Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Importance of Rereading

We got the Newsweek in today at work and as usual, I flipped through it. I was very excited about this week's issue because it's all about books. I turned right to the article about what books to be reading now and got four new titles off the list. Yes, I'm adding to my summer reading list. Sigh. I've got so much to read. Good thing I like reading. :)

Looking through the rest of the magazine I came across an interesting article about rereading books. I'm a huge rereader, but I've never given it any thought as to why. I have to admit that I didn't read the whole article, mostly because the way it was written was a bit much for a Tuesday morning at-work read. But I relished in the fact that there are other people out there who are just as passionate about rereading as I am. Granted, what this author rereads and what I reread are very different, but the concept is the same.

My absolute favorite books to reread are the Harry Potter series. I read all seven at least once a year, sometimes reading them quickly as if they are going to disappear, other times stretching them out in order to enjoy them more. Series seem to be my favorite to reread; I've read Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series several times over the past year (when I discovered it wasn't just for obsessed 14 year old girls), along with Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle. I also really enjoy rereading romance novels, anything by Nora Robers being a particular favorite, but Julia Quinn and Stephanie Laurens are good for a quick reread.

Why, you might ask, do I love to reread? I think its like David Gates (the author of the Newsweek article) said, the love of the characters; "I always come back for the people, and often simply for their voices". I feel a connection to the characters the authors have created; sometimes I feel like I know them and they know me. They are where I turn when I'm feeling misunderstood or sad. Their stories, their battles, take me out of my own world and into someplace else where my small worries no longer exist. It's for the escape, really, that I continue to return to these beloved books again and again.

When reading a book for the first time, the reader must be aware and alert because you don't know what is going to happen. You have to read carefully for fear of missing something. With a book that's been read before, you can relax, just like you can with an old friend. You know where the story is going, how it's going to end. But you can sit back and enjoy the ride. Escape for a little while into a comforting world of familiarity and, maybe, if you are lucky, you will find something new. Discover a little gem of information that you missed before. That, to me, is the true joy of rereading.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Reading

As a future librarian and book lover I often get asked for book recommendations. I tend to not be very helpful when it comes to adult books because I've never taken an adult services class and the only bookstore I've every worked in was a children's bookstore (for more on that, look for a future post!). I only know about the kind of books I like, namely romance novels, which not everyone enjoys. So as a summer goal, I've decided to branch out and read other things. The list is rather ambitious for summer reading, but I read fast and have a good bit of free time now that class is over, so I think I may be able to get through a good chunk of it. If you're wondering why I'm just now starting my summer reading it's because I've recently become addicted to the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon. If you like time travel, historical fiction, and romance, this 7-book series is for you. The books are incredibly long (700-900 pages each), but rich with detail and tons of great plot lines. I've only been able to read the first three, but I plan to pick them up again soon.

Hopefully, having read all of these books on my list, I will be able to better recommend books when people ask. Some of these are books I have been meaning to read for a long time and others are recent additions.

The Kite Runner
A Thousand Splendid Suns
My Sister's Keeper - I firmly believe in reading the book before seeing the movie. I probably won't finish this in time to see the movie in theaters but I can always catch it at the $1 theater or on DVD.
The Space Between Us - a recent addition to my list. I found it in Barnes and Noble and read the first few pages and became addicted. Can't wait to actually sit down and read it.
Mere Christianity - something I've been meaning to read for years. I actually own it, just never gotten around to reading it.
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Reader - another "read the book before seeing the movie" addition. The movie looks incredible and I love Kate Winslet, so I'm excited.
Sarah's Key - I seem to be on a World War II kick lately, so this just adds to the list.
Bull's Island
Return to Sullivan's Island - this and Bull's Island are by one of my favorite authors, Dorothea Benton Frank, who writes about the Low Country. Her books are light and humorous, a perfect summer read.
The Sweet Far Thing - the final book in the YA trilogy, the Gemma Doyle series. Set in Victorian England, they revolve around a trio of girls locked in an epic battle involving a magical world known as the realms. If you like fantasy stories set in the real world and don't mind a young adult series, check out the first two, A Great and Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels for a great read.
A Separate Peace
The Alchemist
A Lucky Child - another find at Barnes and Noble about a child survivor of Auschwitz. Sounds amazing.
Jesus of Nazareth - something else I've had on my bookshelf for years. Pope Benedict has an excellent reputation as an author and I'm looking forward to this historical and spiritual discover of who our Savior really was.
Eleanore of Aquitaine - a biography by one of my favorite historians, Alison Weir. She's a noted Tutor historian, but has also published work on medieval England including this excellent biography. I'm about 1/4 of the way through it, and while it's slow going, I'm really enjoying it.

