Friday, December 30, 2011

Best of 2011

The New York Times, Publisher's Weekly, Amazon, and even NPR have come out with their Best Books lists for 2011.  We figured, why not the Friends? 

Some readers seem never to be able to get to the end of their personal 'must read' lists. But if you're more of a, "What do I read next?" type, we have some ideas for you.  Take a look at our new feature in the sidebar to the right of the page.  We're going to keep a rotating list of recommendation from the Friends' Board posted there, and we're starting with our own Best Books of 2011.  (See disclaimer below.)  

Happy 2012 and, as always, see you at the library.

Disclaimer:  Not all of the books on our list were published in 2011, but we promise that we read them in 2011!

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends and help to support our Cambridge libraries click here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Book Drive - It's a Wrap

The donated books have been wrapped and delivered!  Thank you to the 21 volunteers to came to the library to cut, fold, tear and tape.  You made the holidays happier for about 600 needy children this year. 

Daryl Mark, head of Children's Services for the CPL and coordinator of this event has this message for all of you, "In truth, we never could have accomplished this wrapping project without each person’s help."

To read more about the history of this program and where the books go once they are wrapped, click here.

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends and help to support our Cambridge libraries click here.


Does that sound backwards to you?  Read on and we'll make sense of it.

If you've been reading our blog or any of the Friends' promotional materials, you know that we are the sole financial sponsor of Cambridge Reads, our city-wide book club.  This year's book, War by Sebastian Junger, was the centerpiece of a series of events that made up the library's 'Season of Remembrance' programming.  We are proud to report that in addition to reading his book, 387 people were present at Sanders Theater in October to hear Mr. Junger speak.  An additional 1000 people visited the Civil War encampment on the library lawn in early November and 90 people attended at least one of the five companion films screened at the library.

And the programming didn't end there.  On Tuesday, January 10, Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust will present Telling War Stories: Reflections of a Civil War Historian at 7 p.m. in the Main Library's lecture hall.  You can read more about this lecture and how to RSVP at .

To learn more about Cambridge Reads, click here.

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends and help to support our Cambridge libraries click here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Looking Back

At this time of year, as the days shorten, it seems that our memories lengthen, sending us back to thoughts of our earlier years. For many members of the Friends of the CPL, those memories include a library somewhere.  Eva Adler, one of the Friends' board members shares her memories of ...

My First Librarian

If you take the interior stairs down to the Children’s Room at the Lake Placid Library, you will pass a portrait of Mrs. Florence S. Lamb, librarian from 1949-1961. I arrived in this country in 1956 at the age of eight with no previous knowledge of the English language. Mrs. Lamb was one of the most influential people in my acculturation.

During my five years in Lake Placid I visited the library often, and I usually found Mrs. Lamb sitting at a table facing the entrance door so that she could acknowledge each child who entered. She always greeted me with enthusiasm - I am so happy to see you dear! – and always with a compliment – I love your pretty dress. In the early days, she recommended the beginning readers in the Bobbsey Twins series. I read every one of them and was especially mesmerized by The Bobbsey Twins at the Seashore. I had never seen the sea. As I grew, Mrs. Lamb suggested the life stories of famous people. That hooked me on biographies for life. At the time I was under the spell of childhood prodigies and insisted on dressing like Mozart for Halloween. I can assure you that no one has worn a Mozart costume in the elementary school parade before or since!

I left Lake Placid at the age of twelve, one year before Mrs. Lamb retired. Although I made frequent visits to the town, I did not often return to the library until I had children of my own. Then, on every return trip we spent long sessions in the children’s room. They sat in the same little rocking chairs overlooking the lake in which I had read my first books in English, and I would tell them stories about Mrs. Lamb and my trips to the library. I still visit Lake Placid on a regular basis – fifty-five years after I met my first librarian – and on these occasions I take my two grandchildren through the main room, past Mrs. Lamb’s portrait, and down the stairs to that very room that opened onto the lake and to my new world.

You can find other reminiscences of reading, books, libraries and the characters who populate them in our book Cambridge Voices: A Literary Celebration of Libraries and the Joy of Reading, available at Porter Square Books, Harvard Book Store, and Nomad.

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library click here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Give the Perfect Gift

Are you a frequent Cambridge Public Library user?  If you love the bright new environmentally friendly space of the Main Branch or have attended some of the author presentations, family programs or toddler sing-alongs offered at all of the branches, you can show your support for the library by renewing or becoming a first-time member of the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library. Think of it as a thank-you gift for the library.

The Friends is an organization on a mission: to promote interest in and support for the library’s many programs, resources, and needs. FCPL Board members will be in the lobby of the main branch on two upcoming weekends: December 10 from 11 to 5 pm; December 11 from 1 to 5 pm; December 17 from 11 to 5 pm; and December 18 from 1 to 5 pm.  If you are already a member, join us for cider and cookies and learn about the specific programs that your membership contribution supported this past year and about our plans for the coming year.  If not, join us anyway.  You might be surprised to learn just how much we do in support of the library.

If you're considering membership, you should also know that you'll not only be helping the library, you'll be helping yourself.  Members receive discounts at such local Cambridge venues as Actors Shakespeare Project; American Repertory Theater; Central Square Theater; Clothware; Harvard Coop; Dolphin Seafood; Follow the Honey; and Nomad Clothing, as well as entries for gift drawings at Crema CafĂ©; Games People Play and Porter Square Books. And did we mention your discount at Harvard Bookstore when printing a book by their in-store robot, Paige M. Gutenborg?

