Monday, September 29, 2014

Author James Renner offers tour of Ohio’s weird and wonderful at Mentor Library

Have you ever heard of the Melon Heads, the hydrocephalic test experiments that supposedly still lurk in Kirtland woods? Or the Loveland Frog, the 4-foot-tall amphibian that’s haunted the banks of the Miami River since the time of the Twightwee Indians?

Author and journalist James Renner spent years collecting stories about the weird and wonderful denizens of this state for his book, It Came from Ohio: True Tales of the Weird, Wild and Unexplained.

In anticipation of his talk, Renner was kind enough to answer a few questions about his book, his interest in the unusual, and things that go bump in the night.

Q: What about the abnormal and macabre interests you?
A: There are a handful of moments in every person's life that cannot be explained. I am fascinated by these stories and how they alter the course of someone's life. How do we explain the unexplainable when we tell the story to someone, later? What is the little pearl of truth hiding inside?

Q: You've written both fiction and nonfiction. Where does It Came from Ohio fall in that dichotomy?
A: It Came from Ohio is 100% nonfiction, in that these are stories collected from people across Ohio who firmly believe they have encountered frogmen and Bigfoot and UFOs. I research each case from the point of view of a journalist but it's up to the reader to ultimately decide whether Mothman really exists or whether it could just be a giant, angry owl.

Q: When did you start compiling the stories from It Came from Ohio?
A: I wrote crime stories for about 10 years and really wanted to do something a little more fun. I noticed that the people I interviewed about crime always had some other story they wanted to tell, now that someone was listening. And usually that story was about the strangest thing that had ever happened to them. I started jotting those stories down in my notepad. Eventually I had enough to put this little book together.

Q: Do you have a favorite story in It Came from Ohio?
A: Definitely the story about the Loveland Frog. Back in the 70's, a couple cops outside Cincinnati saw a half-man/half-frog creature on the banks of the Miami River. When I researched the local history, I found a story passed down from the Twightwee Indians who once lived in the area, about a monster called the Shawnahook. 400 years ago, the Indians also saw a frogman in the river. That gives me goosebumps. What in the world was it?

Q: I suspect people have been sharing their own unusual tales with you since you published It Came from Ohio. Is there a possibility of a sequel?
A: I love a good scary story and am compelled to go looking for monsters if you tell me where to go.

Come to the Mentor Library on Oct. 13 to hear more stories about the unusual creatures that reside in Renner’s Ohio. People can register for his talk on Mentor Library's website or by calling 440-255-8811 ext. 216.

Renner will also have copies of It Came from Ohio available for sale on Oct. 13 at Mentor Library, and he will sign them after his program.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Banned Books Week & Why It Matters

Banned Books Week celebrates books that some have tried to bowdlerize, censor and ban.
Banned Books Week celebrates books that some have tried to bowdlerize, censor and ban.

From Sept. 21 to 27, libraries and schools across the country will recognize Banned Books Week.
It's a chance for us to remind you about all the society-changing books that have been banned or challenged. And there's a good chance that list includes your personal favorite. Imagine your bookshelf without To Kill a Mockingbird, Color Purple, Animal Farm, Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter.

And you might say: But that was a long time ago. We don't still do stuff like that today?

Yes, we do.

Legislators in South Carolina planned to cut some funding to state colleges after the College of Charleston picked Alison Bechdel's Fun Home as assigned reading. Bechdel is an award-winning cartoonist. You can probably guess what upset legislators based upon the name of Bechdel's comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For.

(You may also know her as the creator of the Bechdel Test, which challenges movies on a single parameter. Does a movie have at least two women, and do they talk about something other than a man in at least one scene? It's astonishing how many films fail to cross that low threshold.)

Cartoons and graphic novels seem especially prone to challenges, because they are still perceived as low art.

For example, Bone—a fantasy series written and drawn by Ohio native Jeff Smith—was the tenth most challenged book in U.S. libraries last year.
The offending characters
The offending characters
Banned Book Weeks isn't just about championing books that other people might have concerns about. After all, everyone's entitled to their own taste in literature.

