Library Hosts Discussion of Community-Led Innovation in Public Spaces

gordon_eric_478x484Can communities use digital technologies built around play to imagine the future and create  deeper civic engagement? Eric Gordon, professor of civic media and the director of the Engagement Lab at Emerson College, is working toward that goal.  

On November 19 at 7:00 p.m. Gordon will present in the Robbins Library on Beta Blocks, an experiment in putting communities at the center of decision-making about public realm technologies, including sensors, drones, scooters and more. The Beta Blocks project establishes “exploration zones” in Boston’s neighborhoods where technologies are temporarily installed so that people can explore their public value, see the data they’re collecting, and imagine how they might enhance quality of life. The process involves youth and adults and advances data literacy and enhances local influence.  

Much of Gordon’s research focuses on using play to engage public participation and draw oftentimes excluded voices into public discussion.  Beta Blocks was launched in Boston as a participatory imagination project about the future of the city that supports local communities to question and explore the role of new technologies in the places they live. Beta Blocks hopes to address topics from air quality sensors to security camera networks to autonomous delivery drones.   Gordon notes that “too often, communities aren’t able to participate in the important discussions that happen before technologies are installed.” Gordon’s work creates a place for civic discussion and community input ahead of change. 

Ethics and privacy concerns around the use of digital technology is a key component of Gordon’s work.  He asks who benefits from new technologies in the public realm? What does it mean for a city to be smart? How might Artificial Intelligence benefit communities, and not just corporations? 

This program is co-sponsored by the Arlington Department of Planning and Community Development. Department Director Jenny Raitt says, “The work of the Engagement Lab @ Emerson College together with the City of Boston demonstrates how vital it is for the public to engage in dialogues about new technologies. Through civic experimentation, Boston is creating a dynamic platform for the public to test everything from smarter streets to the power of technology in civic spaces. I am excited to explore how we might embrace these innovations in Arlington.”

Democracy After Dark Presents: Beta Blocks; Exploring new Approaches for Community-Led Innovation in Public Spaces, Nov 19, 7:00 p.m. Robbins Library Community Room.  

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Reminder: NSYA Book Group Meeting (November 18)


The next NSYA book group meeting will take place Monday, November 18 at 7pm in Robbins Library’s conference room (4th floor). We’ll be discussing This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston.

Copies of the next book, Thousand Sisters: the heroic airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War I by Elizabeth E. Wein, are on their way and will be available to pick up after the meeting.

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Robbins Library Debuts “Library Loot”

Millions of unboxing videos on YouTube can’t be wrong: people love opening packages!  For book lovers, what could possibly be better than a package with a surprise book inside?  The Robbins Library’s new subscription box program for teens brings the joy of opening presents to readers with Library Loot.  

Library Loot is a partnership between the Robbins Library and Arlington High School.  Like other subscription box programs, Library Loot features hand-selected items and boxes will be delivered to Arlington High School for convenient pickup.  

Robbins Library Head of Teen Services Katy Kania is the brains behind the Loot and selects titles for each box. Kania says, “I think a program like this is a great way to make reading fun. There’s no requirement for the program. You don’t have to write a book report at the end. You don’t have to even READ it!”  Even though there’s no requirement to read the book, Kania is confident that students will like the books in their boxes, “I’m really good at finding books for people!”

Students at Arlington High School can sign up for the program with AHS Librarian Stacy Kitsis.  Sign-up is simple–students fill out a brief form with preferred genres. Once Kania receives forms from Kitsis, students will be on the list for the next month’s box. The program is open to all Arlington High School students, and may be expanded in the future.  

“We are so excited for Library Loot as another great opportunity to share the love of reading (and our love of Robbins Library!) with AHS students,” says Kitsis.  “What could be better than the thrill of discovering an amazing new book, the glamour of personalized shopping, and the childlike glee of a goodie bag all combined in one?” 

Library Loot is now open for student sign-up.  For more information on the Library Loot subscription box, contact Katy Kania at 781-316-3206.  

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Wayfarer Film Series Presents: Travellers & Magicians (Thursday, November 14)

Thursday, November 14
2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Robbins Library Community Room

fullTravel the world and experience international cinema with the Wayfarer Film Series at Robbins Library! Catch a glimpse from beyond the continent, snack on fresh popcorn from our new popcorn machine, and enjoy a variety of films you might have missed at your local theater.

