Jet Packs and Flying Cars

Image result for jet packs science fiction

When I was a child dinosaurs roamed the earth. There were no VCRs, DVDs, or any streaming services like Netflix. We had first run movies, reruns, and the library. If you missed a show, or a film, or an issue of a magazine, or a comic book, you were out of luck. You were completely in the moment as far as information went, except when you went to the library. It was the only source of history that my generation knew. If you wanted to find out about something that intrigued you, there was no Google – you had to dig around at the library. I remember checking out insane quantities of books on certain subjects – World War Two (my grandfather was a fighter pilot), Bigfoot (Strange Stories and Amazing Facts), and space exploration, were a few of my go-to topics. A librarian once refused to check out the enormous stack of books on aviation I had strained to place on the counter. It seems there was a limit to how many books you could check out on any single subject. I argued with her about the fine distinction between books about aviation and stories about pilots. She was not convinced, and I was only allowed to take five books.

So, you kids today, count your blessings. Our library doesn’t limit you. You can check out 75 items per library card. And, we have electronic sources like Hoopla which allow you to watch TV shows and films ON YOUR PHONE. Will wonders never cease? My great grandmother used to say that she’d lived a hundred lives. When she was a girl, there were still horse drawn carriages in the streets, but in her lifetime she saw men walking on the moon. That fighter pilot grandfather I mentioned, before he died we were communicating by email. Wonders.

Take a look around and appreciate our rocket ship of an existence. Amidst all of the trips, traps, and foibles of technology, our culture is constantly moving beyond our wildest imaginings. We may not have our flying cars and jetpacks, but we have access to the sum total of human knowledge, and it fits into our phones. Your public library is still here, and we’re ready and willing to help you navigate beyond the edges of the map. 

William James Smith

South Branch Library





Weird Science

I have very little background in science.  I am, however, curious about the world.  Most of my questions arise as I’m doing simple, everyday tasks.  I wonder how air neutralizers work as I spray air freshener in a musty room.  I question why hair turns gray as we age when I look in the mirror.  I’m curious how batteries were invented—and why are the batteries at my house always dead?

Several years ago, I stumbled across the book Packing for Mars: the Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach.  Mary Roach is a science writer who is very upfront about the fact that she is not a scientist.  I loved how she addresses questions about how things work, why things are developed, and  how they are studied.  Her explanations are clear easy to understand.  She is willing to ask those “dumb” questions that we all have, like “What happens if an astronaut is sick while wearing a spacesuit?”  I find her books insightful and hilarious.

One of my favorite aspects of her research is that she is hands-on.  She backs everything up with plenty of research from science journals and scholarly articles. Ms. Roach actually goes to visit labs, training grounds, and other areas that are off-limits to most people.  Her interviews with scientists, researchers, businesses, and politicians are candid and she is willing to ask the uncomfortable questions.  She asked Jim Lovell, the Apollo 13 astronaut, if the dandruff and dead skin cells that shed, but have nowhere to go during space flight made it feel like a “snow globe” inside the space capsule.

She observes and often participates in testing and experiments.  In her latest book, Grunt: the Curious Science of Humans at War, she describes smelling the World War II nonlethal malodorant “Who me?” in great detail, giving detailed accounts of not only the physical outcome, but also her thoughts and emotions as she smelled the stink bomb.

If you have a curious mind, like to laugh, and don’t mind a few squeamish descriptions here and there, give Mary Roach’s books a try.

Jennifer Bekker
North Branch Library
gruntbonk gulp my-planet packing-for-marsspookstiff

A Fountain of History

Every community has its little bits of history hidden away in plain sight. Have you ever noticed the unassuming monument at the North end of the Emily Fowler Central Library parking lot?  It has an odd utilitarian look because it was originally designed to be a drinking fountain for animals. In fact, Denton was one of only six cities in Texas to receive a coveted Ensign Fountain. The plaque mounted to the central column reads: “1911, presented by the National Humane Alliance, Hermon Lee Ensign, Founder.”

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The National Humane Alliance was established by Hermon Lee Ensign in 1897.  An entry from the 1898 World Almanac Encyclopedia describes the organization; “While the Alliance is not exactly a charity, it is founded on humanitarian ideas.  It desires to educate people, particularly the rising generation, to be kind and gentle among themselves and to treat all dumb animals humanely…”  Mr. Ensign died in 1899 leaving most of his considerable wealth to the Alliance. After the bequest, the organization shifted its primary focus from education to the distribution of the fountains.   Between 1906 and 1912 the National Humane Alliance donated over 125 drinking fountains for animals to different cities across the United States and Mexico.

