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For the past decade Library Journal has been honoring librarians who’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty, singling them out via the “Movers and Shakers Award” for their innovation, service and ways they’ve otherwise raised the profile of quality library service.

This post is the first in a series of interviews I conducted with the 2011 Mover & Shaker winners. Here’s to the librarians who’ve brought so much innovation to the field!

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Jaime HammondLibrary Journal March 15, 2011: Jaime Hammond , Mover & Shaker

 

Library name: Naugatuck Valley Community College    

Library type (public, academic, etc.): Academic, 2 year Community College

Address: 750 Chase Parkway Waterbury CT

Website: nvcc.commnet.edu/library

Your/other websites: movablelibrary.wordpress.com

Why she was chosen for this honor:

 

 Antidote to Apathy

The library at Naugatuck Valley Community College (NVCC), in Waterbury, CT, serves students from every socioeconomic and educational background. Despite its wide mandate, until this past summer the library’s main entrance was a narrow passage hidden on a lower level of campus.

It was then that reference/serials librarian Jaime Hammond, working on a limited budget, reimagined the “secondary” entrance on the main artery as the central one.

“Jamie made sure the main level entrance was expanded, with all library services easily accessible from the school’s major thoroughfare,” says nominator Kate Sheehan, an open source implementation coordinator at the nonprofit Bibliomation, which provides technological and automation services for over five dozen Connecticut public libraries and schools.

The more prominent location, says Hammond, allowed “for the most exposure to students as they pass by.” It was an immediate improvement. “We were able to make a maximum impact with minimum changes, materials, and costs, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Opening doors is what Hammond is all about. An active member of professional organizations including the Connecticut Library Association, she cochaired the 2010 annual conference. Sheehan calls her “Connecticut’s antidote to cynicism, lethargy, and apathy.”

Today, the NVCC library renovation continues—on a strict budget. For Hammond, at NVCC since 2007, the financial limitations present the right kind of challenge. “[I’ve] always been artistic and interested in design, [but] I never thought my career choice to become a librarian would allow me to be this creative,” she says. “My desk is covered in flooring samples, tape measures, and fabric swatches.”

1).        Do you hold an MLS degree? From which school?

Yes, Southern Connecticut State University, 2005

2).        If you hold an MLS, what was your undergraduate field of study? Have you applied that degree in your library career?

My undergraduate degree is from Sarah Lawrence College and is in Liberal Arts. Yes, I apply it every day!

3).        Is there anything unique about the history and/or architecture of your library?

Well, the architecture of my library is sort of what earned me the Movers and Shakers nod! Our library is on the 4th and 5th floors of a building that is connected to the other buildings via the 5th floor. The stacks are interior and connected by tiny staircases that resemble Escher’s Relativity. It’s… unique.

4).        What stands out about your library? What special features or services does it offer?

Other than the odd layout, our library has some wonderful features. Our new classroom is laid out in an X shape, with the instructor at the center, to group the students naturally and allow the instructor to move around the class freely. Our most exciting space is our Collaboration Studio- a room with three of Steelcase’s “media:scapes”- a collaborative workspace ideal for group projects. Users can project their laptops onto a 42” flat panel monitor and switch off between users using a switcher technology called a PUCK.

5).        How many patrons does your library serve?

We have approximately 5000 FTE, plus community members.

6).        What is the demographic in your area?

We are located in Waterbury, CT, an urban area with a high unemployment rate.

7).        What are your favorite reading genres? Any favorite books or authors you’ve read recently?

I like fiction- specifically magical realism and mystery. The last book I absolutely loved was Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese.

 8).        What are your thoughts on the eBook vs. book debate? Will books as we know them ever be completely usurped by eBooks?

As a community college librarian, most of our students don’t have ebook readers and some don’t have computers or internet access at home. I think that if the library provided an ereader with textbooks on it, the students would like that, but the demand hasn’t trickled down to us yet.

9).        Have your patrons been receptive to eBooks?

See above

10).      Finally, what concerns – if any – do you have about the future of libraries?

