A Librarian’s Guide to “Longform” Reading

Long-form journalism is a branch of journalism dedicated to longer articles with larger amounts of content. Typically this will be between 1,000 and 20,000 words. Long-form articles often take the form of creative nonfiction or narrative journalism

Publications such as Reader’s Digest, The Atlantic, and Harper’s Bazaar popularized this format of writing, which led to the founding of several new long form coverage companies such as The Atavist and Longreads. These articles tend to be categorized as “non-fiction” with a majority of the titles falling into human interest or think piece articles on a specific topic. These topics cover a broad range of subjects, including but not limited to: crime, art’s and culture, books, business and tech, current events, essays and criticism, food, profiles and interviews, science and nature, and sports.  Much like a non-fiction book, these articles are long enough to really develop a story, and inform you on topics you may not know much about. Personally, this is my favorite part about reading longform. These articles help you learn more about a topic, without overwhelming you with becoming an expert. They also give you a view into a strangers lifestyle, ideas or hobbies, which is one of the many reasons why non-fiction keeps me coming back for more.

There are thousands of articles that are as long as books, or as short as short stories, on thousands of different topics and subject matters. If you’re overwhelmed with where to start, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite “longform” websites, as well as several popular non-fiction titles available at the Cheshire Public Library.

            1. First up is Narratively, which is my favorite of all. Narratively’s tagline is “celebrating humanity through authentic storytelling”. The website works with a network of over 3,000 talented journalists and storytellers that explore the hidden stories of the world, focusing on the “underdogs” and the “overlooked tales that enlighten us”. The website has several subsections, including: hidden history, memoir, renegades, secret lives, and super subcultures. Examples of articles include “Secret Life of a Children’s Party Princess“, which explores the not so glamorous life of a part time princess, full time college student, as well as “That Time I Conducted an Autopsy Without Any Medical Training” or the mistaken identity of a med school poser. These articles, and many others, are charming, heartbreaking, and insightful. Narratively is a gem of a website, and worth coming back to again and again.

              2. Longreads and Longform are two fantastic websites that recommend longer works of fiction across the web. Each  feature in-depth investigative reporting, interviews and profiles, podcasts, essays and criticism. Both websites curate content from a variety of different publications including, The Atlantic, Harper’s Bazaar, The Guardian, and Cosmopolitan. Articles include a variety of subject matters from serious to silly, including “Taken: How police departments make millions by seizing property” (Anna Lee, Nathaniel Cary, and Mike Ellis, The Greenville News) and “I Walked 600 Miles Across Japan for Pizza Toast” by Craig Mod. Each website is updated frequently, and each hosts a fantastic array of human interest stories as well as investigative reporting.

All of these websites have a handy feature which lets you subscribe to their stories, which sends you articles by email on a weekly basis. This lets you cater your taste in articles, and lets you catch up on news when you have a moment. It’s a fantastic way to exercise your brain, and learn more about the world around you.

If you’d prefer a physical title, the Cheshire Public Library has a large collection of non-fiction titles, as well as newspapers for current events and other human interest pieces. My personal favorite is our biography section, as well as our true crime selection. A few new titles that I’ve been enjoying lately are “Three Women” by Lisa Taddeo, and “I’ll be Gone in the Dark” by Michelle MacNamara, . There are plenty of titles on a variety of subjects, and if you see gaps or something we don’t have, you can always feel free to mention it to a staff member (we’re pretty great about supplying titles our patrons suggest!)

 

Looking for more? Here are some titles from our new non-fiction section:

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British Mysteries from Book to Screen

Today’s post comes to us from our Deputy Director Deb, who loves a good mystery!

Many devoted mystery readers began with Agatha Christie’s classic golden age mysteries featuring Miss Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot. I certainly did! These distinctly British offerings are a perfect gateway into the world of mysteries. And like so many other British mysteries, they have been made into marvelous television series, which you can watch using the library’s new streaming video service, Acorn TV. Or you can download the books in e-book or e-audio from the library’s website.

Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple are both well represented on Acorn TV and in our e-book and e-audiobook collections. Consider reading or listening to Murder on the Orient Express, The ABC Murders or The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Check out Acorn TV and watch Marple, Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime, The Agatha Christie Hour and Agatha Christie’s Poirot. Also try Christie’s classic locked-room mystery, And Then There Were None, considered to be the world’s best-selling mystery, available in e-book and e-audio and on Acorn.

The Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton features a middle-aged woman who sells her London PR firm and moves to the country (the Cotswolds, to be precise), where, in true amateur detective fashion, she encounters—and solves– murders galore! Try the first book in the series, Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death, available in both audio and ebook. Or read any of the others—like so many long-running mystery series, it isn’t necessary to read them in order. Then watch Agatha Raisin on Acorn, a top pick for fans of cozy British mysteries.

One of my favorite village cozy series, also by M.C. Beaton, features the unambitious and charming policeman Hamish Macbeth who patrols the village of Lochdubh in the Scottish Highlands. I have listened to all of them on audio. The reader, Graeme Malcolm, imbues the audiobooks with such charm and personality that I’m betting you, too, will be hooked! We have more than a dozen titles available on e-audio, including Death of an Honest Man and  Death of a Gossip. Then check out Hamish Macbeth on Acorn.

The Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood, featuring a glamorous private detective in 1920s Melbourne, is actually Australian, but close enough to fit in with our British theme. The supremely independent Miss Fisher has class, sass and the means to pull it all off! Try Cocaine Blues, the first in the series, or The Spotted Dog. The clothes alone make the series worth watching Miss Fisher on Acorn!

Ann Cleeves’ series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope is considerably darker than the other series in this post. DCI Stanhope is a solitary, obsessed, caustic, brilliant investigator near the end of her career working in northern England. Try listening to the first in the series, The Crow Trap, or read The Seagull. And be sure to watch Vera on Acorn TV.

Set in Ireland, the long-running Jack Taylor series by Ken Bruen has been thrilling readers (and now TV fans) for years. Taylor is a classic ex-cop turned seedy private eye prowling the underbelly of Galway. Try e-book or e-audio  Galway Girl or e-audio Purgatory and check out Jack Taylor on Acorn.

What’s Happening at Cheshire Library (virtually) in May

Greetings from isolation! We hope everyone is doing well and staying safe. The library building may be closed, but our staff has been working remotely on some pretty great “virtual” programs for the month of May. You’ll find events for kids, teens, and adults on our Event Calendar – we hope to see some familiar faces and some new friends joining us!

Jackbox Games with Zoom

Mondays, 4:00 – 5:00pm

Looking for ways to connect with friends? Tired of only talking to your pet all day? Let’s play a Jackbox Party Pack! Fibbage, Drawful and more!Please register through our Event Calendar, and we will email you before start time with a link to join this Zoom Virtual program. THEN go to https://jackbox.tv/ on your mobile device, enter the 4-letter Room Code, your name, and click PLAY! For grades 6-12.

Virtual Cheshire Anime Club

Fridays, 3:00 – 5:00pm

Konnichiwa, minna-san! Can’t get enough Anime and Manga? Be an “Otaku” and join the Cheshire Anime Club! We’ll meet on Zoom and watch Anime movies together! The link to this Zoom Virtual Program will be posted on Cheshire Anime Club’s facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/13673851607/) OR you can register through our Event Calendar, and we will email you before start time with a link to join this Zoom Virtual program. For grades 7-12.

Virtual Storytime

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays 10:00 -10:30am

The library might be closed, but storytime is still on! Join us virtually for interactive songs, stories, and other fun activities for little ones with Miss Ali (Tues), Miss Andrea (Wed) and Miss Lauren (Thurs). No registration required, click the link in our Event Calendar to join the fun!

Support Through Meditation

Tuesdays 2:00 – 3:00pm

This introductory meditation class presented by Tia Mandrozos is geared towards helping you through these anxious and challenging times. You will learn various meditation techniques that you will practice in session and guidance to perform meditation on your own. Please register via our Event Calendar. Registered participants will receive an email link to attend the day of the program.

