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Staff Picks 2020

It may have been a miserable year, but at least it moved right along! Just like that we are closing the chapter on 2020 and opening a new one for 2021. Every year, it is interesting to look back on our year of reading, watching, and listening and thinking about what was going on at the time, and that is even more true this year. Here are the Staff Picks of 2020, and we hope you enjoy looking at our favorites.

First up: Linda

All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny

It seems that every year Penny’s books are in my top 5, and this one may be her best ever.  For the first time the setting is outside Quebec, in Paris, where we get a taste of neighborhoods and daily life. We also get a good look into the history of the Gamache family and the dynamics of their relationships. Every member of the family gets involved with this one. Once again Armand’s character is tested to the extreme. Will he, can he, do the right thing, even if his family’s lives are at stake? The mystery is as contemporary as today’s headlines and the plot intricate. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read, intelligent and clever, holding my attention and building suspense right up to the explosive climax. I didn’t know who the villains were until the smoke cleared. If I could, I’d give this one 10 stars.

The Red Door by Charles Todd

This makes an even dozen in the Inspector Rutledge series, set in post WWI Britain. We start with a young wife from a small village, longing for her husband to come home from the war. She paints the front door red as a welcome home surprise for him. Then we visit a married man in London, going to the bank. On the way home he has an overwhelming fear for his young son, and lapses into panic and paralysis. Thus begins the knot that Ian Rutledge has to untangle. What do these two have in common and how does that set off a string of deaths encompassing the distance between them? This case is well plotted, intricate, and beautifully written. Beware the red herring. I never guessed the culprit. I give this one 5 stars.

The Stranger Diaries by Ellie Griffiths

This is a stand-alone book by the author of the Ruth Galloway mystery series. It is quite the departure from her usual fare, having a definite gothic feel to it, dark and brooding. Clare Cassidy is teaching a course on her favorite gothic writer R. M. Holland. The book opens with the beginning of one of his old stories, two men on a train and the story of a secret society and unexplained death at the school where Clare teaches. Then we move to the present time and real life. Clare’s best friend is killed. Next to her body is a note from that story. From there the story is told from three different perspectives, Clare’s, the detective’s, and Clare’s daughter, intertwined with the telling of the original fictional story. Those perspectives and the story that started it all are expertly interwoven into a seamless mystery that will hold you captive until the end. It is suspenseful and a little spooky. As an aside, also interesting to me was the assumption on the part of Clare about the thoughts of the other two people, and what they were actually thinking, and vice versa. It was a study in how we think we know what others are thinking based on our own state of mind. It was brilliantly done – 5 stars.

Enola Holmes

This Netflix movie rated PG13 and written, it seemed to me, with teens in mind, was quite original and fun to watch. Enola is Sherlock’s little sister, left in the care of Mycroft after her mother’s disappearance. Mycroft intends to send her away to a finishing school to make a proper young lady of her. That, however, is not what Enola wants. So, of course, she runs away, hoping to find her mother. Along her way she encounters a young man about her age who has also run away from his family, whose motives toward the young man do not appear honorable. And the game’s afoot!  Enola is every bit as clever as her brother. Acting as protagonist and narrator she leads us on a merry adventure filled with excitement and danger. This movie is a great escape from the stresses of our time. I give it 5 stars.

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

This is the first in new series by the author of the Shetland and Vera Stanhope mysteries, and is just as intriguing. The book begins with Detective Matthew Venn standing outside his father’s funeral. He has been estranged from his ultraconservative religious family for years and doesn’t want to be noticed. While there, he gets a call telling him that a body has been found on a nearby beach, and off to work he goes. Soon he finds himself in charge of the investigation, which makes it impossible to avoid his family and the issues that divided them. Ms. Cleeves writes an engaging story with well-drawn complex characters in a setting so real, you will think you hear the gulls screeching. I didn’t want to put this one down.

Julie’s Top Picks of 2020:

Books:

TV series:

Lyndsey’s Top Picks of 2020:

Books:

Giving Tuesday!

