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Now You’re Playing with Power

nintendo-gaming-consoleMy parents had just picked me up from my friend’s house that warm September night in 1989. When we got home and walked through the door, my parents told me I should go right to my room. “Huh?” I had thought to myself, “I didn’t do anything bad (well… this time anyway). However, being a six year old, and exhausted from a day of playing with my friend, I didn’t think too much about their request and headed up the staircase to my room. When I opened the door, both of my brothers were smiling at me, and that’s when I saw it…

On the television stand was a  grey box with a red light to the left hand side of it, two square shaped controllers each connected to the grey box by black wires, and up on that now antiquated CRT television monitor with the scan lines running down it, was that familiar logo- Super Mario Bros. I remember flipping out with excitement; my birthday was not for another week, which really added to the surprise. They had all pitched in to get me a Nintendo Entertainment System (or, as you fellow gamers affectionately call it, the NES) and did I ever love it!

My love for video games never really faded after that either. It might strike some of you as a bit odd, that a thirty-five year old man with a wife and two kids would still play video games, but in fact, many adults still play video games. According to the Entertainment Software Association, 65% of Americans play video games, and the average age of gamers is 32 for men and 34 for women. Video gaming, though traditionally thought of as a predominantly male-centered activity, is not, in fact, a boys’ club. The Entertainment Software Association reports that 46% of all gamers they surveyed were female.

Put the statistics aside though, and I think the joy of video games boils down to a pretty simple philosophy. I don’t think anyone, regardless of their age, should ever outgrow having fun. Here at the Morrill Memorial Library, we have been adding many new items to our “Library of Things” collection for kids, adults, and families to unwind and have some fun.

With that mentality in mind, I knew one of the first items I wanted to add to the ever growing Library of Things collection was an NES Classic. This system is a re-release of the original NES, but smaller, and comes with 30 of some of the best NES games from the 80s and early 90s pre-loaded into it. The system also supports 1080p HDMI output, so the classics have never looked better! The little device has a great spread of iconic games, sporting Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, and 3, The Legend of Zelda, Punch-Out!, Techmo Bowl, and Double Dragon II. Two of my personal favorites on the system are Megaman 2 and the gothic vampire-hunting classic, Castlevania. Though not all the games on the collection are necessarily suitable for young children, Bubble Bobble is a great two-player co-op for the kids, and Kirby’s Adventure, one of the last games released during the NES’s original lifespan, is great fun. Of course, all three Mario Bros. have aged gracefully (especially 3) and are still fun for all ages.

Though the NES is, and always will be, an incredible video game system, its follow-up system, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (or SNES for short) is, to me, gaming perfection. The mid to late 90s were an awesome time to be a gamer, and our SNES Classic will let you relive some of the best classics from that era, or experience some of them for the first time. First off, it comes with Star Fox 2, which was in development and was planned for release in 1995, but never saw the light of day. Twenty-two years later, it has been released and is included on the SNES Classic system. Fans of role playing games (RPGs), will particularly love the SNES Classic because it features some of the greats like multiplayer action RPG Secret of Mana, the wonderfully fun and rare Super Mario RPG, and the critically acclaimed Final Fantasy III (6 in Japan). Finding the original cartridges for these three games is difficult and expensive, so the SNES classic is a bargain for these three titles alone. Super Mario World, Mario Kart, and Kirby Superstar are great games for kids. The SNES Classic also has two of my all-time personal favorite games ever- Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and the flawless masterpiece, Super Metroid.

We own a Nintendo Switch at the library as well! Our Children’s department has it for older kids and teens to come and play with after school hours. It does not circulate, but kids and teens are welcome to use the system in the library if they bring their library card. We set it up to a TV screen so up to four players can enjoy it and we have a host of really great games like Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. If you are looking for a safe place to cool down and have fun this summer, be sure to drop by the library and ask about using the Switch at the Children’s desk.

In June, the library partnered with Impact Norwood for a High School finals “de-stressing” program. We brought the Nintendo Switch system to the High School for students to play with and unwind before going back to finish their finals. Teens were really excited to see the system and games, and had a blast playing them. We are always looking for ways to reach out to the community and bring the library to YOU, so we hope to partner with them again, and other organizations, in the near future. I’m also excited to announce that we have just added a Nintendo Wii system for checkout to our collection. Our Wii comes with the system, two controllers, and five games.

Here at the Morrill Memorial Library, we offer so much more than just books. I hope you will check out some of the great gaming options we have added to our collection. The Sega Genesis Classic system and Oculus Quest are being released just around the corner, so stay tuned. Remember, you are never too old to have fun!

Brian DeFelice is the Information Technology Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, MA. Look for his article in the July 3, 2019 issue of the Transcript and Bulletin.


