Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Zoho Writer - Exercise 19

When you don't have access to word processing software, try Zoho Writer. I fooled around with it today to write this entry. I froze up facing their screen for composing. Maybe it was the unfamiliar interface, which I found sort of distracting. It is good to know Zoho exists, should I ever need it. It was fairly straightforward to use. There is even a table of emoticons, which I usually don't use, but there are times they might be fun.

I also took a look at the templates, which were generic documents you could piggyback onto: resumes, schedules, etc. I was hoping for some fancier looks we could use for flyers or posters, but no luck there.

I tried uploading directly to the blog, so I could show off the emoticons. But once it got here, I could not edit any of the text, and since my writing process involves a lot of revising, I had to redo this entry directly onto blogger.com (lesson learned; I won't try that again).

Quotation (heard on Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac today):
Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree. - Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading

Monday, October 29, 2007

Social Networking for Cats and Other Critters - Exercise 18

In this exercise, I took a stroll through some of the most well-known social networking sites: My Space, Face Book, Yahoo!360, Xanga, etc. I kept my pen and scratch paper handy, ready to take notes. I kept writing "junk", "junk". Most of the content seemed superficial; normally I wouldn't air such a judgement, but this exercise asks for our thoughts. I sure wasn't making any soul connections!

Then I got to catster. Awwww -- so many adorable photos. I found a black cat named Minx in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia that reminds me of my cat, Bowie (pictured above). If Bowie and I joined catster, Minx and Bowie could be "friends". Minx already has 16 friends! I think sites like catster and dogster has therapeutic potential for seniors who can no longer own pets. Another interesting cat, or at least the name, which I think is droll: "Mr Furrious".

What I'm reading: The Used World by Haven Kimmel. I've just started it and I'm smitten. The main characters all work at Hazel Hunnicut's Used World Emporium, an antiques and junk store in fictional Jonah, Indiana, and that's enough to hook me. Kimmel is so good at portraying the inner complexities of the female soul.

And here's one I read this weekend that was enchanting: Garden Spells by Sarah Allen Addison. If you are born into the Waverly family of Bascom, North Carolina, chances are you have a gift related to intuition, foresightedness or an uncanny, somewhat witchy knowledge of all things green and growing. When two Waverly sisters reunite, their talents as well as their love lives come into sync. First novelist Sarah Allen Addison writes with what I think is just the right amount of magical realism, much like Alice Hoffman.

Both Kimmel and Addison have North Carolina connections, the state my fraternal ancestors came from. I've kept my father's faded, falling apart copies of novels by Asheville, North Carolina author Thomas Wolfe. I used to sit in front of Dad's book shelves when I was a little girl, puzzling out the meanings of the curious titles he owned. You Can't Go Home Again sticks in my memory. When you're in second or third grade, you can sound out those simple words, but not their meaning. Such was the mystique of adults and their curiously named books.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Book Reviewing

When you work as a librarian, there are plenty of opportunities to learn the art of book reviewing. After all, we spend a fair amount of time reading reviews if we do any book selection work. Library Journal (LJ) often needs reviewers for specialized genres or subject areas.

In 1988, I was invited to join a group of librarians who wrote reviews for a School Library Journal column known as "Adults Books for Young Adults". Publishers sent vast amounts of books to one of the local private schools; we pored over them and chose titles to read and review those we thought had teen appeal. I believe the first book I reviewed was Rich in Love by Josephine Humphreys (review accessible on Amazon.com). Wilson Library Bulletin was also one of the magazines I was privileged to write for. Now I write reviews for Library Journal, usually in the area of women's fiction. My most recent LJ review was for The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss. Having to synthesize plot and appeal factors into a short review of 150 - 175 words is a good exercise and helps build discipline. Writing short reviews is a voluntary (unpaid) activity. You write the review from a galley, and later on may receive a copy of the title once it is published.

I've never been to the Library Journal offices in New York, but like to imagine my editor, Wilda Williams, sitting before a desk piled high with galleys, dashing off books to reviewers all over the country, and picking the goodies she wants to write about herself. I recently learned about a delightful LJ blog called In the Bookroom. It is an insider's look at what's new in books and publishing.


The greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination. - Elizabeth Hardwick

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pondering Technology - Exercise 17

We've been asked to explore the subject of technology. I searched high and low all over the internet looking at definitions of technology. I learned it can be any set of tools, including of course - software. The broadest definitions include simple spear heads, the wheel and fire. In other words, technology is as old as men and women. Technology can be thought of as the application of scientific advances to benefit humankind. Animals create tools, too; chimps and other primates use improvisational implements to forage for food.

