Thursday, September 30, 2010

The view from Thursday

To-do list (not all completed tonight, although one can always dream... I was on the desk all evening; but it was pretty quiet)
  • Talk to manager re. various things
  • E-mail potential library school applicant re. advice
  • Reserve what feels like 1 million books for our Communication Jeunesse book club
  • Prep booktalk for Monday: Grades 5-6. I'm thinking some cool new titles + some mysteries.
  • Invite classes to 2 author visits: one at Rockcliffe Park Library and one at Rideau Library
  • Reserve books by authors doing the two author visits!
  • Submit something to the community paper about the library
  • Find vampire books appropriate for a Grade 2-3 class
  • Plan classes in October that I am doing
  • Contact teacher re. participation in our Communication Jeunesse book club
  • Edit part 1 of the OPLA RA core competencies toolkit; begin my section of part 2.
  • Staffing issues: coaching someone.....
  • Outreach plans: connect with two new groups, minimum, this month.
  • Scheduling for both Rideau and Rockcliffe (I'd rather poke myself in the eye, but...)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Just another Tuesday

Yesterday was nuts! But in a good way. I thought I would indulge myself and tell you about it...

Unofficially, my day started at 6 with a run around Parliament Hill and along Sparks St. It was raining cats and dogs, so I got home drenched (the bus that splashed me at Wellington and Lyon didn't help, but, really, I was soaking already).... I planned it so I would run into the husband as he was leaving the house, so we had a "drive by" greeting on the street a few blocks from home (well, a walk and run-by, really).

This morning we had our family storytime at 10:30, which meant the usual crowd was around; we had lots of fun singing our stories today - all the stories I picked were songs, too! I'm pleased we have a good core group of 7-10 kids this "semester;" it can be hard to get regular #s here, since most kids are in daycare, but we're doing really well right now. It's nice not to sing ALONE.

I also spent some time before we opened setting up storytime, wading through e-mail, tidying the branch, calling a community partner re. a possible program, and various other things I have actually already forgotten. Sigh.

I was pretty nervous because Tuesday was the day of my special program, Coffee with a police officer. This is my brainchild (confession: stolen from Toronto Public Library!) and it was the first time we were trying it, so I was anxious about how it was going to go. I had visions of our friendly community policeman - Constable Marc - sitting around twiddling his thumbs. My plan was for it to be informal: not a "safety talk with a police officer," in other words, with him standing at the front of the room and an actual audience. My manager had the great idea to actually bring the coffee and the officer upstairs, into the branch, rather than the program room.. and that worked really well.

Most of the families who had attended storytime came up to say hello (the kids were really having fun examining the walkie-talkie), and many people dropped by for coffee and a quick word. We ended up with a core group of 10 people or so staying for a longer conversation; once or twice I intervened when I could see Constable Marc was being, well, monopolised.... I sat for a few minutes, but I was technically covering the Info desk, so I ended up back there. The good thing about doing this event upstairs was that I could see everything (and hear some of it) from Info. I heard the group talking about prostitution, vandalism, drug use, the concentration of social services in our neighbourhood, and road safety... So I think it went well!

By the time Constable Marc was ready to leave, I also had to go for lunch, since my colleague had arrived for her shift, starting at 12:30. I had 30 mins to scarf my salad (which is a salad I have sadly been picking at since Saturday-of-the-15-minute-lunch-break; I'm sure you're relieved to hear I actually finished it) before a Grade 3-4 class was arriving for their first visit of the year.

I missed my classes. I missed their incessant questions (one kid was poking me while I was helping another kid), I missed their funny answers to my "prompting" questions during booktalks... I booktalked and read to them for about 40 minutes, and then they went upstairs to choose books and check things out. In case you are interested, my booktalk is below; in smaller text are the phrases I use for discussion / prompting. I also read aloud My Dog Is as Smelly as Dirty Socks, which is a fun book about collage art and families, and a good beginning of the year icebreaker.

After they left, I took the second half of my lunch, and spent the rest of the afternoon on the Info desk so my colleague could prepare her booktalk for next week. I answered some reference questions, dealt with printer issues, and I also had to explain to an adult patron why calling me a b***ard was not "a joke" ("But that's how I joke with my friends!").

My two favourite questions of the day were about psychedelic poetry and books about mushrooms. And yes, that would be two separate questions; the latter was along the lines of "I ate some mushrooms yesterday, and boy did they make me sick...."

Good times.

On the way out we had a security issue and I had to call the police. Hey, didn't I just see one of them this morning? By then, it sort of felt like years ago!


Booktalk: Grades 3-4

Alvin Ho: allergic to girls, school, and other scary things
This is the first book in the Alvin Ho series

What are you afraid of? [Spiders? The dark?]

The boy in this book is afraid of a lot of things, including:
  • trains,
  • bridges,
  • substitute teachers,
  • girls, and
  • school... especially talking at school!
In fact, Alvin has never once said a single thing in class, and he’s in Grade 2.

