Radio and library links

A few weeks ago I was approached by 702Sydney to discuss books and libraries on The Blurb alongside host Linda Mottram and Pages and Pages bookseller Jon Page and in my ever so librarianlicious way I can’t help but share links to all that I mentioned.

I was only a tad nervous before we began having managed to get only a few hours sleep in anticipation for the show but both Linda and Jon put me at ease right from the start. I had a great time, I sprouted Dewey numbers and I even got to crack a corny Shhh! librarian joke – putting dad jokes to shame 🙂

We discussed Paul Ham’s 1914 and 1914 Centenary projects and scanathons run by public libraries. I have included below some links provided to me by lovely @B3rn. I reviewed Laurie Notaro’s The Potty Mouth at the Table and then we got chatting about libraries. I must say that one of my favourite part of the discussion was James Valentine playing library roulette (in libraryland we call this serendipitous searching).

I do blame Laurie Notaro for creeping into my brain and frying it and making me think that mentioning her writing in polite company (read – radio broadcast) is quite okay. So I grabbed my shovel and dug a hole and mentioned her Hogwarts’ porn story on my first (and hopefully, Ms. Notaro, not my last, thanks to your insidious story) ABC radio show. Just no-one tell my mum. Thanks.

Here is my review that I meant to read out:

Laurie NotaroI was excited to see that Laurie Notaro released a new memoir this year. I adored her essays in Autobiography of a Fat Bride and The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death, at times laughing so hard that I could not continue reading. Her first person, narrative humour is perceptive, self-deprecating and wildly funny. She is like a cross between David Sedaris and Judith Lucy.

The Potty Mouth at the Table is Notaro’s tenth book and she continues her sharp observance of events in her life. She recounts having food poisoning on an 8 hour (vomit) train ride, meeting up with a horny ex-boyfriend, maybe finding a dead hobo in her backyard, as well as her not so diplomatic reaction to her friend’s heinous cupcake tattoo and her pinterest foodie hate. Notaro’s sense of the bizarre shines through her writing and I find myself laughing out loud at her tales and reading aloud excerpts from this book to anyone who will listen.

Here are the rest of the links:

ReadWatchPlay

Read Watch Play – the NSW Readers’ Advisory Group blog and twitterchat #rwpchat held on the last Tuesday night of every month. This month – #egoread, Biographies etc!

http://readwatchplay.wordpress.com/

Centenary Links

Doing our bit: Mosman 1914-1918 – coordinated by Mosman Library

Blog, database, photos, collecting days ‘Scan-a-thon’
http://mosman1914-1918.net/project/ – blog, events

Illawarra Remembers – coordinated by Wollongong City Libraries
http://illawarraremembers.com/
Scan and share days at local libraries: http://illawarraremembers.com/events/

There is also a project at Orange – council project, but library involvement –http://www.centenaryww1orange.com.au/

See this post: http://mosman1914-1918.net/project/blog/coo-ee-from-nsw-public-libraries

City of Ryde and Kiama also have programs.

Pronouncing Library
It really doesn’t matter how you pronounce it – just use them!

http://tumblr.libraryjournal.com/post/60656742787/amen

Make-up artists in libraries

Zombies at the Tullamore (Australia) Public Libraries

http://www.libraryasincubatorproject.org/?p=8939

Bookmobiles

There is lots of stuff on mobile libraries around so I recommend people google the term. However the Shoalhaven libraries bookmobile does tweet from the road @BookTARDIS.

Deselection process of libraries

Here is an example guideline that libraries use for deselection/weeding of library collections. Different libraries use different criteria

http://www.ala.org/Template.cfm?Section=libraryfactsheet&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=75744

Writing Longhand

A few weeks ago I wrote a fabulous post. It was superb. The words all flowed, I hardly moved from my seat and after 2 hours of constant writing I was really pleased with my close to 20 pages (let’s not get too excited here – I was using a notebook). However, I am choosing to not type it up.

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At the beginning of last year I returned to study after a twenty year hiatus. The last assignment I had handed in was in 1991. I had used a word processor for the last two years of my degree but for the most part, the majority of my assignments were written by hand. For many young ‘uns this brings gasps.

