Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Gifts for the Holidays

Tis the season to find the perfect gift for your friends and family. Books are a great gift idea, but how do you find the right one?

Does your friend like movies? There are a number of films out recently that were based on novels, such as J. R. R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit", or Suzanne Collins' "Mockingjay" (but maybe start with "Hunger Games", the beginning of the series). For love stories, go with John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars" or Nicholas Sparks' "The Best of Me". Teens might be interested in Veronica Roth's "Divergent" series, or James Dashner's "The Maze Runner".  For more books connected with films you will want to visit /Film's list of The Best Movie & TV Book Gifts of 2014.

It can be tough to find books for girls that encourage their imagination and curiosity or help them form  positive self-esteem. The website A Mighty Girl has recommendations for all ages, in a variety of languages, in different subjects and for a wide range of prices. Biographies of famous women like Eleanor Roosevelt or Wilma Rudolph, works of fiction like "Pippi Longstocking", and a large number of award-winning books can be found on this site. Sites like Kirkus Reviews and the New York Times (linked below) have additional suggestions for books for kids.

And if you know someone who is fascinated by Schuylkill County history, there are a few books available you'll want to consider. The Pottsville Free Public Library has a few copies left of "Schuylkill Stories: The Chronicles of Ione Geier", a compilation of some of Mrs. Geier's favorite columns from her years of writing for the Pottsville Republican newspaper. Michael J. Lisicky recently published "Shop Pomeroy's First", about the popular department store in eastern and central Pennsylvania. Or for the true-crime reader you could go with Stephanie Hoover's "The Kelayres Massacre: Politics and Murder in Pennsylvania's Anthracite Coal Country".

E-books are great in some ways, for some readers. Most e-readers (either dedicated or on a tablet) permit you to make the text larger and easier to read, and they all make it easier to take many, many books with you for a fraction of the space of print books. If you are thinking of buying a dedicated e-reader for someone, take a look at reviews like those of CNET or The Digital Reader for more information before making your purchase.

Cookbooks are a really popular book gift for any occasion. There are so many different diets and health trends, you are sure to find something to fit the needs of the recipient. Or, instead of one book, you could look into gift subscriptions of a magazine like Cooking Light, Gluten-Free Living, Taste of Home, or Vegetarian Times. All of these titles are at the Pottsville Library if you want to take a look at them before buying them for others.

Here are some other sites that identify great gift books for various subjects:

The Slate writers chose their favorite books for 2014

(And if you want to give an e-book, one web page has several suggestions how to wrap it!)

New York Times Sunday Book Review 100 Notable Books of 2014

NBCNews Brainy Reads: Top Science and Tech Books of 2014

Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction Books of 2014
(This page also has links to the best nonfiction, children's, and teen books.)

Do you have a favorite site for finding gift books? Let us know!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Let's Talk Ebook Privacy

If you borrow ebooks from the Free Library of Philadelphia, you may need to take some steps to ensure your privacy. Public libraries have always tried to protect their patrons' reading privacy but we don't always have control over how ebooks are managed by other companies.

Reader privacy seems like no big deal, but imagine these examples. Someone has an abusive spouse and wants to read about others who were able to walk away from an abuser. A student has a research paper due on terrorism and has to focus on specific hate groups and crimes. A person wants to read about suicide signs to watch for because they are concerned about a friend. There are any number of legitimate reasons why people don't want others to know what they are reading, or where what someone is reading could be taken the wrong way, and librarians believe everyone has the right to keep their reading private.

Ebook distributors like Overdrive use Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) to manage permissions and rules for library ebook users. Adobe recently released a new version of their software. Version 4 collects a large amount of information about the ebooks viewed using ADE, on your computer and any connected ereaders. It does not include your name and other contact information, but given that the information is sent to Adobe in a non-secure format and includes a vast amount of other detail, a savvy computer snoop could figure out the source. You can read more about this on the Free Library's Blog and from the original report of the problem (thanks to Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader).

