Friday, January 27, 2012

Article Note: On Progressive LGBTQ Reference

Citation for the article:

Mehra, Bharat and Donna Braquet, "Progressive LGBTQ Reference: Coming Out in the 21st Century." Reference Services Review 39.3 (2011): 401-422.

Read via Emerald.

I found this to be a pretty good, practical article, and I will probably share it with the campus sex education specialist. Maybe it will spark a conversation or two. The basic question of the article is whether reference services have kept up with ways and tools to meet the learning and information needs of the LGBTQ community. The article presents a practice-based framework for these services. The authors also mention that library outreach needs to affirm its mission by seeking out and developing partnerships with other campus units such as student organizations; that is a lot of what I do here in my current role as the Outreach Librarian. However, the article did give me some additional ideas that I hope to apply in expanding that mission here. Such partnerships can facilitate new and better library programs. In addition, the authors state that virtual reference can also be an important service tool for LGBTQ patrons. This is due to the anonymity element virtual reference can offer, which the authors discuss in the article.

The article presents research done at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, which, as the authors cite, is an area "known for its conservative social views stemming from strong held religious influences, [that] is in the heart of the 'Bible Belt'" (405). The description of that area is very applicable to the area I currently work in. So, if those folks can make some positive efforts in regard to LGBTQ issues, maybe we could take some steps here as well. The review portion of the article goes on to state various diversity and LGBTQ-friendly initiatives the campus has taken. The authors also describe their libraries as having been "a leader on campus with regards to diversity initiatives" (405). That is something every academic library should aspire to do.

The authors go on to describe their research methods including use of qualitative study in the form of interviews of self-identified LGBTQ people. The questions asked that were related to the library and information services are useful ones to gather some good data. For the authors, this led to a reflective process that included doing a SWOT analysis and identifying opportunities and potential partnerships in order to move forward. The article then includes excellent, practical ideas for action.

