Archive for December, 2007

I’m always amazed by things that come in the mail unsolicited. Of course you always get the interest-free loan offers, the low-cost life insurance, and opportunities to buy George Foreman grills. But once in a while something so unexpected and interesting is sent that you need to share it.
I recently received a large manila envelope from the Currier Art Museum which contained a paper entitled Edward Lippincott Tilton: A Monograph on his Architecture Practice. Who was Edward Tilton? Well, his story is one in which Meadville Public Library plays a part.
Edward Tilton was a renowned architect during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A specialist in designing libraries, Tilton started his career with McKimm, Mead & White (considered one of the most influential American architectural firms) and worked on the Boston Public Library. He designed more than 100 libraries, many of them funded by the Carnegie Foundation. He also designed the immigration station that opened at Ellis Island in 1892.
Here in Meadville, we are blessed with a number of Tilton designs: the Tippie Alumni Center at Allegheny College; the old Post Office building on Chestnut Street and Meadville Public Library.
Prior to Tilton, libraries were designed like banks, with books stored away from the public and librarians seated behind what looked like teller windows. Patrons browsed through the card catalog, made selections and wrote their requests on a slip of paper. A librarian retrieved the books and if he/she thought a particular request was inappropriate for the patron, a more “suitable” book was substituted.
Tilton’s designs for libraries were considered revolutionary at the time. He was a pioneer in using the “Open Plan” which placed the most popular books on open shelves on the main floor. The design allowed patrons to browse freely, without help (or hindrance) from the librarian.
Tilton’s style usually included an exterior facade dominated by a series of arches and classic moldings, capped with a hip roof composed of tile. Most of these elements are found in our library building.
In my opinion, the real genius of Tilton was in creating a building that could be adapted and changed without altering its appearance. With some remodeling and adjustments, we have been able to accommodate our growing needs and include the latest technology, yet maintain the integrity of the design.
So it is amazing what can be learned though unsolicited mail. This newsletter is an example. We are asking you to consider giving to the Library’s 40th Annual Patron Drive. Our predecessors in Meadville had the vision to hire a great architect to build a great library for their community. You can continue that tradition by donating to this fund drive. Any contribution is welcome.

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Fall is here; the daylight hours are fewer and as we begin to prepare for the cold, gray winter days ahead, it is time to plan for some intensive reading. After a summer of listening to media sound bites we can increase our understanding of issues that are facing us by checking out what the library has to offer. We have been adding to the collection a number of books that provide an in-depth exploration of viewpoints on a variety of issues.

For example—global warming. There really are different ways of viewing our changing climate and what it will mean to us. We have Hell and High Water: Global Warming-the Solution and the Politics-and What We Should Do by Joseph Romm; With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear the Tipping Points in Climate Change by Fred Pearce; An Ocean of Air: Why the Wind Blows and Other Mysteries of the Atmosphere; two books by Bjorn Lomborg, Global Crises, Global Solutions: The Skeptical Environmentalist : Measuring the Real State of the World and Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming; and Christopher Horner’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming.

Reading books about history is a wonderful way to increase our understanding not only of the past but also of current events. Try David Halberstam’s posthumously published book The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, or Greg Behrman’s The Most Noble Adventure: The Marshall Plan and the Time when America Helped Save Europe. The Reagan Diaries by Ronald Reagan; The Berlin Wall: A World Divided 1961-1989 by Fred Taylor or Steve Vogel’s The Pentagon: A History might prove to be interesting.

As technology is making the world smaller, India and China are having an increasing impact on the western world. Several new books provide information to improve our understanding of these countries. Try The Elephant, the Tiger, and the Cell Phone: India, the Emerging 21st Century Power by Shashi Tharoor; Ramachandra Guha’s India after Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy and Insight Guides: India. As for China, try The Long March: The True History of Communist China’s Founding Myth or Harry Gelber’s The Dragon and the Foreign Devils: China and the World 1100 BC to the Present.

Religion is always a topic to inspire discussion and there are numerous books being published to help the discussion along. Karen Armstrong has several well respected books and her latest is The Bible: A Biography. Another more general book is Discovering God: A New Look at the Origins of the Great Religions by Rodney Stark. Atheism is currently in the news and we have both Christopher Hitchens’ book God is Not Great: Why Religion Poisons Everything and Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. A new book is The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine by Alister McGrath.

On a lighter note, Christmas is coming and we are adding Georgeanne Brennan’s Christmas Sweets; I’m Dreaming of a Chocolate Christmas by Marcel Desaulniers and Rebecca Rather’s The Pastry Queen Christmas, along with the usual Taste of Home Holiday and Celebrations 2007, Better Homes and Gardens Christmas from the Heart, Vol. 16; and Christmas with Southern Living 2007.

Several new DVD sets have been added including Roots : the 30th anniversary edition, a Nova series about ants, bees and the unknown world, and a two disc set about hurricanes. For the armchair traveler in all of us, there is a series including Mexico, the Northwest, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand and China to the Max.

There should be something here for everyone to get through the winter. If not, come to the library and browse. We add thousands of books a year so there is sure to be something you will find interesting.

