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.

Freshly baked banana bread

Cooking in Quarantine

If you’re like me, this quarantine has made things a little boring. The thing is though, it doesn’t have to be. With so many restaurants closed or having reduced hours, now is the best time to try your hand at new recipes! Another reason why you should cook some new stuff? The library has tons of great digital options to use.Fresh fruit and vegetables

If you’re looking for something to check out right away, you can’t go wrong with Freading, which has an amazing selection of cookbooks ready to download with no wait time. Just log in with your library card (or if you don’t have one, you can get an eCard) and download it to any compatible device (PC, phone, tablet). For some of the more popular titles, the Wisconsin’s Digital Library has you covered, although with some titles, you may have to wait a bit. Last but not least, there’s also Flipster, that has a plethora of cooking magazines like The Food Network magazine to make sure you never run out of ideas! Flipster not only has the most current issue, but also a ton of past issues to look at as well.

Just remember to be safe out there when you go to grab your ingredients. Make a list so you know what to get and don’t spend too much time. Don’t be afraid to ask for help to find things you’re not use to buying, just make sure to keep a safe distance. Many of the grocery stores offer pick up services online or delivery through a third-party company.

Let us know in the comments any cool recipes you’ve done while at home or favorite cookbooks for others to check out! Happy eating!

Virtual Library or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Digital

As our doors remain closed, staff at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library are busy at their homes in Chippewa, Bloomer, Eau Claire, Menomonie, and even Spooner, WI, creating online programming, answering reference questions, troubleshooting issues with digital media, connecting with local musicians for an upcoming video series to highlight the artists featured in our local music platform, Sawdust City Sounds, and creating video content for the library’s YouTube channel.

We have also been exploring ways to better serve the community, including improving our virtual desk services by adding a chat service, now staffed by Information & RChat Bubble for online chat serviceeference staff members Monday – Friday from 10-5, (look for the chat bubble on the lower right-hand corner of nearly every page), seeking alternative ways for users to continue using some of the resources they’ve been using onsite in an offsite capacity, and exploring new options for learning and exploration for our cardholders.

Two services now available to our customers offsite are Ancestry Library Edition and the Foundation Directory Online. Both companies responded quickly to library closures by offering unprecedented offsite access to library customers. We are extremely grateful for their support and flexibility during these unprecedented times.

But what about new library services?

You may know Libby, and Tumblebooks, Freading, and Flipster, but do you recall Lynda? Because she is back!

Logo for learningIf you are an Eau Claire cardholder, you can now set-up a free account with and learn everything from overcoming cognitive bias to introductory WordPress skills to speed reading tips. Simply visit the portal through our library’s website, have your library card and PIN number handy, and create your account today. If you had an account through our library before, you will be prompted to enter the email address you used for your old account to retrieve any past course modules.

Welcome back, Lynda!

Stay tuned to our website  and our Facebook page for more news about our digital services offerings. If you ever need any assistance troubleshooting any of these services, our staff will be available to answer your questions Monday thru Friday, from 10-5 via our new chat service or via email at, and we are returning voicemails from a variety of numbers, so if you see a strange number from Stevens Point in your Caller ID and you have recently left a voice message by calling our Information & Reference staff at 715-839-5004, please pick up the phone. You’ll probably find one of us on the other end.

If you have any suggestions for other virtual services the library could provide while we are all staying safe at home, please let us know in the comments. We miss seeing you at the Information & Reference desk on the second floor and look forward to the day when we will be able to answer your questions in-person. Until then, stay safe, stay well, and keep reading, learning, and asking those questions!

Sheltering in Studio

Recording studios, like many things in the modern age (payphones for example), don’t hold the same significance as they did let’s say, 20 years ago. With the advent of digital recording equipment, home recording has become a lot more prevalent. One of the biggest selling independent recordings of the past 15 years, Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever, Ago was recorded right here in the Chippewa Valley by Justin Vernon in his family’s hunting cabin using a laptop and other portable equipment.

