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    Recently, the BBC ran a story on their website highlighting the fact that British publishers do not distribute very many translated works. In fact, only two to three percent of all the books published in the UK are translations of foreign titles. The situation in the U.S. is no better. Occasionally a writer whose first language isn’t English gets discovered. Haruki Murakami’s books consistently fly off the shelves, and more recently Elena Ferrante (Italian) and Karl Ove Knausgaard (Norwegian) both have received a great deal of attention for their respective semi-autobiographical novels. Besides those authors and a few other exceptions, most translated works languish in obscurity.

    That's a shame because there are a lot of books translated into English that are just as interesting, well-written and exciting as those from better-known (primarily) American and British authors. So I will periodically use this platform to focus my attention on works in translation. Hopefully you will discover an author (or a culture) whose literature you'd like to explore further. At the very least you can mention some of the books listed below at the next soiree you attend and people will be duly impressed by your worldly book knowledge.

    I Did Not Kill My Husband by Liu Zhenyun is a wickedly satirical examination of China's one-child policy. When Li and Qin find themselves expecting a second child, they get a divorce to circumvent Chinese law. But when husband Qin remarries, an enraged Li takes him to court, which creates enough of a fuss to cause the Beijing bigwigs to step in. Zhenyun's gossipy, colloquial voice puts the reader right in the middle of the squabble.

    The Devil Is a Black Dog: Stories from the Middle East and Beyond by Sandor Jászberényi is a collection of nineteen interconnected war stories about conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe. The lynchpin to all of these stories is Marosh, a worn-out reporter who girds himself with an ironic eye to protect himself from the awful things he witnesses. Jászberényi's minimalist style is reminiscent of the work of Philip Caputo and Tim O'Brien.

    The King by Kader Abdolah describes the 48-year reign of King Shah Naser of Persia from 1848 to 1896. Iranian-Dutch author Abdolah artfully explores the political machinations of a king struggling to modernize his country (embracing photography and electric lights) while at the same time attempting to maintain his culture's mores and values (democracy and the education of women are dangerous ideas).

    The Brotherhood of Book Hunters by Raphael Jerusalmy is set in 15th century France, where poet Francois Villon is dispatched to Jerusalem by Louis XI in an attempt to break the papacy's hold over France. The novel deftly combines adventure, intrigue and erudite ruminations on religion and philosophy. If you liked Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, this book may appeal to you.

    The Four Corners of Palermo by Giuseppe Di Piazza recounts four tales about Palermo's Mafia Wars in the 1980s. All of the vignettes are connected by the experiences of a young crime reporter who covers the events. Although the writing is gritty and raw, Di Piazza's insights transform the novel into a philosophical meditation on those desperate times.

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    So, who are the people in your neighborhood?  Bob never sings about them, but the people of Sesame Workshop always include the educational researchers and the script and songwriters.  Beyond the animation cels, drawings, media and the amazing experience of seeing the Muppets up close, the exhibition, "Somebody Come and Play,” lets us see and hear the way that research and entertainment/production values inform each other to create memorable moments.   And, since the 1970-1971 season, those moments have include Jeffrey Moss’ song “Who are the People in Your Neighborhood?”

    One of the first research-advised decisions was to put Sesame Street into its urban setting.  The exhibition begins with an intensive look at the set and how the elements have changed to recognize sociological developments in cities and accommodate shifts in television technology.  A stop-time video shows how the well-known street set was dis-assembled and re-assembled when the show switched studios.  Technical drawings and photographs show the changes in buildings’ identities.  Hooper’s store became a bodega, for example.  It is said that the set design was inspired by the Upper West Side near the original television studio at Broadway and 81st St., but at last week’s public program on Sesame Street songwriting,  Lin-Manuel Miranda said that, as a child, he recognized his Washington Heights neighborhood in the set, which made him feel valued and included. 

    In a table case between the aliens and Squirmy, we feature the lead sheet and theoretical basis of one of Sesame Street’s best-known songs.   The Statement of Instruction Goals for the 1970-1971 Experimental Season established the need for the song as part of a curriculum goal under Reasoning and Problem Solving: Social Groups and Institutions: the Neighborhood – "the Child is familiar with the social and physical boundaries of his own neighborhood.”  (Educational theory uses a lot of capital letters.)  It also exemplified the technique of “conversational use of visual clues” to establish categories and distinguishing within the category, as described in the Parents/Teachers Guide for that season.  The original version featured Bob McGrath and two Anything Muppets donning hats to become a postman and fireman.  Typically, the scene includes bantering between Bob and the AMs.  When Bob proffers a sack as the distinguishing feature of a postman, the AM wants it to mean Santa Claus.  When he demurs, the AM challenges him with “what’s wrong with Santa Claus?”   Later versions of the song, on dentists, teachers, bus drivers, life guards, pilots and nurses, include female AMs to emphasize non-gendered employment.  They have not featured Curators so far, but maybe next season... 

    “Somebody Come and Play” is open through January 31.  Please come.

    Songwriters Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tom Kitt, with reporter Michael Schulman look at the case of lead sheets.Songwriters Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tom Kitt, with reporter Michael Schulman, look at the case of lead sheets. Photograph by Evan Leslie.

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    For elementary and junior high school students, the week of January 26-30 will be a relaxing time off from school. For many high school students however, this week includes dreaded New York State Regents Exams. The New York Public Library offers helpful materials for last minute studying both in book and e-book form.

    The most popular study guides are written by Barron's Test Prep. They include the Barron's Regents Exams and Answers—a concise collection of past exam questions and their answers. They are available in the following subjects: 

    Barron's Regents Exams and Anwers
    Barron's Regents Exams and Answers

    The larger Review Course series series by Barron's includes in-depth explanations of test answers and a review of each unit on the test in addition to question and answer sets. This book is a wonderful companion to the Exams and Answers book even if some questions do happen to overlap. They are available at NYPL in the following subjects: 

    Barron's Let's Review
    Barron's Review Course

    Fans of CliffNotes may feel more comfortable with the Cliffs Test Prep series. There are fewer types of regents exams offered in this series but it provides a workbook style of essay writing review and full length question and answer sets from past exams. The only available version currently in our catalog is U.S. History & Government but patrons can always recommend a title.

    Cliffs Test Prep
    Cliffs Test Prep series

    Teens can visit any of the New Public Library's locations to study, use the computer, and check out books and materials. We have a myriad of materials to help teens prepare for other regents subjects such as Italian, Hebrew, German, and common core English Language Arts. Our librarians will be more than happy to help test takers locate appropriate materials to study with.

    LearningExpressLibrary is available online with your library card barcode number. It contains practice tests, tutorials, and e-books that can help high school students improve skills in Math, English Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, and Logic and Reasoning.

    The complete schedule of Regents exams can be viewed on the Office of State Assessment website  or teens can check with their subject teachers. We wish best of luck to all students taking the Regents exams! 

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    Albert Camus
    Albert Camus

    Albert Camus was a French Algerian (1913-1960) who authored many classic titles beyond The Stranger, including The Plague, The Falland the essay The Myth of Sisyphus, where he writes about the absurdity of life. He grew up in Algeria with his partially deaf mother’s family (his father died before he was a year old) and later moved to France. He suffered from tuberculosis which kept him from enlisting in the military and influenced his travels around Europe. His career included stints as a journalist, notably for Combat where he wrote for the resistance during World War II. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957 "for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times.” He died in a car accident in 1960 at the age of 46.

    Camus often uses seemingly simple sentence structure to bring forth complex ideas in his novels. The Stranger, his first novel, touches on ideas relating to the mother/son relationship, domestic violence, capital punishment, and colonialism.

    The weather is also a major theme in the book, most notably, the sun. It often contributes to the action of the novel. The sun beats down on the funeral procession in Part One of the novel, and returns to blind Meursault on the beach when he murders the Arab man. It recurs over and over to set the scene in both parts of the book.

    • Are there other recurring themes that mirror scenes between the Part One and Part Two? For instance, how is the life of the residents of the old people’s home in Part One of the book similar to prison life in Part Two? “I remembered what the nurse at Maman’s funeral said. No, there was no way out, and no one can imagine what nights in prison are like.” p. 81

    Myth of Sisyphus

    Also, the the stranger himself is the central conflict of the novel. His point of view about life is characterized in the book as withdrawn, for example, he doesn’t cry at his mother’s funeral.

    • Do you feel comfortable with Meursault in the role of anti-hero? Does he gain your sympathy in the novel?

    • Do you think Meursault’s character reflects the title of the novel?

    • There are many references to sleep and sleeping in the novel. What do you think this says about Meursault’s character? Is he fatiqued by grief or drinking? Is he depressed?

    There is a Ted-Ed talk by educator Tim Adams, about the anti-hero conquering his own fears and coming to terms with himself to fight whatever threat faces him. He is often challenged to return to conformity with society, which is exactly what Meursault faces when he goes to trial.

    The Albert Camus Society has a very helpful discussion with many interesting facts about the names and recurring habits of the characters of The Stranger by reading a chapter a day. Simon Lea notes in the one chapter per day blog that “Meursault's name is made up of sounds in French from the word for sea and the word for sun.”

    Thanks for continuing the discussion of The Stranger  (Part 1) with the Reader’s Den!

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    In 1972, Susan Sontag wrote in her journal, "I want to make a New Year's prayer, not a resolution. I'm praying for courage." And intellectual courage is, indeed, one of the great legacies of the writer's career. Today, January 16, we celebrate Sontag's birthday by re-reading her journals, those intimate musings and half-musings. In 2012, her journals from 1964-1980 were published under the title As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh. The entries from this period, in which she wrote two of her most beloved and important contributions to American letters, On Photography and "Notes on Camp," offer an incredible glimpse into the author's inner life in her own words. Here are seven facts you may not know about Susan Sontag.

