Posted in A Stone's Throw, Cloudy Rainbow, Monday Blog, Writing

Have you been to your High School or College Reunion Recently?

I graduated from the Palmer School of Library and Information Science at C.W. Post/Long Island University in 1989 with a Masters in Library and Information Science and a Bachelors in English.

I came up with the idea for this post after I was asked to submit some memories of my time on Long Island University’s C.W. Post College newspaper, the Pioneer, for an article their current advisor, Carolyn Schurr Levin is writing. It was a pleasure to speak to Ms. Levin who is helping arrange a 60th anniversary for the student paper. While collecting my thoughts for this project, I felt it would be helpful to write a blog post about the process of recalling events from over 30 years ago and why some of you might also want to reminisce about your own school days and even plan a reunion with fellow classmates or club members.

I was involved on the Pioneer from 1983 until I graduated C.W. Post in 1989. I came to Post as a slightly “older” student who returned to college after working a year as a secretary. I enrolled part-time as an English major to test the waters before I made the full-time commitment.

I was hired as secretary by Adam Pardonek in 1983 and later became Features Editor.

One of the first things I did was to seek a way to familiarize myself with and participate in campus activities. I remember that September day when I walked down the second-floor corridor of Hillwood Commons to the activity wing where the newspaper office was located. Adam Pardonek, the Editor-in-Chief at that time, spoke to me in his office about my interests in working for the student paper. I explained my situation as a new student who had prior experience as a secretary and also enjoyed writing. He suggested that my skills could be put to good use on the Pioneer. Many of the writers and editors could use help in having their stories typed. There was also an opening for a Features writer on that year’s paper. I accepted both positions.
My part-time job as a secretary was approved by the administration, and I was paid a small wage. The workload sometimes became intense, especially close to deadlines. At that time, I used WordPerfect to input the stories into a computer.

Editors in the 1980’s laid out the student paper by hand and then brought it to a printer to be printed. (Left to right: Editor-in-Chief Tim Votapka works with Sports Editor, Mike Gannon, in the Production Room laying out the week’s Pioneer.)
The Pioneer staff members were like a family and, besides production night dinners, we celebrated other special occasions and staff member birthdays.

Unlike today’s technology, the paper’s layout was done in-house in a production room and brought to a printer for copying. My memories of Production night dinners on Wednesdays are still clear after all these years. The advertising manager had an agreement with the local Fireside restaurant where the editors could have dinner each week in exchange for advertising copy in the paper. We all looked forward to these meals. Thinking back about eating with the editors as we discussed our stories, I can still taste the fried mozzarella sticks and recall the comradery and some of the jokes that were told. We also celebrated birthdays and special occasions of staff members.








I received the Lawrence C. Lobaugh, Jr. Memorial Award in 1984 for my work as Features Editor on the Pioneer. The award was given in memory of a Pioneer editor who died in his Sophomore year at Post.

I still have my desk plaque that reads “Debbie Smiloff” and fond memories of my time on the Pioneer. I also received a special award for my feature writing my first year on the paper, the Lawrence C. Lobaugh, jr. Memorial Award in Journalism. Along with a plaque that is displayed in the Great Hall, I was given an engraved medal. I was the last Pioneer person to receive this award because the donor passed away that year. The award had been given in memory of his son who had served on the Pioneer and died much too young. It was quite an honor to receive this award, and I have treasured the medal for 32 years.

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I saw many editor-in-chiefs come and go after Adam who graduated that year. I remained staff secretary but also advanced to Features editor with my own group of writers. Through my interviews for feature articles, I also met professors, students, and school administrators. The experience I gained from working on the paper led me to publish articles in magazines and, after I married, a few books, as well. My first published novel, Cloudy Rainbow, actually features some chapters that take place at the Pioneer. My current book, A Stone’s Throw, includes a librarian, like myself, who is a Post graduate from the Palmer School. One of the book’s settings is Brookville where C.W. Post is located.

Mike Gannon, the Sports Editor I worked with for several years on the Pioneer, surprised me recently by attending one of my local book signings.

Many people say that college is the best years of one’s life. I agree. Even though classes can be tough and there are many additional stresses as one faces impending adulthood, the opportunity for friendships and extracurricular experiences such as those I gained from the Pioneer, can’t be duplicated. I look back on those days and the person I once was and realize how much my participation at the paper made a difference in my life. I am also happy that, as the Internet and social media has developed ways of staying in touch, that I’ve been able to reconnect with some of my fellow Pioneer friends. Over the summer, I did a book signing at the Levittown Library and was pleasantly surprised when Mike Gannon, a previous Sports Editor on the Pioneer, dropped by. He saw my Facebook post about the event and wanted to surprise me. It was the highlight of my day. I hadn’t seen Mike since he attended a Pioneer reunion during Homecoming in 2000, 16 years ago.

