Monday, August 31, 2009

a blogger reviews books about blogs...

Rough day at the bookstore last night. Customers were cranky, managers were cranky and coworkers were cranky, which left me at little cranky, too.


A customer made my day about an hour before we closed when I asked her if she needed any help. She said yes, she needed a good book to read. A bookseller's favorite type of customer; someone who is genuinely interested in your opinion. Granted, she ended up shooting down most of my recommendations (as she had already read them), but ended up leaving with three I had suggested. She went with Home by Marilynne Robinson, (the new release of Pulitzer prize winning author of Gilead; this is a required recommendation at my store, but one I can stand behind), The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perotta and my personal favorite of all the suggestions I shared with her: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Ask any bookseller, librarian or good friend you know and they'll all say the same thing: having someone accept a book recommendation is like receiving a really good hug. Or a fresh baked cookie. Anything that leaves you with a warm fuzzy.

Which leads me to the purpose of this post...

I've had a few friends talk to me about my blog and their aspirations to start/resuscitate their own blog. Having just started this venture, I didn't have a whole lot of advice to give, as I am attempting the whole learn-as-you-go paradigm. But one thing that I can share are a few book recommendations that have inspired the development with this blog. So if anyone out there wants to start a blog or is curious about the whole blog phenomenon, check these out from your local library:

The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging by the Editors of the Huffington Post and Arianna Huffington

This is the first book I picked up during my journey of becoming a blogger, and I was skeptical of reading it at first; it seems a little cheesy and a bit too self-promoting. After a few pages, I really got into it and I feel like it offered some very solid advice, especially on ways to develop content and strategies for getting your blog read. Much like a group blog, a lot of different voices are represented in the book, all offering unique perspectives. It also covers a lot of the basics of blogging and resources for getting started (if you are so inclined), so this is a great one to pick up and look through

Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press by Eric Boehlert

This is a great narrative of how the Internet, and specifically blogging, affected the 2008 presidential elections. Ripping off Timothy Crouse's title, this is a fascinating look at the reach blogs are having in today's society. A great read for anyone interested in blogs, electoral politics or contemporary American Society

Blogging Heros: Interviews with 30 of the World's Top Bloggers by Michael A. Banks

I'm in the middle of this one right now, and discovering it's another great source for advice. Each blogger that Banks interviews dispenses their personal experiences with blogging, the various rewards they have gained while blogging, as well as their frustrations with the blogging venue and their hopes for the future. And at the end of each interview, Banks quickly summarizes each tip the blogger shares, reinforcing the advice they offer you. Again, great if you want to start blogging more or if you just want to read some one's prospective who has been doing this since the dawn of blog.

So check out these books if you're so inclined. But, in the words of LeVar Burton (r.i.p. Reading Rainbow), you don't have to take my word for it...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Idle ramblings...

Just had my first class weekend. The program I am enrolled in is distant learning, but each course does have face to face sessions twice a term. It felt so great to be back in an academic setting. Our cohort had some fascinating (and heated) discussions, and it was refreshing to put my brain back to work.

One of my favorite discussions we had was on how individuals use information. In a smaller group, we asked ourselves if the way we use information effects the way that we think or if the way we think effects the way we use information.

After class I had a great time hanging out with a few members of the cohort, including members who don't live here in Portland. I really enjoy being a tour guide and advocate for the city. Not only do I enjoy helping people out (like describing the layout of the city or how to take advantage of great public transportation systems) but I also love the ability to experience the town with someone who has not spent very much time here. Its like seeing the city in a fresh new way, as if I just moved here all over again.

In other news...

I just joined LinkedIn, more out of curiosity than expectations. I'm intrigued by social networking, and this is a site I have yet to check out. I've read a lot of reviews, and it seems like a great place for business professionals, especially folks with online businesses. I don't think it will get me a job, but I do think it will be a great way to *professionally* stay in touch. So if you're reading this and I have a profile, feel free to find me, and we'll link up.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Off To School I Go...

I have spent the past few years in anticipation, leading up to one day, yesterday; the official start to my masters program.

I moved east to west thinking I would be out here six months to a year on an academic holiday, and then move back to New England to continue my studies. I did not factor in falling in love with Portland and the Pacific Northwest. After deciding to stay, I spent the next two years researching a masters program that would be a nice fit for me, perfecting my application, waiting on application dates and deadlines, and fretting over financial aid. It has been a lot of mental energy spent waiting for something to finally start, and that day finally came.

It was a long day, a bit overwhelming, but I left feeling even more motivated and excited than I expected.

There are forty other members in my cohort, with a wide diversity of life experiences. Folks who have already started careers and families who just need this degree to get to the next step, folks looking to enter into a new profession and folks (like me) who want to get a profession started. Being a distance learning program, members of the cohort are traveling from all over the Pacific Northwest – Oregon, Washington, Idaho and even Utah.