The easiest way to protect your reading privacy is to use Adobe Digital Editions version 3, which can still be downloaded from the Adobe website. If you haven't updated to the latest version, your information has not been shared.

As the Free Library's blog post notes, this is not a security breach but a privacy breach. Adobe made the changes because they wanted to offer more services to ebook readers, but those things come with a heavy price. Librarians and ebook readers across the country have started calling for Adobe to reverse some of the changes that were made, but until then staying with an older version of ADE will keep someone else from knowing what you are reading.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Know a Teen Who Has Questions? We've Got Answers!

Teens have a lot of questions they want answered, either for school or on their own. Sometimes those topics can get uncomfortable, and they don't know where to turn for reliable information. The Pottsville Library Reference Department has some trusted online resources that might be able to help!

There are a growing number of online books available to our library patrons with their library cards. To read these books, just go to our homepage at www.pottsvillelibrary.org/onlineresources.htm. We added a whole series to our Infobase Ebooks collection, available to you from any computer. If students are worried others might see what they are reading, this is a great way for them to get this important information in private.

Some of the new teen titles include:

The Truth About Eating Disorders

The Truth About Smoking

The Truth About Alcohol

The Truth About Rape

The Truth About Sexual Behavior and Unplanned Pregnancy

The Truth About Anxiety and Depression

The Truth About Stress Management

The Truth About the Internet and Online Predators

All of the Infobase titles are also available in print format in the Reference Collection, if you prefer to read the old fashioned way.

Monday, June 30, 2014

New Titles in the Reference Collection

While the Reference Department doesn't add nearly as many titles every year as the other collections, we try to find interesting, authoritative resources to help library users answer basic or bizarre questions. Here are just some of the titles just coming in!

The Kingfisher Encyclopedia of Life: Minutes, Months, Millennia - How Long is a Life on Earth?
Did you know that an ocean quahog, a hard clam that lives in the Atlantic Ocean, can live 250 to 500 years? An American flamingo can live to 50 years old, but a porcupine only lives 5-7 years. There are fungi colonies that are believed to be more than 2000 years old, and the Great Barrier Reef is more than 10,000 years old! This heavily-illustrated book looks at the average life spans of plants, animals, and microorganisms around the world.  (Ref 508.03 B223)

The Graphic Designer's Business Survival Guide
Being a really good graphic designer is just the start of what you need to go into business. From creating a business plan, to knowing when you should hire someone to do your bookkeeping, to managing your time and building your reputation, this book covers many of the basics a graphic designer would need. Marketing, time sheets, how to deal when things go bad, and other aspects of small business are all discussed here. (Ref 741.60 D228)

Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits, and Haunted Places, 2nd edition
 Helpful and threatening, human or animal, this book gives the details of many paranormal experiences around the world. Churches, cemeteries, highways, castles, apartments, restaurants, trains, stores, and inns are all scenes of visitations. (Ref 133.1 St33)

1001 Ideas That Changed the Way We Think
When you think of the history of ideas, things like "I Think, Therefore I Am" come to mind. While the background of that idea is in this new reference book, you'll also find things like the origins of the newspaper (first stone or metal tablets in 131 BCE Rome that were public notices of important events, then after the Gutenberg press was invented, in 1605 the first modern newspaper appeared in Germany), a brief history of angels, the possibilities offered by the theory of genetic determinism, and many, many more. Organized by time period when the idea arose, you can use the category index to help you find the origins of things like reggae music, fatalism, ageism, Kwanzaa, Prohibition, etc. (Ref 153.4 A15)


Monday, June 2, 2014

Looking for Magazine Sponsors!

It's the time of year where we look over the magazine titles the library receives and try to figure out if our budget will cover everything. As a district center, we are required to subscribe to a certain number of titles. However, budget cuts from state and local sources mean that it's tough for us to reach that standard on our own. That's where you can step in!

