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216 N Marshall Ave
Litchfield MN 55355

(320)693-2483

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

Friday, July 29, 2011

Find Great Summer Reads at the Library

It’s already August.  If you’re looking for a book to take with you on vacation or you’d just like another good book to read before the summer’s over, our library has some good summer reads.  These titles have come up on lists of this year’s best summer books, from CNN to Oprah to NPR.  The Litchfield Library owns copies of all of these books, and a few are available to download from our new e-book and audiobook service.
One of this summer’s big hits is In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson.  Larson is the author of the bestseller Devil in the White City.  In the Garden of Beasts is a nonfiction book that reads like a thriller.  It’s the story of the first American ambassador to Nazi Germany and his daughter, who gets involved with Nazi high society and has an affair with the head of the Gestapo.  This is a title we have available as an e-book, as well as in print at Litchfield.
Another of this summer’s big books is State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.  A pharmaceutical researcher goes into the Amazon jungle in search of the remains of a colleague and to find her former mentor, who is studying a tribe’s ability to bear children at an advanced age.  This novel is described as a serious work of literature with a strong sense of place and plenty of adventure and suspense.
Like Larson’s and Patchett’s books, The Year We Left Home is on multiple lists of the best summer reads of the year.  This novel, by Jean Thompson,  is the story of an Iowa farm family over the span of three decades, from the 1970s to the 2000s. Chapters are narrated by a variety of characters, all searching for happiness and meaning in their lives.  Many reviewers praised the realism of the characters.
Another literary adventure novel that came out this summer is Once Upon a River, by Bonnie Jo Campbell.  Her 16-year-old main character is described as a female Huckleberry Finn, who sets out on the Stark River in Michigan to find her missing mother after the death of her father.  The story is described as violent but inspiring.
The HBO series Game of Thrones has renewed interest in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series.  The first novel in the series, A Game of Thrones, came out in 1996, and the newest  installment, A Dance with Dragons, just came out this month.  It’s topping the best-seller lists.  We have this title available as an e-book, too.
Sister is the debut novel by Rosamund Lupton, an experienced screenwriter.  It’s a thriller about a woman investigating her sister’s supposed suicide, which she is sure is really a murder.  Reviewers say it’s both a page-turning, fast-paced mystery and a heartwarming story about the bond between sisters.  This, too, is available as an e-book on our Overdrive website.
The newest version of the Wyatt Earp story is Doc, by Mary Doria Russell.  Russell researched Doc Holliday’s life from his aristocratic beginnings in Georgia.  She based her idea of Doc’s character on the evidence that he was very close to his mother, who died of tuberculosis when he was fifteen.  The novel is a blend of fact and fiction, humor and action, set in Dodge City.  This is a title that we have available as a downloadable audiobook on our Overdrive site.
As for my own summer reading, now that I’m done with textbook reading for my summer class, I’ve started on The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan.  I think I’ll move on to The Hunger Games next.  I like young adult fantasy; there are so many good books in that genre these days.  I’d love to re-read Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows now that I’ve seen the last movie, but there are so many interesting books I haven’t read yet!   Whatever you enjoy reading, I hope you’ll find a book that interests you before the summer is up.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's Raining, it's Pouring Young Adult Books in Litchfield!

The young adult section is an interesting place to find books that can be surprisingly provocative.  These aren’t the safe, comfy stories about nurses or college students I remember from back in the day.  Here are some new titles that promise some great summer reading.

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own—scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving “the life” for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected.”  Ally Carter’s description of her character, Kat Bishop, makes me want to read both “Heist Society” and “Uncommon Criminals,” the second book in the series.  I think of movies like Ocean’s Eleven, or “The Thomas Crown Affair” with criminals that you just have to like in spite of their vocation. 

