Wednesday, June 30, 2010

That's What She Said: This Means War

Short version: social media is a tool, but advocacy is a mindset. The tools will not matter if the profession doesn’t have the mindset to treat attempts to remove resources as acts of war on our communities. And yes, I am serious.
- Agnostic, Maybe

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Share the love

Super Librarian is super frustrated:
It's going to suck.

It's going to suck so hard that I'm probably going to lose fillings.

Currently, where I work, we are not cutting hours, all branches are staying open, and we haven't cut permanent staff. What has happened? We have no "substitute" help to speak of. So if your children's librarian goes out on maternity leave, or the branch manager's appendix bursts, there are no substitute workers you can call in to help you run your branch. So yeah, it's great we haven't cut hours or closed branches, but in many cases we're majorly short-staffed. Also? Our materials budget will be slashed by over 50% this new fiscal year. Yes, I will somehow have to figure out how to buy books for 30+ libraries with 50% less money than I had last year.
This is just one personal experience. Imagine it multiplied over and over and over again. As library budgets are being slashed, material is becoming more expensive. We libraries have to figure out how to stretch our budgets to the last penny. That may mean we buy less books, subscribe to few e-journals and databases, and hire fewer, passionate staff to spread the love of literacy, reading, and knowledge exploration.

Think back when you were a kid. Can you imagine your childhood being complete without a school or public library? Think back to that time your first walked in to the building, the possibilities the laid before you. Nothing is as fun as finding just the right book to read. Nothing is as valuable as accessing that piece of information your most need. Nothing creates that sense of community discovery and strength as a library.

Libraries are not just warehouses of information, they are discovery and community centers.

Librarians are not shushers or gatekeepers, they are gate openers to a world of information.

Libraries are for sharing. Share the love and support libraries.

YouTube Tuesday: Library Advocacy Day

Today is the American Library Association's Library Advocacy. The recession has sped up the trend of cutting library budgets across this country. Every type of library from public to school to university to specialized libraries have been effected. If one library's budget is cut or closed we all lose.

Fact: Nearly 73% of libraries are their communities' only source of free computer and Internet access- which rises to 82% in rural areas.

Fact: Libraries are part of the American Dream. They offer free access to all. They bring opportunity to all.

Fact: In times of economic hardship, Americans turn to – and depend on – their libraries and librarians. As more and more Americans look for employment, libraries are helping level the playing field for job seekers. Only 44 percent of the top 100 U.S. retailers accepted in-store paper applications in 2006- down from 68 percent in 2004. Library staff report that many patrons are turning to library computers and Internet access to find work, apply for jobs online, type resumes and cover letters and open email accounts.

Fact: Americans visit libraries more than 1.3 billion times and check out more than 2.1 billion items each year.  Users turn to their libraries for free books, to borrow DVDs, to learn new computer skills, to conduct job searches and more.

Fact: Americans check out on average more than seven books a year.  They spend about $31 for the public library – about the cost of one hardcover book.

Fact: Libraries are among the most effective of all public services, serving more than 2/3 of the public with less than 2 percent of all tax dollars.

*The above information from ALA Talking Points.

This is merely a taste of what libraries can do for you, your family, you community, and society. For more information on libraries and their greater impact, please visit ALA's Advocacy University.

Also, take a small moment out of your day to tell your elected officials to support the libraries in your area.

Thank you.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Variations on a Theme: Baby it's cold outside

C has been swelteringly hot the past few days. Today, National Airport hit 100 degrees and broke the old record high. I have never been happier for things like "the shade" and "frosty cold beverages." On days like this, if I can't be on a beach sipping an obnoxiously colored drink, I like to think I'm somewhere cold. Here are some cold related books to put you on ice.

The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-180

Brian M. Fagan

Global warming may be heating the planet up, but human society has gone through several devastating cold snaps. Fagan's book chronicles one such lengthy cold snap and how it changed human society, migration, and economic patterns. This is both an easy and entertaining read that you will be glad you checked out.

