Monday, December 27, 2010

High Peaks and Lofty Dreams;Denali: The High One. At Last.

Three times over fifteen years, adventure photographer and high altitude mountaineer Walt Hampton attempted to climb Mt. McKinley (Denali), North America's highest peak. Turned back twice by ferocious winds, unrelenting snows and unmitigated fears, Hampton nearly abandoned his lifelong dream of summiting The High One. But with uncompromising tenacity, he returned this past June to finally stand on top.
Denali sits in the heart of the Alaska Range and has a vertical rise higher than Everest's. Known for its extreme cold and dangerous storms, Denali is not for the unprepared or faint of heart.
Hampton, who climbed with his wife and his son, will share his daring adventures, his struggle to achieve an elusive goal, and his spectacular photography. He'll talk about dreams denied and dreams fulfilled; what it takes to succeed in the mountains - and in life.
Come and explore the possibility of climbing in the Greater Ranges. Come ponder your own dreams of adventure and daring. Or just come and enjoy some extraordinary photos and a great tale. March 30, 2011 the Directors College 2011 series at the 7:00 pm @ the Barney Library 71 Main Street Farmington,

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Time to Reflect and Glow: Barney Library Project Completed and Polished. December 2010

I suppose it is appropriate to assess those New Year’s promises we made in January at the years end and then to begin thinking about next year’s resolutions.
Well, this was the year of years for me. The Barney Library coming to fruition along with the installation of KOHA, an open source electronic catalog, personnel reorganization, new programs, services and initiatives are each very remarkable. However, the Barney project's magnitude highlighted by all the good work done by the building committee, Architects, General Contractor and our fabulous employees tops the cake!

Thanks to everyone and best wishes for the rest of the year and next.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Evan Cowles Presents:Images From Nepal, 21 Days in the Himalayas

It is so exciting to present our second Directors College program: Images From Nepal:21 Days in the Himalayas, October 2008 by sojourner Evan Cowles at the Barney Library on Wednesday February 23, 2011 at 7:00 pm.

Evan Cowles retired from his Landscape Architecture practice in July 2008
and immediately started training for a trek in the Anapurna region in October 2008. Cowles will tell the story of how he and five other trekkers spent 21 days on an ancient trade route that has been used for centuries.

Cowles’s trek around the Manaslu circuit started at a tropical 2,000 foot elevation. The ancient trade route followed the Budhi Gandaki river, proceeding over the snow covered Larke La pass with an altitude of almost 17,000 feet, and back down into the tropics again. As the altitude increased, the people and language changed from Nepali to Tibetan.

“While the stock market was plummeting and Obama was in the middle of his presidential campaign, we were oblivious as we traveled through a land right out of the fourteenth century. The typical family’s dinner was grown in sight their village, the grain ground by a water powered mill next door, and everything cooked over an open fire with the smoke making its way through a hole in the roof.”

The images are vivid digital photos that include children, ancient stone paths, and rickety suspension bridges.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010




JANUARY 26, 2011 FOR



Register here>>

Not everyone who tours Europe does it in a bus or rented car. Veteran cyclists Joan and Charlie Leach have toured four countries on two wheels and would like to show share with you what it’s like, what it costs and how to do it. The Leaches also will discuss issues related to age [none] and physical conditioning [a few].

This mid-70’s couple has ridden hundreds of miles along the Elbe, Danube and Loire Rivers and through the hills of Tuscany. They will relate what it’s like to see a foreign land from the bike saddle, how to meet nice folks by getting lost and how to ride a bike after sampling Tuscan wine.

They will show photographs taken along German, Austrian, French and Italian bike paths – and share stories and images of how to link famous tourist attractions with a few daily miles of pedaling.

Their trips have been undertaken both independently and with Elderhostel [“Road Scholar”]. Travel has been efficiently managed by local tour companies which provide equipment, hotels, meals and luggage transport – along with maps, directions and a backup “sag wagon”.

