Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Book, book, book!"

I heard the cutest joke last night while watching The Librarians, an Australian comedy about a Catholic bigot who's the head librarian at the "Melbourne Interactive Learning Center." I've adapted it from memory:

A chicken walks up to the desk at the library and says, "Book, book, book!" The librarian responds "Sure thing!" and gives her 3 books and watches her walk away. After a few minutes, the chicken returns and says, "Book, book, book!" The librarian gives the chicken three more books and says, "I'm a fast reader too!"

After another few minutes, the chicken comes back again and says, "Book, book, book!" Curious, the librarian gives the chicken three more books and follows her out the door. The chicken goes across the the street to a pond and gives the books to a frog who says, "Read it, read it, read it."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

eBooks and Audiobooks, Oh My!

After helping my supervisor with training sessions on our new “technology toolboxes” (a collection of eReaders our library was able to purchase with the funds from a grant) and participating in the beta testing for the State Library of Kansas’s new provider for downloadable audiobooks, I have sort of become one of the go-to’s for all questions relating to downloadable eBooks and audiobooks available through the library. The funny thing is, I don’t own an eReader and I rarely listen to audiobooks.

You might be thinking I’m old fashioned and claim to prefer the feeling of a physical book in my hand over scrolling through a digital title--but that’s certainly not the case. I love the idea of being able to store thousands of books on one little device, being able to transport that library anywhere in a backpack or your pocket, and never having to worry about the deterioration of the book. I’d love to get my hands on a Nook, or a Kindle Fire, or even one of those nifty iPads--I just can’t afford one. That sort of became an added benefit to working at my library--we purchased the eReaders (4 Sony eReaders, 4 Kindles, 4 Nooks and 4 iPads) for two reasons: 1. Staff can now have the chance to explore and experiment with them and then be ready to answer questions patrons may have, and 2. We’re planning on setting up a kiosk where patrons can do the same and possibly answer their own questions.

What about audiobooks? The library currently has a very extensive collection of physical CD and MP3 CD’s that are (somewhat) easily transferable to computers and portable devices, but there are those who want even more convenience and want to be able to download them from home. This is why and how Overdrive, the former platform for audiobooks and eBooks, became popular over the last three or four years. But now that the State Library’s contract is ending with OverDrive and it's kind of become a dirty word for Kansas librarians, there’s been a noticeable increase interest in both audiobooks and eBooks. I can't remember the last day I've gone without answering questions about what the new platforms will be and which devices will be compatible with the content.

If you ask me, the whole transition has been kind of a headache. Though it was helpful to do the beta testing for OneClickdigital, the new audiobook platform, I still feel like there hasn’t been enough time to learn everything and then help make sure everyone on staff knows enough to be able to answer questions about it. And the bigger headache is the gap in service for eBooks. The State Library tentatively will be testing the new platform the first week of December, but then we’re still not quite sure when the service will be available to patrons...it’s pretty much out of our (city library’s) hands. In the meantime, we’ll be directing patrons to other sources for free downloadable books, like Project Gutenberg or Google eBooks, but I know those will far from satisfy the demands some may have.

These transition pains come on top of the questions about eBooks and audiobooks we already get at the Reference Desk, and when we try to explain what's going on with the State Library and OverDrive and the new platform, we sometimes get tongue tied. So after all this, would I still be interested in an eReader if I had the funds or a holiday gifter willing to spend that much on me? Sure! I’ll just close this post by hinting again at how much I do love the iPad...

Friday, November 25, 2011

They should really call it "Frantic Friday"

Over on Twitter last night and this morning, I didn't hesitate to express my feelings about Black Friday--honestly, it kind of upsets and disgusts me. When I saw an article about the incident in California in which a woman used pepper spray to gain access to "door buster" merchandise, it just furthered that disgust. I find it sad that discounted products bring out this primordial beast within people, and they fight like a bunch of starving hyena's chasing after some scrawny gazelle. I realize this isn't the first year that something like this has happened--people have been getting trampled, shot, and even killed on this day for years now, just so others can save money on products that corporations convince them they or their loved ones need.

Part of me would like to claim that I'm frugal. When my fiance and I were first living together, I sometimes felt that I was the only one keeping a budget in mind, and this caused a few issues for us. He wanted nice shelves, posters for the walls, a brand new couch, and a 47 inch flat screen T.V. so he could feel a little more at home. I was content with my hand-me-down couch, console T.V. and a few old nik-knacks. Shopping was always an unpleasant experience, because we'd always end up upsetting each other. It's not as bad now, but when my fiance tells me about great deals on things like Blu-Ray movies, video games and consoles, video cameras and computers, I still feel a little wrench in my stomach. But I do have to admit that I can get excited over a good deal. Just this past July, I spent nearly an hour waiting in line at Urban Outfitters for a couple of hoodies and a sweater at a sidewalk sale. However, I didn't shove my way through the crowd, knock displays over and attack people who got to something before I did.