Selected notes from the article:
  • This quote from a patron, cited by the authors, made me think: "When you are coming out and digging for information, it is really important to be able to find information about yourself. You want to read stuff about you and what you are trying to figure out. Maybe a website that directs you right to the areas where you can find LGBTQ books or spotlight a gay books now and then on the library homepage. So having something that they can discover on their own, something that they don't have to go too far into the library website or the university website, for that matter, would be good. If you promote that you have these resources and let people know where they are, it will do a lot for those struggling to come out" (408). 
  • Online information is crucial, especially since people at times may not feel comfortable asking a reference librarian at the reference desk. Online resources need to be relevant, local as well as external, and promote knowledge growth for the LGBTQ patrons, their allies, and I will add those people just wanting to learn more. This also includes virtual reference. 
  • Again, I am reminded that I need to develop an LGBTQ research guide for us here. We use LibGuides here, so I've got that tool. The usual challenge is the lack of time (plus the possibility someone up above may say "what do we need that for?" or slightly worse). 
  • On how librarians need to change: "In order to make this possible, traditionalist reference librarians will have to poke their 'ostrich heads' out of the proverbial sands of heterosexism and prejudice and learn to discard using outdated efforts towards LGBTQ matters and outgrow resistance that in the past have included (Mehta and Braquet, 2007b): ignoring or excluding any LGBTQ references in communication and information exchanges; being ignorant of LGBTQ concerns and thinking that is an acceptable excuse; maintaining status quo and refusing to change the way things function; not discarding heterosexual assumptions; using delaying and strategic actions of diverting attention or bureaucractic procedures; and making token gestures that do not make real changes" (409). For librarians, ignorance is not an excuse nor an option. And any librarian who behaves as described above, whether to LGBTQ patrons or any other patron that may not fit their paradigm or prejudices (racial, ethnic, orientation, etc.), as far as I am concerned they are as bad as those unethical pharmacists who refuse to provide legal contraception because their sky fairy beliefs take precedence. Those people should be fired and removed from their profession for they have failed to be professionals, not to mention failing at being human beings. 
  • Why we need knowledgeable librarians in this regard. The authors cite another patron, and what happened to this patron should not have happened as far as I am concerned. Not in my library if I can help it. The scenario: "I contacted a librarian by e-mail for a paper I was doing and we never could meet, so she left me a packet behind the reference desk. She was helpful and not discriminatory or anything but over half the resources she gave me were not what I needed. They were off-the-wall and conservative. She wasn't doing it on purpose or anything; it was just not at all what I needed. So, having someone there who is familiar enough with subject matter to lead you in the right direction would have been helpful" (409). I think this patron may be a bit more charitable than I might be. Sounds like the librarian failed to do any form of reference interview, and she just picked out whatever she could find guided by her own prejudices. I will go so far as to tell colleagues that if they do not want to deal with someone based on something like this, refer them to me. I will be happy to take care of them. 
  • Community engagement is crucial. 
  • Training for librarians, especially those who may be less knowledgeable, is important. "For reference services to become a beacon of support to all LGBTQ individuals, this will mean, first and foremost, for reference librarians to spend some time to become familiar with the coming out profess so that they can effectively assist a range of LGBTQ individuals. . . . "(411). 
  • The library's outreach role is crucial as well. This is something I work and strive for. The authors write, "instead, in order to stay relevant in the twenty-first century there needs to be a paradigm shift in the outreach liaison functionality of the academic library (including reference) to promote itself as a proactive player and supporter of LGBTQ concerns in the campus and surrounding community (Mehra and Srinivasan, 2007)" (qtd. in 412). 
  • More on outreach, the authors describe this scenario. This is something I do try to do when I am doing outreach work; I do quite a lot of tables and booths at events, which makes me in essence a public face for the library. They write, "when the library does outreach, say at tables or booths at events, the library should get across the message the library is the place to find resources on all types of issues of diversity, including LGBT" (413). 
  • I found the idea of using a university library's chat service intriguing. The authors describe a collaboration with local school librarians and GSA groups promoting the academic library as a resource for all, whether they are affiliated to the university or not. This is facilitated by the fact the chat service is anonymous and requires no log-in. What we use now is also anonymous and requires no log-in. Given the restraints I face, I am not sure I could propose this for the library's chat reference, but it might work for my own Meebo chat box in my research guides so folks needing assistance from schools and the community could contact me. I would like to investigate this further. 
  • This quote on social justice also made me think. I find myself often going back to the ideas of social justice because it goes with who I am in spite of the prevailing environment I currently work in. It also takes me back the idea of library neutrality that I have reflected upon before. The quote in question: "It suggests the need for traditional academic librarians and others to play a more proactive social justice and social advocacy role to meet the needs of LGBTQ populations and other minorities who are pigeon-holed on the margins of society owing to prevailing trends of heterosexism, homophobia, racism, sexism, and other unfair and unjust legal, social, cultural, economic, and political rhetoric, values, behavior, and discriminatory practices" (417). 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Reading notes from Zen Lessons: The Art of Leadership

"I said I never had much use for one. Never said I didn't know how to use it." --Matthew Quigley, from the film Quigley: Down Under.

Quigley was taking about revolvers and pistols. For me, that pretty much describes how I see leadership, and especially management, in librarianship. I may not have much use for it, but it does not mean I am ignorant of leadership theory and practice. Anyhow, how often does one quote a Tom Selleck film in a librarianship blog? Sometimes you find a little wisdom in strange places.

I read the book Zen Lessons: The Art of Leadership a while back. I have a small interest in the topic of leadership and how it applies to librarianship. I don't consider myself an expert on the topic, but I try to learn a bit here and there and reflect on the topic. I just don't brag or talk about it very much. I did jot down some ideas from the book I found interesting or worthy of reflection, so I figured it would be good to jot them down here. Page numbers from the book included.