Foreign bike touring is fun and not physically demanding. These great adventures are available in many forms, and everyone [even the faint-hearted] can find a tour fitting their capabilities and interests. Let our speakers show you how it’s done!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fourth Annual Krystallnacht Lecture

On November 9th, 2010 the Farmington Library sponsored its 3rd Annual Krystallnacht Lecture. Mrs. Tutti (Ruth) Fishman spoke about her experiences during WWII when she was imprisoned in two concentration camps from ages 8-10. Below you will find links to the video of the lecture which is currently posted in five parts on YouTube.

3rd Annual Krystallnacht Lecture - Part 1

3rd Annual Krystallnacht Lecture - Part 2

3rd Annual Krystallnacht Lecture - Part 3

3rd Annual Krystallnacht Lecture - Part 4

3rd Annual Krystallnacht Lecture - Part 5

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I will lead another bus trip to New York City on Wednesday February 2nd.

We all had a great time on November 3rd on our second NYC bus trip. I will lead another trip to the City on Wednesday February 2nd. The Bus will leave the Main Library parking lot at 7:30 am sharp and leave NYC on 7th avenue between 52nd and 53street at 6:30 pm sharp directly across from the Sheraton Towers Hotel for an approximate 9:00 pm Farmington arrival. The bus will drop people off at: 5th avenue in the eighties, Rockefeller Center, 42and St for twofers and on Canal Street on to the Strand book store and Battery Park for a ferry ride. So if you are in the mood for a museum visit, walk in the city, lunch or diner, Broadway show matinee, shopping, walking over the upper level of the Brooklyn Bridge, having dim sum in China Town, Walking on the High Line park or just people watching….February 2nd is the day to travel to the Big Apple. The price is $ 24.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Halloween does not have to be scary... Just little ones having a parade to music and dancing the day away at the Library..... Have a great and safe Halloween... Best Jay

Thursday, October 28, 2010


It was great fun working the Library Booth at the Fifth annual Unionville days community celebration. I was just amazed by the many new Farmingtonians I met who had not yet visited the Libraries. Naturally, they are all signed up and excited to belong to the "best deal in town". Furthermore, I had a chance to see many old friends and here in the picture below our esteemed Town Chairman Mike Clark along with his wife, Susan with my wife Cynthia, enjoying fellowship and a wonderful fall day. Mike and Cynthia were Rotary Road Race runners and really enjoyed the beauty of the Flora and topography as they ran the well laid out course. I believe that community is the Key to great libraries and Farmington, in my opinion, holds the master key. Special thanks to Steve Wasley for the photo and his and the Rotary Club of Farmington's unyielding support of library service and the Barney Renovations Project.
All my best, Jay

Friday, October 8, 2010

Director's College, Spring Rome Vacation

Six Day spring 2011
Non-Stop Air, Hotel and Breakfast
Under $1,400
Departing for Rome March 16, 2011
Returning March 22, 2011.
5 nights at the Alexandra or
similar hotel with airport transfers from
Farmington Library-JFK Rome Airport TO Hotel
To register contact
Executive Assistant, Bernie at
860-673-6791 ext.219
Deadline is October 10, 2010
Farmington Libraries
6 Monteith Drive
Farmington, CT 06032
www. farmingtonl

Farmington Libraries Annual Report For Fiscal Year 2009-2010

SINCE 1902

Jay Johnston M.S., M.A.
Executive Director

October 9, 2010

RE: Annual Report Fiscal Year 2009-2010 (July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010)

To: The Farmington Community:


I am pleased to present to the citizens of Farmington our 2010 Annual Report. During these unusually challenging times, innovative public library service continues to emerge and flourish in Farmington. This is revealed through the many new users who, with greater frequency, need and demand: high speed-internet connectivity, Wi-Fi, vetted business resources like Morningstar and Moody’s, and job search help, including resume assistance, and the many other resources required to successfully navigate through life in 2010. Our goal is to provide new and long-time customers the best possible library experience. The library is really a team of public service consultants individually assisting citizens on-demand. Naturally, Farmington Libraries would not be as revered as they are without our accomplished professional staff with whom people enjoy a library experience far beyond expectations. We remain “the best deal in town”.
Although we are experiencing increases in the non-traditional services named above, traditional service continues to grow. Therefore, it is especially important to anticipate new technologies while continuing to provide a customer-focused 360 degree comprehensive program.

