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Happy 4th of July! June 29, 2012

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On Wednesday July 4th we will celebrate America’s birthday. Some of my earliest memories are the flags flying on front porches and the smell of hot dogs and hamburgers sizzling on backyard grills. The traditions continue today with fireworks, great food, and fun with friends and family. Some people have even switched from imported to American beer in honor of this national holiday. This year I’d like to suggest a new tradition- how about celebrating the freedom of this great nation by showing your freedom to read?

It’s not so far-fetched when you think about it. The Founding Fathers of this country were well-educated people who knew the importance of books, libraries and reading. For example, Benjamin Franklin is among the most unique of our statesmen. His work as a writer, printer and publisher is obviously tied very closely to the mission of libraries.

In 1800 legislation was signed by President John Adams that provided not only for the transfer of the seat of government from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington, but also for the establishment of a reference library for Congress only, containing “such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress – and for putting up a suitable apartment for containing them therein….” The original library was housed in the new Capitol until August 1814, when invading British troops set fire to the Capitol Building, burning and pillaging the contents of the small library. In 1815, the government, knowing that the Congress of that time and its successors would need access to information, accepted Thomas Jefferson’s offer of his personal library of 6,487 books as a replacement and it became the core around which the Library of Congress was formed.

In order to help you continue the celebration, the Library is offering two reading programs for patrons this summer. We are continuing our popular summer reading program for children, this year’s theme is “Dream Big. READ!” New this year is our first annual adult summer reading program. This year’s theme is “Between the Covers.” Each week we will have a variety of special events at our branches so make sure you check our calendar.

I hope you enjoy your holiday but I would like to ask one last thing. During your party stop for a moment and reflect on the true meaning of what July 4th symbolizes. Ours is the greatest nation on earth and we have our freedom due to the sacrifice of many men and women. No fact is more worthy of our celebration.

Are you looking for that perfect holiday gift? December 19, 2011

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CCLD CardGive your child a gift that never needs batteries, doesn’t need assembly, doesn’t need to be fed or taken for a walk. Our gift idea lasts forever, never wears out, and is constantly exciting. And to make it even more special, it gives greater joy the more it’s used. And to make it really, really special (especially for the giver), it doesn’t cost a lot.

It’s the perfect gift, suitable for everyone on your list. It can take you places you’ve only dreamed of- far off lands, distant planets, ancient times, or even the to the future. It can help you become a better golfer, better parent, or a better person. It can provide you access to everything you’ve ever dreamed of. You can you use it whenever you want, exchange what you get with it, and is a gift your someone special will never grow tired of. And to make it really, really, really special- you can even give it to yourself.

By now you’re probably wondering “Where can I get one of these?” Well, it’s very simple. First, come down to the library and fill out a library card application and we’ll give you a library card. I’ve even got a great way for you to give it to someone. Check out three of four books and wrap the card and the books and set them under the tree. Save this very special package for last. When your special someone opens it up you can tell them the library card will get them presents all year long.

It doesn’t matter if you get the card for yourself, or get it for your kids (we require that they at least be able to print their name to get their own). And we offer a guarantee, if you aren’t fully satisfied with your library card after a lifetime of use, we’ll refund your money. Now I know I’m not going out on a limb here, seeing a library card is free and at that price, who would complain? Besides, I know it will be the best gift you will ever give and the best card you will ever receive.

Visiting the Libraries August 19, 2010

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One of the occupational hazards we librarians have is the obsession to visit a library no matter where we go. I look forward to trips as visiting other libraries will remind me to read a book or listen to a record I meant to years ago but never did. However, since I’ve been a director, my visits have become more important as they also give me new ideas to work with.

I admit that most of the time, my visits are uneventful, but a few have been inspiring. I recently visited my daughter and went to the San Francisco Public Library. I have to admit I was awestruck as the main library is a six floor building. In response to changing demographics, their website is available in Spanish and Chinese.

Obviously the New York Public Library has to be a highlight; you’re not a real librarian if you don’t get your picture taken in front of Patience and Fortitude, the world famous pair of lion statues that have guarded the entrance since the building was opened in 1911.

And no visit to our nation’s capital is complete without a trip to the Library of Congress. It’s the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. I think it has to be the world’s greatest library. According to their website its collections hold 29 million cataloged books and other print materials in 460 languages. It has more than 58 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America; and the world’s largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music and sound recordings.

