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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thoughts on Academic Librarianship, Reviews, Various other Things

On the review front: still waiting to hear from the Journal of Web Librarianship about my review on Teaching with Technology: An Academic Librarian's Guide and Choice about my admittedly lukewarm (more luke than warm) review of Electionguide.org, but:



Happy days! My review of Bell & Shank's 2007 Academic Librarianship by Design: The Blended Librarian's Guide to the Tools and Techniques was published in the November 15 Library Journal. It really should be on your shelf if you're an academic librarian who has anything to do with planning or implementing library programs or instruction. If you are an academic librarian who is not involved in those things...perhaps you should rethink where you work. Get involved or get out - it'll help your library become far more fabulous if you let someone who is interested in the work - and the welfare of the students - participate in building the library's future.


I say this not out of spite, but because I've seen libraries that have gone both ways - the ones with the dodgy, stodgy, never-to-be-found-doing-librariany-things philosophy who enjoy their tenure strapped into their cubicle for dear life (and whom nary a student could identify, even when promised a 4.0), and the ones that embrace new technologies, new librarians with new ideas and new ways of implementing them, and give us the freedom to fail spectacularly so long as we could prove that somewhere in there was the kernel of an idea that could have improved the library experience. I won't point any elbows at the dodgy sorts (you know who you are), But UTC happens to be one of those shiny, happy places, more than happy to wreck the status quo and comfort zone in favor of students with non-plagiarized, well-cited, well-researched papers, and faculty who actually come back to us because actual librarians work the reference desk, instead of students or graduate assistants. I know! *gasp* Unheard of, isn't it? Just think, on any old boring, ordinary day, you could walk up to our reference desk and who will be standing there, ready and able to answer your question, but the very Dean of the library? Or our head of collection development, or our cataloging librarian?


Yes, I am well aware that getting excited over this sort of thing is nerd-tastic. It's also the reason I figured that librarianship was the spot for me...no one laughs at my "I heart JSTOR" t-shirt here, and the neon shirt I have that reads "got books?" on the front, and answers with a cheeky "I do" on the back is always appreciated.


Either way, get involved. If you're new to the field, pick a specialty, read up on it, and then bug editors of journals you like to allow you to be a reviewer (Phil Edwards at the JOWL has an excellent section for new reviewers - you should read it before sending your reviews out.) Subscribe to the journals you'll read that you can afford, if your library doesn't get them, or at least to the RSS or email alerts of the Tables of Contents of new issues - it helps. A lot.


And that, ladies and gents and others, is all I've got for now. Best of luck in infusing your librarianship with extra awesomeness this week.


~ Guardienne

Monday, November 12, 2007

Returning from Residency

Just returned from Louisville late last night, and am recovering from a hugely intensive residency week. (Who knew being a writer could be so exhausting?)


In other news, I've had poems picked up by Poetry Midwest, Creekwalker, and just had another nabbed by Survivor's Review. (I also heard a tale at residency of a librarian who became such a good poet she was able to quit her job...) This, combined with the recent workshopping, my first public reading, and the work I have planned for next semester all have me raring to go, submitting manuscripts and wildly revising what I have already written. I'm even feeling kindly towards the editors that have, to date, rejected me. The ones who hand-write their rejections I consider actual fans. Yep, definitely a good place to be.


On the other hand, I am back at work (which I did miss), and working on deleting a backlog of emails, as well as planning a workshop I am to teach tomorrow on alerts. (You know, where you can have the database run your search and email you if there are any new results? Excellent stuff). I've fallen off of the Twitter planet, and am planning to return tomorrow (I am username: warmaiden if you care to add me). Mostly, I'm looking forward to picking up Otto from the vet and getting in some quality pooch and reading time.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hallowe'en

Sadly, this is the first year in quite awhile that I haven't costumed up for my stint at the reference desk. Call it moving fatigue, call it paycheck fatigue, call it "leaving-for-a-week-and-a-half-on-Friday-and-tons-left-to-do" burnout. I know. I'm disappointed in myself. Way down deep, there's a pirate gypsy that's dying to make her entrance. Having only been here three months at this point, I think I'll wait until next Halloween to bust out my glaringly ridiculous Halloween self. Hopefully, by then they'll love me far too much to retract the employment offer. *grin*


But I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that not all librarians are as lame as I happened to be today. In fact, I harbor some serious nerd-love for the Maker of the MARC Pumpkin. not that I have general affection for makers of MARC records, as a rule - while I appreciate their work, catalogers are a breed I cannot claim to understand. The Librarian Avengers draw our attention to the Naughty Librarian Costume, which is about as realistic an outfit for conducting reference interviews as I've ever seen. (Though admittedly it would probably boost our reference statistics if we could get our better looking and smaller-girthed-than-I ladies to wear this at the desk...)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Nerd Love and Librarians

Do YOU want to be a librarian? You should, after watching the music video.