I much prefer using a word processor.

In second grade, I won a writing award held by the local bank. My father went to read my entry and left without doing so. He came home and stated that he had no idea how anyone was able to decipher the scrawled gibberish of lines running into themselves.

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In third grade, my report card was filled with As with the exception of C for my handwriting.This C did not change all the way through to sixth grade.

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In sixth grade, my teacher who had a mercurial temper and a propensity for using the cane, started shouting at me for my painting. It was a brown boat on a brown sea against a brown sky.I had not aimed to make everything brown. My colours had somehow become mixed and so I drew shapes into the brown. I was genius, I thought. He didn’t. He threw it in the bin (but did not cane me).

Oddly enough my Greek handwriting was (and still is) neat and legible. I enjoy writing in Greek because I can take pride in my penmanship. But alas, there is very little call in Australia for Greek handwriting. But I also think that my Greek handwriting is legible because Greek is a second language for me. My Greek thinking is slower than my English thinking so my hand works at the same pace as my thoughts whereas my English thinking is leaps and bounds faster than my hand. My thoughts flit from seemingly unconnected ideas yet formulate a coherent concept by the time I conclude.

My hand was never able to catch up often cramping up in speedily writing my thoughts down. By Year 11 I had developed a ganglion on my right wrist. I quickly taught myself to write with my left hand so I could write uninterrupted by hand cramps. I became ambidextrous (yeah – yeah – hit me with the old “I’d give my right hand to be ambidextrous” joke). My left hand writing was barely discernable from my right (though I have never mastered my signature with my left hand). However, no-one ever asked to borrow my notes. I believe I was the only person who could decipher what I had written.

As you can see, there is a pattern here. My penmanship was not of the highest calibre. I was inconsistent. I varied from cursive writing slanting from left to right, rounded print letters and bizarrely enough, in Year 12 I wrote a 130 page assignment on Ancient Egypt with a mixture of a rounded print font with a squared font for titles.

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By the time I started university I had reinvented my handwriting self. Though I no longer thought my writing to be awful I still did not relish doing it. I loved my sister’s electric typewriter but as we were both at uni at the same time I rarely used it as she was the boss. When my dad bought a computer it revolutionised my writing, my assignments, my everything. I was finally handing in work that was not being judged on how well I rounded my As and Os or how well my cursive letters joined themselves. It was, finally, function over form. And I have never looked back. I did a typing course and at one stage I could type more than 80 words per minute with a 100% accuracy rate (my word count is lower now but my accuracy is still quite high).

I love writing on a computer. I love playing around with my ideas and changing them around. What I have found though, is that in this second round of studying, is though the online reading of articles is fluid and quick, I am less adept at marginalia and side notes online. I am loathe to print out all the articles. My post-it notes are great for notes in books for I am one of those pedantic librarians that cannot bear to write in her books.

(As an aside, I particularly hate when people vandalise *cough* … write in library books. I once, politely, made a borrower sit and rub out all the pencil markings they had made in a book on creating quizzes – they had placed a purchase suggestion and were the first to borrow the book and returned it straight into my hands. I realise this won’t make me popular with the happy clappy “let’s make everyone welcome even if they are violent fuckers” librarian set but pfffft – I have no need to be liked by every library user and the person continued using the library and my professional assistance).

Since I don’t write in books, my notebooks have become full of notes and ideas and quotes. When I first started handwriting after 20 years (let us not count the occasional card that I may have written) I realised my writing had reverted to the ineligible scrawl that my father struggled to read back in second grade. My hand would cramp after five minutes. I was appalled. Eighteen months later, I am quite pleased that I can legibly write for a few hours to formulate my ideas. Even though my thoughts are ten pages ahead of myself, deliberately handwriting has slowed my thinking.

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It has allowed me to start positioning different aspects of my ideas in areas that I hadn’t considered as I was always rushing to finish the piece in front of me in order to start on my next idea.

I still prefer typing directly onto the computer. However, there comes an idea that deserves the time that handwriting can produce.

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This post was inspired by posts on handwriting from both @flexnib and @Malbooth many months ago. My inherent laziness keeps me from searching through their blogs to find their posts. So no links for now.

I’m in a library (or am I?)

