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But Does it Have Heated Seats?

car-dealership-lotWhen was the last time you went shopping for a car? Purchasing a car is one of the single biggest purchases you’ll ever make, especially if it’s a brand new car. But where do you start? If you have the luxury of not needing a car immediately, what time of year should you start looking? Which sources can you trust when researching cars and comparing features? What do you need to know before you go to a dealership, and how do you know you’re getting the best deal when you’re working with the sales person? Lucky for you, dear readers, I had a recent foray into the wild world of car buying, and I want to share a few lessons I learned along the way.

Like most of us, my first car was a used car. My grandmother left me her powder-blue Chevy Caprice, which was a car so big it was often described as a boat. The poor car was driven on northern roads crusty with winter salt, and therefore suffered from chronic muffler problems – so chronic, in fact, that about three-quarters of the muffler eventually rusted away. My family affectionately called it The B-52 Bomber because they claimed they could hear it coming a mile away. They weren’t wrong.

My first car buying experience was at a small country mechanic shop that sold a few cars on the side, and I traded in The Bomber for a used Honda Accord. Even used, this was a significant upgrade from the ’90s-era Caprice, and I was thrilled. However, this was not the traditional car buying experience, in that selection was extremely limited and I was buying from a small local mechanic, a friend of a friend who wasn’t operating in the same ballpark of sales margin as a suburban dealership.

Nearly a decade and well over 100,000 miles later, and I was ready for a new car. Honda makes very good cars and there wasn’t anything wrong with the Accord, but I was ready. But where to start? I had a list of features I knew I didn’t want to compromise on in a new car. I had only owned sedans in the past and was used to that low-to-the-ground driving experience, but I was also hoping for the sort of storage flexibility you get from a hatchback or small SUV.

As a librarian, research is my go-to, and because I was lucky enough to not be in a crisis of needing a new car right away I starting reading about and comparing vehicles months in advance of a test drive. Consumer Reports was my first stop. We subscribe to the physical magazine and you can look at it at the Reference Desk, but we also offer full online access to Consumer Reports so you can access it at home. Go to our website,, and at the bottom left of the homepage under the list of Quick Links you’ll see Databases. This takes you to an alphabetical list of all the databases we offer, and to access Consumer Reports all you need is your library card number.

Consumer Reports has a whole section of their website dedicated to buying new and used cars, including vehicle by vehicle ratings and comparisons, articles about how to choose the right vehicle for you, lists of the best and worst vehicles on the market, calculation tools for financing your vehicle, and tips for how to prepare yourself for going in for a test drive and how to bargain effectively at the dealership. Honestly, there’s such an overwhelming amount of good information on the Consumer Reports website that you should plan on making several visits to their page.

Another website I found extremely useful, especially when arming myself with research for bargaining, was This site was founded by a co-founder of TripAdvisor, and is chock-full of comparison data about new and used vehicles. You can see real prices that people are paying for vehicles you’re interested in, and you can even sell your used car through the site. Their information about real invoice price paid was one of my most important pieces of data for my own bargaining experience.

One more note about vehicle information sites – there were two other sites I used called TrueCar and Edmunds. Both of these sites contract with dealerships to give buyers competitive price quotes, but don’t be fooled into thinking these are the best prices you can get for a vehicle. While they serve the purpose of starting the conversation between the buyer and the dealership about price, be wary; in neither case did they give me the best price I could get, and in one case gave me an estimate that was thousands of dollars above a reasonable value. The dealerships have a deal with these sort of services in order to reach you, the buyer, and try to get you into the dealership faster, so take their recommendations with a grain of salt.

When looking to estimate a fair market value for trading in or selling your used car, try using Kelley Blue Book, found at, or NADAguides, found at or in print at the library’s Reference Desk.

Figure out which car you want, do your research to see what other people are paying for this car and then decide on a number that is the most you are willing to pay. Do as much communicating via email about price as you can with a salesperson at the dealership so that you have the conversation in writing. Start your bargaining by saying you want to pay a price you know is lower than you will likely pay – they will be starting their end of the bargaining at a price that is far too high, and you will both move incrementally toward the middle to settle on a price. If you bring with you printouts of your research and their emailed quotes, this will help your case. This is likely to be a lengthy and even stressful process, so be confident and stick to the amount you’re willing to pay. If the salesperson ultimately won’t agree to your terms, don’t be afraid to get up and walk away. I had to do this at one dealership and was so glad I did. I’m thrilled with the car I finally found, and couldn’t be happier starting the New Year in a new set of wheels.

