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1. Missing Comments

I’ve been having some bandwidth and storage issues with this site and in my efforts to clean it up, I think I might have accidentally deleted some legitimate comments. If your legitimate comment was deleted, I am so sorry. It was not intentional.

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2. “Just use the library internet”

A favorite theme of mine is the utter cluelessness of the privileged when it comes to the way the rest of us live. I keep seeing a common theme when it comes to whether people who are struggling on their current incomes should have internet and phones. One person posted that she got along fine without a cell phone in 1999, so poor people now should also be able to get along fine without cell phones. Considering that cell phones are cheaper than landlines, I’m not sure if this person is saying poor people should have no phones at all, or if she is oblivious to the expense of a landline compared to a burner phone.

As for the internet issue, we in the US now live in a society where internet access is essential for many basic functions. “Sure,” say the Marie Antoinettes. “Just go to the public library! The internet is free!” Let’s ignore that these are often the same people who think that we don’t need libraries any more because we have the internet and these are often the same people who will vote against more funding for the libraries, and look at the practical issues of what these people are suggesting. I often wonder if these people have ever been to the computer area of their local public library. Have they seen the waiting list? Are they aware of the half-hour time limit?

If the person they’re judging needs to fill out a job application, she will need longer than half an hour. Using my computer at home with high-speed internet and all my data on hand, it takes between 45 minutes and an hour to fill out a typical online job application. I am college educated and know my way around forms. How long would a person have to stay in the library in order to be able to fill out one job application? And what of using social networking to get a job? It is apparently a trend of the future, but it takes time and access to update a Linked In profile, and it takes time to maintain the social network. Should people be denied access because of bad luck, bad health, or bad decisions?

If the person they’re judging is trying to improve her education level so she can apply for better jobs, I wonder if they’re aware that many traditional universities have unavoidable online classes. I have personal knowledge of programs that require applicants and students to have high-speed internet access at their homes in order to take classes. Perhaps the Marie Antoinettes believe these people deserve to be denied opportunities to improve their lot since they lacked the good sense to be born rich.

If the person they’re judging has small children, she gets to figure out how to wrangle the children while using her precious thirty-minute allotment on the computer. (“Then she shouldn’t have had children she couldn’t care for. But we don’t believe in comprehensive sex education. And we shouldn’t have to fund her birth control.”)

If the person they’re judging works fast food or retail, it’s likely she is working during the hours the library is open.

Most libraries are doing the best they can with the limited resources the public allows them to have. This is not a critique of libraries. It is a critique of people who do not know what they are talking about when they say a person needing assistance should get rid of at home internet and “just use the library internet.”

1 Comments on “Just use the library internet”, last added: 9/16/2013
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3. Self-Serve Information

Self-Serve Information: Now we’re all passive aggressive. I think there are two elements at play here, for me at least.
1. RTFM. How many of us have had the RTFM experience? (Read the F* manual!) This experience encompasses incidents like asking a worker at the library to recommend a good novel and having them wave dismissively toward the fiction section (which recently happened to a friend of mine and which I have observed happening to others), or having a computer problem and being snarled at by the IT people (either you did too much trouble-shooting or not enough.) How many active Internet users have asked a question on a forum only to be directed to a generic FAQ that usually doesn’t answer the question? Asking questions is a habit that gets shut down pretty early in life– the message is sent early on that if you have an information need, you’d better take care of it yourself. “Look it up!” And how many of us have walked into a library and been pointedly ignored? When the people at the reference desk won’t make eye contact, it sends a message that you’re on your own.

2. Upselling. In my experience, sales people are aggressive, pushy, demanding, and won’t leave you alone. Once you give them an opening, they will hound you until you die. Buying a car– what you want isn’t important. They have a green car with chrome trim and 900 miles on the lot and that’s the one they want to sell you at MSRP plus mark-up, although if you had been the one to put the 900 miles on the car, it would be worth half of what they’re currently asking. And you don’t even like the chrome, which costs extra.

You tell the realtor that your price range is 150K and you want an older home and she insists on showing you brand-new 200K Stylecrap houses with rooms the size of closets or worse, trying to convince you to custom-build. (No, we didn’t buy the green Saturn Vue, and yes, we finally found a realtor who got us into our 40-year-old dream house.) Even when you’re getting your habitual soy latte, the cashier has been ordered to try to upsell you on a baked good. It doesn’t matter what you want- it matters what they want to sell you.

