Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Writers cramp

One of the reasons behind starting this blog was to practice writing. I will not be so bold as to say I want to hone my craft in any way, but committing myself to putting something with purpose to paper (Last ALA Conference Session), per say, each day was/is to help me become more proficient with the actual writing process; therefore when professional development writing opportunities present themselves I would be less inclined to pass on said chance. In all honesty this has served me well in the last year. I have had two short articles accepted for publication in a book, was invited to submit two articles based on my poster sessions at ALA last summer, and at this point am cautiously optimistic one of the two invited articles has been accepted in a peer review journal.

Blah, blah, blah ... not so bad.

I have been struggling the last several days with actually writing the second article. Sunday afternoon I was optimistic after writing the abstract and making notes. Last evening (during Dancing with the Stars!) I transferred the session information from my web page CV to the paper and worked on more notes. Today I spent a great deal of time tidying up the peripheral, yet important, tasks (bibliography, literature review, setting up the paper) but am currently stymied by the opening paragraph.

Yes, the opening paragraph; the words that will set my tone for the entire article.

It's actually quite ridiculous. I have had issue with conclusions before, but never actually beginning. At this point I am debating myself as to what should, or should not, be included within the actual text of the article and it is making the task seem daunting. In order to move the process along, I have now decided to write any portion of the paper that will let me write it. With luck, and a bit of patience, I should be able to work from the end to the beginning.

Monday, October 29, 2007

email giveth ... email taketh away

Last week I sent an email message to the university web master, it included links to the sample pages created for the new library web page. I wanted her input regarding various web issues (508 compliance, W3C, etc.) and overall design elements as they may pertain to the university web site branding (using the correct colors and similar layout). Since her input was invaluable when creating the resource center web site, I looked forward to a response.

This morning the reply arrived; in part it detailed the web committee request that we use the university branding around our designs instead of the design in question. Additionally, an attachment .jpeg presented how combining (almost "mashing") the two designs would appear on the web. I have to wonder if I expected this response when sending the email. In all honesty, I am not sure. However, I felt the news was not altogether unexpected and all-in-all a bit of a blessing in disguise. Utilizing the university stylesheet would make my job simpler; less issue with design elements, less issue with creating new pages, no problem with determining what color to use, and the interesting offer from the I.T. department to assist with changing over existing library pages. Even knowing we were going to literally 'dump' the existing pages, an offer of student help was intriguing.

With a joy in my heart, and the prospect of this new twist in our redesign making the sky a bit bluer and the sun a bit brighter, I forwarded the message to my boss. Less than an hour later I received a response. In part, the email maintained that there were still several departments on campus not conforming to the university shell and at this point, we would probably remain one of them. My boss was out of the office most of today. As of now, I am unsure as to how we will progress at this juncture.

Wednesday is the librarian meeting. Only one of the librarians has forwarded me information for our next library web page discussion. The point may be moot ...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Web 1.0?

Doing a bit of additional blog research this evening I found a blog comment, another blog that now escapes me, which mentioned posting daily to a blog was very "Web 1.0". I must admit to not understanding the author's reasoning behind this comment, other than to point out posting just to post does not actually provide quality information on a blog.

But what if one of the author's blog purposes and/or goals is based upon taking the time to write on a daily basis? Would that still propel the blog into "Web 1.0" oblivion - or - is it making use of the "Web 2.0" technology available? Blog technology is growing and changing. Everyone who blogs has a personal, professional, or other goal or purpose in mind each time they log into their blog and post. Who's to say if daily posting is a detriment to that goal?

Today, I wrote my article abstract, posted to two different blogs, and gleefully watched the Steeler's football game.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Informational overload

The conference was great, with my fashion choices noted and complimented on Friday; but now my brain is overloaded with ideas and information I want to put to good use on the new library page design. Since this project will take over my work life for the next eight months (huh, nine months total, an interesting parallel), I have to clear all of the residual projects from my plate so it is possible to immerse myself in the process.

Today and tomorrow I must write my article submission so the rough draft can go to my boss by mid-week, I can let it settle for a day, and then the final copy should be submitted via email by Friday. It's a plan (yet here I sit, blogging and preparing to go to the bank, post-office, and drug store).

