Friday, November 28, 2014

What is a friend?

If your child asked you that question, what would your answer be? Maybe something like...
A friend is someone who likes you and wants to spend time with you, and you feel the same way about him or her. A friend is someone who has your back and looks out for you, and is there for you when you need help.
In addition to this personal definition, there is also a larger meaning: A friend is...
" who looks propitiously on a cause, an institution, a project and the like; a favorer; a promoter; as, a friend to commerce, to poetry, to an institution."
Although we at Burbank Public Library like to think of all of you, our patrons, as our friends, there is also a special group of friends called The Friends of the Burbank Public Library, and these friends fulfill both of the above definitions.

Now, most libraries have a Friends group of some sort, and for the most part, people don't really know what that means. They have a vague idea that the Friends are those people who run the book sales or work in the bookstore, and maybe they think, "Someday, when I retire and have more time, I might do that..."

The Friends have a page on our website, where you can read all about their philosophy and goals, and see a list of the activities they fund. But candidly, it's factual, which is to say that it doesn't paint a vibrant picture, so I'm going to try to do that here:

Are you a parent? Do you count on the Burbank Public Library to provide you with free activities for your children? Activities like Toddler Time, Family Night performers and movies, Lego Club, the Fairy Tea and the Pirate Book Party? Do you sign up every year in May to bring your children to Summer Reading Club for six weeks of summer fun, including performers and prizes?

Yes, those activities are free to you...but someone has to pay for them. The library can't do it--our budget doesn't even include programming! So...where does the money come from to pay the magician, the puppet troupe, the dancers, to buy the refreshments and the prizes, to pay for the movie license so we have the proper permissions to show Maleficent to your kids? Who buys the books every month for your teenagers who belong to our three Teen Book Clubs? Who pays for the materials for the Valentine's Day craft, or the Gingerbread House kits? Who pays for the apple cider and cookies we serve you at intermission at the annual Readers' Theater program?
The Friends.

And now ask the obvious question: What would happen to all those activities if there were no Friends of the Burbank Public Library? Answer: They would go away.

All this is to say, if you are a parent who wishes these activities to continue to be available to your children, then it is time to stop assuming that they will continue without your help. It is time to say, "I want to be a friend to the library too!" It is time to say, "I can volunteer," and if you can't do that just yet, then it is definitely time to say "I want to join!"

You can go here to see the types of membership and decide which one is for you. Your children can be Junior Friends, or you can buy a Family membership. The amount is a pittance per year--far less than it would cost to take your family to the movies--but think about all the benefits you enjoy from Burbank Public Library, and please consider giving back in this small way.

Monday, November 24, 2014

This week at the library... pretty quiet! The library is open regular hours on Monday and Tuesday, but closes at 6 p.m. at all locations on Wednesday.

The library is closed Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving. The staff wishes you a warm and happy holiday!

We reopen on Saturday the 29th. You and your children can attend the first of a series of Saturday Holiday Movies, being screened in the story time room at the Buena Vista branch at 2:00 p.m.

This Saturday's movie...

85 minutes

Saturday, November 22, 2014

What we're reading: Tana French

As The Secret Place, by Tana French, opens, it has been a year since a boy named Chris Harper was found murdered on the grounds of a girls' boarding school in Dublin. Detective Stephen Moran, an ambitious young man who would love to be part of the murder squad, is given a chance to prove himself when Holly Mackey, a student at the school (and the daughter of one of his mentors on the police force) brings him a clue that could reignite this almost-cold case. Instead of just handing it over to the Murder Squad to investigate, he makes a daring play to get Detective Antoinette Conway, a newbie outsider in the squad, to let him help her solve the crime.

The clues, however, keep leading back to Holly and her three friends, or perhaps to their hateful rival clique at St. Kilda's. The school is adamant about keeping this under wraps so as not to further spook parents into removing the students they have left after the previous year's murder investigation, and Moran knows that if the possible involvement of the daughter of Detective Frank Mackey gets out, careers will be on the line--mostly his.

I seem to be on a roll, ending up with boarding school books even when I'm not looking for them--what is the eternal fascination with the closed world of the boarding school? French has some characters in this one that could definitely go head to head with the sociopaths in Brutal Youth, by Anthony Breznican (previously reviewed here), and the slow, golden intimacy of the four girls at the forefront of the mystery reminded me weirdly of the relationships forged in the miniseries Brideshead Revisited. The hesitant creation of a working relationship between the two detectives, too, was poignant and engaging.