Switch it up with CPL!

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons, (check Event Calendar for dates and times)

Teens: add us on  Nintendo Switch and let’s play! Our Friend Code is: SW-2591-8360-3045 under CheshirePL. We’re playing Animal Crossing on Tuesdays, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on Wednesdays, and Thursday games are TBA. No registration required! Info on how to join in is on our Event Calendar. For grades 6-12. (A Nintendo Online Account required to connect with others and play online.)

Organizing Your Photos

Thursday, May 7, 2020, 3:00 – 4:30pm

Are your printed photos hiding in boxes, drawers, and closets all around your house?  You aren’t alone!  Cathi Nelson, author of Photo Organizing Made Easy: Going from Overwhelmed to Overjoyed will share her top tips on ways to bring your photos and their stories back into your life. Please register via our Event Calendar. Registered participants will receive an email link to attend the day of the program.

Creating Musical Readers: Listen to My Trumpet!

Monday, May 11, 2020, 10:00 – 10:30am

Musicians from the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra will read Listen to My Trumpet! by Mo Willems and use a trumpet to bring the story to life! Children will be shown the different parts of a trumpet and learn how it works. Best for ages 3 & up. Advance registration required. You will receive a link via email for the Zoom meeting prior to the event. If you would like to ask the performer questions, you can send questions to cplkids@cheshirelibrary.org. Please include your name and age.

Food Explorers

Join Katie, Registered Dietitian from Food Explorers for a fun virtual baking program for ages 7-12. Parental help may be needed for some steps, ingredients listed on the registration page. Registration through our Event Calendar is required  (1 registration per device), registered participants will receive a link to the Zoom meeting before the program.

Virtual Author Talk: A Fatal Finale

Wednesday, May 13, 2020, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Local author Kathleen Marple Kalb will explain how her career in radio news inspired her to write A FATAL FINALE, the first in a Gilded Age mystery series featuring a swashbuckling mezzo-soprano who sings male roles. She’ll also share some fun facts from the period, and shed a little light on some unexpected corners of Old New York. Please register via our Event Calendar. Registered participants will receive an email link to attend the day of the program.

Organizing & Decluttering Your Life

Thursday, May 14, 2020, 3:00 – 4:30pm

Jan Blatrush, professional organizer and creator of FindYourStuffCT.com will teach you the tools to get organized.  Jan will help you tame the paper piles and organize your closets, kitchens, garages and home offices. Please register via our Event Calendar. Registered participants will receive an email link to attend the day of the program.

Creating Musical Readers: Trombone Shorty

Friday, May 22, 2020, 10:00 – 10:30am

Join us virtually as musicians from the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra read Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews and use a trombone to bring the story to life! Children will be shown the different parts of a trombone and learn how it works. Best for ages 3 & up. Advance registration required. You will receive a link via email for the Zoom meeting prior to the event. If you would like to ask the performer questions, you can send questions to cplkids@cheshirelibrary.org. Please include your name and age.

Virtual Trivia

Thursday, May 28, 2020, 3:00 – 4:30pm

Test your knowledge from general categories, including pop culture, current events, history, music, and of course literature! It’s all For Pride, Not Prize. Please register starting May 14 via our Event Calendar. Registered participants will receive an email link to attend the day of the program.

What’s up all you cool cats and kittens? Books for those craving more Tiger King!

You, like many others across the world, just finished watching Tiger King. The Netflix docuseries just launched on March 20th, and it’s already taken the world by storm. The series received acclaim from critics, and according to Nielsen ratings, was watched by 34.3 million people over its first ten days of release, ranking as one of Netflix’s most successful releases to date.

The series follows the larger than life character Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, and his sprawling zoo, the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park. Joe has quite the history, with the law and with other big-cat owners. He twice unsuccessfully ran for public office, first for President of the United States in 2016 as an independent, and then for Governor of Oklahoma in 2018 as a Libertarian. In 2019, Maldonado-Passage was convicted on 17 federal charges of animal abuse (eight violations of the Lacey Act and nine of the Endangered Species Act) and two counts of murder for hire, for a plot to kill Big Cat Rescue CEO, Carole Baskin. He is currently serving a 22-year sentence in federal prison.

