Friday, July 29, 2005

If you use e-mail, are you "old"?

Through the Library Voice blog, a link to the report from the Pew Internet and American LIfe Prjoect about Teens and Technology. The highlight is that according to teens, e-mail is something you use to talk to "old" people. The report states that "teens who participated in focus groups for this study said they view e-mail as something you use to talk to 'old' people, institutions, or to send complex instructions to large groups." Instant messaging is the preferred form for casual communications. In a way, it reaffirms some of the things I knew from experience as an educator who works with young people, but man, "old" people? That is a bit harsh. Then again, younger people can be harsh. That is just life. On her signature line for her e-mail, my director does note that e-mail communication is preferred. She uses e-mail a lot (gets a lot of stuff done on it too), then again, so do most of my colleagues and me. Are we going to feel a sudden chill of age? I know I am not, but just in case, I am firing up my IM more often. Readers can go to the Pew site on the link to the report, then get the actual text of the report in a PDF document.

Update note (at 5:50pm): If you need a little more help in defining what or who is "old," you may not get it here. What you will find is a survey by the MetLife Mature Market Institute that took a survey asking "How old is old?" Just something that may be interesting. It seems it depends on who you ask. All I know is someone once said at one point you are as old as you think you are. I think it is something about staying young at heart. I got the survey link through DocuTicker, a great little resource for government agencies, NGOs and other items.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Michael Gorman speaks. . .again

Being a common grain of salt in the big soup of ALA, I often think I can stay away from Mr. Gorman and his pronouncements. I will be direct in saying that I do not like the guy, or rather what he represents (I have not met him personally. For all I know, he is very likable in person). I have his words and actions to go on, and it seems everytime he says something, he sinks himself just a little bit more, not to mention the profession. That is what irks me, the fact that he seems to effortlessly make the rest of us in the profession look bad. His latest pronouncements are found in an interview he gave to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and in another interview to the GJ Sentinel. Readers can find responses to Mr. Gorman's remarks from the Librarian in Black and the Free Range Librarian K.G. Schneider. Both blogs feature, in addition to the authors' remarks, comments from others interested which I think are reflective of how people feel about the issue. I had seen Ms. Schneider's post earlier, and I left the following comment there:

"And then the "older librarians" wonder why is it the "young guns" have it in for them? With a comment like he won't be going to jail at his 64 years for anyone dealing with an issue of intellectual freedom, it's no wonder. He should not worry though, I am sure there are plenty his age who would be willing to stand up for what is right. And if not, plenty of us on the younger end willing to do it. Also, I have to agree with other commenters. The guy represents the organization; he is a very public face. He really should be thinking before he opens his mouth because he should know reporters and others will actually pick up on stuff like that, then use it against the rest of the profession. Just a thought."
I don't want to sound glib or light about the generational issue that seems to be another of those things that keeps coming back. But in this case, when Gorman mentioned his 64 years of age, he heaped it on himself. During my time as a public school teacher, during my time in library school, and my time teaching college, I always thought that standing for the right to be able to read what one wished in peace and without interference from Big Brother was an important right. I thought it was something that the American Library Association stood for, after all, they have that whole Office of Intellectual Freedom as well as other resources. So, to hear the president of the organization say that he is not going to jail at his age over "that kind of stuff" sounded both dismissive and, well, idiotic. "That kind of stuff" is supposed to be the stuff that we stand for in this profession. It is the kind of stuff that many librarians have fought for, written about, educated others, and defended over time. I said it in Ms. Schneider's blog, and I will say it here again, if he is not willing to go to jail, I will be willing to go if need be. I do have faith others his age would do the same, if it came to that, but I am sure the remark also gave some of us younger ones cause to think. If that is how a senior member of the profession, and the president of our professional organization, really feels about issues of privacy, what kind of example does that give? How am I supposed to look at it? Oh yea, my organization stands for intellectual freedom and your right to privacy, just as long as it does not make me uncomfortable? I don't relish the thought of jail; I am sure most librarians don't. I am also sure others over time who have gone to jail over civil disobedience or to stand for what is right did not cherish it either. But they went to jail if it came to that because it was right, because it was important, because someone had to make a stand in order to bring change. If that is how Mr. Gorman really feels, I am seriously concerned about the message such a remark says. And if it was a faux pas, he probably should at least clarify it. As it stands now, it looks poor on him and on the organization he represents.

I am sure Mr. Gorman will have his defenders, especially among the cataloguing community given his involvement with AACR, but I don't think that should give him a free pass. And before anyone says I have it for cataloguers, I will say it here nice and clear that I have the utmost respect for cataloguers and their work. For one, they make my work possible. For two, it is a public service as well. As for Mr. Gorman, he at least needs to think before he speaks. And if that is how he truly feels, then this humble librarian at least has a reason to be concerned.

And I am not even going into the whole Google thing. I will leave that to others who have already done a better job than I could.

Booknote: Better than Life

Title: Better than Life
Author: Daniel Pennac
Publication Information: York, ME: Stenhouse Publishers, 1999
Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Narrative about books and reading
207 pages
Note: Translation of Comme un Roman
Possible similar books: Lynne Sharon Schwartz's Ruined by Reading, Anna Quindlen's How Reading Changed My Life, Harold Rabinowitz's A Passion for Reading (this one is a personal favorite of mine).

This is the little book that features the famous Reader's Bill of Rights. I am probably going to write some kind of entry or reflection on how the rights are present in my life as a reader, but that will be later. The book itself contains a narrative of how children discover books and become readers. To do so, the author looks at it from the point of view of a parent, then as a teacher and writer. The book is composed of little vignettes and short stories where the wonder of a child discovering books for the first time is conveyed. We also see the sadness as the child grows, goes to school, and finds his love of books destroyed as reading becomes more of a chore than a joy. Eventually, the child rediscovers books once more. The last part of the book has the bill of rights, where the author goes on to provide brief explanations and notes on what each mean to readers. The book overall is a pretty good read; has some poignant and moving moments. As a parent and educator, I could see some of the points he makes about how we come to discover reading, but some of the pacing was slow at times, enough to tempt me to skip to the last part of the book. I held on, and I think it was worth it. He does write with a simple style, but to me, it could get a bit repetitive in some areas. Maybe because I saw it more as the educator and parent and often felt like "I know this already." I have been lucky my daughter is growing to be an avid reader. The last part of the book is a definite keeper. If you like books about books and reading, this book may be good for you. If you want to remember why or how you came to discover books and reading, this may be for you as well. In spite of my small reservation on the pace, I do recommend this book strongly, and I will likely get a copy for myself down the road.

