standing Westerly Library

I like to think that I’m of average intelligence and have a decent skillset for a person my age. I’m a librarian, after all, and a mother, so I spend most of my day passing information on to other people (and changing diapers). But then something happens — I attempt to remove a car seat on my own, or my daughter asks me literally anything about math — and my entire worldview collapses. For all the things I know, there are exponentially more I do not. Fortunately, with a library card and a couple of hours a month, we can all add a significant number of random AND practical skills to our personal resumes and become a jack of all trades … at least to ourselves.

“The Useful Book” by Sharon and David Bowers, which refers to itself as an “encyclopedia of DIY,” is a great guide to get you started with everyday skills that you can master pretty quickly. It offers information on over 200 life skills, from “how to roll a burrito” to “how to build a bookshelf.” Perhaps not the most exciting or impressive skills, but it’s a great resource for quickly learning everyday skills as they come up. “The Experts’ Guide to 100 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do” by Samantha Ettus is similar, with chapters devoted to driving a stick shift, uncorking a wine bottle, and speed-reading. I’ll bookmark the pages on “tying a Windsor knot,” which has come up at least five times in recent years. “How to Fix (Just About) Everything” by Bill Marken caught my eye, not just for its enormous size, but because I’d love to be a bit more handy. The title is accurate, as Marken covers everything from everyday annoyances like repairing a book to removing rust from cast-iron, changing a tire or car fuse, and even unjamming a zipper.

Another interesting book is “Back to Basics,” a 1996 guide from Reader’s Digest that teaches the “good old-fashioned ways of doing things”, such as making natural dyes, basketry, maple sugaring, and even making your own hammock or dulcimer. I’m not sure I’d call the latter “basic,” but it’s certainly unique! The book also covers some basic survival skills — a subject that there are MANY books about (and yet another area that I know little about). From “The Ultimate Bushcraft Survival Manual” to “How to Survive Your In-Laws,” there are resources to help you learn the skills to survive virtually any situation.

If you’re looking for more flashy skills, we have plenty to help you there. It wouldn’t take too long at all to learn a few basic phrases in various languages with the Mango Language app. And you should surely check out “Your Introduction to Morse Code” by the American Radio Relay League to master this old — but still relevant — form of communication. Alternately, impress your friends with hibachi-esque tricks with the help of “Knife Skills” by Peter Hertzmann. Just keep “The Complete First Aid Pocket Guide” on hand!

Top requested books

  • 1. “Spare” by Prince Harry
  • 2. “Lessons in Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus
  • 3. “A World of Curiosities” by Louise Penny
  • 4. “Mad Honey” by Jodi Picoult
  • 5. “Demon Copperhead” by Barbara Kingsolver
  • 6. “It Starts with Us” by Colleen Hoover
  • 7. “The Boys from Biloxi” by John Grisham
  • 8. “Our Missing Hearts” by Celeste Ng
  • 9. “I Will Find You” by Harlan Coben
  • 10. “I’m Glad My Mom Died” by Jennette McCurdy

Top requested DVDs

  • 1. “Ticket to Paradise”
  • 2. “Tár”
  • 3. “The Woman King”
  • 4. “Black Adam”
  • 5. “The Banshees of Inisherin”
  • 6. “The Menu”
  • 7. “Till”
  • 8. “Magpie Murders”
  • 9. “Father of the Bride”
  • 10. “House of the Dragon”

This week

MONDAY — The library will be closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

TUESDAY — 10:00 a.m.-7:30 p.m., Crafternoon To-Go | Hot Chocolate Bomb – Pick up a kit on the 2nd floor of the library. Kits are first come, first served; 1-2 p.m., Tuesday Afternoon Book Discussion – This month, we will meet on Zoom AND in person to discuss “The Lost Man” by Jane Harper. Email Caroline at for meeting details; 1-4 p.m., Community Resource Advocate – Visit our volunteer Community Resource Advocate, who can help connect you with local services/resources; 4-5 p.m., Tabletop Tuesdays – Come to the castle and play an hour of various tabletop role-playing games, like Dungeons and Dragons! For ages 8-12, and snacks are provided; 4-5:30 p.m., Winter Dungeons and Dragons – A teen-led Dungeons & Dragons campaign! Registration is required; 5:30-6 p.m., Family Craft Night – We’re making fluffy snowmen! Materials will be provided by the library and will be first come first served; no registration required; 5:30-7:30 p.m., Knit and Crochet Club – The group meets on the 2nd floor of the library.

WEDNESDAY — 10-10:30 a.m., Family Storytime – Best for ages birth-11 years; 2-3 p.m., Film Club – We will discuss three Coen Brothers movies we selected last month and choose three to watch for our February meeting; 2-3:30 p.m., Virtual Tech Social – We meet on Zoom every Wednesday to address your tech questions. Preregistration is required. 5-6 p.m., Pride Club – Meet other LGBTQIA2+ teens and allies while enjoying snacks, playing games, and hanging out; 6-7 p.m., Author Talk with Stuart Vyse – Please join us for a presentation and Q & A with local author Stuart Vyse and his book, “Stonington’s Steamboat Hotel”. Copies will be available for sale and signing.

THURSDAY — 4-6 p.m., Teen Crafternoon – Join us for weekly crafting activities and snacks; 5:30-7:30 p.m., Chess Club – Players of all skill levels are welcome; 6-6:30 p.m., Tween Advisory Board – Hang out with our Tween librarian and let him know what you want to see in the library.

SATURDAY — 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Westerly Writer’s Group – Share work, discuss readings, and write in response to prompts in this group-led writing workshop; 10:30-11:30 a.m., Zumba in the Library – Get moving with a free Zumba class in the Terrace Room; 11 a.m.-12 p.m., Home School Meetup | New Year, New Friends – Connect with other families and make new homeschool friends! Our Youth Services team will discuss resources the library has for homeschool families; 1-3 p.m., Esports and Tabletop Games - Enjoy an afternoon of gaming with both tabletop and video games. Use our Nintendo Switch console or bring your own in handheld mode to play along with friends

Cassie Skobrak is an adult services librarian at Westerly Library & Wilcox Park.

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