from the archive


Author: Erica Bess

Erica Bess is currently Assistant Director at Princeton Public Library, having joined the library in 2011 as Head of Adult Services. She has a passion for customer service, lifelong learning, and connecting others to ideas, information, and resources. As the mom of a curious, strong-willed, and sassy toddler, she enjoys blogging about the experiences of reading and discovery through the lens of her daughter.

Falling forward


Ah summer, with its warm temperatures, beach days, ice cream cones, and evening barbecues. Can I share a secret? They just aren’t for me. Once the summer months hit, I immediately start wishing for fall. Everything fall. Fall weather, fall recipes, fall fashion, and most of all, fall books. Fall is traditionally when publishers release […]

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Research your roots


Beginning research on a family tree is exciting, but can also be a bit intimidating. You might find yourself asking questions about which resources to trust, effective ways to organize information, and how to keep moving forward when you’ve reached an impasse. Where do you start? We’ll be addressing some of these topics and more […]


Beyond “Serial”


In 2014, when the buzz about This American Life‘s riveting podcast Serial reached a fever pitch, it felt as though you couldn’t get through the day without having a conversation about it. Since then, the heightened awareness of podcasts coupled with technology upgrades that make the listening experience friendlier have led to a wild increase in popularity. I started […]

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Searching for the perfect gift?


It’s the most wonderful time of the year… for book lovers! As 2017 nears its end, book reviewers are starting to release their “best of” lists for titles published in the past 12 months. And the timing couldn’t be better. If you are in search of the perfect book to give to your loved ones […]

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Past and present


Last month, PBS debuted the highly-anticipated and critically-acclaimed documentary film series, “The Vietnam War,” directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Broken into 10 episodes and running 18 hours, the series offers nearly 80 interviews that present a variety of first-hand perspectives through archival footage, photographs, and recordings. The project, which took 10 years and […]

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Getting to brighter days


For many, the challenges of life are what make the day exciting; for others, those same challenges can seem dreadfully insurmountable. While the quest for that ever-elusive answer to why things are the way they are can be debilitating at times, maybe comfort comes in knowing that you are not alone. The Princeton community is filled with resources to support you and those you care about when facing struggles of mental illness, grief, loss, and other hardships.


1,000 Reasons to read


Last year, my daughter and I signed up to participate in the library's early literacy initiative, 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten. The program, designed to promote reading to newborns, infants, and toddlers, encourages parents to bond with their children through shared reading experiences and provides structure and incentive for reaching the 1,000-book goal.


Reimagining great


In "The Great Good Place," author Ray Oldenburg writes of the places we go – the coffee shops, community centers, taverns, salons, cafes – that encourage informal, public gathering. The places where people get to know each other and develop a sense of innate belonging. They are the "third places," the ones aside from home (first) and work (second) where we choose to spend our time.


A lifelong love


As a child, I adored every opportunity I had to visit my neighborhood library. It was the first place my parents allowed me to go by myself, and I would take every advantage of that freedom to ride my bike the few blocks to my favorite destination. Then, I would race to the children's section, select enough books to last seven days, and when my pile became too heavy to carry home, agonize over which ones to leave behind.


What should I read next?


There are few things librarians enjoy more than connecting readers with characters that resonate, storylines that entertain, and information that enlightens. "What should I read next?" is a question that PPL staff receive often, and it's one of our favorite challenges. In addition to making suggestions to you from our own knowledge, reviews, word-of-mouth, and other research, we also rely on a tool that captures the collective recommending power of all librarians who love to read – LibraryReads.


A day at the museum


There are few things more stunning and iconic than the Blue Whale at New York's American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). Created from 21,000 pounds of fiberglass and measuring 94 feet long, the whale is the centerpiece of the world-renowned institution and is a must-see for the millions of people that visit every year.


Read The New Yorker on your iPad


Since 2013, the library has offered access to Zinio, our digital collection of over 70 popular magazine titles, including The Economist, Bloomberg Businessweek, National Geographic Interactive, Shape, Newsweek, and Food Network Magazine.  Zinio magazines can easily be viewed on a computer or downloaded to a mobile device, free, with your library card.
For the past couple of years, the most popular question we have received about Zinio has been, "What about The New Yorker?"


Calling all students: be a trashion star!


The Princeton Environmental Film Festival is just over a month away, and the library is already gearing up with some excellent programming to complement the screenings and discussions taking place. We are excited to announce the first ever PEFF Trashion Show – a fashion show of original designs made from items that would otherwise have been discarded or recycled – on Saturday, March 28, at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Room. And Princeton-area students, we need you to help us make it spectacular.