    1. Sontag found Dickens' characters somewhat thin:
      "Dickens' characters are single motive puppets 'topped' with a humour—their character is their physiognomy (hence, relation to history of caricature)"
    2. Failure in writing was less frightening than sexual failure to Sontag:
      "As a writer, I tolerate error, poor performance, failure. So what if I fail some of the time, if a story or an essay is no good? Sometimes things do go well, the work is good. And that's enough. It's just this attitude I don't have about sex. I don't tolerate error, failure—therefore I'm anxious from the start, and therefore I'm more likely to fail. Because I don't have the confidence that some of the time (without my forcing anything) it will be good."
    3. As a child, Sontag saw Snow White and the Seven Dwarves when it was first released to theaters. Other films she saw when they first came out include, Citizen Kane, Fantasia, My Friend Flicka, Pride of the Yankees, and The Thief of Baghdad.
    4. Sontag believed there was no such thing as "women's literature":
      "There may be a 'black literature' with its own standards, but there is no 'women's literature.' Isn't this precisely the old male chauvinist slander. (Cf. treatment of Virginia Woolf) Women do not have - and should not seek to create - a separate 'culture.' The separate culture they do have is privative. It's just that they should be seeking to abolish."
    5. Sontag feared her mother:
      "I'm afraid of my mother—afraid of her harshness, her coldness (cold anger—the rattling coffee cup); ultimately, of course, afraid that she'll just collapse, fade out on me, never get out of bed. Any parent, any affection (though I've assented to a fraudulent contract to get it) is better than none."
    6. Adolescent schooling was one institution Sontag speculated might be abolished:
      "Why not eliminate schooling between age 12-16? It's biologically + psychologically too turbulent a time to be cooped up inside, made to sit all the time. During these years, kids would live communally—doing some work, anyway being physically active, in the countryside, learning about sex—free of their parents. Those four 'missing' years of school could be added on, at a much later age. At, say, 50-54 everyone would have to go back to school."
    7. Susan Sontag enjoyed watching ice skating. In 1977, she wrote some lists of things she liked. Others, to name a few, were: Venice, goose down quilts, sushi, large long-haired dogs, ivory sweaters, leather belts, aphorisms, reading aloud, and escalators.

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    The 19th century witnessed many discussions about the development of rapid transit in New York City. By 1850 these discussions were not about whether rapid transit should be build but rather about what it should look like. On April 13, 1872 Scientific American stated: "Everybody in New York wants rapid transit, but, strange to say, the moment that anybody sets to work with a definite plan for its realization, they are vigorously opposed and the work prevented." This was the case with many plans which for whatever reason could not get government support or proper funding. Some, however, were not pursued because they were simply not practical.

    Let's look at some of the early proposed (and sometimes partially built) railways for New York City for which we have visual materials. Roger P. Roess and Gene Sansone discussed these and other proposals in their recent book: The Wheels that Drove New York: A History of the New York City Transit System (2013) as did James Blaine Walker in his Fifty Years of Rapid Transit (1918). Please also note that SIBL offers access to the Compendex Historical Archive (1884-1969) database which is believed to be the most comprehensive interdisciplinary engineering database in the world.

    View of Broadway in the city of New York with the proposed elevated rail-way invented by John Randel, Junr. C.E. This lithograph is by Robert J. Rayner and it was printed by George Hayward in 1848. John Randel Jr. ( 1787-1865) worked as chief engineer for New York City's street commissioners and made a name for himself for recording the contours of Manhattan down to the rocks on its shores. In 1846 he proposed an elevated railway constructed in cast iron and glass that would run for six miles on both sides of Broadway to 155th Street. Passangers would be lifted to the cars by elevators and would ride in horse-drawn cars . Rayner went as far as producing a $4,000 model weighing three tons. and produced estimates of cost and income for his proposed elevated line.
    Swetts Proposed Elevated Railway For Broadway. This drawing appeared in the Oct. 15, 1853 issue of Scientific American and in the Nov. 5, 1853 issue of Illustrated News. Please note that the steam-powered locomotive carries a suspended car beneath. The design by James H. Swett was labeled by Scientific American as one that requires but little explanation. The engraving, it continued, tells its own story, except for the smoke of the locomotive, which the engraver, who likes a cigar, conceived to be an indispensable adjunct.
    Proposed Elevated Railroad Terrace For Broadway, New York appeared in Gleasons Pictorial Drawing-room Companion, April 1, 1854. J.B. Wiskersham proposed a horse railway on one side and a pedestrian promenade on the other. There was some interest in the plan, but the issues of the slow speed and of the disposal of wastes deposited by the horses worked against it.
    The Proposed Broadway Railroad -- The Bridge Elevation At The Street Crossings . A Broadway railroad was discussed as early as 1852 when three projects were on the table. (see The New York Herald , Nov 4, 1852, p. 2). Is this one of them? All we know about this illustration is that it was published on March 3, 1866.

    It appears that in the 1860s discussions about rapid transit for New York City entered a new stage as shown in numerous publications on the subject:

    On January 31, 1867 at the last session of the Senate of New York State's Legislature the following resolution was adopted: "That a select committee of three be appointed to sit during the recess, with the mayor of the city of New York, the State Engineer, and the engineer of the Croton Board, to ascertain and report to the Senate the most advantageous and proper route or routes for a railway or railways, suited to the rapid transportation of passengers from the upper to the lower portion of the city of New York, having in view the greatest practicable benefit and safety to the public, and the least loss and injury to property on or adjacent to said route or routes."

    Report of a Special Commission Designated by the Senate to Ascertain the Best Means for the Transportation of Passengers in the City of New York was published the same year. More than 20 plans of underground, depressed, and elevated railways submitted to the committee were discussed in the report. Below see a few drawings from this report.

    From: Proposed railway for NYC from Report of a Special Commission Designated by the Senate to Ascertain the Best Means for the Transportation of Passengers in the City of New York. Albany, January 31, 1867
    From: Proposed railway for NYC from Report of a Special Commission Designated by the Senate to Ascertain the Best Means for the Transportation of Passengers in the City of New York. Albany, January 31, 1867
    From: Proposed railway for NYC from Report of a Special Commission Designated by the Senate to Ascertain the Best Means for the Transportation of Passengers in the City of New York. Albany, January 31, 1867.—Note underground mechanism.

    Some of the railways proposed in 1867 were described in separate publications:

    More to come in Part 2.

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    Chi 951.0509 Zhang, Yihe

    往事並不如煙 || Wang shi bing bu ru yan   

    作者: 章詒和

    台北市 : 時報文化出版企業股份有限公司,  ISSN: 9789571342108  c2004.

    「我這輩子没有什麽意義和價值,經歷了天堂、地獄、人間三部曲,充其量不過是一場孤單的人生。我拿起筆,也是在爲自己尋找繼續生存的理由和力量,拯救我即將枯萎的心。而提筆的那一刻,才知道語言的無用,文字的無力。它們似手永遠無法敘述出一個人内心的愛與樂、苦與仇。寂靜的我獨坐在寂靜的夜,那些生活的影子便不期而至,眼窝裏就會湧出淚水,提筆則更是淚流不止,毫無辨法,已成疾。因爲一個平淡的詞語,常包藏著無數寒夜裏的心悸。我想,能夠悲傷也是一種權利。」p45- p46



    Special Thanks goes to Hung-yun Chang at Mid-Manhattan Library and Maria Fung in Collection Development for All their help with this blog post. 

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  • 01/16/15--12:07: Long Distance Grandparenting
  •  1563799
    Michael & Leah Cetera, son & grandmother. 458 Rutland Rd., Flatbush, Brooklyn. October 14, 1978. Image ID: 1563799

    This post is addressed to new grandparents, and especially those living far from their loved ones, of which there are more and more these days.  When my daughter gave birth to a beautiful (aren't they all?) baby girl, Aiyana Makeda, two months ago in San Diego,  I was, as you can imagine, ecstatic. Fortunately I was able to spend the first three weeks with family and share in the celebration of her existence. But I was completely unprepared for how hard it would be to return home.

    When I began to pull myself out of the despair of missing her, I found that writing letters (yes, actual paper and pen letters that go through the mail) made me feel closer to parents and baby.  I wrote to mother, to child, to both parents.  I shared my feelings and hopes (and kept my fears mostly to myself).  

    Many of my peers have young grandchildren; most live nearby, but I am meeting others who are similarly blessed and challenged.  My desire to stay close to my west coast granddaughter led me to the library for solutions. 

    The first book I located was  found Dr. Arthur Kornhaber's Grandparents and Grandchildren: The Vital Connection.  The book is full of scientific research on the benefits, for all sides,  of a close grandparent/grandchild relationship.  Through his organization,, I found some helpful ideas for staying close across the miles, although most apply to children above the age of infancy.  

    His later book, The Grandparent Guide,  contains a chapter on long-distance grandparenting. He also covers important subjects such as gay and lesbian issues, legal questions, grandparents raising grandchildren, divorce and religious differences. Though only 33% of grandparents live close enough to visit regularly, he offers some realistic advice.  For example, daily contact, through technology, can make a big difference. (It doesn't have to be "high tech"; one grandma bought fax machines so children can send their drawings).  Personal letters to children of reading age maintain the connection also. Children will notice the attention. Dr. Kornhaber quotes one ten-year-old: " My grandmother really loves and misses me... I hear from her almost every day... I know she cares." 

    Joyous Gift of Grandparenting

    There's also Doug and Robin Hewitt's The Joyous Gift of Grandparenting, full of fun activities from storytelling to music to building sand castles.  Both books discuss "cybergrandparenting" and the how the computer can provide many shared activities, from making YouTube videos to playing games together. For grandparents who need to refresh their computer skills, many branches of NYPL offer a range of computer classes.  

    For entertaining children's books about this special connection, some of my favorites  include Sally-Lloyd-Jones The Ultimate Guide to Grandmas and Grandpas and Abuelo by Arthur Dorros.   A search on the NYPL  catalog will reveal many more great titles.  

    Over the past two months I've learned that maintaining the connection across many miles is a very personal and constantly evolving process, limited only by one's motivation and creativity.  

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    Joyce Carol Oates has given us some of the most frightening and elegant stories in American letters. Her impressive creative output has included novels, short stories, and memoir. We were lucky to have the author deliver the Robert B. Silvers lecture, entitled "Is the Uninspired Life Worth Living?", about inspiration and obsession. 

    The author of over forty books, it's difficult to imagine Oates lacking inspiration. Yet the author explained that a lack of inspiration is one great writerly fear. More preferable even is obsession:

    "Inspiration is an elusive term. We all want to be inspired if the consequence is something original and worthwhile. We would even consent to be haunted and obsessed if the consequences were significant. For all writers dread what Emily Dickinson calls 'zero at the bone,' the deadzone from which inspiration has fled."

