Friday, January 21, 2011

Webinar notes: On E-gov and libraries

Again, I am running somewhat behind on my notes for recent webinars I have listened to. Anyhow, here goes. 

Webinar provided by ALA.
Topic title: E-gov: Make it work @ your library
Event date: December 9, 2010.

You can find some notes and additional resource links at the ALA's PLFTA site (click under "Presentations."). Presenter ppt. slides and additional resource links available. 

My notes:

On public libraries and e-gov.:
  • 63% of libraries report providing e-gov access. 
  • For 2010, 53% of libraries reported their staff did not have skills to meet patron needs in regards to e-gov. 
E-gov in public libraries. Some best practices (and even though this is mostly for public libraries, I think us in academia can learn a thing or two as well. Besides, we are librarians, we should not be part of that 53%).
  • Having dedicated computers for e-gov with extended time limits (this is just for e-gov. Often, for the public libraries who get laptops for this, the laptops are funded by a grant). 
  • It is necessary to develop an e-gov policy (and do have it reviewed by a lawyer). The policy is to say what the library can or cannot do in terms of e-gov (levels of service-- i.e. things like we just point to the sites versus help them navigate the site).
  • Other legal stuff: Provide verbal and written disclaimers. Do refrain from helping users fill out forms. Do not select forms for users (show them how to use an index of forms, but let them select the form they need). Refrain from typing any personal information for patrons. 
  • ALA's E-gov toolkit.
  • It is helpful to keep statistics of types of e-gov questions received. This can help with advocacy for the library later. 
  • It is important to promote and market these services. For example, have lists of commonly  used websites, what to bring when filling out forms. Some libraries may have an e-gov blog. (In terms of the blog, I thought we could incorporate more e-gov information into our library blog's content rather than creating a whole new blog)
  • Sample: Pasco County Libraries E-gov page.
Evaluating e-gov sites, with some examples:
  • Some qualities: 
    • quantity and quality of the information. 
    • website presentation and accessibility. 
    • level of information on the site. 
    • services available to the public. 
    • level of accessibility to the disabled or others using alternative technologies. 
    • does the site save time? Are the services intuitive? Does it provide good helping aids for first time users? 
  • Some good site examples: 
Libraries and e-gov: collaboration and education.
  • Some context for the increase in public library use for computers: unemployment benefits, social services, job seekers, other government needs. 
  • Note there are people who cancel the Internet at home to save money (it is a tight economy folks), so libraries see more usage of computers for communication and leisure needs (the whole leisure thing certainly a debate for another day). 
  • From a technology access survey of  public libraries (cited in the presentation): 
    • 66.6% of library branches report being the only provider of free public access computers and free Internet access. 
    • Overall, public library branches report an average of 14 computers for public access plus they often provide wifi. 82.2% of public library branches offer wifi, up from 76.4% in 2008-2009. Overall, library usage is up across the board.
    • 88.8% of public library branches help people understand and use government websites. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Article Note: On Readers' Advisory and Social Networking Sites

Citation for the article:

Stover, Kaite Mediatore, "Stalking the Wild Appeal Factor: Reader's Advisory and Social Networking Sites." Reference & User Services Quarterly 48.3 (2009): 243-246, 269.

Read online.

This is a brief article that mentions three social networking sites focused on books and reading. The sites in question are Shelfari, Library Thing, and GoodReads. The article is a call for readers' advisors to embrace these technologies, and it offers some commentary on the sites.

Some brief notes:

  • Food for thought: "Readers' advisory (RA) is one of the most social services libraries offer" (244). It certainly is a reason I was drawn to librarianship, and it is an interest and professional area that I try to keep up with even as I do very little of it as an academic librarian. Personally, I think it is an important skill for us to have, and I think we should be promoting recreational reading a bit more on our campuses. I have had a thing or two to say on the matter if anyone is interested.
  • The author argues that expanding RA online will create larger communities and that the library's space should include the virtual space as well. That sounds good to me. 
  • A big benefit of using these online services for library staff: "Not only are library staff reaching new and different patrons, but they are improving their own knowledge of books read, heard of, and glanced at, and it is all in one place. Library staff are equipped with easy-to-use tools that help them organize their own reading and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses in reading areas" (244). Personally, that is a benefit of using these kinds of tools: I can keep track of what I read and get a sense of what I read and tend to favor. Looking at it over time, combined with my annual book list exercise, gives a sense also of where my reading preferences change. Maybe more of us should be doing these things and taking the time to reflect on what we read. 
  • The author goes over briefly over descriptions and features of the three services I mentioned above. In terms of preferences, it seems those who prefer GR do so due to the fact you can add an unlimited number of books to your lists: Library Thing was praised for its tagging features (245).
  • Conclusion: "Try out all of the Web toys out there. It's the responsibility of a good readers' advisor to at least be familiar with the numerous Internet playthings. But once they've all been taken for a test run, commit to one and politely show the others the door. It will be enough of a time commitment to keep one account current on a reading network, and it will be very important to keep that account up to date" (246). This is consistent with my personal philosophy of keeping up and "try it out, use it if it works, discard it if it does not."

