Thursday, July 30, 2009

A day in the life of a library (aka what a librarian might do if that librarian was me)

So there's a project over at A Day in the Life of a Library which seemed like a library-geek type of fun project to get down with. The very simple aspect sharing what my day was like. Since this project has been going on since Monday here's a quick synopsis of my week thus far up until today:

Monday-cataloged new books (Monday might have had something else more exciting happen but I simply cannot remember.)
Tuesday-cataloged new books
Wednesday cataloged new books
(The reasons for this exciting week of repetition being two-fold with a caveat 1) ordered a whole bunch of books throughout the summer and bc of 2) the semi-massive rearranging project have just now gotten to the cataloging with the caveat being that there's some prep-work for the class I'm teaching in the fall I'm supposed to be doing but am a bit nervous about and so am deflecting that nervous energy into cataloging.)
You can throw into that exciting mix answering the occasional email and checking out the occasional patron but cataloging has been my life this week.

Thursday (today)
7:10 get to the library. It rained last night so there's a good chance there's water in the basement. Surprise; there is. I spend 30 minutes wet/dry vacuuming it up.
7:45 send a couple of emails.
8:00 Head out to Ithaca, NY for a Grant Writing Workshop that starts at 9:30. This was hosted by SRLC (Southeast Regional Library Council) Lovely people-really hard-working, extremely gracious and charming!
9:15 drive past the meeting place twice.
9:20 finally get there.
9:30-12 great workshop. It was awesome! Well presented a whole-bunch of good information and resources. I'm looking forward to digging into this area and seeing what may benefit the library. (I am, however, a horrible networker. Going to need to work on that.)
1:20 stop by the apartment so Kara can drive me to work and take the car
1:30 eat a PBJ sandwich and check email some good stuff from the wallace-l list as well as some interesting stuff in RSS feeds (Possible Koha/liblime dustup??)
1:45-2:45 catalog
2:45 talk to a couple of patrons about how awesome the library looks with all the periodicals moved upstairs and the resulting new space. (So I don't a picture readily available but basically picture a cave, wood-panelled and now picture a cave, wood-panelled with floor to ceiling windows around 90% of it. That's basically how the corner of the library now looks. The periodicals moved upstairs for anyone who was worried) I do need furniture and talk to patron who is willing to donate their leather sofa (AWESOME!).
2:50 call up office furniture place that also deals in used furniture. the salesman is in the office and they are only five minutes away-I'm going over!
2:55 apparently my car battery is dead (It's been acting up-don't believe there was any tomfoolery on my part.)
2:56 Rob (the IT guy) jumps my car and away I go. (To the careful reader yes the mention of another car seems convoluted esp. as to the note about the switch but there's a whole other side story that doesn't quite have room to be explained here.Email me if you're really interested.)
3:00-4:00 meet with furniture salesman. Realize my budget is hosed for what I want to do this year especially since even the nice used furniture is not really in my budget and since it is used there's typically not enough of the stuff anyway. Salesman is quite nice. Take furniture catalogue and some weighty thoughts and go back to the office to consider other possibilities
4:00-5:30 look at more furniture/library furniture catalogs then I would care to mention while creating an excel spreadsheet to track possibilites and prices, etc. Consider calling up Bill Gates and directly applying for a grant for furniture. It is ludicrous how much it costs for chairs. (If only I had hung onto the 50 volumes of Reader's Digest condensed novels recently disposed-I could have gotten at least one chair out of that lot, I am sure of it.)
6:00 pm turn off lights-head home on bike.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Thoughts on reading as consumption