    Oates described dreams as a strong catalyst for literary fiction. In dreams, after all, a wonderful strangeness emerges:

    "Our dreams are filled with these strange images and these strange things, but mostly we let them fade away. If you seized one of them that was really mysterious and disturbing and just thought about it, obviously you could construct a story around that."

    And what of critics? Oates provided one interpretation of Plato's resistance to some poets as a resistance to ideological differences:

    "The poets who in Plato disdain and fear were analogous to our rockstar performers. You might not know that, but they recited their poems before large, enthusiastic audiences. We can assume it wasn't that fact that these poets were popular as Homer was popular to which Plato objected but the fact that his particular heavily theologized philosophy didn't form the content of the utterances."

    You can subscribe to the New York Public Library Podcast to hear more conversations with wonderful artists, writers, and intellectuals. Join the conversation today!

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    I was raised on a steady diet of gothic romance fiction—my mom and I can do a wicked impressions of the winds whistling down the Yorkshire moors and the waves crashing against the Cornish coast. Growing up, I read Frances Hodgson Burnett, the Brontë sisters and Daphne Du Maurier. Later, I discovered the works of Wilkie Collins, Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt (among others). I am a sucker for lonely, windswept landscapes, remote, mysterious mansions, smart, stubborn heroines, handsome, brooding heroes, family secrets, things that go bump in the night, ghosts… all the hallmarks of a good, Gothic tale. Lucky for me, this old fashioned genre has recently come back into vogue and many contemporary authors are putting their own stamp on it. Here’s an annotated list with some of my favorite classics and a sampling of some of my newer favorites. Settle in for a good story and get ready for some thrills, chills and just a little romance.

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    Fast Food Nation

    Reading nonfiction books can open your eyes to different subjects and make you see them in a new light, and I’m not just saying that because I haven’t eaten a burger from McDonald’s since I read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser.  Reading nonfiction books can change your perspective in both small and profound ways.  

    At the last meeting of my teen book club we discussed The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming.  We started by talking about how much we enjoyed that book, but later our conversation spun off into a discussion about what qualities make a nonfiction book so good that we just HAVE to share it with other people.

    Harlan Ellison Hornbook

    I’ve always preferred reading fiction to nonfiction, with a few notable exceptions that have stayed with me over the years.  When I was a teenager I subscribed to Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine.  I started my subscription because I loved the short stories, but even though I would read each issue all the way through I soon found myself reading the magazine out of order.  That’s because I became so attached to the “Harlan Ellison’s Watching” column that I would read that before anything else.  Primarily, my love of his column had to do with the strength, intelligence, and humor of Ellison’s voice, and this column made me seek out both his fiction and nonfiction writing.  He was one of the first critics I enjoyed, and I went on to love other critical voices like Roger Ebert writing about movies and Anthony Bourdain writing about food.

    In Cold Blood

    When I was in college my boyfriend lent me his copy of In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, and that is still one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read.  The strength, again, is in the author’s voice.  Capote was writing about a real-life crime that was covered by lots of newspapers at the time that it occurred.  So in one way the story was straightforward since people already knew what happened at the end.  Yet the way Capote told the story, cutting back and forth and building tension between chapters, made this nonfiction book suspenseful like a thriller novel.  This was the first memorable true crime story I read, and later when I was an adult I went on to read and enjoy many other true crime stories.  I especially loved The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson as well as many books by Harold Schechter and graphic novels by Rick Geary.

    King of the Mild Frontier

    Another favorite area of nonfiction for me can be found in the biography and collective biography sections of the library.  Here I’ve found many biographies, autobiographies and memoirs that I read for enjoyment and that I’ve shared with middle school and high school classes over the years.  Browsing through these shelves I’ve found funny books like King of the Mild Frontier: an Ill-Advised Autobiographyby Chris Crutcher and How They Choked: Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg.  I also learned about many people I’d never heard of before in books like Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves, & Other Female Villains by Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple.  And since lots of teens request books about real people who had to overcome obstacles, I’ve read and shared books like Everything Sucks: Losing My Mind and Finding Myself in a High School Quest For Cool by Hannah Friedman, Stitches: A Memoir by David Small, and The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls.

    The Professor and the Madman

    I enjoy reading history books, and I especially enjoy reading books that focus on aspects of history that I didn’t know about before.  Most people have heard of the Oxford English Dictionary, but how many people know that one of its authors mailed in his contributions from a criminal lunatic asylum?  I learned all about it in The Professor and The Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the  Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester.   Would you like to learn about the secret side of Hollywood history while perusing some classic cocktail recipes?  Then make sure you check out Of All the Gin Joints: Stumbling Through Hollywood History by Mark Bailey.  

    Nonfiction can be a difficult genre to explore if you don’t know where to start.  Sometimes you might begin by browsing the shelves about a subject that already interests you, like dinosaurs or psychology or magic.  Or sometimes you get one recommendation that snowballs into more, and that often happens when you discover an author that you love.  

    Into the Wild

    For example, lots of young adult librarians were buzzing about Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer when it was published years ago.  I read it and I was so moved by the story itself but also by the way that Krakauer told the story that it motivated me to seek out other books by him.  That’s why I later read Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster (which I might have found on my own anyway) and Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains(which I NEVER would have found unless I was searching for his books).  Krakauer has found a lot of success over the years writing about all different nonfiction topics, including a famous humanitarian, Mormon fundamentalism, and the story of a hero that was ripped from the headlines.  

    I’ve found many great nonfiction books by following authors from topic to topic.  Basically, if you find the right author you’ll learn to trust them and follow them to learn about subjects that you would never normally explore.  

    The Family Romanov

    So let’s get back to those Romanovs, shall we?  Why was The Family Romanovso special that our NYPL committee voted for it as one of the best YA books of 2014?  Well, first there was the story of the Romanov family, which was already filled with drama, intrigue, and bad decisions.  There were many charismatic people in this story, including the members of the royal family and the “mad monk” Rasputin.  While there have been many books written about Russian history and the revolution that led to the death of the Tsar’s family and the rise of communism, Candace Fleming takes a fresh approach to telling this story.  Portions of the book focus on the royal family—their daily lives, their family dynamics, and their political decisions.  But other parts of the book describe life “beyond the palace gates.”  Fleming shows the readers how peasants and workers lived, and we get to read their own words which give us a broader perspective of how and why the people of Russia rose up to overthrow their government and end a dynasty.  This book offers a unique perspective on historical events that will intrigue readers whether or not they are familiar with the story.  Much like Capote’s In Cold Blood, it’s the telling of the story that will make you keep turning the pages, even if you already know how that story’s going to end.

    Looking for more nonfiction books?  Check out more blog posts on nonfiction topics, browse the nonfiction shelves for your favorite subjects, and ask your neighborhood librarians for some recommendations!  And if you have a favorite nonfiction book you think our readers should know about, share it in the comments and tell us why you think it’s great!

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  • 01/21/15--07:49: Glimpses of Alice
  • To celebrate Lewis Carroll’s upcoming birthday—and my un-birthday!—let’s venture down the rabbit hole to explore depictions of Alice, his most famous creation, here at The New York Public Library.

    Photograph of Alice Liddell, taken by Lewis Carroll, Berg Collection of English and American Literature
    Photograph of Alice Liddell, taken by Lewis Carroll. Berg Collection of English and American Literature.

    Lewis Carroll, the writing pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, conceived of Alice’s story as an entertainment for Lorina, Alice, and Edith Liddell, daughters of Oxford colleague Henry Liddell and his wife, also named Lorina. He presented the handwritten manuscript to namesake Alice Liddell as a Christmas present in 1864. The manuscript is now in the British Museum, but the George Arents Collection holds a facsimile that shows us Carroll’s very first sketches of the adventurous Alice.

    Facsimile of original Alice manuscript, with Carroll’s illustrations. In the published version, Alice’s croquet mallet was changed from an ostrich to a flamingo.

    Once Carroll decided to publish his story, he secured the talents of Sir John Tenniel to provide its illustrations. Tenniel’s drawings were made into wood engravings by George and Edward Dalziel; these engravings were then electrotyped and printed in the first edition of the text. Supremely unhappy with the quality of the printing, Carroll and Tenniel suppressed this 1865 edition, making it now quite rare. In 1987-1988, Jonathan Stephenson of The Rocket Press used the original wood blocks, which had rather miraculously survived, to print fresh, high-quality illustrations. These were carefully prepared with underlays and overlays—called make-ready in printer’s parlance—in order to capture the detail and artistry of Tenniel and the Dalziels’ work. Unfortunately for Tenniel’s professional integrity, Alice’s London publishers were left with thousands of sheets of the suppressed first edition and sold them off to New York’s D. Appleton and Company, who slapped new title pages on top and sold them as the first American edition. Fortunately for us, that means we can now see the suppressed illustrations next to their fine press reprints!

    A suppressed illustration to the first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published in the first American edition, left, next to its recent fine press reprinting, right. The too-heavy inking and impressing is most noticeable in Alice’s face, which is obscured by shadows in the earlier print.

    The Rare Book Division holds several copies of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass. These range from 1866 to 1988 and appear in English, French, German, and Italian. A handful are presentation copies from Carroll to his friends, including Effie Millais, wife of John Ruskin and John Everett Millais. One is even signed by Alice herself—now with the married surname of Hargreaves.

    A presentation copy of the first German edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, left, and Alice Liddell Hargreaves’ signature in the Limited Editions Club’s edition, right

    Since Alice’s first publication in 1865, many illustrators have tried their hand at depicting its heroine—Arthur Rackham, Salvador Dalí, and Ralph Steadman have all had a go—though Tenniel’s version remains indelibly linked to the text in most readers’ minds. In a 1929 edition, artist Willy Pogany lent his interpretation; his Alice has a flapper bob and an unflappable countenance as she navigates the madness of Wonderland. Pogany’s illustrations spill over onto the book’s decorative endpapers, which group all of Carroll’s characters together in a riot of color.

    Decorative endpapers for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, illustrated by Willy Pogany

    It’s hard to discuss Alice illustrations without mentioning the Pennyroyal Press’ edition of 1982, which comes from our collection of private press printing. Barry Moser used wood engraving, the same process as John Tenniel, to produce illustrations that feel more mysterious and even sinister than most interpretations. As Moser himself put it, “I have tried to keep the illustrations weird (yet reasonable), and grotesque (yet humorous), but I have not tried to make them pretty or graceful.” My favorite depiction is probably the Cheshire Cat, but it’s hard to argue with the haunting portrait of Alice that closes out the volume. Moser used his own daughter as a model because he thought she resembled a young Alice Liddell—what do you think?