Pioneer alums gathered at Homecoming 2000 during a Pioneer Reunion in the News Office. (Sitting L to R: Mike Gannon, Adam Pardonek). (Standing: L to R: Marianne Kolbasuk McGee, Bob McGee, Tim Votapka, Mela Gerbasi Stevens, Cheryl Turi Coutts, and Debbie Smiloff De Louise)

I believe the bond formed among Pioneer people remains strong despite time and distance because of the special experiences we shared on the paper. Not all the times were happy or fun, but we were all in them together. We worked to create a product that served the entire campus body. We were proud of our individual achievements but also realized it was a team effort. I imagine that those who belonged to other campus clubs, sports teams, or sororities/fraternities feel a similar bond.

As I complete my notes for Ms. Levin, I’ve formed a Facebook group for previous Pioneer staff to keep in touch. I’ve also scanned some old photos from those days. As people grow older, they realize the importance of preserving these memories. There are also more opportunities to locate old friends and schoolmates today.

debbiescan18 (1)I know some people avoid reunions for fear that don’t look as attractive as they did in their twenties or because they’ve put on weight or simply because they are uncomfortable in social situations. However, as people age, they realize that these are not the important things to care about. Since college, I’ve had many changes in my life. I’ve married, had a daughter, lost my father, mother-in-law, and a close friend. No one knows how long he or she will be around, in good health, and with clear memories. My father had Alzheimers and my 89-year old mother has poor short-term memory. While it’s important to consider the future and live in the present, it’s also nice to look back and find your past and the people who were in it. Homecomings, reunions, and social media are great ways to do this.

Posted in Monday Blog

What are your Travel Plans this Summer?

My daughter will be visiting Hershey this summer with Driftwood Day Camp

As the summer races to its end, more people are going on vacation. Some take week-long trips; others, weekends. There are even those who enjoy staycations in their local area. My daughter is participating in a day camp that includes several overnight trips to such pre-teen favorite places as Medieval Times and Great Adventure in New Jersey; Hershey and Gettysburg in Pennsylvania; Mystic, Connecticut; and Newport, Rhode Island. I’m glad she’ll get a chance to see some of the world or at least part of the East coast. We’ll take our own short trip at the end of the summer, before she starts 7th grade, to the Renaissance Faire upstate in Tuxedo, New York. She liked it so much that we decided to go again.

Me on my honeymoon in Bermuda (1992).

Before we had Holly, we did a lot of traveling on our own including our honeymoon in Bermuda. I have fond memories of many of the places we visited–Chicago, Atlanta, Cape May, The Poconos, the Amish country, Boston, Wahington, D.C., Virginia Beach, and many other places. With her, we’ve only traveled to Sesame, Disney World, a one-day stopover in Canada on a cruise, and the Hudson Valley.

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Me, my daughter, and husband at the Rockefeller Estate in the Hudson Valley last year





I’ve always enjoyed traveling, but I’ve also found it can be tiring as much as relaxing and something that requires a good deal of preparation and planning. It’s best to take a few days off before and after a trip. I’m also the type of person who likes to create an itinerary and purchase tickets beforehand. My husband would just wing it if I let him. Like most men, he leaves most of the travel details to me. I’m the one who creates the packing, cat sitting, and emergency lists. I print out the sightseeing info and maps. Even though I deal with all these details, I also leave room for spontaneity. After all, you have to allow for a substitution of activities in cases of bad weather, sights that have closed, or other interesting things you come across as you travel.

mapblogI have some dream vacations in mind for the future. Europe, of course. I’ve only been to England and Wales after college. I’d like to see the Grand Canyon one day and the West. I’d like to see more of Canada–Montreal and Quebec. I’d also like to see more nearby attractions. I’ve been out East on Long Island and to New York City, but these are the types of trips that require more than one visit. I’d love to visit Montauk again, and I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never been to Shelter Island. Now that the city boasts cat cafe’s, I’d love to visit one of those, but seeing another Broadway play or visiting the Statue of Liberty and the New York Public Library would also be on my itinerary.

Also, since I’m an author as well as a librarian, visiting new places can inspire me to feature them in my story settings. However, if I haven’t been somewhere that I’d like to write about, I can always try to plan a trip there. For instance, a novel I’m currently working on takes place in South Carolina. I might have an opportunity to travel to Myrtle Beach next year for a writing conference so that could be ideal timing for my background research. Speaking of conferences, they are a good opportunity to see places you might never consider visiting. If the conference is work-related, it could also be a tax deduction.

