Monday, May 31, 2010

Raising the standards of children's books, in the 1940s

"A pictorial history of Puffin: black, white and read all over" (The Telegraph).

"Seventy years ago, a publisher decided to distract children from the war with intelligent, affordable and beautiful books [....] Carrington had been nurturing an idea for a series of well-illustrated books that would explain things to children: books about the natural and man-made environments, about history, geography and recreational pursuits, and some stories. Books that were immediate and inexpensive. At the time, children’s books uniting all these features simply didn’t exist and Lane took little persuasion in agreeing to Carrington’s idea – his only stipulation was that the selling price must be sixpence"

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ottawa Race Weekend: Half-marathon

I did it!

My time was something like 2:31:30..... REVISED TO 2:14:51.5!!!!!

Announcement: What should I read next? Wednesday

Since I keep saying RA is my first love, I guess I should put my money where my mouth is. Since Fridays in May were "Felt Friday,", Wednesdays in June will be...

"What should I read next? Wednesday!" which I will select a modern work of adult fiction, discuss the appeal factors, and suggest one (or more) read-alikes.

Boy, did I ever struggle with that alliteration.

Class dismissed.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Recent reading: the not-so-fab

Straight Man by Richard Russo: A middle-aged university professor deals with professional impotency (funding crises and general staff malaise) and personal demons (the return of his ne'er do well and namesake father to town). Narrator's schtick is that he doesn't care about much, but you love him because he actually does. Abandoned half-way through; it was smart and funny but I just didn't care enough.

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti: Orphan boy is rescued from nasty orphanage by mysterious traveling thief. Mayhem, mystery and murder ensues; family history and bizarre coincidences abound. Everyone else adored it; I liked it, but found it a bit too pat for my taste. A bit fairy-tale-y, which I understand is part of the charm. I just didn't quite feel it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Quote from Wolf Hall

Thomas Cromwell to Thomas More, regarding taking the oath: "A lie is no less a lie because it is a thousand years old."

Felt Friday #5: Woof!

You know I had to even it out and do dogs. I am totally a cat person (except when it comes to retired racing greyhounds) but dogs may well make for a better storytime. Is it just me, or are there better songs about dogs?

The fluffy white dog is most popular. Also, you totally can't see, but the dogs have BELLS on their collars.

Somehow, these dogs are gravitationally challenged. I suspect it's their giant heads. So I affixed some velcro to them, which keeps them from toppling off the feltboard and confounds small children from stealing them.

Rob Reid tip: bring nylons or stockings to storytime. Check your shame at the door. Place stockings on your head. Sing, "Do your ears hang low?"

Dog books for all your storytime needs are here. Highly recommended, of course, is Bark, George; I also have a soft spot for Harry (at right), the dirty dog, and Angus (at left below).

Only read The Waiting dog to a mature audience, although it is hilarious and will charm your jaded 9-12 year olds with its gory rhymes.

Other songs and rhymes:

Five little puppies
Five little puppies playing in the sun. (hold up hands, fingers extended)
This one saw a rabbit, and he began to run. (bend down first finger)
This one saw a butterfly, and he began to race. (bend down second finger)
This one saw a cat, and he began to chase. (bend down third finger)
This one tried to catch his tail,
and he went round and round. (bend down fourth finger)
This one was so quiet, he never made a sound. (bend down thumb)

The ubiquitous B-I-N-G-O works here, too.

Don't forget the other verses of Do your ears hang low?:
Does your tongue hang down? Does it flop all around? (yeah, just try that one. If my hands are clean, I like to hold my tongue out for this entire verse and see how that goes. Always good for a laugh)
Does your nose hang low? Does it wiggle to and fro?
Continue as creativity allows....

OMG my life is complete. Bark, George is online:

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Plus ça change...

Le Droit, vendredi 26 janvier 1934

Risky (or brave) perspective

"Why Closing More Public Libraries Might Be The Best Thing (…Right Now)" from LISNews.


"People skills are a sorely overlooked basic requirement of librarianship. A librarian could be well versed in every item in a library, but it wouldn’t matter a single bit if they lack the social skills to communicate this information with the patrons. [...] This aspect extends to our paraprofessional and support staff. In a nutshell, checking in and out materials and maintaining patrons records is trainable; finding someone who will act as an advocate for the library at the desk that most patrons interact with is not. And yet, we hire on the basis of the first part without much thought or consideration as to the face that we are giving the library by putting this individual at our most prominent position: the circulation desk. This simply cannot continue as a hiring practice."

Agree, agree, agree! Even if the author does make one of my most-hated grammatical mistakes further along: it's FEWER public libraries, not less! Argh!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Made my day

Mail from Miss Z and Miss K:

I enjoy that Miss K depicts Kris fishing. As I write this, he is putting in the AC - close enough. Providing for the tank-top-wearing, perspiring spouse.

Step into 1934 with me

In the margins of my regular workday (wait, my workday has margins? And I fill them? That explains why I don't have time to pee) I've been collecting and organising material for Doors Open Ottawa, which Rideau Library is participating in.

I can get really caught up in this historical stuff (I came in at 8 and stayed until 7:30 almost every day for two months when researching local authors in another community for an international event), so I am reeeeeally trying to keep the work to a minimum. Details forthcoming, but as a teaser, I thought you might enjoy this, from the Citizen on Wednesday, January 24, 1934. Still holds true, you know: "the maximum of whatever is possible ought to be done."

This also made me realise why people think we're a Carnegie: because the library system in Ottawa (such as it was) was called the Carnegie Public Library for a short while, in honour of Andrew himself. That being said, Carnegie funded only Main and Rosemount; the 27, 500$ for Rideau was raised by the library board in Ottawa.

Free for all: The public library as a place for transformation

Article of interest from Sojourners Magazine. Thanks to Mum for the link.