    Wood engraving of the Cheshire Cat by Barry Moser, from the Pennyroyal Press’ Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
    Wood engraving of Alice by Barry Moser, from the Pennyroyal Press’ Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

    Whether you’re at home or in one of our research or branch libraries, NYPL has a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland ready for you. Just imagine a tag from Lewis Carroll bearing the instructions “READ ME.”

    First image courtesy Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library. All other images: Rare Book Division. New York Public Library. Astor, Lenox, Tilden Foundations.

    Watch curator Leonard Marcus discuss Alice in the 2014 exhibition, The ABC of It.

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  • 01/21/15--08:04: A Crocheter's Delight
  • Frigid temperatures are upon us, and that means one thing: keeping warm.  How about foregoing  the costly department store prices and creating your own awesome scarves, fuzzy socks and warm mittens.  All you need are two hands, a couple balls of yarn, needle(s), a comfortable chair and a bit of free time.

    Below is a selection of titles for your knitting and crocheting pleasure. Have a seat, relax, grab the needle and yarn, take a deep breath, hook and loop, chain or stitch and let the projects begin.

    Arm Knitting: How to Make A 30-Minute Infinity Scarfs and Other Great Projects by Mary Beth Temple
    Features detailed instructions for making scarves, cowls, wraps and capes in 30 minutes, using your arms instead of needles.

    Baby Knits from Around the World: 20 Heirloom Projects in a Variety of Styles and Techniques
    Showcases 20 classic knitting designs, from world renowned artisans. Provides instruction for making hats, blankets, booties and more.

    Blooming Crochet Hats: 10 Crochet Designs With Ten Mix-and-Match Accents by Shauna-Lee Graham
    Instructions for crocheting 10 types of  hats and how to add flowers and motifs for a more stylish look.

    The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet by Margaret Hubert
    An instructional guide to crocheting basics. Includes tools and techniques plus a variety of stitch and crocheting patterns.

    Crochet Cool: Fun Designs for Kids Ages 1 to 6by Tanya Bernard
    Art noveau, retro-chic and bohemian style patterns for making scarves, mitten, hats and socks for both boys and girls.  Includes a glossary of abbreviations, size range and a difficulty key.

    Crochetby June Gilbank
    An introduction to crocheting including advice on tools, yarns, how to read patterns and charts and correcting mistakes.

    First Time Knitting: The Absolute Beginner's Guide by Carri Hammett
    This book guides beginners on a journey to confident knitting.

    Quick & Easy Crochet: Cowls
    Six quick and easy designs for making beautiful cowls using different types of yarn.

    blooming crochet hats
    complete photo guide
    baby knits
    quick and easy
    crochet cool
    first time

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  • 01/21/15--08:14: More Nordic Noir
  • With the bleakest part of the winter now upon us, some readers may be craving a feast of Scandinavian noir. Jeremy Megraw's excellent blog post from 2013 covered a lot of this chilly ground, but here are a few more contemporary Swedes (and one Norwegian) I've enjoyed.

    I'll start with the pseudonymous Arne Dahl (real name: Jan Arnald), an elegant and imaginative writer whose stories tend to have a touch of magic realism. He is the author of the "Intercrime Series," about a fictional elite Stockholm police unit tasked with working "outside the box" to solve particularly baroque crimes with an international flavor, as when an American suspected of a gruesome killing in Newark eludes a police stakeout at Stockholm's airport and proceeds to spread mayhem around the Swedish capital (Bad Blood, the first title published, though it's the second in the fictional chronology).

    Misterioso, by Arne Dahl

    So far only the first two Intercrime books, Misterioso and Bad Blood, are available in English in the US (a third is out in the UK), but the first five were the basis of a successful TV series (available on DVD), so more can be hoped for. The Intercrime Series should be catnip for fans of police teamwork, and Paul Hjelm, Kerstin Holm and the rest of the quirky cops in the group are vividly characterized. There is also a lot of humor in these books, something that can't always be said of Scandinavian crime stories. Dahl's newer series, the Opcop Quartet, featuring many of the same characters in a more international context, is also excellent, but not yet in English. For more information, see the author's website.

    Camilla Läckberg sets her crime novels in her home town of Fjällbacka, a small fishing community on the west coast of Sweden. The series began with The Ice Princess, in which a young woman's corpse is discovered in a bathtub of icy water, her wrists slashed—but was it really suicide? Erica Falck, a childhood friend, is moved to investigate.

    The Ice Princess, by Camilla Läckberg

    The detectives at the center of the stories are a professional (Patrik Hedström, a cop) and an amateur (Falck, a writer, his girlfriend and later his wife) and the stories tend to involve a large cast of characters, all of whom know one another and all of whom have a motive for the heinous crimes that occur… and of course no alibi. For this reason Läckberg has been called the Swedish Agatha Christie, but for me that title is more deservedly applied to a writer from an earlier generation, Maria Lang. (Lang is also eminently readable, but unfortunately, only three titles from her vast output have been translated into English, though a recent internationally distributed TV series may change that.) Several of Läckberg's books have also been filmed. Her website is

    In Liza Marklund's crime series the heroine is also an amateur and a writer, in this case a journalist employed by a Stockholm tabloid. The crimes are often shocking and draw the narrative into contemporary social issues such as the international drug trade and terrorism, but for me the real interest is the complicated, emotionally volatile character at the center of the stories, Annika Bengtzon, who never met an anger she could manage or an impulse she could control.

    The Bomber, by Liza Marklund

    In the course of ten books (so far) we follow her through a disastrous first relationship, an ill-advised and never completely happy marriage, motherhood, and a long slow-burning flirt with the man who may be true love of her life. The texture of her everyday life, and that of those close to her, is portrayed in such detail that non-Swedish readers may feel they have completed a residency in her homeland when they've worked through the series. Several of the Bengtzon books are also available as TV adaptations on DVD, but be advised that Annika's life has been considerably reordered in this version. (The books were also published out of chronological order; The Bomber was the first to be published, but Exposed is where Annika's story begins.) More on Marklund's website:

    Sweden's "second city," the west coast metropolis Gothenburg (Göteborg, in Swedish), provides the crime scenes in the novels of Helene Tursten. Her heroine is Detective Inspector Irene Huss of the Gothenburg Police, a former European judo champion, happily married to a professional chef and the mother of teenaged twin girls.

    Detective Inspector Huss, by Helene Tursten

    Unlike the protagonist in many police procedurals, Huss is not depressed, substance-dependent or a failure in her relationships, but the stories may involve her unusual private life in unexpected ways, and she seethes when she occasionally encounters sexism on the job—even from a female superior. But her colleagues in Gothenburg's Violent Crimes Unit are a generally competent and sympathetic lot, as they are confronted with such baffling cases as the fragment of a tattooed torso that washes up on a beach with its limbs apparently surgically severed (The Torso), or the hit-and-run accident where the victim, a retired cop, may be connected to an international sex trafficking scheme unraveling around the body of a murdered thirteen-year-old girl found near the accident scene (The Beige Man). There are ten books in the Huss series, beginning with Den krossade Tanghästen ("The Shattered Tang Horse," unimaginatively translated as Detective Inspector Huss). Yes, there's a TV series too. Ms. Tursten, who says she has definitely abandoned Irene and is now busy with a new series, doesn't seem to have an official website.

    One of the newest stars on the Swedish crime horizon is a husband-wife team, Alexander Ahndoril and Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril, publishing under the name Lars Kepler. They have produced five books so far starring the Finnish-born Stockholm supercop Joona Linna, who is never wrong about a clue, never fails to pick up on the one key detail in an investigation that everyone else missed, and is never, ever daunted by being outnumbered and outgunned.

    The Fire Witness, by Lars Kepler

    Beginning with the second book we also have Joona's female counterpart, Saga Bauer of the Swedish Security Police, as beautiful as a fairy-tale princess and twice as tough as nails. I find these books a little (for want of a better word) trashy, compared with the production of some of the authors on this list, and a very large pinch of "suspension of disbelief" is sometimes required, especially when it comes to the Hannibal Lecter-like exploits of the villains. But they move fast, and the stories do keep the reader involved as one suspenseful situation follows another. The series began with The Hypnotist, which was also a feature film that received a brief U.S. release last year (as an aside, the writing, with high-speed car chases and showdowns in picturesquely desolate places, sometimes seems designed with an eye on the slogan "Soon to be a major motion picture"), but my personal favorite so far is the third installment, The Fire Witness. The story is tighter and more credible than in the earlier books, there are twists within twists, and the working out of an incorporated ghost story is surprising and effective. The Lars Kepler official website is

    The lone Norwegian on my list is Gunnar Staalesen, whose hero, the Bergen private eye Varg Veum, is of the hard-boiled school, though his previous life as a child welfare worker gives him a special empathy for the younger set on both sides of the criminal line. In one of the early Veum books (the second in the series, Yours Until Death), our hero takes on "the youngest client I'd ever had," an eight-year-old boy whose bicycle was stolen by a gang of teenaged toughs. As he follows up on the case he is led into a tangle of misery, desperation and eventually murder in the grim housing projects on the outer fringes of the Norwegian "good society." Bergen, a proud old city on Norway's west coast with hilly streets and legendarily rainy weather, bears a certain spiritual resemblance to the classic noir metropolis San Francisco, and it's not hard to imagine Veum hanging out in a bar, trading gumshoe tips with the likes of Sam Spade. (Staalesen admits to drawing inspiration from the "holy trinity of American crime writers," as he calls Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald.)

    Yours Unto Death, by Gunnar Staalesen

    Staalesen is somewhat older than the other writers presented here, and when the Veum series began in the late seventies, there was no Internet, no cellphones, and the world was quite a different place. Norway too has undergone considerable cultural upheaval since that time, but Veum is still plying his trade in our fraught decade, older but as melancholy as ever about the way of the world and man's inhumanity to man (and child).  Only a handful of these books are available in English so far, but a new UK publisher, Orenda Books, has taken up the Varg Veum cause, and translations of his three latest are promised for the next couple of years. There are recent film/DVD versions of a number of the books that update the action of the earlier stories to the present and soften the character's edges. Staalesen's (or rather Veum's) official website is in Norwegian only (with some links to international content):

    For information about all of these authors and their works, besides the official websites given above, I recommend a Gale Group database, the Literature Resource Center, which is available for free to anyone with an NYPL library card. In particular, one of its components, Contemporary Authors Online, has biographical information, bibliographies and extensive listings of print and online reviews and other features for everyone mentioned here.

