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  • How many amendments does the Constitution have?
  • If both the President and Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
  • What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?
  • There are four amendments to the Constitution about who can vote.  Describe one of them.
  • And for extra credit: who was Publius?

How did you do?  (answers below)

I you are you studying for the Naturalization Test to become a U.S. citizen, or if are you a citizen who hesitated before answering any of those questions, the Library has free study guides to help you brush up on your knowledge of U.S. history & government.  They are shelved in the Reference area and are free for the taking (one of each title per person, please).  You will find guides to the naturalization process, test lessons, a pocket edition of the Constitution & Declaration of Independence, and a lovely illustrated compendium of important facts and documents called The Citizens’ Almanac.

Online, the Citizenship Resource Center has lots of useful material for prospective citizens and teachers, and has practical links for new immigrants, including: find a job, learn English, get a Social Security Number, get a green card, and get a driver’s license.

Answers (from Learn About the United States: Quick Civics Lessons for the Naturalization Test from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services):

  • 27 amendments
  • Speaker of the House
  • Louisiana Territory
  • A male citizen of any race can vote (15th); women as well as men can vote (19th); you don’t have to pay a poll tax to vote (24th); citizens 18 and older can vote (26th)
  • Extra credit: James Madison (his pen name for the Federalist Papers, which he wrote with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay)

E Pluribus Unum!  And can you name a major U.S. holiday that happens in July…?

…and Hermit Thrushes, and Downy Woodpeckers, and Hooded Mergansers…

Vermont eBird is the hub for all bird-related data, a place for birders to record their observations for use by scientists and the birding community.   eBird is a “vast and powerful database co-sponsored by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon,” and the Vermont section is sponsored by an ecological hall of fame team that includes the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, North Branch Nature Center, Birds of Vermont Museum, Vermont Audubon, and VINS.  Don’t miss the Resources list, which includes links to the BirdsEye phone app and eBird Rare Bird Google Gadget.  Who knew? 

Enjoy the music!


New York Times readers, the Library has news for you:

As you probably already know, the Times just instituted its new online article policy.  You are allowed full views of 20 articles per month from their website; after that, you have to pay.

However, the full text of the paper is available free with your library card at the Brooks Memorial Library website.  Coverage includes the current day plus a full archive of the print paper back through 1980, plus the Magazine and Book Review back through 1997.


  • It’s free with your library card.
  • It’s legal; the library subscribes on behalf of its patrons.
  • It archives the paper for you, so you can go back any time to find an article by keyword, date, etc.
  • It doesn’t limit the number of articles you can access for free


  • It’s text-only; no images
  • It isn’t automatically organized into sections, and it doesn’t present the usual visual cues to differentiate major and minor stories, etc.
  • It’s limited to what appears in the print version of the paper; it doesn’t include the valuable additional content (blog posts, etc.) featured at

If you’re interested in exploring the free New York Times on the Library’s website, click on Resources > Newspapers & Current Events > New York Times

Once you log in, you have various search options.  To find the current day’s paper, choose Date range > On this date from the pull-down menu and type in the date in the required format.

Another possibility is to view the paper at the Times website, find the stories you want to read, and then search for them by title or author in the Library’s free database.

Of course, as long as there are walls, there will be schemes for getting over them.  Here’s news from about other attempts to deal with the changes at the New York Times.



Never thought I would be so happy to see tax forms, but the IRS finally sent a shipment of instruction booklets for the 1040 form, so we won’t have to rely on our intuition to fill it out.

The Library has the following paper IRS forms free for the taking:

  • 1040 & Instructions
  • 1040 A & Instructions
  • 1040 EZ & Instructions
  • Various schedules and forms to be filed with the 1040 and 1040 A, including the Earned Income Credit (Schedule EIC)

You can also download forms and instructions at, or visit the “Free File” section of that site to learn about free options for online filing.

We also have Vermont booklets with all the major Vermont forms and instructions.  But please note: the booklet doesn’t include the Landlord certificate.  Landlords have to obtain the blank forms directly from the Vermont Department of taxes: (866) 828-2865 or  Renters have to obtain the completed forms from their landlords.

If you want to investigate e-filing for Vermont state taxes, check out this page:  Don’t let the “2009” worry you; if you follow the link, it leads you to information about filing 2010 taxes.

If you need help preparing your taxes, there are several free local services available.   SEVCA offers services for people who live or work in Windham or Windsor county with a household income at or below $49,000: dial 2-1-1 to learn more.  AARP can help as well: call Jean Cornish at (802) 365-7222 for more information, including details on income eligibility.

photo courtesy of:

We’ve been talking so much about e-books lately that it’s easy to overlook the wonderful bound reference books that come in every month through the magic of a standing order plan with our book distributor.  I’m just putting out the 2011 editions of these useful titles:

  • Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market, “Where & how to sell your illustrations, fine art, & cartoons”
  • Photographer’s Market, “Where & how to sell your photographs”
  • Physicians’ Desk Reference: PDR
  • Peterson’s Private Secondary Schools
  • Peterson’s Graduate Programs in the Physical Sciences, Mathematics, Agricultural Sciences, The Environment, and Natural Resources
  • Peterson’s Graduate Programs in Business, Education, Health, Information Studies, Law, and Social Work
  • Standard Catalog of World Coins
  • Who’s Who in America
  • Writer’s Market, “The most trusted guide to getting published”

And there are more.   Come visit us once you’re plowed out.


