Thursday, January 28, 2010

Data Privacy Day 2010: Some further thoughts

January 28th is Data Privacy Day. The concept of International Data Privacy Day is an annual observance to raise awareness and generate discussion about information privacy issues. I wrote a post about it for promotional and education purposes over in my library's blog here. When I write post for work, it is a little different than when I write in my professional blog. There are certain things I can say in here that I cannot say over there for various reasons. So, in addition to sharing the link from my library's blog with my four readers, I am using this post to add a few additional thoughts that did not make it into "the official version."

For one, I also wanted to speak about our university's online privacy policies. It is not something that folks talk about very often, and it is also something that I think more people need to be aware of. I work for the University of Texas at Tyler, and as such, I am considered a state employee. With that label comes a good amount of bureaucratic baggage. Again, it is the reason that I can say some things here that I would never say over there. For one, I don't want someone from Campus News and Information calling me because I said something they may perceive as less than flattering to the university. It's the nature of how things work, and I have learned to just work with it for now. I wanted to speak about the policies in the library post because students are often not aware of how the university handles online privacy.

Before I go on, here are a couple of items for reference purposes:

  • this is the policy about the website privacy policy for the public that explains what the university does with information they obtain from the public.
  • and this is the section from the UT System Policies for System Information Resources Use and Security.
The second item above is more for employees, but it still applies to students since they make use of the computers and networks that the university provides. The bottom line, and what I wanted to point out, is that there is no expectation of privacy. The networks are monitored. I should clarify this is not necessarily for nefarious purposes (we can debate fairness, due process, so on later). But I wanted to mention it because students often are not aware of this. Also the policy explains some common questions. One such common question is why they have to change their passwords for the system every so often. That is a basic security issue (it is for their protection). The only issue I have with the requirement is that IT does not always time the resetting of passwords at the best times during a semester. We have had students get expiration of their passwords at about a week or two before an academic semester ends, which creates all sorts of headaches in the library. Pointing that little "faux pas" out is often met with,I shall say, a little resistance. But what I wanted to point out to students is that they need to be aware that such policies exist. Often, they get to see the policy as they set up their campus e-mail, but they just skip through it, much like they skip through the Terms of Service in Facebook when they sign up. It boils down once again to awareness. You need to be aware and you need to be informed. It's not that IT is consistently sweeping and monitoring everyone; they don't realistically have the time for that, but in theory, they could, and they do check randomly once in a while. For us employees, it is more readily apparent. Also for us, things like e-mails using the campus system are considered public information. I wonder how many of our employees are actually fully aware of that.

The other thing I want to add to this post are some notes I took from the afternoon presentation they did at Indiana University for their Data Privacy Day event. They had a full day of events, and the presentations were made available online. They were recorded, so as I understand it, you should be able to view them later. I was able to watch the afternoon presentation by Scott Z. Wilson on "How Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and Privacy Can All Coexist." These are some quick notes I took:

  • In social networking, the data we put out there is up to us, unlike other contexts where you may have little choice about what gets done with your private data (say a credit card company selling their list to a third party). This means that in a social network like Facebook you control your privacy (to an extent). You have to strive for a balance between your social networking activities and your privacy.
  • Social networking is here to stay, so you may as well embrace it. I think at times Mr. Wilson is a little too optimistic or cheery about the whole thing (reminds me of some L2 librarians).
  • Keep in mind that you can control what you share initially. Once you publish it and put it out there, you lose some control.
  • Think about what you do and use privacy settings when available. However, it is important to note that privacy settings are not everything. Privacy settings can change; just look at all the recent changes Facebook has been implementing on their privacy settings and policies. Why do they do it? Well, bottom line is because they can. In the end, privacy settings are passive measures. Ask yourself how often do you evaluate your privacy settings? Facebook, and most other social networking sites, do not want you checking them every day. Personally, I would say I check them at least once a week as of late to make sure they are working the way I want them. Yes, this does take some work, but you need to do it.
  • To strike a balance then you have to be active. You have to incorporate privacy into your decision-making process, and you may have to adopt new habits (like me checking the privacy settings on FB a little more often). Think about what you post or reveal, even if it is for something as simple as making a comment in a forum others may see. And if you do say or reveal something, do be aware in the tone in which you express it. Again, to use myself as an illustration, there are things I can say on this blog I would not say in my library's blog. And even if I did say something in both places, the tone in which I say it can be very different (probably more neutral over there, less passionate, less risky).
  • Privacy is elastic. It is not one-size-fits-all. What works for you is probably not going to work for me. I am comfortable with things like blogging and expressing my views and opinions both professionally and personally. Others out there might not be as comfortable, or they may wish to use a pseudonym or be anonymous (another issue of privacy). Find your comfort level and be thoughtful and mindful of your actions and expressions.
On a final note, I jotted down some additional thoughts on Facebook and privacy over at Alchemical Thoughts, my scratch pad. It's mostly some links and some small comments in light of Mark Zuckerberg's recent remarks about privacy online.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Article Note: On reference services impact assessment

