A peek backwards – Local History exposing hidden gem series!

This blog post is the first in a series of hidden gems found at Robbins Library or it’s immediate vicinity.

The  Childrens Room (Junior Library) once upon a time…

A sepia toned photo. All historic photos can be found at the Digital Commonwealth site.


another view            






The following surprise image represents an original colorful (watercolor) rendering of the same room by the historic architectural firm – Gay and Proctor…

All Robbins Library’s historic image collections can be found at the Digital Commonwealth

Stay tuned for the next discovery.

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August Readalike: Death and dying

New readalike logo: If you liked this book...why not try a readalike?Death is a somewhat taboo subject, one that most people are uncomfortable discussing – despite the fact that dying is one of the few things all humans (and animals, and plants) have in common. We don’t want to think about it, so we avoid discussing it, we fail to plan for it, and the end is often worse than it has to be.

However, a number of books recently have raised the topic of death and dying, and these books have been tremendously popular. Here are a few books – memoirs, nonfiction, novels, even graphic novels – whose articulate authors confront the topic with intelligence, humor, and empathy.

Dying: a memoir by Cory Taylor (2017): “Australian writer Taylor, who found herself out of treatment options for melanoma-related brain cancer, reflects on the end of her life in this unflinchingly honest memoir,” the Publishers Weekly review begins. The Kirkus review ends, “There is an ever expanding body of literature on coming to terms with mortality, and this entry ranks with the best.” A slim 152 pages, but Taylor makes every word count.

The Bright Hour: a memoir of living and dying by Nina Riggs (2017): Riggs, a poet, wife, and mother, was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 37; the cancer metastasized and became terminal. BookPage writes, “The Bright Hour is an introspective, well-considered tribute to life. As Riggs’ famed ancestor Emerson writes, ‘That is morning; to cease for a bright hour to be a prisoner of this sickly body and to become as large as the World.'” 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (2016): A writer and a doctor, Kalanithi had nearly completed his residency in neurosurgery when he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. When Breath Becomes Air is “a moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.” (Kirkus) With a moving epilogue by his wife, also a doctor.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (2014): Surgeon and author Gawande Being confronts the difficult conversations that we avoid having: conversations about aging and dying. Even many doctors are not comfortable broaching these topics with their patients, focusing instead on individual problems they can fix instead of the overall picture. While adult children might feel that safety and longevity are priorities for their aging parents, the elderly themselves may be more concerned about their quality of life and having autonomy. Gawande writes with thoughtfulness and compassion.

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast (2014) Cartoonist for The New Yorker Roz Chast wrote this graphic novel about taking care of her aging parents, first at their home in Brooklyn, then moving them to a “Place” closer to her home in Connecticut. This is less about death than about decline, and how parent/child relationships change: frustrating, funny, and sad.

This Star Won’t Go Out: the life and words of Esther Grace Earl (2014): Readers of The Fault in Our Stars may know that Hazel Grace was inspired by a real girl, Esther, who died of cancer when she was 16. Esther Earl’s story is here, told through letters, journal entries, sketches, CaringBridge posts, and stories about her by friends and family.

Stitches: a handbook on meaning, hope, and repair by Anne Lamott (2013): Lamott is “an unusually hip, demotic, urbane kind of Christian,” and this “handbook” has plenty of appeal for readers beyond a Christian audience. Lamott “explores how we can find significance in the face of pain or disaster” (Publishers Weekly).

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens (2012): Famously opinionated writer and cultural critic Hitchens, diagnosed with esophageal cancer, “in his typically unflinching and bold manner…candidly shares his thoughts about his suffering, the etiquette of illness and wellness, and religion in this stark and powerful memoir” (Publishers Weekly).Spare as it is and culled from several of his final Vanity Fair columns, this pamphlet-like tome resurrects great wit and insight from his final year of living dyingly” (Booklist). 

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow (2008): “Time is all you have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think.” Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, gave a now-famous “last lecture” after he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer; a version of the lecture was published in book form.

Life on the Refrigerator Door: a novel in notes by Alice Kuipers (2007): Teenage Claire and her hardworking ob-gyn mother communicate in post-it notes they leave for each other on the refrigerator door. The format lends poignancy to the story, as it becomes clear that Claire’s mother is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, yet the two, though close, rarely see each other.

