Next Not-So-Young Adult Book Group Meeting

Thanks to everyone who came on Wednesday to discuss Grasshopper Jungle! Our next meeting will be on Wednesday, November 15 at 7pm in the 4th floor conference room.

We’ll be talking about The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz. We read another book by this author – Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – back in November of 2013 and most of us loved it! Here’s a description of The Inexplicable Logic of My Life:

“The first day of senior year: Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief.

Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?”

Copies of the book are available at the front desk now!

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How To Survive A Plague – Double Feature

In October we’re reading & watching How To Survive A Plague!

Join QBG in discussing the book How To Survive A Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS by David France on Wednesday October 25th.

“…the definitive history of the successful battle to halt the AIDS epidemic, and the powerful, heroic stories of the gay activists who refused to die without a fight. Intimately reported, this is the story of the men and women who, watching their friends and lovers fall, ignored by public officials, religious leaders, and the nation at large, and confronted with shame and hatred, chose to fight for their right to live. We witness the founding of ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group), the rise of an underground drug market in opposition to the prohibitively expensive (and sometimes toxic) AZT, and the gradual movement toward a lifesaving medical breakthrough. With his unparalleled access to this community David France illuminates the lives of extraordinary characters, including the closeted Wall Street trader-turned-activist; the high school dropout who found purpose battling pharmaceutical giants in New York; the South African physician who helped establish the first officially recognized buyers’ club at the height of the epidemic; and the public relations executive fighting to save his own life for the sake of his young daughter. Expansive yet richly detailed, this is an insider’s account of a pivotal moment in the history of American civil rights.”

Copies of the book are available at the circulation desk!

Reel Queer will then be screening David France’s Oscar nominated documentary that inspired the book on Thursday October 26th!

“The untold story of the efforts that turned AIDS into a mostly manageable condition – and the improbable group of young men and women who, with no scientific training, infiltrated government agencies and the pharmaceutical industry, and helped identify promising new compounds, moving them through trials and into drugstores in record time.”

This film is not rated & has a runtime of 1h 50min.

Hope to see you there!

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What can you do about fake news? Think before you share

It is perhaps no surprise that “fake news” (defined as “news that is factually false, incomplete, or strongly biased,” not “news with which you disagree”) is still a problem; the 24-hour news cycle and the ability to share easily with many people on social media provide an environment where misinformation and disinformation spread quickly and are corrected much less quickly, if at all.

This won’t be solved overnight, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. In fact, there are a number of things!

What can you do?

Get out of your filter bubble. Everyone prefers to read things with which they agree. Be aware of the slant of your usual sources, and find alternate sources on occasion to maintain perspective. No journalism is perfectly objective; read from both sides, and as close to the middle as you can.

Read deeply. Read past the headline. Don’t just skim. And if you encounter something confusing or contradictory…

Triangulate. Check multiple sources to see if they agree with each other. Go outside of social media, directly to trusted news outlets. Try using to find several articles on the same topic from different perspectives.

Slow down. The 24-hour news cycle puts pressure on news organizations to publish “breaking” news constantly, sometimes at the expense of high-quality journalism in the public interest. Particularly during disasters or emergencies, when you are tempted to be glued to the news or social media, slow down and…

Limit your consumption. There isn’t that much new, meaningful news every day. Set a time limit for yourself, or choose a certain time of day to check in. Consider waiting half an hour in the morning before tuning in, and don’t check last thing at night, either. (It’s bad for your sleep.)

Check your bias, and your emotional response. If a piece of news provokes a strong emotional response from you – positive or negative – consider whether that was the author’s intention. Remember that clicks equal revenue, so again, be sure to read past clickbait-y headlines to see if the content of the article matches the headline.

Think – and read – critically. Does the author cite sources? Are quotes attributed or anonymous? If there is a graph, chart, or infographic, does the way it represents the information make sense? Statistics can be presented in misleading ways, intentionally or not. (Pie charts, for example, should always add up to 100.)

