Thursday, March 19, 2015

Nutrition Information You Can Trust on the Internet

March is National Nutrition Month, but where can consumers find believable nutrition advice on the internet? If you search for information on vitamins or nutrition, you will be barraged by advertisements for costly so-called dietary supplements that may put a dent in your pocketbooks, but may not have any proven medical value or, even worse, might be harmful to your health.

The library Reference Department recently got an email regarding a post on this blog about 'My Pyramid Tracker' which was a website designed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help people track their food intake and make the best food choices for their health. The Pyramid Tracker was replaced by 'Choose My Plate' so the links in the old blog post no longer work.

Take a look at the new Department of Agriculture website called '' People can create an account for free with the 'Supertracker' to keep a list of what they eat and all the calories and nutrients of the foods. There is a daily food plan for various age groups from pre-schoolers to mothers-to-be to dieters, and a BMI calculator on the website. There are daily tips, budget advice for shopping, a Supertracker Toolkit for employers to encourage employees to eat a healthy diet and maintain regular exercise habits. There is so much on this website and it is all free and all supported by credible research about nutrition and health. The website 'About Us' page states:
" provides practical information to individuals, health professionals, nutrition educators, and the food industry to help consumers build healthier diets with resources and tools for dietary assessment, nutrition education, and other user-friendly nutrition information. As Americans are experiencing epidemic rates of overweight and obesity, the online resources and tools can empower people to make healthier food choices for themselves, their families, and their children."

USDA Choose My Plate Logo

Monday, March 16, 2015

Book Group Reads Hannah Kent's 'Burial Rites'

The Berkeley Heights Public Library's evening  book group read Hannah Kent's 'Burial Rites' for our March 10 discussion. This first novel by Australian author Kent retells the story of the last public execution in Iceland in 1830. The story of Agnes Magnusdottir, a poor servant accused and convicted of murdering her lover and employer, is told partly from Agnes' point of view and is accompanied by some archival documents from the case as well as poetry written by Agnes and another Icelandic poet. The book group members liked the book and found the historic rural Icelandic setting very well described. Obviously the conclusion is known and the character of Agnes and the subject matter are dark and depressing. The rural poverty and the brutally cold weather set a bleak tone to the book, but for fans of historical fiction, this book is very well researched and will interest fans of other Nordic fiction and mysteries. The book will be made into a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence as Agnes, so check this one out now before the movie drives demand.

The Guardian review of Burial Rites
New York Times review of Burial Rites 
Sydney Review of Books review of Burial Rites
Hannah Kent's author page
Literary Iceland, the library's Pinterest board includes photographs about 'Burial Rites'

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bryant and May and the Bleeding Heart by Christopher Fowler

A new Bryant and May 'Peculiar Crimes Unit' mystery is always eagerly awaited by fans of Christopher Fowler's British crime series and this one lived up to the anticipation for me. 'Bryant and May and the Bleeding Heart' (2014) showcases Arthur Bryant, the more eccentric detective of the venerable old pair. Bryant always meanders to the solution by studying ancient London archaeology and myths and consulting his extensive network of psychics, witches and warlocks and other arcane researchers and experts. This mystery somehow brought together New Resurrectionists (grave-robbing medical students) and missing ravens from the Tower of London. The PCU is now under attack, or management reform, by an MBA-wielding young woman who spouts lines like, 'I've objectivised an agenda for an informal intracommunicational face session... I'm here to discuss administrative flexibility and workforce incentivisation, bringing you up to speed on the public interface components of your skill sets.' (39) To which Bryant reacts just as we all wish we could in that kind of meeting,
'Bryant tapped at his hearing aid. 'I'm sorry,' he said loudly, 'I think this thing's on the blink. I can see your lips moving but all I can hear is rubbish.' (40)
Wonderful satire of this kind of management style and the usual arcane London history and archaeology plus smart, unconventional, but highly successful characters make this a perfect mix for fans.
Resurrectionists (1847), by Hablot Knight Browne.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Dreaming of Summer

I want tomatoes in my yard.