Who here likes the Wimpy Kid books? Alvin reminds me a bit of Greg, because he’s funny and a little weird. He loves superheroes and he has:
  • a brother named Calvin,
  • a sister named Anibelly,
  • a dog named Lucy,
  • and a best friend named Flea.
Flea, who is a girl, is also his desk buddy in school. Also, like the Wimpy Kid books, the Alvin Ho books have illustrations in them and are really funny.

Read from pp. 36-45 ...

Now, there are lots of other stories about Alvin’s adventures in this book. He:
  • borrows his dad’s favourite toy and brings it to school for Show and Tell [do any of your parents have special toys from their childhood?]
  • visits Miss Emily’s house [show pic. p. 98]
  • Considers a dare [show p. 138]
Julian Rodriguez Episode One: Trash Crisis on Earth
First book in the Julian Rodriguez series

Do you have to do chores at home? What are they? [Washing the dishes?] What happens if you don’t do them?

8 year old Julian’s chore is to take out the garbage, and when he doesn’t, his mum sends him to his room…. To escape from his punishment, he pretends he is a space warrior being tortured by Earthlings, especially his Parental Units. The book is set up as if it is a report being sent back to Julian's “mother ship”
  • the sections Julian writes are in computer type on white pages,
  • the responses from the Mother Ship are in green computer type on black pages
  • flashbacks presented in horizontal comic-strip style.
Let’s see how Julian describes his day…. Read from pp. 22-33.

Miss Laney is zany!

Newest book (#8) in the My weird school daze series

Ella Mentry School is running out of money. You know how the students know?
  • The math teacher’s desk is gone!
  • Their new art project is to make postage stamps since there is one sheet of construction paper for the whole art class!
  • The new teacher, Miss Laney, has her office in the bathroom!
The students decide that they have to raise the $1 million needed to keep their school open. [prompt: Do you have any ideas for them?]

The students decide to put on a play… With Miss Laney’s help…!

Egyptian slam-dunk
#6 in the Looney Bay All-Stars series

[What’s your favourite sport?]

The Looney Bay All-Stars are a sports team in Newfoundland. They play basektball in this book, but you might also find them playing hockey, lacrosse, soccer…. Reese McSkittles is the main character in the All-Stars books. He is working on a social studies project and he has made a sarcophagus….

Monday, September 27, 2010

The book is dead.

Mostly I don't bother to comment on these news stories. You know, the ones that come out every few months pronouncing the book dead. There was another one yesterday on the late news here (look for the video on the CTV website about Word on the Street, a fab event BTW).

The husband and I have a "schtick" for this now. He says, "Hey, did you know the book's dead?" and I put on my most sad librarian face and reply "No, s***, really?," implying I am now out of a job.

Here's the thing about libraries: we are not a format, we are a service. I love books, granted; I am a bit in love with them, even. But it's easy to fall in love with the physicality of books, or even to be intoxicated by the iPad; it's a mistake to venerate either book or iPad at the expense of all other forms of knowledge.

I'm a librarian, but I don't care if you read parchment, paperback, or hardcover; I don't care if you listen to books on CD, iPod or DAISY player; I don't care if you like to be read to. I don't care if you're standing on your head, or on the bus, or reading off the cereal box. I just care if you're reading.

And that human impulse will never die. So I'm not worried.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday cuteness

I was at Canevas en couleurs today, which was lots of fun. Due to the chilly, rainy weather, the event was moved indoors, which was sad (I love being near the forest, and visiting the cabane à sucre!). On the other hand, it was also warmer inside, and since the long season I call Alex-is-always-cold has now begun (this season runs until May next year), I wasn't complaining. Plus, the Richelieu-Vanier community centre is really lovely inside (you should go, and check out the museum). I also got to check out some of a colleague's lovely photography (visit her Etsy store!)

So today I was promoting:

Adult books in our collection by Franco-Ontario authors (bookmarks and reading maps made by my amazing colleagues at Cumberland Branch)

Children's books in our collection by Franco-Ontario authors and also about art and artists (thanks to colleague B. for the blanket!)

I also had a Where the Wild Things Are puzzle out (above) and a craft table set up for kids:

Kids could make a collage (Leo Lionni style, as you can see), take a stapled art notebook and decorate it, or colour a spinning top (thanks to colleague R. for providing the template months ago!)

I had a lot of fun, and so did the kids:

I also read several stories, including Trois souris peintres (translation of Mouse Paint) and Frida. The latter I read to a very small girl (5-ish?) who sat solemnly through the whole thing; the book is an excellent, whimsical story about Frida Kahlo's life that does not either shy away from her pain or accident, nor glorify or sensationalise it. Well done.