Believe that good journalism is worth paying for. If you think that high-quality, investigative journalism is worth having, it’s worth paying for. Serious journalists do research, gather and verify eyewitness and expert statements, and sometimes even risk their lives. You don’t have to subscribe yourself – the library has subscriptions to many newspapers and magazines, and you can read them here for free! We have lots of databases you can access too, for example…

  • Academic OneFile contains hundreds of podcasts and transcripts from NPR, CNN, and the CBC, as well as full-text New York Times content from 1985, in addition to articles from academic journals
  • Local news from the Arlington Advocate (2005-present; older issues are available on microfilm)
  • Boston Globe access from 1980-present
  • Consumer Reports, a trusted source offering unbiased advice about products and services
  • Expanded Academic ASAP includes scholarly journals, magazines and newspapers, with full text and images
  • General OneFile contains news and periodical articles
  • InfoTrac Newsstand provides access to more than 1,100 major U.S. regional, national and local newspapers as well as leading titles from around the world. It also includes thousands of images, radio and TV broadcasts and transcripts
  • The New York Times (1985-present)
  • and many more!

Fact-check. Go to,,, or the Washington Post Fact Checker to verify information that seems dubious, whether it seems too good to be true or too awful to believe.

Engage and listen. People consider their beliefs to be part of their identity, and when someone criticizes those beliefs, it can feel like a personal attack. If you have friends, acquaintances, or family members with different beliefs, engage respectfully with them and listen to what they have to say, and why they hold the beliefs that they do.

Start young. Information literacy and media literacy are important skills that should be taught in school. School librarians – now sometimes called School Library Media Specialists – teach these important skills, but not all schools have certified librarians. Learn more about school library advocacy from the Massachusetts School Library Association.

“Facts and reliable information are essential for the functioning of democracy.” -Katharine Viner, The Guardian

What do libraries and librarians do?

Libraries and librarians do what we have always done: provide access to information. Public libraries are open to everyone and anyone; as journalist, author, and library advocate Caitlin Moran wrote, “They are the only sheltered public spaces where you are not a consumer, but a citizen instead.”

Public libraries provide access to books, newspapers, magazines, periodicals, documentaries, and a whole variety of databases. We also provide public computers and wireless internet, so people can search the library catalog and databases, search the internet, and yes, go on social media. Reference librarians answer people’s questions and direct information seekers to the best resources, whether that’s a book, a government website, a newspaper, or something else.

Librarians adhere to the ALA Code of Ethics, which means we offer the highest level of service to all library users; we ensure equitable access; we respond to requests in an unbiased manner, keeping personal beliefs separate from professional duties; we uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist censorship; and we protect library users’ rights to privacy and confidentiality.

Read more


True Enough: Learning to live in a post-fact society by Farhad Manjoo (2008)

Being Wrong: Adventures in the margin of error by Kathryn Schulz (2010)

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (2011)

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is hiding from you by Eli Pariser (2011, 2012)

I Don’t Know: In praise of admitting ignorance and doubt (except when you shouldn’t) by Leah Hager Cohen (2013)

The Organized Mind: Thinking straight in the age of information overload by Daniel J. Levitin (2014)

How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds by Alan Jacobs (2017)


“Four Tricky Ways That Fake News Can Fool You,” Daniel J. Levitin, TED Ideas, December 2016

“How to Discern Fake News from Real News,” Marcia Reynolds, Psychology Today, February 2017

“Fake News. It’s Complicated,” Claire Wardle, First Draft News, 2017

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Fox Library 100th Birthday Celebration

This fall, we celebrate two milestones: the Fox Branch Library turns 100, and the Robbins Library Building turns 125! Enjoy a slice of birthday cake with us and share your favorite library memories.

The celebration for Fox Branch will be held on Thursday October 26 from 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm at Fox Branch Library.


Want to learn more about Fox Branch Library? Check out 100 years of Fox Branch Library: Part One from guest blogger and local historian, Richard Duffy. (Richard Duffy has been an Arlington Libraries Foundation board member since 2013.)

Want more historical photographs of Robbins and Fox? Check out our collection on Digital Commonwealth.

Sponsored by the Arlington Libraries Foundation.

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Not-So-Young Adult Book Group Meets on 10/18

The NSYA book group will be meeting next Wednesday, October 18 at 7pm to talk about Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith.

Copies of the next book are also on their way and should be here in time for next week’s meeting. The November book is The Inexplicable Logic Of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz. You may remember this author from his last book that we discussed, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

I hope to see lots of you next Wednesday!