Frozen Earth: The Once and Future Story of Ice AgesFrozen Earth: The Once and Future Story of Ice Ages
Doug MacDougall

Where Fagan looks back into history, MacDougall seeks to see where future ice ages might take us. He looks at the scientific history behind ice ages and discusses studies done by the major scientists in this field. One reviewer finds, "Macdougall's account promotes a welcome, reasoning attitude toward ice-age research and its relevance to global warming"

The Coldest March: Scott's Fatal Antarctic ExpeditionThe Coldest March: Scott's Fatal Antarctic Expedition

Susan Solomon

Except when the mercury hits the 90s and higher, I'm not generally a fan of cold. It baffles me how people, voluntarily go to either of the poles. More power to ya, but brr. Those who did so before the invention of super-puffy, warm coats are even more fascinating. Brit Robert Falcon Scott and his gang trekked to the South Pole and died on the trip back. Solomon chronicles their legendary story in The Coldest March.

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage
Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage
Alfred Lansing

This is perhaps the quintessential story of struggle in the antarctic. Shackleton and his crew survived for a year in the inhospitable cold at the bottom of the earth. Lansing's book is considered the definitive narrative of Shackleton's journey.

Wondrous Cold
Wondrous Cold
Joan Myers

Ice and glaciers can be beautiful, natural pieces of art. Myers books simply shows stunning images of ice in the wild.

Cool Comfort: America's Romance with Air-ConditioningCool Comfort: America's Romance with Air-Conditioning
Marsha E. Ackermann

I keep my thermostat warmer than most (a profound lack of body heat), but even I appreciate the cooling comfort of the AC on days like this. Ackermann chronicles of the innovation that has become an American staple. She argues that the cooling has change our opinion of comfort and has influenced how we live, work, and play.

Other Books About Cold Things
Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold - Tom Shachtam
The Frozen Water Trade: A True Story - Gavin Weightman
Ice: The Nature, The History, and the Uses of an Astonishing Substance - Mariana Gosnell
In the Land of White Death: An Epic Story of Survival in the Siberian Arctic - Valerian Albanov
The Last Place on Earth - Roland Huntford
Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica - Sara Wheeler
The Two-Mile Time Machine: Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change, and Our Future - Richard B. Alley

Links and Stuff: June 24, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Useful Things: Fair is Fair

The University of Maryland's Center for Intellectual Property is currently hosting their 2010 symposium. I'm a nerd, so I have been in a attendance for all of the fun stuff.

Copyright law can be incredibly complex and confusing. It does not help that the rules and requirements always seem to be changing. In honor of that, your Useful Thing(s) of the week are:
I am a fair use fiend. That fact will probably get me into trouble one day, but if we don't use it, we lose it. More on that to come after the conference.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Drill, Baby, Drill

This is being posted in honor of the upcoming 2010 American Library Association Annual Conference in Washington, DC. Librarians acting silly is always a good time.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: S.O.S.

This video is melodramatic. This video also makes an extremely important point. School libraries are vital to our students' growth as learners and individuals.

My final library school class was all about marketing libraries and their services. During the semester, I worked with a local public school system to help develop a presentation to principals to help encourage support (and funding!) for their libraries. The more I researched and worked on the presentation, the more I wished I could just stand in a room with all the administrators and let it all out:
Libraries are more than important, they are vital assets! Libraries offer the biggest bang for the buck when it comes to enhancing education! Libraries go beyond books, they are the third place that builds communities and encourages student self-exploration and creative growth! Stop ignoring your library - you are neglecting the biggest tool you have to raise test scores and encourage curiosity and learning!
I could go on and on and on about how important libraries are in schools, communities, and to society as a whole. In fact, I want to go on and on and on. Expect more advocacy from me in the future. It's what I want to do with my career, so I might as well start with the outlet I have here.

So, let me have it, what to do you want to know about libraries, librarians, and information literacy? I'm ready to research and talk. Let's get a loud conversation going; I never was a shusher.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Book 14: What the Librarian Did

What the Librarian Did (Harlequin Superromance)TITLE: What the Librarian Did
AUTHOR: Karina Bliss
STARTED: June 1, 2010
FINISHED: June 3, 2010
PAGES: 249
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Everyone said only a weirdo would turn down a date with Mary O'Connell's older brother, home from university for the holidays.

SUMMARY: [From] Is Rachel Robinson the only one on campus who doesn't know who Devin Freedman is? No big deal except that the bad-boy rock star gets a kick out of Rachel's refusal to worship at his feet. And that seems to have provoked his undivided attention. Devin, the guy who gave new meaning to the phrase "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll." Devin, the guy who somehow becomes wedged between her and the past she's kept hidden for years.

It's up to this librarian to find out firsthand just how "bad" he really is. Because her secret--and her growing feelings for a man who claims he's bent on redemption--depend on his turning out to be as good as he seems. Which is really, really good.

