August 18, 2017

 East Greenbush Community Library

Sometimes it’s hard not to be jealous.  To be held up against something and found wanting is very hard, even when it’s an “apples and oranges” thing.  I’ve explained to my library board that we’re a Stewart’s Shop, and this library is Target, and there’s nothing wrong with being either until you demand that Stewarts starts carrying furniture.  But I digress.  The East Greenbush Library is a special district library that covers a sprawling township with no real center.  They are next to the Greenbush YMCA, and the night I visited they were hosting a farmer’s market in the parking lot between their buildings.

 Fancy entry hallway has large meeting rooms on both sides, and built in display cabinets currently showing off a scout display, kid’s creations and ads for summer programs.

Front desk (with “trap” decoration above).

Inviting entry into the children’s area sucked my offspring right in.

Picture books pulled into different subject areas for fun browsing (but not sure how it affect retrieval of a specific item?)

 

 

 

 

Such an awesome idea for the teen program- a scratch-off ticket and raffle entry display.

 

Yep.  Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. When the kids aren’t at my library, they’re at this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jane is visiting all 36 locations of the Upper Hudson Library System (see introduction)

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Library Tour- Albany’s many branches

The Albany Library serves over 97 thousand people, so they get more than one library branch. Seven total, in fact.  Getting to all of them was a challenge all by itself.  The Library Director completed a “bike to work day” by reaching them all by bike (and bus) in one day, and I am just now realizing what an accomplishment that was.  Well done, Scott!  They are very dedicated to bike and bus transportation. They have bike-care stations at each branch and sell bus passes.

Albany- Arbor Hill

“No bicycles allowed” is for the lobby, there was a bike repair program going on in the conference room.  (By the way, as I was leaving someone brought in their bike and left it in the lobby!)

There are lovely partitions using plants to break up the industrial look.

Albany-Bach

Bach is in a suburban area.  It has beautiful landscaping in front and a garden in the back.  There are some odd quirks I noticed for it being a new building- like the book drop is not next to the circulation desk. Rolling shelves make changing the children’s area for a program easier.  The place was airy and light, with a large teen area off to one side.       I noticed “shopping baskets” at several branches.  An interesting idea (though personally I try to keep my selections to what I can carry). Automated Fax machine would cut a lot of my staff’s work… unless they would have to help patrons use it?

Albany- Delaware

The Delaware branch is across the street from the Spectrum Movie theater.  I parked at a Taco Bell, not realizing that the place had its own parking lot!

The Library was also having a bike repair class while I was there.  My impression of the place was “cozy” and “sleek”.

It is one story, with a dividing wall separating the adult and children’s area  in the middle, which then opens up again for the computers, teen area and children’s services desk.  I found it quite pleasant.

and it’s a Pokemon gym.

Albany-Howe

I didn’t feel quite as comfortable in the Howe branch, even though it had lovely architecture and many great features.  It was busy, and while it made excellent use of small spaces, I felt like I was invading the people reading papers, using the computer and playing in the children’s area.  I was surprised to find the back entrance led to stairs and an elevator (the bottom floor is a large meeting /program room).

I really liked the large, attention-grabbing signs.

Beautiful windows, woodwork and shelving.

I want one of these closed bulletin boards for our front foyer.

Albany-North

This is the secret library.  It is cunningly camouflaged from every angle, and you have to know it’s there to see it.  Give the special password, and it will shimmer into existence.  Or in my case, find the Pokestop and look around in utter confusion.

But…it’s just a set of stairs, leading to a YMCA!

See!

 

Oh! There it is! Access to the secret room led to treasure, one of the few copies of “Fantastic Beasts” available in the system.. Thank you!

 

Albany- Pine

I interned here.  In 1995.  Apparently it’s changed a bit.  It’s still across the street from the police station, where Washington and Western branch off in what I call “the veering”.  Now it has two floors and a lot more space.

I see that kids leaving out toys doesn’t just happen at our library.  I think they need that sign that Bethlehem has, about getting a sticker for cleaning up.

The display for new books was small, which made me feel like there wasn’t much choice (it’s more likely that these were just the newest of the new, but I’m talking about emotional response).

Albany- Washington

This will always be known as “Main” to me (just like I always think of my brother as his full name and not a nickname).  The Director would like it to be seen as just another part of the whole, and not the center.  But it is a four story building next to the capitol buildings, dude.  Albany M-, I mean, Washington, is next to the Armory building.  The builders of the library shunned that aesthetic, going for the “futuristic” box shape.  It’s been recently painted to blend more with the brick next door, however.