The music video by HauntedLove, "I want to be a librarian," was posted quite awhile ago, but I'd like to re-post it here, because it's the most fabulous song about librarians ever. (Not to mention that they squish a problem patron in the movable stacks, which I have been tempted to do...muahahahaha.)



I want to be a librarian


I want to check out your books


Please give them to me


With the bar code facing up


Please don't bring them back too late


or I'll have to charge you fifty cents a day


(and you won't like that)



I want to be a librarian


Wearing glasses every single day


Don't you find me appealing


in a nerdy sort of way?


Please don't talk so loudly


Please


Please


Sshhhhhhhhhhhhh......



Meet me in the closed reserve


I'll let you read all the new magazines


I'll let you touch the first editions


If you promise me


If you promise me


If you promise me your hands are clean



(To all the folks who will get up in arms that this reinforces librarian stereotypes, I say: Shhhhh. You have no sense of humor. And if you watch the video, you'll note that the patron was being a complete ass-hat. Yep, I'm that librarian who shushes people who get too rowdy - my academic library is a place for good, clean, QUIET fun. And by fun, I mean studying - not bodysurfing or air-guitaring while standing on a pile of my lovely bookses.)


So, there we go. Proof that we librarians do in fact wield considerable power, in addition to being dang sexy while putting up with dirty-fingered, gum-under-table-sticking, loud patrons. It's nice to have that reminder in a world where we have little control over our budgets being slashed, work short-staffed and under-resourced, and are generally told that Google makes us obsolete.


Note to potential paramours: you do have to take me to dinner before I offer you a shot at the closed stacks. And FYI: nobody gets to touch the first editions, clean hands or not.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Librarian After Hours

What does a librarian do after a long day of answering reference question, reading books and writing reviews, planning presentations, teaching classes, conducting some original research and pondering podcasting? I could give you the dull (but true) answer that I read. I read ravenously. (You would too, if what you read for reviewing were titled "The Beginning of Collegiate Education West of the Appalachians, 1795-1833: The Achievement of Dr. Charles Coffin of Greeneville College and East Tennessee College." No offense, Mr. Patrick.)


While that last title may prove fascinating, I approach what I deem my 'trashy reading' with far less apprehension, perhaps because the titles are shorter - or because no one's expecting a review, so they feel a bit less like homework. Pressfield's Gates of Fire, Byrne's new book of poetry Flammable Bird, and Catherine Coulter's Blindside (which I happen to be reading completely out of order, because I didn't realize it was a part of a series) are the current books du jour at le olde homestead this week. Coulter's is really the only easy read - the other two are actually pretty dense.


And of course, the very reason I go home in the first place, and cannot stay at the library all night long to get my book-groove on, Otto. Take a look at this face. Human kids I can take or leave, but furkids? I'm such a sucker for a furry headbutt to the knees upon arriving home.



Otto and I have an agreement - I will chase him whenever he grabs something he's not supposed to have (papertowels, tissues, dishtowels, water bottles, napkins) but will not kill him so long as he leaves my books slobber-and-tooth-mark free. He gets to drape all 55 lbs of himself across me when I decide to read, as a reminder that I am neglecting him shamefully. So far the agreement is working, and I have some excellent bruises to prove it.


Not as exciting as you all were probably hoping, but I am thinking about re-Netflixing myself to shake things up a bit. That, and next week I head off to Louisville for a bit, but shh...Otto doesn't know he's not going yet.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Digitization Debate

We hear a lot about how many librarians and IT folks figure that with all of the nifty technology we've got nowadays, they'd much rather run their libraries off in the ether, behind the scenes without having to deal with that nasty, germy face-to-face business we have in walk-in libraries now. Most of the rhetoric surrounding \that has to do with the fact that hey - doesn't it increase access if you put it online? Then you don't have to deal with building hours! Or staff time off! Or worrying about creepy porninators coming in and bothering everyone! Jolly good!


These are the same folks who believe that digitization is a panacea for all building-laden woes, that if can be made available online, the physical access to something is just a ridiculous redundancy. As it was stated in the Billings Gazette: "phasing out services associated with the library as public space" is part of the plan. *sigh* Those pesky patrons again, bothering us in person, when they could just do it via IM so we could work from home in our pjs, with coffee. Besides, everyone knows that the days of library as public space are dead and gone, right? I mean, the New York Public Library, the Louisville Free Public Library and the rest of them are really just making libraries look bad, catering to all these folks in person. How old-fashioned!