Disclosure note: I am a GoodReads user, which in my case, includes "librarian" privileges (I can edit records among other things). You can find a link to my profile there in the right side bar of the blog. If anything, consistent with the article, a reason I liked it better was that I could add all the books I wanted. However, Library Thing does seem to be the librarians' favored service overall (conclusion based on informal observation).

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Booknote: Dune (12 Months, 12 Books Challenge, Book 5)

This is my review of the book as I posted it on my GoodReads list. I am definitely glad I reread this as I had forgotten just how much depth this novel has. This may be a book I may reread in the near future.

Dune (Dune Chronicles, #1)Dune by Frank Herbert

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second time I read this novel, and it reminded me of just how good it is. Herbert does an excellent job with the planet building in creating Arrakis, the planet known as Dune. He also sets in motion a story of intrigue and politics in an Empire where a religious sect strive to control certain genetic lines while a guild controls a monopoly on space travel. In the midst of this, the House of Atreides is betrayed leaving the young heir to the Duke, Paul, as survivor who is left in the desert. There he is taken in by the Fremen who come to see him as the prophet they have waited for. The novel is definitely a classic of science fiction on many levels. From the setting to the epic story, this is an excellent novel that is hard to put down. It is also a novel that immerses the reader; you want to take your time reading it even as you speed through it.

There are so many things I could say about this book. The writing can be very poetic at times. The descriptions of the setting are just amazing. There is a bit of a spiritual element within the science fiction that makes the story work very well. There is suspense in the machinations of the various factions seeking power within the Empire. It has political intrigue, adventure, coming of age, all in an epic science fiction tale. The novel clearly has earned its place in the classics.

I will add that I have not read the sequels that Herbert wrote for it. I may pick them up at one point just for the sake of being complete. But this novel pretty much does stand by itself, and you can certainly stop here. As for the extensions by Kevin Anderson and Brian Herbert, I am not as sure if I want to read them. I tend to think less of other people making sequels and prequels to works by other authors, especially someone as good as Frank Herbert was with Dune. I usually figure that for good novels, one should leave well enough alone. Anyhow, that's my disclosure note. Now, if you consider yourself a science fiction reader, and you have not read Dune, go read it.

View all my reviews

Update note (1/13/11): Here is the December round-up of 12 Books, 12 Months at Latter Day Bohemian. Feel free to go over and see what other participants are reading. There are some interesting things there.

Update note (2/17/11): Here is the January round-up at Latter Day Bohemian. Again, feel free to go over and see what others are reading. I am posting it now rather than in February since odds are good I won't have a challenge book finished by the end of February; I picked up a couple of hefty items from the list. So sharing this now.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Can we please stop the "library is dying" hysteria already?

This is going to be a bit long, so my four readers are warned. I tend to stay away from this type of topic, but to be honest, I am getting a little tired of the constant "the library is dying" hysterical meme going in and out of Librarian Blogsville and the less-than-well informed media. I read the piece in question, and I spent some time writing some thoughts. So here it goes. This is mostly a writing exercise as well as just letting some stuff out.

* * * *

"I'm sorry, did I break your concentration? I didn't mean to do that. Please, continue, you were saying something about best intentions. What's the matter? Oh, you were finished! Well, allow me to retort" --Jules, from the film Pulp Fiction.

Brian T. Sullivan's column in The Chronicle of Higher Education, "Death by Irony" (which just got the title changed when I rechecked the link to  ""Academic Autopsy Report 2050" because one reader too many could not tell the piece was meant to be satire or irony) about how academic libraries will be dead by 2050 pretty much begs for a rebuttal. I've heard the piece is supposed to be satire, and that would not worry me were it not for the fact that our campus president would likely view it seriously and use it as evidence to close the library down. That the author is an instructional librarian does not help the matter either since people will always need a librarian to show them how to use information effectively. It's one area where we add value. That he is so dismissive, even in jest (assuming it is jest) just makes me wonder what kind of librarian is he.

I have refuted the column, in a slightly different form previously, in a small piece I tossed over in my scratch pad blog back in November of last year. Some of the arguments I wrote back then would be very applicable now.

Let me take Sullivan's points one at a time:

  1. "Book collections became obsolete." The old canard that e-books and online texts will take over the world. First, I wonder what kind of students Sullivan works with because here our students still have a very strong preference for printed books or what they call "real books." Sure, more distance students are embracing e-books, but on campus at least, print still rules the day. Second, the digital book interfaces still leave a lot to be desired in terms of usability. Honestly, I don't see that getting better by 2050. In fact, a lot of the phone calls we get when it comes to e-books are variants of the "how do I get the book/make this work?" questions. And let's not even go into the whole licensing versus ownership and how to access and/or authenticate certain users questions though those questions do add to the pain and can show why print books are not going to die any time soon in spite of some folks' wishful thinking. Third, as for campus IT managing e-book collections, I don't think they can or are willing to actually manage e-book collections. Such management does require more than just pushing some buttons, applying some code, and making sure the Internet works so users can get to the e-book platform. What I am trying to say is that e-book management is a lot more than just the technology. Guess who negotiates the contracts and then organizes the information, metadata, so on to make it accessible. Not the IT people. That would be a librarian. 
  2. "Library instruction was no longer necessary." Really? There are so many ways to refute this, but I will try to be concise. To start, see my retort to #1 above. I will say: guess who teaches students and faculty to use those e-books. We do, and we do so for individuals as well as groups. Do you honestly think the IT Department will do such work? Nope. Faculty will probably not do it either for the following reasons: 
    1. They may not want to give up their class time. 
    2. They may not know how the systems work. After all, who on campus makes it their job to keep up with e-book, databases, so on, then teach it to others? We do. Heck, were are the ones who often have to drag the faculty into the 21st century. 
  3. "Information literacy was fully integrated into the curriculum." To this I say, "that will be the day." See my #2 above. This also assumes that faculty will actually commit to information literacy with more than lip service to how good it is or a few small measures to pass accreditation. Yes, librarians will play a role in designing the new curricula that integrates information literacy, but I think the partnership will continue beyond the design. For the answer, I would look to models of embedded librarianship or even campus writing labs, which will survive as long as faculty prefer to just send the kids over there to get help with their basic writing or their research skills. We already see it when we get students at the reference desk who say, "my professor sent me here to get research on X." This also means that the reference service will not disappear. And as I am typing I am wondering, if we do achieve integrated information literacy in the curriculum, is that not a good thing? Especially if it works as I envision it, being a collaborative effort? I thought that was the holy grail for many academic librarians.
  4. "Libraries and librarians were subsumed by information-technology departments." I will grant that some librarians who are more technologically inclined will seek and find jobs in IT. Now, IT subsuming everything in terms of the library? See #1 above in terms of collection management. Also see #3 above in terms of teaching information literacy and reference services (don't worry, I am getting to Sullivans' 5th point). It's not all about technology. There are significant elements of people skills (here is another post waiting to happen, but I digress), pedagogy, information organization and management among others that IT pretty much lacks. As for cataloguing being done by vendors, even when they hire former librarians to do it, I can refer you to our cataloguer so she can tell you about time and labor going into fixing what the vendors provide as well as making sure it works locally. Your local IT department is just not going to have that level of care or quality control or customer service (yes, cataloguing IS a public service). Librarians do, and no, the librarians who jump over to IT won't be doing it either since they will be focused on actual IT work. Again, the library and its librarians are not going anywhere. 
  5. "Reference services disappeared." I've already considered much of this in the above. Reference services may and will take new forms, but they will not disappear. As for tiered services, what Sullivan did not mention is that tiered models usually work on a triage model where the nonlibrarian knows when to refer a question up to a professional librarian. While a well-trained paraprofessional or student worker can be very capable and knowledgeable (and we are assuming good training, which is quite a variable), they certainly cannot do everything and usually have a librarian for back-up to fall upon. This is an important detail missing from Sullivan's column. He also mentions that low-wage paraprofessionals cost less. I would suggest he look at companies who prided themselves on sending operations to India that are suddenly bringing their call centers back to the U.S. Or that credit card company that now brags that you can get a REAL person on the first call attempt rather than the cheaper phone tree. Yes, they actually use that as a selling point: talk to a REAL person. Just because something is cheaper, it does not follow it is the best thing to do.Your campus librarians are information and education assets. Or you can let economics trump your quality, which leads us to #6. 
  6. "Economics trumped quality." We don't have to wait for Sullivan's dead library future for this. I may have to grant Sullivan this one. Economics is trumping quality in higher education, and we are seeing the consequences in a less skilled workforce, less educated college students, social promotion and grade inflation, etc.If the powers that be use "economics trump quality" as their excuse to kill the library, they ought to be ashamed of themselves, and they ought to be fired because it means they will be willing to cut corners elsewhere to save a few bucks. And if you think Wikipedia and Google Scholar will replace the library more cheaply,  you may as well admit defeat now and just let Asians, Europeans, and others who already beat the U.S. in every educational measure to just flat out take over while our students clean their toilets and make their Big Macs. I say that about the U.S. because when you look at stories of libraries dying, you don't see as many overseas (except for the British, where The Guardian has one every so often); more often than not, you hear of countries struggling to open libraries. Now I am not being extreme. I am just running with the "economics trumps quality" and the libraries and librarians as expendable luxuries and taking them to logical conclusions. Because if academic libraries are the heart of the campus, and we let economics trump quality, what else in higher education are we willing to amputate/remove/kill in order to save a few bucks? Is that really the future? I hope not, and as long as we have our academic librarians and libraries, probably not. 
For more on the "economics trumping quality" line of thinking, I would recommend taking a look at The Five-Year Party, which I recently read

    Tuesday, January 04, 2011

    My Reading List for 2010

    I made it to the end of 2010, and this is my summary of books read for 2010. I have been doing this since 2006, and I continue to enjoy reflecting on what I have read for the past year.

    Let's start with the basic numbers:

    Number of books read in 2010:  119, with 6 rereads.

