Monthly Archives: September 2010

Banned Books Week 2010

Ah, yes. It’s that time of year again. For the East Coast, it’s hurricane season. For New York, it’s tornado season, apparently. For Californians like myself, it’s fire and earthquake season. Today, I picked up my room to make a clear pathway to my door frame and checked my shelves to make sure nothing dangerous will fall on me should an earthquake strike. Best to prepare, because even the smallest earthquake makes me crouch in my door frame, sobbing softly and whispering to myself, “I hate California. I hate California. I hate California…”

For the rest of the country, something very important and very non-weather-related is happening. It’s Banned Books Week. I’m participating on my own by reading a book that was banned in school libraries across several states: The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (winner of the 2007 Newbery Medal). One of my classmates read a passage from it during the Banned Books Week event last year at Cal State Fullerton and I have been intrigued ever since. I finally got the chance to start reading it last night after our neighborhood’s power went out due to record-breaking heat. I was instantly hooked by Patron’s ability to tell a story of a recovering alcoholic man’s heartbreaking voyage to rock bottom as Lucky, a 10-year-old girl, hears it. “Recovering alcoholics in a children’s book?” Yes, recovering alcoholics in a children’s book. But Lucky isn’t your average 10-year-old. She is, for one thing, a workin’ girl. And the maturity that she gained from her life’s circumstances is part of why I think this book is so appealing to me and my librarian friends as much as it is to kids. Patron takes her young audience seriously, and that is something that translates well for older audiences. I can’t wait to read more.

What are you reading for Banned Books Week?

The tale of the terrible digital reference interaction, part I

Portrait of the pickup artist named Mystery

Mystery, a famous pickup artist.

Once upon a time (last March), my Reference and Information Services professor, the wonderful Michelle Holschuh-Simmons, asked us to complete observation analyses of two providers of reference services. I chose to unobtrusively observe the reference desk for a few hours at my local public library and participate in a reference interview as a patron with the digital reference service to which the library subscribed, AskNow, which has since ceased operation.

I chose a reference question and a fake persona for my digital reference interview. I was an SJSU undergraduate student who wanted to know about the pickup artist phenomenon in popular culture for a women’s studies class.

Now, before I continue with the story, let me emphasize how relaxed I was before the reference interview. It was to be conducted via instant messaging (IM). I had never communicated with a librarian via IM before, but I’ve been using IM software for ten years. I can adapt to new interfaces quickly. I’ve IMed with coworkers, friends, family, and casual acquaintances. I figured I could handle whatever this digital reference interview threw at me.

I was wrong. So wrong. I’ll give you the short version of what happened: the librarian to whom I was assigned (let’s call him James) knew nothing about the pickup artist phenomenon and asked me to explain it to him. I panicked. How much information did he need? Would he get impatient and cut me off halfway through my typing the explanation? I scrambled to come up with a professional-sounding explanation. It took a while, and soon after I hit the return key, he asked me where I went to school. I told him I went to SJSU, and he directed me to the SJSU King Library’s databases. At least he had the courtesy to show me what the database homepage looked like via screencast. James then told me I could sign on again if I had further questions, bade me goodnight and signed off. Nary an open-ended question in sight (save for the “what is the pickup artist phenomenon” question)!

After the IM session ended, I started kicking myself for telling James I was a student. You see, it gave him an easy out. “She has her own library,” he probably thought.* “Why is she coming to us with this?” That brings up a good question. Is there such a thing as a wrong patron for a library? Yes, in some cases. For instance, I wouldn’t have asked a medical librarian to tell me about pickup artists. If the medical librarian had a sense of humor, they might point me to some resources on venereal diseases, but their job is to serve doctors and patients. The digital reference service, on the other hand, is there to serve everybody, including college students. The same goes for public libraries.

While James actually served me, as a library student, I found his approach to my question lazy. Our interaction could barely be called an interview. Where were the open-ended questions? For instance, he could have asked, “what kind of resources are you hoping to find?” or “what exactly are you writing your paper on?” or “in what ways are pickup artists a part of pop culture today?” I didn’t want to help him, either, because I wanted to mimic what a shy patron without actual library experience would do. All in all, I think I did the right things.

