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Friday, December 2, 2016

Why did we domesticate ferrets? What are they for?

It’s generally believed that humans domesticated cats to help us with pest control and dogs to provide protection and help with hunting and herding. One of our patrons has two pet ferrets, and he wanted to know when people began bringing ferrets into their homes, and what purpose they originally served.

We found some information in Ferrets for Dummies by Kim Schilling and Susan A. Brown’s article “History of the Ferret” on weaselwords.com. Today’s pet ferret is assumed to be a domesticated form of either the Western or Eastern European polecat, and they have been in our lives for about 2,500 years. It’s not certain who first tamed them. While some sources say Egypt, citing hieroglyphs depicting weasel-like creatures, Schilling believes that the hieroglyphs were probably depicting native mongooses, which were kept as pets to kill snakes and small rodents. While mongooses look similar to ferrets and weasels, they are not part of the same family. Ferrets, weasels, otters, wolverines, badgers, martens, stoats, and minks are all Mustelids.

Ferrets seem to have been first domesticated for hunting and pest control. Between 63 BC and 24 AD, Caesar Augustus was requested to sail ferrets out to the Balearic Islands where an overpopulation of rabbits was causing a famine. They assisted hunters in catching the rabbits. (The practice of hunting with ferrets, called “ferreting,” involves releasing the ferrets near a burrow. The ferret is not meant to catch the game, just drive it out of its burrow to where the hunter is waiting. The ferrets would often have bells on their collars so that the hunters could keep track of them, and sometimes they would also be tethered.)

Like cats, ferrets were considered very useful on ships for the ability to keep the rodent population down. The Colonial Navy of Massachusetts named the ferret their official mascot in 1986, saying that, in the days of wooden ships, ferrets were even better than cats, as they could fit into all the tiny nooks and crannies where mice tried to hide.

Ferrets were once even used to transport wires and cables through narrow pipes. According to Brown and Schilling, oilmen, telephone companies, camera crews, and sailors have used them in this way. People would tie the wire or cable to the ferret or its harness and the ferret would run through the pipe on its own.

They are still raised for their fur, although this is less common than it once was, and they’re often used in biomedical research. However, most people today know them as companion animals.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Where can I find information on mental health?

“I’m doing research for school and I need to find information on mental health.”

The Newton Falls Public Library has a section devoted to mental health, including books on the history of mental illness, memoirs, and books to help people and their families understand, treat, and live with their mental illness. DSM-5 Made Easy: The Clinician’s Guide to Diagnosis, written by James Morrison, and Mental Health Disorders Sourcebook, edited by Amy L. Sutton, provide basic information on a variety of different disorders.

We also looked online. The National Alliance on Mental Illness, founded in 1979, has a lot of information on their website, NAMI.org. They provide information on symptoms, treatment, and support on everything from anxiety to schizophrenia. Database resources are available as well. The Ohio Web Library provides access to Consumer Health Complete, a database of health information including videos, diagrams, magazine articles, fact sheets, and scholarly reports.

Our patron was specifically looking for information on illnesses similar to schizophrenia. We found schizoaffective disorder, who involves a person having some of the symptoms of schizophrenia (including delusions, disorganized thoughts or speech, hallucinations, and reduced emotions or behavior, such as a flat voice and expression or a lack of pleasure in life) for at least a month, along with symptoms of depression of bipolar disorder. Morrison also mentions schizophreniform disorder, which might be diagnosed when a person has only been showing symptoms of schizophrenia for less than six months. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

When should I prune my roses?

No one here at the Newton Falls Public Library grows roses, but we do have access to a lot of gardening books. We checked Lewis Hill’s Pruning Made Easy, Rayford Clayton Reddell’s The Rose Bible, and www.heirloomroses.com to find answers for our patron. As it turned out, the subject was more contentious than we expected.

Some gardeners like to prune in the fall so that the rosebushes don’t need to carry the extra wood through the winter. Cutting off spindly canes will prevent them from whipping against their neighbors, and shortening long canes will reduce the likelihood of them being loosened by the winter weather.

However, other gardeners believe that fall pruning makes it more difficult for the rose to survive the winter, because they’re losing food stored in their branches. Also, pruning also tends to jumpstart new growth, which is then killed by the cold. They prefer to prune in spring, clearing away dead and damaged wood from the winter and previous season.

Julie Washington, a writer for the Plain Dealer, interviewed a few of Northeastern Ohio’s rose experts in October 2013, and they were very firm: don’t prune until the spring in Ohio. They also recommend that gardeners clear dead leaves from around their roses, and perhaps treat them with a commercially available dormant oil or spray.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Where do I go to vote?

Several of our patrons have been unsure of where to go to cast their ballot on November 8. Fortunately, the Ohio Secretary of State website has made that information easy to find.

To find out where to vote, go to http://voterlookup.sos.state.oh.us/, type in your first name and last name, and select your county. It will bring up your polling location, precinct, and congressional, Senate, and State Representative districts.

Myohiovote.com, also part of the Secretary of State’s website, is another option. It uses a slightly different method to determine your polling place – it links to your county’s board of elections website and goes from there – but the end result is the same. A wealth of information is available on the website, and you can do things like view a sample ballot, get information on early, provisional, and absentee voting, and track your absentee ballot.

