Library Secrets, part 1

The library can seem like a strange place to people. And we are a little strange; we offer many different resources (not just books!), we host programs and events. But I’m here to let you in on a secret or two.

Today we’ll chat about the “Last Chance” display.

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Every now and then, we must make space on the library shelves for all the new materials that arrive almost daily. There’s only one way to do that: take something else off the shelves. We have criteria for deciding which materials are to be taken off: number of checkouts, condition, age, etc.

But here’s the secret: sometimes we want to save them. Maybe it’s something that’s considered a “classic” that just hasn’t checked out in a while. Or it could be a prize-winning book that nobody noticed because it was on an inconvenient shelf. Or it’s a sequel to an item that does check out. Or… there are lots of reasons to want to save something.

That’s where the “Last Chance” display comes in handy.

We’ll relocate those items to the display and give them a chance to prove they should be allowed to stay. All those items need is someone to check them out and take them home.

Here are some of the interesting books that have just been waiting to be checked out.

The gluten-free gourmet bakes bread : more than 200 wheat-free recipes / Bette Hagman.

Gluten free is very “in” right now. And who doesn’t love bread?

The Thin Man / Dashiell Hammett

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A classic of the hardboiled detective mystery genre.

When we were orphans / Kazuo Ishiguro

This author won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Recommendations don’t come much higher than that.


As always, catch us on social media or comment below. If you have a library question, call 972-780-5052 or email librarians@duncanville.com.

Creepy-crawlies

Wicked Fun

Here we are in the middle of another Texas summer. Blistering heat and bugs flying about. In my yard I have many cicadas buzzing their summer song. I remember as a kid I would collect the skins and terrorize my slightly younger cousins with them. I would line the skins up and play whatever game with the husks that popped in my head. I’ve been trying to get my 9-year-old kid to pick them up and have his own adventures with cicada skins, but alas, he is creeped out by the brown husks. I recently found one hanging out on the mailbox. I brought it in with the day’s mail and watched my son cringe at me as usual. So, I went and put it on my husband’s shoulder. How hilarious it was to see him jump. The funny thing was that he saw me with the thing but was still startled when I placed it on his shoulder while he was watching TV.

And those who kill the fun…

Lately I’ve noticed these guys flying about.

Their coloring and size make you want to duck and run because they look like a wasp that means to hurt you, but apparently, they live to hunt cicadas for their young. I wanted to learn more about cicadas and their killers, so naturally I went to the library shelves for more information.

Books are the best for info

In Backyard Bugs by Jaret C. Daniels, I learned that the female cicada killer will deliver a powerful sting if provoked. They are the ones who hunt down cicadas, sting them, and bury them with the eggs they lay so that their young can feed on the cicada carcasses.

In The Songs of Insects by Lang Elliot and Wil Hershberger, I learned that the songs cicadas make are produced by special organs called “tymbals.” I also learned that the cicada eggs are laid in the bark of a tree, and the nymphs that hatch from the eggs fall to the ground and burrow to eat roots. The skins that are found all over the place are the last skin that they shed after they emerge from the ground.

Personally, I’d rather have the cicadas around and will try to eliminate their killers from my garden.

Come on by and check out our books on insects to learn more about the creepy crawlies and flying nuisances that are around your place.


As always, catch us on social media or comment below. If you have a library question, call 972-780-5052 or email librarians@duncanville.com.

Covid-19 adventures, part 1

Mask Making

My family needed face masks to protect them against Covid-19 and I thought that was something I could cobble together. I had bits of fabric from other projects and I bought a bit more. My forays into sewing haven’t been all that ambitious, but I felt confident that I could successfully make masks. After all, the curtains and pillowcases I made came out looking like curtains and pillowcases.  

The thing is, it had been awhile since I’ve tackled a sewing project, and my poor neglected sewing machine needed a little TLC (like dusting) before I could begin. I fumbled and fiddled with the machine trying to remember how to thread a bobbin and the machine itself. My husband fished out the operator’s manual after listening to me grumble. I made myself sit down and study the manual familiarizing myself with all the settings. I managed to get the feed dogs stuck and had to open up the area under them to figure out what I did wrong.  I had to use this key like screw driver thingamabob to remove the needle plate.

I carefully put aside the screws and the thingamabob along with the needle plate. Under I found a mess of lint all over the place. I cleaned it all off and oiled the parts as the manual described. I even managed to unstick the feed dogs. I replaced the needle plate and reached for the screws and discovered the thingamabob went missing. How frustrating! I proceeded to look all over my work space, muttering bad words under my breath. My husband and daughter joined in the search looking all over the floor on hands and knees. I decided a break was in order and went to get a refill of ice water. As I put my glass under the ice maker on the fridge; I noticed the thingamabob stuck to the magnetic wristband of my watch. Everyone had a good laugh at my misfortune. With a bit of grumbling I went back to the sewing machine determined to get the masks made.