At the conference there were several session on utilizing web 2.0 technologies into library web pages. I was pleased to note familiarity with all of them, had made inroads to utilizing two in particular, and hope to convince the boss several of them are worth inclusion. I spoke with a librarian friend, a web master extraordinaire' who looked at me with pity when I mentioned tables setting up the page. When she finished shaking her head I voiced my idea of using layers instead; a smile and nod of approval followed.

In the very first web session Thursday, discussion concerning the use of tables as a design element was discussed with a bit of disdain (CSS, W3C, 508), guess it is a good thing I had that idea Wednesday evening. Nothing like being hit on the head with a web karma club. Another web session on Friday presented Google search and once again the club swung my way; Wednesday morning I spent time creating a library gmail account so I could utilize this tool. It seems I will be moving forward with the idea after all.

I need a nap.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dithering, packing, & waffling

Perhaps that title should be waffling, dithering, and packing; either way I am not getting much accomplished this evening. How so? I am currently dithering about what I should pack to wear with my lovely new black trousers the second day of the conference. I probably will determine it is necessary to take more than one option (so I have a choice Friday morning). If not, I will spend the day resigned to the fact I look like a lump all the while viciously wishing I had chosen the other top, shirt, blouse, and/or sweater. In the big scheme of things it is not that important, but you never know when the weird vanity gene will surge to the forefront. Because I am dithering about what to take, I have also decided to put off packing for this short, overnight trip, until morning. Then if I change my mind concerning what I have already selected(and ironed) to wear tomorrow it will not be too late to change what goes into the overnight bag.

Some days I am just a bit too neurotic for my own good. Especially considering my mantra about how people look; someone will always look better, someone will always look worse, I am fated to land in the middle. Be that as it may ....

I am waffling, of course, concerning the new library web page design. Up to this point I have been content to know I would be able to duplicate, simplistically speaking, one or two of the more sophisticated looking library web sites. I say up to this point because this afternoon I was leafing back through my notes from the Dreamweaver workshops I took last fall and stopped on the page concerning layers. Yes, layers and how Dreamweaver can easily convert tables to layers, making it a simpler matter to attach style sheets to templates. On my way out of the library at the end of today the last thing I grabbed from my office was the workbook. Sometime this weekend I will take a second, and a third, look at the assignment.

The second bit of waffling is the article due in two weeks. I have yet to put serious pen to paper, rather typing to word processor, beyond the point to transferring the poster session information from it's current web home to Word. This weekend I must craft the abstract and a rough draft of the article. It is imperative I do not flub (great word, flub) this opportunity. Since I have not done a great deal of library research, and shame on me for that statement, chances to be published based upon previous presentations and work are not commonplace. Write, write, write.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

One baby step closer

This morning I had an email from the assistant editor of the journal I submitted my ALA poster session article to for publication regarding copyright information for submitters and release form/permission form needing a necessary signature (mine!) prior to publication. Actually, this is the article they contacted me and asked me to write (VI still can't get over that). I have been reminding myself for the last six weeks that invitation to submit does not mean acceptance, especially in a peer-reviewed journal, and that the last article I had published took over six months to go from acceptance to publication. Ugh.

Not to mention the six to eight months it has been since I had two articles potentially accepted for publication in a book (so much for not mentioning, hmmm?). I last heard from the editor of this particular project was in May 07 notifying contributors that the project had been shipped and her publishers "guidelines say most books are published within 9-15 months from the time the manuscript is received." That means I have until February of 2008 before I begin obsessing about it's time table. But, once again, I digress.

As the time to submit my second article, the more in-depth offering about my blogging poster session, draws closer, I admit to curiosity regarding the status of the first article. It was a relief to be asked today to complete and sign the necessary forms, scan them, and forward them via email or fax ... especially when the email began "With regard to publishing your conference report." I am now cautiously optimistic the article has been accepted. I am also probably disproportionately excited because it is an international journal. When I finish with the second blogging article, there may be interest in the professional blogs I am currently involved with writing (both alone and in collaboration).

