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On The Waterfront

Welcome to On the Waterfront, the place where library director Ellen Connor muses about books and libraries and sometimes things in between.

It is December 31, 2020. A date that resonates with everyone right now because it's the last day of a year that most of us would never want to repeat. Living through a pandemic is not something that we ever thought we'd have to do. Our lives, our community, our country, our world...all of it was turned upside down through this past year. And those gathering places in our cities and towns...the cafes, restaurants, bars, stores, schools and yes, libraries, took a strong hit from the effects the pandemic dealt us. Suddenly, the places that brought communities  together were becoming a threat to public health. It was stunning and heartbreaking. As we moved through the phases of mitigation we all had to learn to switch gears quickly and it was not easy. Here at Sturm Memorial Library we closed the physical building in March, April and May but we kept the library open in other ways and kept our connection to the community going. On the first day we were allowed to do so we had staff in the building offering curbside service. We moved to in person appointments as soon as we had safety protocols in place. We started online programming and offered a summer reading program in the only way we could. We opened up access to inside services a little more and were reassured by seeing familiar and new faces. With a dedicated board we developed policies to deal with the pandemic more effectively and we revised them and revised them and revised them again. All of the staff remained working and decided as a team that we would see the pandemic through to the other side in the hopes that the post Covid library would continue to be a gathering place much like it was pre-Covid. 

Through all of the changes and uncertainty our patrons have remained steadfast. Adapting quickly to varying levels of access, dealing with the disappointments of limited services gracefully, recognizing that no one was alone in their uncertainty about things to come, our patrons have continued to let us serve them by using the library.  There are trying times ahead - the pandemic is not over, the new year  brings the same virus still trying to spread, still making our communities vulnerable. But there is some light at the end of this seemingly endless tunnel. We don't know what the future is going to bring, but the library is still here, still serving, still being used and appreciated...and right now that's enough to get us through each day. 

The new year brings hope but it's our resilience that will see us through it, through this. People are resilient, libraries are resilient, communities are resilient. Happy New Year.

Image of the book cover for My Dear Hamilton

Our Books Show & Tell group met a couple of weeks ago and discussed what we’ve been reading this spring. This is a free for all discussion and it’s a great way to get new title suggestions to add to your list. Members also bring copies of their favorite books,or articles about books and authors they have read recently, or share websites about the reading life that they enjoy. It’s an hour of talking about books and what could be more fun? Here is the list from some staff and some patrons…everyone is welcome to join this group!

Carol has been reading…

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks.

            Yes, THE Tom Hanks. He has written a book of short essays and it got great reviews when it came out. Carol listened to the book and Mr. Hanks himself was the reader. She said he did a great job.

My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

            A fiction version of Eliza Hamilton’s life with her husband Alexander. With the musical Hamilton taking the country by storm this novel seems timely and Carol’s enthusiasm for it resulted in most of us adding it to our list.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

            Another book that has had a record number of holds in our system. Carol listened to this book too and Ms. Obama was the reader and did a great job. The book chronicles the author’s life growing up in a middle class family on the south side of Chicago, getting scholarships to attend Princeton and Harvard and meeting a future president of the United States.

 I Eliza Hamilton by Susan Halloway Scott

  Another novel about Eliza Hamilton – this one more in the romance genre and indeed the Hamilton’s appear to have had quite the romance

Judy has been reading…

 Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

  Another page turner by the popular writer Picoult who takes on today’s complex issues and fleshes them out in fiction. This one deals with same sex couples and custody of embryos and along the way explores all complicated feelings that bubble to the surface.

Fran has been reading…

Wallis in Love: the untold life of the Duchess of Windsor, the woman who changed the Monarchy by Andrew Morton

  A nonfiction (but coming from Morton probably a little gossipy too) account of Wallis Simpson and her relationship and marriage to the former King of England. Contrary to popular myth that theirs was a relationship so tuned to love that the King abdicated for her, Morton tells a story of an unhappy liaison but one that persisted nonetheless.

Mary has been reading…

Presidents of War by Michael Beschloss

  An eminent historian covers the “war presidents” in rich detail. Mary reports the book covers the reasons each president covered in the book decides to wage war in engaging detail.

