Thursday, September 30, 2010

Links and Stuff: September 30, 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Useful Things: Twenty Point Words

I attended the National Book Festival in Washington, DC this past week. One of the highlights of my visit was hearing Diana Gabaldon, my favorite author, speak. During the introduction of her talk, Ms. Gabaldon was asked to share her favorite word.

The response? Absquatulate.

Yeah. I've never heard that word before either.

Gradiloquent Dictionary is a resourceful tool if you want to impress your friends with big, many syllabled words. While the bulk of the features have to be downloaded (search, index, etc.), the website does keep an extensive dictionary of impressive words online.

Now we all just have to figure out how to play this vocabulary on the Scrabble board.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Banned Books Week


The American Library Association is celebrating Banned Books Week. This week is meant to celebrate the First Amendment and the intellectual freedom libraries and books represent. Libraries encourage free and fair access to all types of information resources. This includes keeping books with unpopular content and controversial material on the shelves.

Everyday, people attempt to have books removed (read: censored) from their local public and school libraries as well as from bookstores. It is the goal of librarians o hear their patrons' arguments for banning books while maintaining free and unfettered access to the library's collection.

Here are the Top Ten Banned Books from 2009:
1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: drugs, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

2. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: homosexuality

3. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: anti-family, drugs, homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited to age group

4. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Reasons: offensive language, racism, unsuited to age group

5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

6. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

7. My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult
Reasons: homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence

8. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

9. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

10. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
Reasons: nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group 

For more about challenged and banned books, visit the ALA Banned & Challenged website.

I say the best books are the ones that have been challenged or banned. These books bring up difficult topics - and these topics (sexuality, violence, racism, etc.) are the ones we should be discussing. Banning books does not "save our children" it merely limits their experience and understanding of difficult issues. These controversial books should not be feared. They should be celebrated and widely discussed.

Do you have a favorite banned book? Alternatively, why do you think a book should be banned?

YouTube Tuesday: Time

This video is long, but the information it contains is worth the ten minutes you spend watching it.

While the connection to libraries is tangential, there is a lesson to be seen. Students have been hard wired by technology. The way we teach information literacy needs to match the way their brains work. I, like many librarians, to readily slip into the lecture/slide method of teaching. We need to find a way to make information literacy and library instruction classes more interactive and technology oriented.

We have to work harder to reach our users. Trying for force the lessons into their heads the old way will not work. It will only push these users out of our doors.

Has anyone out there tried a teaching method that actual seems to stick?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Variations on a Theme: Autumn

Apparently, I like making this blog post difficult to write. I love fall. LOVE IT! Everything about fall makes me happy - football, chill in the air, the clothes, soups and stews, changing leaves. I love it all. Hence, this mish mash post about all things I could think of that remind me my Autumn.

Grab a cup of cider and enjoy!

Autumn: A Spiritual Biography of the Season
Autumn: A Spiritual Biography of the Season
Gary D. Schmidt and Susan M. Felch (editors)

The authors of this book explore the ideas the arise in autumn: Thanksgiving, change, work, celebration, and endings. Autumn is a transitional season and the editors of this book have selected thoughtful essays that reflect the mood of the season.

AutumnJean Mulatier

One of my favorite aspects of the fall season is the changing foliage. I am actually making a trip to my hometown in upstate New York with a goal of seeing true fall colors. Mulatier's book is composed of photographs that capture the changing leaves of fall across the globe.

Autumn: A Season of Change
Autumn: A Season of Change
Peter J. Marchand

The leaves of autumn change because of science! In this book, Marchand explains why the flora and fauna do what they do in fall. It's like the nature channel, but written.

Fall Foliage: The Mystery, Science, and Folklore of Autumn LeavesFall Foliage: The Mystery, Science and Folklore of Autumn Leaves
Charles W.G. Smith

Much like Marchand, Smith explores the scientific side of fall foliage. If you ever wondered why some trees turn red while others turn yellow or orange, then this book is for you. So, while your making your leave and crayon wax paper window panes, you can learn about why trees spit their leaves.

