Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Free Computer Classes Are A Hit!

The Mississippi Valley Library District offers a variety of free computer classes each month for patrons who are interested in expanding their knowledge of technology.

Jed R., one of the instructors at the Collinsville Library, emphasized just how much of a variety the library offers. “We have classes that are great for people who have never turned on a computer before - like Basics 1, Basics 2, Typing, Internet, and Email - as well as classes that are great for people who have been using computers their whole life but want to learn something new - like Word, PowerPoint, Downloading & Emailing Photos, Online Genealogy, and Excel.”

Jessica L., Adult Services Librarian, added “We’re one of the only entities in the area that offers classes like these at no charge.”

Since space is limited, patrons are required to register for classes by either signing-up at the library’s front desk or by calling the library at 618.344.1112.

Patron John K. has attended six of the library’s computer classes over the past three months. “Each time I come to class, I learn something different. The instructors are helpful and willing to answer my questions, and you can’t beat the price! Being on a budget, I could not afford to take classes like these at a local community college right now,” John said.

Both the Collinsville and Fairmont City libraries also have computer labs available for public use. The Collinsville Library has over 25 computers (desktop and laptop) available for use and the Fairmont City Library has a dozen available. The computer labs are open the same hours as their respective library centers. Patrons simply must show a Photo ID to use a computer.
Posted by Jed Robbins, Library Assistant

Thursday, January 17, 2013

International Fiction Book Club Meeting (January 16, 2013) - "Snow Child" by Eowyn Ivey

         The International Fiction Book Club met the evening of January 16th to discuss the debut novel of Alaskan author, Eowyn Ivey.  The Snow Child was inspired by a Russian fairy tale that Ms. Ivey came across while sorting books at the bookstore where she works.  In an interview with a Burlington, Vermont radio show, “Write the Book”, Ivey explains that she knew instantly this was the source material she was looking for to write a novel.  Jack and Mabel are an aging couple in their late forties who left the relative safety of Pennsylvania to homestead in a remote area of Alaska.  We come to find out though, the reason for their decision was a desire to get away from anything that reminded them of their stillborn child.

         This is a tale of a fairy tale contrasted against the powerful, unforgiving landscape of 1920s Alaska.  I say powerful because the exposé of nature in its wild, fierce and magnificent glory takes center stage in Ivey’s novel.  More than the struggle to survive, the reality of death in many forms leaves a lasting impression on the reader.  To begin the book, we are faced with Mabel’s attempt to commit suicide by crossing the partially frozen Wolverine River.  We see how the marriage of Jack and Mabel is frozen too and only begins to thaw with the help of the Benson family who befriends them.  Though times are tough and the prospects not good for survival through the winter, Jack is talked out of working at the dangerous copper mine by George Benson.

         With the help of George and his sons, Jack makes progress in his fields before the first snowfall.  When snow finally comes, Mabel and Jack build a snow girl in front of their cabin and dress her in mittens and a scarf.  They also make love for the first time in a long time.  As in the fairy tale, the next morning the snow girl appears to have come to life.  Ivey weaves vague sightings of a young girl wearing the scarf and mittens by both Jack and Mabel around the fragile sanity that Mabel sustains during the dark months.  We believe Faina is real only when Jack follows her far into the mountains and discovers the frozen body of her dead father.  Jack buries the father but keeps it a secret from his wife who is familiar with the fairy tale from her childhood.  Mabel is determined to not lose this chance of having a child but she harbors the sense that the “wild child” Faina is somehow the offspring of the fairy tale.  Throughout the novel we are confronted with the killing of both wild and farmed animals.  Jack shoots a moose that will keep him and his wife alive.  Garrett, the youngest Benson watches Faina kill a trapped swan.  Esther Benson chops the head off a turkey and greets Mabel for the first time with blood on her face.  Jack and Mabel must slaughter their chickens for food.  Faina throws a wolverine she has trapped at the feet of her future husband, Garrett.  Whenever the movement of the story becomes a bit too sentimental, Ivey mixes in a fresh dose of nature in all its savagery.