Banned Books Week is about having the freedom to read

There's a reason we chose "Bradbury" as the password in our Banned Books video last year.
Ray Bradbury said, "You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

So it doesn't matter if no books are ever banned or challenged again. That is, it doesn't matter if nobody reads them anyhow.

So commemorate Banned Books Week in the best possible way: Read.

Read a book that's been banned or challenged. Read whatever you like.

But read. And decide for yourself what belongs on your bookshelf.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

7 Questions You Should Ask When Picking a College

A pretty campus isn't enough.
A pretty campus isn't enough.
It's College Prep week at Mentor Public Library. On Tuesday, Patricia Saddle of the College Planning Center presented an overview on all aspects of the college-application process.

The last time Saddle spoke at MPL, we highlighted some of the worst reasons to pick a college.

This time, we're sharing some of the questions you should ask when selecting your school.

1. What academic majors are offered?

This isn't just a matter of, "Do they have the major I want?" After all, 50 to 70 percent of college students change their majors at least once. Know what the college offers and if it coincides with your career interests.

2. What organizations and clubs are available?

Yes, you're going to college to learn, but you're also going to participate. If you love theater—even if you don't intend to major in drama—take into account if the college has a drama club. The same goes for karate clubs, intramural broomball leagues, jazz bands and whatever else it may be that you love.

3. What is the school known for?
Take into account a school's reputation. It's likely earned.

What are you looking for in a college or university? Somewhere with a strong alumni network? A vibrant arts scene? A school that's as well known for its social life as its academics?

Research your colleges of interest and make sure they sync with your expectations.

4. Does the college offer what you need for your learning style?

Do you prefer individual attention or more independence from your teacher? Pay attention to average class sizes. It's always helpful to get a current student's impressions, as well.

5. What percentage of students come back for their sophomore year?

A school's retention rate can be very telling. A high percentage of transfers and dropouts may indicate that a college does a subpar job of integrating new students.

6. How many students live on campus?

This question—much like our second and third questions—give you a sense of a school's culture. Do most students go home or stay during the weekend? Do they live in dorms or independent housing? There is no right or wrong answer, but it's a good sign when your preference coincides with your school's statistics.

7. What does the university look like?

No, we don't mean, "Is the campus pretty?" Frankly, any campus can look beautiful on the right day.

We mean is the campus tiny or sprawling? Is it urban, suburban or rural? It doesn't matter too much if your campus is photogenic. It does matter if it's in the middle of a city or if you need a car to get around it.

Our college prep series continues tonight. A representative from Lake/Geauga Education Assistance Foundation (LEAF) will talk about financing your college education. They will discuss loans, grants and scholarships, explain the differences between the three and tell students the best way to get them.

While the program is free and open to everyone, we that people register for it beforehand. They can do so by calling (440) 255-8811 ext. 214 or by visiting Mentor Library’s event calendar.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Be your own hero at Mentor Library's Comics Club

Abby draws Hula, a superhero she created.
Abby draws her own superhero during Mentor Library's Comics Club.
A bisected page, two large eyes, the beginnings of a mouth—Abby is drawing a superhero she created during the most recent meeting of Mentor Library's Comics Club.

"Her name is Hula," she explains. "She uses her hula hoop to trap bad guys."

The scene is decidedly relaxed during the latter half of the meeting. Some children draw—characters they've created, their Minecraft avatars—while others read graphic novels or issues of Tiny Titans and Adventure Time.

While most people associate comics with superheroes, the Comics Club is eclectic by design. One month they're designing their own sidekicks. The next they're reading independent web comics.
Our Comics Club is for any 8- through 12-year-old who likes to read, talk about or draw sequential art. We love everything from Amelia Rules to Batman to Bone.)

Our Comic Club meets from 7 to 8 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month at our Main Branch.

At a typical meeting, the kids talk about a special theme. Then we introduce the kids to graphic novels and comics that can be found in the library’s collection.

We close out each meeting with free time for the kids to draw or read.