(Please note I am not against digitization - I think it's a fantastic development that will serve us - and our patrons - well, long into the future. I do have a problem with using digitization as an excuse to dehumanize the library, as though the personal satisfaction of coming to a place dedicated to knowledge for the chance to sit with a book and simply enjoy a day, or to get some actual work done away from home and office, are negligible factors that deserve no credit when making library plans.)


As it turns out, Montana's library folks forgot all about doing their demographic research before letting folks know that they were on a schedule to make the state library fully virtual by January. Now folks are up in arms, claiming that having access to only administrative offices and the Talking Book Library are simply not enough. Even better, the Library apparently never sought public comment on this radical change. Way to go, elitist Montana librarians. Getting rid of newspapers, nonfiction and print reference - hey, it's all online anyway, right guys? Gah. Even freshmen in college are taught to know better!

The Pew report states that 'internet penetration' (whatever that means) has reached 73% for American adults. That means that by digitizing and eradicating your physical library presence, you are disenfranchising 27% of adults. Most of those, given the demographics and the digital divide, will be minorities, elderly, or in rural or poor communities. While you could make the argument (I haven't seen it yet, but I'm sure the more PC folks would never utter it aloud) that these folks would never be the ones using the state library anyway, that's not really your judgment to make. The whole point is that, as librarians, if we were to have a professional creed to live by, it would be "availability to all." Not "Availability to those who can afford a Dell or iMac," not "availability to those who are familiar with IE7 and Firefox."


What does this mean? This means that even as librarians are getting trained with nifty new digital skills, some of them still haven't had it beaten into their dopey heads that we're here not just for the NetGen patron, or the eldering yuppies with all their gadgetry. We're here for everyone, and NOT everyone is comfortable with knowing the only place they'll be able to find something is online. I wonder if the power ever goes out during tough Montana snows - that'd definitely put a kink in their 'access everywhere, every time' thinking. This is what happens when you forget that you serve people. Especially as a state institution, you don't really have the right to disenfranchise anyone without letting the governor know about it!


/end rant

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Library or Information Science?

Lately, one of the more interesting and lengthy discussions on the JESSE listserv (for L&IS education discussion forum) has been the tension between information science and library science, and whether the 'shift' to information science is happening in theory, but not for practitioners. There have been a number of thoughtful posts on the subject, and (chatty librarian with big, fat opinions that I am), I decided to put my two cents in. One of the more recent postings asked whether, indeed, librarianship is distinctive from information management, and if so, if librarians actually had knowledge and skills that were sufficiently up to date and advanced. As a practitioner of librarianship (and as someone who turned down a job in information management because of the severe - and to me, horrifying - differences), I stand firmly by the belief that there are sharp contrasts between the two, and that both are necessary...but this doesn't mean they are the same thing, nor should they be. My recent post in its entirety below, because I'd love to know what some other folks think about it:



Librarianship does indeed "embrace knowledge and skills that are sufficiently advanced, up to date, and distinctive from those of information managers", and I think this is important for librarians of all types to remember.



PERL and MySQL are completely unnecessary for what I do, but I am conversant in (by creating or using on a regular basis) podcasting, course management software manipulation for distance learning classes (as both a teacher and a student) videocasting, wikis, blogs, RSS and various other 2.0 technologies. Thank goodness I didn't 'waste' one of my very few available electives on learning something I'd not be able to use to my students' advantage!



As a reference and instruction librarian recently out of school (MLS - 2006), there is a great deal of information management architecture I decided to forego in order to fit in classes on instructional systems design, instructional services, and specialty reference classes (government documents, humanities info, social sciences info, medical informatics, science & technology reference), aside from all of the required core courses. Just because we could know it doesn't mean we should if it's completely unnecessary for the services I provide and the future of those services. So while I'm interested in learning XML and building nifty web pages, my IT librarians are the ones with MySQL and various other database experience - I know how to use STATA, SAS and Access, and that's more than what I need to know.



I would seriously lament a trend in MLS education that did away with specialty reference in order to teach us behind-the-scenes technologies that a lot of practicing librarians don't - and won't - use. (I've already seen a sorry number of MLS grads who know everything about the techie side and not how to use an index or know where to turn for a research question about fine arts.) While I will learn how our forthcoming metasearch works, I will NOT be the one to go digging through the servers and code if something goes wrong, ditto for when Virtua takes a dive and doesn't work. This is not because I'm uninterested in learning - it's because I have so much on my plate and am such a professional development junkie that what I do learn I want to be sure is useful.



No MLS program is going to be able to get it ALL in - this is why we as students end up tracking ourselves - some of us become catalogers, some of us go into reference and instruction, and some of us will be the IT behind-the-scenes info architects. Unless you're going to extend MLS programs by at least another year (which the salaries really don't justify, much as we all love our jobs), we'll just have to do a better job of advising our students which areas to go into.