Borrow a Karaoke Kit, or a Companion Cat

When people think of the public library, I’m fairly certain that books come to mind before all else. Of course libraries have lots of programs and events, and lend a multitude of other materials such as movies, museum passes, and even video games. Nowadays tech-savvy folks also take advantage of “virtual” collections of e-books, audiobooks and streaming video. Over the years the Morrill Memorial Library started thinking outside the box and lending puzzles, knitting needles, cake pans and electronics including Wi-Fi hotspots and GoPro video cameras. Whether we realized it or not at the time, we created, in library parlance, a “Library of Things.”


Lending “things” is becoming increasingly common in public libraries, and here in Norwood the community is embracing the phenomenon. Always aiming to please, we recently expanded our collection of household items, arts and crafts tools, portable electronics, games, and much more.

Did you know that you can come to the library and check out: a metal detector, a device to diagnose why your check engine light is on, a picnic basket, a ukulele, a knife sharpener, or a karaoke machine? How about a food dehydrator, color blind glasses, or a portable turntable that also converts LPs to digital audio files? Now that spring has finally arrived, the library can fulfill many of your outdoorsy needs with: a soil tester, tennis rackets, a cricket set, bike repair tools, and a birdwatching kit.

Purists may wonder why public libraries would venture in this direction and perhaps stray from their traditional purpose. Are they following a fleeting trend? Jumping on the latest bandwagon? I daresay no! On the contrary, we here at the Morrill Memorial Library are staying true to our mission statement: “The Morrill Memorial Library is a vital community center which provides innovative and effective services to all users to enrich their lives with cultural, educational and recreational programs and materials.”

We respond to the needs and wants of the diverse Norwood community, and aim to “enrich lives” in a variety of ways. Of course books and film still play a major role in carrying out this promise, but why not offer “things” as well, allowing visitors to create art, repair their homes, entertain guests, and pick up new hobbies? As with traditional library materials, we help our Norwood neighbors to save money by borrowing rather than buying, or to “try before you buy.” Hearkening back to our mission statement, we certainly hit the mark for innovation when lending out our dog training kit or disco lights. We honor cultural diversity in music traditions, offering patrons maracas, a guiro, an afuche cabasa, and a set of Indian tabla drums to bring home. In our educational role, patrons may learn how to embroider by checking out books on embroidery, accompanied by actual embroidery hoops. As for the recreational goal, the backyard horseshoes set speaks for itself.

You may have seen selections from our Library of Things on display upon entering the library recently, but as we acquired more and more, our staff decided to make room for a large browsing collection on the second floor. Anyone may search our online catalog for “postage scale” or “scientific calculator,” but it sure is fun to window shop the shelves and discover what’s new. Speaking of which, what’s the deal with the “companion cat?!” As much as I’d love to have furry friends in the library and share them with our pet-loving community, I fear we’d be guilty of animal cruelty, or health code violations. We did, however, just acquire a “Joy for All” Companion Cat, by Hasbro. I named him Morrie and adore him already. Turn him on and this cutie meows, purrs and cuddles in response to scratches and pats. At first blush one may think we’ve taken this Library of Things, thing, too far, but allow me to explain. Morrie is not just a toy like the jumping little doggies at the entrances of mall toy stores. Hasbro markets its Joy for All pets to ages 5-105, emphasizing their ability to “bring comfort, companionship, and fun to elder loved ones.” Think of Morrie as a therapy cat that never needs litterbox cleaning or trips to the vet.

Morrie the Morrill Memorial Library cat may fall into the category of assistive technology available to borrow. Along these lines, our Outreach department lends a variety of magnifiers and other devices for those with vision or hearing impairments. Come borrow a folding walker, cane or reacher if you or a loved one has a temporary mobility setback.

Attention local book clubs: the Norwood library owns over 20 book club kits – sets of ten books along with discussion questions and author bios. Next time your book group meets, no need for every member to spend money on the book or compete for a limited number of copies in the Minuteman network. Borrow the book bag and distribute them amongst yourselves.

Our website will soon feature a page devoted to the Library of Things, but in the meantime, browse our online catalog, or stop by to see it for yourself and peruse a guide to the collection on the first or second floor. Our Facebook page has a Library of Things photo album as well.

The library purchased some of our circulating things just for fun and to get everyone excited about all the new stuff we have for you. After all, today’s public libraries are a far cry from stuffy institutions full of dusty books, steadfast researchers and shushing librarians. Our shelves have no shortage of beach reads and rom-coms, hardly designed for serious academic pursuits. Many other items though, have educational, cultural, and otherwise life-enriching purposes, even Morrie (4 C batteries included).

Lydia Sampson is the Technical Services Department Head at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, MA. Look for her article in the May 2nd issue of the Norwood Transcript.


