Monday, August 31, 2009

Another Free Book to Check Out

I am often struck by the creativity and wit of others, especially those that choose writing (or it chooses them, I suppose).

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland
, a young adult fantasy novel that is available online, is just such a thing!

Not only is the story cute and quarky, but the way which the author decided to publish it is too.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Real New Years!

The school year is about to start again, tomorrow actually, and my schedule is going back to 'normal' this week too. Excitement, energy and momentum are my predominate emotions; however, shortly, when faced with getting home at midnight and answering the same two questions about printing all day, those feelings will be replaced by tired, trepidation, and tediousness.

But, as I am the queen of compartmentalizing, lets leave those thoughts alone for now.

Now seems like a natural time to make changes and resolutions. The weather is changing, the students are returning, and fall is always a time to reevaluate (much better than in January - by the dead of winter I am pretty entrenched in my ways, waiting to move until the spring thaw arrives).

Looking back over the last year, I am struck with the amount of changes that have occurred!

First of all - this library gig. After being out of the library for a while, it was nice to move back in. Stepping into the role of manager and supervisor, and, as I realized later, caregiver and hard-nose, was difficult but now it just feels right. This was the first job I've ever had that I knew had no end date in mind, so I've educated myself on all things Circulation Coordinator-y and branched out into general library items to get a better idea about how it all works.

Thanks to the help of the Reference Librarian, who has walked me through all of the databases and student questions that I couldn't answer with patience and clarity, the former User Services Librarian, who sparked an interest in all things computer that must have laid dormant before, and the others who have answered my plentiful questions.

I wasn't sure before if I wanted to make librarianship my career, and I still have reservations. However, I do know that books will continue to be a part of my life and that the preservation of materials is where my passion really lies.

Secondly, quiting the book biz. It was a long, hard battle, but it is done. Selling books to people was more fun than I could have imagined! Talking to them, figuring out what they wanted or what they would like made going to work fun. The rest of the job, I could have done without.

Though this part is over, the lessons I learned there (and of course the valuable friends I made) continue to affect the way I live and work. Two things stand out: 1) learning to work, successfully that is, with difficult people, and 2) using business and marketing principles in my approach to the library, personal financial decisions, and being a boss.

Finally, the upcoming Guest Lecturer version of me. Something I have always wanted to do or to be is a professor. That is one of my main reasons for focusing on academic libraries: helping and teaching students. So when I was asked to guest lecture a few times next term I almost burst with excitement! I hope that I can look back at this next year, around this time, and see how it has effected me (though I already know that it has).

Now that I have done the reflecting, it is time for the goal-setting:
  1. Surviving my temporary stint as a Guest Lecturer (keep your fingers crossed on this one).
  2. Finally following through on applying to grad school (every year I stare at the application forms and wish that it would complete itself - I feel like this is the year).
  3. Be pro-active in projects in the Library - find something (like the archives downstairs???) that needs an advocate and organizer, and be that.
  4. Start being a better mentor with my student assistants - spend time with them, get to know them better.
  5. Start volunteering or get an internship with another library (a public one?) to continue to broaden my understanding of the library world.
Five goals, that sounds do-able to me!

Here is to the real New Years!! and all of the resolutions therein.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kseniya Simonova - Seeing the Past Differently

Anyone who knows me also knows that I have a particular passion for the Russian and Central European world. And, when added to my equally powerful passion for the library and information technology sometimes my interests stretch the limits of this blog.

This is another post that tests those limits, but please bear with me.

Sometimes something just moves you - like the following video of Kseniya Simonova on Ukraine's Got Talent. A friend of mine posted this link on his facebook account and I have not been able to think about anything since.

Please take a look now, but do me a favor and watch the whole thing.

Quickly, for people not familiar with Ukrainian history, Kseniya Simonova is recounting the dramatic invasion of Ukraine by Germany in 1941 (as part of the grander Operation Barbarossa).

Besides the obvious reasons to be moved by her performance, I was enthralled in how she found a way to convey the powerful emotions of this event and, in doing so, created her own way of conveying it and connecting with her audience.

The "making it her own" - that is a phrase I use often when discussing materials with students who are stuck for a research topic. Taking the information and using it in a way that makes the reader/watcher/listener pause.

Art has power.

Now for the library themed questions:
  1. How can we preserve this?
  2. How can I foster this in others?

Monday, August 24, 2009

xkcd - How a Librarian's mind works...

This morning I was greeted to a new cartoon in my Google Reader, which is always cause for celebration!