Who says presenting at ALA is the last thing you will ever do with an accepted poster session? I never dreamed to have this chance. Now, I am wracking my brain to come up with a topic for ALA in San Diego this summer. Maybe the library web page re-design and/or the faculty learning community I am involved with will fit the bill. I am still finding it a bit difficult to find my niche as an academic librarian who is not actively involved with bibliographic instruction (reference) and/or technical services.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Well, fine

Last evening I got home in time to see the Steelers defense, with 1:10 left in the game, virtually hand the ball to Denver's offense; "hey, go ahead and kick a field goal to win this game." Guess the high altitude was getting to them and it was time to go home - well, fine.

Last evening I got home in time to see the Indians lose to the Red Sox. Looks like things kind of fell apart for them at the end. I think the weird day off between games four and five, probably placed there because the national league teams were still to be playing, messed with the Indians mojo. Well, fine, now there is no reason for me to watch the World Series.

This morning, because I am a bit obsessive, maybe appropriately compulsive, though both are kinder than anal, I checked the new library web page samples from my dinosaur computer at home this morning. The changes made late last evening look better. I will be interested, or in all honesty maybe not so much, to hear how the others view the burgeoning page. Either way, it's a starting point and there is no turning back.

And now, it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. A perfect day for a road trip; the sun is shining and it is my day off. I am going to gather my things and embark on a shopping trip. Thursday and Friday I will be attending an academic library conference in Columbus, I am shallow enough to want something new to wear, and I have coupons!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Not so bloody brilliant

The Steelers are losing 28 - 14 in the third quarter and I have been unable to tune in any of the Internet radio stations to hear the play by play. At this rate, they may still be playing when I arrive home in forty-five minutes - give or take. There is still time.

The Indians are losing 3 -2. I'm not heartbroken with that statement, but would like to see them win. I have been refreshing their web page every so often to get a score. It is only the sixth inning, they have time to catch up and win.

And speaking of time, I have been tweaking the new library web page samples and dithering about if I should find script/code to enter that will update automatically so when the boss changes a page and does not remember to manually change the date ... Guess what? There is a handy-dandy little button on the common elements toolbar in Dreamweaver that will enter that code for you.

I keep reminding myself about not needing to be brilliant, just take care not to embarrass myself. There is still time.

Dinner-time post

I finished adjusting the four web page samples from 800 pixels wide to 748 pixels wide. Yes, it meant making new place-holder banners as well but since they were plain white images with text signifying size and purpose; very little artistic expenditure was needed. The whole process took less than half an hour and was not the pain I anticipated. And though I seriously doubt anyone but me will actually notice the difference, it was again time well spent. Now when users go to print the pages it displays easily on an 8 1/2 x 11 page without the need of a "printer-friendly" page.

One of the challenges I am faced with during this design is making sure library staff members and librarians understand the level of talent I have for creating our web pages. As I have mentioned previously, I am mostly self taught. I had one class in grad school with two whole html assignments (learned to code - joy, joy, joy) and last year was lucky enough to take two full day Dreamweaver workshops at OSU. When we looked at academic library web pages we liked, my choices were made with an eye to the source code available. Was the page something I could reasonably do? If not, it needs to be understood that any new skill I have to take time and master before applying adds time to the project. Right now, we hope to have discussions out of the way by the end of this term allowing me to have the entire spring term for creation of the page/pages. If all is on schedule, the new page debuts near end summer.

But, that is months and months and months away.

Right now I am pondering one of the mysteries of the library; when there is an entire first floor of empty tables in the library, why do students always plunk down to work at the table next to me? Really. As a student I would never have chosen to sit next to the reference librarian on duty. Next, I'll be pulling up the WDVE website so I can listen to the Steelers game online (it works and I won't bother any of the students). Finally, I will be pulling together all of the information on my blogging poster session from ALA this summer and putting together the bare bones of my article.

The jumping guy? I found him earlier this evening and he made me laugh.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Views from my Saturday

Today was my last Saturday for this term (she gleefully announces to all asunder) and I spent a great deal of time catching up on what could be termed busy work, but is more kindly referred to as things I can drag with me to the reference desk. Much of what needed to be done was technology related, blog postings and web page updates for the new library web page design samples, and easy enough to do no matter where I was stationed with my trusty lap top. The other task was collection development, also known as spending money. I gleefully perused October issues of Booklist and School Library Journal for juvenile fiction; picture books, middle readers, and YA selections. While doing so, I had time to reflect on how much time it took to complete these three seemingly simple tasks.

