Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Best Books I Read in 2014: An Appendix to My Reading List for 2014

As I mentioned in the post "My Reading List for 2014," I had a lot of books that I felt were excellent and deserved a full five out of five stars rating (I rate on a five star scale). There were so many that I decided to make a separate post just to share the list with my four readers (maybe if I work hard enough, we can increase it to five readers of the blog this year).

The list is in no particular order. Most of these are graphic novels and comics as that is a genre I tend to favor. If I have posted a review, I will provide the link.

Graphic novels and comics

Thanks to NetGalley (and Edelweiss to a small extent), I am reading a lot more graphic novels and comics, including titles that I think many libraries do not see or miss. I personally enjoy this as it adds some diversity to my reading, especially when I read stuff other than the usual. Only sad thing is NetGalley does not have Marvel titles, but I guess you can't have it all. Anyhow, these are the comics and graphic novels I consider my best readings for the year.

  • Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection, Volume 1. My library recently acquired the five volume set of this. This is the ninja turtles as they are, before Nickelodeon got a hold of them and sanitized them.  Contrary to what most people think, it was not a comic for young kids. It is a great comic overall. I will certainly be reading the rest of the volumes in the set. 
  • Jimmy Palmiotti, Harley Quinn, Volume 1: Hot in the City (The New 52). From my review, "Harley gets her own volume and adventures as she tries to move on without her Mr. J in her life and a new inheritance." If you like the Batman comics, you will probably enjoy this one as well.
  • Geoff Johns, Batman: Earth One. Maybe instead of watching stuff like Gotham, which is basically Batman without Batman, you can read this and get the same vibe, only better.
  • Jeff Parker, et.al., Batman '66, Vol. 1. This was just good nostalgia fun.
  • Taran Killam, et.al., The Illegitimates. Another one that was fun. This time in the old school James Bond kind of fashion.
  • The American Vampire series continues to be one of the best things out there. This year I read volumes 4 and 6 of the series. It is a series I will continue reading as it keeps getting deeper and developing its story over time well. It also captures the feel of the era a particular volume is in very well. In fact, as of this post, I have volume 7 queued up on my feed reader from NetGalley. 
  • Scott Snyder, et.al., The Joker: Death of the Family. This is probably the best way to read this great series from DC's The New 52. You can find the trades, and I read some of them, but once I found this was available, it made things a lot easier. For me, books like this are a reason why I prefer to read a story once it is compiled. The volume is a great choice for libraries with graphic novels collections.
  • J. Michael Straczynski, Superman: Earth One.
  • The Saga series. Last year I added volume 3 to what I have read. I hear the fourth volume is out, so rest assured I will be reading it. This is certainly one of the best things going on out there. You can tell people are catching on as Saga did make it on various end of year and must read lists.
  • Max Brooks, The Harlem Hellfighters.
  • Karl Bollers, et.al., Watson and Holmes: A Study in Black. For me, this was a great discovery. Sherlock Holmes has enjoyed a bit of a revival with recent shows like Sherlock (which I have watched and enjoyed) and Elementary (which I could not care less about). This graphic novel gives the character a nice, fresh and hip look. It is a lot more than just a new look. It really pays attention to the classic and brings it up to our modern time. 
  • Matz, The Killer, Vol. 4: Unfair Competition. Matz's series is another one I enjoy greatly, the practical assassin trying to make it in the harsh world. Another great series I will keep seeking out. 
  • Michael Uslan, The Shadow/Green Hornet, Vol. 1: Dark Nights.
  • Jonathan Hickman, East of West, Volume 1: The Promise
  • Simon Oliver, FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics, Volume 1: The Paradigm Shift. This was an interesting discovery for me, a world where the laws of physics stop working as they normally do, and the federal agency tasked with dealing with it. That is  just the start.
  •  Jai Nitz, Dream Thief, Volume 1.
  • Gail Simone, Red Sonja, Volume 1: Queen of Plagues. Gail Simone is also known for her run of Batgirl in DC Comics. I am not as a big a fan of Batgirl (many other librarians fawn over Barbara Gordon, a character that is a librarian in the comics. Me? Cassandra Cain was more my favorite Batgirl); I read the title now and then. However, I do like Red Sonja, and Gail Simone has done great work with that character.
  • John Lewis, et.al, March, Book One. This is a great one to read for Black History Month, though you can and should read it any time.A great example of how you can teach about history with a graphic novel.
  • Box Brown, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend. This is one I recommend to show the good things you can do with a graphic novel. A light but very moving biography of a man who was very generous yet fought in and out of the ring men and his own demons.
  • Stephen Mooney, Half Past Danger. If you like things like Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark, not so much Crystal Skull) and other old school action adventures, this may be for you. Add in the femme fatale and some dinosaurs for a fun mix.
  • Kenny Byerly, et,al., Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: New Animated Adventures, Vol. 1. And this is the ninja turtles for the kids today. It is an all ages comic based on the recent Nickelodeon production of the comic. It is cute, fun, and nice entertainment. Kids will definitely like it. 
  • James Stokoe, Wonton Soup.  Think Iron Chef (the original Japanese show, not the American knock off) and space truckers.

