Monday, November 17, 2014

Reel Justice: Witness for the Prosecution

The third movie in our new, free series of great courtroom dramas is Billy Wilder's 1957 film, Witness for the Prosecution. It will be shown at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 19 in Memorial Hall. 

Witness began its life as an Agatha Christie short story, Traitor Hands, which was originally published in 1925. Dame Agatha later turned her story into a play in 1953, and its multiple trick endings made it a very popular production in both London and on Broadway, where it ran for nearly two years.

Co-screenwriters Wilder and Harry Kurnitz decided to add some humor to what was originally played as straight drama on the stage. Most of the humor results from the interaction of Charles Laughton's Sir Wilfrid, the be-wigged barrister who's just returned to work after a heart attack, and a new character, his nurse Miss Plimsoll, played by Laughton's wife, Elsa Lanchester. Sir Wilfrid is constantly attempting to outfox his nurse, whom he calls his "jailer," and her restrictions, including no cigars, no brandy and, most importantly, no participation in murder trials.

But of course a murder trial is at the heart of Witness, and it involves Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power), a sincere young man accused of killing his friend and benefactor, the elderly Mrs. French. Also involved is Vole's wife, Christine, played by the wonderful Marlene Dietrich.

Even though Witness was one of Wilder's lighter films at that point in his career, it still includes several of Wilder's usual touches: verbal wit, hints of corruption, and masquerade.

Join us for this delightful, twist-filled classic courtroom drama, and see if you can figure out how it will end (and enjoy the refreshments and discussion that come with it).

Mark P. Hasskarl
Library Director

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Who’s Who in the Library: Meet Amy Berkun

Amy Berkun, Public Services,
Reference/Information Services &
Children's Services Associate
Amy Berkun is likely to be a familiar face to library patrons. Versatile and cooperative, Amy serves as an associate in the library's reference, circulation and children’s departments.

Amy has a lot of curiosity. The blog series "Who's Who in the Library" was her brainchild. She wanted to share the backstories of the interesting people who work here.

Amy was born in Syracuse, NY, and she and her two older brothers lived in three northeastern states during her first five years. Her family eventually settled in Liverpool, NY, where Amy attended school from kindergarten through ninth grade. She fondly recalls her friends and her enjoyment of bicycling, especially to the local Friendly's restaurant.

After ninth grade, Amy's father earned a promotion that led the family to relocate to the Jacksonville, FL area. Her brothers, who were attending college in New York, stayed behind. Initially, the Florida move was a culture shock, although Amy adjusted nicely in time. A sad event occurred while Amy was in her junior year of high school: her father died from melanoma.

Amy headed north for college, attending Stony Brook University on Long Island, NY. She enjoyed her college years, appreciating the diversity that she found at her school. Her major was English, with her favorite literary figures being Walt Whitman, Henry James and Virginia Woolf. The resident assistant in her dorm was a young man named Todd Berkun.

After graduation, Amy moved into a suburban Long Island apartment with her brother and another roommate. She commuted into New York City for her job as an Indexing Assistant with a law publisher. To her surprise, she discovered an office plaque bearing a familiar name: Todd Berkun! Over the years Amy held various positions in publishing, including copy editor. At one point, she returned to Florida to work for Disney.

As a happy result of their unexpected reunion, Amy and Todd became reacquainted, and they married in 2000. In late 2001, they welcomed their first child, Jessica. Nearly simultaneously with their daughter’s birth, they purchased their home in New Milford. The birth of their son Josh followed in 2004.

An attentive mom, Amy enjoys her children’s activities, which include playing soccer and musical instruments. She has been active in the PTO in their schools, and she assists with the band program. Todd, who runs the family business, is a similarly involved parent. He coaches the soccer teams of both Jessica and Josh.

Amy began working at the New Milford Public Library in 2010. As previously mentioned, she wears numerous hats. She especially enjoys assisting the young adult librarian with her teen projects.

One of Amy's interests is photography. She has maintained an extensive collection of photo albums since age 15, updated in recent years with digital photo albums. Currently, she takes many photos of her children's sports activities. Amy often relaxes by creating beautiful images using the zentangle method. Amy enjoys reading, especially realistic fiction. Her literary picks are Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, and Landline by Rainbow Rowell.
In addition, she proudly recommends the memoir The Ghost of My Father, recently published by her brother-in-law (and a best-selling author), Scott Berkun.

Amy, having witnessed the untimely death of her father, has developed the personal philosophy of Living Every Day. She strives to live each day to its fullest. Since yesterday is gone and the future is uncertain, we have only now. Make the most of it!
                                                                        Joan McManus
                                                                        Library Bookkeeper

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sesame Street, brought to you by the number 45

On November 10, 1969, what was to become one of the most beloved and influential children's TV shows ever aired its first episode: Sesame Street. Unlike any children's TV show before it, Sesame Street aimed not only to entertain, but also to teach young preschool children. For 40 years, Sesame Street has succeeded through a combination of live actors, animation, short films, humor, cultural references and, of course, Jim Henson's Muppets. By its 40th anniversary in 2009, it was being shown in more than 140 countries. A 1996 survey showed that 95% of all American preschoolers had watched the show by the time they were three; and in 2008, it was estimated that 77 million children had watched the series.