Though many of them are even too advanced for me to understand (speaking about the ones that talk about math and science - two subjects I like to pretend don't exist), today's struck a cord and is now printed, pasted, and mounted on my wall next to my computer!

Why did I find this cartoon so compelling and so applicable as to make me giddy all day?

Well... I am glad you asked!

1) Part of the new Information Service approach to Library Sciences is that we are now gateways to the new forms of information. These new forms all need access to a computer and, often, this access is hindered when the computer itself fails us. I would say that the majority of my time spent with patrons is of the troubleshooting type. In fact, I'm a big proponent of libraries, especially ones on campuses, working closer with IT departments and convincing them that they need better training and (fingers crossed) better technology. However, this is something they need to be convinced of and most of my suggestions have fallen on deaf ears... but I digress.

2) What shocked me most, however, about this is how easily you could switch out the reference to IT for Librarian. For any non-library people: this is exactly what we do! We just make some educated guesses and when that doesn't work, we refer it to others who do the same.

As the edited cartoon would say: "We don't magically know how to find everything in every subject. When we help you, we're usually just doing this..." Something to think about!

-- -- --
Does this remind anyone else of The IT Crowd? "Hello IT. Have you tried turning it off and on again? ... OK, well, the button on the side. Is it glowing? ..."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

On Not Screaming

As always, Seth Godin's blog post, "Willfully Ignorant vs. Aggressively Skeptical," seems timely.

In it, he describes the current debate about health care very astutely. About how we listen to the people who scream the loudest and how this is detrimental to the future of the organization because, as Godin writes, "screaming is often a tool used to balance out the lazy ignorance of someone parroting opposition to an idea that they don't understand."

Lately I have been reading a lot by and dealing with librarians that are set in their ways. The time when librarians only had to know about the books on the shelves and the card catalogs. They are mad at the new and screaming it from every bell tower.

I like what Seth says here, because I feel that is what many librarians are doing - screaming into void. However they have not taken the time to learn the technology, like figuring out the allure of Google beyond the simple students-are-lazy explanation, exploring the role blogs, twitter, etc can play in their library, or determining how the demand for video games can draw attention to the rest of your collection.

I am willing to listen to these points of view, and I often share much of their trepidation and concern; however, Godin's post reminds me that I too need to be more informed on the issues and ready to listen to all sides.

"Be skeptical, but be informed" ~ Now that is my new motto!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Little of Everything...

Falling out of a habit is much easier than creating a new one, and that is all of the justification I have for not publishing much over the past week.

The school year is about to start and I am frantic to finish those grandiose plans that I promised the library I would do this summer.

So today, I would like to draw your attention (and clean out my bookmarks) to a few different articles and sites that have captured my attention over the past couple of weeks.

1) Where I Write is a photography project that is looking at the different places authors do their work. This part of the series is focused on SciFi and Fantasy authors. There is something wonderful (voyeuristic?) about seeing places where people create. All of the spots are different and varied, like the authors themselves, but there is one uniting feature - personality reigns! It gave me pause to think about my office/creative space - I wonder if this space is created or comes about organically.

2) Shortly after writing about two particularly good shopping experiences, Chris Brogan wrote about Warming the Mug - something a wonderful waitress did for him once. This is about how, when you are doing your job well, you are passionate for it and you put yourselves in your customer's/user's/patron's shoes. All of that goes into making a perfect experience, making them feel welcome, taken care of, and appreciated. Who thinks to warm the coffee mug? Now I am going to have to start doing that for myself!

3) An experiment took place, a few months ago now, letting poets and authors take over the news for one edition of the Haaretz newspaper. This article is fascinating for anyone who is a journalist (might make you mad) or an author with a more creative bent (might make you say "Darn right!"). I found it interesting because I am neither! Shaking up the business, any business, is always an eye-opening experience. And, though I have some serious issues with this particular example, I think that it at least gets the discussion going.

4) And, finally, here is a great slide presentation from Murdoch University about using emerging technologies, specifically in a university classroom. Though not much of the information was particularly new, some of the visuals were impressive and helped me to understand some of the concepts in a different light.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Say What? He Reads, She Reads

One of the tiny luxuries I afford myself at work it Booklist. I will horde the latest edition until I can curl up in a comfy chair with my cup of fresh coffee, my Booklist, and read it from cover to cover.

For people who do not know, Booklist is just as its title suggests, a list of books. It is a magazine where they list reviews of the most recent book releases and spotlight the notables. When I was an active bookseller, I used this to keep abreast of new titles so I could talk with customers with better knowledge of the book and new developments in the publishing world.

