Haliburton County Living: Seed Library

plant-growing-out-of-bookSherrill’s Shelves

Have you heard the words “seed library” in conjunction with Haliburton County Public Library and wondered what that could be? It isn’t possible to borrow seeds like you would books…or is it?

Seed libraries are popping up in various library systems including Markham, Vaughan, Orillia, Collingwood, Meaford and Prince Edward County. Each seed library is unique to the place and the people involved. In Haliburton County, the library is partnered with Haliburton In Transition (HINT) and Harvest Haliburton. Spearheading the project at the library is Sue Robinson, Community Partnerships & Administration.

Basically, people come to the library to borrow and return seeds. People plant seeds in their gardens, raise the plants, let a bit of them go to seed and bring some of those mature seeds back to the library to replenish the collection.

Jacob Kearey-Moreland, Cultivator, Toronto Seed Library puts it this way: “Just as traditional libraries encourage mass literacy, seed libraries propagate seed, food and garden literacy.”

Settled against a west wall of the Dysart branch, look for the sign “Haliburton County Seed Library”. Organized simply, with 2.5” x 4” envelopes neatly labelled and filed in a wooden box on top of a drawer cabinet, you can search for packets of herbs, beans, bok choy, peppers, swiss chard, squash, tomatoes, flowers and more.

After selecting the packets, use the front of the log book, found in a drawer, to record which seeds that you are borrowing by writing in the type of seed taken and your initials. The back of the log book is for recording seeds that you are “returning” or donating, with the name of the seed, municipality where grown, where they originated (source) and again, your initials.

Empty seed packets are clearly labelled in the wooden box for you to take for returning or donating seeds. Information sheets on saving seeds, etc. are in the cabinet as well.

You don’t need a library card. If you take seeds and never return any, you won’t be in trouble and you can still come back to borrow more.

But, you might want to get a library card because there are over one hundred gardening books distributed over the eight library branches in Haliburton County. The popular up-to-date horticultural magazines in our system that can be borrowed are Canadian Gardening, Birds & Blooms and Better Homes and Gardens. These can be put on hold and picked up at the branch of your choice, if you don’t see them on the magazine shelves.

If you have questions about the seed library, Sue Robinson can be contacted at the library administrative office by phone, 705-457-2241, or email srobinson@haliburtonlibrary.ca.

In her 2009 Report to the Community, CEO Bessie Sullivan wrote: “While the books are what anchor us, we are working towards being the hub of the community and a place that meets more than just reading needs”. The seed library certainly fits into that mandate.


Haliburton County Living: Word of Mouth

Sherrill’s Shelves

Every year it’s different, popular authors lose their appeal, up-and-coming writers find a following and then there are the surprise bestsellers, the word of mouth wonders.

It’s a challenge to guess which titles the library needs extra copies of when ordering. Of course there can be educated predictions based on the past, authors like John Grisham and Janet Evanovich are usually good candidates for high holds.

Our very own Vicky Fraser, Supervisor of the Dysart Branch, is a circulation game changer at the library. Dubbed “The Oprah of Haliburton County”, if Vicky takes a liking to a book and promotes it, holds on the title will double or triple. This has happened so many times that Vicky now gives the heads up before getting too carried away so an extra copy or two can be purchased before it reaches a high holds crisis.

The surprise bestsellers interest me a lot and I especially love self-published titles that make it big – the real-life underdog stories of the book world.

joy of cookingIn 1931, Irma Rombauer wrote The Joy of Cooking with her daughter, who not only illustrated the book, but also helped test the recipes. Ms. Rombauer used half of her life savings to pay a local printing company to print three thousand copies. They sold for a dollar a book. Five years later, Bobbs-Merrill Company acquired the rights. Over the years the book has sold over 18 million copies.