I think the future of public libraries is probably different from academic libraries, in that our students are still being forced to use the library! However, I take my two young sons to the library every Saturday, and I know that they value it as much as I do. I hope that people continue to realize what a gift libraries are, and that librarians actually remind people of that as well!

Author Robyn Okrant spent one year living the Oprah life as expressed on her TV show and website. Then she wrote a book about her experience, outlining the good, the bad and the ugly.

Robyn will be here to read from her book and answer questions about her experiences, writing, and anything else that’s on your mind. After the reading there will be a book signing.

Come out and meet Robyn Okrant! It’s sure to be a fun and inspirational event.

Robyn Okrant

Wednesday, September 28

7:00 p.m.

Algonquin Area Public Library – 7:00

Description from Amazon:

Product Description

What happens when a thirty-five-year-old average American woman spends one year following every piece of Oprah Winfrey’s advice on how to “live your best life”? Robyn Okrant devoted 2008 to adhering to all of Oprah’s suggestions and guidance delivered via her television show, her Web site, and her magazine. LIVING OPRAH is a month-by-month account of that year.
Some of the challenges included enrollment in Oprah’s Best Life Challenge for physical fitness and weight control, living vegan, and participating in Oprah’s Book Club. After 365 days of LIVING OPRAH, Okrant reflects on the rewards won and lessons learned as well as the tolls exacted by the experiment.

About the Author

Robyn Okrant is a writer, filmmaker, performer, and yoga teacher. A graduate of Bennington College, she also holds an MFA in performance from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She lives with her husband and two cats in Chicago.

For the past decade Library Journal has been honoring librarians who’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty, singling them out via the “Movers and Shakers Award” for their innovation, service and ways they’ve otherwise raised the profile of quality library service.

This post is the first in a series of interviews I conducted with the 2011 Mover & Shaker winners. Here’s to the librarians who’ve brought so much innovation to the field!

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Name:  Anthony Molaro

Library name:  Messenger Public Library, Aurora, IL

Library type (public, academic, etc.):  Public

Address:  113 Oak Street, North Aurora, IL 60542

Website:  http://informationactivist.com/

Why he was chosen for this honor:

Information Activist

Anthony Molaro is a true “information activist.” Whether he’s blogging as the Information Activist Librarian, engaged as a public speaker, or gathering like-minded people to support a worthy cause, he is driven by “the poor understanding of the role of libraries in a democratic society.” As a regular contributor to the Libraries and Transliteracy blog, Molaro is part of a team that is committed to removing barriers between people and information. They recognize the importance of library support for communicating across a range of platforms, from reading and hand writing to signing and social networking. But Molaro does more than write. He cofounded Chicago Deskset, a local offshoot of the New York City—based group of librarians, bibliophiles, and information professionals who “thrive through social events and give something back to our community.” A supporter of libraries in their essential form, he believes that attacks on libraries, intellectual freedom, and human rights can be countered with “the very stories contained within our walls.” Those stories illustrate a critical service in action. “There is no greater reward in the world than knowing that our profession saves lives,” he says. “Whether it is a lonely senior or a kid trying to find [his] way in this world, their sanctuary is the public library.”

1).        Do you hold an MLS degree? From which school?

            MBA Elmhurst College

            MLIS Dominican University

            PhD Anticipated Dominican University

2).        If you hold an MLS, what was your undergraduate field of study? Have you applied that degree in your library career?

            BA History.  History, like LIS, is an all encompassing field.  Much of what I have learned pursuing that degree has been relevant in my current position.

3).        Is there anything unique about the history and/or architecture of your library?

            My library is known for its porches and fireplace.

4).        What stands out about your library? What special features or services does it offer?

            Messenger Public Library stands out because of the level of service it offers.  Since I started, we have been the first in the area to lend out eReaders, create a video game collection, lend out comic books, dump RFID, and create a Blu-ray collection.  We are on the cutting edge but have managed to avoid the bleeding edge.

5).        How many patrons does your library serve?

