Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Booknote: Last One Out Turn Off the Lights

Cleyle, Susan E. and Louise M. McGillis. Last One Out Turn Off the Lights: Is This the Future of American and Canadian Libraries? Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2005.

ISBN: 0-8108-5192-X
Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Library Science

This is a collection of essays that looks at the state and future of librarianship. The essays range in topic from libraries and the Internet to involvement in library associations. The book is divided into five parts with three or four essays per section. Since it is a collection, readers can read it in order, or do what I did, which was skip around and read what seemed interesting to me. Personally, the essays I was interested in were the one on blogs by Amanda Etches-Johnson and the one about a new librarian looking at library associations by Gillian Byrne. In fact, Byrne's essay resonated with me given my strong ambivalence over being involved with a library association let alone pay dues to some national organization that is far away and run by elites with institutional support (mostly). That my academic colleagues have to belong in order to get tenure, and as result often get involved out of that Damocles's sword rather than out of dedication is a reason that makes me glad I am not on a tenure line. But I am not going to rant here over something that is pretty much fixed in stone. Overall, the book offers a good selection of essays on the theme of libraries and their future: are they still relevant, or is it time to turn the lights out for them?

Monday, January 29, 2007

On finding ideas for blogging

I am always looking for new blogging ideas. Given that the librarians' sector of the blogosphere seems to focus on a few common things, finding something different, at least in that area, is not easy. So I pretty much decided early on to go with what interests me professionally or personally. I am also on the lookout for ideas about blogging: where to get ideas, how to write better, etc.

This post then is a small collection of good posts I've seen about blogging. It is kind of a list of things I am jotting down for myself with a musing or two thrown in.

Darren Rowse, of ProBlogger, often features things I find useful. His focus is for the professional blogger, but he also has many ideas of interest for those of us who just scribble. He points to Randfish's post on "10 Web Tools to Help Generate Blog Content Ideas." Mr. Rowse then adds his own nine ideas, making it "10+9." From the Rowse's list of sources:

  • "Other blogs." At times, I find that I read an interesting blog post that sparks some thinking. However, I try to avoid using other blogs for inspiration at times mostly to avoid the echo effect. If it's been beaten to a pulp elsewhere, I don't see a reason to cover it.
  • "Books, newspapers, magazines." I can definitely agree with that. I read voraciously. Most of my news and periodicals I read online via alerts and feeds. Reading a lot of different things opens a blogger to some degree of serendipity. There are things I read that I would not want to blog about: books I started and dropped, articles that were not as interesting as I thought, etc.
  • "Brainstorming." I probably should try this out a bit more.

One thing I do is collect items in my feed reader's folders. This I have to admit is something I have mixed feelings about. I don't always get to some ideas right away. However, I am not always aiming for timely, so I don't feel a need to rush. I can let some ideas simmer. Also putting things aside means that once in a while I drop things. I may look at a clipped item weeks later only to say, "what was I thinking?" If it does not spark a light after some time, out it goes.

  • "Archives." I have not done this. I know I probably have a share of unfinished ideas and possible updates. I may have to explore this a bit.

Here's my addition to the list:

  • Teaching. Reflecting on teaching gives me some good prompts. An interesting lesson. A technique that worked out well or maybe one that did not work so well. This is one of the reasons I started my professional blog.

So, where else can we get ideas? Now and then a news item gives me an idea. I usually use a news item for commentary, just to express an opinion or maybe work out where I stand on an issue. On using news for blogging ideas, I found a post by Tony Hung, guest blogging at ProBlogger. Mr. Hung tells readers "How to Find News for Your Blog." He suggests news can give bloggers an opportunity "to demonstrate your own thought leadership in a given category." As I understand from his post, this is based on what the blogger adds to the news item with good commentary and insight. Mr. Hung goes on to explain how to keep track of news sources, organize them, and share them.

And for me, another source of ideas is observation. Taking the time to look around. I often get a couple of ideas from what I see around me. Sometimes just sitting and watching, turning off the computer, that might provide a nugget for later writing. And by the way, not all of it has to end up on the blogs. Some of it may go into my personal journal, or nowhere at all. And that is just fine as well.