Dying isn’t a fun topic, and these aren’t easy books to read, but you may find them to be inspiring, helpful in starting conversations with loved ones, even a source of (dark) humor.

Looking for a mystery, historical fiction, or short stories instead? See previous readalike posts here.

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Next NSYA Book Group Meeting

Thank you to everyone who came to the Not-So-Young Adult Book Group last night to discuss The Good Braider!

Our next meeting will be on September 20 at 7pm in the 4th floor conference room. We’ll be discussing In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives by Kenneth C. Davis. Copies are available now at the front desk.

We only have one more book chosen after this one, so in September we’ll also be voting on upcoming books! If you have suggestions, please share them in the comments below.

See you in September!

The Not-So-Young Adult Book Group is a book group for adults in which we read books written for teens. Our discussions are casual and friendly and newcomers are always welcome!

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Great American Solar Eclipse Safety Guide

We’ve been overwhelmed with the response to our solar eclipse viewing party and distribution of free glasses. Due to our limited quantity of 40 glasses, we wanted to provide you with some resources on where to buy ISO certified and safe glasses.

Where to Buy Glasses

  • The American Astronomical Society (AAS)  has a page that lists Reputable Vendors of Solar Filters & Viewers. This list of manufacturers and authorized dealers of eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers verified to be compliant with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard for such products. It may be difficult to purchase glasses so close to the eclipse and counterfeit items have been reported on Amazon.

Safe Viewing Tips 

  • How to View a Solar Eclipse Safely
  • Looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse (“totality”), when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face, which will happen only within the narrow path of totality.  (Note: Arlington is NOT in the path of totality).  (https://go.nasa.gov/2pC0lhe)
  • The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses”.
  • Always supervise children using solar filters. For more safety viewing tips, please visit: NASA Total Eclipse 101

An alternative way to view the eclipse is through a pinhole projector, which are very easy to make with household items, or use your hands.

More Information about the Eclipse and interactive sites: 

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Why do you go to the library?

Your Voice Your Library button

Su Voz Su BibliotecaPatron survey button in Chinese


Do you enjoy giving your opinion about library services? How about taking this short survey from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, your state agency?

The purpose of the study is to help them understand who uses which library and why, with the goal of leveling the playing field for all sizes of libraries in the Commonwealth.

It should take 8-10 minutes to complete, and is completely anonymous. Survey is open through September 8, 2017. The survey is also available in Spanish and Chinese.

Participants have the option to provide their email address and be entered into a drawing for an iPad Pro, to be awarded on September 15, 2017. Three iPads will be given: one to a patron who lives in the eastern part of the state, one in the central area, and one in western Massachusetts.

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Robbins Library Book Discussion Group: “The Bookseller of Kabul” on 9/6

The Robbins Library Book Discussion Group will next meet on Wednesday September 6 at 7 pm in the Robbins Library Conference Room.

The group discusses “The Bookseller of Kabul” by Åsne Seierstad . New members are welcome. Book will be available at the Circulation Desk after August 7.

Here’s the description from publisher:

With The Bookseller of Kabul, award-winning journalist Asne Seierstad has given readers a first-hand look at Afghani life as few outsiders have seen it. Invited to live with Sultan Khan, a bookseller in Kabul, and his family for months, this account of her experience allows the Khans to speak for themselves, giving us a genuinely gripping and moving portrait of a family, and of a country of great cultural riches and extreme contradictions. For more than 20 years, Sultan Khan has defied the authorities-whether Communist or Taliban-to supply books to the people of Kabul. He has been arrested, interrogated, and imprisoned, and has watched illiterate Taliban soldiers burn piles of his books in the street. Yet he had persisted in his passion for books, shedding light in one of the world’s darkest places. This is the intimate portrait of a man of principle and of his family-two wives, five children, and many relatives sharing a small four-room house in this war ravaged city. But more than that, it is a rare look at contemporary life under Islam, where even after the Taliban’s collapse, the women must submit to arranged marriages, polygamous husbands, and crippling limitations on their ability to travel, learn and communicate with others.
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The Great American Solar Eclipse

Credit: Rick Fienberg / TravelQuest International / Wilderness Travel

In 11 days, a total solar eclipse will transverse the continental United States.  While Arlington is not in the path of totality, we can expect to view the moon obscuring 63.2% of the sun.