“Their favorite part of the night is drawing time,” Schulz said. “We use templates that resemble comic strips and comic-book pages, so the kids can do short 3-panel or longer stories. Some have created their own characters that they revisit every month while others draw something new every time.”

The next Comics Club meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Oct. 7 at the Mentor Public Library’s Main Branch. The theme for next month will be costumes.

To register a child for the Comics Club, call the library at (440) 255-8811 ext. 221.
Nicholas checks out an issue of Adventure Time during our Comics Club.
Nicholas checks out an issue of Adventure Time during our Comics Club.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Battle of the Books Begins

Who are you voting for in the Battle of the Books?
Who are you voting for in the Battle of the Books?
Is a young demigod any match for the boy who lived? Will Judy Moody overwhelm the Wimpy Kid? If the Wild Things win, will they celebrate with a wild rumpus?

These are just some of the questions leading into the first round of Mentor Public Library's Battle of the Books.

Eight children classics will duke it out tournament-style, and it's up to you (and your kids) to vote for your favorites.

The first round match-ups are:

1. Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief vs. Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone

2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid vs. Judy Moody

3. Madeline vs. Where the Wild Things Are

4. I Want My Hat Back vs. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive

You can cast your votes for your favorite books with ballots located at the Children's Desk at our Main Branch. The first round will take place now through September 28.

On September 29, the winners will move forward; and a new round of voting will begin and run until Oct. 6.

The championship round will run from Oct. 6 through 12, after which the winner will be crowned.

So who are you voting? And what children's classic do you wish was in the brackets?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Our newest Little Free Library location

We dropped off our newest Little Free Library at Memorial Middle School on Friday.
We dropped off our newest Little Free Library at Memorial Middle School on Friday.
Short post today to celebrate our newest Little Free Library at Memorial Middle School.

We love kids, we love books and we love giving books to kids; so having a Little Free Library at a school is a delight for us. Thanks to Principal Dudziak for making it happen!

This is our 16th Little Free Library—17th if you count the one we take with us during our Flash Libraries. People often tell us how much they like them and thank us for them; but, honestly, it's we who should be thankful.

We're thankful to all our partners who host them, thankful to all our volunteers who make sure they stay filled, thankful to everyone who donates books, and thankful to everyone who takes a book to read. Without all of you, our Little Free Libraries would just be handsome blue bird houses.

Never stop reading!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mentor Library hosting College Prep Series to help teens get ready for next step

Patricia Saddle talks about selecting colleges at the Mentor Public Library.
Patricia Saddle talks about selecting colleges at the Mentor Public Library.
Mentor Public Library is hosting a College Prep Series from Sept. 16 through Sept. 18 to help people navigate the gauntlet that is college preparation.

The workshops cover finding the right college, the application process and how to find loans, grants and scholarships. Both sessions are free and open to the public, including teens, parents and adults who want to go back to school.

All of the talks will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the library’s Main Branch.

On Sept. 16, Patricia Saddle, an independent educational consultant from the College Planning Center, will present an overview on all aspects of the college-application process. She will discuss choosing a college, applying and financing a college education. She will also offer tips to those who are new to the process.

On Sept. 18, a representative from Lake/Geauga Education Assistance Foundation (LEAF) will talk about financing a college education. They will discuss loans, grants and scholarships, explain the differences between the three and tell students the best way to get them.

Mentor Librarian Cailey Williams organized the series to help parents, teens and anyone else who might be overwhelmed by the college search.

“As a teen, it can be difficult to figure out where to start in the college search and it can be kind of scary,” Williams said. “By setting up this series at the library, we are giving them the opportunity to meet these professionals on a neutral, less intimidating ground. They are encouraged to ask questions and to participate in the workshops.”

“In particular, the financial aid aspect is intimidating,” Williams said. “That is why we will have someone from LEAF explain how it all works and sharing advice on how to manage finances for college.”

This is the third year the library has hosted the College Prep Series.

While the workshops are open to everyone, the library asks that people register for the programs beforehand. They can do so by calling (440) 255-8811 ext. 214 or by visiting Mentor Library's event calendar.