Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A (visual) taste of the Jane Austen Birthday Tea treats

I mentioned last week that I'd share a photo of the various treats we had at last week's Jane Austen Birthday Tea. Feast your eyes!


That's petits fours on the top tier; brownie bites on the center tier; and tart cherry scones and cranberry orange muffins on the bottom tier.

Thanks, Holly, for taking and sending me the photo!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Post-Jane Austen Birthday Tea Post

Ah, another Jane Austen Birthday Tea has come and gone. Pictures of the treats will be coming along later, courtesy of the photographically talented Miss Holly Campbell. For now, I want to share with you partygoers' favourite Austen moments. Please note that my mother’s contribution was embedded as a link in my earlier post. And we did watch it at the party’s conclusion. What might Miss Austen have thought of Colin Firth? I’ll leave that to you to contemplate.


~*~


From Melanie, who participated from afar, comes this excerpt from Sense and Sensibility. I'm calling it "Elinor is relieved to find her Mr. Ferrars unwed":


Elinor could sit no longer. She almost ran out of the room, and as soon as the door was closed, burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would never cease. Edward, who had till then looked any where, rather than at her, saw her hurry away, and perhaps saw - or even heard, her emotion; for immediately afterwards he fell into a reverie, whihc no remarks, no inquiries, no affectionate address of Mrs. Dashwood could penetrate, and at last, without saying a word, quitted the room, and walked out towards the village - leavin the others in the greatest astonishment and perplexity on a change in his situation, so wonderul and so sudden; - a perplexity which they had no means of lessening by their own conjectures.


~*~


Jill read a scene from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies that, because it is under copyright, I cannot post here. Find a copy, though, and read the fantastic re-imagining of Darcy's proposal to Elizabeth at the Collins' cottage. Is a swift kick to the chest the only reply he is to expect? Why, yes, it is. (There's an illustration to go with it, too!)


~*~


From Kim, a scene from Persuasion in which Anne takes pleasure in Captain Wentworth's attentions to her whenever she can, even in the circumstances of alerting the Musgroves to Louisa's fall:


…as they were going up their last hill, Anne found herself all at once addressed by Captain Wentworth. In a low, cautious voice, he said:--


“I have been considering what we had best do. She must not appear at first. She could not stand it. I have been thinking whether you had not better remain in the carriage with her, while I go in and break it to Mr and Mrs Musgrove. Do you think this is a good plan?”


She did: he was satisfied, and said no more. But the remembrance of the appeal remained a pleasure to her, as a proof of friendship, and of deference for her judgement, a great pleasure; and when it became a sort of parting proof, its value did not lessen.


~*~


Also from Persuasion is this excerpt from Beth—the infamous letter:


"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.

"I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never."


~*~


Holly shared the romantic resolution from Mansfield Park, after which followed a lively discussion of what type of heroine is Fanny Price:


Edmund had greatly the advantage of her in this respect. He had not to wait and wish with vacant affections for an object worthy to succeed her in them. Scarcely had he done regretting Mary Crawford, and observing to Fanny how impossible it was that he should ever meet with such another woman, before it began to strike him whether a very different kind of woman might not do just as well, or a great deal better: whether Fanny herself were not growing as dear, as important to him in all her smiles and all her ways, as Mary Crawford had ever been; and whether it might not be a possible, an hopeful undertaking to persuade her that her warm and sisterly regard for him would be foundation enough for wedded love.

I purposely abstain from dates on this occasion, that every one may be at liberty to fix their own, aware that the cure of unconquerable passions, and the transfer of unchanging attachments, must vary much as to time in different people. I only entreat everybody to believe that exactly at the time when it was quite natural that it should be so, and not a week earlier, Edmund did cease to care about Miss Crawford, and became as anxious to marry Fanny as Fanny herself could desire.

With such a regard for her, indeed, as his had long been, a regard founded on the most endearing claims of innocence and helplessness, and completed by every recommendation of growing worth, what could be more natural than the change? Loving, guiding, protecting her, as he had been doing ever since her being ten years old, her mind in so great a degree formed by his care, and her comfort depending on his kindness, an object to him of such close and peculiar interest, dearer by all his own importance with her than any one else at Mansfield, what was there now to add, but that he should learn to prefer soft light eyes to sparkling dark ones. And being always with her, and always talking confidentially, and his feelings exactly in that favourable state which a recent disappointment gives, those soft light eyes could not be very long in obtaining the pre-eminence.

Having once set out, and felt that he had done so on this road to happiness, there was nothing on the side of prudence to stop him or make his progress slow; no doubts of her deserving, no fears of opposition of taste, no need of drawing new hopes of happiness from dissimilarity of temper. Her mind, disposition, opinions, and habits wanted no half-concealment, no self-deception on the present, no reliance on future improvement. Even in the midst of his late infatuation, he had acknowledged Fanny's mental superiority. What must be his sense of it now, therefore? She was of course only too good for him; but as nobody minds having what is too good for them, he was very steadily earnest in the pursuit of the blessing, and it was not possible that encouragement from her should be long wanting. Timid, anxious, doubting as she was, it was still impossible that such tenderness as hers should not, at times, hold out the strongest hope of success, though it remained for a later period to tell him the whole delightful and astonishing truth. His happiness in knowing himself to have been so long the beloved of such a heart, must have been great enough to warrant any strength of language in which he could clothe it to her or to himself; it must have been a delightful happiness. But there was happiness elsewhere which no description can reach. Let no one presume to give the feelings of a young woman on receiving the assurance of that affection of which she has scarcely allowed herself to entertain a hope.

