Friday, June 26, 2009


He has done it again! Steven Harris of Collections 2.0 has come out and said, in a much more exact and succinct manner, exactly what I would love to say about the future of newspapers. In fact, I was working on a post which is now rendered null and void because all it requires is a link... "Newspaper Nostalgia."

There, now you have it! Go read it.

I like the idea of newspapers, in the format that we now know them, as being the best use of the medium. However, now that we have different mediums, we need to make the best use of them. Long, thin articles are great for skimming on a cheap piece of paper, but they reek havoc on the screen.

Perhaps I am a bit bias - one of my summer jobs in college was to hang newspapers on those long bamboo poles, getting ink on my fingers and clothes.

I think I would take nicely to sitting at my table in the morning, drinking my coffee, and reading the paper on my kindle. I'd take very nicely to that indeed.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What Rare Books Mean to a Library without Them

So I lied... the newspaper rant is not ready to go, but in the mean time... Rare Books!

In my opinion, there is little that the library world has to offer that can match the thrill I had as an intern in the Grand Rapids Public Library Special Collections. Yes, that sounds ridiculous and stupid, the more so when you discover that they had very few rare books - none of particular note.

It was that perfectly environmentally controlled room that I fell in love with!

A recent blog post from Wynken de Worde about rare book patrons, started me thinking about the role these book-care techniques play in smaller libraries that have few, if any, rare books to worry about.

My summer task is to shift our sub-standard, basement storage up three inches. Recently we had a flood that, were it not for the willingness of the librarians to wade ankle-deep in questionable water, almost claimed the bottom row of our archived periodicals, uncatalogued photos, and, most importantly, our modest collection of antique to old Bibles and Torahs. (Please don't tell anyone that I am really, really excited about working down there this summer!)

All libraries have one or two books that are precious and, if they are anything like my library, they are never used. That is the greatest shame!

If we could promote our ownership of the items while protecting them, we would have to worry about their preservation. Unlike many people, I think this is a good problem to have.

What use are the books in the basement if there is no one to read them?

This is where the post in Wynken de Worde comes in. The author writes:
What does it mean to us, as readers in libraries, to be a reader of rare materials? What are our responsibilities to those materials, to the library, and to the other readers?

These are good questions that even smaller institutions should be asking themselves.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sometimes I Forget...

Lately I have been giving a lot of thought to the future of libraries - eBooks, Kindles, death of newspapers (oh! wait, that is coming tomorrow!). In fact, the webinar that I participated in today about wikis will be a great tool for some projects I am working on now.

This is all well and good, but sometimes I am caught forgetting the past. What struck me most about this fun post from the News in Print was how much I have forgotten to keep this past in mind!

And what a great past it is!

I remember watching the history channel as a child and seeing a piece on the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Great Library of Alexandria being, in my mind, the most wondrous of them all - imagining walking through those halls, browsing those books, seeing people from around the world converge in this center of knowledge. From then on I read everything I could and marveled at artistic renderings of the structure.

Passion, that is what it was. I had become passionate about the idea, place, and people of the Alexandria Library.

It is that passion and awe that I sometimes loose when I am dealing with an angry patron and a miss-shelved book or an angry patron and a late fee or an angry patron and... well, I think you get the idea.

This is just not an awe of libraries, but of bookstores too, that I struggle to maintain! A few days ago a group of students from a local elementary school reading club came in for a tour of our store. To see how fascinated they were by the less-than-impressive stacks of books and the different carts made me smile with their sincerity.

Though I have little hope of regaining that awe of hot-carts or the massive stack of Stephan King's latest, I can try to remember the awe that books inspire! Whether they are in bookstores or libraries, they are why we are here. Working with knowledge and helping others access this knowledge.

Passion for the books: that is something I will need to remember!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Reading History... the Fun Kind

The Seattle Public Library's reading blog, Shelf Talk, is one of my favorite places to go when I am looking for reading inspiration! This post's focus, "Viewing History through a New Lens," is on reading history books that take a different look at the events described.

As someone with a history background, I love when authors try to put an interesting spin on history and, as a result, make it much more accessible. That is one complaint I hear often: "But it is so boring!"

Being an historically minded person, I have never really understood this complaint. However, in the past two years I have noticed a marked increase in the number of popular history titles - from The Forgotten Man to anything by Doris Kearns Goodwin - and, I would like to think, that it is making people hungrier for the topic.

Kudos to all libraries and bookstores that are promoting fun, historical reading!

On that note, I would like to close with one of many great Dorris Kearns Goodwin interviews on The Daily Show!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

Friday, June 19, 2009


Recently I have been asked to guest lecture a few times for a Slavic Lit class next fall (*squeal*) and a few months ago the professor and I sat down with the first draft of the syllabus and, most importantly, the book list. This was the first time that I saw how much thought and effort professors put into these lists. She was very concerned about cost and we both rejoiced at the inexpensiveness ($40) for the main text of the class!