Hawthorn in Concord by Philp McFarland

  A well-crafted tribute to the noted author and his life in Concord where he spent some of the best years of his writing life.

Mary: A Flesh and Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother by Lesley Hazleton

 ; This biography brings the saint and mother of Jesus to life in a sensitive historical portrait of her life.

Ellen has been reading…

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

  A novel about a young woman who lives life on the edge in 1980s San Francisco only to end up in prison serving a life sentence for killing her stalker. Prison life is described in rich detail as are some of the denizens the main character spends her life with.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

            The book version includes many photographs to accompany the amazing story of Michelle Obama.

Spinning by Tillie Wilden

            A book in comics form about the author’s growing up years in the ice skating circuit. Tillie was never going to be an Olympic skater but for years she applied discipline to her practices and competitions and basically did it on her own. While she never outright condemns her parents for their lack of interest, their absence is obvious and painful.

The Unwinding of the Miracle: a memoir of life, death and everything that comes after by Julie Yip-Williams

            The author was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer at 42. She begins writing a blog to record her medical journey and her life – one that includes almost being put to death as an infant and being part of the “boat people” exodus from Viet Nam when she was very young. The book begins “if you’re reading this that means I am gone”.


If any of these titles look interesting to you, click on the link to go to where you can place a hold on them using your account. Or, you can call us to do it for you if that works better for you.

Books Show & Tell meets every other month on the 1st Wednesday of the month at 4pm. The next one will be July 3rd.






Image of "No Apologies" for reading tastes

Our golden rule around here is that we never have to apologize for our reading tastes. We like what we like so why wouldn't we read what we like to read? Serving all of our readers and finding vastly different things for them is one of the best things about working in this library. And we never let anyone apologize for what they like to read. We have another rule too...reading before housework & yardwork... all the time. We wish we could help our users put reading before paid work but we know that's not in best interest of anyone. Talking with library users of all ages about what they just read is a very fun part of our work - so go ahead...tell us about the book you just read - we'll be all ears.


Our next book club discussion will take place on Wednesday December 5th when we’ll be discussing Stranger in the Woods: the extraordinary story of the last true hermit by Michael Finkel. This amazing story is almost unbelievable and we expect that the discussion will be flowing. Anyone is welcome to attend the book discussion – call the library if you want us to reserve a book for you or place a hold on the title in infosoup by clicking here.

Our book discussion group meets every other month so on the off months we meet and share the books we’re reading on our own. We sometimes bring the books for Show & Tell too. It’s great fun and it is another way to add more books to our list of “must reads”. The November book sharing highlighted the following titles: (If you want to borrow any of them through the library click on the title to link to infosoup or call the library at 920-596-2252)


Epic Hikes of the World

            Beautiful photographs, four page sections on places to hike. Includes logistical information and recommendations for similar hikes at the end of each section.

Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances by Ellen Cooney

           A novel about dogs and humans saving each other.


House Rules by Jodi Picoult

            Main character is obsessed with crime scene detective processes. Is high school age and has Asperger’s.

A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs

            A continuation of the series started by Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. The author takes old photographs and develops characters around them.

Prairie School by Lois Lenski

            An older book that Fran read as a child and re-reads every few years. Ten-year-old Dolores Wagner and her older brother Darrell attend a one-room prairie school. Miss Martin is their dedicated teacher, living in a bleak apartment behind the classroom. When a sudden blizzard traps the children at school they first find it a great adventure, but when Dolores falls seriously ill, Miss Martin must find a way to get her to the hospital in town.


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

            Elinor had a tough beginning and keeps to herself and her tightly conscripted life. Until fate throws her together with a couple of people.

Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving

            A father and son are on the run after an accidental tragedy. The book spans decades and has story within the story. Carol’

Listen, Liberal, or, Whatever Happened to the Party of the Peoplel by Thomas Frank

            How the Democratic Party is abandoning the working class and why it will be its demise.

America: the Farewell Tour by Chris Hedges

            A study of civilizations that fail and why America is on that path.

Chance by Joseph Conrad

            A story of a young woman, told by different narrators, who must rely on the kindness of strangers when her father is imprisoned.


Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

            Published in 1812 this classic novel chronicles the ingenuity of a family shipwrecked on an island in the East Indies.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

            In early nineteenth-century England, an orphaned young woman accepts employment as a governess at Thornfield Hall, a country estate owned by the mysteriously remote Mr. Rochester. It’s a love story!