“The library has been a focal point of my homelessness,” says Kevin Barbieux. “Days began and ended at the library. I have known several librarians by name and consider them to be friends, and the library is where I met up with what few friends I had from the streets. It was a central location that most everyone was familiar with.” [....] No special provisions existed for the homeless in his Nashville library, and he says he occasionally experienced prejudicial attitudes. Nevertheless, the books were there, the computers were there, the community was there, and Barbieux changed his life in part thanks to their availability—free of charge.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Weirder (and grosser) day than mine

I love NPW, mite-infested computers and all.

Seriously, I might quit if that happened to me. I try to avoid the girly-girl stereotype, but crawly things freak me out. In my defense, we had insane bugs when we lived in the country (our house backed on the river, so everything from geese to giant daddy long legs) so I consider myself scarred.

While NPW's exterminator has that soap and water handy, I could do with some memory-scrubbing.

Also, I'm grateful for Rideau. So far, not too many bugs. Which is quite the feat, really.

Today was whack. Here, have some news.

Ya, craziness. I ate my salad at 4:00; we call that "linner." But it's my own fault for trying to multitask over lunch, and then ending up with no time for, um, lunch.

Recap: my group visit forgot about me (their excuse: it's the first day back after a long weekend); I am without my extra staff from Cumberland (closed for renos; reopening soon, so CU staff have returned home. Yay them; Booooo me); people fought over the Internet computers; I tried to prep our displays for Doors Open Ottawa; I scheduled some summer reading club outreach; we had our first branch staff meeting, etc., etc. Seriously, where does the day go?

A few post-Victoria Day linkety-links:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Author visit: P. J. Bracegirdle

In the interests of full disclosure, and as alluded to in a previous post, P. J. Bracegirdle (whose wife, Susan Mitchell, is also a children's book illustrator) had the privilege of speaking to one of our most interesting, diverse and dynamic children's groups. This group, aged 6-8 and from a local after-school club, can be rowdy; the volunteer leaders sometimes have a tough time controlling the kids, for a variety of reasons. The group can be a lot of fun: the boys, for one, while disruptive, have a real sense of humour and enthusiasm for learning, which is pretty refreshing.

Normally, I would have prepared someone in advance for this group, but if you recall, by the time I scarfed my salad and made my way back to the program room, the kids were already climbing on the furniture and Rebekah had kindly gone to direct P. J. to parking.

My second author visit of the day also disproved one of my theories about author visits: that showing illustrations of a book can be boring. In this case, it was really interesting, in part because this group is never lacking in opinions about anything (oh, I love them - I really do!) and in part because P. J. talked about some interesting things, including appeal of book covers to boys versus girls.

To wit, the original cover of Fiendish deeds, the first book in The Joy of Spooking:

Since the publisher decided to go with another illustrator for the second book in the series, Unearthly asylum (coming out August 10th), they re-issued the first book with a new cover:

P. J. brought glossy mock-ups of each cover (including the draft for book two done by the original illustrator, whose work you might recognise from a book I loved, The girl in the castle inside the museum - stunning!), and the kids were enthralled with the art and enjoyed telling us what they liked or didn't like about each one. I was impressed that, despite being a fairly destructive lot, the art made it around the room in a few kids' hands unscathed (whew!).

P. J. got a good feel for the group's sense of humour early on, and discussions about being teased about his family name (which involved an explanation of what a girdle is, to much laughter) leeches, pet frogs, and corpses (Bracegirdle's forthcoming picture book, The Dead Family Diaz, centres on the Day of the Dead) were entertaining and informative.

As with each author visit I've done so far this spring, and again, thanks to our grant, I raffled off two copies of the author's books. The kids in this group, in addition to being lively, are also from predominantly low-income families: if their utter joy at receiving a free book is any indication, I suspect they don't have too many books (or things of their own) at home. I have to say this is the first time I have said, DRUM ROLL PLEASE, and received in response the sound of every child in a group drumming on the nearest hard surface. Did I mention I love them? Did I mention they are exhausting? Anyway, after much suspense (especially since one girl had put in a few blank ballots, which of course were pulled out as winners, heightening the tension!), two children went home with free, signed, copies of Fiendish deeds. Every child left with their own signed bookmark, which I thought was a lovely touch on P. J.'s part.

And thus, the end.

Some Bracegirdle links (in addition to above):

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Author visit: Caroline Pignat

Thanks in part to a grant, and the programming finesse of Jess, we were able to welcome two authors this month (and another last month, if you're counting). Their visits fell, in fact, on the same day!

Children's/YA author Caroline Pignat spoke to a class from York Street School about two of her books, Egghead and Greener Grass. Her visit was an excellent example of Using PowerPoint For Good, And Not Evil. Caroline showed the children photos of her trip to Ireland to research Greener Grass, a historical novel set in 1847 during the Irish Potato Famine. The photos included lovely scenery, but of course what the children loved were the photos from the jail (now a museum) that Caroline visited. As Caroline described the hangings (from the upper window of the jail), and showed them the juvenile prisoners' log (from which her main character got her name, age, and criminal activities), they were utterly rapt. She also showed them historical photographs and newspaper illustrations that provided inspiration for her story, and encouraged the children to respond to the images. She even showed some stock photography images, getting the kids to guess at the stories the photos might tell. One photo of a seemingly charming girl holding a new puppy could be either a story of a girl who always wanted a dog, or something else: "what if I told you the girl doesn't like animals?" Caroline asked them, showing how the story can change, and the girl's smile could seem more sinister. The children made up great stories: these two girls just had a fight, but now they made up, etc.