Vacation travel whether it’s near or far, affords people a chance to unwind and experience new sights and educational opportunities as they have fun and enjoy a much-needed change of pace from their hectic day-to-day routine.

Whatever your plans this summer, stay safe, and have a great time!



Posted in Monday Blog

The Pain of Pets Passing

floppymemorial2It’s never easy to say goodbye to a beloved pet. I was reminded of this recently when a fellow author and editor of my publisher had to put her dear dog to sleep and another author friend lost her young cat suddenly. Their stories touched me and brought back sad memories of all the wonderful pets I’ve had through the years who are now gone but still in my heart.

My very first encounter with death as a young child was when a sweet kitten my mother brought home from a pet store died from feline leukemia. I went on to loving and losing many more special pets. My last was Floppy, a gray and white shorthair I had for 15 years. When I first brought Floppy home to the apartment I shared with my new husband, I discovered he suffered from asthma. Our vet put him on Prednisone and warned us it might have some side effects. At 8, Floppy developed diabetes. I learned to administer insulin shots to him, but he started having problems with his liver and also suffered a bout of pancreatitis. My husband and I spent a small fortune on hospitalizations, and he rallied several times, but the time arrived when I knew I had no choice but to let him go. I was just glad I could be there as the vet gave him that final injection. It was one of the saddest days of my life.

cloudyrainbowAfter Floppy passed away, I didn’t get another cat right away. I wrote a book that featured him as a character in it, “Cloudy Rainbow,” and I self-published it in the hope that others who have lost a pet might find some comfort through reading it. My vet even placed a copy in his waiting room. I found some other ways to memorialize Floppy. I enrolled him in an online pet memorial site that features pets (for a fee, although many others are now free) and offers a candle lighting ceremony. I also purchased a framed photo holder that included a copy of the famous Rainbow Bridge poem about pets being reunited with their owners in a special area of heaven reserved for animals.

olivercatI now have two cats. One of them, Oliver, a Siamese, is considered elderly at the age of 16. He was my mother’s cat but has been with us for three years. I was reluctant to take him in initially, but my daughter insisted. She was very young when Floppy passed away but still remembers him. Oliver has bonded with both of us and is a wonderful addition to our family. I know I will miss him immensely when he passes, but I am enjoying every day with him until that time.

Since I thought I’d lose Floppy earlier than I did, I was prepared with a pet casket I purchased online. I am thinking of cremating Oliver and keeping his ashes in a special memorial urn. I’m hoping it will not be necessary to make that decision for some time. No matter how short or long a beloved pet is with you it is never enough.

I’m including some links to sites that offer pet loss support as well as sell pet caskets and urns. These are for information only. I am not endorsing any of them, and you can find dozens and dozens of others.

Losing a pet is like losing a member of the family, and, although the grief subsides eventually, those special fur kids leave pawprints on our hearts forever.



Posted in Monday Blog

Camp’s Coming. Are you Ready?

summer-1403071_1280As the school year winds down, parents’ minds turn to what to do with their children during the summer. Even if a parent is home, having the kids around full time is not something good for parent or child. For working parents, there aren’t many other alternatives to summer camp. Luckily, there are now a variety of choices from day camps to sleep-away camps, part-time and full-time camps. Making the decision about the best one for your child can, however, be as confusing as selecting a college and sometimes almost as expensive. Many camps open registrations in the winter and enrollment can close up before school ends. Deals are also usually offered for returning campers, multiple campers, and early registration campers.

My daughter is trying a new camp this year. She’s going into 7th grade in the fall and will be a pre-teen camper at the Driftwood Day Camp which is a highly-rated camp. As part of the program, campers take many overnight trips to places such as Hershey Park, Mystic Seaport and Aquarium, Gettysburg, Newport, Penn Caves, and Dorney Park. Shorter trips include the Bronx Zoo, Medieval Times, and Six Flags Great Adventure.

Holly at Thomas School of Horsemanship, Summer 2011
Holly at Camps-R-Us, Summer 2012
Holly took Graphic Arts as part of Hofstra’s summer camps program at BOCES, 2015








Previously, my daughter attended Hofstra Summer Camps and enjoyed the experience especially the wonderful counselors and programs, but she wanted to change this year. Her very first camp was Thomas School of Horsemanship. She also loved it there, but it became very expensive and her interest in horses lessened as she grew older. The only camp that she didn’t like was Camps-R-Us that was based at her old school. Although the price was reasonable, she had a problem with one of the counselors.

Starting a new camp can be much like starting a new school, something my daughter also did when she switched from Catholic School to public Middle School this past year. It can be intimidating at first because people may know one another from previous summers, but camp is a different environment from school. Friendships are made more easily as campers participate in fun activities. It’s also a great learning experience because kids, as well as adults. learn easier when they are enjoying themselves. At Driftwood, campers also must leave their cell phones and other anti-social devices at home to unplug and socialize with others.

