Picture of Forks, courtesy of Mike (Inbet_1979), Flickr CC, click image to see original

"Forks", courtesy of Mike (Inbet_1979), Flickr CC

In health literacy circles, much has been made of New York City’s requirement to post nutrition information, but an effort with a similar goal has garnered less notice — the New York City requirement that restaurants clearly post their Health Inspection grade.

Starting in July 2010, New York City is requiring restaurants to post letter grades that correspond to scores that it receives from its sanitary inspection. An inspection score of 0-13 is an A, 14-27 points is a B, and 28 or more points is a C. Grade cards must be posted where they can easily be seen by people passing by.

The goal for each of these efforts is the same — to encourage restaurant patrons make healthy food choices —  but not everyone is clear on what the letter grade means.  If you would like a bit more insight into the grade system, the NYC Health department Restaurant inspections site can help you to  (1) look at an overview of how the points are assigned, (2) read a report on how the first six months of this program has gone, and (3) find a detailed “report card” of a restaurant, searching  by name, cuisine-type, borough and/or zipcode.

This librarian found it interesting to look at the history of inspections (not just from an archival viewpoint, but to see that some point-values at some venues vacillate pretty drastically from visit-to-visit).  One might also note that a pending grade may  mean not-yet-inspected, not inspected after re-opening, or that the restaurant is exercising the option to challenge their grade.  Each  report-card makes any  “Criticial” violations  easy to see, they are at the top of a report card, in red type — yet from a cursory review of a few restaurants, I notice that it is possible to get an A even with “critical” violations, and get a B, with only “non-critical” violations.  So search for yourself, if you can stomach it!

(N.B.: If you are looking for a quick snack, or a place to take your folks for graduation, I was happy to note that the restaurants in the Queens Campus area do pretty well. but the zipcode on Union Turnpike isn’t the STJ campus zip, it is 11366.)

I am very excited to be the first guest blogger on the St. John’s Libraries Weblog. The creative members of the STJLiblog team stressed that I could choose any topic as long as it was relevant to our users; the topic need not be a library-related issue. This invitation to blog reminds me of another invitation I recently accepted, one to present on any topic of my choosing to a local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).

Any topic of my choosing? How do you decide what to speak about? Do you think about your audience alone; their interests; what they want to hear? Well, to some extent you have to. I mean, you do want to be listened to after all, don’t you?

I think it’s easiest if you choose something that you can speak about; something you have some firsthand experience with; something you know something about.

Here at St. John’s we offer a course called Discover New York which encourages students…well, let’s face it, the course REQUIRES students to explore the city of New York and to gain an understanding of the various communities that comprise our great city. The concept is really quite exciting. I wish I had been required to take a course like that in college; but then again, I was bitten by the road-trip-bug in my senior year so I have done my fair share of discovering New York, or have I?

It was in my senior year of college that I decided that I would drive to each of the 48 contiguous states before I turned thirty; the age at which I was sure you had to be grown up. I was just a few days shy of reaching that goal and a few years later I had the opportunity to add a great feather to my cap; I drove to Alaska. You’d be surprise how many people don’t think it’s possible to drive to Alaska. I blame that on cartographers. Every U.S. map that I have seen has Alaska cut out into its own little box, just floating there off to the side. That’s not really where it is, but I digress…

When it came to choosing a topic to present to the DAR I decided to share with them some stories from the road, answer some of the most commonly asked questions that I get, and give them a little bit of insight into how helpful the Internet can be when planning a road trip.

In preparing for my DAR presentation I discovered that I have never truly been a tourist in my own home state of New York. Oh, sure, I have been to Niagara Falls, spent a weekend in the Catskills, driven out to the Hamptons in summer traffic (a fate worse than death), and climbed the steps of the Statue of Liberty (a fate seriously close to death). And I have scanned Lake Champlain for New York State’s version of the Loch Ness monster, loving known as “Champ,” but I have never really been a tourist. I have never gone to a location in New York just to see what it’s like; just to learn something about the area. No, during my trips around New York I have often been the tour guide taking relatives from far away to see the sights that define New York.

This October, I decided it was high time to get my tourism on; to discover a part of New York that I didn’t really know. I charged up my camera, pulled up the black knee socks, and hit the highway for parts less known.

“In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee, where they always prudently shortened sails and implored the protection of St. Nicholas when they crossed, there lies a small market town or rural port, which by some is called Greensburgh, but which is more generally and properly known by the name of Tarry Town.”

Thus begins one of the greatest short stories to be born out of New York, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow written by Washington Irving in 1820. If you are not familiar with the ominous tale of the headless horseman and the ill-fated teacher, Ichabod Crane, which is set right here in our own backyard, I highly recommend you pick it up. We do have copies of it in the library and it is available on Google books [http://books.google.com/books?id=zAl0j_FUTnkC&lpg=PT23&dq=The%20Legend%20of%20Sleep%20Hallow&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=&f=false].

If you do have the opportunity to tarry while in the Tarrytown area, I recommend a visit to Sunnyside, home of Washington Irving. A visit to an author’s home gives you a perspective on his or her life like no writing ever could. You will be permitted to linger in his study, climb the stairs to his bedroom, hold the handrails he held, and look out onto the ever changing Hudson River which sweeps by his home. By the way, this year marks the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the river that today bears his name, a good excuse to celebrate the beauty of the Hudson River Valley.

Up the road a piece from Sunnyside you can visit the grave of Washington Irving in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Like me, you might be surprised to learn that this is also the resting place of steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie; cosmetics empress Elizabeth Arden; and the “Queen of Mean,” Leona Helmsley. This sleepy, little market town was the retreat of many famed and wealthy individuals. Irving himself was pretty much a rock star in his day, hosting guest such as Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and President Martin van Buren.