    I'll follow Jeremy Megraw's example and list the main crime series of these authors, in chronological order (or in the fictional chronological order in the case of Arne Dahl and Liza Marklund). English titles of books not yet translated are in square brackets, original titles are in parentheses, and catalog links are given where available. 

    Arne Dahl — Intercrime Series (1998–2007)

    1. Misterioso, also published as The Blinded Man (Misterioso)
    2. Bad Blood (Ont blod)
    3. To The Top of the Mountain (available in the UK) (Upp till toppen av berget)
    4. [Europe Blues] (Europa blues)
    5. [Many Waters] (De största vatten) (In Polish: Wody wielkie)
    6. [A Midsummer Night's Dream] (En midsommarnattsdröm)
    7. [Requiem] (Dödsmässa)
    8. [Hidden Numbers] (Mörkertal)
    9. [Afterquake] (Efterskalv)
    10. [Eye in the Sky] (Himmelsöga)

    Camilla Läckberg — Fjällbacka series (2003–2014)

    1. The Ice Princess (Isprinsessan)
    2. The Preacher (Predikanten)
    3. The Stonecutter (Stenhuggaren)
    4. The Gallows Bird, also published as The Stranger (Olycksfågeln)
    5. The Hidden Child (Tyskungen)
    6. The Drowning (Sjöjungfrun)
    7. The Lost Boy (Fyrvaktaren)
    8. Buried Angels (Änglamakerskan)
    9. [The Lion Tamer] (Lejontämjaren)

    Some titles available in Albanian, Italian, Polish, Russian, or Spanish.

    Liza Marklund — Annika Bengtzon series (1998–2013)

    1. Exposed (earlier translation: Studio 69) (Studio sex)
    2. Vanished (earlier translation: Paradise) (Paradiset)
    3. Prime Time (Prime Time)
    4. The Bomber (Sprängaren)
    5. Red Wolf (Den Röda Vargen)
    6. Last Will (Nobels testamente)
    7. Lifetime (Livstid)
    8. The Long Shadow (En plats i solen)
    9. Borderline (Du gamla, du fria)
    10. [proposed English title Nora's Book] (Lyckliga gatan)

    Some titles available in Italian, Polish, or Russian.

    Helene Tursten — Irene Huss series (1998–2012)

    1. Detective Inspector Huss (Den krossade tanghästen)
    2. Night Rounds (Nattrond)
    3. The Torso (Tatuerad torso)
    4. [Cold Murder] (Kallt mord)
    5. The Glass Devil (Glasdjävulen)
    6. The Golden Calf (Guldkalven)
    7. The Fire Dance (Eldsdansen)
    8. The Beige Man (En man med litet ansikte)
    9. [The Treacherous Network] (Det lömska nätet)
    10. [Awake in the Dark] (Den som vakar i mörkret)
    11. [Shielded by Shadows] (I skydd av skuggorna)

    Lars Kepler — Joona Linna series (2009–2014)

    1. The Hypnotist (Hypnotisören) (In Italian: L'Ipnotista)
    2. The Nightmare (Paganinikontraktet)
    3. The Fire Witness(Eldvittnet)
    4. The Sandman (Sandmannen)
    5. [Stalker] (Stalker)

    Gunnar Staalesen — Varg Veum series (1977–2014) (Novels only)

    1. [Fox Guarding the Henhouse] (Bukken til havresekken)
    2. Yours Until Death (Din, til døden)
    3. [Sleeping Beauty Slept for One Hundred Years] (Tornerose sov i hundre år)
    4. [The Woman in the Fridge] (Kvinnen i kjøleskapet)
    5. At Night All Wolves Are Grey (I mørket er alle ulver grå)
    6. [Black Sheep] (Svarte får)
    7. [Fallen Angels] (Falne engler)
    8. [Bitter Flowers] (Bitre blomster)
    9. [Buried Dogs Do Not Bite] (Begravde hunder biter ikke)
    10. The Writing on the Wall (Skriften på veggen)
    11. [Through a Glass Darkly] (Som i et speil)
    12. [Face to Face] (Ansikt til ansikt)
    13. The Consorts of Death (Dødens drabanter)
    14. Cold Hearts (Kalde hjerter)
    15. We Shall Inherit the Wind (Vi skal arve vinden)
    16. Where Roses Never Die (Der hvor roser aldri dør)
    17. No One Is So Safe in Danger (Ingen er så trygg i fare)

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    The Jerome Robbins Dance Division’s most recent Annual Report FY 2014 is now online on the Library’s website. The Dance Division has continued its work, assuring its place in the world, as a global, international archive, the world's largest of its kind dedicated to dance, by collecting, preserving and making accessible materials about the many varieties of dance in the world. Among the varieties of work accomplished this year, we finalized our new Digital Collections Dance Video site making videos available in the Library and on the web. 

    The Library finished processing the papers of the Mikhail Baryshnikov Archive, making available to the public 34 boxes under the title, Mikhail Baryshnikov Archive, 1960-2010. This section of the Mikhail Baryshnikov Archive holds awards, choreographer files, contracts, correspondence, photographs, press clippings, programs, scripts, and other materials documenting Baryshnikov's 40-plus year career, a career that is ongoing. The Archive contains video spanning much of Baryshnikov’s career, from when he was ten years old to performances and rehearsals that include collaborations with choreographers such as George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Merce Cunningham. There are now 375 titles available for viewing at the Library.

    Mikhail Baryshnikov in Jerome Robbins’ Other Dances Photo by Martha Swope
    Mikhail Baryshnikov
    in Jerome Robbins’ Other Dances
    Photo by Martha Swope

    The Dance Division has continued to process and catalog recently added collections. With funding from the Merce Cunningham Trust to support the processing of the Merce Cunningham Archive, the materials now available of the Merce Cunningham Archive are nearly 400 boxes of papers,22 boxes of choreographic notes and nearly 600 videos available, many digitized. 

    Merce Cunningham In Martha Graham's Letter To The World Photograph by Barbara Morgan
    Merce Cunningham
    In Martha Graham's Letter To The World
    Photograph by Barbara Morgan

    New Collections added include two collections donated by Jacques d’Amboise with over 500 videotapes from National Dance Institute and the photographs of his late wife Carolyn George.  Additionally, 43 Dance Division manuscript collections, totaling 267 linear feet, were processed and are open for research.

    Jacques d’Amboise in Apollo Photo by Carolyn George
    Jacques d’Amboise in Apollo
    Photo by Carolyn George

    The Dance Division has continued its outreach in many areas including with the African Dance interview project with funding from Mertz Gilmore Foundation. The project is to videotape five interviews with traditional dancers, teachers, and choreographers of the African diaspora in New York City for inclusion in our archive, and to form an African Dance Advisory Group. This Advisory Group is to comprise experienced professionals with expertise in multiple aspects of African Dance culture in New York City, including dancers, choreographers, company directors, educators, visual artists, writers, historians, storytellers, entrepreneurs, and presenters. Carolyn Webb was hired as Project Director on May 19, 2014. Within a month of her hire, the first meeting of the African Dance Advisory Group was held on June 16, 2014. 

     Sewaa Codrington, Mouminatou Camara, Abdel Salaam, Malaika Adero, Charles Daniel Dawson, Edward (Ajaibo) Walrond
    Back Row: Kewulay Kamara, Tamar Dougherty, Djoniba Mouflet, Maguette Camara, Nadia Dieudonné, Ife Felix, Dyane Harvey-Salaam, Pat Hall,
    Carolyn Webb, Jan Schmidt, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Tanisha Jones, Lamine Thiam, Simone Eccleston
    Seated: Sewaa Codrington, Mouminatou Camara, Abdel Salaam, Malaika Adero, Charles Daniel Dawson, Edward (Ajaibo) Walrond

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    As a member of the Wertheim study, I was honored to be invited to write a blog post about the Library's significant holdings related to flamenco. The footage of Juana Vargas "La Macarrona" (1870-1947), filmed in 1917 by Léonide Massine and held in the Jerome Robbins Dance Division at the Library for the Performing Arts, is one of the Library's most important, and little-known, flamenco treasures.[1]

    Figure 1. Juana Vargas "La Macarrona"

    La Macarrona was considered the Queen of the Gypsies. She was the Queen of the cafés, in her thick Andalusian accent, la reina der mundo (the queen of the world). Like the cafés chantant of Belle Époque France and the music halls of Britain and the United States, the Spanish cafés cantantes were performance venues catering to a newly affluent, often working-class, urban audience. There, in the second half of the 19th century, flamenco was born, and Macarrona was one of flamenco's founding mothers.

    Figure 2. Café Cantante, Emilio Beauchy c. 1888-1900

    This photo by Emilio Beauchy, records the performing group of a late-19th century café cantante. According to José Blas Vega in his 1987 Los cafés cantantes de Sevilla, it was taken in one of the most renowned cafés, the Café del Burrero.

    Macarrona was a Gitana—a Spanish Gypsy—who came of age in cafés like the Burrero, creating a movement style and elaborating a repertory of dances that have impacted all flamenco dancers who followed. She travelled little outside of Spain; she never came to the Americas. But the only film of her dancing of which I am aware is held at the New York Public Library. A donation of the Léonide Massine Estate, this spectacular footage is one of the most important extant filmed records of the early period of flamenco dance that is often termed flamenco's "Golden Age." I began studying Macarrona in 2012 while co-curating, with Ninotchka Bennahum, the exhibit 100 Years of Flamenco at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and I wrote about Macarrona in my chapter on Carmen Amaya in that catalog.

    Figure 3. In this still image taken from the Massine film, Macarrona dances while the dancer I think is her sister María Vargas, also known as "La Macarrona," accompanies her with flamenco clapping (palmas)

    In the spring of 1916, with World War I raging, Ballets Russes director Serge Diaghilev accepted an invitation from Spain's King Alfonso XIII to bring his company to perform at Madrid's Teatro Real. In Spain, principal dancer and choreographer Léonide Massine, whose choreography was of seminal importance to Diaghilev's radical modernization of ballet, was introduced to flamenco.

