Every Book I’ve Ever Read *


So I’m a junior in high school beginning to apply for college and attending a lot of college-related events. Inevitably the following question is asked:

“Liam, what do you like to do?”

“Oh, I like to read a lot…”

“Really, what books have read lately?”

And my mind would go blank.  What have I read lately?  What have I read ever?

Thus, in the summer of 1990 I began tracking the books I read, a habit that continues to this day.  I started on scrap paper, then I kept the list in the back of my journal.  A few years ago I put everything in a spreadsheet.  Starting in 2003, I began writing short reviews/summaries of the books to help me remember the content as well as the titles of the books.  I’ve been putting my current book lists and reviews online since I started Panorama of the Mountains in 2006.

Now, thanks to LibraryThing, the whole world can see Every Book I’ve Ever Read* online and in one place.  The asterisk of course is due to the fact that I don’t remember what I read before I started tracking books in 1990, although I’ve brainstormed a fairly good list of what I can remember.  I wish I could remember the first book I ever read on my own which was about cats.

It should be noted that LibraryThing is kind of geared to cataloging books one actually owns, so the information about particular editions of books in my LibraryThing catalog is really not relevant.  I basically chose the editions with the prettiest covers.  I do like that I can add my old reviews and tags and sort the library in different ways.

For example, if you want to see what books I read in a particular years, here they are:

Pre-1990 1994 1999 2004
1990 1995 2000 2005
1991 1996 2001 2006
1992 1997 2002 2007
1993 1998 2003 2008

As I’ve posted previously, since 1996 I’ve made a list of the ten favorite books I’ve read each year.  I have those listed below as well.  It’s interesting to see what books made a list that I really don’t remember that well, while books I now consider all time favorites didn’t make the cut.

1996 1999 2002 2005
1997 2000 2003 2006
1998 2001 2004 2007

I hope this doesn’t come across as bragging.  For one thing, I still don’t think I’m reading enough books or enough of the right books.  I do like LIbraryThing as a place to share information and ideas about books, because reading is important.

So dive in, take a look, and enjoy.  Sign up for your own account if you’re so inclined.

I’m a Twit


So, I finally gave in and registered for Twitter even though I really do not understand the practical purpose of the tool. I mean I understand what it’s for – telling people what you’re up to at every minute of the day – I just don’t know what it does for a shy guy like me and especially what it does professionally. Yet, I read library blog after library blog hailing Twitter as a great social networking tool. So I caved and decided to give it a try. Don’t want to be classified as a troglodyte who’s afraid of change after all.

Long-time readers will recall that I went through the same process with Facebook last year. Even though I found some things that Facebook is good for (Susan compares it to collecting one’s friends like Hummels), and find it fun to play games with my friends, professionally I’ve done zilch. Seemingly the moment I was convinced to sign up with Facebook was when Facebook-backlash began. Now people frustrated with Facebook offer plaudits for Twitter instead. So maybe I can be ahead of the curve, or at least on the curve this time. So far I’ve found that Twitter is a good forum for writing Haiku and publishing Overheard-type comments. If you want to follow me you can find me at http://twitter.com/Othemts.

Here’s a typical article Why Twitter Matters from iLibrarian.

Library Trick or Treat


In preparation for Halloween, here’s a nice bag of links about libraries.

First, a trick: The headline of The New York Times article Libraries Shun Deals to Place Books on Web (by Katie Hafner, October 22, 2007) is very misleading. Jessamyn West at librarian.net puts it best in her post Libraries Shun Deals to Place Books on Web, really?:

Quick quiz: when you read a headline like the one in the New York Times today Libraries Shun Deals to Place Books on Web do you think that the libraries involved are

a) sticking up for free access to information
b) prohibiting free access to information

If you continue to read the article you will learn that it is actually option a):

Several major research libraries have rebuffed offers from Google and Microsoft to scan their books into computer databases, saying they are put off by restrictions these companies want to place on the new digital collections.

The research libraries, including a large consortium in the Boston area, are instead signing on with the Open Content Alliance, a nonprofit effort aimed at making their materials broadly available.

The cynical side of me feels that The New York Times is supporting big business at the expense of libraries and the Open Content Alliance. As I learned at the Boston Athenaeum lecture last winter, many libraries have simply given away material to Google and others only to learn that Google doesn’t care about library ethics and open access. They want to sell a product, which is all fine and good, but you just can’t expect libraries to continue to give up their resources. I applaud the Boston Public Library and other participants in the Open Content Alliance for sticking to the ideals of librarianship and attempting to extend free access to information for all.

