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 cambridgelibraryfriends@gmail.com.

"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.