Give the library and yourself an early holiday present.  Stop by the FCPL table with your checkbook during these two successive December weekends, have a cookie, and renew or become a first-time member. While you're at it, buy a membership for a friend.  What a perfect holiday gift!

We look forward to chatting with you!  See you at the library.

Boudreau Bookies

This summer we began a series of posts on book clubs meeting in and around Cambridge.  But what about those that meet  right at the branches of our amazing Cambridge Public Library system?  There are over ten of them and eventually we hope to cover them all.  We begin with Boudreau's Second Wednesday group.

It began back on the second Wednesday of October in 1995 with Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris, and it's been going strong ever since.  They don't have a catchy name or a theme to their book choices, but Linda Haines, Branch Manager and leader of the group, says that she can usually count on the group for a good discussion.

Jane surprised herself by
enjoying reading and discussion
Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand.
It was a book she never would
have chosen for herself.
Books are chosen informally by the group, and Linda makes it a point to have titles in mind if no one in the group can come up with a suggestion.  She usually gets her ideas from co-workers or "best of" lists. (She could even start checking out this blog for our reader's TopTen lists!)  Jane, who has been a member for about four years, appreciates the wide range of choices.  She says, "It gets me reading books I'd never pick on my own."

Linda recalls Stones from the River, one of the groups recent selections, and Tearing the Silence:On Being German in America, both by Ursula Hegi, as having led to particularly lively meetings.  The group's  next book is The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. 

The group usually includes ten to twelve women and Bobby, the lone male member, who came with Jane a while back and has never left.  In fact, the group has been so popular that Linda has put a cap on membership and started an "overflow group" on Tuesdays.  If you're looking for a good book club, the Tuesday group would love to have you!

You can find all of the books listed above at our Cambridge Public Libraries. To read more about the times and locations of book groups meeting at the library branches, click here .
There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends and help to support our Cambridge libraries click here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Pro Tour

We think it’s time for the Secret Gardens of Cambridge to go professional.

No, no, we don’t mean we’re going to hire a consultant to take over the gardens, or even manage the tour. What we’re offering this year is a way for those of you who really love gardening to experience our gardens with a professional guide.

Imagine touring the Secret Gardens with a professional landscape architect who can tell you why that plant works well in this particular space or what other plants might work just as well.

Imagine asking someone who does this for a living your questions about soil types or sunlight requirements.

Imagine trading ideas with a handful of other gardeners or asking about your own garden and what you might do to make it bloom like the ones that you’re seeing on this very private tour.

For the first time, and for only $50, you can join a select group who will tour some of our secret gardens in the company of a professional landscape gardener the day before the official tour next June. On that Saturday you’ll have a head start on the tour itself, get gardening tips from a professional, and see the Secret Gardens of Cambridge through the eyes of someone who has seen hundreds of gardens and may even have helped to design some of the gardens you’ll visit. Then on Sunday you can check out the rest of the gardens on your own. Even better - take your friends back to the Saturday gardens, and you can be the expert.

Keep checking this blog for more information about the guided tour.

The Professional Secrets tour of the Secret Gardens of Cambridge. We just love the idea of going pro.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

All Wrapped Up In The Holidays

"It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags." That may have worked for Dr. Seuss and the Whos down in Whoville, but how about the real children who may be facing a holiday without presents this year? 

Since 2004, the Cambridge Public Library has invited its patrons to give new copies of the books that they loved as kids to children and teens in transitional housing. The books are collected, wrapped by staff and volunteers, and then delivered in time for the holiday parties. Daryl Mark, head of Children's Services for the CPL says,  “Children and teens in shelters have usually moved many times and have few items of their own that travel along with them. Thanks to the generosity of many people, children and teens in transitional lodgings receive new books at this holiday time… books that are their own to keep.”

The books are given to children who live with their families in residential shelters in Cambridge or in scattered sites in Greater Boston. The housing is provided by Transition House, YWCA and Hildebrand Self-Help Center. The staff of these agencies work closely with the library to provide the age and gender of each child they serve. The book donation project was a natural outgrowth of an existing connection between the homeless shelters and the library that began in 1989 when children’s librarians from the Central Square Branch Library began presenting early evening story hours at the YWCA and the Hildebrand family shelters.

Last year, about 500 books were donated, wrapped by volunteers from the Friends, and given to children at holiday parties.  Last year, Joyce Mathon Trotman, Executive Director of the Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center, Inc. wrote, “ We truly appreciate your ongoing commitment to provide books for our families each and every Christmas holiday season…. Both children and parents were excited to receive the wonderful books you provided, helping to remind them that they had not been forgotten.”

So this year, join the library staff, the Friends, and maybe even the Grinch in demonstrating that Christmas really does means a little bit more. You can help in two ways.  One, donate a new book.  Over the last few years, Porter Square Books has been a vital partner in this project. Customers who buy books for the project are given a 20% discount and may leave their books in a collection box at the store. Two, join us at the main library for a wrapping party. You have three opportunities:  Monday, December 5, 10am-noon in the Community Room (L2); Thursday December 8, 10 am-noon or 6-8 pm in the Community Room (L2); or Friday, December 9, 10am-noon in the Beech Room (ground floor).  All supplies are provided. We'll see you at the Library!

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library click here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Photo Contest Winners Announced

The FCPL's first photography contest ended in mid-October. We received 52 entries encompassing all of the seasons, showing our library inside and out. Some focused on the building itself and others on the interactions among the building, its surroundings and the people who use it on a daily basis. The judges had a difficult time choosing the top 3 places.

