Author Archives: Maria Baratta

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Told by a chorus of narrators and interspersed with a montage of passages from texts and letters, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is a fictional account of the night Willie Lincoln is buried.  His father’s heartbreak over the death of his young son is the focus of this story.  The turmoil of the Civil War is not especially prominent as the backdrop.  Only as he comes to terms with his son passing does the pressure of the war invade Lincoln’s thoughts.

A series of ghosts narrate the tale.  Their life (but mostly death) stories are brief, but manage to create rich histories for each character.  Written and told through the language of the 1860s, the modern concept of spirituality has no place here.   These are old fashion ghosts and their world has the same inequalities and harsh realities as the physical world.  Slave ghosts and white ghosts are segregated; poor and feeble-minded ghosts are lower class; women ghosts carry the burdens of their earthly life; ghosts of young dandies behave like tamer versions of today’s frat boys.

Social constructs in this limbo mirror the physical world and trap the ghosts in ways that prevent them from realizing they are dead.  There are no children in this ghostly world, for children do not belong here.  As the ghosts struggle to help free Willie’s soul, they come to terms with their own death and this breaks the bonds holding them to the ghost world.

Mixed in with the storytelling are passages from historical and fictional texts, letters, and remembrances of Willie’s death and the impact on the President and his wife.  Through these tales, Lincoln’s humanity and sorrow cast a long shadow over the story.

The account told is a sad chapter in a great man’s life, yet it does have moments of lightness and humor.  The ghosts manage to carry all the imperfections, quirks, and foibles of their former human entities.  This makes them both endearing and annoying to each other.

Lincoln in the Bardo is probably not like anything you’ve read before.  As a work of historical fiction, the actual history surrounding the event has very little to do with the story.  Lincoln’s presidency has no impact on the events occurring in the graveyard.  The ghosts telling the story have no sense of the magnitude of Lincoln’s place in the living world or in history.  Lincoln says very little; he is simply a grieving father.  This creates a universal story to which everyone can relate.

 

Newly Digitized Collection of Historic African American Bordentown School Newspaper Now Available


The New Jersey Industrial and Manual Training School for Colored Youth, also known simply as the “Bordentown School,” was an African-American boarding school operated by the State of New Jersey. It was founded in 1876 in the Delaware River town of Bordentown, New Jersey, and remained open until December 1954.

Students, as well as many teachers, lived on the school’s sprawling campus. Students were not only required to master a wide variety of academic subjects, such as science and literature, but also took part in maintaining the facilities and learning vocational trades. The school was renowned for the quality and success of its academic programs, and many of its alumni went on to achieve professional success across the country.

The New Jersey State Library recently digitized a selection of the school’s newspaper, The Ironsides Echo, with issues dating as far back as 1935 and as recent as 1955.


The school’s newspaper contains a wide variety of information about events at the school, including details about famous visitors, sports games, and photos of social gatherings.

To view the entire collection of digitized newspapers, please visit the collection page on the New Jersey State Publication Digital Library page: https://dspace.njstatelib.org/xmlui/handle/10929/42440

 

 

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

Blog post submitted by Paulette Biancamano

Curious Charms of Arthur PepperDo you like figuring things out?  I do!  And with this story you get to sit back and enjoy a journey of discovery and figuring it out.  This is a wonderful first novel for Phaedra Patrick who is a prize-winning short story writer.  She develops great characters and takes you on an emotional and a traveling journey as well.  Some people only see the surface of life and daily routines.  You need to look beyond what is in front of you.  Arthur Pepper’s charms are found on a bracelet he finds hidden in his deceased wife’s things.  As the story behind each charm is discovered, you’ll become more enamored with Arthur and the people in his life.

It’s a quick easy read I’m sure you will enjoy.  I didn’t want it to end!

Happy reading,

Paulette Biancamano

Researching Your Civil War Ancestors

William Scudder Stryker
William Scudder Stryker

This blog post was written by Jon Bozard, Reference Assistant at the New Jersey State Archives.

I would like to thank everyone that attended Researching Your Civil War Ancestors on Monday November 14th. It was a nice turnout with a great audience and you asked very good questions! I hope that you will be inspired to start or continue your research.

As I stated during the talk there is not one place to get information on Civil War soldiers. Start with what you know about your ancestors. Where did they live? If New Jersey, start with the New Jersey State Archives website, Civil War Service Records.

If you are not sure where they lived, the Soldiers and Sailors Database (National Park Service) may be of use. This has information for all states participating in the Civil War. You will only get information about State, Regiment, and Company but it is a place to start. Whatever state they lived in contact their State Archives and ask what records are available that may help you.