Their own inclinations ascertained, there were no difficulties behind, no drawback of poverty or parent. It was a match which Sir Thomas's wishes had even forestalled. Sick of ambitious and mercenary connexions, prizing more and more the sterling good of principle and temper, and chiefly anxious to bind by the strongest securities all that remained to him of domestic felicity, he had pondered with genuine satisfaction on the more than possibility of the two young friends finding their natural consolation in each other for all that had occurred of disappointment to either; and the joyful consent which met Edmund's application, the high sense of having realised a great acquisition in the promise of Fanny for a daughter, formed just such a contrast with his early opinion on the subject when the poor little girl's coming had been first agitated, as time is for ever producing between the plans and decisions of mortals, for their own instruction, and their neighbours' entertainment.

Fanny was indeed the daughter that he wanted. His charitable kindness had been rearing a prime comfort for himself. His liberality had a rich repayment, and the general goodness of his intentions by her deserved it. He might have made her childhood happier; but it had been an error of judgment only which had given him the appearance of harshness, and deprived him of her early love; and now, on really knowing each other, their mutual attachment became very strong. After settling her at Thornton Lacey with every kind attention to her comfort, the object of almost every day was to see her there, or to get her away from it.


~*~


And then my two contributions. I initially chose only one from Northanger Abbey, in which Mr. Tilney assures Catherine that novels have their merits and even gentlemen—especially gentlemen—enjoy them:


The Tilneys called for her at the appointed time; and no new difficulty arising, no sudden recollection, no unexpected summons, no impertinent intrusion to disconcert their measures, my heroine was most unnaturally able to fulfil her engagement, though it was made with the hero himself. They determined on walking round Beechen Cliff, that noble hill whose beautiful verdure and hanging coppice render it so striking an object from almost every opening in Bath.

"I never look at it," said Catherine, as they walked along the side of the river, "without thinking of the south of France."

"You have been abroad then?" said Henry, a little surprised.

"Oh! No, I only mean what I have read about. It always puts me in mind of the country that Emily and her father travelled through, in The Mysteries of Udolpho. But you never read novels, I dare say?"

"Why not?"

"Because they are not clever enough for you—gentlemen read better books."

"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. I have read all Mrs. Radcliffe's works, and most of them with great pleasure. The Mysteries of Udolpho, when I had once begun it, I could not lay down again; I remember finishing it in two days—my hair standing on end the whole time."

"Yes," added Miss Tilney, "and I remember that you undertook to read it aloud to me, and that when I was called away for only five minutes to answer a note, instead of waiting for me, you took the volume into the Hermitage Walk, and I was obliged to stay till you had finished it."

"Thank you, Eleanor—a most honourable testimony. You see, Miss Morland, the injustice of your suspicions. Here was I, in my eagerness to get on, refusing to wait only five minutes for my sister, breaking the promise I had made of reading it aloud, and keeping her in suspense at a most interesting part, by running away with the volume, which, you are to observe, was her own, particularly her own. I am proud when I reflect on it, and I think it must establish me in your good opinion."

"I am very glad to hear it indeed, and now I shall never be ashamed of liking Udolpho myself. But I really thought before, young men despised novels amazingly."

"It is amazingly; it may well suggest amazement if they do—for they read nearly as many as women. I myself have read hundreds and hundreds.”


~*~


Then, because no one had chosen Emma and it would be sad indeed to leave a book out, I read this passage in which our heroine fancies herself in love with Frank Churchill:


Emma continued to entertain no doubt of her being in love. Her ideas only varied as to the how much. At first, she thought it was a good deal; and afterwards, but little. She had great pleasure in hearing Frank Churchill talked of; and, for his sake, greater pleasure than ever in seeing Mr. and Mrs. Weston; she was very often thinking of him, and quite impatient for a letter, that she might know how he was, how were his spirits, how was his aunt, and what was the chance of his coming to Randalls again this spring. But, on the other hand, she could not admit herself to be unhappy, nor, after the first morning, to be less disposed for employment than usual; she was still busy and cheerful; and, pleasing as he was, she could yet imagine him to have faults; and farther, though thinking of him so much, and, as she sat drawing or working, forming a thousand amusing schemes for the progress and close of their attachment, fancying interesting dialogues, and inventing elegant letters; the conclusion of every imaginary declaration on his side was that she refused him. Their affection was always to subside into friendship. Every thing tender and charming was to mark their parting; but still they were to part. When she became sensible of this, it struck her that she could not be very much in love; for in spite of her previous and fixed determination never to quit her father, never to marry, a strong attachment certainly must produce more of a struggle than she could foresee in her own feelings.


~*~


Last (and certainly least), the negative exerpt; it's from Mark Twain, a pretty notorious Austen hater, submitted by Allison:


"Whenever I take up "Pride and Prejudice" or "Sense and Sensibility," I feel like a barkeeper entering the Kingdom of Heaven. I mean, I feel as he would probably feel, would almost certainly feel. I am quite sure I know what his sensations would be -- and his private comments. He would be certain to curl his lip, as those ultra-good Presbyterians went filing self-complacently along. ...


She makes me detest all her people, without reserve. Is that her intention? It is not believable. Then is it her purpose to make the reader detest her people up to the middle of the book and like them in the rest of the chapters? That could be. That would be high art. It would be worth while, too. Some day I will examine the other end of her books and see."


Now, seeing as Mark Twain just admitted he hasn't read an Austen novel all the way through to the end, I don't think any of his critical comments should be worth anything. Can you really cast judgment on a total experience when you haven't experienced it in its entirety? Not in a respectable way. Boo Mark Twain.

Pre-Jane Austen Birthday Tea Post

Happy birthday, Jane Austen!

T-minus 3 hours until the Third Annual Jane Austen Birthday Tea! Thanks to my mother and a few friends for sending (calling) me (with) your favorite Austen moments. There's still time to contribute!

