Geek Con!

Get your geek on at the Robbins Library Geek Con!
Join us for a celebration of all things geeky!
From superheroes to anime to sci-fi/fantasy and beyond – embrace your inner geek, meet other fans, and partake in a variety of activities!
We’ll have episode screenings throughout the day, trivia, a costume contest, face painting, food, games to play, and more!
This is an all ages event, so come alone or bring the whole family!
Show off your cosplay skills by coming in costume or protect your secret identity in plainclothes.

Face painting will be available from 1 – 4, location TBD.

We’ll be screening episodes of Adventure Time (TV-PG) and Young Justice (TV-PG) in the downstairs Community Room from 10am – 11:30, and episodes of Ghost in the Shell anime (TV-MA) & Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV-14) in the same place from 2 – 3:30.

Video games and board games will be set up in the 4th floor Conference Room – times TBD.

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Nonfiction: Where to begin?

If you follow us on Facebook, you might have noticed a new Friday feature: a librarian making live book recommendations in response to your comments. Some comments are quite specific, mentioning particular authors, titles, or genres; but sometimes it’s as broad as “nonfiction.”

Nonfiction is…well, everything, really, that isn’t made up. It’s a category of reading that people tend to approach more by subject than by author. That said, there are several authors who turn out a book every few years in different interesting areas, whether narrative nonfiction or memoir/personal essays. If you’re looking to be informed and entertained, start here.

Narrative nonfiction

Local author Steve Almond has written about music (Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life), chocolate (Candyfreak), and football (Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto). In other words, something for everyone!

British professor and influential thinker Mary Beard’s most recent book is SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome. At over 600 pages, it may take you a while, but when you do finish, don’t worry – she’s written more.

Cover image of A Walk in the WoodsBill Bryson is well-known and well-liked; you’ve probably heard of (or already read) A Walk in the Woods – it’s the one with the bear on the cover – but he has many others, including A Short History of Nearly Everything. Bryson’s writing style is welcoming and witty.

Stephanie Coontz is a social historian and author of several books, including: Marriage, A History: From Obedience to Intimacy or How Love Conquered Marriage,  A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s, The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap and The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms With America’s Changing Families.
Think you know (or remember) how it was in the ’50s? Think again.

Perhaps you are interested in letter-writing (To the Letter), fonts (Just My Type), maps (On the Map), time (Timekeepers), or a specific shade of purple (Mauve)? Simon Garfield is your man.

Cover image of The Checklist ManifestoBoston surgeon Atul Gawande is also a wonderful author, who writes with medical expertise and deep empathy, and is driven by a constant desire to improve. His most recent book is Being Mortal, but don’t miss his earlier ones: Better, Complications, and The Checklist Manifesto. (See also: Siddhartha Mukherjee.)

A staff writer for The New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell made a splash with The Tipping Point in 2000 and has written four books since: Blink, Outliers, David & Goliath, and What the Dog Saw and Other Adventure Stories. If you’re interested in psychology and human behavior, give Gladwell a try.

Laura Hillenbrand‘s two books have been huge successes, and with good reason: they are fascinating stories, tremendously well-researched and compellingly told. Both Seabiscuit and Unbroken are very nearly un-put-down-able. Both have been made into feature films.

cover image of The Ghost MapI discovered Steven Johnson through his book The Ghost Map, about a cholera outbreak in London and how people figured out how the disease was spreading – and how to stop it. It’s like a mystery novel, except it’s real! Johnson has written several other books as well: The Invention of Air, How We Got to Now, Everything Bad is Good for You, Where Good Ideas Come From, and Wonderland. If you’re interested in innovation and discovery, past and present, try one (or more) of Johnson’s books.

Highly informative, not particularly cheerful: Elizabeth Kolbert wrote The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, which won a whole slew of prizes, including the Pulitzer, in 2015; she is also the author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change (2007).

Mark Kurlansky writes about food and about history, often together (Salt, Cod). His most recent book is Paper: Paging Through History. Learn about the world through a new (fisheye?) lens.

One of the most prominent popular nonfiction authors, Jon Krakauer has written riveting stories of extremes: Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, Where Men Win Glory, Under the Banner of Heaven, and Missoula.