I also had a discussion with a grandparent about Je découvre les nombres dans l'art, which is a fun little book in which each page has a major artwork (representing styles and artists around the world) and one line of text facing that, along the lines of I see six ducks... Really lovely introduction to art. The things to find in each work get harder as the book goes on.

All in all, a fun, rewarding day. But man, the other side of 30 is hard work; my feet are killing me after being on them all day. Pity me!

Also, a good friend called me mid-way through Canevas to tell me about this! I am totally thrilled about it; what a kind and thoughtful response! I think we all care, actually, but we sometimes don't get the opportunity to show it.

I was really touched - it's really something when something you say or do is recognised within your community. Thank you.

And if you are a new reader because of the millions (OK maybe not millions) of new readers David has sent to this blog, welcome! Here you will find book reviews, musings about library programs, tours of fabulous libraries or literacy initiatives here and abroad, and sometimes even the occasional poem or personal post. Happy reading.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

That's how I knew this story would break my heart*

As some of you know, I serve a community that includes a significant marginalised population. Some are drug users; some are trying to get their lives on track and have simply suffered setbacks: I can count at least one former Nortel employee, for instance. Some live in subsidised housing; some live alone; some live at various missions and halfway houses that are in my neighbourhood. Each of these library visitors is an individual, and I do my best to help them as individuals; I hear many of their stories, or I can guess at their stories, and they vary as much as my story varies from yours. Today, I thought I would share two stories I heard recently.

One of our regular patrons is a gentleman who lives in one of the Ottawa Housing buildings near us. He is in almost every day; he knows all the staff members at Rideau by name and chats with us often. He is very interested in Africa: political issues, poverty, social justice, and the genocide in Rwanda; he reads book reviews and often orders books about politics and social policy. I generally avoid talking to patrons for any length of time (more on this later, but the short reason is it's bad customer service, obvs) but somehow, one day, this patron told me that he had a correspondence going with Irwin Cotler.

This week, he came in, bearing several well-worn letters, almost disintegrating at the seams. "Do you remember I told you I wrote to Irwin Cotler? I brought his letters to show you." Sure enough, he had Cotler's responses to his letters, dating back to 2001. The letters signed by Cotler and referring directly to their phone conversations. "You know, one time, I got a little excited on the phone with him, and he said, 'Settle down!'" (he laughs). "I was in Cotler's class, you know," he told me, "at McGill. I had to drop out because of..." (here he makes a vague gesture) "you know, financial difficulties." He reminded Cotler of that on the phone once: "he said I should have spoken with him; he probably could have 'worked something out' for me. Would have been different, eh? I would have been a lawyer!"

Meanwhile, the same day, the husband was doing his regular shift volunteering at the Mission. One of the gentlemen he has struck up an acquaintance with there is also a library patron, so usually we will compare notes; I find him a bit hard to handle, because he's very chatty about his personal life and now that he knows that the guy he's befriended at the Mission is my husband (because the lovely husband picks me up from work when I work evenings!), he wants to ask personal questions, too! Anyway, the long-suffering husband was having another convo with this gentleman when the gentleman inquired, "Hey, are you on Facebook?" (The husband abhors THE FACEBOOK). "Because, you know, it would be good to have you as a contact, you know, via Facebook or something else. Do you have e-mail?" Later in the conversation, this heart-breaking statement: "Well, because, you know me now, but I want you to know me later, too, when things are better."

My mum hates the expression, "There but for the grace of God go I," because it implies that the person being referred to in that observation is lacking God's grace. She's right, it's a self-righteous condescension, but for lack of a better analogy, these little peeks into people's lives remind me, in the midst of to-do lists, monthly reports, inboxes, overloaded book trucks, and storytime, I serve people. And there but for SOMETHING go all of us.

Sometimes people come to the Info desk without a question; sometimes, not having a question is OK. Sometimes my job falls somewhere between my profession and my mother's; sometimes that is OK, too. Sometimes you just have to be still, and listen, for two seconds.

These moments are one of the reasons I stay at Rideau Library, even though I know that they are one of the reasons many people never come to Rideau Library.

*Title above from the Aimee Mann song of the same name. I love this song desperately, and played it on repeat incessantly in the Reference office in the last month before I left Westmount Library, but that's another story.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Read while staycationing

And thus another staycation disappears down the drain. I took last week off expressly planning to work on stuff, and I did, which is good, but I am lacking that sense of accomplishment somehow. I guess that's what you get for spending your week off in front of a computer. Granted, this was a Mac, not a work PC, and I was in my pajamas, not a skirt, but still. It was a little blah. The books I had brought home for the week were also "good but not great," like my week in general. Ha! I almost caved and went out and bought Mockingjay, but I knew if I did I would get nothing done. Then, when I got back to work, a library copy of Mockingjay was waiting for me - yay! So hence no blogging thus far this week - too busy at work, and then coming home to Katniss.

