Thursday, April 28, 2005

My reading list(s), the one(s) for work

When I came to work here, one of the things I did once I was settled in was create a reading list. This was sometime after I managed to become familiar with the local resources. Not the databases and things like that, those are pretty much universal where you go. I mean more the local website, the local resources like government pages, etc. In order to further help myself and keep things organized, I made a reading plan. This is strictly for periodicals. I have other lists for books to read or to be read. (Don't we all?). For my periodicals list, I base it on items we have access to in our library. I try for print, but I do have quite a few "outside the lists" items on alert to read online (there is another blog entry there waiting to happen). I was also inspired in this endeavor by my reading of the book Reading and the Reference Librarian: The Importance to Library Service Staff of Reading Habits (2004) by Juris Dilevko and Lisa Gottlieb. I was already doing quite a bit of reading on my own, but the book inspired me to be a bit more aware of my reading as related to being a librarian, and it prompted me to see if I could keep track a bit better of what I was picking up while adding things to read to be a better librarian.

At any rate, I am in the process of "upgrading" my reading lists a bit. When I made them, I stuck to some of the "basics." Given the political climate in the U.S. today, I feel I should be reading more conservative as well as liberal periodicals. If you ask me, I fall somewhere in the middle politically. Probably slightly more left, but not liberal since I do agree with quite a few conservative ideas. So, I am probably what some would call a moderate, or moderate progressive? I so hate labels like that, because, in my case at least, they are restrictive and not really reflective of my kind of middle of the road approach. To me, it boils down to common sense. At any rate, we can leave the politics to some other blog. The point is I believe in reading as many alternate and diverse views as possible, thus my attempt to upgrade the list. Since my time is limited, and I do read a few online news services, I am trying to favor monthly publications, which usually report more depth, and since they are montly, easier to just pick them up sometime during the month.

I have my work related reading lists set up on the following basis:
  1. Professional reading (Collection Development and Subject Areas) : These are the periodicals I read to keep up with my collection development and subject specialist areas. They are mostly academic journals that I scan for articles of interest and for book reviews. I may read one or two articles if I find them interesting, to get a sense of the scholarhip in the field and also to have something to talk about to faculty. In other words, this also gives me a bit more credibility as a subject specialist if they see I read what they read. Sample titles include Art in America, Film Comment, Communication Education or Communication Quarterly (depending on the table of contents in a given quarter).
  2. Professional reading (My academic specialty areas): My own scholarly interests include ethnic studies and literature, science fiction, Latin American literature, and education. I am starting to develop an interest in popular culture, in part due to some work I have done as of late. We'll see if I cultivate it or not. So, I read journals in these areas. If I find something from a book review, I may choose to buy it, but more likely would send it to the English subject specialist (I do Arts and Humanities, separate from English, but it does include literature in languages other than English, which is mostly Spanish). Sample titles on this list include TDR: The Drama Review, College Literature, and Analog. Since I have an individual membership to the Science Fiction Research Association, I get two academic journals with it: Science Fiction Studies and Extrapolation. These are "off list" since I get them at home.
  3. Personal reading list: This is sort of where I put everything else, mostly personal interest like news and current events. However, much of what I read here is also on popular culture. I also read from this list because very often Freshman Composition classes are writing research papers on pop culture as well as current events. The War on Terror was quite popular this semester for instance. Some sample items here include The Wall Street Journal, Hispanic, Harper's, Atlantic, Rolling Stone (when I remember), and a few others.
Some readers may be asking where is the librarianship and professional reading items. Well, that is separate, one of those "outside the lists." One of the first things my library did for me when I came to work here was to give me a list of the professional interest journals we receive to mark off which ones I wanted routed to me as they came in. So, I get to read those periodicals as they come in. In addition, my ALA membership provides a few things I read at home through my additional memberships in ACRL (IS Section), RUSA, GODORT, and LIRT.

So, what am I looking to add? Nothing terribly complex. Probably things like National Review and/or American Spectator on the conservative side and The Nation or New Republic on the liberal side, plus maybe Mother Jones and/or Village Voice (this I should likely be reading anyhow). How did I arrive at these titles? I did what any good librarian does. I researched a little to locate a few good lists of recommended readings. I found a nice site out at the University of Washington Libraries where they have a set of resources on Opposing Views, including lists for liberal, conservative, and every other point of view. They were briefly annotated so I got a sense of what could work for me, and since they were made by librarians, it seemed a bit more reliable. You can find the link to that resource here if interested.

As I wrap up this post, I realize I have another reason to try to read as many different views as possible. It comes from something I was told when I was a sophomore or so in high school. I was a member of the U.N. Model. Coming back from one of the competitions, I was getting a ride from one of my classmate's parents. While on the ride, I saw a copy of the local socialist newspaper, and I did not think twice about picking it up and looking through it. His father caught me reading it and asked me if I had read it before, and I said no, I had not, but that I tended to read just about anything I could get my hands on (I still say that, though I have gotten a bit more selective). He simply told me, "it is the sign of a free man that he can read anything." That little phrase always stuck with me, to this day even. And as I look to expand my views and reading, I can call myself free. I am sure someone before me, said it, but reading is a liberating experience.

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