Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Learning | Gutenberg

I just finished an intriguing historical fiction book.  Gutenberg's Apprentice: a Novel is author Alix Christie's first book. I have always been fascinated by medieval illuminated manuscripts, which were traditionally created by hand, by scribes.  I've been equally fascinated by the printing process; if you've ever played with rubber stamps, I'm sure you have noticed how hard it is to make consistent impressions. I've always wondered what processes allow such clarity and uniformity.

Luckily for me, Christie's book explores both worlds. The main character is Peter Schoeffer, a young scribe who has mastered the art of making those illuminated manuscripts. He takes great pride in his work. 

At the beginning of the book, he is suddenly called away from his duties by his stepfather, Johann Fust. Fust is a middle-class trader, who has invested heavily in a secret project of Johann Gutenberg's.  Peter is given to Gutenberg as an apprentice. To say Peter is resistant to the idea is an understatement.  He thinks the early samples of the printed words are very ugly, and feels his very way of life threatened by the possibility of the new technology.

If you look at the photo right below this paragraph, you will see fine examples of the writing and embellishment that can be made with human handiwork. Compare it to the images of the collage further down the page, showing pieces of the Gutenberg Bible. You can see how a scribe like Peter might react strongly to such an oddly regular arrangement of letters on a page.  

Missal of Eberhard von Greiffenklau, Nativity, Walters Manuscript W.174, fol. 17v, from Walters Art Museum Illuminated Manuscripts' photostream on Some rights reserved.

Gutenberg Bible collage: Left, Miami University's Gutenberg leaf (Recto) from the Gutenberg Bible. It contains Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 42:14-43:25. From Miami University Library's photostream on Top Right, Gutenberg Bible - detail from the Old Testament; Bottom Right, detail from the New Testament, The Gutenberg Bible, both digitized by the HUMI Project, Keio University, July 2005; © National Library of Scotland; from National Library of Scotland's photostream on All images in the collage were taken from The Commons area of, with no known copyright restrictions.

There are many ups and downs to the story of the production of the Gutenberg Bible.  Political and economic conditions forced the crew to work secretly for years, experimenting with various materials and techniques before developing a successful, reliable process.  Alix Christie is a printer herself, so she is able to describe the process in detail.  In some respects, this book reminds me of Homer Hickham's biography, Rocket Boys. In fact, if you enjoyed Rocket Boys, I think you will enjoy Gutenberg's Apprentice.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

She's Crafty | Book Trees

Looky, looky, our branches have sprouted some very fine book trees for the holidays!

First up, we have a book tree at the Tracy branch made of discarded books. The books are fanned open and cut to make a star topper and the greenery of the tree. Under the tree are colorful presents trimmed with book page ribbons and bows. The ornaments promote reading and the wonders of library cards.

Recycled book page tree with presents!
By Carissa, a staff member at the Tracy branch.

Escalon's tree is festive with garland and colorful books. This is the style of book tree that will pop up when you Google: "library book tree" or do a similar search on Pinterest.

The Escalon branch has a sparkly book tree!
This one was made by Emily.

I helped make a small one at the Chavez branch. It was my very first time helping to make a book tree. My book tree mentor, Nancy, showed me the way and we came up with this little beauty featuring a book page star topper, old reference books, and tinsel garland....

Chavez is festive with a wee, little book tree.

It may be small but it's full of spirit! Apparently a tree in the past at Chavez was mistaken for a game of Jenga and although we didn't have an incident involving a patron being buried by books, we couldn't handle the thought of possibly experiencing an avalanche so we made the tree less accessible this year.

However, next year we're planning on making a tree on wheels with all the books glued down, yay! All we would have to do is roll it out, dust it off, and give it some lights. We won't have to worry about the poor tree being picked on or the tree attacking an unsuspecting patron. Sounds like a win-win situation to me!

The Chavez branch once had a 5-foot book tree.
We're working on bringing it back. Stay tuned...

Book trees are pretty easy to set up but can be tricky to get just right. Basically you build it like a brick wall where things are staggered on the layer below. You have to bring it in ever so slightly on each level to make a tree shape. This is what can be the tricky part. A few times I would step back to see a lopsided tree that looked like it was trying to run away. You just gotta check your work periodically from a distance, that's all.

Also, if you want your book tree to stay standing, you have to fill the center with books or other objects on each level. Filling the center can be tricky on the upper levels since the interior can get smaller than a paperback. Our tree started out small so after the first three levels we had to get creative with filling the void. We resorted to using stacks of left-over bookmarks from programs past and other odds-and-ends. Whatever works, right?

Let me know if you have made a book tree, will attempt to make a book tree, have been awed by a ginormous book tree, or have seen any kind of tree that isn't a tree that strikes your fancy.