In the city of Jewel, safety and temperance are prized above all other virtues. Goldie, an impetuous girl with a talent for petty thievery, is eagerly awaiting her Separation, in which her silver guard chain connecting her to her parents for safety is finally cut. When tragedy strikes and the city’s sly and deceptive ruler, the Fugleman, cancels all Separations indefinitely, Goldie decides she’s had enough of safety and runs away to the fascinating, mysterious Museum of Dunt. Yet this museum is no dusty educational edifice, as Goldie soon learns: it has moods and feelings like a living being. Its shape-shifting rooms house not historical artifacts, but great and terrible powers that, if unleashed, could destroy the city. “Museum of Thieves” begins a new series by Lian Tanner, an author who lives in Tasmania with her tabby cat. Interesting characters, twists and turns and a plot full of action make this a promising series to follow.

“Between Shades of Gray,” by Ruta Sepetys, is a novel based on the real experiences of Lithuanians deported to Siberia, whose only crime was that they were Lithuanian, forcibly deported by Stalin in 1941.  The harrowing experiences of Lina, whose life is forever changed, give an authentic voice to people who, according to the official Soviet version of history, don’t exist.  I found this to be one of those books I just had to pick up and scan a few pages while trying to work at the desk.  I’ll just have to bring it home, because I can’t do justice to the subject or characters by reading a page now and then. 

Neal Schusterman, who has written many young adult novels, imagines a terrible future in which teenagers can be forced to give up organs for transplant.  In Schusterman’s horrific society, the second civil war was fought over abortion. To end the war, a compromise was reached that ends the practice of abortion but creates an alternative called "unwinding." Between the ages of 13 and 17, parents or guardians can choose to have their child unwound, which involves having every part of their bodies harvested to be "donated" to another person so, technically, they don't really die. The complex and compelling plot follows three teens whose stories intertwine when they escape while on their way to the harvest camps. Fifteen-year-old Connor's parents can no longer control him. Lev, a tithe, was raised by religious parents for the sole purpose of being unwound. Risa, a ward of the state, is a victim of shrinking budgets since she is not a talented enough musician to be kept alive.  “Unwind” asks the question, “What if your parents could unwind you?” 

Avid readers have recommended many titles to add to the collection, and young people are extremely good at suggesting purchases that fly off the shelves.  Because of the recommendation of a brilliant young man, we have added the five books in “The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica,” by James A. Owen.  Three Oxford men, brought in for questioning in a London professor's death in 1917, become companions on a voyage through the Archipelago of Dreams where they vanquish a usurper and restore the rightful king, proving themselves worthy to be Caretakers of the Imagination of the World. The three men are Jack (C. S. Lewis), John (J. R. R. Tolkien), and Charles (Williams–a lesser known writer of fantasy thrillers who belonged to the same Oxford literary discussion group, the Inklings). Their identities aren't revealed until the end, along with the premise that their journey became the wellspring for their subsequent fiction. Reviews for this series were lukewarm, but my young advisor is usually absolutely right about great fantasy novels for young adults. Look for “Here, There Be Dragons,”  “The Search for the Red Dragon,” “The Indigo King,” “The Shadow Dragons,” and “The Dragon’s Apprentice.”  These great books, and more, are waiting for you at Litchfield Library – see you there!


