Thursday, August 31, 2006

Dancing with the Stars

I am not a fan of reality television, so to speak. I do have a few guilty pleasures in that category; shows that pulled me in for some unknown reason, maybe they were a train wreck waiting to happen(last year's Project Runway), maybe it was on and I was unwillingly sucked in (HGTV, or maybe I just LIKED it. This evening, I'm late leaving because I didn't want to leave a new student alone in the resource center. Killing a bit of time, I found the web site for the new season of Dancing with the Stars to see who is scheduled.

OMG, Jerry Springer.


Brilliant and wonderful? Moi?

I love Thursday. More specifically, I love Thursday's during the term and especially when they preceed a long holiday weekend. My university is what we used to call a suitcase college; students pack up and go home over the weekend more often than not. Generally that means Thurday is party day (sorry). Friday night plans are Thursday night instead. Most of the students are sleeping Thursday mornings and the library is practically barren of patrons until noon. Naturally, the usual suspects are here doing work, but it should come as no surprise that I do not have a student worker scheduled until noon today. Peace, quiet, and time to order more children's books.

Yesterday, I was brilliant. Really. This time it isn't self noted brilliance, but a frantic student teacher told me I was brilliant. The student in question ran out of red paper for her Ellison letters and was quite distraught we did not have the right shade of red. It happens. After asking me twice if I was sure there was not another red, she steemed for a few minutes. I mentioned she could easily make her letter using white paper and take it back to school as a template to trace on the correct paper later. Just that simple and I was brilliant.

Today, I am wonderful. Again, really. One of the doctoral students I "mentor" is in the process of completing his dissertation and anticipating graduation in December. During his time here, he has made regular use of the opportunity to get reference assistance. Today he was looking for an unpublished dissertation. Armed with an author's last name and a number, I used Dissertation Abstracts and was somewhat unsuccessful (okay, I got 5400 hits and wouldn't go through all of them). I requested a title and viola one single correct hit. He would have to pay for the entire dissertation, but the abstract and 24 sample pages are available for free. His response a few minutes later "WOW! You are wonderful. Thanks again. "

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Internet, Amazon, and Jeff Bezos

This morning I had an interesting conversation with one of my student workers. I don't even remember what precipitated the question, it may have been after I spent time researching a purchase online earlier in the day and we marveled together over the relative ease of locating the desired information. But one thing lead to another and we began discussing, hypothetically of course, what did we do before the Internet? The kicker? This particular student turned 21 only a few months ago. That means she really does not remember not having Internet.

It, the Internet, has become so much a part of mainstream life that I had to stop and think back to purchasing my very own computer and getting online for the first time. It was in the middle 90's and I remarked to her my first online purchase (it all went downhill from there) was from She was appropriately shocked my first online purchase ever was a book. So, I wasn't a librarian then. Reading has been my drug of choice for years.

This evening, while channel surfing after being annoyed I would not get another Pirates vs Cubs baseball game, watched parts of a History Channel program about Jeff Bezos @ Even with the strange little vingettes on business, it was fun to see how the company has grown since opening in Bezos's basement to a billion dollar venture. Probably more eye-opening is how the scope and landscape of the Internet has changed in the last ten years. Heck, even the last two years. Who know about blogs before 2000? Now there are millions of blogs created every minute.

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Surviving the first week of school

The first week of school is always a learning experience. Beyond chuckling at the bleary eyed students trudging off to 8 am classes the first day, beyond the confused freshman hunting in the library for their classrooms, and beyond the sheer exhaustion of getting through that first day is the fun of seeing old and new faces and getting caught up on everyone's life outside of school. Really!

Case in point, I had a student worker who was in Germany this spring with a group from the University. They went for four weeks and taught English in German schools. She came in and regaled us with tales of her trip and promised to bring some of her 1100 pictures so we could bask in her glory (my words, not hers). Another student spent her spring semester in Australia doing study abroad. It was a great experience and really gave her a renewed sense of being. Still another student has a job/internship waiting for her after graduation in December.

After finishing the schedule and verifying I have coverage in the resource center all of the hours the library is open, and juggling twelve individual class schedules and assorted additional student responsibilities, it is a relief for the first wave of students and workers to actually arrive. I have four new hires and a new graduate assistant. That translates to time spent training, filling out and filing paperwork, and making sure all of the personalities blend (or at least can work together). It's kind of fun to sit back and see how personalities compliment - or don't - and wonder which "alpha" worker/leader will emerge. Rarely do I need to intercede with the crew, but when the bulk of hires are girls .....

At this point, my mantra has been "where is your FWS paperwork" accompanied by "no paperwork, no paycheck next week." It is an effective mantra, and right now I have most of the completed paperwork. If I don't get it by Friday, the first week without a paycheck is usually the most convincing argument on my side.

Handouts and pathfinders are done for two classes at the end of the week and a Mock Caldecott session for next Tuesday. A web page for the session will follow. I am gleefully in the process of placing another children's book order and planning new things to buy for the library including, but not limited to, Ellison dies, a new book shelf for new books, another stool on wheels for reaching high shelves, and videos for professors.

On the professional front, I am working with a librarian at a nearby university setting up a professional library blog. It is already a learning experience. Two other librarians and I will be submitting proposals to LOAX and ACRL for a session and poster session respectively. It is time to seriously work on the upgrade to my resource center website. And, my first article is due out soon. All in all it is shaping up to be a busy term.

Update ... later this evening:

Looking back over this post after publishing it earlier today, I noticed how much the "where is your FWS paperwork?" comment looked like, well, not so lovely language. Especially given the context of the paragraph. I thought it would behoove me to mention FWS really stands for federal work study.

