Friday, October 07, 2011


This blog is being shut down and moved to It's a little unformed over there right now, but it's getting cleaned up.

This blog will be deleted by the end of 2011. All posts but this one will be deleted by the end of October 2011.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

For When You Become a Father

There's a way you look at my where I see all the trouble you're going to get into for the entirety of your life. You know that I can see it, but you don't try to hide it. While I want your sister to grow and have a fabulous life, I want you to stay small forever. I always want you to be my little innocent boy and not get into that trouble I can sometimes see on your face.

There are times when you act just like me, and not always in ways that make me proud. Sometimes it makes me feel small and petty when you act like me and I yell at you about it. You learn from watching me. If I don't behave and act nicely, how can I expect you to know any different?

I often hope that you don't go through the troubles that I went through growing up, that somehow you're able to escape puberty and emerge into adulthood without facing any hardship. I don't want you to be picked on like I was; I don't want you to hate yourself like I did. I hope I can help, I hope you always know that I love you and think the world of you.

It's not fair, my expectations for you. I want you to behave, I want you to have fun, I want you to grow up, and I want you to stay little forever

So instead, we need to focus on what I can do for you. I need to be patient with you, let you be your own person and not expect you to do things you can't. I can't expect you to be your sister.

I need to let you have fun but at the same time be strict with you. You can't just do whatever you want.

I know I can't protect you forever. I know that you need to live your own life. I know that I need to teach you what I can about making good decisions and being a good person.

And whenever you need me, I'll be there for you.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

June is the Busiest Month

(image from Flickr user kogakure)

It all started on Sunday June 12 when I saw a post from Night Shade Books that Happily Ever After had gotten a starred review from Library Journal. Shortly after that, they posted that Publishers Weekly had also given the reprint anthology a starred review. Wow. That's pretty awesome. And they weren't finished. Later in the same day, Night Shade posted a link to an interview I did with Diamond Book Distributor about the anthology and other publishing things.

On Monday June 13 we relaunched the Electric Velocipede website.

On Tuesday June 14 the Amazon blog Omnivoracious posted an interview I did with Jeff VanderMeer. I've known Jeff for a long time and I'm a huge fan of his work. It was great to get a chance to talk to Jeff about the book. We did the interview a while ago, and I had kind of forgotten about it while I was focusing on the website. I'm very grateful that Jeff thought to do this, I hope I sound fairly intelligent. Any flaws with the interview are mine.

Wednesday June 15 saw a post on the amazing io9 of an interview I did with Fables creator Bill Willingham, who had written the introduction to Happily Ever After. When I did this interview, I had no idea where it would appear, and like the Omnivoracious interview, had almost forgotten we did it. Bill's a great interview, so I hope people dig it.

Not to be out-done, my library career reared its head on Thursday June 16. Last year I wrote an article for Library Journal's BookSmack! online column: "Steampunk: 20 Core Titles." They asked me to update it for this year, and I wrote "Steampunk: 13 Titles to Update Your Collection." These have been a ton of fun to write and good preparation for the readers advisory book I'm writing for the American Library Association.

I hope next week is a little more sedate.

Monday, June 13, 2011

One of My Favorite Posts I Ever Wrote

Originally posted July 7, 2008.

Aubrey standing in a puddle

Sometimes you need to stop and pause and think about what's truly important. Sometimes, you need to remember that when someone really wants to watch Dora and you need to get her in the car to get to daycare, it isn't worth yelling at her. Sometimes you need to laugh and giggle out of a situation rather than get angry.

Some day she will walk out that door and come back only when she has time. Make sure that she wants to come back. Make sure that she knows you love her and that you'd do anything for her.

Not that you can let her stay and watch Dora. You don't have time, and she needs to learn that sometimes it's not about her.

stopping to smell, and destroy, the flowers

You need to remember, no matter how frustrating, how irritating, how angering she can be, it isn't done out of malice (that comes later). You don't need to teach her that it's ok for someone to yell at her.

No matter how much you dislike hearing, "I just peed in my pants," know that the days of hearing that are numbered. And even though hearing, "I need to go pee pee," every 30 seconds (whether she needs to go or not, and you can't afford to decide, 'this time she doesn't need to') is nearly as frustrating, that, too will pass.

Be patient.

She looks up to you; she takes you as her earliest marker of what a man should be and how he should act. Don't create a bad precedent, don't be a bad example.

This is a lot of pressure. But that's exactly what you signed on for when you decided to have her. She's a lot of responsibility. A lot of work.

She's worth it. Every bit.

Friday, June 10, 2011

More stuff from the past

There will likely be a whole set of posts that I'm moving from the Electric Velocipede blog to this one. I'll post them every few days instead all at once. This one was originally from March 22, 2005.