I found a few other posts of interest, but I just threw them as odds and ends together into my scribbling pad over at Alchemical Thoughts. Feel free to take a look or skip. Alchemical Thoughts, what I named the blog over on the Yahoo 360! page I have, has kind of become a scratch pad of sorts. I started using it mostly when Blogger had one of its Maalox moments, but I find that when I just want to toss something quick, I put it there. It's not perfect, but oh well.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Booknote: Black Belt Librarians

Graham, Warren Davis, Jr. Black Belt Librarians: Every Librarian's Real World Guide to a Safer Workplace. Charlotte, NC: Pure Heart Press, 2006.

ISBN: 1599480275

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Library Science.

I ordered this book through our ILL after reading a review of it someplace I can't quite remember now. It is a book that my colleagues and bosses should read and act upon. Warren Graham is a library security consultant who writes in a clear, concise, and direct way. While there are a couple of suggestions in the book that I found a bit too optimistic (For example, his assumption that when asked a patron will usually comply with a request to follow the rules. I have dealt with enough incendiary patrons here to know otherwise), the overall message of planning and making the library a safe place is an important one. At 52 pages, I read this one over a lunch period. Now, for the book to be effective, library staff should not only read it, they should discuss it, then look seriously at their library, and implement the suggestions that work best for their library.

There were some quotes from the book that resonated with me. I am not really going to comment on them, tempted as I am, preferring to let them speak for themselves.

  • "A critical point: Administration has to know what they want to accomplish with the security program, and you need to know that they are going to back you up once you advise someone of policy. Everyone has to be on the same page. You simply cannot have priorities that administration doesn't have, and they cannot expect you to follow procedures if they overturn your front-line decision each time a patron complains to them" (8, emphasis mine).
  • "When advising patrons you must always go by their behavior and never their appearance. You must have the same consequences for everyone no matter what their station in life appears to be (9, emphasis in the original).
  • "You must establish a system to train all employees. You don't go into a lion cage with a book on lion taming. Everyone needs to know what is expected of them and that they will be held accountable when they do not follow through. They need to understand that security is part of everyone's job and that one person not doing their part can collapse all the safeguards that have been put in place" (11, emphasis in the original).
Our Circulation Librarian heard me recommend the book, and she has made sure that we order a copy for our library. Now let's see who else actually reads it, and more importantly, moves to implement some ideas.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Article Note: On Impact of Instruction and Catalog Searching

Citation for the article:

Novotny, Eric and Ellysa Stern Cahoy. "If We Teach, Do They Learn? The Impact of Instruction on Online Catalog Search Strategies." portal: Libraries and the Academy 6.2 (2006): 155-167.

I read the article via Project Muse.

I must be on a roll for reading articles that seem promising but then end up being another piece of stuff that I know already. This particular article deals mostly with generalities that many academic librarians already know. The article, in the end, seemed to lack substance, so it compensated by discussing broad concepts.

The article is a follow-up to a study the authors did in 2004. Here's what they did: "To determine the effectiveness of library instruction for improving user strategies, we observed a group of students after they had recently participated in an instruction session" (155). The article provides the customary literature review; in this case, it gives various references to the use of the "think-aloud" protocol in user studies. They also provide a list of problems in online catalog studies. The study takes place at the Penn State Libraries. This setting is a big contrast to my setting. For instance, the authors report that "the majority of the study participants reported receiving library instruction in high school before arriving at Penn State" (164). In other words, some pretty good college prep going on. In out setting, most of our students lack that preparation. I am saying this mostly for self-disclosure, but I also say it because, when it comes to learning about the library catalog, students share similar obstacles no matter their setting. So I wanted to seem more in this article that might be helpful in my teaching. I did not find it here.

At eight students, this seemed an extremely small sample. In their findings segment, the authors claimed that the strongest evidence in "implicit rather than explicit" (159) and that "other evidence of the impact of library instruction can be inferred" (159). I found this to be disappointing, and it made me wonder about rigor a bit. Recently, I have been thinking about the concept of impact of library services on student success. I understand it is not something that is easy to measure, but I don't think I could go to my campus administrators, who need a lot of persuasion, and say that "our evidence is implicit."