When I wanted to add another title (the text only had Gogol's The Overcoat and what would a Slavic lit class be without The Nose?), I found a free eBook copy offered through the library and I am excited to see how this is going to work in the classroom setting! I'm wondering how the eBook format will impact the students and how many of the students will bring in hard copies of the book or their computer.

So, with that in mind, I noticed an pairing of articles in the ALA bulletin that interested me exceedingly: the Textbook Rant from Seth Godin's blog and "6 Lessons One Campus Learned about E-Textbooks."

What I found intriguing in these articles, especially when taken together, was the conviction that once the "eTextbook" revolution begins, it will take everything by storm! Both Young and Godin write with a (correct) tone of inevitability.

I was surprised, however, at the disparaging tone of Young's take on this university's attempt to make the big switch, often critiquing the president of the university for being overly excited and eager about these changes. This was a pilot program, there were some hitches, but, if it proved anything, it showed that it can be done!

Often times we need something like this university's experiment to guide us in the right direction and using these mediums (personally I stand behind the specifically designed book readers) is a big step in that direction. That is why I applaud Godin's blog post, for its energy in that vein.

The technology is getting there, but not quite yet.

As more people, students from an increasingly varied economic background and students who do not remember a time before the computer revolution, every attempt must be made to get the information to them cheaper and in a format that would be the most beneficial.

This is something that librarians have been talking about a lot lately, and I have a few other articles about this issue to review in the next few days.

Once the technology catches up and becomes more affordable, universities are going to be jumping for eTextbooks; however, it is the people who are taking those steps now that are doing the academic world a good service! Thanks!

PS: I'm sorry, I completely respect Godin, but he is severely underestimating the amount of work professors have when he suggests that they write their own material and publish .pdfs for the class - yikes!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Future of Books - Library Perspective

I'll be upfront and honest here: I work in a library, I help out in a bookstore, and last week alone I bought six (yes, 6) books. I love having books laying all around! But, I want a new Kindle and I am willing to embrace eBooks.

So pairing a love of books with a love of technology, I like to think, has given me a reason to be particularly interested in one of the many debates that is raging in the book world: what is the future of book publishing?

In a report from "The Future of the Book." In the report, Keir Graff writes a good summary of an event he attended which he thinks could have been called the "End of Books as we know them, 101." I have to admit that I laughed when I read that! I've felt a lot of what is coming out of the industry is more in line with The-End-Is-Nigh sandwich board clad people preaching on the streets.

It is time for people, and libraries in particular, to come to terms with the changes that are going on. Electronic and web-based formats are here and consumers are currently defining how they are going to be best used. Does it do us any good to complain and claim that these formats will not survive? No. That is not for us to determine!

What libraries should be focusing on is figuring out how our patrons are using their Kindles and iPhones - then give them what they need to keep us being a valuable part in their educational pursuits.

The thing I liked about this report was Graff's comment about how having a book-editor and a web-manager on the panel doesn't do a good job at reflecting some of the more nuanced aspects of this question. It is up to the individual library to strike that balance within their own collection, that between the electronic resources and print.

Interesting implications - what role should libraries play in the widening gap between these two worlds?

The Pain, aka Legal Documents

I know what a pain it can for college students to find information legal cases! In fact, I was that unfortunate student on more than one occasion - trying to navigate the gov docs section of our library, attempting to find credible online sources for a particular case, or even just wanting to see a particular transcript from the Supreme Court. There is never an easy way to do this!

That is why this article, "Legal Technology - Get Your Free Case Law on the Web," caught my attention.

There are many useful links for a librarian who is guiding a student through their legal case research - I bookmarked more than one!

Of particular note...
1) AltLaw - an interesting project which I found to be particularly easy to use. You can tell it was created by a librarian, or at least someone very sensitive to the needs of researchers, because this site offers the most comprehensive searching tools that would be helpful to all levels of researchers.
2) PreCYdent - this is a great, new tool (still in beta) that has the cases, but also has a social networking feature. This is a great way for today's university students to share resources and may promote a loyalty.

Hopefully, as the digitization of these materials spreads, locating and using them will get easier... or is that just a hopelessly idealistic pipe dream?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Proper Google Usage

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Google is the smart librarian's secret tool!

This post, "Conjugating the Verb to Google," from one of my favorite book-loving blogs, Bibliophile Bullpen, reminded me of this because it is an excellent example of how Google is best used.

Often I am asked to defend the work of librarians in the increasingly Google-able world. Many in the profession shun these advancements, but do not realize that our future is going to be defined by them.

This "tiny adventure in time travel" is exactly what Google and other search engines are for. The author rightly wonders how long a more traditional search would have taken him or her.