Federal Pension records are a great source to investigate. There are many types of records within pension files; I was only able to cover a few in the time I had for the talk. Do not be afraid to go to the National Archives in Washington DC. You can order these records, but by seeing them in person you are able to hold your ancestors letters and applications in your hands. As these records are digitized you will no longer be able to do this. You may find letters from your Civil War ancestor, their spouse, children or friends. If you go to the National Archives remember to also request their Combined Military Service Record. This record will contain information specific to their time in the military and may have information about battles they participated in.

Closer to home local historical societies where your ancestors lived could have collections relating to Civil War soldiers.

Remember, do not be afraid to ask questions when you visit the Archives – we are here to help you!


 

Become a Travel Pro: Class Follow-Up

nj-vacationThanks to all who attended my Lunch Time Learning classes held in October.  Below you can find a link to the entire PowerPoint presentation as well as additional links and answers to some questions that were raised during the classes.


Click here to access the presentation files:

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Additional Links and Class Questions:

  • A visitor to the first class mentioned that Google now also has a product very similar to TripIt.  It is called Google Trips.  Google describes this free service as follows:
    • Google Trips makes it easier than ever to plan and organize your trips. It automatically maps out a half day or a full day with suggestions for things to see and do. Don’t like what you see? Tap the “magic wand” to see more nearby sights. Each tap of the wand gives you a fresh set of nearby attractions.

  • Another class member asked about other resources for finding discounted flight deals.  There are several blogs and sites that try and post popular flight deals.  One that I have had a good experience using is called Scott’s Cheap Flights.  This is a free email newsletter that gives alerts for cheap international flights.  There is a paid and free version of the newsletter and it provides flight deals as they become available to destinations across the globe.
  • To request travel books from the library using inter-library loan please click here for detailed instructions.

If you have any other question please feel free to email or call me.  My contact information is below.  Happy Travels!

Take a Virtual Tour of the State Library Information Center’s U.S. Government Documents Collection

Take a Virtual Tour:

Learn more about the many useful resources available to you from the State Library Information Center’s U.S. Government Documents Collection from the comfort of your computer screen.

  • Teri Taylor, the New Jersey State Library’s U.S. Documents Librarian, covers the ins and outs of the collection by presenting the types of materials the collection holds and how to search and find those materials. Teri also provides information on a number of online resources and subscription databases offered by the library.

Effective Volunteer Management

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Thank you again for attending the September 22nd Lunchtime Learning session, Effective Volunteer Management, presented by Karen Carson as part of the New Jersey State Library’s Lunchtime Learning series.

A list of references and an outline of topics covered in the class can be found linked below.

Also linked in this post is the registration information and the agenda for the New Jersey Governor’s Conference on Volunteerism to be held Friday, October 21st at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick. Individuals from a variety of community organizations attend this conference which is held every two years. My presentation topic this year is Difficult Volunteers.

Effective Volunteer Management Outline

Effective Volunteer Management References

New Jersey Governor’s Conference on Volunteerism

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Some of you were interested in awards information for your volunteers. Here is the information about the Jefferson Awards:

The New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Awards honor ordinary people who, through volunteer service, do extraordinary things for other people, their community, their nation, or the environment.

To nominate an individual or group for these awards, highlight your nominee’s service and/or achievements by completing the online nomination form. Honorees in various categories are recognized at a New Jersey ceremony in Spring 2017. In June 2017, a select group of honorees will be invited to participate in a national Jefferson Award ceremony taking place in Washington, D.C.

Nomination deadline: January 31, 2017
Send in your nomination today at: www.njgovernorsawards.com

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Explore a Storymap of an Early Handwritten Manuscript of Books Held by the State Library in 1796

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Early List of Books from The New Jersey State Library StoryMap

(The background image shown in the StoryMap is from the original manuscript and was provided by the New Jersey State Archives, Department of State.)

Using research conducted by the New Jersey State Library’s now-retired genealogist, John Shaw, an interactive StoryMap has been created.  It displays a high resolution scan of an early inventory of books held by the New Jersey State Library in 1796.

In 1796 the Clerk of the House, Maskell Ewing, was directed to “enter on the minutes of the House of this day the titles and names of the several books now belonging to the New Jersey Legislature.” Thirty-three titles appear on his list.  -John Shaw

Using this StoryMap you can examine the handwritten manuscript created by Maskell Ewing in 1796.   While browsing the manuscript you will be able to view each book’s title page, bibliographic information, and see if it is still held in the New Jersey State Library’s collections to this day.

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#27 Journals of the Assembly of Pennsylvania from 1780 to 1790 incomplete.

The Storymap was created using free software offered by the Knight Foundation’s Knight Lab.

To learn more about the early history of the New Jersey State Library, you can read John Shaw’s “Genesis of the New Jersey State Library 1703 – 1796 : A documentary history” online in our New Jersey State Publications Digital Library.

If you have any questions about the project or any questions concerning the history of the New Jersey State Library please do not hesitate to contact the State Library Information Center.

Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

cover_girl_waits_with_gun_amy_stewartGirl Waits With Gun is set in New Jersey, and is based on newspaper accounts of one Constance Kopp and her struggle to see justice served after local hooligans ram her horse and buggy with one of those dangerous newfangled automobiles.

After being a bit disappointed in a few of my recent reads, I’m pleased to say that I liked everything about Girl Waits With Gun. The book incorporates historical newspaper coverage about the events from papers around the tri-state area, and it’s a fun, well-written read – clever, witty, and moving, as well.

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A Kopp sisters newspaper clipping from the Trenton Times, 11/23/1914.

Constance and her sisters, Norma and Fleurette, live on an isolated farm in rural Bergen County, outside of Paterson, NJ. If the Kopp sisters are not regarded as downright eccentric, they would definitely be considered a bit unconventional, especially by 1914 standards. The action starts when their horse and buggy is involved in a hit-and-run accident with Henry Kaufman, both head of Kaufman Silk Dyeing Company in Paterson, and a nefarious ne’er-do-well. When Constance attempts to recoup the cost of damages to her buggy, Kaufman lets loose the first volley in an escalating war between them, and neither party is willing to budge an inch. The adventure that ensues includes well-armed ladies, missing children, hidden identities and scandalous family secrets, and a satisfying ending that includes an unexpected payoff. There is even a suggestion of more Kopp sisters stories to come!

Constance, Norma, and Fleurette are eminently likeable; their voices each distinct and interesting. The story moves along at a lovely pace, propelled by snippets from the news, and the action is tempered with well-wrought character development. By the end of Girl Waits With Gun, I was really charmed by these characters, and enjoyed spending time with them; I’m tremendously pleased I’ll get the chance to visit with them again in future volumes.

Girl Waits With Gun Stewart, Amy.
F STE McNaughton – Level 3

The New Jersey State Library on Goodreads.com!

The August new books list is out.

1454549160-1454549160_goodreads_miscThanks to everyone who attended the webinar held on June 24, 2016 about Goodreads!

The webinar covered what Goodreads is – it’s a social networking site for people who love to read, and a convenient place to track and review books (and audiobooks) that you’re reading, have read, or want to read.

The webinar was recorded, and you can find that recording here:

Join the New Jersey State Library on Goodreads.com!

Some of the many features we covered were setting up an account, adding titles we’re reading or have read to our shelves, and finding friends.

There were a few questions asked during the course of the webinar that I was unable to address at that time; specifically,  an attendee asked that now that Amazon owns the Goodreads website, have I found that Amazon sends me e-mail or recommends titles that I’ve look at on Goodreads? Personally, I haven’t, but I’ve also gone into Goodreads under “Account Settings,” then to “Email Settings,” and changed my preferences so that I don’t receive a lot of promotional e-mail from Goodreads. I’ve done the same thing with Amazon – “Your Account,” and then “Message Center,” so I haven’t received anything from Amazon that wasn’t an order or shipping confirmation. Having said that, I have no idea what type of data Amazon is tracking with Goodreads, or what they are doing with it. You do have the option to add titles to Goodreads that you’ve purchased at Amazon, but that’s an optional step, and not necessary if you’re not interested in linking up those two sites.

There were also a few things I’d forgotten to mention that I really wanted to point out. For instance, if you head over to the NJSL Goodreads page, you can take a look at our bookshelves – all of those titles are in the Recent Fiction collection on the third floor. I add them to the shelf as they arrive in the library, so it’s a fairly accurate reflection of the collection’s recent acquisitions. You can see them all here:

New Books in Recent Fiction at the New Jersey State Library.

Take a look at the New Jersey State Library’s Goodreads Page.

And join the New Jersey State Library’s Online Book Café.

Come and join in on the discussion!

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Blog post submitted by Tara Kehoe

intothinairIn the spring of 1996, Outside Magazine journalist and amateur mountain climber Jon Krakauer joined a commercial expedition team on their climb to the summit of Mt. Everest — a decision he has come to regret.  Krakauer’s Everest attempt was funded by Outside so he could write an article for the magazine about his experiences as a client on a professional guide-led climb. Though several teams vied for him, Krakauer joined New Zealander Rob Hall’s “Adventure Consultants.” Hall, a renowned expert climber known for his commitment to safety, had successfully guided several groups to the summit in previous years.  Krakauer was one of eight clients in Hall’s group, led by three guides and seven climbing Sherpas.

The climbers spent six weeks preparing for the push to the world’s highest mountain, an effort that involved an arduous climb just to reach base camp and then acclimatization forays to the higher camps on the mountain.  This level of physical exertion at such high altitudes had detrimental effects on most of the team members’ health — including debilitating headache, intestinal distress, lack of appetite, and inability to sleep.  Krakauer describes a chronic cough he developed on the way to base camp that did not subside until he returned to his home in Seattle.  Another problem was, with several other commercial expeditions also leading teams to the summit that month, the amount of climbers on the mountain created bottlenecks at some of the more difficult passes — congestion that slowed down climbers and forced them to wait and use up more of their precious oxygen reserves.