The rest of the article discusses some of the observations and moves to provide various suggestions. There was nothing terribly new here; a lot of their suggestions are things I knew from teaching experience. Some examples:

  • "The behaviors observed suggest that library instruction sessions must address students' preexisting search behaviors" (163). This basically says that Google and similar tools are a major influence on student users, nothing new about that. Therefore the authors suggest simplifying catalog instruction to focus on simple searches and how to carry them out. At face value, are they saying we should make it more like Google? Or are they saying we need to simplify because they don't think students can (or won't) learn more sophisticated searching? The making the catalog like Google debate will be with us for a while, but we should be asking those two questions and others as well.
  • In order to present a session that is most appropriate to students, librarians must be realistic about what can actually be accomplished in one instruction session and make every effort to tie instruction to the students' current research assignment. Unnecessary details should be curtailed" (163). In the interest of keeping a civil tone, I will say that the quoted statement is self-evident and presenting it in the article is redundant. In reality, faculty also have a role in making sure that library instruction is relevant. The greatest instruction librarian cannot fix a faculty member's lack of focus or planning nor his/her lack of cooperation when he/she fails to provide information about any assignment to the librarian. This common fact that many librarians face is not acknowledged at all by the authors of the article.

The article seems to fall short in terms of answering the question about impact suggested in the title. It seems more like a list of items with some statements about what librarians ought to do. However, other than telling librarians what to do, it does not consider the external, real life factors. In the end, many librarians who are experienced and well versed in terms of teaching and reference can probably skip this article.

Monday, January 22, 2007

So, I finally got on Facebook, and other things

Last Friday, on an impulsive moment (also defined as "what was I thinking?"), I went ahead and created a profile in Facebook. I figured between reading the work of the Ubiquitous Librarian and some of my small experiments with blogs and IM for outreach, I figured this might make another possible tool to be where the students are. I have no idea how this will work, but that is part of the learning process. Some of my initial impressions:

  • At least the interface seems pretty clean. It is not necessarily terribly intuitive, but it is clean. That has been a turn off for me getting a profile on MySpace. Although, one never knows.
  • The little mini-feed may be something I have to turn off. I don't need for Facebook to tell everyone or me every time I fiddle a bit with the profile. And I mean fiddle. I may read something in the editing space, save it, only to go back and fix a typo or something like that.
  • I did not put a photo of myself on the profile. I am a bit on the shy side for having my picture all over the net. OK, so the fact is I am not very photogenic and leave it at that. Instead I used a nice image I made with a South Park generator (same image I use on my Vox blog). If nothing else, it is a playful thing, and I like playful.
  • In spite of my reluctance to use my work e-mail for anything other than work, I had to use it in order to get into the UHD network rather than just the bigger Houston network, which would not be of much use to me. It does look like there is an option to change the e-mail I use to log in, so I may look into that. I know it is a quirk of mine, but it throws me off a bit having to remember to use my work e-mail to log in when I use the one from Yahoo! or Gmail for other things.
  • I might or not create a badge, we'll see.
  • Apparently you can import the feed from a blog. I have to try it out, but if it looks good, it could be a place to import my Vox blog, as that is the one I made as a student resource.
  • Overall, I am very gradually getting the hang of what I can or cannot do. Having said that, I managed to learn quite a bit for a Friday afternoon and some time on Saturday evening after the better half went to work. All I need now are some friends.
  • And on the friends topic, I will let students know in my classes that I have the profile, but I am not engaging in any active seeking. I may, however, take a look at the campus groups to see what is available and if some very light promoting of the library might work for that.

On other thoughts, I spent most of the morning today preparing for classes. I am teaching for 5 classes three this week: a higher level English class, three freshman comp sections, and a psychology class. The prep for the advanced English class, on environmental writing, took me quite a bit of time. The topic examples provided were a bit specialized, and in essence I had to spend time learning about the "hockey stick" controversy among other things. I love learning, but when it comes to preparing for a class, having to do a crash learning session in order to teach how to find good resources on a topic can be a bit rough. The September 2004 issue of National Geographic also had a nice article on global warming. It came up in one of my practice searches. If nothing else, this experience gave me a reminder that I need to read more in general sciences, and that includes also actually reading some of the science posts on my reader rather than scanning them. I know I can't know everything. My searching and learning skills prove helpful in instances like this. In a larger setting, I would pass the class on to the science librarian. Here, I wear multiple hats, so passing it off is not an option. Another good thing is I have worked with the professor before when he taught basic composition.

All in all, the day is moving along, and I am staying busy.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A little outreach, or so I am sitting at this table

Our campus recently hosted a Welcome Week for students. This is our first week back for the Spring Semester. As often happens, we get an invitation to these types of things when someone has an afterthought of "ohh, might be cool if the library could have a table there." If I sound a bit snarky, it's because I found out about the event late last week (let me rephrase: I was aware of the event; I was just not aware we were invited), which gave me a whole 48 hours to confirm our attendance and location, make sure that we had some things to give away (I think people call that the "swag"), and then make sure my schedule was set so I could be there from 11:30am to 1:00pm on three days. Today was our last day.

