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AUGUST 25, 2007
Historic Monterey

I just returned from my shift at the Historic Monterey table where we were among dozens of cultural institutions participating in a block party organized by the Carmel Art Association. Each organization had a "booth" stocked with brochures, examples of their products, and staff and volunteers to share information.

Historic Monterey is a partnership among the City of Monterey, California State Historic Parks, and the Monterey History and Art Association. Because each partner owns and manages historic sites and collections, the partnership formed so that we could collaborate in promoting historic resources and creating events related to local history. The Library’s involvement in Historic Monterey owes to its being the City department that oversees and interprets historic resources and manages related collections, both in the Library’s California History Room and in the Museums division.

Back to the block party. I was amazed to speak to so many people who are unaware of Monterey’s rich history and its many resources. I was even more amazed that so many people were delighted to hear about our museums, historic gardens, buildings, literary sites, and the lectures, exhibits, and other activities that we present. I handed out lots of maps, brochures, announcements, and heard lots of promises from folks who are now eager to take advantage of these offerings. One innkeeper picked up a bunch of brochures to share with her customers. Another with a relative visiting from Spain was thrilled to add historic Monterey to her guest’s itinerary. I even received an invitation to come and give a presentation for a local organization.

It just goes to show the importance of getting outside the office and meeting people face-to-face to share your story. Of course, it often takes an event like this one to create the opportunity to do so. And so, I say "thank you" to Carmel Art Association! 

For more information Monterey’s history and related points of interest, check out the Historic Monterey Web site at www.historicmonterey.org.

(Photo:  Colton Hall, site of the California's Constitutional Convention in 1849, in the heart of downtown Monterey)

posted by Jeanne

Category: In the Know

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AUGUST 25, 2007
Austenland

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Jane Hayes is a thirty-something career woman who has a miserable love life.  As a result, she is very cynical where men are concerned, yet in her heart, she’s a hopeless romantic. She is also a die hard Jane Austen fan who is secretly hoping for a *Mr. Darcy to come along.  When Jane's old auntie passes away, she leaves to Jane an all-expenses-paid trip to a place called Austenland.

Austenland is an country estate in the England called Pembrook Park, where for several weeks, a small group of visitors travel back to 1816 and engage in the pretense of a country house party.  Each is given a name and identity, a period wardrobe, agree to employ regency manners, enjoy regency period activities and stay strictly in character. There are also actors employed at Austenland to make even the number of men and women in the house party.  Jane allows herself to get caught up in the escapist pleasure of Austenland, fantasizing that she just might find her Mr. Darcy. But, as always, there is old tension between her head and her heart.

The book is very funny as it goes back and forth from the narrative of the Austenland plot to brief accounts of each and every one of Jane’s fateful romances. As the book goes on, these rejections are more painfully hilarious, but they are important to understanding Jane’s disillusionment where men are concerned, and do not distract from the playful doings at Austenland.

The book is very short, clever, very funny - a perfect summer read - and it has a great surprise ending that would certainly get the Jane Austen seal of approval.

*Elizabeth Bennett's love interest in inJane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

posted by Jeanne

Categories: Staff ReadsTeen Zone

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AUGUST 22, 2007
Back to school...and the Library!

It's almost September, and Monterey area schools are back in session.  Library staff are once again welcoming familiar students and new library customers after school - a chance to reconnect with growing members of our local community - some of whom we've known since they were bouncing and singing at storytime.

Studies have shown that students who visit the Library after school tend to be more successful during school time. The research help we offer, the free access to Live Homework help online tutoring and online resources, the books and other materials we check out, and the encouragement we provide all contribute to that success. I only wish more teens knew the vast universe of treasures we are eager to share.

And as we welcome and encourage young people as Library customers we are also reaching future library users - and supporters - so libraries can prosper and grow.  The most avid readers I know have fond memories of their local libraries - and their positive experiences as children and teens with libraries and library staff. 

We have also learned the importance of caring adults in young people's lives, from stories shared by teachers, parents and the young people themselves. As we balance the needs of all library users we've learned that a friendly greeting, a smile, remembering a name, respectful and clear communication can improve the shared library experience for all ages. And help build and strengthen our community.

posted by Kim BB

Categories: Director's BlogIn the Know

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AUGUST 17, 2007
In the Beginning: 1968

In The Last of Her Kind author Sigrid Nunez explores the relationship between two women against the backdrop of the last third of the 20th century. 

The two main characters Ann and Georgette meet as freshman roommates at Barnard College in 1968.  Ann comes from a wealthy, conservative background, whereas George (as she is nicknamed), is a scholarship student from a dysfunctional, violent, lower-middle class family.  Ann despises everything about her priviliged background including her race, her family, established institutions, and the people affiliated with them.  She throws herself selflessly, even recklessly, into a series of various causes - at one point even joining a group of militant revolutionaries.  George is sympathetic to many of the reform movements of the era, but her top priority is to escape her wretched upbringing and get ahead in life.  Alghough the two women forge a deep friendship, Ann's principles are so uncompromising that she becomes contemptuous of anything and anyone who is not in complete sync with her thinking and inevitably that includes George.