It’s not a partnership where you find a mutually agreeable solution to your problem– rather it’s like being chained to a needy toddler who’s not even yours and who wants all your cookies. I would love to have interactions with salespeople where they’re not intent on upselling and getting me into something I don’t want. Although I am an introvert and I do like the choice not to interact with someone when I am feeling overwhelmed, I do find myself seeking out people when I am running my errands. I don’t use self-checkout unless it’s the only option. Sometimes, I even ask for advice (though this is difficult because I hate being upsold to and I can see it coming a mile away.) So if we have become a nation of passive-aggressive DIYers, it’s because we did this to ourselves.

3. I don’t know. Occasionally, despite my internalization of RTFM and my dislike of upselling and/or being urged to buy something that’s not what I want, I do find myself asking people for information. “Do you have a list of sewing machines compatible with this bobbin type?” (No.) “Where can I find a tool for removing a stripped screw?” (I don’t know. Do they even make those?) We get exactly the kind of information that minimum wage pays for.

Sometimes it seems like everything in our culture steers us toward DIY information.

Speaking of doing this to ourselves: Forbes asks if the library of the future has books. (Typical of Forbes, the writer makes assertions that make me wonder if he has ever been in a library, let alone understand how a library works: “While most of the 100,000+ libraries in the U.S. will likely continue to function as they always have, moving books around shelves and holding areas, to and from patrons — at least for the foreseeable future — some libraries around the world are changing and this could be the start of a trend.”) I’m not sure how the general public has gotten the idea that all that happens in libraries is books being moved around, but each time that assertion is repeated, it strengthens a misunderstanding of what libraries do. I suspect that the libraries of the future will indeed have paper books. They might not be the institutions currently considered libraries, but I would be surprised if book trading and book lending went away, not just because of significant and expensive problems with electronic book contracts. I’m fully aware of my tenuous “ownership” of my significant e-book library. I’m aware that these books can be removed from my device’s library and that all I can really consider them is permanently lent. I mitigate it by using the ebook for back-up or travel copies of favorite books, for free e-books, and for books purchased through deals like Humble Bundle, which I also receive in other formats.

To me, one strength of e-books for libraries is the ability to make available obscure and esoteric works that haven’t really earned a place a public library shelf. Electronic storage is cheap and plentiful. Unfortunately, that’s not the way I see e-books being handled. A reader who does like those obscure and esoteric books is better off scouring booksellers for the few paper copies and then hoarding them.

Meanwhile, a friend posted a link to this article for me: The Independent: How Spain Fell in Love with Books Again. The article focuses on a library that was closed two years ago, but reopened recently by volunteers and restocked by donations. I think this story is going to happen more and more often and that these kinds of citizen-organized libraries will be all over the States, especially if libraries keep making assumptions about what people want.

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4. No libraries? Let them buy books!

Libraries ‘have had their day’, says Horrible Histories author | Books | guardian.co.uk.

Most writers love libraries. (Neil Gaiman, Phillip Pullman) Most writers love librarians even more. You only have to go to one ALA conference to feel the love swirling all around you. Not Terry Deary, though. It seems he believes the 500,000 UK readers who checked out his books from libraries last year would otherwise have bought them, meaning he believes libraries have taken 180,000 pounds out of his pocket. He claims, “The libraries are doing nothing for the book industry. They give nothing back, whereas bookshops are selling the book, and the author and the publisher get paid, which is as it should be. What other entertainment do we expect to get for free?” He believes libraries are responsible for book shops closing down, apparently because everyone who checks out a book from the library is hoarding pockets full of money that they would otherwise be using to buy books. (Perhaps then, librarians should stop stealing from him by buying his books for their collections.)

And, because he has absolutely no idea what is going on in compulsory schooling nowadays, he apparently has the charming idea that compulsory schooling gives the impoverished access to books. (“Oh, they can’t afford to buy books? Let them go to a local school and borrow them.”– my paraphrase) Once you’ve graduated or been shuffled along, no more books for you!

Deary’s interesting take on libraries came to my attention within minutes of my reading this blog post: Final Post. Gail Briggs is also a writer. She also lives in the UK. She has a disability and foresees a time very soon when she will have to rely on a library to fulfill the government’s requirements for her to continue her Job Seekers Allowance (which she wouldn’t need if people weren’t so close-minded about hiring workers with disabilities.) Unfortunately, those libraries will not be there for her, thanks, in part, to the advocacy of people like Terry Deary.

