Time to Get Off the Road!

In his classic rock song “The Times They Are A-Changin’” Bob Dylan sang these words: “Your old road is rapidly aging/Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand/For the times they are a-changin’.”

After 26+ years with Washington County Library, it’s time to get off the road! My work here is done at the end of August.

Indeed, throughout my work career, the times have been a-changin’:
• To let library customers know about the materials they have to offer, libraries have transitioned from card catalogs to microfiche to dumb terminals to Internet access.
• In the past our spaces were comprised mostly of book stacks; the book stacks are still in place, but displayers feature DVDs, audiobooks, book kits, music CDs and more. Our Stafford Library has added a play space for preschoolers and a Science Museum of MN Collectors’ Corner space where kids can come to share what they have learned/find out more about objects from nature. Opening August 16 is a new Play and Learn space at the Park Grove Library in Cottage Grove.
• It used to be that you pretty much had to visit a library to get materials or locate information. The Internet has put the kibosh on that notion. From home, work or school, library users can locate the items they want and pick them up at a library or book locker, or receive them electronically, as is the case with downloadable audiobooks, e-books and e-magazines. Online databases that can be searched from inside or outside the library let users take practice tests, find encyclopedia and journal articles and more!
• For many years librarians communicated with customers primarily by phone and in-person. Those standard forms are still in place, but now there’s e-mail and chat and Facebook and YouTube to keep us connected.

And times in library land will keep on a-changin’! One thing, however, will remain the same: library staff will always be at the ready to help users find the materials and information they are seeking.

I have enjoyed being on the road for these past 26 years. My years as a children’s librarian were the best. For me, no library experience is more invigorating than putting heart and soul into a storytime presentation! I still feel capable of lending a hand but will leave the work to others and find other meaningful things to do….

Library Woman is Joey Halbach, Community Relations Librarian for Washington County Library. Contact her at: joey.halbach@co.washington.mn.us – before August 29!

Finding the Best Book Ever!

The ultimate holiday weekend of the summer–the 4th of July– is now past and unless you have a vacation planned it’s almost two months before another. Time for some summer reading! Time to look for your best book ever!

How to find the best book ever?

Some of us like getting recommendations from friends, relatives, neighbors. My best recommender ever was a teacher/librarian, Mrs. Twesme, from high school days. Just the other day, a teacher friend of mine from Wisconsin teaching days touted a recent read on Facebook. The suggestions just keep coming!

With library training in my background, I’m still inclined to follow a perhaps old-fashioned route – looking at the subject headings of a book I liked and then searching for other titles with the same or similar subject headings.

Washington County Library’s NoveList Plus database is an excellent resource. If you like a book you’ve read by a certain author, use NoveList Plus to get an annotated listed of all of the titles by that author. Or if you like a particular author but have mined all that he or she has to offer, search NoveList Plus’ “Author Read-alikes.” NoveList Plus now has audiobook recommendations, as well.

Bookstores and libraries everywhere are favorite haunts. When “I’m just browsing” I’m gathering reading ideas.

New at Washington County Library is an online readers’ advisory service – “Your Next Read.” Answer a few questions to indicate what you’re looking for and our crack readers’ advisory staff will email you in a few days with 3 to 5 suggested titles they think you will enjoy. Specify book, audiobook, or e-book format.

Put a favorite title or author into an “if you like/liked” search string on the Internet and you’re sure to come up with some suggestions, as well.

Go ahead, scout out your next good read. The search is part of the fun.

Library Woman is Joey Halbach, Community Relations Librarian for Washington County Library. Contact her at: joey.halbach@co.washington.mn.us.

Take Home an Elephant and a Pig?

That’s what librarians at the R.H. Stafford Library in Woodbury and the Valley Library in Lakeland are asking parents to do this coming summer! It’s just one of the fun summer programs being offered at Washington County Libraries during the summer.

Actually, it is kids who are being asked to take home story characters Elephant and Piggie of the stuffed-animal variety. Kids and parents pick up the pachyderm and oinker on a Monday for a week’s stay at their home and return them to the library on a Saturday. The animals come with their very own travel bag, packed with a journal. Kids and their parents are asked to document their experiences together by adding notes to the journal, maybe add some photos or a flyer for an event they have attended, and more.

I love this idea! I want to be a 4-year old or the parent of a 4-year old again. I can’t think of a better way to encourage conversation between parent and child? “What shall we do to entertain Elephant and Piggie? Where will they sleep? Should they be allowed to go to the pool, or do we need to get a baby sitter? Do we need to read about elephants and pigs to find out about their habits?” Talking together – that’s one of the early literacy practices that help children become prepared to read.