“Two men embark on parallel, if separate, journeys. Their yearning is a common one–for a better and different life. Dondup, delayed by the timeless pace of his village, is forced to hitchhike through the beautiful wild countryside of Bhutan to reach his goal. He shares the road with a monk, an apple seller, a papermaker and his beautiful young daughter, Sonam. Throughout the journey, the perceptive yet mischievous monk relates the story of Tashi. It is a mystical fable of lust, jealousy, and murder, that holds up a mirror to the restless Dondup, and his blossoming attraction to the innocent Sonam. The cataclysmic conclusion of the monk’s tale leaves Dondup with a dilemma–is the grass truly greener on the other side?” (IMDB)

The film is in Dzongkha with English subtitles, unrated, and with a runtime of 108 minutes. For additional information contact Verónica at or 781-316-3220.

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And The Rest Is History

This month we asked our librarians “What are your favorite historical fiction books?”  Check out their answers here:

Fever by Mary Beth Keane: The main character of this book is Mary Mallon, better known as Typhoid Mary, one of the first known carriers of typhus (she didn’t suffer from the disease). Keane does an incredible job imagining Mary’s life and how it changes as she is told she must give up her work as a cook because she’s infecting the people she works for. Keane brings 1900s-era New York to life in great detail.

Another novel set in New York, a few decades later, is Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility, which has another wonderfully strong main character, Katey Kontent. Rules of Civility is a character-driven novel that makes 1930s-era New York feel utterly real.

Staying in New York but moving into the 1940s, Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls is so much fun, even as its main character makes an unforgivable mistake – and spends the rest of her life changed.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt


Swallow’s Dance by Wendy Orr
The Hired Girl by Laura Ann Schlitz
The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman
Paperboy by Vince Vawter
Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund
The Jem Flockhart historical murder mysteries: Beloved Poison, Dark Asylum, and The Blood by E. S. Thomson
The War That Saved My Life & The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Bradley

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Hild by Nicola Griffith
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Moloka’i by Alan Brennart
The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
City of Thieves by David Benioff
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Enchantée by Gita Trelease
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Human Acts by Han Kang

What are your favorite historical fiction novels?  Let us know in the comments below!


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Halloween Recommendations

Get in the Halloween spirit with this staff curated list of (mostly) ghost themed books & movies.

The Agony House by Cherie Priest

All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn

And the Trees Crept In’ by Dawn Kurtagich

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

(DVD) The conjuring / New Line Cinema presents a Safran Company/Evergreen Media Group ; writers, Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes ; produced by Tony DeRosa-Grund, Peter Safran, Rob Cowan ; director, James Wan

(DVD) Crimson Peak / Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures present ; a Legendary Pictures/DDY production ; produced by Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Guillermo del Toro, Callum Greene ; written by Guillermo del Toro & Matthew Robbins ; directed by Guillermo del Toro

Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

Dead voices by Katherine Arden

The diary of Ellen Rimbauer : my life at Rose Red  edited by Joyce Reardon

Dogtown: Death and enchantment in a New England ghost town by Elyssa East.

The ghost clause by Howard Norman

The ghost notebooks by Ben Dolnick

Ghostly : a collection of ghost stories  edited, illustrated and introduced by Audrey Niffenegger

The Girl in the Locked Room by Mary Downing Hahn

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

Grief cottage : a novel by Gail Godwin

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The haunting of Sunshine girl. Book one by Paige McKenzie with Alyssa Sheinmel ; story by Nick Hagen & Alyssa Sheinmel based on the web series created by Nick Hagen

A head full of ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

(DVD) House = Hausu / produced by Nobuhiko Obayashi, Yorihiko Yamada ; written by Chiho Katsura ; directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

I remember you : a ghost story by  Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Infidel by writer, Pornsak Pichetshote ; artist, Aaron Campbell ; colorist & editor, José Villarrubia ; letterer & designer, Jeff Powell ; introduction by Tananarive Due ; afterword by Jeff Lemire

The invited by Jennifer McMahon

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

Last days of Dogtown (a novel) by Anita Diamant

The Library at Mount Char by  Scott Hawkins

Locke & Key by Joe Hill ; art by Gabriel Rodriguez

Maybe this time by Jennifer Crusie

Meddling kids : a novel by Edgar Cantero

My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due

No Humans Involved by Kelley Armstrong

The Norton Book of Ghost Stories edited by Brad Leithauser

Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo

The Shining by Stephen King

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Slade House by David Mitchell

Summer of night by Dan Simmons

TV show “Supernatural” – lots of different creepies, but they deal with a ghost at least once or twice a season.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Tightrope by Amanda Quick

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Wait till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn

A Winter Haunting by Dan Simmons

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Reminder: NaNoWriMo Writers’ (Un)Block Party (Saturday, November 2)

Ready, set, write!
Get started on your NaNoWriMo projects with an afternoon full of tasty snacks, fun activities, prizes, and networking with fellow writers. Bring in your ideas and have a quick brainstorming chat with Neshat Khan, Aura Estrada fiction prize winner and creative writing instructor. Don’t forget your laptops (you can always use ours) and writing supplies!