Update ... the next morning:

On my way into to work this morning I had a short conversation with a student who works at the circ desk downstairs. After snottily commenting on how thrilled she looked headed to her 8 am class she fired back with gleeful enthusiasm, "Yes, an 8 am lab three days a week. What better way to start a lovely, crisp morning than by mixing chemicals."

Kudos, dear, kudos.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

LibraryThing: Is the honeymoon over?

I've been singing the praises of LibraryThing all over these last few weeks. Yes indeed, telling all who would listen how cool it is and what a great library blog widget it made for book lists. Blah, blah, blah ... that'll teach me.

This afternoon I was looking at the ever expanding list of recently read juvenile and YA titles on this blog and decided adding another LibraryThing collection would be a great idea. I would be able to highlight the juvenile books discussed and keep track of what I have read throughout the term. It also gives me an opportunity use the random book cover widget (love it) with juvenile covers. They are better looking than other covers and should look great. I gleefully made my widget choices and hesitantly wondered why only ONE book cover was showing.

Huh. Let the troubleshooting begin. I'm sure I can fix what is wrong.


I decided to go back into my library and make sure all of the covers were from Amazon (they should be and were) and chose the "change cover" option just in case. I reset the widget options ready to see the group of eight books. Again, only one book cover. Sure I liked Gil's All Fright Diner, but there are currently fifteen other books in the collection. I want to see eight of them.

Now I'm a bit peeved; I grab the code from the currently working LibraryThing widget and compare. Heck, maybe I hit a wrong button. With the exception of account names, the scripts are identical. I cut and paste the code and preview. Nothing. Still only one book. I check the display using IE and Mozilla, thinking it browser differences may apply. Nothing. Just great.

I've moved from slightly peeved (at work this afternoon), to irked (trying twice this evening), to downright cranky - and snarky - because my favorite toy has run amok.

I will let it go this evening and see if it miraculously repairs itself overnight.

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Before opening this book to read take a minute looking at the cover art. I don't often talk about book covers for non-picture books, but the cover art for Firegirl by Tony Abbott deserves mention. It is simple, effective, and as you delve farther into the book ... eloquent. The cover is fire engine red with starkly white paper-doll cut outs spread across the front and back. The title, Firegirl, is presented in black font with glowing boarders. Below the title, one of the paper-dolls is charred with only one of the other paper dolls holding its hand.

Firegirl is the story of what happened in one six grade classroom over a period of three weeks. All of the regular suspects are in place; popular kids, quiet kids, class clown, teachers pet, and it is the beginning of the school year. The main character Tom, sums it up this way in the opening paragraphs:

"It wasn't much, really, the whole Jessica Feeney thing. If you look at it, nothing much happened. She was a girl who came into my class after the beginning of the year and was only there for a couple of weeks or so. Stuff did get a little crazy for a while, but it didn't last long, and I think it was mostly in my head anyway. Then she wasn't there anymore." - Firegirl, p.1

Tom does sum up the book in a paragraph. But what is left unsaid is how each child in class reacts to the circumstance. Jessica is a burn victim attending class while undergoing therapy at a local hospital. After several days' worth of rampant speculation and gossip, we learn she was in the car with her mother one afternoon; her mother left the car running while doing an errand and an elderly man hit their car, causing it to burst into flames. Tony Abbott does a masterful job of creating believable reactions from the students in class, the administration and teachers, Tom and his family, and Jessica's family.

Read this book.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Another day, another widget

Yes, I have found and implemented yet one more widget for the blog. As I was looking at the new site design for Technorati, hunting for the lovely ping form, I found the Technorati developer center and it led to a search widget.

They call it a Technorati Searchlet.

After a bit of tweaking, it needed some space, the searchlet is now located below the Hypothetical Zoom Cloud. I wonder, is there help available for the widget obsessed?

Now I must add tags and go ping.

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Reflecting the beginning of a new school year

Monday, August 28th, is the first day of classes and while I ponder just what happened to the summer months (vacations, conferences, and moving aside), the fall semester is always a time of new beginnings and hope. I remember how we looked forward to returning to college. After that first year away from home, it was a difficult adjustment to move home for the summer and August could not get here fast enough. The most enthusiastic students are freshman and seniors. Freshman anxious at the beginning of their journey and seniors thrilled for the end of theirs.

It's been a gradual return to business; last week the RA's, band, and football players were on campus. It was fun hearing the music throughout the day as they prepared the football halftime productions. Friday afternoon, a friend and I had pizza alfresco, and a few students were gleefully lugging their belongings into the dorms. Even in the blistering 90-degree heat, moving into rooms with no air-conditioning and halls with no elevators, every last one of them had a smile on their face. It was fun watching the younger siblings and parents help with the ritual.

Today, Saturday, the dorms opened at 10 am for everyone. It is an exciting time, the rush of seeing old friends and making new ones. Saying good bye to the family as they try to maneuver cars out of the parking lot around the carts and luggage. There will be the inevitable early complaints of cafeteria food and the first order of pizza delivery. Dominoes? Papa Johns? East of Chicago? Pizza Hut? Whoever they choose, the results will be enjoyed whether outside on the patios or crammed into the hot dorm room.

Monday will be full of questions as freshmen look for buildings and returning students get their first look at newly completed facilities now open for use. Some will wander in to the library looking for help. Some will arrive because it's a safe place to spend a few minutes alone. Many will come into the resouce center because they appreciate the feeling of community - and the new computers (can't kid myself there) and free printing. No matter how I look at it, they will not particulary care if I didn't get everything I had planned to do over the summer finished. It won't bother them that I have three bulletin boards to finish first thing in the morning. They don't have a clue (or care) I need to train a new graduate assistant and five new hires, or that I slaved for two days creating a schedule with twelve students to guarantee maximum coverage in the resource center.

All in all, that is the way it should be.

Welcome back!