Caroline also used the PowerPoint slides to show the names of the characters, and the relationships between characters, in Egghead. Her diagrams were useful, especially since this particular class hadn't read the book, a contemporary YA novel about bullying. One of the first things she told the children was that the book was written from alternating points of view (she asked the kids what this was first), from the perspectives of a friend of the bully and a friend of the victim. She reasoned that fewer of us are bullies or victims than bystanders: she showed a circular diagram with a whole spectrum of characters, relating the roles played by each student in the book to this spectrum of bystanders, taken in part from the writings of experts like Barbara Coloroso (whose work I also really admire). She also told the children that she drew on her real-life experiences in high school for this book. She talked about the emotions experienced by all the characters in the novel: guilt, avoidance, fear/intimidation, and peer pressure. She also talked about the free verse poetry by the victim included in the novel.

I was really impressed with her presentation; she was interesting and thoughtful, but also interacted with the children and kept their interest. I shouldn't be suprised, though; her experience as a teacher is evident. She was great at keeping the kids involved, asking them questions (what is free verse? what is historical fiction? etc.) and telling them interesting facts about her life or her experience that made her relate-able and accessible. I also loved that she brought her own books, and books that inspired or helped her, to display: she had Jerry Spinelli's book, Flipped (he once gave her advice at a writing workshop), as well as Crazy man by Paula Porter and Sharon Creech's Love that dog.

The sequel to Greener Grass, Wild Geese, will be out this coming Fall. The book follows Kit from Ireland to Bytown, where she encounters Elizabeth Bruyère, whose life Caroline and I discussed - we both find her story of coming to Bytown as a nun at age 29 (my age!) compelling. I look forward to stepping into Ottawa's past this autumn...

Caroline Pignat links:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Moby Awards for Book Trailers

Thanks, New York Times, for giving me some time-wasting videos to watch on my day off!

Felt Friday #4: Camo cats

I know, I need to make a better door.

This is to directly accompany "Five little kitty cats playing by the door..." below, but of course you can use these kitties for other songs and stories! I think the white kitty above looks particularly stunned by my photography.... Also, apparently no one feeds brown or camo kitty.

Stories: I spent awhile being moderately obsessed with Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel; Kitten's First Full Moon (Caldecott winner!) is also good for the toddler set (be sure to make licking noises). Other favs here.


Five little kitty cats
Five little kitty cats playing near the door
One ran and hid inside and then there were four.
Four little kitty cats underneath a tree
One heard a dog bark and then there were three.
Three little kitty cats wondering what to do
One ran to chase a bird and then there were two.
Two little kitty cats sitting in the sun
One ran to catch his tail and then there was one.
One little kitty cat looking for some fun
He saw a butterfly and then there were none.

The Puppy and the Kitty Cat
Here is a little puppy (Hold up left fist)
Here is a kitty cat (Hold up right fist)
Puppy goes to sleep (Put clenched fist, fingers down on lap)
Curled up on his mat.
Kitty creeps up softly, (Move fingers of right hand slowly toward left hand)
Tickles puppies chin (Tickle thumb of left hand with finger of right hand)
Puppy wakes up quickly! (Lift left fist)
See the chase begin! (Have left fist "chase" right.)


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day in Girl's life

Girl wakes up + eats 1/2 bagel.
Girl showers, etc.
Girl practices interview questions with spouse as he puts on his jacket.
Girl dresses, drinks coffee, reads paper.
Girl squishes stuffed kitty cat and alligator in handbag (requires re-evaluation half-way through and handbag switch) and leaves the house.
Girl arrives at interview location; steps in the same Blu-Tack twice while waiting to be called into interview. Picks Blu-Tack off shoe.
Girl is unable to open free water bottle provided in interview for approximately 40 seconds. Water spews. Classic ice-breaker.
Girl interviews for her current "Acting" position; refuses to indulge too much in comparison to previous job she also passionately wanted and lost, prompting many tears and a move to Ottawa in the first place.
Girl takes off jacket to read stories during interview; stuffed kitty and alligator get points for the assist. Girl gets twisted pleasure out of making entire interview panel lick their lips like the alligator in the story.
Girl leaves interview; runs into one of her favourite colleagues; enlists colleague's help inter-office mailing kitty back to herself to lessen the "load."
Girl walks back to home library; guzzles troublesome water.
Girl relieves colleague on Info desk, thinking, yes, it's 11, I have all the time in the world before my two author visits this afternoon!
Girl serves patrons (props to KStar for saving the day re. last copy of book FOUND for patron waiting months!); liaises with IT re. printer roller problems (no, I CANNOT lift the printer to look for the freaking manufacture date, dude!); begins timesheet approval; checks in 3 shelves' worth of holds on her programming card and personal card. E-mails are culled from the herd; holds are sorted (Doors Open historical documents; Pokemon for the after-school club; Red Shoes for the Bytowne display; books for author visits; books for SRC).
Girl realises only one title came in on hold for today's two author visits; girl begins to freak out.
Girl pauses freak-out when author #1 shows up (early is good; just maybe not today!!!!)
Girl guides author to program room; settles author in (water? LCD projector?); girl excuses herself.
Girl corrals building facilities operator and her manager (Julio and Philip, I love you!) to look through 12+ grey bins of delivered library material (not yet unpacked) to look for her reserved (not yet arrived!) books for author visits.
Team J + P find 3 books and are thanked profusely. Girl threatens to hug manager.
Author visit #1 goes smoothly. Two free copies of books given away; no one checks out the sole copy retrieved by Team J + P from grey bins. More on author visits in later post.
Girl realises halfway between visit that she hasn't had lunch. Oops.
Girl retrieves pathetic salad; girl snacks on WheatThins while unpacking lunch.
2 minutes into salad, girl hears manager ascending staircase to attic staffroom.
Manager announces "You got the job!" Girl is afraid he is joking for 1.5 seconds (OK, in my defense, it was pretty early to be hearing back about an interview 4 hrs ago).
Girl tries to clink Sigg bottle with something, before realising manager has no bevvie.
Salad and burger-fries consumed in contentment by girl and manager, respectively. Someone's mother is called via cell phone.
Girl reports to author visit #2; luckily, colleague has been holding down fort: class is already there and climbing on the furniture (oh, I kiddeth not....)
Author arrives; attempts to navigate Most Vocal Group Ever. Does a pretty kick-ass job (again, details later). Discussion topics involve leeches and one kid's similarity to Chris Rock. Boy condemned to corner near book trucks (one assumes for bad behaviour on the way to the library?) provides some interesting observations.
No one checks out 3 extra copies of author's book retrieved from the bins by team J + P.
Girl bids farewell to author, who is off to buy hot sauce in Navan before driving home.
Girl checks in on colleagues; claims more holds arrived in interim; faxes timesheets late ... ooooops!
Girl opens inbox to manager's message about new job confirmation; 29 other e-mails in 2 hour interim (many congratulations).
Girl makes to-do list for Saturday; strategises with manager re. tasks we can postpone for the moment, given the craziness of today.
Girl writes dorky Post-it note reminding herself that on Saturday, employee will be shadowing her in anticipation of future job opportunities.
Girl hears cell phone ringing from basement and cannot get there in time.
Girl walks part way home with Borrower services supervisor; cell phone rings again; girl tells spouse she got the job. Cheering ensues x3.
Girl gets home; cracks open beer and fills a bowl of chips. Listens to mother's singing voicemail.
Girl writes dorky blog post that sounds exactly like her internal monologue.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Homo empathicus