Rites of Autumn: The Story of College FootballRites of Autumn: The Story of College Football 
Richard Wittingham and Roger Staubach

Go Notre Dame! Okay, now that my loyalties are out of the way, you can read about the history of college football. Most schools are steeped in tradition - now you can read how colleges moved from leathnecks to the multi-billion dollar industry it is today. This book is the companion piece of the ESPN series by the same name.

Roger Yepsen

Apples are one of my favorite fruits. There are so many variates and ways of preparing apples, that there is a taste for everyone. Yepsen discusses, "how apples are grown, stored, and used to make cider and harder alcoholic beverages, as well as for cooking and eating." The book includes several watercolor illustrations to make your mouth water.

Other Autumn Related Titles
Apples - Frank Browning
Autumn Gatherings: Casual Food to Enjoy with Family and Friends - Rick Rodgers
Autumn Glory: Baseball's First World Series - Louis P. Masur
Autumn in the Country - Stan Trzoniec
Autumn's Cathedrals - Jason Wolfe and Stephanie Wolfe
Every Saturday in Autumn: The Sporting News Presents College Football's Greatest Traditions - Ron Smith
Fall Color Finder: A Pocket Guide to Autumn Leaves - Ritchie C. Bell
Fallscaping: Extending Your Garden Season into Autumn - Nancy J. Ondra et al.
Fresh in Autumn (Seasonal Cookbooks) - Alastair Hendy
In Celebration of Autumn: A Book of Seasonal Indulgences - Helen Thompson
A New England Autumn: A Sentimental Journey - Ferenc Mate
The Rites of Autumn: A Falconer's Journey Across the American West - Dan O'Brien
Why Do Leaves Change Color - Betsy Maestro

Links and Stuff: September 23, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Book 26: Moving Your Library

Moving Your Library: Getting the Collection from Here to ThereTITLE: Moving Your Library: Getting The Collection from Here to There
AUTHOR: Steven Carl Fortriede
STARTED: July 6, 2010
FINISHED: September 14, 2010
PAGES: 192
GENRE: Library Science

FIRST SENTENCE: The decision to write this book came about because of a phone call.

SUMMARY: [From] The task of moving collections of books and other materials can be overwhelming as library facilities evolve to reflect changing demographics and use patterns. Author and experienced mover Steven Carl Fortriede has everything you need to get the job done quickly and efficiently with step-by-step directions, diagrams, spreadsheets, and photos. Readers will learn how to plan a library move, which method is best for a particular situation, how to recruit and train workers, and what tools and supplies are needed. Everything you need for the move is included - even specifications for boxes, moving carts, sorting trays, and a worksheet to calculate shelving layouts and growth rates. "Moving Your Library" is the complete kit for any librarian facing the daunting prospect of moving a library collection.

THOUGHTS: This is one heck of an informational text. If you are ever in a position where you have to move a large library collection, this book will be your Bible.

Fortriede breaks down a library move in extraordinary detail. In some instances, the book was so technical that I found myself skimming over all his math and precise descriptions. I started reading this book thinking it would cover small, in house moves as well as large library moves. Nope. This book was mainly about massive moves. Good stuff, but not quite what I was hoping for.

As a library stacks manager, this book was informative. A casual library worker would be overwhelmed with the enormity of what the author covers. Read at your own risk.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Survival Skills

It's the story of our lives.

When economic hard times hit, the library budget is cut... just when our usage numbers go up and we need more funds to meet our patron needs.

Have no fear. We're crafty and will find ways to be successful.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Links and Stuff: September 16, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Useful Things: Picture It

Are you in a bind because you can't find that one perfect image for your project? Have you tried iStockphoto? You should. If you can't find an image here, it probably doesn't exist.

Okay, that last sentence is probably an overstatement, but iStockphoto really is a fantastic website. While you do have to buy the images available, the cost is relatively minor and you don't have to pay royalties. You can dig around in their massive (no, really, it's huge) collection and only buy images when you need them. Images are available in many sizes with various uses in mind (web, poster, presentation, etc.) The cost of the image varies with the size and content.

iStockphoto lets you see recent uploads, look at seasonal images, browse through categories, or conduct a keyword search. If you want to participate in the community if the website, iStockphoto offers articles, online forums, steel-cage image match ups, and design spotlights.  In addition to the photos, iStockphoto also has illustrations, videos, audio, and flash.

