Virtual Vacation

Summer is getting closer and COVID-19 projections and precautions have erased many of our typical summer plans. This is usually the time of year when spring fever eases, but this year it’s reaching new and unprecedented heights as the world buckles in for months and even years of recovery.

As someone who finds large crowds exhausting, I’m not usually a big event-goer. I won’t really miss things like music festivals and amusement parks (though I do enjoy some local events like concerts in the park). Instead, what I’m struggling with most is the inability to travel.

Most of my family lives in Minnesota about a 5-hour drive from Eau Claire, and it’s tough not knowing when I’ll be able to visit. I also just really enjoy going on vacations in the summer, whether it’s a relaxed day trip to a nearby destination, an epic road trip, or a long-distance journey requiring air travel.

At this time, the CDC, the U.S. Department of State, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services all advise against any nonessential travel outside of your local community.  This makes sense to me. I understand how travelers can inadvertently bring the disease with them to their destination or carry it back when they return home. I think avoiding travel is sensible advice. That doesn’t make staying home any easier.

To curb our collective wanderlust, many destinations around the world have made virtual tours accessible online (and quite a few were already available). From home, you can explore famous museums, zoos, landmarks, and national parks.

Here’s a list of a few of my personal favorites:

Have you discovered any amazing virtual tours? Share them with us in the comments. Until we can travel safely: stay home, fellow wanderers, and stay safe.

Panoramic view of library's Dabble Box makerspace.

Play, Make, and Share – Safer at Home Edition

The mission of the Dabble Box Makerspace at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library is dedicated to inspiring a love of making and creating by providing access to equipment, materials, and space.

For those who have visited the Dabble Box, you will have seen these three words featured in our space: Play. Make. Share. Like other makerspaces around the country, the Dabble Box provides a space for community members to share creative equipment, supplies, and ideas (and I mean creative in the connotation that the Dabble Box is for creating). It is a resource that we at the library love to share with you, and, though we cannot currently gather in its dedicated space, we’re still dedicated to playing, making, and sharing our creative resources with you virtually.

Finished product of Pop Tab bracelet with orange ribbon. A Dabble Box monthly project. You may be familiar with the rotating projects featured each month in the Dabble Box. From DIY jewelry and seed pellets to homemade bath salts and website design, library staff have put together 49 project cards in the last few years to guide and inspire your dabbling. Did you know that all of those projects are available online in our How-To Library? Many of them only require supplies that you probably already have at home, like Pop Tab Bracelets which require pop tabs, ribbon, and tape, or Upcycled Book Baskets which only require an old book, a piece of cardboard, and time. Any supplies you might be missing can easily be added to your next outing for essential supplies (please don’t make a special trip).

Some other projects which require Dabble Box equipment to complete may be started at home. Design a 3D print on your home computer using free software like Tinkercad or get started on a design for a heat press mug. We will be open again someday.

Part of the joy inherent in a makerspace is seeing what others are making. If you’d like to share the results of your dabbling with us, we would love to see them! Share with us on Facebook or tell us about it in the comments below. Also, make sure to check out our Facebook page for activities and inspiration for people of all ages, including book recommendations, virtual story times, Dabble Box projects, and digital media offerings.

Stay safe, everyone and play, make, share.

Eisner Week 2020

Will Eisner. A name many may see and think, “I know I’ve heard that name before. What did he do?” Maybe the name Eisner, as in the Eisner Award, is what triggers the elusive sense of recognition. Perhaps it’s a vague familiarity with his well-known works, The Spirit or A Contract With God. Whatever it may be, Eisner was an amazing writer and artist who had a profound impact on literature as we know it because Eisner is the “Father of the Graphic Novel,” and this week, March 1–7, is Will Eisner Week. A week where we celebrate Will Eisner and the graphic novel.

For Will Eisner Week we will have our blog shelf near Information & Reference on the second floor of the library filled with a variety of graphic novels to sate the appetite of both graphic novel veterans and novices alike. If you’ve never picked a graphic novel up, give it a try. Expand your literary skills beyond the mere written word for sequential art, an Eisner-coined term, has a set of literary skills of its own.

February Goals

Okay, everyone. Don’t panic. February is here again. Last year, the month of February did its best to break our spirits through record-setting snowfall and feeling like the longest month ever, despite only having 28 days. This year it has 29 days, but it’s going to be okay.

February can be a trying month. The holidays are long behind us and somehow, it’s still winter. No matter what the groundhog says, spring is not visible on the horizon. We face a long, dull, plodding trek to warm sun and green grass. Odds are, you’re not as busy this time of year as you will be in a few months; that makes February the perfect time to cultivate some healthy habits.