Cover image of Dead WakeErik Larson is another perennially popular nonfiction author, and with good reason: his well-researched books often use multiple narratives to tell the same story, enhancing the aspect of suspense through different perspectives. The pacing, particularly in his latest, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, is superb. His other books include The Devil in the White City, Isaac’s Storm, Thunderstruck, and In the Garden of Beasts.

Do you like extensively researched doorstoppers about historical figures? Allow me to introduce you to David McCullough, author of The Wright Brothers, 1776, John Adams, and several others.

In a starred review of The Emperor of All Maladies, Booklist wrote, “Apparently researching, treating, and teaching about cancer isn’t enough of a challenge for Columbia University cancer specialist [Siddhartha] Mukherjee…” and indeed, his “biography of cancer” won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011. Those interested in science and history should pick this one up, and try Mukherjee’s more recent book, The Gene: An Intimate History as well. (See also: Atul Gawande.)

Michael Pollan is a well-known writer on the topics of food, nutrition, sustainability, and related issues. Try The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, The Botany of Desire, or Cooked. Or, for a condensed version of Pollan’s guidance, Food Rules.

Cover image of StiffMary Roach‘s clever one-word titles (with the exception of Packing for Mars, which is three words, but still intriguing) encapsulate her sense of humor and scientific curiosity, and invite you to read on to learn more about human cadavers (Stiff), the afterlife (Spook), humans at war (Grunt), sex (Bonk), and digestion (Gulp). Who knows what she’ll write about next? But it’s sure to be interesting…

Neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote about the brain and how it (sometimes doesn’t) work. Check out The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales (1998), Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (2007), or Hallucinations (2012). Sacks published his autobiography, On the Move, just four months before he died in 2015.

Rebecca Skloot has only written one book, but what a book: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks will have a lasting impact. Tumor cells taken from an African-American woman without her knowledge in the 1950s became known as “HeLa” cells, the key to many scientific discoveries. Booklist says Skloot writes with “a novelist’s artistry, a biologist’s expertise, and the zeal of an investigative reporter.”

Dava Sobel is a former New York Times Science writer. Her most recent book is The Glass Universe try it if you liked Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly – but she has been publishing steadily every few years since Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time in 1995.

Cover image of Far From the TreeIf you only ever read one 900+ page book in your life, there is a very good case for Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon. (If 900 pages is simply too many for you, it’s worth reading the introduction, which is only about 50 pages.) Solomon writes about identity, particularly when a child has an identity that isn’t shared with the parent, such as deafness, schizophrenia, or musical genius. This book will expand your understanding of other people and increase your empathy. Solomon has also written The Noonday Demon, a book about his struggle with depression.

Interested in a bit of true crime, Victorian-style? The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale is just that; detective Jonathan Whicher of Scotland Yard provided a model for many fictional detectives. Summerscale is also the author of Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady and The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer.

Sarah Vowell writes very funny history books. Start with The Wordy Shipmates, in which Vowell writes about the Puritans who settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1692; “Vowell laments the image of Puritans as boring killjoys when in fact they were fascinating killjoys who…were much more open to new ideas than we’ve been led to think” (Booklist). Her books include a history of Hawaii (Unfamiliar Fishes), a travelogue/history of presidential assassinations (Assassination Vacation), the essay collection The Partly Cloudy Patriot, and others. (Tip for audiobook listeners: Vowell, the voice of Violet Incredible, reads her own books.)

Cover image of The World Without UsEven wonder what would happen to Earth if all the humans just…disappeared? Alan Weisman takes that thought experiment and expands it into a book in The World Without Us, explaining what would last, what would crumble, and what would explode in a rather dramatic fashion. In 2013, six years after The World Without Us, Weisman published Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?

From the seemingly tame subject of the Oxford English Dictionary (The Professor and the Madman; The Meaning of Everything) to the large and explosive (KrakatoaA Crack in the Edge of the World), Simon Winchester writes “just the kind of creative nonfiction that elevates a seemingly arcane topic into popular fare” (Booklist).