Citation for the article:

Jacoby, JoAnn and Nancy P. O'Brien, "Assessing the Impact of Reference Services Provided to Undergraduate Students." College and Research Libraries 66.4 (July 2005): 324-340.

Read via Library Lit. and Information Science (WilsonWeb)

I wrote previously that I was looking at articles on reference assessment because my director wanted me to look into the topic. Since that last post, we have implemented some changes in how statistics are collected at the reference desk. Since we did start a new procedure, it may be a while before we have enough data to actually assess how things are working out. My hope is that the new procedures will help us answer some specific questions we have. I also hope the powers that be will actually give us time to collect the data. This is the second change in statistics collection procedure we have done in a year. At any rate, the article that I am noting today deals with reference services to undergraduates. Specifically, it looks at how services have an impact on undergraduate students by looking at three things: ". . . perception of staff approachability, awareness of library resources, and confidence in the ability to find information independently" (324-325). The approachability issue is covered by our use of the LibQual+ survey instrument to an extent. It may be interesting at some point to take some of the results from LibQual+ and see how they relate to a more specific survey like the one the Jacoby and O'Brien article describe. The concern I have is survey fatigue. For some reason, anytime the campus needs to do assessment, they figure a student survey is the way to go. Our students get surveyed on just about anything, and the library is just as guilty at times. So there is some concern of backlash. I don't have the answer to the dilemma, but it is something I think about every so often. For now, let's just make some notes from the article and go from there.