            Our geographic boundary is 15,848.  However we are often the library of use for many patrons in both Aurora (who does not have a branch anywhere near so many of their patrons) and Sugar Grove (the library is closed on Sunday and Monday and only open half days for Friday and Saturday).

6).        What is the demographic in your area?

            About 80% white, 10% Latino, 5% African-American

7).        What are your favorite reading genres? Any favorite books or authors you’ve read recently?

            As a PhD Candidate, most of my reading is related to LIS theory and research theory.  On my free time I tend to read nonfiction.

8).        What are your thoughts on the eBook vs. book debate? Will books as we know them ever be completely usurped by eBooks?

Usurped is a tricky word.  If by that do you mean that eBooks will have a larger market share than print books, well yes I do think that will happen much sooner than we had thought.  For libraries, the important question is whether we will be forced out of the eBook race.  If publishers and retailers continue to create services, products and terms that leave libraries out, well then we are faced with forced obsolesces. 

9).        Have your patrons been receptive to eBooks?

            Yes, our patrons have used eBook services that we have offered, and they turn to us for recommendations on eReader advice.  Our local Barnes & Nobles pushes Overdrive and libraries pretty hard.  I’m not sure if this is universal for B&N or if it’s just the one by us, but it has been great.

10).      Finally, what concerns – if any – do you have about the future of libraries?

            I am worried that we don’t see the writing on the wall.  I believe that libraries need to shift their focus from content consumption to content creation.  YouMedia is the future of libraries.  Those that don’t see that will follow what the systems are experiencing in the state. 

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As an “expert” in Technology, Technological Exploration, Technical Services, Management & Leadership Issues, Strategic Planning, Social Media, Information Activism, Social Justice, and all around coolness, I am available to speak to your library group.  You may contact me at anthony.molaro@gmail.com.

Upcoming Presentations:

April 8, 2011: Schaumburg, IL, “eBooks: Dreams, Realities & Nightmares”, LACONI Technology Section.

September, 2011, Chicago, IL, “Grassroots Organizing: How Librarians are Getting Stuff Done”, Illinois Library Association 2011 Annual Conference with Leah White and Adam Girard.

Chances are there’s a Borders store near you that’s either closing or will close within the next year. Fortunately, the store in my town will remain open – for now – though another location 15 minutes north of here isn’t quite so lucky.

I’ve visited the unfortunate Borders store three times since they put up the deadly yellow “Store Closing Sale!” and “Everything Must Go!” banners, and each time felt a bit like a vulture. Every time I visit I’m effectively picking the bones of the carcass that was once a bustling store. And it’s a distinctly cringe-worthy feeling I don’t like at all.

I know it’s inevitable the store must rid itself of inventory, but at the same time it’s just so sad. I’ve spent a lot of time there since it went up, though, admittedly I preferred the Barnes & Noble down the street (better selection, more comfy chairs, more neutral decor), but I still spent a lot of time at Borders, partly because I’m a member of their rewards program and received regular coupons, because I spent that much there (DID I EVER!). There’s another reason I’m shocked it’s closing, that I wasn’t able to keep them in the black with my purchases alone.

But it’s not just the local closings that’s bothersome. It’s more the fact Borders is one of the two book mega-chains, the brick and mortar biggies that were responsible for putting the independents – with few exceptions – out of business years ago. Now they’re going bankrupt, struggling to keep themselves alive by streamlining, cutting jobs and closing less profitable stores. So, without the assurance Borders will make it, everything now hinges on Barnes & Noble. And it’s having its share of problems, too.

Why? I see the reason as two-fold: first, GIANT retailer Amazon is able to undercut the prices of all brick and mortar stores, and second, the spectre of eBooks that require no manufacturing, no shipping and the convenience of instant delivery. Oh, and they’re generally cheaper than regular books.

So, what will happen to books once eBooks eventually take over? Or will they? Look at the music industry. Once there were Victrolas, then reel-to-reel and vinyl records. Along came 8-track tapes (a travesty!), cassettes, then CDs. Now, iPods and electronic downloads.