Manga

  •  Osamu Tezuka's Adolf series. It is a five volume series. Though I did not give all volumes five out of five stars, read together this is definitely one of the best reads I did for 2014. It is the story of three Adolfs, one of them being the Fuhrer of Germany, during World War II. Their lives are very connected as we go from Japan to Germany and back. My review of the first volume, Adolf, Volume 1: A Tale of the Twentieth Century is up now. Others will come soon. The series is an award winner too; it won the Kodansha Manga Award.
  • Sean Michael Wilson, Musashi.
  • Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou, Deadman Wonderland, Volume 1

 Nonfiction

  • Rachel Maddow, Drift: the Unmooring of American Military Power.  This was my one audiobook of the year. It is a book I highly recommend. Though you can read it in print just fine, I think it works better in the audio as she reads the text. 
  • Robert Dawson, The Public Library: A Photographic Essay. Of the LIS and related books I read in 2014, this was one of the best. For all the hype stuff some librarians fall for, this simple book is really inspiring and a reminder for many of us why we are proud to be librarians and serve our communities. 
  • Donald Nausbaum, Cuba: Portrait of an Island. A nice photo collection. This came before recent news about Cuba and the U.S. possibly opening up relations once more. Still, a very nice book to look at.
  • Daniel Yaffe, Drink More Whiskey!  From my review, "For someone wanting to learn more about whiskey in a casual and accessible style, this is a book for you. There are many books written about alcoholic spirits, but they are often written for hardcore aficionados and alcoholistas (yes, I am coining the term)." This book is more for the casual person seeking some knowledge. 
  • Carol Leifer, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying. From my review, "A strength of Leifer's book is in the lessons for work and life that she presents. She may be writing from her perspective as a comedian, but her advice applies to any career path." 
  • Andrew Knapp, Find Momo. This is one of those books that make you go "aww, how cute!" It is a beautiful book for folks of all ages.
  • Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night.  This is definitely one of the nicest books overall I read this year. For folks who love libraries and books, this is a sure thing to read. From my review, "If you are feeling down from bad news of library closings or not getting enough funding, or are you just sick and tired of the next 'trend' in libraries making it sound like libraries are dead fossils, then toss all that away and curl up comfortably with a serving of your favorite beverage and this book."
  • Jenny M. Jones, The Annotated Godfather: The Complete Screenplay. For fans of the film, this is one they will want to read and add to their collections.

Erotica

This includes fiction as well as nonfiction.


Miscellaneous

Other good stuff.

  • Ian Doescher, William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back
  • Jeffrey Brown, Goodnight Darth Vader.  



Monday, January 12, 2015

My Reading List for 2014

We made it to 2015. Welcome to what is basically my annual reading report with some additional comments. It feels like I read a lot this year. Reading was the easy part. Blogging my book notes and reviews was not so easy. One reason is that in the fall my grandmother (mi abuelita), to whom I was very close, passed away. My grieving period lasted quite a while, and it threw me off the blogging rhythm. In fact, there were certain genres, such as erotica, I just did not feel up to reading during that time, which means I had some good books that did not get read right away (including one or two review copies I was sent around that time I just could not get myself to read. For that, I do apologize to those folks and reassure them I am catching up). A couple of other small personal complications threw off my professional blogging here too, which is why previous to this post I have not really blogged here since last September. It has not been for a lack of content. Just did not feel like it. Fortunately, time does heal a bit, and I am slowly starting to catch up on my reading of those items for posting at The Itinerant Librarian. I am also lining up some new article notes here (because I still read a lot of the library literature so you don't have to). So stay tuned throughout the year for new things.

The Itinerant Librarian, my personal blog, grew a bit more this year as a book blog. This is something that pleases me, and I hope to continue building on it in the new year. My notes and reviews of books vary in length from very short to a bit more substantial. Much of my goal is to simply tell folks if they ought to read something or not and why, then I let folks decide. Sure, I still do a few other things there, such as "Signs the Economy is Bad," but the increasing focus on books is nice.

In spite of the not so good, I can say it was a pretty good reading year. I made some new discoveries. I also read some classic things. I have to say there were a couple of disappointing readings too. Oh well, it happens.

So here is my list of books read for 2014. I will add my comments and other numbers of interest after the list. As I have done previously, books marked with an asterisk (*) are books I re-read this  year. Most of these are reviewed here at The Itinerant Librarian. Click on the "books and reading" label in the sidebar to get to the reviews.