I also want lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, strawberries and pretty flowers and green grass. I miss all those things. As I was shoveling snow (again) from my walkway to get to my car so I could brush the snow off (again) and dig the snow mound left by the plow (again) I took a mental inventory of what I remember is buried under all that snow and what I will plant in my postage stamp sized garden patch this year. Tomatoes are first. I perused the garden books in 635 and found the tomato books in 635.6. There it was - American Tomato: The Complete Guide to Growing and Using Tomatoes (635.6 HEN). This book not only talks about growing tomatoes and eating them, it gives a brief history of the tomato. The plant is native to South America and was first cultivated in Central America long before it traveled to Europe then back to the new world to be grown in New Jersey. I know I will need compost for a successful garden so I plan on reading a few of the compost books in our collection. If you are interested in composting (and who isn’t?) you can find books on the subject in 631.87. I also found books on gardening in a small space (Grow Great Grub: Organic Foodfrom Small Spaces by Gayla Trail. 635.0484 TRA) and growing herbs to add flavor to next summer’s bounty (635.7).

Thanks to Melanie E. for this blog post. We are all really, really ready for summer. Take out a gardening book from the 635 section to start dreaming of and planning your garden.
Forsythia Hedge behind the Library - we are waiting
Winter 2013- 2014 at the Library
Winter 2013 - 2014

Reading about Very Bad Winters

People everywhere are commenting (I am trying to avoid saying 'complaining') about the long, cold, snowy winter we are having here in New Jersey. The stiff-upper lip to which we all aspire is getting kind of old, or whiny even, if a lip can be described as whiny. Plus, it is required  by law that New Jerseyans cannot complain about snow without qualifying the complaint by saying 'at least it's not as bad as Boston.' Boston has the distinction this winter of making Buffalo, New York look, if not tropical, at least not as snowy as it usually looks. Early in the season, Buffalo got something like a gazillion feet of snow all at once, but now Boston is taking the lead with at least two gazillion tons of snow since the New Year. I say a gazillion because I just don't want to look up the actual depressing statistics, but the gist is that the Northeastern part of the United States has had way too much snow this year and we are all awaiting spring eagerly. While we are awaiting spring, you could read about winters that were way worse than this one. Two titles leap to mind immediately:
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder (J WIL) which is the 'Little House' book about the winter of 1880 - 1881. Laura and her family almost starved and were stuck in that prairie house that probably wasn't as cozy as it appeared on the Little House TV show.
The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin (978.02 LAS) describes the huge blizzard of 1888, the harrowing storm which shut down the Northeast and piled so much snow that it lingered well into spring.
Now those were terrible winters and what made it all worse is that the modern conveniences we now take for granted were not even invented yet, like the ability to drive in heated comfort to the supermarket before a storm to get more milk, bread and frozen pizzas or to curl up in front of a fake fire app on our tablet. No, a little appreciation of truly awful winters might just warm you up while you are waiting for spring to arrive.

Read Ellen's review of an Icelandic winter mystery in Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason  
(MYS ARN,  note that this title is filed by the author's first name in the Icelandic tradition.)
Research the blizzard of 1888 in the library's New York Times database for coverage of the event as it happened. Go to the Databases and Articles page to find this and other library databases that you can use from home.
Browse through the beautiful art book  Impressionists in Winter, effets de neige by  Charles S. Moffett (758.1 MOF) which documents the exhibit of the same name at the Phillips Collection in 1998, featuring paintings from the late 19th century which was very snowy in the United States and Europe. The Sisley painting below is owned by the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. If you visit Washington, DC, be sure to add the Phillips Collection to your list of museums to visit.
Snow at Louveciennes by Alfred Sisley 1873

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

'Every Patient Tells a Story' - especially if they are 'highlighter yellow'

This book review was originally posted on our blog on 8/29/2009. Today, while looking for books on health careers for a patron, I spotted the book on the shelf at 616.075 SAN among the many books written by doctors about medicine.  I recommend this book for young people interested in a health career, for patrons who enjoy medical TV shows, and for anyone who likes a good medical puzzle.

Every Patient Tells a Story

Lisa Sanders, MD writes the monthly column Diagnosis for the New York Times Magazine and is a consultant for the television series House, MD. Dr. Sanders was a broadcast journalist specializing in medical stories before deciding to become a doctor as her second career. She now teaches at the Yale School of Medicine as well as being a practicing internist. She collects stories of interesting diagnoses and writes about them in her NYT column and now has a book out, Every Patient Tells a Story, medical mysteries and the art of diagnosis (2009) which recounts not only the stories of patients whose illnesses were hard to diagnose, but also discusses the diagnostic process and the importance of the physical exam, a fast-disappearing art apparently as high-tech tests replace that skill in many cases.

In the introduction, the case of a young woman so jaundiced that she is "highlighter yellow" (p. xii) but does not have hepatitis, is solved by an internist who takes her history again, examines her, rereads her chart and test results and has an "aha" moment where he puts together all the clues to come up with a rare disease which he then verifies by a trip to the library and a close look at her irises to see if there is a golden ring around the outer edge. If you have watched the TV show House, you may recognize this disease from one episode.