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This summer was busier than ever with many games, activities and prize giveaways. We had a total of 48 book reviews written by young adults as part of the Summer Reading Program. Thanks to everyone for making our Summer Reading Program a great success, and congratulations to all the winners!

As the weather grows cooler, it’s time to start thinking about more indoor activities, such as reading a good book! Here are some new
titles to try: Playing for Pizza by John Grisham; The Bishop at the Lake: A Blackie Ryan Story by Andrew M. Greeley; Pontoon by Garrison Keillor; The Girl with Braided Hair by Margaret Coel; Kennedy’s Brain by Henning Mankell; Karen Kingsbury’s Just Beyond the Clouds; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz; The Used World by Haven Kimmel; Rita Mae Brown’s book, The Tell-Tale Horse; Dark of the Moon by John Sandford and Shoot Him if He Runs: A Stone Barrington Novel by Stuart Woods.

For young adults, we have many new fiction and non-fiction titles to choose from. Starting with non-fiction we have: Dragonart: Fantasy Characters – learn how to draw your own fantasy world with this “how to” drawing book. For those who want to try their hand at writing, we have three new books: Write Your Own Fantasy Story; Write your Own Mystery Story; and Write Your Own Science Fiction Story. Learn more about genetically engineered food with Superfood or Superthreat: The Issue of Genetically Engineered Food. New biographies to choose from include: Michelle Kwan and Roberto Clemente, Baseball Hall of Famer.

New young adult fiction to try: The Riddle: The Second Book of Pellinor by Alison Croggon; The Black Sheep by Yvonne Collins; The Land of the Silver Apples by Nancy Farmer, sequel to Sea of Trolls; Megan McCafferty’s Fourth Coming, the latest book in her series, and A Field Guide to High School by Marissa Walsh.

For a more complete listing of all the new material ordered, check out the Fiction and Young Adult pages on MPL’s website.

As always, we welcome any suggestions or ideas you might have regarding our programming, or the acquisition of new materials.

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If you’ve searched for a book while in the library lately, you’ve probably noticed we have a new catalog. You can also search that same catalog from home, as well as do some other useful things such as getting a list of items you have checked out, or getting a list of what you’ve borrowed in the past. You can also find out if you have any fines or charges on your record or if you have any overdue items.

To do all this and more, visit (or visit and click the “Search Our Catalog” link or else type something into the “Search Our Catalog” search box). To access your account information, you will need to log in. The first time you log in, both your user name and password are your library card number. Once you log in we recommend you change your password for added security. Choose a memorable password—if you forget it, we are unable to tell you what it is. If you do forget it, please bring in some ID the next time you visit the library and we will change it for you. To protect your privacy we will not change the password over the phone. If you’ve just signed up for a library card, you will be able to log in to your account online by the following day.

Once you’ve logged in, you’ll immediately see a list of the items you presently have checked out. If any of the items are overdue, they’ll be highlighted in pink with red due dates. In the future, you’ll be able to renew materials from here, but we still have some work to do before that feature is available.

To find out if there are any fines due on your account, click “Your Fines”. Note that fines aren’t calculated until materials are checked in at the library, so fines for any currently overdue items will not be shown.

For a list of what you’ve borrowed previously, click on “Your Reading History”.

Searching the Catalog

For a quick keyword search, just type a few search terms into the search box at the top of the page. In the menu to the left of the search box, you can also narrow your search by choosing to search by title, author, etc. For even more search options, click on Advanced Search. There you can narrow down the search by material type (say, if you’re just looking for DVDs) or choose one of the limit checkboxes to search in preselected categories like movies (which will search among videos and DVDs in both the adult & children’s collections). On the advanced search page you can also choose to limit your search results to a specific library—by the time you’re reading this we’ll probably have at least one more of the county libraries migrated to the new system. We plan to have all nine libraries in the county using it by the end of next year.

In your search results you can see which library has the items in your search results, and whether or not the items are available. If an item is presently checked out, it will be marked as “On loan”; if you click on the item’s title, you can find out when it’s due to be returned to the library. Many of the items in the search results will have cover images from If you click on the title of an item, you’ll find more content from Amazon, such as reviews; for many titles you can even use Amazon’s “Search Inside the Book” feature by clicking on the cover image.

If you want to save your search results, you have a few options. There’s the Book Bag, which can help you create a bibliography which you can then email or print. In your list of search results, simply click the boxes next to the call numbers of the items you want to add, and click “Add selected items to Book Bag”. Click the cart in the upper right corner of the page to view the Book Bag; from there you can print or email your list. You do not have to log in to use this feature.

Another option for saving search results is the Virtual Shelves system. You can use this to create a virtual bookshelf that you can use to organize your reading. Our librarians can also create public virtual shelves for everyone to see. To add an item to a virtual shelf, click on the item’s title in the search results, and click “Add to Your Virtual Shelf”. There you can choose to add it to one of your existing shelves or you can create a new shelf on the fly by giving it a unique name.

The Future

We’re still working on more features for the catalog, so keep an eye out for new things. We plan to give you the ability to reserve & renew materials online, and we’re working on improving search accuracy and the catalog interface. The new system is far more flexible than our old one, so we are able to offer a lot more features to improve your library experience. We’ll keep you posted!

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