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Category Archives: libraries

True Crime at the Library

Thursday I made my way to Basloe Library in Herkimer, NY, to pick up a true crime book by M. William Phelps.

This was kind of a big deal for me, because I had requested the book through I am not very computer savvy (although a past master of understatement), but I am just about able to find something through if I know title and/or author (I used to use the card catalog with all those drawers, remember that? I was pretty good at that).

I had in fact been meaning to look for books by Phelps for some time now, ever since I first saw him on Snapped, giving background on a case he had written a book about. I have a lot more to say about him, but I think I’ll wait till I’ve read the book and do a whole blog post. In the meantime, suffice it to say, I typed his name into the box at and selected one of the titles that popped up, Too Young to Kill.

In due course, the library left a message on my answering machine that the book was there, and in due course, my husband remembered to tell me about the message (just kidding, he told me about it that same day). Thursday I stopped at the library on my way home from work. I felt a little clunky in my steel-toed work shoes, but even so it was difficult to resist the temptation to wander the shelves looking for more books I might like. I resisted that temptation, but not the temptation to look over the book sale. For one thing, I thought I might find something Steven would like. After all, I owe him a Valentine present (and a full Valentine dinner; see earlier post).

Of course I found things I would like. It would be germane to the title I gave this post to say I found several true crime books, but alas I did not. I did find a book about The Last Plantagenets by Thomas B. Costain. That will no doubt include Richard III, who any Shakespeare buff can tell you murdered his young nephews in his quest for the throne. Historical crime, what’s not to like? I finally selected Duane’s Depressed by Larry McMurtry for Steven. It is the third book in the trilogy that includes The Last Picture Show, a book which Steven owns. I also got a collection of Dorothy Parker. Who doesn’t like Dorothy Parker?

The three books came to $1.75. They were hard pressed to make change for a ten, which is what I had.

“Oh wait, maybe I have correct change.” I dug in my pocket for my coffee out of the vending machine money. “Here’s a ripped one. Maybe you can tape it.” I counted out three quarters while the librarian got out the tape.

I was so pleased to be in a library again and wondered why I’m not there on a regular basis, looking for books or just sitting at a table writing. I could have written this whole blog post there and saved myself some time in front of the computer. Have to keep that in mind for next time. In the meantime, I’m busily reading the book by Phelps and will report back.

Oh Christmas Trees

I drive by Weller Library and Weller Park almost every day after work. Weller Library, if you didn’t read about it in one of my previous posts, is a lovely building, the former home of the Weller family. It is surrounded by a park which hosts many community events. I noticed a sign about Christmas in the Park. Eventually information about a tree lighting appeared on the sign, and a couple of Christmas trees showed up.

I drive by the park slowly due to traffic and a four way stop, but also due to traffic and a four way stop, it’s not easy to read signs. So I wasn’t clear on if the event was Dec. 4 at 5 p.m. or from 4 to 5 p.m. Luckily, the OD (that’s the Utica Observer Dispatch) listed it in their Events Calendar in Sunday’s Paper. 5 p.m.

So Steven and I made sure we got all or most of our stuff done by 4:30 or so and headed on over. We brought our dog, Tabby. We figured there could be no possible objection to a dog in a park, and we had faith in our ability to keep her from peeing on the Christmas trees.

A crowd had already gathered, but we found a parking space without too much trouble. There were a lot of trees, all beautifully decorated. Signs told us who had put up each tree. Local businesses, Girl Scout troops, fire departments and other organizations had participated. We walked around and admired. Several young girls admired Tabby, and petted her.

We ran into a gentleman from our church, and he told us this was the third year for trees in the park. He said anybody could put a tree up.

“You could put your tree up here next year,” he suggested.

That sounded like a good idea to me. I have been toying with the idea of not doing a tree this year. One reason is that nobody ever comes over to see our decorations. Of course we’ll still decorate, because we like to look at decorations, but how many decorations do me and Steve need to look at? Now, to put a tree up in Weller Park, everybody would see it. Most of the trees are memorials. I know some people I could make a memorial to. It’s something to think about.

The trees in Weller Park are gorgeous this year, especially with the lights on. Before the actual lighting, a color guard marched and a chaplain said a prayer. Then they played Christmas carols, which I was not the only one to sing along with (I danced a little, too; I love Christmas carols). Hot chocolate and cookies were served in the library. Steven went in and brought us out some (as well behaved as Tabby is, I did not think she’d be welcome in the library). It was yummy cocoa.

People were still enjoying the trees and the music when we left. We drove around a couple of blocks in Mohawk, admiring the lights on people’s houses. We don’t have snow yet, but there is plenty of Christmas spirit in the Mohawk Valley.

Book about a Bloody Battle

Previously I blogged about going to Weller Library in Mohawk and looking for books on local history. Then I blogged about renewing the book I found. I am so glad I renewed that book! I finished it today. What a good book! Liberty March: The Battle of Oriskany by Allan D. Foote with James Morrison, Joseph Robertaccio and Alan Sterling, illustrations and maps by David Yahnke.