Liz Reed is the Adult Services Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, MA. Look for her article in the January 10, 2019 edition of the Norwood Transcript.


Best Books This Christmas

Becoming-Michelle-Obama-book-coverAs a young girl, one of my preferred gifts at Christmas was a book. Classics like Heidi, Five Little Peppers, Swiss Family Robinson, and Little Women remain some of my most cherished possessions. I’ve always surrounded myself and my family with books and literally poured books into my children’s hands, overflowing the bookshelves in our home.

We all know librarians fancy books. More than that though, it takes reverence for books to pursue a profession about them. Yet, libraries are evolving places where exciting programs and marvelous things are becoming more and more relevant to a library’s mission. The field is attracting young professionals who are, in addition to clever researchers and keen readers, excited about technology, music, and social synergy.

Not surprisingly, librarians don’t have the corner on book-loving. My family of children and their spouses – educators, graphic designers, marketing gurus – all worship books. Family times always see at least one or two of the adults curled up in a nook – often with a book discovered on one of our many shelves. Our grandchildren held their first books as infants – small cloth or chunky board books were wedged into their strollers and car seats. Their own collections grew until their favorite crawling or toddling activity was swiping them all off the shelf into a heap. They always reached for their favorites: Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, or Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin. Most parents (and grandparents,alike) can recite the words by heart through closed eyelids until they open them to turn back to the first page. “Again?” And again. And again.

This year, I bought multiple copies of my two favorite 2018 books as presents for my children and friends. One is The Library Book by Susan Orlean. While I had listened to the audio version, I took out our library’s speed read copy so that I could hold the lovely book in my hand, stroking the cloth cover (no jacket) and flipping through the few illustrations. The back inside cover depicts a library book pocket and date due card. It’s so realistic that you can’t resist touching it with your fingers to find that it is only a photographic image.

The Library Book tells the story of the massive fire that burned in the Los Angeles Public Library on April 29, 1986. The mysterious blaze, officially determined to be arson, destroyed 400,000 books and damaged another 600-700,000 more. It burned for seven hours and was fought by over 350 firefighters from 60 firefighting companies. Fortunately, all 400 visitors and staff in the library at the time of the fire were evacuated. Heat swelled to over 2,000 degrees within the concrete walls and firefighters worked to cut 18 holes in the building to release the smoke and heat, thereby decreasing the temperature.

In 1986 the fire hadn’t received much attention. Chernobyl was the talk of the day that captured the media’s attention. More than 30 years later, the story unfolded through Orleans. Susan Orlean is a passionate author who began her research accidentally when she toured the Los Angeles Public Library and heard that some of the books still smelled of smoke. That smoking gun, so to speak, led to research.

The account in The Library Book is so much more than just the fire. It incorporates a history of the city library and a 1921 effort to finally build a respectable library in a sun-drenched, fantastical place named “The City of Angels.” The story includes interesting characterizations of its first and current librarians. In addition, Susan Orlean describes the notable and remarkable attempts to destroy books and libraries throughout world history. She includes the accomplishment of rebuilding the main library in the 1990s.

I gave copies of my other favorite 2018 book, Becoming by Michelle Obama, to my daughters. While it is principally an autobiography of the life of the “first” African American First Lady, it is most significantly a book about a capable woman who learned to navigate her responsibilities as a young girl and young woman, a mother, and a wife. All of our daughters and daughters-in-law are professionals, wives, and mothers and we watch them in awe as they balance all aspects of their lives. Obama’s act is one to follow and includes some of the immeasurable advice they will read.

Our grandchildren all received books, as they usually do for their birthdays, Christmas, and any other chance I have. It was our granddaughter Maeve’s book, the 75th anniversary edition of the Complete Adventures of Curious George (2016), that created the best reading adventure of 2018. While Maeve has copies of the Curious George Around Town books that she fell in love with earlier this year, I wanted to give her a copy of the seven original Curious George stories in one hefty volume. And hefty it is at 3.4 pounds.

There is debate about Curious George. Some feel (my ex-husband among them) that Curious George is obnoxiously curious and never has to suffer the consequences of his misbehavior. Others simply believe that Curious George is a good little monkey at heart who topples again and again into trouble. My ex-husband refused to read Curious George to any of my daughters; I suspect this might be why it warms my heart and tickles my fancy that my granddaughter Maeve can’t get enough of George!