A month ago, you may have set some New Year’s resolutions. Or, if you’re like me, you may have looked at your track record with resolutions and decided not to set yourself up for failure. Either way, February is to great time to either evaluate your progress or set some new healthy goals without the stress and gravitas of a New Year’s resolution.

Here are a few keys to good goal setting:

1. Set an attainable goal. Don’t expect to enact a complete lifestyle change overnight. Leave yourself some wiggle room, because you might have a bad day or a bad week, but that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. You goal should be something you both want to do and are capable of doing.

2. Set a measurable goal. This is how you know whether you’re succeeding. Instead of saying you’ll work out more, specify that you’ll go to the gym three times a week or take a 30 minute walk at least four times a week.

3. Set a time to finish or re-evaluate your goal. Having a finish line to work towards provides motivation. If you’re trying to make long-term changes, it also provides an opportunity to reflect on whether you want to continue as is, make adjustments, or scrap your goal altogether for a new one.

If you’d like some inspiration to help you be healthier this month, the library has many resources to support your physical, mental, and emotional health goals. Try recipes from a healthy cookbook. Pick up a DVD to guide you through a work out at home. Listen to a meditation CD to help you de-stress. Create something in the Dabble Box. Join the adult winter reading program and set a reading goal.

You may think that February goal setting is nonsense, and maybe it is, but I’ve yet to share the best part: if you focus on achieving a goal this February, by the time you’re done, it will already be March.

New Year’s Resolution Goals!

If you’re like me, you are not all too fond of the traditional New Year’s Resolution. If so, you may have tried and inevitably failed or perhaps you were intuitive/pessimistic enough to know it would fail before even starting. It’s also possible that the notion of fixing yourself has rubbed you the wrong way. Then again, maybe you are not like me and you set the annual New Year’s Resolution and are resolute enough to succeed in your endeavors. To you, I say, congratulations. Keep doing what you are doing and may your future endeavors result in as equal or greater success. To those who can relate or are curious, please read on!

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I’ll skip boring you with the dictionary definitions of resolution and its nearly synonymous use with goals. It’s all semantics. The point is in the implication of its use. Resolution implies there is a flaw to be fixed. If you Google anything on New Year’s Resolution, it will likely paint a portrait of your past failure and how you can work to improve yourself. Though we are all without a doubt quite flawed and could use a little improvement, we tend to inundate ourselves with these negative self-images. Maybe it’s time some of us look at those “resolutions” as goals instead. We don’t have to improve ourselves all of the time. Improve yourself at work or if you have a health condition that requires a lifestyle change. Otherwise, we should be allowed to be happy with who we are and simply do something for the enjoyment of it. Yes, pick up new hobbies or partake in new, energy-filled activities. But don’t do it because of what you lack, and instead, do it because you feel like it. I’m far more interested in taking up something if I actually want to do it. I will ALWAYS fail if it feels like a chore. I have enough chores to deal with. Why add more?

Rough Cat Face With
New Blender Sculpting

Luckily, the library has MANY ideas and activities for you to try out. For fun! Obviously, we have many, many books for new hobbies and other areas of interest. Check out the 600s for a variety of content on home improvement and building. The 700s are great for arts, crafts, and graphic novels. If you have had your fair share of books and want to try something new, stop in the Dabble Box during one of our open labs (Schedule may be found here). We have materials and equipment for a variety of activities including arts, crafts, and technology of all sorts. We recently obtained a complete set of digital drawing tablets that let you draw, paint, and sculpt on the computer. Along with that we have Corel Painter that imitates real-life painting and drawing and the recently updated Blender is an outstanding application for sculpting 3D models. If you just want to take a break, stop in at the Information and Reference desk on the second floor and borrow one of our board games for in-house checkout. There’s a little something for everyone here at the library.

Baking News!

The L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library is jumping on the cake wagon and joining the many public libraries with cake pan collections!

You batter believe it! Libraries around the country have been curating collections of cake pans for decades. Specialty cake pans can be expensive, especially considering how infrequently most people use them. They also take up a lot of valuable storage space in your home. It just makes sense to share cake pans as a community the same way we share books, movies, music, ukuleles, and sewing machines: through the public library.

Next time you’d like to bake your own funky cake bundt you don’t feel the need to own a novelty pan, don’t sweet it! LEPMPL’s cake pan collection already boasts 28 pans and is still growing. Do you have a cake pan gathering dust in a cupboard? We would love to accept your gently used cake pans. Donations may be left on top of the book donation box in the lower level or dropped off at the Customer Service desk on the first floor.

