs give their communities the opportunity to explore, think about, talk about and exchange ideas about literature, history, art, music, film, current events, culture and a variety of other topics. They can be programs that teach, demonstrate, inform, entertain, inspire or encourage discussion. Library programs range from book talks to art exhibits, from topical workshops to hands-on craft projects. In past years, for example, we’ve offered programs as diverse as digital photography, apple pie making, cemeteries, nutrition, Irish history, local history, employment, genealogy, retirement, credit scores, iPads, smartphones and how to paint with watercolors. We’ve had dozens of authors talk about their books, and dozens of artists exhibit their works.

We’re now in the process of planning our programs for the coming year, and we’d like to hear from you. As we plan for library programs, it’s essential that we consider the community. Our programs should be a reflection of your interests, ideas and needs. This is where you can help.

We’ve designed a short, five question survey that we are asking everyone to complete. We’re asking that you share your thoughts and comments about what types of programs you’d be interested in. You can access the survey online at the library’s website, raynhampubliclibrary.org, or pick-up a printed copy at the library. We are open to your ideas. Let us hear from you.

Posted in Services

Looking at Statistics

The library’s fiscal year ended June 30, and I have been spending the month of July and August compiling our end of year statistical and financial reports to submit to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. These reports are part of the process of the library’s annual certification. Each year we must meet certain standards to qualify for state aid to public libraries.

The MBLC is a curious organization. By that, I mean curious as in inquisitive, not curious as in peculiar. This is an organization that wants to know everything – from the number of library parking spaces to the number of wireless sessions we provided during the year to the number of people who walked through our door. We are asked about the number of materials that we own – in all their different forms – print, video, audio, downloadable, electronic. We are asked about the use of each of these different forms by different ages -children, young adults, and adults. We are asked how many items we borrowed from other communities, and how many items we loaned to other communities. There are nine pages of questions that must be answered. And that’s just the statistical report; the financial report is another four pages. Every summer I have the pleasure to complete these reports; no wonder I groan at the thought of July. However, at the end of the process, something interesting emerges – a portrait of the library’s use and activity that is enlightening and informing.

These statistics help us understand how people use the library, when they use the library and what kinds of materials and services they prefer. This information helps us be responsive to the community’s needs and interests, and informs our decisions about future programming, staffing and materials.

As much as I complain, I love these statistics; because I love knowing that what we do at the library makes a difference in the lives of people we serve. We love to be busy, to answer questions about the collection, to find that special book, CD or DVD, to give assistance with the e-catalog or to introduce a user to a new service or program. Everyone who comes through the door wants or needs something. We are only too happy to help.

We’ll spend a good many hours analyzing, evaluating and comparing these figures, looking for trends to guide our decisions about how to best serve you in the year to come.

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You might also like…


We answer all kinds of questions at the library, from how to get a credit report and print airline tickets to questions about downloading e-content, placing holds and reserving zoo passes. Questions come at us all day long. Some are easy to answer and some present a challenge. It’s the unpredictability of the day’s questions that makes our job interesting and enjoyable. We never know just what questions we’ll be asked.

There is one question, however, that we know we’ll be asked. It’s a question that’s often asked. It’s a simple enough question, and it’s always asked with an eager smile, “Can you recommend something to read?”

Why is this simple question so difficult to answer? Reading is a very selective, highly individual choice. Unless we know you well, we may not make a recommendation that you’ll enjoy, and we don’t want to disappoint you. That is why we are so pleased to offer a new resource to help you find that next good read. It is NoveList Plus. NoveList Plus is an online readers’ advisory service designed to answer the question, “What should I read next?”

The NoveList Plus database connects you to your next book by making recommendations based on categories that you select. One of its most popular features is read-alikes. This feature suggests titles that are ‘just like’ other titles. If you’ve just finished a great book, log into NoveList Plus, enter the title of the book and find other read-alikes – books similar in subject, style, tone and readability. NoveList Plus provides up to nine read-alike recommendations for each book, author and series. You can also search for reading suggestions by genre, locations, characters, subjects, appeal, recommended reading lists and popularity. It is also helpful for reading books in series.

Consider NoveList Plus your one-stop guide to great reading. It contains lists of recommended reads and award-winning books. It covers both fiction and nonfiction titles for all ages from the youngest readers to adults. It has extra content like reviews (both professional reviews and reader reviews), book discussion guides, curriculum guides, and other book-oriented articles. Book groups and teachers will find these resources especially helpful.

You can access NoveList Plus in the Books & More section on our website, raynhampubliclibrary.org. You’ll also find this new feature in the SAILS catalog. As you select a book in the catalog, you’ll get recommendations for similar titles and authors.

The library’s shelves are full of good books just waiting to be read. The choice is yours with a little help from NoveList Plus.


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