Everything that needed baking has been baked, but when I went to the fridge to make sure all of my tea sandwich components were in proper order, I found a moldy cucumber. Not good! Luckily, Bloomingfoods is only a (very snowy) few blocks' walk away. Cucumber crisis averted.

While you'll have to wait until after the tea party for me to post everyone's excerpt contributions, you can bide the time by a) reading something Jane Austen, b) watching something Jane Austen, and/or c) checking out my guest post on my book-wise friend Beth's lit blog. Beth was my partner in crime in implementing the first ever Jane Austen Birthday Tea at DePauw two years ago. I'll leave it to you, dear readers, to deduce the subject of my guest post.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Looking toward Austen's birthday

I'm currently in preparations for the annual Jane Austen Birthday Tea that I'll be holding on Thursday. The goal is to bring together Janeites, have a few snacks, and share some of our favourite passages from or about Austen. My pre-bed reading this week is dedicated to choosing the excerpt/s that I'll be sharing with my guests on Thursday; only a few days left, and I've still to pick something!

I plan on sharing everyone else's contributions on the blog after the tea on Thursday, but I wanted to give those of you who cannot attend the opportunity to write in and tell me your own favourites. Are your particularly partial to an interaction between Emma and Mr. Knightley? Are you a fan of mean-girl moments, perhaps starring Mary Crawford or Maria Bertram? I want to know!

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's almost Miss Austen's birthday...

What with the countdown to Jane Austen's birthday now in the single digits, I thought I'd give you a few links to start getting you in the proper festive mood!

Methinks it's time to start watching Austen films!

Friday, November 26, 2010

What's it's like being 24

My superhero friend turns 24 today, the second in our core group of friends from middle school to do so. We were talking about being 24 when I visited him at his aesthetically-lovely place of work on my way home for the holiday, and we decided we'd both post about it today. Happy birthday, Mike!
______________________

What it's like being 24:

1. I like Brussels sprouts! And sweet potatoes! And I eat vegetables on pizza! Basically, my palate has expanded so that I'm not quite so finicky about what's on my plate. Credit the Bloomington farmers' market for exposing me to some really amazing veg.

2. I feel way more confident. I think it's a combination of knowing I can take care of myself and (finally) being certain about what I want to do with myself career-wise, but regardless, I feel like I project much more of a grown-up aura.

3. I now have objective distance on high school. This development is a good one; now I can think about marching band, video production, formal dances, &tc. for what they were and not romanticize them. Because, let's face it, high school is not a romantic place.

4. I am just really happy. Crappy days and other such minor rain clouds in life don't really get to me as much, and for that I am very grateful. If getting older means being able to better appreciate everything that's going on, then bring on the birthdays!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Library links for the week

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A couple of library links to start your morning

**My favorite stateside museum, hands down, is the Field Museum in Chicago. I've been going there for as long as I can remember to see the fantastic permanent exhibits and the always-impressive variety of traveling exhibitions. I even got to attend a member night a few years back, during which I got to explore the non-public floors and areas of the museum. Very cool! I also remember that when I was a child visiting the one-time children's room at the Field Museum, my family and I often walked past or through the library. From what I have gleaned, that library has since moved. But, thanks to ALA, here's a nifty little video introduction to their services!

**I've mentioned before that the smell of books can be a significant comfort and appeal aspect for some readers. One blogger attempts to deconstruct what this scent is made of. As much as I love that book smell, I really hope there isn't a perfume in the works!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

If I could choose a superpower

A few months ago, I was listening to a This American Life podcast on superpowers, in which one of the acts centered on one guy's perpetual party question: if you could have either the power of invisibility or the power of flight, which superpower would you choose? It was an interesting piece, and I brought up that invisibility-or-flight question later with my superpower-savvy friend. Seems a lot of people are of the opinion that everyone secretly wants to be invisible so that they can spy on others; those people who say they'd choose flight are just embarrassed by their desire to spy. I can see the logic in this argument, but I'm not quite sure if it's accurate in all cases.

Anyway, lately I've been thinking a bit more broadly about what superpower I would choose if I had the opportunity. Not restricting myself to the invisibility-or-flight scenario, I've given myself full license to choose any sort of superpower I might want, whether it's comic book-accurate or not. I've thought about this question a lot while walking to and from places on and around campus. You know, those walks where you always see people plugged into their iPods? All these walks have helped me to make my decision.

If I could choose a superpower, I would be able to selectively tune in to whatever people are listening to on their headphones. I am so intrigued by the infinite possibilities of what different people might be listening to at any given moment, and I wonder if being able to listen in on a person's playlist would allow you to learn something about that person. Any thoughts on the matter? I know that my own iPod is incredibly diverse. My "Recently Played" playlist currently includes Juliette Greco, Billy Joel, the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Mickey Avalon, The Guggenheim Grotto, Jewel, and songs from The Sound of Music. I also listen to a ton of podcasts on my iPod. What does all that say about me?

It intrigues and amuses me to think of the possibilities of what these random people that I pass every day might be listening to. I am absolutely certain that some of what I would hear with my radio-tuning superpower would surprise me. Who is listening to Taylor Swift or Glee? Who is secretly reveling in the fourth-grade glory of the Spice Girls and Hanson? Who is wearing an ICP t-shirt but listening to the Planet Money podcast? What a wonderfully interesting superpower mine would be.

What's on your iPod?

And what superpower would you choose?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The View from the Reference Desk

Now several weeks into my internship at Children's Services at the MCPL, I've had time to reflect on my experiences as a pseudo-children's librarian. I've helped with great programs, assisted with some interesting projects. But, more than anything else, I've learned a lot from my experience on the reference desk.

One major thing that I've noticed--
There are two main types of children's librarians: those who mostly notice the misbehaving kids, and those who mostly don't. I fit into the latter category insofar as I never leave my reference shifts thinking, "My gosh! Children are so much work!" More often than not, I walk back into the staff offices giggling to myself over the strange, adorable things young children do and say. I have to say, this perspective seems to work really well for me. I'm still loving children's librarianship, after all.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I love autumn!