I spent two hours today, if the post times are to be believed it was between 11:30 am and 1:30 pm, adding juvenile and young adult titles to the resource center blog. Final tally of the project numbers thirty-two titles; six different categories of posts including graphic novels, juvenile fiction, young adult fiction, recreational reading, picture books, and special collection juvenile titles; strategic placement of six book covers highlighting several young adult and juvenile titles (Fire from the Rock, Useful Fools, and Freak); and linked each title to the library catalog for easy access to call numbers, availability, and location. I felt the usual sense of satisfaction when complete, but had a fleeting moment of concern when reflecting on how many things I had on my plate to accomplish today. Statscounter and Feedburner numbers are not huge for this particular blog. Was this time well spent? I have to say yes.

Two to three hours every couple of weeks posting titles to the resource center book and information blog is time well spent. It saves me time from sending various email to education faculty concerning titles they expect to be added, but did not specifically request. It saves the same faculty members time from deleting unsolicited messages from their email in-box. It saves me time at the end of the year as I no longer spend days/weeks putting together book lists for the resource center web site. The blog is searchable, faculty and students may look for particular topics and find posts matching their area of interest, and the blog is an archive of titles added to the resource center collection, as well as education, reference, and juvenile titles. Many of the newest "hits" posted lead directly from the resource center "what's new page." Therefore the blog is working well in tandem with the web page. That I enjoy doing the blog is a great side benefit, but not the sole purpose of the project. Guilt assuaged regarding the two hours spent blogging

The initial hour and a half of my day was spent updating and tweaking the samples created on Friday for the new library web page. After our two hour meeting, the boss presented and we discussed the twenty-eight academic library web pages that contained design layouts the faculty librarians liked, it was evident there were similarities in each of the designs. We liked clean, simple pages without drop down boxes and frills. The layouts most desirable were basic tables with clear-cut directions for further library information. Some of our favorites included:

With these things in mind, I developed the aforementioned sample web pages to give us something viable to view. Personally, I am a very visual person. When starting the resource center web page redesign, I grabbed a pen and paper and made rudimentary sketches of how I wanted things to look. My pen and yellow legal pad did not suffice for everyone to view, hence the sample pages. Taking time this morning to look at the three samples on several different computer screens it soon became apparent that I had neglected to create one page with no specific background color. I opened one of the already completed samples, saved it as another document, made a few simple adjustments to the existing layout, and pulled the background. Now, we have four samples to evaluate.

This evening I have taken a look at the samples from my dinosaur computer at home. They load pretty quickly, even with my dial-up modem, but the 800 pixels we determined to try do not fit on the screen, nor do they print on a single page. Since I do not want to bog things down with the idea of the printer friendly page (in my humble opinion, it should be printer friendly to start with), tomorrow I will send out an email and have everyone look at the pages using different computers - or just make the changes and not mention the problem. I'm thinking 750 pixels is a better size; decisions, decisions, decisions. Our next web page re-design meeting will be scheduled for some time next week. The charge this time is for each librarian to pick the ONE page they like best and then find several design elements in any of the pages they thing would be a great addition to our page. Another couple hours out of my day, but this was an assignment, per say, not a choice.

My third, and probably most favorite task this lovely Saturday was collection development. As I have mentioned before, purchasing for the juvenile collection is one of the great perks of my job. Today I could not help but reflect on a post I read on Read Roger earlier in the day. In it there was discussion concerning a Child_Lit list serv discussion thread concerning a class of library students, the very real concern by their instructor concerning hesitancy to promote books with instances of language, sexuality, and drugs in book talks, and the subsequent comments from the post regarding the lack of back bone these students have and ultimate question ... would they buy the books in the first place? I was going to comment on the post, but for the first time lost my nerve (hence a lack of link to the actual post, go there, you can find it easily).

I wonder how much of this stems from the fact that library students, especially school library students, are somewhat bombarded with issues of book banning and challenges while taking classes? It can be overwhelming. Pre-teens, teens, and young adult readers are looking for books that reflect their lives. And, whether you agree with the language and subject matter being presented, librarians owe it to patrons to purchase high quality titles that deal with patron interest. The library collection cannot and should not reflect personal bias of the librarian purchasing. Are these mlis students not cognizant of the issues facing today's teens? Or, are they really serious about having collections not representative of their patrons/students? It is hard to believe a younger student in "library school" would not be more aware of this distinction.