Street parking is tricky this close to the capital buildings, but there is a parking lot behind the building.  The street behind the building is one-way, so you’ll want to turn down Dove street to get to it.

The library has a dedicated Maker Lab, with items such as sewing machines, 3-D printers and digital production tools.

A flock of construction workers comes to rest on the brick sidewalk in front of the building.

Of course, there is so much more I could add, I think I will revisit different topics like signage, categorizing and placement later.  I still have so many more libraries to visit.  ( I feel like I’ve just done a marathon doing these 7!)

Jane is visiting all 36 locations of the Upper Hudson Library System (see introduction)

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Tour of Libraries: Guilderland Library

I’m not sure if it’s a good thing to define areas by where you can shop, but if I was to describe where the Guilderland Library was to my friends I would say “near Crossgates Mall”.  It’s also close to SUNY Albany’s main campus.  This particular library is one of my favorites (but I think one other is my absolute fav).

    

I wish I had paused to read the sign to find out why there is a life-sized cow (bull? didn’t check) in their foyer.

Self check-in station.

 They have a library of things, Go-pros, Kindles and so forth, but I was too intimidated to take out the VR glasses set.  Maybe next time.

Story-time crowd.  They had something going on in the big program room, then a librarian led a parade through the library, holding a giant ball over her head, into the children’s area.

 

 

A well-stocked English learning section, including Launchpad players with a descriptive sign.

 

This one gave me a giggle.  Klingon? Elvish?

They separate out fantasy from science fiction.  I would prefer if all speculative fiction was together, as there are crossovers like the Dragon Riders of Pern, and authors who write both, like my favorites, Lois Bujold and Terry Pratchett.

While we’re talking about preferences, I really wished they filed graphic novels by series, rather than by author.  Comic books are a collaborative effort and many authors can work on one series over the years.

Nice teen lounge area.

Book club shelf.  Printer station where patrons pay BEFORE the print comes out, removing the everlasting debate of “but I didn’t mean to print that, so I don’t have to pay for it”.  There are many interesting sections and innovations all over this library.

 

 

Wait, what?  You pick up your own requests? What’s to stop nosy people from seeing what you’ve ordered?  

I guess I need to re-read “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” as pictured here.


 

Staff members wondering what on earth I’m doing. Some Awesome ideas here, from having a consumer health area to decorating with giant paper quilling.

 

 

Jane is visiting all 36 locations of the Upper Hudson Library System (see introduction)

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Tour of Libraries: William K Sanford Town Library (AKA Colonie Library)

The William K Sanford Town Library, next door to the Times Union Newspaper building, lies at the end of Wolf Road, a shopping/restaurant destination for the Albany area, and close to the Albany airport.  When approaching from Wolf Road you have to make a slingshot around a roundabout.

From what I can tell, this low brick building is technically one story, with a second story wedged in by sheer willpower.  They have done a lot to make what they have attractive and useful, but it could really do with a renovation. (Update: They are planning renovations. “We will be repairing the roof, then renovating. We will moving departments to better use our space, and we’ve been getting input from the community,” said Library Director Evelyn Neale ) As I was trying to take pictures, I found it difficult because there were people everywhere, tucked into every nook and cranny, reading, studying, working on laptops, tutoring and browsing.

They have a beautiful garden patio at the entrance of the building.

The teen area has its own computers, a lounge and separate collection of movies and audiobooks.  It seemed to be having a roof leak on the day I came in.

A rack of brochures about teen issues was discretely placed in a corner for private browsing, and there were also displays about suicide prevention with hotline information.

The second floor of the main room of the library doesn’t appear to have wheelchair access. Tall people could reach up and touch the ceiling.

 

 

Looking down from second floor to circulation desk.

 

 

The signage on the second floor was very helpful. I think every desk on the second floor was in use (one woman even had a blanket and was ready for serious studying).

Magazines can be circulated and it has clear signage explaining how.

 

 

I don’t know what’s going on with the science fiction section.  It has been shunned from the rest of the genres, which are at one side of general fiction, and has been placed with travel books.  Oddly, one shelf of “A” stands alone, followed by empty shelves, then it continues.  While there was a lot of signage about other collections in the library, this was not explained.  (“You caught us mid-project!” said the Director) The magazine area has seating with signage that it is a designated quiet area.

The children’s area has been recently updated, the shelves moved to make a play area and a better traffic flow.  I like it!  I also liked the lego-themed decorations for “Build a Better World”.  They had some inspiring displays for how to put the word out about their program.    