I can’t think of a better way to encourage kids to write, or at least think about what to write. Parents and kids will have to put their heads together about what to say. And parents are probably going to have to put the words in the journal. But just think about the ensuing conversations: “How do we explain the strawberry jam stain on Piggie’s face? Do we tell about the time Elephant fell out of bed?” Writing together – that’s another one of those early literacy practices that help children become prepared to read.

The whole experience is just a hoot! It’s playing together and imagining, making things up, having fun! Uh oh, another one of those early literacy practices that help children become ready to read.

At the end of the summer, kids can gather for special Elephant and Piggie Storytimes — being offered at both libraries – to find out about Elephant and Piggie adventures at Library Kids’ homes. There will be stories, a game, and a craft, as well.

The “Take Home Elephant and Piggie” program has my vote for best new summer program of the season. I could really get into it!

Bookawocky Summer Reading starts June 7 and continues through August 9 at all Washington County Branch libraries. Kids birth through grade 6 can complete 10 of 16 literacy activities to earn a completion reward, write (or draw) reviews for a chance to win prizes, attend fun summer programs, and more. There are Bookawocky programs for teens and adults, as well.

Keep that June 7 start date in mind! Have fun reading all summer long!

Library Woman is Joey Halbach, Community Relations Librarian for Washington County Library. Contact her at: joey.halbach@co.washington.mn.us

Save your words!

The other day I was going through my computer files and I came across a letter I had written to my daughter, away at college. It was a wonderful discovery. The letter immediately brought the time and place and emotions back to me.

Through the years I have saved bits and pieces of my own writing. I have a stash of writings from other people, too, that I would like to pass on to my daughters – a hand written letter from my Dad to my Mom, on his way home to the U.S. from the Philippines on a transport ship after World War II; a letter from my Mother to my girls about some corn seeds they had pressed into the soil at her back door & the corn stalks that were now towering above her windows (along with photo proof); emails from my girls away at college. My writings and those of my family do not compare in magnitude with those who are famous among us, but they help to preserve a history of the times we have shared.

Our world is so much richer because people have taken the time to write about their life experiences. Books like “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls, “Angela’s Ashes” by Frank McCourt, “Night” by Elie Wiesel are just a few examples.

During April’s National Poetry Month, Washington County Library is putting its programming emphasis on writing – to encourage residenst to use their words to write stories and poems and more. Kids can attend a “Write a Silly Story” workshop presented by The Loft Literary Center. Workshop presenters will encourage participants to think about the things they know – family and friends and school and games and toys and vacations – and use them to make up a silly story. A Loft writing workshop for teens, “Read to Write,” encourages young people to discover that reading itself spurs people’s thoughts, gives them ideas for their own writing. And adults are not left out of the programming. Two workshops for adults, also presented by The Loft, will inspire those who would write. To find out more about these workshops, consult the Library’s events calendar, and enter the keyword “write.” Perhaps someone among us will write the next great poem, or short story, or memoir.

Do save your words – or at least some of them — and those of others who are important to you!  An assemblage of words that express thoughts and tell about life experiences may not be important to the world at large, but they may provide a valuable history for your family.

Library Woman is Joey Halbach, Community Relations Librarian for Washington County Library. Contact her at: joey.halbach@co.washington.mn.us

Come for the books, stay for the art…

Over the past few years Washington County Library has installed art rails at branch libraries in Cottage Grove, Forest Lake, Mahtomedi, Oakdale, and Woodbury to showcase the work of local artists.

On display during the month of March at the R.H. Stafford Library in Woodbury is the art of Alexandra Sherman. Alex combines color and comic style to create fantasy artwork. Using illustration markers and pens, she creates characters inspired by Japanese animation and manga.

The Park Grove Library in Cottage Grove has just issued a call for entries in what will be their first-ever “Community Art Show.” Approximately 40-50 art works in a variety of media will comprise the exhibition scheduled for April 1 through May 31 at the library. The deadline for entries to be received is Monday, March 24, 2014.

The Park Grove showing is open to local artists 14 years and older. Each artist may submit one or two items. Any media is welcomed. There are some size restrictions: nothing larger than 3’ by 4’, and nothing heavier the 30 pounds. Artwork must be delivered to the library on or before March 31. Interested artists, please contact RaeAnn Palmer, Librarian at the Park Grove Branch: phone 651-459-2040 or email RaeAnn.Palmer@co.washington.mn.us.

Staff members at all five library locations are always looking for local artists who would like to share their artwork with the community. If you are interested in sharing your artwork, have a conversation with your local librarian about bringing your art to the library.

