216 N Marshall Ave
Litchfield MN 55355


Monday - Thursday 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Friday & Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Closed Sunday

Friday, August 11, 2017

Revisit a classic

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

How many of the classics have you read?  We’ve all read some in school: Johnny Tremain and Lord of the Flies, anyone?  Some of us like to tackle a classic novel from time to time to see whether we think they’re one of the best, or as good as we remember.  The Litchfield Library has been replacing some old, worn-out copies of classic novels with new editions recently, because they still get checked out regularly.

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway was published in 1940.  Robert Jordan is a young American teacher who goes to Spain to fight for the Loyalists in the Civil War.  He becomes disenchanted, but in the end he learns about the value of life.  This novel was chosen for the 1941 Pulitzer Prize, but the recommendation was reversed when the prize board was convinced that the novel was indecent; no award was granted that year.  I started reading this novel in an English class, but when none of the students were keeping up on it, the teacher said she couldn’t teach us about a book no one had read and she called it off in frustration!  My classmates might find it more interesting now.  A Spanish character in the novel asks Robert if there are not many fascists in his country, and he replies, “There are many who do not know they are fascists but will find it out when the time comes.”  Look for themes of superstition, irony, death, and the common people vs. the political-military complex.

The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a Gothic novel published in 1851.  The grand house is built after Colonel Pyncheon covets the land and has the owner charged with witchcraft.  The man cries out on the gallows that the Pyncheons will forever be cursed.  The novel’s events mostly take place 160 years later, when the family and house are crumbling ruins, seemingly from the curse.  The house functions as a character in this novel, and themes of guilt, ghosts, and original sin are significant in the book.   Never as popular as Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, this novel still attracts readers a century and half after it was written.

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens should attract local readers since the musical Oliver! was just performed in Litchfield last month.  Young Oliver is an orphan in a workhouse who is sold to an undertaker after his famous line, “Please, sir, I want some more.”  After Oliver runs away from the funeral parlor, he meets the Artful Dodger and innocently joins a gang of pickpockets in London.  This novel was originally published in installments in a magazine between 1837 and 1839.  Dickens believed the way the English dealt with poverty and homelessness led to more trouble, particularly crime, and in this novel the good and the evil people get their just rewards. 

One of my favorite novels of all time is Emma by Jane Austen.  I took a class on the history of the British novel in college, and the early ones were dreadfully boring.  Then I read Emma, expecting more of the same since I had not yet discovered Jane Austen, and partway through I thought, “Hang on… This is a romance novel!”  It is more than that, with wonderful character studies and sarcasm and witty observations.  But finally we had reached a point in the history of the novel (1815) where a coherent, suspenseful plot, character development, and smart dialogue actually happened.  I think one of the great things about this novel is that Emma grows as a person, realizing that she is selfish and that other people aren’t her playthings. 

We have also recently replaced many well-worn copies of Zane Grey’s novels, ever popular among our customers, plus some of Agatha Christie’s and Erle Stanley Gardner’s.  Some we now have on audiobook, as well.  I hope that it will be more pleasant to read fresh new copies of some of these time-tested books that have been loved to pieces.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Wonderful Wednesday afternoons, 2017

By Jan Pease

This week brings our summer programs to an end.  I can’t believe it!  In some ways, June 5th, our start date, seems like ages ago. But the summer has gone so fast, that at times June 5th seems like yesterday.

On Wednesdays we offered a program for students in grades K-5.  We called it “Wonderful Wednesdays.”   We collaborated with Meeker County Extension Service so on four Wednesdays we had  “Fun with 4H.”.  Two young, energetic folks who work with 4H came and had two hours of fun with our young people.  The kids learned a lot and had a really good time. The extension workers presented four of these short day camps on Wednesdays in June and July.  On those Wednesdays that the Extension workers didn’t come, I filled in for them. 