Whew! This is a lot! I better get reading!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Other Library Related Blogs

I think that this as good of time as any to mention some of the many, many library-related blogs out there. There are a ton out there; for more take a look at The Top Fifty Librarian Blogs. These, however, are my favorites:

The Inspired Library School Student - a library student (like me!) who blogs about school, libraries, technology, etc.
Annoyed Librarian - not everyone likes this anonymous blogger, who is so popular the blog has been moved to Library Journal. She's sharp and insulting, but has great comments on the current goings-on in the library world.
Closed Stacks - a good mix of information on libraries, books, and technology with just enough personal stuff to keep it interesting.
The Society for Librarians Who Say Motherfucker - a great livejournal site for venting. Members of the livejournal community can post their frustrations with patrons, co-workers, whomever, or just share their library-related problems with the rest of the group. Pretty interesting and humorous...a good way to relieve stress.
A Librarian's Guide to Etiquette - a funny blog with short, almost Twitter-like posts. Most are really fun and lighthearted, offering "advice" to librarians.
Librarian Avengers - a fairly personal blog demonstrating the awesomeness that is a librarian.
Library of Congress Blog - the one and only!
A Library By Any Other Name - run by a public school librarian, a busy blog with lots of good information on school media.
Librarians Matter - another great blog on life as a librarian and libraries in general, run by an Australian academic librarian.
ACRLog - the official blog of the Association of College and Research Libraries. A great place to read about the latest happenings in the academic library world.

I hope you have as much fun checking out these blogs as I had finding them. Enjoy!!

Training Module

I created this video tutorial using Camtasia software. It's very simple to use and a 30 day free trial can be downloaded here. Play around with it; its really fun! There are tons of things that can be done with it, and it's a great tool for the library. Think of all the great ways you can incorporate tutorials in your library to better serve your patrons. Teach how to search the catalog, set up a free email account, use InterLibrary Loan, the possibilities are enormous! One tip, when attempting to upload a video, make sure you upload it as a MP4 file, not as a web file. I made this mistake so many times and couldn't figure out what was wrong! Once I got it in the right form, uploading was a breeze!

I also added this video using Google Sites. So the video can also be viewed, in a larger format, here. Enjoy!!

Social Networking Continued

I have to admit, I've been thinking a lot about social networking over the past few days. Two news events have continued this interest and my thoughts on the consequences of social networking, Jon and Kate Gosslin's divorce announcement and the continuing election crisis in Iran. For those of you who don't watch TLC (or the news) Jon and Kate Gosslin are the parents of 8 children, a set of twin girls and a set of sextuplets. They have their own show, Jon and Kate Plus 8, on TLC. Over the past few months they have been making headlines because of their marriage problems and on Monday, the announced they are divorcing. This doesn't have a whole lot to do with social networking, but has to do with what social networking causes, an excess of information and the need to share excessively. The paparazzi have been clamoring for news concerning the Gosslins, and as it always is, the more pictures, the more stories, the more speculation grows. I'm not saying this couple is divorcing because of the press and society's zest to know their intimate private details. A good marriage could survive something like this and it should only bring their family closer. However, a marriage that was already struggling (and it appears theirs was) could easily be broken when faced with this oppressive demand for information. So what can be learned from Jon and Kate? Stay out of other people's business; why should it be news that yet another couple is divorcing? Over 50% of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, so this marriage-in-crisis should not be news. Leave this family alone to heal.

The other story that has peaked my interest has a little bit more to do with social networking rather than the excessive need for private information. Every since Iran held its elections and launched a world-wide protest against the oppressive regime, social networking has been away for Iranian citizens to communicate with the world. They've had to, with journalists being barred from the country, social networking sites like Twitter and YouTube have been the only way for people to get the news of what was really happening out there. Without social networking, there is a really good chance that we would know nothing about what was going on. We wouldn't have the dramatic pictures of silent protests and people being beaten in the streets. These are powerful images and have prompted global leaders to speak out in defense of justice. Without social networking, this never could have happened.

