Archive for November, 2008

This blog needs some color!

Posted: November 20, 2008 in Uncategorized




I need to post more photos here. It’s so NOT cheery and fun without them. It’ll give you a break from my ceaseless blah, blah, blah, too.

Oh, by the way, as long as we’re talking about me, you can check out some of my photos at this site. I’m still working on uploading them, but I have a few there. It’ll give you something to do in between all that boring work and stuff.


Color me lazy, but rather than copying and pasting articles I’ve posted on my “Librarian, Uncensored” blog I’m going to use Mr. Linky to do that for me. Click on him and he’ll take you over.

Swing on over and check ’em out! Loads of great book news today. Too much to post on, actually. I’ll have to save some stuff for tomorrow.

From (Canada):

(Full text)

November 16, 2008

A Somali Canadian mosque in Toronto is being condemned, rightly so, for carrying anti-Semitic and anti-Western messages on its website. This, though, does invite a question: Where are the free-speech advocates defending the right of this group to say whatever the heck it wants?

There aren’t any, rightly so. But we can be certain that if some other group was saying similar vile things about Muslims and Islam, free speechers would be out in droves defending it.

This double standard is at the heart of the recurring controversies bedevilling relations between the Western and Muslim worlds, from the Danish cartoon episode to Maclean’s magazine being dragged, unsuccessfully, before three human rights commissions in Canada.

The issue is not going away. In fact, it is coming to a head.

When Pope Benedict held a historic dialogue with Muslims in Rome recently, the final communiqué said this of religious minorities: “Their founding figures and the symbols they consider sacred should not be subjected to any form of mockery or ridicule.”

The Catholics and Muslims present have jointly challenged a fundamental tenet of free speech, that religion is not above ridicule.

At the just-ended special multifaith session of the United Nations, 80 nations derided the “serious instances of intolerance, discrimination, expressions of hatred and harassment of minority religious communities of all faiths.”

The meeting was held at the behest of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (backed by the U.S. and Israel, as an antidote to Iran).

The theme was picked up Thursday by Pakistani President Asif Zardari: “Hate speech aimed at inciting people against any religion must be unacceptable.”

This has been the stance of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a group of 57 nations with majority or significant Muslim populations. And the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council has passed resolutions calling for “combating defamation of religion.”

All this has been challenged. The human rights council is dismissed, rightly, as the playground of states that routinely violate human rights at home.

Abdullah’s outreach is seen as a smokescreen to hide the severe restrictions on non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia.

The campaign to curb post-9/11 Islamophobia in North America and Europe is described as a tool autocrats use to prosecute domestic dissidents, mostly Muslims, on trumped up charges of blasphemy.

Meanwhile, Canada, the U.S., the European Union and free speech groups have been campaigning against any limits on free speech.

All of the above represents one side of the ledger. On the other is the reality of the systematic vilification of Muslims, particularly the linking of Islam to violence (ignoring that people of all faiths – Christians, in particular – have shed a lot of blood invoking their gods).

Islamophobia “tends to dehumanize an entire faith, portraying it as fundamentally alien and attributing to its followers an inherent, essential set of negative traits, such as irrationality, intolerance and violence,” notes the U.S. media watch group, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. “Not unlike the charges made in the classical document of anti-Semitism, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, some of Islamophobia’s more virulent expressions include evocations of Islamic plots to dominate the West.”

Free speech advocates need to separate themselves from such racism. Otherwise, they will continue to be seen as defending only those mocking Muslims and Islam.

Freedom of speech has limits in Canada and Europe (but not in the U.S.) I am agnostic on the subject. But so long as anti-hate laws exist, critics cannot pretend that they don’t. And invoking them selectively only devalues their currency and discredits our democracies.

There is also self-restraint. We – the media, especially – exercise it every day. But we often abandon such constraints with Muslims and Islam. That’s the real issue.

People of principle ought to get out of the dark alley of double standards and hypocrisy if they are to defend free speech properly and not add to the dangerous levels of animosity in the world.
Haroon Siddiqui’s column appears Thursday and Sunday.

From UC – San Diego:

By Deepak Seeni
Staff Writer   

Monday, Nov. 17, 2008

The American Federation of Teachers, on behalf of University of California librarians, began talks Nov. 5 over librarian salaries and the availability of professional development funds. Negotiators aim to raise librarian salaries to a level comparable to those at the California State University and California community college systems.