Are you, like me, going to Library School? Or are you perhaps, a working librarian? We should get together, you and I, so I can look over the classes offered at my school and see how you would think they fit into what goes on at a library. You see, Michael at Library Dust posted recently about Truth in Advertising about the ALA, library schools, and the forever coming glut of library jobs. One of the interesting things that Michael talks about is how library schools tend to create librarians in the same way that education schools create teachers. Having a wife who just received her Master’s in Education, I know exactly what he’s talking about. However, Michael wonders if this is good practice:
One difference between the two situations is significant: the market for schoolteachers is enormous compared to that for librarians (the census bureau puts the figure at 6.2 million, as against about 122 thousand librarians of all types). Obviously the greater number of teaching positions means considerably more market flexibility—there are simply more places to go, more opportunities available. An individual’s investment in library training is therefore a riskier proposition from the outset. To add to that, when the market stalls, the impact falls greatest upon those who have the least marketability—new graduates with little or no experience.
I agree. Teachers with Master’s degrees, even those with little experience, are still hireable since the teaching profession is in constant renewal. People leave the profession, move, have children, etc. And, while a ten-year teacher has skills and knowledge that a new-born graduate doesn’t have, the ten-year teacher is paid at a higher level than the new-born graduate. In the library, all the librarians (as opposed to library staff) have Master’s degrees. Hiring someone with ten years of experience as opposed to a new-born graduate isn’t about saving money as it is with teaching, it’s about bettering the library. Yes, the library won’t hire someone over-qualified for the job, or someone looking for too much money, but the library is not required to pay on a scale like a school is. Michael again:
The folks at the receiving end of this crisis occupy the lowest ranks of the industry; in point of fact, most of them occupy no rank at all, being neither student nor librarian but in a kind of limbo. The schools are done with them and the employers have no relationship: one wonders, who will be their champion?
What can a new-born librarian do to make him/herself more marketable, or as I like to say palatable, to potential employers? I wonder if something can be done on the side of the library schools. Are there practical classes for one to take that will assist one when interviewing for that library job? From the comments on Michael’s post:
There is often also a mismatch between what is taught, what the student chooses to take (known here as the “majoring in Thursday syndrome”), or thinks he or she might do, and what employers want.
Hmmm, that’s interesting. I think there’s also a mis-match in what library schools offer and what libraries want people to know. Sure, they offer a lot of classes, but the schedule is geared for people already working in a library, available any of time of day. On the other hand, let’s say you work full time. And you don’t work in a library (you’re planning on switching careers). And a class that would be beneficial is offered, oh, 9AM to noon on Wednesday. I doubt many employers would be happy with the idea of people working a half-day on Wednesdays. Well, it’s not important to me you say. If switching careers was that important I’d give up my job to take my class. That’s a nice thought, but I have bills to pay, and that gets accomplished by working where I am, not by taking an $8 an hour part-time job. Well, since you’re switching careers anyway, take the class when you decide to leave your job since you will at some point anyway. OK, so let’s say the class is offered one semester a year (I know, crazy thought) and you won’t have a chance to take it.

Is that my fault? Is it my fault that I want to keep working so that we can pay bills and set money aside for a family and a house and for grad school (I have no loans and no school debt, paying it out of pocket and going to school full-time) and be able to afford life when the time comes and I have to leave the job I currently have and then I find out that despite that it’s my last semester the class I really should take is offered next semester? There’s a class I’m supposed (ok, highly recommended) to be taking right now, but it’s during the day, during the week. My employer has told me that taking classes during the day is not an option. I understand that. They didn’t hire me because just anyone can do my job. Losing me for half a day would not be easy for them. And making up the time would be difficult for me since I am in school and much of my current outside of work time is spent on home work. No, to take classes during the day is going to take the commitment to stepping away from my job and scrimping and saving. But that’s wandered away from where I started.
How many of you out there do something different on the job from what you learned in school? How many classes did you take that you never use? Do the library programs near you offer choices that would be useful to the new librarian? I think the library schools do a great job of fleshing out an existing librarian, but for those of us switching careers it is not as strong. I don’t feel that I have much a voice in these matters.

As Michael asked, who will be my champion. Will you be my champion?