The Celestine ProphecyJames Redfield self-published his first novel The Celestine Prophecy in 1992. He sold the book one copy at a time out of the trunk of his car, which lends credence to the book’s statement, “We must assume every event has significance…the challenge is to find the silver lining in every event, no matter how negative.” It was later acquired by Warner Books, became a #1 bestseller and has sold in excess of twenty million copies.

still aliceLisa Genova, a neuroscientist, wrote a novel called Still Alice about a 50-year-old Harvard professor who struggles with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. After being rejected by several publishers, Lisa decided to self-publish. Her literary agent advised against it, telling her it would kill her writing career. She self-published anyway, received wonderful reviews and Simon & Schuster acquired the novel for a reported half-million dollars. In January 2009, it debuted on the The New York Times bestseller list at number five.

the invention of wingsAnd speaking of Oprah, the third selection for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 is The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. Inspired by the true story of early-nineteenth-century abolitionist and suffragist Sarah Grimke, Kidd paints a moving portrait of two women inextricably linked by the horrors of slavery. No surprises at the library with this one – it is circulating well!

While highly popular authors change, the Haliburton County Public Library remains dedicated every year to offering entertainment and information to meet the communities fluctuating needs.

*Originally published in Haliburton County Living on March 6th, 2014.

Haliburton County Living: It Takes a County

Sherrill’s Shelves

It didn’t just happen, it took a County.

There have been so many changes to the Haliburton County Public Library in recent years it’s hard to even mention them all.

Circulation throughout the HCPL system has doubled from 2008 to 2013, card holders have increased by a third, patrons were given access to their accounts online, the library was mentioned positively in the media over one thousand times in 2013, two new branch buildings were opened in the last five years and we eagerly await a new one in Wilberforce in 2014.

The library’s growth has been achieved so successfully, on a budget that has not matched the growth of the system, that it warranted a session at Super Conference 2014, Canada’s largest continuing education event in librarianship. CEO Bessie Sullivan teamed up with two former HCPL leaders, Catherine Coles (Manager of Library Services, County of Lennox & Addington) and Amanda Wilk (Community Librarian, Youth, Burlington Public Library) to describe “50 Ways to Run a Thriving Library on a Shoestring.”

Among the measures taken were; Applying for grants, printing in-house, staff surveys to prioritize training needed, belonging to the Ontario Library Consortium to reduce database costs and share IT support, be the destination for water testing bottles, tax guides and local free newspapers to encourage library visitors, enabling patron initiated interlibrary loans.

A common theme throughout the session was partnering with the community; CANOE FM for air time and pens, businesses and services donating funds or books, using the County van for courier service on weekends, Lily Ann for book club books and story time props and crafts, Friends of the HCPL funds used to enhance library services, MOOSE FM to promote programming, Those Other Movies for dvd donations, local newspapers for print media coverage….the list was long.

Individuals have donated books, volunteered time at Friends events, provided “Pennies for Computers” when CAP funding was cut, given in multitudes during DVD drives, participated in HCPL’s Celebrity Readers in the paper.

Librarians from across the country packed the session room, taking notes and nodding heads, sometimes laughing at the antics taken on the journey to tightwad achievement.

The final luncheon speaker for the conference was Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, enjoying the success of his recently published book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth.

In his address, Hadfield noted how much the world has changed, marveling over the many countries that worked together to build the International Space Station. “To think about that transition happening in less than a lifetime, of all of that hatred and misunderstanding and individual agendas, and now there’s a mission control for the space station in Japan, one in Germany, one in Moscow, in Canada and the United States,” he has said.

That’s what happens when people, communities, work together – the impossible becomes possible.

*originally published in Haliburton County Living on February 13th, 2014.

Haliburton County Living: Top Performers

catching fireSherrill’s Shelves

With 2013 closing, we decided to start something new at the library – uncover which titles had circulated the most in our catalogue in the calendar year.

Being the library geeks that we are, this was an exciting process and we waited impatiently for the computer to spit out the results. Hopefully you find this information as stimulating as we do!

Here are the Haliburton County Public Library 2013 Top Performers;

Book on CD (Talking Book) – Two Graves by Preston and Child

DvdSkyfall (last James Bond movie released)

Juvenile non-fictionGuinness World Records

Juvenile fiction The Wild, Wild West by Geronimo Stilton

Picture bookMoose! by Robert Munsch

Large Print bookThe Innocent by David Baldacci

Young adultCatching Fire by Suzanne Collins (part of the Hunger Games trilogy)

Adult non-fiction Eating Dirt: deep forests, big timber, and life with the tree-planting tribe by Charlotte Gill

Adult fiction The Little Shadows by Marina Endicott

little shadowsThe Top Performer and Overall Winner was The Little Shadows with 105 checkouts.