Information science is a natural outgrowth of library science, and the two are most definitely related. What we may want to concede is that perhaps being an information scientist and being a librarian are *not* the same thing, or they are two separate areas in the same profession - enmeshed, but each having its own character. Perhaps too, we should consider that the MIS and the MLS mean two different things and imply two different kinds of training.



In any case, no librarian is going to be able to get away with not learning new technologies, as evidenced by more and more Library 2.0 learning communities springing up, and Learning 2.0 initiatives being put in place as internal training tools in more libraries."



So, that's my thoughts on the matter. The importance of this debate? It makes it even more crucial that MLS/MIS students know what they're getting into, and how important their elective coursework choices become.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Life of the Librarian

Life is good. I've acclimated to Chattanooga (by acclimated, I mean 'they barred my way home and I spent an entire late evening lost but made it back anyway'). The apartment is great, but for the small issue of a Korean family below me who likes to play their music loud and host MTV-esque parties into the wee hours. The creative writing juices are flowing, which is just as well, since the MFA program needs me primed and ready for the November residency in Louisville. But mostly, I'd like to take a gander at the two months I've now got under my belt of academic librarianship. The real kind, with the actual job title.


Work is good. No, work is fantabulous - I love it. I teach classes - so far, the Freshman Life library intro class and the introductory English class library sessions - and I love it. The freshmen have so much energy! Plus I find it fun to teach them databases in a semi-interesting way. (I mean, c'mon. You can only make Academic OneFile so exciting, right?) The students have all been great so far, and since I don't mind a smartass, they seem to like me pretty well. So, classes: good. Working the reference desk is going well, too - I love being on the front lines of the research battles, especially for the new kids. I've got one book review in for publication and three more due in the next few weeks, so some mini-publications are already in the works. (Heh, four book reviews within 4 months of new job - not bad, right?)


Actual research - I've actually got a piece in the works with the Dean (who is wonderfully supportive) that we're pitching to ALA's LIRRT for Anaheim, as well as to the state conference. It'll be time intensive (lawdamercy, I do hate me some surveys), but actually useful, which is key to keeping me interested and working.


Most of all, though, I have to admit to being completely floored at how I lucked out in colleagues. Coming from a humongous university where the backstabbing politics were something to behold, and where you couldn't FIND a librarian if you put on a spelunker's helmet and tried, my current spot is filled with fantastic folks. I don't know if it's because we're somewhat smaller, and so interact more often, or if it's because there's fewer (as in: zero) layers between administration and the librarians and staff. Everyone is kind and helpful, everyone is excited about their work, everyone puts the students (and other patrons) first when making decisions. Administration does its best to give us the tools and resources we need, and provides honest in-your-face feedback (much preferred, I should think, to the secret backroom discussions I've seen in other places). Teamwork and committees actually accomplish something around here (no! really!), and effort is appreciated and rewarded, for the most part.,/p>

Yes, I feel I've stepped into the rabbit hole, and that this can't possibly last. But it seems to just be the way things work around here. Could it be that I've found a *gasp* non-dysfunctional library? Oh, we have our personality bumps, and we're working with too little staff and too little funding. Everyone is, nowadays. But oh, how much nicer LibraryWorld is when people are genuinely nice and here to help. I mean, I don't even mind the fact that we allow food and drink in the library, that's how great this place is.


Kudos and big thanks to my new coworkers, who have confirmed my belief that if you do what you love, life is good. And you don't have to do what you love in a hateful environment, if you win the Awesome Environment jackpot. I sure lucked out. Thanks guys!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

ALA Fails the MLS programs...and Students

I am in love with the Annoyed Librarian. Why, you ask? "She's cranky!", you say. "An absolute anarchist and one who pees on the parade of librarianship!" you shout.

Nope, I respectfully disagree. While I have the good fortune of now loving (lurving, even) my position, I worked in one of those hellacious bureaucratic academic libraries that couldn't give two hoots about treatment of the librarians, staff or patrons so long as admin fatcats were kept happy. In fact, I worked full time at the major library on the very campus where I worked on my MLS degree, and I have to wonder if those made uncomfortable by the AL don't feel that way because she hits the nail squarely on the head.

For instance, the post on library science education. Alas! I read the post and comments with much laughter, because it's true. Library science education as it stands in many schools (probably not the ones up on the latest and greatest tech and programming stuff) could be a vocational program instead of a professional one. I was one of the younger folks in my class (a bright, shiny 26 at the time), and one of the few gung-ho about doing anything related to librarianship. I was one of a very few who had actually worked in a library before. (This, IMHO, should be a requirement of any MLS program.) I was mortified to hear complaints about 5 page papers. (Seriously. Five pages. In what is supposedly a master's degree level program!)