As narrator, George chronicles her more or less conventional life over the next several decades, but never stops thinking about Ann, and continues to admire Ann's utter devotion to her unyielding set of principles.  While Ann does manage, in a most unusual way, to do some good for humanity, the irony of this story is that Ann never really does understand what people want or need. 

This well-written story has both comic and tragic elements,  it is also a very candid examination of certain aspects of the American experience during a period of dramatic social, political, cultural experimentation and change. 

posted by Jeanne

Category: Staff Reads

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AUGUST 16, 2007
Vampire alert!

I've been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Eclipse. This is the third in the vampire romance fantasy trilogy by Stephenie Meyer. It’s here at the Library now, but if you haven’t read the first two you’ll want to before turning to this sequel. Twilight introduces the reader to Bella and Edward, who meet in high school. Bella soon discovers that Edward is not your typical high school student – he seems to have superhuman strength and superhuman good looks. And he has some odd habits too, including missing school on the full moon! In New Moon the romance grows as Bella contemplates becoming immortal herself. 

That's all I'm going to say!  How do you like the books?  How do they compare to other vampire books you've read? 

Read Your Reviews to see what local teens say about these books and others!

posted by Debbie

Categories: Teen ZoneStaff Reads

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AUGUST 14, 2007
The Camel Bookmobile

I'm a librarian, and I am very interested in cross-cultural work.  (I have spent much of my life working with developing library services for American Indians.  I have lived and worked on several reservations and taught in a one-room school in a village feast house.)  And my first job at 16 was on a bookmobile.  So you can see why I would like this book.  However, I think almost anyone would!  The Camel Bookmobile is the story of a young female librarian who leaves her happy single life in Manhattan for adventure and the lofty goal of  bringing books to small desert villages in Kenya.  For Fiona, it is a story of cross-cultural work, a professional turning points, and a bit of cross-cultural romance.  For Kenyan teenagers, Scar Boy and Kanika, there is also romance and desire for new experiences.   For others in Kenya, there are taboos, gossip, pride and loyalty.  This book brings up big questions about the effect of new knowledge on traditional life and questions the purposes of outsiders.  Or reading just for fun, The Camel Bookmobile  is somewhat like the  African series by  McCall Smith. 

posted by Karen

Categories: Staff ReadsTeen Zone

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AUGUST 8, 2007
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

SPOILER ALERT – IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW THE DETAILS OF HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, DON’T READ THESE POSTINGS!

The Harry Potter series is now complete with the July 21 release of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsFor those of us who have finished the book, it’s time to begin the discussion!

In this book, Harry and his friends seek the remaining horicruxes (items that contain pieces of Voldemort’s divided soul ) in order to help finish off the evil wizard. To that end, Harry, Hermoine, and Ron have decided not to return to Hogwart’s school for their final year, instead embarking on their quest. Dumbledore has left behind bequests to the three friends that include clues and other information that prove to be of vital use to them.

In the opening chapter, Harry leaves the Dursley’s for good.  Was anyone else surprised by Harry's parting with his cousin Dudley?  Perhaps some of Harry's goodness rubbed off on him, in spite of his upbringing and his unyielding parents. 

The wizarding world is gearing up for a showdown – a war, if you will - between Voldemort, his Death Eaters, and other sympathizers and Dumbledore’s Army, the Order of the Phoenix, and those left in the Ministry of Magic who haven’t turned coat. Meanwhile, Inside Hogwarts, many changes are underway. How did the readers feel about these changes?  It was difficult to believe that things could have become even worse than they were under the administration of Dolores Umbridge.  I felt sad for the students.

Early in the story a major character is killed and another severely injured. In doing so, the author prepares the reader for the fact that some of the good guys are going to die before the story ends. And, indeed, they do!  Let’s talk about some of those losses and our reactions to them.

Does anyone have comments on the pace of the story – particularly in the section where Harry, Ron, and Hermoine are making very slow progress, and hardship and frustrations set in?

SPOILER ALERT: One of the most heart-wrenching moments for me was the heroic death of Dobby, and the aftermath when Harry digs his grave. I felt great sadness over the loss of faithful, loyal Dobby, but I admired Harry’s response.  It was a turning point for him - from boyhood to manhood.  Any thoughts on this section of the story?

I was very pleased with the outcome of the story. I was also grateful for the epilogue, but disappointed that was didn’t learn what happened to Luna, who emerged late in the series as one of the most perceptive and supportive of Harry’s friends.

Oh, there is so much to discuss!  Does anyone have any particular aspects of the book that you’d like to discuss with other readers?

posted by Jeanne

Category: Harry Potter

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AUGUST 3, 2007
I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

In her short collection of essays,I Feel Bad About My Neck, screenwriter and author Nora Ephron writes about being a woman.  She makes amusing observations about topics of special interest to women of middle-age and beyond - skin tone, food, purses, reading, marriage, home, children, insomnia, diminished eyesight, loss, and mortality.  She also reveals, with much candor, many details of her more-or-less charmed life. 

There is much to celebrate in this slim volume and some laugh-out-loud moments.  Yes, for today's woman, 60 is the new 50.  We've come a long way, baby.  We have great haircuts and have discovered the miracle of camoflage using turtleneck sweaters and scarves.  But aging still has its downside, and there is an inescapable melancholy lingering around these wise, witty, and yet very readable essays. 

posted by Jeanne

Category: Staff Reads

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