  • The criteria libraries used at one time; compare to what Jacoby and O'Brien suggest now: "Matthew Saxton and John V. Richardson identified the 'three desirable outcomes of the reference process: utility, user satisfaction, and accuracy'" (qtd. in 325). The reference here is to the book Understanding Reference Transactions: Transforming an Art into a Science. By the way, user satisfaction is also something that LibQual+ measures.
  • Some significance: "In a college and university environment, working with students to build skills for independent information discovery is paramount, and awareness and confidence are as important as accuracy, utility and satisfaction" (325). If we are doing our job in an academic reference desk, we are teaching the students how to discover information and deal with it. We are not just giving them the answer and sending them away, but we also show them how to find it and how to become better researchers and learners. Thus we would be interested in seeing how confident the students are in their ability to find and use information after they interact with us. This is also of interest to instruction librarians after they conduct an instructional session.
  • A reason why we emphasize being accessible at the reference desk, why we want to give the appearance that we can be approached: "As Lynda M. Baker and Judith J. Field found in their 1999 study, the demeanor of reference personnel is a critical factor in the interview process, students' perception of the library, and the success of the reference interaction" (qtd. in 325). The reference goes to Public Libraries 39 (Jan/Feb 2000): 23-30.
  • The article goes on to describe their methodology. They implemented a survey of undergraduate students scheduled to take place at specific times throughout a semester. "The surveys were administered immediately following a reference interaction, when the specifics of the encounter were still fresh in the respondents' minds" (327). This is a form of a critical incident survey. However, it is not as simple as it sounds. There are two parts. Part one was the survey itself, which could be done online or in print. From those who answered the survey, some respondents were then selected for a follow-up interview. The authors also detail the challenges they faced, and this is worth reading if you have interest in replicating this experience. The authors did provide a link to the first survey instrument, but as of this writing, the link is a dead-end.
  • The authors designed their assessment to address three questions, which are:
  1. "Do undergraduate students perceive the reference staff as being friendly and approachable?
  2. Do the they learn something during the course of the reference interaction?
  3. Do they feel more confident about their ability to independently find the information they are seeking following the reference interaction?" (328).
  • The sample total for their survey was 69 undergrads (49 in print, and 20 online). However, the interview sample was extremely small: out of 12 people that had agreed to be interviewed, only 5 followed through. While the interviews do support some of the findings from the LIS literature, in the end, it is still a very low sample.
The authors then go on to discuss their findings. Some of the things they learned or reaffirmed:
  • They noticed something we often notice as well: ". . .general difficulty undergraduates have in transitioning from full-text databases (one-stop shopping) to navigating a hybrid and distributed information environment" (332). I know that saying what I am about to say will probably give a couple of the cheery librarians an aneurysm, but I will say it anyways. We need to work in teaching students how to go from a database to other resources. Once you get them to use a database, the next challenge is "how do I find an item when it is not full-text?" Given the various vendors, their interfaces, and their ability (or lack thereof) to play nice with each other, this is something that we always need to teach our students.
  • "This suggests [the results of their analysis] that friendly service may help bolster students' confidence in their ability to find the answers to their questions on their own, but the effect is rather slight" (332). That I just found interesting. It is important, but not a big deal.
  • Again, we need to be approachable: "Working to create a climate of approachability helps ensure that students feel comfortable enough to approach staff" (337).
  • From the conclusion: "This suggests that the reference interaction in college and university libraries can be an effective means of teaching students not only about specific library resources, but also about the process of finding, evaluating, and using information" (338). It's what we strive to do on a regular basis here. It's why I always say that instruction and reference are linked and should be working together.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Just because you have a Ph.D. it does not mean librarianship should be your backup plan

The author of this column featured in Inside Higher Ed needed to do his homework. I usually don't jump on stuff like this, but this needed to get a reply. Let me start at the end of Joshua Kim's piece on academic tech and library careers for the Ph.D. folks. For a newly minted Ph.D., is a library career a good option? The answer is pretty much no. We can now make a small substitution in Mr. Kim's opening sentence to reveal the reason: "the [librarian] job market is in the toilet."It has been that way for years now in spite of cheery library administrators, the ALA, and LIS professors touting a non-existent wave of retirements and non-existent incoming job openings. The reason they do that is so they can continue to fill their enrollments in LIS schools. To deny this given the current climate is to be either ignorant or dishonest. So, telling unemployable Ph.D's to consider going to library school, or do some alternative program like CLIR, is at the very least irresponsible. I don't say unemployable because newly minted Ph.D's lack qualifications to be employed in their chosen field (that could be a whole other issue), but I say it because the simple reality is that universities are churning out doctoral graduates at an excessive rate into a low-to-no demand job market.

Let me blunt: if you go through a doctoral program, realize that your prospects to be employed as a professor in academia are dim, not to mention the possible issue of racking up an obscene amount of debt you will likely never be able to repay. Falling back on the hope of becoming an academic librarian is not going to be your salvation. If anything, you should have stopped at your first master's degree, then gone to library school. Because unless you are hoping to work in an elite R-1 school, you are overqualified with that Ph.D. A substantial number of academic librarians work at teaching universities and smaller settings, places where your very advanced degree is not exactly an automatic entry key. Allow me to tell you who you would be competing against:

  • Newly minted librarians. These are the people of all ages who are just coming out of library school. Many of them already go to library school with some library experience, and if they were smart, they got themselves some more experience while in library school (a job in a library, assistantship, internship, so on) to increase their odds to be hired.
  • Recent graduates of library school. These are the folks who graduated within a year to let's say three years or so. They have been in the market a while due to the bad market. If lucky, they may have a part time job in a library to make ends meet, often along with a second job.
  • Experienced librarians. These are folks who are looking for a better job. They may be looking for an advancement (say become head of a department), or they may be making a lateral move to another entry level job if the new job is better in some way. In our profession, experience in libraries counts for a lot, and if these guys are any good, they get hired fast.
All those folks are already out there fighting for the few librarian positions in the market. A lot of them (like me) are very geographically mobile, which means they will go where the job is. And let's not even consider the issue of low salaries in librarianship (unless you become an administrator, but that is a separate issue). Further, all those other folks I list above often bring in a wealth of experiences such as classroom teaching, work experiences that are relevant, technical skills, so on that many new Ph.D's who have only known the Ivory Tower may or not have. That's your competition if you are one of those new Ph.D's who suddenly thinks they will fall back on librarianship as a job. This is especially applicable to doctoral graduates in the humanities. Hey, just look at recent reports from the Modern Language Association (MLA) if you need proof. You can find some reporting from Inside Higher Ed on that very issue here.

I am willing to admit that I may come across as harsh. I honestly believe that, as someone in a doctoral program, you should know how to research things like a job market in your chosen profession. If not, you should be asking your local librarian, who will likely tell you what I am telling you if he or she is honest. Yet I also know, both from experience and extensive reading (remember: the tagline of this blog is "I read a lot of the LIS literature so you don't have to"), that some people will not be honest with you when it comes to job markets, the placement rates of their programs, so on. Thus allow me then to give a bit of the truth because better that you hear it now before you decide to plunk down more money into yet another degree, in this case the MLS, than learning the hard way that you could be as unemployable as before, if not worse.

In the end, I am not saying to not pursue the degree if it is your lifelong passion or if you want the education and/or do not care if you work in that line of work (maybe you have a full time job already, for instance). I have been very fortunate to find work as an academic librarian, but I learned some hard lessons along the way. Those lessons could be material for another blog post, but I digress. However, if you choose to get that doctorate anyways, do so informed and with your eyes wide open. This includes realizing that you may end up working in something other than academia. There are perfectly good careers out there for doctoral graduates outside of academia if you are willing to look, which is another little detail graduate schools often fail to mention. Realize also that jumping over to the library is not the magical cure given the reasons I have stated above. If you ask me straight up, I'd tell folks to not do it. But if you must, do it only after very careful consideration of your options and go in informed and prepared to face any consequences of your decision.

Additional note: I made a small list of items for further reading over on the scratch pad, Alchemical Thoughts, in case anyone wants to get more context.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Some resources and information about Haiti and the earthquake

I am just taking a moment to share the post I wrote for my library's blog, "Catastrophic Earthquake in Haiti: Some resources and information." It is just a small sampling of what is available. I did include information to guard yourself against possible financial scams. Yes, unfortunately, there are vultures out there more than willing to take your money by abusing your generosity. So be informed and vigilant. Be generous in donating (money is preferred. Read the post for details).

My thoughts go to the people of Haiti in this sad hour.

(Crossposted to The Itinerant Librarian and Alchemical Thoughts).

Monday, January 04, 2010

My Reading List for 2009

I have been posting my reading list for the previous year with some reflection and commentary since 2006. It has become a tradition of mine here at The Gypsy Librarian. Without doing the tally, this year it felt like I did not read as much; it's just a feeling. I think in part it is because I picked up some pretty thick books. For instance, Let The Galaxy Burn took me a few months to get through it since I would pick it up, drop it, pick it up again. It was a short fiction collection, and books like that lend themselves to reading a little at a time for me. In addition, the year was somewhat chaotic at work, so that kept me a bit from reading since I would come home on the tired side. However, I did persevere, and I think I got a pretty good tally this year.

I did some rereading this year. For instance, this was a Macondo year for me. This means I reread Gabriel García Márquez's Cien Años de Soledad. This is kind of a ritual of mine every so often. I just get in the mood for it, and I know it is time to go back to Macondo. I think this year was my fourth or fifth time around. I also reread a few other things. Some I reread in order to get ready to read something new in a series. That was the case with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier. I reread the previous volumes to get ready for that. For Halloween, I reread Batman: The Long Halloween. It is an excellent book to put you in the mood for Halloween, and I think I may make that another little ritual of mine for the coming year.