My TASCAM DP-008 eight track recorder. Photo credit: Colette Couillard

In this blog post I am going to go over a brief history of some famous studios and the musicians and owners and that helped make them so well known. My wife and I were going to embark on a roadtrip where we visited some of these rooms but like a lot of people, we had to change our plans due to the current Coronavirus pandemic. We were going to drive down to Tennessee and stay in Memphis, Nashville and just outside of Pigeon Forge, the home of Dollywood. Since the Muscle Shoals area of Alabama was just a little South of our drive between Memphis and Nashville, we were going to make a quick stop at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield and take a quick tour. That studio is run by a small group of musicians known as The Swampers. The Swampers got their start at another area studio, Fame Studios, before branching out on their own. The amount of famous musicians that stopped through their neck of the woods to record in these rooms is astounding. Check out the DVD documentary and book listed below for more on this fascinating area of the south.

Another group of studio musicians informally known as The Wrecking Crew were associated with producer Phil Spector and often worked at Gold Star Studios in LA. Their little known but important contributions to hundreds of hit records from The Byrds to The Beach Boys are the subject of another DVD available at our library.

Two other famous studios that we planned to visit were Ardent Studios and Sun Records, both in Memphis. Sun was originally owned by Sam Phillips, the subject of the great biography, The Man Who Invented Rock and Roll. A fun scene featuring Sun Studios is in the film Mystery Train which also features Rufus Thomas, a Sun Records recording alum, in a small role. Sun is an example of a studio that is directly associated with a record label. Another such studio is RCA Studio B in Nashville, which was the home base for many artists on that famous label. A visit here was also on our list of planned activities.

Finishing up, I wanted to touch on three studios in this area, one owned by the aforementioned Justin Vernon, and two that I was lucky enough to be able to record in. April Base is a recording studio in Fall Creek, just a few miles outside of Eau Claire that is owned by Justin Vernon. I believe he built it for himself to record in, using money that he made off the enormous success of his first record. (Before moving to Eau Claire, I worked at B-Side, an independent record store in Madison and I can attest, we sold a lot of copies of that record). He now records other bands both international, Blind Boys of Alabama, and local, The Drunk Drivers. The final studios I am going to talk about are ones that I’ve worked in, Smart Studios in Madison, and Pachyderm, in Cannon Falls, MN. Smart, (no longer in busisiness) owned by Butch Vig had a rich history starting with working with local bands like my high school punk band Mecht Mensch and culminating in recording demos for Nevermind, Nirvana’s multi-platinum selling record. My college band Poopshovel recorded both our records there. More information on Smart can be found in the documentary, The Smart Studios Story, directed by Wendy Schneider, the owner of her own Madison studio, Coney Island. Now on to Pachyderm. They are famous for being the studio where Nirvana recorded their second record, In Utero. My band NoahJohn was lucky enough to record there using the same engineer and equipment.

The final studio, I am going to mention is Sound City, located in LA. Dave Grohl, the drummer for Nirvana, fell in love with this studio after recording the final version of Nevermind there using Butch Vig as engineer (lots of connections here). Grohl made a documentary that we also have on our shelves. He also eventually bought the sound board used by many famous bands because he didn’t want to fade into obscurity. Another piece of equipment saved by an obsessive musician is the 1947 Voice-o-Graph  record booth in Jack White’s (White Stripes, Raconteurs) Third Man Record’s store in Nashville. My wife, Colette, being a major Jack White geek, wanted to stop there on our aborted journey as well. I was going to try to make a short recording in the booth because my hero, Neil Young, recorded his A Letter Home CD there.

Recording drums. Photo credit: Colette Couillard

I’m glad I was able to talk about and highlight the materials related to some of these hallowed places and hope you will check out some of our library’s selections to learn more about them. Obviously, it would have been a treat as well as an educational experience to see some of these studios in person, but due to our current unique situation, it was not to be.

