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Being Puppy Prepared

April 23, 2014

Photo of the author's dog, ZarraI’ve had family dogs, where the responsibility of training, walking and caring for the animal was shared among four people, but Zarra, my red heeler, is the first dog I can completely call my own.  She’s spastic, energetic and, as her name implies, bizarre. When I first adopted her, I thought my previous experience raising dogs would be enough to reign in her crazy, but after a few months her behavior immediately alerted me that I was very, horrifyingly, wrong.

I constantly struggle to stop her from violently shaking her leash in an excited fit, and although I love the sound of her beautiful voice, her infatuation with barking is infuriating.

On the bright side, she is wicked smart, has more personality than three dogs combined and is the perfect snuggle companion when she’s not attempting to thrust me from the bed with tiny outstretched legs.

All this hassle led me to a moment of brilliance where I thought, why, I work at a library, don’t I? We have a dog training collection, don’t we? Then why don’t I check myself out some much-needed books that will enlighten me on how to reign in my fiendish friend?

And that’s what I’m here to tell you, all of you pessimistic people out there thinking of getting yourself a puppy this summer, or even adopting a dog from Second Chance. Make sure you properly equip yourself to handle your rowdy pup, and be sure to do it while they are still malleable little innocent beings unlike my red furred friend.

 Okay, I want a dog. Where do I start?

Book cover for Choosing the Dog That's Right for YouChoosing the Dog That’s Right for You” by Sam Stall

“Choosing the Dog That’s Right for You” goes over every canine breed and their individual quirks. At first, the type of breed you’re thinking of adopting might not seem important past looks, but trust me, it’s very important. This book covers factors you probably weren’t even considering, like known health issues and activity needs. Stall covers everything you’ll need to know from the amount of time you’ll spend caring for a Yorkshire Terrier’s hair, to the awful watch-dog ability of the overly friendly Huskie, to the loud and overactive personality of the Jack Russell Terrier.

Okay, I got my dog, What now?

Book cover for Good Dog, the Easy way to Train Your DogGood Dog! The Easy Way to Train your Dog” by Sarah Whitehead

This is a quick and easy-to-use book packed full of useful pictures and one-page training guides. I flipped through it multiple times, using the images to remind myself of the step-by-step process of whatever training technique I was currently working on. The pictures are extremely helpful, and it covers a wide range of tricks from the simple sit to the complex rollover.

 I want more training!

Book cover for Love That Dog Training ProgramThe Love That Dog Training Program” by Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz

Where “Good Dog!” is simple, “The Love That Dog Training Program” is detailed, thorough and complex. Sylvia-Stasiewicz sets up a day-by-day training schedule for you to follow over a five week-long course. Although I didn’t apply the Sylvia-Stasiewicz program, I do wish I’d had the opportunity when I first got Zarra. Instead, I found myself flipping through this book and using its troubleshooting section in an attempt to fix my dog’s behavioral problems while implementing its cookie sit and stay training techniques.

 More! More! More!

Columbia Public Library has over three shelves of books on dog training, and I highly recommend coming in and checking them out whether you have a troublesome pup on your hands or are thinking about getting yourself one.

Good luck! Be patient!

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The Gentleman Recommends: Flann O’Brien

April 21, 2014

Book cover for The Third Policeman by Flann O'BrienThe most important thing I can tell you about Flann O’Brien is: you should not read the introduction to “The Complete Novels” until after you’ve read the complete novels. Perhaps the introducer believed he was writing an afterword, or perhaps he believes he lives in a surreal utopia where everyone has read Flann O’Brien. Regardless, he drops spoilers like race cars during a bolt shortage, including a huge one that will change the way you read “The Third Policeman.” Fortunately, I long ago developed a suspicion of introductions and always save them for last, so it was with a self-satisfied smirk, wagged finger of admonishment and chest-puffed entreaty of “don’t be a monster that spoils stuff” that I greeted the introducer’s ghastly act of revealing the end of the “The Third Policeman,” where the reader should discover for themselves that [spoiler removed by editor].

Flann O’Brien, much like Batman or a rapper, has more than one name. His realest name is Brian O’Nolan, and, in addition to Flann, he also wrote as Myles na gCopaleen, which I presume is the result of several typos and an urge to be the most inscrutable superhero ever. Unlike my previous recommendations whose recommending came at least partially in the service of bribing them to be my friends, any relationship with O’Brien would be awkward and one-sided as the man died on April Fools’ Day in 1966. (Which, if one has to die, must be the best day to do so. Think of the incredulous responses when his friends and loved ones were notified!)

“The Third Policeman” begins with the narrator confessing to murder. From there it is a whirlwind consisting of a plot to obtain the deceased’s fortune; asides concerning the ludicrous theories of the philosopher de Selby (whom the narrator is obsessed with and had been planning to write a book on), such as his belief that night is an illusion caused by an accretion of black gases, that the earth is sausage-shaped and that with a large enough series of mirrors one is capable of seeing into the past; and absurd policemen whose fixations on bicycles, high-fallutin’ rhetoric and incomprehensible mathematics provide much of the fuel for this spectacular comedy.

