Archive for July, 2009

Irony of ironies

Posted: July 30, 2009 in Uncategorized

Parent files complaint about book assigned as student reading

Tuesday, October 03, 2006 | 7:21 PM

Subject of ‘offensive’ book is book banning and censorship

By Deborah Wrigley(10/3/06 – KTRK/CONROE, TX) (KTRK) — A book about banning books is under fire. A Montgomery County family wants the classic novel “Fahrenheit 451” pulled from the high school reading list. But some students are working to show support for the book.

Harry Potter books have been the basis of complaints in recent years. But now a book that’s been on literary lists for years is suddenly being thrust into a debate over what’s appropriate reading material for students at one Conroe school.

“Fahrenheit 451” was first published 53 years ago. It’s said to be named for the temperature at which paper burns. In this world no free thought was allowed and books were destroyed by fire.

Two weeks ago at Caney Creek High School, a tenth grade English class was given “Fahrenheit 451” as a reading assignment. But Diana Verm stopped after a few pages. She said she was offended by “the cussing in it and the burning of the Bible.”

Diana complained to her father. She was given an alternate reading assignment, but her dad is pushing the issue. It is ironic in the truest sense that a fictional book on book banning is now the target of a request to remove it from school curriculum.

“With God’s name in vain being in there, that’s the number one reason,” said Diana’s father Alton Verm. “There’s no reason for it being read.”

 The school has appointed a committee to review Verm’s objections. But students are now circulating a petition in support of the book. They plan to wear t-shirts on Friday voicing their opinions.

“This was probably one of the greatest eye openers that we’ve had in our school curriculum,” said student rally organizer Darrell Lee. “A lot of the people who did sign said that of all the books they had to read, this was the one they enjoyed. It really makes you think about the situation.”

Coincidentally, this book was assigned during National Banned Book Week.

In the complaint filed against the school by Alton Verm, he listed each objected item line by line, complete with individual page numbers. Besides bad language and violence, Verm lists “downgrading Christians” and “talking about our firemen” as reasons the book should be banned. The school committee is expected to meet about the book.

(Copyright © 2006, KTRK-TV) (Copyright ©2009 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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Last summer my supervisor started putting me on the reference desk, as I’d completed at least one reference course working toward my MLIS. She figured it was time to initiate me in the wonder that is working with the public. And sometimes they really do make me wonder.

At first I was limited to a couple hours a week, but now I’m up to two or three shifts some weeks. But still, it can be an intimidating proposition. Thank goodness I’m never out there alone.

Summer, at least around here, can usually be counted on to be pretty quiet. There are summer reading sign ups for adults and young adults, and prizes to be handed out; books and other materials to locate and/or put on hold, etc. You know the basics. Aside from that, it’s usually quiet enough to get other work done in between patron questions and phone calls. Working the reference desk in the summer used to be a relaxing proposition, something to look forward to.

Not so this summer. I was on the desk yesterday, for the first time since my vacation, and never have I seen it so swamped. For the first half hour or so it wasn’t bad. There were questions, but nothing exceptional. And then it took off, continuing rapid fire for the rest of my shift. I and the other librarian were running the whole time, searching for materials or answering questions one after the other. Occasionally lines formed at the desk – something I’ve hardly ever seen – and the phone was rang off the hook.

There are loads of articles on the topic of libraries booming in this economic downturn, and I have seen the increase. But it’s never been like yesterday. I don’t work the desk every day, but I see how packed it is when I’m out in the library(normally I’m tucked safely away in the uber-quiet staff room). Some patrons are here to save money on books and other forms of entertainment, but others are seeking specific information on job searching, interviewing and resume writing.

We keep job ads from the local newspapers behind the reference desk, to lessen the chance they’ll be stolen. It’s a shame, but that’s how it must be. Patrons requesting these papers look more and more harried all the time, more defeated and forlorn. You have to feel for them, wishing you could do more.

Many days our parking lot’s so full I have to circle around a while to find a spot. It’s more than at-home moms making use of the library, unlike the old days when they and the retirees made up most of our daytime traffic. Now you see patrons from all age groups. While that is, theoretically, a good thing, it’s too bad it must come at such a price.

I wonder how many of these patrons currently making use of our services will continue coming once the economy turns up again, and they’re able to secure jobs? Surely a percentage will, but somehow I have the sinking feeling most won’t. Maybe I’m a pessimist (maybe?!), but once life returns to normal I don’t know what impact this current activity will have on the importance of the library in general.

Our county has been hit hard by unemployment. The current rate hovers around 10 %, which is huge. It will be a while before things start looking up again. In that time, what can we do to communicate to the public how willing we are to serve them, that we’re professionals in the information-seeking business?