Our position as a premier community asset continues to change in magnitude and scope requiring extreme customer service to continue to give our customers what they want when they want it. We will continue this customer-focused practice to further leverage our resources by redirecting acquisitions based upon changes and shifts in the Farmington community’s interests.


After three years of research, focus group opinion, study and a tremendous amount of work, the decision was made to change our information platform to dramatically improve service and functionality, while reducing costs. This was executed by data migration to KOHA, the open-source library information system. The result of this transition is significant and began to present soon after our June cut-over and roll-out. Self-checkout is now available and public access technology is upgraded to further enhance the customer experience. A new archival scanning station is now in use to capture and present historic records, documents, and photos on our portal. Computer-U, now in its second year, is delivering technology classes and on-demand tutorial assistance to individuals needing help.


Although the Barney Branch is currently under construction, overall library use continues to increase. Lending approaches one half million while total service units delivered approaches one million. Naturally, these usage increases are significant; however, we have refocused and adjusted our direction toward the delivery of qualitative service units. Users’ experience and customer service outcomes are weighed more heavily than visitation/lending metrics. This approach is based in the total experience model, where a great deal more time and resources are required to assist customers than in the past, due to the complexity of questions and assistance. We have magnified our customer focus and inserted specific segmented broad spectrum goals into our strategic plan to measure, promote and manage customer satisfaction directly across all segments of library service. In that spirit, we are working directly with the community development director to amplify our Chamber of Commerce Business center resources through a cooperative effort to publicize and further develop these services and resources to enhance Farmington’s economic vitality.


FY2009-2010 presented several opportunities to effect top to bottom efficiencies in our operational model. These changes were executed to better serve customers and leverage resources by re-engineering human resources to improve service delivery. In that regard, we have re-engineered several departments, electronically migrated to a new improved library automation system, managed the renovation and additions to the Barney Branch Library, and established new programming enhancements to the Children’s Services program, focusing on specific developmental and structural elements to positively affect learning and social skill development.
Furthermore, we have increased the scope of our adult programming and developed a new relationship with the University of Hartford’s President’s College resulting in new enriched programming for our adult population. We are very enthusiastic about these enhancements in programming. In addition, we have won and participated in several grant programs directed at improving our computing capabilities, software library, and public access to the internet. The following highlights the many acomplishments of FY-2010.

Barney Library Accomplishments Fiscal Year 2009-2010

· Transferred all library resources to The Farmington Library and closed the Barney for renovation.
· Developed and implemented a Barney program of service from The Farmington Library for Fiscal Year 2009-2010.

Children’s Department Accomplishments for Fiscal Year 2009-2010

· Increased children’s programming by 5%, with a 6.8% increase in attendance.
· Reorganized and relocated children’s fiction and non-fiction, adding attractive signage.
· Upgraded the d├ęcor with the addition of a mural, painted house, and graphic column.
· Instituted a structured volunteer program that brings together teens and pre-schoolers as Reading Buddies.
· Introduced summer reading on-line registration.
· Added laptops for the convenience of adults using computers in the Children’s Department.

