Kaprielian’s RMV tapdance

It’s no longer breaking news, but the Southbridge office of the Registry of Motor Vehicles that moved to this rest area plaza on the Mass. Pike:

. . . now has an attractive new home here, in downtown Southbridge:

I’m all in favor of fiscal prudence in government agencies, but moving the South County Registry of Motor Vehicles to a toll-highway rest stop has to be one of the most tone-deaf moves that Rachel Kaprielian (who, incidentally, is a Holy Cross graduate) has made. 

It would perhaps have made more sense to introduce the touch-screen kiosks to each and every Pike rest stop rather than making people pay (or go completely out of their way, or park half a mile away) to use the RMV.

While an apology to Southbridge-area people would have been nice, let’s not hold our breath waiting.

Of course, there is one thing missing to complete the new Registry’s external décor:

Library Vignettes

I was in the library bookstore one evening two weeks ago, brought my purchase to the register, and then I heard someone say, “Oh, it’s Nicole the Blogger!”

It was my good fortune to meet a couple who reads this blog regularly, and we had such a lovely conversation. I feel horribly that I have no memory for names, so if you’re reading this, send me an email and remind me what your names are!


I was at FPBL desperately trying to feed my obsession with the Channel Islands during WWII.  (Sparked by this, which has half the cast of Lewis and the predictably swoon-worthy Philip Glenister.  But I digress.)

The lady in line in front of me had come in with her husband.  He’d lost his library card, so she brought hers.  Except she hasn’t used hers in at least five years, so the card’s no longer valid.  Unfortunately, she needed a form of ID to get another card, and she hadn’t brought one.  So she started complaining loudly (and, frankly, approaching on the abusive) to the librarian.

The librarian took it in stride and explained the rules calmly.  The patron continued to be difficult.  I was actually quite proud at how the librarian handled it: she repeated the rules, said that she had to follow them, and was pretty dang collected for someone who was being yelled at.

Bottom line: if you try to get a library book out by bragging that you haven’t had to use the library in five years (yes, bragged), don’t expect sympathy from the library professionals.  Or me.


Tonight I was walking from the library to City Hall, and as I was walking down the outdoor walkway next to the library, a man greeted me and I threw a good evening back at him.

I kept walking, and he said, “You’re gorgeous.”

I thanked him.

“What’s your name?”

“Nicole.  And before you hit on me any further, sir ,” — I flashed my wedding ring — “I’m married. Sorry about that!”

“That’s okay, honey.  You’re still gorgeous.”

I love this town.

How does the Greendale Big Lots compare?

Last Friday was the grand opening of the new Big Lots store at the Greendale Mall, though people visiting the mall earlier that week evidently found the store open for business in advance of the “grand opening”.  Last Friday, if you were one of the early shoppers (like Kate Toomey), you would have found yourself the recipient of a $3.00 gift card, coffee/juice/doughnuts/muffins, a Big Lots baseball cap, travel mug & tape measure.

Worcesterites are largely unfamiliar with the Big Lots chain, though their stores are sprinkled around central Massachusetts.  Nevertheless, the nearest Big Lots had been in Fitchburg and Dudley until last week, and although Worcesterites like a bargain, they’ll rarely travel far for one.

I’ve heard from several friends/relations who’ve visited the new store.  Not knowing what to expect, some of them were disappointed that prices were slightly higher than comparable items at Ocean State Job Lot or Building 19.  Comparing Big Lots to other discount stores isn’t quite like comparing apples & oranges, but more like comparing Granny Smith Apples to Fuji or Golden Delicious — each sort of bargain store should be evaluated/appreciated separately, as each has its strengths & weaknesses.

In general, Big Lots stores offer very nice merchandise that is considerably cheaper than retail prices in department stores like Walmart or Target.  They’re sometimes cheaper than comparable goods at Ocean State Job Lot, and sometimes they’re more expensive — you have to know your prices to make an informed buying decision.

The new Big Lots store at Greendale Mall is quite spacious, taking over the square footage formerly occupied by Marshalls.  My family and I have been to most of the Big Lots stores in central New England, and the closest in store size & merchandise selection to the Greendale Mall store is probably in Fitchburg (prices seem to be the same in every store).