I suspect that my friends, family and colleagues will be glad that I have finished the book so that I will no longer regale them with alarming stories of medical near-misses while they are dining. Librarians who took their lunch in the staff room this week provided a captive audience for my chapter by chapter synopses of this book. I will check it in and now it goes to the patron who saw it on my desk and asked to be put on hold for it. Enjoy, but don't come down with every symptom you read about. That's "Intern's Disease," a manifestation of the power of suggestion.

Every Patient Tells a Story is non-fiction that will appeal to fans of medical novels by Patricia Cornwell, Robin Cook, Michael Crichton, Michael Palmer, Abraham Verghese or Tess Gerritson.
Also of interest: The Medical Science of House

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Miss P. the Best in Show Beagle and the Doggy Dewey Decimal Number

Congratulations to Miss P., the adorable Beagle who was selected Best in Show last night at Westminster Dog Show. If looking at her cute little face doesn't make you want to run out and get a dog, I don't know what will. The library can help with that. Run directly to the shelves with the
Doggy Dewey Decimal number which is:
in libraries around the world that use the Dewey Decimal system. There you will find books on all breeds and on selecting, raising and training dogs.

For more Beagle mania, take a look at our post about Miss P.'s Grand-uncle Uno who won Best in Show in 2008: Uno the Beagle Wins Westminster Dog Show.
Miss P, (NBC photo of the Dog Show Winner)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Our Valentine's Day Conversation with the Library Computer

Art by AsdeF
Why don't I just blog about romance books today?  Searches of the library OPAC (Online Public Access Computer, formerly known as the card catalog) tell us that:
# items (books+) in library with keyword 'Valentine' = 203
# items (books+) in library with keyword 'Valentine' upstairs only (ie: not kid's books) = 106
#DVD's in library with keyword 'Valentine' = 25
#books with keyword 'love' in library = too many to count. That query caused our online catalog to give up and answer '250', which is what it says when the number is larger than 250. It just gives up and expects the term to be narrowed or qualified in some way to bring the number below 250. Sometime it is difficult to 'heart' the library catalog. It is an ornery computer servant, like HAL, that has its own rules, regardless of what we want to ask it. I imagine my conversation with HAL/OPAC would go like this:

Anne the Librarian: "How many books about love do we have, oh library computer?"
OPAC: "I'm sorry, Anne, I can't do that."
Anne the Librarian: "OK, so how about just adult books about love?"
OPAC: "I'm sorry, Anne, I can't do that."
Anne: "OK, would you believe, just books with the Library of Congress Subject Heading 'Love'?"
OPAC: "I'm sorry, Anne, you sound like Maxwell Smart, that is the wrong video entertainment format. I can't understand you."
Anne: "I am going to power you down now, OPAC. Good bye!"
OPAC: "Nooooo...."
Anne: "Mwah ha ha."

Happy Valentine's Day! We've got lots of books about romance and love at BHPL, more than 250 I'm guessing. Just ask at the Reference Desk.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Florida Authors for a Cold Winter in the Northeast

Funny Florida authors Picasa collage
New Jersey is experiencing another cold, snowy, icy, icky, or as the Scots would say, 'dreich,' winter season. Some of our snowbird patrons have escaped to Florida for the duration, but for those of us bundled up in our sweaters and boots and hats (and that's just indoors) -  who are toughing it out at home, some funny books from Florida authors may help warm you up, carry you off to warmer climes, or at least make you laugh and escape this northeast winter for a little while.

Dave Barry wrote a humor column for the 'Miami Herald' for years which was laugh-out-loud funny, especially if your sense of humor is an only slightly grown-up appreciation of the humorous potential of words like booger and laughing until milk comes out of your nose. Think third-grade lunch-room hijinks as related by a grown-up who never grew up. But don't take my word for it, read some of Dave's old columns on his website. Then for a novel-length dose of Dave Barry, read his latest book, Insane City.

Carl Hiaasen also writes for the 'Miami Herald', is also very funny, writes terrific books for adults and young adults and, if that isn't enough for one person, is friends with Dave Barry! In fact, Barry and Hiaasen played in 'The Rock Bottom Remainders,' a rock group made up of authors who write well but whose musical talent was more enthusiastic than skilled.

