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We upgraded our NoveList subscription to NoveList Plus!  Check it out for reading suggestions for both fiction and nonfiction.  There’s also a separate K-8 interface for kids.  It’s a clever database that combines the wonderful ability of computers to remember everything and the wonderful ability of humans to describe things like writing style and tone: is it fast-paced and witty?  Is it disturbing and gritty?  Is it atmospheric and character-driven, with a strong sense of place…?

You will find NoveList Plus and NoveList K-8 by clicking Resources > Books & Authors on the Library’s website.

The end of the year is a favorite time for various publications to come out with their choices of ‘top books of the year’ lists. Here are a few recommended book lists from current magazines:

People Magazine‘s Best of 2010 issue has arrived, with the Top 10 in Books:

Life, Keith Richards, Little, Brown

Room, Emma Donaghue, Little, Brown

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot, Crown

I Remember Nothing, Nora Ephron, Random

A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan, Knopf

Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand, Random

Just Kids, Patti Smith, HarperCollins/Ecco

Autobiography of Mark Twain, U. of Cal. Press

One Day, David Nicholls, Vintage

Good Housekeepings list is arranged by what the reader is in the mood for…’a good cry’ perhaps?

Time Magazine‘s Ten Best Fiction and Nonfiction books lists.

New York Magazine offers a year in books, including multiple genres.

Bon Appetit has chosen their favorite cookbooks of the year.

Or perhaps you would like an exhaustive list of lists!

To another year of reading pleasure!   Jess

* That’ s the BROOKS MEMORIAL LIBRARY website, which you should save to your shortcuts list because it’s the hub of the information universe!

Library cardholders, you can use these features from home, or anyplace you have access to the Web.  Visitors, you have free access to all but the account features on the computers at the Library: 224 Main Street in Brattleboro.

1. Quickly assemble all the articles, statistics, radio transcripts, and reference book entries you need for your paper on a controversial issue:

Choose Resources > Newspapers and Current Events > Opposing Viewpoints.  Choose a subject link, such as Population Growth, Affirmative Action, or Genetic Engineering, or search for your topic by keyword.

2. Find the most recent book by your favorite author in the Library’s collection: Choose Catalog > Browse > Authors.  Search for last name only; you’re less likely to run into trouble that way.  If we have books by your author, you will see a link to his or her full name in the result list; click to see all the titles the library owns.  To find the most recent title, look for the box that says Sort results by and choose Publication Date from the drop-down menu.

3. Download audiobooks to your MP3 player or other portable device:

Choose Audiobooks and follow the links for news and instructions.  You will have to download some free software to your computer before choosing audiobooks to export to your player.  Not all titles are compatible with all devices, but there is a good selection for both PC and MAC products, including the iPod.  Call us for help if you need it: 254-5290 x109.

4. Search the U.S. Census, 1790-1930, by name, state, birthplace, and other parameters:   Choose Resources > Local History & Genealogy > Heritage Quest.  “Search Census” is the first option.  Your search will lead you to facsimiles of the original handwritten Census intake forms.

5. Find biographical profiles, articles, and mini-bibliographies about pharaohs, saints, robber barons, supermodels, and other fascinating characters, past and present: Choose Resources > Biography > Wilson Web biography database.

6. Learn how to maintain your own car:

Choose Resources > Do it yourself >Auto Repair Reference Center.  Click on the year, make, and model, and then choose Repair Procedures, which opens up folders on the left side of the screen.  Choose the General Maintenance folder.  Not all makes and models have general maintenance info, but most do—and they’re illustrated.

7. Request an interlibrary loan without leaving your cozy chair:

Choose Resources and scroll down to the “Useful Links” section; you will find a link to an online form called Request an Interlibrary Loan.

8. Renew all your checked-out library items, still without leaving your cozy chair:   Choose My Account and type in your library card number and PIN (usually the last four digits of your phone number).  Click the boxes for what you want to renew, and then click “Renew Checked Items.”  Some categories of items, such as interlibrary loans, cannot be renewed this way, but most can.  If you need help logging in, call us.

9. Find high-quality images from major photo archives of U.S. presidents, dogsled teams in action, and barking elephant seals, among other things:

Choose Resources > Homework Help Grades K-6 > Kids InfoBits.  Click on the topic areas or search by keyword until you find your subject.  Then look for the “Images” tab; if it’s bright with black letters, click on it for pictures.  [Source Citation: “Inuit Hunter and Dogsled Team.” (© Layne Kennedy/Corbis.) Animals with Jobs: Sled Dogs. Judith Janda Presnall. KidHaven Press, 2005.   Reproduced in Kids InfoBits.  Detroit:  Gale, 2009.