Library materials (please do not place a hold on these until the library re-opens)

Studios That We Planned to Visit On Our Trip

Studios Related To This Blog Post

Reading by sunset

Binging with Books

binge-read [binj-rēd]


  1. The act of reading large amounts of text in a short amount of time
  2. The reason you haven’t eaten, bathed, slept, or absorbed sunlight in the twenty-four hours following the release of the conclusion to your favorite series[i]

[i] “binge-read.” the [glos-uh-ree]. Accessed February 24, 2020.

Used in a sentence: I stayed up through the night to binge-read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows after buying it at the midnight release party because I didn’t want to encounter any spoilers out in the world.

My joy of reading was first established as a child, racing through books after lights out with a flashlight under the bedcovers (I soon tired of the ever-present crick in my neck and convinced my parents to put a nightlight in my room that was bright enough to read by). Books that I refused to put down for breakfast as a child included Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, and Bridge to Terabithia.

As an adult, there have been plenty of books over the years that I did not want to put down to eat, sleep, shower, or work – whose characters stuck in my head to the point of distraction. I admit to having binge-read every HP title the moment they were released, I raced through The Hunger Games trilogy, and every new Sookie Stackhouse book (guilty indulgence, indeed), but these days, I rarely find myself sitting for hours by the nightlight in my room reading with that same kind of joy. Probably because I no longer have a nightlight. When I have taken hours out of my day to finish a book, it has been because I had to meet a deadline, but in those forced reading sessions, I discovered that same joy, quiet, comfort, and focus that reading, and binge-reading, has provided since I first picked up a book.

If you’re like me, you may have supplanted your binge-reading for binge-watching. I will admit that I have burned through the likes of Friday Night Lights, Weeds, and most recently, Amazon Prime’s Fleabag, so I’m not arguing against binge-watching, but I am making an argument to replace a television show binge with a book binge, at least once a month. Although it might be an indulgence, I think it would bring great joy to readers to carve out one afternoon a month to lose themselves in a book. Forget the dishes, the vacuuming, and the loads of laundry, just for one day, curl up in a cozy chair, and tackle that tsundoku. It is an indulgence I don’t think you’ll regret.

To get you started, here are five page-turners I could not put down this past year:

Cover of Rebecca Makkai's "The Great Believers"

The Great Believers

Author: Rebecca Makkai

One of the library’s Tough Topics Book Club titles in 2019, Makkai’s hard-hitting story about the AIDS epidemic’s devastating effect on a group of young friends in Chicago in the 1980’s has characters that will never leave me.

Cover of Ruth Ware's "The Turn of the Key"

The Turn of the Key

Author: Ruth Ware

Ware is an author whose books I’ve been binge-reading since her first title was released in 2015. She has been releasing a dark mystery every year since, and this 2019 title gave me physical goose-flesh.

Cover of Hank Green's "An Absolutely Remarkable True Thing"

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

Author: Hank Green

This was a title recommendation from a fellow staff member, (thank you, Michaela!), that traces the story of a young woman who becomes an overnight media sensation. The circumstances surrounding her trappings were mind-blowing enough that I drained the battery on my device and gladly lost a bit of sleep reading it through the night.

Cover of Amor Towle's "A Gentleman in Moscow"

A Gentleman in Moscow

Author: Amor Towles

Every sentence and every scene in Towles’ 2016 is crafted with such beauty and grace, I was swept off my feet emotionally. The character development is rich and layered and it is a truly unique story that unfolds during a very turbulent period in Russian history.

Cover of Ann Rule's "The Stranger Beside Me"

The Stranger Beside Me

Author: Ann Rule

As a Murderino whose first foray into true crime was Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, I knew I had to read Rule’s story about her personal connection to Ted Bundy after episode 61 (I am binge-listening to the podcast, and am catching up as quickly as possible). If you have the opportunity, listen to Ann Rule narrate the book on Libby or Overdrive.

Sawdust City Sounds logo

More Sweet Local Music!

Back in the spring of 2019, the library launched Sawdust City Sounds, an online platform to showcase amazing current local music to new audiences for FREE. We again called out to local artists to submit more of their music for the platform, and as of last month their music is now available for streaming!