I once saw a show describing a town tree made out of crab traps and zip-ties!

Also, be sure to visit your local branch to check out all the festive decorations and book displays keeping our book trees company. In fact, plan a holiday tour of all our branches! I just focused on book trees in this post but there is plenty of other fun stuff going on.

Troke's Mitten Tree.
Before I end my post, let me introduce you to our last tree. It's not a book tree but it's a very important tree you can visit at the Margaret Troke branch. This one is topped with a cute little hat and the garland is made of scarves. There's a reason for this. Ever since 2007 the staff at Troke has put up a mitten tree asking for donations of hats, scarves, and gloves that will go to the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless. If you want to participate and donate something to help keep someone warm this winter, go to Troke and leave a donation!

Malia & Kaye

Monday, December 15, 2014

Just Life| Just Like a Kid in a Candy Store

For me, working in a library is like being a kid in a candy store.

Every time I process our new books at the Troke Library. I come face to face with delicious pages like these:

So, this week, while processing new books, I came across these brand new cook books that I want to share with you.

The first book that I almost bit into was: Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan.

From the second book, Jamie Oliver's Comfort Food , I almost ate the following pages:

Now you have it, books are delicious and cookbooks are the most delicious of all, specially around Christmas time.

Signing off until next Monday- Panteha

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Learning | Non-Fiction Christmas Books

It's the most wonderful time of the year.  Maybe we are busy, but I hope we're not too busy to read.  I'd like to point out that SSJCPL has a veritable plethora of Christmas books for your reading pleasure. 

Sure, there are picture books for the wee ones, and stories for us bigger kids of all ages, but today I will draw your attention to non-fiction books about Christmas.

Don't forget that we have books that will teach you how to do things, or tell you why things are the way they are. 

  • Need recipes? We have them.  
  • Craft projects? We have them.  
  • Decorating ideas? Party planning? We have them. 
  • Christmas traditions around the world? We have them. 
  • Christmas music? We have it, in the form of sheet music and recorded music.
Santa and the Rockettes, from Alex's photostream on Some rights reserved.

There are also some inspirational Christmas books.  I just checked out one of our newest books, Charles Edward Hall's Santa Claus is for Real: a True Christmas Fable About the Magic of Believing. This man learned the true meaning of Christmas, by playing Santa Claus in New York's Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular for nearly three decades.  When he started, he was more like Scrooge than Santa Claus. I can't wait to read about it.

Do you have a favorite Christmas book? Leave a comment below, and tell us about it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

She's Crafty | Crafty Resources

When you think of resources that might be available at your local library for crafting the first thought is obviously going to be about books. Library...books...they kind of go hand-in-hand. But did you know your local SSJCPL branch has more than books to help you in your crafty quests? Yuuup, we got the stuff...

In this post I'm going to introduce you, dear reader, to two resources you can access at your branch or on our website easy peasy.

The first resource is a database.
digital information collected and organized in one place from a variety or sources.
Easily searchable, retrievable, printable and sharable, databases are a very handy tool to have.

With our databases you can:
  • Find repair information for your vehicle through the Auto Repair Reference Center
  • Find your next read by browsing NoveList
  • Perform searches of articles and pictures especially for children in Kids Search

Of course, I'm especially excited to talk about one database in particular, the Hobbies and Craft Reference Center! You read that right, crafters, we have an entire database bursting with all sorts of crafty information! Annnd you can access it 24 hours a day 7 days a week from home or during any hour your local branch is open on one of our public-use computers.

Yeeeah baby!
How does a database help you craft? Say you heard a friend talk about a papercutting craft called scherenschnitte and you wanted to learn more about this German art of cutting paper. This reminds you that you just recently read a blog about a library database that might have information about what you're looking for. You hop on your computer or head to your local branch and hop on one of theirs and... -> Research -> Databases -> Fun!
  1. Go to
  2. Mouse over to Research.
  3. In the menu that pops up, click on Databases. This will bring you to the Database Category page.
  4. In this example, to reach the Hobbies and Craft Reference Center, you would click on the Do It Yourself category.
  5. You would then click on the blue and underlined title for the database you want to play with.
Once inside the database you have a few options to find information.
  • performing a Search
  • browse by Category
  • browse by Popular Sources
  • clicking on the Featured Video
  • or pressing the Get Started! button in the Crafts Spotlight area.
To continue our example, let's perform a search for "scherenschnitte".

At the very top of the search results is a promising entry, "Simplified Scherenschnitte". The search result entry tells me that it comes from a periodical, who wrote the article, which magazine it came from, and the date. It will also list thumbnails of pictures featured in the article. At the bottom of the entry it will have all the related files associated to this specific article; be it PDF, HTML, video, and animation. Click on the one you want and it will open your article or media in the browser for immediate consumption.