Join us in garden between Robbins Library and Town Hall on Monday August 21 as we attempt to view the total solar eclipse from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

We are receiving glasses from the The STAR Library Network (STAR_Net), with support from the Moore Foundation, Google, NASA, the Research Corporation, and NSF, which has distributed over 2.1 million safe eclipse glasses to 7,000 unique locations including public library branches, bookmobiles, tribal libraries, library consortia, and state libraries in all 50 states!


The first 40 attendees will receive solar-viewing eclipse glasses, while supplies last (limit 1 per person / 2 per family). Glasses will be distributed at 2:00 p.m. in the Winfield Robbins Memorial Garden. Look for the library staff member wearing a blue Robbins Library apron Prime viewing time for the Boston area is about 2:46 pm.

The Children’s Room will have pin-hole cardboard viewers available.

For more information, please email mdeedy@minlib.net.


Credit: Courtesy Mark Margolis / Rainbow Symphony

Safe Viewing Tips from NASA 

  • Looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse (“totality”), when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face, which will happen only within the narrow path of totality. (https://go.nasa.gov/2pC0lhe)
  • The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses”.
  • Always supervise children using solar filters.For more safety viewing tips, please visit: NASA Total Eclipse 101

An alternative way to view the eclipse is through a pinhole projector, which are very easy to make, or use your hands.

More Information about the Eclipse and interactive sites: 

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Not-So-Young About Book Group Meets on 8/16

The Not-S0-Young Adult Book Group is back from its July hiatus! We’ll be meeting next week on August 16 at 7pm in the 4th floor conference room.

We’ll be talking about The Good Braider by Terry Farish, a novel in verse about a young refugee from Sudan who comes to the US with her family and makes a home in Portland, ME. It’s a short, quick read but packs a powerful emotional punch. Stop by the front desk to pick up a copy if you haven’t already.

Copies of the next book, In the Shadow of Liberty, are on their way and should be here by the night of our meeting. Hope to see you next Wednesday!

The Not-So-Young Adult Book Group is for adults, but we read books written for teens. It’s a casual, friendly discussion and newcomers are always welcome.


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Fall Book Buzz!



Looking for something good to read in the next few months? Fall is such a huge time for publishing it can be hard to keep up with the onslaught of new books. But never fear: your friendly local librarians have you covered!

Come join us on Friday, August 25 from 12-1 in the Community Room and we’ll give you the scoop on a whole slew of exciting new books from your favorite authors as well as some authors who will be new to you.

Feel free to bring a bag lunch, and a pen to take notes. You’ll leave with a whole list of exciting new titles to curl up with this fall!

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Saturday hours for Fox Library begin September 9

Starting on Saturday, September 9 the Fox Branch Library will be open on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The new Saturday schedule parallels that of the Robbins Library, which is open on Saturdays from September through June. This expansion of weekend library service is a response to needs identified through library user surveys and feedback from the community, and is made possible by municipal funding and funding from the 0502Friends of Fox Library.

Weekend library hours are a critical resource for working parents, their children and all those who are unable to access library services on weekdays or evenings. The value of weekend library services is reflected in foot traffic, circulation numbers and children’s program attendance. Last year the Robbins Library circulated an average of 140 items per hour on weekdays, and an average of 200 items per hour on Saturdays. Weekend children’s programs are regularly at capacity.

“Over my five-year career in Arlington’s Libraries, the desire for access has been the main theme in community forums, conversations with library users, and in suggestion box comments,” says Director of Libraries, Andrea Nicolay. “I am thrilled that we’re in a position to expand weekend hours and I hope we see many new faces as a result.”

Each year, the Library Board of Trustees determines goals and objectives for the year ahead with input from library administration. A perennial objective is to ensure that the library’s hours of operation and staffing levels meet the needs of the community. There are competing views of where additional library hours are most needed; for example the Robbins Library has been closed on Thursday mornings since 2004. In the case for Saturdays, it came down to the fact that weekend hours are useful to more people.

The neighborhood surrounding the Fox Library has seen other investments and

photo credit: Bram Berkowitz for the Arlington Advocate

developments in recent years: streetscape improvements along Mass Ave, the addition, expansion and renovation of neighborhood schools, and a number of new businesses. Saturday hours at Fox Library translate to more activity and foot traffic for the entire Capitol Square business district. In addition, families can look forward to a monthly Saturday children’s program at the Fox.


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