Beginning of a new semester

You may have noticed that the posts are beginning to lag again.  Well, classes has started again.  I have started my fourth semester in my MLIS program.  This semester I am only taking six units: History of Books & Libraries and Digital Asset Management.  There has been quite a bit of reading, but not too much.  Mostly I find myself reading books from my own reading list.

My favorite class thus far is History of Books & Libraries.  This week we have been studying about Medieval Libraries and the teacher posted this YouTube link to give a glimpse of what a scriptorium is like (from the movie The Name of The Rose which I haven’t seen, but I’ve read the several times).

Don’t watch the movie, but read the book.  It is a great novel about monks, books, and art.  I liked it much better than Follet’s Pillars of the Earth (though that book too was fantastic).  As years pass, I find that I like the Medieval and Renaissance periods the best in literature and history.  But I should have known this as my childhood hero was Robin Hood (and not just for his ideals, but for the time period he was living in).


WorldCat Identities

WorldCat is trying something.  A search engine of sorts that will give a brief synopsis on different identities.  WorldCat Identities.

For instance, Jane Austen.  It will tell you a publishing history, list of widely held works (by libraries) about the identity, and works written by the identity.  Also, you can see how accesible the works can be with a scale that measures from kids to special.  One potential problem I can see with this is that the most widely held works don’t always necessitate the best books on that individual.  For most widely held works for Jane Austen the book list is:

Jane Austen’s Book Club is hardly a decent book on Jane Austen, nor is it a very good novel.  What would be better, if we are to educate people or help inform them of the best information about these individuals is not only to have a widely held list, but best recommendations.  Sure that can differ, but there are many books that can be agreed upon by a wide number of people as definitive books on different individuals.

This is only a beta version, but hopefully WorldCat will discover a way to incorporate a mechanism on filtering the best information, or perhaps this is where a librarian can assist.

Beautiful Libraries

Here’s a link to some gorgeous libraries.  It shouldn’t be surprising that most of the beautiful libraries exist in Europe.  Maybe I’m just a librarian because of the love I have for old library architecture (beginning in childhood with Pasadena Central Library).

The page is long and requires lots of scrolling, but it is worth it.  I have added some of these libraries to my list of “Must See”.

Librophiliac Love Letter:  A Compendium of Beautiful Libraries

Maybe I'm Morbid…

I had to laugh that the comic book Bunny Suicides was challenged at a school in the United States.  Actually I am surprised that it was at a school, but I can see many kids loving it.  Especially boys.  This delightful little comic book shows images of bunnies trying their best to commit suicide.  Suicide is a dark subject, I’ll admit that, but for some reason seeing these cute looking bunny rabbits finding different ways to do it is funny.  My favorite is an comic where there is a line of bunnies outside an airplane, waiting for their chance to jump through one of the engines (propellers? – I don’t know planes well).  The image does not stop there, but continues as out the other side of the engine are pieces of the bunnies.  None of this is color though.

The parent does see that these are comic, but she does hope that the library will hold the book behind the circulation desk and allow only highschoolers to check it out.  That may be appropriate, but I can see that junior high boys would love it too.

Library Links|Dawning of a New Age

The Stiftsbibliothek, or abbey library, in the Swiss town of St. Gallen

The Stiftsbibliothek, or abbey library, in the Swiss town of St. Gallen

In the Guardian today, there are excerpts from letters about libraries and their ability to adapt to the new technological age.  Most of the quotes from the letters were positive.  Especially this one, as the writer explains that as the ability to get more information instantaneously over the internet the more the world will need librarians.  I think that this is true.  As long as there is information (and now with several different ways to access it) the world will still need librarians to navigate the mountains of it.  Which is also why librarians will need to learn good online searching techniques and be able to keep up with technology as it changes rapidly.

“The future of libraries is bright indeed if they can get through the next few years reasonably intact. By then it should be obvious to all that their – slightly modified – function is essential to society.

The reason is clear. The information society is in the process of taking form. Here the defining products are immaterial knowledge rather than concrete objects, production units are knowledge workers rather than machines in factories, and the raw material is information.

