Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Okay, I officially don't know what to think. I don't support the war in Iraq. I know that much. I have all sorts of reasons for not supporting it, which I won't get into here. But that aside, I know there are good people serving in the military, and that they need support and recognition from the country they're serving, even if I don't agree with the way they're serving it.

So, I've been looking at this site:

Books For Soldiers.

It collects requests for mail, books, videos, DVDs, and other "items of need" from soldiers serving primarily, it looks like, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and connects them with people here in the United States. It's based on a bulletin board, where people can leave messages, requests, addresses, support and encouragement, and so on. It looks like quite a few soldiers in the field have Internet access these days.

A lot of the things that people are requesting--DVDs of Three Kings, The Lord of the Rings, Reservoir Dogs, and so on--are sort of bemusing. I mean, war is hell, right? There's something strange about knowing that soldiers fighting a war feel that they should have access to Peter Jackson movies. I don't think it's wrong, I'm not criticizing, I just think it's surreal in quite a few ways. I mean, the only movies I own are Jaws on VHS and a bargain copy of Twenty-Eight Days Later. I just graduated to a DVD player a few months ago. Maybe that just makes me a slow adopter of technology, but it also sort of makes me think a little more closely about what we consider basic amenities. I suppose, in one sense, if we have light, portable DVD technology, why not send it to the field so the troops can watch Daredevil? On the other hand, well... I'm not sure what's on the other hand, really. A lot of the requests seem to be for things like FHM and Maxim magazine, which, again... Oh, argh. I don't know. There are too many hands going on here for a poor sheltered idealistic Canadian academic librarian to handle.

I'll just have to find someone who wants a used copy of The Sound and the Fury, ship it off with some Baby-Wipes and a postcard, and leave it at that.

Funny, how real life interferes with one's librarianish ideals.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The Joseph Regenstein library at the University of Chicago has a terrific guide to contemporary fiction, including a What's New page, which lists the winners and pools for all the major literary fiction awards. Also lists major online literary review sources and best-seller lists. It's a seriously value-added library research guide, and one I'd love to riff off here at the UO, if I could just find the time to put it together...

That, and there's a good article on the National Union Catalog (Mansell) in the most recent American Libraries. I have a bad feeling I'm that young librarian she's talking about in the first few paragraphs, the one who gives you a blank stare when you say, "Try Mansell for that citation."

No longer!

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Well, we're combining technologies to try something new this afternoon. I've just set up a Photobucket account, and am going to try inserting an image hosted there into this blog, with an eye to providing links to book jackets of books in my "To Read" file. So let's try it out:

Terraces and Roof Gardens of Paris. Candy for the eye. And now I know where I want to live. On top of Paris, please. In a green space.

Let's post and publish this, and see how it works.
And in new news for the reading mind...

Maisonneuve is a Canadian literary magazine, a la Harper's or The New Yorker, or so they tell me on their "about" page. It has a subtitle of "Eclectic Curiosity," which endears it to me right off, and it's published in Montreal, which gains it all kinds of home court advantage. Finally, it's not afraid to take a poke at Sven Birkerts. And that's not something just any literary magazine can say. I myself haven't really come down on one side of Sven or the other. I read The Gutenberg Elegies back in library school, when I was doing a project on hypertext and the future of fiction. He's clearly smart and highly literate, and he sometimes said things that struck me with all the force of the unstated obvious--things that made me go, Yeah, right, of course--why didn't I ever think of it like that before?. He also sometimes bores me half to tears. So I don't know. I feel a similar glee in reading this take-down as I did in reading a roast of J.M. Coetzee in the South African journal Scrutiny 2 a while back. I love Coetzee. I'd just finished Waiting for the Barbarians, and it half killed me, in the best possible way. But there's still some guilty pleasure in reading a dedicated undermining of a major figure. It's not exactly schadenfreude; it's more just curiosity. What does this person have to say about the writing? Why do they think it's bad? Is their argument good? Do I agree with parts of it? It's like conversation: generally more interesting if everybody doesn't say the same thing.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Sitelines: a site I should have known about a long time ago. Subtitle: Ideas About Web Searching. I think the theme of the day is: subtitles. With the: colon.

Google: why did they hide the directory? Answer: probably to favor advertisers, at least according to Sitelines. Karen: not happy.

