Saturday, October 30, 2010


My presence at the Writers' Fest poetry cabaret has inspired a smidge of nostalgia.

It made me miss being a poet. Did you know I was a poet? Probably not, if you have known me for 10 years or less. I am a closet poet; a poet without poems.

I wrote my last poem in February 2001.

I used to be the rez girl who left freshly printed copies of her poetry, still warm from the hum of the printer, under the doors of her fellow rez girls.

I used to be the girl who quoted Canadian poetry ("There is something down there and you want it told") in fabricated administrative blocks on her best friend's library card.

For the most part, I don't miss poetry; at least, not the way a smoker misses cigarettes, or the way an amputee misses a limb. More like a college student misses her high school boyfriend.

I miss poetry like a fair-weather friend: I have a similar feeling when I listen to Peter, Paul and Mary: man, I wish I played the guitar, I think.

Anyway, running the risk of utter embarrassment and ridicule, and relying on your indulgence as subscribers (can you say, "captive audience?"), I will impose on you, very infrequently, I promise, a poem. And if you don't like this, vote with your mouse. I track my stats, and if they go way down, I promise to stop posting crappy poetry.

Here's the thing: this is less about getting my back list out there, and more about actually scaring or inspiring me (or both) into a new composition.

"Do you want
            to be happy and write?"
- Michael Ondaatje, "Tin Roof"

Despair is        not writing the poem.
Say what you will about despair.
- Robert Kroetch, "Mile Zero"

Author reading: Claire Holden Rothman

Historical novelist and short story writer Claire Holden Rothman will be reading next Tuesday at my library (and at two others, on Tuesday and Wednesday), and I thought some of you might want to come. It's free (of course) and promises to be a great event.

I am particularly excited to be hosting Claire, as she was one of my English professors when I was in Liberal Arts at Marianopolis College. It has been a great pleasure of my life to have stayed in touch with her over the years, and to have the opportunity to work with her again, organising her visit Ottawa for a series of readings.

Claire's novel, which was long-listed for the 2009 Scotiabank Giller Prize, was named one of six novels that mattered in 2009 by Quill & Quire magazine, and is an OLA Evergreen 2010 pick, is The Heart Specialist. Inspired by the life of Dr. Maude Abbott, The Heart Specialist is the story of a woman pursuing her dream. Set in a time of great social change in the early years of the twentieth century, The Heart Specialist is the story of one woman’s triumph in the face of adversity.

Claire Holden Rothman is a writer and translator. Her work on Le chercheur de trésors won her the 1994 John Glassco Translation Award. She has a BA in philosophy from McGill, a MA in English Literature from Concordia University, and has taught English at Marianopolis College and creative writing at McGill University.

Claire will be reading in Ottawa as follows:
  • On Tuesday, November 2nd at 2 pm at the Nepean Centrepointe Branch of the Ottawa Public Library (register here)
  • On Tuesday, November 2nd at 7 pm at the Rideau Branch of the Ottawa Public Library (register here)
  • On Wednesday, November 3rd at 11:30 am at the Rockcliffe Park Branch of the Ottawa Public Library (register here)

Friday, October 29, 2010

More Writers' Fest reports

I devoted my energies this aft to writing up my notes from the Andrea Levy talk I attended on Wednesday. Alas, dear readers, they went up on the OPL blog. Sorry; you got shafted this time.

Clearly I need to clone myself to get enough blogging done....

Between that, and filling the holes in the Rockcliffe Library schedule, listening to the Divas this morning (amazing, as always) and, oh yeah, serving the public, it was a crazy day. One patron called me "his favourite person," another told me in no uncertain terms that I was "unhelpful," (I told him he could come back when he calmed down) and one patron, um, emitted gas in front of me... But hey, the windows are finished, and this weekend our furniture and carpets are getting cleaned!

Looking forward to resting over the weekend. Oh wait. I have 46 midterms to grade. Crap.

Chop, chop, Garcia Marquez...

I'm waiting!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

So you want to be a librarian...

Are you crazy?

Watch this laugh-out-loud video (and I'm not a laugh-out-loud kind of person):

Best lines:

"You will be unjamming printers until your hands bleed. You will be threatened with physical violence over a 10c fine while children scream because they have used up their computer time on Robot Unicorn Attack."

Ah, been there.


