A Little Mystery

We all love a little mystery in our lives. Small mysteries make life so much more interesting and so much less predictable. “The need for mystery,” wrote American author Ken Kesey, “is greater than the need for an answer.” What better way to bring a little mystery into your life than to read one? This year marks the 10th annual One Book, One Community read sponsored by the Friends of the Library, the Raynham Cultural Council and the library.  The selection is, you guessed it, a little mystery.

I am a mystery lover, I’ll confess. As a child I consumed Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Later I discovered Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Mary Roberts Rinehart and Daphne du Maurier.  I like the puzzle of the mystery – the intellectual challenge of the plot’s twists and turns. I love plotlines that allow me to find the clues and solve the riddles that point to the guilty culprit. I enjoy the story knowing that the murderer will be caught in the end, justice will be served, and my sleuth will live to solve another mystery in the next book.

There are all kinds of mysteries. You may prefer a police procedural or a mystery of psychological suspense. There are romantic mysteries, historical mysteries, cozy mysteries and humorous mysteries. There are the “hard-boiled” mysteries that are strictly detective stories. There are mysteries that feature male leads, female leads and even cats and dogs as main characters.

What makes a good mystery? First of all, it must have interesting, if not likeable characters. Whether the main character in the mystery is a police detective, a private investigator, or an amateur sleuth, readers must be able to connect with them in some way. Setting is important since it can add to the suspense and support the plot. Would Rebecca be as suspenseful without Manderley? The plot must be intricate and absorbing but not so complex that it becomes unbelievable. The solution or resolution of the suspense must be satisfying, believable based on the clues and impart a sense of justice, and if the ending involves a huge plot twist, all the better.

Trust Me, by Hank Phillippi Ryan, this year’s Raynham Reads, is a mystery as well as psychological thriller. A woman is accused of a murder she says she did not commit, while a journalist is grieving an enormous loss. If you are familiar with the Casey Anthony trial, this story will feel similar in some ways. That trial even plays a role in the book. The story is a cat-and-mouse game of manipulation and deception that will have you guessing in a dozen different directions before you finish reading. Copies are available at the library. Put a little mystery in your life! Join the community read and join the discussion of Trust Me.

Posted in Readers

Hands-on Learning at Home

If you’ve been in the Children’s Room recently, you will have noticed the addition of two wire shelving units with a sign announcing “STEM FAIR: OPENING DAY STEM KIT COLLECTION – Saturday, February 23.” This is an important day of celebration for us, and one we hope you will be excited about as well. It’s the day we place on the shelves several dozen STEM toys that encourage hands-on learning at home. That’s right: STEM toys. Today’s public library is now a library of things.

STEM education is a hot topic among educators, the media, parents and the toy industry. While the subjects that comprise the acronym STEM aren’t new, grouping these subjects – science, technology, engineering and math – into a single approach has gained popularity across the globe. If you’ve heard the term floating around but aren’t sure exactly what STEM education is or how it can benefit children, it’s time to learn about this important topic, and why toys are the perfect teaching STEM tool.

STEM education stresses problem solving and dynamic hands-on learning. In other words, children should not be passive observers, but should engage in activities that require them to think, interact with and manipulate concepts and ideas. That is why toys are the perfect teaching tool. Connecting science, technology, engineering and math in ways that kids can understand and see in a hands-on way helps them understand why these subjects are not only important but also fun. These unique STEM toys help kids see how much fun they can have with subjects that they may have previously thought of as boring.

Inspire kids to love the sciences with these STEM Kits for hands-on learning at home. Check out STEM Kits to explore a variety of science, technology, engineering and math subjects including anatomy, astronomy, biology, coding, circuity, electronics, math, nature, simple machines and robotics. Kits include hands-on activities, manipulatives, learning games or scientific equipment.