The amount of information involved is almost inconceivable. And the complexity of the task of managing and making available for all citizens this information will demand all the qualified professional help society can obtain, and more. We are going to need our librarians desperately.
Don Mac Donald
Oslo, Norway”

And with the future of libraries being bright and ever-so-slightly changing at times, one of the oldest libraries in Switzerland has received a grant that will enable them to put their Medieval manuscripts online.  Being that it is one of the oldest libraries surviving from the 9th century, it has a rich history that can attract many people, especially now over the internet.  As an expert who is overseeing the project of digitizing the manuscripts says:

“The library has become more visible,” Mr. Flüeler said. “On the Internet we now have more visitors than in the real library.”

While not all the manuscripts are able to be viewed yet, there are at least 144 manuscripts that are.  This is immensely helpful for those who have chosen to study Medieval Manuscripts as they can’t always get to a library that has Medieval Manuscripts in their holdings and if they do have a library close by, not always will they actually be able to see them.  With this library, students can study the manuscripts close up.  They can browse by age, signature, author, title and language.  Close ups of the facsimiles and bindings are available.  And even more important for the beginning student (like myself), there is a short history and description of the manuscript.

Many fear that libraries will be useless, but from these two articles today, they are far from becoming that.  But only if they are able to keep up with technology.

photo credit: NY Times

World of Warcraft and Reading

WorldcraftNY Times posted an article today about gaming and reading. When reading articles about this subject, I always have to ask myself, what do they mean by reading? Reading images on a screen? Or in a book? One example in the article talks about a boy who avidly reads websites that have information about the World of Warcraft game and cheats too. Is this the kind of reading we want to encourage?

Reading, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is “The action of perusing written or printed matter; the practice of occupying oneself in this way.” Perusing is often a synonym for reading. In perusing books, a reader should be looking for an understanding of the printed words on a page. Hence the numerous assignments teachers give revolving book reports, response papers, and term papers. Reading designates a sort of comprehension.

Video games, however, utilizes a different aspect of comprehension. It isn’t so much a comprehension of storylines, ideas, or characters, rather it is an understanding of surroundings. Like James Paul Gee’s quote in the NY Times article, “Games are teaching critical thinking skills and a sense of yourself as an agent having to make choices and live with those choices.” While these games may teach critical thinking skills, they teach it in a fantasy world and sometimes these lessons do not translate into reality. Looking at video game players, I don’t see an effort to engage the world, but to leave the world and play in their fantasy. Books however, do the opposite. They push people to engage and confront the world around them. The more they read, the more people often take action in their own world and often to change it.

I don’t think that video games are horrible. In one way they are the same as books in that they allow for the user to escape, which is not necessarily bad and is sometimes good at the end of a stressful day (no matter the age). But I do not think that they will help encourage better reading habits. Several studies are being done to see whether or not playing games like World of Warcraft encourages better reading or more reading and it will be interesting to see what the studies conclude. However I predict that it will prove that gaming events at libraries will be very popular and have large turnouts, that there are similarities in the comprehension, and that while there are large turnouts for library gaming events, there is not much of an increase in books checked out at libraries.

Censorship and Palin

Over the past few days the news about Palin banning books has been causing quite a stir. Time and New York Times both have been referred to as sources, but what puzzles me is the absence of any sort of facts.  Here’s the only facts I could find.

Fact #1: Palin asks Emmons (now Mary Ellen Baker) about banning books three times. Emmons gets very upset (Understandably, because banning books is a serious issue).

Fact #2: Emmons is fired, but rehired a short time later due to her popularity as a librarian.

Fact #3: Emmons resigns shortly thereafter and has not accepted any interview requests on this topic.

I have seen several book lists floating around, though none could be verified. Everything [even in the news stories] is speculation.  At the most, all I can say, is that is it wrong to ask what a library’s policies are? Palin did not push the matter any further. She did not submit any requests for books to be banned. I am not going to be following politics any further on this blog, but the nature of this story has me intrigued because book banning is close to my heart. I fight for books to be on shelves. But there is nothing to substianate this story yet except speculations. So here are my speculations: Palin asks about book banning policies (when Emmons is trying to get a new policy – or just instated a new policy – instated) and Emmons for a short time was fired. And Emmons and Palin did not get along.

Link to an article (from 1996 when this originally happened) from Achnorage Daily News & Frontiersman:


Anchorage Daily News

Story from the Boston Herald on the story (this time the piece does actually focus on the issue and not briefly mention it in one paragraph like Time and New York Times):

Palin asked Wasilla Librarian about Censoring Books