For more information on the election, the League of Women Voters of Trumbull County have put out their voter information guide, copies of which are available here at the Newton Falls Public Library. According to the League’s website, they have been working to distribute 10,000 copies not only to all the libraries, senior centers, and high schools in Trumbull County, but to area businesses as well. The League of Women Voters of Kent, covering southern Portage County, has put their guide online here.

If you would like us to help look up your polling place, please call or visit us here at the library.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Whatever happened to colored toilet paper?

One of our patrons remembered the days when toilet paper came in pastel shades of pink, yellow, green, and blue to match the bathroom d├ęcor. One day, though, he noticed that it had disappeared from the shelves. According to the blog on ToiletPaperWorld.com, Scott was one of the last holdouts, and it produced its last beige, blue, and pink rolls in 2004.

People have a few different explanations for why companies stopped making the pastel paper. Jenny Achiam on the style blog Into the Gloss remembers her doctor telling her that some of the cheaper dyes caused allergic reactions. Larry Waldbillig on the blog History’s Dumpster remembers hearing that the dyes were harming the environment, though he never heard of any proof. (Indeed, in the question-and-answer column “The Last Word” in a 2004 issue of New Scientist, someone wrote in to ask if colored toilet paper was less environmentally-friendly than the white. The answer was no, because such small amounts of dye were used, and because the dye bonded to the paper, preventing it from accumulating in the environment and from rubbing off on people’s skin.) Finally, it may simply have gone out of style. The color-matched bathroom was trendiest from the 1950’s to the 1970s, which was also when the pastel paper was most popular.

Don’t despair, though, because colored toilet paper is still around! Though it may not be on supermarket shelves, it can be ordered from several places online. Cabela’s offers toilet paper in camo patterns, and Mill’s Fleet Farm has it in hunter’s orange. Renova produces colored toilet paper favored by exclusive night clubs, upscale boutiques, and, according to gossip magazines and Keeping Up with the Kardashians, celebrities like Beyonce and Kris Jenner. Its black roll even received a write-up in the New York Times in 2006.

On a final note, we found an article in a 2012 issue of Library Journal about a New York library that was using toilet paper with advertisements printed on it. Unfortunately, Star Toilet Paper, the company that provided the paper, is now closed down.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Where can I find a place that publishes poetry?

At a recent meeting of the Newton Falls Writers’ Club, one of our writers was wondering how to find a home for their poems. While it’s impossible to find a full list of all the contests and publications accepting submissions, we found a few resources that could be helpful.

A nonprofit organization called Poets & Writers has an online database of literary journal publishing everything from poetry and fiction to book reviews, essays, and visual art. Each journal has its own particular voice. Some focus on particular topics and others are devoted exclusively to certain forms (such as flash fiction or haiku). To help writers find the journal that fits them best, Poets & Writers lists whether each one is looking for poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction, which subgenres most interest them, what time of year they accept submissions. Each journal also has a brief description and a link to their website. The database can be found here. NewPages provides a similar list.

The Ohio Poetry Association, another nonprofit organization, provides a supportive network for poets and poetry-lovers. They have their own newsletter, poetry workshops, and members-only journal, and they also sponsor contests, including one for students in grades 9-12.

The Chicken Soup for the Soul company publishes anthologies of poetry and nonfiction centered around particular topics, and they accept submissions on their website. They publish stories as well as poems that tell stories, and are currently looking for stories about cats, dogs, dreams and premonitions, military families, and teachers. Their admissions page can be found here

We also have a copy of the most recent Writer’s Market here at the library which includes, along with its listings of literary agents, publishing companies, and magazines, a section on poetry contests. Many of the contests offer publication of the writer’s completed manuscript as their prize.

Again, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Feel free to stop by the library and we can help you find more resources.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Why are Gone with the Wind and The Lovely Bones on the banned books display?

The American Library Association launched Banned Books Week in 1982. It typically runs the last week of September, with the aim of educating Americans about censorship. Many libraries, including the Newton Falls Public Library, mark the occasion with displays that highlight famously banned or challenged books in their collections. We used lists such as “Frequently Challenged Classics,” “Top Ten Challenged Books by Year,” and “100 Most Frequently Challenged Books by Decade” on ALA.org and BannedBooksWeek.org for inspiration.

Though it’s called “Banned Books Week,” not all the books highlighted have been banned on a country-wide level (although some have been - for example, Salman Rushdie’s controversial 1988 book The Satanic Verses, banned in several countries including India and Iran, and James Joyce’s Ulysses, which drew complaints when it was being published as a serial in a literary magazine and was subsequently banned from the United States for more than ten years). More often, they are challenged in schools, where they are sometimes removed from reading lists or curricula, or libraries, where they can be removed from the shelves altogether. It’s worth noting that even if a book shows up on one of the banned or challenged book lists, it may have never escalated past the challenge phase. Sometimes a compromise is reached – teachers providing alternate book selections for a particular assignment, for example.

According to the American Library Association, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind has come under fire for its language and its portrayal of slavery. ALA.org cites two specific examples: a 1978 ban in a California school district and a 1984 challenge in an Illinois school district. In 2008, Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones was moved to the faculty section of a Massachusetts school library after it was deemed too frightening for middle school students.