Having been through other graduate programs in other fields, I'd like to list the reasons why the MLS isn't getting any respect. First, many programs eschew a vigorous methods course. Oh, we had a course...it focused on surveys, and not a dang person who took it (it was elective) could have told you what a regression was, or what longitudinal data means. Tracks are poorly planned - students have to pick and choose from scanty course offerings in order to become things as diverse as public librarians, academic librarians (expected to publish, natch), and library systems folk. And this is just the beginning. Online courses only exacerbate the issue of the lazy students sliding through for the degree, thus devaluing it, and schools that do manage to make money on tuition never increase faculty to deal with larger incoming classes because that would take away from their cash-cow status at the university - leading to ridiculously overlarge intro classes. Cap it off with MLS grads who have never worked in a library - a profession where learning office political maneuverings is just as important as being able to read a MARC record (if not more so) - and you have to wonder why people find it surprising MLS grads have a hard time finding jobs.

ALA has some nerve stating that there's no at-large issue with the MLS programs. institutions doing the hiring apparently think so, and so do some of the students, who spend time complaining about what they get for their tuition dollars. It's a shame ALA is blind to anything but it's own agenda, which is to remain an accrediting agency that has to expend little effort on accreditation, since it doesn't much care what's actually being taught, and whether grads are actually prepared for the work ahead of them.

Happily, there are the MLS students who take graduate school seriously, as well as entering the profession. (You have to cull them from the scads of teachers who think that librarianship will be easier, because they don't want to work with children anymore, and the MLS seemed like the place to go.) These are the folks who get the jobs, and go the extra mile in their coursework. These are the folks who stay updated on the latest developments in their fields, and force their programs to allow them to take appropriate courses outside the program when necessary. These are the people who come at the job search with dedication and custom written resumes and cover letters for each position.

Hopefully, these folks are the future of the profession. Hopefully, these folks won't be lured away by other industries and leave our libraries destitute of imagination and dedication. And these are the folks who will succeed despite the failings of the ALA to regulate the quality of MLS programs, as they are supposed to do.

ALA has failed MLS students - and MLS programs that should be held to a better standard than that they provide. And what will they do about it? Nothing, unless you let them know how you feel about it, folks...

Friday, September 07, 2007

Librarians and their Soldiers

My little brother, a Marine in Afghanistan, asked for books, because he and his fellows had little to do during their downtime. (Remember, no gambling - including card playing, no naked or semi-uncovered women, no general rowdiness allowed.) I rallied my fellow librarians, and we sent over ridiculously huge boxes – popular fiction, nonfiction, and classic literature. My brother later sent me a letter mentioning that he was punished by one of his superior officers, because when the officer asked what my brother was doing, he replied, “Reading Paradise Lost, sir.” The officer assumed he was lying. Upon his return from two stints in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, Patrick (never much of a reader), proudly proclaims his profound and unending love for Beowulf, and reads every translation he can get his hands on. I have never been prouder of what I do for a living.

Heads up, librarians. Be good to your soldiers, and have them come home with a serious case of booklove.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Nikki Gemmeli's The Bride Stripped Bare

Nikki Gemmelli. The Bride Stripped Bare.
Harper-Perennial
2003
ISBN-10: 0060591889
ISBN-13:

A gem, for any of you folks who haven't seen it on the Target shelves yet: Nikki Gemell's The Bride Stripped Bare.

Written in Lessons instead of chapters, the novel begins with, "Your husband doesn't know you're writing this. It's quite easy to write it under his nose. Just as easy, perhaps, as sleeping with other people. But no one will ever know who you are, or what you've done, for you've always been seen as the good wife." From there, Gemmell takes us on a journey through a woman's erotic and frightening self-discovery. The narrator moves from boring housewife to experimental secret-keeper upon the discovery of an Elizabethan manuscript that describes women's secret desires. Intrigued that another woman so far removed had felt the same urges and longings, the narrator careens through testing the limits of marriage, dragging the reader through the rabbit hole with her into a world where a bored, naive housewife quickly learns to weave lies and deceit to manipulate those around her.

Fans of poetry, you're in luck - the rich imagery and gorgeous use of language melts on your mental tongue as you read, and though many of the sentences are short, they're rich - I have to admit a tendency to blow through books and then have to go back to read for digestion. This novel, however, had me gasping with exhaustion at the end of every few chapters - it's gut wrenching, in a subversive, disquieting way. The second person voice "you" this, "you" that - the narrative voice intimately involves the reader, turns the reader into a shadowy accomplice during the length of the book. Does each of us have the capacity to blur the boundaries between fantasy and reality, and are we willing to pay the price that comes with it?