Oh, and lest you think libraries, librarians, and library users are the only objects of Deary’s contempt, I bring you his charming views on historians.

I would not be the reader I am now, nor the book buyer and hoarder I am now, without libraries. I belonged to any library that was foolish enough to give me a card and let me check out books. I’m currently pondering getting a card to a library 70 miles away from my home because I’ve almost used up the small and terribly underfunded library in my town. I’m not saying this to be sentimental about libraries, though I will not deny that I am sentimental about libraries. I’m saying this because access to books and time to read CREATES readers. People who are readers buy books. People who are not readers don’t buy books. But people who are readers cannot buy every book they want to read (I know, I’ve tried.)

I’m being very careful with my budget right now, which means not buying myself every book I want. It means relying on the library. I’m also looking for a job as a librarian. This means I’m facing the damage of attitudes like Deary’s from the perspective of both a voracious reader and of a librarian. I’m seeing the limited hours, libraries closed more than two days a week, a lack of jobs for trained librarians; at exactly the same time we have a great need for the services provided by libraries. Job seekers like Gail Briggs are losing their home internet (which many people still insist on seeing as a luxury) at the same time that the government is going entirely online and libraries are closing early and charging for internet access. I’m fortunate that my husband is working in defense (we can always find money for war) but I’m not going to ignore the challenges that so many others face. Challenges that can be ameliorated by access to a properly funded and staffed library.

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5. Google

Since I began teaching reference, I have discouraged students from using Google for their treasure hunts for a variety of reasons, mostly because I know they already know how to search Google. As Google changes, though, my new reason for discouraging students from using Google is that their new attempts to personalize and socialize search results are leading away from “objective” understandings of a page’s quality*. For many reasons, this is not good for library use.

I was one of the early adopters of Google. It was refreshing after the cluttered pages of Yahoo and Lycos to see that simple expanse of white. As they perfected their algorithms, the searches got more and more precise. I knew I could get a balance of precision and recall that was satisfying to me. At some point, the search results began to get less and less satisfying. I could tell when they were messing with their algorithms because it would get harder to get good results with the same search strings I had been using all along. Here is one person’s example. I was getting irrelevant results like this all the time. (In fact, I just searched for “precision and recall” on Google and got pages of SEO pages, along with wikipedia and scholarly articles I don’t have access to at home without jumping through hoops.) Part of the reason for this is that Google has been “personalizing” my search results, sometimes based on where I am (though it thinks I am in a large city with the same name in another state, so those results are generally useless), sometimes based on what I have searched for previously.

Here are some pages focusing on changes at Google and why it might become a less useful search engine as it tries to become more social:

First, we’ll start with Google’s own explanations of the current changes to search: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/search-plus-your-world.html. Notice the adorable hand-drawn graphics and quirky search examples. This is to distract you from what is really going on. While they are personalizing and socializing your results, they are also gathering information about you. Worse than that, though, they are limiting what you can find using their service. I honestly don’t mind trading some anonymous data that will be aggregated in order to get good search results, but I mind very much that their limited understanding of who I am will dictate what they show me. I’ve long been concerned about the effect of the Internet on the availability of information– I contend that the amount of information actually available to many of us goes down if we rely solely on the Internet/Web. I guess that’s a post for another day.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/01/25/145830858/googles-new-privacy-policy-will-allow-tracking-across-services An NPR article about Google’s new privacy plan.

http://techland.time.com/2012/01/17/why-googles-biggest-problem-isnt-antitrust-with-search-plus-your-world/ and http://idealab.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/01/google-search-is-dead.php These articles trace Google’s decline from the “simple white box and search results that made the search engine such a joy to use in the first place” to where it is now. (The discussion of the Olympics search reminded me of my futile attempt to use Google to find out where and when a conference happened last year so I could do a write-up on it.)

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6. Integrity

Anyone who knows me knows I don’t like book awards. (Someday, I might write a post about that, but not today.) Therefore, I usually don’t follow book awards except those which I am obligated to know about because of my job. That’s why I pretty much missed the drama last week over the accidental shortlisting of Lauren Myracle’s Shine
for the National Book Award. I do know that if I had heard her name being announced, I would have been pleased. I’ve met her in person and she is a wonderful, charming, generous person, in addition to being a person who writes about and FOR young people in an original, daring way.