    Figure 4. Léonide Massine, by Leon Bakst, 1914

    Massine recalled,

    Once we were firmly established in Madrid I began to spend my free evenings in the local cafes, watching the flamenco dancers. I was fascinated by their instinctive sense of rhythm, their natural elegance, and the intensity of their movements. They seemed to combine perfect physical control with flawless timing and innate dignity, something I had never seen before in any native folk-dancing.[2]

    Figure 5. Manuel de Falla

    That year, Massine and Diaghilev met composer Manuel de Falla and flamenco dancer Félix Fernández García, "El Loco" (1896-1941) who became their guides on several tours through Spain. Falla was from Granada and already interested in flamenco; like his friend, the much younger poet Federico García Lorca, with whom he would organize the first Festival of Cante Jondo (Deep Song) in Granada in 1922, Falla was part of a Modernist circle seeking to reenvision and reclaim flamenco from the hostility it had faced among Spain's educated classes at the turn of the twentieth century.

    In 1915, Falla had composed his first flamenco ballet: El amor brujo (Love the Magician)—a Gitanería (performance of Gitano-ness) sung and danced by the famous flamenco artist Pastora Imperio and conceived as a vehicle for presenting flamenco on a wider stage than those of the cafés cantantes which, by the turn of the twentieth century, struggled to compete with the influx of new entertainment such as vaudeville, film, and American jazz.

    Figure 6. Pastora Imperio painted by Julio Romero de Torres, 1913

    Describing the winter of 1916-1917, which he spent in Rome creating his Futurist ballet Parade (1917), Massine said "our studio in the Piazza Venezia in Rome was the meeting place for an ever-widening circle of artists," including painter Pablo Picasso, poet Jean Cocteau, and composer Eric Satie.[3] "Cubism was at its height," and Satie's music was a "subtle synthesis of jazz and ragtime." [4]

    Figure 7. Massine in the role of the Chinese conjuror in his 1917 ballet Parade

    Back in Spain in the spring and summer of 1917, and following the April 7 premiere in Madrid's Teatro Eslava of Falla's pantomimeEl corregidor y la molinera, Diaghilev and Massine decided to adapt Falla's piece for the Ballets Russes. The resulting ballet, The Three-Cornered Hat (in Spanish, El sombrero de tres picos; in French, Tricorne), premiered July 22, 1919, at London's Alhambra Theatre. The sets and costumes were by Picasso; the libretto was by Gregorio Martínez Sierra, who had also written El amor brujo.

    Figure 8. Pablo Picasso (wearing a beret) and scene painters sitting on the front cloth for Léonide Massine's ballet Parade , staged by Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, 1917, Lachmann photographer, December 31, 1916.

    Falla wrote flamenco airs into his Three-Cornered Hat: the Farruca del Molinero, the bulerías in the first verse of Casadita, Casadita and the fandango in La danza de la Molinera. Massine prepared for his choreography of these flamenco forms by first studying with Félix and then with Félix's teacher, José Molina.[5] In July 1917, Massine filmed Juana Vargas, "La Macarrona," with a 16-millimeter camera he had bought in Rome the previous winter.

    Figure 9. The dancer I surmise is María Vargas "La Macarrona" dancing, while the dancer I think is Juana "La Macarrona," seated, accompanies her dance with palmas.

    Although she is mentioned neither in the NYPL catalog, nor in Massine's memoir My Life in Ballet, nor in any other documentation I have found, Massine also filmed another dancer who I surmise is Juana's sister Maria Vargas, also called "La Macarrona" (b. 1865). Juana's fame has eclipsed that of her sister, but in the late-19th and early-20th century the sisters often performed together as "Las Macarronas." Massine also filmed Juana's partner, their cousin Antonio López Clavijo, "Ramírez," (1879-1927).[6] The nickname "Macarrona" derived from their ancestors, Tío Juan and Tío Vicente "Macarrón," mentioned by Antonio Machado y Álavarez "Demófilo" in his 1881 list of "Cantadores de flamenco."[7] The sobriquet "Macarrón," is tricky to translate. Macarrón is simply macaroni, a kind of pasta, although in the late-eighteenth century (think of the song Yankee Doodle) it signified effeminate foppishness. According to the Diccionario popular de la lengua castellana of 1882, macarrónea is a burlesque composition in which words of various languages are mixed up and interwoven, and macarrónico describes this composition's ridiculous language and lowbrow style.[8]

    The Macarrona footage is listed in the NYPL catalog as "Spanish dancers" with the call numbers *MGZIDF 4750 for the digital video streaming file that you can access onsite at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and *MGZHB 2 - 1000 no. 268 for the 16mm film viewing copy, which is also available for screening at the Library for the Performing Arts. The silent film encompasses four segments: one of Ramírez dancing alone on a sunny rooftop, and three of Juana and María dancing in a patio to accompaniment from two male guitarists and with a passel of children seated on the ground. In the first of the three, the dancer I think is Juana dances what we now call bulerías rhythm. In the second segment, she dances alegrías with a train, a bata de cola. The third clip features the dancer I think is Juana's sister María, dancing in the rhythm of tangos.[9]

    Viewing the film, it is striking how similar the dance is to that of today. Juana employs the lifted and majestic posture, punctuated by deep breaks in the hips and leans, that epitomizes today's flamenco.[10] She dances with her hands and arms in tension, with stretch and sensuality. An easy stateliness distinguishes Juana's dance from that of her sister, who is more agile and whose head and torso are more mobile, less held. Both dancers seem to improvise, taking basic elements and recombining them in various ways, signaling calls and breaks with arm gestures (an inward circle of the arms) and foot patterns (the recoje, three steps backward), as we do today.

    But María performed the gesture that most intrigued me: in a clip that lasts only one minute and eight seconds, she trembled her open palms and fingers—"jazz hands"—twice in her tangos.[11]

    Figure 10. The dancer I surmise is María Vargas "La Macarrona" dancing, while the dancer I think is Juana "La Macarrona," seated, accompanies her dance with palmas.

    This hand gesture is not part of the fundamental ornamental twirlings of fingers and wrists that today echo the sonic layer of the song's continuous melisma, nor of the emphatic hand gestures that punctuate the cante (song).[12] This hand gesture is performed in quotation marks: it is pantomimic (although not narrative). It evokes the sonic specter of a trumpet's high brassy trill: it evokes jazz. Interestingly, alongside characteristic flamenco hand-gestures evoking the movements of the bullfight, a torero-like thrust forward in the hips, palmas, pitos (finger snaps), jumps, bravura walks on the knee, and footwork, Massine also choreographed this gesture into his Farruca del Molinero from The Three-Cornered Hat.[13]

    As part of my research, I have added a soundtrack of palmas and a visual box showing the counts to the first and third Macarrona clips, at both 50% and 100% speed (which is slowed down slightly to compensate for the fewer frames per second in 1917 film technology). These modified clips have been donated to the Jerome Robbins Dance Division and will soon be available to view at the Library for the Performing Arts.

    The library holds several references relevant to this footage:

    Nommick, Yvan, and Antonio Álvarez Cañibano, Los ballets russes de Diaghilev y España. Granada: Fundación Archivo Manuel de Falla, 2000.

    Bennahum, Ninotchka, and K. Meira Goldberg, 100 Years of Flamenco in New York City. New York: New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, 2013.

    Blas Vega, José y Manuel Rios Ruiz, Diccionario enciclopédico ilustrado del flamenco y maestros del flamenco. Madrid: Cinterco, 1988.

    Blas Vega, José. Los cafés cantantes de Sevilla. Madrid: Cinterco, 1987.

    Garafola, Lynn, and Nancy V. N. Baer. The Ballets Russes and Its World. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.

    García-Márquez, Vicente, Massine: a biography. New York: Knopf, 1995.

    Machado y Alvarez, Antonio, and Enrique Jesús Rodríguez Baltanás, Colección de cantes flamencos: recogidos y anotados por Demófilo (Sevilla: Signatura Ediciones, (1881) 1999.

    Massine, Leonide, My life in ballet. London: Macmillan, 1968.

    Mosch, Ulrich, "Manuel de Falla: The Three-Cornered Hat," in Boehm, Gottfried, Ulrich Mosch, and Katharina Schmidt, Canto D'amore: Classicism in Modern Art and Music, 1914-1935. Basel: Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel/Kunstmuseum, 1996, 217-21.

    Rodríguez Gómez, Fernando ("Fernando el de Triana"). Arte y artistas flamencos. Madrid: Clan, 1952.


    Figure 1. Juana Vargas "La Macarrona." Photograph, photographer unknown, no date. In Fernando Rodríguez Gómez, "Fernando el de Triana," Arte y artistas flamencos (Madrid: Editoriales Andaluzas Unidas, S.A., [1935] 1986).

    Figure 2. Café Cantante, Seville, c. 1889. El café del burrero. Photographer: Emilio Beauchy. Roger-Viollet Archives, Paris, France.

    Figure 3. Still image from Spanish Dancers (I surmise Juana Vargas dancing alegrías), filmed July 1917 by Léonide Massine in preparation for his choreography for Le Tricorne, (The Three Cornered Hat). Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Courtesy of Tatiana Weinbaum, Lorca Massine, and Theodor Massine.

    Figure 4. "Portrait of Russian dancer Léonide Massine (Leonid Fyodorovich Myasin, 1895-1979)." Leon Bakst, 1914. Wikicommons.

    Figure 5. "Manuel de Falla con bastón," Archivo Manuel de Falla. Wikicommons.

    Figure 6. Pastora Imperio. Julio Romero de Torres. 1913. Wikicommons.

    Figure 7. "Léonide Massine dans le rôle du Prestidigitateur chinois de Parade, Ballet de Léonide Massine Création au Théâtre du Châtelet en 1917." Lachmann Photographie, BnF. Exposition Ballets russes Bibliothèque-musée de l'Opéra de Paris ( ). Wikicommons.

    Figure 8. "Pablo Picasso (wearing a beret) and scene painters sitting on the front cloth for Léonide Massine's ballet Parade , staged by Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, 1917," Lachmann photographer, December 31, 1916. Wikicommons.