I have to admit that at first I was nervous about the distance learning aspect to this program, having always relished the face-to-face discussions that take place in traditional classrooms. After yesterday, there is still some apprehension that will remain as I adjust to new learning methods, but I feel that the online structure of the program will set me up perfectly for the future of the information management industry. More and more information is communicated digitally, and earning my masters, I will be in the position to handle the increased changes this industry is going through….

So the fun part begins: the work.

But like I said, I left yesterday feeling excited and motivated. Unlike my undergraduate degree, where I enjoyed my studies but felt little direction as to where they would take me, I now feel a sense of urgency to the work that I am doing. The industry is changing, (take for example the role of the reference librarian. With the advent of wikis and the increased sophistication of online search engines, the frequency of reference requests might be diminishing, but the requests they do receive tend to be more complicated) and I want to be a steward of those changes, ensuring that the industry remains accessible, digestible and democratic…

Alright, before I get any more philosophical, I think it’s time for me to step off my soapbox, sign off and get back to studying…

Monday, August 17, 2009

And the adventure begins....

So I had my first academic induced panic attack. Thankfully, it was pretty minor.

I hop on my school email account and notice a welcoming email from one my professors, announcing to the cohort that the course is available on blackboard, our online classroom.

In my excitement I log in, read the professors introduction to the course and attempt to open the syllabus.

Emphasis on attempt...

I try and open it in Word, and all I get is gibberish. Not normal gibberish but weird computer code analog gibberish.


I try and open it in various other programs (Works, Adobe, Explorer). No dice. Then I notice a message saying that it's either corrupted or not opening in its original format.


So then I figure it might just be the document, so then I try and open every other document posted on blackboard. Same thing. Weird Code. Damn.

I feel that I should interrupt my story and explain, if you haven't guessed it yet, that I'm a bit of a Luddite. I'm amazed I was able to graduated college after the turn on the 21st century, and even more amazed that I kept a blog going for over a week without imploding my computer. This makes entering a career in library science both exciting and absolutely terrifying.

Back to the story. I am now sweating bullets. As I write this, 24 hours later, I realize this was simply the-start-of-school-anxiety manifesting itself. But at the time I was kind of wondering if the ability to download a simple document from a website was a psychotic test to see if I would make it as a librarian. So, in my panic, I email the professor, apologizing profusely for inconveniencing her, explaining the situation, but wondering if she could email me a copy of the syllabus. I also email the school's IT department, admitting to my technological shortcomings and beseeching them for any advice they could bestow upon me. Then I crawl into bed, feeling a bit embarrassed, and dream about showing up on the first day of class naked. (j/k. that would be too cliche.)

I come home after a long day at the bookstore, having annoyed all of my coworkers by trying to wring as much advice out of them as possible , to see that not only had the IT folks emailed me back, but so did my professor AND the teaching assistant. And they were all very sweet. And very helpful. And had the exact same advice. I needed to make my version of Windows compatible with Windows 2007. It took twenty minuets. I feel kind of foolish, and no less embarrassed.

If you listen really really carefully you might be able to hear me smacking my palm against my forehead...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Devil is in the Friend Request...

I came across a little nugget of delightfullness this morning while sipping coffee and reading through some of my favorite blogs....

Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, apparently feels that social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace are not only undermining our communities, but are also driving teenagers to suicide.

sigh. where to begin...

Let's first examine his second claim, which was in response to a 15 year old school girl who took her own life after being the victim cyber bullying on a networking site. This is absolutely awful and heart wrenching and I cannot imagine the pain her family and the families of her abusers are suffering through. Whenever violence affects children, there is a tendency to lash out at what might be the cause: Marylin Manson, video games and violent movies were the scapegoats of the Columbine shootings, and in this case the Archbishop places the blame on the prevalence of social networking sites in popular culture.

The unfortunate thing is that bullying has always existed and will always exist, whether on the school yard or on-line. Instead of searching for blame we should ensure that the proper avenues for children (and adults) to express and understand their emotions. Which, of course, is a very, very difficult task.

Now, as far as social networking undermining our communities....

The Archbishop obviously hasn't been inside of a library recently. Every time I go to the library to use the internet, there is usually a minimum of a half an hour to forty-five minute wait, as folks varying in age from twelve to sixty-two are updating their myspace and facebook profiles. Social networking is ubiquitous, and there is no going back.

We are now living in the age of Web 2.0, when folks aren't just using the web as a resource but also as way to connect with others. Most of the time you are connecting with folks you already know; childhood friends, classmates, coworkers, family. Its a way to stay in touch, to reconnect, to catch up. Maybe our increased consumption of electronic communication has increased the frequency of ADD diagnoses, but I hardly see the same "dehumanizing" of society that the Archbishop sees. True, sometimes it can be annoying and overwhelming, but it also allows for exchange of ideas and beliefs.

