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Library Goddess

Library Goddess's Posts

Library Director Victoria Dow holds a Masters in Library Science from the University of Pittsburgh, an MA in Medieval English Literature from Lehigh University, and did her undergraduate work in English and French literature at DeSales University. She has been with WCPL as director since 1993.

Book Review: “Red Dragon”

Red Dragon is the first book published in the acclaimed series by Thomas Harris which features Dr. Hannibal Lecter.  I have been enjoying the show with my roommates who, knowing that I read some of Harris’ work, started to ask me questions. Unfortunately I had not read Red Dragon and therefore had few answers for them. The next day the book came across my desk and I took it as a sign to start reading.

Before I start to gush over this book I feel that a few words of caution are needed. This is a graphic novel when it comes to violence. It also has some disturbing themes including child abuse. Harris has an amazing ability to make you cringe while making it impossible to stop reading. As previously stated I have been reading his books since 2003 and to be honest I had forgotten how much I enjoy his style. It’s amazing to me how interesting he makes a character’s spiraling out of control.

I was also surprised by how much I liked the main character, Will Graham. I’m not sure why I was surprised as I have enjoyed the portrayals of him in the 2001 movie and 2013 television series. In the books the reader is allowed in Will’s head:  all his intelligence, insecurities, compassion and his wonderfully snarky nature. The reader also has insight into the killer whom Will is trying to catch. I can’t say much about the killer but he is a wonderfully layered character.

This is a great story. I was on the edge of my seat while reading it, even having seen the movie. So if you like crime books I would recommend it. If you haven’t tried crime books but enjoy television series like Criminal Minds or even Hannibal I would recommend it.

Happy Birthday WCPL! 125 years….

“The West Chester Library Association have so far completed their work of providing a suitable building for the use and preservation of the library, that on Tuesday evening, February 7th [1888], the dedication exercises were held.  The weather was very unfavorable.  The pavements were slippery and at 7:30 o’clock in the evening when the audience were assembling a drizzling rain was prevailing, but nevertheless the building was crowded to its utmost capacity.  The lower room was used for the dedication services, and the upper room in the charge of a committee of ladies was made ready for the social event of the evening which followed.”

West Chester Public Library 1888, photo by C.E> Bradford

West Chester Public Library 1888, photo by C.E> Bradford

So begins the lengthy article (almost 40 column inches) in a February 1888 edition of the Daily Local News describing, in full, the dedication of the West Chester Public Library.  The reporter is unknown, but he included almost every word spoken that evening: a speech by Lincoln L. Eyre, Esq. of Philadelphia and a lengthy poem by Sarah W. Peterson, recited by James Monaghan, Esq. of West Chester.  Sentiments in both speech and poem reflect the times which saw public libraries as repositories of good literature that could help shape readers into moral, cultured and enlightened citizens of the republic.

Mr. Monaghan also spoke, noting that “good books are a blessing and bad books are a curse,” and going on to state that, “I never read three books of fiction in my life and never will. I hope that class of reading will be kept out of this library and especially the red-pepper literature.”  One has the feeling that he’d be dismally disappointed in our reading habits today and exactly what Mr. Monaghan meant by “red-pepper literature” is not clear at the moment.  However, one can guess, and suspects that H. Rider Haggard’s Allen Quatermain novels, purchased in the early 1900’s, would not have been acceptable reading materials per the good lawyer.

Also mentioned was the “Bayard Taylor Memorial Window” which “had been ordered without expense to the library.”  That “window” was actually five stained-glass windows placed at the front of the main floor of the library building.  The windows were put in place shortly after the February dedication and still grace the main floor today.

The reporter then went on to describe the social event held in the “upper room,” now the Children’s Department.  On display were photographs of the new library building taken by Charles Bradford, and interestingly, “photographs of the Electric Light Works as they looked the morning after the explosion.”  One wonders what happened!  There was a “flower table” with “button-hole bouquets” for sale; small calendars with the library building pictured on them “sold rapidly.”  Refreshments were available and a “fancy table,” where such things as “scent bags” were sold for the benefit of the library.

The library formally opened its doors to the public in April of 1888.  Patrons could read books in the library, or if they had purchased a certificate for $5 per year they could borrow books to read at home.  The library did not become a free public library until 1906.

100 Years of Wharton’s The Reef . . .


I’m holding a 100 year-old copy of Edith Wharton’s The Reef that is part of West Chester Public Library’s collection.

Reef title page

In a search to find out whether it was recorded in the library’s old accession books, we found the following:
The Reef, by Edith Wharton, published in 1912, was purchased early in 1913 from John Wanamaker’s store, Philadelphia, for $1.17.
(I didn’t know that Wanamaker’s sold books, but according to the accession records, WCPL purchased numerous books from them. I wish I could have seen the store in 1913!)