Technology attempts to control many things; perhaps too many? Dystopian novels such as Brave New World, 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 paint critical pictures of an inhumane, technologically advanced modern world. Might nature be the antithesis of technology? Often nature proves uncontrollable. Farmers do exercise some control over the land they till, the products they grow. But they are always challenged by the forces of nature. Farmers deserve more respect than our society grants them.

My life is better for technology. Being able to learn these "23 Things" is giving me more tools for communication than I ever dreamed possible. The internet is downright magical to me.

We were also asked to visit our colleagues' blogs and leave comments. I looked at several and left comments on the blogs I most enjoyed. Two of them are BF77008 and Dinosaur Tracks, written by my fellow HCPL librarians.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wiki Wiki World - Exercise 16

We immersed ourselves in Wikis for Exercise 16. I never really thought about it before, but whenever people get on amazon.com and post a customer review, they are using wiki functionality. I don't know how long ago Amazon started welcoming customer reviews, but they are now one of its (and other websites') greatest features. Members of the library book group often troll the Amazon reviews to get a consensus on how well received a book is. We've learned that often it is better to read the reviews after you've read the book, since other readers may unwittingly reveal key plot points.

I liked learning that "wiki" means fast in Hawaiian. Wikis are very collaborative. They have a circular feel to me, expanding as needed. (Thus the photo of the Houston Rodeo ferris wheels above; circles are my favorite symbols...) Back to Wikis: if you've ever worked on a long project involving many emails to and from committee members, wikis are highly recommended as an alternative. Everyone can see what's going on, and work together to construct whatever is on the collective plate. It's a wiki, wiki world!

I enjoyed posting favorite books and restaurants to our "sandbox" HCPL wiki. One of my favorite suspense authors is Laura Lippman. I've only read two of her stand-alone titles: What the Dead Know and Every Secret Thing . She also writes a series featuring detective Tess Monaghan which I've yet to explore. What I like about Lippman's writing besides the strong suspense, is her ability to make me believe in and care about her characters, sometimes even the person who commits the crime. I don't read suspense regularly, but every so often, nothing else will do.

Every novel should have a beginning, a muddle and an end.
- Peter De Vries

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Imagine.... Exercise 15

Readers of my new blog are not usually my fellow librarians, but people from all walks of my life: library customers, especially the ones who have known me forever, or who have similar tastes in books, friends near and far, family, the nice guy who cuts my hair, etc. I let them know I am involved in this "23 Things" exercise, and some of them are curious enough to take a look. Because I envison that varied group as my audience, I find myself translating the library world to them. In this exercise, we examine the term Library 2.0, not a term most people are familiar with.

Well, briefly: Library 2.0 is all about making the library customer-centric, nurturing the library as a destination/a front porch/a "third place", growing the library in all sorts of directions to meet customer needs. Also involved is the concept that we provide services beyond our walls (electronically and otherwise). To quote futurist Dr. Wendy Schultz, "Libraries are not just collections of documents and books, they are convocations of people, ideas and artifacts in dynamic exchange."

What strikes me most about this heady concept is the challenge facing librarianship. We need to attract deeply creative people who are ready to surf these waves of change. Do library graduate school programs encourage the practice and cultivation of creativity? How can library systems nurture staff towards the "infinite future"?

The brainstorming has begun. For me, the most beguiling concept involves partnership. As someone in midlife who values every spare minute of time, I can imagine a one stop "third place" which would include a library offering books and AV in many formats (books still come first for me), reference materials, free internet, wise librarians who can help steer me in the right direction should I need information or reading advice AND, like spokes in a wheel -- other agencies all on the same piece of real estate. People could flow from the library to a community building, learning center, gym, spa, swimming pool, meditation garden, museum, coffee bar or picnic place. Somehow (??!!!) this centric place wouldn't be too overcrowded, or taxing on users finding their way from place to place. Yes, there would be daycare for toddlers and afterschool crowds. Yes, there would be quiet rooms where children and loud noises would not intrude. There would be an unprecedented level of cooperation and collaboration amongst the agencies. There would be more "wholeness" for all involved. More self fulfillment. More inter-connectedness. Imagine!