Less: a novel by Andrew Sean Greer

            Arthur Less, a failed novelist about to turn 50 and feeling rudderless, embarks on several journeys to avoid facing his life. He finds out sometimes less is more. Won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2017.

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein

            Through the eyes of Miss Toklas, Gertrude Stein reviews both of their lives before their meeting and during their years of companionship.

The Card Catalog: books, cards and literary treasures (The Library of Congress)

            A beauty of a book about the history of the card catalog and the Library of Congress.

Image of book cover for Thousand Miler

We have a book discussion group that meets every other month to discuss a common book. This group has been meeting for over 15 years and people come and they go but there is one constant…we read a good book and then get together to discuss it. We meet in the months of February, April, June, August, October and December on the first Wednesday at 4pm. This year we decided to meet in the off months to discuss any books we were reading when we aren’t reading the book club book. This has turned out to be great fun. As a matter of fact, some people come to this discussion even though they aren’t regulars at the other one. The group meets on the first Wednesday of January, March, May, September and November at 4pm. The September meeting was made all the more special because we welcomed our newest member, Haley Brook, who at 1 month old is the youngest person to ever attend one of our book discussions. There is a wide variety of reading interests in this group so the discussions are always fun. Here are the books that were discussed this September:


From Baghdad, with love: a Marine, the war, and a dog named Lava by Jay Kopleman

            When Marines enter an abandoned house in Fallujah, Iraq, and hear a suspicious noise, they clench their weapons, edge around the corner, and prepare to open fire. What they find during the U.S.–led attack on the “most dangerous city on Earth” in late 2004, however, is not an insurgent but a puppy left behind when most of the city's residents fled. Despite military law forbidding pets, the Marines de-flea the pup with kerosene, de-worm him with chewing tobacco, and fill him up on Meals Ready to Eat. Thus begins the dramatic rescue of a dog named Lava―and Lava's rescue of at least one Marine, Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman.

Inseparable: the original Siamese twins and their rendezvous with American history by Yunte Huang

            A portrait of nineteenth-century conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker describes their rise from savvy side-show celebrities to wealthy Southern gentry and discusses how their experiences reflected America's historical penchant for objectifying differences.

I Can’t Date Jesus by Michael Arceneaux

            A timely collection of alternately hysterical and soul-searching essays about what it is like to grow up as a creative, sensitive black man in a world that constantly tries to deride and diminish your humanity.

Salvageable by Jean Baxter

            The trouble with trust is once it's broken, it changes who you are and who you will become forever. If Michael Jarrid thinks the worst has happened when his parents don't believe him over his pregnant ex-girlfriend's lie, he is wrong. feeling alone, he pours all of his heart and soul into a new relationship. what Lacey does to him is even worse ... now he doesn't even trust himself. Is his life salvageable?

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

            A curmudgeon hides a terrible personal loss beneath a cranky and short-tempered exterior while clashing with new neighbors, a boisterous family whose chattiness and habits lead to unexpected friendship.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

            An epic love story and family drama set at the dawn of World War II.

Fly girls: the daring American women pilots who helped win WWII by P.O’Connell Pearson

            A beautifully written account of the remarkable but often forgotten group of female fighter pilots who answered their country's call in its time of need during World War II.   

The Lost Years by Mary Higgins Clark    

            Mariah Lyons risks her life to solve the brutal murder of her father, Dr. Jonathan Lyons, a well-respected academic, who in a stroke of luck comes into the possession of an ancient and highly valuable parchment stolen from the Vatican in the 15th century.

Antiques Roadkill by Barbara Allan

            Moving back in with her eccentric, larger-than-life mother, Brandy Borne finds small-town Serenity anything but serene. It seems an unscrupulous antiques dealer has swindled Vivian out of the family's heirlooms. But when he is found run over in a country lane, Brandy becomes Murder Suspect Number One--with her mother coming in a very close second.

Thousand-miler: adventures hiking the Ice Age Trail by Melanie Radzicki McManus

            While sharing her story of what it was like to hike 1,100 miles of Wisconsin forestland, prairie, wetlands and farmland, McManus also shares the stories of thru-hikers she encounters along the way. Their collective tales shed light on the motivations of thru-hikers, how they accomplish the feat (everyone does it differently), and what the various trail segments and trailside communities are like. (The author will be here at Sturm Memorial Library on November 14th!)