And so, here's what I did read last week, in between preparing class lectures and some other stuff:

The news where you are by Catherine O'Flynn: Like her first novel, What was lost (which won the First Novel prize at the Costa Book Awards in 2008, was long listed for the 2007 Man Booker Prize for Fiction and the Orange Prize for Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award - whew!) O'Flynn's latest book explores a fascination with spaces: the spaces that demarcate home to us, and the spaces that make us feel alternatively welcome or alienated.

The news where you are tells the story of Frank, a tired, middle-aged regional news anchor - at the time of the story, Frank is suffering from what could be mid-life angst, but seems to be a more permanent condition. He is obsessed with the past: his architect father's Brutalist architecture (about to be demolished), his mother's unhappiness, his former colleague's death in a hit-and-run accident. He is particularly preoccupied with the weight of remembering: what mark has his father left on the world, for instance, when he spent his life consumed with architecture, and his designs are now being obliterated? (As a side note, this book made me more sympathetic to, and appreciative of the vision of, Brutalist architecture, than I thought I ever could be!)

The jacket summary tells us that it is Frank's daughter, Mo, who pulls him out of this rut he is in, but I think Mo merely provides a bit of comic relief. Frank pulls himself out, really, as he watches everyone around him (Mo, his mother, his wife, and others) find something to anchor them into the present, and to take with them from the past.

Grosse Pointe Girl: Tales from a Suburban Adolescence by Sarah Grace McCandless: Even though Shelf Renewal sang its praises, I abandoned this one. It had a lot going for it: 80s nostalgia, dysfunctional families, suburbia, twisted female friendships ... and yet. Somehow it seemed to be caught between a YA and an adult book, which could be ok, I guess, except that the book's confusion about its identity was bugging me. I also just got plain bored: it could have been the reportage-style language, or the same-old, same-old adolescent problems in a far-from-unique voice, or just a case of "wrong book at the wrong time," but I gave up. Life is too short. The illustrations were a nice touch, though: they reminded me of the illustrations in Nancy Drew books.

Writing Reviews for Readers' Advisory by Brad Hooper: A useful and highly-readable introduction to writing book reviews. Hooper covers all the basics (difference between book reviews, lit crit, and annotations; basic elements of a review - What is the book about? How good is it?), and peppers the text with examples from his own reviews, reviews by others that he likes, and fabricated examples of poor reviews. I loved his inclusion of phrases to never use in a review: well-written, readable - noted! I also enjoyed his section on review-writing workshops in a public library setting; an excellent idea that I will bring to the two readers' advisory committees I sit on. Side-note: I don't know what Booklist or ALA editions do in their production line, but the cover of this book was oddly soft and almost textured; strangely lovely!

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery: IMPAC shortlist guilt at work, plus this was one of Maylin's picks. Just started this, and sadly temporarily abandoned it for Mockingjay. I was about 70 pages in - the book is a bit of a slow start, but it's getting more interesting now. One of the main characters is a precocious young girl, who is bored with life and has a plan to commit suicide on a certain day; another is the "janitor" in the young girl's apartment building in Paris, and she is a brilliant reader of philosophy and literature; the third main character has yet to appear....

Friday, September 17, 2010

BBAW: Future treasures

Today we bloggers are sharing what we enjoyed about BBAW 2010, and our blogging goals for the next year.

I bet a lot of us are going to write that we enjoyed the sense of community that BBAW provides, and the response will be popular because it's true. Not only did I get to know at least one actual human being better, I also got to see two of my favourite Canadian blogs honoured by the CBC.

My goals for the next year - hmm. This blog is the one thing I just sort of let happen - without any preconceived plan or set of goals. Life is regimented enough, you know? I do want to write more book reviews (obvs) and I would like to do another month of themed posts (like Felt Fridays and What should I read next? Wednesdays).

So I guess all that's left to say is, hey readers, what do you want the next theme to be?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

BBAW: Forgotten treasure

Today we get to tell you about a book we wish had received more "attention" by bloggers....

I am sorely tempted to link you to my passionate post about Gwethalyn Graham (Award-winner! Canadian modernist! Bridged two solitudes! Single mother!) but that would sort of be cheating, right?

OK, so here's another one: The solace of leaving early, by Haven Kimmel (my cursory and unscientific Google search yields few blog reviews, but, to be fair, this book came out in 2003, and blogging wasn't the massive industry it is now...)

Kimmel was a poet before becoming a memoirist and novelist, and it shows. Solace is a hauntingly beautiful tale of two people, seemingly at odds, falling in love. Langston has recently abandoned both a romance and a PhD, and returns to her hometown to heal, and perhaps focus on writing a novel. Amos, a local preacher suffering from a spiritual crisis, meets Langston when he becomes involved in the care of the recently-orphaned daughters of Langston's childhood best friend. The girls have re-named themselves Immaculata and Epiphany, and claim to see the Virgin Mary in their backyard. What's the deal with the girls' religious obsessions? Are either Amos or Langston in a position to help them, or are they doing more harm than good? A book about existential dilemmas, religious doctrine versus empathy, personal grief, and human failings. Highly, highly recommended.