With a favorable weather forecast on May 10, 1996, Adventure Consultants slated that day to attempt to reach the summit peak.  Several other expedition teams, including “Mountain Madness” (led by famed American climber Scott Fischer) also selected May 10 for their summit attempts.  On that fateful day, after hours of grueling climbing, Krakauer reached the summit of the world’s highest mountain — where he barely took a moment to enjoy his accomplishment.  Instead, the journalist was more focused on how dreadful he felt due to a deprivation of air (despite using canned oxygen for the climb), lack of sleep, worry over his fellow climbers who were nowhere in sight, and fear of the impending difficult descent he would have to make.  The few clouds brewing below the north side of the summit face barely registered amongst Krakauer’s concerns.   The storm though, would prove to be devastating to the Adventure Consultants team.  Of the five members of the expedition who reached the summit — four perished on the mountain.   All told, twelve climbers from four separate expeditions were dead by the time the month was over.

Fryderyk_Sup-Into Thin Air is a page-turning suspenseful adventure tale.  Krakauer describes what he could remember from his time on the mountain and interviewed many of his fellow climbers and base camp support crew, with the caveat that Krakauer admits that recall of events that occurred at elevations ranging from 19,000 to 29,028 feet are sketchy at best.  The human brain is arguably not meant to function at such altitudes, and certainly the body and the mind do not perform as well at such great heights as they do at sea level.   This book is also full of details including a history of Everest climbing; cultural implications to countries including India, China, and Nepal; Sherpa culture; gear used to aid climbers; and the commercialization of guided expeditions.  Rather than seeming extraneous, Krakauer’s skillful descriptions only add to the level of suspense while reading; one feels like they are right there on the mountain with Krakauer.

The tragic loss of human lives including, Rob Hall, Doug Hansen, Andy Harris, Yasuko Namba, Ngawang Topche Sherpa, and Scott Fischer are lamented, not glorified nor sensationalized.  Krakauer chronicles events, including the mistakes and decisions made with arguably questionable judgement that occurred on the mountain without assigning blame.  Though some climbers also on the mountain that month have since publicly criticized Krakauer’s account as laying blame, being misleading, and/or incorrect.   In fact, the author is hardest on himself—for he survived when so many others perished.

After his article was published in Outside magazine, the events of May 1996 on the mountain and his perceived role in the deaths of fellow climbers and friends continued to haunt Krakauer.  Feeling that he had more to say on the ordeal, Krakauer penned Into Thin Air.   Although this book chronicles events that occurred twenty years ago, Mt. Everest and the drive people experience to reach its summit continues to take lives.  Just this past May, four Everest climbers died tragically.

Into Thin Air offers a thrilling edge-of-your-seat account of a spectacular tragedy and poses great questions — that we are still asking ourselves: why do mountain climbers feel the urge to reach heights roughly the same altitude as a commercial airplane?  Why do people feel compelled to take on such challenges even knowing the risks involved?

Introduction To Internet & Mobile Privacy: Class Follow-Up

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Thank you to all who attended the June 17th  Introduction To Internet & Mobile Privacy Lunchtime Learning class.

 The entire presentation can be downloaded here

In this section I will answer some questions that came up during the class:

What are some of the best news sites to learn about online privacy related topics and stories?

I recommend reading stories from the following sites:, (there are many others out there as well):

 

What are some other organizations that offer information about Online and Mobile Privacy?

The following organizations, many of them non-profits, offer some great resources regarding online privacy:

 

What is some other software that can be used to help protect your email and phone number privacy online?

This service was brought up by class participant: https://www.abine.com/index.html

  • It allows you to hide your real email, phone number, and financial card numbers while browsing online for a fee.
  • ***NOTE*** I have never used this service and can not personally vouch for it’s effectiveness.

What about password managers, are they safe?

Many participants in my last online privacy class were concerned about having to remember so many complex passwords for different online accounts.  We already covered the importance of creating passwords that were as long as possible,  but I brought up the option of using password manager software to help you keep track of it all.

A password manager saves many different passwords and encrypts them.  Users create one master password which is used to log in to all of your accounts. Obviously this makes protecting this master password very important!  I would like to make it clear that using a password manager does not make your passwords more secure necessarily, instead it makes managing them easier.

One of my favorite online sources for finding tips on software and online security is the online media website called Lifehacker.  They have two excellent articles covering the topic of choosing a difficult to guess password as well as choosing a using a password manager that is secure.

 

As always if anyone has any other questions please feel free to contact me!