Last night I attended the first event in this year's Celebridée speaker series, a talk with Jeremy Rifkin in the spiegeltent (where, last year, I heard a moving speech by Sister Helen Prejean).

I have to say I have somewhat mixed feelings about Rifkin's talk (and I should qualify this by saying I have not yet read his book, The Empathic Civilization: The Race to a Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis). I was surprised to find that, for all the talk of him being a "leading mind," etc., his thoughts last night were a little scattered and, at times, repetitive. I am pleased to report that all three audience questions were quite interesting and thoughtful (this after the host cautioned the audience to ask a question, not make a speech: "we have one invited speaker and you've just heard him"). I actually felt he didn't really address the questions properly, merely repeating past points without really responding to the issues raised.

Anyway, to back up a bit: Rifkin traced the evolution of human consciousness, from a mythological consciousness, to a theological consciousness, to an ideological consciousness and, in the last century and a half, a national consciousness. His underlying thesis is that this age is now coming to a close, in part because it must - because civilization itself must change in order to survive in a practically climatically doomed world - and that we must embrace a global or "biosphere" consciousness. Writes Rifkin (quoted here since I don't have a copy of the book in front of me), "Only by concerted action that establishes a collective sense of affiliation with the entire biosphere will we have a chance to ensure our future."

OK, but I'm not convinced that we will cooperate with the entire biosphere. So far, our response to global warming has been to bury our head in the sand, although Rifkin does inspire with tales of the EU's green efforts and Iceland's Hydrogen Experiment. He is also quite compelling when he appeals to our human emotional response: he spoke at length about babies, and mirrors extending the bonds of empathy and consciousness (in the mirror tent, ha ha!) by allowing us to focus on our similarities rather than our differences. He movingly reminds us that we all ultimately share common ancestors, and that, for many of us, the moments of our lives we most cherish are those when we could connect with others and "feel others as ourselves," suggesting that the empathic human over-rides the rational, self-serving, human.

I just felt he went a bit far, though, and then didn't quite back everything up. He explains the current blowback against an empathic civilization by the rise of xenophobia and intolerance as the last death throes of a dying era (ah, if only I could truly believe that!) He didn't address the question of what happens to the people who, despite a global movement towards an empathic civilization, might resist through violence, hoarding, and so on.

Overall, this was a very interesting evening, and we left still debating about everything. There's no question that we are facing a global crisis, and that the economic crisis is merely a symptom of larger global issues, including the destruction of the environment and a radical change to the biosphere. The question is, will civilization indeed be strong enough, or smart enough, to make the changes we need to in order to survive?

This from a girl whose Honours thesis was about sympathy, and whose blog is called Only Connect. Am I getting cynical?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Allan Stratton's Chanda's Secrets = the movie Life above all

... Premiering at Cannes on Tuesday, shot in Pedi (Northern Sotho, the local dialect in Jo'burg) rather than English.

While Stratton is (of course) Canadian, as is the screenplay, the film is a joint German - South African production, which the Globe and Mail makes a rather big deal of, especially after the screenwriter inplies the film didn't get Telefilm funding because of the language.

Oh well, some good news: "Stratton, who visited the set in Elandsdoorn, South Africa, has supported the changes to his book – including the title. And he’s blown away by what he’s seen. “I was just in tears watching the rushes,” he says. “It’s just so moving.”"

Serendipitious read: Sue Gee's Reading in bed

Now, how could I not pick this up, even with its chick-lit appeal cover, given that the quote on the back was, "People say life is the thing but I prefer reading" (attributed to Logan Pearsall Smith)? Ah, a sentiment at once sort of dreadful and yet strangely true.

Reading in bed was a serendipitous pick from the Friends booksale at the Rockcliffe Park Library (by the way, best booksale ever! Not just the annual giant one, but the small shelf of "for sale" books in the branch is always well stocked... This week, I told Philip I only help out there - one of the permanent staff members is recovering from surgery - because I can check out the booksale; I was half-joking).