I had an interesting exchange with my son the other day. He was doing a school assignment on life in Ancient Egypt and having the boffin information maven mother that he has been blessed with, he knew he needed to log on to “authoritative information”. I had spent some time with him earlier in the week showing him how to log into library databases rather than using free to the web resources.

My son called out to me to say that he couldn’t find the Ancient and Medieval History database on the website so I went over to him and saw that he had clicked on the “In Library Databases”. Now, by late Thursday afternoon I was already fed up with Ancient Egypt and my son’s assignment so I was a tad cantankerous when I snarkily said to him “Why did you choose the In Library Databases. You need the At Home ones. Are you “in” the library?” Bless my gorgeous son who ignored my sarcasm and said “But Mum – I am “in” the library. Look” and he pointed to the library URL. It is at this point I cringed at my Old Skool 20th Century concept of place, apologised and led him through to the resource he needed.

This did lead me to think about when I am physically “in” a place or virtually “in” a place. For me being “in” a library still means being physically “in” a bricks and mortar building. Yet, for most people, it is the library website that is their first port of call. For many users, once they have received their library card, it is their only port of call. So calling library resources “In-library” and “Home access” – I did a quick (oh so scientific) survey of 6 library services and they all used these terms – is catering towards an older user demographic and not towards younger users whose concept of being “in” a place differs substantially. To add to that, often those valuable In Library/Home resources are secondary to the library catalogue – a tool which necessitates a physical visit to the library to use the resource found. This seems a tad ass-end backwards to me.

From that thought, I moved to my sense of having my nose buried “in” a book. When I visualise this, I have in my mind myself as a reader with book open, nose seemingly pressed against the crease of the open book mind completely focused on the words on the page. Somehow, my nose buried “in” an ebook lacks the same sense of hiding amongst the pages for me. Have I been lost “in” an ebook? Absolutely. I am lost “in” digital reading for hours every day. There are days I need to be reminded that it is time to feed myself and any other dependents that may be around me. But I don’t physically feel as though the ebook provides a shelter for my mind. It is not a space I hide “in”. I could not hide my face in an ebook should it make me cry in public (because we have all been there, damn you Barbra Conklin’s PS I Love You). But in neither experience – traditional print or ebook – am I physically “in” the place that I am reading about. As much as I may escape, or be lost in the story, unless I am reading in situ I am not really there.

I spend hours travelling the world on Google Maps. I discover small towns, I follow roads, I enter places that I doubt I will ever physically visit. Do I consider myself to be “in” those places? My answer is No. I am “in” Google Maps but not the place I am exploring. I need to physically experience that place to be there. Just as I am not really in my books.

However, online gaming allows you to be “in” that space. Whether you are playing Fifa 13 or World of Warcraft or Assassin’s Creed the only place to have this experience is online. As a sideline you can have cosplay, you can attend fan conventions however the virtual space is the primary space.

With these other examples in mind, I am thinking again of the public library as a physical place or as a virtual space*.  The reality is that, unlike the chicken and the egg, the physical place did come first so it is natural that our terminology is still couched with a bricks and mortar mindset. Though the industry has shifted, public library websites need to become the creative library branch where users add value to the site rather than purely being recipients and searchers of information. Some libraries already have some user led content creation particularly in the area of local studies and oral histories but this is mainly engaging with older generations (which is great in itself but needs to now be expanded upon). It won’t be until user led content creation for libraries is driven by youth, who are already engaged in creative screen based and digital culture and already think of the library website as being the main entrance, that the local public library will be a a primarily virtual place for the community to get lost “in”.

*I want to take a moment to highlight that I do not feel the same way about  State and National Libraries which are also public libraries. For many people in Australia, their only experience of the National and state libraries as a place is the website.

Emerging from January

All month I have had a number of posts stewing in my brain yet I managed to not write any of them until now – so this is a super long blog post.

January was a culmination of several events for me. I have finally finished my Certificate IV in Training and Assessment allowing me to teach in the TAFE system. I used to teach at TAFE 10 years ago when I was not required to have a qualification beyond Train the Trainer. I found the teaching rather harrowing as there were times I was being handed the lesson plan 10 minutes before the class itself. With this certificate I feel much more prepared – now to pick up some casual hours!