The Complete Adventures actually includes only seven Curious George stories, but they are the originals published between 1941 and 1966, and written and illustrated by H.A. Rey and his wife, Margret. Our very own Curious George Christmas adventures included at least ten readings of Curious George Goes to the Hospital and Curious George Rides a Bike. Other stories in the book are Curious George Takes a Job and the original story, naturally named Curious George. “This is George. George was a good little monkey, but he was always curious.”

If you are a little bit curious, it’s not too late in the first weeks of 2019 to read some of my favorite gift books from 2018.

Charlotte Canelli is the Director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts. Read Charlotte’s column in the January 3rd edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.


Grumps, Cranks, and Misanthropes

grouchy-looking-catCan you stand to read books or watch television programs or movies with unlikable protagonists? It certainly is challenging to connect with characters who do, say, or believe things that breach cultural norms, don’t meet our standards of courteousness, or are just plain wrong! It’s easy to distance ourselves as readers when we encounter characters who clearly take delight in hurting others and call them villains. But what about characters who are unlikable in the middle of very sympathetic situations, like navigating difficult life circumstances? It’s more difficult to forgive missteps as a reader when complicated characters don’t meet our expectations, even when they are trying their best.

Author Toni Morrison once wrote, “The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power.” I take Ms. Morrison’s quote to mean that good authors should seek to challenge their readers by helping them question their own assumptions and showing them how their own circumstances shape judgments about others through creating fictional people. Creating unlikable main characters is a great way for writers to explore difficult themes in an otherwise unassuming story about everyday life. Grief is a commonly explored theme in fiction, and these types of stories often produce the most challenging characters to connect with, even though readers might empathize with their terrible losses.

Nora Webster is Colm Toibin’s poignant character study of a woman widowed in her forties who must continue on with everyday existence for her children. It was the subject of a recent book discussion at the library and people’s responses to the titular character prompted me to reflect on how I respond to difficult characters. Toibin presents Nora as a reserved woman whose husband was the center of her world. She had no other interests or work beyond being a wife and a mother in a very conservative Ireland of the late 60s and early 70s. She’s completely unsure of herself, often impulsive and resentful of the well-meaning attempts of friends and family to help her. It’s so tempting to judge her as a character and, in fact, many book discussion participants railed at her, wondering “What’s the matter with her? Why does she act that way?” But Toibin is a clever author and provides glimpses of how she lived her life before her husband died and how different her inner emotional life is now that he is gone. It forces the audience to ask themselves the uncomfortable question, “How would I feel in that circumstance?” Many of us would like to think they would do better, but a good author might make us less sure.

Most of us know David Sedaris for his darkly comic essay collections that center on his family, his childhood, and his exploits as a traveling author. Calypso, his latest effort, has a dark undercurrent of grief as he illustrates his complicated relationships with his siblings, especially his sister Tiffany who died by suicide in 2013. Calypso chronicles his efforts to gather his family together for vacations and holiday celebrations in a hastily-purchased beach house in North Carolina. Sedaris never shrinks away from casting himself as an unlikable narrator of his own stories, often admitting his flaws and his mistakes in dealing with his sister and the rest of his family. Once again, readers can choose to focus on how differently they might react, but Sedaris’ honesty and humor keep him relatable and encourage us to reflect on our own foibles.

Sometimes unlikable characters engage in bizarre and outlandish behavior so the author can explore how past trauma affects their reality. Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette chronicles a stay-at-home mother’s attempts to assert herself after completely losing all of her social and professional confidence. Bernadette is the cranky, misanthropic mother of Bee, a precocious middle schooler and the only person Bernadette can stand. Her behavior spins out of control as she tries to connect with her daughter and plan a family trip to Antarctica. Semple’s plot is far-fetched and absurd, but it reveals Bernadette’s intense pain about her massive failures as an architect and the miscarriages she endured before Bee’s birth.

Here’s my professional advice if you run into a character you just can’t stand: stick with the book. Yes, life is too short to read bad books, but if you find other parts of the book or other characters intriguing, enjoyable, or valuable, keep engaging with the unlikable main character. Secondly, ask yourself why you harshly judge a fictional person. Is it because this character does incomprehensible things? Try to put aside your own viewpoint and give the character the benefit of the doubt as you would a good friend. It might make their perspective more clear and let you access the story in a way you couldn’t have if you insisted on applying your own judgments to the book. If all authors only wrote characters we could relate to and cheer for, reading would not only be boring, but also lack any artistic merit. Books should and can comfort us, inform us, and reveal things to us if only we let them.