Tana French just gets better. To call her books "mysteries" or "thrillers" is to miss about 90 percent of the point, although they are indeed mysteries and they are so thrilling. To call them literary fiction, with the elite uppercrustness that implies, would do a disservice to them, although her writing is extremely literary. They are brilliant, thorough, and intimate character studies, they are rife with a burgeoning sense of place, and the story-telling is riveting. I have seen reviews by people who drowned in the reams of detail and just wanted to go read a mystery with some straightforward and simple guy--Spencer or Jack Reacher or Matthew Scudder--at the wheel, and I can see the appeal of those kinds of stories too…but for the days when you want to be breathlessly enthralled, unable to stop until you reach the end...Tana French.

Friday, November 21, 2014


After hours, under the stars...

Join us for the '80s classic
Bring a chair or blanket, a sweater, a snack! We will supply the coffee and hot chocolate. Trivia contest, prizes, a good time! It is INCONCEIVABLE that you would miss it!

Buena Vista Branch (outdoors in the park), starting at 6:30 sharp!


What We're Reading: New Fiction

Nora Webster, by Colm Tóibín

This novel is a nuanced and moving meditation on the nature of loss and grief, a story about how one woman moves in fits and starts through a traumatic sorrow and claims a new life. The novel is set at the end of the 1960s during the time of the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland, events that Nora feels at times to be analogues of her internal conflicts. Nora Webster has recently lost her husband Maurice to a premature death due to heart failure. She is in her mid-forties and is left with two daughters away at college and two younger sons still living at home. She has barely enough money to cover their living expenses, and is assisted by Maurice’s brother and sister, who help provide support for her children’s schooling. She returns to work at an unpleasant office job she held before she married. She must make necessary and practical decisions about her own life, deal with the troubling consequences of the loss of their father on the lives of her children (especially the two young boys), and learn to navigate a network of business, public, and familial relationships on her own.

Readers who are used to plot-driven novels may not appreciate what Tóibín has accomplished in this novel. This is a character-driven novel, which is to say that plot serves to delineate a psychological and interior portrait of the protagonist. It is crafted to create a sense of presence, to make us as intimate with a fictional character as we might be with someone we might know or meet in real life. This is a hallmark of Tóibín’s work. Here, as in his complex portrait of a young Irish immigrant woman in his novel Brooklyn, he writes in the Jamesean tradition. The reader must pay attention to the nuances of the dialogue, how these conversations impact Nora, and how her words reveal her feelings and the hidden movements of her thoughts. The “action” in Nora Webster takes place internally. But one of the great achievements of Tóibín’s writing is that in the process of drawing a portrait of an individual he also gives us a sense of a particular community and shows us how in a time of trouble we are pushed and pulled by the people in our immediate world---if we are lucky---and Nora is lucky.

We are apt, at first, to feel that Nora’s relatives, co-workers, and friends are intrusive elements in her grief. They all seem to know just what is best for her, what she must do to reconcile herself to her loss, and the course she must take to move through it to reclaim her life--even how long it should take. Nora sometimes accedes, sometimes resists. This is the quiet drama that goes on in this novel, Nora sorting through the advice of others while trying to listen to the voice of her own instincts and feelings and find a way to move on. We meet some extraordinary characters in the surrounding cast of Nora’s life here, prodding angels who enter the enclosed and entropic world of Nora’s grief. They provide the essential impetus to her slow-moving and evolving triumph, to her reemergence in the world. We come to realize they are not intruders and busybodies but that they push Nora motivated by their love and concern for her. Tóibín gracefully traces this dynamic and gives us a hopeful and moving novel about the nature of grief and its healing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Brown Bag Book Club is now reading...

For December and January, the Brown Bag Book Club will be reading An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser. Due to the length of the book (and the interruption of holidays), the club will read the first two books of the novel for its December discussion. The third book will be read for January, 2015.

Catalog links to use when checking for copies are here and here.
The classic depiction of the harsh realities of American life, the dark side of the American dream, and one man's doomed pursuit of love and success.
The Brown Bag Book Club meets at noon on the third Tuesday of the month, on the second floor of the Central Library. All members of the public are welcome to read and join the fun.