For necessities like food, toilet paper, shampoo, clothes, etc., I do understand the importance and value of a good deal. However, working at a public library has really opened my eyes to how much a person can really save when it comes to things like books, movies, music and other forms of entertainment. Every year when my parents, siblings or friends ask me what I want for the holidays, I have a horrible time coming up with something, because anything I'd come up with I could borrow, or probably have borrowed, from the library. So I might just ask them to save me the trouble of accumulating more nice, but really unnecessary things to clutter my already crowded apartment, and donate money or items to their local libraries. That, I think, would make me feel much better.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Librarian's Thanksgiving

Ah. Thanksgiving. Before diving in to the turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy bowls, and whatever other delights whoever in the kitchen cooks up, many families pause and share a few things that they're thankful for. My family, scattered and a little unconventional, sometimes forgoes this tradition and digs right in. With gobs of grandchildren, cousins, aunts, uncles, step siblings, spouses and what not, it can be a little time consuming. Before you know it, someone's belly deep in greenbean caserole anyway. So I decided share my Thanksgiving here. Though I am thankful for things like my family, my fiance, and my health, I thought I'd take a moment and express gratitude for some books, music, and television shows that I've read, listened to, watched and experienced this year.

I love when books make me feel something. Whether it's fear, anger, sadness, I know it's a good book when these feelings flood my senses and I cannot put it down. One book that I read this year that did that for me was Haruki Murakami's After Dark. It just made me feel a little strange. Character driven, the book focuses on Mari, a Japanese student studying Chinese, and Tetsuya, an amateur trombonist, who meet late at night at a Denny's restaurant. They somehow get involved in helping a "love hotel" attendant clean up and assist a badly beaten Chinese prostitute. Interwoven with this story is a strange account of Mari's older sister, who's been asleep in a menacing netherworld for days. Murakami's novels, always on the edge of creepy, mystical and strange, never seem to disappoint.

When I was probably 13 or so, I developed an intense liking of the television show, Roseanne. I would stay up late each night to catch the two rerun episodes after the 9 o'clock news, and no matter how many times I watched an episode, I laughed and enjoyed it over and over again. This year, Roseanne released Roseannearchy: Dispatches from the Nut Farm, a collection of ranting essays that exposes the ridiculousness in just about everthing. Though some may find "the Domestic Goddess" to be too rude and outspoken, I've always appreciated her honesty and uninhibited eagerness to express her opnion. After reading the book, I posted one of my favorite quotes on Twitter and tagged her, and I was thrilled to find she actually responded to me! The quote: "Religion needs to be less about believing things and more about beholding things, sharing and healing and bringing people together, not separating them." I love her perspective on life, and I love how much I've learned from reading her essays.

Though I was about four years late in the game, I also developed a similar passion for Desperate Housewives. No other television show has made me feel such a plethora of emotions--I've laughed, I've cried, I've been enraged and disappointed (most recently so because the producers of the show have announced that the current season will be the last). I love each of the main characters for different reasons, but I think Lynette is the one I relate to and like the most, probably because she seems the most real to me. Felicity Huffman does a wonderful job portraying the headstrong mother and wife who isn't afraid or unable to accept and acknowledge her weaknesses. Desperate has been one show that my fiance and I have been able to enjoy together and I'm thankful for how much it has moved and taught me.

I'm really thankful for this year's music. I was amazed by how many of my favorite musicians have released new material. It used to be that when I got a new album, I would spend at least a week listening to it over and over again until I got tired of it or I got something newer. Now I just rip albums to my iTunes, listen to a couple of songs repeatedly, and then they sort of get lost in the shuffle. Noah and the Whale's Last Night on Earth, Lykke Li's Wounded Rhymes, Adele's 21, and Feist's Metals are just a few that deserve another listen. I also had the wonderful opportunity this year to travel to Texas to see my all time favorite artist, Jewel, in a free, private fan concert. Though she focused on children's music this year with The Merry Goes Round, I still am amazed at her lyrics and her voice, and I adore her for her willingness to explore different styles of music.

And I think I'll stop there--this post has probably taken longer than a turkey cooking in the oven (and you may be thinking it's getting just as dry too). One more thing that I'm thankful for, though, is those who take the time to read my blog posts! I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and holiday season!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

About me and my path to librarianship

Hello! And welcome to my blog! My name is William! If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know that my bio says I'm a librarian, poet, human being living in Kansas - but since I have more than 140 characters I think I'll take the liberty to extrapolate. I currently work as a Reference Librarian at the Lawrence Public Library in Lawrence, Kansas. I love all things poetry and currently host a Poetry Social once a month at the library, and I've been living in Kansas pretty much since I was born. And I don't want to forget to mention that I'm married to the love of my life, Nathan, whose encouragement and support in all things I do means the world to me. Now let me explain how I've come to be where I am now...

Deeply appreciative for what I had learned and for those who had taught me, I have, since graduating high school, sought a career path that would allow me to give back the knowledge and experience I had gained. When I left my home town, Tonganoxie, to attend Graceland University, a small private college in Iowa, I had every intention to become a certified teacher so I could come back and teach mathematics at my high school. However, what I realized quickly was things don't always go according to plan.