"Have you ever been shanked with a pair of safety scissors for refusing to extend a due date?"

"I think most problems with patrons are missed opportunities for teachable moments."

For the record, I haven't been shanked, but I have been stalked and body-checked on the street by a patron, and yes, I have hidden the scissors.

But you have to laugh. Otherwise, you just might cry.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Writing: "It's sort of like a mental illness and then there's a party!"

Anchee Min, Emma Donoghue, Alexander MacLeod and moderator Michael Blouin

The above statement was made by Alexander MacLeod (I think? Or was it Emma Donoghue? Argh... damn notes!) last night at Writers' Fest, during an interesting panel discussion with the theme of "Outsiders." The panel featured Chinese-American memorist and novelist Anchee Min, Irish-Canadian novelist Emma Donoghue, and Cape Bretoner Alexander MacLeod, and was moderated by Canadian poet and novelist Michael Blouin. The idea was to bring together three authors "whose characters inhabit the fringes of their respective cultures, spotlighting the isolation, fear, and love that define their lives." Min's latest novel, Pearl in China, is based on the life of Pearl S. Buck, who grew up in China with her missionary parents, and later taught (along with her husband) at Nanjing University, publishing her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Good Earth, about life in a small Chinese village. Donoghue's latest, Room , has received a great deal of press (and was up for the Booker, the Writers' Trust, and the GG); it describes the life of a young woman and her five-year-old son in a one-room prison. MacLeod's first collection of short stories, Light lifting, described in a National Post review as "cerebral," "emotionally intense," with a "diversity of characters" and a "variety of tones" is up for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Each author read excerpts from their work, in turn, and then they sat together with Blouin and discussed their work, and answered questions.

I was thrilled to hear Emma Donoghue read from Room (although, you know, I haven't quite forgiven her for killing off that lovely Italian greyhound in Life mask, my favourite of her novels). Donoghue read from a scene in the first part of the book, when Ma has explained a bit more about the outside world to Jack, who is looking out the room's skylight. Anchee Min read three sections (beginning, middle, and end) from Pearl in China, and Alexander MacLeod read from the darkly funny story, "Adult Beginner I." In fact, I remarked to the husband, interestingly, that all three of the writers present had wickedly irreverent senses of humour... It made for a lively evening!

I know far more about Donoghue than the other two writers; when Michael Blouin introduced Anchee Min, he touched on her background, and I was deeply moved by her story. When she came up to read, she admitted this was her first time at a Canadian event, a statement which garnered much applause from the audience. She read several excerpts from her latest novel, Pearl in China, and then told us a bit more about her life, opening with the statement "I denounced Pearl S. Buck when I was 18. It was 1971...." She went on to describe the jealousy, essentially, that Madame Mao had for Buck, who was invited to stand between Nixon and Mao during their 1972 meeting, and interpret during their conversations. "The next time [Buck's] name came up," Min continued, it was 1996, and Min was in a Chicago bookstore for a reading. A women attending the reading presented Min with a copy of The Good Earth, saying "Pearl Buck taught me to love the Chinese people." Min read it on the plane returning home, and, as she says in an interview for NPR, "I broke down and sobbed because I have never seen anyone, including our Chinese authors, who wrote our peasants the way Pearl Buck did, with such love, affection and humanity. And it was at that very moment Pearl of China was conceived."

Min also talked about her own experience arriving in America: terrified she wouldn't get a visa because she didn't speak English, she was given six months upon arrival to take an English test. She studied by watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers; the latter taught her that "the best gift you can give is to be your honest self," a statement that she found especially emotional, having been raised in a society that dehumanised its populace and was founded on deceptions.

During the discussion, some interesting points were touched upon: Donoghue confessed that she, identified a bit with Old Nick, the kidnapper and abuser in Room, in that she controlled the fates of Jack and Ma, as an author. She described how the questions she contemplated while planning the novel ("will I give them vitamin pills?" "will I give them a TV?") were very reminiscent of Old Nick to her. This observation led to a discussion about planning novels generally, which was rather interesting, actually (often, I find this type of debate: how do you write? Do you like a window to look out on? What kind of pen do you use? - facile). Donoghue feels she is stronger at dialogue and character than plot, and plans out each chapter in notes, deciding how many "reveals" there will be in each section, and re-arranging as needed. MacLeod, whom Donoghue teased for being "Proustian," struggles over each sentence and emerges with a story that is "90% finished" from its first draft (however, he also talks to himself); Min says her books are "90% garbage" on the first draft.