January:

  • Scott Lobdell, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Vol. 3: Death of the Family (The New 52). 
  • Kyle Higgins, Nightwing, Vol. 3: Death of the Family (The New 52). 
  • Brian Wood, Mara
  • Jim Butcher and Mark Powers, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Ghoul Goblin.
  • Charles M. Schulz, The Complete Peanuts: 1965-1966.
  • Kenny Byerly, et,al., Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: New Animated Adventures, Vol. 1
  • Stephen Mooney, Half Past Danger
  • Box Brown, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend
  • Mark Rahner, Dejah Thoris and the Green Men of Mars, Vol. 1.
  • Cullen Bunn, Hellheim, Volume 1: The Witch War
  • Alex Strick Van Linschoten, ed., Poetry of the Taliban
  • Graham McNeill, Mechanicum (The Horus Heresy, Book 9. Warhammer 40K)
  • Sylvain Cordurie, Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of London
  • Gene Luen Yang, The Shadow Hero
  • Chris Roberson, The Shadow, Vol. 3

February:

  • Jenny M. Jones, The Annotated Godfather: The Complete Screenplay
  • John Lewis, et.al, March, Book One
  • Gail Simone, Red Sonja, Volume 1: Queen of Plagues
  • Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, Book 9 (Hardcover compilation)
  • Oz Clarke, Let Me Tell You About the Wine
  • Ashanti White, Not Your Ordinary Librarian
  • Harry Fisch, The New Naked: The Ultimate Sex Education for Grown-ups
  • Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night
  • Mark Waid, The Rocketeer and the Spirit: Pulp Friction
  • Mac Walters, Mass Effect: Foundation, Volume 1.
  • Ed Brisson, Sheltered, Volume 1.
  • Pat Shand, et.al, Grimm Fairy Tales Presents: Realm Knights

March: 

  • Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
  • Jai Nitz, Dream Thief, Volume 1
  • Mike Richardson, 47 Ronin
  • Andrew Knapp, Find Momo
  • Simon Oliver, FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics, Volume 1: The Paradigm Shift
  • Phil Jimenez, et.al, Transformers: Dark Cybertron, Volume 1.
  • Charles M. Schultz, The Complete Peanuts: 1967-1968.
  • Becky Siegel Spratford, The Readers' Advisory Guide to Horror
  • Rachel Kramer Bussel, ed., Best Bondage Erotica 2014
  • Dan Christensen, Archer Coe
  • James Swallow, Hammer and Anvil (Sisters of Battle, Book 2: Warhammer 40,000).
  • Joe Schreiber, Star Wars: Maul-- Lockdown
  • Carol Leifer, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying

April:

  • Jonathan Hickman, East of West, Volume 1: The Promise
  • Miranda Forbes, ed., Dark Desires.
  • Michael Uslan, The Shadow/Green Hornet, Vol. 1: Dark Nights.
  • Russ Phillips, Canned! Artwork of the Modern American Beer Can
  • Jacques Lob, Snowpiercer, Vol. 1: The Escape
  • Ales Kot, Zero, Vol. 1: An Emergency
  • Peter V. Brett, Red Sonja: Unchained
  • Dwight Garner, Read Me: A Century of Classic American Book Advertisements
  • Jeff Lemire, Green Arrow, Vol. 4: The Kill Machine (The New 52). 
  •  Peter David, Wolverine Classic, Vol. 3
  • Scott Snyder, American Vampire, Vol. 6.
  • Matz, The Killer, Vol. 4: Unfair Competition
  • William Stadiem, Jet Set: The People, The Planes, the Glamour, and the Romance in Aviation's Glory Years
  • Scott Snyder, Batman, Vol. 4: Zero Year--Secret City
  • Rachel Kramer Bussel, ed., Going Down: Oral Sex Stories
  • James S.A. Corey, Star Wars: Honor Among Thieves (Empire and Rebellion series).
  • Joe Brusha, Grimm Fairy Tales: Oz.
  • Joe Harris, The X-Files Season 10, Volume 2

May:

  • Jessica Kerwin Jenkins, Encyclopedia of the Exquisite
  • Zac Bissonnette, Good Advice from Bad People
  • Karl Bollers, et.al., Watson and Holmes: A Study in Black
  • Michael Bemis, Library and Information Science: A Guide to Key Literature and Sources.
  • James Stokoe, Wonton Soup
  • Lucas Steele, ed., Boy Fun
  • Mike Mignola, Hellboy in Hell, Vol. 1: The Descent
  • Daniel Yaffe, Drink More Whiskey!
  • Chris Claremont, Wolverine Classic, Vol. 2.