Look at the effect that social networking had on the popular uprising in Iran. While most of the organizing within the nation was face to face and over the phone, amidst intense state and media oppression, the organizers and protesters where able use social networking as a tool to show the world what they were fighting against.

Facbook, Myspace, Twitter, LindedIn. They're not undermining out communities but they certainly are changing things. As they become cultural staples, it will be our personal ethics and morality to decide how they affect the interwoven threads of our social fabric.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

What do you want to be when you grow up?

My goodness, what a scary question, leading to so much overwhelming pressure. A quarter century after the cord was cut and I’m just barley starting to figure out the answer to this question. When I was a kid it ranged from lobsterman to photographer to psychologist. Even in college, like most normal folks, I switched majors as often as I could until something finally felt like a fit. And even then, I majored in what I thought was fun to study, nothing I thought would actually take me anywhere in life. Then I graduated without the slightest clue as to what to do next. I figured I’d first learn how to stand on my own two feet and then worry about a career later (or at least for the economy to clean itself up).

Maybe this is why library school is going to be such a perfect fit for me – there are so many different things that I can do with this degree. And in the process of my studies, there is this wonderful, welcoming and eccentric community to help guide me along the way.

I haven’t even started my studies and I have already met a cast of characters who all contribute to the information industry in so many different ways. And they all seem so excited for me and so eager to offer advice and help. Even librarians I haven’t met, but have discovered their various blogs in my internet meanderings, have offered me great inspiration through their ramblings and tirades on the multitude of issues that they’re impassioned about. For lack of a better word, they all seem really neat, and I look forward to joining their ranks.

The financial aid has gone through, the text books have arrived, let’s get this game going…

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

the future is now

I found an article today that makes me want to address the giant pink elephant tiptoeing between the stacks....

Apparently, Sony and OverDrive are going to team up to cross market the Sony Reader with the OverDrive network to make it easier for library patrons to check out books onto eReaders. The patron looks up the book on the library's computer/website, and if it's offered through the OverDrive network, they plug in their library card number and download it to the Sony Reader. This causes a lot of questions to pop into my head:

Does the patron have to provide the eReader?

If the library provides the eReader, who's going to pay for them?

Does the book have a due date? Will it just disappear on the screen when it is due? If the library provides the eReader, will they have the same late fees as a regular book?

I'm sure that it is painfully obvious that I am only starting out as a Library Student (orientation is just over a week away), so maybe it is a little premature for me to start blogging about my opinions surrounding eReaders and what role they should play with in libraries and the information industry. I guess what I am trying to say is that this might be my first blog encroaching upon this subject, but is certainly won't be my last...

Right now my only interaction I have had with eReaders is that as a bookseller for a corporate retail chain, and I must admit, I haven't been all that impressed. It's just another commodity. a toy. something for the wealthy to whip out on a plane so everyone around them can see how wealthy they are. whoop-de-do. And that is basically how we have been trained to sell them in the store. We're told to play up their novelty to anyone who seems like a frequent business traveler.

I feel most sensible folks share the same sentiment. It's not a book. It doesn't feel like a book, smell like a book. You can't turn the pages, or feel the satisfaction of closing the back cover when you finish it. And you certainly don't get the same enjoyment of throwing it across the room in a fit of anger or frustration. or do you...?

However, I am a Libra, thus try to understand both sides of the story. I do see eReaders devices being useful in the academic realm. For a student to have their textbooks, journal articles, syllabuses and other required reading in one location could be very convenient. Although, it would make underlining, highlighting and writing in the margins a little tricky.
So I don't know where I stand on this, but I do promise that after a little research and maybe a few classes I'll have some more to say...

maybe the children really are the future...

One day, a few months ago, I was bored at work scrolling through Publishers Weekly's website (I currently work for a corporate chain bookstore, and PW is one of three websites we can access at work - the other two being oure own and NPR) when I came across an amazing study put out by the National Endowment for the Arts, announcing that the number of Americans reading has finally gone up for the first time in almost a decade.

about. damn. time.

"At a time of immense cultural pessimism, the NEA is pleased to announce some
important good news. Literary reading has risen in the U.S. for the first time
in a quarter century," said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. "This dramatic turnaround
shows that the many programs now focused on reading, including our own Big Read,
are working. Cultural decline is not inevitable."

What I find most interesting about the study is that the demographic with the biggest jump were the youngins' - those aged 18-25. At first that kind of knocked my socks off. But after thinking about it for a bit, it did make sense. Right now in the bookstore, Young Adult is the fastest growing section.