THOUGHTS: This book was as enjoyable as it was frustrating. Bliss' story relies on many romance tropes, but still manages to come across as inventive and fresh. No stodgy Dukes here. I think, however, this book bugged me because it was so darn short. Why does Harlequin insist on forcing there books into a tiny number of pages? It's aggravating. What the Librarian Did could have been such a better book if the editor hadn't slashed it down to so few pages.

I like where Bliss took this book. (I should note that I am a librarian, with new shiny degree to back me up, so I might be biased.) Rachel is a strong character (for the most part), she doesn't play the role of simpering shusher waiting for a man to walk into her stacks and sweep her off her feet. She has a job she loves, wardrobe she adores, sassy sidekick, and general "I'm Awesome" attitude. But, Devin enters her stacks and, while he is quite-the-nice-to-look-at, she doesn't go weak in the knees and shyly wait for his advances. Devin, on the other hand, is a hard rocker with a soft streak (mama's boy much?). The dynamic between these two works. It works really really well. You can feel the heat and, unlike some other romances, you like that these two get together. I even liked the whole dead-beat-rockstar-brother dropping in.

What I didn't like was the MAJOR subplot. When Rachel was young she had a kid and gave him up for adoption. Now he's on her campus looking for her so that he can insult her. (Way to be kid.) Rachel figures out that the kid is hers before said kid knows he's hanging out with mom, the librarian. Then she turns into a simpering fool trying to make her like him. Said kid also becomes friends and study buddies with Devin. This whole triangle of who-knows-who-birthed-who felt forced to me. There could have been a better plot device to move the story along that did not feel so rushed.

That said, I think the whole subplot could have worked well if the editor(s) had let Bliss fully flesh out the story. It was so clear that the hand of the editor had wielded the cutting pen on this story. Several times I felt like whole chunks of scenes had been extracted and I was left wanting much more. Addtionally, I think Bliss know of the stupid Harlequin page limit and rushed the ending. That last 25 pages cram in post of the plot and problem resolution. I'm all for everyone living happily ever after in my romance novels, but I want the hurdles to be overcome much more slowly - you know, in the way they are in real life.

Good read, just wish it was longer.

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Links and Stuff: June 10, 2010

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Useful Things: Going Postal

I have a friend who will be in Guatamala for the summer. We tend to correspond via snail mail for funsies. While she's in Central America I plan on sending her annoyingly glittery notecards. If I can't visit, I might as well remind her of my shiny presence by letter.

I have never sent a letter to another country, so it's time to do some research. Sure there is FedEx, UPS, DHS, and other mail carriers, but I like to rely on the good ole US Postal Service. They may be losing customers by the thousands to e-mail and the like, but sometimes you just have to send a tangible letter. Not one to know postal rates off the top of my head, I rely on their handy dandy postage calculator to figure out the price of my letters and packages. Say what you will for the US mail system, this tool is effective and easy to use.

For an even quicker look at stamp rates, you can also visit

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: What's My Motivation


This video is long, but well worth the viewing. The connection to libraries and literacy may not be obvious, but there is a lesson in this: we need to harness the factors that motivate our users. If we can dial into our users need to make a difference, we can capture their interest. Libraries and information literacy are about information discovery and use. Let a truly interested person loose in a library full of items that intrigue them, and you have a user for life.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Book 13: The Middle Place

The Middle PlaceTITLE: The Middle Place

AUTHOR: Kelly Corrigan
STARTED: May 27, 2010
FINISHED: June 1, 2010
PAGES: 266
GENRE: Memoir

FIRST SENTENCE: The thing you need to know about me is that I am George Corrigan's daughter, his only daughter.

SUMMARY: [From] Newspaper columnist Corrigan was a happily married mother of two young daughters when she discovered a cancerous lump in her breast. She was still undergoing treatment when she learned that her beloved father, who'd already survived prostate cancer, now had bladder cancer. Corrigan's story could have been unbearably depressing had she not made it clear from the start that she came from sturdy stock. Growing up, she loved hearing her father boom out his morning HELLO WORLD dialogue with the universe, so his kids would feel like the world wasn't just a safe place but was even rooting for you. As Corrigan reports on her cancer treatment—the chemo, the surgery, the radiation—she weaves in the story of how it felt growing up in a big, suburban Philadelphia family with her larger-than-life father and her steady-loving mother and brothers. She tells how she met her husband, how she gave birth to her daughters. All these stories lead up to where she is now, in that middle place, being someone's child, but also having children of her own. Those learning to accept their own adulthood might find strength—and humor—in Corrigan's feisty memoir.  