Today, the news broke that she had been pressured to withdraw to preserve the “integrity” of the award and the judges’ work. On one hand, I understand that the judges did not select the book, but on the other hand, this is both a worthy book and a real human being that they have humiliated and hurt to preserve the “integrity” of their work. Also, what does it say about their “integrity” that they first said they would consider the book in addition to the other five and then changed their mind and tried to privately shame her into withdrawing from consideration? Did they think that would make things better? Why didn’t they just say last week, “oops, we made a mistake and named the wrong book and forgot to fact-check before making the announcement.” (Let’s not even go into why phones are terrible media for important things.) I think that would have been easier to stomach than this.

My heart aches for Lauren. I can imagine how horrible it feels to have something like this dangled in front of you and then snatched away. I hope that she gets lots of sales out of this and her book gets the attention it deserves. As for the award itself, I will continue to ignore it and read books based on their own merits.

Publisher’s Weekly article

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7. Bookseller Gripes

By now, most everyone has seen this list of gripes that some Borders employees believe they had hidden from their customers. Accompanying the legitimate complaints against customers doing appalling things (like tearing up the store or leaving their children alone to tear up the store) are the complaints that bother me enough to write a post about it. The anonymous former employees don’t like your taste in books. They don’t like helping you find a book with very little information to go on. They don’t like that you’re confused because the store changes every week. And frankly, they would rather you shop elsewhere. They might have thought they were keeping these opinions a secret, but they weren’t. Underlying many of the comments posted to the various sites that have featured this picture is the idea that there is such a thing as being too good to work retail.

The reason I even bring this up here is because librarians have chimed in agreeing with many of the points on the list, including the frustration of finding a book with little information. In some ways, I understand the booksellers being frustrated, since they might not have been trained in reader’s advisory or reference. But librarians? Librarians who should know how to ask questions to find out what the patron is really looking for? The real problem I see is that patrons can tell if the librarian feels inconvenienced or is looking down on the patron. Patrons can tell if the librarian would really rather you go elsewhere. We can’t take patrons for granted. Patrons who feel slighted or unwelcome in the library will just go away. They might not make a grand fuss about it, they might not ever tell you why they’re not coming back; they’ll just find themselves too busy to go to the library. They’ll buy all their books, or borrow them from friends and family, or just stop reading. Do we have such a glut of patrons, of readers, that we can afford to alienate them? And why would we want anyone to leave the library feeling like an inconvenience?

Please note that I am NOT advocating allowing people to trash the library (or bookstore) or leave their children unattended. This is unacceptable behavior. What is NOT unacceptable behavior is: looking for the latest Oprah Winfrey book, reading Twilight, remembering only a few details about a book you heard about on the radio last month, or being confused because the corporate overlords dictate moving everything around every week so customers CAN’T find anything without your help. (The last one is bookstore specific– I hope libraries don’t get into that habit!) It’s a real Catch-22 to the customer, who knows he’s inconveniencing you by asking questions, but who has to ask because everything is different now.

I know how appalling some people can behave in public. I have cleaned up after my fair share of them (both as a worker AND as a fellow customer.) But we HAVE to recognize the difference between the horrendous, thoughtless behavior that is unacceptable and the normal human behavior that allows us to have a job.

1 Comments on Bookseller Gripes, last added: 9/26/2011
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8. Write Every Day?

Seth Godin says something I probably need to hear every day. Write every day, in public. This is very hard for me because I worry about the repercussions that follow speaking one’s mind. It’s not that I worry about my writing not being good enough– I wrote professionally for years and I know my writing is at least adequate. It’s that I worry that if I express the wrong opinions, I could put my career in jeopardy. Pretty ironic when my career is studying and teaching librarianship. I also pay attention to discourse and how policies are shaped and how they then shape the people who have to enforce them. In other words, I think too much.

I do agree with Seth Godin and I am going to try to write more, publicly, every day. I think it will help my writing for publication as well. I’m working on several articles and a couple of research projects. One article is on culture shock in school libraries and the other is a narrative of my experiences doing institutional ethnography in a school. I want to write it in a way that would be useful to a librarian who wants to examine work processes and discover how to change them for the better.