The winners received their prizes on November 1st before the Friends monthly board meeting. In First place, and receiving a $100 bookstore gift card for photograph A Tree House Moment was Naomi Moran . Moran is a life-long Cambridge resident who will be moving to California at the end of the month. Second place, and a $50.00 gift card, was awarded to Samir Bukhari for Making Myself at Home, and for third place and a $25.00 gift card, the judges chose Peacock by Susana Segat.  The winners, all three of whom are first time photography contest winners, are pictured at right.

Here are the winning photographs with descriptions provided by their photographers.

A Tree House Moment
“We all seek moments within the library to sit and reflect as we read and study. Finding this corner with a window creates a sense of being high up in the trees in early fall, overlooking Cambridge.”

Making Myself At Home
 “I was browsing the stacks on the second floor, when I turned around to see my three year old son engrossed in a book. I was struck by the beautiful tree in the back, which with its filigree always reminded me of a brain or nervous system. It seemed very apt.”

“The tree branches grandly spread out, the colors and the warmth emanating from the inside of the library - both compete for our attention, yet blend together as one.”

 The Friends would like to thank everyone who entered our very first photography contest. You can see all of the entries in our blog's slideshow or by following this link to our Flickr photostream.  We hope to make this an annual competition, so keep an eye on the blog in 2012 for the details on next year's contest.

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library click here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Sunday Soup Book Group - 98 Books and Counting!

This summer we began what we hoped  would become a series of articles on local book clubs.  Here is our second entry. Please consider sharing stories about your book club by adding a comment to this article or by emailing us at

"I wanted to join this one (and waited over a year for an opening) because a member told me that everyone religiously read the book, they always picked paperbacks, and that no one made a huge fuss over the food!" With a recommendation like this one, who wouldn't want to belong to the Sunday Soup Book Group?

It all started 10 years ago with Caucasia by Danzy Senna, and the group has been going strong ever since. In fact, several of the original members continue to participate. There are 10 members, all women, of whom 6 live in Cambridge.

The group usually meets monthly for a light dinner on a Sunday evening. The menu often is soup and salad (thus the name), and usually the hostess manages to create a meal that reflects the book’s milieu in some way. When the group read Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors by Lizzie Collingham, the hostess  made tikka masala, bengal potatoes, baighan burtha, Eastern Indian green beans, basmati rice, nan and papadums. It was a veritable feast that some considered to be better than the book!

Book discussion takes place at the dinner table. No one leads or records the discussion. If the book hasn't struck many members’ interest the book discussion is relatively brief, but sometimes it absorbs the entire evening. This year, the discussion of Patti Smith’s Just Kids was a book that got everyone talking. One member, who says that she is usually into fiction, chose Just Kids as an all-time favorite. She says, "I was living in NYC at exactly the same time as Smith. Our lives never collided, even though we were of a similar age. Just to be transported back to that place and time was fascinating, precisely because we were so very different."

After the discussion of the current book, the group takes nominations for the next book. One member keeps a list of books previously read, and the group reviews recent nominations, adds additional titles, and comes to a consensus. Members consider:
  • whether the nominated book is available in paperback.
  • whether there are plentiful copies in the library (Thank goodness for smartphones!)
  • the length.
  • possible local interest.
  • how the book contributes to the mix, ensuring that non-fiction and classic fiction have a regular spot.
Their last book was Summer by Edith Wharton, and in December the group will be discussing their 98th book, Julia Glass's, The Widower's Tale.

You can find all of the books listed above at our Cambridge Public Libraries.
There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library click here.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Perfect 10

Board member Bruce Mays offers a challenge:

Tarry, delight, so seldom met.
All right, stop right there: that's not mine. It's the first line of Roger Angel's great New Yorker essay about the 1975 World Series. But every time I read a book that absolutely delights me I think of this opening sentence. This summer I finished City of Thieves by David Benioff, and it definitely met that criterion: a book that gave me delight, for however long it takes to finish the story and think about it again.

Is it the best book I've ever read? Maybe not, but it reminded me of something I thought of a couple of years ago. I had just finished reading Atonement by Ian McEwan, and I decided that it was one of the best books I'd ever read. But then I thought, Wait a minute. The best I've ever read? Honestly: what ARE the best books I've ever read??

What books moved me, made me slow down towards the end to enjoy them more, made me want to talk to someone else who'd read them? So I came up with a list. Ten seemed about right, so I talked to my wife, and we sat down.

We independently agreed on some: Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse edged out Mrs. Dalloway but not by much for us both; Evan Connelly's Mrs. Bridge, yes but Mr. Bridge also both no; Portrait of a Lady, who could argue?

But the disagreements were maybe more interesting. I added Catcher in the Rye; my wife went with Pride and Prejudice. We both liked Atonement, but only I kept it on the Ten Best list. Her criterion? A book she'd like to read again. Mine? A book that when you're reading it for the first time, I envy you.

Why keep it to 10? Remember what Samuel Johnson said about what a death-row prisoner thinks: it concentrates the mind wonderfully.

So here's the challenge: What are the 10 best books you've ever read? What criterion did you use for making your list? Use the comment box to send us your 10 best, and let's get a conversation going. Periodically we will post a new list or two or three to our blog. Who knows? Maybe someone will turn you on to a book you've never heard of, and your Ten Best list will never be the same.

Here's Bruce's list, in no particular order:
Portrait of a Lady, Henry James;
Mrs. Bridge, Evan Connell;
Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro;
Going After Cacciotto, Tim O'Brien;
Atonement, Ian McEwan;
Middlemarch, George Eliot;
Passage to India, E M Forester;
Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger;
The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje;
To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Coming Attractions

The first week in November will be a busy one at the Cambridge Public Libraries, as the 'Season of Remembrance' programming continues. Many of you have already participated by reading War, this year's Cambridge Reads selection, and hopefully you were also present earlier this week to hear its author Sebastian Junger speak. 