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Stargate SG-1: Cancelled!

Well it's true. Damn. Ironically, after all the hoopla and airing of SG-1's 200th episode, the SciFi channel has cancelled Stargate SG-1 and renewed Stargate Atlantis for a fourth season. Oddly enough, the information is not detailed on the SciFi channel itself but was reported, and verified, on Gateworld. The newest report on Gatworld has the series now looking for another outlet for production, be it a movie or mini-series special.

I do like some of the characters on Atlantis, but many of them mirror the SG-1 characters and some are just bloody annoying (McKay - please).

Guess those folks at jump the shark have more ammunition on determining if SG-1 ever really jumped the shark.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Google Video: Book Cart Drill Teams

One of the exhibits, or maybe exhibition is more appropriate, I was sorry to have missed at the ALA Conference in New Orleans was the annual Book Cart Drill Team competition. School Library Journal's (SLJ) Blog posted links this morning to a couple of Google videos from ALA.

Check out the following:

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Asking the blogger gods, why?

The issue of things disapperaring on the sidebar of my blog has risen again. After completing and publishing the last post, the bottom half of my side bar is once again toast. Looking at the template it is still there (or at least it was a minute ago), but not showing on the blog itself.

Insert heavy sigh here.

I don't have the time now to investigate the annoyance. But I do wish I understood how posting a comment, without touching the template in any way, shape, or form, causes the information to vanish in a puff of smoke.

I'm hoping it will reappear as quickly later today. Hope springs eternal.

Update: 11:13 am
It's back, or at least some of the sidebar is visible again.

Stargate 200

I was going to spend some time reflecting on the 200th episode (clever, but a bit anticlimactic) and maybe include a few jump the shark references. But this morning a comment on another blog (djr on He Wrote, She Wrote) mentioned the rumor of Stargate SG-1 being cancelled at the end of this season. She said:
"Did you see they are canceling Stargate SG-1 after this season. Atlantis will go
on, and will include some characters from SG-1. " djr 8/22/06
Say it isn't so!

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Book greed

I just went downstairs to the circulation desk and checked out twenty (20) of the newly cataloged children's books. I tell myself it really isn't book greed. Honest. When using the books for a class visit, it is just common sense, even common courtesy, to check them out. If they are not on the new book shelf or regular stacks, it is for the circulation staff to grab OhioLINK titles and/or help patrons find them. Not to mention how cranky my student workers get when books are not where they belong.

But I digress.

Several are final additions to the Mock Caldecott session that will undoubtedly be scheduled in the next couple of weeks. I assume it will be scheduled since I have done this short activity with a children's literature class every term for the last four years. I can break the group up into three catagories; Caldecott session, book review possibility, and books I want to read (lunch books). What's on the list? Right now it consists mostly of middle readers and YA selections:

  • Firegirl, Tony Abbott
  • You Can't Read This, Val Ross
  • Becming Chloe, Catherine Ryan Hyde
  • Victory, Susan Cooper
  • Behind the Curtain, Peter Abrahams
  • The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy, William Boniface
  • Desert Crossing, Elise Broach
  • Semiprecious, D. Anne Love

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Widgets and more widgets

I mentioned another widget of fun for the library web page yesterday, but did not elaborate. Several months ago, and again yesterday during a small committee meeting about Serials Solutions, discussion ensued concerning the feasibility of having a quick catalog search button on the main library page. We batted the idea around for a few minutes before returning to the topic at hand, choosing the interface/views we wanted for the using Serials Solutions.

After our meeting, the systems librarian browsed through available catalog code from III that would facilitate searching from the main library web page; a search widget. With less than stellar options available, we decided to borrow another member library's catalog search widget code and would adapt the box (a table) color, font, and catalog URL. Viola! I gleefully added it to the main web page. It was a bit of a design nightmare, too many "new" things on the main page, but with a bit of tweaking it now resides in such a way that patrons are able to see the search option without scrolling down off of the main page.

My new affinity to widgets then lead me to put the catalog quick search on the three resource center blogs and call it "catalog from the blog."

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Scheduling the new year

Two weeks from Monday is the first day of classes; a signal time has come to make the work schedule for Fall 2006. Currently I have one graduate assistant, as second GA pending, and nine (maybe 11) student worker class schedules to juggle and create a master schedule covering every operating hour the resource center is open. I create a weekday schedule and a rotating weekend schedule. Monday through Friday afternoon, students work the same hours every week during the term. Friday evening (a new glitch) and the weekend rotate because working every weekend while in college is just wrong. The GA's rotate every other weekend so there is always someone "in charge." Student workers rotate weekends throughout the term; the more student workers, the fewer weekends they work. Usually they get two weekends for the term, possibly three. Since I am quick to remind them two weekends a term reference work obligations, there is little room for whining, even if we are all adept at the whining process.

The library is open 99 hours a week. All of the students, with this year's single exception, have a finite number of federal work study hours available. This adds another interesting layer to the process. If they run out of money, no work study hours and no paycheck. It is imperative to make clear federal work study money is a single finite lump sum allotment. No matter how many jobs are taken on campus, all of the pay comes from the same place. The aforementioned 99 hours must be ably covered, with an emphasis on lunch, evenings, and weekends (times I am not here). Once the schedule is made, students are required to follow the hours posted. If there is a need for change, they are responsible for finding someone to cover their shift.

Posted schedule = your hours = coverage must be met

If they need a particular weekend off and have not indicated such to me, make arrangements to switch with another worker. All I ask is to be notified of the change. The job is their responsibility. Once or twice things have gotten out of hand with switching, but all in all it is a system that works. Student turnover is rare. With the exception of employment termination, most of them have worked here four years. Last term I had a large graduating class, translating into new hires for the spring and fall.