The collection will debut on Tuesday, November 26 at an open house to celebrate LEPMPL being named the 2019 Library of the Year by the Wisconsin Library Association. Join us for the main ovent from 3-7pm. Eat a cupcake, check out a cake pan, and chat with staff about all the library has to offer.

If you miss the open house, don’t shed a tier! Afterward, the cake pans will be on display on the first floor near the Dabble Box. You will also be able to view a list of all our cake pans on the MORE Catalog. The check-out period for cake pans will be 2 weeks, and they will not be available to put on hold.

For your next celebration, get a slice of the action and sprinkle some extra joy on the occasion! Check out a cake pan from the library!

Winter is Coming

We all dread it, but since we choose to live in Wisconsin, we can’t run from winter. So I’m going to try my best to help you get ready to “survive” the season, whether that be a new book, new activity, or possibly even getting you to go out and enjoy what winter brings (if it’s actually possible).

I know what you’re thinking, it’s November, we still have Thanksgiving in a couple weeks, why are all these retail stores playing Christmas music and putting out Christmas stuff. I, too, think it’s way too early but it’s actually about the perfect time to start making some amazing handmade gifts for your friends and family for all the holidays coming up! You get to keep yourself preoccupied and stay out of the cold while also probably making something someone will cherish. Whether it’s knitting, quilting, or any craft, you can find inspiration and instructions here at the library in the 745+ section of non-fiction.

If crafting isn’t your thing, you can always cozy up with a good book. You can live vicariously in a warmer climate while reading a book set around the beach. Maybe you like the spirit of winter but don’t like frostbite, well there’s plenty of books to fill that niche as well! And if you’re really down about winter, you can always read about someone’s winter that is definitely worse off than yours.

Maybe I’ve got you all wrong, maybe you love winter and all it brings. That’s great, and we’ve got something here in the library for you. You can find some nice books about skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating. If you love sledding, I’ll let you in on my super-secret sledding spot, which starts at this point. Follow the trails and you’ll come across four or five super fun slopes with differing speeds so all ages can get in on the action.

Whether you spend it inside or out, winter is coming. Let’s just hope it will be better than the last season of Game of Thrones.

Banned Books Week!

Banned Books Week is an annual internationally celebrated event where libraries share the most challenged and banned books of the previous year and bring awareness to the threats of censorship in our society. The following list has the top 11 banned books for the year of 2018 with each followed by a powerful quote by influential individuals with similar warnings against censorship throughout history. 

1. George by Alex Gino

Reasons: banned, challenged, and relocated because it was believed to encourage children to clear browser history and change their bodies using hormones, and for mentioning “dirty magazines,” describing male anatomy, “creating confusion,” and including a transgender character

“Censorship reflects society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.” – Potter Stewart, former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Republican

2. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller

Reasons: banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ content, and for political and religious viewpoints

“As centuries of dictators have known, an illiterate crowd is the easiest to rule; since the craft of reading cannot be untaught once it has been acquired, the second-best recourse is to limit its scope.” – Alberto Manguel, Argentine Canadian anthologist, translator, essayist, novelist, editor, and Director of the National Library of Argentina

3. Captain Underpants series written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey

Reasons: series was challenged because it was perceived as encouraging disruptive behavior, while Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot was challenged for including a same-sex couple

“Any book worth banning is a book worth reading.” – Isaac Asimov, Science Fiction Author

4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Reasons: banned and challenged because it was deemed “anti-cop,” and for profanity, drug use, and sexual references

“Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice.” – Henry Louis Gates, American literary critic

5. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier

Reasons: banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ characters and themes

“The prime goal of censorship is to promote ignorance, whether it is done via lying and bowdlerized school texts or by attacking individual books.” – Felice Picano, American writer

6. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Reasons: banned, challenged, and restricted for addressing teen suicide

“Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you’re going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book…” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States, Republican

7. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

Reasons: banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and certain illustrations

“The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.” – Tommy Smothers, American comedian

8. Skippyjon Jones series written and illustrated by Judy Schachner

Reason: challenged for depicting stereotypes of Mexican culture

“The only thing that is obscene is censorship.” – Craig Bruce, Australian radio personality

9. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Reasons: banned and challenged for sexual references, profanity, violence, gambling, and underage drinking, and for its religious viewpoint

“Censorship, like charity, should begin at home, but, unlike charity, it should end there.” – Clare Boothe Luce, former U.S. Congresswoman and U.S. Ambassador, Republican

10. This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten

Reason: challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content

“More than a building that houses books and data, the library represents a window to a larger world, the place where we’ve always come to discover big ideas and profound concepts that help move the American story forward and the human story forward. That’s the reason why, since ancient antiquity, whenever those who seek power would want to control the human spirit, they have gone after libraries and books. Whether it’s the ransacking of the great library at Alexandria, controlling information during the Middle Ages, book burnings, or the imprisonment of writers in former communist block countries, the idea has been that if we can control the word, if we can control what people hear and what they read and what they comprehend, then we can control and imprison them, or at least imprison their minds.” – Barrack Obama, 43rd President of the United States, Democrat

11. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Reason: challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content

“When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.” – George R.R. Martin, American author, A Clash of Kings

Introductions and the Unexpected

To some, I may be a new face at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library (LEPMPL). To others, I am a returning old friend.