What a weird year. Every one of us has experienced change on levels we never imagined, and we have had to learn to adapt. Adapting is easier for some than others and can be scary for all.

Topsham Public Library has also adapted and changed the way we do things, but we have not changed our mission, and our desire to help you receive the services you need remains constant.

GivingTuesday was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that
encourages people to do good. Over the past 8 years, this idea has
grown into a year-round global movement that inspires hundreds of
millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity.

Giving Tuesday is an annual opportunity for people to give to their favorite nonprofits. It is always the Tuesday after Thanksgiving which this year is December 1st. May we ask you to reimagine the ways in which you support Topsham Public Library? Perhaps you have supported us through volunteering or supplying books for the book sale, but with Covid, those avenues of support have been slim to nonexistent. Maybe that support could be shown through your gift through Giving Tuesday.

Our goal is to raise $1,000 on December 1st. Any donation amount is helpful for reaching that goal and greatly appreciated. Here’s how you can support your library on GivingTuesday…

Gracie, age 12

Now:

  • Like and share our #GivingTuesday social media posts.
  • Download the #unselfie template and share your message on your social media. Don’t forget to tag us! unselfie template

On December 1st:

  • Visit our DONATE page and give in any amount you are able. For donations of $50 or more, we will add a dedication book plate to a new book in our collection. Please select the “tribute gift” option and let us know your special message.

The support from our community has always been overwhelming. So many of you, since our reopening, have told us how much it means that we are back. In these uncertain times there may be some of you who just can’t donate right now, and we understand, but if there are those of you who can help us meet our $1000 goal it would be so appreciated.

Thank you and hope to see you at Topsham Public Library!

Making Nature a Tradition

Many traditions are carried out throughout the year – holiday traditions, unique family traditions, community traditions. Many of those traditions have been altered this past year and will continue to be. While this might bring about feelings of sadness or loneliness, it also can be an opportunity to create some new traditions.

A growing body of science supports what we have known anecdotally for some time: time spent in nature makes us feel better. I’ll take more doses of that any time. How about you? Here are some ideas to consider if you’d like to incorporate some nature traditions into your life:

 

Go for walk after a holiday meal (or any meal, really). Generally, once holiday meals have been eaten, family and friends sit and socialize. For many, this will not be a possibility this year and it may be helpful to find a replacement activity. No matter the temperature, going for a walk after a large meal not only helps with digesting all that food, the fresh air and vitamin D will help boost your mood and energy. Being mindful of noticing the nature around you and appreciating the beauty you see will heighten your experience even more.

Make decorations from found nature. Wreaths, garlands, ornaments, center pieces… there are so many decorations that can be incorporated into annual celebrations. They don’t have to be just for holidays or special traditions. Give every day a little sprinkle of sparkle by adding special seasonal touches throughout your home. Crafting with found nature is budget-friendly, encourages us to get outside and notice nature, and is environmentally friendly. Studies also show that crafting has some health benefits including relieving stress, reducing anxiety, and boosting self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment.

 

Press leaves. Did you do this as a kid? I remember rounding up our heaviest books, putting newspapers between pages and anxiously awaiting the final, flattened results. Ah… fond memories! What do you do with those pressed leaves? Well, you may find some ideas in the resources listed above and can certainly find some ideas online but perhaps it’s enough to leave it as a seasonal tradition that gives rise to fond nostalgia.

 

Snail mail photos of nearby nature to loved ones. Bring your camera along for one some of your walks or when you head out to collect found nature and snap some photos of your favorite sights. Whenever you mail a card to a loved one in celebration of a special tradition, tuck one of your photos inside or print some as postcards and brighten some people’s day. What a nice surprise it is to find happy mail in your box!

 

Start a nature journal. A nature journal can be as simple as jotting notes in a blank notebook or writing a quick observation on a calendar (this is a wonderful option and the author lives nearby). You could add sketches/paintings, photos, poetry, and whatever else strikes your fancy. Perhaps you could start a collective journal with your household members. Another option is to keep a digital journal to share with friends and family all over who could also contribute their observations.