The next event in the series will be on  November 3rd at 6 PM.  Director Peter Davis will introduce and offer commentary on his film Hearts and Minds. The movie, which is about the Vietnam War, won the Oscar for Best Documentary in 1974. This free event will be held at the Main Library, located at 449 Broadway. For more information on the movie go to  or contact Carole Withrow at .

On Saturday, November 5th, The Cambridge Public Library will host a living history of the Civil War from one of New England’s largest Civil War re-enactor groups, the 22nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The lawn in front of the library will be turned into Camp Cameron (Cambridge’s Civil War barracks) where the re-enactors will portray army life on the march and in the field through first person demonstration, story, song, and poetry. The 22nd Massachusetts civilian group will explore the war’s impact on the lives of those on the home front along with women’s volunteer efforts, including the creation of the United States Sanitary Commission. The 22nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry will be joined by the 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, and Lawrence Civil War Memorial Guard – all three regiments have deep historical connections to the city of Cambridge. Click here to learn more about the schedule for the encampment which will run from on the Main Library lawn.

PFC Valente

Finally,  the PFC Salvatore F. Valente Branch Library will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary on Sunday, November 6 at 2 PM. The library is at 826 Cambridge Street.  Refreshments will be served.

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library click here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Snap That Photo Now

Calling all procrastinators - it's not too late! The deadline for the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library photography contest is still 5 days away, and the warm afternoon light and bright colors of the fall foliage make autumn one of the best times of year to photograph the libraries.

Before the October 15th deadline slips away, send your photographs to so you can be part of the contest. Your image could be published on the Cambridge Public Library website, and you could be the proud possessor of a gift certificate to a local bookstore. Contest details are on the library website. Click here  and choose "Photo Contest" from the sidebar on the left of the page.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ask the Librarian - Yan Qu

Here’s another story on one of the people who make our library system extraordinary. Yan Qu, who works at the O'Connell branch,  has been a librarian for over 15 years. She studied in China at Qiqihar Teacher’s College where she majored in English Language and has also received a master’s degree from Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science

What made you want to become a librarian and what do you love most about your job?
I wanted to become a librarian because of my passion for books and public service. I was an English major back in China, and some of my fondest memories revolve around curling up in bed at night and reading the works of Shakespeare, Sawyer, and the Bronte sisters. I wanted to read more English literature, but in the late 1980s, China was just beginning to open up to the rest of the world, so there was a dearth of good works written in English. Thus, I always had the big dream that if I ever made it to America one day, I would become a librarian so I could read all the English books I wanted! I count my blessings every day.

Besides having access to all the books in the world at my fingertips, the best part of my job is the everyday interactions I get to have with the East Cambridge community. The community is very diverse, with our patrons coming from all stretches of the world. Every day, I get to learn something new- whether it is bits and pieces of a new language or a recipe from a delicious exotic cuisine. That is one of the main reasons that I started our seasonal potluck dinners. I wanted to bring the diverse cultures of East Cambridge together in one night, so that everyone could have a good time and learn from one another and the bonds we share, including a love for good food!

After fifteen and half years of working at the public library, I feel that I can’t be any happier. It is the little things that can cause my heart to skip a beat, such as a simple “thank you” from a patron who finally got the latest James Patterson book he wanted, or the spark in a young patron’s eyes when she gleefully arrives at our Arts and Crafts sessions. The library is a pillar of the community, and I strive to make it a second home for all of our patrons.

How has technology changed your job? What is your opinion of e-books like the Kindle?
I can still remember the days when I had to stamp the due-date cards! Computers have revolutionized every single aspect of our lives. I embrace new technology, and I always find ways to adopt new cutting-edge technology to enhance our services. I personally don’t own a Kindle yet, because I am very loyal to books in paper format. The smell and feel of holding your favorite book is just something no e-reader can replace. There will always be a place for books, but I do envision that in the near future, we will be lending all genres of popular books by download.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you in your role as a librarian?
The funniest (and cutest) thing is probably all the names our younger patrons call me. Some kids call me Ms. McDonald, because we offer Toddler Sing on Wednesdays and I love to sing “Old McDonald Had a Farm.” Another boy enjoys calling me “Ms. Library” which I find extremely adorable. He thinks I know all the book titles in the world, but I actually don’t. Please don’t tell him that!

What is something that people may find surprising about your role as a librarian?
We not only offer books, but also provide opportunities to reconnect with long lost friends. During one of our potluck dinners, a Japanese woman named Junko suddenly started to cry when she recognized another Japanese woman named Yuke who had been her midwife twenty years ago when both of them were still living in Japan! Another one of our patrons reconnected at the library with her classmate from four decades ago, and the latest rumor is that the two might be dating!

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library click here.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Open Secrets

Imagine a garden, an open field on a street in Cambridge filled with lupines whose purple flowers are checkered with hundreds and hundreds of white daisies and red roses. 
Imagine a front yard, where peonies and lavender and irises are so full of color that you have to stop and look even when you want to get back in your car.
Imagine those gardens, and you’ll be thinking of the latest addition to the Secret Gardens of Cambridge, the “Open Secrets” of next June’s garden tour. 

Friends of the Cambridge Public Library member
Sherry Leffert photographed this dewy daisy on
Wendell St.

How about a church on Massachusetts Avenue, where the grounds surround the building and bloom from May until October?  Or the Oldest House in Cambridge, which until the end of the 19th century determined the edge of the Cambridge Commons and now boasts a lavish splash of annuals on its grounds near Linnean Street?  All of these and more are going to be a part of next June’s “Secret Gardens” tour, and we’re hoping you’ll include them on your calendar.

