February 2020

Calculating a library's worth

In my library column last May I talked about the library “return on investment” tool that library users can use to calculate how much value they get from their library. At the time I plugged in total numbers of books circulated, magazines borrowed, programs attended, etc. and found that it only took 5 months for Warren taxpayers to get back what they put into the library via town funds. Looking at 2019 as a whole, the value of services provided by the library is almost three times the amount that Warren taxpayers will be asked to fund in the town budget at town meeting day. In 2019, over 13,000 physical items were checked out and almost 3,000 digital audiobooks and ebooks were downloaded. Included in those physical items are passes to some favorite attractions in Vermont as well as games, toys, and DVDs. But not included in the calculation is access to a whole host of free online classes and databases that are available to all Vermont residents through their public libraries. With a library account and a little bit of guidance getting started, one can take a free class on how to use Quickbooks, access New York Times articles, or study for a plumber’s licensing exam. That’s a lot of extra value!


February is Black History Month and in recognition, here are some recent additions to the library that highlight black achievements and experiences:


A Black Women's History of the United States by Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross. Most of us learned history as told through the lens of the victors but Berry and Gross give us 400 years of American history through the stories of black women and the sexism and racism they fought.


Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. Giving us a glimpse into the black experience in Great Britain, Girl, Woman, Other tells the interweaving stories of generations of black women in England. Class, race, education, gender identity, immigration, emotional abuse, the clash of the generations, it’s all here and written beautifully.


And for younger readers, The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and illustrator Kadir Nelson is a visual and poetic tribute to black achievement and struggle. Included are figures from the civil rights movement, literature, music, sports, current events, and more. Alexander’s poetry sings alongside Nelson’s portraits.

January 2020

Family Reading

Sometimes a book gets ordered and we are stumped as to where to put it: Is it a book primarily for adults? Kids? Teens? Who exactly is the audience? And where will it get noticed in the library? The following are three such books that were added to the library collection in the last year that Youth Services Librarian, Amanda Gates, and I think are great choices to bridge the generations. All three books feature some illustrations that provide visual interest and short chapters perfect for reading aloud together in small portions. And the first two could be the perfect way to introduce some of those scary life topics that we shy away from. Maybe you’ve resolved to read more with your older kids in the New Year? If so, give these books a try.


Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions from Tiny Mortals about Death by Caitlin Doughty. In her latest book, Doughty, a funeral director and YouTube personality, tackles questions that she has taken from kids about death, dying, and burial. “Can I be buried in the same grave as my hamster?” Simple answer: assuming your hamster friend is already deceased, it depends on where you live. “Can we give Grandma a Viking Funeral?” After debunking the flaming boat Viking funeral myth, Doughty explains funeral pyres and just how much fuel is needed for a, um, “successful” one - 40 cubit feet of wood! - and just how impractical that would be. Doughty does suggest a plausible alternative: a “witness cremation” in which you can watch your loved one enter the retort (cremation machine). While Doughty uses humor throughout, she takes each question seriously and answers completely and frankly - and with 17 pages of cited sources at the back of the book, authoritatively.


How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals by Sy Montgomery. Noted author and naturalist Sy Montgomery shares her lifetime of living and connecting with a variety of animals. From her first dog (a terrier named Molly of whom she writes: “Many girls worship their older sisters. I was no exception. But my older sister was a dog...”) to the pair of tree kangaroos that saved her from her darkest moments (content warning here - Montgomery is very upfront about her suicidal thoughts after the death of two of her animals). Beautifully written and perfect for animal lovers.


Does It Fart? The Definitive Field Guide to Animal Flatulence by Nick Caruso and Dani Rabaiotti. Like Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs, Does It Fart? is funny, informative, and ever so slightly irreverent (Okay, maybe not “slightly.”) While it can serve as a quick reference guide for the pressing fart-or-not question, the short entries include loads of science and fun illustrations beckon you to read beyond the quick yes-or-no answer. Did you know that not a single bird species farts?

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