Kitchen confident-ial


The holidays are the perfect time for at-home chefs to shine and display their enviable talents. After all, there's nothing that can impress a crowd quite like a delicious home-cooked feast. But this time of year can also be extremely daunting for those of us who are still trying to figure out the difference between broiling, braising, baking, and browning. Here are some cookbooks that truly start with the basics (how to boil water, anyone?) and include recipes that can make even the most novice cook more confident in the kitchen.


Getting to brighter days


For many, the challenges of life are what make the day exciting; for others, those same challenges can seem dreadfully insurmountable. While the quest for that ever-elusive answer to why things are the way they are can be debilitating at times, maybe comfort comes in knowing that you are not alone. The Princeton community is filled with resources to support you and those you care about when facing struggles of mental illness, grief, loss, and other hardships.


September’s buzz books


Your beach bag might be filled with books to carry you through the summer, but it's never too early to start thinking about what you'd like to read for the fall. Many of us at the library recently attended the annual Book Expo America conference, where we learned about the great books publishing in the months to come and which titles are receiving the biggest chatter within the book industry. Here are a few buzz-worthy titles coming out in September that you might like to add to your reading list.


Lunch with Jennifer Weiner


Summer may have had its unofficial kickoff a couple of weeks ago, but this season doesn't truly come into its glory in Princeton until best-selling author Jennifer Weiner comes to town. Jennifer's annual visit is always an incredible treat, as she entertains, enthralls, and has us laughing until our stomachs hurt. This year, we're kicking things up a notch and hosting Jennifer at our Book Lovers Luncheon on Thursday, June 19th at 12 p.m. at The Nassau Club. Tickets are still available. Won't you please join us?


If you like “Mad Men”…


The season seven premiere of AMC's "Mad Men" is airing on Sunday, April 13th, and for loyal fans of the show, the day can't arrive soon enough! It's been nearly a year since we've seen our favorite characters trying to navigate the cultural, economic, and social issues of the 1960s while making it big in the advertising world.


Testing the limits


I recently had the chance to watch "The Crash Reel" during the Princeton Environmental Film Festival. One of 15 films short-listed for this year's Academy Award for Best Documentary, it's the visually and emotionally stunning story of Kevin Pearce, a snowboarder who suffers a traumatic brain injury during a training session for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.


Appy New Year


Now that we're into the second full week of 2014, it's likely that some of us have fallen off-track in keeping our New Year's resolutions. Life (or maybe a polar vortex) just gets in the way sometimes, even with the best of intentions. But it's not too late to give up on this revitalizing practice. Whether you're looking to try something new, make a big decision, become healthier, finish a project, learn a new skill, or something totally different, there are many great apps that can make sticking to your resolutions a little bit easier.


Comfort reading


There are tons of awesome cookbooks out there. The library's collection on the second floor is proof of that. Spend five minutes browsing it, and I challenge you not to come away with your arms full of diverse, beautiful, glamorous titles to borrow. But what if, like me, you love cookbooks but don't have the patience, courage, or finesse to actually make any dishes? Just like that old adage, "those who can't do, teach," my motto is "those who can't cook, read!" 


Home, sweet home


As a child, nothing was more exciting to me than being invited over to a friend's house to play after school. Aside from it being a change of pace, with new toys, snacks, and conversation, what I always loved most about these occasions was seeing what my friends' homes looked like on the inside. It simply fascinated me to see the really big features – the layouts, the furnishings, the colors, the artwork – all the way down to the tiniest details, like if there were magnets on the refrigerator.


A picture is worth…


…awesome prizes? As suggested by that famous phrase we all know, maybe a picture is worth a thousand words. But this summer at the library, it could also be worth so much more: treats from The Bent Spoon, gift certificates to Labyrinth Books, advanced reader copies of yet-to-be-published books, and a lunch for four at Elements!


The perfect kind of date


Recently, a few PPL staff members had the good fortune to attend Book Expo America, an annual gathering of publishers, editors, booksellers, librarians and superfans of reading. It's sort of like fashion week for the book industry, where publishers pull out all of the stops in an effort to reveal and promote the books they are most excited about for the upcoming months.


Summer’s ultimate author panel


Nothing says "summer" quite like relaxing on the beach with an umbrella drink in hand and that book you've been wanting to read all spring. And nothing says "buzzworthy" quite like a gathering of the most popular chick lit authors of the season. Put them both together, and you have the perfect recipe for a fun girls' night out! Join us on Friday, June 7 at 6:30 p.m. for our summer reading kickoff event, Beach Reads Night!