Lending Services for Fiscal Year 2009-2010

· Lending increased 2% over 2008-2009 ( 482,207 circulations)
· Visits equaled 256,080, a 9% decrease from 2009/2010
· Continuing increase in use of self-checkout (35,402 checkouts), a 29% increase.
· Increased holds and C-car delivery as patrons become more comfortable with system holds
· Outsourced and pre-processed covers resulting in faster processing.
· Re-cataloged/re-processed theme books in Children’s department
· Discarded all books on cassette in all departments.
· Discarded all children’s videos and majority of adult
· Extensive weeding of Branch collection
· Processed 1300 books from Service Centers for Summer reading
· In addition to ordering and processing materials from library budget, the following large gift materials were ordered and processed:
o Business Center (Chamber gifts)
o Friends DVD’s , Books on CD and Books
o Ethel Dewey gift for Books on CD
· Barney collection moved/ incorporated into Main collection both physically and in computer. Investigated total shelf-ready processing from vendor.
· Participated in setting up Sirsi coding for loan periods, fine rates etc. for transfer to Koha
· Training on Koha throughout Spring
· Koha implementation in June, including Lending, financial, holds and ordering
Adult Services for Fiscal Year 2009-2010

· Bestselling fiction selection and shipping was automated with our materials vendor.
· The Barney Library's adult and children collections were integrated and/or relocated to shelving in the Adult stacks facilitated by extensive shifting in our fiction and magazine sections.
· Interlibrary Loan processing was retooled due to our Koha migration.
· Individual 1-on-1 Koha catalog training for patrons by phone, email and in person helped ease our transition into our new computer system and library catalog.
· Programming initiatives, including computer U, Independent Film and Afternoon at the Bijou were successfully continued.
· Monthly Library Newsletter was designed and developed for library programming.
· Public Relations were successfully grown and maintained with local media, especially the Film Section in the Hartford Courant which prominently publicized our film events.
· Filmography initiative was launched to develop a backlist of classic DVD movies in adult collection.
· Led the presentation, bidding, and implementation of the Koha open source automated library system to the June 7, 2010 roll-out.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Summer Splash Reading Program a Tremendous Success

Summer Splash Reading Program a Tremendous Success

Reading is the keystone to the Farmington Libraries mission. In that regard, children’s participation in our reading programs is key to our success. And, because children are so eager to learn and understand new ideas and concepts we strive to create an exciting and stimulating environment to positively foster learning, reading and inquisitiveness, The friends of the Library are our great allies in that effort in that they provide additional funding to ensure we can deliver the special programs necessary to create success in delivering on that goal.

The Summer Splash Reading Program a Tremendous Success as the result of a total team efort led by our Head of Children's and Branch services, Kathy Lesco, as evident in photos posted below:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Libraries disconnect from CONNECT to offer new program