Join us for the STEM Fair Opening Day, watch as we demonstrate many of the toys (robots, electronic circuits, coding, digital microscope), learn about the engineering method with the Bridgewater-Raynham Robotics Club and enjoy a zany hour with MAD Science, 3..2..1..Energize. The fun begins at 11:30 on Saturday, February 23. STEM toy demonstrations continue from 11:30 to 1:00. The Robotics Club presents at 11:30 and Mad Science begins at 1:00. STEM kits are available for checkout by an adult cardholder beginning at 1:00. For more information call the library, 508.823.1344 or visit the Kids page on our website, raynhampubliclibrary.org.

The STEM Kit Collection is funded through the Library Services and Technology Act grant, Anytime STEM Learning, from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.


Posted in Children, Services

Books at the Oscars

The 2019 Oscar nominees were announced last week and the list is, once again, a tribute to the written word as well as the visual, creative and technical artistry of the American film industry. Some of the year’s best films lived on the written page long before being adapted for the movie screen. If you’re a movie buff, you’ll want to spend some time at the theater or at home watching the film, but if you prefer spending an evening with a good book, here are some of the books that inspired the films that Hollywood is buzzing about this Oscar season.

Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart, by John Guy. Historian John Guy’s biography served as the inspiration for “Mary Queen of Scots,” the film of the monarch who began her reign when she was less than a week old. The author has created an intimate and absorbing portrait of one of history’s greatest women, depicting her world and her place in the sweep of history to portray her as the intellectual and political equal of Elizabeth I. The period-piece film was nominated for makeup and hair styling and costume design.

First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, by James R. Hansen. Ryan Gosling stars as the astronaut in “First Man,” the life story of Armstrong. The movie, which earned a nomination for sound mixing, was based on Hansen’s popular biography of the Ohio-born Navy veteran and astronaut. In the book, the author addresses the complex legacy of Armstrong, the first man to step on the moon, both as astronaut and as an individual.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? Memoirs of a Literary Forger, by Lee Israel. Melissa McCarthy earned a lead actress nomination for her role as Israel, a biographer who started forging letters from literary legends to earn money after she fell on hard times. Israel’s 2008 biography, which was controversial at the time, forms the basis for the film.

The Wife, by Meg Wolitzer. Glenn Close earned her seventh Oscar nomination in the lead role as Joan. The film is based on Meg Wolitzer’s 2003 darkly comic novel about an acclaimed novelist whose spouse decides she wants to pursue her own literary dreams rather than keep playing the role of quiet, supportive wife.

If Beale Street Could Talk, by James Baldwin. Writer/director Barry Jenkins adapted James Baldwin’s 1974 novel, If Beale Street Could Talk, earning him an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. The story centers on a young black man who is wrongfully accused of a crime and sent to prison; his pregnant fiancée who decides to stick by him; and the different reactions from within the community.

Borrow the film or borrow the book; both are available at the Raynham Public Library.

Want to get a jump on next year’s nominees? Here are books currently being made into films; The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah, The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn, Catch-22, by Joseph Heller, Where’d You Go Bernadette, by Maria Semple, The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion and Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt.

Posted in Readers

Genetic Genealogy

Most of us are curious about our ancestors. Knowing our family history is about satisfying the basic human need to understand ourselves. 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. It helps us to connect to a family thread passing through time. With today’s technology, we can literally connect to a thread – the DNA thread of the genetic genome present in each of our cells. Genetic genealogy, DNA testing in combination with traditional genealogy research, makes discovering our ancestry even more intriguing.

DNA testing is a relatively recent phenomenon. Not long ago, genetic tests that are widely available today were the domain of dystopian science fiction. Today, they’re a nice gift to buy your aunt for her birthday. In 2000 Family Tree became the first company to offer direct-to-consumer genetic testing. Now there are multiple companies that offer the service at an affordable price. Companies such as 23andMe, Ancestry.com and National Geographic market at-home DNA testing kits, offering to unlock your genetic secrets for the price of a dinner at a nice restaurant. As of 2018, more that 18.5 million people have had their DNA tested.