It is time to start working some scheduling magic.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Doctoral Applications and Email

Just a few minutes ago I was pondering what today's entry would discuss. I have had an unusually fun-filled day complete with redoing 35 web pages where an image had gone mysteriously wonky (yes, a real word), updated the main library web page with a very cool catalog search widget, updated several handouts for a children's literature professor, and perused the newest edition of School Library Journal to make another list of books to purchase. Since collection development for the juvenile collection is a favorite to-do things, I considered making it my afternoon topic. Then, I decided to check my Bloglines account and see what might be new in the blogosphere. Viola, something to write about jumped up and said hello.

A recent post in The Chronicle's Wired Campus, The Etiquette of E-Rejection, by Mitch Frye at Costal Carolina University, caught my attention. In it, Frye discusses a recent email rejection from a prestigious East Coast University. Apparently it has become the norm for doctoral programs to send out email rejection letters instead of form rejection letters. Either way, the news is not something a potential doctoral student would like to hear. Since I am on the fence about applying to a doctoral program near me, this particular instance of email rejection was appalling. In part, Frye said:

"The otherwise polite letter was rather impolitely sent to the e-mail in boxes of approximately 300 rejected candidates. Nor was it distributed through the use of the discreet "blind carbon copy" function. Instead, the sender simply copied and pasted the e-mail addresses of all 300 applicants into the "cc" box -- thereby making public all of our names." - Mitch Frye 8-10-06

In whose academic world is this brilliant (insert fully intentioned sarcasm here ) policy a good thing? Frye does not mention the name of the University, but with the distinction of it being a big East Coast college/university I can only begin to imagine.

Where is academic standard and or integrity?

What about confidentiality?

Is an institution ever large enough or prestigious enough to be exempt from exhibiting common courtesy?

I am currently at a loss for words descriptive enough to express my extreme distaste.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Eureka! Peer reviewed articles

I understand, mostly, the necessity of the peer reviewed process for articles; it provides a basis for judging scholarly writing by instituting standards for accepting submissions and publication. Ideas and theories presented, discussed, and researched are subsequently evaluated by professionals in a position to understand the ramifications, subtleties, and even plausibility of the topic. Generally speaking, the time frame between submission, acceptance, and publication of a peer reviewed article is upwards of a year. Various reasonable factors influence this timeline; peer review boards may be volunteers, the journal may be jobbed out for publication, editing and layout take time, and quite simply the entire publication process is complicated. Unfortunately, presents a conundrum. One important responsibility of scholarly publishing is getting the information out to the "masses" quickly enough the research and/or topics presented therein are still pertinent. In some instances, I am compelled to question the relevancy of a topic after spending a year or more in the peer review process.

It should be obvious I am waiting for an article I wrote, and had accepted, to be published in a professional peer reviewed library information science journal. Here is a snapshot of the process thus far. Last May, a general call for submissions was sent, and forwarded, via various email lists. Potential authors were invited to provide an abstract on a particular subject for publication. If accepted, the full article would then be submitted for peer review in late August; an approximate time line from abstract acceptance and article completion was six weeks. Congratulatory email notices were sent out in December (I had almost forgotten about the article) with article citation information and a link to the publisher. I was elated to have the first article I had written accepted for publication in a peer review journal.

The publication date has changed four times in the last six months. I am still excited to see the fruition of my work, but the topic discussed is becoming stale. For example, one piece of the article pointed to a newly created library blog intended for publicity. Between acceptance and publication the blog has become passé and is no longer used. When writing anything using a “current” technology trend the shelf life of the topic is minimal and chances are it has been updated or outdated quickly. It is a risk. Ultimately, I would hazard a guess more seasoned authors are used to this process and write accordingly.

Why Eureka in the post title? Two reasons; as I was writing this post last evening I was watching Eureka on Sci-Fi (cool show) and secondly, I pulled up the publishing schedule for the journal in question and the issue published before mine is finally available online with hard copies to follow.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Klepto lunch entertainment

The newest lunchtime children's/YA book is Klepto, by Jenny Pollack. The cover blurb says:
"This fresh and funny debut novel explores the true meaningof friendship -
in all of its messy, beautiful complexity." - Book jacket, Klepto

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WorldCat Beta

Barbara Fisher reported on the ACRLog this morning that WorldCat is Open for Searching. This means instead of having to access WorldCat through a library, users will be able to search the free beta version. WorldCat's Beta search engine appears to be user friendly with a single search box and colorful icons depicting different media available. In describing WorldCat, the web site states:

"WorldCat's coverage is both deep and wide. You can search for popular books, music CDs and videos—all of the physical items you're used to getting from libraries. You can also link to many new kinds of digital content, such as downloadable audiobooks you can listen to on many portable MP3 players. You may additionally find authoritative research materials, such as documents and photos of local or historic significance; abstracts and full-text articles; and digital versions of rare items that aren't available to the public. Because WorldCat libraries serve diverse communities in dozens of countries, resources are available in many languages. "- What is WorldCat

I did a quick search for my "favorite book" and found eleven libraries with pajamas, none of which were school or academic libraries (shocking). As Fischer mentions in her post, results are posted in an friendly way and include a link to Amazon for book purchases.

I liked the "Find in a Library Page." On it there is a set of tabs including libraries, details, subjects, and reviews. Users are able to type in their zip code and locate the book in the nearest library. Results are displayed with the closest to a location first and each entry has library information, often the library home page or catalog, located next to the book. If you sign up for a free account, it is then possible to add information and reviews to individual entries (again, similar to amazon).

