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December 3, 2010 at 3:12 pm Leave a comment

“Happyness” and Beyond

Hello again.  Today I would like to tell you about a great new book and a wonderful experience I recently enjoyed.  It was my good fortune to attend the national convention of AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) which this year was held in Orlando, Florida.  Among numerous impressive celebrity speakers (too many to be able to hear in only 3 days), was one truly outstanding highlight:  Chris Gardner. 

You will remember Chris Gardner from his best-selling autobiographical book (and movie), The Pursuit of Happyness, in which he chronicled his difficult journey as a homeless single parent from inner-city Milwaukee to success on Wall Street.   At the AARP Convention, this amazing man spoke from the heart to a spellbound audience, providing poignant and often humorous details of his life, with eye-opening glimpses from that book and from his latest: Start Where You Are: Life Lessons in Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be.  In his new book, Chris shares encouraging, uplifting, and creative advice  for handling and overcoming adversity, a subject with which he has much familiarity. 

It is interesting to note Chris Gardner’s fondness for public libraries, as indicated by his frequent references to them and his strong recommendations to his audiences that they utilize their local library to enhance every aspect of their lives.   He certainly has expressed much appreciation for the support he received from his library throughout various stages of his life.  The West Palm Beach Public Library carries both of Chris Gardner’s books and the DVD “The Pursuit of Happyness”, and all are highly recommended to anyone searching for a genuinely motivational encounter. 

Esther Fawn Van Allen, Reference Librarian

November 22, 2010 at 4:54 pm Leave a comment

Pregnancy and Parenting Resources @ Your Library

Very soon I’ll be taking a break from the library to go on maternity leave.  Over the last eight months, I’ve read (or at least browsed) at least fifty books on pregnancy and parenting.  In my opinion, these are the best of the best…and they’re all available for you to check out!

When most people think of books about pregnancy, What to Expect When You’re Expecting is usually the first thing that comes to mind.  It’s a classic text on the ins and outs of pregnancy from before conception through the birthing process.  Even if you’re not interested in reading the book from cover-to-cover, you can follow along week by week to get an idea of what’s happening with your body and your baby.




Similar in concept to What to Expect When You’re Expecting, the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy covers conception through birth, and also gives weekly updates on what’s going on inside you’re body.  Plus, knowing this information comes from such a renowned health institution can help parents-to-be feel more comfortable with its advice.  A great feature of this book are the monthly charts which let you know if something which weird things that happen to your body (and believe me, there will be weird things that go on with your body) are worth seeking medical attention for at certain points in your pregnancy.  For example, light spotting might be totally normal at one point in your pregnancy, but very bad news at another point in your pregnancy.

I picked up The Caveman’s Pregnancy Companion for my husband, but it was actually educational and entertaining for the both of us.  It’s full of great advice for dads-to-be on what to expect from a pregnant partner, and tips on how to make sure that he is making the pregnancy as easy on her as possible.  From urging dad to make more meals (recipes of varying degrees of difficulty are included) to the finer points of prenatal massage, it’s a light-hearted guide that most men will enjoy at least thumbing through.  However, some advice should probably be cleared with one’s partner.  For example, a woman planning on breastfeeding her child might not appreciate a bottle of champagne in the hospital room right after the birth.


Of all the parenting books I’ve read (and I’ve read a LOT), Eat Sleep Poop is the most down-to-earth, sensible book I’ve found.  The author, a pediatrician who wrote this book right after the birth of his own first child, takes parents through many potentially worrying situations (Why is my child yellow? Why does my child have fur?  Why is my child’s poop green?) and lets them know what’s normal and what’s not.  It’s a essentially a meditation on taking a deep breath and trusting one’s parental instincts, with a lot of useful medical information backing that up.  Plus, the book has decision charts.  Decision charts!  Baby has a cough?  If he/she has a fever, do this.  If he/she is cool to the touch, do this.  My only complaint about the book is that the author didn’t include more of these very useful tools.