June: 
  • David Bartone, Practice on Mountains. (Poetry)
  • Paul Dini, Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell
  • Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Miranda, Coffin Hill, Vol. 1: Forest of the Night
  • Archie Goodwin, Wolverine Classic, Vol. 4
  • Max Brooks, The Harlem Hellfighters
  • William B. Whitman, The Quotable Politician.* 
  • Greg Pack, Batman/Superman, Volume 1:  Cross World (The New 52).
  • Andrew Walsh and Padma Inala, Active Learning Techniques for Librarians
  • Brian K. Vaughan, Saga, Volume 3
  • Kyle Higgins, Nightwing, Volume 4: Second City (The New 52).
  • Tristan Taormino, 50 Shades of Kink: an Introduction to BDSM
  • J. Michael Straczynski, Superman: Earth One
  • Joanne O'Sullivan, Bizarre Weather.
  • Scott Snyder, et.al., The Joker: Death of the Family.
  • Jeff Kline, Indestructible, Volume 1.
  • Ed Falco, The Family Corleone
  • Peter J. Tomasi, Batman and Robin, Volume 4: Requiem for Damian
  • Dean Motter, et.al., The Heart of the Beast

July:

  • Scott Snyder, American Vampire, Vol. 4
  • Eric Hobbs and Noel Tuazon, Family Ties: an Alaskan Crime Drama
  • Erinn Batykefer and Laura Damon-Moore, The Artist's Library: a Field Guide
  • Donald Nausbaum, Cuba: Portrait of an Island.
  • Paul Allor, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Utrom Empire
  • Ruth Ashby, The Great American Documents: Volume 1: 1620-1830.
  • Robert Dawson, The Public Library: A Photographic Essay
  • Taran Killam, et.al., The Illegitimates.
  • Jeff Parker, et.al., Batman '66, Vol. 1.
  • David Gerrold, et.al., Star Trek: the Manga Ultimate Edition
  • Osamu Tezuka, Adolf, Vol. 1: a Tale of the Twentieth Century

August:

  • Dinah Fried, Fictitious Dishes.
  • Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert, Damian: Son of Batman
  • Osamu Tezuka, Adolf, Volume 2: an Exile in Japan
  • Rachel Maddow, Drift: the Unmooring of American Military Power
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Gets in a Pickle.
  • Jimmy Palmiotti, et.al., All Star Western, Volume 1: Guns and Gotham

September:

  • Jimmy Palmiotti, et.al., All Star Western, Volume 2: the War of Lords and Owls
  • Gary Larson, Far Side Gallery 2.
  • Osamu Tezuka, Adolf, Volume 3: the Half-Aryan
  • Ed Piskor, Hip Hop Family Tree (Vol. 1). 
  • Jeffrey Brown, Goodnight Darth Vader.
  • Louis Eguaras and Matthew Frederick, 101 Things I Learned in Culinary School.
  • Graham McNeill, Ultramarines: the Second Omnibus
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Sings for his Supper

October:

  • Jim Davis, Garfield: Caution: Wide Load
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Brings Home the Bacon: His 53rd Book
  • Ian Doescher, William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back
  •  bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress
  • Rick Spears, et.al., Jennifer's Body
  • Various authors, So. . . I Survived the Zombie Apocalypse, and All I Got Was This Podcast
  • Christopher Yost, X-Men: Emperor Vulcan
  • Eric Garcia, City: The Mind in the Machine, Volume 1
  • Joe Russo, et.al., Ciudad.
  • Steve Niles, Ash and the Army of Darkness
  • Streeter Seidell, White Whine: a Study of First-World Problems
  • Huang-jia Wei and Jean-David Morvan, Zaya
  • Mark Irwin, et.al., Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin
  • Geoff Johns, Batman: Earth One
  • Jim Davis, Garfield: Fat Cat 3-Pack
  • David Sax, Save the Deli.
  • Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween.*
  • Eileen Wallace, ed., Masters: Book Arts: Major Works by Leading Artists
  • Matthew Inman, The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances

November:

  • Matt Wagner, Batman and the Monster Men
  • Mike Bender and Doug Chernack, Awkward Family Photos.*
  • Sean Michael Wilson, Musashi.
  • Jonathan Maberry, V-Vars, Volume 1: Crimson Queen.
  • Osamu Tezuka: Adolf, Volume 4: Days of Infamy
  • Scott Adams, Problem Identified: And You're Probably Not Part of the Solution (Dilbert). 
  • Osamu Tezuka, Adolf, Volume 5: 1945 and All That Remains
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Goes to Waist: His 18th Book
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Keeps His Chins Up: His 23rd Book
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Takes His Licks: His 24th Book
  • Simon Garfield, To The Letter: a Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing
  • Claude Roessiger, Madame Alexandra's Rules of Business.

