Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Read recently

You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier - I was checking my Google Reader to find out where I learned of this book (I think it may have been in the print Globe and Mail, in the end) and noticed that, like, a dozen blogs I follow talked about it. This is a densely-written book; it's not narrative non-fiction, let's just say! For those interested in what coding, the structure of the Internet and languages like MIDI are doing to us, our communications/connections with others, and the creative process as a whole, this is a must-read. Lanier argues that the sacrifices we make when using social media like Facebook ("online collectives") are going unnoticed, and are cause for concern. He also worries that the early idea of the Internet as a revolution in terms of innovation, communication and democracy will not come to fruition; instead, as the LJ review describes his view, Lanier sees an emerging online culture (the hive mind!) that "undermines the foundation of the knowledge economy." Also highly recommended for musicians, bloggers and social media enthusiasts, or, frankly, anyone who has been bullied by an online anonymous blog commenter. Even if you don't agree with some of his opinions, Lanier is a fascinating debator, and an interesting person (early virtual reality pioneer; now a researcher for Microsoft.

Strings Attached by Judy Blundell - Not quite as good as What I saw and how I lied (one of my Favourite teen books of 2009) but still good. Blundell is a master at creating a charged atmosphere. Read a review written by a real kid here. In her latest, Blundell sets her sights again on New York of the 1940s and 50s, this time focusing on Kit Corrigan. Kit is an aspiring dancer who moves to New York City; she is soon offered an apartment by the mysterious and somewhat scary father of her (ex?) boyfriend, who reminds her that he owes her. What she owes him for (the "strings attached"), and how their two families are ultimately connected, is revealed throughout the course of this engrossing book. A suspenseful, moody read, with interesting tangents about New York's Lido girls, Browns University, and Irish-American immigrants.

Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz - Seriously, I love Lisa. I think I want to marry her (Megan, I'll fight you for her - duel at high noon?). This is no Spellman Files, but it's a quick, fun read. I read this on the bus, and it reminded me that there are 3 reasons why I don't read on the bus:
  1. Hardcovers are too heavy to lug to work along with lunch, agenda, etc. I'm not a packhorse!
  2. I get ill sometimes
  3. I forget to get on the bus/off the bus/sit in the terminal while multiple buses go by, smirking to myself like a nutter.
Thanks for making me do #3, Lisa.

Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis - An adorable book for 8-12 year old girls set in Regency England and featuring three quarrelling sisters, two highwayman (real/not), secret family magical powers, romance, the clergy, and a flying teacup. What more can I say? See image at right!

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton - I picked this up off our Express Collection because I kept reading about it but had somehow not actually made a move yet to read it. It's creeeeeeepy, in a gothically good kind of way. This would be the perfect read-alike for Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger, or Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale (which reminds me, I am now reading a third book running along the trope of younger woman interviews older woman about secrets: The Spoiler by Annalena McAfee. ANYWAY...). Despite agreeing with parts of the somewhat nasty (albeit hilarious) review from the Guardian (a taste: "manifestly absurd, yet written with an infectious bibliophile glee that somehow neutralises all cynicism"), I think this book was kind of a lark. There isn't much of a mystery here, really, since it's all kind of clear to the reader (much like The Little Stranger, where I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, and then, um, it didn't). Nevertheless, a few surprises along the way, and some generally great vicarious introspective moody ramblings around the English countryside. Oh, and a lurcher, too (part greyhound).

Mr Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt - An understated, thoughtful reflection on depression; again, read about this one variously here, here and here. The conceit of this novel is that Winston Churchill's depression (which he called his Black Dog) is actually here incarnate as a black dog. Said canine (who prefers to be known as Black Pat) shows up at the door of one Esther Hammerhans, an unhappy librarian (I know, cue sterotype here; but really, she's not that bad....). Although I thought the talking dog thing could be potentially very annoying, I was drawn in by the fact that Esther is initially as mystified and upset by (and indignant about) Black Pat as I was. Following her as she figures out who he is, and why she is "stuck" with him, is an interesting journey. The scenes between Black Pat and Churchill, and eventually one brilliant scene between Black Pat and Clementine Churchill, are especially well done.

Currently reading: When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman. Not sure the whimsy in this one isn't going to prove to be too cloying. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Listopia: A Book My Father Gave Me

Good Reads has a lovely blog post about a Listopia list they have created, entitled A Book My Father Gave Me:

"Father's Day is this Sunday, and that makes it the perfect time to look at the books fathers most commonly give their children, as well as to explore how those books have changed our members' lives. A week or so ago, we created the Listopia list A Book My Father Gave Me, and asked our members to vote for a book and share their memories of books given to them by their fathers."

One of the last books I remember reading together with my father before his death was Farley Mowat's The dog who wouldn't be (our exact cover image at left; I still have this edition). My father's comic gifts were put to use marvelously in this tale of a boy and his Mutt. Mutt is bought for the grand total of 4¢ by Farley’s mum and likes to think himself more than a dog. He behaves like a human being, with his own quirks and habits, and his own sense of justice in the world. He is a noble dog who has his ridiculous moments, both intentional and accidental: he likes to play with owls, geese, cows, ducks and even skunks….. He likes to ride in the car with his head hanging out the window – wearing driving goggles, of course!