Now for a treat, a more positive article in the Boston Globe, Libraries Move With Times, Discover Niches (by Anna Badkhen,October 22, 2007). Traditional libraries are not so traditional and not so quiet and offer circulation of music and movies, community events, and gaming.

“We are not your grandmother’s library,” said Kimberly Lynn, president of the Massachusetts Library Association. In the era of waning readership and Internet search engines, libraries in Massachusetts and across the country are shifting their resources and expertise to areas once unthinkable. Gone are the hushed bibliothecae of yore where even an occasional irreverent clicking of a heel prompted furrowed brows of disapproval.

The modern-day library, Lynn said, is a community living room-cum-reference clearinghouse, with some digital gaming sprinkled in.

“It’s a zoo,” Lynn said. “It’s chaotic. It’s not getting quieter.”

Library circulation in Massachusetts grew by a million copies between fiscal years 2005 and 2006, according to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. But the growth is not necessarily because people are borrowing more books.

Nothing here is really new to those of us who already know that libraries rock, but it’s still good to see good press. A big part of the future (and present) of the library is social networking and there is a New OCLC Report on Social Networking called Sharing, Privacy, and Trust in Our Networked World which I haven’t read yet, but should be worth reading. Of course, there’s a lot about Web 2.0 and the future Semantic Web that we librarians still don’t understand. The Goblin in the Library takes a humorous look at the web’s future in Web X. The apparent winning definition of Web 3.0/Semantic Web is in the comments by the way:

The code will reach out and grab what it needs on its own – from any source available, regardless of format – without needing to be told to search for this or that.

The structure within the library is also evolving. I particularly liked this article from Walking Paper about the North Plains Public Library in Oregon: creating a flat library and the culture of maybe. As noted in the comments this is an egalitarian attempt to get past job descriptions and into job duties while working toward collaboration.

Instead of a Culture of No, I’m aiming to create a Culture of Maybe. You might not be surprised that employees really appreciate being able to discuss library issues without fear of judgment or other negative reactions. Here are some ideas for creating a Culture of Maybe.

Encourage collaboration. Collaboration needs to be at the core of how things are accomplished. It isn’t just a method of working on discreet projects, but rather an complete way of communicating and acting. Challenges to this include staff involvement with many aspects of library service, some of which might be outside their traditional area of interest or expertise. (At the NPPL it is very apparent that we>me. The group does a fantastic job of brainstorming and refining ideas.)

Listen to everyone. This doesn’t mean that everyone is always right, but it does mean that their ideas deserve consideration. Staff need to know that presenting ideas that don’t get put into practice is not an indication of poor performance and that they won’t be penalized in any way for doing so.

Let natural talents develop. People are happy when they can do what interests them. People do their best work when their happy.

Make people responsible. This is not about being able to blame someone if things go haywire. It is about letting people know what they’re responsible for and that their actions have a direct impact on the operation of the library. If employees see the direct impact they have, they’ll be more likely to take pride in what they’re doing. An essential part of this is providing the freedom and resources to allow people to actually do their job.

Set deadlines and stick to them. All of this free flowing conversation and discussion is great, but it must result in something. Decisions should rarely be final, however. An initial deadline and a secondary evaluation point can be set, the latter providing another opportunity for reflection, reevaluation and refinement.

This article and the model proposed was also discussed at length on the Uncontrolled Vocabulary podcast for October 3rd.

After all this discussion of change in the library, you may just want something to read. Librarian’s Place recommends Sex, Drugs, and Bombs: Confessions of a Librarian (that definitely sounds like my workday in a nutshell). If that’s too grown up for you, Random Musings from the Desert collated Children’s Books to Check Out. 3 of the 4 books appear to have librarians as the heroes, or at least the good guys. The last book is about evil librarians (yes, I can assure you that evil librarians do exist). If you want to read something that has nothing to do with librarians at all, Judge a Book by its Cover lists Titles That Took Some Thought (which are actually books with absolutely awful titles). If you click through to the post on Ironic Sans that inspired this list you will see that I actually played a part in creating it of which I’m inordinately proud.

What Facebook is Good For


Prompted by invites from friends and discussions of it’s usefulness in the library blogosphere I joined Facebook at the beginning of August (See previously: On Facebook Now). Due to my age, ignorance, or perhaps even my anti-social tendencies, I wasn’t sure of what exactly I use Facebook for, but I plowed ahead anyway.

Recently, Susan asked me “Have you figured out what Facebook is good for yet?” At the time I didn’t have a good answer. Visions of connecting with librarians around the world and thus using social networking to become the best librarian I can possibly be have not yet materialized. According to some Facebook is a waste of time that costs businesses millions, while others believe that Facebook may help change the world for the better. Pondering the question, I’ve come up with three things I’ve discovered that Facebook is good for.