Next to the children’s area was a small courtyard completely surrounded by the building but open to the sky.  While I was there, a little boy and girl squealed with delight and talked back and forth to each other through the tube.

I think I need to do a little digging to find out a few things, like who was William K Sanford and what is going on with the teen room’s ceiling, but there are 30 libraries left to go, I can’t slow down!

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Jane is visiting all 36 locations of the Upper Hudson Library System (see introduction)

 

 

Library Passport Challenge: Rensselaer Public Library

This building used to be a pharmacy, but now is a modern library.  It’s right next to the Amtrak station, which is known as the Albany station even though it is in Rensselaer.  Possibly because Rensselaer is hard to spell- it’s Dutch.

This library, in Rensselaer county, NY,  is not to be confused with Rensselaer Polytech Institute, which is in Troy; or Rensselaerville Library, which is in Albany county; or the Jasper County Public Library, which is in Rensselaer, Indiana.  (They apparently get some strange phone calls).

Small collection, one room layout with very nice toddler play area.  Two small tutor rooms and one large conference room. Genres are mixed together in fiction sections.  Large public computer area, wifi, loan of laptops within building.  Friendly staff.

1 library checked off  of my  passport.

July 13, 2017

Tour De Bibliothèque

I have issued myself a challenge, to visit all the libraries in my library system.  There are 29, with 36 in all when you count the branches.   It’s 62 miles between the two furthest away from each other!  Will I get to them all this summer?  Probably not, but the endeavor will be a stress-busting adventure, letting me see many different libraries and get ideas.

I created a passport for myself.  I am considering making this an adult summer reading program, giving out prizes for a certain number of libraries visited (like Kickstarter levels, I guess!).  I sent copies of the passports to the staff of the library system, to share what I’m doing.

Get Fit for Disney Plan

Ok, if you arrived at this page because you are a serious athlete wanting advice for the Disney races like the Princess Run or the Star Wars Marathon (which to me is watching episodes 4-6), you want to go here.  We applaud you, but this is for the average couch person who wants to survive taking their kids to the parks.

You can enjoy the parks even if you have mobility issues, but that would be someone else’s blog.

Couch to Mount Everest

Evaluate your current level of fitness.  If you have a step tracker, what are your average steps in a day?  Do you work out?  If you don’t, start out slowly, the last thing you want to do is injure yourself.

If you average 5,000 steps a day, add 500 steps, and increase your step goal gradually to get to 10,000.  At Disney, our average step count was between 15,000-20,000 a day.

Encourage your kids to walk with you.  This will help you train for stopping, starting, complaints, and sudden requests for potty breaks.   If you bring along your undisciplined dog, that will help you train for unexpected tripping hazards and being stepped on.

Maybe you’re more of a treadmill person.  If so, vary your speed.  At intervals, increase your speed to “getting across the park before your fast-pass expires” or slow down to “everyone leaving after fireworks”.  Studies have shown that interval training is more effective than staying at a steady pace.

The mall can be a good place to work out.  Get a map of the mall and hold it in front of you.  Pick a store and label it as your favorite ride, then pick another store at the opposite end of the mall as your second favorite.  Get to store 1 and store 2 within a 15 minute period, reward yourself by visualizing having a great time for 3 minutes.  Bonus points if you end up in a Disney store afterward.

Determine the weight of any children you have between 1-9 years of age.  Work your way up to deadlifting them and sustaining the hold for 30-40 minutes.  Your actual children may not want to volunteer for this until tall people stand in front of them during fireworks.  Either put on their favorite tv show, or get a stand in.  (Note, your dog will probably not volunteer for this either).

You can work out at the office too!  Stand up at your desk to simulate standing in lines.  Add squats to increase leg muscle strength.

Wear the shoes you plan to wear at the park- do NOT bring new shoes.  Follow this plan, and you’ll be ready to have a great vacation.   Good luck!

*Dreaming of my next trip… and Dole Whips.

 

As a follow-up to my “Best Guidebooks for a Disney Vacation”, here are some recommended apps and websites for your trip.

Apps I plan to use:

  • My Disney Experience– the official Disney app- good for tracking reservations for restaurants and rides, maps, show times and photo packages.
  • Universal Studios official App
  • Undercover Tourist Orlando– touring plans for Disney, Universal, and Sea World, ride wait times, maps.
  • Find My iPhone find friends.  Built in to your iPhone, if you accept friend requests you can track their location and show your location to them- hopefully this will help my daughter find us when we split up.
  • Pokemon GoPlants Vs. Zombies HeroesTetris– for waiting in lines for my very wriggly son.
  • Overdrive digital library.  I can bring a bunch of ebooks and audiobooks on my iPad, checked out from the public library.  I also plan to use the digital magazines on Flipster.
  • Google Photos– automatically upload photos to storage. (note, after I got it all set up, hubby switched us to Amazon Prime photos, so now we are doubling our backups!)