As a note and public service, here is the Reader's Bill of Rights:

  • The right not to read
  • The right to skip pages
  • The right to not finish
  • The right to reread
  • The right to read anything
  • The right to escapism
  • The right to read anywhere
  • The right to browse
  • The right to read out loud
  • The right to not defend your taste

I am sure a lot of reader's advisors in libraries live by this. I know in a lot of ways I do.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Gypsy Librarian at The Lord of the Rings Exhibition, Houston Museum of Natural Science

This happened last Saturday July 23, 2005, but it took me a while to write a bit on it, then get it up here. So, here goes.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science is currently hosting the exhibit for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. The exhibit runs until August 28th. If you happen to be a fan of the movie trilogy, or a Tolkien fan, or both, you will definitely enjoy this exhibition. However, I don't think you have to be a fan to appreciate and enjoy it. Anyone interested in film and how films are made will also enjoy it. Warning: if you have not seen the films, you may end up with the desire to do so. I actually overheard a couple talking to each other, and the lady said to her companion, "doesn't it make you want to go out and watch the movies again?"

Given that it was a Saturday and that I had a late start, my better half and I got there around noon and found it a little on the crowded side. Nothing unbearable, but coming in early in the morning or late in the day may be a better option for some. We personally were in no rush, so no problem.

The exhibit itself features realia, artifacts, and other items from the film sets. There are also miniature models and sculptures, some made especially for the exhibition. The exhibition provides many interactive elements with stations to view various short documentary films about the films and the craft of filmmaking. You can also stand on a blue background to see yourself on a screen in a forest with a sword through digital effects, and you can even get your face scanned to make a digital model of it. Visitors can also touch swords and other artifacts as well. Features like this make the exhibit educational as well as fun, especially for young visitors. We went on a date (the little one was at camp with the Girl Scouts), but there is certainly something for young kids.

In addition to the LOTR exhibition, the museum is featuring a special exhibition on Gold. This one runs until September 18, 2005. Yes, the yellow shiny element used in currency and jewelry that has caused all sorts of havoc through history. The exhibition features various artifacts from nuggets and pieces of gold to coins and jewelry from around the world. For the exhibition, the museum throws in for visitors a small but very nice book that gives you all you may want to know about gold and its history. It can make a good quick reference source on the subject as it includes good information. To complement the exhibition, there is also an IMAX film, Gold Fever. Starting with the story of a modern day prospector, the film tells the story of various gold rushes, the presence of gold around the world, and its history. I found the segment on the African Gold Coast and their king to be particularly interesting. If you pay for the special exhibition, it includes the film. It seemed a good package for an interesting exhibition and a good IMAX film.

Finally, we caught the 8:00pm showing of the IMAX film Mystic India. The film tells the story of an 11 year old boy who embarks on a 7 year journey of discovery. He left his home barefoot and only the clothes on his back. This spiritual journey provides the frame to a story about India's diverse mystical traditions. The film features excellent scenes and vistas of this nation, many of which will simply take your breath away. Of the various films on the museum's IMAX, I think this is the "quiet" one not many think of when choosing what to watch. They are featuring films on fighter pilots, thrill rides, and other topics. However, I highly recommend this one if it comes to an IMAX near you. It was an excellent way to wrap a visit to the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Forbes Best of the Web on Health Topics

The Krafty Librarian, a great place for health science librarians, gives this link to Forbes Magazine online listing of the best of the web when it comes to health. I am making a note of it so I can look over later, maybe add some things to our sites or to my bookmarks.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Too small for a BI session, just right for a research consultation

I just finished two small BI sessions today. I taught for two classes on writing, one on environmental writing and the other on writing for the media. The professor made the classes film based, which means that they are looking at how film may handle a particular issue. In the first class then, they look at how film depicts environmental issues and those reporting on the issues. The second class looks at films depicting reporters and other members of the media. The groups were small. I had seven in one class and three in the other. In such situations, I usually turn the BI session into an extended research consultation. The students came in with their topics, or I should say their topic ideas. One of my tasks then is to show them how to narrow the topic so that they can find a good thesis to develop. This is a combination of your knowledge as a librarian and your skill at thinking on your feet. I had some of the topics ahead of time, so I did some planning, but once I get to the classroom, I go with what the students give me. So, we take the time to talk about the topic, ask for ideas from the classmates and the professor, I provide my own suggestions. It all comes down to giving a student something to work from.

I usually recommend one or two of the general databases depending on what topics they may be working on. However, I also point out to them that we have some databases that are more specialized, and that they may be interested in trying one of those as well. When doing searches, I often have some searches pre-made, but those are mostly for stand-by. Once a session like this starts, I just ask the first student I make eye contact with what topic they are interested in. As I type, I am talking it out, telling them why it is better to break a phrase into basic concepts. For instance, instead of "women in journalism," we would try "women and journalism." Since that topic would give a huge number of results, we would then ask what about women and journalism interests the student. She may want to know about women anchors or women in sports broadcasting. It becomes a pleasant back and forth until we get a narrow list of results. If the student has no idea what to focus on, having some suggestions at hand always helps. This is one of the places where all that reading librarians do (or should be doing) pays off.

To those in library school or starting out as librarians in instruction, or maybe just reference librarians asked to teach an occasional class, this is not rocket science. It does take some level of preparation, but it also takes some enthusiasm and more importantly, some interest for the students you may be working with. In my case, I have a teaching degree, so what I learned from there helps a lot. But even if you lack such experience, keep in mind you already have a lot of knowledge, and you have a strong sense of serving your patrons. Those are two strengths you bring to any teaching session. So, rely on those to help you through if you are a bit nervous or uncertain. Practice makes perfect, the more you present and teach, the easier it becomes. For me, I could spend the day in a classroom and then in the reference area to apply the classroom lessons. And you can't be afraid to make mistakes. Now and then you may run a search and get no results. This is a teachable moment. Ask why the search did not work. Let them offer suggestions as well. Anyways, just a few thoughts at the end of two small sessions during the summer term. I know, maybe someday I will put some of this in a more coherent form, add some more ideas, write a book. That will be the day, not because I think it impossible, but because right now, I would rather be doing it than talking about it. It was a good day, a bit tiring, since I am the type of guy who flourishes in teaching and being with a group, but then I have to recharge the battery. Actually, writing in here is one way for me to reload the energy. Those of us who teach and enjoy it know that it can be a great feeling when it all comes together, and today, it came together quite nicely. Maybe down the road we'll write that book. Today, I am just having a little fun.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Reading around the world: some notes

Through LIS News, I found an item reporting that Russian's Love Affair with Books is Fading. In LIS News, Blake points to an article from the St. Petersburgh Times that reports on Russians reading less. The article opens with the following statistics:

37% of Russian people never read books
52% of them never buy books

The article gives various reasons for these numbers. Some of the reasons may seem familiar to us, such as competition from the internet and television. The head of the Reading Center at the Russian National Library is quoted as saying, ". . .we, as librarians, have an interest in our readers taking an interest in serious literature, which makes them think and speculate, not just relax." This comment is in the context of the report which states that people who may be short on time and working a lot prefer to read literature that is relaxing. I personally wonder what some readers' advisors would have to say about that. And I am not even getting into the whole "give them good constructive stuff versus give them what they want" debate. Overall, I think the article is well worth reading.