The way Gemmell captures what a woman thinks when she's got the semi-ideal life but dark yearnings makes this one a must-read for anyone interested in the workings of the mind of a woman. Note that the Amazon reviews I've seen so far have hated the book - but I do believe they came from the wrong perspective. I don't believe it is intended as a heartbreaking take of a good wife; the sex scenes were not meant to throw the book into the 'erotica' cache of reading, and it is not intended to be a novel addressing what EVERY woman wants, desires, and is willing to do - it's more about the boundaries one woman chooses to cross, and what it does to her as a person. Whether you like or dislike the narrator is almost immaterial - the journey is the thing.

Caveat - sexually explicit, unapologetically erotic, and searing honesty characterize Gemmell's work in this one. While many women will report that they have had none of the darker wanderings of the mind that characterize the novel, from conversations with close friends and my own experiences, enough of us have to make this one a very worthwhile read. Highly recommended with maximum starrage - if you're not afraid to read a novel with a provocative cover that only hints at the turmoil and emotionally disturning text, this one is a must-read. A must re-read. A must-share-with-my-best-friend-and-a-few-men-I-know read.

Gemmell is now on my list, and I'll have to go grab her other work - The Bride Stripped Bare is beyond fantastic - it's disturbingly real. Let me know what you think of it!

Friday, July 27, 2007

I *Heart* LibraryThing

Please let me expound, for a moment, about my love for LibraryThing. LibraryThing is the nerd tool to end all nerd tools, at least for the bibliophiles around the world. If you could see me, you would see little floaty hearts rising above my head every time I wrote LibraryThing.

LibraryThing allows you, for free for a few hundred books and for as many books as you can enter for a $25 lifetime subscription, to catalog your own library. Oh yes, ladies and gents – the broke folks among us who have tried to do it in Excel and failed? Who have dreamed of having Voyager modules of our very own, but not quite so complicated or expensive? Our time has come. Try it for free; you’ll find yourself slapping down the $25 fee happily, just to be able to enter ALL of your books, and to have this nifty thing for a lifetime. An online catalog of your own personal library – no moldy old card catalogs for us (though we may still dream of someday getting the gumption to buy one and slave over handwriting the cards).

Now, I will mention the caveat that the hard-core catalogers who want to do MARC cataloging for fun may find this simplistic. As a reference librarian who merely has coveted the idea of having a complete listing of my books, and a tagging system I could create and recognize, I think this is the bee’s knees. Not only does it allow you to enter your books via ISBN and grab them from Amazon or the Library of Congress (book covers and ALL, folks! Heck, if we’re REALLY dedicated, we can buy a barcode scanner and SCAN our babies into this thing), it also lets you know if you’ve double entered a book (useful, even though I do tend to have multiple copies of my favorites), and (drumroll, please) - it actually compares the rarity of your collection compared to everyone else in the system. This is like a penis-ruler for nerds and geeks – do NOT underestimate the cool factor of owning a book (or two, or three) that no one else on LibraryThing has. (I have more than one of those, and yes, I do believe it ups my cool factor. Heck, hardly 15% of my library is entered in here so far!) It measures you median/mean book obscurity – the lower the better, here, and I am at 25/167 compared to others who have books in my collection. (Of course, admitting that you own popular tomes such as the Harry Potter series damages you here, but you really must include ALL of your books. Othersise you’re just skewing yourself compared to other nerds, and that’s just dishonest. And I’m sure my obscurity will decrease and my library will become more humdrum once I add the bulk of the rest of my books to the list.

LibraryThing lets you know how many others own that particular tome, if there are any reviews written of it, and you can go browse other people’s libraries to see if they are interesting enough for you to hang out with.

You can give one book multiple tags (for instance, “Trashy Romance” and “19th century”), see your tag cloud, and even get into tagmashes, which David Weinberger explains very well here. See your author cloud, and yes – for the shopaholics among us who frequent used and half-price bookstores and would have loved a list to bring with us….you can export your library into Excel. No kidding. I’d never joke about something like that. AND – which I just found today since I haven’t LibraryThing-ed in awhile, they offer you code to add to your blog or webpage that will bring up books from your library on your page. (I have mine set to a random draw of 5, at the moment.) Utter coolness.


So, LibraryThing. This is a bandwagon you should jump on. (If nothing else, you can always bandy it about as your library so folks don’t have to guess what books you already own when they decide to go shopping for you. Consider it a good deed, helping others and the such. You can find my collection here.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Finances for Girls

My cheeky, but oh-so-correct girlfriend A has hit the nail on the head (well, at least my nail) with her latest post Nice Girls Don't Talk About Money.