Well, before I could actually begin I needed a pattern. I hunted for the simplest pattern on YouTube. The one I found required tracing a circle on paper. The person on the video used a dinner plate. Alas, my plates are square, so with my husband’s help we went around the house measuring pot lids, serving bowls, lampshades, whatever round thing we could find. The video said it should be 26 centimeters across. After much finagling and math figuring we came up with three different sized patterns to fit the different sized faces in my little family.

A few hours later I finally had success!

How The Library Can Help

In the library we have many wonderful sewing books to help you learn sewing. If you already know how to sew you can come to the library to find new sewing ideas. Here are a few that I recommend:

50 Fat Quarter Makes

This book has so many cute projects that you can make out of a fat quarter. Little stuffed toys, skirts, pot holders, aprons, and so much more.

Machine Sewing: Top Tips and Techniques for Successful sewing by Debbie Shore

This is a fantastic book for beginners. Shore goes over all the different parts of a sewing machine, how to maintain it, and what different products are used for. There is a page that explains what to do when things go wrong.  She goes over what to do with different stitches and at the end of the book there are a few projects to tackle.

101 Ways to Use Your First Sewing Machine by Elizabeth Dubicki

There are many reasons to look over this book including instructions on how to make a t-shirt quilt! This is something I plan to do someday with the mounds of jerseys, and shirts, that I have from all the different camps, sports teams, schools, etc. my kids have been in.

Designer Joi’s Fashion Sewing Workshop by Joi Mahon

This book has many different exercises to practice in order to improve your sewing skills. If you want to dive into making tailored clothing this book is for you.

As always, catch us on social media or comment below. If you have a library question, call 972-780-5052 or email librarians@duncanville.com.

Dorothy’s walk

This is Dorothy; she likes to go for walks in her human’s arms. She sees him come out the front door and follows yowling until she is picked up and taken for a walk. Her nose twitches catching the scents from the neighborhood and she switches her tail at the neighbors who smile at her, charmed by the novelty of a cat going along for a walk.

She likes to stalk around the yard and hide in the neighbor’s bushes. She has an abundance of fresh meat from the birds she catches. And is unconcerned, as only a cat can be, by the mess she leaves for her human to clean up.

Many neighbors regularly stop by to pet and love on her. She shamelessly revels in the attention. With such a big audience she thinks that she is the queen of the street and is pampered by her favorite human who only exists to feed her, pet her, and walk her. (she thinks)

This is a typical Dorothy encounter:

I heard the door open and spied the man come out of the house. I raced to him in hopes of some cuddles and scratches. What’s this? He is heading down the street for a walk! I chase after him running through the thick dewy grass feeling the cool morning air rustle through my fur. “Here I come, wait, waaaaiiiiittttt,” I call out. “Go back home cat,” the man said, “I left food for you.” How rude! He thinks he is going without me! “You can’t leave me behind,” I demanded. “Oh, all right, come along, goofy cat,” the man said.

This was how the morning started out for my husband and I. My husband being Dorothy’s pet or the other way around depending on how you want to look at it.


Erin Hunter, author of the Warrior series does cat stories a whole lot better. She has created a fantasy world full of cat clans.

The first book in the Warriors series.

Here is an excerpt:

Quietly he asked, “Is survival here really so hard?” “Our territory covers only part of the forest,” answered Bluestar. “We compete with other Clans for what we have. And this year, late newleaf means prey is scarce.” “Is your Clan very big?” Rusty meowed, his eyes wide. “Big enough’” replied Bluestar. “Our territory can support us, but there is no prey left over.” “Are you all warriors, then?” Rusty mewed. Bluestar’s guarded answers were just making him more and more curious. Lionheart answered him. “Some are warriors. Some are too young or too old or too busy caring for kits to hunt.” “And you all live and share prey together?” Rusty murmured in awe, thinking a little guiltily of his own easy, selfish life. Bluestar looked again at Lionheart. The golden tabby stared back at her steadily. At last she returned her gaze to Rusty and meowed, “Perhaps you should find out these things for yourself. Would you like to join ThunderClan?” Rusty was so surprised, he couldn’t speak. Bluestar went on: “If you did you would train with Graypaw to become a Clan warrior.” “But kittypets can’t be warriors!” Graypaw blurted out. “They don’t have warrior blood!” A sad look clouded Bluestar’s eyes. “Warrior blood,” she echoed with a sigh. “Too much of that has been spilled lately.”

If you like cats and their cattish personalities, then I highly recommend the Warrior series. Try them out and let us know what you think.


As always, catch us on social media or comment below. If you have a library question, call 972-780-5052 or email librarians@duncanville.com.