By Stephanie Riefe of Farmington Life

The Farmington Libraries are no longer part of the CONNECT consortium and are now part of KOHA. The change was made to save money and to increase services. Both programs are focused on delivery of services such as circulation and cataloguing, Library Director Jay Johnston explains
Q. What was the CONNECT program and why did the libraries stop using it?
A. CONNECT began as an automated system to check materials in and out of then developed into a comprehensive library information system in the 1990s. Farmington had belonged to it since its inception in the early 1980s. It is an organization of many libraries in the capital region and beyond that pay fees for services. The original concept was for the member libraries to collectively create capital through dues, fees and grants for the purpose of purchasing a mainframe computer, proprietary library operational software, central office staff with the expertise to manage the system and to organize the libraries into a computerized regional network. At the time, 1982, this was an innovative and smart way to do business because this structure was developed at a pre-Internet time period. Today, with new emerging technologies and many exciting open-source solutions available, I began to study alternatives to the current proprietary software solutions in order to better leverage our resources in an uncertain economy. Through that research process, I learned that the KOHA system was far advanced in functionality and customization compared with CONNECT and that operational costs were significantly lower than those charged by CONNECT. Convinced of the benefits of going forward, the staff and library board spent more than three years studying, testing and deciding how to proceed. Now we have made the migration from the old proprietary CONNECT library information system to the new, open-source KOHA system. Out new system costs less than 1/5 of the old CONNECT system. KOHA also has a great deal more functionality, running on Linux, Apache, MySQL and Pearl, very similar to the operation of
Q.Talk a bit more about the new program. How does it work?
A. KOHA is an open-source (non-proprietary) system. We own the software and do not pay fees. We can alter operational procedures as needed and make improvements that were not possible with the proprietary system. KOHA also has an artificial intelligence component that interfaces with individual user’s preference, a feature to which computer users of today are accustomed. It is a web-based system that can be used on any device. Functionality includes creating private and public lists for future reading. We are currently listing high school and intermediate school reading lists in our KOHA catalog. This feature can also be used to create private reading lists for an n individual’s future use. The catalog has a powerful social component allowing Tags for commenting on books, DVD’s, great reads, or other interests (tags for sailing adventure or Danielle Steel junkies). Also, when searching in the Farmington catalog, with the click of a single link you can continue that search in the old CONNECT catalog or statewide system.
Q. What do people need to know about KOHA and how it might affect their library habits?
A. The new system will allow you many of the features you have grown accustomed to in and other modern artificial intelligence information systems, along with traditional library features. It is intuitive and your Farmington Library account reflects only Farmington items. When returning items from other libraries at Farmington, you will be credited with your date of return when it is received by the lending library. All inter-library loan functions can still be enjoyed by contacting the library and requesting an item. However, I believe our collection will sustain 99 percent of our demand with a goal of reducing inter-library loan by developing our collection with a more rigorous customer-focused purchasing system.
Q. Does the new program offer features that were not available before?
A. Yes , indeed, private and public lists to see what you checked out and what you want to read in the future, a cart feature to place multiple holds for your reading interests, tag cloud which gives a personal way of grouping items by interest areas, and an online public access catalog feature which allows virtually browsing the shelves.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Farmington Libraries Top All Records With 7,493 transactions in one 12 hour day for 10.406 transactions per minute

Assistant Director of Operations, Tinker Murphy, reports an all-time lending transaction record with loans of 3,508 items and returns of 3,985 for a total of 7,493 items transacted over the 12 hours we were open. Whew, and Well done!

Our August 23rd program was just grand and attributable to the hard work and dedication Kathy Lescoe's Childrens services team

The importance of reading and literacy in general is principal to our mission's focus. The importance of children reading and knowing the joy reading engenders is key to our societies future. In that regard, the Friends of the Library do the community a tremendous service by funding many of the special programs the Libraries develop over the year. This summer was no exception in that commitment. Thank you, Friends of Farmington Library. I would suggest you join the Friends, they are a great group of individuals.

Our August 23rd end of the summer splash reading program was just grand and attributable to the hard work and dedication of our entire Children's Services team led by Kathy Lescoe, Head of Branch and Children's Services.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Barney Library History and Future

Library Board Member Rob Huelin signs his name to the steel structure about to join the future with the past at the new Barney Library additions and renovations project.
We are all looking forward to the grand reopening this fall... Stay Tuned.. Historically, I highly recommend you click on the header to read the The Barney Memorial Library: Its Origins Over Two Centuries, by Jean Johnson; Part I and part II.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thank You! Brian Connolly, for designing our new Farmington Libraries Logo.

Thank You, Brian Connolly!

At its' August 18th meeting, the Library Board unanimously voted to adopted Board member Brian Connolly‘s new logo branding the Libraries service mission graphically as the natural; social, intellectual, recreational and cultural connection to Farmington residents. We are excited to see an elegant unifying expression of the Library as our community’s hub and "the place to be!"

Stayed tuned, I will post our new logo soon.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Thank You, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, for identifying the public library as a most valuable community asset.