Friday, July 15, 2011

Your Privacy, A Librarian's Duty

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian
I’m going to take the same route as my last column and give you a quick explanation to a common question first.  We have changed the link on our Chamber of Commerce library page so that it now leads you to our blog.  I know this has confused some people, because the “Litchfield Public Library” link used to lead directly to the Pioneerland catalog.  But it makes more sense for a link about the Litchfield Library to lead you to further information on our library, and I’d like our patrons to get familiar with going directly to http://litchlibrary.blogspot.com/ as our primary website.  On our blog, you’ll see “Library Catalog” as a choice on the right side of the screen.  This link will lead you to the catalog and the ability to view your account.  You can add either the Litchfield Library site or the Pioneerland catalog, or both, to your favorites on your computer, and then you can go directly there without following such a long path.
The main topic I want to cover today is privacy and how it applies at the library.  Maybe you’ve gotten frustrated in the past about not being able to check out a family member’s books with your card or without a card at all.  Part of the reason we require a card is to make sure that the person checking things out is the person to whom the library account belongs.  If someone comes in and claims that they’re you or that they’re checking things out for you, and we go along with that, you could have books or movies checked out on your card without your knowledge.  The other risk is that we could check things out to the wrong John Smith if we look you up instead of using your card.  If you think of it like a credit card, it may make more sense that you need to have the card with you.  You’re financially liable for the materials you check out.
But beyond identity issues, there are also privacy issues.  The books you order with your card are your business.  Most of the time spouses wouldn’t need to keep library books a secret from each other.  But can you imagine a situation in which someone is looking into divorce without having brought it up to their spouse?  Or a woman who is in an abusive relationship who is checking out self-help books on getting out of such a situation?  We certainly wouldn’t want to hand those items over to their partners, not knowing whether or not they need to be kept private.   Or just imagine that, when we call your house, we tell the person who answers which books have come in for you  --  but it’s your mother-in-law who answers and you’ve ordered books on pregnancy when you haven’t yet shared the fact that you’re pregnant.  Or if someone’s child is in the library picking up their own books and they ask, “Does my dad have any books in?”, we could be violating his privacy by saying yes and handing over a book that he ordered on cancer or another health concern that he has not told his child about.  Now if that child comes in with Dad’s card and says, “My dad has a book in and he asked me to pick it up for him”, we can certainly send that with the errand runner.  
Pioneerland Library System has a patron confidentiality policy in place, and all of our employees are bound by that.  We cannot share with anyone, not our spouses or our best friends – or yours--, what you checked out at the library, what materials you ordered or looked at, or what reference questions you asked us.  If you have to worry that we’ll tell people what you’re researching or reading, you might not come to us to find information.  That would be a barrier to your freedom to read and to your access to information. 
The American Library Association’s Code of Ethics states:

We protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted. 

Librarians are ethically required to keep your information requests and your check-out history private.  It is no one’s business what you research, what you order, or what you’ve checked out from the library.  This is why we cannot bring up a list of what you’ve checked out in the past.  Unless you enable check-out history on your account, once you return it, it disappears so that no one could ever access it. 
ALA’s statement Libraries: An American Value says, “Free access to the books, ideas, resources, and information in America’s libraries is imperative for education, employment, enjoyment, and self-government.”  I take that principle of protecting your privacy to protect your freedom very seriously.  It’s important for our democratic society.  Librarians don’t have quite the same legal privilege as lawyers and doctors as far as protection of the professional-client relationship.  But if you come to me with an information request, I promise I’ll keep it just between us.  It's my duty as your librarian.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Saint John's Arboretum, a Natural Resource You May Not Know

By Jan Pease
I’m always happy to schedule a visit from Saint John’s Arboretum, because the Arboretum educators present an educational program that is both creative and entertaining.   Each summer they develop a summer program that corresponds to the summer reading programs of area libraries.  Because this year’s theme is “One World, Many Stories,”   Saint John’s Arboretum is presenting “Animal Stories: Learn the stories of the animals around us,” Friday morning at 10:00 in the children’s department of the library.   Animal Stories is a one-hour program geared towards children ages 3-12. Hands-on activities and materials are included. 
Have you visited the Arboretum?   The Saint John’s Arboretum website, http://www.csbsju.edu/Arboretum  states that the Arboretum is:
“A partnership between Saint John's Abbey, its 2,830 acres and Benedictine tradition of stewardship, and the mission of Saint John's University and the College of Saint Benedict to provide environmental education.  Saint John's Arboretum celebrates the unique beauty and richness of God's creation in central Minnesota and fosters the Benedictine tradition of land stewardship, education, and environmental respect.”  Their mission is to “Preserve native plant and wildlife communities of the Arboretum lands, provide opportunities for education and research, model practices of sustainable land use, and make accessible a natural environment that invites spiritual renewal."
The following information is directly from the St. John’s website.  The Arboretum includes all seven lakes, the prairie, the oak savanna, and all the woodland in the 2830 acres around Saint John’s Abbey & University. The 2830 acres of land surrounding Saint John's Abbey & University is privately owned and managed by Saint John's Abbey. The Abbey welcomes the public to enjoy the trails and natural beauty of the land. There is no charge to walk around the trails, but they ask that you respect the land.  No pets or unauthorized vehicles should be on the trails at any time, and they ask that visitors walk during daylight hours.  Contact the Arboretum by calling (320) 363-3163, especially if you are planning to bring a large group to visit.
Best of all, this natural gem is only about 40 miles from Litchfield.  Come to the library Friday, July 15th at 10:00 to hear great animal stories, and to learn about this wonderful resource that is only a few miles away.  Be sure to visit the Arboretum website to see upcoming events!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Are You Interested in American History?