Reading in bed follows a period of change in the lives of two old friends, Dido and Georgia. Friends since university, the two have been lucky to marry two friends as well, and companionably enter their late middle age together, watching their children, in turn, find mates and settle down (or not). When the novel opens, they are on their way back from the Hay Festival (see? My kind of people) and have recently experienced the unexpectedly sudden loss of Georgia's husband, Henry (In a case of, well, I guess "art following life," Gee's own husband died quite suddenly). This loss for all of them, coupled with Dido's increasing suspicion that her husband is hiding something, ultimately changes the way all the characters in the novel relate to and interact with one another. Georgia muses often during the novel about all the simple and wonderful plans she and Henry had made for their coming twilight years; unfortunately, peaceful retirement this is not.

Sue Gee has a lovely way with dialogue and with internal monologues (this might sound blasphemous, but Gee's way with internal monologue was vaguely reminiscent of Woolf to me). She is equally able to carry off social Dido's sudden withdrawal from friendship with Georgia as she is able to make us sympathise with Georgia's stylist daughter, Chloe, whose grief at losing her father is coupled with a sense of feeling somehow inadequate to her mother, whose bookish ways are alien to a girl who struggled through school with a learning disability. This is a rich book filled with characters (granted, mostly women, although Dido's son, Nick, is also given sensitive attention) at various stages of life, facing turning points they had certainly not expected.

Ultimately, though, this is Dido and Georgia's story, about finding, maybe losing, and finding again, a friend, all through the course of a life. It's about loneliness, in many ways, too: the loneliness of being really alone, and of being alone while somehow surrounded by people.

I was quite touched by Dido's struggles with her husband's dishonesty. Dido's coping mechanisms reminded me a lot of those being used by the character of Alicia on the TV show The Good Wife. I've become quite hooked on The Good Wife, and Alicia's almost unshakable stoicism in the face of disturbing revelations about her husband. I think we've seen her cry once; not that this is admirable, but in the age of TV characters who whine endlessly, soap-opera style, it was a refreshing change to have to maybe guess what someone was thinking based on some inscrutable facial expressions; you know, something resembling real acting. Anyway, there is this heartbreaking section about Dido contemplating her options: she has been angry, and vengeful, but she is essentially a realist, a concilator, "and pretty strong. There is also the question of forgiveness, not a word you hear a huge amount these days - like guilt, which you never hear at all, except to be told you must not feel it." And so she decides to stick it out, as it were, or at least so far (I still have 40 pages left). I found that decision an interesting one, given the times, given the situation, given everything, really.

I really identified with both the more guarded Georgia and the outgoing, now more quiet, Dido, and I kept thinking of a good friend of mine, much closer to Dido and Georgia's age than me, who would likely have been quite surprised to see me reading and enjoying this book. She often recommends titles to me, but then qualifies it with "but people your age might not enjoy or understand that type of ...." (be it situation, problem, humour, etc.). She once did this with A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, too (aging parents being something I couldn't relate to, in her mind). Now, perhaps in some ways I've had some unique life experience for my "age," but that type of readers' advisory really annoys me: as though everyone must "read their age." It's almost the same to me as saying I can't be friends with someone older or younger than me.

[Digression: last night we watched Love that boy, a lovely romantic comedy about an over-achieving King's student who falls in love with her 14-year old neighbour. Speaking of "inappropriate" relationships... Also, the film includes a minor character played by a very young Ellen Page!]

OK. So, I refuse to read my age. And I would refuse, also, to only recommend based on age. If someone in their 60s comes into Rideau, I am as likely to recommend something with a 20-year old protagonist as with a 60-year old protagonist. To me, unless the patron states the age of a character, or a life stage, as a personal preference during a readers' advisory conversation, I wouldn't make it a priority at all. It would be as offensive as saying you can't read something because you don't have children, or live in London, or whatever. Dido and Georgia's very unique situations touched me in a personal way; perhaps a different way than they would another reader (and doesn't every reader reading the same title read a different book?), but I was certainly not bored by them!

Hmm. Read-alikes. I don't read a lot of books "like" this, actually, not in the sense of the story but more the tone and the emphasis on family life. Maybe The children's book? Similar notalgic tone, sense of internal lives of characters, different generations and ages. Or even The rain before it falls?

America's second gay bishop ordained

Congratulations, Mary Glasspool (deeply moving candidate statement here)!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Felt Friday #3: Preschool prehistoric

This is quite possibly my favourite of all the felts I have made. I also had no idea when I made it how popular it would be, or how many 3-year olds know what a pteranodon is. Humbling. My T Rex's arms kept coming un-glued (he is rawther delicate); eventually, I stapled them on. You may notice, also, that my pteranodon lost his right claw in an unfortunate run-in with a small child a few years ago.

In fact, this was my storytime theme last week, which reminds me, I need to make up French name labels. We do a bilingual family storytime at Rideau Library; despite the fact that I do know that children are at different levels (and especially toddlers should be banished to their own program, ideally!), we have low numbers and this is the only way I can guarantee more than two attendees every week. Inclusive, that's me.

Dino books here! Dinosnores is particularly fun; also, don't forget classics like Barton's Dinosaurs, dinosaurs. En français, il y a: Pop mange de toutes les couleurs par Pierrick Bisinski et Ce jour-là, chez les dinosaures by Shaheen Bilgrami (dextérité manuelle requises!)

All Around the Swamp (tune: "The Wheels on the bus")
(most recently sung by Laura and I while doing hill training - anything to distract ourselves!)

The pteranodon's wings went flap, flap, flap,
Flap, flap, flap, flap, flap, flap,
The pteranodon's wings went flap, flap, flap,
All around the swamp.

The tyrannosaurus rex went grr, grr, grr,
Grr, grr, grr, grr, grr, grr,
The tyrannosaurus rex went grr, grr, grr,
All around the swamp.

