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Monday, May 16, 2016


Have you been to the Northfield Public Library since we reopened on Saturday, May 7? 
The day began with speeches and ribbon cutting outside at 10:00 am, followed by excited and curious patrons pouring into the library.  On our opening day, 2,223 people walked into the library, 2,386 items were checked out, and 1,480 items were returned and checked in.  For the staff, it was like having a big party in the library all day, as we greeted patrons we hadn’t seen for a while, patrons who followed us to City Hall, and curious patrons who had never been to the library or hadn’t visited in a long time.
Local groups played music downstairs and outside, and patrons nibbled cookies in our new entry commons. 
Young children are delighted with the expansion of the children’s area.  The play area now has a wooden refrigerator, stove, and sink, a grocery store with play food and cash register with a play credit card.  You can also put pretend mail in a plastic blue mail box, or carry a postal carrier’s bag around the library.
Adult and children have more furniture to sit on and relax while reading stories.  Children’s story times will be in the children’s area.  There are also three adult public computers and one children’s computer in the juvenile area.  There is also a new copier downstairs.
Many patrons have commented on the beautiful gathering areas downstairs and upstairs.  Newspapers and some popular magazines are in the common areas.  Most of the magazines are at the top of the stairs, where patrons can sit comfortably in a glass in area.  We now have two small conference rooms upstairs for small meetings.  Check with the reference staff upstairs to use the rooms.  We have moved some collections.  For example, the adult fiction dvd’s are upstairs where the magazines used to be.
The new adult books are upstairs. 
The staff is very pleased to be back in our library, ready and able to help patrons find materials they want or need.  If you haven’t been the library yet, please visit us soon and enjoy our new space! 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


 The Minnesota Book Awards were held on Saturday evening, April 16, at the St. Paul Depot.
As a judge, I received tickets, and I was able to attend.  The awards ceremony is like the Oscars, but for writers and books, which to me seems like more fun!  The 2016 winners are listed below.

Children's Literature
Red; A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall.

General Nonfiction
No House to Call My Home: Love, Family and Other Transgressions by Ryan Berg.

Genre Fiction
The Grave Soul by Ellen Hart

Memoir and Creative Nonfiction
Water and What We Know: Following the Roots of a Northern Life by Karen Sabine

Minnesota Modern: Architecture and Life at Midcentury by Larry Millett

Novel and Short Story
There's Something I Want You to Do by Charles Baxter

Beautiful Wall by Ray Gonzalez

Young People's Literature
See No Color by Shannon Gibney

Ellen Hart won her fourth Minnesota Book Award this year.  Ray Gonzalez won his third, and Charles Baxter and Michael Hall both won their second awards.
All of the above titles can be obtained through the Northfield Public Library.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


     National Library Week celebrates the contributions of our nation's libraries and library workers, and promotes library use and support.  Libraries provide free access to books, newspapers, magazines, dvd's and online resources to all patrons.  National Library Week was first sponsored by the American  Library Association in 1958 and every April, continues to celebrate all types of libraries - school, public, academic and special libraries.
     At the Northfield Public Library, we usually have special displays and events.  However, this year, we are getting ready for the reopening of our library!  We have been in City Hall since last July.
We have a small collection and have been interlibrary loaning materials for out patrons.  We are looking forward to being back in our library.  Our grand opening is set for Saturday, May 7!
We will be open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.  This week boxes of books were delivered to the library and the library workers are busy putting books on shelves. 
 Come see our newly renovated library soon!

Thursday, March 17, 2016


Two great Southern writers have died in the past month.  Harper Lee died on February 23, 2016 and Pat Conroy died on March 4, 2016.  Read my blog entry below, written on February 23, for more information on Harper Lee.
Pat Conroy, born Donald Patrick Conroy on October 26, died at the age of 70 of pancreatic cancer.  His father was a Marine Corps fighter pilot, and his family moved often in Pat’s childhood.  His writing is heavily influenced by his identity as a military brat and by the influence his father had on his life.  His father was physically and emotionally abusive to his children.  Conroy revealed the pain of growing up with His father in his first novel, The Great Santini, published in 1976.  The main character, Colonel Bull Meecham, is based on his father.  This revelation of his family’s dynamics caused great upheavals in his family.  The movie the Great Santini , starring Robert Duvall, was released in 1979 and won two Oscars. 
In 1986 he wrote another novel dealing with his violent past.  The Prince of Tides focuses on Tom Wingo and his twin sister, Savannah.  Savanna, a poet, has attempted suicide, and Tom goes to New York to meet with her psychiatrist and help her deal with their past.  The book was made into a movie in 1991.
Conroy wrote a memoir in October 2013, The Death of Santini, which reveals the difficult relationship he had with his father, until his father’s death in 1998.  His father did attempt to change his behavior after his faults were so publicly revealed in the Great Santini!
Conroy spent most of his adult life in South Carolina.  He graduated from Citadel, the military college in South Carolina.  In 1980, he published The Lords of Discipline, based on his experience at the Citadel.  The main character, Will McLean, like Conroy, did not want a military career, but attended the college because of a promise to his father.  Conroy describes the brutal atmosphere of the college, especially the hazing of junior cadets.   Conroy was criticized by many alumni for portraying the military college in a negative light.  The novel was made into a movie in 1983.
Conroy’s writing legacy includes novels and memoirs about being a military brat, life in the South, and growing up in an abusive family.  He summed up the connection of his family life to his writing in an interview:
“One of the greatest gifts you can get as a writer is to be born into an unhappy family,” Mr. Conroy told the writer John Berendt for a Vanity Fair profile in 1995. “I could not have been born into a better one.” He added: “I don’t have to look very far for melodrama. It’s all right there.”
Thank you, Pat Conroy, to your contribution to American, Southern literature.