  1. Connecting with old friends, colleagues and even a couple of strangers. I gave up on letter writing for the most part a few years ago because no one ever writes me back. Even email, which I find pretty easy, seems to be too time consuming for others. So it’s nice to have a place to check in with my buddies that I don’t see every day to just josh around and keep in touch. Otherwise I’d be stuck just seeing them at weddings and baby showers.
  2. Scrabulous. This is one of the many fun applications you can add to your Facebook profile. Most of them are fun once, but playing Scrabble with friends and strangers is addictive. On the most recent Uncontrolled Vocabulary podcast, Greg Schwartz admitted that Scrabulous is the only reason he still checks in on Facebook. That kind of makes me feel better about not networking with librarians in Peru and Botswana to save the world.
  3. Posted Items. This is my absolute favorite feature of Facebook. One of the things I like best about blogging is being able to refer back to interesting articles and blog posts I read, but not every interesting article is worth blogging about so I ended up with a surplus of draft posts in WordPress. I also would save articles from my feeds in Bloglines but that would get too cluttered. With Posted Items I can save articles, blog posts, web pages, photo albums, whatever and share them (albeit with the limited audience of my friends) automatically. There’s even a button you can add to the browser.

Here’s a selection of my favorite Posted Items on Facebook since early August:

  • August 1, 2007. New York Times. In Praise of Tap Water
    • The one thing about bottled water these days is that it is easier to come by since (clean, functional) drinking fountains seem to be less common.  Plus I’m always misplacing bottles so I have to buy bottled water and then refill it.  But honestly I’ve never bought into the bottled water being healthier concept.
  • August 2, 2007. Boston Globe. Sawed off and ugly, by Donovan Slack.
    • Seeing half a telephone pole hanging off another pole has mystified me for some time.  Now I know why.
  • August 15, 2007. WireTap Magazine. Future Civil Rights: Next Move is Ours, by Biko Baker.
    • I don’t like all of this article, but I like this: “We don’t need to believe in the leadership of one superhero; we need to believe in ourselves. No one else is going to step up and lead us but us. We are all Malcolm. We are all Martin. And until we really begin believing that, we will never be able to conquer the insurmountable odds that are up against us. I believe we can and we will. We are all makers of history; it’s time for us to start acting like it.”
  • August 30, 2007. Shaenon LiveJournal blog. The Trouble With Tribbles as Adapted by Edward Gorey.
    • Two of my favorite popular culture artifacts joined together.  And it’s hillarious.
  • September 8, 2007. Gift of Green. Top Ten Things About Massachusetts That Get a “Huh?” in Virginia.
    • This is interesting since I came to Massachusetts from Virginia albeit preceded by Connecticut.  Because of my New England childhood I’m well aware of regular coffee, radiators, the Blizzard of 78, and the adjectival use of wicked.  I never thought of raspberry lime rickeys or fluffernutters as particularly Massachusetts (the latter seems gooey and gross enough to be loved in the South).  I thought bubbler was used in the midwest and I first heard of jimmies in  Pennsylvania.  So really the three-deckers is the only thing in this list that was new to me when I came to MA.
  • September 18, 2007. Scientific American. 5 Essential Things To Do In Space, by George Musser.
    • I love space exploration.  It’s good to have a plant for its future.
  • September 18, 2007. Britannica Blog. Land, Ho! The Northwest Passage is Open For Business, by Gregory McNamee.
    • This is essentially a satirical article about global warming, but as a history major I love the concept that the Northwest Passage is now here, 400 years late.  There’s a Talk Like a Pirate Day reference as well.


Librarian-Blogger


One of these days a talented young athlete named Samuel Adams will emerge from college as a two-sport star and like Bo Jackson before him end up playing in Major League Baseball with Milwaukee and NFL football with New England. But this post is not about Sam Adams: Brewer-Patriot. This is about all the great librarian-bloggers out there.

The Online Education Database (OEDb) has set out to rank the Top 25 Librarian-Bloggers. Jessamyn West appears a bit nonplussed to be ranked number one. Meredith Farkas and the panel at Uncontrolled Vocabulary are among those who take issue with measures used to rank blogs. This includes doing a Google Search for “librarian blog” which is going to miss a lot of people who don’t include those words in their blog names, like myself (albeit this is the most unprofessional blog so I don’t feel I’m at all slighted compared to those librarians out there writing on library issues each and every day).