It doesn’t seem like reality until you’re watching it unfold in front of your eyes, and like some terrible fire, you can’t pull your eyes away from the madness. There are no “characters” you can root for, except for the cats. As a true crime lover, I felt myself wanting more after the credits rolled! Instead of digging deeper into the depths of Netflix, I decided to do some digging through the libraries’ digital collections to satisfy my craving for tiger true crime mania.

Due to the fact that the library is closed at this time, we’re recommending books and audiobooks that are accessible through the libraries’ digital services, including RBdigital, Libby, and Overdrive. If you need help accessing these services, help is available on our website, and librarians are available by phone remotely. Call 203-272-2245 and leave a message. Someone will get back to you shortly! 

First up is The Lizard King: The True Crimes and Passions of the World’s Greatest Reptile Smugglers by Bryan Christy. The book is described as “The Sopranos of Snakes”, focused on the fascinating account of a father and son family business suspected of smuggling reptiles, and the federal agent who tried to take them down. If you’re looking for more animal justice and federal takedowns, then The Lizard King is the perfect fit. The audiobook and ebook are available online through RBdigital.

Next is a little bit more fanciful, but showcases a star tiger, Richard Parker. Life of Pi is a classic, and mixes fantasy and dangerous reality into a beautiful story, in which you can’t quite tell reality from fiction (much like tiger king, is this guy real life?) The story’s back cover states: ” Pi Patel has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and a fervent love of stories. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes. The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. ” The story is an escape from reality all of us could use right now. The audiobook and ebook are available online through RBdigital. 

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt is a true crime classic, covering art dealings, murder and mystery, all in the deep south. It includes the same courtroom drama that was brought to life in Tiger King. The book is described as: ” Shots rang out in Savannah’s grandest mansion in the misty,early morning hours of May 2, 1981. Was it murder or self-defense? For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares. John Berendt’s sharply observed, suspenseful, and witty narrative reads like a thoroughly engrossing novel, and yet it is a work of nonfiction.” Another classic worth checking out from our digital collections, available online as an audiobook through RBdigital, and ebook through Overdrive.

If you spent the whole documentary wishing they’d focus more on the tigers less on the mullets, then The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus could be your fit. Written by Jacques Cousteau, an author and researcher who studied the sea and all forms of life in water, the book “weaves gripping stories of his adventures throughout, he and coauthor Susan Schiefelbein address the risks we take with human health, the overfishing and sacking of the world’s oceans, the hazards of nuclear proliferation, and the environmental responsibility of scientists, politicians, and people of faith”. It’s a heartfelt tale which inspires us to do better, and be better for our planet, and the animals we share it with. It’s available online as an audiobook through RBdigital.

“A man is killed for his prized pet fish” Whaaaaaat? That first line hooked me right away on The Dragon Behind the Glass: A True Story Of Power, Obsession, And The World’s Most Coveted Fish“A tycoon buys a single specimen for $150,000. Meanwhile, a pet detective chases smugglers through the streets of New York. Delving into an outlandish realm of obsession, paranoia, and criminality, The Dragon Behind the Glass tells the story of a fish like none other” This book follows tiger kings footsteps in chasing animal smugglers throughout the globe, all for the very expensive, very lucrative, animal black market. Download the audiobook through RBdigital.

Looking for more? Here are a few more titles available through RBDigital, Overdrive and Libby for your phone, tablet, or computer!

 

Why do I have to wait SO LONG for library ebooks?

Why do I have to wait SO LONG for library ebooks?

It’s been an increasing source of frustration for many library users: waiting weeks, sometimes months to get to the top of the waiting list for a popular eBook or e-Audiobook.