Websites:

If you have an app or website that helped you on a previous trip, put it in the comments!

 

April 1, 2017

A Guide to the Orlando Guidebooks

If you are considering a trip to Disney World, you should know that a little bit of planning and advanced preparation can make your vacation much better.  You should not read every single book out there about the trip, it will make you bonkers.  I have read them for you.  You’re welcome.

I like anticipating and planning, I find it enjoyable, especially when the snow won’t go away, the sky is gray, news is depressing and work is stifling.

I’m not paid for my opinion (but if you are interested in giving me money, I’m listening!).  I suggest you read over these reviews, figure out what book is right for you, then get it out of the library.  Bring the book along in your suitcase, sure, but don’t lug them around the park.  Use apps and the park’s map.  At the end of my reviews I’ll list the  books I plan on using on my trip.  Check back to see another blog on recommended websites and Apps I plan to use.

Frommer’s Easy Guide to Disney World, Universal and Orlando 2017 by Jason Cochran.

A comprehensive book that includes all the latest updates, but some of the descriptions of the rides and shows are as cynical and unappealing as the ones from the food critic in Rattatouie.  It is for a reluctant tourist who has been dragged into an Orlando experience, and mentions gritting your teeth through parades and skipping rides because they’re dated.  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have kids, because height requirements are not listed, and he suggests preschool activities whenever he mentions “kids”.  The descriptions of food are also a bit snobbish.  He recommends jamming two parks into one day because there’s “not enough to do”.  He’s not all doom and gloom, he encourages people to talk with the experts, the craftspeople and the imported people of different countries who are there to share their culture.  He  says what each shops sells (besides the usual). The descriptions of the tours given by Disney World are detailed and clear, and include prices.  The book includes a full sized folded map of the area.

Birnbaum’s 2017 Walt Disney World

This is the officially authorized book, and it shows.  It has the licensed characters through-out,  and the descriptions can be described as “gushing”.  Magic bands are “technological wonders” and Extra Magic Hours are “a great value”.  I don’t know how all the volunteers are paid, if they are at all.  It would be cool to be one of their testers, if it meant free passes or hotel stays.  Because it is official, it has all the phone numbers, up-to-date details and lists of what characters are at what restaurants.  The book is designed to be used up, to rip out pages, write in the back.  What is noticeably missing is any mention of anything non-disney.  The 8 day planner only has spaces for Disney related activities like what fast-passes will be used, what park you are going to and so on.  The book has coupons in the back.  The only one that was tempting to me was the one for Basin (but this is a library book).  The book suggested both full day and half-day itineraries.  Some of the choices were a bit odd (see the safari in the afternoon, go to all the shows).  I would recommend this book to people who want to get hyped up and don’t plan on moving East of Route 4.  It adds in cruise information.  Were you planning on taking a cruise while in Orlando?  No?  Well, why not?  Now you have all the information!

The Unofficial to Disney World with Kids 2017

Here’s real people telling you real stuff, people who love going to Disney, but aren’t in Disney’s official pocket.  This version of the book is more than a list of rides and restaurants, it reads like a parenting manual, self-help guide and Yelp review.  A group of testers try everything and rate it based on interest and age.  Quotes from real people pepper the book. To give one example, they rented strollers from different vendors to see which ones had the best service, and talked about the advantages and disadvantages of having your own stroller.

They remind parents that their children will not suddenly turn into angels because you are on a special trip, give advice on handling meltdowns, following through with consequences and how to childproof a hotel room.  They cover the “take the kids out of school” controversy as well as the “off property/on property” debate.  What if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding? Should your child bring a friend?  Can grandparents survive taking the kids without the parents? They have suggested strategies for avoiding losing children (tattoos, anyone?). They rank rides based on small child fright potentials, discuss where to find characters in the parks, list restaurants and what they offer, and emphasize, over and over- DON’T SKIP THE NAP.  (I never heed the advice to go back to our hotel, but we do take a rest after my husband insists).  There is a brief chapter in the back about Universal Studios, Seaworld and everything else, but they do suggest readers get a more comprehensive book that they happen to sell.  They have touring plans for different scenarios, like parents with toddlers or teens splitting up from parents.  There are 6 itineraries for Magic Kingdom, and 4 each for Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Universal Studios.  They mention several times that you can have a subscription to their website/app to get more individualized, up to the minute plans.  That would be my only complaint, but they need to make money just like the rest of us.