Other user options include a search box to place on blogs, WorldCat browser tools and WorldCat links. A widget! I was a bit disenchanted by the amount of personal information in required fields necessary for adding the search box to a blog; Name (first, last), email address, country, organization name, and web site. At this point I do not see the service important enough on a personal blog to jump through those hoops. However, I could see the possibility of uses on a library blog since many include links to their own catalog. Users not able to access a particular academic library for a title would be able to find the book in a library near them. I may consider this at some point for the blogs I have in my library. Plus, I imagine this process is to give some type of authenticity to anyone wanting to add book reviews.

8/8/06 Update:

Some point is here and gone. This afternoon I signed up with WorldCat and placed the search box widget into my children's book review blog. As mentioned above, all of the books being reviewed have links to the library catalog for the author, illustrator, and book title. Often there are additional links for like reads and internet resources. If a blog reader does not have access to "my" library, the catalog links are moot. So, I placed the widget into the sidebar with a "Search WorldCat" header and the following text, "Interested in a book reviewed here? Users who are not part of the University community may search WorldCat to locate a particular book in a nearby library."

Yes, I know. It didn't take me long to cave on a new widget.

8/9/06 Another Update:

I am weak. As of this evening the WorldCat widget is here; twice. I thought it made a fun addition in case someone was interested in reading on of the childrens titles discussed. Or even possibly the library stuff, okay literature, mentioned.

8/11/06 One more update:

I convinced my boss that the Worldcat Beta link would be a nice addition to the listing of available library databases. We show access to the original WorldCat search engine, but patrons will be able to utilize the beta version without any authentication necessary. Heck, if we can have a google widget (not my idea) on that page, WorldCat Beta should be a given.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Drawing a Blank

:Or How I Tried to Solve a Mystery, End a Feud, and Land the Girl of My Dreams by Daniel Ehrenhaft and illustrated by Trevor Ristow is the latest title in in my personal quest to read more YA books this summer. Plucked from the newly arrived book cart, before cataloging, it caught my attention initially for two reasons, the graphic element of the dust jacket and it was a starred review in Booklist. I was also intrigued by the inclusion of an illustrator since, generally speaking, novels written for young adults do not have them beyond chapter headers and the cover.

Drawing a Blank is a first person narrative tale told by main character, Carlton Dunne IV. Carlton attends Carnegie Mansion School where he is a bit of a loner, living through his art. The son of a "lonely rich kid who decided to become an insane, self-employed architect because he loved to draw," Carlton obviously has a few issues. His father is recently divorced, believes fervently in a family feud dating back to medieval times, and to say they do not communicate is a kind exaggeration. Additionally, Carlton has impersonated his father, because the editor doesn't "have time to talk to some teenage dork who thinks he can draw comics," and as a result has his own comic strip, Singy the Superbad, published in the New England Sentinel.
Carlton gets a phone call from his father saying he's been kidnapped and when the phone is ripped from his hands, a Scottish voice intones he must "Bring the proof to Edinburgh." What follows is Carlton's quest to rescues his father from the evil Clan Forba. As traditional quests often go, he must travel to a foreign land, overcome various obstacles, conquer the fair maiden/vixen, retrieve the proof, and win out over his own fears.

Ehrenhaft gives Carlton a very realistic teenage voice and our hero is presented as glib, sarcastic, unbelieving, frightened, and above all, hopeful. A unique and clever aspect of this book is the presentation of Carlton's cartoon, Singy the Superbad, presented throughout. Each time Carlton is faced with a task to overcome, Singy is front and center helping to save the day. With Singy, we get to see another side of Carlton, almost his alter-ego. The graphic novel within the novel is very entertaining.

This book has a tendency to ramble during certain passages. I was a bit concerned when during the preface, Carlton himself warned readers:

"Before I get to that, though, I should warn you: There's a lot of ground I
need to cover up front, so it all makes sense later. Plus, there are a bunch of
seeds I need to plant for the end. So please hang in there at the beginning if
you can."

He was right, it did take quite a bit to endure the beginning and get to the meat of the story. And, the ending was somewhat abrupt after the long journey. All in all though, this will definitely appeal to YA readers.

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Blog Widgets

After spending time working with the LibraryThing widget builder, I have decided my new favorite blog toy, sorry technology, is widgets. What are widgets? In Using Web Widgets Wisely, Part 1, Jodi Bollaert defines web widgets as:

"A Web widget is a nifty name for a variety of controls that can be used in Web forms, dialogs, and wizards to elicit information from users. "
- J. Bollaert, June 1, 2002

Though the article does not specifically detail the use of widgets in blogs, the web widget definition is one of the best I found. The script is now developed for blog use; create more blog traffic, advertise on a blog, organize topics on a blog, or just for fun. Some of the resources I found for blog or web widgets are:

Friday afternoon I decided I wanted to have a cloud on my blog in the form of a widget. The first hurdle to jump in that regard was the many different "tags," so to speak, attached to the cloud widget. There are tag clouds, word clouds, author clouds, information clouds, and all other means of clouds (some even attached to blogs). Many of the tag or word clouds offered are for a price, specifically advertising in nature. Since I simply wanted a new toy for my blog, I searched a bit more and found ZoomClouds.

ZoomClouds is a free service utilizing your blog feed, rss or atom, to generate the tag cloud. It is a quick and simple process; create an account with username and email, provide the feed for your blog, and create the cloud to your specifications including color, size of cloud, and font size. The whole process took less than five minutes and I had a tag cloud/zoom cloud to add to my blog this morning.

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Gil's All Fright Diner

I finished reading Gil's after dinner last night. For the last several days, Gil has been my lunchtime companion (not for the squeemish eater) and have been thinking about what I should write, review and/or opinion wise. I have forgotten how challenging it can be to write intelligently - or at least not sounding a blithering idiot - a well written book in a genre I do not particularly care for reading. Quite the dilemma.

I'll begin with looking back four score and seven years ago when I was a young 'un ...

Sorry. It's Friday.