The negotiations will also address economic concerns that have risen over the past several years, including childcare support and tuition waivers for librarians. The talks follow negotiations held last spring between UC-AFT negotiators and university administrators regarding all noneconomic concerns raised by UC librarians and UC-AFT.

UC-AFT field representative Maria Tillman said negotiations will also focus on obtaining funding for professional development efforts that aim to keep UC librarians and their staffs up to date on contemporary information technology geared toward academic research.

“University-level research requires far more than Google and Wikipedia, and this university’s information search and retrieval systems are growing increasingly sophisticated,” Tillman said. “Librarians, especially at UC, must have the resources to master more skills than ever to aid students, faculty and other researchers in navigating these systems.”

According to pamphlets released by UC-AFT, UC librarians earn an annual average of $10,000 less than their colleagues at both the CSU and community college systems through beginning, intermediate and senior positions.

“Salaries have a major impact on the kind of librarians we can recruit and retain,” said Fred Lonidier, president of UC-AFT Local 2034, the union for non-Academic Senate faculty and librarians at UCSD. “If we continue to rely on … less experienced professionals we are going to inevitably face reduced research and information services.”

Additionally, UC-AFT has expressed alarm over the UC campuses losing several places in the annual Association of Research rankings. Negotiators attribute this drop to unsatisfactory recruitment and retention rates for UC librarians.

According to UC-AFT, these retention problems are a result of  uncompetitive salary rates when compared to those offered by private sector libraries, California public libraries, CSU campuses and community college libraries.

“We are having trouble filing positions because librarians know [the UC system] is no longer paying as well as [the CSU system] or many community colleges,” Tillman said. “If the UC continues to provide lower salaries than those offered at competing institutions, I think we will see an eventual demise in the educational quality and research capabilities of the university.”

UC-AFT negotiators and university administrators have not yet established any agreements over salary renegotiations. The two groups plan to meet again Nov. 19 to continue negotiations and address the concerns expressed by UC-AFT.

Readers can contact Deepak Seeni at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

From Watertown Daily (New York):


North country libraries are on the chopping block under the governor’s proposed budget cuts, which could mean fewer books on the shelves and a loss of personnel and services.

Gov. David A. Paterson announced last week that midyear cuts to the state’s budget are needed — including a 20 percent cut to state library systems. State lawmakers begin a special session in Albany today to deal with the budget crisis.

“This is totally inequitable and disproportionate to everything else that’s being cut in the budget,” said Stephen B. Bolton, director of the North Country Library System. “We’ve already taken a cut and we’ve contributed to any budget problems the state might have. We don’t share in gains during the good times and we shouldn’t have to share in the pain during the bad times.”

If legislators back the governor’s proposal, it could mean about $350,000 in cuts to NCLS. The system serves more than 60 libraries in Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence and Oswego counties. Mr. Bolton said funding to NCLS was already cut 2 percent earlier this year.

“It’s already meant 14 jobs lost in this area and there could be more,” he said.

“It’s sad because when the economy is bad more people use libraries,” Mr. Bolton said. “The number of visits and circulation is up, and if at the same time people aren’t there to help them, we’re going to have to charge fees and it’s going to harm our libraries.”

Under governor’s proposed cuts, Mr. Bolton said the new Incentive Grant made available to libraries though NCLS would be eliminated. He said there would be increased circulation fees, less travel and deliveries between libraries, no additional books or materials purchased and NCLS would no longer contribute money toward shared Internet databases like Heritage Quest and Learning Express.

That means patrons could see fewer books, longer wait times for deliveries of inter-library loaned materials and fewer librarians.

Linda M. McCullough, director of the Carthage Free Library, said even though everyone was expecting the cuts, “it’s scary.”

“We’re very concerned about it,” she said. “We’re going to try to do the best we can with what we have, but these cuts are serious.”

Mr. Bolton said NCLS has set up a link on its Web site,, so anyone interested can contact local elected officials to express an opinion about the cuts.


(Full Text)

GALVESTON — The Rosenberg Library, Galveston County’s main public library, is collecting stories of Galveston residents who rode out Hurricane Ike on the island and those who fled. Librarians are preparing a history project called “Memories of Ike.” The library is closed because of damage caused by Ike.