  1. Bill S. says:
    It depends on the sort of library you want to get into, I think. I want to work in an academic library, and have found that nearly all the positions I apply for prefer some experience with instruction. I have some (secondary) experience, but I haven’t taken a course in library instruction. I regret that now.
    I’d read job postings for jobs you would be interested in (on, for example), see what they’re asking for with positions (unfortunately, most commonly this is experience, which the school can’t provide, outside a practicum), and tailor your classes accordingly.
    However, throughout my experience in library school, I heard a lot of librarians say that they had prepared for one type of library (academic, special) and ended up doing something library-related that was entirely different — working as the director in a medical library, for instance. It’s a good idea to choose classes that could be useful in a variety of settings.
    As for the course during the day: whenever something like that happened in my program, the listserv would suddenly be overrun with complaints, and everyone knew that the higher-ups in the program read the listserv. But sometimes the schedule depends on money, the availability of professors and facilities, et cetera. Sometimes there’s not a lot that can be done, especially once you’ve completed the core classes. But I’d see if there isn’t someone in the program to whom you can make your dilemma known.
    One thing: because of budget cuts, a few of the classes I took were taught, not by professors, but by working librarians. While family and friends thought I was being ripped off, this was actually beneficial, in that working librarians tend to be a lot more pragmatic, and they are faced with library problems every day. I really appreciated those classes, although their teaching styles were widely variable.
  2. John Klima says:
    Bill, I constantly hear stories of people who followed one course of study during their MLS time and end up doing something else when they get into the field. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened to me. I’m currently looking at systems librarianship to make use of my technical skills, but maybe once I’m in place I’ll shift to somewhere else in the library.
    I completely understand that the classes available at my school are dependent on the expertise of the staff. And while I like evening classes because they fit into my schedule, I don’t like losing my evenings, and I suspect that the faculty feels the same way.
    I’ve had a few courses taught by adjuncts. My cataloging class is taught by someone who catalogues for a living (or did, I think she manages more now than catalogues) but she has the real-world experience of what I should learn about cataloging.
    Mostly, just like the list servs, this is me voicing my personal complaints. And hopefully getting corrected by people in the know. I realize that the schedule of classes isn’t devised by pulling numbers out of a hat and the people that put it together spend a lot of time on it. You can’t make everyone happy.
    It’s interesting that my library themed posts get comments while my science fiction ones do not. Of course, it could be that my library thoughts are less informed and need more correction! :)
  3. Bill S. says:
    When it comes to science fiction, I pretty much sit back and see what other people say about it; I don’t actually feel like I can offer an opinion with any confidence. I also don’t feel like I have the critical vocabulary to express what I think about — well, any fiction. While I’m not actually employed as a librarian (yet), having just completed library school, I’m chock full of fully-formed opinions that I share with people who usually have little or no interest.
    I didn’t mean to sound like I was correcting you: I’m just offering my experiences in the field, such as they are.
  4. John Klima says:
    Sorry Bill, I didn’t mean to imply that you were correcting me; but I would hope that anyone who reads my posts and finds mistakes in them is not afraid to let me know.
    This is particularly true with library oriented things where I have limited to no experience of my own. My thoughts and opinions are going to be very one-sided and naive. I’m sure I’ll look back on these things some day and wonder what the heck was I thinking?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Fifteen Years

Today is my fifteenth wedding anniversary. This fall we'll celebrate the nineteenth anniversary of our first date. I've been lucky enough to spend all those years with a smart, beautiful, funny, sexy, loving woman who's made me a better person, and helped me learn to want more from life than I thought I deserved. We've shared a lot of good times and bad times, more good than bad to be sure.

We talk all the time. We work hard at our marriage and our relationship. We still learn new things about each other. We have two gorgeous kiddos that help us remember to be patient and to enjoy spending time together.

I don't get the chance to do that today. You see, I'm in WI and the family is still in IA. I know we'll look back at this and in the grand scheme of things this time apart will be a little blip in the course of of lives. But still, I can be a little selfish and wish that I was with her today.

It's been difficult being apart. But it helps us see how much we mean to each other.

Happy anniversary Shai. I'll see you soon.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Blast from the Past

This was a post that I wrote on March 15, 2005 while I was going to library school. It was on my Electric Velocipede blog, but as I'm cleaning that blog up to be magazine only, I'd thought I'd move some of the library oriented posts over here.

There’s been a . . . well, I guess a meme, but I hate that word . . . going around among some electrified (meaning heavy online presence) librarians about classes they would like to teach in their library. I find this discussion fascinating and interesting. It made me want to join in with my own list. Now, I’m taking classes in Library Science right now, and I’m not a librarian. So I don’t have a list of classes I’d like to teach at my library (again, don’t have a ‘my library’), but here’s my list of classes I’d like to take (or see offered) in Library School:
  1. Working with the Library Board (How to Choose Which Battles to Fight and Which to Let Go)
  2. Library Intership (Required semester course wherein you work at Circ, Reference, Archives [if available], Book Preservation, Receiving, etc.)
  3. Publishing 101 (Where Do Your Books/Journals/Magazines Come From?)
  4. Vendors (Who Provides Materials for Libraries; How Do You Enact Transactions With Them to the Benefit, and Not the Detriment, of Your Library?)
I’m sure there are more if I bend my mind to it, but those are the ones I’d like off the top of my head. To speak some more about #2, I think it’s a shame that ALA accredited programs don’t do more to ensure that their students have library experience. Here’s my thoughts on this:

If you are an ALA accredited program, there’s a good chance you have a library nearby. For students without prior library experience (or even those who do have library experience) require a semester long course wherein you work in every department of the library. Perhaps a few weeks at each. Then you get a flavor of what each department does. This will help if/when you move into managerial roles, but it will also help when you need help from fellow librarians and library staff members.