One of the problems with reading fiction, and possibly reading at all, is that to properly read it (where properly equals attentive/connectivedly) is to have to pay attention constantly. This paying attention is not only to the storyline but also to attempting to determine the raison d' etre of the story that is both integrated with the storyline as well as the possible socio-historical context of the author. Not trying to show off using 'socio-historical' but it's a good word and appropriate. So why read fiction? Why attempt to make a difference between Grisham and Grass or between Patterson and Wallace? The first response is that it's healthy, stretching and places one in touch with Kultur(Humboldt) as well attempting to place the current standing of the zeitgeist as perceived or responded to by the author. It's also entertaining. Narrative myth is a powerful method of dealing with the world and attempting to plumb the trueness of that myth. Should time be spent then with only a small number of texts, the quote unquote essential ones, or with as many texts as possible knowing that I will not possibly remember them all?
The thought that I have though is that ten years from now when asked/contemplated being asked what have I done with my time and I respond read is that enough? is that sufficient?
In my head I respond that it is necessary to continue to read to absorb and connect think about these texts as much as possible because one never knows when one of these texts will apply. or when opening up the new book catalogs that land on my desk on a regular basis and the popping and snapping of certain titles from the pages makes the demand directly of me to read or at least add to my list. Why do these certain books enact desire w/in me to be read? (This is an entirely different question)
The problem I've begun to think about though is this approach is inherently flawed because while I may eschew the consumption of television still what I'm doing is consuming texts
which may not be any healthier esp. if I can't coherently talk back the work to the interested party and end up sounding like a schmuck who read the book just for the intellectual kudos/notch on the proverbial book-reading-belt or shelf. There is where conversation comes in and writing but if there is an irregular contact of conversation is it still worth the reading as I would prefer or is it required to shift reading into channels that allow for mutual conversation? Does writing about reading on this blog suffice or should it through more academic channels? Again the argument in my head is that any writing is good bc it's some sort of practice or even praxis but the fact of wanting to be read and known makes publishing to the blog occasionally incredibly exasperating bc of that wanting. Of course this then brings the question if I'm simply a narcissistic solipsist consumed with the texts swirling in my navel.
The issue with the academic channel (grad school/seminars) is that this constitutes a system that is designed to help the student consume and compete. "American economic and cultural systems that work very well... in terms of selling people products and keeping the economy thriving, do not work as well when it comes to educating children or helping us help each other know how to live…and to be happy… if that word means anything. That feeling of having to obey every impulse and gratify every desire, is, it seems to me to be a strange kind of slavery. Nobody talks about it as such, though. [Everyone] talks about it as freedom of choice, and you have the right to have things." (From a transcript of a short German interview with David Foster Wallace)
In seeking out these works to read am I a part of this consumptive cycle? I don't feel that I have to buy every book especially as I wouldn't have time to read them all. Knowledge, or simply information, are presented as purchasable, consumable items with an end result being nebulously presented as a 'scholar' or being able to trundle out words like 'socio-historical'.
Steiner suggests that "...we would recognize in today's idolatry of the 'informational', of classificatory logistics and data storage, an almost parodistic fulfilment of the encyclopaedic lust in the medieval spirit, of that omnivorous appetite for a summa, for a summa summarum (all in all) of the writ, glossed, annotated world." (Real Presences-43) This is in the context of his arguement against the continuing spiral of commentary about works.
In attempting to avoid simply being a consumer of texts, is there a correct way to read? Sire suggest that it is by reading slowly that this is the method to follow. Of course the problem with methods is that they can turn out to be ends rather than means.
Perhaps the issue is that my terminology is wrong. If in continually glossing, annotating, checking definitions and ideas when moving through a text this process prevents me as the reader from consuming bc this process is a braking one, especially that of taking notes while reading.
In an interview with John O'Brien, David Foster Wallace and Richard (I believe) Powers, Powers is answering the question why he writes and he responds that "...I write out of pleasure and every morning I can't believe I'm getting away with write to enhance your pleasure of life and increase your sense of where you are and where you've been dropped down." (19:00) Perhaps this is where the purpose of reading then stems from, all concerns about consumption aside, to increase my knowledge of where I am and where I've been dropped down.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Two poems by Richard Brautigan from The Pill versus The Springfield Mine Disaster

1939 Part 3                                                             Insane Asylum Part 8
"Baudelaire used to come                                            "Baudelaire went
to our house and watch                                               to the insane asylum
me grind coffee.                                                          disguised as a
That was in 1939                                                         psychiatrist.
and we lived in the slums                                              He stayed there
of Tacoma.                                                                  for two months                                    
My mother would put                                                   and when he left,                                                    
the coffee beans in the grinder.                                     the insane asylum               
I was a child                                                                loved him so much               
and would turn the handle                                            that it followed                              
pretending that it was                                                  him all over
     a hurdy-gurdy,                                                       California,
and Baudelaire would pretend                                       and Baudelaire  
that he was a monkey,                                                 laughed when the                                               
hopping up and down                                                  insane asylum
and holding out                                                           rubbed itself  
a tin cup."                                                                   up against his        
                                                                                  leg like a
                                                                                  strange cat."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Continuing Online Adventures of Finding DFW