I was so pleased to welcome JoAnn Price, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving board member and Alison Granger the Foundation’s senior investment officer, Farmington resident and library user to the Main Library on Tuesday August 3rd. It was my pleasure indeed, to personally thank these wonderful people for assisting in assessing the need and presenting the opportunity for me to apply for and receive a $30,000 grant for a technology project we have been planning to execute over the past few years. The Foundation has been very generous to Farmington Libraries during my watch with a $ 225,000 building grant required to complete the 2009-2010 $ 3,000,000, Barney Renovations Project, and now by investing $30,000 in public technology. We are very grateful for this needed gift.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Good-Bye Judy Guglietta. AKA ,JAG

Good-Bye JAG… Executive Secretary and Building Superintendent Judy Guglietta, aka jag, decided to retire after 29 years of service here at Farmington. We will look forward to post cards from far off places where she and John will travel.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Barney Project advances with style

We are very fortunate to have a tremendous team of trades’ people, architects, engineers, project managers, General contractors, Building committee members, and others to bring the new Barney Library across two centuries. This short photo essay provides a glimpse into the future and the pre-paint reality of our progress.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Farmington Children's Department's: Touch a Truck Day: Children Love Trucks and So Do Parents.. Yea!

Touch a Truck 2010= over 225 people, 7 vehicles:

1 a fire truck 4 firefighters from Farmington Fire Dept
2 police cruisers with 2 police officers from Farmington Police Dept
2 shiny red dump trucks and 2 drivers from Farmington Public Works
1 tow truck from Farmington Motor Sports, with 2 employees
2 vintage tractors belonging to Bill Wollemberg

Summer, a great time to slow down and enjoy a good book

Summertime is a great time to slow down and enjoy a good book and we have great books for your leisure time in many formats. The photo display below gives an example of good beach books. However if you do not have time to slow down and go to the beach, you can enjoy a good “talking book”. These books are recorded by the author or a great actor and come in three varieties for your fast paced lifestyle: Playaway, a self-contained book you slip in your pocket and listen to while running, walking, cooking or whatever. 2. Downloadable books are available through our website online. These audio books can be downloading into your IPod or other device. 3. Books on CD, these books are great to listen to while on the go as well and are played on a CD player. I wish everyone a great summer a great reading…

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Gardens of Farmington

A special thank you to the Master Gardeners for their recent addition to the library landscaping with the Island Project pictured below.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Monday Morning, June 7, 2010 - First Patrons to Use the New System

Ivan Mendelsohn

Jean Kim

Kim and Audrey Harrell

Elisabeth and daughter

Donald Donor and Kalina

On Monday morning these patrons came to get their library materials and were "happy campers."

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Monday June seventh is our go-live date for KOHA... Please check us out after 9:00 am

Special Thanks to my department heads: Hal Bright, project leader, Barbara Knibbs, Tinker Murphy, and Kathy Lescoe for their unflagging support and efforts in rolling out this program. I am also grateful to each for your good work, leadership and attention to detail. This is a pioneering step in innovation, management, technological strategy, and customer service.

I am also very thankful for my Library Board who have each worked hard through the three year decision process and also developed the wisdom to go forward with this important project. Thank you all. Jay

ByWater Solutions, an open source community supporter and official Koha support company, announced today that The Farmington Libraries, of Farmington, CT. has partnered with them for the implementation of the open source community version of the Koha integrated library system.
Farmington has contracted with ByWater Solutions for the Installation, customization, migration, hosting, support and training for their Koha integrated library system.
Jay Johnston, M.S. M.A. Executive Director of the Farmington Libraries commented on their decision to switch to and open source solution;
“Open source software is fast becoming the standard software model in many organizations worldwide and has demonstrated great value by virtue of its fast diffusion throughout the world as the new library ILS standard. It is consequently exciting to be able to provide our citizen-customers with the best in ILS capability at a fraction of the current cost. To better serve our citizen-customers increasingly diverse needs, the KOHA system will provide greater flexibility and functionality within an economic climate dictating prudence, measure and the necessity finding better ways of doing business.” (
The Farmington Libraries are comprised of two branches, made up of over 150,000 volumes and serves a population of over 25,000 residents
About ByWater Solutions:With over 10 years of experience, ByWater Solutions offers customized hosting, data migration, configuration, installation, training, support options and development of enterprise class open-source library systems. Offering a 24/7 technical helpline, ByWater Solutions’ clients have the support system they need to make their software work for them. ByWater Solutions pledges to share 100% of all developed code to the Koha community for the strengthening and advancement of the Koha ILS.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Big Apple trip scheduled for August 4th. sign-up now $22 per person transportation only

