Much snow such doge

Screen shot 2014-02-04 at 10.22.33 AMAll twibrarians should be following @dogebrarian. Such lolz, much mystery. If you’re not familiar with the meme, doge (no standard pronunciation – it’s part of the charm!) is a shiba inu, surrounded by linguistically wonky phrases in comic sans. Dogecoin even exists as an alternative to bitcoin. Some librarian – who? where? – took doge to work . And it’s amazing.

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This is basically how I’m spending my snow day.

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Digital Humanities

I just got back from the AIA/APA annual meeting in Chicago. It was a great opportunity; I attend whenever I can. One of the most interesting sessions this year was about archaeology and new technologies. Social network analysis, 3-D mapping, and electronic literary analysis are all changing the ways archaeologists and classicists approach their work.

This article by Jennifer Adams and Kevin Gunn for the ACRL is an overview of Digital Humanities and the possibilities for librarians within the field. As I learned in Chicago, everyone has a different understanding of what “Digital Humanities” means. It takes a lot of scholars out of their comfort zones. It requires collaboration and flexibility. I think that libraries are uniquely situated to be DH hubs on campus; we have the technological expertise to work with faculty on these projects and the sort of neutral space for different subject specialists to meet. The DH centers at U of Maryland, Emory, and U of Virginia are all located in the university library. Librarians and Digital Humanities scholars have the same goals: increased access to resources, finding new and transformative uses for data, sharing scholarly communication and creative teaching. In short, Digital Humanities offers librarians new ways to collaborate with partners across the university.

For more reading on DH and libraries, see this bibliography by Miriam Posner.

By Flashlight: The Dud Avocado, Elaine Dundy

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“Now here’s the heavy irony. So I went back to New York to become a librarian. To actually seek out this thing I’ve been fleeing all my life. And (here it comes): a librarian is just not that easy to become…Apparently there’s a whole filing system and annotating system and stamping system and God knows what you have to learn before you qualify.” – Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Sally Jay Gorce is a 21-year-old Missouri native, dropped in Paris in the 1950s. She lives a madcap existence along the lines of Holly Golightly: she takes lovers, sips champagne, dines at the Ritz and at dingy student cafés, and chases new experiences in this charming coming-of-age novel. The Dud Avocado was popular upon its publication, then faded to obscurity before being re-released by NYRB Classics in 2007. It’s a short and bubbly read with poignant passages, for those days when you wish you were wearing an evening dress and eating croissants.

Americans like their libraries!

A Pew survey from Dec. 11th found that “Some 90% of Americans ages 16 and older said that the closing of their local public library would have an impact on their community, with 63% saying it would have a ‘major’ impact.” So…we can pretty much disagree with the article written by this guy.

But there is still more to do. The study also found that “23% of those who have ever used a public library said they feel like they know all or most of the service and programs their library offers, while a plurality (47%) said that they know some of what it offers. About one in five (20%) say they don’t know very much about what is offered, and 10% say they know ‘nothing at all.’” The support could be even stronger if people knew what an extra-fantastic resource their community library is! I’ve gotten my co-workers all hooked on Zinio, our library’s e-magazine resource. So make it a mission today to tell a friend, or coworker, or family member about the last cool thing you found at your library. Spread the word and, meanwhile, let’s desk-dance with Stephen!

The study can be found here: http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2013/12/11/libraries-in-communities/

Reason #568 why I love my public library

The public libraries have a rich collection here in Johnson County, but sometimes I need a book that we just don’t have on the shelves. Luckily, I can ILL new materials! I don’t have their stats, but I get the sense that most patrons don’t recognize this as an option. Granted, the number of screens you have to navigate might be a deterrent. I am always sort of astonished that universities will send out the stuff I request. For example: I wanted to review the source documents behind Julie Kavanagh’s The Girl Who Loved Camellias. This biography covers the life of 19th-century courtesan Marie Duplessis, the inspiration behind Dumas fils’ The Lady of the Camellias and Verdi’s La Traviata. So, I got Roman Viennes’ The Truth About the Lady of the Camellias (1887) from a remote university. It has a curious list of the items auctioned off from Marie’s luxurious apartment after her death. They run the gamut from the mundane (sheets) to the luxurious (candelabra) and the unusual (her parrot). For those who can read French, check out more below!