So where does this leave us? Social networking has taken society by storm and has launched some excellent tools, but it has also conditioned us to not respect people's privacy in our thirst for information. Lessons can be learned from all of this. Use social networking; connect with friends and family, keep up with the news, etc. But also know when enough is enough.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Is Social Networking All That We Think It Is?

Today, while driving to work, I was listening to Ryan Seacrest's radio show. Usually, I change the channel if no music is playing, but what he was talking about caught my attention. He mentioned that Perez Hilton (a celebrity blogger for all of you who live under a rock) is claiming that will.i.am of the Black Eye Peas assaulted him outside of a club. He claimed this is a Twitter post. Will.i.am, who had already shared his version on his social networking site DipDive, issued another video post responding to Hilton's allegations. (For more info on this story check out Rolling Stone's article).

I rarely pay very much attention to the goings on of celebrities and their drama-filled lives, because, frankly, there are a whole host of things I'd rather be doing. But I found this very interesting, not for the subject matter, but because of the way it was communicated through social networking. We love to talk about how great social networking is, how it lets us connect with people we rarely see and share our lives with the world. Some of it is really great. I love staying in touch with old friends and my family who don't live close by via Facebook. I use Twitter for myself, not because I want a lot of followers and become pseudo-famous. I blog for class, but also because it's a good outlet. Again, I really don't care how many people read this; this is something I do for me, sort of like journaling, but not so personal.

But social networking is getting out of control. So much information is being shared 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and most of it is superfluous. I could really care less about what you had for dinner or whose birthday party you got drunk at and then posted a bunch of pictures. I also don't need to know that you had some sort of altercation at a club with another person. For centuries, we have survived without knowing all these insignificant details about how other people live. Now suddenly, the world has access to everything. Nothing is private anymore, and what's worse is people seem to enjoy sharing personal details with the world. So I'm giving you something to ponder. Knowing that we can survive just fine without the knowledge that two minor celebrities had an argument, is it really necessary to share this sort of information with the world? How necessary is social networking, really? What kind of consequences will this excessive need to know and share have on society?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Job Hunting

Unfortunately, you can't stay in school forever. (Not that I'm not trying my hardest!) Luckily, even in today's tough job market, library jobs are still relatively plentiful. But librarianship is also a blossoming field, so you have to be incredibly prepared in order to beat out the competition and land that perfect job. I have complied a list of great web resources for getting a job in a library. If you are about to head out into the job market, good luck! And if not, it's never to early to start thinking about your resume and the type of library you would like to work in.

100 Commonly Asked Interview Questions are mostly used in academic libraries, but they are excellent questions regardless.

LIS Career is a great overall resource for all job hunters. My favorite section is the Job Hunting section that has really great articles on finding a job.

ALA Joblist has a great selection of helpful hints and tricks for job seekers. The Career Assessments section is particular helpful.

This article is particularly interesting in addressing the cover letter. I came across it through a listserve I belong to and felt that I should share it because I found it very helpful.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Playing With Stickers Is Not a Job, Or Why I Could Never Become a Cataloger

Cataloging is the bane of my existence. Plain and simple; I hate it. I find it boring, repetitive, and stationary. I like to move in my job and cataloging is not something that can be done moving around. When I started my job in January, I also started a cataloging project with another student worker. The Reading Room in the College of Communications handles all the archiving for the Center for Public Television and our task was to catalog all of their videos. It took us almost all semester to finish and I thought that I would finally be done. We use a library automation system called Athena which is not browser-based and requires all cataloging information to be manually entered. We had about 2500 records to catalog and did so using information given to us from the Center for Public Television. The records were often unclear and unspecific and required some repair; thus the incredible length of time it took us to complete the project. I was thrilled when we finished. I hated spending time entering data into Athena; it was so incredibly boring to me. Therefore, I was so excited to leave the project behind. Or so I thought.

Today I was informed that all the tapes needed to have barcodes on them. So I will be spending the next month (depending on how long it takes me) fixing barcode labels and its cover to the tapes. Could this job get anymore boring? I'm so glad that I'm spending time in library school so that I might one day have a job where I enter data into a computer and play with stickers all day. I could never be a cataloger.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Intellectual Freedom

"A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone." This quote, said by Jo Godwin, may be one of the truest things ever to be said about libraries. No library can be truly complete, cannot provide a well-rounded and comprehensive education to all, without containing books that offend certian people. Because no two people are alike, what is offensive or vulgar to one person, is beautiful art to another. A librarian cannot have an opinion one way or the other, but must simply collect the materials to suit the needs of their patrons.