Kate Tigue is the Head of Youth Services at the Morrill Memorial Library. Read her column in the December 27, 2018 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.


An Unlikely Advocate of Aromatherapy

flowers-and-essential-oil-bottleAromatherapy became an interest of mine, oddly enough, after attending a technology conference. A few years back, I was lucky enough to attend the “Computers in Libraries” conference in Virginia. As an Information Technology Librarian, I have always loved attending this conference. It’s very exciting to see what other libraries around the country (and beyond!) are doing with technology to better serve their communities.

After my first day at the conference, I was just exhausted. There is so much information to process, and I had two more days to go, so I went back to the small AirBnB that I had rented to relax. On the nightstand next to the bed, my hosts had left an essential oil diffuser with some instructions. I was totally unfamiliar with diffusers and even essential oils at that point, but filled it up with water, put some drops of peppermint oil in, and started it up. It was SO relaxing! I immediately texted my wife and told her about it. She was really excited and mentioned that she had been eyeing several different diffusers online, but thought that I would think she was crazy! When I got home, we ordered a really nice diffuser from Amazon and hit up our local health food store for the oils to go with it. My wife and I have incorporated it into our nightly routine, and after the kids are in bed, we put on a good show and a nice relaxing essential oil blend in the diffuser to unwind. When the kids are particularly energetic near bedtime, we also use a roll-on combination of lavender and a carrier oil (oils should never be applied directly to the skin!) to help calm them down- it works wonders!

As I began to do more research, I learned that diffusing essential oils is part of a holistic healing treatment known as “aromatherapy.” In aromatherapy, inhaling the steam from essential oils stimulates the olfactory system, and the beneficial molecules from the diffused oil then enter into the lungs, where they are then dispersed throughout the body. When the molecules reach the brain, they stimulate (or relax) the emotions. Diffusing different essential oils will, of course, produce different scents, but depending on the essential oil (or oil mixtures) that you use, you can also improve your mood, boost your immune system, improve sleep quality, treat headaches and migraines, and help with relaxation and meditation.

The library offers some great books on essential oils and aromatherapy, in particular through our Hoopla app, which will give you instant access to a plethora of useful titles on the subject. Perhaps one the best and most comprehensive offered through the Hoopla app is “The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy” by Valerie Ann Worwood. Worwood’s book delves deep into not only the many essential oils that exist, but is also organized into chapters that give essential oil recommendations for specific individuals (men, women, children, athletes, travelers, etc.). Worwood further divides each individual type into a specific ailment or consideration that might pertain to them, for example, babies and young children should only be exposed to certain types of diffused oils and in specific ratios, due to their extra sensitive skin, so the book gives a good overview of what oils are appropriate for which age type to assist caregivers in diffusing appropriate oil types.

If you are new to diffusing essential oils, or essential oils in general, my best recommendation to start with is “the mother of all essential oils:” lavender. Lavender is a great essential oil that has a lot of utility and health benefits. It’s safe for babies (when diluted) and some recent evidence
shows it has been effective in reducing the symptoms of colic in babies (take note, restless parents!). It has a very flowery aroma, and is an antiseptic, antibiotic, and antidepressant. Lavender can also easily mix well with other essential oils like rose, grapefruit, and sweet orange, which smell great and have health benefits of their own. If properly diluted, lavender can also be applied topically to heal rashes and burns.

I have tried many different essential oils and oil blends, and I have a lot of favorites, but my personal favorite, both in terms of scent, health benefits, and mood relaxing properties, is frankincense. In case you ever wondered why one of the Magi presented frankincense to the baby Jesus; it is because it was highly prized due to its powerful rejuvenating and revitalizing qualities (perhaps you can also see the symbolism of the gift). Frankincense is a natural disinfectant that boosts the immune system, refreshes skin, can ease respiratory infection symptoms, and is, to me, the perfect essential oil for meditation. Frankincense is the yin to lavender’s yang. Lavender is soft and floral, frankincense by contrast, has a strong woody, smoky, earthy scent to it, which I really enjoy, but might not be to everyone’s liking. You can learn more about frankincense, and other seasonally relevant scents, myrrh, pine needle, mistletoe, and others from the article “Gifts of Healing… from Herbs of the Season” which can be found though our Gale Database section on the library website.