10. Watch videos of past programs at the Brooks Memorial Library, including talks by author Howard Frank Mosher, former Iranian Ambassador Mansour Farhang, historian Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, and others:

Choose Videos, and have fun!

catalog card

My library work and personal life generally co-exist peacefully together, often reinforcing one another. However, there are moments when the two sides of my brain have to duke it out. One such moment is when I have to explain to a patron that the minute a book is returned, the library holds no record that you ever had the book out.

The librarian in me says this is crucial for the privacy of our patrons and our ability to uphold the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics which 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.”

The reader in me recognizes the anguish on a patron’s face, as they try desperately to remember the title of an important work they read just last month! We all want to be able to peruse a list of things we have read to spark our memory or make a suggestion to a friend.

My solution: LibraryThing A website that allows us all to create a record of not only what we have read but what we would like to read. Once you have set up a free account, it only requires seconds per title to keep a running list. The list can include title, book jacket, author, dewey number (warms my heart), tags, reviews, and other reader’s comments.

Below is an example of how your list might look:

LibraryThing - Catalog your books online_1248289372108

If you have a book wishlist already started on Amazon, LibraryThing can import that list to save you typing time.

Once you have begun a catalog of the books you have read, or just want to remember to read, you can also use LibraryThing to get suggestions for other books or to share your reading list with friends. If you have a blog or website, you can also use a Library Thing widget to generate a slideshow of book jackets on your list!


You know right where your favorite fiction sits on the shelf, right?  Look again!  What was up is down, down is up.  Authors you have never noticed before are front and center. We haven’t rearranged the alphabet, but we have rearranged the books.

The fiction was so crowded that in some sections our shelvers simply could not fit another book into the mass.  What to do?  Well, the 800’s  (Poetry, essays, literary criticism, etc.) were lounging around in first class accommodations with plenty of legroom,  so we evened them up a little, made the sparser sections a bit more crowded. That created space to shift the fiction along almost a whole aisle.  So, now, where is Billy Collins, as well as Nora Roberts?

We have tried to make all the books accessible to tall people and short ones, but everyone will have to get in shape and squat or stretch.  Those little step-stools with squeaky wheels make great seats for exploring the lower shelves, and, of course to stand on to reach the top shelves, (the wheels don’t roll if you stand on the stool).

We are getting fine, new labels at the ends of the stacks that really describe what is there now in 2009, no longer what we put in place in 1967;  thus you can find the Roberts aisle right away.  But why not browse?  This is your chance to make new fiction finds, and discover poetry or essays that you never noticed before.  Enjoy!

book reader

You enter the library and there are ALL THOSE BOOKS!  Where to begin?  What do you feel like reading? Don’t worry, suggestions are all around you:

First, the big oak a-frame right in front of you usually has a theme-based display (right now, gardening and backyard livestock).  On the back are random selections by our readers’ advisors and staff.  If none of those appeal to you, on the bottom shelf of the a-frame are several loose-leaf notebooks. There lies a wealth of titles:

  • Award Winning Books, including the New York Times “100 Best Books of the Year” for several years back. On most of the lists, the library’s holdings are marked.
  • A Readers Advisors’ favorites notebook.
  • “Out of the Stacks” – Reviews of books from the Brattleboro Reformer by Calista Kristensen, whose recommendations kept our borrowers happy for many years.

A little further on, under the light paperback collection, is another set of notebooks. They contain all the “For Love of Books” columns from the Brattleboro Reformer since 1996, written by many different local people about many different books and expanded subjects.

Perhaps you want to choose your books before you even set foot in the library.  The catalog has a tab called “Brooks Books”, which includes various staff picks and theme bibliographies plus links to every award list, from the Agatha Award to World Fantasy.  You’ll find those links hiding way down at the bottom of the page in blue type.

And then there is NoveList.  NoveList is one of the treasures you will find behind our “Resources” button on the Library’s web page. NoveList only deals with fiction, but you can search it by author, title, theme, genre, series, awards.  If you have read the last book by a cherished author, go to “Read Alikes” in Novelist to find similar writers and/or titles.  Explore NoveList even if you know exactly what you want to read; it’s an adventure.