For students who work full-time in a non-library situation (like myself) your library probably is open late at night. Three hour shifts could be scheduled in the evening and on weekends. Even with several dozen students needing a course like this (and it might not be that many) there should be enough different three-hour chunks of time at the different departments to place all of them somewhere. The difficulty will be in getting a staff member (i.e. a librarian) who can be there for guidance. But, there should be some senior member of the staff who would be able to provide training, etc. And for some of the departments, the current part-time student help would be able to train people.

My school provides a Field Experience course which is very beneficial. The woman who runs the program does an excellent job of finding a library/situation very similiar to that which the student wants to do once the degree is completed. This is a great option for people who are not looking to work in public libraries and not specialized work experience. Unfortunately, often the field experience requires time during the week during the day, which is virtually impossible for people who work full-time outside of the library venue. It requires that they leave their job. Of course, this is something they may be planning on doing anyway, but I suspect many of them want to do it on their terms, not on the terms set down by the school.

Just some thoughts, and I’m sure they need some help.


  1. katester says:
    I agree 110% on the internship concept. I was lucky in that I worked in a library during library school, but I did an internship elsewhere, too.
    Classes I wish I had been offered in library school:
    * Building maintenance issues – how to deal with faulty plumbing, leaking roofs and regular vandalism.
    * Unions. When they’re good and when they’re not-so-good. Related: making sure you have a good union steward.
    * Advantages/disadvantages to being a member of ALA and/or your state library association.
    I’m sure there are others… I’m 10 years out from school and still learn new things every single day on the job (:
  2. John Klima says:
    I’m sure there is much more to learn than you could ever hope to pick up in a MLS program. Some of my frustration is born out of the fact that I work full-time, so I am only available nights and weekends. When I applied to my school, not only was I sucked by the reports of jobs for the asking, but my school talked about volumes of evening courses, weekend courses, online courses . . . none of which have become a reality. This Fall there are two evening courses I can take.
    I think it’s very disingenuous of a program to not try and support its clientle. If you aren’t a full-time student or already working in a library, it feels like you are a second-class citizen. My wife received her Master’s in Education from the same school yesterday, and that program seemed to recognize that people work (in this case, teach) and there were NO day classes. Oh well, I’m halfway through . . . it will be done soon enough!
  3. Rose says:
    Nice list, much more useful than mine. :)
    I too wish I had a couse on dealing with the board and which battles to fight. And manditory internships/workstudy for library school studnets. I wish that the libraries in universities with MLIS programs realized the rich resource they have and would use it!
    I really really really wish that we had courses on customer service/teaching/people skills. And computer/technology courses that didn’t involve learning how to use a mouse and send email (yes, in grad school).
    But, after working as a librarian, I’ve come to the conculsion that 90% of what I do on a given day I learned how to do through life experience. Only on the days that I do cataloging and write pathfinders to I find myself using MLIS knowledge.
  4. The Krafty Librarian says:
    I agree an internship/practicum should be mandatory, but this was one of the areas that students working outside of libraries hotly contested. Their view was that they didn’t have time to work a job, go to school, and work for free (or nearly free) at an internship/practicum. I worked in libraries and I did a practicum, I wanted as much experience as possible.
    Other classes I wish we had:
    -Systems librarianship, how to get into it and what you need know for your library to work. Something beyond, this is a mouse and this is how you load a program. Hello nobody told me about firewalls until my first job as a medical librarian. I am an “accidental systems librarian” and I still feel there is so much out there I don’t know.
    -How to publish. Yeah sure I had that class, but it was on such a large scale that it blew out my brain. I think we need a publishing for newbies. How to get started by doing something small and then working your way up to the big scholarly articles.
    -Vendor negoitations and electronic license agreements.
    -Justification 101. New and inventive ways to prove to your worth to the university/public/hospital/business. Something more than just showing them we did x amount of searches, checked out x amount of items. Something that teaches us how to illustrate more of what we are doing and how it has an impact on the university/public/hospital/business. Because after all “they” can do searches on their own and “they” can go to Barnes and Noble.
  5. John Klima says:
    I like the justification class. I think that’s something you should get as an undergrad: when you’re up for review, how can you show your boss that you’ve accomplished X so that you receive Y raise?
    The customer service idea is good, too. I had my fill working in fast-food and retail as an unkempt youth. When someone is yelling at you about pickles on a hamburger (and you have no real danger of losing your job since being a fast-fooder who always shows up on time makes you indispensible) you get to try out a lot of different strategies. Eventually you learn how to do it right.
    The philosophy I picked up while managing a Wendy’s was “We’re just making burgers.” You know, the above person who didn’t want pickles . . . make them a new sandwich. Someone else ate everything but the last bite of a chicken sandwich to realize he doesn’t like mayonaise? Make him another sandwich. We’re just making burgers, we’re not performing open heart surgery. Do it again, and get it right. If they keep coming back with complaints, keep doing it over until you get it right. If you can’t get it right, refund their money.
    I’ve applied this to every job I’ve had since. I have yet to work in a place where my decisions could kill anyone. Yes, my decisions can inconvenience someone, but often that person is me.
  6. Anonymous says:
    I started a mental list of things I’d teach in my “What you really need to know to work in a library” course about the day after I started in my first professional postion. That was over 20 years ago. The list is long now, and the suggestions posted in comments here are excellent additions. I shall make note of them. ;-)
    My biggest peeve : no one taught us how to manage in a real library. It was all quite theoretical. Not that theory is bad – but it doesn’t do any good if the practical application isn’t demonstrated. For example – what I really needed to know was that people can’t spell some names. So, help them out by including the common misspellings in the see also’s etc in catalogs. (This is as true for the online versions as it was for the print version.)
    Now, if I could just find the time to teach that class…..
    btw – get a good tool kit!!! Screw drivers, wrenches, eletric drill, big tape measure, hammer, etc. Also include tools for working on PCs. You will be indispensable.
  7. Lis Riba says:
    I don’t think there’s enough material for a class with credits, but I once suggested that Simmons should offer seminars by the Physical Therapy department training future librarians in ergonomics, proper lifting techniques, exercise and stretching techniques focused on shelving and unpacking and the whole physical aspect of librarianship.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Happily Ever After