Traveling for the military has allowed me to see world class collections held in the West Point Library, the Nimitz Library at Annapolis, and the Army War College library at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. Everyone knows the military has long understood the need for information, but I don’t know if the public realizes the hard work that the staffs of the Armed Forces Libraries put in to help keep our soldiers informed and our nation safe.

Going to libraries in other countries such as Korea, Germany, or any of the 20 or so other countries I’ve been to made me appreciate even more what we have here in the States. In many of the outlying areas they were still using paper card catalogs, had no cooperative lending agreements, and the collections were minimal at best. Still, these small libraries impressed me. They were there to offer a glimpse into a world of ideas that otherwise may have been unavailable.

Anyways, back to the original purpose of this column. First of all, I’ve changed the way I look at the collection. Instead of simply going to the catalog to find if a particular item is in, I now find that I spend much of my time browsing the aisles. It seems to give me a better feel for the community I’m visiting. More importantly, it helps me sometimes find a gem of an item that we’ve missed here in Chemung County. The second thing is that I now find myself browsing the collections at each of the branches. It gives a better sense of what our community likes, what the dislike, and helps our purchasing decisions.

So I’d like to invite all patrons to come in and walk around. Browse the shelves or the media bins. You may find a book you never thought you’d read, or an old book you have always wanted to but just never got around to. In other words, come in and discover some hidden gems.

Gardening and the Library August 2, 2010

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Whenever spring decides to roll around, I never cease to be amazed. I look forward to seeing the crocus and irises emerge, the grass turn green, and the sight and sound of the first robin. But what gets me the most excited is the return of the caterpillars and butterflies to the garden. Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated by the thought that these two polar opposites are even closely related. I mean, how could you explain the “Jekyll and Hyde” of a long, squishy eating machine possibly becoming a light, delicate, colorful wisp of flight?

I’ve always wanted to invite these amazing creatures into our yard and last year my wife and I gave in to the urge- we decided to plant a butterfly garden. We did our research and found out we should provide a few basics such as food plants for the caterpillars and nectar sources for the butterflies. Butterflies are sun worshipers preferring a sunny spot away from strong winds. Sandy puddles of water for moisture and basking areas of rocks and logs are also favorite hangouts. Plus, butterflies are important plant pollinators and because of their specific requirements for certain plants, they are good indicators of environmental quality.

We wanted a wide variety of plants that would provide nourishment during the entire life cycle of a butterfly: egg, caterpillar (larva), chrysalis (pupa) and adult butterfly. So our perennial flowers include purple coneflower, liatris, sedum, butterfly weed, asters, and butterfly bush. Next year, once we have a better idea of the growth habits of our perennials, we may add a few annuals such as alyssum, zinnias, heliotrope, marigolds, or sunflowers.

I’m proud to say that we were more than adequately rewarded for our efforts as Monarchs, Viceroys, White Admirals, Aphrodite Fritillarys, and something I had never seen before- the Hummingbird Moth, filled our backyard. I enjoy sitting in the backyard with my wife just watching this new world unfold. Surprisingly, we also saw an increase in the number of birds that visited and our list now includes hummingbirds and the American Goldfinch for the first time.

I think what I like most about the garden is the simple beauty of nature. I have come to realize that, with the emphasis on endangered species and other environmental concerns, preserving nature is one thing and appreciating it is quite another. There is so very much beauty all around us to see, touch, and hear.  Nature is so miraculous because it is always changing.  No matter how many times you look at something, it is always different. Our butterfly garden has come to remind us of natural cycles and the delicate interconnection of all life.

The beauty found in nature is a common theme in life and in art. Whole sections of libraries and bookstores are filled with books on all aspects of nature. For me, the library is much the same as the butterfly garden, there is every bit as much color, vibrancy and joy to be found in the stacks. And if you add the two together, it gets even better- or in the immortal words of Cicero- “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

Welcome to the Chemung County Library District Blog July 23, 2010

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Welcome to the Chemung County Library District Blog. Our library has a proud history of innovation and it is only fitting that we find new ways to reach out and expand our services.  This blog, along with our Facebook and Twitter accounts, will provide us the opportunity to better serve our online community.

In the past few years, we have come to realize that libraries are not simply storehouses of information- they are major economic, educational, and cultural drivers and catalysts for change and revitalization. In other words, they are one of the most essential assets any community can possess.

If you can’t visit one of our branches in person, you can find us online. Either way, you will discover a wide variety of services and collections, programs for people of all ages, and most importantly- the knowledge and abilities of a dedicated staff.

So, now that we are truly online, let’s get this party started- what kinds of things would you like to see and discuss in this blog?

Ronald W. Shaw


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