Don’t let the title scare you off.  Eat Well, Lose Weight, While Breastfeeding isn’t strictly for mothers in search of weight loss after birth, and neither is only for mother’s planning on breastfeeding.  This is a well thought out guide to nutrition after childbirth.  It includes great ideas for snacks and meals, none of which are overly complicated, and all of which are suitable to eat as a family.  While structured similarly to diet books, the author is both non-judgmental and realistic with her expectations of new moms.  She takes a kind approach, and acknowledges that even new moms need to treat themselves with unhealthy things every now and again.



While I prefer to read about pregnancy and childbirth, we also have quite a few relevant DVDs available for checkout.  These include:

And of course, in this digital age, there are a plethora of pregnancy-, childbirth-, and parenting-related websites available to visit from the library or from your own computer.

My favorite pregnancy website is  It was created by the same team who developed the very successful wedding-planning website and the lifestyle website  Among the many resources available at The Bump are a pregnancy checklist, advice from doctors and other professionals, message boards, a baby naming guide, and the fantastic How Big is Baby?, which not only gives information on each week’s (or month’s, if you’re near the end) development, but also compares the baby to a familiar fruit or vegetable.  Trust me, it’s cuter than it sounds.  Users can also sign up for a weekly email, which not only includes How Big is Baby?, but also gives a short snippet on what’s going on with baby that week.  (This week my baby is a honeydew melon, and has finished his/her hearing development!)

Even if you have no interest in Lamaze, the Lamaze International website can be a great resource for pregnant women.  You can sign up for weekly pregnancy-related email, read their blog, or take a look at one of the many other pregnancy and childbirth resources they offer.

Finally, it’s not a website, but if you’re addicted to texting like I am, you might find daily texts for new and expecting parents to be useful.  The Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County has made text4baby available to local residents.  Simply text the word BABY (or BEBE, if you prefer Spanish) to 511411, and you’ll receive a free (if you have a plan with unlimited texting) text message with pregnancy advice every day, aimed at your specific stage of pregnancy.

If you’re pregnant or know someone who is, I hope you find these resources helpful.  You can always ask a librarian for assistance finding more information about specific pregnancy-related topics!



November 9, 2010 at 6:09 pm Leave a comment

Guest Post: Ask a Librarian Statewide Online Reference

The following is a guest post from Traci Avet, the Virtual Reference Coordinator of the Tampa Bay Library Consortium:

So you’ve just finished watching your favorite TV or news program, or listening to your favorite radio show.  For the last hour, they touted the brilliance of someone’s latest novel or nonfiction read.  The damage is done – your interest is piqued.  All you’re thinking now is, “I’ve got to read this book.”

You… and maybe just a few other people.  (Anyone remember Tickle-Me Elmo?)  Well, the first step is to head straight to your library’s catalog – either in-person or online – and see if you’ve beaten the rest of those viewers or listeners to the punch.  Your library may have anticipated the wave of heightened interest and ordered extra copies, so you may be able to stake your claim then and there.  But if not – if your library’s copies are already checked out – make sure you place a hold on that title.  Your library will put you on a waiting list just for that title.  As the items are returned, they are set aside for those next on the waiting list.  Your library will notify you as soon as your book is ready.  And if for some reason your library doesn’t own a copy of the book, don’t despair – your library’s Interlibrary Loan service may be able to borrow the book from another library system.

Your library’s catalog lets you place holds – and sometimes even Interlibrary Loan requests – online from the convenience of your computer.  If you need help finding a book, placing a hold, or just getting more information on how to place an Interlibrary Loan request through your library, visit Ask a Librarian today and get live help from a real Florida librarian.  No matter what you’re looking for, we’ll help you find it.

What can we help you with today?

Ask a Librarian provides Florida residents with live chat services with a real Florida librarian from 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday (ET), and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday (ET).  You can also send an e-mail your local library’s staff.


To access Ask a Librarian, visit our website at and click the link on the green toolbar that says “Ask a Librarian.”

Soon, we’ll be offering Ask a Librarian assistance through text messaging!

Please be aware that you may not always be speaking to a librarian at the West Palm Beach Public Library (Ask a Librarian uses librarians from all over the state of Florida), but whomever you speak with will be happy to help you!