Graphic novels and manga continue to be a strong presence in my reading. I am not a purist, so the term "graphic novel" here refers to both "traditional" graphic novels like Safe Area Gorazde and comic compilations. Mangas here can include manga, manwhas, and similar, which I do read in English translation (one of my wishes in life would be to learn Japanese and a couple other Asian languages just to read these in original). I still mostly get these when I buy them, often out of town. I have noted previously that this is something that our local public library fails at miserably, and the local bookstores are somewhat limited. I may have to seriously look into buying some online. By the way, as before, I did utilize my campus Interlibrary Loan Service. The only catch with ILL is that you can't really get stuff that is recent (libraries are not willing to lend out something new or recently popular), but otherwise, I could get just about anything on ILL. In general, my basic rule is: if I want to just read it once, I borrow it. If I want to reread it, or I like it, then I buy it. The borrowing part tends to apply more to nonfiction, especially if it deals with current events (timeliness is the issue). Overall, this was a good year for me in terms of manga and graphic novels for me.

Using GoodReads to keep track of the books I have read continues to be useful. The only catch is that I don't write as many booknotes on the blog as I used to, but doing GR means I can make quick notes on books I read and keep track of genres, so on. You can find the widget for GR on the right side column of my blogs; the widget is set to display what I am currently reading.

And speaking of currently reading, I will note that I jot down books on the month I finish them. So, if I carry something over from the previous December into the next January, it gets on the following year's list, that kind of thing. Otherwise, I am not big on things like knowing the exact day I finished a book. I just want a sense of what I did per month. Anyhow, here go the numbers:

Number of books read in 2009: 98 (5 rereads)

Number of books read in 2008: 111 (the 2008 list).
Number of books read in 2007: 85 (the 2007 list).
Number of books read in 2006: 106 (the 2006 list).
Number of books read in 2005: 73

I read less than last year, but I still read quite a bit. Entering 2009 was chaotic and sad for me since my mother passed in December of 2008. I only read one book during December of last year, and that was barely. Then, as I mentioned, work was somewhat hectic (and I am not saying more). Anyhow, I did read a lot of good things, so I can say it was a very good year overall.

Here goes the list. As before, if something is not readily apparent about a book from the title, I will add a small note after it. If the title is in Spanish, it means I read it in Spanish. Asterisks are re-reads:

  • Mickey Spillane, Vengeance is Mine.
  • Wendy Northcutt, The Darwin Awards Next Evolution (Book 5).
  • Fernando Baez, A Universal History of the Destruction of Books.
  • Koushun Takami, Battle Royale, Ultimate Edition, Vol. 1.
  • Huw Davies, Pedestrian Safety Expert Gets Hit By Bus.
  • Greg Rucka, Batman: Bruce Wayne: Murderer?
  • Greg Rucka, Batman: Bruce Wayne: Fugitive, Vol. 1.
  • Greg Rucka, Batman: Bruce Wayne: Fugitive, Vol. 2.
  • Greg Rucka, Batman: Bruce Wayne: Fugitive, Vol. 3.
  • Masaki Segawa, Basilisk: The Kouga Ninja Scrolls, Vol. 1.
  • David Bischoff, Hunter's Planet (Aliens vs. Predator, Book 2).
  • Wess Roberts, Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun.
  • R.A. Salvatore, The Legend of Drizzt Book 1: Homeland (Forgotten Realms, graphic novel).


  • George Carlin, Three Times Carlin: An Orgy of George.
  • Masakazu Yamaguchi, Arm of Kannon, Vol. 1.
  • Sin-ichi Hiromoto, Stone, Vol. 1.
  • Masaki Segawa, Basilisk: The Kouga Ninja Scrolls, Vol. 2.
  • Hunter Davies, Hunter Davies' Book of Lists.
  • Alan Moore, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1.*
  • Ben Reed, Cool Cocktails.