Unsatisfied with the field of education, I kept my mathematics focus, but also added a major in English with concentrations in both writing and literature. When I informed my advisor of my intentions she laughed and told me that I would be there for ten years. I graduated after four, having committed myself to course loads of up to 24 credit hours a semester, sleepless nights filled with papers and projects, and lots of coffee. It was at this point that I decided that in the near future I would continue my education with a Master in Library Science. Upon leaving Graceland, I gained employment as a paraeducator at a high school close to my home town and worked two other part time jobs just to make ends meet. I loved working with the students and delighted in those moments when I knew at least one person gained something valuable from me, but there was something missing. After a year, I submitted my application for the School of Library and Information Management at Emporia State University and officially began my path toward becoming a librarian.

In the summer of 2009, after an observation at a reference desk, a thank you note, and an interview, I was invited to join the adult services staff at the Lawrence Public Library as a reference assistant. It's here where I truly felt I began to thrive in my job responsibilities, which included assisting patrons at the reference desk, completing research requests, and participating on a number of committees. This active experience in a library setting while attending library school enhanced my education beyond words. Shortly after graduating, I obtained a professional position thanks to the encouragement and support of my supervisor.

Through the course of my life I have taken on roles of a son, a brother, a student, a reader, a writer, a dreamer, a pizza maker, a deli clerk, a paraeducator, and now I'm proud to say I am a Reference Librarian! Now, I hope you'll enjoy my musings...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gossip? Girl, that ain't no good

The other night, I actually got up at 3:30 a.m. and finished The Great Galeoto! Though I've never been a huge fan of reading plays (I'd much rather see them), I kind of enjoyed reading this one. Something I didn't quite pick up on in the first 50 pages of the play became the focal point of the entire plot, and as finally I gained understanding, I became more interested. I don't recall ever being so engaged while reading a play.

In the last post, I explained that Don Severo thought that Ernest was taking advantage of Don Julian and Teodora's hospitality. In actuality, Severo and his wife, Mercedes, who for some reason hold a grudge against Ernest, started spreading the vicious rumor that Ernest was having an affair with Teodora. To avoid further trouble, Ernest moves out of Don Julian's and gets his own apartment. Hearing a viscount announce the rumor and insult Teodora in a club, Ernest quickens to anger and schedules a dual with the man to defend Teodora's honor. Don Julian, initially ignorant of the rumor, hears of Ernest plans and intervenes, dueling the viscount himself. Bleeding and near death and newly aware of Ernest's and Teodora's supposed affair, he's taken to Ernest's only to find Teodora hiding in the bedroom of the apartment. This ultimately convinces Don Julian of the rumor.

In the introduction to the edition, Elizabeth Hunt discussed the title, explaining that Galeoto is a reference to the go-between for Queen Guinevere and Lancelot. In the play, "They," or the general public, are the Galeoto who gossip and spread the rumor which eventually spoils Don Julian's happiness. What bothered me was that Don Julian didn't even bother to ask for Ernest's and Teodora's explanation as to why she was in the apartment--to figure out how to dispel the rumor and convince people they weren't in love. But I guess half the trouble was caused by Teodora hiding in Ernest's bedroom.

Now, on to the my next Nobel read, which, I'm excited to say, is available at my place of work, Lawrence Public Library! But that's another post!

Monday, November 14, 2011

No way, José!

Last Thursday, I attended a Mid-America Library Alliance (KCMLIN) workshop on blogging, presented by Rebecca Vnuk, Editor for Reference and Collection Management at Booklist and co-creator and author of Shelf Renewal--a fantastic book blog covering backlist titles. Among several great tips, Rebecca suggested that if one hasn't posted in two or three weeks, there's clearly room for improvement. Needless to say, I received another kick in the pants to keep on task and update this blog--one I think too good to give up. I've been holding on to my next Nobel title, having received it through interlibrary loan nearly two weeks ago, and I am just now making my way through its tattered and worn pages.

What I found fascinating about José Echegaray y Eizaguirre, Nobel recipient alongside Frédéric Mistral in 1904, was that he had interests and talent in both mathematics and writing. The main reason being that I, too, excelled in both areas, having double majored in English and mathematics in my undergraduate studies. In contemplating what I should do with my life, a high school math teacher of mine once jokingly suggested I write math books, which causes me to wonder if José ever thought the same. Elizabeth R. Hunt, however, explained in the introduction to Hannah Lynch's translation of Echegaray's The Great Galeoto, that the dramatist and mathematician spent thirteen years teaching advanced topics in math and served as Minister of Commerce of Education and of Finance for seven years before becoming known as a dramatist (p. vi).

Though I'm only about 50 pages into the play, I agree that the vocational switch was a good choice for José. So far, the play focuses on a Don Julian and his wife, Teodora, who have taken in Ernest, a struggling playwright, after the death of Ernest's father. Don Julian, committed to repaying a debt to Ernest's father, convinces Ernest to act as his secretary in order to fool Julian's brother, Don Severo, who's convinced Ernest may be taking advantage of the situation. It may not be the most intense and exciting of situations, but I'm interested in seeing where the play is taken next. As for the language and writing, I can't complain--it's easy to follow and quick to get through--just about 100 more pages and I'll be on to my next Nobel read.