December:

  • Jeff Lemire, Teen Titans: Earth One, Volume 1
  • Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou, Deadman Wonderland, Volume 1
  • Jim Davis, Garfield Pulls His Weight: His 26th Book
  • Jean-David Morvan and Bengal, Meka
  • Marc Silvestri, Incredible Hulk, Volume 1
  • Tom Taylor, Injustice: Gods Among Us, Volume 2
  • Rachel Kramer Bussel, ed., The Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy Stories
  • Jimmy Palmiotti, Harley Quinn, Volume 1: Hot in the City (The New 52). 
  • Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection, Volume 1
  • Juzo Tokoro, Spawn, Volume 1: Shadows of Spawn
  • Heather Mann, Craftfail: When Homemade Goes Terribly Wrong


OK, let's look at some numbers and commentary to see how we did in 2014.



The basic numbers:

I read 152 books this year, including 2 re-reads.

Number of books read in 2013: 173, including 2 re-reads (the 2013 list).
Number of books read in 2012: 117, with 6 re-reads (the 2012 list).
Number of books read in 2011: 119, with 3 re-reads (the 2011 list). 
Number of books read in 2010:  119, with 6 rereads (the 2010 list).
Number of books read in 2009: 98, with 5 rereads. I believe this is the first time I started to actively track rereads. (the 2009 list).
Number of books read in 2008: 111 (the 2008 list).
Number of books read in 2007: 85 (the 2007 list).
Number of books read in 2006: 106 (the 2006 list).
Number of books read in 2005: 73


I read a little less this year. As I mentioned earlier, I did have a couple of down days that slowed down the reading, but I did come back towards the end of the year. 21 books less this year. I still did OK this year. I continued to read items from NetGalley actively in 2014; Edelweiss to a much smaller extent (their selection in what interests me is smaller, but I check it now and then). Still the majority of my books this year I read in print. Most of those books in print were borrowed from libraries. The majority came from the public library followed by my college library (and in this I would count any ILL's, that is interlibrary loans for my non-librarian friends).


A few other numbers of interest:
  • 87 print books read. 
  • 64 e-books. 
  • I read 96 graphic novels this year. This includes graphic novels and comics in fiction and nonfiction. Many of these I read via NetGalley. 
  • I read 7 mangas this year, which is already better than last year. 
  • I read 37 nonfiction books. It seems a little low to me, but then again, I was reading a lot of graphic novels, comics, and manga this year. Some of the nonfiction did come from NetGalley; from this selection, at least two were serious disappointments. 
  • I read 56 books from my local public library (Madison County Public Library--Berea branch) and 9 from my college library (Hutchins Library). This reflects in part that I am enjoying reading "pop" (as in popular reading) kinds of books versus more scholarly fare. While I do enjoy scholarly fare now and then, I do prefer my nonfiction a bit more relaxed so to speak. Additionally though, I do have a good amount of books checked out from my college library, but I have not gotten to them, and since I do get longer checkout times on them as faculty versus the shorter period at the public library, I tend to favor the public library ones to get done sooner. One of my challenges for 2015 may be trying to read more of those items from my college library I was interested in. 
  • I read 61 books via NetGalley. Most of these were graphic novels, but there were a few nonfiction titles as well. NetGalley for me is a good source to keep up with current graphic novels and comics compilations. It also works as a good collection development tool for our growing graphic novels collection in our library. 
  • Other numbers: 
    • Poetry books: 2
    • LIS and book-related: 6. I still managed to get some LIS reading done this year. The stuff on readers' advisory was the most interesting to me. Some of the pedagogy and instruction stuff I found a little underwhelming to be honest. While I continue to read LIS literature to keep up, especially in my areas of interest in librarianship, I am being much more selective given that there is a lot of stuff out there that is of lower quality or basically rehashing of stuff done before. Let's just say the LIS literature is living up to its reputation of lacking substance at times. 
    • Erotica books: 6 Actually, these are 6 that are books published by a mainstream publisher. I did read a few samples of self-published stuff, but as I did not review them, I did not track them (I may in the future, not sure yet). I certainly will continue to read and review erotica as it is a genre I enjoy along with the Better Half. 
    • 1 audiobook. If my public library had a better selection of these, I would probably read more in audiobook format. CD, for instance, I can pop in my computer and listen to while I do other things online. 
    • Education: 1 book, which was the bell hooks book. I read this one for a faculty book discussion group. That was the first time I have taken part in a book discussion group since I left library school, and I had to do some book discussions for readers' advisory classes. I am not a big fan of book discussions (something I may discuss in another post). However, I did sign up for at least three more faculty book discussions in the spring term, so stay tuned. I did take notes in my journal about the bell hooks book discussion, which I hope to get  up on the blog down the road. 
    • Books provided for review, not via NetGalley: 11. These are books that may have come from an author or a publisher with a request for a review. This also includes a book or two won in an online giveaway. 
    • I read 6 books that were mine. I am very good at acquiring books, but I am not as good about getting to read them right away. I tend to especially acquire graphic novels and mangas that I know are not easy to get via the library systems. But I also read a lot by serendipity, which means I see something new and interesting in the library, borrow it, and naturally have to get it back to the library, so I read it sooner than the stuff I bought. This is something I would like to work on, so I may pick up a TBR type book challenge to help motivate me in this regard. 
  •  2014 was the second year where I formally participated in a book reading challenge. I participated in four book challenges.  If you click on the link, you can see the list and the progress on each one. As I noted in the post, I strove to read within my reading flow and habits. The big challenge for me in these was posting my reviews in a timely fashion and then sharing them with the challenge group; some send reminders, some do not. The one that sent a reminder every so often was the most helpful. As I write this I am in the process of selecting my book challenges to 2015, which I will post over on The Itinerant Librarian. This year I may add one that is a bit out of my way, so to speak, to see if I can diversify my reading a little. Not making promises though.