         Reactions to the book were varied but mostly positive.  The concern was raised that certain details just didn’t seem plausible.  Can chickens be raised in an unheated barn in Alaska?  Would Jack be able to build a cabin and a barn by himself?  Could a young girl really survive in the snow and mountains by herself?  As we talked about the flaws of the book and whether or not it leaned too heavily on a fairy tale to tell the story of Alaskan homesteading in the 1920s, we almost always came back to the way the author used the various viewpoints (Mabel, Jack, Garrett) to expound on the presence of a larger, more prominent character - nature.  It was noted that we never enter into the mind of the snow girl, Faina.  The author cleverly left out quotation marks when Faina speaks, thereby her character does interact more with myth than reality.

         Though one voice at first claimed the book mundane, he later praised the vivid descriptions of flesh exposed to the natural world.  Others thought the writing effective and enjoyed the fairy tale aspect of the book.  One participant even speculated that the ending of the book was pure fantasy and he just went with it and enjoyed it for what it was.  The ending will remain a secret here for I suggest that, if curious, read this book.  Though not a masterpiece of literature, I recommend it as an easy and well written tale that caused me to shed a tear.

         We next meet on February 20th to discuss, Snow, by the Nobel winning author, Orhan Pamuk.  Please pick up a copy at the front desk and join us.

Posted by Jim Krapf, Library Clerk

Monday, January 14, 2013

Big Changes Coming to Library District

The Mississippi Valley Library District, which includes both the Collinsville Memorial Public Library and the Fairmont City Library Center, is in for some big changes in the spring of 2013.

The M.V.L.D. is currently a member of the Illinois Heartland Library System and currently lends items to and borrows items from most public libraries south of Springfield, Illinois. This spring, all of the libraries in the IHLS - including the M.V.L.D. - will be merging onto one database, which has formed the group known as SHARE (Sharing Heartland’s Available Resources Equally).

The merge will make the Mississippi Valley Library District a part of the largest library consortia in the United States and will give patrons a wider selections of materials to access. According to the official website of the Illinois Heartland Library System, “Approximately 450 libraries belong to the IHLS SHARE automation group. Patrons of those libraries will have access to almost 10 million books, DVDs, CDs, and magazines from any other library in the SHARE system. The online public catalog will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

As of a result of the merge, the circulation software for many libraries will be changing from Millennium to an automated system called Polaris, which has been praised for having a very user-friend and intuitive interface.

There is, however, one downside to the transition: the library district will be circulating offline for two weeks before they go live. As a result of this, patrons will lose any holds that they have placed on items and their reading histories will disappear. The library district suggests that patrons should start keeping backup electronic copies of these two things on their personal computers or physically in a notebook starting in early March. In addition, the M.V.L.D. will not issue new Library Cards during those two weeks.

According to Barbara R., Director of the Mississippi Valley Library District, “The Library Staff will do everything in its arsenal of expertise to make this an easy transformation for you. We will appreciate your patience while we learn and perfect our control of the new software.”

“Your current library card will gain you access to all of those collections through the new online card catalog as well as your ability to walk into any of our Illinois libraries and borrow onsite,” she added.

The M.V.L.D. will leave the Millennium System and move to the Polaris System on March 25. The library district’s “Go Live on Polaris!” Day will be April 9.

Both library centers will be closed on Friday, January 18th and March 22nd for Polaris Training. In addition, both centers will be opening at 1pm on Friday, February 15th for Polaris Training.
Posted by Jed Robbins, Library Assistant

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Adult Book Clubs Offer Variety

The Collinsville Memorial Public Library offers a variety of book clubs for adults to participate in.

Members of the International Fiction Book Club, led by Library Clerk Jim K., have ‘visited’ 25 different countries while exploring many innovative techniques for novel writing. Members of the IFBC tend to read authors from outside of the United States, but will feature an Alaskan writer and a Native American author in 2013. According to Jim, “The group varies in size but 15 different people have attended at various times. We are an informal group and no commitment is necessary. The only stipulation recommended is a love of reading literature.” The IFBC meets at 6:30pm on the third Wednesday of each month at the historic Blum House, which is located next door to the library. For more information about the IFBC, contact jimk@mvlibdist.org.