Keeping a nature journal helps deepen your connection with nature and learn seasonal rhythms. It also makes a wonderful keepsake to pass down to family.

 

Decorate a tree or bush for the birds. Food supplies for our feathered friends are dwindling this time of year and setting up feeders helps them out. Turn it in to a fun tradition by choosing a tree or bush to decorate with popcorn and dried berry or fruit garland, pinecone feeders, and whatever else you can think of. This makes a lovely winter solstice activity.

 

Go on full moon walks (yes, even in the colder months). Some of our senses become more heightened and others won’t be as strong. You’ll see sights you don’t often get to and possibly hear unique sounds (or even a wonderful silence). It’s an experience you’ve got to try.

Whether it’s in your neighborhood or in a park, on pavement or on a trail, make sure you are prepared:

  • Bring a flashlight or headlamp. It’s so much more fun to use it only when necessary but if you’d prefer to leave it on, try covering the lens with red cellophane to help your sight stay adjusted to the dark.
  • If you walk a trail, know where it goes and tell someone where you’re headed. Take extra precaution or avoid wooded trails altogether during hunting season.
  • Wear reflective gear.
  • Be aware of traffic.

Bring nature inside. One tradition that can be very enjoyable is creating a nature display and changing it out with the shift in seasons. The first day of each season is the perfect time for a refresh. Preparing your collected nature provides and opportunity for reflection on experiences and personal connections to nature. There are also some health benefits to brining a bit of outdoors inside. For children, collecting and displaying nature finds is an affirmation of their interests and provides opportunity for further inquiry and connection.

If you incorporate nature into your traditions or will be trying some of these ideas, please do share by leaving us a comment.

Until next time,

Stay safe, be well and get outside & be curious.

Winter Hours

Beginning November 1, 2020, Topsham Public Library will change our operating hours to our new winter schedule. The new schedule is as follows:

Monday  9am-5pm

Tuesday  9am-6pm

Wednesday  9am-6pm

Thursday  9am-6pm

Friday  9am-5pm

Saturday 9am-5pm

Sunday  closed

As always, if it is storming, check our website (topshamlibrary.org) or call us (725-1727) to make sure we are open before venturing out.

Remember masks are required and we ask that you sanitize your hands as you enter the building. There is a hands-free sanitizer dispenser stationed right inside our main doors.

We hope to see you soon! And if you would prefer not to come into the building, we are still offering parking lot pickup.

Take care and be safe! (And don’t forget – clocks go back one hour this weekend!)

What’s so great about late October?

Here are seven splendid things to enjoy outside during the latter half of October:

O – Obviously, the foliage! Peak hits our area around the first and second week of the month so it has just passed but there is still plenty of color to notice. Take a moment to pause and appreciate the foliage found around the library next time you visit. As leaves start to fall, take notice of which trees hold on to their leaves (this is called marcescence).

Although leaves of deciduous trees tend to steal the show, grasses are worth noticing. Many change colors as well, from shades of rich copper to dark red and even purple.

C – Creature watching: Squirrels and chipmunks are beginning to stock up on food (and can be quite entertaining to watch!); skunks and racoons are searching for shelters; beavers are repairing and building up their lodges. If you catch a glimpse of any of these creatures, pause for a few moments and watch their activities. You may learn something new about these common critters.

T – Trail walking. We are fortunate enough to have quite a few trails nearby (a short one right behind the library) and fall is a fabulous time to take advantage. The days are cool, birds are still singing, leaves rustle overhead and crunch under foot and the scent in the air has shifted – it’s a full sensory experience!

O – Observing the full moon. This month are we are treated to two! The October 1st full moon is called the Harvest Moon, the second (a Blue Moon), is called the Full Hunter’s Moon. The Old Farmer’s Almanac states that “Some folks believe that this full Moon was called the Full Hunter’s Moon because it signaled the time to go hunting in preparation for winter. Since the harvesters had recently reaped the fields under the Harvest Moon, hunters could easily see the fattened deer and other animals that had come out to glean (and the foxes and wolves that had come out to prey on them).”