Did my collection choices take longer than normal today? I do not think so. There are plenty of books in my collection (yes, right now it is indeed my collection) that are great titles, but not something I would care to read. Since the juvenile collection is not about what I like to read, but about supporting the curriculum and providing quality resources for the students, the point is moot.

Tomorrow is my last Sunday evening for this term. Naturally, it is a Sunday evening when the Steelers are the NBC night game so I will not see yet another football game. My plans for the day include adjusting those web pages; in fact I have just emailed myself a reminder on that subject (it's sad, but it works) and starting that article I am supposed to submit in less than two weeks.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Blogging for college scholarship money

As a member of ALA each month you receive American Libraries magazine, ALA also offers and online version of American Libraries as well as an email newsletter called AL Direct that arrives in your inbox on a regular basis (I'd say weekly, but honestly have not paid all that much attention; I just browse it when it arrives). Thursday's issue featured a short blurb about a library student finalist, Karin Dalziel, in College Scholarships.org 2nd annual blogging scholarship. I was surprised by two things; first, what a cool way to help pay for college, doing something you enjoy, and second, I've read her blog! Here's the blurb from AL Direct:

"Library Student is finalist for $10,000 blogging scholarship. Karin Dalziel, an LIS student at the University of Missouri–Columbia, is one of 20 finalists for College Scholarship.org’s 2nd annual blogging scholarship, which features an award of $10,000 to help pay for books and tuition. Dalziel was selected from hundreds of applicants and is the only library blogger in the group." (ALDirect, 10/17/07)

I already placed my vote, and would encourage people to take a look at the finalists for this interesting award. (And yes, seriously consider voting for Karin.)
I meant to post this on Thursday, but after being glued to the computer all day at work (the new library web page!) I could not face my computer at home. Again, here's a link to Karin's blog, Musings of an LIS student, and her post about becoming a finalist. Public voting for this scholarship ends on October 28th ... go vote.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Midterm madness

Today marks the seventh week of classes for the fall term; the unofficial half way point when angst is high amongst most every student regardless of major. In preparation of this momentous occasion, one that comes each and every blessed term, last week every computer in the library and resource center was in use from midweek forward. Not only were they in use, but it was work (not play) observed at each terminal and work station. Midterm exams, midterm papers, midterm presentations, and midterm assignments were - and are - due as the deadline for midterm grades approaches, Wednesday at four o'clock pm. My students had a deadline extension from 6:00 pm to noon tomorrow, at which time they are to have 40% of their assignments completed successfully for the term, key word being successfully. Time will tell if the final mad rush was worth their effort when I go through portfolios tomorrow and prepare to submit midterm grades.

This post could also be titled "What not to do" when starting discussion about library web page redesign. Ever since I finished with the resource center web page, the clock has been ticking regarding opening sessions about the main library web page. Last week, a librarian faculty meeting was the first mention of this project and it's time table. Discussion will ensue from now until the end of this term. I will work on the design at the beginning of winter term and spend the entire spring term creating the new pages. A tentative deadline for completion will allow the new page to debut over summer, providing time for "tweaking" and ridding the page of problems before the new fall term.

Each librarian was charged with finding examples of three or four academic library web pages that contained design elements they found useful and visually appealing. I have already put together a web page for our project housed on the new resource center web site that will keep a record of our discussion, include links to all pages selected for viewing, and contain web design elements that I feel are important each librarian view. It is important to me that everyone understand the nuts and bolts before moving along with the project. The deadline for web page examples was noon today. Unfortunately, only two of the seven other librarians actually took the time to participate in the exercise. I am a bit disappointed and ask the director to send out reminders today. Our meeting time for this week has moved and tomorrow I plan to send out nudging emails to the four librarians in question urging them to add their vision at this particular phase of the design. Every viewpoint is necessary. The longer I look at web page examples, the more they begin to look the same. Having a fresh eye is key to gaining better perspective on where we want to go from here.

The more I compare our old library web page to the new resource center web page, the more I want to have this project completed. While there is nothing wrong with the existing page, there is room for improvement. Quite honestly, even with the new resource center web page there are many, many things I could do better. Wednesday is our next meeting. It's time. I'm going to need a boatload of chocolate.

