Saturday, October 24, 2009

Swimming = Zen-like calm

So I have just returned (and dried off) from a delicious swim in the hotel pool here in Toronto (where I am until later today, having attended RA in a day yesterday - honestly, weren't you listening?)

I miss swimming a lot. I was a late swimmer (and made it as far as Orange in those draconian swimming badges - Canadian Red Cross? - in grade school), but my parents and grandfather instilled in me a great love of swimming (in fact, I still have my grandfather's swimming certificate from the downtown Montreal YMCA from the 1930s). Growing up, the main criteria my mum and I used for hotels was, "Well, does it have a pool?" For a lovely brief period (2000-2003) I was a very regular swimmer, first in the Garfield Weston pool at McGill, with Kaya, and then in the pool in my apartment building when I lived on Dr. Penfield Avenue.

Side note on Garfield Weston (p.s. the photo I linked to above is awful):

The Garfield-Weston pool dates from 1949. Prior to that, there was another beautiful building on the site. At the deep end of the pool, there was a charming stained glass window. McGill's Reporter newspaper tells me that they came from the dining room of Lord Strathcona's residence, 1157 Dorchester St. West, demolished in 1941 (P.S. I hate when they change websites and the images don't link properly anymore. Honestly, I expect more from McGill!!!).

I actually have quite the history with this pool. I swam there in 1985 as a student at FACE school on University, and my grandfather swam there as a young man. I loved that pool A LOT. It was quaint and charming and free of the Currie Gym fitness nuts. It pains me greatly that they tore down the building (and did God knows what with the stained glass) to build the Music Building. I know there's a beautiful music library in there, but I am not going in. Sorry. The building may have been crappy, but that pool had character, and history, and it deserved better.

Since 2003-ish, I haven't been swimming as much. Around the same time, I took up running, with my then-boyfriend, now-husband. In many ways, running is easier: less equipment, less hair damage, more low-fuss. I find running is a bit of an equaliser: you don't need expensive equipment or outfits. Just go outside and do it. I get a lot of good work thinking done while exercising, and running is certainly more conducive to note-taking than swimming (warning: don't bring your Post-its pool-side).

I do miss the utter sense of calm that swimming inspires in me. Today, I was sharing a lane with a fellow lap-swimmer (I'm the lazy breaststroke; she's the hard-core crawler with goggles), then I hung out in the hot tub for awhile, then went back into the now-empty pool. There are few things in life better than an empty pool, and better than the feeling of slipping into the unbroken, pristine water. I don't like swimming on my back (can't see! makes me nervous!) but in an empty pool it's divine. You tuck your ears underwater so sound is muffled, and, in this instance, stare up at the glass ceiling out into a gray sky, tempered by the harsh glass of modern Toronto architecture, or flourishes and mouldings of old Toronto architecture.

So now I'm refreshed, renewed, re-energised after a long but utterly rewarding day yesterday, and (I must say) a perfect dinner at Messis.

Currently reading: The Unit, by Ninni Holmqvist

Friday, October 23, 2009

Go on a journey with reading maps

Today, my former colleague and always friend Lora and I are giving a poster session at OPLA's RA in a day workshop. For regular blog readers, the following may or may not be as utterly thrilling to you as it is to us. For those of you driven here by links on our take-away bookmarks, welcome! Here are some more links and some further information about maps. Lora and I hope that you enjoyed talking with us, and that you are inspired to create your own "take" on the map idea. If you do, please share your maps with me via email (top L of this page)!

Our starting point for the presentation was a presentation at PLA 2006 entitled Readers' Maps: Blending Fiction and Nonfiction Readers' Advisory Through Reading Itineraries. It was presented by Nancy Pearl, Cathleen Towey, and Neal Wyatt. It outlined the idea of a map as a marketing tool for a specific book that defied "read-alikes." The map would "chart the themes or associations in a book," and act as a whole collection readers' advisory tool, tracing links from the chosen book to items in various library collections.

Ann Moffat, former Director of the Westmount Public Library (and shouted out to before on this blog), took this idea home to the greater Montreal library community, and formed a committee of local librarians to come up with a reading map template.

Various libraries produced some reading maps that year, and as I travelled to Ottawa I brought the idea here and developed a few more reading maps at Ottawa Public Library. Here are some links so you can peruse the examples of maps available online:

Later in 2006, Neal Wyatt wrote a column for the Library Journal series, "Redefining RA", entitled "Reading maps remake RA." This is pretty much core reading for anyone interested in mapping, and we took many of our tips in the poster session from this thoughtful and thorough overview of the concept.

Happy mapping!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Annoyed Librarian hits the nail on the head, again

Sometimes I worry that I agree with her quite a bit... Am I going to become ranty and jaded and drink martinis?

Anyway, today, she's on about library school education and professional standards. Conclusions: "Instead of letting in anyone who wants a degree and can get the money together, library schools should be toughening their standards. Not more, but fewer and better students. Raise the GPA requirement [....] Make the students take more rigorous classes. Make everyone write a thesis [....] Make it a serious accomplishment. This would improve the profession. It would improve the standards of librarianship. It would improve the service to library patrons. The only thing it wouldn't improve is the bottom line of library schools."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A genre by any other name

Interesting article by Guy Gavriel Kay for the Globe this weekend about the hoopla over Hilary Mantel winning the Booker for (gasp!) a historical novel. I mean, honestly, next we'll be letting in the horror writers!