Did we mention prizes? A lucky patron will leave the library with a Rocketbook Smart Reusable Notebook!


The Everlast notebook provides a classic pen and paper experience, yet is built for the digital age. Although it feels like a traditional notebook, the Everlast is endlessly reusable and connected to all of your favorite cloud services. When you write using any pen from the Pilot Frixion line, your writing sticks to Everlast pages like regular paper. But add a drop of water… and the notebook erases like magic. The Everlast has pages made with synthetic materials that provide an extremely smooth writing experience. Blast your handwritten notes to popular cloud services like Google drive, Dropbox, Evernote, box, OneNote, Slack, iCloud, email and more using the free Rocketbook application for iOS and Android.

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Not-So Young Adult Book Group Reads This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston (November 18)

The next NSYA group meeting will take place on Monday, November 18 at 7pm in the 4th floor’s conference room. We’ll be discussing This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston.

23341252Goodreads description:
Five went in. Four came out.

No one knows what happened that morning at River Point. Five boys went hunting. Four came back. The boys won’t say who fired the shot that killed their friend; the evidence shows it could have been any one of them.

Kate Marino’s senior year internship at the district attorney’s office isn’t exactly glamorous—more like an excuse to leave school early that looks good on college applications. Then the DA hands her boss, Mr. Stone, the biggest case her small town of Belle Terre has ever seen. The River Point Boys are all anyone can talk about. Despite their damning toxicology reports the morning of the accident, the DA wants the boys’ case swept under the rug. He owes his political office to their powerful families.

Kate won’t let that happen. Digging up secrets without revealing her own is a dangerous line to walk; Kate has her own reasons for seeking justice for Grant. As she investigates with Stone, the aging prosecutor relying on Kate to see and hear what he cannot, she realizes that nothing about the case—or the boys—is what it seems. Grant wasn’t who she thought he was, and neither is Stone’s prime suspect. As Kate gets dangerously close to the truth, it becomes clear that the early morning accident might not have been an accident at all—and if Kate doesn’t uncover the true killer, more than one life could be on the line…including her own.

Copies of the book are available at the front desk.

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NSYA Book Group Meeting – Reminder (October 28)

35576416The next NSYA book group meeting will take place Monday, October 28 at 7pm in Robbins Library’s conference room (4th floor). We’ll be discussing Boots on the Ground: America’s war in Vietnam by Elizabeth Partridge.

Copies of the next book, This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston, are on their way and will be available to pick up after the meeting.

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QBG Reads…. Looking for Lorraine

This month Queer Book Group will be discussing the Lambda Literary award winning biography Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry by Imani Perry.  Copies of the book are still available at the Circulation Desk!

“A revealing portrait of one of the most gifted and charismatic, yet least understood, Black artists and intellectuals of the twentieth century.

Lorraine Hansberry, who died at thirty-four, was by all accounts a force of nature. Although best-known for her work A Raisin in the Sun, her short life was full of extraordinary experiences and achievements, and she had an unflinching commitment to social justice, which brought her under FBI surveillance when she was barely in her twenties. While her close friends and contemporaries, like James Baldwin and Nina Simone, have been rightly celebrated, her story has been diminished and relegated to one work-until now. In 2018, Hansberry will get the recognition she deserves with the PBS American Masters documentary “Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart” and Imani Perry’s multi-dimensional, illuminating biography, Looking for Lorraine.

After the success of A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry used her prominence in myriad ways: challenging President Kennedy and his brother to take bolder stances on Civil Rights, supporting African anti-colonial leaders, and confronting the romantic racism of the Beat poets and Village hipsters. Though she married a man, she identified as lesbian and, risking censure and the prospect of being outed, joined one of the nation’s first lesbian organizations. Hansberry associated with many activists, writers, and musicians, including Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, Paul Robeson, W.E.B. Du Bois, among others. Looking for Lorraine is a powerful insight into Hansberry’s extraordinary life-a life that was tragically cut far too short.”

Queer Book Group / Social reads great LGBTQ-themed books, both fiction and non-fiction, and hosts LGBTQ-themed social events. New members are welcome!  Come make some new friends & expand your community!

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