Genetic DNA testing to establish ancestry has a number of limitations. No DNA test can conclusively prove or disprove a person has an ancestor of a specific ethnicity. However, DNA tests can provide clues about where a person’s ancestors might have come from and about relationships between families because certain patterns of genetic variation are often shared among people of particular backgrounds. The more closely related two individuals, families, or populations are the more patterns of variation they typically share. Sometimes the results will confirm what was already known. Sometimes, there might be a surprise or two! A Portuguese friend of mine, whose family came from the Azores, discovered that she also had Irish ancestors.

If you’ve considering unlocking your genetic secrets with DNA testing and would like to learn more about this fascinating topic, the library offers these reading suggestions: Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy. This guide is a one-stop resource for how to use DNA testing for genealogy. You’ll find guidance on what DNA tests are available, plus the methodologies and pros and cons of the three major testing companies and advice on choosing the right test to answer your specific genealogy questions. Genealogy: DNA and the Family Tree, by James Mayflower. The author provides basic knowledge about the structure and function of a DNA molecule. He also explains how DNA is inherited from your ancestors according to the laws of inheritance and gives examples of some interesting experiments.  A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes, by Adam Rutherford.  Acclaimed science writer Rutherford explains exactly how decoding the human genome is completely rewriting the human story–from 100,000 years ago to the present.


Posted in Readers

Smartphone Photography

Raise your hand if you remember the Brownie box camera! For those of you who don’t remember, the Brownie was a long-running popular series of simple and inexpensive cameras made by Eastman Kodak. It is considered by many experts to be the most important camera ever manufactured. The reason is that it was produced so cheaply that anyone, not just professionals or people of means, could afford it. Because it was so simple to use, anyone could operate it right out of the box. The Brownie camera brought photography to the masses.

Introduced in 1900, the Brownie was produced in various models through the 1960s. It was a basic cardboard box camera with a simple lens that took black and white pictures. Everyone had a Brownie back in the day. From 1959 to 1964 Kodak sold more than 10 million automatic Brownie cameras. I was the proud owner of one.

Today, Kodak no longer makes cameras, and we no longer put a Kodak in our pocket. Instead, we reach for our smartphones. What the Brownie box camera did for photography in the twentieth century, the smartphone is doing in the twenty-first century. In the twentieth century Brownie cameras were everywhere; in the twenty-first century, smartphones are everywhere. Researchers predict that 2.5 billion people worldwide will use a smartphone this year.

The technology of today’s smartphones means they are so much more than just phones. Since smartphones offer both mobile phone connectivity and advanced computing capability, we’ve come to depend on them to keep us connected to the world and to each other. We conduct banking transactions, pay bills and shop online catalogs. We keep track of how many calories we consume and how many steps we take each day. We watch streaming video, listen to music, surf the web, text our friends and family, navigate through cities and towns, and take photographs and video to capture moments both large and small.

Smartphones have effectively replaced point-and-shoot cameras, and many even outperform them. A smartphone is essentially a camera system all in one with the advantage of being small in size and light in weight. It slips easily into a pocket or bag, and we can carry it everywhere. For most of us, these portable computers have become our main camera. We can instantly click, upload and send photos and videos to share with family and friends over WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram and Flickr.

If you’d like to learn how to take better photos and make more exciting videos with your smartphone, join us for a hands-on training workshop. You’ll learn about lighting, composition, photography and video apps, how to download, how to edit on and off device. Bring your questions and bring your smartphones. The workshop is scheduled for Sunday, January 20 at 2:00 pm. Space is limited, so please register in Coming Events on the library’s website, raynhampubliclibrary.org.

Posted in Services

Using the Library from Home

Amid the whirl of the holidays, you may have missed another celebrated event of the season – the winter solstice. The winter solstice, the day of the longest night and the shortest amount of daylight, occurred on December 21st this year and marked the official start of the winter season. Winter, as they say in Game of Thrones, is coming.