We are looking for people to "sponsor" their favorite magazine title at the library. What does this mean? All you have to do is donate the amount of the subscription price for your favorite magazine title. We take care of the subscribing! There are titles that cost as little as $9 a year (like Philadelphia or Motor Trend magazines). Most of the titles are under $30, although there are a few that are much more pricey. National Geographic costs us $34 a year; Entertainment Weekly costs $60; and Sports Illustrated goes for $89.

We also know that a lot of people aren't aware of just how many different subjects our magazine collection covers. The titles on the display stand near the public computers are just a few of the current titles; we don't have enough space to display them all! You can find our entire current collection in the Magazine Room, near the back of the Reference Department. Kids' magazines are in the Children's Department, with titles for younger children near the Children's Desk and titles for teens in the Young Adult section in the back of the room.

New titles added within the last year include Autism Spectrum Quarterly, Gluten-Free Living, Motorcyclist, Yoga, More Magazine, and Wired Magazine. There are classics like Highlights for Children, Good Housekeeping, Money Magazine, Popular Science, and one of the few remaining weekly news magazines, Time. Conservationists, animal lovers, movie buffs, financial geeks, gardeners, hunters, cooks, celebrity watchers, sports fans, amateur astronomers, ... we have magazines for you and many others!

If you are interested in becoming a Magazine Sponsor, just stop by the Circulation Desk next time you're in the library. Pick a title, donate the amount for that subscription, and leave your name and address (so we can thank you in a future library newsletter!). Every sponsor brings us that much closer to meeting the standards for district centers in Pennsylvania, and helps us bring reading material to a wide variety of library users!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Remembering Violence Before an Election in Schuylkill County

The primary this week is a good reminder of how far we have come in this county. 80 years ago, things were not so civilized.

The Kelayres Massacre took place on November 5, 1934 when one party, the Democrats, decided to have a parade celebrating the coming general election. The leader of the Republican party in town took exception to that, and members of his family opened fire on the unarmed parade marchers. Five people died as a result of the gunfire, and the next day the Republicans were defeated in elections across the state. 

You can find more information about this violent event from newspaper articles written at the time. The Pottsville Library has collected some of the articles from the Pottsville Republican newspaper and put them into our Vertical File collection for easier access.

There are also two books coming out this year that will discuss the topic. Keystone Tombstones is a series that looks at famous graves in Pennsylvania, and volume three (read the newspaper article about it here) will include photos of some of the graves of those involved.

A quick search of the Internet revealed that another book coming out this fall will focus on the massacre and the political environment at the time. The Kelayres Massacre: Politics and Murder in Pennsylvania's Coal Country, by Stephanie Hoover, is expected to be released in September. We'll be looking to add the title to our collection when it comes out.

Curious about who else is buried in Pennsylvania? We have the first two volumes of Keystone Tombstones in the Reference Collection of the library. Some of the people you'll find in Volume One include Harry Kalas, Jayne Mansfield, The Molly Maguires, and Jim Thorpe. Volume Two continues with people like Richie Ashburn, Jim Croce, Milton Hershey, and Fred Rogers. We've also ordered a copy of Keystone Tombstones Civil War, which will be added to the Reference Collection as soon as it comes in.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Who Controls Your Information?

Two observances this week are trying to raise awareness of who knows what about you and who controls your information.


Choose Privacy Week is an annual observance running May 1-7. Sponsored by the American Library Association, the intent is to draw library users (and everyone else) into a conversation about privacy rights in the digital age. Just about all public libraries have privacy policies in place to protect those who borrow books and everything else from our collections. We don't tell other people what you check out, what you were looking at on the computer, or what you asked at the Reference Desk. But libraries can only protect so much, it's up to the library users to further protect themselves outside of the library building. Things like using the privacy controls in Facebook, or using a search service like DuckDuckGo.com or Startpage.com to search the Internet more privately. Have you noticed that once you look online for, say, a new pair of shoes, you start seeing ads from businesses selling those kinds of shoes? That's because businesses track your searching and shopping habits while you are using the Internet. Some browsers have an option in their "Privacy" tools that theoretically tell web sites not to track what you are doing, but that is not a guaranteed way to avoid being tracked. The site can still choose to ignore the request and you won't always know if the site tracks you or not. Some internet security programs have additional Do Not Track (DNT) methods, and you can read about them here. It is a problem, and will remain a problem for a while because so many companies are making so much money off of your data: who you are, how much money you spend on what kinds of items, where you live, etc.