A lively discussion about e-books, and reading in the 21st century, ensued. None of the three authors seemed particularly disturbed by the rise of e-books in general, or seemed to want to comment on the implications for publishers and authors' rights; both Donoghue and MacLeod, however, had some great words about the book-as-object and the decline of thoughtful, in-depth reading. Donoghue worried that time spent online was time not spent engrossed entirely in a book. She compared Facebook to a Victorian lady's social life; observing students multi-tasking in class, commenting on photos on FB while taking notes on lectures, she realised that FB was elaborately Victorian: "you drive around and leave your calling card," she explained, "but it's not exactly reading."MacLeod was reminded of his love of the physical book when reading with his children: the gesture of taking hold of a book with each hand to read aloud, with a child sitting beside you, forms a reading "circle".

An evening filled with entertaining reading, compelling personal stories, and spirited debate!

Thank you, OttawaStart!

...For mentioning me in your Ottawa Blog Guide!

(Scroll down to “More local blogs”).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Inside my head

Sometimes I picture e-mail as being a big nasty octopus, its arms reaching out to grab at me.

By the end of each day, I succeed in avoiding the suction, and if it's a good day, I feel as though I have beaten back a few arms, even.



I think I can only get away with that title if I explain that we threw our old windows out the window... (what did you think I was talking about? the election!?!)

+ thanks to C for taking pictures!

We're almost done, thank goodness.

Monday, October 25, 2010

RA in a day 2010: “Book trailers - Have You Seen Any Good Books Lately?”

Three members of the OPLA RA committee, including myself, followed up Dr. Mar’s session with our own, entited “Book trailers - Have You Seen Any Good Books Lately?.” Our session was divided into three parts: I showed three book trailers and introduced the concepts of a video book trailer or video book review, then Bessie from Haliburton County Public Library played an interview she had conducted with a colleague who does radio book reviews, and then Shonna from Barrie Public Library spoke about her library’s TAG (Teen Advisory Group) experiment with making their own book trailer.

The trailers I showed at the beginning of the session were:

James Patterson’s promotional video for newest Alex Cross:

Sense and sensibility and sea monsters:

Below are my notes for the session; parts of these notes, as well as a complete bibliography for the session, are available on the OPLA website).
  • Go where your readers are: that has been one of the tenets of library 2.0 and readers’ advisory 2.0;
  • Marketing websites have identified half of YouTube’s audience as being in their 30s or older; many studies show that there are more men watching YouTube than women (who would we like to reach out to? Who uses the library more / less?);
  • A one-minute book trailer for Mockingjay garnered over 33, 000 views on YouTube;
  • Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (above) climbed to over 250,000 views.
Book trailers allow readers to preview a book much the way movie trailers allow us to preview a movie: trailers can be good or bad, can give away too much, can hype beyond reasoning, and can also have a powerfully addictive quality that we, as librarians, can harness as a tool to connect with our readers, raise awareness about library collections, and spark discussion about titles and genres.

Book trailers can be professionally made (eg. by a publisher or marketing firm) and used by the library, or made in-house (eg. by staff or patrons). Now we are going to talk about formats…

  • Combination of stock photography, music and voiceovers
    Circle of Seven Productions does these for several American and international publishers; a notable example of their work would be the award-winning trailer for Murder Game). In Canada, several publishers have gone this route (Penguin Canada, Simon and Schuster, Goose Lane Editions).
  • Live actors
    Example: Sense and sensibility, above.
  • Short films
    Example: M. T. Anderson's trailer for The Suburb Beyond the Stars, which in the two weeks since I built my list, seems to have disappeared from online...?
Trailers vs. reviews:
We have to make a distinction between book trailers and video book reviews. On her “RA for All” blog, Becky Siegel Spratford argues for the creation of more of the latter by “trained reviewers;” we need them not only to share with patrons, but also as a professional tool for us, to preview books we may not have time to read.
  • Example: video book reviews done by The Washington Post’s Ron Charles
    Becky pointed me towards these video book reviews done by Charles. Charles’ self-deprecating, casual reviews mix all the elements of a traditional review (What is the book about? Is it any good?) with a substantial amount of humour to emerge as an almost Stephen Colbert-esque parody of a real book review. The effect is disarming at first, but also kind of genius: Charles is hyper-aware of his own audience (telling viewers "You need book criticism that's fast, fun, and incredibly hip").
A sub-genre of the book trailer is the “teaser” book trailer, which, like a movie trailer, acts as a preview for the real book without giving away too much: an excellent example would be children’s author Dan Yaccarino’s trailer for All the way to America.