I’m thinking this copy must have been required reading at some point because of the commentary on the opening page. Someone wrote (thankfully in pencil) “good” in the corner. Another person followed that with “good?” and in still different writing, someone had replaced the title with “The Grief.”

Reef chapter head

Wouldn’t you like to know how
many people have picked up this
very book in the last 100 years? I,
for one, love the feeling of holding
a 100 year-old book in my hands. I
think I’ll read it.

Contributed by a Staff Member and Devoted Reader.

LG’s note – this book suffers from the 100 year curse, meaning the curse of acid paper.  The pages of this book are already very brittle; dog-ear one of the pages, and the corner will simply break off.  We’ll retire this little tome to the special collection shelves and replace it with a new copy.

Banned Books Week 2011 (September 24 – October 1)

Since the advent of Banned Books Week in 1982, more than 11,000 books have been challenged–with threat of banishment from school, library, or book store shelves–for expressing views, stories, or life histories that a group or, in many cases, one person has found personally offensive.  The offensives of these books include:

racism; pervasive vulgarity; glorification of drinking, cursing, and premarital sex; extreme moral shortcomings; drugs; objectionable covers; violence; pornography; biased portrayal of capitalism; sexual content; inappropriate parenting; weapons smuggling; gang violence; derogatory language; lacking literary value; being a holy book of Islam; homosexuality; sexual assault; language; incest; being a book about a prohibited breed of dog; smoking; being 0bscene; being trashy; being offensive.

Without the 1st Amendment and the work of librarians, book store workers, teachers,  organizations, and individuals, the 11,000+ books challenged since ’82 might be missing from our shelves.  We would have an abridged version of  human experience.  The 1st Amendment protects your rights as a citizen and as a reader/writer/curiosity-seeker.  That protection also protects and respects the rights of fellow patrons whose views may or may not agree with your own.  Banned Books Week hopes to remind readers of their right to read and the danger that comes with censorship.

To Do’s for 2011 Banned Books Week  (September 24 – October 1, 2011)

This year marks the 1st year that readers from around the world can record themselves proudly reading a 2 minute excerpt from their favorite banned/challenged book and post the video on a dedicated YouTube channel.  For more information about “Virtual Read-Out” and how you can post a video for Banned Book Week, go here.

Check out the 10 Most Challenged Books of 2010 (out of 348) and the reasons here.

Take action!  Here is some information and ideas in pdf form for this year’s Banned Books Week.  Or here for a list of orgs.

Come to WCPL and check out a banned book!  Classics list here and contemporary list here.

Who are our heroes?

The 6th Annual Literacy Heroes Breakfast when we honor eight literacy heroes is fast approaching.  Set for Friday, April 8, 7:30am at Longwood Gardens, the breakfast is an occasion to honor  individuals, organizations and businesses that have fostered and promoted literacy in Chester County, and sometimes beyond, in the past year.

And, the library has its heroes too: heroes who support the Literacy Heroes Breakfast and WCPL’s mission and work in the community.  This year’s stellar sponsors are Verizon (Literacy Heroes Presenting Sponsor), and QVC, Inc and Exelon (both Literacy Heroes Lead Sponsors).

Not only do these wonderful folks support library programs and services with their sponsorships, they also assist with myriad tasks to help make the Literacy Heroes Breakfast a success.

Our other 6th Annual Literacy Heroes sponsors, some of whom like Verizon have been with the event for six years, are:

Category Sponsors :    CTDI, Hankin Group, Otto’s BMW

Contributing Sponsors:  1-2-3 Awards, Halladay Florist, Reino’s Design Print Mail, VideoNet, 6abc Action News, The Daily Local News, West Pharmaceuticals, CCIU, 1NBank,, CitadelFCU, Kevin High Photography, PECO, West Chester LLC.

Read more about Literacy Heroes and on April 8 check back to see this year’s winners unveiled!  You’ll love the stories.

Thinking outside the book, or why the physical book still has magic in it.

Today, two wonderful new children’s books crossed our desk.  Both elevate the humble book to art, delighting both the eye and the spirit.
The first is a simple story of two children and their families – one from Australia the other from Morocco – titled Mirror, by Jeannie Baker.  Sounds like a trite topic.  In the hands of author and illustrator Jeannie Baker the trite becomes magical.  There is an introductory text given both in English and Arabic.  The rest of the story is told in wonderful pictures – collages Baker created to tell the story of the seemingly vastly different lives of the two main characters.