(cover art by Kurt Huggins and Zelda Devon)

Two years ago I started working on a reprint anthology of stories that retold fairytales (and a few folktales). There was a wealth of material to chose among, and it was a lot of fun putting the book together. My efforts are coming to fruition this summer when you'll be able to pick up a copy of Happily Ever After. And you will want to pick up a copy as chances are at least one of your favorite authors has a story in the book:

Table of contents:
  1. “The Seven Stage a Comeback” by Gregory Maguire
  2. “And In Their Glad Rags” by Genevieve Valentine
  3. “The Sawing Boys” by Howard Waldrop
  4. “Bear It Away” by Michael Cadnum
  5. “Mr. Simonelli or the Fairy Widower” by Susanna Clarke
  6. “The Black Fairy’s Curse” by Karen Joy Fowler
  7. “My Life As A Bird” by Charles de Lint
  8. “The Night Market” by Holly Black
  9. “The Rose in Twelve Petals” by Theodora Goss
  10. “The Red Path” by Jim C. Hines
  11. “Blood and Water” by Alethea Kontis
  12. “Hansel’s Eyes” by Garth Nix
  13. “He Died That Day, In Thirty Years” by Wil McCarthy
  14. “Snow In Summer” by Jane Yolen
  15. “The Rose Garden” by Michelle West
  16. “The Little Magic Shop” by Bruce Sterling
  17. “Black Feather” by K. Tempest Bradford
  18. “Fifi’s Tail” by Alan Rodgers
  19. “The Faery Handbag” by Kelly Link
  20. “Ashputtle” by Peter Straub
  21. “The Emperor’s New (And Improved) Clothes” by Leslie What
  22. “Pinocchio’s Diary” by Robert J. Howe
  23. “Little Red” by Wendy Wheeler
  24. “The Troll Bridge” by Neil Gaiman
  25. “The Price” by Patricia Briggs
  26. “Ailoura” by Paul Di Filippo
  27. “The Farmer’s Cat” by Jeff VanderMeer
  28. “The Root of The Matter” by Gregory Frost
  29. “Like a Red, Red Rose” by Susan Wade
  30. “Chasing America” by Josh Rountree
  31. “Stalking Beans” by Nancy Kress
  32. “Big Hair” by Esther Friesner
  33. “The Return of the Dark Children” by Robert Coover
You can read some more details from me about the book over on the Suvudu blog (thanks to Matt Stagg for that!) As the release date gets closer, we'll be talking about the book more and more. And not to turn aside from all things Velocipede, we'll bring in the fairytale inspired stories that I've published in EV over the years.

Don't forget to follow us on Twitter: EV_Mag

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I'm Not Breaking New Ground Here

(photo from iStockWizard)

Nor am I re-inventing the wheel, but when I went to Office Max last night to pick up some shipping supplies, I was struck by a few things as I walked up to the store:
  • They have partnered with Sprint and are now selling phones/service with them
  • They prominently displayed that they were a FedEx delivery location
  • They have a print center where they can make everything from business cards to t-shirts
  • Lots of ads for the Blackberry Playbook (as well as one in store which you could NOT interact with...grump)

I'm sure you see that list and think, "Well yeah, it's an office supply store, why wouldn't they offer those services?"