In my own position, adult programming, I’ve scheduled job search program after job search program. But it’s not like people are knocking at the doors to get in. So far none of them have been full. What seems more popular are programs about saving money on groceries and essentials. Even a program on tips for winning sweepstakes was well-attended. But job search programs? So far not so much.

Why? One reason may be the perception of embarrassment attached to meeting other people who are also out of work. There may be misplaced shame attached to losing a job which is stronger than being seen asking for help. I honestly don’t know, but I am surprised.

Meanwhile, we’ll keep doing what we do, helping our patrons as much as we’re able. It’s a catch-22 seeing the library being utilized while people are struggling to make ends meet, knowing once things are better we’ll slow down again. We can’t wish them ill, but …

There’s only so much we can do; we have to face reality. In the interim, we can hope those who deal with new digital technology will keep us on the cutting edge, and that libraries won’t be seen as outdated institutions. Hopefully what we’re doing right now will raise our profile within the community. Chin up!

“Kindle” is synonymous with “the death of enjoyable reading” — here’s why.

July 28, 1:40 PM · Michaela Zamloot – SF Young Adult Literature Examiner

Take a look at the latest in false prophets — it even looks evil. (open.salon.com)

You’ve heard it all before: we are running, not walking, into an age built upon the immediate exchange of information. Emphasis on the immediacy – the instantaneous is swiftly becoming the norm, and it’s rolling over to influence our expectations in other walks of life as well. Just as quickly, to the tune of closing bookstores and dying newspapers, it’s become apparent that the world of literature had better hike up its pages and join the race.

The savior of the readers’ universe, our Superman, calls itself the Kindle. Actually, that’s what Amazon dubs it – and the concept is only slightly less ridiculous than the name. Acting as a a kind of adult-oriented Leapster, the device is a computer gadget about the size of a hardcover novel, though much thinner. It displays the text of your desired reading material on a gray (not harsh white, like those nasty desktops) screen in a page-free environment that safeguards you from the hazards of windy days and paper cuts. The Kindle provides you the opportunity to read it yourself, with the option of reference material for words you might not understand at the touch of a button. Or, if you’re feeling less motivated, your trusty library-on-the-go will read to you, in a polite but halting tone described by Nicholson Baker of The New Yorker as similar to Tom Hanks’ character in The Terminal, though more prone to mistaken auto-correcting. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos proudly explains, “we think reading is an important enough activity that it deserves a purpose-built device.”

Don’t make me laugh, Amazon.

The purpose of the Kindle is not to usher novels and newspapers into the age of technology. Nor is it to inspire legions of new readers. No no. The Kindle is a wolf cleverly designed in futuristic packaging that will take the first opportunity to huff, puff, and blow your library down. Despite the intensity of the publicity (ads thwarting your every click on Amazon.com, testimonials from average and celebrity readers alike) surrounding this innovation, it is in many ways a step backwards. To begin with, the device itself isn’t entirely streamlined. In the poignant words of Baker, “some engineer, tasked with keyboard design, has again been struck by a divine retro-futurist fire: the result is a squashed array of pill-shaped keys that combine the number row with the top QWERTY row in a peculiar tea party of un-ergonomicism.” As for the sophisticated screen, it achieves its advertised optical mildness through a color palate of gray upon gray upon gray. Medical texts are robbed of their colorful diagrams. Illustrations are an afterthought, small and squished – if they’re included at all. Newspapers suffer the most at the hands of this eco-friendly imposter, completely restructuring the careful page layouts, removing ads and illustrations, and occasionally even neglecting certain articles altogether.

As Baker once again so caustically summarizes, “Amazon is very good at selling things, but, to date, it hasn’t been as good at making things.” The Kindle may lessen environmental damage and possibly boost readership in its portable convenience, it’s true. But what is it that we receive in exchange? The careful formatting (which forms the basis of many jobs, I might add) of the newspaper is lost. The painstaking illustrations that accompany novels and nonfiction alike appear in low-quality grayscale, if they’re remembered at all. Worst of all, the investment in the Kindle is actually a temporary limitation of the quality of your library: titles of such prominence as The World According to Garp, Love in the Time of Cholera, A Clockwork Orange, and Jasmine are conspicuously absent from the list of available titles. Granted, they will be added eventually, but at a high cost, often much more expensive than the physical books themselves.

Those with the desire to read should research their alternatives first: there’s the Sony Reader, which has a better page-turning control and can handle PDF documents without conversion. Or better yet, save your money and download the Kindle application for your iPhone or iPod touch (yes, I know you have one, and yes, it’s ok) – the same portability with a more familiar whiteness to your pages. The other choices are worth looking into, if for no other reason than the fact that Kindle books are not transferrable. Whatever you purchase goes to your Kindle and stays there, trapped within the thin little plastic and protruding keys.