For readers into the Harry Potter phenomenon, El Clarín reports from Argentina that the English edition of the new Harry Potter book is the number one seller there. This is significant because it marks the first time that a foreign language book is at the top of all Argentine bestseller lists. Buyers have been collectors who wanted a copy but will never read it in English, those who follow Harry's saga who will also buy it in Spanish when it comes out, and those who do read in English. According to the headline, the Spanish edition will not be available until January 2006. There is also this other article reporting on the initial book sales overall around the world. Articles are written in Spanish.

Skills for librarians and professional educators.

Just a short note of two places to look at:

Meredith Farkas writes about skills you should be picking up in library school or soon thereafter. A nice piece with good advice.

Jenny the Shifted Librarian provides a list of 20 technology skills that educators, and yes that includes librarians, should have. I am happy to report I am competent in most, but there is still work to do. It is nice to see it laid out like that on a list.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

A little note on writing posts for the blog

I just realized it had been three days since I posted here. It has not been for lack of ideas. Actually, I have at least one post draft in the cue waiting for me to refine it and a couple of other ideas for things to write about. However, the duties of work come first, and in the last couple of days, it got busy as I had to work with an online class through WebCT, had at least one student consultation, and a couple of other little things that came my way including a BI session I am doing next Monday. Now, by all means, this is not a complaint. I love my job; I love being busy and on the run at times, but sometimes they tend to all come at once. I guess what makes me take this moment to reflect is pondering about what is a good pace for posting and writing on the blog. I am not one to prescribe to anyone what they should do (as if I knew) let alone be someone to follow prescriptions. However, what I wonder is the issue of speed and timeliness in blogs, or at least as I have observed it.

There are some blogs out there dedicated to keeping up with news and articles. The work of such places, like Mr. Cohen and Mr. Bell is highly appreciated; it helps me keep up. There are other blogs that focus on issues like technology and so on. While I am technologically savvy, and I have some interest, I am certainly not a technolust person. And then, there are the wise ones out there (they know who they are) who make the pronouncements that the mortals like us link to as part of the learning process. Ok, so pronouncements may be a bit extreme, or not? So, where does that place me? I think at the end of the day it places me somewhere between where I want to be and where I would like to be. I am using this as a tool of reflection, as a learning instrument, as an aide to keep up with my profession, and as a way to look over some other related interests. Where would I like to be? I am not sure to be perfectly honest. At least not at this point in time. I like exercising my writing skills a little while thinking about various things. But I know I am not about to post every single day and more than one time a day. Some weeks I will, but some weeks will be more like this one where a couple of days go by. I come back, and it feels like I have been gone for a while. I then look at some of the drafts or notes I have made for myself to blog about, and I have to admit, I get of get a little overwhelmed. Not that much different from where I was writing for other deadlines. The difference here is that I make the deadline, so to speak. Ok, so there is no deadline other than try to get to it in a somewhat timely fashion. Hmm, I think I will let the gentle readers out there in on a secret. I like the flexibility. The uses I listed above give me a pretty high degree of flexibility, and while I hope someone out there finds it interesting, or at least mildly amusing, the reality is am I writing for myself and then for the profession. Hmm, sounds lofty, the profession. Am I saying this blog is my form of service? In a very small way, perhaps. But first, it is my way to make meaning, and making meaning and creating a little bit of knowledge takes time. Sometimes you have to let the ideas percolate before you bring them to life. So, if a day or two goes by, not to worry. We'll get there. Journeys are a matter of taking steps, and a lot of the fun is travelling rather than getting there.

So, in the meantime, what is on the cue? Well, reminders for myself really:

The whole Hillsborough, FL event about the Gay Pride display in a library

I have a new booknote coming up, and some ideas on the Reader's Rights

Some things on reading around the world

That WebCt class

Or whatever else tickles my fancy (hehe)

So, gentle readers, stay tuned. I know I will. I am having too much fun for one. And for another, I think I like these two thoughts about it:

  • One, E.L. Doctorow said, "Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go."
  • Two, Brenda Ueland, American educator, who said that "writing is not a performance but a generosity."
I can't think of better words to describe what it is I do. Best.

On e-mail at work, or beware what type

The July 15th, 2005 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education features an article by Piper Fogg entitled "Paper Trail." If you have an online subscription, you can likely access it, but you can also get the print version. The article is the story of a History professor who uses his state's open records laws to get e-mails written by colleagues. While the article reads almost like a soap opera, the article does serve as a reminder that if you are a state employee, and a large number of us in academia are, then your e-mail is subject to the open records laws. Most states have such laws in one form or another. The article does note that "though many states prevent the disclosure of personnel records, Georgia is not one of them" (A20). The story takes place in Georgia, and it was a dispute over a spousal hire. The point is that if you work for a state, and this includes public universities, you need to be aware of this. Take some time to find out what exactly are the laws in your state, and you should remember to always be careful with you e-mail, or other form of communication connected to your state agency (the public university in this case), especially if you are using the employer's e-mail. Monitoring is a given, and open records mean anyone can ask for the correspondence. For more information, readers may be interested in visiting the Electronic Frontier Foundation page, which is always a good source of information on digital issues. I just did a brief search on "e-mail and workplace" and got various pieces of information. Worth a look.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Ideas for the Performance Evaluation

I am almost at my one year anniversary at my place of employment. This means that my first performance evaluation is coming up fast. This is another detail that the powers that be often neglect to tell those out in the job hunt. You learn about it once you get hired, but it would help to have a sense of what such a process entails and how to prepare for it. Procedures vary from employer to employer. The employee handbook/guide should be one of the first places you should be reading as you prepare for this. If you have done well throughout the year, kept track of accomplishments and areas to improve over time, getting ready for the evaluation itself should be a little easier. I have managed to keep track of some things. When I started here I just created a simple Word document and labeled it "accomplishments list" for the academic year. Every time I completed something, I entered it in. It was not perfect, but it certainly gave me a headstart for the upcoming evaluation. I personally find helpful the idea of making a portfolio. For me, this comes from my teaching background. I wish I would have been a bit more diligent in pulling those artifacts together, but at least they are in a place where I can get my hands on them.

