Saturday, June 21, 2014

Librarian's Corner: Homecoming


by: Cynthia Voigt

When I was in middle school, my best friend and I were very avid readers, but we had very different tastes. She liked the Baby Sitter's Club books while I was starting to get into Stephen King. As a result, our book choices didn't tend to over-lap much (with the notable exceptions of the first few Harry Potter books and Ender's Game).
One of her all time favorite books was Homecoming, by Cynthia Voigt, she must have read it at least a dozen times by the time we were 13. Obviously, she tried to get me to read it, but I wasn't really all that interested. I knew that it had something to do with kids our age, and family issues, and they were looking for their mother... but it sounded boring and really touchy-feely, and not for me.

Fast-forward about 13 years. My husband and I were in New York for our niece's wedding, and over the weekend, I was looking for something to read. I noticed a copy of Homecoming sitting around, and remembering that it was my best friend's favorite book when we were kids (and that it's one of my mother-in-law's favorite books), I thought I'd pick it up and give it a try. I'm very glad I did. I loved the book, and only wish that I had actually given it a chance when I was still in middle school.

The book centers around the Tillerman children, who have been abandoned by their mother while on their way to stay with a relative in Bridgeport, CT. Dicey, the oldest, has been put in charge of her three younger siblings: James, Maybeth and Sammy; and is responsible for getting the four of them to Bridgeport safely. While there are many times in the book where the plight of these young children is heartbreaking, it is more of a 'girl's adventure' book than anything else. Dicey is cunning and resourceful, and more than willing to do whatever it takes to keep her family together. 

The children spend their days walking to Connecticut, and spend their evenings fishing cooking and camping out. The spirit of the adventure takes them all the way to Connecticut, where they find themselves in an unexpected situation. I don't want to give anything away (no spoiler alerts needed here), but let's just say that this is yet another situation that Dicey will have to cope with as she tries to keep her small family together.

I wish that I had picked this book up when I was Dicey's age, I know that I would have loved it. I was all into 'girl's adventure' and strong female leading characters when I was a kid, and if I had only listened to my friend, I would have had another wonderful book to love. Although actually, it isn't just one book. Homecoming is the first book in the 'Tillerman' series, followed by Dicey's Song (which I currently have checked out from the library, and plan to read soon). There are a total of seven books in the series, and I hope to read them all eventually, as I'm quite hooked.

So that's it for today. I hope you liked the first entry in a new monthly feature that I'm planning to run! The next Librarian's Corner will be posted on July 21st! Until then, keep checking back for more posts about things I'm doing! And I'd love to hear what you guys are reading! Let me know in the comments!

Happy Reading!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Crocheting a Uterus

So uh, I crocheted a uterus. Why? Why the hell not? It's cool as all get out and it didn't seem to hard. So I made one.

I'm not going to get into all of the deatils about the pattern, because its not my pattern. And besides, you can check it out here. You might have to sign up for a account, but don't worry, we don't bite... much.

Anyway, onto the uterus! (I bet you don't hear that phrase very often, do you?).

I had never made anything stuffed before, and I wasn't sure that I would be able to crochet a 3d shape, but it was actually pretty easy.

I started out with the body of the uterus, just crocheting in the round, following the pattern and watching as it started to take shape. The only sort-of tricky part here is that you have to pull the tube at the bottom up into the body of the uterus to make the cervix, but it's actually pretty easy, just follow the pattern carefully and you'll do fine.

Next up were the fallopian tubes, and these were much trickier than the body, if only because they are a lot more narrow, and since I was working with a 5.00 hook, I sometimes had trouble getting my hook in there and stabbing through the right stitches. My advice? Just be patient, count your stitches and use stitch markers, I cannot stress that last part enough.

My un-assembled uterus

The little loopy bits on the end may look tricky, but they're not too bad. I had to google how to do it though, because it's not clear in the pattern. Here's the link I used. Again, it just takes some patients and practice, you'll get it, I promise.