So I implore you, the readers of the 21st century and beyond, not to abandon your bookshelves. There is something so immaculate about the sight of the neatly arrayed titles, waiting to be displaced and perused, something so alluring in the smell of an old book, something so provocative in the crackling of a library cover. These things may not be widely appreciated, but they are the small mementos left in the consciousness of one who has read and enjoyed it. Array yourself in Blackberrys and iPods, have a field day in Best Buy. But for goodness sake, remember that it’s ok to pick up a book every once in a while – and a real one at that.

Still not convinced? Check out Nicholson Baker’s review.

Copyright 2009 Examiner.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Author
Michaela Zamloot is an Examiner from San Francisco. You can see Michaela’s articles at: “http://www.Examiner.com/x-14893-SF-Young-Adult-Literature-Examiner”

From The Washington Post:

Current Patrons Caught in Purge Of Library Files

By Emma Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 24, 2009

 

The accounts of hundreds of D.C. public library card holders were accidentally deleted during a purge of inactive and duplicate accounts, library officials said Thursday. Those affected cannot check out books or use most of the library’s online services without visiting a branch to reactivate their accounts.

The records of about 147,000 patrons who had not used their cards to check out books or DVDs since March 1, 2007, were deleted June 18, IT Director Chris Tonjes said. But along with the targeted accounts, the records of at least several hundred active patrons who don’t check out books but do use the library’s online resources were eliminated.

The purge was meant to eliminate inactive and duplicate accounts as well as inaccurate information, Tonjes said, in part because the cost of the library’s electronic resources is based on the number of active patrons.

“We learned a lot,” Tonjes said. “We didn’t really think we would have a segregated population of people who only use the library for one set of activities rather than a whole set of activities. That was a surprise that came out of this.”

Also deleted were the records of a small group of library users whose cards were incorrectly registered, he said.

The District has been a leader among library systems in providing online resources, including downloadable videos and audio books and searchable databases. But data on their use are kept separately from the databases that track physical use of the library’s materials. Now, Tonjes said, those data sets will be merged.

In the first three days after the purge, about 270 people complained that they had lost access to their accounts. The library is not keeping track of the total number of patrons affected, Tonjes said, but he guessed that it was fewer than 1,000.

Library users can reactivate their cards by bringing identification to any of the city’s 25 library branches.

Vacation 2009

Posted: July 16, 2009 in Uncategorized

I’m back from a two-week whirlwind vacation to the Pacific Northwest, and what a trip it was. Many days we had 12-hour drives, getting to and from Chicago to various points in Oregon, Washington and Montana. But the scenery was beautiful, as these photos attest:

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

Newberry National Monument, Oregon

Newberry National Monument, Oregon

Now it’s time to buckle down and get caught up. No easy feat. I have to set up an appointment to see a librarian at Northern Illinois University, to discuss my practicum, buy books for my fall course on consumer health librarianship, and also register for an online course on writing for professional library journals. And, being me, I also have to figure out how to juggle a million different things.

C’est la vie.

Encyclopædia Britannica Named In Top 10 Uk Consumer Superbrands

Posted at 8:33AM Thursday 16 Jul 2009

Encyclopædia Britannica, the leading provider of learning and knowledge products online, in digital media and in books, was today announced as the number 10 UK Consumer Superbrand for 2009/10, ranking alongside the country’s leading brand names and beating companies such as Marks & Spencer, Sony and Nike.

Encyclopædia Britannica, which has a 240-year history, represents the only publishing brand in the Top 50. At number 10 – moving up 19 spots from number 29 in 2008/9 – Encyclopædia Britannica is recognised by the British public as one of the nation’s best-known and respected brands – representing quality, reliability and distinction. The UK Consumer Superbrand announcement follows an independent polling process that taps into the views of more than 2,100 British consumers aged 18 and above.

Ian Grant, Managing Director, Encyclopædia Britannica (UK) Ltd, says: “Britannica is very pleased to hit the top ten consumer Superbrands. It shows that in an uncertain world consumers increasingly value rigorously created information, accessibly published both online and in print. This recognition by consumers is a tribute to the quality of the contributors we commission, the editorial team who check and double-check all the text and pictures and to the marketing team who make our material so readily available, prompting the voters to push Britannica up the rankings as one of the most rapid risers of all the Superbrands.”

The annual Superbrands survey, now in its 14th year, has become an industry gauge into the strongest brands across a wide variety of sectors. The selection process was independently administered by The Centre for Brand Analysis (TCBA) on behalf of the Superbrands organisation.