I will lead a bus trip to New York City on Wednesday August 4th. The Bus will leave the Main Library parking lot at 7:30 am sharp and leave NYC on 7th avenue between 67th and 53street at 6:30 pm sharp directly accross from the Sheraton Towers Hotel for an approximate 9:00 pm Farmington arrival. will lead a bus trip to New York City on Wednesday August 4th. The Bus will leave the Main Library parking lot at 7:30 am sharp and leave NYC on 7th avenue between 67th and 53street at 6:30 pm sharp directly across from the Sheraton Towers Hotel for an approximate 9:00 pm Farmington arrival. The bus will drop people off at: 5th avenue in the eighties, Rockefeller Center, 42and St for twofers and on Canal Street on to the Strand book store and Battery Park for a ferry ride. So if you are in the mood for a museum visit, walk in the city, lunch or diner, Broadway show matinee, shopping, walking over the upper level of the Brooklyn Bridge, having dim sum in China Town, Walking on the High Line park or just people watching….August 4th is the day to travel to the Big Apple. The price is $ 24.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Great Things Happen Unexpectedly... Thank You, Amy Tomasso, Farmington High School scholar.....

Linda Tomasso stuck her head in my office yesterday and asked for a moment. It was a beautiful day and I was in good spirits however, not prepared for the kind words Linda brought from her daughter Amy's winning national Letters about Literature contest 2010 entry. The Library of Congress, State Centers for the Book, and Target sponsored it and Amy has won twice. I was especially overwhelmed by Amy's personal experiences with Farmington Libraries and Miss Vita Lashgari. Please enjoy this tribute.

Letters About Literature 2010

Librarians are the special messengers of books, the Irises of the literary world, and it is because of two of these messengers that I was introduced to, and fell in love with, Richard Halliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels. This rare jewel of a book, an absolute treasure, would never have found me without the intercession of two devoted book lovers who dedicated both time and goodwill in giving a little girl the best gift of all: the gift of reading, manifested through a marvelous piece of literature.
When I was eight years old, my family and I were visiting friends in Washington, D.C named the Sobhanis. Every night, we would read aloud from a musty volume, treacherously heavy for eight-year old arms, and nearly bursting at the seams. I became enthralled by the tales of adventure, daring, and wit, and captivated by this Richard Halliburton, a man whose name may be a mouthful but whose adventures far exceeded my wildest dreams. The book had been a gift to our friends by their grandmother—a librarian herself—who had wanted to share Halliburton’s spectacular story with her grandchildren. And why wouldn’t she—the book is a masterpiece, unsurpassed in all regards. Hoping to acquire the book for our own personal collection, my mother took down the name, eager to discover the next episode in Halliburton’s saga.
How could she have known, then, that the Complete Book of Marvels had long been out of print and off the market? It would take more than a trip to Border’s or an Amazon search to be lucky enough to find a book so perfect that all available copies were guarded with careful hands by bibliophiles around the world. Our next obvious stop would be our rich local resource, The Farmington Library, with its busy shelves of waiting treasures and wonderfully helpful, welcoming librarians. Among these special ladies was Vita Lashgari, who frowned upon failing to find Halliburton among Farmington’s in-house authors. In fact, only with difficulty could she find a copy of his Complete Book of Marvels through inter-library loan. Being resourceful—after all, Miss Vita IS a librarian—she located not one but two copies on a used book site and secured them both. One of these copies is now permanent property of The Farmington Library, available to help young people discover the world afar as I did. The second, purchased as a gift from Miss Vita herself to my brothers, sister, and me, is a heavy, musty green volume similar to the one I remember from Washington, only ours has left-over pink wall-paper pasted in as the book’s endpapers. It is this beloved and even further worn copy of Marvels that inspired my 2010 Letters about Literature entry to Halliburton.