Leaving aside the snark, it was definitely well worth the effort for us to be there. I had the good fortune of having a table right next to the nice folks from our campus writing center. By the way, the writing center has a satellite location in the library, and they should be announcing their hours for the library satellite soon. At any rate, we were able to meet with some students, promote the library and the writing center together, and overall it was a nice time. What I also noticed while I was at our table is that people saw the sign for the library, and they would stop by and ask questions from directions to some basic reference questions. I got at least seven of those queries over two days, which was not bad. I have been bouncing the idea with my supervisor that I could borrow one of the old laptops we kept in the old instruction room, and set up a mobile reference librarian in the food court or other public area for short periods of time during the week. Based on the people that stopped by, I think there may be an opportunity there waiting to be tapped. On another positive, the dean of the University College, who was one of the coordinators, was pleased, and we have been invited to come back next semester.

P.S. It seems I have also been drafted to work on something called Gear-Up, a program for middle school teachers. It's a professional development program for local school teachers, and someone, namely, the director, mentioned to them I have teaching experience. So, if all goes well, I will go talk to the coordinator, and I will likely end up doing some presentation and/or work with teachers. We'll see how it goes, but I always welcome a chance to work with school teachers. Use of technology and 2.0 in the classroom are a couple of topics of interest. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Short Booknote on Graphic Novels 9

Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. Catwoman: When in Rome. New York: DC Comics, 2005. ISBN: 1401204325.

Another collaboration from the Loeb and Sale team, this chronicles Catwoman's trip to Rome. The trip is referenced in Batman: Dark Victory and takes place between the events of Batman: The Long Halloween and Dark Victory. Travelling with Edward Nigma, aka the Riddler, Catwoman decides to take a vacation to Italy, but she is also in search of some information about her past. She brings Nigma along to help in that information gathering. However, it seems she can't quite leave Gotham City behind. She finds an ally in a Sicilian hitman. Readers of the Batman volumes I mentioned will appreciate this story, but it does stand alone on its own.

Geoff Johns. Teen Titans: Beast Boys and Girls. New York: DC Comics, 2005. ISBN: 1401204597.

This volume collects two stories focusing on Garfield Logan, aka Beast Boy. In the first story, he goes back to Hollywood to attempt a comeback as an actor. He gets framed for a murder when another shapeshifter impersonates him. However, it is not just an impostor. Someone from his past is out for revenge. In the second story, Beast Boy is suddenly "cured" and loses his powers. However, other children for some mysterious reason gain the power of shifting into animals. This story moves at a pretty quick pace, and it provides some insight into Beast Boy's past. Overall, a nice set of stories.

Geoff Johns and James Robinson. Hawkman: Endless Flight. DC Comics, 2003. ISBN: 1563899523.

As a kid, I always liked Hawkman. After all, he was an archeologist, and those were the folks who dug up tombs in Egypt and other cool stuff. Heck, I wanted to be an archeologist when I grew up, and though that did not happen, I still love history. He was one of my favorites, and I read very few comics back then. Anyhow, Hawkman is back in the DC Universe, and this time, he is helping Hawgirl find information about the murder of her parents as well as helping another archeologist trying to find a very valuable artifact that could help save a museum from closing. Hawkman's series also feature a lot of little historical references, so I always find that fascinating today. Then there is the romance where his lover and him reincarnate, destined to love each other over time. The tragedy now is that the current reincarnation of Hawgirl has no memory of her past lives, and so she wants nothing to do with him. So, she reluctantly accepts his help in the adventure. However, it is part of being a superhero to deal with the hand you are dealt, and maybe, just maybe, true love will triumph after all. OK, so the cynic in me has a romantic moment or two. The story also features an appearance by Green Arrow. Overall, Endless Flight has a good element of adventure story that many readers will enjoy.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Article Note: Another brief overview of blogs and wikis

Citation for the article:

Ramos, Miguel and Paul S. Piper. "Letting the Grass Grow: Grassroots Information on Blogs and Wikis." Reference Services Review 34.4 (2006): 570-574.

I read the article via Emerald.