When I finished this, I remember copying entire paragraphs out to send in an e-mail to my best friend. Of course, can I find these quotes now? No. Sigh.

You'll just have to take my word for it. If you've ever read Kierkegaard or been angry with organised religion, go grab this book right now!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dandicat reads her new picture book to children in Haiti

Edwidge Dandicat, whose 2004 novel, The Dew Breaker, about a Haitian prison guard, terrified me as I read it by the side of the Hotel de la Montagne pool when it first came out, wrote for The Huffington Post today about reading her new picture book, Eight Days, to schoolchildren in Port-au-Prince.

She also talks about the Port-au-Prince-based Li, Li, Li! (Read, Read, Read!) program, where readers say they read to kids "to help them grow their imaginations, to teach them about the world around them. And beyond them. We also read to them to learn from them."

Ooooh. Just click on this link. Go on.

Nice graphics, eh?

The press release says:

"In the same year that marks the 50th anniversary of the trial against D H Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, London Libraries is launching a new reader promotion, Banned Books, to raise awareness of censorship.

Going live on 25th September in 28 library services across the country, including 16 in London, participating libraries will display sets of 50 books that have been banned or challenged in this country or overseas, historically or currently."

My favourite graphic novel... coming to film

This could be good or very, very bad, but with Jim Broadbent and Brenda Blethyn providing voices, I am somewhat reassured!

What can I say about this book? I first read it at Westmount Library in 2004 or so, and wept through the ending; even now I can hardly read the Amazon review without tearing up. Briggs' book follows his parents' lives from their courtship in 1928 to their deaths, weeks apart, in the early 1970s. They marry, have their son, send him away during the war, build a bomb shelter in their yard, argue about politics, and weather political and cultural upheaval in Britain. What is so deeply moving about the book is their closeness: although Ernest is an unabashed Socialist and Ethel a cynical Tory, their love for each other, their son, and the sense that they are "in things together," for life, is palpable.

I hesitate to say that they are great examples of a certain type of mid-century Briton, since that is so reductive and condescending, but they are - their experiences are universal, in a way, a part of England's history. Their lives are not dissimilar to those of my paternal grandparents, really; reading this made me feel closer to them.

Ethel and Ernest will capture your heart.

Ottawa's Leishman Books closing

I was sad to see in today's Citizen (on the front page, which meant I grabbed the paper and immediately exclaimed "No!" and sat down in shock) that Shirley Leishman Books in Westgate Mall is closing.

Leishman Books is Ottawa's oldest independent bookstore, and has been an Ottawa standby for 51 years. Personally, I had the great pleasure of working with Diane Walker on Rideau's renovations (Diane, co-owner of Leishman, also won the HarperCollins Canada hand-selling award in 2005). Philip and I spent an afternoon with Diane walking around the branch before construction started, comparing notes about visual merchandising, space, design, and display. I found in Diane a kindred spirit, and she had some interesting suggestions we incorporated into our final plans for the branch. She also was supportive of my ideas, including shelftalkers, and came back to visit after the renovations to see how we were doing.

The Citizen article doesn't state Leishman's closing date, but stop by soon, if you can. While you're at it, patronise The Collected Works, Perfect Books, Octopus Books, Books on Beechwood, Librarie du Soleil, Nicholas Hoare, or Kaleidoscope, and keep the independent bookstore alive.

BBAW: Unexpected treasure

That is today's topic, and we must share a book or genre we explored thanks to the influence of another blogger.

Again with the bad memory: I often reserve things I have read about online, and then when they come in, I look at them in bafflement and conclude, "Oh, well, must have read about it on a blog..."

Nevertheless, a few instances stand out: I was turned on to Jonathan Coe's The rain before it falls by Maylin from the Dewey Divas. To be clear, though, I heard her review in the flesh (it is also online here), but then the Divas blog kept reminding me about it (Maylin put the book on her favourites list for 2008, and mentioned it a few other times), so eventually I was spurred into action, and I loved it. Maylin often spurs me into action, though, so she has a good track record, as far as I'm concerned! The rain before it falls, in case you were wondering, follows an elderly woman who has recorded a family secret onto a tape - the tape is later listened to by her niece and great-niece, with momentous repercussions..... Check out the Independent review as well.

Sometimes I read award-winners in time, and sometimes I can be stubbornly behind, and oddly, it took a short but interesting review by dovegreyreader to get me to finally pick up the brick that is Wolf Hall. Hype about a book makes me contrary occasionally, which is rather judgmental of me, I suppose.... Thank goodness you bloggers are out there recommending!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My BBAW interview

Rocio's interview with me is now posted, for those interested.

