R5 Beyond Books At Your Local Library

Beyond Books At Your Local Library

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Sure you can borrow the latest Grisham or Grafton, but today you can also practice yoga, sew a quilt, or learn to navigate the Internet at your public library. Start your search engines.


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Remember a time when libraries were for reading the latest Nancy Drew mysteries and for looking through the card catalog for information on Tyrannosaurus rex. Harry Potter has replaced Nancy Drew and computers have replaced those wooden card catalogs that I loved so much. But those aren’t the only things that have changed. Libraries throughout Westchester and Fairfield Counties today provide services well beyond the conventional children’s story hours and adult book groups.


[Quilty Pleasures]

If you’re stuck in a rut and willing to try something new, stop by the John C. Hart Memorial Library in Shrub Oak on a Thursday evening. There, in the community room, you will not only find tables filled with pins, patterns and brightly colored fabrics, but an atmosphere alive with the laughter and enthusiasm of the beginner’s quilting class. This popular seven-week class (which costs $40) is held twice a year and taught by veteran quilters Barbara Lerch and Kay Fowler.

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On a recent Thursday evening, 15 women gathered around Barbara, a master quilter and the president of the Somers Chapter of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America. They were there for a lesson on how to make a beautiful sunflower patch wall hanging. All were eager to learn a new craft and feel a sense of accomplishment.


“I can’t even sew on a button and I’m making a quilt,” Anne Marie told me. Karin is making the quilt for her daughter’s birthday and Helen is there despite her husband’s admonition, “Oh, good, something else to put in the attic or the basement.” But Barbara, who says, “Quilting is like a disease and isn’t as difficult as it looks,” encourages even the most inexperienced or skeptical participant every step of the way. She helps them decide on colors, cut the pattern, pin and sew the pieces together until everyone is well on their way to producing a new, beautiful handmade work of art. I think Helen’s husband will be eating his words!


[Masterpieces on Loan]

Are you planning on redecorating? Are you tired of those old Paris prints your mother-in-law gave you years ago? Before you stop at an expensive art gallery on

Putnam Avenue

in Greenwich to fill your walls space, head over to the Greenwich Library and check out its Lending Art Program. This collection, which is sponsored by The Friends of the Greenwich Library, contains more than 350 works of art.


According to volunteer Suzanne Jarvis, this service is available to people who reside or work in Greenwich. Select your favorite prints and hang them on your walls for six weeks. Tote home Claude Fauchere’s “Twilight in Montparnesse” or Andrew Wyeth’s “After Picking” in a giant canvas bag especially provided for this purpose. Tsukako Kobayashi, a resident of Riverside, CT, and an expatriate from Yokahama, Japan, is a frequent visitor. Unable to bring her own treasured artwork from Japan, she relies on the library’s artwork to brighten up her home.


“I like Monet because his pictures are calm and have beautiful colors,” she says. Beautiful Monets, Picassos and Winslow Homers from the Lending Art Program also can be found around town in doctors’ waiting rooms, retirement homes, office buildings and condos of young couples still feathering their nests.


[English or Something Like It]

Habla Espanol? Sprechen sie Deutsch? Parlez vous Français? If you, or someone you know, needs help with English, vayate to the Mt. Kisco Public Library on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 12 noon (a second class is taught 6 to 9 p.m. on the same days) and attend the free English as a Second Language (ESL) classes sponsored by Northern Westchester/Putnam BOCES. Join people from all over the world, like Vitaliy, a rocket scientist from Russia, Cesar, a cook from Peru, and Viviana, an au pair from Colombia. They each come to improve their reading, writing and speaking skills.


Gwen Fisher, their teacher, patiently guides them through the intensive interactive class where they conjugate verbs, work on pronunciation and learn about those confusing words called homophones. “Gym,” she tells her students, “is a place for exercise, but when it is spelled J-i-m, it’s a man’s name.” She walks around the class of up to 40 students, helping them find the right words, and providing them with the support and confidence they need to become proficient in their adopted language.