  • Alan Moore, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 2.*
  • Alison Lewis, ed., Questioning Library Neutrality.
  • Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red.
  • Chris Warner, Star Wars: Infinities--A New Hope.
  • Garth Ennis, Punisher Max: Widowmaker.
  • David Land, Star Wars: Infinities--The Empire Strikes Back.
  • Roméo Dallaire, Shake Hands With the Devil.
  • Kazuo Koike, Samurai Executioner, Vol. 1.
  • Bill Willingham, Robin: Days of Fire and Madness.
  • Don Miguel Ruiz, The Mastery of Love.
  • Koushun Takami, Battle Royale Ultimate Edition, Vol. 2.
  • Ian Spector, Chuck Norris vs. Mr. T: 400 Facts About the Baddest Dudes in the History of Ever.
  • Professor Happycat, I Can Haz Cheezburger? A LOLcat Colleckshun.
  • Alan Moore, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier.


  • Joe McGuire, Brainless: The Lies and Lunacy of Ann Coulter.
  • Douglas Tonks, TV's Most Wanted.
  • Larry Wilmore, I'd Rather We Got Casinos, and Other Black Thoughts.
  • Frank Miller, Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller, Vol. 3.
  • Haden Blackman, Star Wars: Victories and Sacrifices (Clone Wars, Vol. 2).
  • Haden Blackman, Star Wars: Last Stand on Jabiim (Clone Wars, Vol. 3).
  • Jaimie Muehlhausen, Redneck Words of Wisdom.
  • A.J. Jacobs, The Year of Living Biblically.
  • Enrico Marini, El Escorpion: La Marca del Diablo (Vol. 1; graphic novel).
  • Janet McNeil Hurlbert, Defining Relevancy: Managing the New Academic Library.
  • John Layman, Marvel Zombies/Army of Darkness.
  • Mark Millar, Superman: Red Son.
  • Masaki Segawa, Basilisk: The Kouga Ninja Scrolls, vol. 3.


  • Anthony Bourdain, The Nasty Bits.
  • Joe Sacco, Safe Area Gorazde.
  • Denis Leary, Why We Suck.
  • Masaki Segawa, Basilisk: The Kouga Ninja Scrolls, vol 4.
  • Cheryl Russell, Bet You Didn't Know.
  • Masaki Segawa, Basilisk: The Kouga Ninga Scrolls, vol. 5.
  • Ian Spector, The Truth About Chuck Norris: 400 Facts About the World's Greatest Human.
  • Kai Tsurugi, Black Knight (Kuro no Kishi), vol.1.


  • Kai Tsurugi, Black Knight (Kuro no Kishi), vol.2.
  • Catherine Sheldrick Ross, Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals About Reading, Libraries and Community.
  • Markman Ellis, The Coffee House: A Cultural History.
  • Elizabeth J. Wood, Beyond Survival: Managing Academic Libraries in Transition.
  • Charles M. Schulz, The Complete Peanuts, 1971-1972.
  • Alice M. LeGrow, Bizenghast, Vol. 1.
  • Alice M. LeGrow, Bizenghast, Vol. 2.
  • Gabriel García Márquez, Cien Años de Soledad.*
  • William B. Whitman, The Quotable Politician.


  • Gary Paul Nabhan, Tequila: A Natural and Cultural History.
  • Siku, The Manga Bible: From Genesis to Revelation.
  • Koushun Takami, Battle Royale Ultimate Edition, Vol. 3.
  • John Wagner, Star Wars-Boba Fett: Enemy of the Empire.
  • Andy Mangel, Star Wars: Bounty Hunters.
  • Paul Pope, Batman: Year 100.
  • Angela Watrous, ed., 50 Ways to Support Lesbian and Gay Equality.
  • Brian Augustyn, Batman: Gotham by Gaslight.
  • Koushun Takami, Battle Royale Ultimate Edition, Vol. 4.
  • Koushun Takami, Battle Royale Ultimate Edition, Vol. 5.
  • Jennifer 8 Lee, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles.

August: (This was a bit of a slow month in terms of reading. There was a lot happening at work for one)

  • Ryan Sager, The Elephant in the Room.
  • Gustavo Arellano, Ask a Mexican.
  • Marc Gascoigne, ed., Let the Galaxy Burn (Warhammer 40,000 short fiction collection).
  • Kazuo Koike, Crying Freeman, Vol. 1.