There’s also some spectacular horror. In addition to murder, there is a conversation with a ghost, a journey into a surreal landscape where a police station looks two-dimensional, as if “it was painted on the sky,” an alliance with an army of one-legged men, some incomprehensible mathematics and a bicycle painted a color that drives anyone who sees it mad. There’s a chest of drawers so flawless that the only thing the policeman found worthy of putting in it was a smaller replica, which presented the same problem, which meant it must contain a smaller replica and so on until there’s a chest so small it can’t be spotted with a magnifying glass. This is a rare book that is creepy, hilarious and uncanny within the same sentence. Also, the ending is neat.

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Earth Day Approaches

April 18, 2014

Are you ready to celebrate your momma? Don’t worry, Mother’s Day isn’t for another month, but you can celebrate your earth mother on April 22! Jefferson City celebrates Earth Day 2014 on Friday, April 25, and Columbia will hold its downtown Earth Day celebration the following Sunday (April 27th).  Until then, here are some books to get you in the Earth Day spirit.

Read a novel about our planet (fictional books):

  • Book cover for Flight Behavior by Barbara KingsolverFlight Behavior” by Barbara Kingsolver. A story of a woman and her family living in modern-day Appalachia, which discusses the intersection of rural poverty and the environment. Kingsolver has written many other books regarding the environment, including an account of her family living solely off food they and their neighbors grew for an entire year!
  • Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn. The novel begins with this newspaper advertisement: “TEACHER seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.” This philosophical work employs a monkey teacher and his human student to examine mythology’s effect on ethics and how it relates to sustainability.
  • Arctic Rising” by Tobias S. Buckell. In this futuristic tale, the arctic ice cap has almost completely melted, and militaries and corporations are racing to claim the newly exposed ocean oil.

Educate yourself on environmental issues (nonfiction books):

  • Book cover for Mycelium Running by Paul StametsMycelium Running” by Paul Staments. Learn about the mysterious world of mushrooms and how they can help save the world! Staments has discovered a way to use mushrooms’ microscopic mycelium to decompose toxic waste, reduce pathogens from agricultural watersheds, control insect populations and generally promote the health of our forests.
  • The Upcycle” by William McDonough. It’s rare to read a book that is optimistic about humanity’s future on earth, but according to this book we can save the health of our planet by taking a different approach to the way we live on it. Author William McDonough believes our ecological crisis is fundamentally a design problem and that we can (and must) create products that are designed to leave a positive impact on the environment instead of a negative or even a ‘zero impact.’
  • The Sixth Extinction” by Elizabeth Kolbert. Guess which species the title refers to? Yep, it’s us, womp womp. Earth has hosted five major extinctions over the past half a billion years, all of which caused the number of species on the planet to greatly diminish. “The Sixth Extinction” uses natural history and field reporting to chronicle the extinction unfolding before us.
  • Radical Homemakers” by Shannon Hayes. This book documents a new kind of homemaker: men and women who have chosen to return to their homes and families as an ecological and political act. These individuals seek to reclaim the role of a homemaker from corporations, capitalism and patriarchy in an attempt to find empowerment and fulfillment through nurturing their families and the environment.

Now get out there and do something! (books about gardening and green living):

  • Book cover for Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary AppelhofWorms Eat My Garbage” by Mary Appelhof. Take composting to a whole new level by using worms to recycle your waste.
  • The Vegetable Gardener’s Guide to Permaculture” by Christopher Shein. Go beyond gardening and create your own sustainable food ecosystem!
  • The Backyard Homestead.” Whether you live in town or in the country, learn how to raise chickens, grow and preserve food, keep bees and much more! Be sure to check out this book or one of our many other books on the subject of homesteading.
  • Cooking Green” by Kate Heyhoe. Take steps to reduce your carbon footprint starting in the kitchen! This book discusses ways you can cook and eat that are healthier for both you and the planet.
  • The Naturally Green Home” by Karyn Siegel-Maier. Save money and the environment by learning how to use non-toxic substances to clean your house.

Happy Earth Day!

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Libraries Change Lives

April 16, 2014

Book cover for This Book Is Overdue by Marilyn JohnsonThis week we’re commemorating National Library Week.  Many of us have a story about the role of libraries in our lives. Here is mine.

“Two books per visit per week,” said the unsmiling librarian as she handed me a library card. Neither the limits nor her demeanor surprised me, a 9-year-old Jewish girl growing up in Moscow in the 1950s — a city where everything was strictly regulated and rationed. I read the two books in two days and impatiently waited for the next visit.

I needed those visits. The books were filled with stories in which, no matter how grim things seemed, everything came out well in the end, rewarding honesty, bravery and wisdom — a striking contrast to my everyday experiences. I needed the security of the bookish world, with no worries about the future and no anti-Semitism, which followed me even to my library where, recorded below my age and address, appeared the label: Jewish.”

Thirty years later, a recent immigrant to the U.S. with a 13-year-old daughter, I stood in front of another librarian. This librarian was smiling.