Discovering NYC


Earlier this month, the Friends of the Princeton Public Library hosted a wonderful bus tour to "Old New York," exploring the architecture and culture of the complex city written about in the classic novels of Edith Wharton and Henry James. For anyone who would like to continue (or begin!) their journey of discovering the history of this most beloved and fascinating metropolis, here are a couple of recommendations to get you started:


Once lost, now found


National Geographic has long been known for its spectacular photography that captures meaningful, awe-inspiring, and unexpected moments of everyday life. 2013 marks the 125th anniversary of this American institution, and to celebrate, NatGeo has released a brand new Tumblr blog called FOUND. Fair warning: you will lose yourself (and track of time!) in this addictive and beautifully curated collection of images.


Check out our digital magazines


In addition to ebooks, downloadable audiobooks, and digital music, we now offer a digital magazine collection of over 70 popular titles, including "The Economist," "Consumer Reports," "Elle," "Popular Photography," "Martha Stewart Living," "Bloomberg Businessweek," "Esquire," "Shape," "Newsweek," and "Food Network Magazine," that can be easily viewed on a computer or downloaded to a mobile device. And it's all free with your PPL library card.


Apps for foodies


Did you know that when it comes to grocery shopping or finding the perfect recipe, there's an app for that? If you have a tablet or smartphone, choosing weeknight meals, sharing your edible creations, or planning a dinner party have never been easier. Here are a few of my favorite apps that can help bring out the inner chef in all of us.


Check out The Buzz


The Buzz is back! Join us every Wednesday at 11 a.m. for weekly informal chats by the Welcome Desk. Princeton Public Library staff members will discuss books, films, technology, apps, articles, and music that we think you should have on your radar. It's also a chance to share what you've been reading, watching, or listening to. Looking for your next favorite novel?


Kleenex required, but so worth it


Last week, I finished reading "When We Were the Kennedys" by author Monica Wood, a best-selling and award-nominated fiction writer. Wood's debut memoir was recommended to me by my friend and reading guru, Jen, who discovered the book a few months ago. Jen had warned me that I would need boxes of Kleenex – yes boxes – to make it through the book, so naturally I was a bit apprehensive.


Living, reimagined


A few weeks ago, I visited the Museum of Modern Art through the library's Museum Pass Program. While there is always so much to be in awe of strolling through the collections, there was one exhibit this day that captured my interest the most: Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream. The exhibit is the result of a study of five suburbs that have been hit hard by our nation's foreclosure crisis.


Summer in the city


I love summertime in Manhattan. While everyone else is itching to abandon the concrete jungle and head for beach destinations, I always look for an excuse to make the trip into town and explore the sights, sounds, and culture of my favorite place in the world. And while I don't get to visit in-person as much as I would like to, I often take the chance to travel there through the pages of a book. This summer, my must-read list is filled with novels set in the Big Apple – and they perfectly transport, entertain, and enchant – just like the real city.


Get in on The Buzz


As library staff, we all love to read, are excitedly curious about new things, and are naturally inclined to share with others what we learn. And of course, we always aim to have our fingers on the pulse of what is popular and “the next big thing.” Starting today, join us every Wednesday at 11 a.m. this summer for The Buzz, a weekly, informal chat that promises to be lots of fun!


Our very own genius bar


Mark your calendars! Our popular "Ask the Mac Pros" program returns to Princeton Public Library beginning Monday, June 11, for a 10-week series this summer. It's your chance to drop by our new Mac Lab with your questions about iMacs, MacBooks, iPads, iPhones, software products, and all things Apple-related, and receive expert guidance from Princeton Macinstosh Users' Group (PMUG) volunteers.


Tools for lifelong learners


Learning is one of life's greatest joys. Think about a baby learning to take first steps. Applause, photographs, maybe even a few happy tears – they are all a part of the experience and show that learning can be momentous, life-altering, and lead to greater things. Whether you are hoping to improve in school, expand your workplace skills, or discover new interests, here are some free tools to help guide you in your lifelong journey of learning.


Secrets worth sharing


What is it about secrets that make them so intriguing and worth sharing? Maybe it's that revealing something provides a sense of freedom from what holds us back, or that the idea of being an insider appeals to the competitive side in each of us. There are countless reasons why secrets are so alluring. I recently discovered two books that reveal excellent secrets. Some are frivolous, some are powerful – but they all make for very enjoyable reads.


Tweet your #fridayreads


In today's fast-paced, over-stimulated world, there's nothing quite as relaxing as curling up with a great book. With a simple turn of the page, a reader can be transported to far-away places, peek into the lives of others, learn about new ideas, or find comfort in relatable experiences. Similarly, there may be nothing quite as powerful as a personal recommendation from someone who has found that next great read and wants to share it with you. Welcome #fridayreads!

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