I hope that you check out what the library has to offer on aromatherapy, learn more, and try diffusing some oils yourself. As a thirty-five year old man, I never thought that I would be writing a column about essential oils, and my discovery of aromatherapy was very unlikely to say the least, but I am a believer in the benefits that it can offer. Remember, if you are new to using our Hoopla app, or would like assistance in setting it up, you can schedule a one-on-one tech appointment here at the library. We are happy to get you connected and on your way to learning more!

Brian DeFelice is the Technology Services Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, MA. Look for his article in the December 19, 2018 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.


War in December

Pearl-Harbor-Hat-and-dogtag-drawingDecember 7, 2018   marked the 77th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which led to the United States’ entry into World War II. The US involvement started in 1941 and lasted until the end of the war in 1945. According to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, 496,777 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive in 2018. We are losing 372 veterans per day.

My 96-year-old father-in-law, Bill, is one of the surviving 496,777 WW II veterans.  Although he now sometimes forgets little things, he does remember Pearl Harbor and D-Day vividly. He was not in the military at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but he had a vital part in D-Day (June 6, 1944), the day when allied forces invaded northern France by means of beach landings in Normandy.

Bill was a Seabee and responsible for the barges that were put up on the beach to form landing causeways. Food, tanks, medical supplies, ammunition, tanks, etc. were delivered for days, weeks and months before the invasion. The Seabees periodically dove for cover as they were targeted by enemy machine and artillery fire. He witnessed the invasion on June 6th when “soldiers were mowed down and losses were high.” He, himself, was treated for shrapnel wounds. The invasion was one of the largest amphibian military assaults in history and required extreme planning. It was the beginning of the end of the war in Europe.

This summer Bill was visiting us from Florida at the same time as my 10-year-old grandson, Kye, had traveled up from Oregon. One day I found Bill on the sofa telling Kye about his wartime experiences. My daughter had the foresight to video tape the conversation, which was more of a monologue with Kye interjecting questions every now and then. What a history lesson for a 10-year-old boy!

For those children or young adults who are not fortunate to have a great-grandfather to tell the eyewitness tale, there are books that will suffice.

Children’s books, “What was Pearl Harbor?” and “What was D-Day?” by Patricia Demuth, present an easy to read narrative with pictures of the actual events. Elementary school children will find these interesting to read. “True Stories of D-Day” by Henry Brook tells true stories of heroism and drama told by men of different nationalities who took part in the invasion. It is a book appropriate for junior high or high school students. The stories are written so that the violence of war is not emphasized.

For adults, the best book I have read about the attack on Pearl Harbor is “All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor’s Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor” by Donald Stratton. It is a powerful memoir of the day Stratton, then a 19-year-old Seaman, was aboard the USS Arizona when the explosives below his battle station ignited during the Japanese air attack. He was burned over two-thirds of his body, but he miraculously survived by hauling himself hand over hand across a rope tied to a neighboring ship.

Stratton begins his story by telling of his modest Nebraskan beginnings during the Great Depression and the lure of the Navy for a steady paycheck and a view of the world. After basic training in September, 1940, he was assigned to the battleship USS Arizona and sailed into Pearl Harbor. His job aboard the ship was to operate the five port-side antiaircraft guns and that was where he found himself at the beginning of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He found the exercise futile since the dive bombers were too low for their guns and the horizontal bombers were too high. He fired aimlessly until they were out of ammunition and a final blast to the ship made him find his way through the smoke and fire to grab a line and haul himself to safety on the neighboring vessel.

Strafford’s keen memory of all that happened leading up to, during, and after the Pearl Harbor attack is extraordinary, especially since he wrote this memoir at the age of 94. Reading it is like viewing a movie as the action unfolds.

Especially interesting are Strafford’s reflections and analyses of the event in a historical context. His views of what went wrong included 4 premises: we lacked foresight, we communicated poorly, we were overconfident and we were not alert. He even explains a parallel between December 7, 1941 and September 11, 2001.

A comprehensive reading of D-Day is the book, “Voices of Valor: D-Day, June 6, 1944” by Douglas Brinkley and Ronald J. Drez. This book includes 2 audio CDs with oral histories from D-Day veterans, and many pictures amidst the detailed historical text.

For the United States, World War II lasted almost 4 years. The attack on Pearl Harbor and the D-Day invasion are vastly written about and studied in American History. As with all life changing historical events, we must not forget them.

In Donald Stratton’s words, “The great lesson we too often learn from history is that we are so prone to forget the past. And there is a price we pay for our forgetfulness.” I am sure my father-in-law would agree.

Norma Logan is the Literacy Volunteer Coordinator at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, MA. Look for her article in the December 13, 2018 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

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