While all these new albums have the fact that they’re local in common, you’ll be surprised at how diverse the sounds of each one is. If you’re looking to rock out, check out Stumpt’s Um, What? or Drunk Drivers’ It’s Always Weekend.  For more acoustic heavy sets, AncientMelody by Past & Present, Phase 1 by Jim Phillips Project, Exile Station by Adrian Klenz, and Dead Man Pickin’ by Rock Cree Song Dogs will fulfil that niche perfectly. Love Americana? Ben Shaw and The JahnyD Occurrence have you covered with their albums, Feet to the Fire and Agouti Groove, respectively.

Leading off with some more experimental music, the Nunnery’s We are the Stars is an awesome entry into music made with loops, if you’ve never heard that before (and go see here live if you ever get the chance). For some synth heavy sounds, check out Xavly’s Exit or Oddity’s Oddities Oddyssey.

Whatever you choose to listen to, you’re going to be blown away by the fact that these are all local musicians you might pass by grocery shopping. Maybe it’ll inspire you to make your own music, or maybe you already have music that you’d love to see on this site. In the coming year there will be at least one more call for local musicians to submit entries for Sawdust City Sounds, so stay tuned!

Image of library patron staring at book of shelves trying to figure out what to read next.

What to Read Next?

Have you ever been stuck, not knowing what you feel like reading next?  Tired of the same genres and authors?  Looking for something new?

Since all staff members in this library are here to serve, then yes, we can help!

First, ask at the reference desk upstairs for a Diversity Challenge reading journal.  Each month has a different subject, so you may pick and choose what interests you.  Each month will then give you 15-20 titles in that subject that are great suggestions.  You need not follow this month to month; just pick what peeks your imagination, and go from there.

Your library staff has created 28 different Book Links for ideas and suggestions by genre. These Book Links are for Mystery & Thriller, Horror, Romance, Historical Fiction, Self-Help, and Women’s Fiction, just to name a few.  Each of these has the latest best sellers, best- selling authors, and also classic books in each genre. These are located just behind the customer service desk on the first floor of the library, or on our public website under services, then Discover New Books.

Also on our MORE public website we list new items, plus the latest New York Times Best-Sellers. Just above the Book Links on our website, there are lists of the best books of 2018. Want someone to guide you? Fill out the Personalized Reading Suggestions, as we can suggest authors and titles based on your reading preferences. is a super resource we often use at the reference desk.  They list new fiction books by genre and format.  If you want to know the sequence of books in a series, type in the author, and all books written by this author will appear.  This shows the date of when each were released, plus new titles coming out soon. Also, if you like the author John Grisham, as an example, there will be a list of several titles and authors that he recommends is another wonderful tool to hunt for new books. Here you can also search by genre, or author.  Also listed are their Choice Awards; best sellers by genre for each of the last several years.  I suggest you create your own Goodreads account, as this allows you to rate books you like, or dislike, gives you the opportunity to discuss books with others, and then keeps track of the books you have read.  Bonus!  Rate a book or author with 5 stars, and you often will receive in depth interviews and ideas from the author.  A number of these have been extremely interesting on how the author gets ideas for books, and how they develop their characters.

When searching the MORE catalog, once you select a book to view or request, scroll down.  Here we list other books in that series, other books by that author, and also similar titles, similar authors, and similar series. This is what it will look like.

Still stuck?  Cannot decide?  Well, since everything is free at the library, check out several different books.  All you are out is your time if you cannot get into a book.  We have more!

Last resort? Just ask any of the dedicated library staff members. The reason we are here is to help you!

Who Loves Miscellaneous Information?

Who loves miscellaneous information?

Brad loves miscellaneous information.

Is it true?

Mm-hmm! I do, I do, I do, I do-oooh!