Complete Walt Disney World 2016 by Julie and Mike Neal

Did I say Frommer’s Guide was snarky?  It is positively mild compared to the blaring opinions in this guide.  At first I thought it would be another “aw gosh” praise of all things Disney, since the Orlando locals said they were the only guidebook “honored by the Disney Company.”  But I got a hint of their free spirit when they called magic bands “dorky”.  Then they did not hold back on either praise or disgust as they rated rides and restaurants.  They give a 1-5

star rating and think of it like a movie critic rating- it’s not the budget or the hype, it’s the viewer’s experience that counts.  They gave the little Mermaid ride one star, but the carousel five.  They selected the “best of” in different categories in the first chapter.

The book emphasizes its photos, and there are some great ones.  Even the packing list has pictures.  The map of the entire Disney domain is odd, in that the two page spread puts North on the right.  This guide is wordy, a good pick for armchair readers who want history, factoids, behind the scenes details and just details in general.  Each ride has at least a page dedicated to it, and at the bottom of the page they list average wait times on a daily timeline.  The Animal Kingdom chapter has an extensive animal guide and where to find each species.  The A-Z chapter goes all over the place, and would not be the format I would use to provide quick information.  I noticed quite a few typos and strong opinions not necessarily shared by the average tourist.  One of the testing things they did was stay all day for a week at a value hotel during spring break to see if it was filled with carousing college kids (spoiler- no, not really).  No mention was made of anything West of Route 4- if an alien read this book they would think that there was just untouched wilderness beyond the borders of the realm of Disney.

MouseJunkies by Bill Burke

This book is hilarious, it makes me want to be friends with this guy.  Unfortunately, it was published in 2011, and his website doesn’t look like it’s been updated since 2014.  Still, this book is entertaining enough to read anyway.  Bill Burke and his fellow “mousejunkies”, people who have become addicted to Disney magic, describe the highs and lows of their hobby.

There is no mention of anything but Disney, and no option but to stay on Disney property.  Bill compares staying off property to walking on broken glass, and professes his fear of Orlando jumping snakes (no, not a real thing). Rides and shows are mentioned, including a funny description of two huge guys happily going on the Peter Pan ride, but the bulk of this book is a poetical love letter to the food and service.  He describes meals in heartfelt detail, including his quest for the best Bloody Mary, the careful treatment of guests with allergies, his inability to stop eating at the Spirit of Aloha dinner show, and a loving ode to Raglan Road.  His description of Dole whips made me give them a try, even though I don’t like pineapple (now a fan). For service, he talks with the tv host Stacy,  who gives (gave?) little segments on hotel tvs and vacation planning videos.  He covers basic information, but also his favorite benches at each park (“My name is Bill and I’m a benchaholic”). He describes an experiment with “drinking around the world”, where you have a drink at each country in the world showcase, cautioning you to not get stupid, abusive or sick.  He and his mousejunkie friends talk about non-park recreation like fishing, golf and spas.  They discuss the Disney Vacation Club points system. Serious addicts, they get their fix 2-3 times a year, with a few even moving to Florida to make trips easier.  He talks about the difference between going as an non-parent and as a parent, and commiserated about the misfortune of getting sick on your vacation.   He invents new words, like “Epcrotch”- the horrendous skin chafing you can get from the wrong clothing and excessive heat.  To top it off he shares many people’s “Lightning Bolt Moments”, the moment they fell head over heels in love with Disney.  I think my lightning bolt moment was when I went with my grandparents, and while everyone else was watching a parade, my grandpa and I  went on Big Thunder Mountain twice, feeling like we got away with something.

I want a new edition!

So what books will I bring?

I will bring the Unofficial Guide to Disney World 2017, Eyewitness Travel Florida, the Birnbaum Disney World guide for kids, and possibly a Harry Potter book (we are currently reading the Chamber of Secrets illustrated edition).

Maybe I should write my own guidebook.  I have a few weeks to do more research.  I want to know if I can tour the Be Our Guest restaurant if I don’t have a reservation, the best place to have a quiet time (low stimulation) in Universal Studios and Island of Adventure, where exactly is the best place to stake out for viewing the river lights in Animal Kingdom, and how to avoid being domineering over my family and instead make sure they do what they want.

 

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