This is the glorious view that I had today while sitting and doing some work at Brown County State Park. The autumn colors down in these parts of Indiana are famous for a reason.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Taking cues when choosing books

It could be a huge research project to fully understand the myriad of ways in which people choose their reading material. Saw it on a display? Heard about it on Oprah? A friend said you'd like it? I know that I pick up reading suggestions everywhere. How about you?

In this week's ALA e-newsletter, two links on this topic in particular stood out to me:

1) Rupert Grint chose A Clockwork Orange as the book he's holding on his READ poster; these celebrity endorsements can be rather effective in getting people to try out specific titles.

2) One librarian in New York has been compiling a list of books that have appeared on the television show Mad Men. Some of the titles may have been part of the storyline while others were just part of the background, but he says circulation of and requests for this books has jumped because of their inclusion on the hit show. And the fact that all the books are accurate to the show's time setting makes the surge in popularity even better, in my opinion. Let's give some older books a chance!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rethinking the library and reference

I found two links from this week's ALA e-newsletter particularly interesting:

1) At the Hearthman Hotel in Portland, authors who stay there are asked to sign a copy of one of their books to go into the hotel library. What has resulted is a unique collection of some 4000 titles, all copies signed, that is available for visitors' perusal. What an interesting way to rethink what makes a library!

2) Some Texas Tech librarians have taken the idea of roving reference one large step further: they're experimenting with reference carts, complete with wi-fi-enabled laptops, roving about the campus, not just in the library. People can thus seek assistance wherever they find one of these librarians. Thoughts?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Banned Books Week: Fighting Literary Censorship on Twitter

I don't tweet, not at all, and I don't really want to. I think Twitter definitely has some great group-information applications, though.

Case in point: taking to Twitter to fight censorship. Check out this great blog entry from the NYT.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Banned Books Week 2010

This upcoming week (September 25 - October 2) is the annual Banned Books Week. Begun in 1982 in response to an upsurge in the number of books being challenged in libraries, Banned Books Week is meant to draw attention to book censorship and promote intellectual freedom.

Stop by your local public library--even your local bookstore!--next week and I'm sure you'll see displays of banned and challenged books. Take a look at the titles--I'll bet you've read a few. You probably even enjoyed them.

The NYT posted an article suggesting 10 ways you might celebrate Banned Books Week this year. Even if you don't have time to do one of these activities, and even if you don't have time to read your favorite banned book (or maybe try a new one!), do take a few minutes to think about the freedom to read. It's a particularly great freedom that we have in this country, and we shouldn't let those who would wish to censor books get away with it.

Support Banned Books Week and the freedom to read!

P.S. What's your favorite banned or challenged book?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

This week in library links

I've got two links for you today:

1 - Google Instant. Have you tried it? Do you love it? Hate it? Somewhere in between? I found it interesting that Google Instant is blocking certain searches--your search results will not instantly update if your search terms include something that Google deems "not safe for work" (NSFW). Just what that encompasses is up for debate...

2 - How would you like a recycled reference desk at your local library? I know I would love one!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Military rations

If you've got a few spare minutes this weekend, take a look at this interactive feature at the New York Times on military rations in Afghanistan. The premise of the accompanying article is that, with troops serving in Afghanistan from all over the world, the variations in each country's provided rations give a glimpse of what soldiers might be yearning for from home. It's a neat visual twist on the whole food and cultural identity/comfort thing.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Librarians and Books

One thing that professors like to tell new library science students is that "loving books" isn't a good reason to be a librarian. I can see their point: so much of what so many librarians do on a day-to-day basis has nothing to do with the content of the books themselves, at least not in the way that most people mean when they profess their love of books. Librarians might be leading technology instruction; they might be cataloguing materials; they might be answering obscure reference questions. Basically, library school professors would have it seem like loving books and reading is about as vital to the library profession as it is to working in a machine shop. That is, it's not that necessary, and it's not that helpful.

I'm taking a readers' advisory class this semester, though, and our first lecture of the semester opened with a rather prescient statement: library schools don't provide their students with sufficient background in books. I guess this statement refers more to librarians who end up in public libraries, where a good amount of time on the reference desk--usually a shared responsibility--is spent in a readers' advisory interview. You know, when a person comes up to the desk and asks for a suggestion of what to read next? True, you don't need to love reading to know how to adeptly answer such questions; all you really need is a firm grasp of the readers' advisory resources. But I would venture to guess that a librarian who loves and thus knows about books will be able to negotiate this service so much better. It would seem to be very relevant for a librarian to love books.

So I've been thinking about this discrepancy, about the tension between "loving books isn't enough" and "you don't know enough about books." I do love books; I don't think that will come as a surprise to anyone. But that's not the only reason I want to be a librarian. In fact, it's not even the main reason. My loving books does seem like it'll lend me a slight advantage as a librarian, though.

Maybe what library schools need to do is encourage love of books along with the whole host of other necessary librarian skills they promote. It wouldn't be so difficult to shift that tone from "loving books won't help you" to "loving books, plus these other skills, will help you help patrons." That's what it's all about in the end, right?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Six Items or Less

I previously mentioned the shopping diet that recently achieved quite a bit of publicity. The project, Six Items or Less, has received more attention as of late--so much so that the creators are launching another "cycle," as they call it, later this month. Check out the website for more information, and consider signing up (I did!).