But that's exactly my point. Which of those items is really an office supply? Maybe the print center, but the rest of the things are not office supplies. Yes, they are things an office/business might need/use, but they are not pens, pencils, paper, ink toner (they can refill your empty cartridges for you!), chairs, desks, and so on.

At some point office supply stores become a place where you could get everything from pens and pencils to computers and printes or candy and plants. They offer as many services that can used by the general public than those that can be used by the business community. And many of them have nothing to do with the items you'd put in your desk so you can take notes at your next meeting.

It's all nearly ubiquitous now that when you think of an office supply store, you assume you can ship something from there, that you can print brochures, that you might be able to buy a mobile phone w/service from them, that you can buy technology at the store, and much much more.

That much much more is almost a mantra I hear from librarians about what the library is. Yes, it has books, but it's much much more. I'd like to be more like the office supply store. No, I don't necessarily want us to start selling mobile phone plans or shipping things for patrons (but let's talk about printing brochures or providing technology, or heck, combining the two and helping patrons make ebooks etc.).

No, what I want is for us to a better job of getting our services out there for people to see. Libraries have traditionally been averse to advertising. I think this stems, legitimately, from the fact that many of us are public employees and it feels weird (or wrong even) to advertise like we're selling cars or widgets. But we do offer a lot of services for our patrons, and we need start "selling" those to the people.

We probably can't afford television ads, but have you asked? What about an ad on a nearby mall kiosk? How about a checkout station at a local science fiction convention? Could your consortium afford a billboard off the highway? A ad during a baseball game on the big board? The local newspaper? Sponsor a program on NPR?

There are a lot of creative ways to advertise your services (one of my favorites is to place ads on the inside of pizza boxes) but they only help if you actually use them.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

In Which I Live in a Hyperbolic Chamber

(photo by Jim LaPaz)

It's been just over two weeks, but I can say, with and without hyperbole, that I am in love with my job, that this is the best job I have ever had.

Oh, it's going to be a lot of hard work. As Assistant Director of the Waukesha Public Library, I am in charge of the direction the library takes where technology is concerned. There are other pieces to my job, but that's the big one. That includes keeping the equipment working and up-to-date, finding new technologies (hardware and software) and ways to implement them in the library, and many many other things.

That means doing a lot of reading and research, working with national groups like Library Renewal and EQUUAC (ALA's Presidential Task Force on Equitable Access to Electronic Content) as well as local groups like the WLA and WCFLS and the CAFE program.

I've spent two weeks meeting people and being in meetings. Listening. Talking. Learning. It will take six months to a year before I have a sense of what this job needs. There is so much to do and so much I want to do, I don't know when I'll find time for it all.

And I love it.

I've never been happier. I've never felt like I fit in a place so well from the start. No disrespect to the other great places and amazing people that I've worked with, but this is the first time I feel like I'm a part of something. This is the first job I've ever had where I wanted to have personal stuff at work.

For the first time since 1994, I'm not looking for work. This is where I want to be. I can make a difference here. I can learn a lot here.

This just feels right.

Friday, March 25, 2011

I Like to Watch: Sucker Punch

**Be well aware that spoilers abound ahead.**

I just got home from a midnight show of Sucker Punch and I wanted to get my thoughts down before I went to bed. Let's be straight and start off with the premise that I didn't go into the movie thinking I was seeing some great piece of art or some amazing storytelling.

This is a Zack Snyder film, and he makes very pretty, entertaining movies that don't always make logical sense or follow standard storytelling practices.

But sometimes I go to the movies to be entertained. What can I say?

If you've caught any of the trailers/commercials, you've likely been struck with the imagery of very made-up girls in fishnets, schoolgirl outfits or bustiers, and high heels shooting guns, flipping through the air, and basically kicking ass. All five of these girls (Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens, Jena Malone, Jamie Chung, and Abbie Cornish) are extremely attractive. I feel a little silly pointing out something so obvious, but the filmmakers spend so much time on close-ups that I think they were concerned that people wouldn't notice.

Towards the end of the film when I had one more extreme close-up of Emily Browning's face I thought, "Yes, she has very full lips and striking eyes...I get it!" There's barely a moment in the film where the women aren't wearing fishnets or thigh high stockings under tiny skirts or tap pants. It's obviously meant to be titallating, but it doesn't quite work. In one respect, it's overwhelming. There's too much titallation that you can't take it seriously. Add to that the fact that there's a whole lot of Lolita imagery, the young women in overly abbreviated schoolgirl outfits, and it just becomes uncomfortable. And there's the premise that takes any titallation and throws it out the window.