Now, Suze Orman I am not (as evidenced by my teetering piles of credit card bills and the fact that I didn't even look up what sort of interest rates I was paying until this morning), but I like to think of myself as a relatively civilized, evolved woman. I am smart. I am relatively good-enough looking that people don't look at me funny in Starbucks. (Well, they do, but it's the tattoos, not my face, that has them a bit out of sorts.) I have graduate degrees under my belt. I have a personal library of more volumes than most people own in entire lifetimes. All in all, I am a normal(ish) late-twenties woman. But I have to admit, that I often fall into the trap of wishing I had someone I could hand my check over to and trust to get my bills paid properly. As long as he gave me a book allowance, of course. A woman has to have her goodies.

So, go read PinkandChocolateBrown, best and wittiest blog on the block. Take A's advice to heart, get yourself on a proper budget, and let's stop waiting for the guy on the white horse to show up and save us. Besides, no men ride horses anymore, really. At least not to your doorstep. And you know what comes with a man on a horse? Great, big, steaming piles of...well, you get it.

I'll let you know how financial rehab goes for me if you'll let me know how it goes for you. (Here's to hoping we do a better job than Britney and Lindsey. Eesh.) Credit cards, be afraid....be very afraid!

Greenfire: an uneviable flop

Because I am supposed to move halfway around the country next Thursday, I have been diligently putting off anything that resembles packing and or preparing to move my giant hoard of junk. Strategies have included cooking actual dinners instead of my handy salad-in-a-bag standby, wandering aimlessly about the house ignoring the packable items, eating far too much ice cream for my waistline's comfort, and reading. Ah, yes - this is one of the reasons I became a librarian in the first place. When there's something unpleasant to be done, you can usually find me shuttled away with a book. (At work, at least, it comforts me to be surrounded by them, even if I can't escape into the tomes.)

Anyway, having polished off Rowlings' Deathly Hallows in a voracious 5 hour stint, I have managed to drum up some other reading to keep me occupied. Let me review for you:

Greenfire
by Saranne Dawson.
Publisher: Love Spell, 1994.
ISBN-10: 0505519852.
ISBN-13: 978-0505519856


To be fair, I picked this one up at my local drugstore, where some suspicious-looking paperbacks were on sale, 2 for $5.98. (Never let it be said that I am not a bookslut.) What to say about this one...if you see it, please run. Do not pass go, do not send your three dollars, do not expect wild romance and hot spicy sex (though it appears it is promised on the cover). There's no depth to the characters, there's no explanation of how a woman can sort-of love one guy but-not-really enough to be miffed at a new lover for killing him, and there's very little palatable explanation of the magic and political compact that is supposedly the central plot for the book. Most unforgivable, perhaps, was that you couldn't bring yourself to care for a single one of the characters, who were too simply developed or simply fell flat. (I mean, I wanted to care, I really did. it's what I do - I get attached to fictional characters and weep when they die, or the book ends and our relationship comes to a standstill.)

Now, I'm a woman who likes her trashy romance novels, but this one wasn't trashy. Or romance. Nor did it deliver on tantalizing promises of magic. Or sex. Or even good battles. Chalk it up as a loss and stay away. Sorry, Saranne - better luck next time. But congratulations on getting published - I envy you your ISBN number!

Tonight if I get some packing done, I may reward myself with a John Saul paperback. I know, I know, I'm a sellout going for the big name when I should be reading newer authors. But hey, if it makes you feel any better, I start my MFA in the fall and will be reviewing all SORTS of non-popular non-fiction *grin*

Friday, July 20, 2007

Romeo & Juliet: Reloaded

My good friend (and former classmate at a teeny private liberal arts college - that should warm you for what's coming) and I were talking the other day about Romeo & Juliet.

Now, I have to say, I love the Bard. In an unadulterated, flamboyant, non-sexual, "I-wish-they'd-find-additional-secret-tomes-of-work-in-a-flat-somewhere" kind of way. I think it's a durned shame that some students never become enamored with him - love, sex, war, insanity - the man incorporated it all.

Anyway, back to our discussion of R&J. After listening to Deana Carter's song 'Romeo" and the intriguing tagline "I would not die for you," I wondered. Wouldn't die for him, eh?

Is it possible that many of the relationship ills we find ourselves beseiged with are traceable back to this lovely little play? (What relationship ills, you say? Watch the news. Or your neighbors. It's pretty obvious.) Yes, truly, where did we get it into our heads that true love means that you'd give up any and everything for that other person, that you'd die rather than be without them, scrapping everything you thought you had ever wanted in favor of a quick tumble, some running from friends and family, and a messy sword-to-the-heart?