Recording artists are also having their works pirated, downloaded for absolutely free online, cutting their profits to the bone. Once books go all electronic the same will happen with them, you can bet on it. Writers who’re unable to live off writing proceeds alone will have that much less incentive to write – assuming they’re not in it for the love of the art itself. What will happen to the publishing industry? As goes music, soon will follow books.

Best case scenario, used book stores will thrive. Those of us who covet the written book will be able to get our fix buying lower-priced, pre-owned if you will, books. And there’s always print on demand, too. Not a bad option, at least if they’re priced reasonably.

For the sake of disclosure, though I love books I own a Sony eReader. I even have the Kindle app on my iPhone. And, when Kindles are given away for free – which is rumored to start happening by the end of this year – I’ll take one of those, as well. I do buy eBooks. I love the portability of them, the fact I can load up on library and bookstore books, carrying a virtual library with me wherever I go.

So, have I stopped buying books? Not by a long shot! Instead I’ve been buying way too much, between eBooks and book books. Not the best financial strategy, but I’m putting the brakes on that right now. Right. Now. Or, after I’ve bought the last batch of cheap books at the doomed Borders store that’s a mere 15 minutes away.

Ahem.

None of us can predict what will eventually happen, but the writing is on the wall. Resist though we may, this is already in motion, such a strong tide can’t be stemmed. All well and good to try to fight it, if it makes a person feel better, but in the end logic, and economics, will prove the big publishers get their way. They’re already struggling. Tell me how the prospect of making larger profits on eBooks, which don’t have to be manufactured and shipped, won’t keep ailing publishers afloat. Or at least assure the survival of the most powerful of them. There’s no way around it.

I’ve posted a lot re: eBooks, and with a great deal of passion, but from here on I see there’s not much point in denying the inevitable. The demise of Borders is a dire event. The bell is tolling for bookstores.  Soon we’ll be left with just Amazon, which I predict will still be standing when the mega-chains are shuttered. Where Amazon goes, there goes publishing.

Keep your eye on the Amazon basket. That’s where the remaining eggs lie. But this librarian/book reviewer/manic reader predicts what will be left, when the dust settles, are eBooks and print on demand. What will happen with picture books, graphic novels, etc., is a different kettle of fish. Likewise, children’s books. Maybe specialty publishers will continue to exist for those. But this may turn out to be the exception to the rule.

Probably not what you wanted to hear, and it’s definitely not what I like to say. I’ll take no pleasure in “I told you so!” in this case. And nothing would make me happier than being proven wrong. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

The question is when, not if. And it may be a gradual shift, as in cassettes and albums giving way to CDs. Like LPs, maybe books will enjoy a renaissance, for the novelty. But I’m afraid to say it’s not looking good for lovers of the book. Never mind I already own more books than I can read in my lifetime. In several lifetimes, I think. I’ll mourn the passing of books regardless.

Just let me be wrong. That’s what I hope.

Current list of Borders closures.

 Squee!

 Ian Rankin, one of my very favorite cute contemporary mystery/crime novelists, is coming to Borders in Oak Brook this Friday evening. Nice of them to give so much notice, eh?

He will be reading from and signing copies of his  new novel The Complaints.

Friday, March 18

7:00 p.m.

Borders, Oak Brook

1500 16th Street, Suite D
Oak Brook, IL 60523

  • Phone: 630.574.0800
  • Fax: 630.574.2409
store hours
  • Monday – Saturday09:00 am to 10:00 pm
  • Sunday10:00 am to 08:00 pm

AND!

Anne Lamott, a writer whose funny, spiritually-leaning (not religious per se, but spiritual as in “of the spirit”) books got me through a particularly rough period in my life, will be signing at the same place in April.

Note: she isn’t peddling a new book, but I assume will sign copies of her “old” ones.

Monday, April 11

7:00 PM

Even!

Caroline Kennedy will sign copies of her book of poetry, She Walks in Beauty.

 Tuesday, April 19

 7:00 p.m.