I recently bought a new copy of this book for my neice (cousin's eldest daughter, so that's not the right term and I don't care), who had a birthday and is now the same age I was when my father read it to me.

What book or books did your father give you?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Women priests

"How good does a female athlete have to be before we just call her an athlete?"

I've written here before about the tremendous influence my mother has had on me, specifically professionally. Taking a step back, here are the women who, in many ways, also helped me become who I am.

Photo credits here and below go to Rene Sanchez.

You are looking at a photo of women clergy, assembled last weekend to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the ordination of women to the Priesthood in the Diocese of Montreal.

None of these women have walked an easy path; their strength and professionalism are incredibly inspiring to me. I am proud to be the daughter of the eighth woman priest ordained in the Anglican Diocese of Montreal; I am proud to know some of the women priests who came before and after her.

I do not talk about what my parents do/did for a living very often. As a child and young adult, I rarely mentioned it, afraid I would be judged to be an evangelical nitwit. In my old age (ha), I now sometimes throw it out there, to see what reaction I will get. The best reaction I have ever had was that of a very intelligent and sensitive colleague of mine recently. She thoughtfully and delicately inquired next whether I still attended church, before continuing the conversation. In my heart, I thought, damn right, that's the question I've been waiting to be asked! The answer is, not really.

When pressed, I usually say that I have seen the best and the worst in people through my time in the Church. My experiences have been varied, and very valuable: I come from a small family, and in times of great crisis (my father's death), I have felt supported. Years later, Anglicans still go out of their way to share lovely memories of him with me. For an only child, those experiences were priceless. I have also learned about management, leadership, community, compassion, humanism, power struggles, pettiness, harassment, discrimination, human rights (see also -- violations of), scholarship, philosophy, intellectual rigour, volunteer management, building maintenance, fundraising, archives, choral singing, public speaking, and professional development (oh, don't worry, I'm sure I forgot about a dozen other things in there).

Here's your history minute: The Rev. Canon James (at left, in pale pink) was the 12th woman to become a priest in the Anglican Church of Canada, and the first in the Diocese of Montreal, when she was ordained in 1978 (at that time, "in her early 50s and already the holder of two doctorates," observed a recent article in the Montreal Anglican, in the kind of throw-away reference in these stories that just blows my mind). Others followed in 1980, 1982, and 1985, and then the fifth to be ordained was the amazing Dr. Patricia Kirkpatrick (at far left, in black). In May of 1989, my mother (at left, in blue) was ordained with her friend and colleague, Aloha Smith; both were remarkable also in that they were the wives of Anglican priests already in the Diocese.

My mother was the first woman priest in every parish in which she served.

I have known women who served in parishes where congregants would not take communion from them (every week, for years). I have known women who were verbally and physically harassed, and have either spoken out about it, or not, and who have either been believed and supported, or not. I have known women whose parishioners - or fellow clergy - made snide remarks about their hair, their earrings, their fondness for the colour purple, their loud voices, their heavy foot, their children/spouse or lack of children/spouse, or their age (to name but a few things!) I have also known parishioners and fellow clergy who have gone out of their way to include women priests, working alongside them, quietly or loudly confirming their right to be where they are. I have known women who, through all this, blazed a trail of faith, equality, compassion and dignity that is simply exemplary for the Church, and for the human race.

Their remarkable stories are the ones that librarians and archivists should be collecting, and honouring, through oral history projects, archival fonds, and private collections. I was thrilled to hear that a small archival display was put together for last week's event, featuring photographs, gifts, communion sets, and other information donated by the women and available through the Diocesan archives (at right).

To paraphrase one of the women themselves, whatever I say here, it could not possibly be enough.

Of course, I can't close this post without some book tie-ins (see - you thought I was totally off-topic today, didn't you? Have faith, readers!)
  • The theological writings of Elaine Pagels or Rosemary Radford Ruether
  • Bread not Stone by E. Schussler Fiorenza
  • Readings in Her Story, edited by B. J. MacHaffie
  • Feminist theology with a Canadian accent (no, I did not make that title up!)
And, for a lighter touch:
  • Julia Spencer-Fleming's mysteries about a woman Episcopal priest in the U.S.
  • Beneath the Cassock by Joy Carroll—the British priest on whom The Vicar of Dibley was based

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Library travels

In the past few days, I've clocked some serious library mileage (outside of the obvious, which would be Main, Greenboro and a side order of Nepean Centrepointe, this week)!

Last Friday, I had my quarterly OPLA Readers' Advisory Committee meeting in Toronto, at the OLA offices. We nailed down some plans for the 6th annual RA in a day workshop in October (hint), reviewed a section of our Core Competencies document, and I also showed the committee the website re-design. OLA's entire website will be re-designed in the near future, but in the meantime, we did a massive re-org of our pages on the site. We have a lot of great resources there, and I would encourage you to check them out.