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Artist to Artist

Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children about Their Art is a beautiful, readable, and browseable anthology of picture book artists compiled and produced to benefit The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Twenty three artists are represented; each artist wrote a personal letter to children about their art, included samples of works and photographs of their art studios.

Written to and for children by the artists, the text is simple, eloquent, easy to read (in size and vocabulary) and includes a picture of the artist as a child. Sections open to reveal old, new, and in one instance pop-up art, providing readers opportunity to view an interesting variety of the work produced by each artist. The best part of this book is hands-down the self portrait created by each artist. In need of a smile? Be sure to check out Mordicai Gerstein's self portrait on page 41, it is simply joyous. Maurice Sendaks portrait on p. 77 depicts him sitting down with a few "wild things" and Paul O. Zelinsky's self portrait is done in what he terms "old master's style." Enjoyable to read and view, this one is a keeper.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Diary of a Fly

Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss, the team that gave readers Diary of a Worm and Diary of a Spider, add another entry their successful series with Diary of a Fly. Told in traditional diary format, beginning with June 7th, Fly begins his entries with the first day of school. Fly facts and fun are uproariously intermixed; "I asked my mom why I can't have my own room like Worm." "Because you have 327 brothers and sisters, that's why." From lunch to school pictures, Fly's day-to-day life mirrors that of any inquisitive first grader, no matter how disgusting the day or activity in question may be. Illustrations provide a keen sense of perspective, highlighted by rich color and detail, and possessing a sense of absurdity guaranteed to attract reader's attention. Fans will be delighted to see Spider and Worm make cameo appearances helping Fly realize his dreams of being a super-hero. Fly will definitely benefit from a second read through so as not to miss the subtle humor within the text of each page. I wonder who's diary is next?

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Thursday, October 11, 2007


In Deborah Freedman's new picture book Scribble, artistic license and criticism take on new meaning for Emma and her younger sister Lucie. An afternoon of drawing culminates with Emma calling Lucie's drawing of a kitty, 'scribbles.' Sisterly mayhem ensues as Lucie retaliates by scribbling on Emma's beautiful princess. Soon the scribbles take on a life of their own as the cat leaps off the page in search of a beautiful princess. Lucie's scribble kitty, illustrated with broad black strokes on bright yellow paper, literally leaps off the page to meet the princess, lovely in her pink castle. Lucie and her cat chase scribble kitty and the princess, equally determined not to remove her scribbles or help the unlikely happy couple. Freedman's water color illustrations of Lucie and Emma are a cleverly juxtapositioned with the magic marker drawings depicting a preschooler's bold scribbles rushing from page to page as Lucie chases everyone, all the while trying to undo her bad-tempered scribbles from Emma's princess. After a frantic chase Lucie is able to remove the scribbles; the girls make their peace and the kitty and princess live happily ever after.

Dynamics between Lucie and Emma are perfectly written and illustrated. It is easy to follow Lucie's own imaginative story as she works, feverishly and resentlfully, to get rid of her scribbles. Emma's older sibling reluctance and grudging admitance that Lucie's drawing did indeed look like a cat was priceless. Adults and children alike who have siblings will find something to enjoy with this book.

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Mr. Library Man?

I do not remember, and I am too lazy to check and see, if I blogged about this charmingly hysterical question and answer column in The Modesto Bee written by Mr. Library Man, aka Brad Barker a librarian at Mark Twain Junior High School in Modesto, California. The first column I read was "Mr. Library Man wants you to speak up and ask questions." In it he underscored the reasoning behind his column and questions:

"You know the stereotype. Librarians are portrayed as stern, old-fashioned ladies with cat's-eye glasses whose only jollies come from shushing the giggles of children. As an antidote to narrow- minded caricatures, and to perhaps demystify my profession, I offer this (potentially recurring) column -- Ask Mr. Library Man." - (Barker, Mr. Library Man, 8/29/07)

Today's column is "Ask Mr. Library Man: Call number for breakfast is 641.52" and includes a fresh take on some perennial questions asked of librarians. Here are two of my favorite questions and answers:

Q: You know that phrase "information is power"? If that were true, wouldn't librarians be the most powerful people on earth?

