Archive for May 2007

8 Random Things

Hey, I’ve been tagged by Kimbooktu! So, here be 8 random things about me:

1. This, I just learned about myself recently: I’m now allergic to penicillin. And hives itch.
2. Before going to library school, I worked at a trucking company. This gave me a fairly high tolerance for profanity.
3. I collect blue glass. And sometimes gargoyles.
4. I grew up in Spokane, Washington, and still miss the mountains.
5. Earwigs and other multiple-legged creatures creep me out. This may stem from too early an exposure to the bugthing-in-the-ear scene in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
6. Other weird jobs I’ve had include a stint as a customer service rep at the Ashton Drake collectible doll company, where I answered letters from crazy people who thought porcelain was really and truly alive.
7. This June, I’ll have been married for 10 years. Cards, flowers, and gifts are welcome :) .
8. I can’t stand pineapple. Or coconut.

Tagging 8 random people:

Sarah Johnson, Nicole Engard, Louise Alcorn, Ryan Deschamps, Joshua Neff, Amanda Etches-Johnson, Meredith Farkas, Andrea Mercado

Luminously Indiscriminate

I’ll leave this indiscriminate reporting business alone soon, I promise, but just wanted to point to this hysterical post, which includes such gems as:

4. Novels written by M.F.A.’s, or their friends and lovers, will be reviewed glowingly. The reviews will contain language such as “breathtakingly original” and “hauntingly luminous.”and

9. Each review will contain a quotation from Jacques Derrida, such as, “The epoch of logocentrism is the moment of the global effacement of the signifier.” (No, I can’t wait either.)

Also, as Sarah Johnson pointed out in a comment on the last post, this GalleyCat post notes that, 1) as one of the few bloggers to actually review Kohler’s book, Johnson also reviews historical fiction for Booklist (and has written a book on the subject), and 2) Kohler’s poor publicist has been going around trying to pitch the book to literary blogs.

Indiscriminate Reading

Not only have I been known to occasionally air my views on books, literary fiction or otherwise, I tend to read a lot of them. And cereal boxes, and signs, and magazines, and… This all goes toward saying, as a (somewhat) indiscriminate reader, I’m an excellent public library patron — I can always find more reading material than I need, and can use ILL for anything more academic that my local library doesn’t carry. Reading a lot of different things also went a long way towards making me a fairly decent librarian, since people tended to come in asking for a lot of different things.

I appear also to be raising a new indiscriminate reader (which has led to some embarrassing situations in supermarket checkout lines with Cosmo prominently displayed, let me tell you). I think that this is a Good Thing. It also makes libraries a fairly easy sell; like Ryan Deschamps’ son, mine goes to the library weekly. He grabs greedy stacks of books, and knows that this is where we go to find things out. He meets his information needs there (lately: lions, the human digestive system, flags of the world) while also getting his Junie B. Jones and 101 Dalmations fix.

It baffles me to see articles like David Isaacson’s “Don’t Just Read — Read Good Books” in the December American Libraries (p43). Which I’d point to for you, but ebrary isn’t so friendly that way; it also tries to copy/paste across two columns, so any typos in the following quote are solely mine:

But I question the argument that libraries should go out of their way to acquire romance novels, thrillers, and other literature whose primary purpose is escape and titillation….I do care that patrons are readers rather than nonreaders. But why set our goals so low? Literacy is better than illiteracy, but discriminating readers are ever so much better than undiscriminating ones.

(Isaacson would probably get along great with Sheila Kohler…) But anyway, better than? Oy. First, let’s work on the obvious lesson: attack behavior, not people, folks. But beyond that, how does one learn what “good” literature is other than by having a broad basis for comparison? I’m perfectly aware that some books are more well-written than others, some are more evocative of their times than others, some appear at the right time to influence minds and public discussion. But dragging out the tired old argument against genre fiction, some of which, by the way, offers a framework for some of the most imaginative writing going, attacks both public libraries and the people that they serve — the people who offer a reason for libraries to exist in the first place. By encouraging my son to read broadly — and to enjoy literature whose “primary purpose is escape and titillation” (there’s really no other excuse for Junie B.), I’m also encouraging him to become a lifelong library user, and to learn that books are where you turn for both information and entertainment. With any luck, he’ll keep it up into adulthood, maybe even reading a thriller or two — or Harry Potter! — along the way.