    Figure 9. Still image from Spanish Dancers (I surmise María Vargas dancing tangos), filmed July 1917 by Léonide Massine in preparation for his choreography for Le Tricorne, (The Three Cornered Hat). Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Courtesy of Tatiana Weinbaum, Lorca Massine, and Theodor Massine.

    Figure 10. Still image from Spanish Dancers (I surmise María Vargas dancing tangos), filmed July 1917 by Léonide Massine in preparation for his choreography for Le Tricorne, (The Three Cornered Hat). Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Courtesy of Tatiana Weinbaum, Lorca Massine, and Theodor Massine.


    [1] I am most grateful to Léonide Massine's heirs, Tatiana Weinbaum, Lorca Massine, and Theodor Massine, for their generosity in allowing my work on Macarrona to be published and to be illustrated by still images from the footage. Thank you to Barbara Cohen Stratyner, Curator of Exhibitions, Shelby Cullom Davis Museum, The New York Library for the Performing Arts; Tanisha Jones, Director of the Jerome Robbins Archive of the Recorded Moving Image, The New York Library for the Performing Arts; and Jay Barksdale, director of the Wertheim Study. I am also grateful to François Bernadi for helping me capture these images.

    [2] Léonide Massine, My Life in Ballet (London: Macmillan, 1968), 89. For more on Massine's "neoprimitivist method" of choreographing Tricorne, combining "authenticity and stylized gesture," and "reworking…a familiar nineteenth-century story as modernist narrative," see Lynn Garafola, "The Choreography of Le Tricorne," in Vicente García-Márquez, Yvan Nommick, and Antonio Alvarez Cañibano, eds., Los Ballets Russes de Diaghilev y España (Granada: Archivo Manuel de Falla, 2012), 89-95. Quotations are from page 91.

    [3] Massine, My Life, 101; Garcia-Marquez, Massine, 80-81.

    [4] Massine, My Life, 101.

    [5] García-Márquez, Massine, 111; Daniel Pineda Novo, Juana, "la Macarrona" y el baile en los cafés cantantes (Cornellà de Llobregat [Barcelona]: Aquí + Más Multimedia, 1996), 43; Massine, My Life, 117-118; Alfonso Puig, Flora Albaicín, Sebastià Gasch, Kenneth Lyons, Robert Marrast, Ursula Patzies, and Ramón Vives, El arte del baile flamenco (Barcelona: Ed. Poligrafa, 1977), 68; Fernando el de Triana, Arte y artistas flamencos (Madrid: Editoriales Andaluzas Unidas, S.A., [1935] 1986), 174, 222, 224. The catalog from the exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, May 12-October 6, 2013, includes a page from Massine's notes from these lessons in Spanish dance (Jane Pritchard and Geoffrey Marsh, Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes 1909-1929 [London: V & A Publishing, 2013], 84).

    [6] Fernando de Triana said of Maria, "This good dance artist was on the way to becoming a star. But as she was almost there, she became interested in singing and neglected somewhat that path which, in my judgment, she should have taken" (Fernando el de Triana, Arte y artistas, 148, 150). His book is the only place I have seen a photo identified as María (p. 75). The most complete biography is Daniel Pineda Novo's book on Juana "la Macarrona." See also Pineda Novo's Antonio Ramírez, el baile gitano de Jerez (Jerez de la Frontera: Centro Andaluz de Flamenco, 2005). Ramirez is listed in the NYPL catalog as "Ramirito." I am grateful to Juan Vergillos for sending me both of Pineda's books.

    [7] Antonio Machado y Álvarez "Demófilo," in his list of "Cantadores de flamenco: Jerez de la Frontera," lists "Tío Vicente Macarrón" and "Tío Juan Macarrón, cantador general." (Machado y Alvarez, Antonio, and Enrique Jesús Rodríguez Baltanás, Colección de cantes flamencos: recogidos y anotados por Demófilo (Sevilla: Signatura Ediciones, (1881) 1999), 285; Manuel Ríos Ruiz, De cantes y cantaores de Jerez (Madrid: Editorial Cinterco, 1989), 42-43; Juan de la Plata, Los gitanos de Jérez: historias, dinastías, oficios y tradiciones ([Jerez de la Frontera]: Universidad de Cádiz, Cátedra de Flamencología, 2001), 121.

    [8] Felipe Picatoste y Rodríguez, Diccionario popular de la lengua castellana (Madrid: Dirección y administración, 1882), 673.

    [9] I propose these identifications based on the following: guitarist Curro de Maria, studying the guitarists' hands, helped me identify the rhythms and tonalities. With François Bernadi, I captured still photos from the Massine footage, which led me to realize there were two dancers in the film, staged in what seems to be a family setting, with two women, two men, and seven or eight children. The only photo of which I am aware that positively identifies María is that in Fernando el de Triana's Arte y artistas (75); Triana also included two photos of Juana (72 and 73, my Figure 1). The sisters often worked together as "Las Macarronas." In the Massine footage, one dancer has a distinctive facial shape, with very wide cheekbones. Comparing the two with known photos of Juana, such as that from the Kursaal published in ABC on March 27, 1921, and noting that the first dancer dances in two clips, while the second dancer, shot later in the day, dances in only one, led me to this conjecture. As part of my research, I have added a soundtrack of palmas and a visual box showing the counts to the first and third Macarrona clips, at both 50 percent and 100 percent speed (which is slowed slightly to compensate for the fewer frames per second in 1917 film technology). These modified clips will be available to view at the New York Library for the Performing Arts. Blas Vega, Los cafés cantantes de Madrid (1846-1936) (Madrid: Ediciones Guillermo Blázquez, 2006), 126-127, 258-259.

    [10] I have written about this in my chapter "Jaleo de Jerez and Tumulte Noir: Primitivist Modernism and Cakewalk in Flamenco, 1902-1917," from Flamenco on the Global Stage: Historical, Critical and Theoretical Perspectives© 2015 Edited by K. Meira Goldberg, Ninotchka Devorah Bennahum and Michelle Heffner Hayes by permission of McFarland & Company, Inc., Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640.

    [11] The jazz hands appear at timestamps 00:43 - 00:49 and 00:53 - 1:02 of the third filmed Macarrona segment. Juana Vargas (La Macarrona)-Antonio López Ramírez (Ramirito), NYPL Performing Arts Research Collections - Dance, * MGZIDF 4750.

    [12] In Massine's footage, although there is always guitar accompaniment and palmas, or handclapping, there is no sign of a singer. In this era, women often sang and danced at the same time, and men often sang alante-at the front of the stage-in a solo recital format.

    [13] In the New York Public Library's 1937 film of Massine and Tamara Toumanova dancing The Three-Cornered Hat with Col. W. de Basil's Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo at the Chicago Opera House, Massine performs this gesture in his Farruca del Molinero, at 15:00 and again at 15:25, and again, after defeating the Corregidor, at 21:40. *MGZHB 12-1000, no. 291-293, (accessed October 31, 2014). I am grateful to David Vaughn for introducing me to this film.

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    Nearly ten years ago, in March 2005, The New York Public Library (NYPL) debuted an amazing site of digitized images called Digital Gallery.

    Just a few weeks ago we released a new iteration—the spiritual successor to Digital Gallery, which we call Digital Collections.

    Lion home page

    Digital Collections contains more than 800,000 digitized items, and that number grows every day. While that’s a small fraction of the New York Public Library’s overall holdings, the aim of Digital Collections is to provide context for the materials we have digitized and to inspire people to use and reuse the media and data on offer there to advance knowledge and create new works.

    While the aim of Digital Gallery was similar, we’ve now moved beyond just static images, and the platform includes video, audio, and texts, as well as more interplay with our collections experiments (more on that below).

    I couldn’t be more proud of this joint effort of a variety of teams across the library, including curators, the NYPL Information Technology Group, NYPL Labs, and many others. I’m pleased to present this post as a kind of primer to the features large and small that we’ve included in the platform.

    As ever, this is a work in progress, and we’re eager for any feedback you may have—leave a comment below, or let me know at

    Browsing Digital Collections

    Let’s start with one of our main goals with the revamp of the site, which was to make collections browsing and discovery a core element of the Digital Collections experience.

    Materials on our Digital Collections site are currently organized in a simple hierarchy. Every item belongs to at least two defining hierarchical levels: it must belong to a parent Division, and within that Division it must belong to a top-level Collection. Many collections have levels of hierarchy beyond that, but those are the only two that are required.

    As a result, you can browse by Division, which essentially corresponds to the organization unit within the Library that is responsible for the physical materials represented on this site. On each individual Division page (e.g., the Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy), you’ll find a brief description of the division with a link to Contact Info for that location, as well as a lane of recently digitized items and the Collections of digitized material within the Division.


    You can also browse by Collection, which allows you to start exploring at the highest level of how we’ve arranged the materials, across all Divisions. If you’re interested in something particular, you can filter by collection title using the filter box at the top of that page.


    We’ve also built some navigational tools that allow you to traverse the sub-containers within many collections. The Vinkhuijzen collection of military uniforms is a great example: this collection is divided into containers by country. Within those countries are examples of military costumes from different periods in that country’s history. Take a look at Denmark: within the Denmark container, there are nine sub-containers that will filter the results set to periods between 1760 and 1885.

    Anytime you see a “+” next to an element of hierarchy in this browse view, that means there’s at least another level of hierarchy to explore—just click the container with the “+” in the title, and more options will expand beneath it. The image set on the right will automatically filter to show you just the images within the section of the hierarchy you’ve selected. (You’ll also notice this same hierarchy displays on every item page as well; we’ll get to those features in a minute.)

    A couple of tabs appear above the Collections options panel on the left. If a collection has any hierarchical elements, you’ll be able to browse them via the “Navigation” tab.

    navigation tabs

    Meanwhile, all collections (and search results, for that matter) have a “Filters” tab, which gives you options to further narrow the results set by keyword, topic, name, date, material type, and more.

    The “About” tab features as much information as we can derive from the metadata of that collection. In many cases, there is descriptive text giving some history and background for the collection. In other cases there will only be some basic collections details, such as the owning division, local identifiers, and a few more tidbits.

    You can see all three of these possible tabs on the Renaissance and medieval manuscripts collection, for example.

    One other way we’ve attempted to inject some serendipitous discovery and highlights into the browsing experience is via the “lanes” on the home page. There you’ll find groupings of collections on certain topics and themes, though these are not necessarily the full extent of what Digital Collections has to offer—for that, try searching the full breadth of the content.

