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Out of School Learning Experience April 21, 2014

Posted by patchettd in Community, Programs, West Elmira.
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I ate my first Kumquat the other day. At least, as far as I can remember, I had never eaten a kumquat before. I did not know that it is necessary to roll the kumquat gently in my hands for a few seconds before eating, as that makes the skin sweeter. I would not have known to eat the skin with the fruit (the sweetness of the skin balances the tartness of the fruit). I would not have known that I like kumquats if I had not been at the library.

I heard a phrase the other day: “Out of school learning experience”. The more I have thought about that phrase, the more I see the value of programs at our public libraries. These programs reach across all age groups, genders, and interest areas. The day the kumquats came to the library, a chief from Wegmans (we appreciate our community partners!) came to teach a home school group about some fruits that are a little out of the ordinary. He brought several, including star fruit and pomegranates, and gave each child the opportunity to taste, comment, and ask questions. Many of the parents and caregivers joined in, as did the volunteers who were helping with the program. Other patrons who visited the library that day asked that we hold another session for adults.

We are very fortunate that there are many places families can take children for an out of school learning experience in our community, especially now that the weather is improving. Did you know you can rent snowshoes and kites at Tanglewood? Did you know that Letchworth State Park sends their calendar to our libraries, listing their interpretive programs? Did you know that the theme of this summer’s Summer Reading Club is science based? The Chemung County Library District staff is now busy planning programs and projects for the summer that will engage your child in fun, active learning experiences. Though many of you already know this, there are still some local residents who need to discover what is going on at our libraries. You may find that you too like kumquats!

Dianne Patchett
Branch Manager
West Elmira Library

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Visiting the Libraries August 19, 2010

Posted by cclddirector in Community, Director's Comments.
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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

Posted by cclddirector in Director's Comments.
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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.”

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