** Britta **

October 20, 2010 at 4:19 pm Leave a comment

Movie Review: Sita Sings the Blues

I saw “Sita Sings the Blues” yesterday and I loved it.

I was not very keen to watch that movie because it is an animation film and I am not a big fan of animation films.  I never find them interesting (except for Persepolis), but a few minutes into this movie and I was pleasantly surprised by the innovative way of story telling in context of animation cinema.  The high points of the film are the excellent narration and the style.

“Sita Sings the Blues” is an interpretation of an ancient Indian epic “Ramayana”.  It tells the story of the warrior king Rama and his relationship with his wife Sita, who he rejects (because a common man question her chastity),  breaking her heart. The epic has an important influence on Indian life and culture; characters Rama and Sita are fundamental to the spiritual consciousness of India. But this story is not the usual “Ramayana” that has been pounded into our minds since childhood, which depicted Rama as the virtuous king.  In fact, this story questions my beliefs and makes me ponder our reasons for worshipping Ram (who rejected Sita).

This is the story of Ramayana from Sita’s perspective. There is another story in the movie of “Nina” which is very similar to that of Sita.  Both of these women endured the pain of being away from their husbands and were betrayed in love.  The film is semi-autobiographical as the director’s marriage was also falling apart.

This is not the “Ramayana” I grew up with, but I like the director’s take on that great epic and I appreciate her efforts.  It is a fabulous, beautifully done movie.

Don’t miss it.  Check it out from our library!


Manju (Reference Librarian)

October 18, 2010 at 2:26 pm Leave a comment

The Hunt is On!

There’s something lurking just under the surface of the water.   Did you see it?  What is causing that rippling effect?  Oh my, it’s the elusive “Muck Monster!” 

During the last week in October the West Palm Beach Public Library will host a series of author visits centered on stories of strange monsters and eerie sightings including the infamous Muck Monster.

On Monday, October 25th you will have an opportunity to meet “America’s Most Credible Cryptozoologist,” Scott Marlowe.  He will discuss Florida’s mysterious creatures.  Mr. Marlowe’s research has been featured on MonsterQuest, Is It True, Legend Hunters, Destination Truth and Weird Travels.  After his talk join Mr. Marlowe for a walk down to the Waterfront to search for the “real” Muck Monster. 

Then on Tuesday, October 26th Charlie Carlson, author of the bestselling book “Weird Florida” will be here to discuss and sign copies of his book.  Carlson is an American author, actor and film producer and is known as “Florida’s Man in Black” or “Master of the Weird.”  He specializes in paranormal, strange events and places, and many historical books. 

Both author programs are scheduled at 6:00pm in the library’s Auditorium. For more information on these “spooky” events call 561-868-7701.

The Muck Monster looks forward to it!           


October 14, 2010 at 5:52 pm Leave a comment

Disaster at the Podium or Fear of Public Speaking

Many times I’ve had to stand in front of a large group to speak on certain topics or to conduct presentations or workshops.  Believe it or not I experience tremendous anxiety just before I talk.  Tongue-tied, sweaty palms and an inability to remember my introduction are typical reactions when I begin speaking.

For many of us in the workplace, presentations and public speaking are a necessary and vital part of our job.  Even if you are looking for work and preparing for an interview it’s important to present yourself with confidence.  No matter what – all of us need to be able to speak with success.

So don’t be shy!  Learn the strategies to conquer your fear of speaking!  Join me Wednesday, October 13th for an informative seminar titled “Speak for Success” presented by well-known speech coach and author Leila Alson, of Alson Power Speaking.  Her power-speaking method has helped many prominent business and political leaders become successful presenters.  She is also the author of “Say It Again, ” a guide to the most mispronunciated words.  Leila will provide you with the tools and techniques to become a powerful speaker.  She will show you how to listen, share information and be persuasive. 

The seminar will start at 6:00pm in the West Palm Beach Public Library’s Clematis Room and of course is free and open to all!  For more information call 561-868-7701.

If you can’t make the presentation then be sure to check-out some of our books on public speaking:

 See you at the podium!


October 4, 2010 at 1:55 pm Leave a comment

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