Ready to check out?  Well, there on the circulation desk is the N.Y. Times Bestseller list. Many of the titles have waiting lists, but this is the chance to put yourself in line for the hot books;  just ask, or put a hold on the title from home.  If you would like pointers on how to do that, a staff member will be happy to help you.

“So many books, so little time”, as they say, but here at the library you can pick the raisins out of the granola with help from every side.  Enjoy!


Tip: Reference doesn’t begin and end with the Internet; browse the reference books for some interesting surprises.


Whether you are interested in the workings of the human psyche, the stories of culture through time, or the books that hold these tales, the reference department has a book for you!

Three excellent information sources have been added to the reference collection:

Psychologists and Their Theories: For Students

Vol. I & II

freud Do not let the ‘for students’ note on the cover scare you off from the book Psychologists and Their Theories. These volumes provide an interesting overview of the unfolding of the field of psychology, starting with the early German writings of the 1860s to the cognitive theories of the early 21st century.

A majority of these two volumes are dedicated to profiles of the 20 most well-known psychologists, past and present. Their profiles include a personal chronology, a list of publications, and bibliographical information for readers who wish to go more in depth.

What makes the entries user-friendly is the description of the main points of a psychologist’s theory and then examples provided of how the theory might play out in a specific situation. Although this is not a good source to use for diagnosing or examining personal therapy needs, the language is very accessible and interesting for learning about the history of this science.

U.X.L. Encyclopedia of World Mythology

Vol. I-V

world-mythologyThis encyclopedia contains a global range of alphabetical entries on myths throughout history. There are five different types of entries: character (such as famous heroes), deity (gods and goddesses) , myth (specific stories), theme (symbols across cultures), and culture (myths of one culture). To further the readers learning experience, there is a timeline of world mythology; a glossary of terms; and a read/write/think/discuss section after major entries.

There are a wide variety of illustrations and the majority are in black and white. However, each volume has an inset of color plates of select images.

The cross-cultural themes are particularly interesting, such as floods or demons in mythology. These entries do an excellent job at explaining the different points of view shown through the stories of each culture and the significance of their symbols. The volumes are a good choice to peruse when you have a few extra minutes at the library or if you are wondering who Shamash is…

Book Lust and More Book Lust

by Nancy Pearl


“[Nancy Pearl] has become…the librarian version of a rock star.”

Bust magazine

The nation’s most popular librarian has written a number of books on books…Book Lust and More Book Lust provide an in-your-lap personal reading advisor, organized by themed sections and “too good to miss” authors.

Quite frankly these books make excellent reading on their own! Pearl’s sense of humor makes for some very funny categories of books like: GritLit, Elvis on My Mind, My Own Private DUI, and Gone Fishin’.

These books can also be found in the circulating collection (along with Book Crush, for kids and teens) but in case they are checked out, you can always mosey over to the reference section to get some help on what to read next…


Tip: If you’re in love with an author but it’s time to move on, try “Author Read-alikes” in the NoveList database to find new authors you might enjoy.


NoveList is a reader’s advisory database that’s available to everyone who visits the BML. Cardholders can also search it from home.

Start at the BML web page, click on Resources, then scroll down a bit to find the NoveList link under Literature & Authors. If you’re searching from home, type in your library card number when prompted. Try searching an author name in the Find box on the first screen. The results will be grouped under various tabs, including “Author Read-alikes.”

Sometimes you will find a whole Read-alike essay on your author. These can include some surprising and interesting suggestions. For example, the entry on quirky mystery writer Alexander McCall Smith suggests Agatha Christie, R.K. Narayan, and James Thurber, among others. Sometimes your author will be mentioned in somebody else’s read-alike essay, and that will also appear under the Author Read-alikes tab.

I like that these notes go beyond surface comparisons to consider subtleties in authors’ styles. For example, Narayan is suggested for McCall Smith fans because “Straightforward but thoughtful prose illuminates Narayan’s investigation into human nature, and a gentle touch of humor and irony speaks to universal themes that transcend the fictional Indian town.”

Now that you’re in NoveList, don’t stop with Author Read-alikes; there are lots of fun features to explore.

About this blog



Brooks Memorial Library Reference Department:

Jeanne Walsh, Therese Marcy, Sharon Reidt, Jess Weitz, and sometimes Jerry