Secret daughter: a mixed-race daughter and the mother who gave her away by June Cross

            June Cross was born in 1954 to Norma Booth, a glamorous, aspiring white actress, and James “Stump” Cross, a well-known black comedian. Sent by her mother to be raised by black friends when she was four years old and could no longer pass as white, June was plunged into the pain and confusion of a family divided by race. Secret Daughter tells her story of survival. It traces June’s astonishing discoveries about her mother and about her own fierce determination to thrive.

The lost vintage: a novel by Ann Mah

            Sweetbitter meets The Nightingale in this page-turner about a woman who returns to her family's ancestral vineyard in Burgundy to study for her Master of Wine test, and uncovers a lost diary, a forgotten relative, and a secret her family has been keeping since WWII.

This is how it always is by Laurie Frankel

            When Rosie and Penn and their four boys welcome the newest member of their family, no one is surprised it's another baby boy. At least their large, loving, chaotic family knows what to expect. But Claude is not like his brothers. One day he puts on a dress and refuses to take it off. He wants to bring a purse to kindergarten. He wants hair long enough to sit on. When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl. Rosie and Penn aren't panicked at first. Kids go through phases, after all, and make-believe is fun. But soon the entire family is keeping Claude's secret. Until one day it explodes.

This cart and its contents on a Monday morning in May epitomize the life of a small town library director. It's everything for the Library that accumulated in my car over the coarse of a week-end. In addition to managing day to day operations of a library, we are working it pretty much all of the time. If nothing on this cart reminds you of anything related to traditional library work you would not be alone in reaching that conclusion. But any kindred library director can probably surmise what the backstory is with the contents in this photograph.

The big rectangular bag, (which I purchased for myself but quickly became “the library bag”) holds old vinyl albums that I talked the owner of Booksellers of Waupaca (thank you John Ryan) into donating to the Library for a DIY program we’ll be doing this summer. Vinyl is making a comeback and it will be making its comeback here at the Library in more ways than one. The bottles of soda were donated by my neighbor (Thank you Laura) who found a deal she could not resist and thought of the Library. The paper bag contains all kinds of things. Visible on top are 10 fleece drawstring bags that we use as “Discovery” bags for our Babygarten program. We take turns taking them home and washing them after they are used a few times. Below the fleece bags are about four books that I’ve spent my evenings and week-ends reading in preparation for the summer reading program. We read a lot of youth books this time of year to get kids fired up about reading over the summer. Below the books are Library Journal magazines that we get as part of a shared subscription with three other libraries. We may be reading them a couple of months after publication but it saves the library over $100.00 a year. Below those Library Journals are some stickers that my sister donated to the Library (thank you Mary) – she herself was a school librarian and knows the value of stickers to any library.

Behind the paper bag you can see the straps of my “mail bag”. It is extra full today because I didn’t get the mail Friday due to the fact that I was at the school district Color Run. (What a fun day that was BTW) I normally pick up the mail every day because if it isn’t picked up daily the box fills up quickly. Picking up the mail often means hauling packages too because some companies won’t ship to our door using UPS. Today there were no packages. Hurrah!

I don’t haul this much stuff into the Library after every week-end but it’s not unusual for us to have get the “big cart” out or to make more than one trip to our cars to unload this and that for the Library.  It’s all part of our normal routine but once in a while the sheer amount of stuff that I haul on a given day makes me pause and take a photograph and write a story about it.

Image of a pile of books

The wide spectrum of books that some of us are reading was well illustrated at our last Book(s) Discussion here at the Library. The Book(s) Discussion is open to anyone who wants to talk about the books they've been reading with others. It is like a Book Club, but there is no one targeted book to be read and discussed. People can discuss the last book they read, their favorite book of all time, their favorite author, or a book they read that they did not like. There are no rules. Show and Tell with copies of the books is encoraged. We like to think of it as a free range book club. The titles below are the books that were highlighted at our last discussion. Links to Infosoup are provided in the event you want to place a hold on a title.

