Saturday, December 27, 2008

Librarians and the job market

The career of librarian was recently written up in as one of the best careers for 2009. Please note that the rosy view painted in this article is true to a certain extent. However the Norman Rockwellian glow hovering over this article is a bit misleading as libraries are, and will continue, to suffer as a result of the economic issues the nation is experiencing. Municipal libraries suffer greatly because their budget is typically tied directly to the county or city in which they are located. School libraries must fight to retain their own budget levels while continuing to explore methods to remain relevant and interesting to the students. Academic libraries face rising subscription prices, lowering budgets and what seems to be a rising view of the collegiate population that libraries are less than useful with the convenience of the internet so close at hand.
Being a librarian requires grit and grace. It can be rewarding but it's going to take some serious effort and time to see those rewards pay off.

300 posts!

Well, this is actually my 301st which is much more than I ever expected to write. Admittedly the bulk of these are from article postings from the NYT and other places. I plan to be writing more here this year which hopefully will prove interesting and helpful.
1)John Oliff, a professor of Greek and theology at PBU has begun a blog that should definitely be checked out. The blog is Mere Student and is promising to be excellent from the several posts that have been written.
2) IF:Book posted this interview with Helen Dewitt, the author of The Last Samurai. This interview is a really interesting take on the writing process and the rather brutal toll it seems to take on the writer's art. Ms. Dewitt does a fantastic job in this essay/interview to balance the sting and maddening spiral of the editing process with an ironic and cheeky tone. Well worth the read.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

2008 in Review (at least from my perspective)

My list of best and worst things of 2008
Because it is that time that everyone and their mother's cousin write lists about what they liked/loved/hated in the year, I felt the blurge to join in. (Blurge is a conglomeration of the words "blog" and "urge". The word captures the urge to blog about something essentially meaningless i.e. "I am blurging to write about the snow falling.")
I initially thought about creating a top X number of music or books but that has been done so many times this month it seemed a bit excessive and superfluous. The funniest part of these lists is that at least in my case they seem to revolve around the last six months as mental recall seems to fail at any point past that.

Best thing on TV I discovered this year:
Austin City Limits (Gnarls Barkley is surprisingly good live on television; Thievery Corporation is ridiculously good live; Norah Jones is surprisingly boring.)

My top bands of 2008:
Bon Iver-For Emma Forever Ago
Fleet Foxes--Fleet Foxes/Sun Giant
Okkervil River--The Stand-Ins ( I heard Will Sheff DJ on NPR With Bob Boilen. Amazing range of musical influences and knowledge. Excellent session)
Horse Feathers-House with No Name (stellar!)
I would probably include Margo and the Nuclear So and So's but I haven't heard the whole album yet; my bad!

The one band I really, really hope releases an album in 2009:
MeWithoutYou (They went into the studio in Sept.)

First Monday Podcast and Journal AJ Hanna and Joy Austria are fantastic, witty, brilliant and informed. I faithfully listen to their podcast every month, at least once usually twice to make sure I got it all, and I seriously appreciate the range of scholars and opinions they bring through their podcast. Their sessions with Lawrence Lessig and Bloodshot Records this winter were really awesome)
NPR All Songs Considered Podcast (Bob Boilen is a walking, breathing musical encyclopedia with impeccable taste. My favorites podcasts are the ones where Bob Boilen, Carrie Brownstein, (Monitor Mix blogger), Stephen Thompson (editor for Song of the Day), and Robin Hilton (All Songs producer and host of Second Stage) get together and talk about music. I listened to The Year in Review:2008 twice in a row laughing out loud multiple times. This group did a great job with SXSW as well. Great music; great interviews and good opinions. One of the other best sessions was the Bon Iver concert from SXSW; brilliant! (These guys do an excellent job; good interviews, about 4-5 songs per session, good sound balance, really wide and awesome mix of bands. They make me want to move to Cincinnati.) Awesome library blog; diverse and informed.
In the Library with the Lead Pipe:This is also a great library blog which ties connections to library practice and other thought processes; excellent.
LibraryJuice: Great name, great concept. Titled with "On the intersection of libraries, politics and culture" and definitely meets that title quite well. Did I mention that they are also a publishing press? They have some great titles that I am eager to read, check it out here.

Best Books I read in 2008
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close -- Jonathan Safran Foer
Control Revolution -- James Beniger
The Life of the Mind -- James Schall
Surprised by Hope -- N.T. Wright
More than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Metaphor -- George Lakoff and Mark Turner
Metaphors We Live By -- George Lakoff and Mark Johnson
A Mighty Heart -- Marianne Pearl
A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again -- David Foster Wallace
A Dove Descending -- Thomas Howard
Jesus of Hollywood -- Adele Reinhartz

Excellent Coffee
Paradise Roaster's (These guys are super, timely and caring customer service, quick shipping, amazing and top-shelf selections of coffee. I would highly encourage a purchase of their coffee. It's good for your as well as being a spot-on sophisticated gift!!)