Polo, Picnics, and People Watching

polo-matchPop quiz: Where can you show off your favorite sundress–or shorts, sip champagne–or soda, and stroll around an enormous field tamping down divots while kids cavort alongside canines, just over an hour away? (Hint: horses are involved.) Answer… at the Newport International Polo grounds in Portsmouth, RI. When friends invited us to join their party for an evening of polo this past Saturday I was all in, especially when I found out my four-footed companion was also welcome.

For over 130 years, polo matches have been among Newport’s grandest and most popular traditions–a legacy from the Gilded Age. I’m not the only Morrill Memorial Library staff member, it appears, to experience its charms. Hearing that I was going to watch USA take on Ireland the following day, Lydia, who oversees the excellent Technical Services Dept. in the fourth floor “stucco tower,” said “You’ll love it!” and suggested I bring along the library’s brand new picnic basket.

Among the Norwood Library’s circulating collection of non-traditional items, aka the “library of things,” is a woven, gingham-lined picnic hamper complete with stakes for securing your blanket, a paperback of picnic recipes, and a variety of wine accessories. I added some pasta and pesto salad, two bottles of vino—strictly to test out the corkscrew and spout, of course–grabbed a couple of lawn chairs, and hit the road.

70 minutes later, approaching the linden tree- and fieldstone wall-lined entrance to historic Glen Farm, we caught the strains of Irish music and the heady aroma of horses and grilling hamburgers. Our hosts had thoughtfully reserved a tailgate spot, canvas awning included, and were firing up the barby. If you missed the online registration for one of these coveted spaces back in January, not to worry. Pony up $15 and you can park your car as well as yourself and your cooler mere yards from the action.

The pre-polo festivities—a promenade around the grassy pitch the size of nine football fields—are part of the fun. Some spectators really get into the spirit. Attired in green, orange, and white, one group displayed their unbridled patriotism by planting a dozen little flags of Ireland in the turf next to a beautiful Irish picnic blanket. No sign of soda bread but the Guinness was flowing freely.

It’s all about the people and pup watching. Observing a cameraman crouched down pointing his oversize lens toward us, I instinctively straightened up. Wait, was he actually zooming in on my companion’s well-turned ankle? But no, his subject appeared to be my rather comical-looking, though much beloved, hound.

At 5:00 sharp the mounted polo ponies–more like 1,000 lb. thoroughbreds–entered the pitch and the players were introduced.  We stood for the Irish and American national anthems, sent up a rousing cheer, and the game was on! Of the four home team competitors three were women, including a father/daughter duo. Players score by driving a solid white ball into the opposing team’s goal using a long-handled mallet. The match is comprised of six 7-minute periods, or chukkas, between which tired mounts are substituted for fresh ones. The action is fast and furious.

During half-time, spectators of all sizes and breeds swarm the field in the traditional divot-dance to flatten down the sod displaced by horseshoes. Just before play resumed, an Australian sheep dog cut loose and charged back onto the pitch in a misguided attempt to herd the flock. The straight-shooting British announcer (“There was no one in front of the goal and she still missed the shot—inconceivable!”) was not amused. The disgraced dog owner remained anonymous.

We noshed on your basic summer fare–burgers, franks, and salad—while our neighbors nibbled on bacon-wrapped scallops and deviled eggs. Newport Polo attracts a certain champagne and caviar clientele, after all; the queue for Veuve Clicquot was at least as long as the line for the porta-potties.

After a hard-fought contest, Team USA prevailed 8-7. The crowd then lined the perimeter of the pitch to high five the riders as they made their final circuit. Momentarily distracted, I failed to notice my little leashed buddy had scaled the low barrier to participate in the celebratory send-off. Somehow I managed to save him from certain death—or at least a badly bruised paw—a nanosecond before the horses thundered past. I opted to forgo the autograph signing, champagne toast and trophy presentation, deciding I’d had enough excitement for one day.

From The Golden Summers—An Antic History of Newport by Richard O’Connor, I learned that polo was first introduced to the United States in Newport, at the Westchester Polo Club, in 1876. Polo originated in Persia (modern-day Iran) sometime between the 6th century BC and the 1st century AD. Initially it was a training game for the cavalry, often the king’s guard or other elite troops. The sport is now played in 77 countries, with more than 275 polo clubs registered with the U.S. Polo Association.

For delving into the finer points of the game, I recommend reading As to Polo by William Cameron Forbes. Former owner of the Forbes Estate recently purchased by the Town of Norwood, the author hosted matches on the grounds, where his favorite polo pony is buried. The Minuteman Library Network also carries The Polo Primer: a Guide for Players and Spectators by Steven D. Price, as well as Allan Forbes’s Sport in Norfolk County. But to experience polo up close and personal, saddle up and head to the City by the Sea on any Saturday afternoon from now through September. And the next time you’re in the library, “chukka” out the picnic basket and all the other fun and functional items we lend for free, including a set of backyard horseshoes.

April Cushing is the Adult and Information Services Supervisor at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Mass. Read April’s column in the August 2nd edition of the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.

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