On its Web site, library officials write that recording Hurricane Ike from the viewpoint of the everyday person offers a chance to understand the disaster from the “ground up.” The library also welcomes personal accounts of people who evacuated. The written information will eventually be available to researchers and authors.

Ike swamped the first floor of the library and destroyed some of the building’s internal systems. Information:

From (full text):

I tell this story tediously often, but as we’re not married, it’ll be new to you. When I was a university undergraduate, a female friend of mine got an invitation to tea from Professor Miri Rubin, the august early-modern historian (who’s now a regular on Radio 4’s In Our Time).

“I asked you here,” Professor Rubin explained, “to tell you that you are an intelligent woman. And throughout your life, people are going to be discomfited by that fact, and they’ll pressure you to conceal it. But you have to be strong enough to walk into the room and say ‘Hello, I am an intelligent and serious-minded young woman, and if that’s not to your taste, that’s your problem.’ Understand?”

Nodding weakly and gulping her tea, my friend hurried down to the bar, where we all had a good laugh at the Professor’s pronouncement. We hadn’t a clue what she was talking about. Fifteen years of real life later, it makes perfect sense.

I was reminded of this episode last week, when I found out that my first book, Selling Your Father’s Bones, had been shortlisted for this year’s John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. The venerable award is given to the best work of literature by a UK or Commonwealth writer under the age of 35, so making the shortlist, alongside such talents as Aravind Adiga and Ross Raisin, was a genuinely breath-taking, eye-welling moment. But there was also a feeling of curiosity, perhaps confusion. The six of us on the list were all men. And the five authors who’d made the shortlist for this year’s Guardian First Book Prize were also all men. John Dugdale, writing in Saturday’s Guardian, called it a “strange pattern”. So what’s going on?

The first explanation is that there’s a gender bias in the judging of literary awards. I think that’s absolutely not the case (“But then you would say that…”). Women held the majority vote on the John Llewellyn Rhys panel and the chairpersonship of the Guardian prize – and it’s surely a testament to how very seriously the judges took their responsibility that they didn’t hastily re-shuffle the pack when they spotted the chromosome imbalance of their final selections.

Do, perhaps, publishing houses nominate their young male authors for awards more liberally than their young female ones? Again, no, as publishing houses by and large nominate every possible book for every conceivable prize they have even the slightest chance of winning. That scattergun knows no bias.

But does the literary industry as a whole – agents, editors, booksellers and critics – currently offer disproportionate encouragement to aspiring male writers to produce the kind of serious-minded, bookish work that gets on shortlists, compared to young female writers? Now, I suspect, we’re on to something.

It’s pretty clear that our culture as a whole is still more comfortable in the company of brainy, opinionated men than women – try thinking of the last major “authored documentary” series on TV in which a female intellectual wandered between the ruins and portraits, being pithy to camera, in place of Messrs Schama, Starkey, Ferguson, Hunt, Collings, Graham-Dixon, Meades, Hart-Davies or Cruikshank. Publishing may once have been a rebellious outpost against this hegemony, but my feeling is that as the industry has steadily lost confidence in the British public’s capacity for seriousness, the pressure to move away from the heavy stuff has fallen more on female writers than male.

Giant new genres demand to be filled by predominantly female talent – misery memoirs, life-affirming “Richard and Judy” fiction, narcisso-journalism, plus the ever-resilient chick-lit – while the male-dominated opportunities to follow the market – blood-axes and bodices, copying Danny Wallace or being a former member of the SAS/Chelsea Headhunters/Cosa Nostra/all of the above – fill much less of the bookshop. It also feels to me that publishers are more willing to tell (and often kid) themselves that they’ve just uncovered the next Norman Mailer, a young man primed to burst into the literary top rank with a single almighty debut, than when faced with a fresh female face (upon whose features they will, of course, linger with unseemly interest).

Of course, many spectacular works by young women do reach the shelves unscathed, so there could be nothing in this. A former John Llewellyn Rhys judge told me that gender is “a complete non-issue – what newspapers write about because they struggle to write about books”. But I’d like to be sure. Because like most writers, I’m rabidly competitive – and true competitors can’t stand the thought of being handed an unfair advantage.