[Book Clubs à la Oprah]

Oprah had one. The Today Show has one. But the Chappaqua Library has eight: book discussion groups, that is. And three of them are for parents and kids. Choose from the mother-daughter group for the fifth- through eighth-grade set, the father-son group for the same age range, and the politically correct, gender neutral parent-child group for third and fourth graders. (Check with the library for exact dates and times for each group and if pre-registration is required.)


Miriam Budin, children’s librarian who runs the parent-child group, says that the best discussions arise when the participants don’t like the book. “Everyone hated My Life Among the Aliens by Gail Gauthier,” she says. “I thought it was funny.” More popular selections for this group have included Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary and Frindle by Andrew Clements.


After you pick up a copy of Regeneration by Pat Barker for the adult book group, stop by the children’s section and get a copy of Alan Arkin’s (yes, that Alan Arkin) Cassie Loves Beethoven. Then, join the parent-child group for discussion, a little intellectual bonding and a tasty snack or two.


[Yoga With Your Youngster]

If your doctor has told you that you need to work out and that schlepping your preschooler in and out of his car seat all day doesn’t really count as an hour of weight-bearing exercise, head over to the Scarsdale Library. Yes, the library. Join the Mommy and Me yoga class, a monthly, half-hour, interactive program. According to Jane Marino, head of children’s services, caregivers participate as much as the three- to five-year-olds.

Equipped with a castle filled with picture books and cute pint-sized red rocking chairs, the children’s room is like no other gym you’ve ever seen. It is the perfect setting
to practice breathing using Beanie Babies, to learn a yoga position by pretending to be a cat and to stretch, stretch, stretch.


[Extra Homework Help]

Okay, it’s 3 p.m., and you’ve stretched and carted your preschooler around all day. Then, your fourth grader comes home and has to have a three-page report on Sacagawea, complete with pictures, by tomorrow morning! (Any astute parent knows this assignment was probably given three weeks ago.) What’s a parent to do?


If you live in Rye, register your child for the Teacher in the Library service available Monday through Thursday for grades 1 through 6. (If you live in Yonkers, take her to the Homework Helper program at the Riverfront Library or Will Branch.) A certified teacher will help your child for free. While you’re there, why not sign up for an adult program? The Rye Storyteller’s Guild meets once a month and will help you develop stories from your own experiences. Who knows, maybe you’re the next Frank McCourt or Esmeralda Santiago?


[And so much more]

Not into storytelling? Twice a year you can go to the Croton Free Library and see a silent movie accompanied by music played by local pianist Jesse Beller. Or, you and your child can go to the Stamp Club for philatelists of all ages at the Field Library in Peekskill. There are so many programs that may interest you. Just take your mouse and click on www.westchesterlibraries.org (or www.Greenwichlibrary.org) to find out about them.

Uh, oh! Still think a mouse has ears, a tail and wants to eat your Jarlsberg? You need to take a computer class. Marianne, a senior citizen from New Rochelle, did just that. She signed up for the free, one-to-one, one-hour class at the Scarsdale Library to learn how to use the card catalog and search databases and the Internet. “I’m always cutting out things I want to read,” she says as she pulled a bunch of newspaper clippings from her purse. Near the top of her pile was Amy Patchett’s Bel Canto. Leni Glauber, assistant director of the library, showed Marianne how to search by title, author and subject. She even gave her a tip sheet, plus a free mouse pad. Click, click, click, and with a few strokes of the mouse, Marianne had located the book, put it on hold, and was looking forward to some interesting reading.


Although I still miss those musty-smelling card catalogs, you just can’t beat that little mouse for finding out about the dates, times and availability of all these wonderful library programs. I just may join that quilting class. I’m intrigued by the storyteller’s program (I want to be the next Erma Bombeck), and I think I may join one of Chappaqua’s eight book groups. Like Marianne, I’m going to put some books on hold. I’ll choose from some old and some new: probably Pachett’s Bel Canto, definitely the latest Grisham, and of course, a Nancy Drew.


Lois Podoshen is a freelance writer from Yorktown Heights. Her favorite library is the John C. Hart Memorial in Shrub Oak, but she has yet to sign up for its quilting class.

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