Although most people consider summer camps as places for kids, there are camps that cater to adults. Driftwood is actually sponsoring a one-day Camp Mom experience this July. Although I’m working that Saturday, I may consider it next year. There are also adult sleepaway camps and camps for adults and their children. An article about adult summer camps was featured in this New York Times article and this Travel and Leisure story. Below are some links of camp directories of all types. Here’s hoping to a great summer for you and your kids whether it includes a summer camp or a staycation at home.



Posted in Monday Blog

Why Comic Cons and Cosplay are for Kids of All Ages

2016-06-12 10.42.22I attended a local Comic Con event called Eternal Con on Long Island yesterday with my family. It ran three days this past weekend, but I could only attend on Sunday. I expected the crowds to have died down a bit by then, but there were some diehards who had attended all three days. Even though my husband had purchased tickets in advance for himself, my daughter, and I, we decided to arrive early, and it was a good thing we did. Although we had to wait for it to open, we got a good start before the mobs entered.

It was our first time at such an event, and I had no idea what to expect. I knew it wasn’t my type of gathering, but my daughter and husband are both huge anime fans. I figured I’d accompany them but didn’t anticipate enjoying myself.

eternalconMy husband had signed up for a photo op with Karen Gillian from Dr. Who. My daughter, who loves the show, didn’t want to be in the photo because, as a pre-teen, she now hates to have her picture taken. Her dad finally convinced her to be in it and, after waiting over 20 minutes on line even with a special photo op ticket that cost more than our entry to Eternal Con, the photo was taken in two minutes with no opportunity to talk to Karen. In addition, we later found out it would cost additional to have the photo signed and a digital copy made. My husband thought it was worth it, so he got both. I thought the photo came rather nice especially since my daughter had a rare smile on her face.

eternalcon2Since I wasn’t included in the Karen Gillian Photo Op, my husband felt bad and asked me to be in a photo with Brent Spiner, most well known as Data from Star Trek the Next Generation show but who also appeared in one of my favorite movies, “Independence Day.” The photo cost less, but it was taken with my husband’s Iphone against a wall instead of a photo background.

My daughter’s favorite moment besides spending time at the numerous vendors that were spread throughout the three floors of the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, was meeting voice actor, Vic Mignogna, who does the voice of one of her favorite anime characters, Tamaki Suou. Although she wouldn’t pose for a photo with him, he signed two photos for her that also featured two of his characters. We all attended his Q&A session later in the IMAX theater, and I even found his talk entertaining as well as a nice respite from the crowds that were growing by the minute around the vendor tables . I was especially interested in hearing about the “Star Trek Continues” series in which he stars as Captain Kirk. Mignogna said Star Trek was his favorite 2016-06-12 11.46.132016-06-12 15.56.46show growing up, and my husband and I could relate to that.

Another highlight for my daughter was discovering a group called the Society for Creative Anachronism located near some of the Cradle’s historical exhibits away from the maddening crowd. Since my daughter loves renaissance fairs and is learning about medieval times in school, she was especially interested in finding out what the SCA offers. We took some brochures and are checking out their upcoming New York events online. She also colored a treasure chest and created a catapult there.

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Dad, please give me more money for Fairy Tail items. I promise I’ll study for finals tonight and clean my room tomorrow.

After we had all purchased more items from the vendors — I found a Catwoman t-shirt and some cat jewelry — we headed home much poorer but richer in our experience of comic cons. I have to admit I had a pretty fun time if only watching all the crazy dressed-up cosplayers. Some of the displays also brought back childhood memories. I guess that’s why comic cons are so popular. They bring out the kid in all of us.

Here are some lists of upcoming Comic Cons and the New York Comic Con




Posted in Authors, Books, Monday Blog

Are Author Signings Worth Attending?

The Mystic Author Signing Event Hosted by Abby P. Cook and Lisa Ravenscroft at Foxwoods Casino

This weekend, I attended MASE (Mystic Author Signing Event) with four other authors with my publisher, Limitless Publishing, and about 50 other authors both self-published or signed with other publishers. The event was hosted by Abby P. Cook and Lisa Ravenscroft of Abby & Lisa’s Book Blog. These two ladies did an awesome job arranging the event that took place in the Grand Pequot Ballroom at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.

Left to right. Limitless authors Alison Mello, Marianne Rice, Jennifer Allis Provost, and Debbie De Louise
Limitless Publishing authors left to right: Jennifer Allis Provost; Alison Mello; Marianne Rice; Apryl Baker, and Debbie De Louise

This was my first signing with other authors and the first event to which I had to travel. I drove up with my husband who assisted me at the table I shared with Jennifer Allis Provost. Seated next to us were fellow authors, Marianne Rice and Alison Mello. Apryl Baker, NYTimes Bestselling author also with Limitless Publishing, attended the event and signed a copy of “The Ghost Files” for me.