Now to figure out my six items...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Concerning the full sensory experience of reading a book

For those of you out there who vehemently defend the book because of how much more it offers than simple words on a page, I thought I would share a tidbit from Robert Darnton's The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future:

"In a recent poll taken at a French university, 43% of students queried considered smell to be an important aspect of a book and refused to buy the electronic edition."
(cited in "Books and Literacy in the Digital Age" by Ralph Raab in August 2010's American Libraries)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Thinking about library programs

As I get ready to begin my semester-long internship in the children's department of the library in town, I've been thinking quite a bit about library programs. I didn't really go to programs at my hometown library as a kid; what with organized activities, neighborhood friends, and an active reading life at home, going to the library for story hour and other programs never really was in my schedule. That means I'm going into this internship as something of a library program novice. I helped with a few over the summer as a volunteer, but that's about it.

To help myself prepare, I've been reading a bit about some library programs, in public library children's departments in particular, that seem to be successful and worthwhile. I find two of them really intriguing:

1) Children reading to therapy dogs -- You've heard of seeing eye dogs, canines specially trained to aid the visually impaired. Therapy dogs are somewhat similar in that they've been carefully trained to perform specific tasks. Therapy dogs are used in all sorts of situations, from inpatient rehabilitation centers to public libraries. When therapy dogs are added to a library's program schedule, it seems that it's almost always in the children's department. It would seem that children who are struggling or shy readers see marked improvement in their reading when they "practice" by reading to a therapy dog. These pooches pay attention, see, and they don't judge if a child stumbles over words, reads slowly, etc. My library offers a program like this one; I'm looking forward to sitting in on it this semester.

2) Raising a Reader -- It's been suggested time and time again that exposure to books in a huge indicator of children's future success. It makes a lot of sense, then, for libraries to adopt some sort of program wherein young children take home a bag full of books every week or two. With the help of such programs, books become a part of the homelife of every child who participates. The child also gets to know the library as a safe space in which he or she can always find more books. I really like the idea of having programs in place that set up children to be readers and library users. I saw a similar program in the UK this summer, and am happy to see that similar programs are in place in the US.

What about you? What are some library programs that you particularly like/remember liking as a child?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gnocchi Quiche

Look, I know I'm not a food blogger any more. I enjoy not having the stress of cooking a new recipe every week, hoping it turns out, and sharing it with you. In fact, since I've stopped food blogging, I think the quality of my new recipe trials has improved (sorry to not share...). Something about the pressure being gone...

But I have to relapse just a little bit and talk about food today. Not food I made, but food I bought. You see, there's this great little French restaurant here in town, Le Petit Cafe. Their food had been beyond delicious each time I've been there. Last fall, they started having a little window from their kitchen open up during the hours the nearby farmers' market is open. Sometimes, even though I've eaten breakfast before leaving my house, I cannot walk by that window, with the morning's menu on a little chalkboard, without getting something to eat. Today was one of those days.

Gnocchi quiche. That's what I got this morning. I perhaps might have taken a picture of it to share with you, only I ate the thing before I had a chance. It was just too good to divert my attention, even for 30 seconds. You see, this restaurant has the best quiche anyway. The best quiche of anywhere (could be that the proprietors and cooks are from France...). And today's was practically sublime.

Into their regular rich, smooth, creamy, eggy quiche base, today they added wheat gnocchi. These gnocchi are so perfect that the only thing you taste from them is texture. Have you ever tasted texture? Wow, it's great. They sprinkled the top of the quiche with a bit of Parmesan cheese, adding a salty, savory quality to the whole thing. It was perfection.

Moral of this story: if you live in the area, get down to the farmers' market and make a stop at the window of Le Petit Cafe. And if you don't live near here? Well, I guess you'll just have to be jealous.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Playlists

I've had a thing for mixed cds for as long as I can remember. I absolutely love getting mixed cds from people (even when accepting said cds could be considered poor judgment). I think that a lot of the appeal of getting a cd of music deliberately and thoughtfully compiled by another person stems from the fact that I am not very good about finding new music for myself.

You see, I know what I like when it comes to music. The problem is, I don't know how to describe what I like. If I hear it, I'll be able to tell you if I like it. Sometimes, if a particular song is playing during and event or at a place that I enjoy, I like the song just because of the association with good times. Sometimes I'm really attracted to lyrics. But really, when it comes down to it, if I like it, I like it. If I don't, I don't. Can't really explain it better than that.

So, yes, I love getting mixed cds because, inevitably, my friends do a much better job at finding music I like than I do. I love the thrill of hearing something new. I love wondering what's going to come next after one song ends. I love it all.

My love of mixed cds is perhaps reflected in my appreciation of really good playlists. Some people seem to think that iTunes and the ease with which it allows average folk to arrange music playlists is ruining music. I am very much not one of those people. I am continually impressed by the amazing and eclectic playlists one meets with on a regular basis nowadays: at restaurants, at parties... and at picnics.

Picnics like the one that went on outside of my new house today (I moved! To a house!). The neighbors had some folks over for pizza and beer on the lawn, which in and of itself is probably nothing out of the ordinary on a large college campus. What about it was completely awesome, though (aside from the fact that it was a picnic, and I love picnics)? The playlist.

There were great mellow, indie rock, and pop-ish tunes at the beginning, when people were arriving, mingling, and just getting into the picnic vibe. Then there was some amazing piano jazz and thirties-sounding stuff while they were eating; great background music to small groups of people chatting and chewing. Now we're at the stage of the party when everyone has moved inside (mosquitos, boo). And to go with, there's total "house party" music: a good amount of bass-thumping hip hop, 80's-sounding rock, and a few choice songs that have turned into impromptu karaoke. (It's not creepy that I've been hearing all of the music. The walls at my new house are not soundproof at party volume.) I love it! I don't yet know these neighbors, but I am already super impressed by their playlist.