    Number of books read in 2009: 98, with 5 rereads. I believe this is the first time I started to actively track rereads. (the 2009 list).
    Number of books read in 2008: 111 (the 2008 list).
    Number of books read in 2007: 85 (the 2007 list).
    Number of books read in 2006: 106 (the 2006 list).
    Number of books read in 2005: 73

    It looks like 2010 was my best year so far in terms of the amount of books read. I will include other numbers along with my commentaries after the list. Books with an asterisk are books that I reread this year. As always, if a book title is not as clear, I have added small details in parenthesis (say to make clear it is a graphic novel or part of a series). If I posted a review to one of the blogs, then I will provide a link. Otherwise, you can find the books on my GoodReads profile (link on the right side column of the blog).

    The books I have read:


    • Frank Miller, Sin City, Vol 1: The Hard Goodbye.
    • Scott Westerfield, Leviathan.
    • Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Super Freakonomics.
    • Jim Butcher, Welcome to the Jungle (Dresden Files series, graphic novel).
    • Robert Crumb, The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb.
    • Scott Adams, Journey to Cubeville.
    • Community, Fail Nation.


    • James Luceno, Millenium Falcon (Star Wars).
    • Brad Warner, Sit Down and Shut Up: Punk Rock Commentaries on Buddha, God, Truth, Sex, Death, and Dogen's Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye.
    • Frank Miller, Sin City, Vol.2: A Dame to Kill For.
    • Bill Bishop, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart.
    • Scott Douglas, Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian. (Booknote)
    • Darko Macan, Star Wars: Chewbacca (graphic novel).
    • Barbara Ehrenreich, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America. (Booknote)
    • Jessica R. Feldman and Robert Stilling, eds., What Should I Read Next?
    • Dan Joley, JSA: The Liberty File, Book #1.
    • Dan Joley, JSA: The Liberty File, Book #2.
    • Dan Abnett, Eisenhorn (Warhammer 40,000).
    • James Morrow, Bible Stories for Adults.
    • Gary Larson, Last Chapter and Worse.*


    • Alan Moore, Promethea: Book Two.
    • Garth Ennis, Fury.
    • Nanae Chrono, Vassalord, Vol. 1.
    • Nanae Chrono, Vassalord, Vol. 2.
    • Christie Golden, Vampire of the Mists (Ravenloft series, Book 1).*
    • Nanae Chrono, Vassalord, Vol. 3.
    • Kazuo Koike, Samurai Executioner, Vol. 2: Two Bodies, Two Minds.
    • Greg Mortenson, Three Cups of Tea.


    • Devin Grayson, Nightwing and Huntress.
    • Charles P. Pierce, Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free. (Booknote)
    • Kozuo Koike, Samurai Executioner, Vol. 3: The Hell Stick.
    • Greg Pak, Marvel 1602: New World.
    • Jack Cafferty, Now or Never: Getting Down to the Business of Saving Our American Dream.


    • Frank Miller, Batman: Year One. *
    • Bruce Littlefield, Garage Sale America.
    • Gary Larson, The Curse of Madame "C."
    • Spencer Smith, Young Jesus Chronicles: A Cartoon Collection.
    • Beatrice Hohenegger, Liquid Jade: The Story of Tea from East to West.
    • Pablo Neruda, Veinte Poemas de Amor y una Cancion Desesperada.
    • Marc Falkoff, Poems from Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak.
    • Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System.
    • Michael Reeves and John Pelan, eds., Shadows Over Baker Street.
    • Masamune Shirow, Dominion (Tank Police manga).
    • Stewart Wieck, Toreador (Vampire: the Masquerade, Clan Novel #1).


    • Kazuo Koike, Samurai Executioner, Vol. 4: Portrait of Death.
    • Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden, The Dangerous Book for Boys.
    • Dave Marinaccio, All I Really Need to Know I Learned From Watching Star Trek.
    • Gary Larson, The Far Side Observer.
    • Alan Moore, Promethea: Book 3.
    • Kazuo Koike, Samurai Executioner, Vol. 5: Ten Fingers, One Life.
    • Graham Edmonds, The Business of Bullshit.
    • Eric Jerome Dickey, Storm (Marvel Comics).
    • Nancy Folbre, Saving State U.: Fixing Public Higher Education.
    • Moises Kaufman, The Laramie Project. (Booknote)
    • Carl McColman, The Complete Idiot's Guide (R) to Paganism.
    • Alan Moore, Promethea: Book 4.
    • Maki Ogawa and Crystal Watanabe, Yum-Yum Bento Box: Fresh Recipes for Adorable Lunches.
    • Alan Moore, Promethea: Book 5.
    • Greg Pak, Planet Hulk.
    • Marilyn Johnson, This Book is Overdue! (Booknote)


    • Sandy Mitchell, Death or Glory (Ciaphas Cain #4, Warhammer 40Kseries).
    • Jack Huberman, The Quotable Atheist. (Booknote)
    • Amy Wallace,, The Book of Lists: Horror. (Booknote)
    • Suzette Tyler, Been There, Should Have Done That II: More Tips for Making the Most of College. (Booknote)
    • James Dale Robinson, Grendel Tales: Four Devils, One Hell
    • Shmuel Bar, Warrant for Terror: The Fatwas of Radical Islam and the Duty to Jihad. (Booknote)
    • Eric Garcia, The Repossession Mambo.(Booknote)
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
    • Darko Macan, Grendel Tales: Devils and Deaths