The triceratops' horns went poke, poke, poke,
Poke, poke, poke, poke, poke, poke,
The Triceratops' horns went poke, poke, poke,
All around the swamp.

Additional verses:
The brontosaurus went munch, munch, munch.
The stegosaurs' tail went spike, spike, spike.

The dinosaurs went zzz, zzz, zzz,
Zzz, zzz, zzz, zzz, zzz, zzz,
The dinosurs went zzz, zzz, zzz,
All around the swamp.

Translated by my lovely colleague Mélissa:

Les dinosaures (air: L'autobus)
Les ailes du pteranodon font swish, swish, swish
Swish, swish, swish, swish, swish, swish
Les ailes du pteranodon font swish, swish, swish,
Toute la journée.

Les cornes du stégosaure font toc, toc, toc...
Les dents du tyranosaure font grr, grr, grr...
Les pattes du brontausaure font tape, tape, tape...

You put your claws in,
You take your claws out,
You put your claws in,
And you scratch 'em all about.
You do the dino pokey,
And you turn yourself around.
That's what it's all about!

Additional verses:
...feet in...feet out...stomp them all about
...teeth in...teeth out...chomp them all about
...tail in...tail out...wag it all about

Five enormous dinosaurs
Five enormous dinosaurs
Letting out a roar--
One went away, and
Then there were four.
Four enormous dinosaurs
Crashing down a tree--
One went away, and
Then there were three.
Three enormous dinosaurs
Eating tiger stew--
One went away, and
Then there were two.
Two enormous dinosaurs
Trying to run--
One ran away, and then there was one.
One enormous dinosaur,
Afraid to be a hero--
He went away, and
Then there were zero.

I'm a Mean Old Dinosaur (tune: I'm a little Tea Pot)
I'm a mean old dinosaur (get the kids to make "mean" faces. Resist the urge to laugh....)
Big and tall
Here is my tail, and here are my claws.
When I get all hungry, (rub your stomach)
I just growl (make that growl count....)
Look out kids, I'm on the prowl!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I geek architecture

With apologies.

The 2010 Architectural Conservation Awards have been announced, and a lovely display (of which I took an appallingly bad photograph last night, so I will spare you) is up at Ottawa's City Hall.

Foisy House (below), in my neighbourhood, was given an award of excellence in the category of restoration, and I was also pleased to see the condo/retail development near me also given a certificate of merit (even if it did take those developers 2 years to put up my friend's balcony).

Complete list of awards and plaques given this year is here.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Thanks, OALT!

I had a great time in Hamilton on Friday, presenting at the OALT conference (slides here). I am always happy to see a room packed for a readers' advisory session: in this case, we had to round up some extra chairs, even! It's nice to see that people are interested in and enthusiastic about learning how to be a better readers' advisor.

A few interesting things from the trip: I was speaking with one library technician who said that, at her library, they are not supposed to "recommend" books, but "suggest" them. To be devil's advocate, I asked drily, what's the difference? I understand her library is afraid people are going to come back and complain if they recommend something that the person doesn't like. For heaven's sake, is that how low we've stooped now? What's next: suing someone for recommending a book you hated? Apparently they're all very careful about saying, "if you liked that, you might like..."

There was also a considerable amount of interest in tools like What Should I Read Next? and WhichBook, which are certainly neat little tools, but are not, in my mind, tools for library professionals. There's no Magic 8 Ball that can replace good title and genre knowledge: no one is saying you have to read everything, you just have to know a bit about everything. To that end, my six indispensable RA tools for staff to build their own knowledge were: Library Journal, Booklist (Likely Stories being my blog of choice there, especially their features like Reading the Screen), Bookninja, the Reader’s Advisor Online blog (and its brilliant RA Run Down each week), Guardian Books (can't live without the Digested reads), and CBC Books. I also talked about LibraryThing and other social tools to organise your own reading. The second part of my presentation focused on ideas for your library: how to reach readers, share reading recommendations, and invite them in to share their own reading recommendations.

I hope people got something out of all this; we ran out of time for questions because of a mix-up about what time we needed to be out of the room, but a few people did come up to me in the hall for more conversation, which was lovely. A big, giant, hearty thank you to the wonderfully welcoming Kate Morrisson, Stella Clark and Liz Aldrey, for inviting me, helping to organise my travel, feeding me lunch, and even dropping me off at the (charming Art Deco) GO station.

I went to Hamilton and back in the same day, which means a shout-out is also due to Porter Airlines. I love you, Porter. Seriously. Because you exist, I can get up at 6 am, take a 9 am flight, get to Hamilton at noon, leave again at 3:30 pm, get a 6:45 pm flight, and be in Ottawa again by 7:45. OK, it's a little tiring, but it is nice to be in your own bed.

I also received the lovely thank you gift pictured below, a representation of Hamilton Mountain by local artist Lara Aikin of Jaded Dragon Studios in Burlington.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Felt Friday #2: Time's a-wastin!

There are many different forms of literacy, and reading a clock is one of them. In the past few years, I've seen a slew of new books about reading a clock, many with great moveable parts, including Telling Time with Big Mama Cat and Quelle heure est-il, Mimi?

If I was going to re-do this felt, I would make the arms of the clock out of something more durable than felt, but still reasonably light so they don't flop around: maybe leather? Or plastic?

Some tick-tock songs for you:

Clock Song (tune: "The Wheels on the Bus")
The hands on the clock go round and round,
Round and round, round and round.
The hands on the clock go round and round.
To tell us the time.

The short hand on the clock
Goes from number to number,
Number to number, number to number.
The short hand on the clock
Goes from number to number.
To tell us the time.

The long hand on the clock
Goes around by fives,
Around by fives, around by fives.
The long hand on the clock
Goes around by fives.
To tell us the minutes.