When I started thinking about Florida authors I enjoy reading, I discovered Tim Dorsey, who is now on my 'to read' list. Like Barry and Hiaasen, Tim Dorsey was also a journalist at a Florida newspaper and as I began to ponder what it is that causes Florida journalists to become humor writers, a quick Google search revealed a column by Janet Maslin of the New York Times comparing and contrasting these three authors. The three authors are considered to be what we in the library world call 'read-alikes.'  Read Ms. Maslin's review for more on these three authors. I love Dave Barry and Carl Hiaasen's writing so I'm off to the stacks to grab a Tim Dorsey novel starring 'Serge Storms' for the weekend.

Happy reading and stay warm!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Projected Shortage of 2015 Tax Forms at Libraries

2015 Tax Forms at the Berkeley Heights Public Library

The Berkeley Heights Public Library is always happy to receive free tax forms to hand out to our patrons yearly around this time through April 15. But this year, cutbacks to the IRS budget may result in a shortage of available tax forms for our patrons. We received an email from the IRS stating that because of budget cuts, the IRS Tax Forms Outlet Program has reduced the number of forms and publications they will provide to the Berkeley Heights Public Library and other U.S. public libraries this year. Only Forms 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ will be available in paper form for library patrons to
take home. They are projected to  be shipped at the end of January or early February.

As in past years, our reference librarians will help patrons find tax forms online and print them out. We charge ten cents per page for printouts.  Unfortunately, the instruction booklets which are so popular will not be sent by the IRS this year to libraries. We have printed a copy for patrons to use in the library and the instruction booklets can be viewed online and downloaded from the IRS website.

Copies of tax forms and instructions are available online for viewing and downloading at For forms and instructions to be delivered by mail, the IRS suggests ordering online at or by phone at 800-829-3676. If you are ordering by phone, expect long waits due to the IRS staff reductions.

As in previous years, New Jersey tax forms will not be mailed to the library, but can be printed from the New Jersey Department of Taxation website.

If you have questions or need help locating and printing tax forms, please
talk to our reference librarians
- in person at 290 Plainfield Avenue,
- by email:
- or by phone 908-464-9333

Library staff are putting together a binder of printed forms and instruction booklets for patrons to photocopy or use in the library. We can show patrons how to find forms or print them out for patrons, but we cannot give tax advice.

Related websites and articles

IRS Forms and Publications page

New Jersey Division of Taxation tax forms

AARP Tax Help locator

AP Article about IRS budget cuts

Federal Times report on IRS budget cuts

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Movies Shown at the Library in 2014

Did you miss one of our Third Thursday Movie Nights? All of the movies shown in 2014 are part of the library’s circulating collection and can be checked out.
January                       Shun Li and the Poet (Italian, Mandarin)

February                     Austenland (English)

March                         Aliyah (French)

April                            Broken (English)

May                             Clandestine Childhood (Spanish)

June                            Watchtower (Turkish)

July                              Son of the Bride (Spanish)

July                              Philomena (English)

July                              Barbara (German)

July                              The Hunt (Danish)                

August                        Caesar Must Die (Italian)

August                        Wadjda (Arabic)        

September                  The Lunchbox (Hindi, English)

October                      Chef (English)

November                   Words and Pictures (English)

December                   The Hundred Foot Journey (English)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Borrow DVDs from Your Public Library

Borrowing DVDs at Your Public Library - our new ratings system

Can  you believe it? A new year is just hours away with all the hope and anticipation new beginnings promise. At Berkeley Heights Public Library, we are starting 2015 with a few changes that will make borrowing DVDs easier for our library users.  DVD boxes will now have visible rating stickers to help distinguish G, PG, PG-13 and R films.  We are making these changes to assist parents and caregivers in choosing appropriate viewing materials, but remember that these ratings are subjective and not intended to endorse, limit or restrict use.  Many animated PG films will be moved to the row of children’s DVDs - who knew so many animated films geared to family viewing have PG ratings?  In deciding which films to move, I have been reading reviews and ratings on several websites.  The following have been most helpful:  Kids-in-mind movie ratings; Common Sense Media; Dove; Parent Previews; and Is This Movie Suitable.  I check so many reviews because of the range of opinions and the variety of criteria used to rate movies.
The staff is also changing the loan period of TV series which have multiple discs.  These titles will circulate for 14 days, up from 7 days.  Now it will be easier to watch an entire season of Downton Abbey or Longmire without binge viewing.  Please be patient, this transition will be gradual until we capture every series/season. 
To all our library patrons:  Enjoy a Happy and Healthy New Year filled with interesting films - borrowed for free from your local library, of course!
The Berkeley Heights Public Library

- S. Bakos