I completed a 10 thousand word assessment for university. Even as I sit here all I can think is that there is so much more I wanted to write. I could have easily added another 5 K. I’ve since met with my supervisors who are trying to convince me to move from a Masters program to a Doctorate program. They keep saying “doctorate” as though it is a forgone conclusion but for me it is a much harder decision. I’m loving the study but I am finding the whole parenting/studying/working balance difficult.  As much as I would love to be a Doctor of Rrrrrromance in libraries I may just settle to be a Mistress of Rrrrromance in libraries instead.

I managed to get slammed by an anonymous blogger called Annoyed Librarian over at Library Journal. There seems to be a badge of honour amongst a few librarian bloggers such as @ScrewyDecimal and @Catagator who have also been slammed. I felt spesh. Am I the only antipodean to merit this treatment *preen*?  The slamming came while I was in the midst of my 10K assessment and TAFE resubmissions. As much as I wanted to get in there and comment again I was a very good student and focused on my assessments. In brief, the blogger made a number of derogatory comments about housebound romance readers to which I questioned her professionalism. In the slamming, she questioned public librarians and readers’ advisors professionalism and how she was “happy to have a little fun goading romance readers and writers”. And here is the irony. My aforementioned 10K assessment is about the marginalisation of ordinary culture by cultural institutions – namely libraries/librarians marginalising romance fiction: Romance fiction and its authors and readers. I came across the first post in searching for more current examples of librarians showing derision towards the readers of the most highly read fiction genre. Not only had I found more evidence for my paper but by her responding in the form of another blog rather than a simple reply she gave me even more material. Just as I was thinking that perhaps the library situation wasn’t all that bad she gave me plenty of fodder that was instantly added to my research.

By the time I had a moment to make my own comment a number of people had already made enough comments rejecting her blog stance against public librarians so I happily did not leave my own. But here’s the thing: when her blog was first pubished I had a number of people contact me – some through public tweets and others through email and Twitter DMs in support of my comments, which I appreciated. But the comments and discussion outside of the official website will not remain part of a digital record. The comments dismissing the blogger for not having the courage to write under her own name, the comments dismissing Library Journal as a credible opinion source in the industry due to their validating a”library troll”, and the incredulity that there were still readers of the blog, are not part of an official record. Researchers in 100 years will be going to the industry stalwart, Library Journal, but how they will connect to the conversation that is happening in other online forums about their articles, particularly discussions held elsewhere as most librarians are hesitant to post comments on LJ as they know they will be the next librarian to be ridiculed? What sort of legacy of information will allow for these informal (yet illuminating) conversation to be found. I’ve been told that there is research into this question but I have become the lazy researcher at this stage of January and I haven’t searched for more information. If I find some links I will post them on a later blog.

Since I finished writing my papers 10 days ago I have chilled out with my kids, I’ve watched lots of TV – reruns of Coupling, Scrubs, Friends, Big Bang Theory and Ben Stiller movies. I love Hank Azaria in Along came Polly saying “Rueben, look me in the eyeball” and the extreme sports corporate Bryan Brown. After 366 books in 2012, I have begun 2013 in fine form and I have read only 2 books The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton by Miranda Neville which was lovely and A Basic Renovation by Sandra Antonelli which was fab fab fab and I will be writing a separate blog post for next week. My family and I spent a lovely week in Wollombi in the Hunter Valley at my sister-in-law’s farm. We swam in the dam daily, we watched kangaroos grazing, we played lots of Wii and generally did the holiday pleaser of nothing much.