M. T. Anderson’s book trailer for the YA novel, The Suburb Beyond the Stars (in which he reveals in an aside that he has had his car specially detailed for this video, and is drowned out by a waterfall for a good 10 seconds; at one point, the videographer mutters “Scholastic is not paying me enough for this”). As Elizabeth Bird from Fuse #8 observes, Anderson’s video moves from the realm of book trailer into that of short film promoting book. The video takes a sharp turn around the fourth minute into the utterly bizarre; expanding upon the scifi aspects of the book itself (in which unknown forces terrorise people in communities built over ancient ruins), the video ends up being a rather Blair Witch Project-esque foray into the mountains of Vermont. The video ends with a black screen, and the words “M.T. Anderson may never appear again. But his book will. This summer.”

A June 2010 article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Melissa Kent discussed the merit of book trailers, explaining how interesting, engaging videos “with a viral element” have a place within a publishers’ larger digital marketing campaign; the same could be said for a libraries’ digital marketing campaign. Says Nick Atkinson, the former head of digital marketing at Borders in Britain, “A lot of publishers are just producing generic videos of authors talking about their books, but YouTube is absolutely saturated with that type of content.” Brett Osmond, marketing and digital manager at Random House, said teen and crime fiction lend themselves best to videos, because those genres have fan bases primed for online viral marketing; now, however, with the demographics on social networking sites and other 2.0 sites such as YouTube skewing further past the 18-24s, viral marketing is reaching a wider audience and appealing to a broader range of consumers than before. While according to a June survey of 7,561 book buyers by the Codex Group, a marketing research firm, only 0.2 percent discovered their last book through a video book trailer, things are changing: according to a 2009 online survey by, 45% of teens bought a book after watching a book trailer on YouTube.

Both adult and children’s book bloggers have taken note: Booklist’s Keir Graff and SLJ’s Elizabeth Bird have days on which they feature book trailers on their respective blogs. Trailers are starting to have their own awards too: The US publisher Melville House held the inaugural Moby awards, SLJ has the Trailee Awards for teens.

What does all this mean for librarians trying to reach each other or develop their own collection knowledge?

Option 1:
  • Subscribe to publishers’ video feeds the way you follow their blog or read their catalogue (eg. Anne Collins, publisher of the Knopf Random Canada Publishing Group, was so thrilled by her latest acquisition, that she released a YouTube video to explain why. Into the Abyss, by journalist Carol Shaben - The videos act as a collection knowledge tool: intro to a genre, etc.Option 2:
Option 2:
Option 3:
  • Make your own (staff). One example, Burlington Public Library, is working on making their own, but currently seeking a legal opinion as to the use of cover images, other images, and music in a trailer. It's possible that they could be exceeding copyright or even contravening copyright, because the publisher may not hold the rights to the cover art, it may still reside with the artist who created the cover. If you're doing your own, it's also important to use Canadian covers (not always the same). Libraries need to be very clear on what and how you do this and understand that it needs to be done the right way and be respectful of the work. As my colleague observed, in fact, there are times when the publisher isn't even the same in Canada from the U.S. and this impacts on what we may display, especially if we are pulling from a vendor. Some other great examples of libraries who are making their own include: Oakville Public Library, London Public Library, and Arapahoe Library District.
  • Make your own (patrons - often TAGs; local celebrities!). If you do this, try to let the group have control over the production: if you are using a TAG, let them determine the content and format if possible. Some examples: Brampton Public Library and Toronto Public Library.
Just for kicks, here are some more trailers to watch:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