For people who’d rather be watching a football game than reading international fiction, the Sports Room Book Club may be a better fit. In 2013, the SRBC will ‘welcome’ Gabby Douglas, Tony LaRussa, Hope Solo, and Tim Tebow. Books that will be discussed in the beginning of the year are Gabby’s new book Grace, Gold & Glory: My Leap of Faith, Tony LaRussa’s One Last Strike, Hope Solo’s Solo: A Memoir of Hope and Tim Tebow’s Through My Eyes. Theo T., Library Clerk and moderator of the SRBC, summed up the upcoming selections: “It’s an all-star cast that you really want to meet here in the New Year.” For more information about the SRBC, contact theot@mvlibdist.org.

Although the Blum House Book Club is moderated by the Collinsville Library’s Children’s Librarian, Alison D., the club is by no means a book club for children. The BHBC, which typically meets on the last Wednesday of the month at 6:30pm, has eight fantastic regular members who enjoy a wide variety of literature with the occasional non-fiction title thrown in for good measure. Currently, all of the attendees of the BHBC are ladies between the ages of 32 and 72, but they would definitely welcome a male perspective. In 2013, members of the BHBC are looking forward to reading Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, In the Sea There Are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda, and The Fault in our Stars by John Green. For more information about the BHBC, contact alisond@mvlibdist.org.

Information about all of these book clubs can be obtained by visiting the library’s front desk, calling the library at 618.344.1112 or by going to www.collinsvillelibrary.org.
Posted by Jed Robbins, Library Assistant

Friday, January 04, 2013

Library Gives Back to Community

Many businesses and organizations take part in a “Secret Santa” Gift Exchange during the holiday season, in which employees anonymously give presents to another employee leading up to a Staff Christmas, when the “Secret Santas” are revealed.

For the past two years, in the spirit of giving, the Mississippi Valley Library District, which includes both the Collinsville Memorial Public Library and the Fairmont City Library Center, has decided to be a “Secret Santa” for the community instead of trading names and exchanging gifts between staff members.

This year, the library district decided to adopt a local pregnancy center to donate items to. The district collected new and gently used items such as blankets and clothes, bottles and toys, diapers, soaps, and lotions for the center. Then, the center distributed the items to those who were in need of them.

In 2011, the district worked with the Collinsville Area Ministerial Association to find a family that could use a little help during the holidays. Staff members bought Christmas presents for every family member and supplied a meal basket filled with items to make a delicious Christmas breakfast (pancakes and eggs) and a hot Christmas dinner (turkey with stuffing).

Library Clerks Cecilia L. and Jim R. agree. “It’s a difficult time for a lot of people right now, so I hope that being able to help relieves a little of that burden for them,” Cecilia said. Jim reiterated, “Christmas is about giving, and nothing is better than giving to those in need, especially children.”

Thanks to its overwhelmingly successful Food For Fines Program, in which patrons can donate non-perishable food items and hygiene products to the library in exchange for having their regular overdue fines waived, the library district also donates thousands of items to the Collinsville Food Pantry and Fairmont City’s St. Vincent de Paul, each year.

Yet another example of the library district giving back to the community is the annual Christmas ‘Store’ at the Fairmont City Library Center. The library - in conjunction with other area organizations and businesses - collects new or gently used coats and other warm items throughout the year, then gives them away for free at their annual “Santa at the Library” event. Patrons are also welcome to take photos with Santa and make a Gingerbread House (free of charge) at this event.

“As librarians, we strive to find the information and resources people need. This is no different,” added Theresa B., Head of Circulation for the Collinsville Library.

To suggest an organization that the library district should lend a helping hand to in the future, please contact Theresa at 618.344.1112 or theresab@mvlibdist.org.
Posted by Jed Robbins, Library Assistant