Fixed Navigation Bar

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Treat Library Materials Gently

I was reading a borrowed book the other day when I encountered – make sure you’re sitting down for this, because book lovers will be outraged – dog-eared pages! A library customer had folded pages down to hold his or her place. Folding pages in a book is not good practice and deteriorates the book for the next user.

It struck me; however, that that was the first time in a long time that I had run across a dog-eared library book. It’s been a while since I’ve borrowed a book that someone had –egads! – written in. Most customers are very respectful of their library materials. So, thanks to all of you who treat your library materials so gently.

We do have volunteers by the way, who are able to help with some minor mending of books, but once a book becomes too worn, it needs to be removed from the collection and these days not every book can be replaced due to budget cuts.

Mary Mulrenan, Fairfax County Public Library

Friday, September 25, 2009

Edgar Allan Poe at 200

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to attend a panel discussion commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe as part of the Fall for the Book Festival. He was born in 1809, but you will be hard-pressed to find a consistent birth date, since as one of the panelists said “Poe was a piece of fiction himself.” He was well-known for embellishing and confusing his life story, telling friends and colleagues different versions.

Panelists included Louis Bayard, whose The Pale Blue Eye is a fictionalized account of Poe’s six-month stint at West Point and Daniel Stashower, whose The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Rogers and the Invention of Murder, explores the true crime that became the basis for one of Poe’s most famous stories. You can listen to interviews with both of them as part of the library’s BookCast series.

While one well-known contemporary writer has called Poe “the best of our bad writers,” Bayard and Stashower believe that whatever one thinks of his work, he is probably one of the most influential writers of the 19th century. He invented the detective story, contributed to the science fiction and horror genres and mastered the short story form.

Writers as varied as Stephen King, Vladimir Nabokov, Ray Bradbury and Jules Verne have all been influenced by Poe.

If you want to sample Poe again, try these short stories: “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Black Cat,” “The Gold-Bug” and his detective tale, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”

Should you wish to join in the bicentennial celebration, you can attend a reenactment of his funeral and other events the weekend 0f October 9-11 up in Baltimore.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fall for the Book Events

If you’re a book lover, then you will enjoy the Fall for the Book Literary festival Sept. 21-26. To see the events sponsored by the library or being held at library branches visit library’s Web site. Here are some of the programs being offered this year:

Staged Reading of A Lesson Before Dying
September 25, 7:30 p.m., The Fairfax Theatre Project, 3955 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax (near the Asian Bistro). This event is also part of the library’s The Big Read/All Fairfax Reads.

Open Mic Poetry Reading
September 25, 8:45 p.m.-11:30 p.m. at Brion's Grille in Fairfax.

Soul of a People: A Community Celebration of the WPA Federal Writers Project
September 26, starting at 12:30, City of Fairfax Regional Library

Memoirist Ralph Eubanks
September 22, 6:00 p.m. at City of Fairfax Regional Library

Mystery Novelist Emyl Jenkins at City of Fairfax Regional Library
September 23, 6:00 p.m.

Novelists Pam Jenoff and C.M. Mayo
September 26, 3:00 p.m. at Patrick Henry Library

The Fairfax Prize is sponsored by the Fairfax Library Foundation:
E.L. Doctorow
September 24, 7:30 p.m. at Mason Concert Hall

Since we’re talking about the exciting events being planned at the library for you this fall, mark Oct. 9 on your calendar for Scott Turow. Read more about that and other Big Read/All Fairfax Reads events here.

Mary Mulrenan, Fairfax County Public Library

Friday, September 18, 2009

Armchair Explorers

For those of you who enjoy true tales of adventure, I’ve got a great recommendation for you: The Lost City of Z: A Tale of a Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Gran. I checked it out over the Labor Day weekend and couldn’t put it down.

The book chronicles the expeditions of Percy Harrison Fawcett, an Amazon explorer who made seven expeditions to South America and the Amazon between 1906 and 1924. He was in search of evidence of an ancient civilization that he thought might rival Machu Picchu. His last expedition in 1925 ended with his disappearance. He, his son and a friend never returned and their remains were never found.

Fawcett was a bit of media star in the early 20th century and his disappearance sparked other expeditions to locate him – some of them ended in failure as well. He was a friend of Arthur Conan Doyle, who used Fawcett’s adventures and theory of a lost city as the basis for his novel, The Lost World.

Gran is a meticulous researcher and The Lost City of Z is much more than a biography of Fawcett. He tracks down 16th century accounts of the earliest visitors to the Amazon, Fawcett’s diaries and a great deal of fascinating information on Fawcett’s contemporaries, who were trekking into one of the last great unexplored areas of the world.

It is so great to find a rare gem like The Lost City of Z!