Romeo never asked about Juliet's hopes and aspirations. Never asked her what she saw their future as, what her dreams were. It was more of a "PRETTY, ME WANT" sort of thing. To be fair, now, it's not like Juliet ever asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, either, but she didn't go stabbling at his family members with swords, did she?

Anyway, we wean our daughters (and our sons) on this story as the quintessential love affair - is it any wonder we've got romantic depressives who think that being stalked is affection? Children who think that the only alternative to a successful romance is utter and complete devastation? For a far better exploration of our discussion, see Allison's musings here. The cold I've got has me groggy and meandering. But it's something I don't remember any of my English teachers ever mentioning. Oh, we discussed the whyfores and the family issues, but never once did anyone bring up the myopic I-have-no-personality-but-oh-if-I-don't-have-you-there's-nothing-else-for-me-to-live-for-even-though-my-parents-are-loaded attitude throughout the play for those two kids.

Today they'd have succeeded, of course, and be living in Portland, happily together with matching track marks, still lacking any sort of plan. (A note: you know that their being together would have made that movie a success in teh box offices, right? America does love its happy endings.)

So girls, read the play thoroughly. Love it. But beware the Romeos out there. Luckily, at nearly 30, I am far too much the wise cougar for such suicidal tactics, and am immune to Romeo's charms - what was he, 15?

The Citation Gods are Watching...

So, I have been semi-lurking on a list of librarians that have been addressing bibliographic citation. (By semi-lurking, I mean reading everyone else's comments and limiting myself to only one.) Yes, even we librarians understand that for most (read: normal) folks, working on citations is just left of the sort of fun represented by, say, a pitbull attached to the left cheek of your Levis. We understand that. We strive to make you understand WHY you need to purchase the MLA and APA handbooks, and know about Turabian and various other nifty styles of citation. Not because we enjoy torturing you - that's hardly the case. (Have you ever noticed that the folks teaching this look almost worse off than the students?) It's because we - okay, I - feel that citation is necessary to not become academic whores.

That's right, I said it. I like bibliographic citation. It requires a bit of effort, yes, which apparently everyone has become allergic to. (Good thing we are now an information economy; I'd hate to see how this place would look if the US had to go back to farming. ("We have to get up HOW early??") But it keeps us honest. Particularly since, in academia, and especially undergraduate academia, there are very few truly novel and original ideas put onto paper. (That's what dissertations and journal articles are for.) In essence, if somebody else said something that made you write something, you should probably give them credit. It's the way it works. Otherwise, when you write that paper on the history of the Flabiticus, you don't get irate emails from the folks demanding to know where you got those dates from. If you inventing a new corn-fed car, would you claim you had done it without even glancing at how engines and cars worked, or the development of cornfed machinery? Of course not. At least, I hope not, or I'd doubt your car would work...

You wouldn't buy a painting and then claim it was your own work, would you? Are you the sort who would spout poetry from an unknown author just so you looked clever, and never let anyone know they weren't your words? Of course not. And if you are, you are not invited to my next dinner party. The Librarian is not amused.

And the librarian who is asked to hunt down where the original data came from in some author's claim will be the first to praise the author and consider him for book of the month...if he worked his citations properly. You can trace the whole history of research with properly done citations, and what with the various authors, countries of publication (note: the US and UK versions of Harry Potter are markedly different, and could result in some dramatically different quotes!), editions, etc., it is highly likely that in order to verify your research, someone will eventually go back to your citations, if only to beef up on subject matter they would like to know more about. See, you might've piqued someone's interest, and gotten them reading! Don't disappoint them. Go ahead, slog through and figure out where that next period goes. It's worth it. The Guardienne promises.

Back Up and Running

Yes, folks, I have been out and about for the better part of a year. I left my evening post in Kentucky for greener (literally, better-paying) pastures in New York and visited with the family a bit. It took me approximately three weeks to remember why I haven't lived in the Big Apple for the past ten years, so I began the job hunt.

Ah, the job-hunt. I actually enjoyed mine, believe it or not. No, really. I don't have a single horror story. It helped that I didn't have a personal deadline, and was simply hoping to get nearby to Kentucky, if at all possible. (What can I say, it grew on me.) After a number of phone interviews, and a few flights out to some wonderful places, I seem to have found a wonderful match at the University of Tennessee - Chattanooga, where I will begin my first (gasp! drumroll!) tenure-track faculty position on August 6th. I am terribly excited. The job is bagged, the apartment is paid for (well, the first month, at least), and all I have left to do is pack.

Having saved this near-forgotten blog from the mire of too much downtime and not nearly enough chatter, keep an eye out for book reviews, library issues and info, and various other smatterings of interest to information-hounds everywhere...