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo

The Turtle Warrior by Mary Relindes Ellis

Caesar: Life of a Colossus by Adrian Goldsworthy

An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce

Dark Dawn over Steep House by M.R.C. Kasasian

Opium Nation by Fairba Nawa

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Hero by Rhonda Byrne

The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie Sue Hitchcock

Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

Still Life by Louise Penny

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Mr. Owita's Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall

The Book(s) Discussion meets on the first Wednesday of January, March, May, July, September and November. We also have our regular book club that meets on the first Wednesday of February, April, June, August, October and December. This Book Club does pick a book that everyone reads for discussion. The next Book Club will meet on Wednesday April 4th at 4pm and we'll be discussion Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. All are welcome to both programs.

Image of Biblio Bingo Poster

Our annual adult reading program started on Monday and will run for eight weeks. Biblio Bingo was born about a decade ago and this labor of love has become a staple among our adult readers. Your clever library staff come up with all kinds of categories for books and then we find the books to match the categories. Sometimes this is a real stretch and each year we remark that it might be our last because how long can we keep pulling this stuff off - but somehow we do just that and our readers line up to test their mettle yet another time. This program gets you out of your reading comfort zone and don't we all need that now and then?

If you read a book from four categories in a column, row or diagonal you get a small prize and you earn a drawing slip for wonderful prize baskets put together by our designer, Carol. Some might say it's about the baskets ,but if you heard all the conversations that go on in this place when people bring their books back to get their Bingo card stamped you will know it's really about the books. Readers may not like everything they read, but they never regret the time spent reading. This year's categories include, Bildungsroman, Cats&Dogs, City, Cli-Fi, In the Sticks, Propostion Preposition, State of Affairs, Twitter Fiction, Viet Nam, What's that Smell and Wisconsin 2017. Some of these categories are obvious but for the ones that aren't...well, you'll just have to stop in to find out what they mean and while you're here, we'll talk you into signing up to play Biblio Bingo. Thank you dear readers for requesting this program year after year.

The Library’s first general Book(s) Discussion held on Wednesday January 3 was a great way to ring in the New Year. We had eight participants each take a turn talking about books they were reading, books they had received as gifts over the holidays or books they had a special attachment to for some reason. It was a diverse collection of titles and the free for all format of the program made for a lively discussion.Listed below, in no particular order, are the books mentioned during the discussion. If a copy of the book is in infosoup we’ve provided a link for you to go straight to the catalog and reserve a copy online. The next Book(s) Discussion will be March 7th at 4pm in the Library meeting room. We hope to see more of you here!

The Books


Manners and Morals of Victorian America by Wayne Erbsen

Of Human Bondage by Somerset Mauham

Heartbreak Hotel by Jonathan Kellerman

Cherry-Pie Tells All: Peace Corps Reflections of Cherry Shauger by Cherry Shauger

Who Killed These Girls by Beverly Lowry

Bobby Kennedy: a raging spirit by Chris Matthews

Scoop by Jeff Miller

Seventh Decimate by Stephen Donaldson

Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime and A Year of Holidays by Ree Drummond

Hardcore Twenty-Four by Janet Evanovich

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

A Long Trek Home: 4,00 miles by boot, raft and ski by Erin McKittrick

Endangered by Tim Flach

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Hollow City and Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

The Doomsday Machine by Daniel Ellsberg

Prairie Fires: the American dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser

The Wisconsin Capital: stories of a monument and its people by Michael Edmonds

Vintage Camper Trailers by Paul and Caroline Lacitinola

What a diverse list of books generated by eight people -  and this represents a tiny fraction of the books we’ve been reading or have plans to read. This was a fun way to spend a winter hour. Happy reading everyone.


The Huffington Post featured an article of 60 must reads for 2018. There may have been one year in my life that I read 60 books but it was so long ago I cannot remember. I read close to 30 books this year and I consider that an accomplishment. Life seems to get in the way more and more when it comes to the reading life. Of course the online life has something to do that. And even if I could read 60 books in a year, there are still so many books from last year, and the year before that, and the year before that and so on and so forth, that are still waiting for my attention. But if you, dear reader, are inclined to read that many books in a year and you are all caught up from previous years, then I present you with this feast of titles to consider. I like this list because it's anticipating good titles for the coming new year, rather than presenting us with titles already published.