For those out there who may be facing this process, the ALA-APA's (that is the ALA's Allied Professional Association) Library Worklife featured an article on "How to Prepare for a Performance Evaluation." I would link to it, but unfortunately you need a subscription to access articles. My director has access to it, and I get a password from her. You can likely check if your library has a subscription already. The article can be found in Volume 2, Number 7 for July 2005. It is written by Christine Martin. Since I am not linking, I will summarize some of the suggestions, which I hope readers may find helpful:

  • You need to know who will be the evaluator and on what you will be evaluated. This may sound simple at first. What it means is not only knowing who is writing that evaluation. It also means knowing how you will be reviewed in terms of your job description. Don't know your job description? Get a hold of it. If it is out of date, you may have to do the updating. A key question to ask, according to the author, is "what is different or better because I am on the job?"
  • Build a file of your accomplishments. Document your victories throughout the year. This includes articles published, conferences attended (especially if you presented), notes from coworkers, customers, or supervisors. For instance, I have some thank you notes from faculty I have provided instruction for that I might consider using for this. For projects completed, be ready to discuss its results.
  • Prepare for the evaluation as well by asking questions. Bring up any items you would like to discuss. The article provides some sample questions an employee should ask him/herself as they prepare. For example: what critical abilities does my job require? What do I like about my job? What don't I like? How could my supervisor help me? What have I done since my last appraisal to prepare myself for more responsibility? (this may not be as applicable if it is the first time, and you have no prior appraisals. But the part about preparing for more responsibility is always applicable). Also look at your personal career objectives, and be prepared to set new goals for improvement.
  • Keep in mind your supervisor is nervous too about the process. You should expect a written copy of your evaluation after it is completed. This copy may include future goals and a plan to achieve the goals.
The article is almost like a checklist. I think I will be doing a combination of a checklist (have my documentation ready for the portfolio) and some kind of reflective statement (this may take more time, but I tend to work well when I can take the time to write things out). Anyhow, I hope readers out there will find this useful.

College English Article on Film The Matrix

The College English issue 32.3 (2005) has a very interesting article on the film The Matrix. The article, "Coded Discourse: Romancing the (Electronic) Shadow in The Matrix," is written by Jason Haslam. The article may be accessible electronically to those libraries who get Project Muse, or readers can check for a print copy at their library. College English is one of the journals I keep on my reading list, and for Project Muse periodicals, I have an alert set up with them so I get their tables of contents as they come out or are added to the database. Science fiction happens to be one of my academic areas of interest, so this article caught my attention. In addition, at least one of the freshman composition classes do papers on film and popular culture topics, and I have seen a share of students write on films like The Matrix. So I am also making this note to remind myself later about this article in case a student comes by.

The article itself provides a reading on the film that argues that the film, and cyberpunk in general, can be read as a critique of enlightenment subjectivity. The article then goes on to review how the film has been read by other critics. For instance, it provides a discussion of the film in racial terms. The film has been discussed as an African American narrative with the character of Morpheus as a father figure and the struggle of Zion as one of a fight against oppression and slavery. To support this, the author cites the work of Toni Morrison in Playing in the Dark where she argues that the story of a Black person is often taken over by White American literature. The second section of the article provides a brief discussion of gender issues looking at the characters of Neo and Trinity. The article then discusses the role of Oracle, and it looks at how that character may be representative of the stereotype of the mammy. All this leads to the situation where Neo becomes the Chosen One. However, as the other films reveal, there is the problem that there is no total freedom in the end. This is the conclusion the author leads the readers to. He concludes that the films may highlight the problem in Neo's and the Ai's power, but that neither Hollywood nor cyberpunk allow the politicized narratives to break to the surface. Those are left up to the viewers (107). (The author notes that he wrote his essay after the last film in the trilogy was released, but he is looking at the first film as a stand-alone piece. However, he uses reference to the other two films as necessary to the argument).

For students looking for a good example of a scholarly discussion of this film, with some notes on the genre of cyberpunk, this article will work. The article also includes good endnotes and an excellent bibliography.

I would like to explore further some of the narratives the author presents. The author mentions that this film falls within other science fiction films that use the alternate plot device where a character realizes the world around him/her is a fake. He mentions the work of Philip K. Dick (a favorite of mine) as an example, but I missed seeing a reference to the film Dark City. I think this may make for a possible research possibility for me later on. Another interesting reference was to the work of Nicola Nixon who sees the corporations in William Gibson's novel Neuromancer figured in orientalist terms and discusses the image of the cyberspace cowboy. I think it would be interesting to see how these ideas have progressed since the 1984 release of Neuromancer, considered the classic of cyberpunk.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Book Meme, or where are the books?

I saw this meme in in LIS-Dom here, and it has been sitting in my notes for a while. I figure it's about time I get to it now that I am relaxing a bit at home, so here goes:

1. Total number of books I have owned: Hmm, this is a tricky question. I have had books pretty much throughout my life, from the moment my mother began to put them in my hand to today. That is a lot of books if you want to look at it from owned in my life up to this point. Then, there are textbooks for college (but we don't really want to count those, do we? Maybe some). I moved to my job last year, so I had to do some serious weeding before I came here. So, I guess I better go with about how many I have in my workspace at home now. Give or take, I'll say about 300. It's probably more, but I am "eyeballing" it now as I type.

2. Last book I bought: Paulo Coehlo, La Quinta Monta~na (Spanish edition of The Fifth Mountain), Frederick Pohl, ed., The SFWA Grand Masters, vol. 3. I don't think I am buying as much since I am reading more from the new books we get at the library. However, I still buy a few.

3. Last book I read: Reymundo Sanchez, My Bloody Life: The Making of a Latin King. You can read my blog post on it here.

4. Last book I finished: Same as above. However, I am a firm believer in the right not to finish a book if it is not engaging or interesting. There are too many books out there to waste time on something that is not good.