And what better place to find such miscellaneous information than in the library’s 000s section of non-fiction? The 000s are arguably the oddest and most diverse collection of materials throughout all of the non-fiction collection. Some credit must be given to the 700s which contend for quite a variety as well with “Arts and Recreation” (Pst, it might be my other favorite section). The 000s originally held the classification as simply “General Works,” but have since been extended to “Computer Science, Information & General Works.” Now, the 000s have potentially thousands of subcategories as Dewey intended, so I will refrain from spending a novel’s worth of explanation and will focus on the beefiest areas we have available in our collection.

Ah, yes. Quite a specific number after declaring my intent to be broad, and it even has a decimal point! I promise this will be the only one. 001.9 could be considered fascinating be you believer or skeptic. No, not a religious believer. That’s mostly reserved for the 200s. 001.9 focuses on a variety of material including UFOs, conspiracies, cryptids (Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot, etc.), and anything similar that isn’t classified as “Paranormal,” which is located a skip or two down the aisle in the 130s. 

Now here’s a nice clump of numbers. 002 through 006 blankets the tech stuff. If you just bought your first smartphone, are trying your hand at photo editing, need to brush up on entering data into spreadsheets, or anything between, then this area contains the information you might be seeking. If it’s tech, it’s probably here. Conspiracy theories and technology located so near each other. Hmmm.

Okay, this isn’t the section for the average browser. But it’s important nonetheless. This is where we keep the actual library topic material. We library staff need a place for our information as well! This is it. If you’re ever curious why a library does something a certain way or is changing to some new norm, you might find the answer here.

We honestly do not have much material in this category, but the material that is there is quite popular. This is where the random facts are located like Guinness World Records or Ripley’s Believe It or Not. This is considered the area for “Encyclopedias & Books of Facts.”

This is another diverse area that includes content for “News Media, Journalism, and Publishing.” Journalism covers work, theory, ethics, etc. You can also find materials for the field of publishing. If you work in the field or you are a writer looking to get published, there are some essential materials like Writer’s Market as well as various Dummies guides on the industry. Writer’s Market, in particular, is quite useful for finding contact information for agents, publishers, and magazines, in addition to workshops and contests.

Beautiful beadwork wire art

“Let’s Get Crafty”

Did you know that the month of March proffers such fun-filled days to celebrate as National Peanut Lover Day (March 1), National Panic Day (March 9), and Everything You Do Is Right Day (March 16)? If you have ever checked out in Greg’s lane at the circulation desk, you probably already know the special celebration associated with a given day. There are over 1,500 national days, and I think that Greg might know almost every one.

However, March is not just a month filled with random days to celebrate. It is also “National Craft Month.” That is right. A month-long celebration of all things crafty, and if you are looking to learn a new skill, then the library is the place for you! From Saturday morning Make and Takes for adults, to open labs in our Dabble Box makerspace (where you are welcome to come in and use any of our supplies for FREE), to myriad craft kits that circulate for 4 weeks, we offer something for everyone at every skill level, and practically every interest.

We also have a robust collection of crafting books, from paper, to wood, to fabric, painting to metal crafts located in the 700s on the second floor, and even more craft books in the Dabble Box circulating collection, which can be located on the grey rolling cart outside the makerspace and is accessible whenever the library is open. To get you started on your month-long crafting journey (well, 19 day-long), here are some recommendations from our crafting collection.

UPCYCLE: 24 Sustainable DIY Projects

Rebecca Proctor offers creative ways to makeover discarded objects into something that’ll make your friends ooh & aah. From copper clothing lamps, to a strawberry box bench, and a way to turn those discarded plastic crates you have been using to hold your record collection into a stylish piece of furniture using cord rope, the designs are creative, the steps are few, and if you are looking to create a hanging light using fresh seaweed and bio-resin, then this is the book for you!

BIBLIOCraft: A Modern Crafter’s Guide to Using Library Resources to Jumpstart Creative Projects

Not only does this book offer some really decent library themed crafting projects – it opens with a handy library user guide on locating physical materials on library shelves, locating quality crafting digital resources, and offers noteworthy library collections, all prepared by the author, who works as a rare book librarian at the New York Public Library.