  • Hiroshi Sakurazaka, All You Need Is Kill.
  • Adam Gallardo, Star Wars: Infinities--Return of the Jedi.
  • Drew Karpyshyn, Star Wars: Darth Bane: Rule of Two.
  • R.A. Salvatore, The Legend of Drizzt Book 2: Exile (Forgotten Realms, graphic novel).
  • Brett Booth, Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, Vol. 1: Prodigal Son (graphic novel).
  • R.A. Salvatore, The Legend of Drizzt Book 3: Sojourn (Forgotten Realms, graphic novel).

October:(Another slow month. From this point on, my reading decreased until the end of the year.)

  • Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween.*
  • Matthew Sturges, House of Mystery, vol. 1: Room and Boredom (graphic novel).
  • Allan Brandt, The Cigarette Century.
  • Karen Traviss, Order 66: A Republic Commando Novel (Star Wars novel).


  • Mickey Spillane, One Lonely Night.
  • Kurt Busiek, Conan Volume 3: The Tower of the Elephant and Other Stories.
  • Kazuo Koike, Crying Freeman, Vol. 2.
  • Kazuo Koike, Crying Freeman, Vol. 3.
  • Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster, Working for You Isn't Working For Me.


  • Eduardo Galeano, Las venas abiertas de América Latina.*
  • Kazuo Koike, Crying Freeman, Vol. 4.
  • Matthew K. Manning, Wolverine: Inside the World of the Living Weapon.
  • Kazuo Koike, Crying Freeman, Vol. 5.

Other thoughts and comments:

  • Number of books read in the worst months: 4 (August, October, and December). Overall, the first part of the year was better than the later part. As I have mentioned, work got chaotic to put it politely.
  • Number of books read in the best month: 14 (March).
  • Fiction: 62. As I did last year and before, graphic novels and mangas fall under fiction, unless they happen to be memoirs or similar. Memoirs and similar I would include with nonfiction.
  • Nonfiction: 36. Fiction, especially graphic novels and manga won out this year. I was clearly going for a bit more escapism, but I also picked up some excellent mangas this year. 4 books of nonfiction fell under library science.
  • Graphic novels: 32. This would include fiction and nonfiction works.
  • Manga: 23. I completed reading of some limited series (i.e. they don't keep going on and on like Naruto for instance) this year, and I discovered one or two new items as well. See my note about mangas in my 2008 list. What I wrote then is still applicable.
And finally, what my three readers are waiting for: my favorites for the year:

  • The Battle Royale series. This is simply the best reading experience I had this year. I could not put these books down once I started them. I read them in the newer ultimate editions. As noted in the Wikipedia article that I linked, these are graphic in terms of sex and violence (so is the novel on which the manga is based). Having given warning, this is one I highly recommend. Excellent characterization, fast and furious pacing, and the art is very good. Think Lord of the Flies with 1984, throw in The Running Man (the novel, not the movie), and put it on steroids, and you just might, might, get close to this. To me, this is what crappy reality TV like Survivor should be like. None of that stupid voting the ones you dislike of the island. Arm them, set them loose, and let them kill each other. And if they refuse, blow up their collars. It's called Survivor for a reason. The TV show as it is looks more like island pageant. Anyhow, I highly recommend Battle Royale. You can pick up the individual 15 volumes, or do what I did and get the hardcover ultimate editions (well worth the price; and the Wikipedia article apparently has not updated that the ultimate editions are finally out).
  • Following Battle Royale has to be the Basilisk series. This is the story of a feud between two ninja clans that comes to the fore as they fight to determine which member of their clans will be the next shogun. There is a novel of it, and there was an anime made of it as well, which I am interested in watching some day after having read this. The series also features a tragic romance and ninjas with very special powers. What's not to like? This is one worth revisiting.
  • George Carlin's Three Times Carlin: An Orgy of George collects three of his books and some additional material. If you need to get your fix of the thinking person's comedian, this is the book to pick up. Another comedian book I read this year that I liked was Denis Leary's Why We Suck. It is not as good as reading Carlin, but it is still good. Just look up the part about the Oprah Amendment to the Constitution.
  • Book that made me angry in the "getting outraged over the atrocities people do" kind of angry: Roméo Dallaire, Shake Hands With the Devil. The situation in Rwanda was simply an inexcusable failure to act by other nations in stopping a genocide. The book is Dallaire's story of his time as commander of UNAMIR in Rwanda, where he was basically abandoned by his superiors and forced to do his best with what he had to defend the innocent.
  • I always recommend One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I reread this year. I read it in Spanish, but it is available in English translation for my English-reading friends.
  • I delved a bit into romance this year with the Black Knight series. It's yaoi manga (i.e. boys who love boys). I picked it up in part out of curiosity; I know a lot of teen girls find yaoi manga appealing, and I wanted to know why. The interesting thing about this series, for me as a librarian, is that it follows a lot of the conventions of a basic romance novel. The plot is basically the love of a prince and the knight assigned to protect him. If the prince was a princess instead, this would be a basic romance novel in manga form. I think this is where a lot of the appeal factor lies for teen girls, that and cute guys. There is some sexual depiction, but I would venture to say it is nothing most teens can't handle (much of the depiction is implied, as in you see nudity, but the "naughty parts" are strategically covered). It was a fun read, and I will probably keep reading it just for kicks. Another way to look at it if you are wondering whether to read this or not: I would let my daughter, who is a manga reader, read it. She is 13, and this is no worse than some other stuff I know she reads. In contrast, no, I would not let her read Battle Royale until she got older.
  • The "hmm, that was interesting and different" book this year was Siku's The Manga Bible. Though it claims to go from Genesis to Revelation, this book is a selection. Having said that, it is a very comprehensive selection and adaptation of the Bible. If you want to get a good sense of what the Bible contains, what the overall story is, and the key stories and characters, this is a very good reading. The book does include chapter/verse references so you can check up in your regular Bible. This was one my daughter requested to borrow, and she gave me positive feedback about it. Whether you are Christian or not, believer or not, this is one I recommend. It is a pretty quick read, and as I said, a different way to look at a book that a lot of people think they know.
  • The book I wish more people would read: Watrous' 50 Ways to Support Lesbian and Gay Equality. You may already be supportive, but you do not quite know how to turn that support into constructive action. This book will tell you how.
  • A book that will help explain why Republicans (and right wingers) behave they way they do: Sanger's The Elephant in the Room. If you want to understand Republican politics now, and why the party seems to be self-destructing, this book provides a good explanation. The main argument of the book is that the GOP is divided between two major camps: the "leave me alone" libertarians and the fundamentalist evangelicals who strive to pretty much create a theocracy.
  • Kazuo Koike's Crying Freeman series. This is another great limited series (five collected volumes published by Dark Horse). Freeman is the assassin working for the 108 Dragons, the Chinese Mafia, who sheds tears when he kills his victims. The characterization on this one is rich and complex. Yes, it does have sex and violence, so not for the little kids. Good story and action, and the art is pretty good as well. If nothing else, the art detail on the tattoos makes this worth a look. This is another one worth revisiting for me. Koike is also the author of Samurai Executioner, of which I read the first volume this year. I will strive to read the rest of that series as well and also look up his other popular work, the series Lone Wolf and Cub.
  • The "really cool discovery of the year" for me was the novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. I just saw this in a bookstore one day, picked it up while browsing, and the description of the book hooked me. Initially, I thought it would be similar to Algis Budrys' Rogue Moon, but other than the warrior/hero who dies and is reborn to do his task over and over, this novel is unique. You don't quite figure out why Keiji, the recruit hero, keeps being reborn each morning to fight until you are deep in the book. Once you get there, all I will say it is a very interesting science fiction twist. This is one I recommend to science fiction readers out there. This is a very good example of Japanese science fiction. Personally, I am inclined to pick up other titles from the publisher, Haikasoru. If the others are anything like this, we are looking at some very good stuff.
  • The Legend of Drizzt graphic novel adaptations are very good. I have enjoyed the ones I have read so far, and I have the next three on my shelf to be read soon. If you read the novels, you should take a look at these. And if you have not, these may make you want to go back and read the novels.
  • Busiek's Conan series for Dark Horse comics is also good. I read the third volume this year, and this is one I am planning to collect and enjoy.