5. Five books that mean a lot to me: Hmm, another tricky question. I am not sure I have five. Off the top, I can name:

  1. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Cien A~nos de Soledad (translated in English as One Hundred Years of Solitude). This is probably my all time favorite book. It is the one book that I feel I have to reread every so often. Macondo is a special place I can revisit again and again. This is one of the books I would want on a deserted isle if I had to choose a number of books for such a situation. I find it engaging, interesting, engrossing.
  2. Paulo Coehlo, El Alquimista (Spanish edition of The Alchemist). I read it last summer, and it is now another one I will likely reread. The fable of a man in search of his personal destiny came to me during my search for this job. I gave up a doctoral program to pursue my MLS and then become a librarian. It was a leap of faith, and once I made it, I knew it was my place in the universe, if one can see it in such terms. That job hunting summer was a harrowing experience with ups and downs, and the book gave me inspiration as well as reassurance.
  3. Fabulas de Iriarte, a book of Tomas de Iriarte's fables which one of my aunts gave me as birthday present when I was a boy. Sadly, the book got lost somewhere when my parents moved. I have fond memories of that little illustrated volume because it was one of the first books I owned as well as one that I loved reading through.
  4. Eduardo Galeano, Las Venas Abiertas de America Latina (translated as Open Veins of Latin America). I read this in my first semester as an undergraduate. I started out as an engineering major (if you can believe that). I read it for an elective class on Hispanic Culture, Language and Identity. The class was one of the places where I learned I was more suited to be a teacher and educator. The book also helped to shape some of the ideas and beliefs I hold about social justice and responsibilities.
  5. Robert Fulghum, All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I don't think this one needs much explanation. It is significant as one of the books I was reading as I was getting ready to student-teach years ago. It is one of those books that reminds me that certain simple values are important. The world would be a much better place if more people remembered what they learned back in kindergarten.

5. Five (more or less) people I'd like to see do this as well: Pretty much anyone who may venture to read this. Some of my colleagues at work, I would be curious what they would say. My mother, who is an avid reader and inspired me, in so many ways, to read in learn , though not sure I could get her to do it online.

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Collection Hour: Transported to Heaven

Our director proposed earlier in the week a Collection Hour. According to her instructions:

"From 2pm to 3pm this Friday, July 15th, you stop the normal course of work and do something to get to know our collection better. That could be reading a book, looking for books you want to check out, browsing part of the collection, reading magazine or journal articles, practicing with a database, practicing Web searching techniques, watching a video or DVD – anything that helps you learn more about our collection in the broad sense, including print and electronic formats. I think we have a great resource here, and we of all people should enjoy it!"

I tried to come up with something smart and very efficient. Maybe go through some of the resources on the web page and review the Gov.Docs. web sites we have available. But I have done some of that already. As for choosing a book to read, I have at least three on cue, and while I love reading, I wanted something different. Finally, I decided on some music. We have a small, but very nice music collection. I should know, since as Arts and Humanities Librarian, it is one of my duties to help develop it. I have been doing some major selecting to remedy certain areas, but that is a separate story. At any rate, one of the questions I often get at the Reference Desk are from students from the music appreciation classes. They come in looking for specific pieces of music, usually a composer or music from a particular time period. As I sat thinking what can I do for my hour, it came to me. I will choose some music and simply listen. This would allow me to enjoy a part of the collection, and it would likely give me an opportunity to listen to some of the things the students listen to.

We keep our A/V collection in the Technical Services area, so videos and CD's have to be searched in the catalog and retrieved for patrons. This is due to space restrictions. At any rate, I walked to the back and browsed through some of the CD's. I am currently listening to a set of CD's entitled A Festival of Gregorian Chants (Madacy Music Group, 1992). I feel like I am floating in a cloud as I listen to the ethereal voices of monks singing chants. There is a certain phantasmagoric quality to the music, and I can feel myself sway just a little as their voices carry the melodies that in medieval times were sung to worship. The collection is a four volume set with selections from various choirs, so I think it should give listeners a taste of the genre. This is music for closing your eyes and letting yourself be transported to someplace peaceful. So, readers, if you are a librarian, take an opportunity and find something nice in your collection to enjoy. Maybe go find books or music or videos you always meant to indulge, but keep putting on that to do list. It's time to check some of them off that list. It is your collection, you should enjoy as well as your patrons. And if you are a community member, just take the time to visit your local library. You never know what you may find. As for me, at least for now, I am going back to my little piece of heaven. Peace.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Survey on How Americans Search the Web

Chris Sherman, writing for SearchEngineWatch, writes an article discussing the finding of a recent Harris Poll on the web searching habits of Americans. The statistics are interesting, and for some of us, they give reaffirmation to some things we already suspected, like the large numbers of people using the web for things like finding directions and comparison shopping. Another interesting finding is that "when people are searching for entertainment purposes, the majority (61%) are looking for show times or reviews, rather than download sources." It may seem like so much for the threats from download services to movies and music, but that is another article. The article also provides links to similar studies, so readers can make comparisons and draw their own conclusions.

Astronomy Reference Question, Out of the Blue

Last Friday (7/8/05), I was at the Information Desk in the early morning. The phone rang, and the patron at the other end of the line asked the following question:

"Can the M-13 Cluster be seen close to the Scorpio Constellation?"

Of course, I could not tell him off the top of my head. I initially tried to do some online searching as I talked to him to gather a bit more information, but there was something going on the background, likely his call waiting. At least, that was his claim. At any rate, he said he would call back, and while I waited, I decided it would be easier to find some books on the topic to get an answer. The man never called back. Nevertheless, here is the answer to the best of my ability:

The answer is no. You cannot see the M-13 Cluster near the Scorpio Constellation. However, you can see the M-6, M-7, M-4, and M-80. These are listed as clusters near or part of the Scorpio Constellation. I found the answers here:

  1. Chartrand III, Mark R. Skyguide: A Field Guide for Amateur Astronomers. New York: Golden Press, 1982. Who says those little Golden Guides are not handy? See page 184 for the listing.
  2. Burham Jr., Robert. Burnham's Celestial Handbook: An Observer's Guide to the Universe Beyond the Solar System. New York: Dover Publications, 1978. This book provides detailed lists of stars, clusters, and other celestial objects. Can see page 1651 for the listing, and there is a narrative description of the Scorpio Constellation starting on page 1655.

Booknote: My Bloody Life

I am trying out a new format for my book notes and reviews. We'll see how it works.
Title: My Bloody Life: The Making of a Latin King
Author: Reymundo Sanchez (pseudonym)
Published in 2000 by Chicago Review Press
Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Memoir
299 pages
Similar authors or titles: Sanyika Shakur's Monster (1994), Piri Thomas's Down These Mean Streets (1967).