Denton received its fountain in the summer of 1911. The Denton Record and Chronicle credits Mrs. R.H. Garrison and the Woman’s Shakespeare Club for the “persistent solicitations” which put Denton in the running as a prospective site.  This led to a visit by Mr. Louis A. Servier, secretary of the National Humane Alliance, in May 1911.  Mr. Servier approved the placement of one of the fountains in Denton, with two conditions. The first condition was that the new fountain be placed on the Southeast corner of the Courthouse Square and be properly maintained. The second was the old horse trough/fountain on the Northwest corner be repaired and kept in good working order. If you look really, really hard you can just make it out in the center of the postcard (just to the right of, and a little behind, the cow) on the cover of the book Denton County.


The granite fountains were constructed by the Bodwell Granite Company in Vinalhaven, Maine and transported to the various cities by ship, then railroad.  The Bodwell Company produced two styles of the fountains – a larger version with a square central column and a smaller fountain with a round column. Denton received the latter type. The fountain in Seneca Kansas  (shown in the slideshow above) is the same as the one placed in Denton. Denton’s also had a light fixture for the top. The Denton Record and Chronicle reported that it arrived in November 1911, but I am unsure if it was ever installed.

The fountains weighed over 5 tons and were 4 to 5 feet high.  The trough for horses was about 3’ in diameter, fed by spigots each decorated as a lion head. The base of the fountain had small bowls intended for dogs and cats to drink out of.  An article from the June 8, 1911 edition of the Denton Record and Chronicle valued the fountains worth to be between 750 and 1200 dollars.

I found an article stating that the Ensign fountain was installed on August 23, 1911. Unfortunately we do not have a newspaper from that day so I was not able to discover what pomp and circumstance was planned for the unveiling.  I have also yet to find when and why it was moved from the Square to the City Park. My speculation is that it was probably during the 1920s when the automobile replaced the horse as the primary means of transportation. By 1949 it had been moved.

The booklet Fifty Years of the Woman’s Shakespeare Club: 1899-1949 gives a brief mention of the fountain and its history stating that it “now stands in the City Park.” Before the 1981 expansion of the Emily Fowler Central Library, the fountain was just to the east of the library building in the park. When the library was enlarged, the fountain was moved to its present location. In 1984 the fountain was restored by the City Federation of Women’s Clubs and the Denton Historical Commission.

When I was a child we used to visit the fountain on our trips to the library. The odd shape intrigued me and I always wondered why it was designed that way. To my child’s eyes the fountain looked like a very big bird bath. It was a pleasant surprise to discover its true history is much more vivid.

Laura Douglas
Senior Librarian – Special Collections
Emily Fowler Central Library

Texas Library Association Lariat Reading List


Exciting news for adult readers who are looking for titles that are a pleasure to read.  The Texas Library Association has a committee dedicated to putting together a list of outstanding fiction.  Each year the committee puts together a list of titles that merit special attention for adult readers.  These are book that have been published within the past 2 years.  The current brochure features titles from 2015-2016.  Readers are able to view previous lists dating back to 2009.

The Lariat Adult Fiction Reading List was started in 2008 when Corinne Hill approached TLA to start a list for adults that would be a “pleasure to read.”  Former TLA President, Melody Kelly, bestowed the name, “Lariat.”  The Lariat Task Force was started on April 3, 2009.  Since then, the selection of 25 outstanding fiction titles of the year have been carried out in various ways.

Current Titles Include

Armada~Cline, Ernest
Zack cannot wait to finish high school and work at the local video gaming store, but unfortunately his plans are ruined when he has to go fight the aliens who plan to blow up the world. His family and his favorite game, Armada, might be the key to the Earth’s defense.

Black-Eyed Susans~Heaberlin, Julia
This thriller is alternately told by present day Tessa and her 16 year old self, Tessie, the only survivor of the “Black-Eyed Susan” killer in Fort Worth, Texas. Her original testimony sent a man to death row, but the real culprit might still be out there. Tessa teams up with experts who work to free wrongfully convicted death row inmates. The suspense builds as Tessa discovers devastating secrets from her past.

The Book of Speculation~Swyler, Erika
Simon Watson receives a package from a distant bookseller that seems to hold his family’s history, especially that of his mother. It turns out that there’s a spell on the women in his family that threatens to take away Enola, his sister and only family left. Can he save his sister and stop history from recurring?

The Bookseller~Swanson, Cynthia
Kitty Miller lives her carefree life as a single woman running a bookshop with her best friend Frieda until the dreams begin. In her dreams, she is Katharyn Andersson, a loving wife and mother. The lines between what is real and what is imagined begin to haunt her.