This year was a very good year. I got 39 books that I rated the full five out of five stars. In addition, many got four stars, which for me means it was a book "I really, really liked" but not quite at the 5 stars amazing level. Since that is a big number I will make a separate post with my list of the best reads of 2014 later on with links to the book reviews.

And as 2015 starts, I am currently reading or starting to read the following books:

  • Lawrence Osborne, The Wet and the Dry
  • Alison Tyler, ed., Bound for Trouble: BDSM Erotica for Women
  • Ian Doescher, The Jedi Doth Return
  • Matt Smith and Carl Critchlow, Judge Dredd: Anderson, Psi-Division

Finally, if you are interested, here are other folks I was able to find who do end of year reading reports (in no particular order):


Monday, September 01, 2014

KLA LIRT Library Instruction Retreat 2014 Notes for Afternoon Sessions

For the morning sessions note, please check out the previous post. As I mentioned previously, the Kentucky Library Association LIRT (Library Instruction Round Table) Library Instruction Retreat took place on July 11, 2014 on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University. As usual, I will try to put the notes of what I saw and heard; any comments of mine that I add I will put in parenthesis.

# # # 

Session 3: "Library on the Go: Taking the Library to the Students."

  • This presentation was on a program to reach students outside the library, especially those who rarely come to the library. The idea is to reach students outside of class visits. 
    • For events, have "giveaway" items like pens, pencils, bookmarks, sticky notes,  etc as well as some library handouts. (I have done this kind of thing, especially at my previous workplace where I coordinated library outreach. Success on this can vary depending on the event. Also, what you give away as freebies can determine success. Let us be honest, there are some things students may go for more than others. So it helps to know your audience a bit. Also, freebies do have costs for the library, so doing this can depend on how your library budget looks. In my current workplace, we are taking some steps to do more outreach and events. I may even blog about it down the road.)
  •  Goals: 
    • Promote library awareness. 
    • Deliver information about library resources to students where they are. 
    • Offer one-to-one instruction where they are. 
    • Presenters focused on use of mobile apps and mobile webpages. (I think for us, our focus online would be on LibGuides.)
    • Educate students about subject specific databases. 
    • Deliver information about library instruction and electronic resources to professors in their areas. 
  •  Identify events to attend. 
    • One target was freshmen. 
    • Try to hit campus-wide events. 
    • Identify subgroups such as athletes, a dorm, a cohort, so on. (One thing we experimented on back in my old workplace, and a colleague of mine had down to a science, was having hours in her liaison departments. This was a service for both faculty and students. In her case, it worked out very well.) 
  • Why attend events at all? You reach out to new students and you give the library a face. (Concur. For me, much of doing this boils down having a presence and emphasizing for students that we are there to serve them.) 
  • (For me, this presentation validates the need to step out of the library more.)
  • They went to the Advising Fair on their campus. 
  • On hitting academic departments. They did their Physician Assistant Program. (I am thinking we can do something similar here with our nursing program.)
    • Checked on database mobile app availability (In other words, are apps a PA, or a nurse in my case, use that we get available in a mobile version for use in the field?)
    • (I am thinking also having occasional library hours in the department.)
    • To make a survey at an event more interactive, you could have students try to accomplish something, a task, on an iPad or laptop. 
  •  An event idea (this one was so-so, but I still think there may be potential here). For their Spring Fever week, offer help for final projects. This may work best maybe 2-3 weeks before final projects, so work needs to be done on timing. 
  • Challenges of attending events: 
    • Limited interaction with professors. 
    • Getting buy-in from other groups, such as the athletic teams. 
    • Technological limits. 
    • Reaching a diversity of students. 
    • To consider: social media component. 
      • At EKU, "library pop-up," use social media to tell students where a librarian would be. 

Session 4: "Using Exploratory Image Searching to Invite Inquiry into the Student Research Experience."