Once you open the article you have the option to simply read the article, print the article, email the article to yourself or a friend, find out how to cite the article in various formats (helpful if you were writing a research paper on German papercutting), get the permalink for blogging or share the article through your favorite social media sites.

Let's just say, you have options galore.

The next resource I want to highlight are magazines. 

Fun, floppy bundles of paper with photographs and/or illustrations.
Also known as: periodical, journal, glossy, zine...

I did a quick search of all of our periodical titles and was blown away that at this moment the library has about 860 different titles! Even though this number includes all languages, all ages, archived titles, and reference items, it's still an awesome number to behold.

Magazines are great for inspiration pick-me-ups. When I'm dealing with the crafting ho-hums and I can't think of anything to make, or I want to make something but I'm having major craft block--flipping through an issue or two usually gives me all sorts of ideas to play with.

And the tips! You will not believe all the awesome tips you can find in craft magazines. I'm thinking of starting a special magazine tip notebook that I can refer to any time I want. 

Get Inspired!
One of my favorite craft magazines is Paper Crafts. This magazine features paper crafted items submitted by designers. The designs are collected into sections and articles based on a theme or to showcase a craft technique, trend, or layout. This magazine in particular is up-to-date and innovative when it comes to trends in design, color palettes, new craft techniques, and what can be done with new products and tools. I never lay an issue of Paper Crafts down without at least a few ideas rattling around in my head.

Well, I hope this post was helpful and enlightening! If I can encourage at least one person to visit the Hobbies and Craft Reference Center or check out a magazine then I say my mission is a success.

Until next time--stay warm, stay informed, and keep it crafty!

Malia & Kaye

Ms. Suzy Reads | Storytime, Storytime, Storytime

Hello, reading friends. Lately I've been reminded again and again and again of the importance of early literacy. One of my main goals for our weekly storytimes is to instill a love of books and reading in our very young children, so that when they are developmentally ready to read, they will already have the desire to read. 

So storytime is pretty darn important, in my humble opinion. And today I thought I'd share some of my very favorite storytime books. Check them out at a library near you!

Jan Thomas' Is Everyone Ready for Fun? is laugh out loud funny, except for chicken, who is not all that pleased with the happenings on his couch! This is one of my favorites because you can get children moving with the cows!

This next one has been around a while, but it's still one of my go-to favorites: Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion. It's the story of Harry, a white dog with black spots, who goes on quite an adventure in the city...all because he doesn't want to take a bath. Many children may recognize themselves in Harry in terms of bath avoidance! I love this story and I love the illustrations. A great one to share with children young and not so young.

I seem to be particularly fond of books that inspire movement and activity. And this next one does just that: We're Going On a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen. Splish splosh through a river, stumble trip through a forest, and more! This is a lovely book to read aloud the first time, then act out all the movements the second time. This will also inspire a trip outside, so weather permitting, this might be even better as an outdoor read aloud!

Some of my favorite storytime books to share with young children! You really can't go wrong when reading with young children. Just make sure you read the book alone first so you can plan out voices and inflections. And read books that YOU enjoy yourself. 

Reading aloud = one of the greatest gifts we can give our young children.

And one more thing, find a library storytime near you on SSJCPL's Calendar of Events! Please join us!!


Monday, December 8, 2014

Just Life| Let It Snow

When I was a kid, almost every winter in Tehran, they would close schools for a couple of days due to heavy snow. 

I loved those snowy days.

It was great to skip school and to spend the day playing in the snow with the neighborhood kids.

But with snow, came the dreaded job of shoveling the snow. 

We have flat roofs in Tehran and in winter, you have to shovel that snow from the roof before it collapses on top of you.

Our rooftop looked like this huge rectangular cake covered with whipped cream frosting.

Then, we would slice and shovel this winter cake one row at a time until it was all eaten up by our hungry shovels.

Since my dad was a teacher, on those snowy days, me, my dad, and my brother would go to the roof to clear the snow.

My poor mom couldn't share our fun. She was in the Air Force and she had to show up to work even when they were dropping bombs from the sky. (Literally)


The snow on the roof didn't have any place to go but on top of our flower beds in our front yard.

At the end of the day, we had this huge heap of snow on top of our flower beds that lingered sometimes all the way into Spring.

Here in Stockton, we never experience the beauty of winter first hand.

So, this winter, I wish upon the stars for some heavy snow, so our kids can skip school and stay home and play in the snow until their noses look like Rudolph.

Until then,

Let's just keep on reading.

Signing off until next Monday- Panteha