By definition, a “secret” garden is one that is hidden from the street—one that you only have access to by knowing  its owners or a close friend.  But the “Open Secrets” are just that—open to the public, to be enjoyed without intruding on anyone’s property or time.  There’s a community garden in East Cambridge where you’ll see funky gates, raised beds and metal sculptures in a limited but well-used space.  The glass flowers of Harvard’s MCZ are open to the public the day of the Secret Gardens’ tour, and make a perfect addition to the concept of an “Open Secret.”
What is more perfect than a rose in June?

So get ready for next year’s “Secret Gardens of Cambridge”: more than two dozen gardens throughout the city that are open for one glorious Sunday in June. And remember that some secrets are open. You never know when you’ll want to tell a friend.

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library click here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cambridge READS – the FCPL’s Newest Program

From its modest beginnings in 2003, when former CPL staffer Gail Willett gathered together several librarians and avid readers to choose The Color of Water as its first selection,  Cambridge READS (CR) has evolved into an extremely popular resource for the Cambridge reading community.  The program is modeled after one begun at the Seattle Public Library and is now proudly funded entirely by the Friends. Over time we have witnessed the relocation of the popular author event to larger capacity venues such as Sanders Theater and the addition of companion programming that dovetails with the author appearance. We thought you might be interested in how each year's book is chosen. 

Here in Cambridge, the process for selecting each year’s Cambridge READS book begins early, by the December following each year's author event. The CR advisory board meets regularly, sharing titles until a list of possible books is generated. Discussions are spirited and lively; the list changes frequently.  A book must meet several criteria: be available in paperback, have a broad age appeal that includes older high schoolers, and have an author willing to visit for a reasonable honorarium. By spring, Carole Withrow, CR program director, contacts the first author on the list. Nail-biting begins!

Many meetings later the book is finally selected, and a contract is sent to the author for signing. Additional meetings then focus on types of possible companion programming, publicity, and a to-do list for Board members for the day of the event. Within a week after the author visit, a follow-up meeting takes place to discuss the event. By the end of the calendar year, the process begins anew.

This year CR has chosen WAR by Sebastian Junger as its community read. The library is already experiencing a spike in check-outs for this powerful book. We have included a list of previous selections at the end of this article.  Be sure to check out this year’s Cambridge READS info on the Events and Programming page of the library's site.

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library click here.

List of Cambridge Reads selections:
2003 - The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother - James McBride
2004 - The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri
2005 - The Kite Runner - Khaled Housseini
2006 - Mountains Beyond Mountains - Tracy Kidder & Dr. Paul Farmer
2007 - Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
2008 - How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents - Julia Alvarez
2009 - Colored People: A Memoir - Henry Louis Gates
2010 - Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World - Mark Kurlansky
2011 - War - Sebastian Junger

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Would we let you in on a secret? Maybe...if that secret led you next year to some of the most interesting, creative, and little-known private gardens in Cambridge.

On Sunday, June 10, 2012, we'll be sharing some of the best-kept secrets in town: the “Secret Gardens of Cambridge,“ and we’d love to have you join us. Since 2001 we’ve been giving people the chance to explore backyard, side yard, and roof-top gardens all around town. It’s a Sunday in late spring, the flowers are in bloom, and it reminds everyone of why, exactly, we so much enjoy living here.

So mark it on your calendar: Sunday, June 10, 2012. Rignt now we’re in the process of finding gardens for the 2012 event, and we really wouldn't mind if you shared our secret with a few friends.  Have a garden you think should be on the tour—or know someone who has one? Write to us at  Next spring isn’t that far away, and we’d love to know your secrets.

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library click here.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Ask The Librarian - Lyndsay Forbes

Much attention has been paid during the past year to our newly remodeled and expanded library buildings, but what would they really be without the wonderful people who staff them?  We will be doing a series of monthly interviews to help you get to know some of the people who make our library system extraordinary.  We begin with Lyndsay Forbes from the O’Neill Branch. 

What made you want to become a librarian and what do you love most about your job? 
 Lyndsay Forbes
C PL Length of Service :  5 1/2 years
Undergraduate degree from St. Anselm's
MLIS from Rutgers University

At first, it was figuring out what to do with a BA in English. I started out in academic libraries with the idea that if I didn’t like working in libraries, I could take some classes in another area and switch careers. Several years later, I’m still in libraries so it was a good fit for me.

I really love figuring out what people are looking for when they come to the library. Whether it’s someone trying to remember a title and vaguely describing part of a book, helping a student find resources for their project, giving someone from out of town a map, or seeing someone’s face light up with “this is exactly what I wanted” -- it's a great feeling.

What is your opinion of e-books like the Kindle?
I think e-books are fabulous. They're just one more way to read books. I’m glad that more publishers are making their titles available for the wide variety of e-readers that are out there. I know people worry that all the books are going to disappear or no one will use the library. I just think it’s another medium for materials, like audiobooks or DVDs.

I do think publishers and libraries need to find a system that works for both of them in terms of e-books. I’m not necessarily opposed to the idea of having to purchase a title again after so many uses by a library, but would want to have unlimited access. Right now, a title can only have so many users accessing it. Part of the beauty of an electronic medium is getting rid of that physical barrier. How great would it be to get to read that hot new title without waiting? That’s a possibility with e-books and it’s one I’d like to see become a reality.