May 6th is also International Day Against DRM. What is DRM? DRM determines what kind of software you need (or what kind of device) in order to read the ebook you wanted to purchase. DRM controls how many devices can hold that ebook, and prevents you from loaning that ebook to a friend to read. DRM also helps publishers control how many times a book can be read: some publishers license ebooks to public libraries, but limit those books to 26 uses and then the file is automatically deleted. Some might argue that DRM is a method to protect copyright, but it's really a method to control what you can do with the item you just paid for. It can also create a problem by denying you access to your own equipment: some people might remember when Sony used DRM on music CDs that ended up crashing listeners' computers. There is a list of Frequently Asked Questions about DRM that you can read for more examples. DRM isn't just on ebooks, however: it's also on the DVDs you purchase, the files you stream from video companies, the iPad you use.  Want to find DRM free materials? This list is a good place to start.

Have more questions about your privacy? You can find out more on sites like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, and USA.gov's "Protect Your Privacy Online" page. Or contact the Pottsville Library Reference Department, and we'll help you find answers to your questions.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April is National Poetry Month!

Today begins National Poetry Month, a time to celebrate poems and poets past and present. There are a number of ways you can take part!

The Academy of American Poets has two web pages to help get you started. What Is National Poetry Month? answers some of the questions you might have about NPM specifically, such as who started it, why April, and how groups can get involved. 30 Ways to Celebrate gives some ways you or your group can take part in the celebration, such as using chalk to write a poem on the sidewalk, some classic poems to read and share, how to start a poetry group, and more.

You can find many, many poems and poets at the Poetry Foundation website, including a variety of poems specific to a season, occasion, or even region (like poems by poets from the Mid-Atlantic region).

If you are trying to find out more about a particular poet, you might try using your Pottsville Library card in the POWER Library Network, and explore the Contemporary Authors database there.

If you enjoy short, funny poems, why not attend the Pottsville Open Writers (POW!) meeting this Saturday, April 5? The topic for the day is "a funny short story or poem". Everyone shares what they came up with, then there is another writing assignment during the meeting on a topic chosen by that day's leader. POW meetings are open to anyone age 18 and older, new members are always welcome, and there is no fee to join! POW meets on the second floor of the Pottsville Library from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.

And, in hopes we've seen the last of the winter weather, a haiku from the Reference Desk:

Winter is now gone
Cool wind blows across blue sky
Slowly Spring arrives.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Annual Update to Obituary Index

Great news for genealogy researchers: the annual update to the Pottsville Republican obituary index has been put up on our genealogy page! You can find the index here:  http://www.pottsvillelibrary.org/genie.htm#news .  The list is now more than 3,700 pages long and includes more than 178,000 names. It covers 1884-1894, 1950-mid1982, 2008-2013, and any names we find as we answer requests for copies of obituaries, plus names and dates provided by other genealogy researchers. As you can see, we have a long way to go, but every name we add (and we add names on an almost daily basis) helps it grow.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Take Part in Read an E-Book Week, March 2-8, 2014

E-books: they seem to be everywhere, talked about by everyone, argued about, loved, hated, cheered, ignored. If you haven't tried reading e-books yet because you don't want to spend the money on a tablet or e-reader, we have some great news for you: you can read e-books on your computer, laptop or smartphone. Here are some great places to find free e-books, most of which can be downloaded and read without any special software or devices.

Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org) is the original source for free e-books on the Internet. (I read my first e-book, "Herland", from this site more than 20 years ago!) These are all books that were previously published and are now in the public domain. Great place to find the classics, most of which can be downloaded for use on most devices and computers. (Parents, keep this site in mind for your kid's summer reading assignments!)