Despite my overwhelming joy from reading last month's edition, there is one thing that bothered me about the journal. Something that brought a sudden frown on my face and contempt to my eyes every time I read it... The "He Reads/She Reads" section, where they highlight some of the best books for men and for women in a particular genera.

Really? Really? He reads and She reads, because we read different things? What?

I could understand if it was a book on being a good Father or on breastfeeding, but these were your run of the mill beach reads.

When I was a bookseller (wow! I can say that in the past tense now!), I wouldn't hand-sell something to someone based on their gender. I would sell it to them based on their past reading habits and interests! Now that I am a librarian, I don't help people find particular books because they are girls or boys - I get them what they are looking for, whether it is a non-fiction about baseball heroes or a good novel about traveling pants.

No! For a seemingly understanding profession (the book biz, that is), how and why are we continuing to fall into the same trap?

I think that my aversion to this has more to do with the language itself than the concept of classifying books. If this section were framed in the context of "People who like Carrie Bradshaw, would also like..." or "For the History buff..." not only would it reach a more targeted audience, but it would also not alienate those who don't fit into the stereotypical mold. That is taking the gender exclusivity out of the equation and focusing on the important part, their interests.

A disclaimer is needed here: I am a woman and I have never read Twilight or Shoppergirl, neither have I read anything about baseball. I love scifi and hate fantasy, though I will get drawn into historical romances from time to time.

Everyone's taste is different and if we are marketing to those differences, shouldn't we focus on this and leave gender out of it?

This past weekend I was helping out the PNWA at their annual conference. One particularly interesting person, Elin, was one of the few self-proclaimed Chick Lit authors. She commented that people kept calling her brave for proudly waving that flag, but something she said struck a cord. She said, "Chick Lit is what I write, it is just the name for my sub-genera and you have to call an apple an apple."

She was quick to add, "I don't pretend that every chick is going to like my books, and I also don't pretend only chicks are reading them. A certain person will enjoy this book, that is it."

Am I being overly sensitive here? I feel like I am just writing common sense stuff, but if I am totally off base here, let me know.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Using New Technology in the Library

I might have had one of those oh-my-I-might-be-in-the-right-field moments when I read the most recent Shelf Talk post... I got a happy, queasy feeling in my stomach and wanted to shout "Hurray!"

Having the call numbers of the books texted to your phone - no need for paper, no need for a pen, no need to worry about forgetting it at home... it gave me goosebumps!

Granted, this blog is put on by the Seattle Public Library and was written to promote their service, but I think that we need more people shouting about the awesome tools that are out there to make your library experience better, easier and more tech-cool.

Many libraries are making iPhone compatible websites, for example, which too will help patrons find materials.

This is yet another example of how libraries are making advancements, not trying to make new habits but fit their technology into the pre-existing habits of their patrons.

In our last Staff Meeting, one of the librarians mentioned her father-in-law, who is currently bicycling from Seattle to San Francisco. He was bemoaning being cut off from the internet for that long. The librarian in her spoke up, saying "Just go to the public library. They'll let you use the interne!"

Something so obvious to people who work in the field, like using the internet at the library, is not obvious to our patrons.

These little tech-savvy moments or movements are necessary and pretty cool. Hopefully I'll continue to hear about them, see them, and/or use them!

Ooops - Pardon My Mental Lapse

A month or so ago I read a blog post, from Chris Brogan of course, about making the most of your blog. (If you are a blogger, it is a must read!) The most important thing I took from it was the importance of writing daily. That is something that I have aspired, though frequently failed, to accomplish.

What is the point, Heather, I hear you asking?

Well, I forgot to post yesterday. But do you want to know why?

I was lost in this blog... Contrariwise, a blog for literary tattoos. Seriously, if you love quotes and literature, please take a second to take a look. It is from this article, with thanks to Bibliophile Bullpen (a great Book-lovers blog).

Before mentioning the librarians' efforts in Texas with their Tattooed Ladies of the Library calendar, I had not realized how many there are. It is truly fascinating to see!

So, as an apology, I offer you the Contrariwise blog - bonus points if you can name the book the term "Contrariwise" is from!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Boredom and Book Hoaxes

Today was, to put it mildly, slow. Two patrons... total, all day. That was fine by me because I was spent from a bookstore event I've helped out with the past few days. I was content to, uh, how should I put this, explore the library's collection a bit more closely so that I could make better informed recommendations.

Ooo, I like that description of sitting in the comfy chairs reading library books.

Anyway, I was looking though one of my favorite random, happy, fun-time blogs, Boing Boing, when I found this gem of a story!

I think all book lovers will get a kick out of the strange book collection that never was.