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Library Websites, redux

I read a great article this morning about the future of library websites, and thought it more than worth sharing. Steven Bell writes in Inside Higher Ed that we need to re-think the purpose and role of library web portals. He points out that most scholars (and students) are no longer using library web sites as an entry point to research materials, and talks about how we might (and whether we should) change that. He also makes some excellent points about the importance of faculty-librarian collaboration. Overall, this is a very thought-provoking and forward-looking article, one whose ideas I will certainly be bringing with me into whatever future role I might have in an academic library.

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Nerd videos

Josh Porter at Bokardo pointed out a great collection of videos released by Peachpit on such fascinating topics as search engine optimization, social networking, and web standards by big names in the field (at least, I assume they’re big names. Being new to all this, I’m not so sure). Interesting stuff, if you’re into that kind of thing, and worth checking out.

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Winter is Evil

Sean put it best when he wrote this, about the challenges of massive snowfall for those on foot. I had decided that I was going to try to be positive about winter this year, seeing as it will be my last New England winter and I’m vowing not to waste energy being angry about unchangeable things. But then I face a three-foot-high snowbank and puddles of icy sludge and the potential of broken bones everywhere I turn, and positivity just can’t sustain itself. I can’t wait to be back in California, where snow is something you can go visit by choice, and then come home when you’re done with it and be in a dry and sunny place again. Sigh.

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I used to blog about politics all the time. But after the 2004 election, I lost my taste for it. Campaigns seemed to be existing in this bubble of spin and dishonesty, far removed from facts, from the information people needed to make informed choices. It seemed that what candidates talked about had no meaning. And you know, it still seems like that, so I still don’t like to write, or read, about politics that much, despite having strong and passionate feelings about governance.

But there are still some people writing about politics from a critical, factual perspective: CJR Daily. CJR Daily is the blog of the Columbia Journalism Review, and their pieces focus more on critically parsing the media, and what the media are saying about economics, the candidates, and politics in general. But through their media critiques, they offer solid, historically-based, spin-less information about health care, the candidates and their records, the economy, legislation, and government. And as such, I really wish more people read CJR as their main source of news.

Just to give you a taste of why I think CJR is so awesome, here’s a piece deconstructing the comparisons between the Obama-Ayres relationship and the McCain-Keating relationship: Ancient History. Bachko points out why one of these relationships matters and one, frankly doesn’t. And if you dig back through CJR’s archives, you’ll see that they are strictly non-partisan. They point out when the Democrats eff things up, too.

And since I’m sure you’re all pretty sick of politics after last night’s appalling and ridiculous excuse for a debate, here’s something fun: I finally got every last one of my books into LibraryThing! Ok, ok, I’m sorry, I do realize that’s pretty much fun for me alone. To make it up to you, I’ll recommend reading The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman. The book has won several awards, so it’s not real secret that it’s pretty great. But I was completely taken with the narrative style. Ackerman’s story is a true one, but she captures it almost as a novel. The tone shifts back and forth from narrative to reporting, but in a way that works beautifully. It’s a form unlike anything I’ve read before, and I thought it was remarkably well done.

And for those of you who chimed in on Facebook offering me reading recommendations, I’ll let you know that I am smack in the middle of Sense and Sensibility, and am, of course, loving it. Oh, how I adore Jane Austen.

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Oh, how lame am I? I don’t post in weeks, months, eons, and when I finally do, it’s just to say, “This chick is saying something pretty cool.”

I’m back in the swing of things in my second year of Library School, and wow! This year is way busier than last year. I mean, I know that I involve myself in a lot of things on campus, probably too many. But I did the same thing last year and I was just fine. This is nutty!

The hectic-ness might, though, simply be related to the very exciting and awesome panel discussion we’ve been planning for Banned Books Week. You heard me, very exciting and awesome panel discussion. This idea has been floating around in my head for about a year and I’m so freaking glad it’s finally off the ground and flying. And I’m eternally grateful to my fellow student leaders, without whom I would never have been able to pull this off.

What, you want to know more? Alright: Next Thursday, October 2, three librarians (and maybe an author! still unconfirmed) will be coming to Beatley Library to talk about their experiences with book challenges. Ellen Girouard, school librarian at Cambridge Friends School, Penny Johnson, public librarian at Worcester Public Library, and Anne Moore, Special Collections Librarian at UMass Amherst and long-time member of ALA’s GLBT round table will be here to impart knowledge, experience, and words of wisdom to our population of soon-to-be bona fide librarians. So come, come, next Thursday from 6 to 8 in the evening. Listen to our speakers, ask questions, enjoy our lovely reception after the panel, and celebrate Banned Books Week. (Wait, does one really celebrate Banned Books Week? Um, come and become aware of Banned Books! Or something…)

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Comfort Books

Lately I have found myself doing a lot of re-reading, despite my goal to finish all the unread books that clutter my shelves (of which there are many) before I start school this fall. And what I’ve been re-reading! I’m craving the most mindless, frivolous books I have ticked away on the bottom, dusty, hidden shelves: YA Lit by Megan McCafferty. The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. I’m even tempted to go for some Anne Rice. It is not a coincidence that I’ve been really stressed out lately.

Just as I crave mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese when life is throwing me for a loop, I find myself reaching for comfort books. I am one of those people who can read the same things over and over again, which is part of the reason I never get rid of books, even the cheesy, silly ones. The familiar characters and stories and plots, the sense that I know exactly what’s going to happen next, always makes me feel more secure. I can forget about the open chasm of the unknown in my own story. I can spend time with people (er, ok, fictional people) who will never surprise me or disappoint me. It’s pure escapism, and not just into someone else’s adventures, but into adventures you already know backwards and forwards. It’s almost better than mashed potatoes.

I don’t always reach for the trash on the shelves, like I have been lately. There are a number of books in my collection I’ve read more than I can count–The Time Traveler’s Wife, Harry Potter, E.M. Forster, White Teeth. But sometimes it is the mindlessness that I really want–just something I don’t have to think about, to give my brain a break.
So what is it I’ve been stressing out about lately? Graduate school. More specifically, how to pay for it. I think it’s funny that I’m going into debt for library school when being a librarian isn’t going to make me much money after it’s all said and done. Ahh well. Living on $15,000 a year will be an adventure.

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Well, I certainly floundered at the starting block with this one. In the month since setting up this fancy blog, dedicated to books and libraries and other nerdy ephemera, I have written all of…oh wait, yup…nothing. It’s not that I’m not reading something. I’m always reading something. Usually multiple somethings. Currently, the hot ticket on my bedside table is Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to September 11, 2001. And it’s pretty freaking good. Detailed, compelling, well-written.

Over the last month I’ve also re-read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, as part of my housemate’s and my project to give each book a close reading, and figure out the real role of Snape, before the final book publishes. I’ve read Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg, and actually had legitimate critical thoughts about it. I’ve been catching up on all my New Yorker reading, and I feel certain there was another book or two read sometime in there.

Yet I have not once felt ready to sit down and write about them.

Not only that, but I’ve been working on my personal statement for my Library School admissions application, and reading up on Library 2.0, important collections development information, Google Book Search, and other various important Library School related things. Haven’t felt ready to sit down and write about that yet, either.

In the interest of not being another person who registers domain space and lets it languish, I am committing to writing something every week for this site. I promise. Tomorrow: a review of Stone Butch Blues, for your perusal.

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