Tuesday, April 22, 2008

IN EUROPE: the 20th Century across a continent

A sweeping journey across a continent and across time, IN EUROPE is an incredible journey across an incredible continent.

Beginning with the Paris World’s Fair in 1900, author Mak takes us from a Europe where war was a distant sound of gunfire from long, long ago through a century that all too soon saw two major world wars ravage a landscape and destroy peoples, peoples who yet rose from the ashes - twice - to remain one of THE leading political, cultural, and economic powers in the world.

Assigned by his Dutch newspaper to bring a continent’s century long story to its readers, journalist Mak takes us on his journeys across Europe on the cusp of a new century.

IN EUROPE is what I mean when I talk about a “page turner”. IN EUROPE is graphic, awe inspiring, sad, and riveting. This is the TRUE story of a continent in a time of radical change, the story of people buffeted by war, elated by peace, ground down by politics over which they seem to have no control, buoyed by the liberation of D-Day, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of dictatorships in the South. Often told through the lives of "everyday" people who lived through and now relate the events of this incredible century, IN EUROPE is compelling reading.

Listen to Library Director Nick Schenkel's review on WBAA radio or http://www.wlaf.lib.in.us

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mistress of the Art of Death

A killer is on the loose in Cambridge, England. The body of a young boy, Peter of Trumpington, has been discovered, mutilated in the most horrible fashion. Being as the time is the early 1100s AD, the Jews of Cambridge are blamed for the killings. King Henry is distressed by the accusal of his Cambridge Jews, because they are some of the most profitable subjects in his entire kingdom. He sends an urgent message to his friend, the King of Sicily, to send him a master in the art of death.

Flash forward: we are watching a group of pilgrims traveling back to Cambridge. In a cart in the back of the group are three very strange individuals: a Jew, a Saracen, and a woman. This troupe, we soon come to learn, has been sent by the King of Sicily himself to discover the murderer of children.

We again also learn that the King of Sicily did not send a master of the art of death; he sent a mistress. And again, because it is 1100 AD England, the mistress can be condemned as a witch for healing the sick, and especially for investigating the corpses of murdered children. It is under this pretense of secrecy and fear that the band of three must search for the Cambridge child-killer, before he strikes again. They have everything to loose, most especially, their lives.

This novel has been hailed by reviewers as the CSI of the Medieval Ages.

Check it out @ your library: Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What's Up with Inspirational Books?

April 1, 2008

What’s up withInspirational books?

Public libraries (and the librarians who run them) collect and make available all kinds of books on all kinds of topics. It’s what we do and what we like to do.

But there is one genre of book that is destined, it seems, to languish on the shelves – with a few bright and popular exceptions – the Inspirational book.*

We’ve had a colorful selection of these books on our special book display shelves at the West Lafayette Public Library for the month of March and lo and behold, those authors we already know are popular checked-out of the Library. The lesser known authors – we had hoped to spark some interest in readers since these lesser known books were on the display shelves – just sat and waited and waited, and waited to be taken home and read.

Sadly this is the same situation with our Library’s Inspirational book collection in the Library’s mainstream shelving areas. Popular authors circulate but there is little interest in serendipitous browsing to find “new to me” authors or titles.

Worse, from a Librarian’s perspective, when Inspirational books move from their twelve month sojourn in the “new books” area to the mainstream fiction (or nonfiction) bookshelves they pretty much drop from the checkout lists! So if it’s not a new Inspirational title, there is not much interest in our Library’s holding on to it our experience seems to say (unless our Library has unlimited space of course.).

I’ve talked with librarians from other libraries about this over the years and they have offered a couple of opinions: “yep, same experience in our library” and “seems if the author or book is recommended by a minister’s wife it circulates a lot – if not, not much if any circulation.”

Fascinating! In my twenty plus years of library work in Indiana I’ve noticed this trend with only one other genre – Western fiction – which is not terribly popular (whether new or older) here in the Midwest.

Our demographics say that Inspirational books ought to be popular with public library users in Indiana. If it’s not a new title though, forget it. Out of sight (not staring out at you from the new book shelves), out of mind it seems!

I’ve always wondered if focusing library patron's attention on the Library’s Inspirational books would prompt a larger circulation – given our month long experience just completed this is evidently not the case. Any thoughts about this?

Nick

*By "Inspirational" books I am referring to books written by authors such as Phillip Gulley, Jan Karon, Max Lucado, Janet Oke, etc.- they are sometimes these are referred to as "Christian romances" or "Christian fiction". They are, inevitably, written with a more conservative Christian theme and demur from the use of language or actions that could be read as anything but "G" rated.