How long would it have taken? Too long to satisfy a mild interest, that is for sure.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"Today its all Google, no Gogol"

Alright, so we live in a Web 2.0 world in which, if we are being honest with ourselves, we have finally started to feel comfortable. I am wondering if I am falling victim to this hyper-new world, where attention spans have been halved and blinking lights are the only attention holders worth a darn. (I am also wondering if this is a stupid thing to keep thinking about considering how long The Golden Notebook, and its 500 pages, has been sitting on my bedside table!)

That is why this article from the Chicago Tribune caught my attention: "Technology and Books: Is the Novel Too Much for our Technology-Addled Minds?" In it, John Keilman seems just as torn as I and offers no real solutions or conclusions.

I'm not as willing to blame technology as the author of the article and I do not suffer from the shake-your-head-slowly-at-the-youth-of-today mentality for one reason, and one reason alone: The Twilight Series. If the youth of today can get through that, they can get through anything.

Yes, I sometimes can't help but to check my text messages while having dinner and I love to Google (or Bing!). The problem is we haven't realized what the children are looking for - their own voice. They are just as able to read War and Peace as I was or as my parents were, but they are looking to define their reality, their creative effect on society.

As a librarian and bookseller, I commend them and look forward to attempting to meet their needs. More audio, more eBooks, quicker response times, full text articles - bring it on!

Sure, we are going to loose some personal contact, some pleasures (the smell of old books that people, myself included, wax eloquently about), but what we are going to gain... well, that I am eager to see.

For any generation who can read the entire Twilight series, well, I don't think I'll have to worry so much about their short attention spans. Just about their taste!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Transferable Skills and the Librarian

With the job market the way it is, I am almost sad to send students out into the horrible job market. And, honestly speaking, Seattle's economy is no where near as bad as most other places in the country.

Students often, before graduation, ask us librarians for help in finding jobs. The short answer is, beyond showing them the places to look, helping them write resumes, and pointing them to some (?hopelessly outdated?) books on interviewing, there is not much we can do.

That is why this post, "The Power of Transferable Skills," from The Simple Dollar caught my attention.

Though not a simple, quick fix, it does give some excellent advice about how one job or one skill is a brick in your wall. That, through cross training and creative thinking, you are making your future career all the more achievable.

This started me thinking about my career path - basically, why am I employed today? In my current position, paraprofessional in the User Services department of an academic library, I use the administrative skills learned from being an office assistant in a law firm, the customer services skills I learned from working in a large bookstore, the marketing skills from years networking as a babysitter/nanny, and the library-specific skills from four years as a Tech Services student assistant in college and as an intern in a public library's archives.

More importantly, however, how will I be using the skills from this job in the future? The most important thing I am learning is management, and that is a skill that will only become more important as I move on (and up).

So, I hope that this article will help people, as it helped me, see the bigger picture. And though this will not help my patrons today, maybe it will be a comfort when they look to the future: the crap job of today is a transferable skill of tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I think this is a great video and would look good on any academic library's website - something short, simple, and cute that the visitors could see.

In this year's evaluation, one of the comments we saw was that there was no assistance if there was not a librarian at the reference desk. But, as the video says, all they have to do is ask.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Civil Politics - Helping Students with the Dialogue

Despite which side of the political fence you fall, one thing we can all use (myself included) is a more balanced approach to the political dialogue we find all around us. An interesting op-ed piece by Nickolas Kristof led me to this website: Civil Politics.

You cannot "win" an argument without listening, which is something that we rarely do. But there is another important aspect of this: To listen, we need to understand the ideology and logic behind our opponent's perspective. Civil Politics is a group of people who are trying to understand the ideology.

Why am I bringing this up in a library blog? Easy!

I work with students, students who are being asked to defend their believes - political, spiritual, etc - for the first time. What I have noticed is a surprising inability to see that behind most arguments there is logic, there is a life, there is an understanding, however flawed, of the world.

I think that this site, especially the helpful links in the Resources section, would be a great way to get them to dive into their papers, speeches, and lectures a little deeper. Though they may not get the person to change their opinions or have their opinions changed, any discussion where there is a bit more understanding between the parties can only be helpful.

(If you are interested: the Kristof's piece, "Would You Slap Your Father? Then You are a Liberal," is well worth a read!)

Fun Blog of the Day: Awful Library Books

How have I not seen this blog before?

Awful Library Books - the name says it all!

I've worked exclusively in older, academic libraries and this is a common problem. I've seen books that should have been weeded in the 1970s, let alone in the 2000s.

Luckily most of those places have been eager and willing to weed out the stacks; however, I remember working for one librarian who was intent on keeping some of the most racist, sexist, and un-literary material in the collection - simply for "reference points."

Granted, I am anti-censorship of every type and if your library's focus is on counterpoint materials and you have the time and resources to keep this material available, that is a different story. However, when the institution is an academic, research library that prides itself on being up-do-date and valid, you have to actively weed materials that only cheepen your collection.

Get these things out of our libraries! Now! Because women can be doctors too!

(Image from Awful Library Books Blog)