The good news is that this is a way to learn about more blogs by librarians whic is a good way for me to learn more (even if The Ecletic Librarian is right about the five types of news stories about librarians). Granted as you’ll see from my blogroll, I’m already trying to keep up with a lot of librarian-bloggers. So many people with so many good things to say, although I’ll confess that I’m usually only interested in a portion of what each of them writes. It’s nice when 3 or 4 bloggers bring up the same issue as it finally gets me to pay attention to something I may have otherwise chosen not to read about.

With that said, here’s a selection of blog posts and news articles regarding the library from the past month or so:

I’m not sure if I count


According to Outsidein.com and reported on Boston.com, Boston is the bloggiest city in the US. I’m not sure if this includes the metro area or just Boston proper. If the latter, I don’t count because I don’t live in the city of Boston (yet).

I think it would be cool if the features of social networking tools like Facebook that allow you to see what other people are doing could be integrated with weblogs.  Then you could customize your own mega-blog that shows all the posts by bloggers in your neighborhood or from all your friends’ blogs.  I mean this more than just a feed reader like Bloglines, put a personalized, multi-author blog that automatically republishes from multiple sources on one page.  Then you could have the option of allowing your customized mega-blog viewable by others. Perhaps you could even make an uber-blog of all the blogs in Boston which may be fun to watch for a while to see all the posts popping-up in real time.  It would be an interesting way of getting a cross-section of a community

There would be some things to consider before this could be operable. First, should people have to opt-in before their content is republished on another site?  This is already an issue that I expect will remain contentious in online communities.  The other issue is how to bring together content from various different platforms that people use to blog and present it an effective and appealing manner.

I wouldn’t be surprised if something like this doesn’t already exist, or is at least in the works.

Hyperactive Hyperlinks


Here’s another post that’s nothing more than a collection of links, many of them silly, the majority introduced to me by Metafilter.

Abandoned But Not Forgotten is a collection of photos of abandoned, historical, and unusual locations from around the world. Beware of the slow loading vintage web design (somewhat apropos to the topic actually) but it’s worth slogging through to see the cool photos.

PCWorld collects The Strangest Sights in Google Earth, which of course is the same as our own planet earth but frozen in time and shared with everyone who lives here. Again, be wary of some crummy web design.

A clever video in which two young men celebrate the city that rocks: Colonial Williamsburg. Funny in that they don’t openly mock CW but let the incongruities of music and images speak for themselves.

PinchHitter 2 is a frustrating and addictive baseball game that will take you from the sandlot to the majors.

If you like ugly, but tasty, fruit and vegetables, you’ll enjoy the stark images of the mutatocollection. The oddity here is that many of these are actually naturally grown vegetables as opposed to the genetic mutations that pass as “perfect.”

Is the world of Gil Thorp in the Matrix? Could explain the oddities of that comic strip. I particularly like Clambake as Morpheus.

From world travelers, a collection of 20 funny signs from around the world. Reminds me of a sign I saw in Ireland near a cliff’s edge showing a car flying over a cliff. The Irish are not subtle.

Finally, a demographic study of Pluggers and They’ll Do It Every Time, a scientific analysis of the two head scratching, anachronistic comics drawn on suggestions mailed in by readers.

While I’m posting links, I may as well introduce some recent additions to the blogroll:

  • Bringing Home the Word: Exploring the Bible Through the Catholic Lectionary – Fairly self-explanatory title, good reading for lectors like myself.
  • Digital Campus – A biweekly discussion of how digital media and technology are affecting learning, teaching, and scholarship at colleges, universities, libraries, and museums. This is actually a podcast, but they post links relating to the topics discussed on the show.
  • Francesco Explains It All – Blog by the creator of Sally Forth.
  • History Conversations – An occasional dialogue with historians and history lovers about their interests, their ideas, and their lives in history. A podcast from the creator of Found History.
  • lower east side librarian – A personal/professional library blog by a librarian who is interested in/expect to write about zines and alternative press publications in libraries, library activism, open source technology applications and culture, and lolcats.
  • Ms. Magazine – More than a magazine, a movement. More of a feed than a blog.
  • Nobody Loves Rusty – A tribute/mockery blog for Mark Trail.
  • Paste Magazine – Updates on signs of life in music, film, and culture.
  • pazonada – A spiff local photo blog.
  • Pitchfork Media – New music reviews to help me feel old.
  • separated by a common language – Observations on British and American English by an American linguist in the UK.
  • Stat of the Day – This and that about baseball stats. From the people who brought you Baseball Reference.
  • Uncontrolled Vocabulary – A live discussion of news, trends and topics in librarianship. Another cool podcast that’s like The McLaughlin Group, but with Librarians. Useful links posted on the blog after the show.