Much of the appeal of the series is the result of the Muppets, of course. Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster, and especially Elmo, are part of American popular culture. And it's the Muppets who are featured in most of the library's Sesame Street items, including 39 children's books, 65 DVDs and 5 CDs. There are even two adult books, one on the history of the show and the other about the late, great Henson.
You and your children or grandchildren can visit Sesame Street any time you'd like with the items in our collection. And because of this, one possible answer to the tuneful question, "Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?" can be: yes, with your New Milford Public Library Card. Happy 45th anniversary, Sesame Street!
Mark P. Hasskarl
Library Director

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Sendak Story

With the recent news that some 10,000 drawings by Maurice Sendak will be returning to Ridgefield from the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, I want to share a Sendak story with our blog readers.

When I was the director of the Brookfield Library (1976-1984), I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Sendak when he spoke at the library. Several weeks later, he called me to ask if I knew a good typist; and since I was the fastest typist I knew at the time, I offered him my services. With my portable electric typewriter set up on a desk opposite his drawing table in his Ridgefield studio a few nights later, I began to type a draft of the libretto for the Wild Things opera that he was writing with Oliver Knussen. After I'd typed for a while, Sendak asked me if I liked apples. When I said yes, he gave me a red delicious apple and told me to take the biggest bite I could out of it. I did, returned it to him, and then he drew it. After that, he asked me to eat it down to the core, and he drew it a second time that way. That one apple, which "posed" twice, became both the one that's on the sidewalk as well as the one the Wild Thing is holding in his hand as he reads in the illustration here. "My apple" appeared in the poster for the very first New York Is Book Country in 1979, which advertised the first time that all of the many bookstores that used to line Fifth Avenue 35 years ago held a special day to promote reading. I love pointing out "my apple" to visitors to my office, where the poster now hangs, and I'm glad that I played this tiny role in the career of one of our greatest children's author/illustrators.
Mark P. Hasskarl
Library Director

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Read any issue of National Geographic with your mobile device

The New Milford Library offers The National Geographic Virtual Library,
which is an online database:

You can browse by issue or explore articles organized by category; and when you're reading, the image is laid out just like the print magazine, complete with full-color photographs and a two-page- at-a-time spread.

It's possible to read on your computer by going to and clicking its link under Online Databases, but there is now an app that allows you to easily access this database straight from your tablet or smartphone.

It's called AccessMyLibrary. The link below includes information on the app, including a video tutorial, and download links for Android and iOS.

Erin Johnson
Digital Literacy Associate

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Who’s Who in the Library: Meet Sue Ford

Sue Ford, Children's Services Librarian
If you grew up in New Milford or have a young child now, you know Mrs. Ford, NMPL’s extra-special Children’s Librarian. Sue started working part-time at the library in 1980 and then became Head of Tech Services three years later. In 1986, she became Head of Children’s Services and has been in this position ever since. After 28 years (and counting!), Sue still loves her job. What is wonderful for Sue these days is that she gets to witness the cycle of life: new moms who used to be in story time when they were little are now bringing their children. It makes Sue happy to know that the magic of reading is being passed on to the next generation.

The oldest of three children, Sue grew up on the south fork of Long Island in Amagansett and lived there until she was 15. She went to school with the same 17 kids from kindergarten through eighth grade, at the same school her mother had attended. Sue met her husband Michael when she was 17 while she was doing a play in college. She has been married to Michael for 41 years and has a son, Matthew, 37 and raised her niece Lainey, 25. Sue earned a MLS while working and being a mom. Since her childhood was spent near the water, Sue needs to visit the ocean or Long Island Sound often.

Sue has many interests besides reading, of course. She enjoys creating stained glass, glass fusion, mosaics and beadwork, as well as knitting, crocheting, and felting. She has been playing the mountain dulcimer for 30 years. She first heard its sweet sound at a Bethel fair.

Sue’s philosophy is to be kind and treat people the way you want to be treated. Make the world a better place, and smile more often than you frown. Be sure to come to the library and visit Mrs. Ford, who smiles a lot and definitely makes New Milford a better place to live!

Sue’s book recommendations are Alexander McCall Smith’s cozy mysteries and the Mitford series. She likes to reread The Chronicles of Narnia books, Mary Poppins and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, too.

Amy Berkun
Children’s Services Associate
Reference/Information Services Associate

Monday, October 27, 2014

"And Now for Something Completely Different" - Monty Python turns 45

October 2014 marks the 45th anniversary of the first episode of the "Monty Python's Flying Circus" TV series in England. Using a theme song that came without a copyright and therefore wouldn't cost the BBC anything (it was John Philip Sousa's "The Liberty Bell," which ever since has been much better known as the Monty Python Theme), and with opening animated credits that ended with a giant foot stomping the TV show's title, what followed was unlike anything British (and later, thanks to U.S. PBS stations, American) TV viewers had ever seen. "And now for something completely different" could mean anything from a dead parrot being returned to a pet store, whose owner insisted it was simply tired after a long squawk, to a man trying to get a grant from the Ministry of Silly Walks to further develop his own rather un-silly walk. In-between came some of the most highly original, silliest and/or most intellectual comedy bits ever broadcast. The New Milford Public Library now owns all 45 unedited and uncensored episodes of the four seasons of this ground-breaking and still hugely popular TV series on DVD, as well as other Python movies and books. So if you haven't seen any episodes for a while, or have never seen them, check out a DVD or two to find out why the Oxford English Dictionary added the adjective "Pythonesque" a few years ago.
(l. to r.) Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin,
John Cleese, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam
Mark P. Hasskarl
Library Director