Homeschooling, distance learning, and COVID-19

When my daughter’s school went to online learning, I felt the irony in my bones. As a child, I was homeschooled and assumed I would homeschool my own children. That had not happened, for various reasons, and my daughter thrived in first a public, then a charter school. And now… now she was learning at home.

It quickly became clear to me that homeschooling and distance learning were not the same, though many people used the term homeschooling for both. In distance learning, the school was still running the show, and in our situation the lessons seemed to rely heavily on online learning and worksheets. In homeschooling, the parent is in charge, and the curricula vary widely and wildly. I watched as the families of the United States learned the paradox of home versus classroom settings; with one or two students and none of the structure and social interactions of in-person school, the time required to finish assigned work shrinks. Through the still magical internet, I learned about the experiences of parents all over the US as their schools tried to adjust to the new situation, with varying degrees of success.

Summer passed by as normally as it could for the kiddos, while the adults goggled at the enormity of the local COVID-19 case numbers and the schools grappled with what to do in the fall. More and more parents with means, faced with the prospect of an indefinite length of distance learning, turned their eyes toward the possibility of homeschooling. Everyone faced what seemed like impossible decisions.

Staying in school

For those who stay in school, resources are available to help them navigate the system. You, Your Child, and School: Navigate Your Way to the Best Education by Sir Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica (2018) gives an overview of educational options and suggestions as to how to decide what is best and what steps to take going forward. Education a la Carte: Choosing the Best Schooling Options For Your Child by Kevin Leman (2017)and Rethinking School: How to Take Charge of Your Child’s Education by Susan Wise Bauer (2019) also discusses educational options and strategies to make things work best for your family, in whatever situation you find yourselves.

For those now tasked with distance learning, books like How to Tutor Your Own Child by Marina Koestler Ruben (2011) and Help Your Kids With Study Skills: A Unique Step-By-Step Visual Guide by Carol Vorderman (2016) may be helpful for parents helping their children at home. While written for college students, Cal Newport’s How to Become a Straight-A Student: The Unconventional Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less (2007) may be helpful for high school students as well. And of course, A Teen’s Guide to Getting Stuff Done by Jennifer Shannon (2017) may help high school students keep themselves on task.

While the local school districts are sailing new waters as they cope with the switch to distance learning, some public schools have existed as distance learning only options for several years. The Texas Education Agency lists public schools that are part of the Texas Virtual School Network at https://txvsn.org/OLS-Campuses.

The world of homeschooling 

With as many reasons for homeschooling as there are families who homeschool, there is no universal homeschool experience. My own homeschooling experience was fairly isolated, as my parents were conservative Christians who didn’t have money for things like homeschool co-ops. I spent much of my free time reading and…well, I became a history major and then a librarian! Others talk of spending lots of time in groups at co-ops or in sports leagues. In some states (though not Texas), homeschoolers can even participate in some public school classes.

Sometimes homeschooling is used by families to maintain a separation from the world that can even be unhealthy. I found echoes of my own experience in Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu (2015), which provides a glimpse into the world of a conservative Christian family through a daughter limited by its assigned gender roles. New York Times bestseller Educated (2018) is Tara Westover’s memoir of life in an abusive family which used “home schooling” in order to maintain their religiously-prompted isolation.

Of course, many people had a positive homeschooling experience, including Paula Penn-Nabrit, the author of Morning by Morning: How We Home-Schooled Our African American Sons to the Ivy League (2003).Rachel Gathercole discusses the social benefits of homeschooling in The Well-Adjusted Child (2007). Quinn Cummings shares her experience of exploring homeschooling in The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling (2012). My own home education provided an excellent basic foundation for learning in high school and college.

Finding resources at the library

The library has many books on homeschooling—or home schooling, as it is spelled in the subject heading used in the records. Most of these books are found at 371.042.

Opposing Viewpoints is a series of books that gives both sides of a debate.

Some works focus on making the decision for whether or not to homeschool, including The Homeschooling Option by Lisa Rivera (2008). The Opposing Viewpoints volume Homeschooling (2010), edited by Noah Berlatsky, contains a variety of essays on many aspects of homeschooling’s pros and cons, including those unique to a Christian setting.

For those who decide to homeschool, many resources exist. Lorilee Lippincott’s The Homeschooling Handbook: How to Make Homeschooling Simple, Affordable, Fun, and Effective (2014) aims to make getting started easier. For those with younger children, The Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, and Life, by Julie Bogart (2019), focuses on how to create an environment conducive to curiosity and wonder. For those with ambition and a love of the classics, The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer (2016) may be a source of inspiration. Using the classical (as in Greeks and Romans) framework of three learning stages, it gives a wealth of information and recommendations for education from pre-K through grade 12. And of course, a Google search will bring up a wealth of information and curriculum options. It is worth noting here that many homeschool curricula still have an evangelical Christian slant, especially in science.