Those of us who are not artistically inclined reap the benefit of enjoying the works of others! Consult the Library’s Events Calendar to find out what’s on display. Come for the books and more, and take some time to enjoy the art!

Library Woman is Joey Halbach, Community Relations Librarian for Washington County Library. Contact her at: joey.halbach@co.washington.mn.us


Now that’s a very good question! The Norwegian musical group Ylvis seems to be pondering that very question in their 2013 song of the same name. The YouTube video of the song has been hugely popular. Toddlers to grannies recognize the tune. The riddle of what the fox says is never solved in the song.

I love the song, I think because of a personal experience with a fox sighting. As a grade-schooler, I was herding the cows home from the pasture in the late afternoon for milking time, following along behind using the well-worn path the cows had cemented into the ground over time. Suddenly off to my right on the hillside I spotted a red fox. It was an awesome and very memorable sighting – one that I still think about from time to time. What did the fox say? Absolutely nothing.

Children who visit the R.H. Stafford Library in Woodbury have a chance to talk about and write about things in nature with volunteer staff at the Science Museum of MN Collectors’ Corner every Tuesday afternoon from 4-7 p.m. and every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Kids can bring in natural objects that they have found and done research on. They can draw a picture of something they learned about on a trip to a National Park or a beach in Mexico. It’s all an effort to get young people interested in their natural surroundings. I wonder if anyone has reported on a fox?

The fox lyrics along with illustrations by Svein Nyhus have become a picture book. Washington County Library owns several copies.

This winter, let the fox be your muse. Find out more about foxes – what tracks do they leave in the snow, what do mother foxes “say” to their young, and more.  If you are lucky enough to experience a fox sighting, share the thrill with others. Enjoy the Ylvis picture book and other tales about foxes. My personal favorite – “My Lucky Day” by Keiko Kasza. The fox in the Kasza tale proclaims, “This is my lucky day!” But is it really?

Library Woman is Joey Halbach, Community Relations Librarian for Washington County Library. Contact her at: joey.halbach@co.washington.mn.us


When I think ”library” I conjure up images of stacks of books, bins of music CDs, shelves of recorded books, displayers with DVDs, and on and on – the physical materials. In reality a library is so much more! It’s book clubs and storytimes and computer workstations and Dog Gone Reading and Senior Surf Days and databases and…

Just thinking ahead to the next couple of months:
The library is a source for tax forms. The actual physical forms haven’t arrived just yet, but when they do they will promptly be placed in the public area for folks to peruse. And if we don’t have the form you are looking for, you can proceed to one of our computer workstations, and search tax sites to find it. A librarian will gladly give you some assistance in finding the form you are seeking.

The library offers legal programs. Throughout the year Washington County Library and the Washington County Law Library partner up to offer legal programs, free and open to the public. On Tuesday, February 4, 1:30 p.m., find out about bankruptcy and wage garnishment when attorneys from the Volunteer Lawyers Network present the program “Bankruptcy: What You Need to Know” at Wildwood Branch Library, Mahtomedi.

The library offers special entertainment and informational programs for kids and adults.
For kids: In January the MacPhail Center for Music presents their “Musical Snowstorm” program at all library locations. Throughout the County during February — in celebration of I Love to Read Month — musician and storyteller Jack Pearson will entertain children and their families with songs and stories.
For adults: attend author programs — Gloria VanDemmeltraadt in January, Kao Kalia Yang & Julie Kramer in February; attend informational programs — “Gangsters in White Bear Lake & Mahtomedi: A Sequel” coming up in February; attend a craft workshop, “Make a Civil War Sewing Kit” in February.

The library recycles materials that are no longer popular by conducting book sales throughout the County. The Oakdale Library is first up for the year with their book sale planned for February 7 and 8 during regular library hours.

Free tech classes help folks get up to speed with technology—in February Science Museum PC trainers will present three Microsoft PC classes at Park Grove Library and Twin Cities Media Alliance will train on Apps, Linkedin and Google Docs at Oakdale Library.

More information about these programs, classes, activities, and others can be found on the Library’s Events Calendar. Or call your local library with questions. The general info number for Washington County Library: 651-731-1320.

Library Woman is Joey Halbach, Community Relations Librarian for Washington County Library. Contact her at: joey.halbach@co.washington.mn.us


A North wind is hammering out a raucous melody on the wind chimes outside my bedroom window, yard work is pretty much done for the season, the winter tires are on the car, and my husband and I have pretty much mined Netflix for any of the shows we want to watch. Time for some serious winter reading!