B – Bird watching. Birds are still migrating so you may catch a glimpse of a lesser seen species or two. There are also birds you’ll see in some seasons but not others. For example, while some American Robins stay, many migrate. You may notice that they have gone from your yard but can be found in other spots close by (like here at the library). Juncos and Carolina Wrens tend to be birds spotted in backyards during the fall and winter in our area but not typically throughout the summer. Are you noticing a change of feathered friends you see or a change in their behavior?

E – Embracing clear nights. It’s getting darker earlier and it’s not too cold to hang outside for a bit in the evenings to star gaze. Did you know that this month and next, Mars is at its closest point to Earth and at its brightest? NASA explains here. It’s also a great month to look for the galaxy of Andromeda – a spiral galaxy similar in appearance to our own Milky Way. Whatever you see, the night sky is a wondrous thing.

R – Reaping the harvest. It is possible to garden year round in Maine but this is typically the time to enjoy final big harvests of fresh produce. Whether you garden yourself or take advantage of local farm offerings, there is much to enjoy this time of year.

Until next time, be well, stay curious and get outside to notice nature!

Of Purple and Gold

From Monique

Strolling through our gardens and noticing the colors that remain, I was reminded of these words from one of my favorite books…

“The human eye is superbly equipped to detect these colors (purple & yellow) and send a signal pulsing to the brain. This doesn’t explain why I perceive them as beautiful, but it does explain why that combination gets my undivided attention. I asked my artist buddies about the power of purple and gold, and they sent me right to the color wheel: these two are complementary colors, as different in nature as could be. In composing a palette, putting them together makes each more vivid; just a touch of one will bring out the other. In an 1890 treatise on color perception, Goethe, who was both a scientist and a poet, wrote that “the colors diametrically opposed to each other . . . are those which reciprocally evoke each other in the eye.” Purple and yellow are a reciprocal pair.

Goldenrods and asters appear very similarly to bee eyes and human eyes. We both think they’re beautiful. Their striking contrast when they grow together makes them the most attractive target in the whole meadow, a beacon for bees. Growing together, both receive more pollinator visits than they would if they were growing alone… That September pairing of purple and gold is lived reciprocity; its wisdom is that the beauty of one is illuminated by the radiance of the other… When I am in their presence, their beauty asks me for reciprocity, to be the complementary color, to make something beautiful in response.”

~ from BRAIDING SWEETGRASS by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Do you have a favorite color combination found in nature? Favorite fall colors? Step outside, breathe the fresh air, and take a few moments to notice the nature around you.

Another look at the Libraries Build Business grant

 

 

Recently, we announced that Topsham Public Library was awarded a Libraries Build Business grant, an initiative of the American Library Association funded by Google to build capacity and expand our programming to small businesses and entrepreneurs.

We are excited about this new endeavor, but you might be asking yourself what will this look like. I spoke with Susan Preece, Director of Topsham Public Library and Nicole Jakubowski, staff member and assistant on this project, about what this funding actually means for Topsham Public Library and for our community.

If you are not familiar with grants let me give you a brief overview. Grants are one of the tools available to organizations like ours to help support our services. Grants are usually sponsored by other charitable groups and individuals and sometimes by governments or businesses. There is an application process and deadlines to meet. At one time, grants were very broad in what an applicant could do with the money they received; however, grants have become more focused and competitive. Organizations who receive funds must use them in accordance with the guidelines of the grant and provide documentation and reports to the grantor.

Through the Libraries Build Business grant, we received $38,200.00 which will be used to support our ongoing outreach to small business, entrepreneurs and job-seekers.  Some of the funds will be used to purchase new computers, train staff, cover space costs, and the like. Our goal is to help create a blue-print for our library and, hopefully others across the country to provide resources, help and tools to support our community’s economic vitality. Library staff will receive training to help them connect individuals with the right organizations and help as they move forward in their pursuits.