You may also notice on the sidebar that I’ve added links to my new Library Thing profile and catalog.  I should be adding books over time.

On Facebook Now


I’m pretending to be a young, connected hipster by participating in Facebook. I’ve added a WordPress application in hopes of drawing more attention to Panorama of the Mountains. The application also allows me to make posts to WordPress from within Facebook for whatever reason. So I’m trying it out.

Anyhow, I still don’t really know what Facebook actually does but I find it strangely compelling and addictive.

Sunday at the ALA Annual Conference


My third day at the conference continued the parade of celebrities I admire. Nancy Pearl is not only a hero but a Library Action Figure. She’s also written several books of book recommendations including Book Lust, More Book Lust, and the new Book Crush for children and teens. She spoke mainly on encouraging children to read and to validate the choices they make in reading. She also warned of the perils of a life of reading as a counterbalance. She told the story of how the Library Action Figure came about, and the 39 librarians with no sense of humor who sent her hate mail.

I’d scheduled myself to attend a Blog and Wikis Interest Group but I didn’t like the looks of it since it seemed to be another committee meeting (with laptops) and that was not where I wanted to go. So I quickly flipped through my program and discovered that a program called Harnessing the Hive: Social Networking in Libraries was taking place in an adjacent room. It was even tagged as being suited to New Bees. I can’t believe my luck, because this may be the best program I’ve attended yet. Three presenters showed off actual working collaborative tools that have improved services and research in libraries. I’ve got lots of links to follow up on this as well.

I left the convention center and returned to the U Street area, this time to attend Mass at St. Augustine, a predominantly Black Catholic parish. The priest preached for half an hour, two children were baptized, and the choir sang a whole lot of gospel so the Mass lasted 2 hours! Not that I’m complaining. The liturgy was beautiful and I felt very welcomed. I ate a veggie burger sub at the famed Ben’s Chili Bowl prior to returning to the convention center.

I didn’t have time to visit the exhibitions as planned, but did get to make yesterdays blog entry and head to the ALA Book Cart Drill Team Championships. It was hillarious. The team from Pennsylvania named “Get Down With Your Funky Shelf” definitely had the best name. However, the Divas from Texas who performed the Rosie the Riveter inspired “Riveted by Reading” truly deserved the coveted Gold Book Cart.

Thanks to the power of Youtube, now you <em>can</em> see the ALA Book Cart Drill Team Championships! At least parts of the event.

irst, the Readin’ & Rollin’ team from Milford, Ohio who took fourth place and the autographed DEMCO catalog:

Next, the Bronze Cart winning Delaware Diamonds:

The Silver Cart winning performance by Gett Down With Your Funky Shelf of Gettysburg, PA.

The Book Divas of Houston, TX took home the Gold Cart with their performance of “Rosie is Riveting”, only a snippet of it is available here:

After another long day of conferencing, I visited Northern Virginia to see my friends Annie & Mike. Additionally, a fellow librarian/conferencee/friend Camille (and one of her friends from Ithaca) and Washingtonian/friend Lisa Lynn were there. So the six of us (and Mike and Annie’s in utero son) went out for Thai food in Alexandria (no pun in the name). We actually talked about a lot of library and social networking stuff. Camille and I came up with a creative writing project based on odd reference questions. It could even be like the “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” game where three stories are told and you have to guess the real reference question. This originated from Camille’s story about IM reference where a patron first asked for everything they had about biotechnology and then followed up by saying an illegal alien was living in his apartment. We will be presenting this game at the next conference.

So it was another good, full day. I can’t believe that it’s gone by so fast and there’s only one full day left. I also can’t believe all that I’ve learned. I hope I don’t lose all these great ideas brewing in my head. It’s hard to find time to write them all down.

Library Dust (and social networking)


Here’s another in my irregular series of posts of news and commentary related to my job.

Library Crunch writes on how a Culture of Fear is adversely affecting library services to teenagers.

Meanwhile, the ALA is putting some of teenagers’ favorite social networking tools to use for the library.

On Tame the Web, one individual reflects on her career as a librarian and what it has taught her (and yes, if you keep reading, there’s stuff about social networking to keep with the theme thus far).

The Ubiquitous Librarian provides something to look forward to at the ALA conference in Washington, Punk + Zen (and librarians).

Ben Macintyre tells us that libraries will survive the digital revolution (and it’s because social networking can be done in person too).

And why shouldn’t libraries thrive in the digital age since Librarians are the Enemies of Books and have been for some time.

That’s it for now. I should be blogging about more library stuff soon from ALA.