Once you've created a (free!) account, you can save images to your light box, purchase credits, friend other users, and subscribe to content feeds.

iStockphoto is a great and inexpensive way to make your presentations, papers, or what-have-you look professional and polished.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Libraries > Google

I should plainly state that I, unabashedly, love Google. I think the services the company offers are great. I like that most things are free, easy to use, and may be personalized (to an extent) for every individual. But Google will only get you so far.

As the video shows, Google is a one way street. You put in a query and it spits something out at you - right or wrong. Google searches for the masses. Google search does not make it easy to hold a conversation to find that perfect bit of information you need. Librarians, on the other hand, listen and ask you questions to elicit the exact information need you may have. Information queries are far more complex than most people realize. What librarians specialize in is the Reference Interview. Google cannot drill down to that perfect website as easily as a trained librarian can.

For example, say you saw the movie Gladiator. Russell Crowe made you want to know more about acutal Roman gladiators. You could Google "gladiator" but that will spit out information on the film. At this point you might try searching "roman gladiators." You get a Wikipedia entry and a bajillon websites of all kinds on roman gladiators. If you're looking for a cursory overview, you're set, but what if you had something else in mind. This is where a librarian comes in. They are trained to derive your exact information need by asking you questions to determine what exactly it is your looking for. In this case, you may have been searching for a book (or website) about the importance of gladiators to roman politicians and emperors.

Librarians, in this case, are necessary because they cause you, the information seeker, to breakdown your general information need to get to the heart of your query. Google can't do that. Google can give you a lot of good stuff, but a librarian can give you exactly what you need.

Friday, September 10, 2010

What makes a book valuable?

Southeby's in London is set to auction of the most expensive book ever, John James Audubon's Birds of America. The beautiful tome is going up against a Shakespeare First Folio. Both items are expected to fetch several million dollars for the sellers. These items are undeniably beautiful (in form and content) and valuable - but it's easy for a book to be valuable when the tome is both opulent rare. Items like these belong in museums or libraries large enough to afford to care for and display such pieces of history.

While I love oohing and awing over expensive books as much as the next literary lover, I am more intrigued by everyday valuable books. I like books where the value is contained in memory. I read like a maniac, but only some books have ever been truly valuable to me.

Their value comes from the story.
I rarely keep books after I read them. I'm a love 'em and leave 'em type of girl when it comes to books, but a select few become long term affairs. I keep these items because the story is something I would want to read again. The story grabs me or the characters feel real, whatever the reason, I know I would pick up the book again. Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series is the first to come to mind. Jaime, Claire, and the plethora of other characters that populate this series have become a part of my literary family. The books are lengthy but never dull. It's a series I have read repeatedly and will continue to read with each new addition. Much like Gabaldon's work are the Harry Potter series. J.K. Rowling has created a world I wish I could inhabit, Voldemort and all. The imagination presented in these books makes each re-read a treat.

Their value comes from how they make me feel.
Certain books I retain because the subject matter is something I am passionate about. I have a shelf of books about books that will continue to grow. I'm going to hazard a generalization and say that most librarians or booklovers have a shelve or two of books about books. What can I say, we love reading about the reading. There's something that makes me warm and fuzzy inside whenever I reach for an item on this shelf. Even a bad book is still good because I get to read about reading.

Their value comes from who gave them to me. 
I consider myself a burgeoning minimalist. I'm constantly weeding and purging my belongings - this includes books. There are some items, however, that I will always keep. Namely, the Titanic books my father finds for me. Back in middle/high school I became uber-fascinated with Titanic (the ship, not the movie). Ever since then I've been the owner of a growing a collection of Titanic books. Some I've added myself, but most have come from my father. He is constantly keeping an eye out for books to send my way. New, used, rare, popular, it doesn't matter, he has a Titanic radar every time he enters a bookstore or library sale. Every Christmas morning, I look forward unwrapping the Titanic book that my father as placed under the tree. He has found so many items that I have yet to read most of them. Even if I never crack their covers past the first quick scan, I will always keep these items. Why? Because it's my dad's way of showing love. He is a librarian, too. My father gets more joy out of seeing people light up when he finds just the right book. He make my smile every time he places a new item in my hands.