As New Englanders, we know winter. When faced with the bone-chilling cold of January and February, we gratefully retreat to the comforts of hearth and home. And once home, we tend to stay there. We are disinclined to venture out – much better to stay by the warm glow of the television or the heat of the wood burning stove.  We miss seeing you at the library, but we don’t begrudge you the comfort of your easy chair. Instead, we offer you ways to use the library without leaving home – ways to enlighten or entertain you and fill those long winter evenings.

We offer you access to books, audiobooks, music, movies, television shows and popular magazines from the comfort of your easy chair. These library services are part of our electronic library and are delivered to you automatically either as a download or a streaming service. All you need is your library card to click “borrow” on your smartphone, tablet or computer

You can instantly watch free movies, television shows or listen to audiobooks and music albums on your computer or personal device with Hoopla. If you enjoy listening to audiobooks, Hoopla has an amazing selection of titles from authors both old and new. Another choice for e-books and e-audiobooks is the OverDrive Collection. OverDrive has thousands of titles – best sellers, mysteries, romance, adventure stories, non-fiction, and biographies – everything you’d expect in a library collection. You can easily download the titles or read them in your browser using the Libby app.

Want to catch up on all the celebrity gossip? You’ll find popular celeb magazines in our RBDigital Magazine Collection, along with copies of Newsweek, National Geographic, HGTV, Better Homes & Gardens, Cosmopolitan, Family Circle and many more.

The library offers endless choices for long winter evenings. You’ll find all of these resources in our eLibrary collection. Visit the library’s website, raynhampubliclibrary.org, click on eLibrary to make your choice and enjoy the convenience of direct delivery to you in the warmth and comfort of home. Download the apps for eLibrary services from your app store for easy access.

If all of this is not enough to sustain you through the winter months, take heart from this thought by poet Oliver Herford “I heard a bird sing In the dark of December. A magical thing And sweet to remember. We are nearer to Spring Than we were in September…”


Posted in Services

Library Service in Raynham

The Town of Raynham is currently conducting a survey to determine present and future needs of the Town in order to plan how to meet those needs in a way that best serves the community. Thinking about the future is always a good thing and having a plan for the future is an even better thing, for as Benjamin Franklin supposedly once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

The Town survey has prompted me to think about the future – especially about the future of the public library in Raynham. I’d like to share some of my thoughts with you.

A library is a center of any community. It’s a place to learn, explore, discover, gather and connect. It reflects community values, plays an important role in shaping civic identity, enriches lives and helps attract young families to the town. It’s a valuable and valued service to the community.

Let’s take a look at the library at the center of Raynham.

The Cape-style building is often described as “quaint,” even though the stairs at entry level present a problem for many of our older and younger users. The building was built in 1949 and last expanded in 1991 – some 27 years ago. At 6,200 square feet, it’s the third smallest library building of the fifty Massachusetts communities serving populations of 10,000 to 14,999. Only Acushnet and Hull have smaller buildings.  The average size library in Raynham’s population group is 16,000 square feet.

Square footage is important because it determines both the size of the collection and the types of services the library is able to provide. The size of the Raynham library means there isn’t enough space for the children’s collection and programming, public meetings, library programming, modern technology services, teen collections and space, private study space, comfortable seating and leisure reading space, staff work areas, storage areas and shelving – especially shelving. Shelving is needed for the fiction and non-fiction collections, juvenile books and easy readers, teen books, DVDs, compact discs, large print books, and audiobooks. The size of the Raynham building severely limits what we can provide in both collections and services for the community.

Of great concern is the parking lot. It has too few spaces, is often full and is dangerous for pedestrians – especially small children. For many library events, the full parking lot actually prevents people from stopping at the library. The footprint of the building, the size of the lot and the proximity to wetlands prevent an increase in parking spaces as well as any further additions to the building.

How will the library meet future needs of the community when it is not adequate to meet current needs? I encourage you to think about this question as you respond to the Town survey.

Posted in Readers, Services