The focus is not on doing something new but in coordinating with proven organizations to reach the people who can benefit by their expertise. Organizations like Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber, Topsham Development, Inc., New Ventures Maine, and Maine Career Center are established organizations that assist those looking for employment or who may want to start their own business.

Not only does this grant help us here in Topsham, but the 13 libraries that received this award are also working together to create a playbook for any library in the nation who would like to build business.

If you are interested in more information or want to stay up to date on the developments, we have a website:

topshamlibrary.org/libraries-build-business/

“I’m Bored” Nature Fun Ideas

There’s still plenty of summer left and with many activities and summer camps cancelled, families face the challenge of coming up with more ways to engage their children through the warmer months. Perhaps you are feeling the same way? Whether you have children or not, you may find something on this list that will spark some new outdoor explorations.

National moth night was July 18th-26th but, really, it’s a fun activity to do during any summer night. Never heard of having a moth night? Check out National Moth Week’s website for how-to’s. You might be surprised to find out how many different types of moths visit your yard!

Moth night resources:

Many campgrounds are open but you don’t need to go far to have a fun campout experience. The Great American Campout offers lots of ideas for indoor and backyard camping. You’ll also find recipes, ideas for bringing the outdoors in, gear checklists and more. Grab your supplies and head out to your yard.

Camping resources:

Have you ever been pond dipping? There’s so much life in the water- some of it easy to observe, some you can see only with a microscope. Kids especially will be intrigued with what they find and will get a thrill from identifying the various critters. Watch out for those toe biters!

Pond life resources:

Go on a wildflower hunt. Create your own scavenger hunt like this one, bring along a field guide and identify them as you see them or, take photos and identify them later. These guides will assist you:

Create a sound map. What is a sound map? It’s very simple and can be done anywhere. All you need is a place to sit comfortably outside, a piece of paper, and something to write with. You’ll find all the information you need here. You can be as general as you’d like (“bird song”) or be more specific (“a black-capped chickadee singing”). It’s also interesting to separate man-made noises from the sounds of nature. This is an easy and engaging way to tune into your surroundings and connect with nature.

Have you ever tried your hand at building a shelter? Why not gather a couple of your favorite people and have a go? It’s a helpful skill to have and you’ll be left with a neat place to hang out and read a book whenever you could use a little alone time.

Shelter building resources:

Getting outside, especially being active outside, is a great way to stay healthy. If you’re looking for new places to explore, these sites have just the place:

Be sure to follow safety guidelines when enjoying outdoor activities. The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust has some good information here.

And here at the Topsham Public Library, be sure to stop by our Dahlov Ipcar story walk! Outside time, movement and story – a great combination!

Wishing you good health. Until next time, stay curious and get outside to notice nature!

Returning to pre-covid operating hours

Topsham Public Library’s operating hours are changing and we are excited to say that we are returning to our pre-shutdown hours. So, beginning today, Monday, August 3 our hours are:

Mondays 9am-5pm

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays 9am-8pm

Fridays 9am-5pm

Saturdays 9am-4pm

Sundays closed.

We are seeing increased traffic every day, and it is so good to see you all! Though there is a limit of 20 people in the building at one time, we have not had to enforce it. You all have been really good about coming in, browsing without dilly-dallying and checking out. Even with some slight changes like requiring masks and sanitizing hands, it almost feels normal again.

Our meeting rooms and study rooms remain closed, but the public computers are available.

If you request items through interlibrary loan and you would rather not come into the library building to pick up your items when they’re ready, we are still offering parking lot pickup.

Due to CDC guidelines and protocols, we are only taking returns on Fridays beginning at noon through Sunday evenings through the outside drop boxes near the front doors. We are not assessing fines at this time, so don’t worry if you miss the deadline just return them the following weekend. (Returned items need to be quarantined, so we unlock the drop boxes Friday and noon and then lock them again early Monday morning. Then the items sit, untouched, for 72 hours, or more, before we check them in.)

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call us at (207) 725-1727.

Many of you have been so kind and expressed your appreciation that we are open. Let me assure you, we are as happy to see you as you are to see us!