Thanks for everything, Rocio, and especially thanks for following "Only Connect" and agreeing to interview me!

Book Blogger Appreciation Week interview

Today is the day we all post our interviews, and so I am pleased to introduce below Rocio from the Ruidoso Public Library Blog. Ruidoso PL is located in New Mexico - I was curious about Rocio's comment about the weather below, and I can inform you that the avg. temperature there this week is 26C, and in the winter it can go down to -7C-ish. I'd still trade with you, Rocio!

I also discovered a new blog thanks to Rocio's recommendation below...

My interview by Rocio should be up on RPL's blog sometime today, as well - I'll post a link tomorrow.

Hey, Rocio - we are both runners!

How long has the Ruidoso Public Library been blogging?
I can’t remember the exact date, it was kind of a last minute decision. :) The RPL blog was born a year and two months ago.

How many staff members are involved in blogging? Tell me a bit about them…
Myself, I am the creator and I maintain the blog. I am 24 years old, I love reading and working out. I am currently going to school to be a lawyer and it's been such a long, scary ride.

How did you come up with your blog’s name?
Didn’t do much thinking, It’s The Ruidoso Public Library Blog – our Library’s name.

When RPL first started blogging, what did you do to promote your blog?
PR’s were and have been a big help, since our patrons aren’t very tech savvy. I followed a lot of “book” blogs and this definitely helped. Feed burner continues to help.

What has been the highlight of RPL’s blogging experience so far?
It will have to be how much our blog has grown and been visited. It’s nice to hear most of our patrons compliment you on it. Also, I am in the process of adding a Chat Widget and this will definitely take us to the next level I think.

What other web 2.0 initiatives are afoot at RPL? Do you tweet, podcast or do other cool things?
Like I mentioned in the previous answer, We will be adding a Chat Widget to both our main website and blog. Facebook is in the process as well.

What advice would you give libraries about to experiment with blogging?
It’s definitely time consuming!! But such a fun experience. I like to call it our Library Journal – we provide information about us and stuff that is going on at the Library. Like kids and adult programs, art displays and of course our policies.

What’s your RPL story? How long have you been involved in the blog, the library and the community?
I started as a School Librarian assistant in High School and did that for 2 years. Currently I am a certified Librarian - 3 years now. I am Circ Manager. I’ve been blogging for a few years now, since I have my personal blog.

Again, a personal question: When not reading or blogging, what else do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love running and working out! I am not married or have any kids so I travel as much as I can when I can.

When not curled up on the chair in the staffroom, where else do you do your reading?
I have a reading room at home that’s mainly where I do most of my reading. I also enjoy reading at the park by the lake during the summer that is. Winter here is ridiculously cold.

What are your favourite blogs?
I used to be the Teen Librarian and really enjoyed “Books and Literature for Teens.” It’s amazing to see teenagers encourage teenagers to read.

Last question! What book, that you think people north of the border might not know about, is popular at RPL right now?
Right now the hottest book here well more like a series I should say. “The girl with the dragon tattoo” series! About 40 people are on the hold list and it’s still growing.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2010

Hey everyone! I'm participating in BBAW 2010! The theme this year, as you can see from the above logo, is " A Treasure Chest of Infinite Books and Infinite Blogs Daily Blogging Topics."

Today's topic is "First treasure," and we are supposed to tell you, dear readers, about the very first book blog we discovered. Oh crap - here's where I remind you that I have The Worst Memory Ever. I'm going to have to guess, I think.


I think it would have to be a tie between Bookninja (an amazing source for all book news, plus an irreverent tone that I enjoy very much) and the Guardian, actually (because I am heavily into British literature and homesick for somewhere I never really lived).

I started following several blogs at the same time, so it's a bit of a blur (and, to be fair, it's also six years ago, so...). I can tell you, also, rather tangentially, that I was an early follower (and still a follower) of Book2book, a British publishing industry website (not a blog), that has also been a constant source of info for me - Book2book runs some stories I miss in other British news sources, and also often runs international book news that isn't covered anywhere else. They also frequently run stories first - I sometimes see them later, elsewhere.

Back in the day, I also paid for access to a blogreader, sucker that I was. Now I'm all Google Reader. I was never a Bloglines person, although I have seen that many people are atwitter recently about it shutting down.

C'est tout!

It's Monday. I'm tired.

It's staycation, part 2 this week, as I stay at home working on my course, a meeting on Friday (with the lovely Bookworm and others), and some other random stuff.

Course, you ask? I'm teaching Interlibrary loans again at Algonquin College this semester (Acquisitions next semester) and this morning was my first class. 8 am. Raining. Yes, ugh. The students seem great, though, and I'm excited to be teaching again. Just, seriously, 8 am? Keep in mind I go from class to work, and then finish at Rideau at 8:30 pm.

Here's your rainy-day, Alex-is-procrastinating-working-on-PPTs, catchall of cranky news:
Go forth with umbrellas, friends.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

"Libraries are the backbone of our educational infrastructure."