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Staff Picks for Hispanic Heritage Month

This month our librarians weigh in on their favorite media that are by Latinx & Hispanic creators or about Latinx & Hispanic characters!

I loved season one of Jane the Virgin. Set in Miami and parodying the telenovela style, it is fast-paced and funny, but what I liked most about it was that, even as plot lines become seriously convoluted, Jane, her mother, and her abuela remain the heart of the show. There is romance, sure, but it’s a bit like Gilmore Girls in that it keeps the female characters front and center – it passes the Bechdel-Wallace test every two minutes. (And Miami is much, much more colorful than Stars Hollow.)


The General in his Labyrinth – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
​House of Spirits – Isabel Allende
​Labyrinth Lost – Zoraida Cordova​
​Bone Street Rumba series – Daniel Jose Older
Graphic Novel/Comics:
Oscar Jaenada – Noviembre​, Trash, The Valdemar Legacy
​Aubrey Plaza – Safety Not Guaranteed, ​Drunk History, Legion
Pan’s Labyrinth – Guillermo del Torro
Miquel Angel Silvestre – Velvet, Sense8
The Way He Looks – Daniel Ribeiro
​Also, here are some musicians I love:

I loved Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina. The sense of place (New York) and time (summer, 1977) is so palpable.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez. Teenage Julia is the daugher of undocumented Mexican parents living in Chicago. Her family is grieving the loss of her sister, who was killed in an accident. The book deals with racial, economic and cultural differences with her family, friends and school, depression and the fear of deportation.

Also, Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper. Friends work together to win the lowrider competition, aiming for a look that is “bajito y suavecito”. Funky, funny and inventive.

Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall – This Odyssean tale follows 5 young Mexican-American sisters who are attempting to return a drowned man’s body to his family in Mexico, and is steeped in Mexican folklore.  Along the way the sisters encounter supernatural heroes and creatures, including their guide La Llorona, and end up discovering secrets about their family’s history.

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera – Juliet is Puerto Rican, a lesbian, and trying to figure herself out.  She admires Harlow Brisbane, author & authority on all thing feminist, but doesn’t completely see herself in the white-centered feminism Harlow writes about.  To help her figure everything out she takes an internship with Harlow, moves across the country, and sets out on an adventure of self-discovery.

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris – 10 year old Karen Reyes life is not easy.  She’s queer, obsessed with monsters, & growing up in the civil rights era in Chicago.  When her upstairs neighbor dies & nobody seems to suspect foul play, she takes it upon herself to find the truth.  Drawn in a sketchy, intricate, ballpoint pen art style, this hefty graphic novel is incredibly engrossing.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz – Set in the 80’s, Saenz tells the story of a friendship between two boys, Ari & Dante.  Ari is angry and lashes out, Dante is a sensitive free spirit.  The two don’t seem to have much in common aside from the fact that they’re both loners, but over the course of their friendship they discover a great deal about themselves, the world, and forge and unbreakable bond.

Also, the web series Brujos follows a coven of queer latinx witches trying to survive grad school & witch hunters alike.

Share your favorite Hispanic & Latinx authors in the comments below!

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Robbins Library Book Discussion Group: “The Orphan Master’s Son” on 11/6

The Robbins Library Book Discussion Group will next meet on Monday November 6 at 7 pm in the Robbins Library Community Room.

The group discusses “The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson. New members are welcome. Book will be available at the Circulation Desk after October 2.

Here’s the description from Novelist:

The son of a singer mother whose career forcibly separated her from her family and an influential father who runs an orphan work camp, Pak Jun Do rises to prominence using instinctive talents and eventually becomes a professional kidnapper and romantic rival to Kim Jong Il.
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National Book Award Finalists

The National Book Foundation has just announced the 2017 finalists for fiction, nonfiction, young people’s literature, and poetry. See below for titles, authors, and links to the books in the library catalog.