Personally exciting
New job as Director of Library Services at Davis College.

Personally horrible:
Not selling our home so that during the week my wife is living in Phila while I live in Binghamton, NY. Anybody want to buy a house, that would make our year!

Merry Christmas! Peace.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Consider the Philosopher

Consider the Philosopher

This is an article about David Foster Wallace whom I was not at all familiar or even aware of until his death this past September. However it was not until last week when I came across his commencement speech given at Kenyon in May 2005, that I realized this is someone I need to read. I'm currently his collection of essays entitled A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. Wallace is brilliant in this book and reading the NY Times article above continues to demonstrate this brilliance. I have not yet read any of his fictional works but they are now on my list. It is Wallace's careful and thoughtful handling of language and demonstrating continued appreciation for its power without succumbing to love of language for its own sake.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Turning 100 at Carnegie Hall, With New Notes

Happy Birthday Mr. Carter

“I’d rather hear them play good contemporary music than old music,” he said of the performers devoted to his wworks...20th-century composers “have a spark” and convey “what it is like to be living now,” he [Elliot Carter] said." Bravo sir!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Good News for NY State Libraries

I received this email a couple minutes ago. (I did actually advocate from my desk on behalf of this so this is really excellent. Also this effects our grant money from NY State so hopefully we will get that soon. Now only if Phila would get their act together...)

"Dear Library Advocate,
I want to let you know that your participation in NYLA's advocacy efforts has helped release $26 million in undistributed Library Aid from the approved 2008-09 State Budget. 
As you know, the state was holding onto the undistributed funds pending an agreement with the state Legislature on further mid-year budget cuts.   Since those cuts were not agreed to by the state Legislature (and the NYLA Library Rally on November 18th impacted that decision), the remaining funds have been authorized to be released.   These undistributed funds include aid for the NYC libraries, library systems, Conservation and Preservation Program, Indian Libraries and Coordinated Collection Development Aid (CCDA)  for college libraries.
So thanks again to all of you in the library community who joined us in advocating on behalf of all libraries.  United we stand, divided we fall!
Stay tune for further NYLA Legislative Alerts. The Governor will be releasing his 2009-10 Executive Budget next week on December 16th, and there will be more work for NYLA and library advocates to do.  In addition, President-Elect Obama and Congress are discussing an economic stimulus package for public works projects and we are working with ALA to insure that libraries receive their fair share of any stimulus package.

Michael J. Borges
Executive Director
New York Library Association"

Reclaiming a Poet: Old Words, New Music

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Don't look now but

Google generation has no need for rote learning
Google, stupidity, and libraries

These are three fairly recent articles on the continued perceived impact of Google on research and students. I've had the privilege of some impromptu interviewing with approximately 25 freshman in the past week on their semester's experience of working with the library's databases and other resources. As a librarian who is deeply concerned and interested in developing good research practice, Google's ease of use has proven to be a double-edged sword. The first link deals experessly with this idea and has deep implications for the sharing and understanding of knowledge. Rote learning is important because it enables the students later in life to make the necessary connections between history, art and living. Relying on Google to be the fount of knowledge locks the premise of learning into a marketing-driven product that will continue to churn out consumer-driven students to a greater extent than the present. Since Google's search results, can now be removed and adjusted by the user as well as ability of the results to be manipulated by paying Google more creates incredibly skewed knowledge base. The premise that we can rely on one knowledge source, compiled by one company is incredibly short-sighted by the user. Yes we can look up information but the looking up of information only makes sense of if we can make connections between we are looking for and what we already know. To only look up information but not to retain it will continue to transform and weaken our language, our writing and our education as well as the continued transformation of information into a cheap commodity with little redeeming value.
How do we redeem this process? Librarians and educators must stand firm and push back against this ease of information age. We must require more of our students, working together to create syllabi and processes to push/force our students through the research process. In all of its Hegelian process, the students must come into conflict with multiple aspects of information literacy and interaction. To allow them to use only one source of information is to cheapen their education and rob them of their tuition. It is not my desire to get students to use the library simply because I work in one but we need to be concerned with helping to create scholars. Not in the sense of an ivory tower but in the sense of creating intelligent, critically thinking, continuous students interacting with language, culture, faith, aesthetics and God to better impact our world. We have a unique opportunity in this postmodern culture to seize upon vehicles of thought that were previously unavailable, especially that of narrative knowledge. Google is a good example of this as the user can enter in a narrative-based question/phrase that returns narrative/mythical results. However we must temper this basis of narrative knowledge with the ability to critically assess and weight information and transmute it into knowledge. This is not something every student will embrace but I believe every student must confront it head-on or we will lose more than can be currently foreseen or calculated.