His statementa at the end of the article, specifically about scifi, saying that the barriers and prejudices are eroding slowly (he mentions Chabon and Diaz as helping), are particularly relevant, I feel, to the reader's advisory librarian. He reminded me of Neal Wyatt's thoughtful column about RA a few years ago, discussing the concept of genre sliding. Developed by RA goddess Joyce Saricks, genre sliding allows us to talk about books not in terms of literary genre (mystery, scifi, historical novel, etc) but in terms of other descriptors, such as adrenaline, intellect, emotion, and landscape. There are as many reasons to be touched by a book as there are books!

Writes Kay, "We'll find ourselves working away from category and genre debates and toward the question worth asking about any novel: Is it any good?" And isn't that the bloody point?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Celebrate Samhain!

... with a good old-fashioned book burning! Best line in this article: "...and even country music" (emphasis mine). Second best would be the line at the end indicating this lovely parish has 14 MEMBERS. Well, that's something, at least.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


My (former) workplace and (still) home branch is celebrating its 75th birthday on Saturday. You may want to check out the historical tidbits I've been posting here. Or not. Whatever.

I'll be over here in the corner frantically preparing my lecture for tomorrow morning. Ack. I feel like the little rabbit on a metal stick being chased by a pack of greyhounds these days. Teaching is actually amazing. A lot of people used to ask me (when? I don't even remember anymore. High school? Undergrad, maybe?) if I wanted to teach, and I would say, "heck, no" (OK, maybe not exactly that) but now... I really love it. I'm not saying I want to set up shop in the ivory tower, I'm still firmly committed to working with the public, and I would miss the variety of my day job, and the outreach.... but it is pretty fun.

Speaking of outreach, I spent my day at a local public school that ranks quite low (think, near the very bottom) on the school rankings here in Ottawa last year. I visited every class (Junior Kindergarten to Grade 6, including a parent and child literacy group and a class of students with special needs), gave a mini-storytime and/or booktalk, and introduced them to library services and programs. A lot of it was, hey, I work at the library where the pool is! and My name is Alexandra, and next time you visit, say hi!, and Did you know you can borrow as many books as you want for free? and my favourite stories of the day were The Spider and the Fly, Three Little Ghosties, Wolves, and the You Wouldn't Want to ... series (eg. Be a Roman Gladiator!, Egyptian Mummy!, etc). It was fun. For Ghosties, I explained nonsense words and had the kids try to repeat back all the ones they remembered at the end of the story. They loved it. Plus, there's always just something neat about visiting the kids in their schools: I'm pretty visual, so even on a trivial level, I get to see them in their natural environments, which helps me better understand them, their situations, their life, the way they cope with things going on...

A part de ├ža,
I did have a lovely Thanksgiving, and got a good rest (mostly because the computer nearest me over the weekend is sort of slow. The person to whom it belongs is reading this... sorry, but it is!) Generally, I try to avoid the "what I did" posts, because really, who cares?

But I did give a talk at McGill about readers' advisory! And hang out with rezlings! And visit some old haunts! And walk on a very, very muddy Mount Royal. And stalk old workplaces (to iron out details for a presentation, and to meet The New Director). And eat stuffing (I hear there was turkey. I hardly noticed. Stuffing and I have a long-time love affair).

Back to salt mines, my pretties. Still working on those blog drafts, too.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

The tyranny of community?

I have to admit, the Globe and Mail's Doug Saunders has written several thought-provoking articles about multiculturalism recently. Saturday's was about links between a single identity and (wait for it) the terrorist act.

"A number of people [in England]," Saunders writes, "have come to the realization that in our efforts to define ourselves (or others) as members of predefined “communities," we have locked large numbers of people into the prison house of identity." Saunders points out that A. C. Grayling, Amartya Sen and others have put forward ideas of community as confining citizens to one identity, and Saunders proposes that the emphasis on community, in some instances, "has destroyed freedom," creating cultural or social ghettos, preventing mainstream society from evolving and incorporating different and new ideas.

See rudeboys, and Gautam Malkani's Londonstani... the first thing that comes to my mind when the concept of a single identity comes into play. See also the Toronto 18, or the Kingston locks, or, frankly, anywhere these days where we create these ghettos, not just for new immigrants, but for Aboriginal peoples and other groups.

Interesting stuff. Saunders closes by referring to a survey of teachers in the UK, 75% of whom responded to a recent survey question about teaching patriotism by stating that they should be teaching "universal brotherhood" (that's in quotes because I want it clear I didn't choose the sexist term! Talk about distracting from the point here!) instead. Darn right (minus the sexism).

Dewey vs. world, part 1, 453, 398

No more Dewey in Darien, according to Library Journal. People are pleased as punch about it, since you asked (did you ask? Oh, you didn't? Oh well. Library Journal will tell you in a shrill tone, anyway).

They did underline the root of the dilemma, though: "the issue isn't which system is superior; it's about the user's experience." That's just it: for some (most librarians; some patrons), the issue is which system is superior. And the bigger issue is, how does a public library serve a population comprised of both people who want a superior system, and people who want ease of use.

The article also provides a good overview of the issue, touching on patron responses to DDC, surveys, and other approaches (including LibraryThing's Open Shelves Classification).

Friday, October 2, 2009

Librarians save lives

OK, it's been a rough couple of weeks at work. It's that September rush, and (regular and apocalyptic) flu season, etc. I have 4 drafts of blog posts saved that I have no time to finish.

So just read this and we'll all start fresh next week.

You don't make friends with salad...

... unless it looks like this, of course.

No, I am not becoming the kind of weird blogger who posts her lunch. My excuse is, I was testing out my new camera!

Also, please support the wild blueberry farmers by avoiding cultivated blueberries if at all possible. This "season has been a financial disaster" for them.