The Buried Giant~Ishiguro, Kazuo
Battling a magical forgetfulness, aging Britons Axl and Beatrice are determined to travel to see their son. Though filled with all the trappings of fantasy, this exquisite tale of distantly remembered battles, past wrongs and relentless change offers intricate layers of story, metaphor, reality and dream.

City on Fire~Hallberg, Garth Risk
Meet the Hamilton-Sweeney heirs, Regan and William, and many other characters of this 1970’s epic in the small town that is New York City. Their stories, including a shooting in Central Park and the 1977 blackout, intertwine the characters as they long for love and connection.

Fates and Furies~Groff, Lauren
Told from the point of view of the husband and of the wife, this novel examines not only both sides of their marriage, but also how each person’s perception affects their lives.

The Fishermen~Obioma, Chigozie
A small town Nigerian family struggle with the outcomes of a prophecy made by a madman that threatens to tear them apart.  A fascinating coming-of-age story of four brothers in the 1990’s, the story spirals into tragic consequences and the near unraveling of a family.

The Girl on the Train~Hawkins, Paula
Alcoholic, unemployed Rachel rides the daily commuter train past her old home where her ex-husband still lives with his new wife. She makes up an imagined life about another couple a few doors down, but then sees something unexpected. The next day the woman vanishes. As Rachel gets involved in the investigation, the suspense builds. Things are not what they seem, with many twists and turns in this page turner of a thriller.

Girl Underwater~Kells, Claire
A major plane crash leaves Avery and four others stranded in the harsh wilderness of the Rocky Mountains in late November. After their rescue, she is emotionally torn between coping with what happened in the mountains and fitting back into normal life. Already in a relationship, she must also face her feelings for another man: fellow survivor and teammate, Colin Shea.

The Gods of Tango~De Robertis, Carolina
An Italian woman is married by proxy when her fiancé sends for her to join him in Argentina. At the port, her husband’s friend informs her that she is a widow. Deciding not to go back home, she masters the violin and tries on her husband’s clothes, finding that they and a man’s lifestyle suit her.

The Good Neighbor~ Banner, A.J.
Shadow Cove, Washington, is the kind of town everyone dreams about—quaint streets, lush forests, and good neighbors. That’s what Sarah thinks as she settles into life with her new husband, Dr. Johnny McDonald. All too soon she discovers an undercurrent of deception. One October evening when Johnny is away, sudden tragedy destroys Sarah’s happiness.

The Marauders~Cooper, Tom
What do drug dealers, shrimpers, a BP oil representative and petty criminals on community service have in common? Told from each of their perspectives, their lives converge in the swampland of Jeannette, Louisiana, five years after Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil spill.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry~Backman, Fredrik
Seven year old Elsa, precocious, different, and bullied, is buoyed by her relationship with Granny, her superhero, and by Granny’s stories of a fairytale kingdom where being different is good. When Granny dies, Elsa carries out “quests” for Granny – delivering letters of apology to people Granny wronged. In the process, Elsa learns much about life, her family and friends, and Granny’s “stories.”

My Sunshine Away~Walsh, M.O.
The adult narrator recalls being a suspect in the rape of his neighborhood friend and crush Lindy Simpson when they were teens in 1989 Baton Rouge. In beautiful prose and with a strong sense of place and time, the story unfolds by alternating between past and current timeframes. Did the narrator commit this terrible act?

The Nightingale~Hannah, Kristin
Vianne and Isabelle live in German occupied France during World War II. Through them, we experience their different ways of living the war’s horrors and hardships. We witness the courage and strength of everyday people to do the impossible and what is necessary to fight for survival, ideals, country, and loved ones.

Paradise Sky~Lansdale Joe R.
A former slave named Willie flees home to the Old West, followed by his enemies and father’s killers. See him become Nat Love, aka Deadwood Dick, a masterful gunslinger who comes back to avenge himself for all that he has lost.

The Scribe~Guinn, Matthew
Thomas Canby is brought back to Atlanta to vindicate his name and help solve a gruesome murder spree that threatens to ruin the 1881 International Cotton Exposition. The “Ring” that pushed him out of town may somehow be involved. Alongside him is Cyrus Underwood, Atlanta’s first African American detective. The murders seem to be racially motivated, but there is more than meets the eye when the killings take a turn in another direction.

Seveneves~Stephenson, Neal
The moon has suddenly exploded, leaving the inhabitants of Earth to face their imminent demise. Is there a way to ensure the survival of humanity? Is genetics the key to the solution?