As a pre-teen and teenager, much to my mother's chagrin, I read and enjoyed Stephen King novels. My favorites? His classics tales including Carrie, Christine, Cujo, Firestarter, Night Shift (great short stories), Salem's Lot, and Pet Semetary. I would read them throughout the school day during lunch, study halls, and during some more boring classes. I liked that most of his characters were regular people dealing with the unnatural. It was psuedo normal and that made it creepy and enjoyable. They were Edgar Allan Poeish in a Tell-Tale Heart kind of way. Keep in mind this was also the same time popular horror movies/teen movies were Halloween (we shouldn't have been allowed in the theater but they didn't really care), Halloween II, and When a Stranger Calls were must sees. So I did at once have an affinity for this genre, but it has fallen by the wayside. All things considered, I approached Gil's All Fright Diner with an open mind knowing that it was a YA Alex Award winner for a reason.

Gil's All Fright Diner is overflowing with all the necessary elements to make is a comic horror classic. There are vampires (Earl), werewolves (Duke), ghosts (Cathy and her dog Napoleon), a sex driven teenage jock and sometimes willing dupe (Chad), the locals (Loretta, Sherriff Kopp), occassional zombies (dearly departed townspeople), assorted townspeople, and a budding queen of the damned (Tammy, aka Mistress Lileth). All of these characters live in or happen through Rockwood, a town situated in the desert with a diner that is potentially the Gate to all evil. In some ways, it reminded me of the original Ghostbusters ("I ain't afraid of no ghost") when the Gatekeeper and the Keymaster were needed to open the portal for Gozar. Gil's might not have had Slimer, but it had plenty of gore, and humor, to please a horror officianado.

Martinez mixes all of these characters together with a writing style utilizing wit, sarcasm, humor, and a dose of pig latin for a really fun romp. How so? Tammy, Mistress Lileth (queen of evil) oddly enough consults her Magic 8 ball for sprit advice. Convincing it to provide the answers she wants, beyond "all signs point to no," she promises to let it watch television.

"The eternal struggle between light and dark was waged on many fronts.
Television syndcation was just one of them." p. 135

It is easy to see how this was chosen for an Alex Award. Any reader who happily read R.L. Stine as a child, and is not ready for Stephen King, may gravitate to Gil's hoping for a more adult read. They find it.

Right and wrong, kind spirits and the damned, they all live - relatively speaking - happily ever after. Having a chance to listen to Martinez speak at ALA in New Orleans, I know he did not write this for the Young Adult market. He seemed a bit overwhelmed, and grateful, for the oportunity to speak to the session attendees. Sometimes you have to be in the right place. Martinez has a new title due out on August 8th, In the Company of Ogres, and it looks like a winner.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

They're here, they're here!

What is a good indication that the new school term is beginning?

Go ahead, guess.

No, it's not the first day of class countdown (though classes start in 23 days, 17 if you don't count weekends). It is the beginning of our fiscal spending year. I was able to begin ordering in July and the first batch of children's and YA books have arrived! A compilation of lists I have been keeping since May, when the money ran out, has come to fruition. I now have a cart of eighty - yes 80 - books to quickly peruse and mark for me before handing them over to the cataloger.

Look at them (the books, not the three hundred year old book cart), they're simply gorgeous!

Libraries Build Communities, update

The recent edition of ALA's American Libraries magazine presents articles regarding librarians making a difference in New Orleans, focusing upon the volunteer effort and corporate donations made to the Hurricane Katrina fund.

ALA has created and ALA Conference Media Scrapbook compiling radio/print, television, messages from supporters, volunteer activity, and press conference information in one place. The scrapbook main page offers the following:

"Millions of Americans learned about the spirit of librarians and library supporters when ALA held it's Annual Conference in New Orleans in late June (2006). More than 14 million viewers saw the reports of our efforts during news broadcasts on at least 300 television stations. A search also turned up approximately 350 newspaper articles and radio broadcasts tht covered ALA member and supporter efforts to help the Gulf Coast Recover." - ALA Media Scrapbook

Of special interest is the photoset created and posted to Flickr: Volunteer Days at Annual Conference 2006. As a member of ALA I often wonder about the direction of the mighty mothership.

This is not one of those times.

I am proud to have participated in the Libraries Build Communities effort and even more so after looking at the quality and quantity of work accomplished in a few days by my fellow library supporters.

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Academic Library's & jobs

I have been thinking about Gilman's article and the tips he presented to academic librarian search committee's. Though I like my current position, it did not result from looking specifically to work in academics. Point of fact, I only applied to one university/college for a job opening, this one. After graduation, armed with my fresh MLIS with school library certification (I have a teaching degree, it made sense), three years of public library work, teaching experience, and a variety of retail management experience, I sent resumes to a variety of targeted places. Since the best time to look for a job is when you have one, I took my time and only applied for jobs that interested me. My current job's description/advertisement was a combination of many different library, teaching, and management skills I possessed. And, even though sure I was not qualified, I sent out the information as requested.

The interview process was lengthy, more so than I imagined. There was a phone interview, something that I have only had twice since then, and the offer to come to campus for a day long interview. That was new to me, day long interviews (when they said day long, they meant day long). For anyone who has never interviewed for a job in an academic library, it can be a bit overwhelming. The day included an initial meeting with the library director where I presented my portfolio and left it in his office for viewing throughout the day, an open question and answer session with the entire library staff and faculty, the requisite presentation with assigned library topic, a lunch meeting with key members of the library faculty and college of education chair, a quick meeting with human resources followed by a short campus tour, a late afternoon meeting with the university provost, and a closing meeting with the director. In a nod to Gilman's article, there was over a month between the actual visit and contact from the library director or a search committee member. I had decided not to bother when I received a letter and follow up phone call and job offer.