Continuing the Milton Birthday Fest

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Milton versus ShakespeareMilton versus Shakespeare


Milton versus Shakespeare

the best part of this article is the day long reading of "Paradise Lost" in its entirety at Cambridge. That is at the same level of Bloomsday; community reading a shared text that supports a cultural heritage and influences the way a culture reads, writes, thinks and interacts with texts, narratives and myth."He [Milton] knew that myth was a concrete and dramatic rendering of a truth that could be rendered in no other way; and of the validity of that truth he had not doubt."Milton attempts throughout the poem to justify the ways of God to man.  While I have not read Paradise Lost deeply nor in its entireity, the parts I have read show an interesting effect on the historical thinking of evangelicals in terms of how Satan is viewed, especially in the relationship to the serpent and the view of human will. You can read Paradise Lost here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The tyranny of the to-read pile

The tyranny of the to-read pile

This is a good article but the best part of reading this is the incredible two pages of fifty-five comments which read like the minutes of a book support group for those of us who struggle with that gathering of leering books staring back at us from the shelf or shelves,  knowing and sharing the secret shame we each feel every time I glance at Adorno's Aesthetics; that shame which is easily smoothed over when proudly displaying the contents of one's shelves to visitors with the promise to the transitory individual that this one is next on the list, which, as soon as the dinner guest has departed, said imaginary list is immediately deleted and reality reinserts itself; so if this is your support group, please join in and add your voice to the harmonious moan.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Rest is Noise receives additional kudos

Alex Ross's book The Rest is Noise continues to garner kudos. This time from the Guardian. Check it out here in Ross's words and here in the Guardian's.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

NextGen: Embracing My Authority

NextGen: Embracing My Authority

There are some remarkable changes in thinking that I share with this article. It is the interactions with students about their lives that is defining my role and understanding of my role to a much greater extent than chasing down articles and trapping information. It's good but additionally challenging. It is good having an office and not having a cubicle.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Kerouac's On the Road manuscript travels to the Midlands

Kerouac's On the Road manuscript travels to the Midlands

When, please tell me, will the realization that Kerouac did not actually write On the Road in 3 weeks become acceptable.Here's the second It's a great urban legend that Kerouac rocked the typewriter for 20 hours straight. I'm not sure why the Guardian managed to get this item wrong twice in one week. It's also disturbing that this item is never footnoted. Check out Windblown World by David Brinkley who offers solid evidence that Kerouac wrote this book over several months.
What is happening with the Guardian this week?
Never mind; check this out.

Gay Bible angers Christians

Not Art Rock: Top 10 'Smart Rock' Albums

Monday, December 1, 2008

Long live the library revolution;

Long live the library revolution

I like the Guardian. I think the writers do a decent job and I enjoy the British perspective as well as their highlight of non-US writers. Also, I typically cheer on articles on libraries from mainstream and diverse publications.  It is not my purpose to belittle this article however there were a couple of items that bothered me as a librarian to which I would like to add some clarification.
1) The blogs mentioned are not the best representation of librarian blogs.The blog Lipstick Librarian mentioned in the article has posted little to anything helpful on libraries in the past two months. Free Range Librarian presents interesting topics but it's not really helpful for items dealing with library issues. These are not blogs that I would read for help or input. I would suggest Library Juice which is both a press and an excellent, fully encompassing library blog. features the writings and thoughts of librarian consultant Jessamyn West; this is a well-developed and helpful site. Librarian in Black, while having the hands-down, coolest name, also has provides updated technological and librarian related items. These blogs represent a much better cross-section of librarian thoughts and writing that I think truly represent the thinking for the "new breed of librarians".
2) The first sentence of the last paragraph of the article states: "Librarians are the gatekeepers and guides to a world in which information is now in abundance and the democratization of access to it is of ever-increasing importance." I would disagree; librarians no longer function as gatekeepers. This is a role they used to hold but have been forced to re-examine that role because of the abudance of information. People are now their own gatekeepers. Historically, the library functioned as the bank of information for most families, especially those from middle-income and lower income families. Patrons utilized libraries to access information that they could not find elsewhere. They queried the library staff, who acted as portals, to attain the information they needed. This relationship helped to cause librarians to see themselves as guardians of information rather than its purveyors. The true revolution in librarianship has been the continued transformation of library services to stay relevant, useful and informative. Librarians now act as filters and directors; along with locating print sources, librarians also are helping patrons to understand how to better comprehend and evaluate their search results as well as pointing them to good search methods. Our goal is not to guard information but to give the best access to the best possible information.
The library is admitteldy an odd place that functions in a way that is quite different than most other institutions in the 21st century. While public libraries and school libraries require tax dollars and public support to function and academic libraries must wrestle with the institutions' budget to gain their funds, they offer a unique range of services that are not available anywhere else. Libraries exist to serve and those libraries who truly understand their purpose continue to evaluate and re-evaluate their offerings in order to better understand how their patrons view the changing world of information retrieval. That is the library revolution.

Going Off to College for Less (Passport Required)