Archive for the ‘Staff Blog’ Category

18 years and counting…

Posted on: October 6th, 2015 by Dan Weiss

Today marks 18 years since I started at the Fanwood Memorial Library. Phew!! 03-04-2008 10;00;33AM

When I came here my predecessor had been on the job 17 years and I couldn’t imagine such a thing. I remember thinking, if I’m still here 17 years from now just shoot me… and yet, here I am (please don’t shoot me).08-28-2006 09;27;50AM

So many changes since I started. In looking back through some early annual reports, I’m struck by a number of things, one of which being that I clearly hit the ground running. One indicator is how much grant money I was able to get to help make this library what it has become:
$75,000 in 1998;
$24,000 in 1999;
$5,000 in 2003;
$40,000 in 2005;
another $84,638 in 2005;
$150,000 in 2007
in total, I secured close to $500,000 in grant money for the library in the 10 years between 1998 and 2008… Wow!

Some non-financial highlights include:
** automating the entire library operation,
** recovery from multiple floods, multiple renovations on both levels,
** countless programs and service improvements,
** creating and maintaining multiple websites,
06-12-2008 11;29;30AM ** a wonderful year-long centennial celebration in 2003,
** a wildly successful and ongoing shared-services partnership with the Scotch Plains Public Library that continues to yield great benefits of all sorts to residents and library users in both communities,
** development of the nationally recognized award-winning program Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected which focuses on customer service skills to help libraries and librarians serve those in the ASD community more effectively,
** an ongoing, strong and supportive Friends of the Library group,
** establishing the library’s value as an emergency community gathering place during the 10-day disaster that Hurricane Sandy left in its wake,

Fanwoodstock IIIWe’ve hosted 1,000s of programs, a successful local film festival, a number of Fanwoodstock festivals, concerts, book groups, lectures, children’s programming and crafts, KristiYamaguchi and even had our share of famous guests including Dan1 Arnie Duncan (Secretary of Education), Kristi Yamagucci (Gold Medal Olympic Skater), Pat DiNizio (Smithereens), David Magee (Finding Neverland screenwriter), and Ann Hood (author), to mention a few.

More recently we created a new logo, a new website, had a successful ‘Close the Gap’ fundraising campaign, conducted a community survey, implemented Sunday hours, email notifications, and a complete technology upgrade and overhaul, developed a 5-year Strategic Plan and a 3-year Capital Plan and, most significantly, engaged an architect to examine the feasibility of a long overdue building improvement and expansion project.

But, perhaps most significantly, some things have remained constant – a strong focus on personal and intimate customer service, managing to maintain traditional library services while providing and keeping apace with new and emerging technologies, a commitment serve the varied needs of community of Fanwood, being a champion for literacy for residents of all ages, maintaining free and equal access to information and technology for all users, and positioning ourselves as a vital community resource that all Fanwoodians can take pride in.

Needless to say, I’ve been through many significant personal changes and events over the years, but another constant for me is Fanwood. This Borough has been a fantastic community to work for, and I’ll now take the occasion of my 18th anniversary here to say Thank You for the support all these years and I look forward to more shared success in the future.

Hello, Old Friend…

Posted on: June 30th, 2015 by Nancy Kipping No Comments


I’m talking about you, Willa Cather. Willa Cather Aren’t you the one who said, “Where there is great love, there are always miracles?” And wasn’t it H. L. Mencken who said about you that, “no romantic novel ever written in America, by man or woman, is one half so beautiful as My Antonia.” She may be a bit old fashioned to read, not unlike Edna Ferber or Sinclair Lewis (have you read Dodsworth lately, or ever?); but reading these books are a real treat. They are a cool read for a Summer afternoon.

Such stories seem anachronistic in present-day America, but the monumental rigors of pioneer life are still a vivid memory for many on the Plains. Willa Cather’s My Antonia is about the hardy people who risked their lives and fortunes in a harsh new land; Cather had the great good fortune to have lived among the first generation of white settlers in 1880s Nebraska, and she gives witness to their time and place in such a way that American literature will never forget them.

My Antonia, following O Pioneers (1913) and The Song of the Lark (1915), completes the trilogy of Cather’s best-known Nebraska novels. Critic H. L. Mencken thought My Antonia to be the most accomplished and, reviewing it in 1919, shortly after it was published, he wrote, “her style has lost self-consciousness; her feeling for form has become instinctive. And she has got such a grip upon her materials… I know of no novel that makes the remote folk of the Western prairies more real… and I know of none that makes them seem better worth knowing.”

From GOODREADS: Wilella Sibert Cather was born in Back Creek Valley, Virgina (Gore) in December 7, 1873. Her novels on frontier life brought her to national recognition. In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her novel, One of Ours (1922), set during World War I. She grew up in Virginia and Nebraska. She then attended the University of Nebraska, initially planning to become a physician, but after writing an article for the Nebraska State Journal, she became a regular contributor to this journal.

Because of this, she changed her major and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English. After graduation in 1894, she worked in Pittsburgh as writer for various publications and as a school teacher for approximately 13 years, thereafter moving to New York City for the remainder of her life. She traveled widely and often spent summers in New Brunswick, Canada. In later life, she experienced much negative criticism for her conservative politics and became reclusive, burning some of her letters and personal papers, including her last manuscript. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1943. In 1944, Cather received the gold medal for fiction from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, an award given once a decade for an author’s total accomplishments. She died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 73 in New York City.

My favorite is O Pioneers, although I do enjoy reading, and rereading, My Antonia. Perhaps you would like to give my old friend a try. I hop you like it. And don’t foget, I have lots of old friends. Just ask me about them.