What is something that people may find surprising about your role as a librarian?
I don’t go around shushing people all day. It’s a stereotype that won’t go away. Libraries aren’t necessarily the silent places people think they are. While you can find a quiet corner if that’s what you’re looking for, it’s more likely that you’re going to encounter some friendly noise and conversations when you come to the library.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at the library?
We had a program for summer reading here called “Barn Babies,” which is a sort of traveling petting zoo of baby animals. They were set up in the back hall here. Before the program started, I went down the hall to use the bathroom. The goat, who seemed very suspicious of me, followed me down the hall and all the way to the door. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get the door open without letting him in. I had to go back and get another staff member to hold onto the goat. Wrangling goats is just not something you would think you would do while working in a library.

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library click here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

One Hundred Books - A Reason for Celebration

Recently, named Cambridge as America’s #1 reading city. We believe the proliferation of book groups in our town is one reason for that rating. The CPL hosts several book groups, but we know there are many more informal groups meeting throughout the city. Over the next months we’ll feature some of these flourishing book groups.

The best discussions last from hors d’oeuvres
to dessert.
This July one local book club celebrated the reading of its 100th book. Each month one of the seven members selects a book she has previously read -- fiction, nonfiction or, occasionally, poetry and comes prepared to lead a discussion. Despite sometimes heated comments about the book, or perhaps as a result of them, the members have come to appreciate the different perspectives and life experiences each brings to the meetings. One member says, “I often find myself thinking through the discussion and the book after our meetings and wanting a second go -- to ask follow-up questions, or share insights I gain only on reflection. “  

“Our members …read extensively
and think critically. They challenge
and delight me in equal measure.”
Some comments from members about past favorites:

To Know A Woman by Amos Oz: “It was amazing to follow the ‘hero’ through his journey to the profound and original, and very beautiful, ending….I felt we were going along on the journey … very much working on the book together.”

“My favorite meetings have been our
poetry meetings--reading a variety of
poems aloud and listening to how
others receive and interpret them.
I've also loved preparing for those
meetings--selecting the poem I
want to submit from among so
many wonderful choices.”
The Odyssey by Homer: “I was surprised and delighted to find a group that wanted to read and discuss this classic, and then to find that the discussion was so rich and interesting.”

Tinkers by Paul Harding : “A demanding but very satisfying read. Our discussion was … a mix of intellectual commentary and personal anecdotes.”

Regeneration by Pat Barker: “Several of us liked this so well we went on to read Barker’s entire trilogy about the effects of World War I.”

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner: “Returning to [books read long ago] has deepened my appreciation … and given me a chance to approach the texts with the experience and perhaps wisdom acquired through many intervening years. “

You can find all of the books listed above at our Cambridge Public libraries. One club member says, “Thank goodness for the reach and depth of the Mass library system! “ Please consider sharing stories about your book club by emailing us at

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library click here.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Story Time

Julie Roach shares a favorite book,
Tiny Little Fly by Michael Rosen.
Julie says, "Library programs for
children also model ideas for parents
and caregivers: you can sing and
share stories at home, in line at the
grocery, or the doctors office.
Take what you do here out into the
 It is 11 am in the "Snail Room" on the third floor of the main library. You are sitting on a cushiony, sculptured carpet of large round beach pebbles in shades of orange, yellow, and tan, surrounded by babies, toddlers, parents, grandparents and caregivers. Julie Roach, Head Children's Librarian, encourages you to sing clap, stamp, mime, and most importantly listen as the high-energy half-hour sequence of stories and songs begins.

The first book, Finn Throws a Fit really gets your attention.  It's by David Elliot with illustrations by Timothy Basil Ering. You sing along with "Eentsy Weentsy Spider" and "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes", but you feel a little lost on Little Cloud by Eric Carle.  Everyone else seems to know it by heart! Of the 45 participants, large and small, many are regulars. Your goal is to be like Sidd, whose mom Sridevi has been bringing him to the library since he was 5 months old.  You leave the library singing "Bingo" quietly to yourself and looking forward to your next visit, when you'll know all about Little Cloud just like everyone else.

Children's programs will continue on the same schedule throughout the summer. For a complete listing, see Events and Programs on the Cambridge Public Library website at

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library click here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Prizewinning Publication

The Massachusetts Library Association presented its 20th biennial public realtions awards at its annual conference in Danvers, Massachusetts.  Our own Cambridge Voices received a First Prize in the merchandise category.  Winners were chosen by a panel of independent judges from the public relations, press, and library fields using evaluation criteria which included graphic design, originality, and presentation.

Click here to read more about Cambridge Voices and where you can find a copy.

A Million to One

Some might call odds like that a long shot, but the Cambridge Public Library system has come up a winner once again.  We loved it when Cambridge appeared at the top of Amazon's list of best read cities in America.  Who doesn't like to be NUMBER ONE? The list, however, is based on per capita sales at  Frequent visitors to any of our branch libraries may have asked themselves, "What about us?  Don't we count?"  On Monday, June 27, the answer was a resounding "Yes, a million times over!"
For the first time in its history the Main Library checked out over 1,000,000 items in a single year. That's a 115% increase over the last full year.  So we asked ourselves, "Who's reading all these books?"  We feel certain that one factor contributing to the circulation success is the number of Cantabridgians who love to read and discuss books together, and we are on a mission to find out more about them.  By our count there are ten book groups meeting at the Main and Branch libraries each month.  We will be sharing information about these groups with you in the coming months, but we could use some help from you as well.

If you belong to a book group, or two or five, take the time to share something about your group with us.  Even if only some of you check out your book club selections from the library, you made a contribution to the Main Branch's amazing achievement.  We'd like to celebrate your group's achievements.  We would love to know all about you - who you are, how you formed, how long you've been together, what you read, how you choose, what your favorite books have been, or even that interesting something about your group that we have yet to imagine.  Please take the time to send us an email at We look forward to hearing from you.  And check the blog next week to read about a book group that celebrated (and discussed)  its one-hundreth book in July.