Public libraries are the ultimate democratic institution, one I have been proud to work within. I have confidence we will not disappear. We will thrive and flourish. Imagine!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Technorati (whatee?) - Thing 14

I jumped through most of the hoops for the Technorati assignment. See the Technorati logo on the sidebar. Also, I "claimed" my blog and signed up for some watch lists. As assigned, I looked around at Learning 2.0 blogs. Doing so, I began to realize how many professional fields are pursuing 2.0 modalities, not just libraries, but schools, businesses, nonprofit groups, etc. Participants share a tickled tone of enthusiasm for blogging and newly gained technological skills. Like others whose posts I read, I have become addicted to blogging. I think I will always want to produce one blog or another!

What a different way of life we have from a few generations ago. We use computers constantly, I'd like to think for the greater good. I've heard it said that you can measure generations by their largest buildings: pyramids, cathedrals, office towers. Note the beautiful San Francisco architectural detail above, no doubt living on long past the hand of its maker. We may not be creating content in the third dimension, but I do think the web is an amazing tool for communication. And I am honored to have this opportunity to communicate, with help from Technorati, Flickr, Blogger, et al.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Tagging, a Tribal Thing - Exercise 13

When Del.icio.us first came along, I thought I understood it. If you parked your favorite websites there, you could access them from any computer. But I was a creature of habit and somehow never made the switch. Therefore, I had sets of Favorites at home and work.

After playing around with it today, I took to it in a deeper way. If I tag my links on Del.icio.us ( don't you love the way that new hybrid of the word "delicious" is pronounced???), I won't have to hunt for them in an alphabetical list. Now I have to figure out the easiest way to move my links over to Del.icio.us and tag them.

I appreciate the concept of a "flat hierarchy", where everyone is free to contribute content. Through social bookmarking, we learn about sites others find valuable. It feels very tribal. What tribe? Perhaps the Tribe of the Infomaniacs.... Isn't it spooky (also appropriate) that Del.icio.us ends in "us"?

Fall is here. Sort of. This being Houston, it takes awhile. The photo above was taken a couple of Novembers ago. I like to study nature's spontaneous compositions alongside the curbs as I walk in the morning.

What I'm reading: Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo. The characters are complex, the writing is superb, and the setting is one familiar to me, of upstate New York. Have you ever heard of french fries with gravy? They make an appearance in this book, and yes, people in upstate New York really do eat them that way.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Elves in the Library - Exercise 12

In The Innocence of Father Brown, G K Chesterton wrote of childhood as the "elfin and adventurous time when tall weeds close over us like woods". In the above photo, I am one of the elves onstage for a school play, "The Elves and the Shoemaker", circa 1958. Today we have something known as Library Elf!

Library Elf helps you remember to return books and AV to various libraries (what I call underdue notices). Library Elf also lets you know if items you have reserved are ready for pickup. Since we already have these services built into our Horizon software @ HCPL, I don't really need a Library Elf account. But I signed up for it since it is Thing # 12 of our 23 Things. I'll see what it is like to hear from the Library Elf. Usually I am able to keep up with my account since I have the honor of working in this Candyland for Book Lovers called the Public Library.

Other kinds of library elves: our volunteers! These kindhearted elves join forces with us to keep the books shelved, price donated books, manage the Friends of the Library funds, and man the cigar box at book sales. Good elves are truly a treasure.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Personal Virtual Libraries - Exercise 11

Yesterday I had time to revisit Library Thing. Sometime in 2006, I got excited about this site, joined and entered a short list of books I own. (Then I promptly forgot about it.) Library Thing makes it simple for users to catalog their own library collections. Among the books I listed were titles I contributed poems or short stories to, such as At Our Core: Women Writing About Power edited by Sandra Martz, and Texas Short Stories II edited by Billy Bob Hill.

As suggested in Exercise 11, I added a feed to my Library Thing (LT) catalog to the sidebar area of this blog. I am not entirely comfortable linking to my LT account from this blog. I consider the LT list a work in progress, just a smattering from my personal bookshelves. I am not sure why anyone else needs to look at it, but in the interest of completing the "23 Things", here it is.

Library Thing has many purposes. One of the fun things to look at is how many other readers have listed the same titles as you. It's interesting when no one else owns a book you've listed. As of today, two of mine in that category are Afoot in a Field of Men by Pat LittleDog and Music from a Blue Well by Torborg Nedreaas. Then you find other titles such as The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri which are widely owned. Also, once you add your titles to the virtual collective, other users may invite you to join their special interest groups based on the interests portrayed by your collection.