If you do happen to be in the area next October, plan ahead; purchase tickets online to an event called The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at Van Cortland Manor in the town of Croton-on-Hudson. This year’s blaze consisted of a display of more than 5,000 carved pumpkins; 5,298, to be exact. Words and photos cannot capture the amazing glow of never-ending fields of jack-o’-lanterns.

For those of you who may never get to go to Tarrytown, I invite you to be a tourist in your own area. What is your hometown known for? How did your town come to be what it is today? And what do you really know about it? Can you separate the facts from the legends? If not, I know a few librarians who would love to help you with that!

The University Libraries is currently offering a trial of the database ISI Web of Knowledge (trial expires 12/31/09). Web of Knowledge is a multidisciplinary citation database of over 23,000 journals with more than 700 million cited references. Included in Web of Knowledge is Web of Science, covering thousands of  journals in the sciences, social sciences and arts & humanities, as well as international proceedings coverage for over 120,000 conferences.  Try Web of Knowledge, found on the University Libraries’ Trial Database page.

Please send any questions or comments regarding this database to our Database Evaluation Form.

gangsofnewyorkIn addition to hosting our Next Great Books Discussion Group meeting on Tuesday 11/10 (discussion of  Tobias Wolff’s “Smokers.” The topic is envy) ;  we are fortunate to have the Honors Commons hosting a a showing of Martin Scorcese’s THE GANGS OF NEW YORK tomorrow, Tuesday, at 4:00 p.m. in the (Room 112 of the Library).    Since the film is about 2.5 hours, the starting time is 4:00, (one  half hour prior to posted times in the original publicity for the Movie series).  Prof. Robert Forman compiled this CLASSICAL MYTH GOES HOLLYWOOD film series, and chose 10-Time Oscar Nominated “Gangs” because it has  “elements of the Odyssey in it, although it concerns the New York City Draft Riots of 1863 and is based on the novel by Herbert Asbury.”

The Magna Carta, the Diaries of Anne Frank, the League of Nations Archives, and the Library of the Cistercian Abbey of Clairvaux are among the 35 new items which have recently been added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

 The Memory of the World Register features documentary heritage identified by the International Advisory Committee and endorsed by the Director-General of UNESCO as corresponding to the selection criteria for world significance. 

To see detailed information on new inscriptions and the photos of collections, please click here.

We are lucky enough to have the Magna Carta “visiting” us in New York City starting September 15th at the Fraunces Tavern Museum, (where our Outreach Librarian, and fellow LIBlogger, Caroline Fuchs, is a docent).    The exhibition will last through December:

“MAGNA CARTA and the Foundations of Freedom” will also reveal how the roots of the U.S. Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and more all reach back to Magna Carta. It will also trace the freedom struggles of the diverse peoples making up the American social fabric.

For more on the Magna Carta and its impact on Democracy in America, check out the National Archives page dedicated to the Magna Carta.

nypl-lionIf you like information and services, you’ll love NYC!  Recently, all 3 city library systems were spared from a “cut in hours” even with shrinking city budgets.  The recent outcry from the public — regarding the benefits of public libraries — underscores why we are lucky to have  such great resources in NYC.  In addition to the role libraries play in community building, cultural programs,  and literacy programs, they are also an important resource in a time of economic downturn: people use them to look for jobs, to improve skills for moving to a new job, and to look for ways to entertain the family for less money — borrowing books, movies, games and more.

The three city library systems also combine forces to offer a city-wide Summer Reading program, with lists for toddlers, kids, teens and adults!  The information can be found on all sites, but here is the BPL site to get started.

NYPL gathered some videos of people expressing why they love the library and resources, and you may want to take advantage of their Live at NYPL programs.

And our own Queens Library was named as “2009 Library of the Year” by Library Journal! “The Queens Library serves a population of 2.2 million in the most ethnically diverse county in the U.S. With a record 22.8 million items in circulation for FY 2008, the Library has the highest circulation of any public library system in the U.S. and one of the highest circulations in the world.”

For more information on obtaining Library Cards at the 3 public libraries, and taking advantage of all they have to offer, see the links below:

(Update 6/28:  another nationwide campaign–and fun site– in support of Public Libraries: Geek The Library  sponsored by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and built by OCLC — via Stephen’s Lighthouse blog.)

[Originally posted by Maureen Weicher, January 17, 2008 @ 4:30 pm]

The Library of Congress is posting some of its 3,000,000+ photos on Flickr and inviting the public to tag them. So far, it includes about 1500 b&w photos from the 1910’s and another 1500 color photos from 1930-40s. It is part of a larger collection of public domain photos hosted by Flickr called the Commons. Among other things, The LOC Collection contains some photographs of Coney Island taken back in the teens.

[UPDATE: Link information updated January 22, 2007 @ 4:02 pm]

This week, The Torch covered some of the speeches held in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday at Riverside Baptist Church. Speakers who addressed the war in Iraq last Monday spoke at the same podium where, approximately 40 years ago, King spoke regarding war in Vietnam. For those who are interested in reading King’s original speech, a reliable version of “Beyond Vietnam” (and other electronic versions of King’s papers and speeches) are made available through Stanford University’s “King Papers Project:” http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/mlkpapers/

REFERENCE: “John Edwards speaks at Columbia U.-Area church to honor MLK.” January 17, 2005; Online edition of the Torch, accessed 1/17/2007. http://www.torchonline.com/news/2007/01/17/News/John-Edwards.Speaks.At.Columbia.U.Area.Church.To.Honor.Mlk-2651141.shtml.
(UPDATE: the online version of The Torch orginally hosted this article, but later took it down… a good reason why the date you accessed the article — as well as the date it was published–is considered to be part of a reference for an online resource!)