The Little Shadows is set in a vanished time, in the fantastically rich world of vaudeville, and revolves around three sisters: Aurora, the eldest and most beautiful, sixteen when the book opens; thoughtful Clover, who is fourteen; and the youngest, headstrong Bella, who is thirteen. The girls, overseen by their fond but barely coping Mama, must make their living as a singing act after the untimely death of their father. They begin with little besides youth and hope, but Endicott’s genius is to show how the three girls evolve into true artists. In gorgeous prose and through unforgettable characters, Marina Endicott takes us onto the brightly lit stage and then into the little shadows that lurk behind the curtain, and reveals how the art of vaudeville – in all its variety, madness, melodrama, hilarity and sorrow – echoes the art of life itself.

It is interesting that the top adult fiction and non-fiction books were part of the Evergreen Award program which we participate in. This award gives adult library patrons the opportunity to vote for a work of Canadian fiction or non-fiction that they have liked the most. From a list of 10, picked by librarians across the province, patrons read one or more titles and then choose their favourite.

The provincial winner for the 2013 Evergreen Award was Up and Down by Terry Fallis. It was number six on our library’s top adult fiction performers for the year. A new Evergreen list will be unveiled in February 2014.

Along with the variety of categories mentioned in Top Performers, the library also offers the community; magazines to borrow, newspapers to read, e-books and audiobooks to download through the website, book club sets, computers to use, plus a variety of programs, advertised as they approach.

There are a whole lot of reasons to be excited about your library!

I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings for the eight community landmarks that bring us together.

*originally published in Haliburton County Living on January 16, 2014

Haliburton County Living: No Library Police in Haliburton

Me Before YouI’m really enjoying Jojo Moyes’ novel Me Before You. Although romance novels are not usually my choice of reading, this one is different. Described as thought- provoking, the main character Louisa takes a job as caregiver to a man in a wheelchair. An accident left Will a quadriplegic and with no hope of recovery, he wants to die. Told from all sides – the pain and suffering of Will plus the anguish of his family and Louisa – this romance provides a lot to ponder.

Page 135 left me smiling; “On Saturday morning I went to the library. I think I probably hadn’t been in there since I was at school – quite possibly out of fear that they would remember the Judy Blume I had lost in Year 7, and that a clammy, official hand would reach out as I passed through the building’s Victorian pillared doors, demanding £3,853 in fines.”

Contrary to popular belief, library workers do not have pictures up of wanted library “criminals”. The fine for one item has a $5.00 ceiling, it doesn’t accrue interest and, this is a big one, there really aren’t any library police.

Not in Haliburton anyway.

Front page news in October of this year in Waterloo Region read: “Library police are coming after township residents.” Councillors there voted to accept a free 90 day trial from a collection agency to determine if it’s worth contracting them.

While Waterloo Region tried an amnesty day in August that wasn’t highly successful, Haliburton County Public Library uses the month of December to encourage patrons to return their overdue material with Food4Fines. Simply bring in your overdue items with a non-perishable donation to the food bank, or Superbucks™, and your fines will be eliminated.


In Me Before You, the protagonist was surprised by the change in the library since she had been there. We hear that a lot from people who haven’t visited a public library in years.

Louisa noticed there were CDs and DVDs and it was not silent. A mother and baby group was in full swing, people were reading magazines and chatting quietly. She used one of the computers set up for patrons. The librarian didn’t stand over her shoulder, just murmured that she would be at the desk if she needed help.

Her fears of being accosted were unfounded; no one mentioned the lost Judy Blume book. If it had been a Haliburton County Public Library lost juvenile book, the cost would have been $10.00, in case you were wondering.

The Haliburton County Public Library is a vibrant part of our community, meant to offer access to knowledge and entertainment, to enrich your life. Causing you financial hardship is not the goal of the overdue fines, it is simply a way of getting material back in a timely manner so others can use it.

Take advantage of this month’s Food4Fines program and bring back those overdue books so others can enjoy them.  You will also be helping your neighbours in need. It’s a win-win situation!

Haliburton County Living: Invisible

Sherrill’s Shelves

Sherrill Sherwood

The foggy mornings this past month have illuminated giant intricate networks of spider threads in the tree outside my bedroom window. Once the sun shines they become invisible again….it makes me wonder what else I can’t see because the conditions are never right.