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By Flashlight: The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert

Ms. Gilbert returns to fiction with this story of self-discovery. Alma Whittaker has an extraordinary upbringing, the result of her fortune-seeking father and her strict classicist mother. Alma herself has considerable intellectual gifts, which, combined with her ungainly physique and unusual family, isolate her from other young people. Her eventual marriage is spiritually but not sexually fulfilling, so Alma continues her botanical studies, stumbling upon (but not publishing) her own theory of evolution, and finding by the end of her life possibly as much familial and academic respect as she could hope.

Although a well-researched novel, I was not personally captivated by the descriptions of mosses, orchids and other flora. It’s a pity, because Ms. Gilbert is so clearly enthusiastic. Obviously she has invested time, energy and effort in learning about these plants…but then, my favorite green plants are cacti (so little upkeep!). Alma can see herself reflected in the mosses for which she cares – intricate little worlds, moving at a snail’s pace, but capable of great things in due course.

In the end, though, I found that I couldn’t care very much about Alma. I was hurrying to reach the end of the book, and the relationship I found the most compelling was that of Alma with her dog. Her intellect was astonishing but entirely invested in a subject – botany – that I just couldn’t enjoy. Yes, there is commentary here about the male gaze and the (still) uphill battle of female scientists for recognition. It’s certainly  deserving of attention.

This book has received stellar reviews elsewhere. It’s not my favorite genre, and if I’m being honest, it’s possible that I was just hoping for a second Eat, Pray, Love. I’d even settle for a second Committed. Although I do have a new appreciation for the moss I added to my terrarium.

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Photo credit: http://terrarilicious.blogspot.com/

I’m with the banned

You’ve gotta fight! For your right! To…read? Every year, the ALA celebrates Banned Books Week, which raises awareness of censorship and freedom of expression. The most-challenged book of 2012, it turns out, was Captain Underpants. It joins perennial favorites like the Harry Potter series and To Kill a Mockingbird. A lot of the books on the list are for a YA audience, and have been challenged for offensive language or sexually explicit content. What does challenged mean? Somewhere, someone has submitted a request to remove the book from school or library shelves. It’s not unreasonable to want to shield teens from things like sex and curse words and war…but these things exist in the real world, and they can be safely explored in the fictional one (and discussed with adults). Luckily there are things we can do to combat these challenges, starting with…reading banned books! That way, the next time someone challenges the book in your community, you can have a reasoned discussion about its merits. Join book clubs and talk about these books with other people. Ask your local librarians what their policy is for challenged books. Volunteer at a local school and learn about the audience for YA lit. But read, read!

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It’s Bigger than a Breadbox…

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It’s Friday, folks, and here’s your daily squee: the Little Free Library. The first of these libraries appeared in Wisconsin and over 1,000 have since popped up far-flung places such as India, Colombia and Japan. I pass the one pictured above on my way to work!

I was excited to read about these libraries because they are a creative way to promote a sense of community on school grounds, in community gardens, or around apartment complexes. Since the books are donated by members of the community, they reflect neighborhood interests. There might be how-to books on gardening, children’s books or trail guides (there is also a steward for each library, to monitor the type of content the libraries receive). And, since the little libraries are brightly painted and – let’s face it – adorable, they are also neighborhood works of art. Learn more about the Little Free Library project here: http://www.littlefreelibrary.org/media-coveage.html

Awesome librarians are awesome.

Tomorrow’s Friday! Here are some rock star librarians to celebrate.

By Flashlight: Quiet, Susan Cain

Quiet is a book that champions the characteristics of introverted individuals, and does so in a considered and accessible way. Of course I read this one – how could I resist?

Recently, I was at a restaurant with two of my friends. One of them pointed to a man sitting alone at the bar and wondered, “I never get people who do that. Doesn’t he have any friends?” Maybe he’s just okay with being alone, I wanted to say.

Ms. Cain contends that the American “Extrovert Ideal” has led us to undervalue the contributions of introverted personalities. As Ms. Cain’s book makes clear, introverts have just as much to offer as extroverts in social and business environments. She interviews academics to dispel the notion that introversion is something that can be cured by telling someone to speak up. Instead of ignoring the introverts in our midst, Ms. Cain would like us to use them to balance the impulsive extroverts. It’s not that being an extrovert is bad…just that being an introvert is equally good.

So, yes, this book was personally validating. There really is something to the “fake it ’til you make it” approach, and I can certainly function as an extrovert at need. I genuinely enjoy teaching, for example, and pooling ideas – but I prefer to brainstorm after I’ve had a chance to consider the problem on my own. This book will be helpful for introverts who are hesitant to own the label, and parents and partners trying to understand the quiet person in their lives.