When you're done making all of the bits and parts (and it shouldn't take too long, there's only 3 of them after all), it's time to grab your pipe-cleaners and put the whole thing together! That's right, I said pipe-cleaners.

You stick them through the fallopian tubes, so that there's about 2" sticking out. This will help you attach it to the body of the uterus, and it will also provide some stability for the tubes, otherwise they get all floppy like.

So go ahead and place your tubes fairly high-up on the body of the organ. The pattern calls for a specific placement, and I recommend it. And then just attach them. And guess what? You're all done! You have yourself a crocheted uterus! How cool is that?

very cool indeed
Bonus points if you have a carved skull and a framed picture of the Mütter Museum to put your uterus next to!

So that's it! Go forth and crochet your own uteruses. Uteri? Either way. And I'd love to see what you come up with! Send me some pictures at, or friend me on (you know you want to); CarynSKA. Oooor... Just leave a comment with a link! I'm dying to see what you guys come up with!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Libraries without Books and Books without Libraries

When I was a kid my favorite place to be was the library, and my favorite thing to do there was to simply walk up and down the aisles and aisles of books and stare. Sometimes I would pull out an interesting book, sit down in the middle of the row and read it. This is still one of my favorite things to do in a library, and since I work in one, I often get the chance to wander among the stacks. Having said that, you will probably think that I am irreparably biased toward onsite collections, and honestly, I am. There is something magical and wonderful about being surrounded by endless rows of books, and there always will be, but that doesn’t mean that offsite collections don’t have their merits as well.
            In January of this year my husband and I took a trip to DC, and of course, since I’m a bit of a geek one of our stops had to be to the Library of Congress (where I got a library card, of course). The building was beautiful, and the main reading room was one of the coolest places I’ve ever seen, but one thing that was rather conspicuously absent were the rows and rows of books that I have come to associate with libraries. Now, that’s not to say that the LoC doesn’t have an onsite collection, of course they do. Rather, their onsite collection is carefully preserved, archived and catalogued, most of it away from the public eye. The LoC’s main job is the 9th step in the ‘Life Cycle of Information’, that is, preservation. Yes, they do strive to make important pieces of their collection (like their Gutenberg Bible) available for the public to see, but most of their job entails preserving documents and artifacts from our country’s past.
Another library with a rather large onsite collection is the main branch of the New York Public library. There are 8 floors of stacks below 42nd street containing who knows how many books (there are 53 million items stored over its many braches), though these stacks are again, not available to be browsed by the public. The NYPL is a research library, and these items are available to the public (you don’t even have to be a resident of the City of New York), but they are not there to be browsed. You submit an item request, and if you have the proper credentials, a librarian will fetch your book for you.
Now, having said all of that, you’re probably wondering what exactly my point is. My point (and I do have one) is that onsite and offsite can have much broader meanings than simply having a book inside the physical walls of the library. Working in a browsing library, and having pretty much grown up in one, I tend to think of an onsite collection as books that are available for me to browse through, look at, touch and even smell. I love being surrounded by books, but as you can see from the examples of two very well-known reference libraries, sometimes an offsite collection can be much more beneficial to the public.
Both of the libraries that I mentioned have extensive digital collections, and I’m not just talking about eBooks. They have both taken the time to digitize large portions of their collections, and especially items that are very old, very rare and very valuable. These are pieces of history that the public has every right to have access to; but many of the items are much too fragile even to be displayed, let alone interacted with. The only way that these items can be made available to the public is by putting them online, an offsite collection that can be accessed anywhere in the world. One such object is the $5 Confederate bill that was in Lincoln’s pocket the night he was assassinated (if you’re interested, click here to check it out).
As you can see, onsite collections can be extensive, but unavailable. While offsite collections can sometimes be accessed anywhere around the world. There are merits to both sides, and neither option is perfect for every occasion, or every collection. Any library that wants to really make a name for itself (and the Library of Congress has certainly done that) needs to employee both on and offsite collections. Even our small little local library has stacks that can be browsed, as well as eBooks that can be checked-out and read anywhere.