 Since our summer theme is “Reading by Design,” and Michael Hall visited the library in June,  we used his books, “My Heart is a Zoo” and “It’s an Orange Aardvark” to explore using various shapes to make pictures.  It was interesting to create pictures using hearts, squares, rectangles and other shapes.

We also learned about Zen Doodling, in which small sections of a picture are filled in with different patterns and colors.  

Our next “unit” involved unfolding geometric shapes to make a “net,” and I’m happy to say I finally get it. Back in the day, I missed every single question on standardized tests that involved unfolding any kind of shape.  (I’ve always known I have absolutely no spatial sense.)  Anyway, we built shapes out of paper and then used translucent plastic magnetic shapes to make amazing buildings and structures. 

For the last two weeks we talked about what shapes are the strongest and built shapes out of card catalog cards that would hold up a small toy locomotive.  In case you’re curious, triangles seemed to hold the most weight.  We also used straws and connectors to construct large things like a wall with a tower taller than I can reach, a “thing” made up of curves fastened together, and a rocket that was several feet high. 

We also loved to play bingo.  I learned that bingo is great for developing concentration and number recognition.  It’s also a lot of fun.

It’s challenging for me to face a group of elementary students, since I concentrate more on children through age five.   But I’ve completely enjoyed this summer of “Wonderful Wednesdays.”

The final library program for young children will be Second Saturday Story Time, Saturday, August 12, at 10:00.  Beginner Book Club will meet at its usual time, Thursday, August 17, at 3:00.  Our book will be “The Adventures of Nanny Piggins,” by R.A. Splatt. Brick Heads will continue on Thursday nights at 6:30.

 Readers can turn in reading game sheets through August 31. It’s been a splendid summer, and we’re ready for a fantastic fall.   

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Horticultural society makes donation for gardening books

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

The Meeker County Horticultural Society has given a generous donation to the four libraries in Meeker County to purchase new gardening books. These books have been arriving recently, ready to be checked out.  Members of the horticultural society assisted in choosing the books. 

The titles added to the Cosmos Library collection are The Children’s Garden: Loads of Things to Make & Grow by Matthew Appleby, and Glorious Shade: Dazzling Plants, Design Ideas, and Proven Techniques for Your Shady Garden by Jenny Rose Carey.

These new books can be found on the libraries’ shelves of new arrivals.  All of these books are also available to be ordered by anyone in the library system, to be picked up at your nearest library.  Many other gardening books are available on the shelves in our local libraries, some donated in the past by the horticultural society. 

Thank you to the Meeker County Horticultural Society for making so many beautiful and practical books available to the gardeners in our area!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Teens, get your work published in the zine!

by Mariah Ralston Deragon, Litchfield library assistant

What is a zine? We’ve been getting this question a lot lately at the library! The short answer is that “zine” is short for “magazine”. That means a zine can potentially cover a very wide range of topics and genres.

This summer, the Litchfield Library has started making zines with kids ages 12-18. We call it our “Teen Zine”.  So far the zine has included pencil sketches, comic strips, short stories, doodles, and collaborative writing. I discovered the idea for zine making at the library after attending the Twin Cities Zine Fest in Minneapolis last summer. The Rochester Public Library was tabling there with some teens that had started a zine group at their library.

After the Zine fest, I started doing some research using MnLink at the library. I discovered that zines are considered to be a form of self-publishing. Self-published pamphlets and newsletters can be traced all the way back to Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac, which was started in 1757. (From “Make a Zine!” by Bill Brent)

This popular “Almanack” was full of word-play, calendars, weather forecasts, poetry, puzzles…you name it.

Jumping to present times, self-published books and zines can be found at many bookstores world-wide, and in countless variations. Regarding zines in particular, I found this quote from Stolen Sharpie Revolution by Alex Wrekk to be helpful…

“A zine is an independently created publication. The contents are anything you want them to be like; personal experiences and stories…music related writing, gardening tips, travel stories, comics, photography... Zines can be put together by one person or a group of people and they are usually photocopied.”