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library click here.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Your Library Needs You!

Are you a frequent Cambridge Public Library user? Do you love the bright new environmentally friendly space? Have you attended some of the author presentations or toddler sing-alongs? Would you like to show your support for the library in an active way?

Currently, the FCPL is looking for new Advisory Board members. Advisory Board members are library lovers who meet monthly from September to June to plan programs that further the Friends’ mission of supporting the library. Board members are expected to serve on or chair committees and to give several hours of their time beyond the monthly meetings. Board tasks include - but are not limited to - planning the 2012 Secret Gardens Tour; overseeing the Docent program at the main branch; fund-raising for CPL programs; and monitoring this blog.  A particular need is for individuals who have facility with computer graphics or some knowledge of accounting.

If you have any of the above interests or skills, please consider joining the Advisory Board. If you are already a Friend of the Library this is your chance to strengthen that friendship. If you are considering membership in the Friends of the CPL, here is a great way to get started.

For more information, contact Or, call the main library at 617-349-4032 and tell them you are interested in working on the Board. Your message will be communicated to the FCPL.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Head up! Arms to the Side!

Jean Salemme builds strength
and balance at AEC.
“Raise your thigh up, clasp your hands below the knee, and flex your hip for a stretch.” Commands from a yoga teacher or personal trainer? No, just part of the hour-long instructions given by Sylvia Piltch, master teacher for the ten or so “women of a certain age” who attend the weekly Adult Exercise Class (AEC) at the Cambridge Public Library’s main branch. It’s the longest running weekly adult program in the history of the library!

Begun more than 20 years ago, the class has continued with its loyal group of women (and sometimes men), in an effort to “keep our muscles and joints working,” says long-time member, Jean. Some have been attending since the AEC’s inception; others drop in from time to time. This time, a visitor from New Zealand, in town for her child’s graduation, joined the group for chair, floor and wall exercises. To the tunes of Perry Como on the library’s boom box, members stretched and moved, chatting occasionally between exercise breaks.

Instructor Sylvia Piltch stretches
with class members Virginia Hardman
and Ruth Mandalian
According to Virginia, it's more fun to exercise when you are among friends rather than doing it alone in your own home. And as Ruth said, "It gets you to the library" – one of her favorite places in Cambridge. During the multi-year reconstruction of the main library, the group moved to the Longfellow School as well as Youville House (teacher Sylvia is a resident there), but they are now happily ensconced in the L2 Community Room.

“It’s an ‘up’ group of people,” says Jean. They meet each week for exercise and occasionally enjoy lunch together. As Sylvia reported while carefully monitoring her students, “Everyone’s in good shape for the shape they’re in.” She couldn’t have stated it more perfectly.

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library click here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Harleston Parker Medal Awarded to Main Library

City officials Rich Rossi, Bob Healy,
David Mahre; Head Librarian Susan Flannery;
Architects Pamela Hawkes, Cliff Gaffney
The 2010 Harleston Parker Medal, considered the highest architectural honor in the Boston Metropolitan area, was formally presented on May 23 to William Rawn Associates and Ann Beha Architects for their work on the Cambridge Public Library. The festive event included guided tours for guests, comments by city officials, architects, and the library director, and concluded with a reception.

Harleston Parker Jury Chair Elise Woodward, AIA, said the panel evaluated the 96 nominated buildings for beauty of purpose, craft, materials, ethics, form, innovation and formal beauty. She praised the seamless incorporation of the original structure with the new building. Alluding to the many new environmental features, she said that part of the pleasure of the building was experiencing beauty as a sustainable form.

Mayor David Maher boasted that when the renovation of Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School next door is completed, its proximity to the library will make it “one of the finest high school campuses in the country.” City Manager Robert Healy said a special pleasure for him, when going to work early, is seeing the sunrise through two corners of the library building. Deputy City Manager Rich Rossi praised the architects who repeatedly asked what patrons and library staff wanted from the building. This building is “a home run for the community,” he said.

Susan Flannery, Head Librarian, applauded the steadfast support of officials “who were on board from the first time the words ‘new library’ were uttered.” She also thanked preceding city officials, library trustees, staff, colleagues in other city departments, volunteers on the Library 21 and Design Advisory Committees, and the thousands of residents who participated in many ways.

She said, “As we hear so often from our customers, it’s hard not to smile when you are in this library. The … building is aesthetically stunning yet welcoming and accessible. It brilliantly embodies the democratic principles of the free public library and signals to all who approach that this is a place for them. It also, as both good architecture and good libraries should do, lifts the mind and the spirit.”

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library click here.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Almost Ipanema

The syncopated sounds of the bossa nova and the samba eddied their way among the stacks, as Brazilian singer/guitarist Fernando Holz welcomed a large crowd into the Valente branch of the library last Wednesday night with dusky rhythms celebrating the 26th annual Rogers Celebration of Portuguese-Speaking Peoples and their Cultures. Row after row of chairs were filled by adults of all ages and a sprinkling of elementary school students from the neighborhood, all of them smiling or bobbing or nodding in time to the music. "I would like to play my guitar like him," said a wistful young girl in the front row, "but I have to wait until my friend can tune it."

"Our house is small but our heart is big for you," said Artemis Kilroy, branch librarian, addressing the audience. She thanked the Manuel Rogers family for its ongoing support of the branch, spoke of the many newly acquired books and DVDs of interest to the Portuguese community, and introduced Valente staffer and fluent Portuguese-speaker Mary Carter, who has recently designed story-times and sing-alongs especially for neighborhood patrons.