(My mother adds the fact that both of our librarians friends married into Persian families originally from Iran. It is very likely that their fathers-in-law overlapped in the Iranian military and knew one another back half-way around the globe, which would have made Halliburton very pleased indeed!)

The Winning

Dear Richard Halliburton,

Adventure. What a compelling concept. Fascinating and awe-inspiring and intimidating. And, I’m afraid to say, increasingly forgotten and underrated. Adventure is what we desire, yet as a collective human race, we’re bogged down by the rest of life, the trivial matters and tribulations to which we have no choice but to attend. It’s far too easy to forget about spontaneity and fearlessness, to never live out the dreams we create for ourselves in the quiet corners of out hearts. Throughout my childhood when I read—and especially this year when I reread—your Complete Book of Marvels, I was thrilled to find a kindred spirit in you, to follow your own adventures with incredulity and fascination, and to summon the courage to create a true adventure of my own.

I am of Italian heritage, something of which I am undoubtedly proud, yet equally detached from due to the all-inclusive melting pot we call America. Here, individual cultures mesh together in the name of red, white, and blue. This, coupled with the fervent and unquestioned desires of my immigrant ancestors to leave behind their old-country customs and languages but fast, has left me with far too vague a knowledge of Italy. All that remains is the celebratory pasetine soup my great-aunt concocts every Christmas. All I knew was that we had distant relatives in a little village called something with too many consonants, perched on a mountain near somewhere with too many vowels.

What a surprise, then, when I had the opportunity to study Italian and travel to that village by myself, merging together two unspeakably distant cultures—my comfortable suburban routine and the classic, tradition-clad, dolce vita of Italian life…mamma mia! I was aware that this would be one of the most influential experiences of my life, for better or worse, yet I had no way of comprehending the complete anxiety and nerves that began eating away at me as the trip drew nearer.

What was I thinking, bounding out of my comfort zone, and was I ready? Then again, would I ever be ready?

It was then I remembered your book, which had delighted me so as a child when my mother would read it aloud. A book chock full of travel stories and worldly experiences—swimming the Panama canal, bathing under moonlight inside the Taj Mahal, and retracing from atop an elephant Hannibal’s alpine passage into Italy, where you finished your adventure gazing starstuck at the glories of this ancient civilization.
What better way to prepare myself for my own adventure than to share in yours? As I devoured each episode of your travels, many done solo, I began to find assurance. “If Richard Halliburton could do it,” I repeatedly thought, “then so can I.”

During my weeks in Abbateggio, Italy, when my linguistic skills faltered or my homesickness gnawed at me or even when I was cultivating the best memories, such as attending a country wedding, making homemade pasta with my aunt, or frequenting an open-air concert by Italy’s famed Tiziano Ferro, I would reflect on your example in the Complete Book of Marvels, finding advice that far outweighed any dictionary or guidebook. “What would Richard Halliburton do?” I’d like to think that my travels would have been far less meaningful without that recurring thought. Though small and seemingly insignificant, the answer it hailed meant the world to me. I know you’d be proud to hear that the quiet girl from the suburbs, the one who surprised herself with a passion for adventure, boarded a plane at age fifteen, bound for a country she’d never been, speaking a language she’d barely mastered, set to stay with family she’d never met. The same girl uncovered a new sense of independence, a fearless sense of adventure, and a fiery sense of confidence and self-awareness. I can do anything I want, so long as there is drive and desire, and that knowledge is more empowering than the best accessory. I know this, because that girl was me; I’m the one who read a book of faraway places as a young girl and was inspired beyond any measurable means to have adventures of my own. I never imagined I would be standing in your shoes. For this, Richard Halliburton, I say grazie.


Amy Tomasso

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Farmington Libraries Main Video Boutique, if you can't find it we will.

"You have seen the movie now read the book @ Farmington Libraries". 18 days till Farmington Libraries go live with KOHA.. a splendid new way to find library resources and sooo much more.. stay.. tuned.....