Thursday, March 10, 2016



Northfield Reads is a community initiative to encourage people from across the Northfield area to come together to talk, to share ideas, to connect, and to open themselves to diverse perspectives.  The hope is that through shared readings and conversations, we will create more and broader connections and understandings within the community.This year, Northfield Reads will be discussing the book $2.00 a Day; Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer.  The book describes how a number of families live on virtually no income, and the reasons for their poverty.After two decades of research on American poverty, Kathryn Edin noticed households surviving on virtually no income.  She worked with Luke Shaefer to discover the number of families living on $2.00 per person, per day, has skyrocketed to 1.5 million American households, including about 3 million children.  One woman, heading a family of four, would have no cash income unless she donated plasma twice a week.  Another woman and her teenage daughter often have no food on weekends except spoiled milk. 
Where do the families live?  How did they become so desperately poor?  Through her interviews, moving and startling answers begin to emerge.

Thursday, March 10, 2016, 6:00 pm  $2.00 Soup Dinner  at the UCC Church, 300 Union Street.  Community members are invited to attend a simple soup dinner and simulate trying to budget their life on $2.00 a day.  Two talks will be presented during the meal.  Gregory Ennis will talk about working in a homeless shelter and  Jim Blaha will talk about resources available to people living in poverty.

Thursday, March 17, 2016, 6:45 - 8:00 pm, Book Discussion at Content Bookstore, 314 Division Street.  Discussion of $2.00 a Day; Living on Almost Nothing in America.  Open to all community members.

Thursday, April 7, 2016, 7:00 pm Northfield Reads 2016 Community Event, at St. John's Lutheran Church, 500 West Third Street .  This final event will include music by The Broke Folk; a play, Table Where the Rich People Sit, adapted and directed by Kajsa Johnson; discussion of the book $2.00 a Day, testimonials by residents who have lived in poverty; and a discussion of what we can do next.   All community members are invited.                                   

How to Get a Copy of $2.00 a Day

Copies of $2.00 a Day; living on almost nothing in America are available through the Northfield Public Library, temporarily located on the second floor of City Hall,  (507) 645-1802.     Books can also be purchased at Content Bookstore, 314 Division Street, (507) 9238                                                                              


Tuesday, February 23, 2016



          Harper Lee, the writer from Monroeville, Alabama, best known for writing To Kill a Mockingbird, died on Thursday, February 19, in her hometown, at the age of 89.  Her novel became a classic when it was published in 1960, and received the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 1961.  Many Americans  have read her novel during their years in high school.  Actor Gregory Peck made the novel  unforgettable, when he played Atticus Finch in the film version, released in 1962. 
       Harper Lee lived most of her life in Monroeville, Alabama.  One of her childhood friends was Truman Capote, on whom she based the character of Dill.  She later helped him with his research for In Cold Blood.  Harper Lee’s father was an attorney, and she grew up watching him defend his clients in the Monroeville courtroom, just as her character, Scout, does, in the fictional town of Maycomb.  Scout’s father, Atticus Finch,  defends a black man, Tom Robinson, who is accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell.  Even though the evidence strongly suggests he is innocent, Tom is convicted.  Scout admires her father for defending a black man, and fighting for the truth.
        A year ago, Harper Collins announced that Harper Lee’s first book, Go Set a Watchman, would be published in July 2015.  Anticipation mounted as various literary experts tried to anticipate what the newly published novel would reveal.  The author originally wrote this novel in the mid-1950’s, and was told to rewrite the novel  from the point of view of Jean Louise (Scout) as a child.  She then wrote To Kill a Mockingbird.  Go Set a Watchman is set in the mid-1950’s, when Jean Louise is in her 20’s, and returns to Maycomb to visit her father.  Atticus Finch is shown as a man struggling with a changing society, and civil rights in her original book.
         For more information on both books, and my review of Go Set A Watchman, please see  earlier posts on this blog.  August 6, 2015 – “Harper Lee – from To Kill a Mockingbird to Go Set a Watchman,” and August 17, 2015 – “Go Set A Watchman – a Review.
        Harper Lee became famous immediately after To Kill a Mockingbird  was published.  Initially, she gave interviews and traveled to promote her book.  She spent time on the set of the movie, and became life-long friends with Gregory Peck and his family.  However, she was uncomfortable with her fame and chose to lead a private life in Monroeville, Alabama.  If you would like to learn more about Harper Lee, two biographies have been published in the last ten years
  1.  Mockingbird; a portrait of Harper Lee, by Charles Shields, 2006
  2. The Mockingbird Next Door; life with Harper Lee, by Marja Mills, 2014.
The Northfield Public Library has copies of both books.
        The literary world mourns the loss of a great American writer, who provided a thought provoking classic novel read in most high schools for many decades.  She will live on through her two novels.  Thank you and goodbye, Harper Lee.  You will be missed.