This is another light piece on blogging and wikis for those who may be unaware. I will venture to say that by now any librarian and/or LIS professional who is not at least marginally aware of this needs to crawl out of whatever rock they are dwelling under. By now the topic has been covered from LIS journals to the mainstream media. Overall, the article does not say much that has not been said already, but there is still a little food for thought.

  • "By understanding, harnessing, and actively utilizing these emerging socially mediated tools, librarians can tap into a wealth of collective knowledge, as well as utilize these resources for their own communication, information and instruction needs" (570).

In other words, blogs and wikis are useful. They can help librarians and others communicate better, share ideas, and create instructional resources.

  • "The ease with which new information can be introduced and/or challenged by a community of users can lead to the creation of authoritative, comprehensive documents, as well as rapid responses to breaking situations such as natural disasters and war-time reporting" (570).

Well, the ease of introducing information can be a blessing and a curse. Problems with spam and vandalism as well as some cases of trolling make the description above less than idealistic. Also, one look at Wikipedia let's us know that just because there is a community of users an authoritative document does not follow. A small internal wiki or a restricted external one can likely create something with some authority given a small group of editors. A large open system means larger odds of chaos. I think it is something to consider at least. In the case of timeliness, bloggers from New Orleans during Katrina and milbloggers provide a good example. Like any other source, they do have to be scrutinized and evaluated.

  • "The librarians who are publishing blogs, however, and some in very interesting ways, are pushing the limits of what blogs can do, using them to direct subject-oriented RSS feed to their liaison departments, using them to share research and resources, using them for announcements on their homepage, and even using them to display catalog records" (570-571).

Here's a few places where this sort of thing has been discussed; I just picked some items I have recently read, and I am sure there are a lot more (see here, here, and here). My point is that this is not terribly new. The article's overview of blogs and wikis is pretty basic overall. In at least one instance, the article becomes repetitive since the statement above is mostly replicated two pages later. So, for readers who are not aware, this is a decent start. However, given it was published in RSR, a publication geared to LIS professionals, this seems a pretty light article with little to offer.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Article Note: On Librarians and Self-Reflection

Citation for the article:

Doherty, John J. "Towards Self-Reflection in Librarianship; What is Praxis?" Progressive Librarian 26 (Winter 2005/2006).

Ever since I participated in the National Writing Project many years ago, I have been a believer in the value of critical self-reflection. I have to agree with Mr. Doherty that serious self-reflection is lacking in librarianship. Sure, you get little hints of it in the library sector of the blogosphere, but there's not enough. On a side note, maybe looking at that area of the blogosphere could add an update to the article. At any rate, participating more recently in Immersion helped to reinforce the value of being a reflective practitioner.

In the interest of self-disclosure, I must admit that I am not a great fan of theory. I can read it; I can handle most of it well enough, in large part from having a good literary theory teacher back in my previous life. Too much theory, and I wander off looking for the practical side. So, when I saw the word "praxis" on the title, there was a little trepidation. However, the article was short, accessible, and with just enough theory for the casual reader; anyone needing more can look up some of the references. By the way, Doherty provides a definition of the term: "Praxis, in Marxist terms, refers to the process of applying theory through practice to develop more informed theory and practice, specifically as it relates to social change." The article gave me some things to think about, so here we go.

Doherty starts by looking at ALA's Code of Ethics, the part about having an informed citizenry and our profession's commitment to access and intellectual freedom. The statement Doherty uses is from the introductory text. The statement, and the code as a whole, often comes under fire for various reasons. Here's my two cents on the issue. I do believe that this nation, if it is to remain great, needs an informed citizenry. Given recent electoral choices, I question how informed the people really are. If citizens want better government, they need the best information available, and they also need access to various points of view in order to make the informed decisions. I believe then that librarians are in a position to provide access to information and diverse points of view. They should do so in an open way. I am not really saying neutral; librarians are human, and they are citizens as well with opinions and biases. Let's break open a couple of bottles of wine, and I may tell you some of my opinions (or go read the unruly cousin's blog). However, the reference desk or the classroom are not places to inject selective views. Here's the catch, for me at least. I do believe in educating people and helping them learn to think critically. So, to use myself as an example, when I teach about research, I often teach how to ask questions about that research as well. I operate on the premise that one should question everything; liberals and conservatives and everything in between should be put under the critical lens. To some librarians, this is extra work. To others, it may not be ethical since they would just rather give them the stuff. I say that we have to ensure the free flow of ideas, the more the better. We should also, at the least, make available the tools to question, reflect, and decide. As educators, we should teach them how to use those tools and apply them evenly. Well, that's my two cents.