With that instance in mind, other - shall we say oddities? - continued to nag at me regarding interviews I have participated in during the last few years. For what it's worth, here are some of the more interesting occurrences and a few tips:

  • Walking a mile in those shoes: It is always necessary to dress appropriately for an interview. For one interview I wore a lovely black suit (long coat with the slacks and a nifty splash of color with my Bill Blass scarf from QVC) with comfortable and stylish black boots. At least they were comfortable until I was obliged to take a walking tour around the entire campus, in the cold. My advice? Heels are great and we girls have our fair share of shoe vanity; just be sure you can really walk distances in the shoes you choose to wear to a day long interview.
  • The dark room: Be it a bibliographic instruction session or a topic driven assignment, presentations are a given in the academic library interview. In this technology age it should be safe to assume power point, a data projector and accompanying screen, and a well lit room are part and parcel with the presentation. At one university I was asked to present on the future of resource centers in a room that had no blinds, a computer running office 97, and a stand alone screen. During the presentation I had to straddle the power cords and surge protectors running from the wall to the computer. Since I am not one to just stand in front of the computer when presenting, this was a definite challenge. I won't get in to the rickety table and lack of mouse. My advice? Check what technology is available before the presentation. Then, save your presentation in various external devices (disk, cd, or pen/flash drive). If you have web access to an email account send the presentation to yourself. Consider taking overheads, yes transparencies, as backup. Technology is our friend, but stuff happens.
  • Degree's of separation: When applying for a job, I expect my name to be divulged only to those on the search committee on an as needed basis. Maybe that is naive, but the process should include a degree of privacy. The fact remains academic librarianship is a small community and people talk. I was taken by surprise several years ago when after applying for a job and being asked to attend an on campus interview, I received an email from a colleague wishing me luck. What? After overcoming my initial shock, I asked how he knew I had applied for the job. Seems the institution in question sent out an email via their student LIS list serv inviting participation in the open question portion of the interview. Not so bad, but they listed the names of all the people being interviewed. This disappointed me enough to consider calling off the interview. My advice? Remember the academic library applicant pool is a small one. Don't burn any bridges, don't name names, and be professional at all times regardless of the actions of the interviewing entity.
  • Separation, part deux: The same institution that sent out the list announcement also sent a letter less than a week, maybe ten days, after the interview. Not so bad, especially considering the time this often takes. The catch? They named their new hire and invited us to congratulate him. I found myself hoping the person in question had the chance to tell his supervisors before the letter went out. My advice? Live and learn.
  • University prestige vs paycheck: When interviewing at a larger institution it's easy to let the name and prestige temporarily blind you to the potential downfalls of the application process. After the successful completion of a day long interview I had the opportunity to speak with the HR people and they talked money. With my experience in an academic library, at that time three years, I was offered a salary less than what I was making. The move would have taken me to an area where the cost of living was almost double my current location. Do the math. I came back to earth with a big thud and spent the plane ride home worrying I might be offered the job and would have to turn it down. My advice? Do not be blinded by the big name as big money does not always follow.
  • Sins of the father: What can you learn about the person who had the job previously? Why did they leave; reassignment, firing, other opportunity? I rarely ask that question unless it becomes obvious in the interview that I am paying the for the previous applicants sins. During one interview day I was asked the same question by six different people concerning management style. Despite the obvious indication that the committee did not coordinate who would ask about management (since they all did), I was puzzled and then, well cranky, at the constant necessity of restating my position. On the way to speak with another group I apologized to my tour guide and asked why the different committees were harking on this topic. I learned the previous person utilized a management style difficult to work with and they had a hard time "getting rid" of her. Great. My advice? Keep eyes and ears open when interviewing. It is hard to remember when you want the job, but you are interviewing them as well.

Looking back over this post it seems I had a few less than stellar experiences. Keep in mind that on a whole the library job search is no better, nor worse, than looking for a job in any other profession. The six instances I mentioned were only from three interviews. In the scheme of things, that is not such a bad average.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Academic Librarians & jobs

I just read an interesting article, actually was directed to it from the ACRLog, concerning the length of time often taken during a job search for academic librarians. Chronicle Careers posted the article titled Endless Searche on July 27, 2006.

In the last few years I have applied for and interviewed with different colleges and universities. Generally speaking, none of the positions offered the career advancement, opportunities, or pay that I have in my current job. I admit the process can take time, especially with the larger schools who have political hoops to jump through, but only once was I tempted to withdraw because of the time span. More often than not, I was worried about how to turn down an offer (not as snotty as it sounds). In the current climate of librarianship, every other library journal has an article about how hard it is for recent graduates to find jobs, I have to wonder about the statement regarding now being in a "sellers market." The author of the article, Todd Gilman @ Yale University, says:

"Few recent Ph.D.'s searching for faculty jobs would reject a tenure-track offer out of resentment over how the search process was handled. But academic librarians are in a seller's market and may be able to afford that luxury. A good academic librarian might not think twice about turning down an offer, since a move elsewhere is not only possible but will almost certainly come with a raise and an increase in prestige and responsibility." - Gilman

Is academic librarianship a perceived seller's market because of the somewhat more stringent qualifications required? I agree that often jobs posted in academia include requirements and/or preferences for second masters degrees in subject specialty areas, doctoral degrees for tenure, and experience with instruction is generally preferred. In that respect, an experienced academic librarian would have an opportunity to select offers best representing their needs. However, smaller academic institutions may not offer tenure. Generally speaking they may offer twelve month contracts and in many cases do not consider librarians faculty. I feel in these instances the employer has an advantage.