I think Library Thing has a persona function -- it becomes a portrait of who you are, or at least who you 'd like to think you are......

All Consuming is another virtual shelf site for books, movies, music and more.

Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house. – Henry Ward Beecher

Monday, October 8, 2007

Image Generators - Exercise 10

I made this poster on the FDToys site. In case you can't read the swirly script, here is what it says: "I think I'll go find some good books, movies and MP3 downloads @ the Library!"

There are all sorts of image generators out there! On the Image Generator site, you can find links for apps to make images that look like "Post-It" notes, support ribbons, banners, virtual flowers and all kinds of cool text effects. All of the sites I looked at were free, but there were also upgrades available if you were just dying to give the site some money. I really never knew there was so much out there. The number of text effects was mind-boggling. We can make all sorts of signs and things for the library!

Also, I tried the Meez avatar generator. I created a librarian, but getting her tastefully dressed would have cost $$$. It was fun playing with all the animation effects -- she sat at a big desk tapping her fingers, she read on a couch, she danced. She made us laugh! And I thought I was past the age for cartoons. I did not not upload the librarian avatar image to the blog. I will enjoy playing with avatars again, especially at home with friends and family.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Book Blogs

A few general book blogs to recommend:

Paper Cuts - Dwight Garner, senior editor of the NY Times Book Review, on books and publishing.

Book Maven - One critic's "adventures in reading"; sponsored by Publisher's Weekly.

Guardian Unlimited: Arts Blog - Books - what's new in the world of British books.

I also want to recommend a new blog site for Catholic fiction hosted by Mary Kelleher at the University of St. Thomas here in Houston:

Catholic Fiction - thoughtful commentary on novels broadly defined as Catholic, by nature of the author's religion (present or previous), choice of subject, characters, setting, etc.

We bring to a book all that we are. And because we are so different, one from another, we each find different ideas, different treasures. – Jane Roberts Wood

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Grazing Through the Feedlots - Exercise 9

Century plant, Houston

I did a quick comparison of websites for finding feeds about Reader's Advisory (librarian lingo for helping customers find books they will enjoy). Bloglines had the most matches (1,280). Technorati had 336 (including my own blog post from yesterday). Feedster had 156. Topix had 51, (and as an aside -- I liked their directory). Syndic8 had none. Then I compared these results to Google. Google found 281,000 sites which used that term.
Doing this RSS exercise semed akin to wandering through a bunch of "big box" stores -- alienating and overwhelming, and at the end of it, I had hardly anything to show for it. I did not find many blogs that I wanted to hold onto.

As for the feeds I subscribe to, I most enjoyed enjoyed reading the feeds from librarian.net written by Jessamyn West, one of libaryland's MetaLibrarians. She has been trying out small town librarianship, something I can relate to since I work in a small library in a small city surrounded by the very large city of Houston.

One other fragment that seemed relevant to me as a new navigator in the blogosphere was a post I came across on Library Garden, about not posting because there are times when Life trumps blogging. Yes, I should hope so.And the century plant? I've learned that it really blooms about every 25 years, not every hundred as is the legend. Where will the internet and blogosphere be in 25 or 100 years?

Monday, October 1, 2007

RSS Feeds - Exercise 8

Seattle Neon

I've had a Bloglines newsreader account for some time now, but whenever I check on it, the backlog gives me information overload. So many great sites, so many great blogs. Who has time? And here I am, adding to the blogosphere.... The trick is winnowing down to what's essential, both at home and at work.

One disadvantage to being online so much at work is that I don't feel like getting on the computer when I get home. From time to time, I observe variations on what I call "Thoreau days". In the purest version, I stay home, don't shop and don't drive, although I might ride my bike. In lesser versions, I stay off the computer and do simple chores at home. It's a form of detoxing from an overstimulating world. I love using the internet for all kinds of reasons, but my brain and body complain if I spend too much time in front of a computer screen.

For completion of Exercise 8, I've added RSS feeds for Word of the Day and the HCPL Our Space: Books and People @ HCPL newsletter.

What works for me is as far as becoming a better Reader's Advisory librarian is being on listservs such as Fiction_L .

I also enjoy getting daily emails from The Writer's Almanac . Garrison Keillor keeps me up to date on all sorts of writerly factoids.

My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything. The perfect day: riding a bike to the library. -Peter Golkin