The Online Books Page hosted by the University of Pennsylvania (onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu) has gathered together the records for more than one million free e-books from all over the Internet. Here you will find non-English language e-books, banned books, featured women writers, and other collections. Where else could you stumble on Haunted Houses: Tales of the Supernatural, With Some Account of Hereditary Curses and Family Legends (London: Chapman and Hall, 1907), by Charles G. Harper?

Read Easily Online Library (www.readeasily.com) focuses on providing more display options for e-books. The site allows you to change the font size, as well as font color and background color, with the options based on research for what works best for those who are partially sighted and old age readers. The files are also formatted to work with text-to-speech software for the blind and visually impaired.

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, DigiLibraries, Feedbooks, and Smashwords are all sources for more free e-books, both classic and current, as well as e-books you can purchase. If you are looking for e-books written by Schuylkill County authors, these sites are the best places to check.

So, if you've been one of those who have ignored e-books, thinking there was nothing you wanted to spend money on, this is the time to give e-books a chance. And if you are a fan of e-books, and we left out one of your favorite sources for reading, please share that site with us!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Celebrating African American History Month!

There are so many ways to celebrate African American History month, so many reasons to celebrate it, and so many people to celebrate, it can be a little overwhelming where to start. Whether you are cheering on Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams in the women's bobsled event at the Winter Olympics, or you've been following speedskater Shani Davis over the years; whether you were alive when the Civil Rights Act was passed 50 years ago; whether you listen to music, read history, or watch films; all of these are reasons to celebrate this month.

One of the great places to start learning more is at the African American History website created by the Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art, and several other federal agencies. From here you can learn more about the Underground Railroad through the National Park Service's Network to Freedom. Or visit the Exhibitions and Collections section to view some of the art and learn about some of the artists featured in the National Gallery of Art.

If you have a Pottsville Library card, you can use it to access some of the ebooks in the Reference Collection. From the library's homepage at www.pottsvillelibrary.org, click on Infobase eBooks to read "African Americans in the Military", or "Encyclopedia of Free Blacks and People of Color in the Americas".

Your Pottsville Library card also gives you access to the POWER Library Network. Need to find an African American author born in Pennsylvania? Contemporary Authors allows you to search by ethnicity, gender, and birth place. Need to find articles about civil rights, published within the last ten years? MasterFILE Main Edition allows you to search by subject and narrow it to just those dates you need, and only those articles that are available full text (so you can read the entire article on your computer screen). And SIRS Discoverer has some great resources for elementary and middle school school students who have a homework assignment due tomorrow!

And, if you have to come in to the library, we have a number of great reference, circulating, and children's books about African Americans in history and today. Library staff will help you get started in finding out more about this important group in our nation's history.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Winter Weather and Library Hours

The last few weeks have been brutal, haven't they? Snow storm after snow storm, with some ice mixed in there. Lovely. The Pottsville Library does try to remain open as much as possible, but we do sometimes close  for the safety of our staff and users. If you are hoping to come in to the library, and the weather is bad, please check our Facebook page to see if we're closed or closing early, or give us a call before you head out. We want everyone to stay safe this season!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tax Season Has Officially Started

So, the first day to file federal tax returns has come and gone (Jan. 31). The Pottsville Library has received some of the federal forms, such as the 1040A and the 1040EZ, but the main form has not yet arrived. As soon as the regular 1040 gets here we'll be sure to put it out! In the meantime, the other two have been made available in our lobby area (across from the Circulation Desk), as well as the state forms.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

New Carpet at the Pottsville Library

This week they started replacing the fire-damaged carpet in the library. And not just the section that was damaged: the entire first floor is receiving new carpet! So library staff and users alike have had to make adjustments as different areas were worked on (and thus unavailable to the public). The lobby and Circulation Desk area were finished before the library opened on Monday morning, and they've nearly finished the Reference Department, with one more section to be done after today. Next up will be the Children's Department and finishing the Magazine Room in the back. The project has certainly dictated how Reference service was provided this week!