Hope some of  you can make one or all of these signings! The more we support them, the more they’re likely to keep booking great writers.

A Widow’s Story by Joyce Carol Oates

Oh God – you are going to be so unhappy. – Gail Godwin

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I guess the only way to do this is just plunge right in, though of all the books I’ve reviewed this one is probably among, if not the most difficult. I don’t mean difficult as in the book itself being difficult to read, rather, picking things out of the story is intimidating. Because this is Joyce Carol Oates, and the grief of such an immense literary icon – contained in the tiniest body – is a fearsome thing. It’s humbling.

Worse, I can’t quote text as my copy is an uncorrected proof, and I don’t have the true first edition to compare it with. So all that lovely prose, stuck in amongst what is honestly a rambling tirade against death and Oates herself , may as well not ever have existed as little good as it does me.

Joyce Carol Oates and Raymond Smith met in college, each pursuing advanced degrees. It was at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the 1960s when their whirlwind romance began. From the time they met until the time they married was only a matter of months. And their relationship of mutual love and respect would last 47 years, until Raymond’s sudden death.

During their marriage, Oates (who did take Smith as her legal last name) and Raymond lived a deeply intellectual life, opting not to have children, instead pursing literary interests. Both were writers, and both professors. Raymond Smith was the editor of the Ontario Review, and though he had written a partial manuscript he never published his novel, titled Black Mass. He never read Joyce’s fiction, though he had read her essays and selected nonfiction writings. On her part, she aided Raymond by reading submissions for his literary journal, while writing and teaching.

Raymond Smith died on February 18, 2008, after an illness less than two weeks in duration. On February 11th Smith entered the hospital, sure this would be a quick in and out visit. Once the initial diagnosis of pneumonia came in, it became “just overnight.” Then the doctor identified the bacterial strain, E. coli. Survival rates for patients with E. coli pneumonia were somewhere around 30 %.

At shortly after 12:30 a.m. the morning of February 18, 2008 came the dreaded call in the middle of the night. Her husband was still alive, but the person on the phone instructed Joyce to come right away. By the time she arrived he was gone.

She found herself alone, though the full impact of that can’t be conveyed unless you understand how sheltered she had been. Raymond took care never to upset her, treating her the way Leonard Woolf treated the fragile Virginia. They didn’t even share bad news, to save each other the unnecessary pain. It seems excessive. It was excessive; the result of over-protection only served to add a crushing feeling of helplessness to the already crippling grief she suffered following sudden loss of her beloved Raymond.

Again, being unable to quote the text I feel at a distinct disadvantage. If I had the time to read the published book, comparing it to the proof, I would. Failing that, the difficulty of conveying the extent of her suffering seems all but insurmountable.

Oates’s frailty frankly astonished me. Knowing nothing about her, judging only from her prodigious output, I imagined she was some sort of literary Amazon – fearless, with a will of iron. The truth of the matter was completely opposite. Oates’s was plunged into a surreal world of self-torture, nearly a year spent lining up all the prescription medication in the house knowing taking her life was always an option. Obviously, it was an option she never exercised, but the pull toward it was strong, though by fighting it on a daily basis the benefit was she forged new found strength out of helpless despair.

Over the course of those dark months she spent almost every waking moment blaming herself for not getting to the hospital on time, for not realizing her husband was so ill, and a million other bits of self-recrimination common when someone so close to you dies. Everything was a torture: seeing his home office empty; hearing his voice on their answering machine; going through the motions of every day life, living the nightmarish conviction that some dark force was swirling around her, pointing the finger of blame for something over which she no control.

She could not forgive herself, and the guilt gnawed at her. The dark force became “the basilisk,” and herself “the widow.” She detached from Joyce Carol Oates, splitting into a shadow self that spoke in the third person. Detachment is a survival mechanism. It kicks in when the sub-conscious senses a mortal threat, when the option is to detach or shut down. So she detached. And she survived.