Reference books can be heavy in every sense of the word.   The best are written by subject experts and are the culmination of years of research and painstaking editorial revision.  They are beautifully designed and have detailed indexes.  They also weigh a lot, and are not are easily transported, even if we let you borrow them, which we usually don’t.

Online reference sources are more portable, of course, and they’re becoming more so all the time.  But not every app carries the authoritative weight of a library reference book—not to mention Google and its gazillion slightly-relevant websites.  What’s a mobile scholar to do?

This is where the Library comes in, filling its traditional role of providing access to recorded knowledge.  “Access,” in this sense, is more than just a password for a restricted website: Libraries gather and organize material to make it easy for researchers to find what they need, no matter what the subject. 

With that in mind, Brooks Memorial recently acquired a core collection of e-reference books in the areas of science, history, religion, law, economics, popular culture, and more.  They can be searched all at once, which is a nice step forward in reference service, and they are accessible either through the Library’s website (Resources > Reference > Gale Virtual Reference Library) or through the Gale app, a free download for the iPhone and the Droid.  The app is nifty because the covers are displayed on virtual shelves, giving a visual idea of the diversity of this collection.

Some of the gems on this virtual shelf:

  • International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (William A. Darity, editor in chief, Macmillan, 2008)
  • Encyclopedia of Religion, winner of the Dartmouth Medal in its original edition and revised in 2005, (Lindsay Jones, editor in chief, Macmillan)
  • Grzimek’s Animal Encyclopedia, scholarly and detailed but accessible to young students, with terrific illustrations (Gale, 20003)
  • The Gale Encyclopedia of Law, which is just hitting the print and virtual shelves in January of 2011

And there are more, so download the app or bookmark the site on your web browser for easy access to these weightless, weighty reference sources.


This time of year, it’s inspiring to see the crowds at Brattleboro’s winter Farmer’s Market, and to talk to library patrons who are already making plans for their spring gardens.  Here are some excellent web sources for producers and consumers who want to grow, make, and buy local food, even when the weather outside is frightful:

Buy Local, Buy Vermont, from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.  Includes lists of Vermont Winter Farmers’ Markets, plus suppliers of Vermont delights for the season, including turkeys, Christmas Trees, and eggs & maple syrup for cookie baking!

The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service has lots of information on local food systems and organic agriculture.  Includes a local food directory for the U.S., searchable by region, plus substantial technical databases on ecological pest management, organic livestock feed suppliers, organic seed companies, and more.

Happy local holidays!


New Neighbors: Bosnia is a website from the Vermont Folklife Center, “the first of a series that will present the personal experiences and cultural heritage of new Vermonters who have been resettled here as refugees.”  Check it out for film and audio portraits of some of our newest neighbors, including pieces of their “silent history,” the stories that are “violent and difficult to hear.”

In the words of the VFC, “The Web site includes research-generated materials from the Vermont Folklife Center Archive, new pieces by filmmaker Mira Niagolova and videographer Paul MacGowan, and photographic images and text created by photographer/ethnographer Ned Castle, as well as an education section and links to online resources,”  such as a study guide for using the website with Katherine Paterson’s Vermont Reads book for 2010, The Day of the Pelican.  Well done!  

Click Newspapers & Current Events on the Library’s Resources page to find:

Full text of the New York Times, 1980-current, plus the Book Review and Magazine, 1997-current

Full text of the Brattleboro Reformer, 2003-current, plus selective content from 2001-2003

Full text of selective city newspapers from all over the U.S. (Fresno Bee, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, San Francisco Chronicle, etc.) plus a good number of titles from the UK, most 1996-current.  For this collection, click on “Infotrac Custom Newspapers”

What’s the difference between these databases and the newspapers’ websites?

  • You don’t have to pay for articles – we’ve already subscribed on behalf of our library users.
  • All the content is ad-free.
  • The content doesn’t go away; the archive is stable.

Who can use it?

  • All Brooks Memorial Library cardholders have access from home or from anywhere they connect to the Web.
  • All visitors to the Library have free access within the building.

Long live The Newspaper, whatever form it may take!


Janet told me that there was once a snake on the Library mezzanine; she found it while shelving.  I like snakes, but I’m glad we haven’t seen one on the mezzanine in a good long time.  Yesterday, though, a gray squirrel was hanging out in theology (211) and was heading toward the existential philosophers, especially Jean-Paul Sartre (194).   Our cataloger thought she might need some guidance.  In hopes of guiding her right out the door, we got help from a veterinarian patron who grabbed a library shopping basket and headed for the stacks.  Moments later, a gray blur was streaking across the floor downstairs and patrons were on their feet.  Happily, with a library full of readers to cheer her on, the squirrel found her way into the office, sprinted through the doughnut box, and exited out the window.

The Gale Encyclopedia of Science, accessible online through the Library’s website, tells us that “There are about 55 species of tree squirrels in the genus Sciurus that occur in Asia, Europe, North America, and South America.”  Our squirrel did not “utter a loud barking chatter when alarmed,” but we did note the “long, bushy tail, used as a rudder when…airborne while leaping from branch to branch” (or shelf to shelf).  We hope that, after her anxiety-provoking adventure, she did use her tail as “a comfy wrap-around when… sleeping.”

For more information about the gray squirrel and her cousins the chipmunks, marmots, and prairie dogs, click on the Resources button at the Library’s website and choose Reference > Gale Virtual Reference Library.  If you’re searching from home, the system will prompt you for your library card number.  Or download the Gale public library app for your iPhone.  It works whenever you’re in range of a public library with Gale online reference products.

About this blog



Brooks Memorial Library Reference Department:

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