It's really interesting to me how DFW has found continued life, as it were, online. I have a theory that DFW is probably the first author to experience this trend or way of interfacing with an author after his death. This interfacing happens/is happening on two different levels that converge at odd points. The first interface is the standard scholarly interaciton with the author as a producer of texts. This is the historical method; read/analyze/discourse/write a whole bunch of seconardy commentary/have commentary written about that commentary/etc. This second level which I think is new to serious research and while Wallace may not be the first he is the first for me is the level of an Internet presence. This is doubly odd in Wallace's case because he didn't have a website that he created to hawk his books. This will be unfootnoted for now but I believe he did not even use email until later in his life. There are interview with his editor at Little Brown referencing letters not emails. There are are several sites dedicated to Wallace (Howling Fantods, DFW Once a Day, The David Foster Wallace Audio Project) and with the Infinite Summer reading project many more have sprung up though these typically deal with the readings rather than the individual. Beyond the websites, and this is the really strange and new stuff, is the digitized TV bits of Wallace on Charlie Rose and the audio clips of Wallace reading or being interviewed. These I think are remarkable for two reasons. One  they give a sort of odd half-life to Wallace. He continues to exist in a very limited context through these readings. This is not be macabre or maudlin but, at least I do, these audio/video clips are profoundly excellent sources of research. Wallace in dialogue with Rose or in Q&A after the readings answers some good questions and you also get a feel for how Wallace was as  a person. Or at least how Wallace was as a person in front of a crowd or in front  a TV. This may be debatable but I think that these 'digital interactions' with Wallace can be problematic because I think as more and more scholarship is done researchers will examine these records to attempt to extrapolate what Wallace thought/responded to certain issues. Instead of having Wallace to talk to we're now also exegeting the audio/video clip as well as the text in hopes of mining some deeper implications. Again, Wallace does answer some questions but this continued revolving existence as an online presence presents interesting and careful thought on how researchers will approach him and his life. It's actually possible to not even read a word of Wallace and simply look up video of David Foster Wallace on YouTube and experience him in a completely different way. There's some irony, possibly, in the fact that an author who dealt so stringently with entertainment and communication is archived as a video clip that one can save to favorites or comment on. I never got the pleasure of seeing Wallace read live but am able to revisit these moments through these clips. This presence online of an individual who was not digitally motived or 'Internet-active' is an interesting read on how our current culture thinks about saving or interacting with artists. And behind all of this is the online discussion via wallace-l (the listserv for Wallace readers and discussors) There's a group read of Oblivion going down right now and it's been phenomenal. *Email is  a really weird place to conduct any type of discussion/learning but the wallace-l listers are amazingly kind and courteous so that helps tremendously.* There is the continued conflict perhaps of dealing with an author of texts through a virtual medium.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

good eye site

After that bit below about the Internet being a distraction and a thing out in the air check out this site

Reason why follow:
1. How to build all sorts of really cool stuff (screen printing, print scanners, make your friends face out of ASCII, etc.)
2. Much of this cool stuff is built from already used or discarded items.
3. These people are remarkably talented and don't mind sharing it.
45. There's no way that I would have figured any of this out of on my own.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

reading and thoughts

Sertillanges has this quote "there are many books but only a few are necessary." How do you know which ones are the necessary ones? Do you have to read all of the many in order to determine the good ones? how do you trust to say these are the good ones? It is implied that there is limitation. because if you trust recommendations then you are going to read some books but not others and may miss the essential text(s). This missing of texts will happen anyway but reading based only on recommendations is beneficial for the ability to converse about the text since we approach and depart from texts with different results and thoughts. Reading based on recommendation also may cause your thinking to flow into channels that are being carved by others rather than by yourself. But it is, can be, continues to be hard work to carve out book choices.

To return to Sertillanges' quote what are the few necessary for?