After a prologue about the centennial of the battle, Foote gives us background on all the battle participants: The Iroquois, the Loyalists and the Patriots (not to be confused with the ball team) (sorry, couldn’t help saying that). I was absorbed by the story of the Palatines. I could hardly believe all the crap they went through getting here from their native Germany, and all the crap they went through once they got here. Of course, Foote uses more scholarly terms than crap and goes into a lot more detail. Hey, I’m just trying to get you to read the book.

It’s always interesting to read about the background and beginnings of the American Revolution. Sometimes we get the impression that the pilgrims came over and a few weeks later Sam Adams was dumping tea into the Boston Harbor. It was a whole lot more complicated than “No taxation without representation.” The American Revolution, Foote says, was really our first civil war. We rightly feel stirrings of patriotic pride when we hear of the heroic actions of the founders of our nation, but the story is in many ways a sad one. Neighbor fought neighbor, and families were often divided.

It is a brutal story as well. The Battle of Oriskany was the bloodiest battle of the American Revolution as well as one of the bloodiest battles ever. As a percentage of all participants, more were killed or wounded at Oriskany than at Custer’s Last Stand at Little Big Horn. Even more brutal was the treatment of many of those captured.

I noticed when reading “About the Author” on the last page that the book has one of those old fashioned check out cards. The librarian would write the patron’s card number in a column marked “Borrower’s Name” and stamp in the due date. I was pleased to see this book has been checked out a lot. I encourage you to check it out as well.

Renewing Local History

I recently gave a shout out (I love that expression) to Weller Library in Mohawk, NY (just two weeks ago, in fact), but I think a plug to a local library is always in order.

I have been enjoying the book I checked out, Liberty March: The Battle of Oriskany by Allan D. Foote (North Country Books, Utica, NY, 1998). I’ve been reading it in the break room at work, where several people have expressed an interest. One young man had seen a presentation by Allan Foote. Almost everyone has been to the Oriskany Battlefield. I mean to re-visit it myself one day soon.

The book was due Tuesday, and I wanted to renew it. I drive right by Weller Library on my way home from work, so I figured I was all hooked up. Had the book with me since I was reading it at work, library card on my key chain which I would have if I was driving, all set. Then I remembered — and felt really stupid for forgetting — I had gotten out two books two weeks ago. MacBeth was sitting on my coffee table. Damn! I wondered if modern technology could help me. When I got to the library, I explained that I wanted to renew the book in my hand and hoped to also renew the book on my coffee table. It was no problem. Let’s hear it for computers!

Actually, I could be exaggerating the role of technology here. Now that I think about it, I remember that Jervis Library in Rome, NY had renewal by phone when I was a little girl. In those days, when you checked out books they stuck a card which kept was in a pocket on the inside of the book’s cover into a machine that went ka-CHUNK. In the school library, you wrote your name on the card. For my younger readers, that was a history lesson. For my older readers, a stroll down memory lane (look at me pretending I have all kinds of readers).

I was sorry to see the library was practically empty, and even sorrier that I couldn’t stay. I mean to go to Weller Library to sit and write sometime. It is the most beautiful setting. For anyone who missed my original post about Weller Library (and who reads every post? Not me), I’ll re-iterate that the library was originally the Weller family home. I don’t know from architecture, so I can’t say the style or period, but it is gorgeous.

I thanked the library lady for helping me solve one problem so easily, then headed home. Now I can continue to enjoy reading about Mohawk Valley history. Perhaps a future blog post will be a book report.

Weeknight at Weller, a Lovely Library

On Tuesday when Steven and I were looking for some not too expensive entertainment, it did not take us long to decide on a visit to the public library. We had never been to Weller Library, 41 W. Main St., Mohawk, although we have attended events in the adjoining Weller Park, so that is where we headed.

After driving by a student athletic event, locating a parking space and having another discussion of didn’t we look at a house on this street (we looked at 33 houses before buying one), we walked into the library.

What an incredible setting! It looks as if it should be a museum of an historic home, like Fountain Elms in Utica. The woodwork is ornate, and the floors are a work of art. The children’s room has two window seats. Two of the rooms have fireplaces.

I wandered the whole library (it isn’t very big) before actually looking for books. One room, which has one of the fireplaces, has no books. There is a large wooden table in the center and two smaller ones under the windows. A young man had a lap top on one of the smaller tables. I was enchanted.

“I must come here and write,” I told Steven. Of course, nothing was stopping me from sitting down and opening my notebook right then and there. But we did not intend to stay very long, and I wanted to look for books.

I found a history on the Battle of Oriskany. Since I intend to do a blog post on the Oriskany Battlefield one day, I thought I’d read it. I also picked up a copy of MacBeth with scholarly commentary. Every so often I get a craving for Shakespeare.

I asked the lady who checked out my books if the library was the Weller family home at one time. She said it was. I believe there is an historic marker in front of the library that could have told me that as well. I think some history of the Weller family would make good material for another future blog post.

On the way back to the truck we checked out a couple of left over scarecrows from the Fall Fest we had missed on Saturday (we went to a Fall Fest in Herkimer) (So little fall, so many fests). We also walked a little ways down the sidewalk to admire someone’s awesome Halloween decorations.

I was quite pleased with our little library jaunt. An excellent way to spend a week night in the Mohawk Valley. For more information on area libraries, visit