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9. This semester

This semester, I’m teaching Teen Lit, Children’s Lit, and Cataloging. I am going to try to get back into the blogging habit to see if I still have anything to say. I have a lot to say, but I try to answer the three questions: is this true, is this kind, is this necessary? Will it improve the world? I don’t want to add to the noise– there are a lot more blogs out there than there were when I first started blogging 12 years ago.

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10. Returning

It’s been a long time since I last posted. I’ve been off earning my PhD in Library Science. Some people might be able to continue blogging while earning a PhD, but I’m not that energetic!

I focused on school libraries and youth services in my research and classwork. This blog will focus on issues of library services to youth and the underserved. I’ll also look at technology and new media in connection with how it shapes library work with and by youth.

This semester, I’m teaching Youth Services and Internet Reference, so it’s likely most of my posts will be related to those two topics.

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11. Book Meme

I have a lot of half-finished posts sitting in my drafts folder. I’ve been busy with school, Scouts, conferences, and various other things. I saw I got tagged for a meme, though, and since I’m currently procrastinating on a paper, I decided to go ahead and do it.

Book Meme Rules
1. Pick up the nearest book ( of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people

All places of public resort require the restraint of a police, and places of this kind peculiarly, because offenses against society are especially apt to originate there.

The next three sentences take up about a page: it’s John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty.

Consider yourself tagged… but I think I’m the last person to do this meme.

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12. Second Life

Despite my frustration with Second Life, I’ve been hanging around there more than I was ever able to before (new computer.) The Library 2.0 people have done a fantastic job with the design! I really hope I am able to make SL work with my graphics card when the new update is made mandatory, because I would love to get into volunteer reference or reader’s advisory. I’m a member of 2 SL library groups, but I haven’t heard anything from them for a couple of weeks, so I’m not sure if they’re having the same problems I’m having.

I know I’ve been mostly negative about SL in the past, but I can really see the potential. Tonight, two classmates and I were trying to figure out whether we would have time to get together and discuss our projects. Something like Second Life would be very cool for that. Yes, it would just be chatting with our avatars as visual representations, but it would add another element for those of us with learning differences.

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13. Second Life

So, my old computer crashed and I had to get a new one. It’s beautiful… a Dell Latitude D620. Everything I had hoped the old Toshiba would be. However, I have hit a snag. I was hoping to get more involved in Second Life. I’m a member of two library groups in Second Life. I logged on tonight, enjoyed the terrific graphics and the beauty of Rachelville (that is a very nice place!) Then… CRASH. Turns out the developers of Second Life do not support my video driver… one that happens to be fairly common in education laptops. So those who would like to use Second Life as a vehicle for education might want to rethink that idea until the developers see fit to support more than two types of graphic cards.

I’m both attracted to and repelled by Second Life. I LOVE the idea and think some of the execution is wonderful. However, I see it as a further enforcer of the digital divide. My brand new, best computer I can afford on a graduate stipend with student financing is not compatible with Second Life. Where does that leave people using refurbished P2s? Or schools? Second Life is currently solely for the technological elite, not for the regular people. Which is sad, because I really wanted to get involved and finally have a computer that’s fast enough.

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14. mercedsunstar.com :: Library jobs get the ax

mercedsunstar.com :: Library jobs get the ax. I can’t understand a school culture that doesn’t value the librarian. Essentially, this is the message sent by this decision. I would like to understand more about where the librarian fits in and why the librarian is considered expendable in education.

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15. Seattle!

I’m in Seattle! I was busy from 7:30am to about 10:30 pm yesterday. A lot of great sessions on youth services, mostly focusing on school librarians. The conference site charges for wireless, but our hotel has complimentary wireless! Not that I’ll have a lot of time. I do still plan to live-blog ALA, since they will have complimentary wireless.

It’s great here! I’ll try to post later, but now I have a class to deal with.

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16. Blogging ALA

I said yesterday that I would be blogging ALISE and Midwinter (live-blogging will depend on whether I have an electrical outlet handy, since my computer has a battery life of less than an hour.) Shortly after I posted that, I got an e-mail from ALA about how they’re enabling bloggers. I can even get a blogging badge! I’m not sure what the purpose of that is, but it sounds neat. I joined ALA’s Midwinter Flickr group, so I will be posting some of my pictures there. I’ll also be posting other pictures on my own account so my family can see what I’m up to.

I love technology!