Hickory Dickory Dock
HIckory Dickory Dock,
The mouse ran up the clock;
The clock struck One,
The mouse ran down,
Hickory Dickory Dock!

Hickory Dickory Dock,
The mouse ran up the clock;
The clock struck Two,
The mouse said BOO!
Hickory Dickory Dock!

Hickory Dickory Dock,
The mouse ran up the clock;
The clock struck Three,
The mouse said Wheeeee...
As he slid down the clock!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Data migrated, 27 boxes + 9 bins checked in, author visited, packed for Hamilton!

Ya, that was my week.

Our upgraded ILS finally went live late yesterday afternoon, and the massive check-ins of 2010 began! I hear Main Library checked in over 10, 000 items in a 3.5 hour period last night. We got through our 27 boxes and 9 bins by mid-day today, and then started on some other stuff (damaged, withdrawals, expired holds, etc.) I know my staff did an amazing job dealing with the massive backlog of material, checking in, dealing with problem items, sorting and re-shelving; I know this in part because I was right there beside them, checking in stuff too! It really was "all hands on deck" and it was kind of fun, in a crazy, chaotic, exhausting kind of way. So just don't read the comments here, because that might make you lose the will to live if you work for the library.

We did have to cancel one group visit today, because all of us were swamped with check-ins and shelving, but we did host our author visit yesterday afternoon. Local author Paul Glennon (whose adult book, Decameron, was a finalist for the GG, and his children's novel, Bookweird, which I loved, is the first of a planned trilogy) visited fair Rideau Library yesterday at 1 pm to talk to two local school classes. He was great; a little bit nervous at first, I think, but the kids in those two classes can be alternatively a handful or utterly uncommunicative, so I suppose I could have given him more warning about that. Paul talked about the plot of Bookweird, then read a bit from the opening scene where the main character, 11 year old Norman, wakes up inside the novel he was reading. The kids really loved when he did the accents for the animals in the book-inside-the-book. That was wonderful. Then Paul asked the kids about what they think would happen if they got stuck inside the book they were reading:

Kid: "Um, well, in class right now we're reading Oliver Twist, and, um, it's about this boy who's an orphan, and, um, I forgot his name..."

Paul: "Oliver Twist?"

Kid: "Yeah, that's it! Anyway, he ...." etc.

Best. Quote. Of. The. Day.

Actually, Oliver Twist made for a fertile discussion about what would happen if you got stuck inside a book. Paul also talked to the kids about what a writer does, and then read another passage from Bookweird and took questions from the kids. One particularly thoughtful question was, if Paul had this power of bookweird, would he use it? And what book would he like to travel into? Paul responded that he thinks he would be unable to resist using the power if he had it, and that he would most like to travel inside The Golden Compass, in part because he is interested to find out what his daemon would be (incidentally, did you know there is an online test you can take to find out? It's linked to a dating website, but is still kind of interesting).

So, yeah. Paul's visit was fun. He seems like a really nice, thoughtful, and interesting guy.

Then a kid threw up on the way out of the library, luckily not on the (new-ish) carpet, and luckily too, at least, not while the library was open (the only thing more gross than chunky vomit is chunky vomit that your library patrons have unwittingly tracked throughout the library).

Staff also rocked their creativity yesterday making some felts for me, before the system came online again - hooray! See you tomorrow - don't forget it's FELT FRIDAY! New felts unfinished and therefore not to be featured... yet.

Tomorrow: Hamilton. Flying Porter. Looking forward to that almost as much as the talk. Am psyched to meet some cool library techs.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


This month's City Librarian's Monthly Report has a snippet about our IMPAC submissions. You might not know that...

"Every year for as long as the award has been given ([since] 1996), the Ottawa Public Library has participated by submitting 3 novels published in the previous year. One year we nominated Alistair MacLeod's Some Great Mischief, which won the IMPAC for 2001! Our reading committee includes David Staines of the University of Ottawa, Randall Ware, formerly of Library and Archives Canada, Linda Sherlow-Lowdon formerly of the OPL, and chief librarian of Kanata Public Library, as well as library staff from Collection Management and branches. We read, judge and nominate what we think will be of international calibre to compete for such a prestigious literary prize. OPL sent in our nominees for this year:

Galore by Michael Crummey...."vividly imagines life in Newfoundland’s early permanent fishing settlements established around the beginning of the 19th century. It is a poetic and powerful rendering of an intricate family saga and love story spanning two centuries, where the line between the everyday and the otherworldly is impossible to distinguish"

The Bishop's Man by Linden MacIntyre ......"is perhaps as close as we will get to eavesdropping on the private conversations we were never meant to hear among clergy or between clergy and "complainers". It is an unforgettable and complex character study of a deeply conflicted man at the precipice of his life. It poses the question can any act of contrition redeem our own complicity?"

The Disappeared by Kim Echlin...... "is a love story which penetrates to the chilly core of the Cambodian tragedy of the 1970's in a love story between a young Montrealer and a Cambodian foreign student to the rampages of the Khmer Rouge and evokes questions about our very human need to revisit the past.""

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

On not working with the public

Well, well, well. The theme of this week could be Preparing.

We are in the thick of our ILS upgrade. A few surprising things happened:

Returns, sorted by collections, waiting for check-in

During our "offline" days, when we were open but using our backup (not live) system, to do check outs only, we had fewer returns than expected (see above).

It has also taken our system longer to upload data from our offline days; today and yesterday, branches were supposed to be starting to check in everything from our offline days, but we can't start until the data from the offline check outs is properly uploaded. Complicated, no? Well, not that complicated, but hard to plan for in some ways.

Since we can't start check ins, or frankly do anything on the new ILS, we've been a bit at a loss. We can't really open, since we can't do check outs now either while data is being uploaded (it would create a bit of a vicious circle, with data every day having to be newly uploaded, sort of the old "shoveling the walk while it's still snowing" adage...).