People place value on books for all sorts of reasons. I love hearing the stories - it's one reason I decided to be a librarian. The sharing of books and how they affected the reader is one of the best ways to create a sense of community. It's also, in my opinion, the single best way to learn about new authors and undiscovered books. When you see how happy someone is to share a book a love, it's hard to ignore their recommendation. You may not love the book in the same way, but you can at least expand your horizons and, who knows, you may fall in love with book too.

Are there any valuable books in your life?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Links and Stuff: September 9, 2010

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Book 25: Bellweather

BellwetherTITLE: Bellweather
AUTHOR: Connie Willis
STARTED: August 22, 2010
FINISHED: August 31, 2010
PAGES: 247
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: Hula Hoop (March 1958-June 1959) The prototype for all merchandising fads and one whose phenomenal success has never been repeated.

SUMMARY: [From] Here-and-now speculative yarn involving chaos theory and statistical prediction, from the author of the fine Doomsday Book (1992), etc. Employed by the HiTek company, Sandra Foster is trying to develop a theory that can predict how and why fads and trends begin. But her attempts to computerize her data (mostly in the form of magazine and newspaper clippings) are constantly frustrated by the awful Flip, the erratic, forgetful, careless interdepartmental assistant. Still, Flip does lead Sandra to meet biologist Bennett O'Reilly, who thinks he's discovered a hidden factor within current chaos theories. As Flip blunders about--ghastly black lipstick, weird clothes, faddish accessories, attitude problem and all-- Sandra and Bennett decide to set up a joint project to test their ideas on the behavior of a flock of sheep. HiTek's management heartily approves--such a project might well win the coveted Niebnitz Grant. Sandra and Bennett learn that a bellwether sheep unconsciously acts as a catalyst to determine the entire flock's behavior. Bingo! Flip, while seeming totally incompetent, unknowingly acts as a human bellwether, causing fads and trends to crystallize around her as she lurches chaotically through life. Willis's intriguing notion comes across with the authority of a genuine insight--and probably merits a more dramatic and thoroughgoing workout than the agreeable but bland treatment it receives here.

THOUGHTS:The zaniest thing about reading this book is that I had to remind myself that it was fiction. The story itself was obviously fiction, but each chapter begins with factual information about a real-life fad. It was those moments I actually found most interesting about the book. Otherwise, it was just an okay read for me.

It was hard to tell if Willis wanted this book to be more about fads or a love story. I was more interested in the fads, so the love story felt unneeded to me. In some ways, it almost felt like it was shuffled in to please an editor. I think part of the reason the love story felt blase is because the characters, while interesting, never fully grabbed my attention. Except for Flip, no one felt special or wholly realized. The characters were not necessarily bad, they just felt kind of flat.

Additionally, I had one major problem with this book. The people who are swept up in the fads are, save for one, portrayed as complete idiots. I know they are meant to parallel the stupid sheep in the fad experiment, but this style felt forced. Furthermore, it simply pissed me off. Not everyone who follows fads is an idiot without a brain. Willis' handling of this point felt preachy and elitist. It bugged me to the point that it almost made me not like the book.

That said, this was an interesting read and I look forward to Saturday's book group discussion about the text.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Links and Stuff: September 2, 2010

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Useful Things: Introduction to Expertise

The benefit of being a librarian is that you get to learn a little bit of information about a lot of things. It's hard to avoid picking up Jeopardy trivia as books, articles, and reference queries cross your path. Every now and then, however, you just want to delve deeper into one subject.

Enter: Five Books

This website focuses on collecting five books and interviews with experts (to make you a casual expert) on one subject. The website operates like a blog - constantly updating information from their contributors. You can also view their specific topic sections including Energy & Environment; Society, Law & Religion; and Food, Drink & Sport.

So, say you want to know more about cake.... you can go to the Food, Drink & Sport section, click on Cakes and read an interview with renowned baked Clair Ptak who then lists her five books.

Some topics are covered several times - soccer (or football) for example. In that instance, you can just search for the term (football) and find all the information you need. Additionally, Five Books allows you to search by region (tell me more about Azerbaijan!) and also subscribe to their newsletter.

Happy Expert Reading!