RA in a day 2010: Poster sessions

Several vendors had exhibition booths at the conference (Library Bound, Novelist, and the OLA Store). Six libraries also had booths for poster sessions; these included:
  1. Haliburton County Public Library: Book trailers on the radio (pictures here and here) Haliburton County Public Library records regular book “trailers” (eg. short reviews which promote a book, rather than critique it) for a local radio station. This poster session supported 1/3 of the afternoon session about book trailers in general; the audio component of a video book trailer being one part of it. During the afternoon session, we played an audio interview between two HCPL staff members, describing the process of writing a script and recording a book trailer; contact me for more info. The poster session supported the interview by offering suggestions about what books to talk about and how to write a script.
  2. Toronto Public Library: Tips on creating a staff picks publication (photo)
    TPL has been releasing their “Great reads” since 2008; they are now on Volume 5, and recently released both a “Best of” reading list and a “Great reads for the reading man” volume. The latter is a result of the “Reading man” project TPL had on their website from 2006-201, in which they asked 12 men to talk about their favourite books. Some famous authors participated (Andrew Pyper, Giles Blunt, Lawrence Hill), as well as actor Paul Gross, bookstore owner Peter Birkemoe, opera singer Brett Polegato, and several regular guys! TPL’s poster session involved suggestions about schedules, editorial guidelines, and the design and production of a staff picks publication.
  3. Toronto Public Library: Readers’ advisory wiki for staff (photo)
    The TPL wiki is hosted on PBWorks, and was intended to be a place for staff to share expertise, and also have access to the booklists created by TPL by subject area. A handout for the poster session included tops on starting, maintaining, and promoting and training staff for a wiki, as well as examples of how TPL used their wiki.
  4. Mississauga Public Library: Books to go – book clubs in a bag
    What I liked about MPL’s book clubs in a bag was the bags themselves, at right (I know - I'm that shallow) and the way their reading guide was structured: the supporting material (author info, book info, reviews, interviews, and discussion questions) were all cleanly presented in one document based on a template. MPL provides book clubs in a bag for any title in the collection, including large print and books on CD. A list of the “Books to go” reading guides already available included over 120 titles, ranging from the obvious (The Lovely Bones) to the more obscure (W. O. Mitchell’s Roses are Difficult Here) to the classic (Howards End).
  5. Kingston-Frontenac Public Library: Reel fun – Readers’ advisory programming meets the silver screen (with the lovely Alice and Sarah, at left below)
    KFPL obtained a movie license and organised movie screening series in the library. The series planned included a “Vampire film festival,” a “Lights, cameras, strollers” series for parents of young children, “Movie morning Mondays,” and, of course, “Harry Potter and the Marathon of Movies.” I have to say that their graphic designer is amazing; the publicity posters for each series were really appealing (see photo). The tip sheet they circulated included information about the two companies offering public performance site licenses (Criterion and Audio Cine Films), and information about screenings (they cannot be publicised outside the library, but can be publicised through online profiles such as the library website, Twitter or Facebook). Suggested programs included a classic movie series for seniors in the afternoon, “Read the book, watch the movie,” “Stitch and bitch” movie night, “Julie and Julia” plus a cooking lesson, and documentary discussion series.
  6. OPLA RA Committee Core Competencies (they can speak for themselves!)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

RA in a day 2010: "Empirical research on reading, and its implications for advising readers" with Dr. Raymond Mar

I am blogging out of chronological order, here, which annoys me immensely, but my notes about this afternoon session are finished first, because Dr. Mar's slides were online. So here you go. More forthcoming!

The second session of the day was “Empirical research on reading, and its implications for advising readers” with York University’s Dr. Raymond Mar (editor of On Fiction, an online journal on the psychology of fiction). Dr. Mar is an assistant professor of psychology who uses the methods of neuroscience, personality psychology, social psychology, and developmental psychology to research the relationship between story-processing and social-processing.

He opened by addressing the question of why use science to study art? He discussed how a story (eg. fiction) can be both real / not real, true / not true, and how it reveals aspects of human psychology and not necessarily facts. He talked about narrative fiction as a “simulation” exercise: when reading a novel, for example, you imagine what it would be like to be in the book. With neural imaging, the areas of the brain that deal with social processing light up when subjects are reading. He described the function of fiction as including “the recording, abstraction, and communication of complex social information in a manner that offers personal enactments of experience, rendering it more comprehensible than usual.” In other words, we develop socially when we read, absorbing complex social information in a format that is easier to understand.