  • We know that refining a research question is difficult. How do we help students deal with this?
  • The expectation is usually words and text. Idea: do the unexpected. One way to do it is with image search for topic exploration. 
    • Images provide connections. 
    • Images provide curiosity. The presenter notes this goes with the new ACRL information literacy standards (still under development as of this post. I could not find it on the ALA website, however, this blogger has been discussing the proposed standard statements. From the list, I think the presenter referred to the item on research as inquiry).
    • Images can provide context. 
  • This can work with any topic, visual or not. 
    • Start by asking what students would expect to see for an image search from their topic. Reflect a bit prior to running the search. 
    • Run the search. (You can use your favorite search tool.) Then jot down keywords that describe images you see. 
    • After the search, ask students which images stand out the most in their minds. Why? How do they feel about them? Use this to begin crafting a research question. Evoking emotions can help. 
    • From the research question created, you can then identify your search keywords for a database, so on. 
  • Suggested by the presenter. For student collaboration, could use Padlet. (padlet.com I have to look into this some more at this point.)
  • If a topic can bring shocking or suggestive images, you can give a warning to the class; however, you can also make it a teachable moment. Also, do state that you are treating the students as adults. For some students, you may have to offer some other options, say for a topic like female genital mutilation. 
  • This activity allows you to focus on one learning outcome per class. 
  • Once they do the activity-- image search, words, question, keywords--, then take to the database for a search demo, bringing things back to the research. 
  • This exercise is perfect for when students lack a topic. Have them all practice a common topic, like a class theme. (This is an activity I do want to try out in my classes.)

Note: Some of the presentation materials can be found here: https://sites.google.com/site/klalirtretreat/program  (mostly slides and such).

Friday, August 29, 2014

KLA LIRT Library Instruction Retreat 2014 Notes for Morning Sessions

The Kentucky Library Association LIRT (Library Instruction Round Table) Library Instruction Retreat took place on July 11, 2014 on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University. I must say up front that I found this to be a useful learning opportunity, and it did spark some ideas for me to bring back to my library. I am also giving serious consideration to joining the state association as I see some good opportunities to do some good things, but let's not digress further and get to my notes. As usual, I will try to put the notes of what I saw and heard; any comments of mine that I add I will put in parenthesis.

# # # 

After the welcome and opening remarks by the KLA LIRT officers, I went to the following sessions:

Session 1: "Gauging our Impact: Assessing Outreach and Student Learning Using Readily-Available Technologies." 
  • (Going to this was pretty much a given to me. Assessment has become the new big word in my workplace, and I am pretty much expected to take part in anything that has that word in it. That aside, library outreach is an interest of mine, so attending this made sense.)
  • The presenters discussed a self-reflection pilot exercise for students attending library instruction sessions, getting statistics on use of library tutorials out of BlackBoard CMS for distance education students, and student feedback on course-embedded SoftChalk modules. 
  • Reflective opening question: What are the implications of the session for your own instruction at your library? How will today's session influence your approach to library instruction? (Question actually applicable throughout the day.)
  • Context from the presenters: 
    • 2012-2014: They conducted a survey of professors who brought their students in for library instruction. 
    • 2014: Surveyed students who scheduled research consults (this I may be interested in replicating for our library). 
    • 2014: Embedded their LibGuides into BlackBoard. 
  • Suggestion to look over University of Louisville's Critical Thinking QEP. This can give ideas for partnerships and other initiatives or projects.  
  • On online information literacy and online modules. 
    • Their module objectives: 
      • Distinguish how information comes to be in popular sources. 
      • Explain the need for information evaluation. 
    • Informed feedback.
      • Describe the biggest takeaway from the module. 
      • Provide comments on the modules themselves. 
      • You can use pen and paper or the questions feature on BlackBoard. 
    • They mentioned using NVivo research analysis software.  (This may be more than I would want at this time, but jotting down for reference.)
    • Implications: 
      • Develop specific outcomes for modules. 
      • Have formalized assessment to demonstrate grasp of learning outcomes. Allows students to reflect on module content. 
      • Incorporate real-life examples and multimedia.
  • On BlackBoard statistics tracking of SoftChalk tutorials (this is for distance learners, but I suppose can be applicable locally too). 
    • Instead of sending a marketing e-mail with a lot of text containing the library and information literacy information for students, you can use tutorials to be a visual and concise message tool. You still need good instructions, including screenshots. 
    • The idea is to encourage our users to be empowered and more independent as distance learners. 
    • SoftChalk does provide tools to generate statistics reports for tutorial content. The statistics can help librarians know things like if there is a need for an online chat service and when to have it. 
    • Make tutorials for basic and foundational needs. Then track them to help with marketing and knowing what student needs have been met. 
  • On a self-reflection pilot for library instruction students. (Of the three parts in this session, this was the one that I was really interested in since we are exploring use of self-reflection exercises for assessment. If nothing else, it helped give me some validation for that work.)