After our teens finish their writing, drawing, sketching, etc., we make photo copies of their work in black and white, using our trusty copy machine, and then we staple it all together using a saddle stitch stapler.

It just so happens that zine-making also fits into the library’s summer reading theme “Reading by Design.” Now that the zine group has gained some more members, it’s becoming more and more interesting to figure out how all the artwork and writing can fit together. And after everything’s edited together, photocopied, and stapled…we put the zine out at the front desk of the library for Litchfield patrons to enjoy. The zines are free, and available to anyone that wants one (while supplies last).

We will be making zines at the library on the 3rd and 4th Monday for the rest of the summer! 

Teens ages 12-18 are welcome to join us on July 24, August 21st, and August 28th from 3:30-4:30 p.m.

And it’s okay if you still don’t understand what a zine is… Come on down to the library; we would love to show you!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Who did it? New true crime

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Books that tell the stories of real-life crimes are always popular.  Usually called “true crime,” these books can combine the suspense of a mystery with the chance to learn about something that really happened.  True crime can also give the reader insights into human nature: why do people do bad things, and how do people survive when bad things happen to them?  The Litchfield Library has some new books that are classified as true crime.

One brand-new book is Mrs. Sherlock Holmes:  The True Story of New York’s Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case that Captivated a Nation by Brad Ricca.  Grace Humiston was the New York police department’s first female consulting detective, and the first female U.S. district attorney.  Despite her status as a legal pioneer and her family’s prominent social status, she has largely been ignored by history, even though she was famous in her time.  Humiston’s motto was “Justice for those of limited means.”  She solved strange cases all over the world, not only in New York City.  The book is being compared to Devil in the White City and In Cold Blood in the way it tells a gripping true story. 

Humiston was targeted by a secret organization called the Black Hand.  Another new book tells the story of a detective who took on this terrifying group: The Black Hand: The Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History. Author Stephan Talty tells the story of Joseph Petrosino, who was called the “Italian Sherlock Holmes” at the time.  Early twentieth century newspapers really liked to compare people with Sherlock Holmes, I guess!    Petrosino was known as an ingenious detective and a master of disguise, so maybe the comparison fits.  The Black Hand started by extorting money from fellow Italian immigrants but began threatening a wider range of people.  Petrosino worked to shut down the organization as anti-immigrant sentiment gripped the nation.  A movie version is in the works, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

 Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI is on the current bestseller lists.  Author David Grann also wrote The Lost City of Z, which has recently been adapted into a movie.  Killers of the Flower Moon tells a shocking story of corruption and murder.  In the 1920’s, the members of the Osage nation in Oklahoma were the richest people per capita in the world, because oil was discovered on their land.  Then one by one, members of the tribe were murdered.  People were poisoned or shot, or they died under mysterious circumstances.  Then the people investigating the murders started dying.  After more than two dozen of these deaths, the new Federal Bureau of Investigation got involved, but they didn’t know what they were doing and at first they failed.  Then an undercover team worked with the Osage to discover the truth.  If you’re looking for a real page-turner, check this one out.

For a more recent story, look for Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street.  Steven A. Cohen was a pioneer in hedge funds in the ‘90s, rising from a middle class background to become a genius Wall Street trader and a billionaire.  But his hedge fund was ultimately fined and shut down after the largest SEC investigation in Wall Street history.  His employees were convicted of insider trading, but Cohen went free and is still trading his own money on Wall Street.  Author Sheelah Kolhatkar details the case and asks whether powerful men like Cohen are above the law. 

When you’re looking for books like these, you can search “true crime stories” as a subject in the library catalog.  History and a bit of psychology, mixed with a thriller – that’s true crime.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Lego Guy

The Lego Guy, Curtis Monk, will be presenting a program at Brickheads on Thursday, July 6, at 6:30 p.m. in the library meeting room.

Brickheads is Lego building for ages 4-14 plus parents.  Join us!

Sponsored by the Friends of the Litchfield Public Library.  Thank you!