The next two meetings will be on December 16th and January 20th. End or start your reading year with a lively discussion of a classic work of American literature. Lunch (brown bag or otherwise) is up to you!

For those interested, here is an online study guide you could use.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

This week at the library...

Buena Vista branch (storytime room), 7:00 p.m.

(This club is for enrolled teens only.)

We will discuss Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld, and receive House of Secrets, by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini.

Buena Vista branch (storytime room), 7:00 p.m.

(This club is for enrolled teens only.)

We will discuss The Naturals, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, and receive Unspoken, by Sarah Rees Brennan.

And also that same night...

Buena Vista branch (auditorium), 7:00 p.m.

Burbank Public Library and Shakespeare at Play present...

A Staged Reading of
by Thornton Wilder

Buena Vista branch, 7:00 p.m.

A special screening of the documentary...

In November of 1963, a youth football team from Northern California has a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the President of the United States, but due to the tragic assassination on November 22nd, the entire team instead attends President Kennedy’s funeral instead. The film is based on the true story of the 1963 Pop Warner Champions, the Pittsburgh Mallards.

Producer/director John Chavez will discuss the making of the film.

That same evening, over at the Central Library, 7:00 p.m....

Burbank Public Library presents a free seminar...

with financial advisor Janelle Samples of Edward Jones.

Learn about:
  • the three types of income: variable, reliable, and rising
  • why an income stream is important
  • how to use the different types of income to build a sustainable and predictable income stream

Buena Vista branch, in the park!

98 minutes / PG
Don't miss an all-ages after-hours screening of the '80s classic!
See THE PRINCESS BRIDE in the PARK at Buena Vista Library on FRIDAY, NOV. 21. Enjoy the movie under the stars, starting at 6:30 p.m.! Bring a sweater, a picnic, and a blanket!

In the event of inclement weather (inconceivable!), the movie will be shown indoors.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What we're reading: New thriller

I just finished The Keeper, by John Lescroart, over the weekend. This is number 15 in his Dismas Hardy series, which I have been reading since #1 (Dead Irish), which released in 1990!

I have always been a big fan of Lescroart's legal thrillers, and have recommended him to many other readers over the years, but I feel like in some respects he has written himself into a corner in this series, and is now trying to write himself out of it, with varied success.

In his usual San Francisco law-and-order setting, litigators go from independent practice to big law firms, cops move from department to department, prosecutors have become defense attorneys and vice versa, detectives are forcibly retired and become private investigators--which I like. It's good to shake things up so they don't get stale. Nobody wants to read books with the identical dynamic in a series this long. But at the same time, if you have set up specific character traits for your protagonists that have become well known over an arc of multiple (or more than a dozen!) books, it just feels wrong to then make them work against character, which is what I believe Lescroart did in this book.

In a previous book in the series, the formidable Detective Abe Glitsky was pushed out of the homicide squad into early retirement, and in this one he is at loose ends--taking the kids to school and reading a lot--until his pal, defense attorney Dismas Hardy, asks him to do some investigating. The mystery is a compelling one--a young wife and mother has disappeared, and is presumed dead--but where's the body? Suspicion falls, as it often does, on the husband, who is Hardy's client. He is also a guard at the San Francisco County Jail, and the investigation of his wife's disappearance eventually leads to the revelation of a labyrinthine conspiracy within the jail, and to the examination of questionable deaths, with a hunt for those responsible. So--a compelling story.

But what Glitsky does in pursuit of tying up all these loose ends is so loose cannon of him that I found it hard to believe he was the same guy I've been following all these years. I just didn't buy that he would go quite that far off the reservation (and make so many illogical blunders), after maintaining a stern code of ethics (with a few spectacular exceptions that have weighed on him ever since) for so many years.

I also figured out who the murderer was with more than 75 pages to go, so it wasn't such a compelling read after that. More of a waiting for the revelation and a curiosity about how Lescroart would do that--which cemented my feelings about the out-of-character behavior of Glitsky! I'd love to sit down with the author to understand his thinking.
Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad book--I quite enjoyed it as a whole, particularly all the what ifs that led me hither and yon--but as a long-time fan, I was dismayed by the direction Lescroart took one of my favorite characters. We'll see what happens in the next one...