    • Dave Cullen, Columbine. (Booknote)
    • Kim Levin, Catrimony: The Feline Guide to Ruling the Relationship
    • Emmanuel Guibert, The Photographer: Into War-torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders. (Booknote)
    • Bill Ayers, To Teach: The Journey, in Comics
    • Arvid Nelson, Rex Mundi, Vol. 1: The Guardian of the Temple
    • Kazuo Koike, Samurai Executioner, Vol. 6: Shinko the Kappa
    • Arvid Nelson, Rex Mundi, Vol. 2: The River Underground
    • Lewis Black, Me of Little Faith
    • Larry Winget, It's Called Work for a Reason! (Booknote)
    • Julia E. Sweig, Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know
    • Chris Ryall, Groom Lake
    • Natalie Goldberg, Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir
    • Pliny the Younger, The Letters of the Younger Pliny
    • Jessica Abel, Life Sucks
    • Kazuo Koike, Samurai Executioner, Vol. 7: The Bamboo Splitter


    • Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know
    • Joe Hill, Locke and Key, vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft
    • Ian Spector, Chuck Norris Cannot Be Stopped
    • Joe Hill, Locke and Key, vol. 2: Head Games
    • Anthony Bourdain, Medium Raw.
    • Alan Moore, DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore
    • Steven Greenhouse, The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker. (Booknote)
    • Joe Hill: Locke and Key, vol. 3: Crown of Shadows
    • Peter Normanton, ed., The Mammoth Book of Best Horror Comics.*
    • Hiroya Oku, Gantz, vol.1


    • Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween.* 
    • Nick Gevers, ed., Extraordinary Engines: The Definitive Steampunk Anthology
    • Jon Stewart, Earth (the book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race
    • Paul Greenberg: Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food
    • Matt Dembicki, ed., Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection
    • Justin Halpern, Sh*t My Dad Says.
    • Sean Williams: The Force Unleashed II (Star Wars novel). 
    • José Saramago, Ensayo sobre la ceguera. (12B12M--Booknote)
    • Kazuo Koike, Samurai Executioner, Vol. 8: The Death Sign of Spring


    • Kazuo Koike, Samurai Executioner, Vol. 9: Facing Life and Death.
    • Kelly Huegel, GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Queer and Questioning Teens.(Booknote)
    • Kazuo Koike, Samurai Executioner, Vol. 10: A Couple of Jitte.
    • Dava Sobel, The Planets. (12B12M--Booknote)
    • R.A. Salvatore, The Crystal Shard (graphic novel adaptation. Legend of Drizzt series, #4). 
    • Sandy Mitchell, Duty Calls (Ciaphas Cain #5, Warhammer 40K series).