If I could choose to hone only a handful of skills over this last year of graduate school, the art of the playlist would definitely be one of them.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

This week in library links

I don't think anyone will argue that in recent years we've seen an explosion of "comic book movies" on the big screen. Whether this surge is due to the popularity of comic books and graphic novels themselves, or too their potential mass appeal, is a good subject for consideration. Another good topic for debate: how can libraries "read" this phenomenon in order to better serve their patrons? Which comics and graphic novels with movie tie-ins are worth having in the library? What are your thoughts?

~*~

If you've ever been to a book fair, you've probably seen a few of the strangers titles that are out there in the world of published books. I've got one: How to Gorge George Without Fattening Fanny, a 1970s diet-style cookbook by a model. (I bought it in college while researching my thesis on food and identity.) It seems that, for the past year, AbeBooks, an online bookseller, has dedicated a page to these odd tomes. Ever wanted to know the history of dentures? About Gloucestershire cheese-rolling? How to knit figures of famous historical figures? It's all there in the Weird Book Room. What are your favorites?

~*~

Sometimes the timeline of when I decided I wanted to be a librarian gets a bit jumbled in my head. I know that somewhat early influences were the movie The Mummy and an article in Bitch magazine about librarians in film. The Huffington Post has updated this "librarian" movie list to include 11 films featuring librarians in important roles. Sadly, they're missing The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag, which really deserves to be a librarian classic. Are there any other films you think should be on the list?

Friday, August 13, 2010

A few links for your perusal

I just got back from an extremely relaxing week in northern Wisconsin with my best friend and her family. It was a great week of sun, swimming, boating, and overall enjoyment. Being away, however, meant that I returned this evening to 80+ e-mails. Yikes.

Here are some links that I would particularly like to share:
1) Another potential alternative library: a vending machine-type set-up in a train station!
2) Amazon.com recently announced that their e-book sales have surpassed hardcover sales; the trend for e-books seems to be showing up in libraries, too, very much to their benefit
3) Remember those "READ" posters that hung in (it seems like) every school library you ever visited? The list of celebrities who have appeared on those posters over the years is pretty impressive
4) If you enjoyed Bride and Prejudice, get ready for Bollywood's Aisha, a new take on Emma
5) And, because I can't resist, a Jane Austen-inspired wedding.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A retro phone booth library

Having just returned from my month doing library things in the UK, I was amused to see that one of the articles linked from this week's ALA e-newsletter features one of those ubiquitous red telephone booths, repurposed with a library bent.

In North Somerset, the community purchased (for one pound!) the phone booth; restored it; and turned it into a library. Now the space functions as a 24/7 book swap library; anyone can take out a book on the condition that they replace it with another. What a great way to keep the shelves of this library stocked with an every-changing array of titles!

If I were still in England this week, I would maybe need to go check this out for myself...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Libraries Outside the Box

All three of these links, from this week's ALA E-newsletter, are great examples of thinking about libraries and library services in new ways in order to boost usage. What do you think?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Miss Librarian Abroad

For the entire month of July, I'll be blogging about my library school travels in the UK from my special occasion travel blog, Miss Librarian Abroad. Check it out!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Browsing the library shelves

There's been some considerable debate recently about keeping books in libraries. Considering the rate at which libraries acquire materials, housing all those books can become an issue. For academic libraries--in particular comprehensive collections that seek to get and keep everything that is written on subjects of scholarly interest--the trend in recent years has been to build state-of-the-art off-site library storage facilities. Here at IU, we've got the ALF, which houses books the library wants to keep, but doesn't deem it necessary to keep them within the library proper.

The debate about this issue generally has two parties: proponents of off-site storage, and proponents of having all the materials in one immediately accessible location. One of the biggest issues that's come up in this debate has to do with browsing.

The argument goes that, when you're doing research, oftentimes you'll have a general idea of the types of materials you want to use. You look up said materials and write down a few titles, a few call numbers. With this list of possible useful resources in hand, you head into the library stacks to locate said resources. Then, once you're in the general vicinity of what you want, you pull what you want from the shelves. Then, you look on the surrounding shelves to see what other items might be of relevance to your research. In other words, you browse. It's somewhat selective browsing, sure, because you're only looking in a particular area; but it's browsing nonetheless.

Now, many professors, students, and alumni are putting up quite a stink over the fact that, by moving books from the library building in order to make room for computers or *gasp* coffee shops, the library is essentially limiting the scholarly process. Browsing, they say, is key to scholarly work. And, they argue, without the ability to browse, research may become much less rounded, much less inclusive of a variety of perspectives. If you can't browse, you'll only use information that you think you need/want, and you'll never really include information that you just happen upon. Because it's hard to happen upon something that is stored at a secured facility x miles from the actual library.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this debate. I've heard some good arguments from both sides. For example, some people are saying that browsing itself is overrated and selective. The main argument on that point is that browsing is like shopping at a sale: while in theory you may have lots of things to choose from, in reality you're only choosing from what is still left. If the purpose of a library is to allow patrons access to materials, then patrons are probably checking things out. Thus, when a person goes to browse a shelf, they're browsing only what isn't currently checked out. Here's how Donald A. Barclay put it in the June/July 2010 issue of American Libraries:

"Because the books in highest demand are likely to be in use and, thus, off the shelf, browsing academic library shelves is the equivalent of hitting the sale tables on day three of a three-day sale" (p. 53).

Basically, there's no guarantee that you'll get what you actually want/need when you go a-browsin'.

Another interesting argument is that, because a book can only be shelved in one place despite the possibility that it's subject matter covers a variety of topics, when you're browsing you won't always be looking in the right place to find that perfect tome. Barclay's example again:

"Take the book What Are the Animals to Us?: Approaches from Science, Religion, Folklore, Literature, and Art by David Aftandilian. Virtually all U.S. academic libraries shelve this book in the zoology (QL) call numbers. Good luck to the person browsing the call numbers for religion (BL-BX), folklore (GR), literature (P-PZ), or art (N-NX), especially in a very large academic library where tens of thousands of books are shelved in each of these broad call number categories..." (p. 53).