Don't remember why there was fire-damaged carpet?

These photos were taken the morning of July 31, 2013, after the fire was put out and before the clean-up crew got started. The light fixture overheated, causing melted plastic to drip down onto the carpet, which then started burning. Fortunately, the janitor grabbed a fire extinguisher and was able to put out the fire before the firetrucks got there (all the gray powdery stuff on the floor is from the extinguisher). The fire and hot dripping plastic melted the floor mats to the carpet, which then cooled to a lumpy mess. We had to keep a step stool over that spot to keep people from tripping on it, and slightly rearranged the computers. Somehow the computers weren't damaged by either the fire or the extinguisher!

This photo shows the old fire-damaged carpet removed from the computer area. This was the first section worked on, even before the very front of the Reference Department. This meant that, just like right after the fire, adults had to use the computers in the Children's Department on Monday and Tuesday while that section of the library was worked on. Computers in the Reference Department were once again available to our users on Wednesday. But, once they start working on the Children's Department, adults will have to share their computers with the kids!

Look closely under the edge of the shelf on the right (on old carpet). See those round things? Those are sliders that the company slipped under the shelving units to shift them back and forth as needed. This was one of the lighter units, so they didn't have to remove any books before moving the shelving unit. 

The front section of the room is finished, but all tables (and other flat surfaces) are needed to hold reference books from the shelves in the back. So, Wednesday morning the computers were available for use but we couldn't provide anywhere for anyone else to sit and read the paper. Like the previous two days, newspaper and magazine readers were encouraged to take their reading material upstairs to the tables and chairs on the second floor.

 The grand staircase provided another safe place to put some of the reference books from the back of the room. As one of the movers put it, "That's higher education for you right there!"  :)  They also made use of the tops of the wooden shelves running along the wall, under the windows, as well as the tops of the Vertical File cabinets.

One of the toughest parts for the movers was dealing with the microfilm cabinets in the Magazine Room. The two newer cabinets do not have removable drawers, and weigh a considerable amount. To make matters worse, there isn't much space between the tops of the cabinets and the ceiling tiles (and lights!). Somehow, the three men got them moved. Don't think I want to see how they move them back when the new carpet is in place!

More photos will be put on the library's Facebook page as the work progresses, so if you're curious you can follow it better there. In the meantime, please forgive us if we can't get something for you, or your favorite space isn't available, or if the smell of the adhesive is too strong for you. They are finishing up as quickly as they can, and hopefully within the next week or so the library will be back to normal -- just with better carpet!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Tax Season Has Started, But Where Are The Forms?

Many people dread this time of year: tax season. But where are the forms?

Due to the partial federal government shutdown in October, the IRS had to delay printing many of the basic personal tax return forms. These forms are not expected to be received at the Pottsville Library until late January. Because of this delay, the various schedules that may arrive earlier will not be put in the library's lobby until the basic forms are received. These schedules will be kept at the Reference Desk, so if you are seeking Form 8829, for example, you can pick one up at the desk.

In addition, the IRS has declared that you cannot file a personal income tax return until January 31st. So, even if you use an online tax preparation service, and fill everything out today, that return will be held by the online service until January 31 and then filed at that time.

Speaking of online tax preparation, there are many companies that offer free tax filing for federal tax returns under certain conditions. Just visit www.irs.gov and click on the "FreeFile" logo on the right side of the screen. There are a few ways to select a company to use, and the requirements for qualifying for free filing vary from company to company. This feature will be active starting January 17th. Note that some companies will also offer to file your state tax return, but this may not be free.

The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue (www.revenue.state.pa.us) offers the ability to directly file your state tax return online for free. The system isn't available yet, but when it is you can visit their site and click on "Personal Income Tax Return Filing". The system will walk you through the sections that need to be filled out.

Even with all the delays in making forms and online services available, remember that the deadline hasn't changed! Personal income tax returns are still due on the state and federal level by April 15th, unless you file an extension request.