Also: from Sitelines. Hot Topics: Best Information on the Net. Basically: a clean, easy-to-use web page created by librarians at the O'Keefe Library at St. Ambrose University, collating reputable Web resources on current issues. Of interest to: students doing research on same-sex marriage, health care reform, gun control, terrorism, and other current social issues for which their 3-page overview paper is due tomorrow morning at 9 am. Also: librarians interested in how we're organizing the Internet and making it accessible to our users.

Further: Internet stuffs! Could use a slicker interface, but lots of good information, and running on Blogger.

Lastly: according to our international programs and labor certification advisor, it's getting harder and harder for Canadian employees to get their American TN (short-term, non-immigrant) visas renewed at US/Canada border crossings. There's nothing in the NAFTA that indicates why these visas are being challenged and denied; there's been no change in any of the wording or spirit of the agreement. However, there seems to be a change afoot at the ground level, with individual border guards simply refusing to renew the visas without providing any reason for doing so. Visa and labor certification matters for Canadians working in the US are complicated, but it's suprising to me that the library associations in the US and Canada haven't taken more of an interest in this. There are plenty of Canadians in the same situation I'm in here in Oregon: stuck on a tenuous, theoretically indefinite but extremely vulnerable one-year renewable work permit, without any guarantee of long-term status in the country. Bad for me, bad for my employer. Bad for everyone, and apparently getting worse. If you're interested in these matters, I'd be happy to talk more about it, whether you're a fellow Canadian working in the US or an American employer, or a Canadian legislator looking for bones to pick with the US.

And I'm sure I'll come back to this subject in the future, but right now I have to get ready to go on the reference desk, so...

Final subtitle of the post: A Reliable Fount of Fun Instructional Examples!

Friday, April 02, 2004

So, the world proceedeth apace. I'm starting to think I should just try to make this a weekly blog, updated, say, on Friday afternoons, when my brain is too shot to do anything else anyway. Except that somehow, blog lumber seems hard to come up with when I'm feeling this way, too. Hm. Well, let's see.

So, Gmail. Google's free email service, with 1G of storage space, backed by Google search technology so you don't so much file your emails as toss them all in a pile and let Google sort it out. This is cool, and God knows I'm interested in an email service that says I'll never need to delete another email. I've had to create three Yahoo! accounts to hold onto all the personal emails I want to keep, and my hard drive at work is stuffed with library-related back-and-forth. On the other hand, I'm a little spooked that Google's broadening its focus and possibly going down the Netscape path. Because...whoscape? Yeah. Exactly.


An interesting article here, by Laurie Kutner, Library Instructor at the University of Vermont: Library Instruction in an Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies Program: Challenges, Opportunities, and Reflections. I've been thinking about interdisciplinary research a lot lately--I'm a writer, so my research needs tend to be wild and random ("Did hotel desks in Brighton, England stay open all night in the 1880s, or did they close at a certain hour?" "What are the macro tidal patterns along the Pacific Northwest coast?" etc.) and to pretty much spit on disciplinary boundaries. I'm also interested in how interdisciplinary research methods can cope with the complex social, scientific, economic, and political problems we find ourselves in these days. Environmental problems, social problems, et cetera. The world ain't disciplined. Anyway, Laurie shares these interests, and she makes very good points about what librarians working in traditional, discipline-bound institutions can do to support interdisciplinary research. She's also a really nice person, and a runner. I know because she told me.

And that whole interdisciplinary thing has a practical application in the online guide to research from a diversity-based perspective that I built with some colleagues, and that I'll be presenting on at the Oregon Library Association's 2004 conference in a week or two.


This looks like fun. Superhero conference in Melbourne, Australia! According to Bill Bryson, Melbourne's quite nice. According to Geoff Klock, superhero comics are literature.

If I had more hours in my days, I'd do a research guide to graphic novels and comics. I'd love that. Someone needs to donate a bushel of money to the library so I can build up the collection in those areas. There are some really great graphic novels being published these days. Not least of which (and, okay, the one I just finished reading): Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. Which is sad and beautiful and so lovingly, cleanly designed, it'll make you cry.


And last but not least, a poetry blog. Because if you squint, it's in my job description to follow these things.

Unlike this photography blog. Which isn't in my job description at all.