Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Why the Internet Needs Librarians More Than Ever

From an essay at Degree Tutor: #9 of 33 Reasons Why Librarians and Librarians are Still Important
In fact, technology is revealing that the real work of librarians is not just placing books on bookshelves. Rather, their work involves guiding and educating visitors on how to find information, regardless of whether it is in book or digital form. Technology provides better access to information, but it is a more complex tool, often requiring specialized know-how. This is a librarian’s specialty, as they dedicate themselves to learning the most advanced techniques to help visitors access information effectively. It’s in their job description.

Give us librarians our props already! Read all 33 reasons, so you don't have to ask the question ever again.

Thanks to Joyce Valenza's NeverEnding Search for the link.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Great Graphic Novels

In case you didn't know, the "graphic" part means pictures, not explicit. Some people call them "comics" but we're not talkin' your average Snoopy or Superman here.

The American Library Association has released its first list of Great Graphic Novels for Teens. At the top are these 10: links go to various reviews and other information sources

Over a Thousand Hills I Walk With You
Reading Across Borders - Book #1

I've just finished reading my first book for the Reading Across Borders challenge! Anybody who's seen my "Reading Soon" list will know that I've been meaning to get to this one for several months, so thanks go to the challenge for finally getting it off the stack.

This is the slightly fictionalized story of Jeanne, small daughter of a privileged Tutsi family in Kibungo, Rwanda. She was 8 years old when her family was murdered by Hutu gangs (some of them their own neighbors) in the 1994 Rwandan genocide rampage (perhaps 1 million people killed, in just 100 days). Jeanne saw with her own eyes her mother and older brother being killed with machetes and clubs; she heard a first-hand account of her father and little sister's deaths.

Through luck and determination, Jeanne survived the massacre time, and eventually came to be adopted by a German family in Cologne. The novel was written by Jeanne's new mom, as a way of processing Jeanne's overwhelming grief and guilt, to honor her daughter's first family, and to highlight this under-reported time in our modern history. The title comes from a tale told by Jeanne's grandmother, of a wise king of Africa who persevered on a seemingly endless quest, and honored a difficult promise. His courage, determination and faith were rewarded by the King of Heaven.

At the end of reading, I am thoughtful, and I want to learn more. The writing is straightforward, neither lyrical nor flat -- we notice the story rather than the style. The translation is so good that it's not obviously translated. While not likely to fly off the shelves, this is a very engaging and important read, and I will definitely be recommending it.

For more information and reviews, see here, and the author's website. The Wikipedia article on the Rwandan genocide is here.

Librarians to a T

From an interview with New York Times technology columnist David Pogue:

He said that, like teachers, librarians seem to dedicate their lives to helping others, primarily for the joy and satisfaction of it, with little or no possibility for fame or fortune.


Friday, January 19, 2007

The Reading Across Borders Challenge

If you're an enthusiastic reader, there are hundreds of websites written by smart readers with lots to share. One site is Kate's Book Blog, written by a woman in Toronto. Her 2007 reading resolution is to read more international fiction, especially works translated into English from other languages. Hence, Kate's Reading Across Borders Challenge.
The idea is to determine which countries or regions tend to dominate your reading and to commit to reading a number of books over the course of 2007 which take you beyond those countries or regions.
Combining the challenge and the job, I resolve to read fiction and narrative non-fiction of interest to teens, from Africa, Latin American, South and East Asia (or translated books from anywhere for YAs).

What would be on your challenge reading list?

The first few on my list:
An Innocent Soldier (Josef Holub, translated from Czech?) YA
Kartography (Kamila Shamsie, Pakistan)
Swimming in the Monsoon Sea (Shyam Selvadurai, Sri Lanka) YA

Others I've already read and recommend to anyone willing to take up the challenge:
Belgium - Kipling's Choice. Geert Spillebeen. translated from Flemish (?) YA
Canada - Monkey Beach. Eden Robinson.
Central Asia/Kazakhstan - The Day Lasts a Thousand Years. Chingiz Aitmatov, translated from Russian
Australia - I Am the Messenger. Markus Zusak (marketed in the US as YA)
Botswana - The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency. Alexander McCall Smith
Russia (Soviet Union) - The Master and Margarita. Mikhail Bulgakov. translated from Russian

For more international reading suggestions, check out Around the World in 100 Books.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Banish Boring Barcodes?

Wouldn't it be cool to have customized art barcodes on all our library materials? Think of the possibilities -- the school logo with a barcode incorporated, or different barcode styles for different book genres.

I've never really thought about it (just like 99% of the world), but libraries really are one of the only users who re-use barcodes, over and over again. Barcode Revolution, the Japanese group responsible for these samples, hasn't thought of us, but there's no reason that they couldn't (and no reason that Sagebrush or any of the other library automation suppliers couldn't jump on this in a heartbeat.) Third-party suppliers could probably write up a software plug-in fairly quickly too. All other things being relatively equal, I'd go for a system with cute barcode capability. Wouldn't you?

Thanks to Librarian in Black for the pointer.

Friday, January 12, 2007

"See You in the Funny Pages": Unshelved

Librarians take their "Reader's Advisory" roles seriously!

I've just discovered Unshelved, said to be the only regular comic strip set in a public library. Given that this is a pretty specific niche, I don't doubt it. And I like it! Maybe you will too.

Click on the picture to see it full-sized.

ps -- I forgot -- there's another library-related comic strip at Turn the Page.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Books: The 'Ultimate Dumpees'

link to info at
I love this quote, from an abundance of katherines, the new YA novel by award-winning author John Greene. In it, burned-out child prodigy Colin is devastated by his most recent lost love, the 19th Katherine to have gone out with and then broken up with him since 3rd grade. Colin become obsessed with developing a mathematical theorem involving Dumpers (people like Katherines) and Dumpees (people like himself), to predict the course of a any relationship. The Theorem isn't working out.

The reading quieted his brain a little. Without Katherine and without the Theorem and without his hopes of mattering, he had very little. But he always had books. Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they'll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they
always love you back.

How true. And how wonderful!

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Search the World's Libraries with WorldCat

After you've checked the Paideia Library catalog (whether for a specific item, or for anything we may have on your topic), don't go directly to a bookstore -- try a search with WorldCat. This is a project of the venerable OCLC, one of the pioneers in computerized library catalogs.

Click on any of the results that look promising, and you'll find a box to enter your zip code. WorldCat will show you which nearby public and/or university libraries own the item you need. Maybe the Atlanta-Fulton County or DeKalb libraries, or Emory, Georgia State or Agnes Scott. Try it for yourself in the search box below. Have fun with it!


Search for an item in libraries near you:

When Sailing the High Seas, Avoid Indonesia

I'm reading through a stack of new-ish books, prepping for some booktalks in the coming weeks. In one of the novels I read yesterday, a survival/adventure called Red Sea, a 14-year-old girl is left to captain a sailboat to safety after modern-day pirates attack them, killing her stepfather and critically wounding her mother.

Today, I stumbled across a list called 50 Things to Do With Google Maps Mashups (a mashup is an online service or information source created by combining the power of two separate Internet sources, like a list of houses for sale with a mapping service). And wouldn't you know, somebody out there has combined 2006 data from the International Piracy Reporting Center with Google maps, to create a "Live Piracy Map" of high risk areas. Two attempted and two actual pirate attacks in the Red Sea in 2006, but oh, my. The Indonesian archipelago is the winner by a mile. Who knew?