Going back to the article, Doherty writes,

  • "The true discussion in library literature ought to be on the praxis of librarianship, particularly within the 'trademark pedagogy' (Kapitzke 37) of librarianship, information literacy instruction. This requires attention to both reflection and direct action, and their relationship to each other."

It is common knowledge in librarianship that a lot of our literature is pretty light. Doherty provides a basic overview later in the article: "most of it comprises program descriptions, bibliographies and literature." In other words, a lot of "this is how we did it" articles, lists of best books, websites, etc., and literature reviews. Some of those are useful, but we need more than that. What was truly learned from a teaching experience? How did the practitioner grow and change as a result? What is the significance? Or to quote one of my old professors, the "so what" question.

Other ideas that stuck with me from the article:

  • "Carr and Kemmis (1986) suggest that educational practitioners have to be committed to self-critical reflection on their educational aims and values (31). They go on to say that teachers should become more self-enlightened regarding their own world views and how these can distort and limit their professional roles in society. They suggest that praxis is just this doing-action, or remaking the conditions of informed action by constantly reviewing such actions and the knowledge that so informs these actions (33). If we replace teachers with librarians here, we could have a recommended course of action for our profession."
  • "Peterson (2003) speaks of the progressive teacher as one who builds on her students’ interests. To him however, the Freirian teacher does more: 'She asks questions.... [e]ngaging children in reflective dialogue on topics of their interest' (365)."
  • "It is very easy to assume that librarianship is a stable profession, wherein practice is stable, 'less and less subject to surprise' (Schon 60). Indeed, many of the textbooks of the profession encourage such thoughts. In practice, however, the average librarian is likely to speak of the ever-changing world of information, access to information, and ways of facilitating such access (Doherty, Hansen and Kaya). Minus a grounded theory of librarianship or ways of developing a grounded theory, or even more specifically of information literacy instruction, librarians tend to fall back on technical, rationalist based methods even when ineffective."

This short article is worth reading for its proposal to get librarians to reflect, and do so critically, about their practice.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Booknote: Star Wars: Medstar Duology

Reaves, Michael and Steve Perry. Star Wars: Medstar I: Battle Surgeons. New York: Ballantine Books, 2004. ISBN: 0-345-46310-2.

Reaves, Michael and Steve Perry. Star Wars: Medstar II: Jedi Healer. New York: Ballantine Books, 2004. ISBN: 0-345-46311-0.

This two-book series chronicles the adventures of a medical team on the planet Drongar during the Clone Wars era. I think that fans of space medical scifi, like James White (Sector General novels) and S.L. Viehl (Stardoc series), might like this in addition to Star Wars fans. I have to admit I am not a big fan of the Clone Wars era in Star Wars, but these two books caught my attention since they seem to have a different story, the story of field doctors at war. In the story, the planet is a hot swamp. It's only value is that it is a place where a very rare plant used to make drugs and wonder medicines, bota, grows. Both sides are fighting for control of the crop. The mobile medical units on the planet are caught in the fire. There is a diverse cast of characters including the doctors, a Jedi healer, and a cynical reporter looking for his next big story. There is also a spy amongst them, and operatives of Black Sun, the organized crime syndicate.

In some ways, the books are slightly reminiscent of M.A.S.H. in terms of the concept of a mobile military medical unit. Also, some of the doctors' ways of coping with the losses and ravages of war from music to alcohol to making love are reminiscent of that series, but that is about as far as it goes. Readers will not find out the identity of the spy until the very end, and the authors do a pretty good job of keeping the spy's identity a secret. They do mislead the reader a bit. It may look like it is one character, but the answer may be surprising to some readers. Overall, it is a light and entertaining read. Personally, I thought the first volume moved a bit faster in terms of pacing, but the second one does give a bit of depth to some of the characters.

As someone who reads Star Wars novels in a casual way, this is a book that worked out pretty well, and I think readers out there will enjoy them as well. The fact it was a short series also helped me, as I tend to dislike very long series. The only long series I read was the Robotech books years ago, and those did have an ending. On another note, Steve Perry is the author of the Star Wars novel Shadows of the Empire. That was another reason why I picked these two books up as I enjoyed Shadows of the Empire.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Back from the holiday break

Readers, if interested, can find my personal post about returning from the holidays over at the unruly cousin's blog, the Itinerant Librarian.