This is the harrowing and moving account of Reymundo Sanchez, a man who at the age of 14 became a member of the feared Latin Kings gang. Born in Puerto Rico, Sanchez moves to Chicago. His childhood is lost as his father dies, then his mother discards him, and his stepbrother rapes him. These events fuel the downward spiral that leads to his gang membership. Sanchez's book is written in an engaging and graphic style. Drugs, sex, and violence are common ocurrences, a fact of life. Known in the gang as King Lil Loco, Sanchez's reputation increases on the basis of his violent actions.

Sanchez writes about the need young people feel to belong to something. He writes how he was lost without parents in an inner city where if you were not a member of a gang you would not survive. The gang provided him with love, a place to belong, and other benefits. However, the irony for Sanchez is the fact that he did not want to join but did so anyways. As he describes his initiation ritual, he writes that "I stood there like an idiot with no desire to be a King but no courage to say so. The one chance I had to prove that I was not a coward by speaking up and saying so passed me by. Because of my cowardice I was about to be initiated into the biggest and most violent Latino gang in Chicago" (139). And he was initiated after a three minute beating at the hands of his own brothers.

At times, some readers may think gang life is glamorous, but Sanchez soon dispels this. Sanchez had women, alcohol, drugs, and guns as well as the love of his brothers. However, he finds out that women usually want him because he was violent; they were more aroused the more violent he was. There are a couple of female figures who try to help him, but he rejects them, only to see later they were trying to help him. Drugs and alcohol destroy his life, especially drugs. His addiction eventually makes him too dangerous even for his Latin King brothers. As for guns, he shots people and gets shot at. And he comes to see that "Amor de Rey" ("King Love") is fickle and far from loyal. Sanchez had to fear his fellow gang members just as much, if not more at times, than members of rival gangs. To make matters worse, police corruption was ever present, and the adults in these youths lives often facilitated their gang banging lifestyle.

This book is a strong cautionary tale. Readers who may pick it up due to fascination with gangs, not unlike fascination with true crime tales or mob stories, may soon lose some of the fascination as Sanchez reveals his path of self destruction. This is a moving tale of what really happens inside a gang. I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Some lessons from a job search

Meredith Farkas did at her blog one of the things that I have been meaning to do for a while, and that is to write a reflection on the job hunt experience. My overall experience was mixed, and it was gruesome at times. I think the fact that I had a very bad experience at one place has kept me from writing it up because I don't want to rant (as much as they may deserve it). I have mentioned bits and pieces, but I have not sat down to make a nice little post of the whole ordeal. Maybe someday. I will rush to say it was not the place where I now work. I remember going home after the interview from the place I now work at and telling my wife, "these are the nicest people I have met, and everything just fell into place. I am going to be very sad if I don't get this one." Thanks the powers that be, I am here touching lives a student at a time (ok, faculty too). But I did learn some useful things from the job hunting experience, some of which Ms. Farkas discusses very well in her piece. She has created a very nice list of tips that job hunters may want to keep in mind. A lot of it is common courtesy, which maybe things that employers may want to read too. So until I get around to my reflection, I urge readers to go over to Ms. Farkas blog. The post is well written, and the lessons are ones we can all learn from. I also hope that more people out there will write their experiences up as well. If for no other reason than to show others that things are not as rosy as ALA and library schools would have us believe. I wrote a bit about that here for those interested.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Bloggers Beware When Applying for Jobs

You would think that with various stories of people losing jobs over their blogs and other such events, that bloggers would learn to watch what they say on their blogs. I always said that if I ever got the urge of posting something less than flattering, I would make sure I would do it anonymously on some other service. No sense shooting myself in the foot over a moment of ranting by putting my name on it. Notice I say if I ever get the urge. I am not a believer in airing anyone's dirty laundry (online or otherwise), and I am not about to start now. Besides, I also keep an "old fashioned" personal journal, you know the paper and ink type, where you actually have to write by hand? Yes, one of those, which I don't use as often, but often enough. Plus I carry it for when I am not online. Easier to write about places visited quick in a small notebook than dragging a laptop, well, for me anyhow.

So, what prompts this? Rochelle at Random Access Mazar has a reflective post about bloggers in the job hunt. In her post, she refers to an article posted in The Chronicle of Higher Education about some small liberal arts college that looked at blogs of job candidates. I have to say that I also cringed at some of the behavior described about the bloggers, but more importantly, I was very concerned over the attitudes of the college when it came to bloggers. The one example about the candidate with the humanities Ph.D. who is also a computer science expert, as reflected in his blog, raises a flag (based on the article, I think this is the gentleman in question. If not, I am apologizing in advance. I did the same thing the school did, which was use Google). So, they basically rejected the guy because they were afraid of his technological prowess? I have to admit I went over and looked at the blog, and while it is a bit too technical for me, I don't think that makes it a reason to disqualify the candidate. Rochelle makes a good point that the school seems to have a very negative (shall we label it acid or toxic?) overall in terms of people who blog or who even express an opinion for that matter. Rochelle writes,

"Apparently, when it comes to getting a job, it would be best if candidates appear meek, mild, and without opinions, ready to be inoffensive to everyone she meets. Again, I realize full well that there are inappropriate rants that get published on blogs, and I'm the first to cringe at them and work on writing up the blogging policy, but doesn't it seems odd to disqualify a candidate because s/he is prepared to express opinions in any forum? It would be nice if the concept of academic freedom actually meant that academics generally respected and supported the idea of free thought and expression for everyone, but apparently this doesn't work everywhere."

Apparently not. Personally, I did not start blogging until after I got my job; this was initially an experiment, and it still is. I express some opinions about professional issues, reflect on topics of academic and librarianship interest, and react to events and news. However, I keep a second blog for things that fall a little outside that. I am an educator, an academic, a librarian. I am not a machine in a vacuum, and writing is one of the ways I use to learn more about the world around me. It allows me at times to explore ideas I may develop later for more formal writing. It allows me to reflect on various things. It allows me to explore opinions, weigh arguments, try out concepts. That is part of what being in an academic profession is about, expanding knowledge as well as making meaning. And, here comes my moment of rant: if an employer cannot see that because they are too worried about possible image problems, maybe they are someone I should not be working for. Maybe they do need to clean up their laundry so it does not get aired.

Having said that, bloggers out there: you should know better by now. I am not saying you should censor yourselves or limit your expression, but some sense of professionalism is in order. And if you need to rant, or you just want more of a therapeutic diary or journal, at least use an anonymous blog. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has an excellent guide on how to blog safely here. I know that one can never be fully anonymous on the web, but at least make an effort if need be. The way I see it, don't give a potential employer an excuse to disqualify you. You have worked hard to get to where you are at, you likely have excellent credentials. Don't let a personal blog cancel all that out. On the other hand, if you have an excellent professional blog you are proud of, definitely show them that. If they dismiss it, maybe you should be looking elsewhere. It's a matter of balance.