    Searching Digital Collections

    search results

    You can search Digital Collections from the home page, or via the persistent search box in the upper right hand corner of any other page.

    For all searches, you’ll see a body of search results on the right and a set of faceting tools on the left. The tools on the left help you filter and narrow your search. Each time you choose a facet, you’ll see the search results on the right side refresh to include just the ones that match the keyword and other criteria you’ve selected. To undo a facet selection, just click the little “x” next to the label in the line above the search results, or in the lefthand pane.


    When there are a lot of options under a given facet, you can click “more” which will expose an expanded list of possibilities. Here, you can filter the options available before making a selection that will apply to all the search results on the right.

    If you search for a general topic—posters, for example—you’ll see the search results on the right, the set of faceting tools on the left, but you’ll also see some suggestions at the top of the results set under the “Looking for one of these collections?” label. If there’s one or more collections that include a lot of items matching the searched keyword, Digital Collections will suggest those collections as browse paths above the search results. Give it a try—it works for lots of generaltopics, and some specificones, too.


    One other search that we’re particularly proud of including with this revamp of Digital Collections: a search for Public Domain materials (technically, for a variety of reasons, these are labeled on our site as “no known US copyright restrictions,” and that’s how I’ll refer to them from here on out).


    The New York Public Library is actively reviewing and labeling materials in our Digital Collections with statements that indicate how you may reuse the image, and what sort of permission, if any, you need to do so. You can find all items similarly marked as having no US copyright restrictions via the search above (you can also see the label indicating as much on the individual item pages, which we’ll get to momentarily).

    Meanwhile, below the filters on all search results pages, you’ll also see a button you can select labeled “only Public Domain.” For any search, selecting this option will filter to only the subset of results you searched for that have so far been marked as having no known US copyright restrictions. We’re reviewing more material every day to allow you to use and reuse as many of the materials from our collections as possible, so we hope you’ll use that filter to promote the progress of science and useful arts and lots of other things, too!

    Item information, tools, and citations

    Every item page on the site has a couple of sections, all designed to bring you more contextual information about the material and to connect you to other items relevant to your interests. (If you don’t already have an item page handy, check out one of my favorite example items, in case you want to follow along at home.)

    First, of course, is an image of the item itself (or a streaming media player for audio and video files). If an item has more than one image associated with it, you’ll see thumbnails for those just below and to the right of the image. (You can also navigate these using the arrow keys.) You’ll also find a few tools below and to the left which allow you to perform actions like zoom, rotate, print, and more.

    Below this are some basic metadata elements—think of these as the basic facts about the item, including creator, date, library location, and more. When an image has no known US copyright, you’ll see a label to that effect here as well. There is a tab with “sharing” options which lets you send a link to the item to Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. Finally, there’s a tab that gives you options to download versions of the file, as well as links to order decorative prints or high-resolution files.




    At the very bottom of the page, there’s a more extensive metadata section labeled “item data.” Here we list everything we know about an item including topical connections, material type listings, various identifiers, collections hierarchy, notes, and more. Wherever possible, we link these values to filtered searches so that with one click you can see other similar items with those same attributes.


    Next to the section heading “Item Data,” there’s also a “Cite this Item” tab. Here we provide our best attempt at an automatically generated cut-and-paste citation in MLA, Chicago/Turabian, and APA formats. However, as with all citations, you should should double check the generated elements of the citation to make sure all the information is correct. We’ve also included a pre-formatted Wikipedia citation code block which should make it easy for you to make reference to an item from Digital Collections on any Wikipedia page.

    Finally, at the very bottom of each item page, we’ve included an automatically generated timeline which examines the item metadata and pulls out all of the relevant dates we can parse to try and give you a snapshot view of the physical and digital life cycle of the item you’ve found.


    Collections context and collections experiments

    If you’ve been following along up to this point, you’ll notice that, in describing the various elements and their functionality, I skipped over a big chunk of the item page. Let’s return to it now, and wrap this up with some pointers to future connections we hope to make.

    The middle section of every item page has two columns: one on the left labeled “Library Division & Collection with this item,” and one on the right labeled “View this item elsewhere.”


    The left-hand section here displays what we know about an item in terms of the division that owns it and the collection that contains it, including all the layers of containers between the item and the library division. This reflects the same hierarchy elements mentioned earlier in this post. If you hover over any level of this hierarchy, you’ll see some example thumbnails of other items belonging to those containers and, of course, you can click through to see all the matching items via the collections navigation view.

    Some items have deep hierarchies and some shallow, but in every case we hope this gives you some insight into how the item relates to other materials held by the same division and highlights other parts of our collections that you might not otherwise have encountered.

    The “View this item elsewhere” section is also meant as an exercise in making contextual links to other NYPL resources and beyond. The most common references you’ll see in this section:

    • The NYPL Catalog (essentially, our inventory tracking and bibliographic description system across all Library divisions)
    • The NYPL Archives Portal (describing 10,000 archival and manuscript collections comprising over 50,000 linear feet of material in nearly every format imaginable)
    • The Digital Public Library of America (a national effort that makes NYPL collections searchable along with those of hundreds of other institutions)

    Meanwhile, we’re also hard at work extracting data from historical sources and materials, and we’ve incorporated contextual links to those data extraction experiments wherever possible. Some of those include:

    As we undertake more research and development on the possibilities of working with our collections data and helping make as many connections among materials as possible, we hope to expand the list of “See also” references included on the site.

    What are the connections you’d like to see? How can we make the digitized portions of NYPL’s collections more useful and relevant to you?

    Let us know in the comments, or email us at

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    Phil Klay's Redeployment is a National Book Award–winning collection of stories about soldiers grappling with the harsh realities of war. It is currently in high demand, so while you wait for your hold to arrive you might be interested in one of the following similar titles.

    fire and forger
    yellow bird
    Wynne's war
    the things they carried
    fives and twenty -fives

    Fire and Forget: Short Stories
    This haunting collection of stories written by soldiers and one military spouse gives a powerful voice to soldiers returning home from war.

    Fives and Twenty-Fives: A Novelby Michael Pitre
    This thrilling portrait captures the horrors of the Iraqi war, the gruesome deaths of fellow soldiers and the difficulties faced by veterans upon returning to their homeland.

    Matterhorn: a novel of The Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes
    In this Gritty Vietnam novel, soldiers are faced not only with the ravishes of combat, but are forced to grapple with the devastating external factor of war.

    The Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction by Tim O'Brien
    "The Things They Carried opened our eyes to the nature of war in a way we will never forget.” Houghton

    Wynne's War by Aaron Gwyn
    A heart-pounding, richly detailed account of a secret mission in Afghanistan that is as deceptive as it is bloody.

    The Yellow Birds: A Novel by Kevin Powers
    A breathtaking novel of two young soldiers who are thrust into a war neither is prepared to fight.

    These titles may be also available in multiple formats. For more information please contact your local library.

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    Sunnyside Citywide Home  Care will present a recruitment for Home Health Aide Trainees (10 openings) on Tuesday, January 27,  2015, 1 0 am - 1 pm  at Flushing Workforce 1 Career Center, 138-60 Barclay Avenue, 2nd Floor, Flushing, NY 11355.

    The New York Public Library Baychester Library Mini Career Fair will be held on Tuesday, January 27, 2015, 11 am - 4 pm at Baychester Library, 2049 Asch Loop North (north of Bartow Ave.), Bronx, NY 10475.

    New York Health Care will present a recruitment for Home Health Aides (10 openings) on Wednesday, January  28, 2015, 10 am - 2 pm, at  Brooklyn Workforce 1 Career Center,  250 Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201.

    The New York Public Library Jerome Park Library Mini Career Fair will be held on Wednesday, January 28, 2015, 11 am - 4 pm at Jerome Park Library, 118 Eames Place, Bronx, NY 10468.

    Americare, Inc. will present a recruitment for Certified and Non-Certified  Home Health Aides (10 openings) on Thursday, January 29, 2015, 10 am - 2 pm at Brooklyn Workforce  1 Career Center, 250 Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201.

    The New York Puiblic Library  Francis Martin Library Mini Career Fair will be held on Friday, January 30, 2015, 11 am- - 4 pm  at Francis  Martin Library, 2150 University Avenue (at 181 st. Street), Bronx, NY 10453.

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    St. Nicks Alliance Workforce Development provides Free Job Training and Educational Programs in Environmental Response and Remediation Tec (ERRT).  Commercial Driver's License, Pest Control Technician Training (PCT), Employment Search and Prep Training and Job Placement, Earn Benefits and Career Path Center.  For information and assistance, please visit St. Nicks Alliance Workforce Development, 790 Broadway, 2nd Fl., Brooklyn, NY 11206, 718-302-2057 ext. 202.

    Brooklyn Workforce Innovations helps jobless and working poor New Yorkers establish careers in sectors that offer good wages and opportunities for advancement.  Currently BWI offers free job training programs in four industries: commercial driving, telecommunications cable installation, TV and film production, and skilled woodworking.  BWI is at 621 Degraw Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217.  718-237-5366.

    CMP (formerly Chinatown Manpower Project) in lower Manhattan is now recruiting for a free training in Quickbooks,  Basic Accounting, and Excel.   This training is open to anyone who is receiving food stamps but no cash assistance.  Class runs for 8 weeks, followed by one-on-one meetings with a job developer.  CMP also provides Free Home Health Aide Training for bilingual English/Cantonese speakers who are receiving food stamps but no cash assistance.  Training runs Mondays through Fridays for 6 weeks, and includes test prep then taking the HHA certification exam.  Students learn about direct care techniques such as taking vital signs and assisting with personal hygiene and nutrition.   For more information for the above two training programs, please Email:, call 212-571-1690 or visit 70 Mulberry Street, 3rd Floor, NY, NY 10013. CMP also provides tuition-based healthcare and business trainings for free to students who are entitled to ACCESS funding.  Please call CMP for information.

    Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW) trains women and places them in careers in the skilled construction, utility, and maintenance trades. It helps women achieve economic independence and a secure future.  For information call 212-627-6252 or register online.

    Grace Institute provides tuition-free, practical job training in a supportive learning community for underserved New York area women of all ages and from many different background.  For information call 212-832-7605.

    Please note this blog post will be revised when more recruitment events for the week of January  25  are available.

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