It took us 4-hours with a stop to drive from our home on Long Island, New York to Mashantucket, Connecticut where we were booked at the Two Trees Inn at the group discount for the event.

Me at my MASE Table.

Although the weather driving in was overcast with some drizzle, the day of the signing was sunny and warm. That might explain why attendance at the event wasn’t as high as expected. However, it was great seeing the eager readers who passed our tables and asked us to sign their tote bags or homemade autograph books. It was also wonderful to meet fellow authors, some of whom we’d only communicated with online and others whom we’d never heard of before. Following the signing, the authors gathered for a delicious buffet turkey dinner and got to know one another better.

There was also some time for entertainment, as those traveling to the signing and staying over, as we had, were able to participate in some casino gaming, visit the Pequot Indian museum, Pick up souvenirs or gifts at the Tanger Outlets or other Foxwood shops, and dine at the many fine or casual restaurants.

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Kitty Slot Machine that Meows
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My husband, Anthony, wearing his new hat from Native Nations

Since my husband and I are not gamblers but we still wanted to try our hand at casino betting, we opted to play the slots. We set limits and didn’t exceed them, but the machines seemed to be against us the first night. I also left my phone in the casino. Luckily, it was recovered by Security. My luck improved Saturday night when I found a cute cat slot machine that even meowed when I won. I was excited to cash out my big win of $20, but I spent much more in the gift shops. In the Native Nations shop, I purchased some special Totem stones, t-shirts, and Indian herbal tea for my daughter as well as an Indian doll for my daughter’s friend whose family she stayed with while we were away. My husband found a hat at the same shop. Another store sold adorable Pusheen items, and I couldn’t resist the cat slippers with a tail and the mug that I used to store raffle tickets from my giveaway at the author signing.

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Rainmaker Square

We also enjoyed our stay at Two Trees. The inn had a nice restaurant where we dined for breakfast on both Saturday and Sunday morning. The grounds are lovely with a gazebo, deck chairs, stone bunnies, and babbling waterfalls. Throughout Foxwoods, there are also beautiful statues. I particularly enjoyed the Rainmaker area as well as the Theater section of old-fashioned storefronts. I took a break from my dieting for a special treat at the Cake by Franck store where I ordered a strawberry custard pastry.

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Strawberry Custard Pastry from Cake by Franck. I hope my Jenny Craig Counselor doesn’t see this.

Regrettably, there wasn’t enough time to visit the Pequot Museum, and there weren’t any shows that weekend of interest to us. All in all, it was still a worthwhile experience. While I didn’t sell all the books I came with or break any jackpots in the casino, I met a lot of people, both authors and readers. I hope to attend many more signings in the future.



Posted in Monday Blog

Do you want to be happy, lose weight, and have a better memory?

sports-1050966_1280I started an exercise program a few months ago. I’d tried to make exercise a habit many other times in my life, but I always ended up making excuses and falling back into a sedentary lifestyle. A few factors made it harder for me to adopt a fitness routine. The first was that I grew up in a family that didn’t exercise regularly. My father’s favorite activity when he was home was sitting in front of the television watching his favorite shows. My mother enjoyed walking but had some issues with her legs and couldn’t keep it up. Another strike against me was my weight. I was an obese child and, although I lost weight in my teens and early twenties, the pounds crept back on as I entered my 30’s.

I became a member of a gym, but like most people, wasted the money by always finding a reason not to go. I purchased a treadmill and only used it a few times. I even hired a personal trainer to come to my house, but I found it too costly and could barely do the exercises she suggested. When I joined Jenny Craig to try to lose weight, I expected the program to include exercise. However, they stressed following the diet first. As the pounds started to come off, I felt more able to perform even the basic moves of getting up from a chair, walking up and down stairs, etc. When my counselor suggested I try some Leslie Sansone walk-at-home videos, I took the beginner ones out of the library and then purchased a few that I liked. I alternated them and, as my counselor suggested, followed the recording twenty-minutes three times a week to start. When it was nice, I also took walks outside. Eventually, I felt that I could exercise longer and increase my pace. I also started to add short jogs to my walks.