Update Note (7/11/05): Leave for the weekend, and this thing explodes. Caveat Lector (always a good place to read) takes a deep breath and posts on the subject and also provides links to various other bloggers speaking on the topic. Looking over the links will give a nice overall summary of the responses to the Chronicle article. From her post, I got the link to Matthew G. Kirschenbaum's post on why he blogs under his name. I have to say I found it encouraging, and it gave me some hope to keep blogging under my name. I hope he gets enough comments and trackbacks to send back to the Chronicle. As for myself, I don't have the big networks other folks have, but I am in no rush either. I say it because Professor Kirschenbaum mentions that networking is a good reason to blog. I know I just try to make a good impression; we'll see from there. In the meantime, I can only hope to live another day to fight ignorance and intolerance out there. Is that not what every educator wants? Just an idea.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

TLS article on Ismail Kadare, winner of International Man Booker Prize

TLS: The Times Literary Supplement for June 24, 2005 has an article written by Robert Elsie on Albanian writer Ismail Kadare. The article, "Subtle Dissent of a Balkan Bard" provides a good overview of the author's works and life. The article may be of interest to readers of literary fiction who may want to learn more about this writer. I made a note previously that he is listed in The Guardian's list of ten overseas writers to read.

Academic Journal features special issue on Terror Wars

CR: The New Centennial Review 5.1 (Spring 2005) is a special feature on the topic of "Terror Wars." It caught my eye because terrorism and related topics has become a popular topic in some of the freshman composition classes for argumentative research papers. In fact, I have even prepared a couple of pathfinders on the topic in response to the need. The journal may be of interest to students, but I think more to faculty looking for approaches to discussion as well as to learn about the rhetoric of the wars on terror. My library gets the journal through Project Muse, so if your library has Project Muse, they may already get this journal. I think of particular interest may be Yaseen Noorani's article "The Rhetoric of Security" that provides an analysis of the discourse of security used by the United States, and the Stam and Shohat article on anti-Americanism "Variations on an Anti-American Theme;" however, the other articles may be of interest also as resources for a student that may be looking at issues such as the language of the war, the rhetoric of terrorism, propaganda, and similar issues.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Teaching how to choose and evaluate sources: some thoughts

Barbara Fister provides some food for thought in her article "Choosing Sources in the Library of Babel." The article was featured in the LOEX Quarterly (vol. 31, number 4). The article opens with the description of the Library of Babel, title library from Jorge Luis Borges's 1941 short story. It is actually one of my favorite Borges stories, so the reference to Borges definitely caught my attention. Also, summer is a bit slower in terms of instruction (it means I don't teach as much), so for me this is a good time to reflect on my teaching practices, study, reflect, read, and thus add to my repertoire for the Fall. Reading this article served to give me some validation to some of my pracitces, but it also gave me some reminders of things to keep in mind as I teach as well as food for thought. Ms. Fister uses the description to show us that libraries actually have a lot in common with the internet. She makes some excellent points that I think any librarian who does instruction will find interesting and valuable. I would like to post some of her statements with some comments on my part.

On the common elements share by libraries and the internet, she writes that "both hold a vast amount of material, much of it contradictory, of poor quality, and out of date. Both also require researchers to make constant choices as they examine their options" (6).

If the weeding I have been working on at my library is any indication, the first part of that statement is certainly true, at least the part of out of date material. If you work at a large research library that tends to keep a lot of stuff, that issue is multiplied. I see weeding as tending to my part of the knowledge garden; you have to remove some things for the garden to flourish. In our own situation, we do have a space issue, so I have a bit of an additional incentive, but I am sure many librarians view the need to weed as the balance to the need to collect and add. In terms of adding, I am sure that all librarians strive to acquire excellent materials. However, anyone who relies on reviews knows that the occasional not-so-good book slips "under the radar" once in a while. Even if a certain book had excellent reviews, it does not mean it was a great book. It just illustrates the fact that we are not infallible, so we should not expect our students to be infallible in evaluating sources. The idea is to teach them how to evaluate what they find, be it online, in print, or in some other format. Keep reading.

The issue of convenience. Fister connects this idea with Ranganathan's Law of Save the Reader's Time. She points out that students find the internet convenient and familiar. This is a familiarity that students bring with them to college. In contrast, they have little or no familiarity with an academic library or how it operates. Fister writes:

"But students usually find the web more convenient to use than libraries, and far simpler in its organization. After all, through one simple interface you can find newspaper articles, government reports, recipes, and recycled term papers, and send them straight to the printer without leaving your computer. When we try to tell them that it's not all on the Internet, they aren't impressed. They don't want it all--they simply want enough to get the job done. And they'd often rather scan through fifty pages of Google results to find what they want than search unfamiliar databases, check holdings, chase down books, and photocopy articles" (6).

I can attest to this both from the reference desk and from the classroom. Tell a student that they may have to seek and photocopy an article from a periodical, and you might as well be telling them that they have to go on a quest through the forest of darkness past the river of eternity while defying the dragon of fire. And if the article is on microfiche, you might as well be condemning them to meditate truths on the Tree of Woe (and if you happen to be a "younger" librarian who never had to touch a microfiche reader, it may feel like woe to you too. Yes, some people go through library school without ever touching one. I had to touch them for my Gov. Docs. class for one, and boy, am I glad). Remote storage? Let's just say the voyage of the Event Horizon will look like a stroll in the park by comparison. I work at a small library; we are located in one story of a building. Readers can then imagine the feelings increasing if periodical stacks are on separate floors, or even a separate building. I am not completely pessimistic. In my experience, I can usually reassure students that the process is achievable, and I can often walk with them to the stacks, which helps to demistify the process a bit. And of course, there are things like J-Stor, which make slaying that fire dragon just a little easier. This issue does reflect some of the comments and observations I have been seeing on the blogosphere and the literature about how libraries need to improve their access points and be more like search engines (a search on a good library science database will likely yield many articles on this, or search for what librarians say on their blogs on a tool like Technorati). Regardless of where readers stand, it is something to think about. I only know the answer is not putting everything online nor discouraging use of online sources. It comes down to balance and education; it also comes down to giving students credit for their abilities. Fister seems to agree with this, which I think is common sense for any teacher.

Fister also writes about student exposure to the Internet and the need to be sceptical. She does so in the context of the many articles available about how students rely too much on tools like Google. She writes:

"The irony is that students are far more likely to have been exposed, at some level, to the need for skepticism when reading a website. They are essentially much more likely to have authored a website than to have published their writing in a traditional form. They have a grasp of where websites come from" (6).