The disappearing webs remind me of this Ancient Chinese Proverb: “An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break.”

Red ThreadI came across that proverb while researching The Red Thread: A Novel by Ann Hood. The story is about Maya, the owner of an adoption agency for parents seeking to adopt girls from China, and the six couples who come to her. It follows them all through the process and the ups and downs that come with it. The book is described as; “…a subtle and unusual adoption story, many-layered, exquisitely told.”

The red string theory comes to mind again in An invisible thread : the true story of an 11-year-old panhandler, a busy sales executive, and an unlikely meeting with destiny by Laura Schroff.

The author explains:  “An Invisible Thread is the story of my friend, Maurice, and me. We met on The Invisible Thread56th street in Manhattan in 1986, when I was a 35-year-old single, successful ad sales executive, and he was an 11-year-old homeless panhandler. He asked me for spare change; I ignored him and kept walking. But something made me stop, and turn around, and go back to him, and that day I took him to lunch. We met the Monday after that and every Monday for the next four years, and hundreds of times after that. Today, 25 years later, we are still great friends. An Invisible Thread is the story of how two people who needed each other somehow became unlikely friends, against all odds. It is the story of the mysterious, unseen connections that exist between people who are destined to meet—and how, if only we open our eyes and our hearts to them, these connections can be the great blessings of our lives.”

On one of those foggy mornings, I saw a spider web draped about five feet from one tree to another. I just had to discover how a spider does that.

The spider creates a strand and the loose end is drawn out by gravity or a breeze. Allowed to blow in the wind, if the strand doesn’t make contact with something and attach to it, the spider may gobble it up, recycle its proteins, and then try again.

There’s an Albert Einstein quote that feels relevant after researching spider webs; “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

The titles mentioned can be requested through the Haliburton County Public Library, linked to our community through eight branches to serve you.

*Originally published in Haliburton County Living on November 7th 2013

Haliburton County Living: Hank the Dog

Sherrill’s Shelves

Sherrill Sherwood

Inside of a DogI smiled when my husband suggested Hank, our Beagle, would be a good subject for an article. Then I recalled a book I checked out a couple of years ago called Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know by Alexandra Horowitz. The author introduces the reader to dogs’ perceptual and cognitive abilities and then draws a picture of what it might be like to be a dog. What I learned from this book changed things for me on my walks with Hank. Now, along with the physical connection through the leash, I feel a closer relationship as I try to put myself in his paws, imagining what it must be like that close to the ground with my nose – my smell – being my “eyes”.

Having said that, there is a point where I have to draw the line – when Hanks stops to smell the Origin of the Fecesdroppings of other animals. I feel no kinship with him in those moments, the bond is broken. A new title in our collection, The Origin of Feces: What Excrement Tells Us about Evolution, Ecology, and a Sustainable Society by David Waltner-Toews, actually has a chapter called “Turds of Endearment: What Excrement Means to Animals”. Purchased through a patron request, The Origin of Feces is an entertaining and enlightening exploration of why waste matters. This cultural history explores an often ignored subject and makes a compelling argument for a deeper understanding of human and animal waste. Approaching the subject from evolutionary, ecological, and cultural perspectives, this examination shows how integral waste is to biodiversity, agriculture, public health, food production and distribution, and global ecosystems. As Publisher’s Weekly puts it “Until you read this, you really won’t know sh*t.”

A Dog's PurposeNovels with the dog as the main character generally circulate well and Bruce Cameron’s A Dog’s Purpose, published in 2010, stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for 52 weeks. The premise of the novel is that the dog never dies—he keeps being reborn, remembering each life, learning lessons from each life that help him with the next one.  Eventually, he comes to conclude there must be a purpose, a reason for him to be reborn, and until he has figured out that purpose, he’ll keep being reborn, over and over again. A Dog’s Purpose is just one of a few bestselling novels portraying dogs as wise beings.

Hank has certainly taught me some important life lessons: love unconditionally, always get as comfortable as you possibly can, assertively ask for what you need, get excited about food, stretch long and fully, go for a walk every day and stop to thoroughly smell……the roses.

Hank won’t be there but all titles mentioned can be requested through the Haliburton County Public Library – a wise place to be.

*Originally published in Haliburton County Living on October 3rd 2013