Sofrito~Diederich, Phillippe
Frank Delgado’s restaurant is in financial trouble. He hears of a fabulous secret chicken recipe, stolen from his uncle by the government of Cuba, his parent’s homeland.  Frank travels to Cuba with the dangerous task of trying to steal back the recipe. Amidst espionage, intrigue, love, and discoveries of family secrets, Frank falls in love with the Cuba of his parents’ youth.

The Stranger~Coben, Harlan
“Don’t talk to strangers.” A stranger approaches Adam and divulges a dark secret about his wife, Corinne. After he confronts her, she disappears. Working with Chief Johanna Griffin to unfold the stranger’s mysterious words, Adam learns that the most familiar may be more dangerous.

Sweet Damage~James, Rebecca
Tim Ellison feels lucky to find a cheap room to rent in a mansion close to his work in Sydney. The only condition is to look after the mysterious owner, twenty year old Anna. He slowly learns about her past and her crippling fears. Tim feels uneasy as odd, mysterious things begin to happen, but he is also strangely attracted to Anna. What’s really going on?

The Truth According to Us~Barrows, Annie
During the Depression, pampered Senator’s daughter, Layla Beck, is cut off from allowances and is sent to work as a writer for the WPA’s Writer’s Project in little old Macedonia, West Virginia. Soon she comes to like the small town and her work. She discovers dark secrets that some want to stay hidden, and she finds that people have different versions of the truth and of the town’s history.

Uprooted~Novik, Naomi
The Dragon, the wizard who protects the valley from the Wood’s evil encroachment, demands the most special village girl as payment every 10 years. Neither graceful nor beautiful, Agnieszka is shocked and terrified when the Dragon chooses her, but finds she has an aptitude for learning magic. Her adventures include a deadly quest, true friendship, and court intrigue.

The Water Knife~Bacigalupi, Paolo
After environmental catastrophes, Nevada and California wage a war for water rights. The American Southwest becomes a gritty world of big money, ruthless business and seedy undertakings. Angel, a “Water Knife” who gets water for his employer any way he can, and a journalist search for the elusive paperwork that is behind a slew of murders, while a teenage orphan refugee struggles to find a way out of Phoenix.


Black-Eyed Susans

The Book of Speculation

The Bookseller

The Buried Giant

City on Fire

Fates and Furies

The Fishermen

The Girl on the Train

Girl Underwater

The Gods of Tango

The Good Neighbor

The Marauders

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry

My Sunshine Away

The Nightingale

Paradise Sky

The Scribe



The Stranger

Sweet Damage

The Truth According to Us


The Water Knife

Reka Reynolds
Emily Fowler Central Library



My earliest memory of the public library is not of a cozy StoryTime, but rather a tale of Fightclub. Everyone at Clinton Jr. High knew that afterschool fights were held behind the tiny little library next door to the school. While I was not immune to the dramatic impulses that led to these matches, violence made me queasy, so as the herd tramped down the alley, I veered off into the library. I found new worlds inside and was soon reading my way through the adult section. I have to say it was proximity and access that were my keys to the library world.

Almost everyone agrees that libraries are a good deal. Libraries offer books and other items for check out, free computer use and helpful classes. It’s the best place for literacy training for young or old. But not everyone has the access and proximity. Some neighborhoods are far away from the three Denton Public Library locations. Some neighborhoods are unfamiliar with the concept of “free” public libraries. Some folks are so busy working they can’t make it to the library, and some aren’t physically able to travel.

Dpl2go is a mobile library unit that brings a micro library to these folks. Launched nearly one year ago, dpl2go has visited locations to bring free books, library programs and kind and helpful people. Staffed by library employees and volunteers, dpl2go has been to senior housing, family apartments, traditional neighborhoods, and the Denton State School. We visited Careers on Wheels days at local elementary schools, participated in the Touch a Truck event, drove in the July 4th Parade, and went to free summer lunch sites in local parks.


Libraries ARE a good deal. Folks are happy to know and experience the advantages a library card can bring to their families. We are happy to show them. Let’s give everyone in Denton the proximity and access that can point them towards a new hobby, a new career, or perhaps, a lifetime of reading.


– Terri Gibbs, Director of Libraries

Study on, You Students, Study on!

So, the Summer Reading Club is over and the new school year has begun.  For most students, the school year includes homework and projects and studying.  It can all be a bit overwhelming.   Well, the Denton Public Library is here for them.  Reference librarians can answer questions and lead students to useful resources; Interlibrary Loan allows students to request almost any book, audio, or video they need; and the library is a great environment for studying.  But perhaps the best way the library can help is through its electronic resources, specifically the homework help resources.