“What did she say?” I asked my daughter, who already knew a little English and often served as my interpreter.

“She said, ‘Can I help you?’ “

Photograph of the Columbia Public Library“Ask if they have any books in Russian,” I requested.

“No, they don’t,” translated my daughter.

“Let’s go, then,” I said, disappointed.

The Midwestern town that became our home had greeted us with lush greenery enveloped in heat and humidity. Its look was startling to me — a small downtown, broad residential areas and numerous cars. Yet with few Russian speakers in town, it was a place where loneliness surrounded me with thick walls. Outside those walls, people were conversing, laughing and smiling. Inside, everything was quiet.

Meanwhile, life went on, demanding food and clothes, and, therefore, a job. “The library needs people to shelve books,” someone told me. The interview was short — the job didn’t require much English, just a knowledge of the alphabet. I started the next day.

Most of my new colleagues were young and carefree. They chatted with patrons and with one another, not paying much attention to me. Several older employees tried to break through the language barrier, but had little success.

Every day I handled hundreds of books whose meanings were hidden from me, mentally dividing them by size and color, as a child would. One day, while shelving, I found “English for Beginners” and began studying it on my own. Days became weeks, weeks became months, and gradually English letters started forming words I could recognize, words assembled into phrases, and — oh, miracle! — I was reading. It was a slow process, supported by dictionaries and accompanied by tears, but it was progress.

As my English improved, the library began to open up for me. The staff was friendly. There was no limit on how many books could be checked out. And nobody called me Jewish. Here I was just Russian.

After a while, I got promoted to the front desk — checking books in and out and answering simple questions.

“Today, I’ll get fired,” I thought to myself every morning. My vocabulary was still small, my comprehension limited, and my strong Russian accent amused the Midwestern patrons. Yet, many of them smiled at me, and I smiled back — first laboriously, and then, affected by the contagious amicability of the place, openly and sincerely.

I liked working in the library now. I liked its welcoming atmosphere and its air of learning.

Book cover for The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne“You should get a library degree,” my supervisor suggested.

A degree? In Moscow, people my age didn’t go back to school. Still, later that year, I filled out an application for the library science program at the local university. I had to look up the spelling of “science,” but I applied anyway. The next four years of my life were spent in two libraries — the public library where I worked and the university’s library, where I studied after work.

It’s now been 23 years since I arrived in America. My English has improved, and I no longer confuse “whales” with “Wales” and “tongue” with “tong.” I’ve learned that a stagecoach is not someone who coaches actors on a stage and that keeping people “posted” does not mean gluing stamps on their clothes. If someone “drops the ball,” I don’t look down to see where it hit the ground.

I am still with the same library. Every day I meet dozens of people, looking for a book to read, using computers or doing their homework. Sometimes, I spot new immigrants. They come from all over the world, so their looks vary, but the hesitant expression on their faces and their shy manners are similar. My heart goes out to them, for they are people like me, and I recognize the difficult road upon which they’ve embarked.

“They’ve come to the right place,” I think to myself. Then I smile and say, just as a librarian said to me a long time ago, “Can I help you?”

Tell us your own story!

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Vote for the 2014 One Read Book!

April 14, 2014

logo-web1April elections aren’t just about school boards and city councils. Each year the Daniel Boone Regional Library asks area readers to help choose that year’s One Read book. One Read is a community-wide reading program that invites adults in Mid-Missouri to read the same book over the summer and then attend programs based on that book during the month of September.

Between now and May 2, cast your vote for either “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” by Ben Fountain or “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Daniel Brown.

Learn more about these titles and cast your vote at oneread.org!

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Resources for Green Thumbs at Your Library

April 11, 2014

Book cover for Plantiful by Kristin GreenIt happens every year. The daytime temperatures start to creep above 50 or 60 degrees, and I’m suddenly overspending at the local garden center, filling my cart with a ridiculous number of pansies, their cheerful, bright faces turned towards the sun. I don’t have a green thumb. Half of what I plant each year dies from neglect, mismanagement or simple bad luck, but I still can’t keep myself from digging hopefully in the dirt each spring.

For gardeners and gardener wannabes, the library has plenty of books, programs and online resources for inspiration and education.

For ideas in your inbox, sign up for our monthly home and garden newsletter. Each month you’ll receive a list of 10 recently published titles, and the list always includes some new gardening books like “The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden” by Roy Diblik and “Plantiful” by Kristin Green.

Search our online program guide with the keyword “garden” and you’ll typically find one or two events scheduled for the coming months. At the Callaway County Public Library on April 17 at 6:30 p.m., you can learn about transplanting trees and seedlings (particularly helpful if your child brought home some sort of mystery tree for Arbor Day). And at 7:00 p.m. on May 28 at the Columbia Public Library, you can attend a garden and plant nutrition program to learn more about soil, compost and organic fertilizers.

If you want to investigate some local gardening resources, including educational opportunities and community organizations, check out our Sustainable Gardening and Farming subject guide, a collection of recommended links and online resources from our staff.

Happy planting!

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