Cover images of all National Book Award finalists, with award stickers

Dark at the Crossing by Elliot Ackerman
The Leavers by Lisa Ko
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America by Frances FitzGerald
The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Nancy MacLean

Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 by Frank Bidart
The Book of Endings by Leslie Harrison
Whereas by Layli Long Soldier
In the Language of My Captor by Shane McCrae
Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems by Danez Smith

Young People’s Literature
What Girls Are Made Of by Elana K. Arnold
Far from the Tree by Robin Benway
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia
American Street by Ibi Zoboi

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The Books Change Lives Jar, 2017 edition

ALA graphic Our Right to Read Banned Books WeekOnce again, the Books Change Lives/Books Save Lives jar was the star of our Banned Books Week display table. We asked a simple question – “What book changed your life?” and you answered! Some people wrote a title, or a title and author, but some wrote additional comments, which are included here as well.

Note: A number in parentheses after a book indicates that it was mentioned more than once.


  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote: “As tragic as the story is, this book showed me the enormous power of words.”
  • Another Country by James Baldwin
  • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (2)
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (2)
  • The Mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  • 1984 by George Orwell (2): “I wouldn’t be as equipped for the Trump administration.”
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: “the emotional life was so strong!”
  • Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • The Bible (2)
  • Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

Children’s and Teen

  • How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
  • Drama by Raina Telgemeier (3)
  • The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
  • Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan and The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine: “because they are meaningful and have great and developed themes.”
  • George by Alex Gino
  • The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan: “changed my life because it was the first of many wonderful books by Rick Riordan.”
  • Unwind by Neal Shusterman
  • My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (2)
  • Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling: “all of them!” (whole series) (3)
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
  • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  • The Circuit: stories from the life of a migrant child by Francisco Jimenez
  • It’s Only Stanley by Jon Agee
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • Mountain Dog by Margarita Engle
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (2)
  • One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Dreadnought by April Daniels
  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  • Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang
  • The Only Game by Mike Lupica
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • American Girl (series)
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri
  • Chris Van Dusen
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green: “Well, it didn’t change my life but I really enjoyed it.”
  • Bone by Jeff Smith
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • Almost Home by Joan Bauer
  • Fancy Nancy series by Jane O’Connor

Adult nonfiction (including memoir/biography, how-to, religion/spirituality)

  • Waiting for Birdy by Catherine Newman: “made me feel like I wasn’t the only mom with worries like mine.”
  • Black Boy Richard Wright
  • The Book of Mormon (2)
  • Introducing HTML and CSS
  • Let’s Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell
  • Trauma and Recovery by Judith Lewis Herman
  • Richard Feynman
  • Be Here Now by Ram Dass
  • Rules for Radicals: a practical primer for realistic radicals by Saul D. Alinsky
  • Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy
  • The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren
  • Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh
  • I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
  • Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre
  • Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
  • Jazz (not sure if this means the novel by Toni Morrison, I Am Jazz, or a nonfiction book on the topic)
  • Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby
  • The Book of Secrets and How to Know God by Deepak Chopra: “He helped open my eyes to living a spiritual life and that everything is connected <3″
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley

Adult fiction and poetry

  • A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
  • White Oleander by Janet Fitch
  • The Object of My Affection by Stephen McCauley
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Poetry as Survival by Gregory Orr

Other responses to the question “What book changed your life?”

As you can see from the comments, books have changed people’s lives in many ways: by showing the power of the written word, by helping readers realize they’re not alone, by enabling people to learn a new set of skills, by stretching the imagination, by offering empathy.

These books are all over the map: from picture books to adult novels and nonfiction, poetry to how-to, teen novels to classics (and some classic teen novels). The diversity of the list just goes to show the importance of having a wide range of reading materials available to readers of all ages; you never know what book will change your life.

See the 2016 Books Change Lives jar


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It’s a Library Crawl!

On Saturday, October 21st, eight libraries, across three library networks, including Robbins Library and Fox Branch Library are banding together to put on a Library Crawl.  From 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., library enthusiasts are invited to take a self-guided tour of other area libraries and see what they have to offer their communities.

How does it work? 

• Start at any participating library and get your Library Crawl passport and scavenger hunt list.
• Visit a library, get your passport stamped and take a photo of the scavenger hunt item (extra karma points if you tag it #LibraryCrawl, the name of the owning library, and upload it to Facebook or Twitter).
• After you visit your fourth library and show your stamps and scavenger hunt photos to the designated staff member, you can claim your prize (while supplies last).

The participating libraries are:

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