Basically, I can see why browsing isn't generally an effective method of conducting research.

I do wonder, though, how much browsing should have to do with moving materials off-site. I'm interested to know the statistics about what percentage of library materials housed off-site are actually requested by library patrons. Research shows that the visible items are the ones that get chosen and used most frequently; what if an item is not only not visible, but not accessible until tomorrow's book delivery? Sure, off-site materials still show up in library catalogs; but do patrons find the whole off-site thing a turn-off and neglect to use these items? Disuse, to me, would be the real tell of whether or not off-site storage is a good thing.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Some library links

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Facebook and high school

Just a short post today, because even though I'm all moved into my new place, I'm exhausted from moving everything and setting it all up.

I was thinking today: what would it have been like had we (as in, people my age) had Facebook while we were in high school? You know, what with all the status updates and "likes" and relationship statuses. I seem to recall high school being a pretty drama-filled time (or was that just band??). How much more dramatic must it be with Facebook thrown into the mix, making sure that everyone knows everything about everyone else, up-to-the-minute updates? Sounds like a social horror to me.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Reading in a Digital Age

While taking a train recently, I read "Reading in a Digital Age" by Sven Birkerts in the Spring 2010 issue of The American Scholar. I started reading it anticipating some sort of discussion about reading in a world of e-readers, which turns out to not be the topic at hand. More close to the actual topic, however, is the idea of reading in a world with the option of reading online. The overarching question at hand: how does traditional, paper-based reading fit into this new age of digital reading?

Below you'll find some passages from the article that I found particularly thought-provoking (in bold), followed by my own reflections and questions.

"Our brains have become particularly adapted to creating coherent, gap-free stories.... This propensity for narrative creation is part of what predisposes us humans to religious thought" (Gary Greensberg).

You know how there are generally two camps of people, those who can accept some degree of the unknown and those who cannot? Seems our brains like to fill in the gaps in what we can see and understand in our world. Which, as Greensberg points out, can describe aspects of religious thought in which humans create ways of making sense of a some-details-left-out story. This disposition can also give some bearing upon why we find books, movies, stories, &c. that aren't self-consistent to be very frustrating. Also might explain fan fiction--we want to fill the gap between what was written and what we think should be an ultimate event.

"This idea of the novel is gaining on me: that it is now, except superficially, only a thing to be studied in English classes--that it is a field for thinking, a condensed time-world that is parallel (or adjacent) to ours. That its purpose is less to communicate themes or major recognitions and more to engage the mind, the sensibility, in a process that in its full realization bears upon our living as an ignition to inwardness, which has no larger end, which is the end itself."

I once had a terrific teacher who tried to illustrate to his students that good literature--truly good literature--fulfills two criteria: 1) it is entertaining, and b) it has a universal theme. In other words, truly good literature should be timeless because it always has something to say about the world in which we live; readers can always respond to something in the work, regardless of when or where they may live. Extrapolating this argument one degree further, good literature must be relatable: we must see ourselves and those around us in a work. Good literature promotes self-reflection. That seems right. Right?

We are seeing right now "the rapid erosion of certain ways of thinking--their demotion, as it were. I mean reflection, a contextual understanding of information, imaginative projection. I mean, in my shorthand, intransitive thinking. Contemplation. Thinking for it's own sake."

Here's some actual consideration about how the meaning and physical act of reading has changed in this digital arena. When we have a physical book, a novel, &c., we have a piece of sustained writing. That is to say that a physical book tends to have its own sustained little world, its abstract space in which the reader interacts with the ideas on the page. Reading digitally, e.g. on the internet, seems to lack that sustained world. After all, isn't full text searching and linkability one of the "benefits" of digital reading? The result of jumping from smaller text to smaller text to dictionary to related topic, although useful in its own ways, is the lack of a sustained place for thinking about the actual piece of writing. We go straight to what we want to read, to know, and don't so much consider the rest. In looking for the specific lighthouse on the horizon, as it were, we miss the landscape as a whole. Also, it would seem that the more we interact with the platform of reading, the less we actually interact with what is written. With no sustained world to consider, we're basically idea nomads.

"The question comes up for me insistently: Where am I when I am reading a novel? I am 'in' the novel, of course, to the degree that it involves me. I may be absorbed, but I am never without some awareness of the world around me."

I just thought that this passage asks an interesting question of all readers. Where are you when you read? Where is your mind? Does the space you occupy while reading change depending upon what you are reading?

"Still, [a character in a book] can only get so close [or do so much]--he is constrained by the limits of technology, and, necessarily, by visual exteriority. The novelist can complete the action, moving right through the dormer window, and then, if he has set it up thus, into the minds of any of the characters he has found/created there."

Another interesting idea to consider about reading: characters are limited, but authors are omnipotent. A character is restrained to the world in which his author has placed him, while the author has fully license to mess with the parameters at any time and in any way. My question: do these limits, or lack thereof, hold up in digital reading? Because, arguably, in traditional reading, the reader is even more limited than the characters: the reader must go exactly where the author dictates, can have absolutely no other insights than those explicitly written. Is this so with digital reading? Or does the reader somehow become the one with the power?

"The reader adjusts to the author, not vice versa, and sometimes that adjustment feels too difficult. The triple-decker [three-volume novel] was, I'm theorizing, synchronous with the basic heart rate of its readers, and is now no longer so."

I mostly just like this passage because it speaks to the general changeability of writing. Those triple-deckers or three-volume novels were once so popular, but now we don't read them quite so much (although we still read Austen!). The attention span, or the reality, or something of the reader has changed over time, allowing us to better relate to certain styles than others. What does this mean for books in general when readers may be less and less willing to adjust themselves?