No matter what decision parents make or are forced into in regard to education, we all agree that we want the best for our children. In these stressful times, hopefully that commonality will bring us together instead of apart.



As always, catch us on social media or comment below. If you have a library question, call 972-780-5052 or email librarians@duncanville.com.

Introducing Library Granola

Granola (that crunchy-munchy goodness) is made up of a lot of different ingredients.

This blog will be like granola; posts may vary in style and they’ll definitely vary in content.

Some posts might be straight-up book reviews. Others might be commentary on daily happenings. Still others will let you in on a few of the library’s secrets.

All of them will offer recommendations of items from our catalog. There will be links to take you to our catalog so you can sign in and place holds on the items you find most fascinating.

We hope our posts will entertain, inform, and inspire you. Leave us comments to let us know what you think and to share your ideas. You can also catch us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Please keep your comments friendly and courteous. We reserve the right to delete any inappropriate comments.

If you have a library question, call 972-780-5052 or email librarians@duncanville.com.


Getting Lost in Time Travel

Warning: there are a few spoilers. Then again, the spoilers might just entice you enough to crack open these really fun books.

Imagination gone wild

I often imagine after reading such a story how characters from that different era would react to the world today. (Covid-19 pandemic aside.) What would they think about zooming 60 or more miles per hour on a freeway? Getting to a place far away on a map in a short period of time compared to horse travel.  Cooking food in minutes in a microwave. I imagine how they would marvel at how cool a building can be with air conditioning. How immodest or bizarre would we look with our modern clothes? How would synthetic fabrics feel to them? I imagine the looks on their faces walking around in shoes that have comfy memory foam in them. What would they think of watching a movie on a big HD 4k TV, and the ability to stream hundreds of movies with a remote? What would they think about as we talk at a screen at a drive-thru and the result is getting hot food ready to eat? No butchering required! What would a trip to a grocery store feel like to them? So many choices! I like to put a favorite character in my imagination in these scenarios and think out how they would react to our way of life in their way with their personalities.

History made fun

The best stories have rich characters and relationships- not just romantic entanglements, but also rivalries, great friendships, and reading about what drives these characters.

Here come the spoilers

These exact things can be found in the “Outlander” series by Diana Gabaldon. The series revolves around Claire, a WWII nurse who travels back and forth in time. She ends up being married to different men in the different whens, getting pregnant in one time and raising the child in another. She encounters numerous historical figures and has so many amazing adventures, both good and bad.  Her child and grandchildren also have the ability to travel in time. In this particular series, not everyone can time travel.

Staff thoughts

I asked other staff who love these books as much as I do what their favorite books and moments are. Tech Services Librarian, Hannah, said that she couldn’t pick a favorite book.  Community Services Librarian, Stephanie, says the second book (Dragonfly in Amber) was most memorable to her because of how it jumped in time 20 years. “It nearly drove me nuts thinking I had missed a book,” she said.

Hannah most enjoyed reading about the Revolutionary War. “That was the most fun to read for me. And the most memorable part was in ‘The Fiery Cross‘, which begins with an eventful day – which lasts over 100 pages,” she said.

Stephanie also enjoyed the scene where the men go off on a buffalo hunt, but one buffalo gets past them and winds up in the front yard of Claire and Jamie.

The author has crafted so many intriguing stories around the many characters in her books. This is the kind of series where you cheer on your favorite characters and hope bad things-I mean justice- will happen to the unsavory characters.

Bringing Jamie to life

In my imaginings, I bring Jamie, Claire’s second husband, to modern times. I imagine the things he would say, and how he would react to how we live. I imagine calming down the alarm he might feel and showing him the sights, explaining why certain things are done and others must not be done, like engaging in vigilante behavior. I imagine what kind of attention he might draw, especially if he insisted on walking around in a kilt. I also imagine what adventures we might have. Would we spring someone from jail who was unlawfully incarcerated, or rescue someone in peril? Would we hike around North Carolina, and would he hunt down something that would then be cooked on a fire? What could he teach me as we go along hiking? Who would we meet and how would those stories get played out?

Concluding hopes

I look forward to reading about Jaime in his own time in the next book. I hope the people who would do harm to his grandson meet his justice. I wonder if Bree, the daughter, will have another child. Will the Revolutionary War be brought up again in the story? And what graphic medical procedures will Claire be doing in the next book? Claire’s doings in her surgery bring up a mixture of revulsion and fascination in me.

Hannah is hoping for a family reunion and fewer intense situations of peril. Stephanie prefers not to think about it. She hates spoilers.


As always, catch us on social media or comment below. If you have a library question, call 972-780-5052 or email librarians@duncanville.com.