A celebration of books

Welcome to our new site and the maiden voyage of the staff blog!
Check back here periodically to meet the Fanwood Library staff, get to know them
and what they like to read, and do in their spare time.

I figured I’d take the first stab at this thing, so let’s get started:

After many months of development we’re proud to launch our brand new website… and first blog entry. All in all, this was a big undertaking and of course it’s a work in progress. First off – a big thank-you is due to Susan Neuhaus of Neustudio who designed this site for us and patiently helped guide us through.

I’ve been the director of the library now for close to 17 years! Phew! That’s a lot of water under the bridge… and in the basement. When I started here in 1997 my first task, besides trying to figure out how to be a library director and just what that meant, was to automate the library. We did that and joined LMxAC to help us into the computer age. We now enjoy a long-standing and vital shared partnership with our neighbor in Scotch Plains and we continue to explore ways to effectively serve the community and stay current. The next couple of years look to usher in some new changes and challenges at the library as we address our space and accessibility needs and lay the groundwork for the next 50 years – so stay tuned for more information about all of that.

These days, when people find out I’m a librarian, the conversation always seems to come around to, “are books even still relevant?, isn’t everything online?” and “now that we have the internet why do I need libraries and libraries anymore?“… and on in that vein. There’s been plenty written on the subject but consider that in the relatively short time I’ve been a librarian (since 1990) I’ve seen the rise of the automated library, for both circulation and catalogs, computerized and online resources, worked with DOS, Windows, Linux thin-clients, networks and more and yet it’s the book that remains steadfast and constant – and, in my opinion, will always.

The book is the most perfect and elegant information delivery device ever devised (though for another opinion, see the youtube reference below) – it’s easy to carry, provides random access, and then there’s the smell of it, the weight of it, the comfort of it on your shelves and so much more. And while there are definitely some benefits to reading a file on an electronic handheld device that a physical book doesn’t provide, note the irony in the way that every attempt at an e-Book reader does its level best to mimic the qualities we love in that hard-copy paper book. We’ve seen technologies come and go (remember 8-tracks, video cassettes, books-on-tape), and now that libraries have invested in DVDs I suspect we’ll see the day when streaming and online books, audiobooks and films send all those discs out to pasture. Only time will tell, and there is of course room for all of these things to co-exist, but as long as the library is there (as the Fanwood Memorial Library is) to nurture early literacy and love of reading and books, provide the space and resources for individual and community growth, interaction and transformation, I believe the future of books and libraries remains bright.

And so let me close this first outing with what I love the about libraries most, besides the people who love and use them… BOOKS! Here are just a few of my recent and perennial favorite reads, fiction and non-fiction, recent and otherwise – for your consideration:

  • Far From the Tree: parents, children and the search for identity by Andrew Solomon – explores the ways that parents of marginalized children – being gay, dwarf, severely disabled, deaf, autistic, schizophrenic, the product of rape, or given to criminal tendencies or prodigious musical talent, to name a few he chose – have been transformed and largely enriched by caring for their high-needs children.
  • Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: a natural history in four meals asks the seemingly simple question: What should we have for dinner? Tracing from source to table each of the food chains that sustain us — whether industrial or organic, alternative or processed — he develops a portrait of the American way of eating that will make you think everytime you sit down to a meal.
  • Charlotte Rogan’s “The Lifeboat” a complex and engrossing first outing; a stunning and suspenseful tale of survival that offers a terrifying vision of human nature.
  • Satan is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers by Charlie Louvin – Charlie’s slant on one of country music’s all time great and iconic brother duet acts. Charlie, a solid, dependable gospel singer who went on to a long and celebrated solo career, and Ira, an alcoholic, mandolin-smashing hell-raiser who died young and was banned from the Grand Ole Opry after his wife shot him for trying to choke her.
  • The Magicians by Lev Grossman – High school senior Quentin Coldwater assumes that magic isn’t real, until he finds himself admitted to a very secretive and exclusive college of magic in upstate New York. Psychologically piercing and dazzlingly inventive, The Magicians, the prequel to the New York Times bestselling book The Magician King and the forthcoming The Magician’s Land, is an enthralling fantasy, coming-of-age tale about magic practiced in the real world-where good and evil aren’t black and white, and power comes at a terrible price. —George R. R. Martin says, “The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea. … Grossman’s sensibilities are thoroughly adult, his narrative dark and dangerous and full of twists. Hogwarts was never like this.
  • And perhaps my all-time favorite, and one that I can read again and again, the incomparable The Count of Monte Cristo by the great Alexandre Dumas – It is no exaggeration to say “Monte Cristo”, published in 1846, still ranks as one of the best reads and most exciting stories imaginable, one every bit as good as anything Steven King or J.K. Rowling could ever conjure up.

And as I mentioned, there has been a LOT written on the future of the book and libraries, but if you’re interested in pondering the fate and future of books a bit more, take a look at:

  • and take a moment to ponder the truth’s in this hilarious and fantastic YouTube offering that offers some thought-provoking perspective on evolving technologies: The Medieval Help Desk

See you at the library,
Dan

Dan Weiss About Dan Weiss
Dan is currently the director of the Fanwood (NJ) Memorial Library. Since he accepted that position in 1997 he has dramatically taken this small suburban library into the 21st century with improvements in facilities, staffing and service. He has served locally, regionally and state wide on many civic and library related committees and boards. In his current position Dan gets to do it all, from overseeing web development, graphics design and renovations, to public relations and fund-raising, all while being the go-to-guy for overflowing toilets and salting the front walk. With his colleague, Meg Kolaya, Dan started the consulting firm Library Connections that developed the nationally recognized and award-winning Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected project. They produced a customer service training video (updated in 2014) and website primarily for library staff to help them serve individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families more effectively. Dan and Meg have many customer service and autism workshop presentations, keynote addresses, online courses and consulting both locally and around the country. After hours, Dan continues his varied music career, now with well over 50 years of performing, singing and playing the guitar. He loves all kinds of music with a special fondness for vocalists (Hank Williams, Ray Charles, Billy Holiday and George Jones), bluegrass, honky-tonk, and acoustic roots country.

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One Response

  1. Gloria Rusnak says:

    What a surprise! And ahead of schedule, too. Very impressive and complete.

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