Dr. Mar talked about a correlational relationship between reading and decoding social information. The study examining this phenomenon is called “Bookworms versus Nerds:" it found that bookworms (eg. traditionally fiction readers) were better at social decoding tasks than nerds (eg. traditional expositional non-fiction readers). This doesn’t show that the relationship is cause and effect (that reading fiction necessarily causes better social skills), but it is definitely correlational! Studies have also shown that preschoolers aged 4-5 who are read more books show more advancement in social development than their peers; significantly, they understand that other people have other mental states, something that other children at that age may be struggling with. I personally found this really interesting, because the letter I sometimes send to school principals if they are questioning why library visits are important includes the following lines: “Library programs have also been shown to “help build social capital and community participation” (Bourke 138). Visiting the library with a group, especially for a library program such as storytime, helps develop library habits for the families that attend, develops socialization skills, and provides families with rhymes and songs they can use at home.” Dr. Mar pointed out that exposure to books and movies at that age show the same results; exposure to TV does not.

Studies have also shown correlations between unhappiness and attachment to fictional characters: this discussion reminded me a lot of Dora in the novel, Literacy and longing in LA. People who are more happy daydream less; people who are happy who do daydream, daydream about themselves or their friends and family. Unhappy people daydream more, and daydream about exes and fictional characters. Dr. Mar is now studying the reasons why certain readers sometimes re-read books. His hypothesis involves the idea that these readers enjoy re-experiencing the familiar.

As Dr. Mar said in his talk, “our experience with books is simply another experience that has the power to transform us” in life; he cited numerous researchers who have explored the “forced perspective taking” that fiction readers participate in. Some researchers, such as Betsy Sparrow have used fiction for studies of inter-group relations within the context of psychology. While it is certain that books themselves cannot change someone’s mind completely if they adamantly subscribe to a certain point of view, fiction can encourage personal growth and persuade someone to explore a slightly altered perspective. Dr. Mar also touched on the use of fiction writing to overcome trauma: apparently, even trauma survivors who wrote about a different trauma than they experienced felt better from the experience.

I would highly recommend that anyone interested in the psychology of reading visit the OnFiction online journal, or consult the work of Dr. Mar and his colleagues: Dr. Jordan B. Peterson (Toronto), Dr. Keith Oatley (Toronto), Dr. Maja Djikic (Toronto), Dr. Jennifer L. Tackett (Toronto), Dr. Chris Moore (Dalhousie), Dr. Shira Gabriel (Buffalo), Dr. Jacob Hirsh (Toronto), Dr. Jennifer dela Paz (Toronto), Dr. Marina Rain (York), and Dr. Ariana Young (Buffalo).

On a side note, I was very impressed with Dr. Mar as a speaker; it was refreshing to look at reading from a different, more academic, perspective. It was also fun to see someone, like me, who looks excessively young for his weighty accomplishments!

*Sources for above excerpt from my letter to school principals:

Benner, Gregory J., et al. "The Relationship Between the Beginning Reading Skills and Social Adjustment of a General Sample of Elementary Aged Children." Education & Treatment of Children 28.3 (2005): 250. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 29 Dec. 2009.

Bourke, Carolyn. "Public Libraries: Partnerships, Funding And Relevance." APLIS 20.3 (2007): 135. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 29 Dec. 2009.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ottawa's getting its first Project Bookmark plaque next Tuesday!

I almost missed this story:

"On October 26, Ottawa will mark its place in Canada’s literary landscape when a plaque bearing a portion of Elizabeth Hay’s Garbo Laughs is unveiled in the neighbourhood of Old Ottawa South. Members of the public are invited to the unveiling ceremony that will take place at 1 p.m. on the West side of Bronson Place (near Fulton) at Colonel By Drive, on the South Side of the Canal, just East of the Bronson Street Bridge."

More information about Project Bookmark is available on their website. Ours is the sixth (not the fifth, as reported above) bookmark in Canada. The others, in reverse chronological order of installation, are:
  • The text of the poem “Essentialist” from poet Ken Babstock’s Trillium Award-winning collection, Airstream Land Yacht, on St. George Street at Bloor, across the road from the St. George subway station, in Toronto.
  • An excerpt of author Anne Michaels' novel, Fugitive Pieces, at the Northwest corner of College and Manning streets, in Toronto.
  • The entire text of one of the late Bronwen Wallace’s poems, “Mexican Sunsets” (from Common Magic) in downtown Kingston, on the Northwest corner of Princess and Clergy streets.
  • Approximately 500 words from author Terry Griggs’s novel, Rogues’ Wedding, depicting a scene that takes place at the Owen Sound harbour, on the exact site where the plaque was installed.
  • A passage from Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion, installed at the Bloor Street Viaduct, in Toronto, in April 2009 (pictured below and at right).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'm not dead.