Session 2: "How's it Different from an Annotated Bib? Helping Students Survive the Literature Review."
  • A common faculty gripe: students fail to synthesize sources for a literature review. 
  • Common faculty expectations (as if): 
    • Assume students already know how to do research (oh, I could say so much about this, but we are just taking notes here). 
    • Assume that students understand the purpose of a literature review (especially without bothering to actually explain it to them). 
    • That students understand how to use research to construct a literature review (see previous assumption). 
  • (Reminder to self that the presenters provided some sample handouts, which I have on my folder. If I manage to scan or such, I may include later.)
  • It is important to discuss critical reading (yes, even in library instruction, but discipline faculty need to do it too). This can be done with their literature matrix (again, this was a handout).
  • A question for us librarians: on using source management software, like Zotero for example, do we need to cover this a bit more in our instruction sessions? (I'd say probably, but then we get into the question of just how much time we have to cover how much content again?)
  • Something to teach the students: To pull together the literature review, you do need to do prewriting, reading, annotation. Identify themes rather than just authors.
  • Key questions to ask students. Get them to think about this:
    • What do we know? How do we know it? 
    • What don't we know? Why don't we know it?
  • How librarians can help faculty and students: 
    • Offer multiple library instruction sessions. 
    • Recommend building scaffolded assignments.
    • Recommend other resources as needed. 
    • Offer workshops. 
    • Partner with the campus writing center and other relevant campus units. 
  • Citations to check out: 
    • Rempel and Davidson, "Providing Information Literacy Instruction to Graduate Students through Literature Review Workshops." Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Winter 2008.
(Coming next: Notes for the Afternoon Sessions)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Booknote: Active Learning Techniques for Librarians: Practical Examples

(Crossposted from The Itinerant Librarian)

Andrew Walsh and Padma Inala, Active Learning Techniques for Librarians: Practical Examples. Oxford, UK: Chandos, 2010. ISBN: 978-1-84334-592-3.


I finished reading this, and I was not impressed. The core of the book is the list of activities for active learning. Let's start by looking at what the book claims to do:


"It is a practical resource to be dipped in and out when needed and aims to appeal to a wide readership within the profession, particularly where teaching is a key part of the role. This includes graduate trainees and also students of librarianship and/or information students" (3).

The book is organized into three chapters:

  • One: Outline of theory and practice of active learning. This is a basic overview for people who do not know what active learning is or folks who need a refresher. 
  • Two: The practical activities are here. The activities vary from low to high tech and from practical to not so practical. The activities under the section "mobile phones and other gadgets" may fall under not so practical. Just because more students carry cellphones, it does not follow they can do whatever active learning activity you think you can do with the latest "cool" mobile gizmo. Now one nice element of this chapter is that each activity lists potential pitfalls; it is a rarity in LIS literature to admit something may not end as planned. 
  • Three: Sample lesson plans, including a couple of templates for lesson plans. New folks may find this useful. 
 
There are some good practical things, including one or two items I jotted down to try out. There is also a good number of activities I have seen before, so experienced practitioners may not find much new here. Additionally, the book has a few activities reliant on clickers or other technology that may or not be available in all libraries. However, for beginner librarians and librarians with minimal to no teaching experience who are suddenly told they have to teach, this may be a useful book. I don't see this book as one every librarian needs to have. If you instruction unit has a small reference/consult shelf of books about teaching, I can see adding it for the new folks. It is mostly a book for beginners.

In addition, instructions for some of the activities were pretty minimal; at times, I had questions about how exactly to implement something. I also wished the author had added more examples of how to use something or in what type of lesson something would be applicable. That would have made this book much more practical.

Again, as with other LIS books, we see authors running the risk of appearing less than relevant when citing Web 2.0 in learning contexts. That is because of how fast it can change, how often companies go out of style or out of business, and how things can quickly go out of date. Examples from the book:
  • Bebo and MySpace as social networking examples are pretty much a joke at this point. Bebo now is some kind of app company, and MySpace is pretty much, to be honest, dead in the water. 
  • iGoogle is gone by now. It was taken down in 2013. 
  • Jaiku was bought out by Google and then promptly shut down by Google. 
I am not saying don't use Web 2.0 online tools and resources. My philosophy on that is to experiment, find what works for you, and dump what does not. But when it comes to this topic, you are often better off asking around, talking to practitioners in the field who are likely more up to date than checking an LIS book. 

In the end, it is a book that I would recommend for beginners with some reservations. Seasoned instruction librarians have probably seen much of this, so they are better off seeking for new ideas elsewhere.

It was an OK book, so I am giving it 2 out of 5 stars.

# # #

A quote from the book I wanted to remember:

"A lot of library instruction can be very tasked, but when we are teaching we should not only be interested in gaining an end result, we need to focus on the experience the learner will have. If this journey is one where interactivity and stimulation takes place, in an environment that encourages thinking, doing, discussing and reflecting then there is more likelihood that the information will be retained and there will be some sense of understanding of the process, and therefore the learner will be enabled to independently replicate what has been learnt" (11).

Our job is to empower our students to use that knowledge, help nurture it, so they can be self-reliant, active lifelong learners.