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17. Another Semester

It’s almost the start of a new semester. I’m working on finalizing the syllabus for Literature for Children. This is my first time teaching adults and it’s one of my favorite subjects, so I’m very excited.

I’m starting the semester in Seattle. I’m attending my first ALISE conference and then attending the ALA Midwinter conference. I’ll be observing and recording a focus group on romance novels. I also hope to gather audio for LISRadio shows for this semester. I plan to try to live-blog the conferences as much as possible, with pictures.

The first semester went by in a kind of haze. I was overwhelmed by the transition… it was much more difficult than going from being an undergrad to a graduate student. I wonder if it was made harder because I was in the same institution, so I was used to things being a certain way. Being a doctoral student is definitely an education.

I was pleased with how my classes went in the fall. I came out of them with two ideas that I’m going to work into presentation proposals.

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18. Search Patterns

This is a very interesting idea. Jon Udell is tracking his search process. He says “I’m less inclined to accept that some people are natural information hounds, and others aren’t, and that’s just the way of it. Innate talent clearly plays a role, but so does learned skill. What the learnable component of effective search may be, though, is very unclear. So I’ve begun to reflect on, and document, my own search habits in order to try to discover what it is that I’ve actually learned how to do.” He’s tracking his own search patterns at del.icio.us and would like for others to do the same. I’m intrigued and might play along. I like to think of myself as a good searcher. If it’s the kind of thing one can find on Google, I can find it. But maybe that’s not true. It would be interesting to submit my tactics to the scrutiny of all.

Via The Distance Librarian.

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19. LISRadio: Adam Nelson

This week’s LISRadio showcase is an interview with University of Wisconsin professor Adam Nelson. Professor Charley Seavey attended a session with Adam at a recent conference and was intrigued by what he had to say about the connection between print media and education. I was especially interested in what he had to say about how video games and new media can lead kids back to books. As kids learn about events and subjects from their games, they look for more information about those things… in books. New media allows kids to learn guided by their own interests.

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20. Reading: The Book Thief

I am a fan of Markus Zusak. He is one of my favorite newer YA authors (along with John Green). I ate I Am the Messenger in just a few hours. The Book Thief was much more difficult to read, and shows another dimension of Zusak’s imagination.

Liesel Meminger lives with a foster family in a small town outside of Munich in the early 1940s. Her accordion-playing foster father teaches her to read, although her career as a book thief begins while she is still illiterate. Her family takes in a Jewish man, the son of a man who saved him in World War I, and Liesel befriends him. The story is narrated by Death, who gives a different perspective on life and war.

The story has the dark humor you would expect from a book narrated by Death.

The Book Thief

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21. Reading: The Burn Journals

Since I don’t have a separate blog for my YA reading, I’m going to post those reviews here. I did not have extra time this Thanksgiving break, but I took time to finish two books that have been hanging over my head since the semester began.

The Burn Journals is Brent Runyon’s account of his recovery from a self-inflicted fire that almost killed him. It is incredibly hard to read, because it reminds me that boys can be in incredible emotional pain, yet not know how to reach out… or even want to reach out for help. After Brent survives the fire, he realizes that he does want to live, and he can’t even remember why he set himself on fire in the first place.

My life revolves around boys. I have two of my own, I have a brother who is just 14 months younger than me, we were raised by a single father. I am a Cub Scout assistant den leader and intend to go on to be involved in Boy Scouts next year. My interests as a librarian are middle schoolers… kids the age Brent was when he hurt himself… and reluctant readers. With all the interest and exposure, it’s still clear from this book that I just can’t know what’s going on in their heads, their hearts, and their souls.

The Burn Journals

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22. LISRadio: Michael Powell

This week’s LISRadio showcase is an interview with Michael Powell, owner of the famous Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. Interviewer Charley Seavey went to Portland in the spring and conducted the interview in the store. This is the first airing of the interview.

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23. The Degree

Degree or Not Degree, That Is the Question. Of all of the new crop of posts I’ve seen today about library education, Josh Neff’s has the best comment thread. This is an extremely touchy subject. It’s a sensitive subject for me.