I just renewed my nonresident public library card for $205. $205! you say — well, let’s do the math. I spend $14.99/month for my two-at-a-time Netflix subscription, watching around 10 DVDs/month at ~$1.50 each. I visit the library weekly and check out around 20 items each time, costing me about $.20/each. (This doesn’t account for children’s programs, summer reading prizes, and other benefits.) That’s a pretty good ROI, not to mention that I’m pretty happy with that $205 going to fund a public service for everyone else.

On a related note, my book club just read The Book That Changed My Life. It’s the sort of thing I probably would have leafed through but never finished otherwise; a number of the authors, most writers themselves, seemed too self-aware, as if it were an interview question they’d answered one too many times. Quite a few of them (I’m sure to Isaacson’s delight) identified one classic or another as inspiring them to become a writer.

The book that changed my life, back in the dismal mid-80s? Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, which I still re-read every few years. Yes, genre fiction. And they’re making a movie!

Indiscriminate Reporting

I think this might rank right up there as one of the snottiest quotes ever:

Q. Does your work get reviewed/discussed much on literary blogs? If so, how do those reviews compare with print reviews of your books?

A.Occasionally someone may mention my books in a blog. I believe the dangers of this indiscriminate reporting on books is that people who have no knowledge of literature can air their views as though they were of value and may influence readers. Critics may not always be right, of course, but at least they have read and studied literature, the great books, and have some outside knowledge to refer to when critiquing our work.

Yeah, gosh, I hate publicity, don’t you? I wonder what she would think if my book club dared to discuss one of her titles — good lord, 12 people with no knowledge of literature, all airing their views at once? As if they were of value? What’s the world coming to?

What’s even funnier is that: this quote is part of an interview… ON A BLOG. The mind boggles.

Along the same lines, go read Karen Schneider’s post on the problem with the campaign to save book reviews, and follow her links back to the discussion on Critical Mass. Which brings us to another fun quote of the day:

Seriously, though, blogs are kind of like parasitic microorganisms which feed off of a primary host. For the sake of this discussion, the host is clearly print media. Some are the good bacteria and some are transient and viral. Or maybe I can upgrade blogs to the status of some sort of interstitial or synovial fluid, buffering the vital organs of the media (newspaper, television, radio, the Internet)? But, c’mon, if newspapers are dying, then blogs are the maggots come to feast upon their corpses.

Can anyone say: Gormangate?

Strep throat with a 4-year-old, a play in one act

Strep throat with a 4-year-old, a play in one act

(subtitled: Can I have a sick day, please?)

Scene 1: Mom stumbles back from the dr. with amoxicillin prescription in hand.

Boy: What’s that?

Mom: Medicine for my throat.

Boy: I can’t hear you! Why are you so quiet?

Mom: Because my throat hurts and I can’t talk loudly.

Boy: What?!?

Mom: My throat hurts.

Boy: Why does your throat hurt?

Mom: Because I’m sick. See, I went to the dr. and got medicine.

Boy: Did you get a shot?

Mom: No, just medicine.


Mom: I can’t talk louder, sorry, my throat hurts.


Mom: I can’t, my throat hurts.

Boy: What did you say?

Scene 2: Mom pouring apple juice in kitchen.

Boy: Whose juice is that?

Mom: It’s for me, to help my throat.

Boy: That’s MY juice. You can’t have any.

Mom: Do you want some juice too?


Mom: Juice?

Boy: I want THAT juice. [points to cup Mom is drinking]

Mom: This is my juice, I’ll give you your own cup.

Boy: I want YOUR cup.

Mom: No, I’m sick, there’s germs on my cup, let’s get you your own cup.

Boy: I LIKE GERMS! I want THAT cup! That’s MY juice!

Mom: No, you can’t have my cup, but you can have your own juice.

Boy: What did you say?

WSJ article up

Thanks to everyone who contacted me about their job hunt for the Wall Street Journal. The article on “niche web postings” is up today — of course, with no mention of or any of you, but so it goes. (Available for free online for seven days.)

Computer ME-dia

Most of you have probably noticed the LJ web site redesign by now. The most significant part of this, for me, is that now I can point you directly to one place for all the “Computer Media” and computer book “Prepub Alert” columns. So, if you’re doing collection development in this area, you can bookmark or grab the RSS feed.