The key is that Baker tells the stories of the two families side-by-side: the “English” story moves from left to right on one side of the book; the “Arabic” from right to left on the opposite side.  You have to see this, hold it in your hands and IMG_3601page through the book to truly appreciate the art – both of the collages and of the construction of the book itself.  The pictures here only give you the general idea.

The other book is one I want on my shelves!  What fun…

Barney Saltzberg has created a wonderful little book designed to encourage creativity (not just in children!) and a willingness to see a Beautiful Oops! as a new possibility.  IMG_3602 Saltzberg plays with a torn page and a spill, a bent corner on a piece of paper and a scrap of paper, not to mention the inevitable “little drip of paint,” to create a crocodile or a penguin or a fun playmate.  IMG_3608

There are flaps to lift and peek under and pages to turn to see what happens to the “oops.”   Exploring the hole in a paper is the best, in my estimation!

More photos are over on our Flickr page.

From the Gutenberg (Project) files..

Now that I have a B&N Nook I’ve been looking for ebooks to read.  One place that has turned out to be a fun look into the past, and source of some interesting reads, is the Gutenberg Project.

At first, it looked like most of what was listed was digital versions of musty, boring old tomes that didn’t look in the least bit interesting.  Then, I found the Cooking & Food listing (I’ll share how I got to this and other lists in the GP files in a moment).  I collect cookbooks (very selectively) and was fascinated to find not just English language cook books listed, but some in French, Spanish and German.

I was able to look through a 1918 war-time cookbook that gave homemakers recipes that saved on “Wheat, Meats, Fat and Sugar” – foods desperately needed by the US Army to feed soldiers and in the effort to keep Europeans from starving.  Interesting to note that this little cookbook advocates eating less red meat for health reasons!

Another list of interest was Travel.  There I found travelogues covering Russia in 1858, France in 1917, the “new found lands of Virginia,” and “a lady’s life on a farm in Manitoba.”  You can read Henry James’ account of his travels in France and Anthony Trollope’s A Ride Across Palestine.

These titles are all free to download and read when you want for as long as you want.  You can easily access this list through the Chester County Library System’s website, then click on the Downloadable Audio & eBooks icon.  The direct link is here.

To download, view and transfer titles (to an ereader) you’ll need the Adobe Digital Editions software, available here. Follow their instructions to set up an Adobe account and authenticate your PC.  Then plug your ereader into the PC, download/save the GP title you want to your PC, add it to the ADE library(via the “Library” drop-down menu), and then transfer to the ereader.

Happy reading.  Who knows what you’ll find.

Holiday Open House – Collegium wind ensemble…

The Collegium Charter School Elementary Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Mrs. Theresa Sundwall, did a fabulous job of entertaining folks who stopped by the library for the Holiday Open House on Friday evening December 3.  Collegium Wind Ensemble 12-2010 A big thank you from the library!

Teens’ Top Ten for 2010

Sometime every summer, a little list slips onto the YA shelves near the School Summer Reading titles. Every once in a while, books featured on that list are on display and teen readers snatch the books up. This quiet little list is actually not that quiet at all. It is a nationally recognized list of books chosen by teens, for teens, and mostly about teens from a variety of genres.

This list is the Teens’ Top Ten Nomination list (compiled by YALSA-American Library Association).

Just by looking at the list this year, there are some really, really popular books everything from titles everyone can’t stop talking about to titles that make you remember “Oh yeah, I wanted to read that.” To me, this year’s list is extra good as I often find that almost everything is checked out!

Have you (or parents, your teen) been reading the titles? Have you read only a handful, but feel they are the best? Vote! Yes, vote for your favorite books and see if they make it to the Teens’ Top Ten List! Voting opened on August 23rd and goes until September 17th! Winners will be announced in October 2010, during Teen Read Week.

Until then, vote and tell your friends to vote, and pass the word! After you vote, check in October 2010 to see which books are the Teens’ Top Ten Books of 2010.

Books-to-Movie News 2010, part 2

Remember this post where we sampled some of what maybe the most anticipated books-to-movies coming out for 2010?

Once again, 2010 is just full of books-to-movies coming out. Some of the latest have been:

  • Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World based on the Scott Pilgrim series by Bryan Lee O’Malley.  (Due out August 13)
  • Flipped based on the book by Wendelin Van Draanen (Due out August 27)
  • It’s Kind of a Funny Story based on the book by Ned Vizzini (Due out September 24)

And some books to TV including the Pretty Little Liars series, which is based off of these books.

In Twilight news, Break Dawn is slated for a two part release, one in November 2011 and another in 2012.

Don’t forget to check the catalog for the books and for the DVDs (when they are released). Some in the previous post may be on DVD now.

Did we forget something you’re looking forward to (such as Beastly based on the book by Alex Flinn which has been pushed from 2010 to 2011)? Let us know in the comments.