Jeffrey Zaslow was a journalist for The Wall Street Journal and also an advice columnist. He wrote thoughtful, serious, tender books about women’s lives, including The Girls From Ames and The Magic Room, and co-wrote a number of other books, including The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope with Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly.

Personal experience/memoir/essays

Cover image of The Year of Magical ThinkingJoan Didion: There are too many books to list here, but try her memoirs, The Year of Magical Thinking or Blue Nights, or the collection We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live.

Jonathan Franzen is better known as a novelist (The Corrections, Freedom, Purity), but his essays are both thoughtful and thought-provoking; he has the ability to make any topic (birdwatching; the postal service in Chicago) interesting. Try How to Be Alone, The Discomfort Zone, or Farther Away.

Elizabeth Gilbert: Probably still best known for Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert has also written Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage and, more recently, Big Magic: Creative Living Without Fear. She is also the author of the novel The Signature of All Things.

Nick Hornby: In addition to writing novels and screenplays (e.g. High Fidelity), Hornby has written a decade’s worth of “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” columns for The Believer. They’re collected in Ten Years in the Tub.

Cover image of On WritingStephen King: King is best known for his novels, of course, but his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is “a blend of memoir and craft” that makes for fascinating reading whether or not you ever plan to become a writer yourself.

Caitlin Moran: Colorful British feminist writer Moran wrote the hilarious bestseller How to Be A Woman, as well as essay collections Moranthology and Moranifesto. She is also the author of the novel How to Build A Girl.

Ann Patchett: Beloved novelist Ann Patchett brings the same wise, considered approach and deep understanding of people to her nonfiction writing. This Is The Story of A Happy Marriage is a collection not to be missed.

Cover image of The Happiness ProjectGretchen Rubin: The Happiness Project was a year-long personal project supported with research; it’s a memoir only a very “Type A” person could write, and may lead to other interesting academic reading. Rubin followed up the success of that book with Happier At Home and Better Than Before.

Cheryl Strayed: You know her as the author of Wild, but she also spent time as the advice columnist “Dear Sugar”; many of her columns were collected and published as Tiny Beautiful Things.

What are your favorite nonfiction books or authors? Did we miss a good one? Will you try any of the ones listed here? Let us know in the comments!

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Buzz… Buzz… New Bees at Robbins!

Our Friends at Best Bees paid us a visit yesterday and restocked our hives. Our colonies did not make it through the winter, due to varroa mites. This is a common mite that weakens the immune system of bees, making winter survival difficult. Poor bees.

Best Bees cleaned out both hives, sanitized them, and readied them for a May restocking. We watched them repopulate the hives with new bees yesterday, and took some pictures and videos to share with you.

We also have two new queen bees, and invite suggestions for names. Leave a suggestion in the comments, and stay tuned for a poll to vote on a name.

These bees were raised in Georgia, and will now live at the Robbins Library. Welcome to New England!


The beekeepers provide some food for the bees.

Time to repopulate the hives! The beekeepers shook the bees out of their containers onto the top of the hives. The queen bees were installed first, as they reside in their own container.

Welcome to your new home, bees! We hope you enjoy it here.

The beekeepers closing up the hives and securing them.

If you visit the bees, located on the third floor balcony, you may notice some dead bees on the ground. Don’t be alarmed. This is normal and a sign that the bees are settling into their new home. These bees may be have died in the package on the way up from Georgia, and were dragged out by other bees. Honeybees like to keep their hive very tidy.


And don’t forget to suggest a new name for the queen bees!!



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May’s readalike: Anything Is Possible

Readalike graphic, "if you liked that book, try this book!"

Cover image of Anything Is PossibleThis month’s readalike is the highly anticipated new collection of short stories by Elizabeth Strout, Anything Is Possible. Strout’s other works include the novels My Name Is Lucy Barton, The Burgess Boys, Abide With Me, and Amy and Isabelle, and the collection of linked stories Olive Kitteridge, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and which was made into a miniseries in 2014. All of which is to say, if you’re eagerly awaiting Anything Is Possible, you might try reading (or re-reading) one of the author’s other books in the meantime.

Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen (2016): Booklist calls this novel, set in a small town in Pennsylvania in the 1960s, “a compelling family tale rich in recognizable characters, resplendent storytelling, and reflective observations….An appreciative portrait of a disappearing way of life.

Thunderstruck & other stories by Elizabeth McCracken (2014): These nine stories are unforgettable, poignant, sometimes funny; McCracken observes the world at a particular slant, and her stories are incomparable.

The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy (2013): The stories of six apparently unrelated characters, spanning time (WWII era to the present day) and place ( Europe to America), turn out to be connected after all, and can be traced back to one man’s act of kindness.

It’s Beginning to Hurt: stories by James Lasdun (2009): Featuring middle-aged, middle-class characters, “This remarkable collection shows what happens when we break through the gauze of everydayness and existential panic hits” (Library Journal).

Unaccustomed Earth: stories by Jhumpa Lahiri (2008): As in her previous short story collection (Interpreter of Maladies) and her novels (The Namesake, The Lowland), Lahiri explores the relationships and gaps between parents and children, husbands and wives, and first- and second-generation immigrants. The first five stories in this collection are unrelated to each other; the final three are linked.

Home by Marilynne Robinson (2008): Set in Gilead, Iowa, in the 1950s, Home is the story of a grown daughter caring for her dying father, and the return of her brother, the prodigal son who has been out of their lives for twenty years.

Stern Men by Elizabeth Gilbert (2000): Ruth Thomas grows up on a (fictional) island off the coast of Maine, near another (fictional) island; the inhabitants are habitually at war over lobster fishing territory. Ruth neither wants to become a fisherman nor go to college, and must chart her own course in this novel of strong characters.

Birds of America by Lorrie Moore (1998): Moore’s stories are tragic, wise, and unflinching: she puts her characters in the worst situations and lets them muddle through. As one character puts it in the story “People Like That Are The Only People Here”: “Pulling through is what people do around here.”

Check out our readalike posts from previous months here.


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NSYA Book Group Meets on 5/17

The Not-So-Young Adult Book Group will meet on Wednesday May 17 at 7pm in the Conference Room. We’ll be discussing Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. Copies are still available at the front desk if you haven’t yet picked one up.

Copies of the next book, The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell, are on their way and will be ready for pickup by next week’s meeting so you can get started right away.

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

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Robbins Library Book Discussion Group: “The Tender Bar” on 6/5

The Robbins Library Book Discussion Group will next meet on Monday June 5 at 7 pm in the Robbins Library Community Room.

The group discusses “The Tender Bar” by J.R. Moehringer. New members are welcome. Book will be available at the Circulation Desk after May 1.

Here’s the description from the library’s catalog:

In the tradition of “This Boy’s Life” and “The Liar’s Club,” a raucous, poignant, luminously written memoir about a boy striving to become a man, and his romance with a bar. J.R. Moehringer grew up captivated by a voice. It was the voice of his father, a New York City disc jockey who vanished before J.R. spoke his first word. Sitting on the stoop, pressing an ear to the radio, J.R. would strain to hear in that plummy baritone the secrets of masculinity and identity. Though J.R.’s mother was his world, his rock, he craved something more, something faintly and hauntingly audible only in The Voice. At eight years old, suddenly unable to find The Voice on the radio, J.R. turned in desperation to the bar on the corner, where he found a rousing chorus of new voices. The alphas along the bar–including J.R.’s Uncle Charlie, a Humphrey Bogart look-alike; Colt, a Yogi Bear sound-alike; and Joey D, a softhearted brawler–took J.R. to the beach, to ballgames, and ultimately into their circle. They taught J.R., tended him, and provided a kind of fathering-by-committee. Torn between the stirring example of his mother and the lurid romance of the bar, J.R. tried to forge a self somewhere in the center. But when it was time for J.R. to leave home, the bar became an increasingly seductive sanctuary, a place to return and regroup during his picaresque journeys. Time and again the bar offered shelter from failure, rejection, heartbreak–and eventually from reality. In the grand tradition of landmark memoirs, The Tender Bar is suspenseful, wrenching, and achingly funny. A classic American story of self-invention and escape, of the fierce love between a single mother and an only son, it’s also a moving portrait of one boy’s struggle to become a man, and an unforgettable depiction of how men remain, at heart, lost boys.
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Protecting your pets in summer

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: with summer temperatures approaching, please do not leave your pets in parked cars, even with the windows down! Leashed dog with big ears in sunshineTemperatures in cars can rise to 30 degrees over the outdoor temperature within half an hour, which means on a 70-degree day, it could get to 100 degrees inside your car…and on a 90-degree day, it could get as high as 120 degrees. These are not the kinds of “hot dogs” we want to see this summer!