The rest of Gilman's article discusses much needed common sense pointers for conducting library job searches. It is almost foolish that someone would have to be reminded to keep in contact with applicants or to be sure the people selected for on-campus interviews successfully meet qualifications stated in the initial job posting. Unfortunately these pointers are as necessary as warning tags on hair dryers telling users to not dry their hair in the bathtub. They are there because someone, somewhere, made that jump. I can only hope hiring committees reading this article take heed instead of thinking "he can't be talking about me."

I don't have any specific anecdotes to share regarding this particular issue. But, I have noticed a few interesting job hunt trends and will mention a pointer or two from my experiences:

  • Calling references: A recent trend has potential employers calling references before even offering candidates an interview. Do not put your current boss on that first reference list unless he/she knows you are searching. Offer that information only during or after an actual interview. It has happened to me, a University called my boss for a reference before I knew I was being considered for the interview. Luckily, I have a supportive boss who told me about the call. Since then, he is off my initial reference list.
  • Applying for a position: Only apply for a job opening you would seriously consider uprooting your life and family to take. In other words, do not go the "gee that sounds interesting" route and fire off resumes and vitaes without thought. Several different things may happen in that case. (1) You get a call for an interview and do not have a graceful way out of giving it serious consideration. Academic librarianship is a small pond, calling off is a way to get a bad reputation in the field. (2) You get a name for applying for any and all positions in a particular area or field. See previous mention of small world.
  • Portfolio: Yes, librarians can and should create portfolios for interviews. This can be done in power point, as a web page, or even a nice hard copy binder. If you can, do an electronic and hard copy of the portfolio, it facilitates more than one person being able to look at the information at a time.

Gilman mentions he will be taking a look at "working conditions in academic libraries" in future Chronicle columns.

I look forward to them.

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Library Thing: a fabulous new toy

Here's the thing, one of the drawbacks to writing what I know is I sometimes do not have a particular focus at work. I'm the web master, education liaison, resource center manager/director, student supervisor, graduate assistant supervisor, provide collection development for juvenile and the resource center, do reference, and at any given time am the "go to" person for technology issues in the library.

Cup half full, I'm never bored.

Cup half empty, I'm running in circles.

Empty cup, I'm tossing all the hats out the window.

Full cup, I have many great things on my resume.

But I digress. My new favorite techie toy as of this morning, I must qualify because I am fickle, is Library Thing. How cool is this endeavor? You can add your own books into a collection and yak with others who read what you read. Naturally I spent an hour this morning playing with the Library Thing widget option. There were so many choices for display and the JavaScript was created for me automatically. I finally made a selection and was able to add some of my collection to this blog.

Now I'm headed off to lunch with Gil's All Fright Diner, an Alex Award title for 2006. I'm not much into zombies, vampires, and the like. But so far this title does something great, the author has made his rules and is sticking to them. Much less confusion for the reader this way. Also, it flows nicely.

Update: Check it out, the java script changes the books constantly. I know, I know, it says it is random and that is what random means ..... but still.

Update 2: The Library Thing blog just posted concerning a new widget developed that may be added to blogs. I must go play.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Historical? Or, merely old?

It's summer, so it must be time to weed the curriculum textbook collection. When doing so, it is usually a good idea to refresh my memory concerning the ACRL Guidelines for Curriculum Materials Centers (CMCs or IRCs) that suggests P-12 textbooks should adhere to the following statement and be no older than five years:

"Current textbooks in all major curricular subjects and in levels P-12 should be collected. Several publishers should be represented for each grade level in major curriculum areas. This collection may reflect the texts used in the public schools in the region, and schools in which the teacher education students receive field placements. The scope and depth of each subject area should depend upon each institution's needs." -- ACRL, ALA

The aforementioned five year date is a suggestion and often one that often, out of sheer fiscal responsibility, has to be extended. When I first began as a curriculum librarian six years ago, I was able to replace all of the existing textbooks at no cost to the library due to donations from local schools and publishers. This expanded my existing collection significantly; in some curriculum areas titles were previously unrepresented in the collection. However, in the last three years many local school districts began feeling the budget crunch and as a result purchased fewer new textbooks. Trickle down theory applies here as fewer evaluation and adoption copies at the school level mean fewer subsequent donations to the IRC.

Last summer it was necessary to weed a significant number of math, reading, and history textbooks from the collection. Replacing these items put a strain on my materials budget. A way around this is to purchase used or preowned textbooks. I've found two resources able to supplement my textbook collection development, Follett Educational Services and Academic Book Services. Not a perfect solution since getting a full grade run of a specific publisher, year, and edition is hit or miss, this helps my bottom line significantly when they may be used to supplement direct purchases from textbook publishers. Last year I spent close to $4000 to get teacher editions only for a set of teacher editions (no student) texts from Pearson education. As important as the titles are to the library and education curriculum, something else has to be eliminated to afford the purchase.

I have already placed an order in excess of $700 for used textbooks this summer. An aside, I would be remiss if I didn't mention at this point that used or preowned textbooks do not necessarily have old publication dates. I have purchased used books with 2007 copyrights for the last year. Go figure. So as I weeded dated history and civics textbooks from the shelves this morning, they are slated to be removed from the catalog and offered to students for free, I began wondering what the line was between old and historical?

How old does something have to be to be historical? Obviously, dated curriculum texts from 1995 are simply old and should be replaced. But there is a lot to be learned from research and historical textbooks. Would housing some of these books in a safe place for 20 years automatically make them historical? Or, is the mass production of the titles prohibitive to the historical value of the books in question? When I gleefully weeded this collection the first summer I worked here I was aghast seeing books in the collection I used in grade school, high school and college. Having students evaluate textbooks published before they were born seemed a poor curricula decision.

So, the books have been weeded. I am currently researching my used text resources to replace them with current editions. And, I will probably wonder again next summer what the difference might be in 20 years.

Historical Textbook Links:

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