DIY Mason Jars: Thirty-five Creative Crafts & Projects for the Classic Container

I might be checking this one out, because I just love the versatility of Mason Jars. They can house a healthy salad, make clever vessels for presents for co-workers, or can be turned into a soap dispenser! But Melissa Averinos has way better ideas. If I beat you to it, I promise to return it on time!

Worth Reading from the Beginning

I’m not sure what it is about series, but it seems like every time I pick up a book it is part of one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not automatically against a book if I see that it is the beginning of a series. BUT! If you are like me, you may hesitate before checking it out because you know that a series means more time devoted to a single storyline and a future of excruciatingly long wait times for each new book. In order to help you navigate the treacherous world of series, I have compiled a list of books that I have enjoyed and believe you might too.

Story of Arthur Truluv (Book 2)

The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg was a suggestion I received from a co-worker who really enjoyed the story. I was hooked right from the beginning. It follows the friendship of three people who you think would never make a connection. Arthur (a lonely, elderly man) and Maddy (an angry, friendless teenager) meet in the cemetery while he is visiting his dead wife’s grave. It seems like a strange place to connect with someone but they strike up a friendship straightaway. Arthur’s nosy neighbor, Lucille, quickly becomes a member of the close trio. This is a heartwarming story about how those who have lost in the past can make new friendships and be less alone in the world. When I finished this book, I didn’t realize it was the first in a series but when I saw that there was a continuation story, I knew I would be looking to read it. The Night of Miracles delves deeper into the character of Lucille and introduces us to new characters as well. The story was engaging, made you care for each character, and made me cry actual tears. Any novel that can cause a physical reaction is worth reading and recommending.

Charley Davidson (Book 13)

Darynda Jones is the mastermind behind the Charley Davidson series. This is a good one to start with because her thirteenth book conclusion, Summoned to Thirteenth Grave, was just published last month. This series had me wrapped around its figure from the first time I listened to First Grave on the Right. The narrator, Lorelei King, gives life to the main character, Charley Davidson, in this action-packed paranormal romantic suspense series. Charley is a fast-talking, independent, sarcastic woman who works as a private investigator while trying to fulfill her duties as the Grim Reaper. I just finished the last book and absolutely loved my journey with Charley and the gang but do I have very mixed feelings about how it ended. What I’m thinking is going to happen is there will be a spin-off series featuring a different set of characters in the same Charley Davidson universe.

Casey Duncan (Book 4)

When I discovered City of the Lost, I was in that awful spot between books. I had just finished something and items I had on hold were not quite ready yet. In order to pass the time (and hopefully find something to read), I decided to browse the new audiobooks section of Wisconsin’s Digital Library. That’s when City of the Lost caught my attention. At first, it was the cover the made me stop scrolling but then I noticed the author’s name. Kelley Armstrong was an author that I enjoyed as a teenager. Her books are usually urban fantasy but the Casey Duncan novels are rural police mysteries.

Casey Duncan, a big-city homicide detective, and her best friend Diana, are two people who have repeatedly tried to run from their pasts. The two of them move from town to town but they finally decide enough is enough and start seeking out a town that Diana heard was made for people who are on the run and want a new start. They soon find out it is not full of the promises they thought but instead is home to its own particular set of problems, including a designer drug and a murderer. As the town’s new detective, Casey is soon put on the case to hunt down the killer. This novel will keep you guessing and you will not want to put it down. Watcher in the Woods was published at the beginning of this month and I’m not so patiently waiting my turn in the holds list.

Chronicles of the One (Book 2)

Nora Roberts is one of the most popular authors of today and she mainly writes contemporary romances. I haven’t read all of her books but I have really enjoyed the ones that I have read. She has a way of bringing characters to life that makes you feel like you are experiencing what they are experiencing. The Chronicles of the One series takes readers down a new road into apocalyptic fantasy fiction. It follows a cast of characters who have to band together to survive the new world of chaos and the return of magic. Don’t expect to read these ones without getting emotionally invested in the lives of each and every character.