Arlington’s animal control officer Katie Kozikowski says her #1 tip is to leave your pets at home. She adds, “Leaving [your pets] at home while you run errands will be much better for your animal. If anyone is concerned that their animal cannot be home alone for whatever reason – turn the TV on to Animal Planet for them to watch, turn on a radio, have a pet sitter come over and hang out with them. There are several options an owner has before having to resort to leaving them in a sweltering car. Your pet will thank you and you will be happy when you come home to a happy, healthy and non-distressed furry family member.”

What are some other ways to help our pets keep cool in hot weather?
  • Add ice to your pet’s water dish, give them ice to chew on, or make some “pupsicles.”
  • For small animals (rabbits,  guinea pigs, etc) a frozen water bottle is great for them to rest up against to keep them cool (just make sure they’re not chewing the plastic).
  • Cold tiles are a great way for dogs and cats to cool down. If your basement is underground, that may be a cooler place for a pet to hang out with you to stay cool.

If library staff or patrons notice dogs left in cars in the library lot, we will make one announcement over the PA system, then we will call animal control or the police non-emergency number. The officer may issue a written warning or may remove the animal if it appears to be in distress. According to the Massachusetts State General Laws, Part I, Title XX, Chapter 140, Section 17F, “A person shall not confine an animal in a motor vehicle in a manner that could reasonably be expected to threaten the health of the animal due to exposure to extreme heat or cold.” An animal control officer, police officer, firefighter, or any citizen (after contacting 911, and if s/he believes the animal is in imminent danger) may remove the animal from the vehicle.

“People in Arlington do not hesitate to call or take dogs being left in cars lightly,” Kozikowski says. She says that people call the her or the police about dogs being left in cars on almost every single hot day in the summer time (i.e. all of them): “What people don’t realize is how quickly cars heat up and how little dogs can sweat to keep themselves cool.”

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Library of Things!

With apologies to Ariel,

“We’ve got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty
We’ve got whozits and whatzits galore
You want a Library of Things?
We’ve got twenty-five!”

We are delighted to sing from the rooftops that our Library of Things collection has launched! We have 25 Things available for circulation, from kitchen tools and cake pans to home efficiency gadgets to board games. There is something for everyone, and more items are coming soon. A big thank you to the Friends of Robbins Library and Sustainable Arlington for funding this collection!

Plan a game night with friends or family with one of our new board games. Or make your own pasta with our pasta maker.




Find heat loss around doors, floors, walls, pipes, or windows with our thermal camera. Is your neighbor raving about their Instant Pot? Try one out to see if it’s right for you!






A full list of the items is available here, and soon items will be searchable in the catalog.

Find the Library of Things behind the Robbins Library Reference Desk. Items circulate for one week and are available on a first-come first-serve basis.  Items must be returned to the Robbins Library circulation desk. (And they must be returned clean!) We are not accepting donations of Things for the Collection.

If you have a suggestion for a Thing, please contact Maura at mdeedy [at] minlib {dot} net or leave a comment.

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Cover Crushes

Our librarians sound off on some of their favorite book covers!  (Because let’s face it – we all judge books by their cover sometimes.)

When Hild by Nicola Griffith was published, I was instantly captivated by the cover art. Although I like historical fiction, I was daunted by the length and density. But I kept coming back to that cover! Finally, a  coworker who I trust about these things told me how much she loved it and said that while it was rather dense and took a while to read, it was completely worth it. She was right! I’m so glad I finally read it and if it weren’t for that beautiful cover I probably wouldn’t have.