I thought I’d end this part of the story by answering my own reference question. Below is a list of resources that someone might find helpful when writing about the pickup artist phenomenon in popular culture.

  • Grazian, D.G. (2007). The girl hunt: Urban nightlife and the performance of masculinity as a collective activity. Symbolic Interaction, 30(2), 221-243.
  • Kilgannon, C. (2007, November 4). The art of the pickup, as novices seek advice. New York Times, p. 1.
  • Lianne, G. (2005). Ladykillers. Maclean’s, 118(36), 38-40.

And, if you’re interested in casual ethnography:

Well, that’s it for part I. In part II, I’ll discuss why I think instant messaging is not always the best choice for digital reference interactions.

*My other theory is that James leads a secret life as a pickup artist and doesn’t want some nosy college student discovering the techniques he uses to bed thousands of women a year.

Library Student Day in the Life, part II

I apologize – this DITL is from this past Wednesday, since it was one of the more exciting (read: stressful) days this week.

7:30 – wake up and get ready for the day.

9:00 – arrive at Heritage Park Regional Library, where I’m asked to weed a shelf of children’s books.

10:00 – apologize profusely for having to leave even though I could only finish half of the books (they’re skinny, thus, there’s more of them on the shelf). I need to catch up on a lecture before my group meeting in the afternoon.

10:30 – arrive home and listen to an Elluminate recording of a LIBR 248 (cataloging) lecture while I do chores around the house. Going to school online is pretty neat that way.

12:00 – quickly eat lunch and dash out the door to the internship. Since I have to park so far away from Chapman’s library, and because I have to drive through Old Town Orange to get to the parking lot during lunch rush on weekdays, I have to leave about an hour ahead of time.

1:00 – arrive at Chapman, copy catalog some children’s books, feature films, and gift monographs.

4:00 – done! Take a quick break outside before heading back in to meet with my LIBR 248 group via Elluminate.

4:30 – the group meeting starts. We finish our first practice assignment and make plans to submit it that night.

5:45 – drive home, make a quick stop at Von’s to pick up 3 carrots, a lemon, and some mango Naked Juice.

6:30 – home! Open laptop, join Elluminate session for the SLIS Career Workshop (late), and start chopping up carrots, celery, and onions to make Zov’s golden lentil soup.

8:00 – soup is FINALLY DONE. I always underestimate how long it takes to make it, but it is my favorite soup on earth: fat free, tons of fiber, lemony, slightly salty, comforting, and delicious. I catch up on some forum postings while I eat.

11:00 – sweet sleep.

Pardon my dust…

As you may have noticed, this blog is getting a few tweaks so that I can add more content and make that content readily accessible. In the mean time, please excuse my mess while I experiment, and feel free to leave me a comment about any changes you think I should make.

Another week down

Every fall I get hit hard with the urge to nest and be cozy. The unexpected rain on Wednesday really messed with my motivation to do schoolwork. I have not been keeping up with my time management schedule this week, which means I haven’t had time to write a post. Instead, I wavered between getting distracted by the almighty Internet and scrambling to finish my work, until today when I turned on LeechBlock (I set it to block access to timesuck sites between 9AM and 7PM every day) and got down to business.

Week 2 of my internship has passed and it’s going well so far. I’m learning so much more than I ever thought I would, and getting feedback from my supervisor about my records has been incredibly helpful. Today I learned how to catalog children’s books. My favorite was a book called The Raucous Royals, which explained the screwed-up lives of royals of the past, including how many chops it took to behead Mary Queen of Scots and the oozing, infected leg of the obese Henry VIII. A close second was Michael Phelan’s The Storm in the Barn, a juvenile graphic novel about a young boy living in Kansas in the Dust Bowl who finds something special inside a neighboring barn.

Time for links:

I’ve never read a Nancy Drew book. I’ll have to settle for these instead. [Link is kind of NSFW. And don’t worry, I’ll put “read a Nancy Drew book” on my list of things to do before I turn 30.]

Want to make.

Old People Insulting Young People is one of my new favorite blogs.