It’s fascinating to me how so many librarians feel their educations were useless and they didn’t learn anything in library school. I’ve only been to one library school, but I am a completely different person than I was two years ago. Maybe my school is extraordinary (well, I’m partial to it), but it has changed me. The program balances theory and practice very well. Students coordinate internships at libraries that interest them. Even though we don’t have a health sciences program, we have a health sciences library where students can get experience. We don’t have an archives program, but we have archives where students can work. In the school library program, students have to have 10-11 semester hours of practical experience, focusing on certain aspects, with reflection and guidance.

I find the comments made by Mr. Neff’s coworkers to be a bit passive-aggressive… “Bet they didn’t teach you this in library school.” They don’t and can’t teach you everything in library school. My view of library school is that it builds a theoretical base of knowledge about libraries and librarianship, gives structured and guided practice at specific aspects of librarianship, and grounds students in the intellectual history of the profession. It doesn’t teach how to clear a printer jam, how to clean up patron vomit, how to handle an 11-year-old asking to learn how to French kiss. It doesn’t teach you how to deal with a library board (or how to craftily stack that board when you get the opportunity.) Perhaps there is an assumption that there are things that are appropriate to learn on the job.

Bloggers often seem frustrated at the lack of classes on things like blogs and wikis. Perhaps my school is unique, but in many of my classes, we had choices of assignments, including electronic formats. In at least one class, starting a blog was a required practice. (This was the genesis of my Tween Lit site.) I would prefer to see technology worked into classes in that way, rather than requiring a specific class on just learning html/blogs/wikis/exciting new social software of the future. A specific class on current software would always be in danger of being behind. There is a danger, though, of being too far on the cutting edge. One of my classmates is working in a library that has no OPAC– just a card catalog. A conference I hope to present at is asking presenters to bring their own presentation gear or go without because of the cost of the equipment. Schools can have such aggressive filters and firewalls that starting a wiki can be an impossible dream. Students need to know how to do things the lo-tech way as well.

I am continuing my education because I believe in the MLS (or, in my school, the MAISLT). I like that people come into the field with a variety of undergraduate degrees (and other graduate degrees) and a variety of backgrounds. That adds a richness to our profession.

I think library school professors/ researchers bring great value to the profession. They have much to teach to those willing to learn.

Last week, we had a visit from Thomas Mann, a Library of Congress reference librarian. It was an excellent visit, about which I will post another incredibly long post (actually, two parts), but a key thought is that library “evolution” is a myth. When librarianship changes, it’s not “evolution,” it’s a result of decisions– conscious or unconscious. At least some of the people making those decisions need to be people with an awareness and understanding of library history, library sociology, library psychology, library culture. You don’t need a degree to be one of those people, but library school is (should be) a safe place to get that kind of knowledge.

One more interesting point from Mann’s lecture: people are defending “library as place” in a way that makes them not libraries any more. We have to think about the implications of what we are doing and the history of what has been done. That’s true in librarianship and it’s true in library education. How is this movement for reform different from the other movements for reform in the last century?

Disclaimer: My words here represent only my own beliefs. No agreement or endorsement by my school or my professors is implied or stated. My interpretation of the words of Thomas Mann are only my interpretation.

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24. LISRadio: Librarian John Furlong

This week’s LISRadio library podcast showcase is an On the Job show interview with John Furlong. He is a Missouri librarian and a graduate of Missouri’s SISLT. The most fascinating part of this interview is his discussion of his experiences with a lending library in Nicaragua. He also talks about training other librarians on how to use circulation software.

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25. MoLib 2006: More about the Library and the Community

As I said yesterday, the Library and the Community presentation was very interesting. It covered two of my current favorite themes: outreach and democracy. OK, maybe Democracy is a bit of a stretch here, but it does show people without means that the library is for them, too. One thing that really upsets me is when public libraries are treated as if they are only for the powerful people, even when it’s not the powerful people who need their services the most (this will probably come up later, when I discuss a friend’s presentation on the Commodification of the Library.)

Ms. Florea talks about collaborations with different community agencies. Some examples:

  • Creating tote bags with books about issues facing families (divorce, death, new babies) and having local aid agencies give parents “prescriptions” for the tote bags
  • Leaving recently de-selected but still decent books at WIC offices for parents to read while they’re there or even take home if necessary
  • Providing traveling storytimes for community centers with childcare, such as the Y or Boys and Girls Club, who can’t always get their children to the library

Various funding options were discussed. Some of the outreach was carried out with the help of grants from Health and Human Services and other organizations.

Attendees also shared examples of outreach from their communities.

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