Anna Godbersen wrote a teen series about young women in the late 19th century beginning with The Luxe. Each cover has a different young woman wearing an extremely beautiful, opulent dress. I’m always drawn in by a pretty dress, and these outshine anything else I’ve seen on a book cover. The series lives up to the covers too, with fancy parties, scandals, and plenty of drama!

I find that I tend to be drawn to covers that feature illustrations over photographs, and I tend to prefer covers that have either an intricately detailed or boldly graphic style. I also usually like book covers that are bright colors – apparently green is especially eye catching to me, as all of the books I picked to talk about have green covers!  (Bonus points if the cover has some kind of creepy element to it, especially when juxtaposed with something traditionally considered beautiful.)

The Devourers by Indra Das was a book I read purely because of the cover.  It was sitting on a display at the library and I instantly needed to know more about this book.  I love the intricate detail that seems beautiful at first glance, only to reveal macabre elements hidden throughout on closer inspection.

Gabi A Girl In Pieces by Isabel Quintero has a cover that is inspired by the zine Gabi puts together in the book.  I love the delightfully girly, yet slightly monstrous, mishmash of body parts used to create Gabi’s self-portrait.

Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis had a cover that drew me in because it reminded me of scientific illustrations.  The animals are organized and labeled according to what the female of each animal species is called and I thought it was a clever way to visually tie in the title of the book.

Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant is another book I knew I had to read immediately upon seeing the cover.  (It’s not like I really needed another reason, I will read anything Kelly Link writes or edits!)  I was drawn to the juxtapositions on the cover – the beastly creature and the angelic wings, the bleeding figure and the vivid, yet sinister flowers.  It does a great job of preparing you for the contents of the book, where the humans are often monstrous and the monsters are sympathetic.

My eye is always drawn to covers that feature a particular shade of pale blue-green – perhaps because The Time Traveler’s Wife is one of my favorite books, and its cover is that color. But one of my favorite covers is  In the Woods by Tana French. It’s simple, in black and white (and shades of gray), with tree branches spreading from the text of the title and author’s name and fading away in a spooky, ghostly way, which fits the book’s slightly supernatural undertones perfectly. Another even simpler black and white cover – no images, just text – is Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett, in which some of the letters in the title are missing, but your mind fills them in for you – a brilliant cover for a book in which at least two characters are mentally ill.

I adore the cover of The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (a book I would have picked up even if it had been wrapped in a brown paper bag with the title written in crayon). The blue evokes clouds or reflections, and the concentric rings of circles with their clock markings invites the reader in to a vanishing point in the center.

I think the cover of Greenglass House by Kate Milford is marvelous, a fitting illustration for a magical book, with swirls of snow around the green glass windows of the house. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern likewise has a magical cover (both the US and UK editions), in stark black, white, and red (like the circus itself).

If you want more about book covers, check out these other blog posts we’ve done on the topic:

Let us know your favorite covers in the comments below!

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Choose Privacy Week 2017

Choose Privacy Week posters and books on display

The library does not keep a record of your checkout history. That information is private and personal to you.

The first week in May (i.e. this week) is Choose Privacy Week! This year’s display encourages people to think about why library privacy is important.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald gave a TED Talk in 2014 called “Why Privacy Matters” (read the transcript), and why the “nothing to hide” argument – that people who aren’t doing anything wrong have nothing to hide – is disingenuous. Greenwald argues against mass surveillance because being observed changes people’s behavior, making them more conformist and compliant. He points out that there are plenty of things you might discuss with a doctor, therapist, family member, or close friend that aren’t “wrong” or “bad” but that you would naturally prefer not to share with the world.

This certainly applies to one’s library checkout history as well. Your reading history might reveal plenty of personal details, such as: whether you’re pregnant (or trying to become so), if you’re looking into a job or career change or a move, whether you or a family member has a medical condition, and many other matters you may prefer to keep private. That’s why the library does not save a record of your checkout history.

Note: You can choose to save a record of your checkout history that only you can see, if you want to keep track of what you’ve borrowed. This is an opt-in feature that you must enable if you want to use it.

“We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.”
-American Library Association Code of Ethics

See the Choose Privacy Week blog posts from 2015 | 2014 | 2013

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