THOUGHTS: When I first started this book, I was completely enthralled. It grabbed me immediately and I did not want to put it down. That feeling did not last. Corrigan's memoir is a remarkable story, one full or strong emotions. But the author shows her faults and they come to dominate the feeling of the book. Towards the end of The Middle Place, I found myself truly disliking Corrigan and wondering why the people in her life put up with her antics and drama.

If Corrigan gets one thing completely right, it is the emotional roller coaster that comes with life and the battle against cancer. On many of the pages, I felt like Corrigan was narrating her story directly to me. Everything in her opening pages felt real and scary. I freely admit that I gave myself a breast exam after I put the book down that first time. I think it would be hard for any woman not to check herself out after reading the pure terror expressed in Corrigan's opening pages.

Unfortunately, the rest of The Middle Place does not live up to the strong start. Corrigan bounces back and forth between "current" days and her past. This structure actually worked for me, but it was hard to maintain a mental timeline and emotional equilibrium of the subjects. This structure did allow the reader to understand just how much her father, Greenie, means to the author. At this same time, this means that Greenie is elevated on an untouchable pedestal and everyone and everything else in Corrigan's life is shafted to the second or third tier - including her mother, husband, children, and friends. While I too am a Daddy's Girl, it seems to me that Corrigan cares only about her father and no one else. Additionally, her tunnel vision of "making things better" makes Corrigan a hard person to like as the story progresses. The woman simply can't "be" she has to "do" even if those around her don't want her to meddle in their affairs.

Corrigan's story is at points touching and illustrative of the cancer experience. I find the book a decent but ultimately disappointing read. Corrigan could have taken so many avenues in this memoir, but her determination to show how awesome and important her father is left me wanting a different kind of story.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Links and Stuff: June 3, 2010

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Book 12: The Zombie Survival Guide

The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living DeadTITLE: The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead
AUTHOR: Max Brooks
STARTED: May 6, 2010
FINISHED: May 26, 2010
PAGES: 270
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: The dead walk among us.

SUMMARY: [From] In this outrageous parody of a survival guide, Saturday Night Live staff writer Brooks prepares humanity for its eventual battle with zombies. One would expect the son of Mel Brooks to have a genetic predisposition to humor, and indeed, he does, and he exhibits it relentlessly here: he outlines virtually every possible zombie-human encounter, drafts detailed plans for defense and attack and outlines past recorded attacks dating from 60,000 B.C. to 2002. In planning for that catastrophic day when "the dead rise," Brooks urges readers to get to know themselves, their bodies, their weaponry, their surroundings and, just in case, their escape routes. Some of the book's more amusing aspects are the laughable analyses Brooks proposes on all aspects of zombiehood, and the specificity with which he enumerates the necessary actions for survival-i.e., a member of an anti-zombie team must be sure to have with him at all times two emergency flares, a signaling mirror, daily rations, a personal mess kit and two pairs of socks. Comic, though unnecessarily exhaustive, this is a good bet for Halloween gag gifts and fans of Bored of the Rings-esque humor.

THOUGHTS: If the dead were to rise and walk the earth, this would be a vital item to have around. Brooks spends far too much time contemplating the zombie apocalypse. He goes into so much depth that this book actually borders on textbook style - including the boredom. After adoring World War Z, I wanted to love this book but the text was so detailed that it felt like overkill.

If you want a true summary of this book, just read the table of contents. It will show you the extensiveness and detail of the text. Brooks leaves nothing out; he covers everything from what a zombie is, to escape routes, survival compounds, and weapons. Plus, much much (much!) more. 

While most of this book is a basic how-to-survive manual, the last third of the text is a detailing of recorded zombie encounters. Those pages were the best part of the book for me because it most resembled the narrative brilliance of World War Z. Additionally, Brooks manages to make several historical events sound as if they were actually zombie encounters. I gotta hand it to the guy, he sure knows how to make the undead feel real.

Finally, I will never look at crowbars the same way again.

RATING:7/10 [Very Good]

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Just Dance!

This video went viral last week (at least amongst us library lovers). I'm just doing my part to spread the awesome.