A: Shhh! You've figured it out. Librarians are the mighty overlords of the planet. Our low pay (relative to education and expertise) and our lack of public esteem are part of a massive cover-up.

and ...

Q. Is sarcasm a good quality for a librarian?

A. Considering the overwhelming absurdity of the modern era, sarcasm is a basic survival skill.

Thank you Mr. Library Man, write on.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

National Book Awards

Paper Cuts: A Blog About Books, posted the 2007 National Book Award finalist list this morning. I gleefully scrolled down to the Young Peoples Literature category hoping for books I had either read and enjoyed, or at least had a passing familiarity with the title. Here is the young peoples literature finalists from the National Book Foundation:
  • Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown & Company)
  • Kathleen Duey, Skin Hunger: A Resurrection of Magic, Book One(Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
  • M. Sindy Felin, Touching Snow (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
  • Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic Press)
  • Sara Zarr, Story of a Girl (Little, Brown & Company)
    Young People’s Literature Judges: Elizabeth Partridge (chair), Pete Hautman, James Howe, Patricia McCormick, and Scott Westerfeld.

Of this list, I've only read The Invention of Hugo Cabret (and just got in the audio book and accompanying DVD!), and have purchased Story of a Girl and The Absolutely True Diary for the library. Hugo is a favorite of mine, so I naturally am hoping Brian Selznick wins the award. As with any other book award, there will be plenty of discussion concerning the selection and eventual winner.

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Monday, October 08, 2007


Freak, by Marcella Pixley is the story Miriam Fisher; an average seventh grader, she is somewhat of a loner and definitely not one of the popular girls. Not an ordinary girl, Miriam reads the dictionary for fun and her avant-garde attitude leads to discussing Shakespeare, she is the object of ridicule at school by classmates who abhor someone different. Miriam’s older sister and one-time best friend and family confidant Deborah, has discovered her “feminine attributes” and become popular, shunning her school. When the son of a family friend, Artie, a senior, moves in for the year Miriam is thrilled; sure in her twelve-year-old world that he is her soul mate. Things go from bad to worse as Artie and Deborah are soon a couple, and a girl at school targets Miriam for taunts and practical jokes. With no where to turn, and the taunting escalating to bullying Miriam takes matters into her own hands, finding inner strength, purpose, and willingness to accept responsibility for her own actions.

From Miriam's bewilderment regarding her sister's reluctance to associate with her in school, to her anger at the school bullying, character voices ring true. There are many layers to this novel, as well as various shades of gray. Readers gain insight to Artie and Deborah, keeping them from being one dimensional and the adults are portrayed with realism, as opposed to cartoon caricatures so many juvenile novels employ. A middle school teacher, Pixley presents day-to-day school activities with realism. While the ending is rather abrupt, Miriam’s strength of purpose is not only understandable, but enviable. Anyone who has felt alone or different will find a heroine in Miriam.

This is a powerful first novel. If you think you have forgotten what it’s like to be in high school, this book will bring back all the memories, good and bad.

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Ending the week

The October edition of American Libraries (unfortunately the online link's recent issue is September) was in my mailbox early this week. After browsing through it, I will go back and read things of interest later, I was intrigued by Will Manley's column, Speaking of Dissent. This year, American Libraries is celebrating it's 100th anniversary. Manley has been revisiting various moments in ALA history and the October 2007 column details what he mentions as possibly the "biggest controversy to hit ALA;" an Office of Intellectual Freedom film titled "The Speaker" that was sponsored by ALA and shown thirty years ago at the ALA Annual meeting in Detroit, 1977 (Manley, AL, 10/07, p. 88).

Unfamiliar with this instance in ALA history, I spent time this evening trying to locate more information; there was very little available. An ERIC document discussion guide abstract (ED151880) provides the full title, "The Speaker: A Film about Freedom," and includes this blurb in their abstract concerning the discussion guide:

"'The Speaker,' a film about the First Amendment concept of freedom of expression, deals with the personal torment that individuals experience in learning tolerance for ideas they fear or reject" (ED151880, 1977).