"Fight for libraries as you do freedom." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. September 10, 2010.

Really powerfully moving op-ed piece by American writer Karin Slaughter about the recent underfunding of American libraries ("Libraries are the backbone of our educational infrastructure, and they are being slowly broken by bankrupt municipalities and apathetic politicians."), and their importance in American society ([Libraries] service everyone in their community, no matter their circumstances. Rich or poor; no one is denied. Libraries are not simply part of our guarantee to the pursuit of happiness. They are a civil right, the foundation upon which time and time again the American dream has been built. If we lose our libraries, we risk losing our communities, our families and ourselves").

Thanks to David Wright for the link.

Friday, September 10, 2010

*Claps her hands with glee*

Life, Above All got 10-minute standing ovation at Cannes! (why didn't I read about this at the time?) It is now SA's official contribution to the Oscars.

That's the movie based on Canadian Allan Stratton's book, Chanda's Secrets, and I blogged a bit about it here, and about hearing Stratton at CLA 2009 here.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's my day off. I will now return to my regularly-scheduled programming, i.e. reading books and drinking coffee while in my pajamas, punctuated by breaks to add to my Memory Lane album of photos on Facebook. Some treasures here, here and here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


From the Beeb (via the fabulous Book2Book):

"Schools Across Kent Told To Borrow Books From Libraries:
Teachers will be able to borrow 100 books for eight weeks free of charge for students."

WTF? They had to pay for it before this?

Sorry, Kent, we already do that. In fact, we have been offering special services to schools and teachers since our Carnegie Library opened in Ottawa in April 1906. But maybe that's just 'cause we have enough "stock" (God, I hate when people say stock. It's the only British-ism I can't abide).

Literacy rates will fall in the next 20 years

A report out today from the Canadian Council on Learning predicts that literacy rates will fall significantly in the next twenty years.

Ottawa alone "can expect to see an 80% increase in adults with low literacy; from approximately 275,000 in 2001 to nearly 500,000 by 2031," says the press release. The key factors behind this increase "are a spike in the population of seniors (as literacy skills tend to wane as people age) and the growing number of immigrants with low literacy."

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Food for thought

LISNews: "The Master's Degree Misperception":
"It is a disservice to the education, to the degree, and to the profession when the bulk of a librarian’s daily tasks could be performed by someone with a GED. It does not take a master’s degree to place a hold on a book, clear a copier, push in chairs, tell people they are being loud, shelve items, or other similar tasks. When librarians are seen doing this and then told there is an advanced degree requirement, there is a reasoning dissonance that occurs in the outside observer.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


I haven't been as bloggy lately - sorry. It's not even that I've been *that* busy at work, but just taking it a bit slower and trying to squeeze the last bit of summer out of the city. I had that one week off in August, and am taking a week in September that may turn into course prep time for Algonquin (I'm teaching ILLs again this fall). I should be prepping more now, but I have an idea of everything I'm doing, and the lectures are done, I just need to fiddle with some exercises, so I am procrastinating for now. It's 42 degrees - who wants to work on PPTs?

What have I been up to? Well, I've started investigating having several legal aid clinics (French and English) for Winter 2010 at Rideau, and maybe even a French adult author visit (!), and have completely revised our contacts list for community organisations. I like to keep track of our history interacting with groups, so I updated all that info and went over it with my team. I sent out all my e-mails to schools, community groups, daycares etc. about fall programs - both what's on in September and class visit invitations, highlighting out author visits, too. I used to send out the letters/e-mails later in September but I decided to take advantage this year of the fact that teachers are sometimes back before the kids and getting work done before school starts. No one wants to visit before later in the fall, but at least we can get some scheduling done before the madness begins. What do you do about this? How do you communicate with schools and groups in your community? E-mail? Snail mail? Phone calls? When do you do it - seasonally? I also sent out the same info for Rockcliffe Park Library, since I will be temporarily supervising the great people there again starting Sept 20. Wheeee!

We wrapped up SRC at work - 201 kids this summer, up 21 from last year and up a significant amount from 2008 - I think we were under 100 then! Fun facts: We tracked which schools our kids were from this year, for various reasons, but it ended up telling us how our big outreach push in May made a difference: of the 152 children who reported their school, 78% of participants came from schools in our catchment where we had promoted SRC via outreach (or in one case, an e-mail to the principal and all teachers, since visits were not possible). An additional 20% of participants came from schools outside our catchment, which is also interesting (about half from branches nearby, but the other half from as far as Kanata and Nepean).

This week, I dealt with building stuff at work a lot for whatever reason (ah, the life of a supervisor!): a falling bookshelf, a wonky toilet, and a drying garden - good times! I'll spare you the details, except I know more about flushless urinals than I ever wanted to know. I also did a random conference call consulting for a law firm - yup, that's all I'm saying about that!