The Fitchburg Big Lots is located in a small plaza on John Fitch Highway in a circa 1970 building that once housed a Stuart’s Department Store.  It strives to be clean & cheery, and certainly looks nicer than Stuart’s did in the mid-1990s as it circled the drain, but the building still has a “worn out” feel to it.  The bargains & selection, nevertheless, make up for the tired architecture.  For more than a decade this store has been a frequent stop for my family when we’re in the area, and my husband has often made a special trip in the spring, as they offer 8-foot-tall trees for under $15, including species not usually found at nurseries in this area (Taxodium distichum, anyone?).

Fitchburg Big Lots

Until last week, the Fitchburg store was the one to beat.  Dudley, Milford & Gardner are probably the next closest geographically, but just don’t quite compare.  Worcester does.

The selection at the new Worcester store seems to be nearly identical to Fitchburg — we even found a few items in Worcester we hadn’t ever seen in any Big Lots before (though maybe they were new in the inventory chain-wide).  As usual, the prices were uniform with their other stores.

Greendale Mall Big Lots

Despite the comparable merchandise, the Greendale Mall store seems a bit nicer than the one in Fitchburg, with slightly wider aisles.  The location of “departments” within each Big Lots store seems to be determined by each manager’s whim, as they’re usually not consistent — the Greendale Mall store was a new challenge in this regard.  We found ourselves wandering the aisles last week to find things.  Hopefully they’ll get some better overhead signs up soon.

I can cheerfully declare that the Greendale Mall Big Lots is a worthwhile stop for bargain hunters, but you’ll face at least one challenge.  This being the first Big Lots I’ve seen in a mall instead of a plaza, it occurs to me that if you’re accustomed to buying larger items, you may find it a chore to get them to your car.  The store is tucked away at the far right end of the second floor.  Conceivably you could use the glass elevator to get things down to the level where people park, but I doubt that Big Lots will want their shopping carts travelling all the way out to the parking lot or garage.  Check with your sales clerk and see if they have any “approved” ways to get stuff to your car.

And you’ll probably still have to drive to Fitchburg if you want that cheap Cercis canadensis.

Crompton Park News

A couple of items:

Tomorrow, Saturday the 20th, Pernet Family Health Service will host an Ice-Skating-Rink raising at Crompton Park from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. This project will be achieved in collaboration with Carpenter’s Local 107, neighbors and community volunteers. This outdoor skating rink will be available for skaters to enjoy.  (You can find pictures from last year’s skating-rink-raising by clicking here and scrolling down a bit.)

Also, on Monday, November 29 at 6:30pm, there will be a second public hearing regarding the Master Plan for Crompton Park.  The meeting will again take place at the Green Island Neighborhood Center in the park.  If you did not attend the first meeting and you have anything to say about the park plans, you need to attend this meeting or otherwise submit your comments to Parks.  After this meeting, the plan will be developed and shared with the community, but this is the final opportunity to let your voice be heard.  (Yes, I will be not-quite-liveblogging this meeting.)

Middle Eastern Music and Dance Tomorrow at the Library

via the Worcester Public Library FB page:

Have you ever heard the sound of a saz or the oud, kaval or zills, buzuq or zurna? Have you ever danced the halay or the dabke? Join us as Edward J. Hines presents an interactive, FUN, program for All ages. Gain new perspectives about the rich cultural heritage of Middle Eastern music and dance. Refreshments provided by the Friends of the Worcester Public Library

Free! Open to all ages!

2pm in the Saxe Room

Blogger Beer

I’d like to thank everyone who came out to the Blogger Beer at Vincent’s tonight:

Jeremy, Brittany, Josh and Joyanna, Scott, Karl, Jim [now updated with a link], Brian, Dave, Chad, CCKT, Brendan, Gabe, Tim, Patrick Lynch from Destination Worcester, Cathy, Sam, and Bill (whom I unfortunately missed).

I’d never been to Vincent’s before (truth be told, I only picked it because I’m a Ray Winstone fan) and if I’d known (a) how tiny it is in there and (b) that a good cross-section of bloggers, tweeters, and readers would come, I’d likely have picked a larger venue.  But we were able to able to transition our conversations to the patio area and (I hope) everyone got a chance to mingle a bit.

(I’m looking forward to people posting photos.  Especially the one where I give a meaningful hair-flip.)

Thank you all for such a lovely time!  I hope to see you all (and those we missed) at the next blogger event (venue suggestions welcome, though I’m leaning towards Firewood Cafe, if it opens soon).