Updated May 10 to add — it’s not clear whether the old RSS feed for Computer Media is going to redirect to the new one, so please do unsubscribe from the old feed and grab this one instead.

Holy Cicadas, Batman

I may go into hibernation for a few weeks: The 17-year cicadas are expected to burrow out around May 22, so I’m trying to desensitize myself with YouTube.

Square Librarian, Round Pew

This quiz from the Pew Internet & American Life Project has been floating around, so after I saw it mentioned again in AL Direct today I figured I’d take a crack at it. Maybe it’s the liminal thing, but I’m stuck on the first couple of questions:

Some people say they feel overloaded with information these days, considering all the TV news shows, magazines, newspapers, and computer information services. Others say they like having so much information to choose from. How about you… do you feel overloaded, or do you like having so much information available?

Feel overloaded
Like having so much information available

How about “BOTH?” These aren’t mutually exclusive responses, folks. Heck, yeah, I like having so much information available. But of course I feel overloaded; there’s a lot of it and it’s hard to choose. How about “I feel overloaded, but it’s worth it to have so much information available?”

Overall, do you think that computers and technology give…
people MORE control over their lives, LESS control over their lives, or don’t you think it makes any difference?


No difference

How about, “it depends?” What kind of technology are we talking about, here? Sometimes I use technology to control that evil information overload from question 1. Sometimes I’m tethered to e-mail. Sometimes — well, I’m probably overthinking this. That aside, apparently I am “a connector.”

Basic Description
The Connectors’ collection of information technology is used for a mix of one-to-one and one-to-many communication. They very much like how ICTs keep them in touch with family and friends and they like how ICTs let them work in community groups to which they belong. They are participants in cyberspace – many blog or have their own web pages – but not at the rate of Omnivores. They are not as sure-footed in their dealings with ICTs as Omnivores. Connectors suspect their gadgets could do more for them, and some need help in getting new technology to function properly.

Defining Characteristics
Connectors combine a sense that information technology is good for social purposes with a clear recognition that online resources are a great way to learn new things. Their cell phones have a lot of features, and they also try new things with technology; more than half have watched TV programming on a device like a laptop computer or cell phone.

Who They Are
Connectors, which make up 7% of the population, have a median age of 38, with a majority (54%) in the 30-49 age range. Ethnically, it is mostly white (72%); 16% are Black and 12% are English-speaking Hispanics. The typical Connector has been online for 9 years, which suggests they were a second-wave of late 1990s adopters. Most are women (55%) and they rate above average in educational attainment and income.

Children and Change

I’ve been reading Ann Crittenden’s If You’ve Raised Kids, You can Manage Anything. (Her The Price of Motherhood is also pretty interesting, in the Feminine Mistake vein.) When I do accidental library management workshops, I always mention raising children as one way people gain management experience without necessarily realizing it, so I’m finding this pretty entertaining.

To wit: this bit about managing change:

Marshall was teaching her baby to eat solid food when it first hit her that her two jobs — as a bureaucrat and as a mother — had a lot in common. In both instances, when trying to introduce something new, it was better to start with something bland — not too hot, not too cold. And definitely not with anything spicy the might irritate the system.

With both babies and bureaucracies, the unfamiliar must be tried slowly, or mixed with something already known and liked. With both there is also a tendency for certain flavors to be popular for a brief period to the exclusion of all else. With a small child, this might be macaroni and cheese; with an economic development bureaucracy it could be a fad such as microlending. This is not good — a balanced diet and balanced programs are better.

Babies and bureaucracies can also balk at something that is good for them, be it vegetables or diversity. If you try to slip this unpopular item in on them, they may notice immediately, and spit it out with gusto. Screams and tantrums are not unheard of. Whether nurturing an infant or a bureaucracy, you first have to spoon the food in and, when they spit most of it out, you have to scoop it up and push it back in. As a rule, the faster the food goes in, the more will eventually reach its ultimate destination. A pause will give a baby or a bureaucrat time to think and play and spit even more out.

If you’re already familiar with management books, pick up a parenting book or two and prepare to be amused at the way the material’s repackaged. Crittenden describes attending a 3-day management seminar where the well-known presenter confided over lunch that a good chunk of his material came from the field of child psychology, although he knew better than to mention this in front of a group of high-powered executives.

When we talk about implementing change and moving toward Library 2.0, it might be interesting to use a bit of child psychology to help make the transition more palatable.