The husband and I were also thrilled to welcome a friend visiting Ottawa (a rezling's boyfriend, in fact!), and we took him to the Canal Ritz (which was just scrumptious, and the view wasn't bad, either) and to Mosaika, the new show on Parliament Hill (detail at left and below). The show highlighted the "physical, historical and cultural landscapes" of Canada, and one part projected various literary texts on the Centre Block. The works featured were:
  1. Souvenir of Canada Douglas Coupland
  2. Bonheur d’occasion Gabrielle Roy
  3. L’avalée des avalés Réjean Ducharme
  4. Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative Thomas King
  5. La Sagouine Antonine Maillet
  6. A Fine Balance Rohinton Mistry
  7. Never Cry Wolf Farley Mowat
  8. Survival Margaret Atwood
  9. Too Much Happiness Alice Munro
  10. Two Solitudes Hugh McClennan
  11. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz Mordecai Richler
  12. The Stone Angel Margaret Laurence
  13. Life of Pi Yann Martel
  14. No logo Naomi Klein
  15. Mercy among the children David Adams Richards
  16. Agaguk Yves Thériault
  17. Poésies Émile Nelligan
I definitely think L. M. Montgomery got shafted there. What/who would you have added?

In September, we're gearing up for our police visit and a bunch of other stuff: group and class visits, an outreach visit to a Métis centre... Etc!

Meanwhile, I've been reading, of course:
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett - I scored this one at the famous Rockcliffe Park Library booksale (the waiting list at work is insane). It took me awhile to get into it, but now I think I'm enjoying it. Wow, that was lukewarm. Sorry.
  • I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley - There are some great, funny, true moments in this book of literary essays - Sloane Crosley's sharp wit and quirky stories keep you hooked. For anyone who was a child of the '80s, there is much to sympathise with: an entire essay about The Oregon Trail! Be still, my beating heart! I did feel that this book could have benefited from better editing, however; some of the essays veered off course rather abruptly, failed to entirely coalesce ("The Ursula cookie,", "Bastard out of Westchester") or covered topics that had been covered to death ("You on a stick"), while others ("Fuck you, Columbus," "The pony problem,") were mostly perfect little gems. I can only read a few of this type of book every year, because I tend to find them a little self-obsessed. Am I over-reacting? Oh well....
  • Three Junes by Julia Glass - Really brilliant rumination on love, family, friendship, and legacy. Set in Scotland and New York in the 1980s and 1990s. Deeply moving. Thanks Cait for the recommendation.
  • My Name Is Memory by Ann Brashares - I was kind of surprised that I really, really enjoyed this book. I thought the premise sounded like a trite rip-off of The Time Traveler's Wife, but it was actually intriguing, complex and romantic, but not in a clichéd way. As it turns out, it's an excellent read-alike for The Time Traveler's Wife. Huh. The book that appeared to have no read-alikes!
  • The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry - Cute princess role reversal story for kids too young for the Princess Diaries but interested in the same type of book. Bonus: illustrated by Feiffer, of Bark, George fame.
  • City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems: sweet story about friendship between two titular characters. Sad ending. Crying predicted. Good for early readers (simple text) with hardened hearts? I dunno. Magnificent illustrations.
I should totally be reading my 2011 BOYCA books. That is so going to bite me in the a** later. I had to move the giant pile to vaccuum this week (ok, truth be told, so the husband could vaccuum) and I was racked with guilt.

I am now off to Montreal for shopping, lollygagging, and an un-birthday dinner! 30! What the hell? I think I've accomplished everything I wanted to professionally by this point, but I am not totally where I wanted to be overall by now. But, you know, life happens.

Lauren Child, I love you

And not just for Soren Lorensen, either.

How cool is this?

The Secret Garden was one of my all-time favourite books as a child.

Dayton Literary Peace Prize

This one's for the husband, dedicated humanist that he is:

The Dayton Literary Peace Prize, "the first and only annual U.S. literary award recognising the power of the written word to promote peace," has announced its 2010 finalists.

For fiction:
A Postcard from the Volcano by Lucy Beckett
A Good Fall by Ha Jin
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (one of my favourite reads of 2009; previously mentioned here)
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Adiche (I haven't read this one, but I've read her other books and heard her speak at Harbourfront - she was very interesting and a powerful and eloquent for someone so young)

For nonfiction:
Enough: Why the Worlds Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty by Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman
In the Valley of the Mist by Justine Hardy
Stones Into Schools by Greg Mortenson
Tears in the Darkness by Michael and Elizabeth Norman
The Education of a British-Protected Child by Chinua Achebe (I am a very big Achebe fan, but haven't read this yet...)
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"One year, I won a little yellow stretchy man!"

With all the bad news coming out of British libraries, I owe my friend Diane a big thank you for sending this article about the success of the Summer Reading Challenge my way.