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)