Transfers to other branches? Can't do it. Withdrawals of damaged items? Can't do it. Sending overflow of paperbacks via our "shared" collections? Can't do it.

My own work: placing requests to plan out class visits and displays for summer 2010? Can't do it. Zero circ: can pull it off the shelves, but can't withdraw it. Argh.

We've shelf-read the whole library, I've re-filled every display to perfection, the stacks are all dusted (this aft, our lovely Julio even VACUUMED THE TOPS OF THE STACKS - now that, my friends, is dedication).... The thing is, too, we can't go through too much and put aside a lot of damaged items, because that's just creating another shelf/box/book truck of stuff to deal with when we go live again. We have 9 trucks already, not to mention those 27 boxes, plus "grey bins" of material delivered from other branches prior to the migration not yet processed. Gah.

You know me, though - I can entertain myself no matter what. So yesterday, I cleaned up e-mail (mailbox approaching limit - nope, not Inbox, my Personal Folders! So I have to archive that stuff). In the afternoon, I had a moment of inspiration and decided to focus on new shelf-talkers. I keep meaning to get to them, and just run out of time (see the originals here). So I went through Fiction and Mysteries, and Teen and Juv and Adult Nonfic, jotted down titles I want to shelf-talk, and got started. Today, I am finishing up those, and I might even get creative with some new felts if I have time. I also prepared my Leo Lionni centennial birthday display, at right.

The other thing that I blissfully had uninterrupted time to work on this week was my big talk for Friday. I am presenting at the Ontario Association of Library Technicians (OALT) conference in Hamilton this coming Friday (programme). The talk is done, the notes are DONE, and I even had time to print, upload to this blog (R-hand menu bar on homepage), and save to USB.

By far, the best thing about this unexpected "down(-ish) time" has been being able to hang out with everyone else who works at Rideau branch. The irony of working with the public, and interacting with many, many people every day, is you have little time to interact with your colleagues. We rarely have a proper conversation, unless between 9-10 am before we open, and we never all sit down together and eat lunch. We also rarely work on a specific project as an entire team: yesterday, just taking all the labels off expired holds on the holds shelf was fun, because 3 of us were working on it together (I know, I know: how many library employees does it take...?) It's nice to hang out with your colleagues. I guess this is how employees who don't work with the public feel.

We all still miss the public, though. Seriously. It's too quiet. Especially since I turned off the Internet PCs. But there is something to be said for sitting in the kiddie chairs in the library, eating pizza with your friends.

The "hidden treasure" on Mount Royal

I kind of agree with the Amis de la montagne, who are quoted in this Gazette article as saying that "the northern summit has been a hidden treasure." The city is now working on a new (well, the project is 20 yrs old!) car-free ring road, basically a 10k gravel road encompassing all three peaks of Mount Royal and the cemetery grounds.

Hanging out on Mount Royal is one of the things I miss most about Montreal. As you know, I was frequently a cemetery wanderer as a child. When I moved back downtown for the first time as an adult (after a nine-year detour to St. Lambert, Otterburn Park, and Bedford), one of my rezlings and I (yes, one day I will explain rezlings to the confused. Stay tuned) hiked all over Dr. Penfield and environs. We often made it as far as the Westmount lookout; we sunned ourselves at the base of Mount Royal. I often sat alone on the steps leading from Dr. Penfield to Pine Ave. in the evenings, looking down on the city. Even then, I felt so lucky to live there, so lucky to be sitting with this beautiful city spread out at my feet.

Upon moving back downtown again three years later, I again lived at the foot of the mountain, and I then began exploring it in more depth. Everyone has spent a lazy afternoon at Beaver Lake, or a drum-filled Sunday near the George-Étienne Cartier monument. Now, I began exploring the Olmstead path's tributaries in depth. The mountain became my refuge from the city, my moment of peace. It also became the place where I taught myself to run (this from a girl who was always dead last in high school forced marches). I got lost on the mountain (isn't that embarrassing?!) while showing my cousin around Montreal (he was rewarded for suffering through the 1.5 hr hike with a lunch at Santropol, so don't worry too much). I learned about the funiculaire (alas, gone!); I traced the outline of the cross; I took stairs of wood and century-old stone. I avoided the flasher (he prefers mid-afternoon). When I didn't get the job I really wanted, and when a year later, I realised that I would have to leave Montreal, the mountain was the first place I went, to grieve alone. Every time I have free time to myself when visiting, my first thought is: can I get up on Mount Royal? I have ruined new haircuts and dress shoes hiking across from ave. du Parc to McGill more times than I can count. I have also parked on steep hills (which I try to avoid doing otherwise) near McGill, abandoning my mum's car or a rental car to crunch through gravel and leaves.

The canal, and the rivers, in Ottawa, are glorious. The Experimental Farm, though far from home, is also a lovely destination for a long (18k) run or walk. I desperately miss the silence on Mount Royal, however; the sense of utter isolation from the noise of the city, while still being in the middle of the city. One of my great regrets is not being able to go to the Gatineau Hills often; alas, without a car, it's just not possible. I miss lacing up my shoes, throwing on running clothes, and being in the trees in 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, could the Amis start selling this in poster form? I would put it on my wall...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Now, if this isn't a good story about trying a second time...

... I don't know what is. From yesterday's Globe:

"Syjuco abandoned Ilustrado when the manuscript failed to make the long list of nominees for the first Man Asian Prize in 2007, beginning a new novel instead, and only picked it up again at the urging of his supervisor in Adelaide. While in Montreal, he ripped the novel apart, rewrote it entirely and re-entered the manuscript for the same prize a year later. To his astonishment, it won."