To be honest, it takes more than one read – in my case, a read and a half, because I’m impatient – to sift through the narrative, finding JCO in her own story. So much of the book is disjointed at best, and irritating at worst. The prose is punctuated by hundreds and hundreds of exclamation points, something that grates on the nerves of the proof reader in me. I was so irritated I started circling recurrent punctuation marks, my intent to count them all so I could say THIS is what annoyed me, dammit! But I stopped, realizing I was driving myself crazy trying to be her editor, instead of letting annoyances pass by while I dug out what she was actually saying.

Reading A Widow’s Story is an excavation. And it’s exhausting. I can’t do it justice, though I’m not sure who can. Analyzing a work of grief so intense it nearly burns the page seems wrong, somehow. I can’t tell her how to grieve, nor how to write her account of grief. All I can do is read it, trying not to judge a JCO who’s all but unrecognizable. The polish is gone; the writing is raw.

It is what it is. That’s all I can say.

Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Ecco; First Edition edition (February 15, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062015532
ISBN-13: 978-0062015532

Professional reviews:

The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/14/books/14book.html?_r=1

The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/mar/06/widows-story-carol-oates-review

The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/11/AR2011021102701.html

We’ve just switched our library catalog over to Bibliocommons, a much more interactive, 21st century social networking-friendly system than our previous catalog – iBistro. It was rolled out to the public around March 1, but we had time to play with it before the inevitable questions started. And dear reader, I am in love!

I’m the sort of reader who loves making lists, very often lists I never refer to again (I have a list of books to be read on a Google spreadsheet, and never refer to it/haven’t updated it in months), but any old list is a good list. Bibliocommons allows the user to make all sorts of lists, those that keep track of books read, books in progress and books to read later (of which I’ll eventually have thousands, I have no doubt). It also allows you to see what other users are reading, what they thought of it once they’ve finished, and what books are on their “to be read” lists.

In addition, like at Amazon users can create lists of suggested reading, such as “My favorite books by institutionalized authors,” or “What I read when my husband is snoring and I can’t sleep (instead of hitting him over the head with a mallet),” etc. Other users can view these lists, and if the subject is one they’re interested in then BAM! here are suggestions for books the list-maker enjoyed and the list reader may, too.

Readers can review materials, suggest audience-appropriate ages, note if there’s anything graphic so more sensitive readers can steer clear if they choose (or adventurous sorts can have a field day), and more.  Did I mention I love it? Because I do love it.

And what’s not to love? Nothing, in my opinion, aside from the ubiquitous learning curve as everyone gets used to the new system. I have heard a few complaints from users, unsurprisingly, as some grew attached to the old, more clunky system and resist the change. Anything new and unfamiliar is bound to elicit some grumbling.  Such is life.

Even I had my share of difficulties at first, and I was trained. Twice, actually! Still, it’s hard picturing in my mind what people are talking about when they call and ask questions. If they’re at the library it’s easier. Then I can perch on their shoulder and see first-hand the nature of the problem. But over the phone it’s challenging, especially if the patron’s terminology/perception is different from what I’m seeing on the screen.

So far all the questions I’ve had have been about the sign-in procedure, which I’ll admit is a little wonky. It took me several attempts to get that settled, myself, because it kept rejecting me (SOB!). So I can identify with that. But once you’re in I found it very intuitive, and a much more  user-friendly system.

A lot of libraries seem to be making the switch to Bibliocommons, at least in the Chicagoland area. And all the local libraries’ patron information is included in our system. That is, when you enter data here it’s visible to all the libraries in the area, so lists can be exchanged between thousands and thousands of library patrons, making it even more fun and useful. Unless you choose otherwise, of course, and make your information private. You can do that, too. But of course I don’t. I shout all my book thoughts from the top of the roof, social network them to death, and spend my life on Amazon.

Is that wrong?

Anyway, welcome, Bibliocommons! If I didn’t say it before, I love you!

And, if anyone wants to find me just search for Algonquin_Lisa and you can peruse my bookish ravings thoughts to your heart’s content. Leave me a message, too, if you’d like. Especially if you have praise to share.