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian
This week, I should first let you know that the library is open for business, even though the state government is shut down as I write this.  The regional library systems aren’t state agencies, and most of our funding comes from our counties and cities.  Perhaps by the time you read this, everything will be resolved and back to normal; we can hope.
Since the 4th of July was this week and the sesquicentennial of the beginning of the Civil War is this year, I thought we could take a look at American history resources in this week’s column.  We have some interesting new books, and I’d also like to share an online resource that’s great if you enjoy history.
The Library of Congress has a wonderful digital library called American Memory.  You can find it at http://memory.loc.gov.  This online library has a large collection of digitized photos, maps, sound recordings, videos, print documents, and sheet music, from the collections of the Library of Congress and other institutions.  It’s a free way for anyone to view these primary historical documents that otherwise are tucked away in archives around the country. 
You can browse the collection by topic, such as advertising, cities & towns, and war/military, by time period, by type of material (maps, manuscripts, motion pictures, etc.) or by region of the U.S.  I think it’s fascinating to browse through the George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or Abraham Lincoln papers, viewing scans of letters and other documents in their own handwriting.  You can browse a collection of over 1000 Civil War photographs.  Many, many resources are available for you to explore.
The digital library works best when you browse it by topic or collection, but it is possible to search it, as well.  If you search “Litchfield Minnesota”, you will find several photos from the 1940s and text from various Congressional publications from the 1800s that mention Litchfield.  Unfortunately, the text searching in the “Century of Lawmaking” collection does also bring up documents about Litchfield, Connecticut, when the Senate report or House bill also includes the word “Minnesota”.  The photos are classified by subject, United States—Minnesota—Litchfield, so the photo results are accurate.
If you’d like to find some good books on American history, we have some new ones in our library that you may want to check out.  The Union War, by Gary W. Gallagher, has been described as a revisionist history of the Civil War.  One review I read described it as “the Civil War: Northern edition”.  Gallagher, a professor at the University of Virginia, draws upon original documents from the time to present the viewpoint that the North fought the war with massive numbers of volunteer soldiers primarily in order to preserve the union, and that they also happened to free the slaves. 
The book Lincoln on War is an edited collection of the writings and comments of Abraham Lincoln on the topic of war from his days as an officer to his years as the commander-in-chief.  Lincoln’s speeches, letters, memos, orders, and spoken remarks are presented in chronological order, so that the development of his ideas on war through the years can be seen. 
The Civil War: A Visual History is published by DK Publishing in association with the Smithsonian Institution.  It’s a large, comprehensive book filled with photos and illustrations from the Smithsonian’s collections.  Timelines, first-person accounts, and examinations of broader issues in the war all add to the very thorough coverage of the war.  Reviewers from School Library Journal to the Wall Street Journal have praised this book.
Going back to the beginning of the United States, the book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? A Historical Introduction looks at the history of a controversial issue of today.  The author, John Fea, holds a Ph.D. and is the chair of the history department at Messiah College in Pennsylvania.  Reviewers say that the book is a very balanced view of the debate, providing no easy answers and allowing the reader to decide for him or herself.  Fea draws upon primary sources from throughout America’s history, tracing the development of the idea of America as a Christian nation, examining the effects of religion on the American Revolution, and studying the beliefs of the founding fathers.
If you need some help finding books or websites on American history, come and talk to us at the library.