Really! See?

I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Toronto (for RA in a day) and Niagara (for fun), with a v. brief stop in Burlington...! So that was 4 days: 2 flights (Porter, I love you), 3 cities, 2x Highway 403, 4x buses, 2x subway, 6 vineyards, 4 rez girls, a dozen ABBA songs, 170 photos, 532 unread Google reader items (*mark all read*), 1 speech, 1 conference, and 1 overnight bag. Whew!

While I vainly trudge through my to-do list (class cancelled for an author visit next week! Staffing snafu! No one to join a book club we paid for! Taking on several of my colleague's booktalks because she was ill! Trying vainly to not push the window guys out the window.... - we're having several windows at work re-done, since they are shabby 1980s broken windows right now. Actually, I love the window guys; they are amazing. It's just never a dull moment around here, and the drilling noises don't help!), please accept this booktalk of a lovely new middle readers title as a pathetic gift to make up for my recent silence. Know that I am somewhere glued to a computer, typing up my RA in a day notes just for you.

Bink and Gollie, by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee
[Prompt:Have you ever been friends with someone different than you? Older / younger? Taller/shorter? More energetic? Quieter?]

This story is about two friends, Bink and Gollie. They like to do things together, like:
  • buy socks
  • cook pancakes
  • go roller-skating
They live near each other (here I show the two characters and their homes on pp. 14-15, pictured here).

What is different about them? (encourage the children to notice who is taller, shorter, and so on, plus guess about the characters' personalities based on body language, etc.)

Then I show the author photo I printed out from this lovely online interview with the authors, and ask them what they notice. The kids loved this:

I then read from the first story in the book, the one about socks.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday morning

Guy on construction crew replacing windows at Rideau Library, upon standing in the middle of the floor under a ray of sunlight streaming onto the oak beams in the quiet empty library:

"F***; il fait beau icit."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Midnight's Children coming to a theatre near you

A movie version of Salman Rushdie's seminal novel, Midnight's Children, is coming to the big screen; it will be directed by Deepa Mehta and produced by her husband, David Hamilton.

Midnight's Children, you might recall, is the "Best of the Bookers."

If you haven't read Midnight's Children, and even if you, oh, say, hated The Satanic Verses, for instance, READ IT.

Rushdie and I have a love/hate relationship. I tried The Satanic Verses, hated it, and gave up; I found his tone pretentious and his attempts at magic realism amateur and childish compared to my steady teenage diet of Allende and Garcia Marquez. Then, in university, I read his non-fiction (specifically, essays photocopied from Imaginary homelands, which I was later thrilled to discover my husband owned), and was utterly captivated. The following year, Midnight's Children was on my list of 20-odd books my thesis advisor had me read before I began my Honours thesis (in case you are wondering, the selections ranged from Vanity Fair and Kipling's Kim to Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and Rushdie).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nobel to Vargas Llosa

I find it insane that the last time a South American won the Nobel was in 1982 (one of my favourite novelists, Gabriel Garcia Marquez).....


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Conference archive: IFLA 2008

Inspired by the darkly dismissive words of our mayor last night (he says the new Central Library project was stalled because council couldn't decide what a 21st century library looks like - although really there were other, more concrete, issues involved in stalling it...), I have posted my conference notes from the 2008 International Federation of Library Associations congress in Quebec City. IFLA is like a librarian's United Nations; over 4000 delegates from countries around the world get together every year to discuss programs, policies, best practices, and new ideas.

In the posts linked to above, you will find musings about designing libraries and library programs for children and teens, national library programs to target adult illiteracy, international efforts to promote books-as-therapy for children facing trauma, activist art libraries, oral history collections, and joint-use library facilities (libraries and museums; public libraries and school libraries; public libraries and academic libraries).