Let me explain.

Emily Browning, as Babydoll (a type of nightwear/lingerie), is locked away in a mental hospital by her step-father following the death of her mother. Babydoll gets slated for a lobotomy by the orderly Blue, who seems to run the place for his own sordid needs. While there, she meets the other four girls (Blondie, Rocket, Amber, and Sweet Pea to follow the order of the actresses' names above) and works to devise a plan to break them all out before Babydoll's time runs out.

And this is when things get weird. We shift from the dirty, slimy hospital to an upscale brothel. The girls change from mental patients to prostitutes. Blue goes from being an orderly to the brothel owner/pimp. Babydoll is slated for a special customer who's "going to pluck a cherry." The filmmakers have Babydoll retreat into her imagination. Except I can't see how going from being a mental patient to being a prostitute is an improvement for a young lady. And they're treated just as poorly in the brothel as they were in the hospital; they're just dressed better...well, more provocatively.

There's a very disturbing undercurrent of abuse and rape in this movie. I wasn't quite sure if these retreats into an imaginary world were meant to represent moments where the characters were being abused. From the very beginning of the film these young girls represent nothing more than an object for men to use to slake their lust.

When Babydoll is made to dance at the brothel, she slips even further into another imaginary world. This is the world that we see in the trailers/commercials where the girls are kicking ass and blowing shit up. While I think it's very cool for girls/women to be empowered on film and have them fight and kick ass and be tough in all the ways that men are tough in movies, there's still the beginning premise of abuse and rape that makes these battles less empowering and more futile struggle against a male-dominated world. Worse yet, in the kick-ass world, the girls always start their battle after receiving advice from a man.

So the girls can't even empower themselves, they need a man to do it for them.

It seems like the movie wants to feminist, or at least pro-women, but there's so much brutal context and subcontext that it just feels like a sham. I wish it worked better in this respect. I would like to have an action movie that is pro-women and shows women being strong and kicking butt. The whole fact that the action sequences occur in Babydoll's mind while she's dancing erotically is another component that undermines what's good about the movie. In fact, her dancing is so evocative that it's used as a tool to distract men while the girls work on their plan. Babydoll doesn't represent a girl with power, she's tits and ass, not even the sum of her parts.

At the same time I can't believe that the movie was made as a satire/parody meant to thumb its nose at the sexual imagery that we're bombarded with every day on tv, in magazines, online, and everywhere else in between. Part of me wants to say that the film was entertaining to watch, but I feel like then I'm giving some sort of approval to the degredation and abuse that the young women receive in this film. And to me, that belittles the countless girls and women out there who have had to suffer abuse of one sort or another. I would rather have a whole film set in the imaginary battle world and not have any of the real world parts or brothel parts of the film.

I doubt that I'll change anyone's mind about seeing this movie. But I know that it was difficult for me to watch the film and enjoy it given its premise. I feel that using rape/abuse is a lazy way to try and drum up sympathy for a character, and often it's not treated properly to show how traumatic these events can be for the victim. It disturbs me that in this instance, that rape/abuse is then turned into sexual titallation and that these girls are clearly objectified--yes, she's kicking ass and defeating a giant man of iron, but does she have to do it in such a short skirt and heels?

Monday, February 21, 2011

The More Things Change

(image from Flickr user carianoff)

Early on this year I made two declarations (you could call them resolutions if you want) that were, if I'm honest with myself, more in jest than in seriousness. But, as events turned out, things happened in my favor.

The first was that I wasn't going to shave until the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl. They had barely made the playoffs, so I assumed that the post-season would be short for them. I've never had much of a beard, so this was going to be my break at growing something good. This was not a popular decision in my house (neither was the next one) as both my wife and my daughter (she's almost five) hate the scratchy beard face. Well, the joke's on them; the Packers won the Super Bowl so I can retain my irregular shaving pattern.

The second was that I wasn't going to cut my hair until I got a new job. Again, even if my wife or daughter supported the idea (they didn't, and our son at two really hasn't offered an opinion to date) I don't think I could deal with long hair. But, just like the first declaration, the conditional in my statement came to pass so I got a haircut this past weekend.

Oh, right. That implies that I have a new job. This past week I accepted the position of assistant director at the Waukesha Public Library. I grew up in nearby Brookfield, WI, so I'm quite familiar with Waukesha. My parents and sister live in Oconomowoc, which is less than a half-hour away by car. My wife's family will be less than two hours away on the other side of the state. It will be great to be closer to family.

The job itself is great, too. Above me is the deputy director then the director. The deputy director oversees technical services, reference, and children's services. I'll oversee circulation, building management, and technology. I think the job will be challenging, but in a good way. My technology background will be really useful here. I don't start until almost the end of March, so until then I can only speculate about what the job will be like.