After 18 months on the Jenny Craig program and having lost 60+ pounds, my weight loss is slowing down, but I’m now walking 30 minutes every day. There are days I have to push myself and days I can hardly make it through the half hour, but most of the time I feel great afterwards. I especially like a morning routine that helps wake me up and get my day to a nice start.

jackbenimbleBesides helping to keep one’s metabolism high to help weight maintenance and loss, exercising has many side benefits. Everyone knows it’s good for you, but not everyone is aware of all its benefits. Like the nursery rhyme, “Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candlestick,” exercise can truly help you clear any hurdle. It’s a safer stress reliever and mood lightener than any anti-anxiety pill or anti-depressant. It has even proven to aid one’s recall and brain function. It is even believed to slow aging and prevent many illnesses from heart attacks to strokes to high blood pressue and even cancer.

circleI’m not a doctor, but I recommend starting slow and always consulting your physician before you start an exercise program. If you are severely overweight or lead a very sedentary life, you need to build up your endurance slowly. The  main thing is to keep at it. Set up a routine. Schedule a time to work out. Thirty minutes a day is all it takes, even if you break it up or begin with 20 minutes three times a week as I did. Another important tip is to keep moving throughout the day, not only when you exercise. I have one of the Apple watches that monitors your daily activity. It requires you to try to close three circles that measure the amount of exercise you’ve completed: the additional calories you’ve burned through activity; and the optimum of standing you do during the time you wear the watch. It even alerts you when you’ve spent too much time sitting which has also been found unhealthy even for people who exercise regularly.

Below are some links to articles about exercise benefits. After reading them, I hope you consider making exercise part of your life so that you live a longer, more productive one.




Posted in Monday Blog

Can you believe the exciting services Libraries Now offer?

libraryconferenceOn May 5th, I attended the 41st Long Island Library Conference at the Melville Marriott. This annual event brings together librarians and other library staff members from both Long Island counties. Three workshops are offered during this day-long conference as well as a break for lunch during which attendees listen to a keynote speaker. There are also many exhibitors from vendors to library associations and groups that fill up the exhibit hall.

I was impressed, as I have been at the previous libraryconference3conferences I attended, with the many volunteers who helped organize, run, and man the tables at the event. I found the workshops enlightening and inspiring and was again proud of being a librarian in this day of fast answers by Google and Siri.

Below is the report I wrote about the conference that I feel will be of interest to not only library employees but library patrons. The conference was appropriately titled, “Shaping the Future,” to emphasize the new role of today’s libraries that has shifted from a place to borrow books to one of a community gathering space featuring programs, services, and materials that support people of all ages, incomes, and interests.

If you don’t currently have a library card or make use of your local library, I urge you to read my report and consider the variety of new services libraries now offer. There’s something for everyone, and the workshops I attended just addressed three of the multitude of offerings. Check the ones that are available at your own library or request some you’d like to see. Libraries are always open to patron suggestions.

Crowd-Pleasing Memory Programs at Half Hollow Hills

The first workshop, sponsored by the Half Hollow Hills Library, was entitled Crowd-Pleasing Memory Programs. It entailed a description of the four memory-themed programs the Half Hollow Hill Library offers its patrons and the Long Island Community and also included many informative handouts. The presenters were Catherine Given, Virginia Pisciotta, and Kate Anastasia of Half Hollow Hills Library. They stressed the feelings of accomplishment these programs gave them and the importance of serving the memory-challenged community on Long Island. Nationwide, Alzheimer affects 5 million people and is the 6th leading cause of death killing 1 in 3 seniors.

The four programs featured at Half Hollow Hills are Memory Fitness, Memory Café, Music and Memory, and Alzheimer’s Association 8-week programs. The library markets these programs through releases sent to neurologist offices, churches and Jewish centers, Assisted Living residences, through word of mouth, and by announcements in the library’s newsletter.

The Memory Fitness program takes place weekly at the library. Run by Ginny Pisciotta, this program allows those with memory difficulties to challenge their brains through puzzles, games, and other activities. The program attendees are seated at tables to encourage social interaction which is also very important for these people. The cost to start this type of program is not high, approximately $200, and many materials can be borrowed from the library’s children’s or YA departments. Half Hollow Hills also has a collection of memory-related materials that can only be used by their patrons.

The Memory Café meets monthly at a local restaurant. The LI Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association pays for the restaurant’s buffet in a room provided free by the owner. Participants eat, dance, and sing along to CD’s. Last month, the library had 50 participants.

Music and Memory is a program whereby the library offers lifetime-loaned iPods for patrons’ family members affected by dementia. These iPods are loaded with a playlist of the memory-challenged relative’s favorite tunes. The material costs are $49 plus $3 for headphones. Alternately, a library can launch a donation program.

The 8-week early-stage Alzheimer’s workshops are conducted by the Alzheimer’s Association at libraries that have two rooms available. One room is used for caregivers; the other for Alzheimer patients. While the Alzheimer patient attends a recreational program similar to the Memory Fitness one given by Half Hollows Hill staff, the caregiver attends a support group by the Alzheimer Association’s Program Director.