I’ll take the liberty of speaking for everyone when I say that there was one person we all would have liked to see, and whose presence was sorely missed.  And I’ll speak for myself when I say that you have been and continue to be an inspiration to me, Jeff, that I am really proud of you, and that you continue to be in my prayers.

CWW Quick Takes

At tonight’s Blogger Beer, Karl told me that the Sears Outlet is having a blowout sale on clothing — he got an awesome corduroy blazer for $8.  (I don’t know how he knew my weakness for corduroy blazers.  I must just be the type.)

Also, the Big Lots in the Greendale Mall is opening on Friday.  I’ll try to prepare a photo post about that at some point soon.

Reminder: Blogger Beer on November 17

A friendly reminder that we’ll be having another blogger get-together tomorrow evening.

Here are the details:
time: Wednesday, November 17 at 5:30pm (but feel free to show up later; that’s just when I’ll show up)
location: Vincent’s Bar, 49 Suffolk Street

As a reminder…You do not need to be a blogger to attend.  You do not need to be a regular commenter (or even reader) to attend.  You do NOT need to be a drinker to attend.

As an incentive, I decided to take a page out of someone else’s book…

The first attendee who wasn’t at the last blogger coffee gets first choice of: a beer, a really excellent book of my choosing, or a new Nicole, Worcester business card.

Next two attendees (whether or not this is their first Blogger get-together) get second and third choices.

As another incentive, Dave Goldberg will be attending.  He and I recommend you read this article about urban farming and liking CityFarm on FB.

Hope to see you all then!

Teens in the Library

There are times when I don’t respond to a comment right away, and it usually means that I’m thinking of the best way to respond, or that I just don’t have a good answer.

This comment from Katherine is one of those:

About mentoring youth, is that the teen area? There is a young adult librarian. Maybe she could be there in afternoon when kids are there. The other librarians are usually too busy to deal with the noise and unruly behavior.

When the library was designed, there was an acknowledgement that it was important to have a separate area for teens, separate from both children and adults.  I think this was a great acknowlegement, because I’m a firm believer that adolescence is a special part of life, separate from childhood and adulthood, and that we need to equip people of that age the tools they need to be successful and well-informed.

The problem, as I see it, is that the amount of space allotted for the teens is way too small.  I’ve heard reports about the noise and unruly behavior of the teens, but I have to say that I’ve never experienced it.  Whenever I walk by that section of the library, the teens are usually pretty darn respectful, especially when I’m walking by with a young child or two in tow.  That doesn’t mean they don’t get loud, that doesn’t mean that they’re not disrespectful at times, that just means I don’t see it.

My impression — and this could be an incorrect impression — is that the teen/YA librarian needs to spend time in the children’s room as well as the teen area.  (I think I may have got that impression sometime around this meeting, but for the life of me, I have nothing to back that statement up.)  So, there’s another problem: we’re short-staffed at the library.

And here’s a third problem: it’s loud on the main level.  There’s no way around that.  It’s loud on the main level of the Boston Public Library’s Johnson building, too.  For better or for worse, people are looking at libraries more and more as social meetingplaces and less and less as shushing factories.  The good news is that it tends to be quieter on the second floor, and quieter still on the third.  I’ve had librarians come up to me (while typing on my laptop on the first floor) and let me know that I’m more than welcome to go upstairs if I need more quiet.  And that’s been at times when people are barely speaking above a whisper.  The noise level, however, cannot be attributed to the teens alone.

I don’t think we should forget that the teens are doing a lot of great things at the library.  And I think it would be unfortunate to approach this problem, if it is a problem, as a “we have to get the teens under control” issue.  They’re patrons, just as the adults are patrons, just as the children are patrons, and just as the homeless are patrons.  We should be asking how we can best serve these specific patrons, not how we can keep these troublemakers from disturbing everyone else.  When we cast it in those terms, we make it seem like the adults are the “real” patrons and the teens are only visitors.

One of the only good spots in having had most of our branch libraries eliminated is that the main branch truly is a cross-section of our city.  People from all different backgrounds, who come from all areas of the city, who range in age from newborns to ninety-year-olds, congregate at the library to study, read, surf the web, and take out DVDs.  You can approach those people as obstacles to your library experience, or you can look at them as fellow human beings with whom you might share a smile or funny anecdote, from whom you might learn something.

So, yes, there is a problem with the teens.  The problem is that we need to do more for them, period, and that we should be recognizing people who are dedicating time to working with them.