Did Harry Potter save the written word?

We are still in the depth of Meyer's post-Potter Twilight mania. Between Charlaine Harris, P.C. Cast, Melissa De La Cruz, Laurell K. Hamilton, You can't walk throughout the store without bumping into at least one tween being sucked into the vampire genre.

Even in our independent reader section (aged 12-15), we are seeing crazy growth. You still have your classics - The Giver, Wrinkle in Time, Where the Red Fern Grows - but also some epic tales joining their ranks: Christopher Paolini's prodigal Inheritance Cycle, Erin Hunter's ever-expanding Warrior Series and my personal favorite Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. This series is so amazing, I'm convinced that Mr. Riordan is coating his pages with crack and selling them to children. If he wasn't such a good writer, I'd be the first demanding he be thrown in jail....

I have to say, as I shelve in our kids department, it a pretty exciting time to be twelve years old living in today's literary world. So in the end, it's not surprising to me that the younger readers have increased the most in the past few years, and hopefully this will be a trend that will continue to head in the right direction...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Poor Man's Netflix

Is a future librarian writing on his blog about the things he himself has checked out of the library poetic, ironic or just plan sad?

Anyways - I dig the list feature that blogger offers. Usually when I am on facebook the first thing that I look at are the lists of books, dvds and cds that folks post on their profiles. They're very telling at how people perceive themselves (or at least want to be perceived). What can I say, I'm pretty shallow...

Instead of just copying and pasting what I have posted on my facebook page, and staying true to my obsession with all things bibliographic, I decided to just have a rolling list of things I currently have checked out from Multnomah County Library, a library I have been smitten with ever since I moved to Portland...

Did you know Multnomah Count Library is one of the most patroned libraries in America (second only to Brooklyn, NY)? Not only does that illustrate how amazing our library system is, it's also a kudos to how awesome Portland is. I consider it my poor man's netflix - instead of adding items to my queue, I just request them (usually from my home computer) and as soon as they are available I pick them up from the branch a few blocks from my house. As a graduate student living in poverty, its a pretty sweet deal....

So check my list out, it'll give you an interesting look as to who I am. If you notice it's not alphabetical, rather chronological. I figure that way you'll know what movie, book or cd I am enjoying at the moment...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Why do I still care about Dewey?

Libraries are changing. fast. Why dedicate the title of a blog to some dead guy, especially when the card catalog has gone to the wayside?

Will the Dewey Decimal system be next?

Maybe, but not anytime soon.

Dewey is a pretty incredible figure, having birthed the American Library Association, founded the Library Journal and invented a book classification system that is still in use in libraries around the world 130 years after he invented it.

All by the time he was 25.

Makes me feel like a slacker. At least back then he didn't have the distractions of reality television, youtube and facebook. Without those I'd have multiple books written by now...

Oh did I mention he also was a staunch supporter of segregation and was opposed to women's rights? Which is kind of interesting these days, as most folks first think of a librarian as being as being a woman. When I was talking to people about going for my Masters in Library Science, everyone was telling me schools are always looking for guys to enter their program. I guess there are not a lot of dude librarians out there.... (To see where I dug up my info on Dewey, or if you're in need for a hilariously good book check out Scott Douglas' Quiet Please: Dispatches From A Public Librarian.)

...but I digress. Back to Dewey, and why I named my blog after him. I guess because I get the notion that so many people feel that libraries, now that the magical internet is everywhere, are no longer necessary. Unless you are a student. of medicine. who is curing cancer. But in fact just the opposite is true. Libraries are needed just as much now as ever before, to ensure that the access to information remains open to everyone.

So I look at Dewey as an allegory. Yes he is definitely dead. But libraries are not, and like Dewey, they're pretty incredible. They may not have the sweetest history, but they get better and better everyday...

In the beginning, there was blog...

The idea for this blog came about when I was home for my brother's wedding. It was the first large family gathering since I had been accepted to library school, and although I was excited to have a piece of exciting news (proving to my family that I'm actually doing something with my life) I was not expecting so many questions...

What’s the future of publishing?

What do you think of eReaders?

What's twitter?

Who do these kids think they are, using wikipedia as an academic references on their papers!?!

Whoa. Talking to my family, who are all amazing, curious and inquisitive folks, only reinforced the crazy changes libraries (and information management) are going through and the fact that I did not have all the answers. So, in the spirit of reciprocity that helped form modern day libraries, I started this blog to chronicle my journey as a library student. I’ll post important lessons, little anecdotes and whatever else might pop up along the way.

I figure that by publishing my ideas, discoveries, criticisms, insecurities on the vast ocean of the Internet, I will have have more opportunities to synthesize what I learn along the way, making my self a much better librarian. Let me know what you think, help me figure out what it all means, and most importantly, please enjoy…