Serving the Business Community

The second workshop I attended, Serving the Business Community, featured speakers from the Miller Business Resource Center at the Middle Country Public Library and the Business Resource Information Center at Freeport Memorial Library. The purpose of a library targeting its business community is that small business is crucial to the economy; the library can build its brand with different groups, new groups of people look to start businesses, it can fill a niche, and there will be new funding opportunities. The business community needs one-on-one assistance (owners come in to ask questions); free resources; and subscription databases. A business blog is also helpful.

The program described some of the programs Middle Country and Freeport offer to the business community. The speakers mentioned that while it is not necessary for every public library to have a dedicated business center, libraries should all be prepared to help the local business community, new entrepreneurs, and job seekers. A library can make a small physical space and/or an online space for their business patrons. The Miller Center uses LibGuides, the Reference USA database that it highly recommends along with Business Source Premiere and Gale Virtual Reference. They also have a business blog.

Two interesting programs that were discussed were the Miller Center’s Business Bites program and a Trade Show event. The Business Bites program is a 45-minute workshop for business people at hours that are convenient for library staff and patrons. The Middle Country Public Library conducts these workshops before the library opens and before busy people need to get into work. Other libraries may find an evening or weekend program would work better for their communities. The workshop can feature topics of interest to business people such as social media marketing on Facebook, twitter, and other platforms. Librarians can run some or an hire a presenter from an outside company. The Brooklyn Public Library also offers this program.

The Strictly Business Trade show that Middle Country just began takes a lot of work, but they’ve had a good reaction to it even though it’s in its early stages. They hold the show at the library between 9 and 1 on a Tuesday and include breakfast with admission. Their previous show included 100 vendors and 800 attendees. They had a speaker from the Long Island Library Association and distributed evaluation forms for feedback which was quite positive.

 Building Communities of Readers Using Library Readers “Staff Picks”

This program was presented by speakers from the New York Public Library, Darien Public Library, and Queens Public Library. It focused on how library staff can recommend books to readers all over the country through a program called LibraryReads. The presenters explained the process of registering as a public library staff member with LibraryReads, requesting digital ARC’s (Advanced Reader Copies), and nominating their favorite titles. The object of the program is to increase a library staff member’s awareness of new books.

There are several advantages to becoming a LibraryReads reviewer. One is that it will enhance a library’s reader’s advisory services because books that are included in LibraryReads do not need to be by well-known authors or big publishers. The source for these selections are found through Edelweiss and Net Galley that feature debut authors as well as small and independent publishers. Another benefit to reviewing on LibraryReads is that your review may be featured in newspapers and other nationwide publications.

After the presentation on LibraryReads was complete, the floor was opened up to a discussion by participants regarding other ways they promote reader’s advisory at their library. I spoke about our monthly staff picks newsletter where we feature debut as well as popular authors and the fact that those books reviewed see a high circulation rate. Other libraries use other methods such as shelf talkers, book discussions, and displays.

libraryconference2Besides the workshops I attended, I also listened to the keynote speaker, Tad Hills, a Children’s author known for his books featuring duck and goose the mascots of the conference, and gathered some handouts and other materials from library vendors and associations on the conference floor I felt would be useful information to myself as well as my co-workers.

Attending the conference made me realize how much my profession is growing and how much it offers to people both those who visit and those who log in from home. These new programs and services are not restricted to Long Island libraries. Libraries around the country and the world are adding new services and programs every day.


Posted in Monday Blog

How did you celebrate Mother’s Day?

momdebbieMother’s Day has always been a special holiday for me even before I became a mother because my birthday lands on it about every seven years. My husband’s birthday, two days later, is the same way. I guess we were both special Mother’s Day gifts to our mothers when we were born. I arrived the day after Mother’s Day on Monday, the 9th of May. I recall my mother saying I just missed being in the newspaper as a Mother’s Day baby. My older brother tells me there was snow on the ground that day, although most of the birthdays I remember were rainy. This year my day is predicted to be nice after a week of rain.

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momsdaybowlMy daughter painted me a pretty bowl for Mother’s Day, and my husband bought me an Apple Watch that is also part of my birthday present. He made waffles for breakfast and cooked dinner. I also received a beautiful vase of flowers from both of them. I visited with my mother and brought her some candy and a basket of flowers in her favorite purple color from all of us.