    • Scott Snyder and Stephen King, American Vampire, Vol. 1.
    • Saul D. Alinsky, Rules for Radicals. (Booknote)
    • Alan Moore, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Century: 1910
    • Ted Nugent, Ted, White, and Blue: The Nugent Manifesto
    • Hiroya Oku, Gantz, Vol. 2
    • Joe Haldeman, The Forever War.* (12B12M--Booknote)
    • Armando Choy, et. al., Nuestra historia aun se esta escribiendo.(12B12M--Booknote)
    • Craig Brando, The Five-Year Party. (Booknote)
    • Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer, eds., Steampunk
    • Helen Isolde, How to have a Perfect Christmas
    Commentary and thoughts:
    • I continue to use GoodReads to keep track of what I read (link to my profile, which you can also see on the right column of the blog). From small updates, which are fed to my Facebook page and Twitter, to reviews of the books, that is the space where I am doing most of my reading tracking and reviewing. If I feel a book needs to be shared more broadly, I will repost the book review in one of my blogs. As usual for me, if it is a book on a topic not discussed in polite company (politics, religion, sex or adult, or more personal), I post about it at The Itinerant Librarian.
    • Number of books read in the worst month: 5 (April).
    • Number of books read in the best month: 16 (June). 
    • Fiction: 65. As I have done before, graphic novels and mangas fall under fiction unless they are something like a memoir, which I then count under nonfiction for the overall count.On this basis, I read more fiction than nonfiction this year.
    • Nonfiction: 49. In this category, I would include any library science books. I only read three books related to libraries, and I was not particularly pleased even though one of them was a book that many celebrity librarians thought was the best thing since sliced bread. I thought the book was overrated. Aside from that, I read a little history, a little of current events, and some other miscellaneous things.
    • Graphic novels and comics: 39. This category includes both the traditional definition most people consider, i.e. comics from places like DC and Marvel, as well as other genres. It can include fiction and nonfiction. I reread a couple of items in this category. Batman: The Long Halloween is starting to become an annual tradition for me to reread around Halloween.  It is a very good tale, and it definitely sets the mood for Halloween. 
    • Mangas: 15. I did not read as many this year, but I did complete a series. I will comment on that series below. As I have noted before, getting good mangas in Tyler, TX (or anywhere in East TX for that matter) is next to impossible. A trip out of town usually helps remedy that somewhat, but given that the economy is tight, making that trip has become a less frequent occurrence. I am not too worried as I do have a good amount of mangas waiting to be read; I tend to stock up when I do go out of town, and I have a good stock of mangas, manwhas, etc. to be read, plus some certainly worth rereading. This is different from graphic novels, since some I can get through Interlibrary Loan at work, ILL (usually the more known works), though I still buy a good amount of graphic novels as well. 
    • Other categories: I read two books of poetry and a play. 
    • Books written in Spanish: 3.
    • Books borrowed: 61. This is a new tracking category for me. I want to see how many books I am borrowing versus buying. This can include borrowing from the public library, my workplace, or via ILL. I borrowed slightly more than I bought; 58 books on the list are books I own (it does not mean I bought them all last year; tracking how many books I bought in a year could be interesting, but a different category that might not fit in this post since I don't always read what I buy right away). In terms of my borrowing, I tend to borrow most if not all of my nonfiction reading. This is especially applicable to anything related to current affairs since those types of books are usually the type to read once and move on. Overall, there are not many nonfiction books that I feel I have to own aside from a few reference items or books that lend themselves to be read again. Overall, the basic rule for me is if I do not wish to read it more than once, or it is something common, I will try to borrow it.
    • Book and/or reading challenges. I am currently undertaking the 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge. Here is my post accepting the challenge, and you can find the details and link to the challenge itself as well. The challenge started in September 2010 (I actually started in October 2010), and it runs until September 2011. As of this post, I have read four books from my challenge list, marked above as "12B12M." I am currently reading my fifth book from my challenge list, Frank Herbert's Dune. As I finish a book on the challenge list, I am posting reviews in this blog and in my GoodReads profile. 
    • I have discovered over time that I read a lot by serendipity. I may have mentioned this before or not. Anyhow, I discover a lot of my reading ideas by browsing the new books shelf at the public library, keeping an eye on the few acquisitions we do here (budget is bad, so ordering here is sporadic), and browsing at the bookstore. I also read a good number of book and reading-related blogs where I jot down ideas. The point is I tend to pick stuff up as it comes on my radar. Plus, given that I always have two to four books going at any given time, picking up something new is not an issue for me. Another useful tool is that I keep lists of books I want to read. I have a large stack of written notes with lists, and lately I have been using my scratch pad blog, Alchemical Thoughts, to jot down lists of books I want to read. On the scratch pad, I usually include links to any post I find about the book I am interested in with a link to the book (usually the WorldCat record). One of these days, I have to make an update post or two for any book on those blog lists that I have actually read. If interested, you can visit Alchemical Thoughts and click the "books and reading" tag to see the lists. Overall, I feel like I will always find something to read. 
    And now the part that my four readers are waiting for, my favorites of 2010 and other comments:
    • Frank Miller's Sin City series. I am gradually making my way through this. If the only Sin City you know is the film, you need to do yourself a favor and go read the graphic novels. At any rate, Frank Miller's work speaks for itself in terms of excellence whether it is 300, his Batman stories, or his Robocop. Another Frank Miller title I read this year was Batman: Year One. This was somewhat a basis for the Batman film reboot that started with Batman Begins.
    • I thought that Brad Warner's Sit Down and Shut Up was pretty interesting.  Warner gives us a punk take on zen buddhism, and the book was pretty good to read.
    • Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn. I thought that Ciaphas Cain would be my only favorite in the Warhammer 40K universe. Then someone recommended I take a look at Eisenhorn, and I did. This is another excellent series. I read the first collected omnibus that has the three novels and two short tales. Gregor Eisenhorn is an inquisitor in the 41st millennium moving behind the scenes to keep the enemies of the Imperium at bay. This series combines adventure with a touch of detective and suspense fiction. Abnett does have a very good writing style and knows how to keep up a good pace. And since Eisenhorn had an apprentice, who now has his own series, I will be picking up Ravenor at some point in the future.
    • Kazuo Koike's Samurai Executioner series is probably the best manga I read this year. I also feel good because I read the entire series this year. Koike's works are not only great stories, but the artists that draw his stories also tend to do excellent work. The executioner is tasked with testing the shogun's swords, and he does it by beheading the condemned. However, the executioner often works aiding the local law enforcement and does other tasks. There is a touch of the consulting detective in this series set in Edo-era Japan. By the way, the series captures the setting very well. I do have to give the usual warning for the uptight, squeamish, or just more conservative folks: the series does contain violence (including beheadings) and sex. I tend to like that sort of thing, but I know some people out there do not. So, reader discretion is advised. Overall, this is one I highly recommend. Koike is the author of the famous Lone Wolf and Cub series. I already have the first two volumes of that series on my shelf, so I hope to get started on it this year.
    • Bruce Littlefield's Garage Sale America was a cute little book. The author traveled around the U.S. visiting garage sales, rummage sales, and flea markets. The photography in this book was very good, and it captures an interesting piece of Americana. 
    • Beatrice Hohenegger, Liquid Jade: The Story of Tea from East to West was interesting as well. I learned a lot about tea from this book. Not just the history, but also a bit about the plant itself and how we get the tea that we enjoy in our homes. 
    • Greg Pak's Planet Hulk was definitely one of the best graphic novel compilations I read this year. The series has a strong element that reminds us Robert E. Howard's best work in the Conan series. If you are fan of the Hulk, you have probably read this already. If not, you have to read it. If you are not a fan of the Hulk, this volume is very accessible for casual readers. A big concern with comics is the idea of continuity and the question of "can I get into a series without needing too much background or additional information?" The collected volume I read will let you get into the story with ease. And while the story does continue after the events in Planet Hulk, the story does stand by itself. The art in the series is also very good.