So, I would draw your attention to a few 21st century libraries - some mentioned at IFLA, some just sitting around waiting for interested people to discover them. Building one is really not that complicated; it just requires vision (and trust me, OPL staff have vision! In fact, we even have a conceptual design plan for the New Central Library) and some bravery. As a recipe, I would recommend slow cooking various forms of knowledge: hardware (books, computers, art, manuscripts, microfilms + people, for starters) and software (databases, online tools, e-books, digital audiobooks). Add spaces that allow for quiet contemplation, group work, and inspiration. Stir frequently and serve daily. Consult (in no particular order):

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Congrats, Hely!

Stephen Hely has won the 2010 Thurber Prize for American Humor!

Thurber House calls it “a hilarious send-up of literary pretensions and celebrity culture, with dead-on parodies of genres, bestseller lists, and even the writing process itself.”

I previously reviewed this title here.

Giller shortlist

...Is out!
  • The matter with Morris by David Bergen
  • Light lifting by Alexander MacLeod
  • This cake is for the party by Sarah Selecky
  • The Sentimentalists byJohanna Skibsrud
  • Annabel by Kathleen Winter
Is that not enough news for you on a Tuesday morning? How about this randomness:
Can't make this stuff up!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The two Isabels

Hey, how come no one told me there were two Isabel Allendes? I had to look closely this morning at a picture in our paper captioned: "Chilean Senator Isabel Allende (L), Atacama Governor Ximena Matas (2nd L), mining minister Laurence Golborne (2nd R), and an unnamed executive of the company that built the mobile hospital for the 33 trapped miners, visit one of the hospital rooms at the San Jose mine in Copiapo, October 2, 2010."

To make it even more confusing, they are related, and recently appeared together at the mine.

In high school, I read almost all of Isabel Allende's writing. I recently helped a patron looking for introductions to magic realism, and I offered her The Stories of Eva Luna, which, if memory serves me, was my first Allende book, back in the mid-90s.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Monthly report: September 2010

OH MY GOD, IT'S OCTOBER. What the hell?


I thought I would share some excerpts from our September monthly report at the Rideau Library. We get a lot done with our two full-time Information staff (one librarian, one Children's programming and public services supervisor) and 3 full-time Borrower services staff (and a team of fabulous pages and volunteers!)

(By the way, did you know that OPL as a whole had the busiest August on record? Specific #s are here).

• We promoted our Sept. and Oct. programs via e-mail list to community partners with whom we have a relationship (from previous outreach, programs, class vists, group tours, etc.). One of our volunteers also dropped off flyers at several local institutions and businesses.
• Our “Coffee with a police officer” event was a success and we are planning to schedule this as a regular event, approx. every 4 months.
• We have had unprecedented enthusiasm for class visits! We are fully booked for classes throughout October and November. We have 14 groups visiting in October alone.
• We have begun a partnership with a writers’ group.
• We were involved in 4 outreach visits to local schools, daycares and community groups.
• I met or corresponded with with a local BIA, someone from the Mission, the Youth Services Bureau, and a few other groups to discuss future partnerships at Rideau Library.
• We confirmed several free workshops for Winter 2010 with Community Legal Services (Ottawa-Centre), the University of Ottawa Student Legal Aid and the Clinique juridique at the Centre des services communautaires Vanier. The tentative schedule is:
  • 26 Jan.: Tenants’ rights
  • 2 fév..: Droit des locataires
  • 16 Feb.: Workers’ rights
  • 23 March: Income maintenance for the elderly
  • 6 avril: Successions & testaments
  • 18 May: Human rights
• I'm still supervising Rockcliffe Park Branch, at least until Nov. 20. That means planning group visits, as well as two author visits, for the branch, and maintaining their schedule.
• Our branch cleared our backlog of material shipped from other branches (we had 30-50 bins) with the help of extra hours for staff. We are also tackling extra-long lists of requests each day; we brought these down from 320-400 to 180-250 requests a day.
• We built displays of staff picks, ESL recommendations, items from the new Good Reads collection, les auteurs Franco-Ont. pour le jour des Franco-Ontariens et des Franco-Ontariennes, back-to-school books, Seuss books (to celebrate the new The Cat in the Hat TV show), and Diary of a Wimpy Kid read-alikes (5th book in series out).
• Our staff attended 4 meetings + 1 training workshop!
• We also trained 2 volunteers + 1 new page!