I'm excited, though. Very excited.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Day in the Life

It doesn't matter that I'm more than a week late for this, does it?

Day in the Life

Access Librarian/Assistant Professor
Palmer College of Chiropractic
Academic/Health Library

This winter has been cold; cold like the winters from my childhood where we braved the elements in order to play king of the hill or some other inane thing out on the playground. You never feel warm, and everything feels sluggish, dirty, and gray. Your car takes longer to warm up, your coffee isn't quite hot enough, you never see the sun, and there's just pile upon pile of dirty gray snow everywhere.

Like so many of us, the first thing I do is put away my lunch and fill up my water bottle. Then I fire up my computer so I can check email and see what crises arose overnight. We're open until 11:00p, so I'll often find email from staff about things that went on the night before.

Staring at me balefully is an unread message from MLA co-contributor that's a week old. I was supposed to send in permission forms so that they could use the annotated bibliography that I wrote about chiropractic for the upcoming MLA Guide to Health Sciences Information Resources. I fill out the forms and fax them over to the proper person. Then it's on to my "everyday" work (in quotes as with most librarians, there is not typical or standard day-to-day, everyday tasks).

I try to place book on hold through the OPAC. It was something I knew we were getting that I thought I would like to read, however, it's not available in the system yet. But, while I'm thinking about holds, I modify hold settings in system so that they expire after 365 days. We don't have that many hold records sitting out there right now, but trying to think ahead.

I have an email about checkout in the clinic not accruing fines. First things first, I check the student's account and it's set up correctly. So next I check item the record and at first glance it seems set up correctly. Then I run history logs, but nothing looks amiss. So, I re-check the student. I recently changed user profile codes and there have been a handful of students who we missed and have no profile and that makes all sorts of things go awry. So, I re-check book and notice that it's set up wrong. It's using the wrong item type so the circulation map can't give the patron the correct checkout length. I run report to see how many books are like this and I find four so I quick fix them.

Today is one of my reference shifts but I'm working from my desk (in view of reference desk) as the reference desk computer can't run ILS software. I file approximately half the emails in my inbox that have been responded to or do not need response.

Inbox = 18 items

I've signed up for a few new list serves and now that I'm getting some activity on them, I create/edit some inbox rules. I send out an email to see how changing placement of book barcode is working for staff. I then meet w/technical services to discuss a few ILS problems, primarily that the title keyword search not working.

Not knowing how much time this is going to eat, I dive into investigating ILS indexing (it takes a lot of time). I worked with IS to determine best time to shut down 3rd floor computer lab for software updates. I do some reading up on the national digital library. I also research articles on RFID, computer networking, and ILS management.

I get distracted by a recent Amazon purchase arriving w/the mail. Since I'm not actively working on anything, I take lunch. While eating lunch, I cleaned up my personal library blog (where you're reading this).

I talk to the night crew to see how tasks were going and I assign some new tasks to night staff. I call IS to come get stuck ID out of photocopier card reader (this becomes a huge nightmare, but I won't know for six more days).

And I spend more time investigating ILS indexing (did I mention that this took a lot of time?). I decide I've done what I can, so I send the question off to sys admin list serv.

Inbox = 12 items

IS arrives and they work on the card reader. They have to take it away and get a replacement. At this point I need to wrap things up and head out to part-time job.

I rush across town; my important task to pick up pizza for library's dinner (Harris Pizza for anyone w/local knowledge) and I get to library breakroom with plenty of time for everyone to eat dinner.

At the public library I learn about new policy for wifi users. There is a click-through screen of library's official computer use policy, but it's not working very well: some computers/devices can't bring up the page and therefore can't agree to policy and therefore can't get online (the click-through process has since been removed).

Then it's on to the normal reference desk stuff: I help patron search for John Sandford audio books; I look for "2010 or newer" travel guides for Florida or Orlando; I sign some people up for Adult Winter Reading Program; I discuss ebook lending via Twitter; I talk about MLS school standards and expectations on Friend Feed; and I follow along to the State of the Union discussion via Twitter among other things. But mostly, I answer lots of questions about tax forms (we don't have the instruction booklet for the 1040).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's All About Me

(me at my desk)

This is not a place with a lot of activity. And while I'm hoping to change that, I'm not going to make all sorts o declarations of intentions and resolutions and whatnot. If I can do it, I'll post here more than twice a year (that seems doable, right). But I won't get bent out of shape if I don't.

Mostly this has been a blog about libraries. That will continue to be the case. But what is changing is that this will be where I talk about personal things, too. I used to do that over at my other blog, but that's transitioning as a magazine-only place, and I don't feel right putting out bits and pieces of my personal life there.

There will be crossover for sure; it's all part of my life and it is all about me (I am kind of a big deal, you know). So, for the few that are here, be forewarned about talk of kids and cooking and other things.