    • Sandy Mitchell's Death or Glory and Duty Calls. Regimental Commissar Ciaphas Cain keeps going strong in his adventures in the 41st millennium. He just wants to have an easy life and stay out trouble, but it seems that trouble follows him anyhow. In the process, he does do the right thing, acts heroically, and ends up being the hero of the hour. His reputation only gets bigger, which is not what he wants. The series has a strong sense of humor combined with some pretty good military scifi adventure. I am definitely going on with the series, and I will likely pick up the second omnibus (I already own the first one), which collects these two novels and the sixth novel Cain's Last Stand. However, the commissar is not quite finished given that a seventh novel just came out, The Emperor's Finest. The novels are written as tales of the commissar edited by an inquisitor looking over his files who then presents them to other inquisitors to read. Thus Mitchell can go back and forth in Cain's life from his early years to his retirement to in between. All novels, as far as I have read, can stand on their own, but if you read them over time, you will see references to other works, etc. I should have plenty to read for a while.
    • Joe Hill's Locke & Key series. This is a nice horror graphic novel series. Good art and attention to detail, and a dark plot. A family facing the loss of the father moves East. The house is not quite haunted, but there are some eerie elements. And then there are the keys that the villain wishes to obtain. This is a nice example of good Gothic horror.
    • New manga discovery for me was the Gantz series. On the one hand, I like it, but it is a bit hard to get into. The action pretty much starts right away, and once it does, the pace does not let go. So far, I have read the first two volumes. It's a story of people being taken out of their environments and put into a new, deadlier situation. Fans of things like Survivor, Lost, maybe Hunger Games, and to some extent Battle Royale may like this as well.
    • Given the recent suicides of gay youths dues to bullying, I recommend Kelly Huegel, GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Queer and Questioning Teens. It is informative, relevant, and very accessible. 
    • Scott Snyder and Stephen King, American Vampire, Vol. 1. This is another series I plan on following. It offers a new take on the vampire genre, and it goes back to what vampires should be: bad-ass blood suckers to be feared instead of the sissy emo sparkly asshats certain "writers" (and I use the term loosely) have made. 
    • Jessica Abel offers a different take on vampires as well with Life Sucks.  This is a young adult title where vampires work at the local convenience store (think 7-Eleven). Yes, it may sound a bit cheesy, but Abel gives us some humor, a look at teen issues, and a pretty good vampire story. She even takes a jab or two at those other "vampires."
    • The best short fiction collection I read this year, after thinking it over, has to be Shadows Over Baker Street. In simple terms, this is Sherlock Holmes meets H.P. Lovecraft. This is a collection of stories where the great detective has to deal with Lovecraftian  horrors. There are some very good stories and authors in this anthology. This is one I took my time reading and enjoying like a fine wine. If you enjoy horror, Lovecraft, Sherlock Holmes, or mystery, or any of the above combined, you will like this book. 
    • I think many readers may enjoy Alan Moore's Promethea series. If you like mythology and fantasy, you will probably like this. As a reader's advisor, I would say it is somewhat similar to works like Fables, which I have on my TBR list. If you have to choose between this and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1910, which I also read this year, go with Promethea. In addition, the art in Promethea is also very good. To be honest, I don't think Moore is getting any better with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and as much as I like Moore's work, I am seriously considering not reading anything else in the LoEG series if anything else comes out. The series pretty much jumped the shark after the second volume. Promethea is Moore still in his prime as storyteller, even in the moments when he really goes deep into things like Kabbalah and origin myths; Moore does have a tendency to go deep in terms of things like literary allusions and references, sometimes excessively so. If you can handle that, you will likely enjoy Moore's works overall. With LoEG, he has pretty much gone beyond providing a good tale just to try to show off how smart he is, and he is starting to fail miserably. Black Dossier (LoEG) was almost unreadable. It's a case where too many sequels are ruining a good thing. 
    • If you still want an Alan Moore fix, his collection of DC stories in DC Universe will do the trick nicely. Don't go in expecting something like Watchmen. These are the stories Moore did for DC Comics, and they do vary in quality. Some, such as The Killing Joke are excellent. Others are just so-so comics fare. If nothing else, you do get a different look at this iconic writer.
    • Eric Garcia's The Repossession Mambo, basis for the recent film Repo Men, is what I am recommending lately when people ask me what is good to read in general science fiction. The premise is very good, and it is very eerie given today's issues with the health care industry. In the novel, if you need an organ, any organ or body part, you can buy it and get it put into your body. If you can't afford it, the Credit Union will be happy to give you financing. However, if you miss the payments for any reason, the Credit Union will send the Repo Men after you, and they will take their merchandise back. Given that medical costs are one of the top reasons for bankruptcies in the United States, and that those making laws pretty much don't give a hoot about that fact, this novel gains a strong relevance and makes a serious comment about our current society. I have not seen the film, but I would like to see it in part because it does feature Forest Whitaker in the role of Jake, which should be interesting to see. This is a book that may stay with you for a while after reading it. 
    • The other science fiction novel I read this year I would like to recommend is Joe Haldeman's The Forever War. This was a reread for me. Though it was written with the Vietnam War in mind, the novel gains relevancy and probably a new audience given the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, the U.S. has reached the point where it has been in Afghanistan longer than the Soviets with no signs of leaving any time soon. By the way, George Orwell also envisioned a condition where a state would be in a state of perpetual war in his novel 1984. Who says science fiction is just fluff with nothing to say? I think a lot of our soldiers could easily relate to Major Mandela from Haldeman's novel.
    • Dave Cullen's Columbine is probably the best look at the events of Columbine High School. Cullen took over a decade to research and go over every detail to give us an accurate view of events. The book removes many of the misconceptions people have about the event: the boys were not part of some "trenchcoat mafia" nor were they just loser loners; the story of the martyred Christian girl is false (no matter how many apologists come out of the woodwork, the evidence is it did not happen). Also, the book reveals the efforts the police took to cover up information and its own incompetence. This is a book that needs to be read, and it is one with lessons that we as a society need to heed. The book does include references and notes for folks wishing to verify things.
    • Emmanuel Guibert, The Photographer: Into War-torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders. This was another favorite this year. The book combines graphic novel art and narrative with excellent photography to present the story of a photographer who goes into Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion with the organization Doctors Without Borders. If you are interested in learning more about this part of the world, this book is a must-read. 
    • The one book I am warning people to stay away from: José Saramago, Ensayo sobre la ceguera. Available in English translation as On Blindness, this is just a very difficult to read book, one long big paragraph telling what has to be the most depressing apocalyptic-type tale imaginable. It was a pain to read, and even with the seemingly good premise-- a blindness epidemic strikes, and social chaos ensues-- the book just becomes a slow and tortuous reading experience. If you want post-apocalyptic or disaster kind of reading where society shows its worse side, go find something like The Walking Dead. Overall, I agree that if some major catastrophe happened and society fell apart, that we would see the absolute worst in people. Saramago presents this, but he does so in an extremely oppressive way in terms of narrative. In addition, his habit of not naming characters (the doctor, the lady with eyeglasses, so on) does not help things either. And I am not even going to discuss the rape scene. No, it is not because I am squeamish about rape scenes; I have read plenty of works where rape is present, and the works were excellent. This is not that kind of work. To be honest, I am not sure how he won that Nobel Prize if it was on the basis of this novel. All I know is I probably will not pick up anything else by him anytime soon. Having said all this, I am a bit glad that I can now brag about reading it thus adding this literary fiction author to my list of books read. But as stated, not likely to repeat the experience.
    • And finally, the one book I recommend for librarians that is not related to libraries or librarianship: Saul D. Alinsky's Rules for Radicals.I even took notes and wrote a series of posts from those notes over at The Itinerant Librarian.
     There are a few others books in my 2010 list I liked, but the ones listed above are ones that really stayed with me. Overall, it was a pretty good year for reading. I already have books started for 2011. Some are carry-overs from 2010. I will note that I count a book in the month I finish it, thus the carry-overs will go into the 2011 list. Plus I have some other books already in the cue so to speak.