I think there's two gigantic sections into which you can fit all works, mythical narrative and pedagogical narrative. Mythical narrative presents a story, true or not, that varies from Patterson's works to more sophisticated ficiton (Wallace, Lahiri, Barthelme, etc.)that seem to try to help/confuddle the reader with the world while also entertaining. Some only entertain and some only confuddle but the rewarding ones seem to do both. The second type of writing is to teach, either in the manner of The Republic or in the manner of The Arcades Project, both writers exploring and voicing their experiences and understanding of their world. In Real Presences Steiner suggests a society where there are no critics and in response to art do not write commentary but would respond with their own texts/works of art as example of how good they thought the artwork encountered was. This coincides with an idea that be-bopped through my head recently. My original thought was what if one were to take a sabbatical from reading books for a X period of time. (There are still too many books to read and this question ultimately seemed false to me.) However one of the stemming thoughts from this idea was that any books/ideas that I wanted to read would need to be written by me (this was before I had
read Steiner's thoughts). the point of this sabbatical being clarity of thinking; sort of a cleansing action to allow thoughts to become constellations w/o constantly disturbing them with new consumption. Also to be less of a consumer, even of texts. In a recent article in the NYT, Ray Bradbury was interviewed. While saying some good things about libraries (“Libraries raised me,” Mr. Bradbury said. “I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money.") his remarks about the Internet have continued to occupy my thoughts. "

“The Internet is a big distraction,” Mr. Bradbury barked from his perch in his house in Los Angeles, which is jammed with enormous stuffed animals, videos, DVDs, wooden toys, photographs and books, with things like the National Medal of Arts sort of tossed on a table.“Yahoo called me eight weeks ago,” he said, voice rising. “They wanted to put a book of mine on Yahoo! You know what I told them? ‘To hell with you. To hell with you and to hell with the Internet.’
“It’s distracting,” he continued. “It’s meaningless; it’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere.”

The first reaction is to dismiss his thoughts as being that of an out-of-touch elderly man but on further reflection there are more ways I believe he is right then the ones in which he is wrong. While the Internet does deliver many good things how many of those good but distracting things are distractions from thinking our own thoughts? (The irionic thing being that I will publish this via my blog but "narrative calls to be published" -Dalke- so I will do so.) Internet tools like Facebook seem to encourage performance rather than community or networking. The idea of a social network is a farce because there is no real structure (structure=an agreed upon time to come together and a time to depart) which marks, or at least has marked, our social interactions up to this point. (church, class etc.) This lack of structure (esp. the scheduled ending of things) and in my experience causes our online interactions to be performances rather than real interactions. W/o an ending point I continue the performance posting statuses for which I have a particular audience in mind.

And now a story after John Cage-
"I drove to Pittsburgh yesterday. Up at 5, shower, loaded up the car, swung by my office for the laptop, by Dunking Donuts for a large coffee and on the road by 6. 6 hours later arrived at the very bottom of Pittsburgh, by dint of trusting Google's directions rather my eyes and the signs for Oakland. Parked in a garage on Forbes and Meryan and after purchasing a grande Sumatra from the Starbucks that was my landmark when taking the bus three summers ago proceeded to walk up Forbes past the museums, heading from the Caliban Bookstore. I go to this bookstore every time I'm in Pittsburgh. However arriving there there is a strange reluctance to enter knowing this is really the last time. so I stand outside for five minutes, sipping my mostly full
cup of coffee, giving directions to Quiznos like a citizen and sitting down at a table outside of Kiva Hahn under the overhang which keeps out the rain full of bonhomie and good cheer at the day, the coffee and my book. I have about an hour to sit, read and drink. Towards the end of that
hour a dreadlocked individual wearing a black t-shirt underneath green overalls interrupts
-have you bought anything from us -in the past yes (for some reason I think I'm still in front of the book shop and that this is someone from the bookstore)
-well do you have to sit here? they are our biggest competitor and you're sitting in front of our shop.
-i'm sorry. i was just looking for a place to sit.
-at least turn the cup so the logo doesn't show.
-i apologize. I was not paying attention at all. (empty cup is put into trash. machiato purchased.)
-i'm sorry if I came off like a b*tch.
-not at all.
-later, dude.