As I write this, the ebook for Michelle Obama’s 2018 memoir, Becoming,  has over 200 people waiting for their turn at one of 16 eBook copies. If each of those 16 copies is checked out for the full lending period of 21 days, well, that’s a very long wait if you’re at the bottom of the list. (Take heart, if you’re using a Cheshire library card, your wait won’t be quite as long.  We have purchased 2 additional copies for Cheshire cardholders exclusively, so CPL users will move through the hold queue a little faster).

Why does it take so long? After all, it’s not a physical object, it’s a digital file that lives in the “cloud”, why can’t multiple people access it simultaneously instead of only one at a time? Barring that, why doesn’t the library just buy more copies so that the waiting list is shorter? Getting people access to books and information is what libraries are all about, but the struggle to acquire lendable e-content is very real, and it’s getting harder all the time. Why? What’s the big hairy deal? For that answer, you have to look to the “Big 5” Publishers, who are responsible for close to 80% of trade book sales.

First, a little background. When Cheshire Library started offering eBooks to their patrons in 2006,   lending of downloadable items was in its infancy.  Publishers were extremely wary about allowing library users virtual access to their books. After all, digital copies of books never wear out or have to be replaced, and are more vulnerable to unauthorized copying (“pirating”). Publishers were afraid if they allowed libraries access to their books digitally, they would be losing money. Individual publishers came up with their own sets of rules for libraries to access their e-content, and they have been tweaked many times since 2006. The graphic to the right outlines the current purchasing & lending restrictions for libraries purchasing e-Books from the “Big 5”. Over the years, all 5 publishers have gone to a “metered access” model, meaning that titles expire after a set number of uses or months, at which time the library has to purchase the item again if they want to keep it available to their patrons.

And, unfortunately, the prices libraries must pay for ebooks and e-audiobooks are very high. Libraries must pay up to 4X the retail price for digital versions of books (which only one user can have access to at a time).  Meeting the library patron’s needs for downloadable content is a very expensive enterprise, indeed! Take a look at this comparison of the prices for various versions of the same book:

e-Audiobook publishers have used a “perpetual license” model in the past, (meaning a title only needs to be purchased once, regardless of the number of uses or months) but that is starting to change. Many are converting to a “metered access” model like the eBook publishers, which will have a significant impact on how many titles a library is able to purchase.

Recently, another way for libraries to offer digital content has emerged, the “pay-per-use” model. Platforms like Hoopla, Kanopy, and Freegal, are examples. These platforms offer libraries a pre-curated collection of digital items that have no limit on how many people can check them out at the same time. Rather than buying individual titles, the library pays a fee each time an item from the collection is checked out. For a while, this sounded like a good solution to the long waiting periods users experienced on traditional platforms. The drawback? The service can become so popular that the monthly fees quickly become unmanageable. This is what happened at CPL when we tried Hoopla.  The monthly fees kept skyrocketing,  even when we lowered our checkout limit to 5 items per month. It became impossible to sustain the expense without reducing the service even further, so we discontinued Hoopla and looked for something better.

Since discontinuing Hoopla, CPL has added a platform with a new lending model for e-Audiobooks that we hope will ease some frustration. RBdigital began offering a new service with a core collection of 30,000+ audiobook titles that allow muti-user access (always available, no waiting lists), plus the ability for libraries to add newer and more in-demand titles to the collection (following the one copy/one user model). RBdigital charges libraries a flat monthly fee for the “always available” content, so the library doesn’t have to limit the amount of items patrons check out, and knows exactly how much to budget for each month. We’ll continue to look for ways to bring the most value to the library experience.

The digital media landscape for libraries is constantly changing and adjusting. Here are some articles to check out if you’re  interested in learning more on the subject:

www.cnn.com/2019/08/02/opinions/libraries-fight-publishers-over-e-books-west/index.html

www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2019/07/ala-uneasy-about-simon-schuster-digital-lending-model-changes

www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2019/06/ala-concerned-over-hachette-book-group-ebook-and-audio-book-lending-model

www.inquirer.com/news/ebooks-free-library-philadelphia-costs-budget-20190117.html

https://slate.com/business/2019/09/e-book-library-publisher-buying-controversy-petition.html