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Posts by Ursula Murphy

Legal Aid and Information in New York City

From criminal cases to income tax law, legal issues are part of our everyday life.  Finding the information you need can be confusing and difficult. Luckily there are organizations in the city to help you out at no or low cost. Here are a few to turn to if you need legal help.

New York Bar Association Services The New York Bar Association offers a number of free services to the public: legal referrals, an advice hotline and access to a variety of informative legal clinics. If you need a lawyer and 

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What I talk about when I talk about Haruki Murakami

I recently finished the memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. I have been a big fan of his dream-like novels for almost fifteen years now, having first discovered The Wild Sheep Chase at a yard sale in Cambridge, MA. I was with a friend who declared the back cover synopsis to be the worst summary ever.  Something about it intrigued me though and I bought the copy for about 50 

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2010's Oscar-Worthy Books

The Oscar nominations were announced last week and this year, there are four Best Picture nominees that were adapted from books.  If you've seen the films and want to read the books, here they are:

The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich. This book was adapted into the Golden Globe-winning film, The Social Network, starring Jesse Eisenberg (nominated for Best Actor) and based on the true story of the beginnings of facebook.  

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NYC Civil Service Examinations

Many jobs within the City of New York government are filled through competitive, citywide examinations, which are administered by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services or DCAS. Positions like Police Officer, School Safety Agent and Correction Officer are all filled on a yearly civil service exam schedule.

Take a look at the exams for jobs website if you have additional 

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Public Assistance Resources in NYC

Are you confused about the numerous benefit and assistance programs offered by New York state and city government and whether you qualify? There is a lot of information to digest out there and it's constantly changing. Both Access NYC and My Benefits are two helpful sites that allow you to screen for your eligibility for public assistance. You can do so anonymously or by creating an account. You will be asked to enter some basic information about yourself and your family to 

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A Helping Hand from Food Stamps

The United States Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known more commonly as the Food Stamp Program, provides support to low-income New Yorkers including working families, qualified immigrants, the elderly and the disabled to increase their ability to purchase food. A household must qualify under eligibility rules set by the federal government to enroll in this program.  To determine your eligiblity for this or other goverment assistance programs, click

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Happy Birthday Woody Allen

Woody Allen was born Allen Stewart Konigsberg 75 years ago on December 1st in Brooklyn, New York.

According to the

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Free GED Preparation in Manhattan

Looking for free GED programs in Manhattan? Here’s a list by zip code. Also, see below for PDF flyers for NYC Department of Adult and Continuing Education locations and programs.  See this previous blog post for additional programs located in Harlem.  Know of any other free GED programs? Please make a comment to alert us. Thanks! 

Community Impact, Inc Earl Hall, Columbia ... Read More ›

Finishing Up: "Kitchen Confidential"

The third course chapter of Kitchen Confidential recounts Tony's series of jobs after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America.  From the fading glory with a view of the Rainbow Room to the Apocalypse Now atmosphere of Works Progress, then later to the slow failures of Tom's and Rick's Cafe, etc. Along with an increasingly fat paycheck, his stories of the various kitchens he worked in 

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Discount sushi and other really bad ideas

Welcome back to the Reader’s Den.  This month we are reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen ConfidentialJenny’s post from last week gave us some background on Bourdain.  We are progressing in the book onto the second course now, which outlines “what strange beasts lurk behind the kitchen doors” as well as several 

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Energy Assistance Benefits

The cold weather is approaching and heating costs can get expensive. The New York State Department of Energy Research and Development Authority has some tips on how to save on energy costs, weatherize and find emergency heating assistance near your home.  As well, you might qualify for government assistance to help pay for heating and/or utility costs.  HEAP and UAP are two programs offered to citizens of New York.  You can check here for eligibility and 

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November Reader's Den: "Kitchen Confidential"

Welcome to this month’s Reader’s Den!  This month we’ll have a discussion co-led by Jenny Baum and Ursula Murphy about Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. Please feel free to comment or bring up anything relevant to the book in the comment section.  We'll try to address and facilitate discussion as it comes up. 

“I’ve long believed that good food, good eating is 

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Get Up, Stand Up! Information for Voters before Election Day

The New York State General Election is November 2, 2010.  Both Senate seats and a gubernatorial election are up to be voted on as well as many other races. The voter registration deadline is coming right up, read below for more information.

http://www.elections.state.ny.us/ If you are registered already, find out where to vote. If you aren’t sure if you are registered or not, you can enter some basic personal information here to

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Harlem Library - Pictures from the Past

Recently we found some old and not so old photographs of the Harlem branch among our files and wanted to share. 

The first is from April 8, 1910 and is a photograph of our 2nd floor children's room with its beautiful marble frieze and fireplace (which at the time seemed to be functioning). This was taken not too long after the branch opened in July of 1909. 

The others are from a 1998 visit by Ossie 

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Free GED Prep Classes in Harlem

Looking for GED Prep in Harlem?

Follow these links for free prep courses and resources for adult learners. 

http://www.unionsettlement.org/adult-ed Union Settlement House offers free Adult Education and GED classes in its East Harlem Location. http://www.harlemctred.com/eoc/programs.html Harlem Center for Education offers free GED and Adult Education classes. ... Read More ›

Don't Close the Book on the Harlem Library

Harlem Kids Add Their Voices: Keep Our Libraries Open!

Kids from the local school Promise Academy wrote these letters and more to voice their support for their local branch here on 124th street.   Our children's Librarian Leah Zilbergeld made this poster for everyone to see that kids love and need the library in their lives. 


Please don't shut down the library.  We need it to get our knowledge and people need computers 

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How Green is Your Rooftop?

If the answer is not so green, perhaps you might think about coming by the Harlem Branch Library on June 1st at 5:30 pm to get some helpful tips from Kellie Madden of Harlem Lofts. 

This is the latest in our popular Home Owner seminars put on from Harlem Lofts over the past few months.  Join us for helpful tips on creating a rooftop garden and greening your rooftop to enjoy over the spring and summer. 

Limited seating, to register contact Kellie at 212-280-8866 or

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"Shadow of the Wind" Discussion Wrap Up

One last question to wrap things up, Julian and Daniel’s lives follow very similar trajectories. Yet one ends in tragedy, the other in happiness. What similarities are there between the paths they take? What are the differences that allow Daniel to avoid tragedy?

If you enjoyed this book, I recommend the following authors:

Gabriel Garcia ... Read More ›

"The Shadow of the Wind:" The Reader's Den Discussion Continues

More discussion questions from the Reader's Den, please feel free to comment on one or more questions.

  How does the setting of Barcelona in the midst of its Civil War add to the novel?   The author uses excerpts from letters, rememberances of people involved and other devices that relate part of the story from another person's point of view.  Do you find the technique successful in propelling the story? Why or why not?   “This book is obviously an ode to books and to the art of reading. You have Bea state that "the art of reading is ... Read More ›

Reader's Den: "The Shadow of the Wind" Book Discussion

After reading for a week, we've gotten to some of the mystery and intrigue of the novel and some interesting points have arisen for discussion. Feel free to weigh in on any or all of these questions.

The Shadow of the Wind (La sombra del viento) was written in Spanish, and the word "sombra" can also be translated as shade, which gives the title a bit more of an ominous and darker feeling. What is the shadow (or shade) of the wind in this story?

Daniel Sempere and Julian Carax have a number of 

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