This is a concept a lot of people don't understand about librarianship. They don't understand how a librarian can remain entirely impartial on the removal of a book (such as Harry Potter or Heather Has Two Mommies) or the guy watching porn on the computer in the corner. Non-librarians don't understand how we can stand by and watch some sort of injustice (whatever that may be) go by. However, this so-called impartiality doesn't really exist. A librarian seeks to serve its patrons and provide the freedom to read (or listen or watch) regardless of age, sex, gender, or race. This freedom is one of the greatest gifts we have. It protects you from being judged, ridiculed, or criticized because of your choice of reading material. And a librarian is the protector of this freedom. So librarians aren't impartial; they care deeply about protecting this important right. It's a massive responsibility, but one I feel honored to uphold.

I think this is the most important thing taught in library school. It's more important that cataloging or reference or even better technology skills. The foundation of understanding that every person who enters into a library has the right to read whatever he or she wants is something that isn't easy to learn or accept, especially when the library you grew up may not have felt that way. Just as it is not the librarian's job to babysit your children while in the library, it is not her responsibility to decide what is inappropriate for your child to read. That's your job as a parent. So don't ask us to restrict, don't ask us to judge. Because we won't. Because we believe that everyone has the freedom to read.

For more information about the American Librarian Association and the Freedom to Read Foundation, visit http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/othergroups/freedomtoreadfoundation/index.cfm.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Work, Work, Work

It feels like all I do these days is work. Go to work in the reading room, go tutor my athletes, do homework, clean the house, work, work, work. I was under the impression it was summer, but maybe I got it wrong? Or maybe this is just what it means to be a grown-up? Always working, always having something to do, somewhere you have to be. Maybe now is good practice for the rest of my life.

Some people don't think that being a librarian is hard work. Another fellow librarian blogger, the always witty and sharp Annoyed Librarian, implied a few weeks ago that librarianship isn't stressful, isn't all that difficult. In the year I have been in library school, I can say that is 100% absolutely untrue. This is a very hard job. It is customer service and manual labor; problem solving and managing; crisis prevention and menial paperwork. Being a librarian, no matter what kind of library you work in, combines all these tasks. My job right now, even though it is small, has given me more insight into all the duties of a librarian than I could ever learn in the classroom. I work in a very small library (also called a reading room) for the College of Communications. My biggest tasks involve fixing the copier and checking in the enormous amounts of newspapers we get everyday. It may not be glamorous, but, hey, someone's got to do it. Because the reading room is so small, it's like working in a microcosm of an academic library. I see all the stuff that goes on in a larger library, from stealing newspapers to kicking the copier to falling asleep on the couch to doing actual work, but in a much smaller space. It has taught me so much about being a good librarian.

I think the most important skill I've been developing is helping patrons more successfully. It's different from working in a bookstore, because you aren't just helping people find a book to buy, you are assisting them with school work, solving their research questions, putting that perfect piece of information in their hands. I didn't really realize just how different it is until I started working here. It is incredibly different, but it's so much better and so much more rewarding. So maybe checking in newspapers, shelving books, putting paper in the copier, and explaining how to print for the 100th time in a day isn't all that glamorous or doesn't even seem like all that much work, but let me tell you, it's a ton of work. And it's good work. Being a librarian is a great job.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Summer = School = Creating this blog

Hello All!

I'm starting this blog as part of my Information Technologies class required in library school. I often think about blogging but never can settle on a topic. But not that I have to, writing about my adventures in library school seems like a pretty good way to get started. While there are a ton of blogs out there, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of blogging going on about library school. So here I am, writing about school.

Just some for some background...I'm beginning my third semester at The University of Alabama's School of Library and Information Studies. I graduated from UA and decided to stay on for graduate school. I will graduate in December and finally get to leave Tuscaloosa after 5 1/2 years! (Although I am looking forward to that 6th football season in the student section.)

If you had asked me a few weeks ago I would have told you I was going to be an academic reference library and one day open my own small independent bookstore. Now, however, I seem to be leaning more and more towards staying in school and pursuing a Ph.D. in history and one day teach at the collegiate level. While I love library school and find being a librarian interesting, my passion lies with history and I think that is where I'm supposed to be.

However, I'm in library school now and taking summer classes. I'll do my best not to dwell on my possible career change, but instead focus on the fascinating subject of library school.