"Reading in a Digital Age" really was a fantastic article in terms of provoking interesting considerations. If you found any of these ideas stimulating, you should definitely check it out. Also, feel free to sound off in the comments.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A hyperbolic generation?

I was thinking today about how we used to have to jog in gym class all through elementary, middle, and high school. Jogging was so universal. Every gym teacher I ever had made students jog. Even some college fitness professors asked students to jog.

But then I got to thinking about all of the people I know who jog. Except, I realized, no one my age calls it jogging anymore. People don't jog to work out, they run. Everyone's a runner now. No one I know jogs anymore.

Now, in my mind, running is a degree above jogging. Jogging is perhaps more leisurely, or at any rate less purposely strenuous than running. I may just be uninformed of the actual nuanced differences between jogging and running, but the seeming preference of young people to saying "run" over "jog" got me wondering if perhaps young people tend to overstate things these days.

Consider the following examples as well. When young people drink a lot and fall asleep, they say they passed out. Isn't "passed out" meant to mean "unconscious"? Surely many of the young people who proclaim to have passed out actual just fell asleep.

Along the same line, when young people get physical with one another, they call it "hooking up." Maybe this particular term is less degreed than a catch-all: hooking up can mean pretty much any sort of sexual activity. But, again, surely not all of the young people who have hooked up have all engaged in the same sexual act. The terminology suggests everything, when everything very well may not be the reality.

Any thoughts on whether we're a generation of serial exaggerators? I'd love to hear thoughts and other possible examples.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Gaga Librarians

Yep, you read that right. Check out this pretty awesome video of librarians doing Gaga. The lyrics are amazing.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How much are you sharing on Facebook?

How much are you sharing on Facebook? Probably more than you think. I know Facebook is reportedly unveiling new privacy settings this week, but I think you'll find it worth your time to check on your own how secure your personal information is on Facebook.

This link for ReclaimPrivacy.org came in this week's ALA newsletter; it's very legit and very easy to execute, and in moments you'll have a good assessment as to whether your private information on Facebook is, in fact, private. Know who can look at your information on Facebook!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sex and the Austen Girl episodes

I should be back on a semi-regular posting schedule by next week, when I'll be back in Bloomington. Until then, however, I strongly recommend watching the first two "Sex and the Austen Girl" episodes. They're short and clever, and quite funny. The two first topics are "Meeting Men" and "Women's Fashion."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Maps!

Not to long from now, I'll get to see some really fantastic maps in a great exhibit at the British Library. Not wanting to hog all the intellectual fun, however, I want to share a link that looks at ten of the greatest maps in history (as per the British Library, again).

Don't you just love maps?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Austen online

I've read both of Laurie Viera Rigler's books about Austenites who find themselves quite out of time. I enjoyed them both, also, in a very beach-book, lazy Sunday, leisurely reading sort of way. They provide a nice little escape, if you will.

Thus, I'll definitely be watching the web series based on the books: Sex and the Austen Girl. Do check out the trailer!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Rethinking the book club

I'm in a book club. It's one of the high points of my week, although truth be told we don't always spend that much time talking about our week's reading at the meetings. We do read, though, and we discuss. We discuss what we read; what the reading made us think of; and what other things we've read, &c. &c. Basically, it's your traditional book club.

I was reading last week, however, about a new take on the book club: "One Book, One Twitter" (1b1t). The premise follows that of uber-librarian Nancy Pearl's "One City, One Book" campaign, in which all participating members of the community read one particular book. In theory, the book is then on the collective consciousness of the community, and book club-esque discussion can take place in all sorts of forums. In the case of 1b1t, these discussions take place on Twitter. Huge community, right?

1b1t will be reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods, and then full-force discussion will (hopefully) take place. A very large book club, indeed.

I'm curious what people think about this Twitter book club phenomenon. What kind of discussion will the 140-character limit promote? Will small groups inevitably branch off on their own? Will the discussion be too multi-faceted to be really meaningful? Feel free to chime in, and if you tweet, maybe participate!

Additional thought: American God is available in e-book format, which means, at least in theory, that 1b1t participants could read the book on their internet-enabled, e-reader devices and then participate in the online discussion from the same platform. Ponder that: a handheld book club experience.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Not Liking Movies

After a five-star review from my mother and several other people whom I cannot recall at this particular moment, I watched 500 Days of Summer yesterday.

And I did not like it.

And then, because I felt bad for not liking a movie that had been so highly recommended to me, I tried to rationalize why I didn't like it. Here's the list I came up with:

1 - It bugged me that Zooey Deschanel's character, Summer, was always dressed in blue. Supposedly it was to bring out her eyes, but come on. She is so not Alice in Wonderland.
2 - Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character, Tom, kind of bugged me, too. Come on, dude, get over it. Stop dwelling. Don't be so emo.
3 - I wanted to know more about Tom's friend Paul, whose screen time did nothing to flesh him out.
4 - Haha, Autumn. Get it? It's, like, ironic and stuff! Haha! No.
5 - Sometimes I like nonlinear storytelling. Sometimes I don't. This time I really didn't.

And then, because all of these things really did bug me about the movie, but because all of them combined don't really make me feel as though I've adequately described why I did not like the movie, I decided that maybe I don't have to describe it.

I decided I don't have to justify why I don't like a movie. Or a book. Or shrimp. Or anything else for that matter. Not liking something can be enough.

Maybe it's dumb, but it feels pretty liberating.

Help! There are (zombies/demons/vampires/etc) in my literature!

I've talked about literary zombies and other creatures of their ilk on here before. Quirk Classics has really made a name for themselves in a relatively short amount of time because of their smash mash-up hit Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. They are not, however, the only publishers who are currently waxing demonic.