I also found the ALA archives, housed at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne, contains evaluation forms presented to the membership at the June 1977 meeting when the film was shown. However, from Manley's column the plot of this movie:

"centers around an attempt by a high school history teacher to invite controversial speakers to campus to give presentation on volatile issues not taught in the classroom. One of the invitees is a famous scientist notorious for espousing the theory that black people are genetically inferior. After a significant number of parents and students protest this invitation, the school board steps in and prohibits the man from speaking. End of film." (Manley, AL, 10/07, p. 88)

As Banned Books week draws to a close, I find myself very interested in the final paragraph of "Speaking of Dissent."

"Does the advocate of an ugly and discriminatory point of view have the right to be heard by an audience of young and impressionable students?"

There is obviously no simple ansswer; just as there are no easy answers and lack of opinions concerning books and censorship. That is why it's so important to stop each year and bring attention to Banned Books week.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Just thinking ...

Everyone has an opinion regarding censorship and banned books, it's inevitable. As an adult I have issue with the idea of someone presuming to tell me what I can read.

I have great respect for a parents right to determine what their children should, or should not, be allowed to read. However, I do not need the same parent to determine what other children should read. Nowhere is this type of conversation more interesting than in a library.

We have a new librarian on staff who is younger (praise be) and has made the move to academics from a large public library. Previously a young adult librarian, she has a fresh take on what is currently popular for teens. I relied heavily on my pubic library purchases with beginning basic juvenile purchases here and as such mentioned if there were any books she felt we needed to let me know; she could order them with her general money, I could incorporate them into one of my orders, or our cataloging librarian (she also a fantasy and sci-fi buff so I do not need to purchase much in that genre), who purchases children's books with an endowment fund and is always glad for input, could add them. A quick request was to purchase additional titles, we had one, in the Stephanie Myer series featuring Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse. It has generated some buzz on staff and opinions have been fun to hear. I can listen but not participate as I have not read the books, I do not care for the vampire portion of the paranormal genre. Talk has ranged from "the next Harry Potter, I don't think so" to "I was disappointed" to "this is great" and "do we really need books on vampires?" No one has said we should not have the series, but some are not thrilled.

I finished reading a book on Monday that was well-written, though a bit slow at the beginning, dealt with a teenage boy's struggle with his mother's death from cancer, his fear of not living up to his more popular older brother, very real issues of abandonment, and the deeper concept of assisted suicide. The main character's struggle and feelings of abandonment were realistic, as was the dialogue between adults and young adults. I was not thrilled with the cavalier use of drugs throughout the story; no one saw anything wrong with the older brother, younger brother, and friends using drugs and in one instance the main character has dinner with his father while stoned. In some ways this effected my enjoyment of the book and was a personal observation. With it being banned books week I admit to pondering how parents might react to this title in a school library. While the argument could be made it was reflective of real life, it could also be said "not my real life."

The comic strip blurb at the top of this post is from Unshelved, it is the strip from today, Thursday, October 4, 2007. As previously mentioned, the site is running their Banned Books Week panels from 2003 - library patrons are being allowed to ban books as they see fit.

Just another instance of early lunch blogging. I'll need a new book on the way out today.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Banned Books Week 2007

Banned Books Week 2007, September 29 - October 6, is almost half over; have you read a banned book? What about one of the most frequently challenged titles? Here are a few links from ALA and information pertaining to Banned Books Week.

One of the most difficult aspects with this week is understanding a challenged book is not necessarily banned and vice versa. ALA has a section on Banned Books site titled "What's the Difference between a Challenge and a Banning?" that makes it a bit less complicated.

"A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. The positive message of Banned Books Week: Free People Read Freely is that due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection." (ALA, Challenged and Banned Books)

I remember an exercise we did for a class while I was getting my MLIS at Pitt; we held mock school board meetings (per say). I may have discussed this before, if so my apologies and you can skip this paragraph. Each group of six or eight students was divided into two committees, one the school librarian and board members and the other enraged parents wanting a book removed from the library. I was assigned to be one of the parents and found it both enlightening - and distasteful - to present an opinion completely against my beliefs.

Yesterday morning I put up a small Banned Books week display outside of the resource center. Many of the children's literature classes have been discussing this topic and I was curious to see if it would garner any attention. I placed three large pieces of blank tagboard on the wall, along with pens for opinions, and asked the students to write what they thought about Banned Books Week, censorship verses collection development, and book challenges. So far, no takers.

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