In my experience, I have noticed that information literacy programs tend to assume that students simply take the Internet as it comes with no critical thinking or evaluation. Students are knowledgeable when it comes to using the Internet, so this is not a good assumption to make. Having said that, there are the students who do grab the first five results off Google without even thinking. As a former composition teacher, I graded my share of papers where that was the case. Overall though, to be blunt, students are not as clueless as librarians think they are (insert news flash neon lights here). It is necessary to note that this assumption is often reinforced by the students' professors. For instance, I often get the request from professors to "show them how to evaluate the Internet." I wonder to myself, "just the Internet, huh?" I never vocalize it though. I have some materials I use for such requests, but I also try to show them examples of websites. I find that asking students to find flaws with some websites is a good exercise. True, I get a share of blank stares, but I also get excellent answers. So I know they know how to look at a website, even if they have to put a bit of effort into it. I have discovered that what students often need is some reinforcement and refining. Show them some good tools, give them a good checklist maybe, then let them practice and rise to the ocassion.

On print sources, I agree with Fister that students need to know more about evaluating books and magazines. Fister uses this illustration: "Though we can give them checklists of what makes a journal article 'scholarly,' we don't always mention that a shabby piece of trivial research published in a third tier journal may be less valuable than a rigorously researched and imaginative article in Harper's. The fact that a text has been 'edited' or 'has gone through the peer review process' doesn't make it true" (7). Indeed. This is a challenge that I often face when I teach, and it was there when I was a professor. I find that demistifying (there goes that word again) the process works well. I bring samples of journals and magazines to my classes; I have students look at them. When I can, I have them do quick assessments of some of the content. My idea is to teach them, or rather show them, how to question everything. The idea at the end of the day is to show them how to think for themselves and to do so in an informed and intelligent way. I have my work cut out for me, but I would not have it any other way.

Fister concludes the article by listing traits of successful student researchers. She writes:

"How do undergraduates who succeed at research evaluate their sources? First, they start with an understanding of the rhetorical power of using well-chosen references. They know that the goal is to marshal evidence to support their argument, and they realize that strong evidence is more persuasive than weak or second-hand evidence. . .Second, they look for patterns and connections among the sources they examine. . .They don't need to research the authors' backgrounds to find out if they are credentialed. Instead, they look at how the authors are situated within the literature they are examining. And finally, they read their sources to see if the ones on which they rely offer a well-framed argument supported by evidence" (7,5).

This is quite an undertaking, but it is by no means impossible. As experts on information, librarians stand in a good position to assist students with their research. We can help them with our expertise on sources to help them make the best possible sources. We can serve as sounding boards now and then. We can strive to model and show them ways to engage in the conversations that make new knowledge. I am thinking that rather than gatekeepers, we are more like guides, and eventually, they will take the pebble from our hand. At least, as an educator, I like to think so.

Term of the day: Continuous Partial Attention.

This is just too good not to make a note of it here. Library Stuff links to an article from The Boston Globe defining this term. The definition is as follows:

"Continuous partial attention is that state most of us enter when we're in front of a computer screen, or trying to check out at the grocery store with a cellphone pressed to an ear -- or blogging the proceedings of a conference while it's underway. We're aware of several things at once, shifting our attention to whatever's most urgent -- perhaps the chime of incoming e-mail, or the beep that indicates the cellphone is low on juice. It's not a reflective state."

So now we finally have a name for that state of multitasking and being "in the zone." Hmm. . .or something like it. Note that it is NOT a reflective state.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Booknote: _Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina (Star Wars)_

I finished the third and final installment of the Star Wars Tales books, Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina. Like the others, this book makes good light entertainment. This one featured a good variety of tales, much like Tales from Jabba's Palace. "Nightlily: The Lover's Tale," written by Barbara Hambly, has a nice twist at the end for readers who enjoy a little surprise here and there. "Doctor Death: The Tale of Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba" is interesting because the events take place after events in the Star Wars film (Episode 4, or the very first one); it provides a creative extension to the cantina scene where Dr. Evazan and Ponda pick a fight with Luke Skywalker only to find themselves at the end of Obi Wan Kenobi's lightsaber. Most of the tales in these books usually take place within the first Star Wars trilogy, and I have mentioned before, readers often get to see a particular scene from various points of view. In this book, the scene we get to see again and again is the scene in the first film where Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi go to the cantina to find a pilot. Fans who enjoyed the cantina scene will likely enjoy reading about some of the cantina's denizens. Readers who enjoyed the other two books will enjoy this one. The books do not have to be read in any particular order, and readers do not need to have read other Star Wars books in order to pick these up. Actually, since they are short fiction, they may be better for casual readers looking for a light read and little exposure to the Star Wars universe. The books feature a good blend overall with a variety of pretty well known writers; some readers may recognize names from other works outside the Star Wars universe. For instance, A.C. Crispin has also written books for the Star Trek novels as well as novels in collaboration with Andre Norton. Overall, I recommend the books. They were published by Bantam Spectra, and they can still be found in bookstores (new and used). I found my copies in a used bookstore; however, a public library with a good science fiction and/or fantasy collection may feature them as well.

Booknote: _The Ten Commandments of Professionalism for Teachers_

Vickie Gill's little book, The Ten Commandments of Professionalism for Teachers (Corwin Press, 2005), should be handed out to all teacher education program graduates right at their commencement. This is a simple book written in a conversational style that will benefit any teacher, not just beginners. It is only 65 pages long, but the book is a tool that educators will likely revisit often. Her ten commandments are really simply principles, but they are principles that education programs often fail to tell their students, and it is often the case that new teachers have to learn some of these basics the hard way. Ms. Gill provides advice on such important topics as finding a mentor, dealing with parents, paying attention to details, and professional development. Each chapter ends with a set of questions for further reflection. These questions can be discussed in small groups, but I find that they can be used for personal reflection in the form of journal entries or other personal writing as well. I cannot recommend this book enough, and I tend to be sceptical of yet another book written by a teacher for teachers. However, this book is different. The author has a strong voice; she is passionate about her work. She writes in a clear style that invites the reader to think and reflect. I checked out the library copy, but I will likely purchase a copy for myself as well. If readers out there have a son or daughter just graduating from a teacher education program, this would make a very thoughtful gift. In addition, there are some elements here that would be very applicable to librarians and other professionals that work with people. For instance, beginning librarians often need to find a good mentor. They need to pay attention to the details. They need to continue their professional development. So, I would recommend it for librarians as well.