Me and My Second mom, my Mother-in-law, Carol

I am blessed to have had two mothers in my life and also to be a mother when there was a time I never believed that would happen. My mother-in-law, Carol, to whom I dedicated my book, A Stone’s Throw, passed away from Cancer two years ago. She was a wonderful lady, and I considered her my second mother. I still miss her greatly. I remember how much she helped me after my daughter was born and was always there for me. Like my own mother, she was only 17 when she married and did not have an easy life, but she raised five kids and had many grandchildren and a few great grandchildren when she passed away too young at 71. My mother just turned 88. She’s in a nursing home but doing well so far despite being confined to a wheelchair and suffering from dementia.

My beautiful baby, Holly, in her Christening dress
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My lovely daughter, Holly at 11

My daughter came along when I had despaired of ever becoming a mother. My husband and I waited a long time before we decided to have children because we married late but were still establishing our careers and paying off college loans. By the time it seemed right to start a family, some obstacles stood in our way. I became pregnant a few times but miscarried each baby. The first one required a D & C because the heart beat had stopped after nearly 8 weeks, but my body wouldn’t let the fetus go. Neither could my heart. In my sorrow, I found the strength to try again. After another miscarriage, this one earlier and not as traumatic, I questioned if I should keep pursuing my dream of motherhood.

Each Mother’s Day that passed was painful when I saw other mothers with their children. Then, miraculously, I became pregnant again. I was so afraid something would go wrong. When I started bleeding just two months into the pregnancy, I thought for sure I’d lose the child again. My doctor assured me it was normal and that all was well. Seven months later, my water broke unexpectedly one morning the week before Halloween. I panicked fearing that it was too soon when my baby wasn’t expected until early December. Luckily, my daughter was born healthy at almost 5 pounds. She had to stay in the hospital for ten days, but we were assured she was fine. She’s nearly a teenager now and taller than I am.

debbiemomhollyeditedWhile I’m thankful for my Mother’s Day gifts, I’m more thankful for the love and memories, for the time I can share with my mother and my daughter. That’s what I celebrate most on Mother’s Day and all year long.





Posted in Monday Blog

Have You Ever Participated in a Sakura Matsuri Festival?

2016-04-30 09.10.00My daughter and husband both share an interest in Japanese anime. When I saw a Japanese festival advertised a few weeks ago that was taking place at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, I thought it might interest them. Although I am not a fan of anime, the event known as Sakura Matsuri is also known for its spring celebration featuring the blooming of cherry trees. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has hosted it for 35 years.

2016-04-30 10.07.56This was the first time my family and I attended Sakura Matsuri or even visited the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  Because we were warned on the garden’s website that the event becomes very crowded, we started our day early and arrived there before the gates opened. Since we’d also purchased our tickets online, we were able to use an express entrance, but the event didn’t start until 10, so we still ended up waiting.

2016-04-30 10.19.492016-04-30 10.27.33Checking the program that was online and also listed in the brochure distributed at the festival, most of the shows my daughter wanted to attend, which  included cosplay discussions, were taking place on the Osborne Garden’s J-Lounge Stage later in the morning. Since we had some time, we checked out some other areas of the gardens including the lovely Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden before heading to the main attraction — the cherry esplanade lined with cherry trees where visitors took photos among the beautiful pink blossoms. We also strolled down the lilac walk where the flowers’ heavenly perfume scent surrounded us.

sakuramatsuripockyWe stopped for an early lunch at the Visitor Center where my husband ordered a Bento box of chicken teriyaki and my daughter just opted for a hamburger. I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich but also tried the delicious pocky chocolate sticks with my daughter and got hooked on them.

2016-04-30 12.00.10In the Osborne Garden, the azaleas were also in full bloom. As we walked, we saw performers as well as visitors in costumes that ranged from Japanese geisha girls to anime characters my daughter enjoyed naming.

sakuramutsuricatsakuramatsuricatsCircling the Osborne Garden were vendors selling Japanese items and souvenirs. As a lover of all things cat, the table displaying kitties with solar-powered wagging tales was a big drawer to me. Although the Yura-Yura cats were costly, I couldn’t leave without choosing one. I also purchased a Tenugui, a Japanese cotton towel, that has many purposes including hanging for decoration. There were an assortment of choices featuring the vibrant art, and I was able to find one with ninja cats, cherry blossoms, and a pagoda to remind me of my time at the  Sakura Matsuri festival. My daughter, also a big souvenir shopper, found a hat headband that appealed to her that was also more than we’d planned to spend.

2016-04-30 13.16.53After watching a few shows including a funny Japanese comic named Rio Koike, the festival was getting very crowded, so we decided to leave. On our way out the gates, my daughter commented that she’d had a great day because it featured her two loves — nature and anime.

If you’ve never been to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens or to a Sakura Matsuri festival, I would recommend both. We had a beautiful spring day and, although we missed some of the other attractions — the bonsai and doll museums as well as the tea ceremonies and other demonstrations and exhibits, we look forward to visiting another time.