The library has been a constant in my life since I was about 5 years old. Most children visiting the library would be thrilled to get home with their new found treasures. Not me! No! I was thrilled about taking home a mountain of books so I could pretend to check them out to my siblings. I suppose my parents should have seen it coming; their sixth out of eight children was destined to be a librarian.

For about ten years, in my youth and early twenties, I worked for LEPMPL. During the week I shelved hundreds, if not thousands, of books and spent my days off as a customer completing homework or writing in a hidden study area. The library staff never seemed surprised to see me return multiple times per day and acknowledged me with a smile and nod while offering the feeling of belonging. Inspired by my experiences and journey as a new mother, I left LEPMPL to go to college and graduate school knowing I would be returning someday as a librarian.

Unlike one may presume of a librarian, I am not a quiet person. My voice and laughter are often heard at elevated levels. I am a minority amongst most librarians. I have never read Harry Potter. You might be thinking I’m strange for not reading Harry Potter. No worries! I will read it, someday soon. I did have to read about 33 young adult literature books in 14 weeks. I know I can get through Harry Potter.

Librarians are so much more than their stereotypes. Have you ever met a librarian who played women’s semi-professional baseball, is a performing singer/songwriter/guitarist of the blues-folk-rock genre, and dabbles in art? If you have not, I welcome you to catch me at Information & Reference on the second floor. I’ll welcome you with a smile and nod.

The Grandest Characters

“What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life. And, most importantly, cookies.” — Rudy Giuliani

Well, with one of my grandmothers, it was root beer floats, not cookies, but the point still stands. Grandparents, and those wonderful people who step into the role, are often fundamental people in a child’s life. They impart wisdom, they teach us to have fun and enjoy the little things, and we carry those lessons with us throughout life. I was lucky enough to grow up with three of my grandparents living nearby and involved in my life. Maybe that’s why I love grandparent characters in books and movies so much.

The grandparent character is a common trope in fiction. They’re rarely the main character of the story; instead, they usually show up at key moments to support the main character and get them back on track. Sometimes this involves a pep talk, sometimes a light-hearted break from tension, and sometimes just a reassurance of unconditional love. Often, grandparents serve as a reminder of the character’s origins, of where they come from.

In honor of Grandparents Day, celebrated on the Sunday after Labor Day, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite fictional grandparents.

The grandfather from the movie adaptation of The Princess Bride is a wonderful example of the grandparent trope. When his grandson is home sick, he pays a visit to read a traditional fairy tale (to his grandson’s dismay). This grandfather humors his grandson’s aversion to romance, reassures him when the characters are in peril, and successfully distracts him from both his misery and his video game.

In complete contrast, Grandpa Edwin from Little Miss Sunshine is a crass, rude, and vulgar character. He does, however, openly adore his granddaughter Olive. He shows his love for her by supporting Olive’s dream of winning a beauty pageant, bolstering a truly inspiring level of self confidence. His approach to showing affection to the rest of the family is, at best, described as tough love, but Grandpa Edwin doesn’t let anyone talk down to his granddaughter.

Granny Weatherwax from the Discworld series doesn’t have any biological grandchildren, but she does have apprentices. Granny Weatherwax isn’t openly affectionate, but she looks out for her charges and teaches them important life lessons. The most important lesson, and the core of Granny’s personality, is the difference between Right and Wrong. Granny is a no-nonsense, strong-willed, and clever role model for her pseudo-grandchildren.

I haven’t read the Princess Diaries books, but in the movies, Mia’s grandma Queen Clarisse is a complicated grandmother. She’s strict, royal, and unfailingly diplomatic. Clarisse is firm about teaching Mia the tedious skills she will need as a ruler. However, she isn’t averse to occasionally setting her duties aside in order to have fun with her granddaughter. When it comes down to it, Clarisse shows time and again that she puts her granddaughter’s happiness first.

The world is blessed with so many wonderful grandparents. I’ll leave you with this quote to celebrate amazing grands:

You are the sun, Grandma, you are the sun in my life.
—Kitty Tsui