Pat, Fairfax County Public Library

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What Not to Read

I wish deciding what to read was simpler. With 175,000 books being published each year and only a small number of them getting most of the publicity, I wonder what treasures are published and disappear that I should have read. I add a few books to my list of “books I want to read” every week and that list gets longer and longer.

I feel guilty however, if a book comes highly recommended and yet languishes on my list while I read others that manage to call to me more forcefully. For example I have yet to read Three Cups of Tea or The Kite Runner, though they sit as one and two on my “list.” What’s called to me recently are books about animals such as Old Dogs are the Best Dogs by Gene Weingarten and Merle’s Door by Ted Kerasote. (Great books if you’re an animal lover.)

Every time I read a really good book that moves me in some way, I feel grateful I found it. I just wish I knew what not to read to have time for the rest.

Mary Mulrenan, Fairfax County Public Library

Friday, September 11, 2009


It has been eight years since the event that changed the lives of Americans forever. It seems appropriate that the day is known only as “9/11” because almost everyone alive will always remember where they were when terrorists hijacked four planes – flying two into the World Trade Center towers, one into the Pentagon and crashing the third in a Pennsylvania field.

A number of memorials have been designed or are being constructed to honor all who lost their lives in the attacks of September 11, 2009. In our area, the outdoor Pentagon Memorial opened a year ago in honor of the 184 killed in the building and on American Airlines Flight 77.

The memorial is built on 1.9 acres of land with a view of the crash site of Flight 77. It consists of 184 benches and each is inscribed with the name of one of the victims. A rectangular pool of light illuminates each bench from below. The benches face opposite directions, determined by whether the victim was in the Pentagon or on Flight 77.

The library owns almost 100 titles devoted to 9/11. One that might interest local readers is Firefight: Inside the Battle to Save the Pentagon on 9/11 by Patrick Creed and Rick Newman. You can hear the authors discuss the book on the library’s BookCast series:

“Memory is the diary that we all carry with us.” -- Oscar Wilde

Pat, Fairfax County Public Library

(Image courtesy of the Department of Defense)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Fiction vs. Nonfiction

My mother was an avid reader yet I don’t recall her buying a single book. She would borrow many books each week from the library, and she was a fast reader. She had so many scattered around the house, my brother once joked about doing an intervention and having to take away her library card. (He was only kidding of course.) She wouldn’t give a writer much of a chance though; if she didn’t like it in the first few pages that was it. She didn’t try to “plow through.” That’s why she needed so many books in order to ensure that at least one would hold her interest.

She only read fiction. She might read a James Patterson or Patricia Cornwell or Lillian Jackson Braun or even a Maeve Binchy. It didn’t have to be about murder or some other fiendish plot by evildoers, but it had to be a made-up story. Now I’m sorry I never asked her why.

I’m not as wedded to fiction as my mother. Some nonfiction stories such as Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer or The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger or Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen E. Ambrose are just as gripping as any fictional story. It’s one of the many great things about a library; you can try many different genres, and it doesn’t cost you a dime (unless you miss the due date).

Mary Mulrenan, Fairfax County Public Library

(Image courtesy

Friday, September 04, 2009

Labor Day

Whether you are taking one last journey to the beach or enjoying a three-day staycation closer to home, the end-of-summer ritual is here again. More than 100 years old, the first Labor Day celebration is believed to have been a parade of 10,000 workers on Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, organized by Peter J. McGuire, a Carpenters and Joiners Union secretary. To celebrate in 2009, a recent U.S. Census Bureau press release offers some staggering statistics on what the U.S. labor force has become a century later.

● 155.1 million people 16 or over were in the U.S. labor force as of May 2009

● 7.7 million workers hold down more than one job;

● 10.4 million are self-employed;

● 5.7 million work at home;

● 77 percent of workers in private industry receive a paid vacation as one of their employment benefits;

● 7.2 million are teachers; 1.9 million are customer service representatives; 2.8 million are registered nurses; 293,000 are firefighters; and

● more than 158,000 are librarians!

So, don’t forget to thank a librarian this Labor Day holiday!

Pat, Fairfax County Public Library

(Image courtesy of Free Gifs and Animations)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

So Long Summer

The end of summer has arrived. We’re cleaning sand out of our trunks … I meant the trunks of our cars … getting a last dip in the pool … and returning our “beach reading” books to our local branches to pick up those more serious tomes for the fall and winter. (Not me!)

Our Summer Reading Program also ends on Saturday, Sept. 5, so all our great, young readers (especially those procrastinators-in-training) should get their reading logs in this week so they can collect their coupon books and hundreds of dollars worth of free or discounted deals, including free ice cream.

What the end of summer will not mean to Fairfax County Public Library customers is a change of hours. Library staff has heard customers refer to our new hours as the “summer hours.” Unfortunately, at least as long as the recession continues, the new hours are here to stay. (M-W, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Thurs, Fri., 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sun. (regionals only are open) 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.)

Mary Mulrenan, Fairfax County Public Library