Years of Wonder

Posted on: May 1st, 2015 by Dan Weiss

There’s never been a doubt in my mind that the library is an integral and essential part of the fabric of Fanwood, but this reminiscence from local resident Susan Schott Karr just confirms it. Her family members are still frequent library visitors, and I was delighted when she offered up this beautiful memory of the library from 1969, and her involvement here as a 14 year old library page… a mere 46 years ago. Some of my personal highlights from her story are, “I made ninety cents an hour, half of which I had to put in the bank to save for college, the other half of which I had to use to pay for clothes” and “I took on the understanding that growing out of childhood and putting away a child’s story did not necessarily go hand in hand. I couldn’t get enough.
The deep routes and direct connection we have to the community is a big part of what makes this library special and we still maintain the tradition of hiring teens for pages, which often provides them their first real job experience.
Thanks so much to Susan for sharing her memories, and all the Schotts for their support!

We invite other residents to share their Fanwood Library experiences… please email Dan Weiss, Director to learn how:

Years of Wonder: The Library, 1969


Guest post by Susan Schott Karr – July 31, 2013

Unless you count babysitting, working as a “page” at the Fanwood Memorial Library constituted my first real job. I’m not sure how I heard about the opening: it may have been due to a post on the library’s bulletin bard. I loved the library and spent a good deal of time there already, perusing the stacks, looking for the next magical discovery. I’d been going since the days when we lived in our Farley Avenue house. At that time, my mother dragged us all a mile up the street and up a hill, with her own hands on the handlebars of the big black baby buggy. During the summers, we went once a week, holding hands as we crossed the street, looking both ways, staying together.

Once in a while, I’d have a dream in which I got locked in the library overnight. How thrilling! I had all those hours to read from Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books, which he hadn’t written, yet had named after twelve colors, from blue to pink to lilac to violet, or to explore the thirteen titles Frank Baum wrote as sequels to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, or to reread my pick of Carolyn Keene’s mysteries.

At age fourteen, getting a job at the library seemed equivalent to having another happy dream. By now, we’d been in our newer (150 years old instead of 200), bigger house, a former carriage house with hay and horseshoes still stuck inside the walls, for about five years. We lived across the street from what we called “the big house.” (We used this term about any big house.) Mr. and Mrs. Wilson lived with their two corgis in the three story, white-pillared place that boasted a cherry tree-from which the Wilsons invited us to pick fruit for pies that my mother would make-as well as an abandoned, slate-bottomed built-in pool that harbored a scrim of lily pads. The Wilson’s yard stretched from our street all the way to the next, and from the other end of their yard, one had only to cross the street to arrive at the library.

Mr. Wilson, a retired AT&T executive, encouraged me to cut through their yard to get to work, and I began to make the two-minute commute after school, three days a week. I made ninety cents an hour, half of which I had to put in the bank to save for college, the other half of which I had to use to pay for clothes-shoes and coats, patterns and material, zippers and buttons.

I worked as a page for two years. At first, I shelved books from a cart after library patrons returned them. Then I began to mend the books, applying book glue to torn spines and plastic covers for protection. I met another girl, Janelle Faunce, who was a year older and also worked as a page.

I told Janelle about my mission to read all of the Classics by age thirty-five. She told me she read at least a book-if not tow-a night, preferring mysteries and sci-fi and thrillers. When the elderly librarian women weren’t looking, we’d sit in the stacks and explore the rows of books and shared suggestions for what to read next. One of my best finds? Isaac Asimov’s three Understanding Physics volumes: Motion, Sound & Heat; Light, Magnetism & Electricity; and The Electron, Proton & Neutron.

Janelle and I took to giggling a lot, which didn’t sit well in the near-silent atmosphere, and the urge to control ourselves seemed to make it all the more worse.

Before long, Janelle and I had memorized the Dewey Decimal System and could direct a visitor to just the title he or she wanted to find. We made it a bit of a head game, directive the visitor not just to, let’s say, the 720s for architecture, but to 726 for “buildings for religious purposes” or 729 for “design and decoration.” I’m not sure if our motive was to commit the System to memory or to get a rise out of the people asking the questions.

Mrs. Paltz, the head librarian, had one firm rule. If there were no library patrons in need of help, no books to shelve or repair, we could sit at the checkout desk and read. Janelle and I had begun to spend more time sitting on the tall swivel stools behind this high desk, ready to slip a checkout card out of the pockets in the back of the books and use our rubber stamp and red ink pad to mark the next due dates. We made quick work of some of our duties so as to make more free time to read.
The librarians had a shelf of books on hold, typically bestsellers that people had called in about, and we’d promised to save. The callers were often tardy about coming to collect their titles, providing a gold mine for Janelle and me. We took to reading current titles and The New York Times’s bestsellers-Chaim Potok’s The Promise, Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal, Daphne du Maurier’s The House on the Strand. Much as I loved reading these books in waiting, I began to wonder if I might get sidetracked from my mission to finish the Classics. But that didn’t stop me. I kept on reading.

For two years, I cut through the Wilsons’s yard, first three days a week, and then five. My pay rate rose from ninety cents to a dollar twenty-five. During the summer leading up to eleventh grade, I took on more responsibility. Mrs. Paltz sent me down to the lower floor to man the children’s library. My duties continued as before, except for one addition. I ran the summer reading program for the kids. I read over our visiting children’s book summaries, written in their individual blue books, listened to them tell me about their favorite parts of a book and why they liked or disliked what they’d read. My keenest memory, however, had to do with applying the reading-when not working rule from the floor above.

Although my parents had always told me stories and read to me, as a child, before bed every night, they, of course, had run out of time to cover some beloved tales. Sitting in the quiet of the library now, I discovered titles previously unknown to me. I read Francis Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, and Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince. I took on the understanding that growing out of childhood and putting away a child’s story did not necessarily go hand in hand. I couldn’t get enough.