I will focus on three resources that we classify under Homework, but first I’d like to point out that the library provides access to hundreds of online resources and databases that can assist in study and research.  Our Periodicals databases, such as Masterfile Premier and Academic Search Premier, make available thousands of full-text magazine and journal articles.  Our Literature resources, such as Literature Resource Center, include biographies of authors and poets, encyclopedia articles, and literary criticism.  I cannot adequately describe in this post what the Denton Public Library has available.  Peruse the list by going to and clicking on the Research Tools button towards the middle of the screen.  This reveals a list of subject links, and clicking on a subject link shows the electronic resources available for that subject.

Now to get back on track; here are three very useful items under the Homework subject link.

brainfuse use

Brainfuse is a general studying tool, and can be found under the link Live Homework Help.  It includes skills practice, tests to help students determine which majors and careers they might be interested in, and flashcard-type reviews for academic subjects and standardized tests students might need to prepare for.  It also has an Adult Learners section with, among other things, computer help and links to tutorials, career and resume-writing help, a writing lab, and help for GED and citizenship tests.

But the most useful features of Brainfuse are live online help from tutors and other experts, and the virtual meeting rooms that students can use for collaborating on group projects and discussing schoolwork.

Find a topic. 2

Find a Topic is a resource linking students to newspapers and other publications from throughout the United States.  Students are first presented with links of general topics, such as “health” and “international issues.”  Clicking on a general subject link reveals more specific subjects related to the larger topic, such as “medical research” and “nutrition.”  Under these are specific links for detailed subjects like “genetically modified food” that lead to lists of full-text articles on that very specific subject.  The lists often include articles that are current to within a day or two.


Explora is a group of three databases.  One is designed for elementary students, one for middle school, and one for high school.  These databases are similar to Find a Topic in their directory format, making browsing through subjects easy.  Simply click on subject links that become more and more specific.  Both titles also allow students to search specific subject terms of their choosing, but Explora makes this much easier.  The results Explora finds are from a wider range of sources – popular magazines, academic journals, reference tools, books, and occasionally newspapers.  The results list includes icons next to each item listed, indicating which type of source the information is from.

All of these  study tools are available at all three Denton Public Library branches.  We realize, though,  that it isn’t always convenient to come into the library to study and use library resources, so we’ve made these databases available for people with library cards to use from home – 24 hour-a-day access to a world of information.

So, students of all ages, study on!  And remember that you can always rely on the Denton Public Library for help to keep you learning.

Fred – South Branch

Britcoms at DPL (REDUX)

It’s been two years since we last talked about Britcoms (American slang for “British Sitcom”) at the Denton Public Library. It’s been on my mind since Absolutely Fabulous is finally wrapping up their 24-year run with a feature film that opened last month. Ab Fab then reminds me of the wonderful collaboration in sketch comedy, French and Saunders. Ab Fab’s Jennifer Saunders and her long-time comedy partner, Dawn French, team up to create some of the funniest bits of comedy ever produced.

Both Dawn and Jennifer continue their connections into the comedy world as Dawn’s ex-husband, Lenny Henry, stars in Chef!, which is a terrific series about a genius, but very crusty chef. If you’re an avid watcher of the Food Channel, this one’s for you. Jennifer’s husband is Adrian Edmonson who starred in the 80’s MTV Britcom The Young Ones. If you’re a child of the 80’s and aren’t easily offended, you might enjoy that one!

Also for the not-easily offended, Peep Show may be one of the best sitcoms to ever come from the other side of the pond. Riffing off of Seinfeld, two best frenemies attempt to navigate the world through their 20’s and 30’s. The interesting point-of-view of this series comes from the camera angle showing the perspective of one of the characters at all times, also while hearing their (often opposing) thoughts while speaking. Thinking one thing, but usually saying another thing….

Did you know that KERA was the first American TV station to show Monty Python’s Flying Circus? That’s something to be proud of here in the DFW area! John Cleese also starred as Basil Fawlty in the amazing Fawlty Towers – the adventures of a curmudgeonly hotel owner who provides often less-than-stellar customer service to his guests.

Hijinks ensue with Good Neighbors; this 1975 Britcom pits snooty neighbor Margo against her laid-back and friendly neighbor Barbara. Felicity Kendall and Penelope Keith are stalwarts of British comedy, so you don’t want to miss out on this one.

Enjoy the comedy of our British friends, and share your favorites in the comments!

Kerry Montz – North Branch