Then along came storyteller Len Cabral, pictured to the left, who spoke of whaler ancestors who sailed bravely about the seas "picking fights with the largest mammal in the world." Cabral's humorous tales took full advantage of his Cape Verdean roots, and he enchanted the assembled, illustrating his words with broad and sinuous gestures. The audience, having thoroughly identified with Cabral, were still laughing as they made their way to a table laden with fruits, cakes, and cookies, Holz's guitar thrumming again in the background.

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library click here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Celebrating the Muse - The 13th Annual CPL Poetry Awards

Thursday, May 19, was a special evening for the young writers of Cambridge. For some, the evening began in the underground parking garage.  That's where I met 4th grader Sofia Riskin, one of 61 students who had signed up to read their poems that evening.  While her parents waited their turn at the pay station, Sofia told me about her poem "Holes," inspired by an image from the movie.
Ben Donaldson prepares to read his
poem The Breath of Life.

We moved into the library and rode the elevator down to L2.  The excitement built as young poets and their parents registered and then moved into the auditorium to await their turns to read.  At the registration table 5th grader Ben Donaldson told me that he writes a lot of poetry.  The ideas for his pieces just pop into his head.

There were poems about Legos; poems about pets; poems about poetry itself.  In addition to the awards provided by the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library, winners who had chosen to write about trees received additional recognition from the Cambridge Tree Project.  As sometimes happens, this year's group of winners contained a pair of siblings, Olivia and Elias Shirley. 

In her poem "Snakes" 2nd grader Anaomi Rigand used the technique of alliteration to recreate the sound of a snake moving through the grass.  Her poem begins, "Slithering snakes ...slurp rats!"  Dennis Anderson III, a second grader, created a wonderful image of a penguin "like a rocket flying out of the water" in his poem Emperoro Penguin.
Mina Hasan, Grade Three
Here is an excerpt from her poem I Want...
I want in this spring
seeds of peace to grow up
I want in this summer
Angels of love to show up.
After an inspirational program of shared poetry, the winners and their supporters moved into the hall space to enjoy refreshments and the continued glow of pride in their successes.  If you know of a young writer who missed out on this year's contest, don't let it happen again next year.  Look for the announcement of the 2012 contest on the library's home page or right here in this blog.

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library click here.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect

Read the following sentence and choose the word that best completes it.

Each occupation has its own ____ ; bankers, lawyers and computer professionals, for example, all use among themselves language which outsiders have difficulty following.
A. merits
B. disadvantages
C. rewards
D. jargon
E. problems

If you answered D, you are correct - and you know how the members of Team Super Awesome Awesomeness and Team MAGRON* felt on a recent afternoon in the Teen Room.  Teen Room librarian Beth McIntyre had organized an SAT Vocabulary Quiz Bowl to help anyone who was interested practice for the June 7th administration of the SAT.   The participants divided into two teams and chose their own names.  Then the action began.

Team MAGRON* members Maggie Vo and Aaron Hume are also both members of the Teen Advisory Board at the main branch of the library.  Maggie has been coming to the library since she was nime.  She hasn't spent too much time studying for the SAT, but hopes that having taken Latin in school will help her.  She doesn't know yet where she will be attending college, but her dream school is Yale.  Aaron says that he has been coming to the library all of his life.  He has already taken the SAT and will be attending Columbia.  He decided to join the team because he "just likes words."

There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library click here.

What's All The Fuss About?

Did you know that our main branch has received the Boston Society of Architects' 2010 Harleston Parker Medal for the “Single Most Beautiful Building” erected in the metropolitan Boston area in the past 10 years. The award will be presented at a ceremony on May 23rd. Earlier this year the City of Cambridge announced that Cambridge Public Library had also received an Annual Design Review Award from ARCHITECT Magazine, one of the country’s two leading national architectural magazines. In fact, the renovated main branch has received a grand total of 9 awards since reopening in November of 2009.

What did all of these prestigious organizations find so remarkable about our building? Find out for yourself by signing up for a tour of the library. Tours are given every Saturday morning at 10 AM. They are free, but we ask that you register by noon of the day before your tour. That way your cheerful, well-informed docent will know how many tour-ists to expect. It's easy to do. Just email us at and give us the date on which you would like to take a tour and the number in your party. Then meet your docent just inside the main entrance at 10 AM. You'll learn about the “green” aspects of our new building as well as the art and architecture of both the stone and the glass sides of the building. By the time your tour is over, it will be easy to see what all the fuss has been about!

Check back with us after the 23rd to read more about the Harleston Parker ceremony.  There are always great things happening at the library! For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library
click here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tea Time at Collins

For over eight years, the Collins Branch has been inviting Thursday visitors to enjoy a cup of tea and a snack from 3:30 to 5 -- along with plenty of reading material to browse and borrow. 

On an overcast day in early spring, two artists who come regularly to do research praised the warm and cozy atmosphere of Thursday teatime and said the civility of the tea service made the library feel like a true community center.  As you can see on the left, visitors really enjoy reading and relaxing with a cup of tea!

Librarian Joe Logue, pouring tea in the photo on the left, reports that many patrons are surprised and pleased to be offered tea and occasionally have to be assured that, yes indeed, the tea service is a free service. Some regulars demonstrate their thanks by bringing cookies to share.

The program has proven to be so popular that the staff is thinking of adding a second “tea afternoon” during the week.  This summer they hope to serve patrons outside in the newly renovated garden space.

There are always great things happening at the library!  For more information on how you can get involved with the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library, click here.