Friday, September 18, 2009

Mmmmm... bookcases..

George alerted me to some delicious bookcase pr0n (as he called it) here. I'm not really the modern type, but #s 1, 9 and 10 are pretty darn cool.

Methinks I'll stick with the below (and its 2 other friends) for now (yes, I wrote this post and took this pic sitting on the floor in between the living and dining room. I'm connecting the new printer and I needed room to spread out. Too much info? Too bad.)

OK, now, seriously, I need to get off my butt and go for a run. Stop reading this blog.

Farewell, Mary

I was very sad to read this morning of Mary Travers' death. I grew up singing Puff, the magic dragon at camp (um, that may have been the only thing I willfully retained from camp). One of the first CDs my husband and I bought and really "shared" was this, which we played full volume while driving around Montreal furnishing our first condo. I fell in love again with songs like 500 miles, If I had a hammer, This land is your land, Early mornin' rain, Follow me, and Don't laugh at me, and the brilliant songwriting of Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Peter Yarrow (no relation, but one can hope, right? Oddly, he signs his name much like my father and I) and Noel (Paul) Stookey.

Over the years, every time I listen to the political songs, I think I really must somehow shape these songs into a class booktalk about the 60s and political and social activism. Wouldn't it make a great unit for even grade 6+?

You could incorporate books like the picture book, One by Kathryn Otoshi, Stealing home (set before the 60s but captures the breeding ground for ideas of the 60s), The Loud Silence of Francine Green, Canadian Meg Tilly's Porcupine, The Breadwinner, Three Wishes, and even Stargirl or Schooled, and you could talk about poetry as dissent, and look at the lyrics of PPM songs. I need to get going on that.

I would also include the recollections of my Facebook buddy Stephen Yarrow, who once had the privilege of meeting (and learning the guitar from) Noel Stookey in Australia (Stephen is no relation to me or Peter - are you confused yet? We Yarrows do stick together). Stephen met Noel on his solo Christian tour of Australia in the early 70s and somehow got to take him to and from his hotel. Stephen wrote me that "Being a child of the 60s wasn't all that wonderful at the time - not for me and most people I knew, anyway - so don't feel resentful for missing it. There was far more anger and fear than love and peace. The cold war was in full flight, everyone was scared of nuclear war, all the young men were being conscripted against their wishes to go and fight the Vietnam War and many never came home, and parents were still very controlling and ultra conservative. The music, fashions etc. of the 60s were very much a respite from all the negativity of the time, and the music was more wishful thinking for better days that actually being so wonderful. [...] That [being] said, it was an interesting time of change, particularly watching a new form of music grow from infancy (1950s), to maturity (1970s) and eventually stagnating to become a lifeless shadow of its former self (1990s)."

Incidentally, there is a great, great picture book version of both Puff (with Peter singing with his daughter on an accompanying CD) and Don't laugh at me. The illustrations in both are utterly brilliant, and in Puff, propose an alternate ending.

For now, I leave you with this:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Laptop, 2.0

Yesterday, I purchased my 2nd ever computer, another laptop, this time a Mac. So, that marks a few milestones: now I'm a Mac user, for one thing, and I have entered the modern world, so to speak, since my last laptop was ancient (2001) and had nothing remotely useful (no CD-R burner, no DVD player, no USB 2 ports, no wireless card, no webcam... shall I keep going? I can hear some of you screaming).

Nevertheless, I confess I am sad to see the little Fujitsu Lifebook go (the Mac help guy says I should have named her. His MacBook is called Sassafraz....). She got me through undergrad (and two B.A. Honours theses: one about E. M. Forster - mine - and the better part of one about P. K. Page - Kaya's... Hey, K, we both wrote about people who used their first two initials. Henceforth, we should be known as A. J. Yarrow and K. A. Fraser). Then. she got me through my M.L.I.S. and my first two professional jobs. I confess that since moving to Ottawa, I had largely already abandoned her in favour of the Husband's laptop, and merely hung out with her when updating iTunes and cursing her inability to read from the external USB 2 port we bought for her.

And yet... When I dropped her off today, along with the new Mac, so that the nice Mac people could so some file transfer, I felt like I was sending my firstborn off to Kindergarten. Um, I guess that analogy only works if Kindergarten is where they empty your brain of all info and send you out to pasture? Scrap that. Anyway, the point is it was bittersweet. I teared up.

Currently reading: Dragon Seer by Janet McNaughton (for 2010 CLA BOYA award). Not bad, so far.

Disgraceful Monday map

Here is a map of prose literacy skills in Canada released today (International Literacy Day) by the Canadian Council of Learning. Just look at it - it's absolutely horrific, especially in Quebec.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Outreach is dead. Long live outreach?

Excellent, excellent article about outreach services in libraries.

Some good points:
  • "If the people who you’re attempting to reach seek services from you (rather than you reaching them) it is not outreach."

  • "But let’s face it, these services and the community-based nature of public libraries are essential to what today’s library is. It is not extra, it is mandatory and we should all be engaged and providing targeted, community-based services to our constituents."

  • "We have the ability to be in our communities, to engage them and offer specific targeted services. Our engagement with our communities can be the defining aspect of what a library is to any given community [....] Traditional “outreach” services should be an integrated part of what we do, not an aside, a tacked on item."

  • "How are we going to train library staff to provide those 30 second elevator speeches? Who will take the lead to ensure that circulation staff, reference staff, and others know how to engage in the services we’ve been calling outreach? If we expect everyone to engage in this work, staff need to have the skills and knowledge to be able to do so." Such an important point. Not everyone is inclined to be good at outreach in general, or "30 second elevator speeches" specifically. Why don't we use the people who have those skills, train the ones who want to learn, and let the others apply their numerous other skills to numerous other aspects of library services?

  • "Outreach is usually considered a separate department, when marketing and promotion of outreach activities within institutions get delegated to separate “marketing,” “communications,” or “public relations” departments. Wouldn’t it be best if the two were integrated? These departments often produce and distribute printed and written materials such as press releases, brochures and flyers, or craft an organizational mission statement. This kind of community engagement remains essential. We must learn to embrace marketing and collaborate with our marketing and communications departments for our community-centered services to achieve their potential."