Washington County Library has an Adult Winter Reading program called Winter Jackets that starts on January 2 and runs through the end of February. It’s meant to encourage reading at a time when the winter doldrums set in. Now is the time to tackle that 400-page biography you’ve always wanted to read. Or find that long-ago bestseller you couldn’t get your hands on when reading it was the rage.

If you’re not sure what to read, the Library has an excellent e-resource – the NoveList Plus database. If you have enjoyed a book by a particular author, use it to find more books by that author or consult a list of Author read-alikes. If you like books about World War II, search for titles by subject. Click right from the database to the Library’s catalog to see if Washington County Library owns the title.

Another idea, consult the Library’s READ page. A link to Bookletters on that page will put you in touch with lists of new materials at Washington County Library. In addition, find reading lists and a list of Staff Suggestions, new each month.

Finally don’t forget to talk to friends, or your local librarian. It’s a good bet that one of the books librarians will be recommending is the Library’s One County, One Book pick for 2014 – “The World’s Strongest Librarian” by Josh Hanagarne, the inspiring story of a Mormon kid with Tourette’s who overcame his disability with books and weight-lifting. Hanagarne will speak at WCL on March 29 at 1:30 p.m.

Winter Jackets reading is really simple. Pick up some review forms and a list of suggested titles…read…and then submit your reviews at your local library for a chance to have your name picked in a prize drawing. Enjoy!

Library Woman is Joey Halbach, Community Relations Librarian for Washington County Library. Contact her at: joey.halbach@co.washington.mn.us


I think the author Chris Bohjalian wrote his latest book just for me! The title: “The Light in the Ruins”, published July 2013. It’s a story of war and murder, at once both historical fiction and a murder mystery that has its setting in Italy during the Second World War and the aftermath.

I say it was written for me because I was fortunate to tag along with my husband in September of 2012 to a conference in Florence, Italy, with a side adventure into Tuscany. In the book, place names, references to artwork, and more were familiar because of my trip. The book brought me back.

I’ve read Bohjalian before –“ Skeletons at the Feast.” That time Bohjalian took me across Europe, fleeing West ahead of Russian soldiers, racing for my life. The female heroine was Prussian, a citizen of the region where some of my husband’s ancestors were from. They had emigrated well before that time. Regardless, my knowledge of his family’s settlement in Prussia made the story very real to me. If his family had stayed, they might have had a similar frightening experience.

We are very lucky to have authors like Bohjalian who can transport us in place and time, who can help us to experience the terror of war, who can remind us that we do not want that kind of terror to occur anywhere in our world.

And in this month of November as we celebrate Veterans’ Day, we are reminded of the men and women past and present who have fought and who continue to fight to keep us safe and free — free to read, free to be.

Library Woman is Joey Halbach, Community Relations Librarian for Washington County Library. Contact her at: joey.halbach@co.washington.mn.us



Memory moments, have you had one? I’ve been having them all of my life. They happen when I’m in the midst of a particularly pleasant experience and I think to myself, “I don’t want to forget this.” It’s not just remembering the event, but more; it’s recalling the sights and smells and sounds that go along with it, as well!

I had a particularly fun memory moment a couple of summers back. My three grandchildren and I were having a tea party, seated around a table at the back of the house. It was late in the afternoon on a warm, sunny day. The baby of the group was only a little more than a year old, but she was in on the party with all the rest. The twins, age four, were heavy into the pouring, filling and refilling the cups, even running to the garden hose to replenish the teapot.

As I watched Baby Charlotte take tea, more often than not spilling most of the contents of her cup on the table, the ground, and herself, I was giddy with laughter! It was a moment I hope to bring to mind as long as I am able to. In that simple moment, all of the children were honing their fine motor skills, pretending, sharing, and more.

Compliments of the Minnesota Children’s Museum and other funders, the R.H. Stafford Library in Woodbury is the lucky recipient of a Smart Play Spot. Yes, it’s a place where preschool kids can come and play and learn. There’s a picnic table, a grill, a boat, a food market, and more for kids and their caregivers to explore. It won’t be quiet – there will be squabbles about taking turns and sharing. Anticipate hearing a hearty crew of fisher people singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat!” And there will be shouts across the room – “Mom, it’s a bear!” Kids will be practicing the five skills that help to prepare them for school: talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing. They will be pretending, meeting new friends, playing with moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas. And I’m hoping users will have some memory moments, have experiences so phenomenal they will commit them to memory and make those memories last a lifetime! Come check it out!

Library Woman is Joey Halbach, Community Relations Librarian for Washington County Library. Contact her at: joey.halbach@co.washington.mn.us