After the meeting, I crashed OLITA's Digital Odyssey party to see some NELI friends, and plotted my library tours for the weekend. The husband and I managed to squeeze in two: the Gerstein Science Information Centre, and TPL's Cedarbrae Branch.

The Morrison Pavilion of the Gerstein Science Information Centre won an OLA library building award in 2004, and the Gerstein Reading Room won in 2010. The Pavillion is the new section of the library; the older section, including the Gerstein Reading Room, dates to 1892, and was the main library for the University until 1973. I first heard about the Library when the Gerstein Reading Room was on the cover of the Winter 2010 ACCESS magazine. My photos are here; you can even watch a video about the library here (in which you will discover that the Gerstein Reading Room was originally the Men's Reading Room - sigh...)

My imagination was especially captured by ceiling in the Gerstein Reading Room (not the least of which because it was a surprise discovery during the renovations), and the journal stacks, at right. The stacks have the original porcelain light fixtures, and glass floors: the latter were intended as a fire deterrent and to help illuminate poorly-lit areas. Other glass library floors I have trod upon include in the NRC Library (where lecherous male scientists apparently gleefully peered up women's skirts) and the Library of Parliament, both in Ottawa, and the London Library in England. At the Gerstein, the metal stacks stand the full height of the five floors, and are really spectacular, as are swing-out metal stools attached to the ends of some rows (see my link above for that photo and others).

On Sunday, we trekked out to Scarborough for a visit to TPL's recently renovated Cedarbrae Branch; all photos here. The original Cedarbrae Branch dates to 1966 and was first renovated in 1982-1983; the most recent renovation in 2008-2010 resulted in the inclusion of a KidsStop Early Literacy Centre, a Teen Zone, 62 public PCs, 4 quiet study rooms, a quiet reading garden and chess tables, and RFID (and a lot more - those are just the big things!)

You know I am going to talk about the KidsStop. The theme of this one is River Express (and you enter through a river boat, which is not as cool as the enchanted forest at St Clair and Dufferin, but still pretty cool). In addition to all the Burgeon Group goodies (we have many at OPL, too), there is a reading nook (at left) featuring an elephant and a monkey from Jungle Bullies by Stephen Knoll (illustrated by Vincent Nguyen), and the images on the other walls are from Jungle Dreams by Graeme Base.

Back in Ottawa on Monday, I started my week with a road trip to a school in Vars where we have a Bookmobile stop. I was there, with our summer student from U of T (thanks for the wheels, Valerie!), to promote Summer reading club (favourite question of the morning: "Si les portes du BiblioBus sont fermées, est-ce que le BiblioBus est fermée?").

Later the same day, I was at the official opening of the new Greely Branch of OPL (thanks for the ride, Charlene!), at right (all photos here). Greely's previous library was a 946 square foot space in the fire hall; now they have 3000 square feet. Did you know that Greely is the fastest growing rural village in th City of Ottawa, and, in fact, one of the fastest growing in Ontaro? The work done at Greely by LaLande + Doyle is pretty amazing: for the second time in 36 hours, I was captivated by a ceiling (and I learned a new word: glulam = glued-laminated timber). I also really loved how about half the branch was designed on angles, rather than straight lines: the circulation desk juts out a bit, the teen zone is a triangle, and the children's book stacks are on an angle, too. I thought it was a creative way of making a small space seem less static and much more inviting. The bronze sculpture outside the branch is also charming: a lovely donation by Councillor Doug Thompson. Lastly, I was also oddly captivated by the unique fabric air dispersion system (it flutters!) but that could be in part that lack of a proper dinner other than filched cheese and crackers, and a long day, rendered me slightly stoned.

All in all, a productive couple of days, though!

Happy Bloomsday!

James Joyce statue next to O'Connell street in Dublin, Ireland
photo: Toniher

How about we settle in and listen to Joyce himself?


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Libraries Change Lives Finalists 2011

The three finalists for CILIP's Libraries Change Lives Award, a UK-based award which recognises an innovative library project that changes lives and brings people together, were announced, and include:
  1. The NEALIS project, which provides library services to blind and partially sighted people in North East England;
  2. Making the Difference: Opportunities for Adults With Learning Disabilities in Kent, which "welcomes adults with learning disabilities into libraries and works with them to develop services that meet their needs;"
  3. Our Tyneside & The History Club, developed by Newcastle City Libraries to engage adults with learning disabilities with their local heritage and family histories.
Some wonderful work there. Check it out!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

2011 Moby Awards for Book Trailers....

The finalists are out! Watch them all here; browse Booklist's Daniel Kraus's favourites here.

My current favourites are The Hidden Alphabet – Laura Vaccaro Seeger and How Did You Get This Number? – Sloane Crosley.

You had me at "He let me borrow his Trapper Keeper," Sloane....!

I needed that mental break. I just got off of a very, very upsetting phone call ("Whaaa? Nobody told me! Ok, I will just re-do 5 months of work.... No worries!").

I think it's time for lunch. It's only 2:17 pm.