Coming up, I am going to be on a romance panel on Valentine’s Day with Isolde Martyn and Jane Austen Society journal editor Joanna Penglase to discuss 200 years and the romance focus of Pride and Prejudice. I’m really excited to be involved in such an event seeing the pretty much universal appeal of the book. I’m pretty sure I have been asked along to bring in the contemporary romance tie-in. Though I liked Pride and Prejudice when I first read it I have not been part of the fandom. I have not reread it (but plan to before the event) and I don’t think much of Colin Firth. My husband really wanted to give our oldest son the middle name of D’Arcy, after his great-g-g-g-g-g-g-grandfather D’Arcy Wentworth, to which I objected as I wasn’t all that chuffed at naming my son after a highwayman despite the fact that he came good upon coming to the colony of New South Wales as the second fleet’s doctor and as a free settler (oh – the irony as my son tells me he would have loved to have D’Arcy as his name). In my research for this panel  I discovered the Lizzie Bennet Diaries just to discover my favouritest ever Darcy. I have become obsessed with this vlog and transmedia fiction. I follow the characters on twitter, I read Jane’s Tumblr and Lydia is totally understood. And the whole “Socially Awkward Darcy” meme is fun. And most importantly, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries have given me that jolt in my stomach. That feeling that romance readers get when they come across a couple that you know should be together, and despite the fact that I know there is a happy ever after, the anticipation that only a good adaptation and dramatisation can affect, that feeling that perhaps these two will not get past Regis’s point of ritual death. I do love the well retold romance.

Alphabet vs Genre

As a child, I remember progressing from the picture books to the chapter books at my local children’s library, The Warren in Marrickville. Upon my progression to the Junior Fiction section, disorganised child that I was, I made the decision to delve into the collection at the beginning. At A. And I would progress until I read every book in this, albeit tiny, branch library. I read Alcott’s Little Women, Brink’s Baby Island, Brown’s Flat Stanley, Cleary’s Henry Huggins and Ramona the Pest and as you could imagine the list goes on and on all the way to Zindel’s The Pigman. (As an aside, I spent about a year at E and F having hit the mother lode with Elizabeth Enright, Eleanor Estes, Edward Eager and Eleanor Farjeon). I went on to use the same method when I matured from the children’s library and I moved up two flights of stairs to the then Adult Library at Marrickville Town Hall under the beautiful stained glass ceiling.

Once again, I started at A and progressed slowly through the collection. Serendipity ruled for me. And browsing shelves alphabetically, whether in a bookshop or a library was great because, unlike Dewey, it was simple and unbiased. I just read whatever caught my fancy. Steven King, Leon Uris, Wilbur Smith, Isabelle Allende, Penny Jordan, Carole Mortimer all interfiled in the one big area. Horror, literature, romance, fantasy all there. Despite this, I still discovered my favourite genre, I still found my favourite romance authors. This was objective shelving, for while the library may not pass judgements on different genres, people sometimes do, and link a writer’s, and even reader’s quality, to their preferred genre.

Over the last 10 years, libraries have seen a shift in the layout of their spaces and the way people access their shelves. There is a lot more display space, bookshop layout is aspired towards, and this is all very positive as it makes libraries much more attractive and appealing places to their members. But I am ambivalent about the reorginisation of books according to the genre that they fall in. Unlike retailers, libraries are not about profit margins but about unbiased access to information and cultural materials. Selection may be unbiased but we are seeing a move towards subjective organisation.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of genre fiction. Over the last 30 years my reading has seen me devour comics, horror, literature, children’s fiction and, of course my mainstay fiction favourite, romance. To add to these, I will occasionally dabble in fantasy, science fiction and my least favourite (and only because I’m squeamish), crime. But I found my favourites by browsing unbiased shelves. And much as I love walking into my favourite bookshops and libraries and heading straight to the romance shelves I often wonder about the people who will miss out on reading a fabulous romance because they don’t want to be seen in the romance section or the science fiction fan who just doesn’t want to read literary work. Somehow, I feel that it is like apartheid for books (harsh words, I know!).

For, heaven forbid Dean R Koontz is shelved near Milan Kundera, or Roald Dahl to be seen alongside Victoria Dahl, or Howard Jacobson grace the same shelf as Eloisa James. And then, what of the books that sit across genres such as Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse and J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood books that sit comfortably in both fantasy or romance genres. Or benchmark setting authors such as Margaret Atwood – does she sit in literature or speculative fiction. Genre-based shelving endorses a classification of fiction that may not be needed.

I know that as a child, I loved discovering books and that none of them had genre labels. As an adult, I am struggling to decide upon whether I like the genrification of libraries or if I would like fiction, to once again, be a roll call of authors on shelves.

* strikethrough added a few years after I first posted this