Posted tagged ‘books’

April Fool’s?

April 1, 2009

Today I received an unusual e-mail, an offer to write a book that has something to do with libraries, and after some research I’m pretty sure it might actually be legitimate.  At worst it might be a form letter sent to anyone in the profession with some leadership experience (which member-at-large of the technical services section of the Mass. Library Association might count as).

So now I’m conflicted.  First of all are the doubts; it is April Fool’s day, I’m not exactly regarded as being an authority on anything (okay, maybe amongst Western Mass. catalogers I’ve got a rep as the comics guy), and if this actually is real I’m not totally sure I’ve got a book in me (or at least one anyone would want to read).

On the other hand, my professional philosophy is pretty much that I should accept any professional challenges that come my way, and that’s worked out pretty well so far.  It’s gotten me a supervisory job right out of school, a roll within our consortia, the aforementioned post within the MLA, and my relatively new role leading workshops.  So I’ll probably say yes to this too if it pans out, but I’ll be damned if I know how to go about it.


November 8, 2008

It’s booksale (scroll down a bit for the announcement) time at my library again.  One of my favorite times at work, albeit not for my wallet, or for those of quite a few other people if the crowds are anything to go by.  Although what’s interesting to me is those crowds were not reflected elsewhere in the library.

Mostly I’m interested because I’m one of those people who would have completely bipassed the main library in favor of the sale downstairs in the auditorium.  Even in the current economy there are still plenty of people who seem to need to be surrounded by books at all times (my current count stands at 1,725).  Honestly, what attracted me to libraries was less having access to all those books, than just being in their presence, it’s my comfort zone really.  And I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

So here we are with a sizeable population of book lovers, who are willing to come to the library but don’t actually utilize it.  This is possibly the best argument to become more than just the sum of our collections.

Books and Games Again

October 6, 2008

The Times (via Linda Braun) has another report of books and video games today, but this time I’m feeling a little more cynical towards it.  The article is split between libraries and schools using games to foster scholarly activities and novelists capitalizing on the interest in gaming to market their books.  The former point is well taken (although I find the arguement that reading instruction manuals will improve literacy a bit dubious, particularly because hard core gamers don’t read them).

The later is true, but the article uses some really poor examples.  There are some great works in both the publishing and the video game world that bridge the two.  This article sticks entirely with the novels, and focuses on one person in particular who is in marketing first and an author second, not a great formula for success.  On the other hand there are people out there like Sean Stewart who came to the form (via Cathy’s Book) after having his feet firmly planted in both worlds first.

And on the other end of the spectrum, the article seems to presuppose that video games have not yet found a way to reach the same level of narrative complexity as books.  And while I agree they could be better, so could the great majority of novels being written today, and there are a huge number of games that have found ways to incorporate truly clever writing (Psychonauts, Sam & Max, Portal), complex narratives (Killer 7, GTA), and fictional worlds with incredible depth (Bioshock, Okami).  There may not be a game yet that has successfully combined all these elements, or at least not without sacrificing the gameplay to accomplish it, but there are plenty that have come close (I’ll actually accept some arguements in favor of Portal and Okami for having succeeded) and I have no doubt we will be there in the very near future.


August 8, 2008

Lisa Chellman has posted a great little entry on the appearance of book spines and the difficulties of inherent in placing spine labels and genre stickers on materials so as to not obscure vital information.  This is a huge concern at my library where we have no space for displaying anything as a face out.  A while back we decided to opt for consistency in our label placement.  Yes, very often important data is covered up, but it’s nearly impossible not to block out something on any given item (especially now that we are required to place barcodes on the upper left corner of each cover).

The best we’ve been able to do is to reduce the amount of stickers we use on our materials.  When I first started at my current job the place was a little sticker crazy.  In childrens we were putting large randomly colored (whatever scrap paper happened to be around at the time in the copy room) letters on each picture book for first two letter of an author’s name.  They looked horrible, covered up tons of space, and were only an aid to some the shelvers and not to our patrons.  I’m happy to say those are gone now, along with the stickers for historical fiction, any holidays, and a few literary awards.  My next mission is to eventually get rid of the large YA stickers, which is an odd case as we print YA on all the spine labels for that department as well.

A man can dream.

The Fate of Reading

July 28, 2008

I’ve been thinking a bit about the current state of literacy in the wake of reading the Times article I posted yesterday, and I’m very troubled.  On one level I’m perfectly fine with the idea of on-line reading skills replacing the previous printed page paradigm for some people.  They are two totally different skill sets and I don’t believe one is necessarily superior to the other, and if the end result is more people reading then that’s great.

But I am worried that what’s going to get lost eventually are our current ideas of narrative and story.  On-line reading is great at promoting critical thinking and research skills, but I find it also tends to distribute a person’s focus in ways that are anathema to the ways one traditional reads.  And maybe this is something harmful in the long run.

One of the ongoing theories to come out of Readercon is the idea that storytelling is something ingrained in the wiring of our brains.  Cold facts cannot convince a person of a new idea nearly as well as a good story can (yes this is the faith vs. science argument).  For another example just try to tell someone about your day by merely listing your itinerary without embellishing it a little.  Those little details change your life into a story, and are the only way to really hold another person’s interest.

We need narrative in our lives, and that is what gets stripped out when we bounce around like we do while web surfing.  And if the theory about stories and how we think is true then maybe this way of reading could prove to be outright harmful.

Silence in the Library

June 1, 2008

First a confession, I am an enormous Doctor Who junkie.  Any given episode of the current series will leave me with a big stupid grin afterwards, no matter how many times I may have seen it.  To my mind it is simply the perfect show, clever, witty, and just full of joy in every frame.  Oh and David Tennant is just awesome.

It has also always been a very literate show, often delving into answering literary mysteries.  Episodes have focused on the ending to the Mystery of Edwin Drood, the fate of Love’s Labours Won, and the 11 day disappearance of Agatha Christie.  So it was only a matter of time before the show decided to focus on a library.

And man was this a brilliant episode, but then I would expect no less from Steven Moffat, the show’s best writer.  For one thing the story takes place on a library planet (which may or may not be a creation of a little girl’s imagination).  For another the Doctor makes a point of talking about how well books are doing in the future.  This episode takes place in the 51st century, in which books are more obsolete than ever, but people still can’t properly replicate the feel, smell, and experience of opening a real book.  Oh man was that good to hear.

And then as if that wasn’t enough there were a few gibes regarding copyright legislation and security measures thrown in for good measure.  There’s a brilliant life and death SOS message in the episode that has been redacted via a content filter.  The Doctor is also shown ripping up a contract that would give up the intellectual property rights to his experiences within the library.

Oh and there are killer shadows, and it’s a two parter!  Television just cannot get any better than this.