Are you opening your books incorrectly?

As a California girl, I absolutely love Clare’s outfit.

Are you a children’s librarian running out of ideas for programming? Solution:

RSS Feeds

I don’t know how I survived without Google Reader. Admittedly, I didn’t even know RSS aggregators existed until a year ago. I’ve learned so much since then! You see, right after I graduated from college in May 2009 I got a temporary part time job as a receptionist at a law office. Because my only tasks were to scan documents and answer phones, I had a lot of free time while I was waiting for the phone to ring or for someone to hand me a paper document to scan. I remember sitting on the computer visiting my favorite blogs individually. I remember typing in the URLs for my favorite blogs. I remember thinking, “there should be an easier way to check for blog updates.” Then someone told me about Google Reader, and my life changed forever.

Now I am a Google Reader addict. I check mine at least twice a day. I would keep it open all the time, but I am so addicted to it that I added it to my list of sites to block during certain hours of the day. Here are some of the ways I use it:

  • To get up-to-the minute updates on new job/internship postings
  • To interact with my LIBR 246 (Web 2.0) classmates. Each of us has a blog that we use to post exercises and discussion topics. We comment on each other’s blogs twice a week or so. We also subscribe to each others’ feeds.
  • To get updates on new events on my school’s calendar
  • To listen to songs from Glee after each new episode
  • To relax after a long day of interning and homework with a cup of peppermint tea, some music, and subscriptions to over 150 blogs about libraries and librarians, knitting, music, technology, feminism, pop culture, commentary, social media, webcomics, fashion, and productivity.

Being so addicted to RSS feeds this past year has also led me to formulate a few standards about using RSS to maintain readership (at least readers like me). I’m sure I’m not the first one to do this, but here goes:

  1. If you have a blog, make sure the RSS feed is enabled and functional. Tonight, I visited a blog to which I would have loved to subscribe, but it had no RSS feed enabled! I probably won’t visit that blog again. It’s not that I’m angry and acting on my principles, it’s just that blogs with RSS feeds take much less effort to check. It sounds lazy, but part of creating a successful blog or website is knowing how your readers access it.
  2. Make sure your content makes it to the RSS aggregators. I hate when I subscribe to a blog only to find out that the posts show up as titles with no content. It’s only slightly better than having no RSS feed at all (unless your titles are really compelling or descriptive). Entice your readers with something.
  3. Make sure the appropriate amount of content makes it to the RSS aggregators. This is really only a problem when too little of your content appears with each post on an aggregator, because you want to have a large enough snippet (such as a picture and a short paragraph) to entice your readers. Entire posts, even if they’re lengthy, are not a problem because they are easy to scroll through (on Google reader, you can click “previous item” or “next item” or use keyboard shortcuts to skip through posts you don’t want to read).
  4. If you tend to write a lot of text-heavy posts, be sure to add some visual interest. Remember, people accessing your blog through an RSS aggregator can’t see your creative blog template (unless you make them to click through to read your post).

Well, I’m fading fast. The long weekend is over, my belly is full of my mom’s barbecue, and I’m ready to crash. Before I go, how do you check on your favorite blogs? If you use a feed aggregator, what are you subscribing to? What are some of your RSS annoyances?

Finally, here’s a song to mark the end of another week (a day late, since it’s labor day): Florence and the Machine – “Rabbit Heart” (Live on KEXP)

Saturday Metadata

Image of a half-knitted iPod case

How I'm spending my Saturday

As someone who has poor circulation (perpetually cold hands), I’m loving the secret pockets on this.

Newsflash! Steampunk is on the rise.

I know as librarians we are supposed to believe in such noble causes as using technology to educate our local and global communities, but sometimes I feel like this is closer to reality.

I’m adding this to my list of things I wish I had read when I started library school last year (but it wasn’t published then).

Useful if you forget to log out of Facebook from a shared computer.

$0.09 bagels? Get the heck outta town! I’m going to have to try this with the jalapenos and serranos from our garden.

Knitter, fashionista, school librarian, perpetual smiler, and owner of these awesome yellow shoes.

Do one of these things today.