    To wrap up, as of this post, I am currently reading the following:
    • Frank Herbert's Dune. As I mentioned, this is for the 12B12M Challenge. 
    • David Grann, The Lost City of Z.  Only reason I slowed down on this a bit is because I picked up Dune. However, so far, I am enjoying it a lot.
    • Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Essential Captain America, Vol. 1
    And I have the following coming up (as in I borrowed them, so I have to get to them, or just decided they are next):
    • Brad Warner's Hardcore Zen. I am hoping to pick it up after Grann's book.
    • Charles Portis, True Grit, the basis for the movies. My library actually had it, so borrowed it. However, will not likely get to it until I finish Dune.
    • Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead, Vol.1 (Hardcover) and The Walking Dead, Vol. 2 (Hardcover). I was impressed my local public library actually had these given their record with graphic novels is pitiful. My bet is the selector saw the TV show or got a tip about the show. Anyhow, I am hoping to hit it this weekend.
    • Thaddeus Russell's A Renegade History of the United States. Saw it on the new books shelf at the public library, got curious. Not sure I will like it, but I am willing to give it a try.

      And for your amusement, or just because, here are some other people who have posted their lists that I know of as of this post:
      • CW's list. I like how she breaks things down by genre. She also makes a comment on how her e-reader may be changing her reading habits.
      • Mark Lindner's list. He is also taking part in the 12 Books 12 Months Challenge. 
      • Jessamyn West gives her 2010 summary, and you can see her book list as well. Another reason I linked to it is I loved the old time advert she used in the post.