A couple of quotes from the point when I started reading the book:
  • "Therefore, it is said, 'Accumulate learning by study, understand what you learn by questioning" (1).
  • "Nothing is more essential to leadership and teachership than carefully discerning what to take and what to leave aside" (7). 
A little bit on making decisions:
  • "It is essential to leadership that one should take far-reaching and the great, and leave off the shortsighted and the petty" (24) .
  • "So it is said, 'Planning is with the many, decision is done alone.' By planning with the group, one can examine the ultimate effect of benefit or harm; by deciding oneself, one can determine right or wrong for the community" (24).
On not forgetting danger and risk:
  • "Therefore a superior person is one who when safe does not forget danger, and who in times of order does not forget about disorder" (43). 
On sharing and teaching wisdom. For me, sharing and teaching are important aspects of being a librarian as well as what I do as an educator. I think to a large extent I define myself as a librarian on the basis of sharing the wisdom with others:
  • "Greed and hatred are worse than plunderous--oppose them with wisdom. Wisdom is like water-- when unused it stagnates, when stagnant it does not circulate, and when it does not circulate, wisdom does not act. What can wisdom do about greed and hatred then?" (64).
On seeking a Middle Way:
  • "In managing affairs one must weight the heavy and the light; when speaking out one must first think and reflect. Strive to accord with the middle way, do not allow bias" (74). 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Article Note: On Campus Climate and GLBT Resources in Academic Libraries

Citation for the article:

Ciszek, Matthew P., "Out on the Web: The Relationship Between Campus Climate and GLBT-related Web-based Resources in Academic Libraries." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 37.5 (September 2011): 430-436.

Read via Library Literature and Information Science database.

I found the recommendations at the end of the article to be the most useful part, but I did get some points for reflection and further thinking from the article overall. This is a relevant article from librarians seeking to be more aware of the issues as well as for those seeking to provide better services and resources for members of the LGBT community. While providing both print and online diverse collections is important, the article focuses on online and we-based resources. This is because online resources are specially essential to serve those who may be reluctant to approach library staff in person and/or may not be open about their orientation.

The article discusses results of a survey of 259 schools asking three questions (I paraphrased them slightly. The exact text in article on page 432):
  • Does the library have research guides on the LGBT topics or geared to these students? 
  • Is there a dedicated selector for this topic, or at least a contact in the library for more information? 
  • Does the library subscribe to GLBT Life Database?
I will put myself on the line by answering the questions as they apply to my institution:
  • Not at this time. 
  • Unofficially, I would be that selector. However, the fact that I have some expertise or that I am the one who, primarily, selects materials in that area is not advertised by the library. In fact, there has been questioning of the fact I do such selections. I usually do a book display for Pride Month in June, which has met with some degree of objection as well locally. I do it anyways. As a disclosure note, I am one two advisors for the campus LGBTQA group. Some people are aware I do it, but overall they are indifferent about it. 
  • No. 
The author states that library online catalogs, special collections and print materials were excluded from the research. This was done to focus on general resources, which the author states would be available in most academic libraries (432). I can see the point to this, but I wondered if eliminating the print also leaves out the possibility of finding  materials by browsing.. However, I do see the point as well regarding stigma when it comes to finding these kind of materials then checking them out of the library.

Though the author did find that there was a relationship between campus climate and the availability of LGBT resources, the places with said resources seemed low in number:
  • "Evidence of a GLBT research guide was found at only 25% of libraries surveyed, and evidence of a selector or resource contact was found at even fewer libraries surveyed" (434). 
  • A subscription to the database was found a bit more often, but the author credits this to the fact that, in many cases, the database may be bundled in a larger database package. Also, smaller institutions might find GLBT Life to be too expensive.
The article gives some very good recommendations for action. I will jot down some with brief comments:
  • "Create a top-level research guide geared toward GLBT-related topics and resources on the library's Web site" (435). We could easily do it since we use LibGuides here. However, since I would be the one doing it, odds are good this would not be a high priority given the many other things I do have to do. I would like to do it; I just don't see the time opening up to do it at this point in time, and since this topic is not a high priority, there is no incentive. The author mentions that often LGBT materials get tossed in or put into larger guides for topics like Gender Studies or Women's Studies. He makes a valid point that some students may not think to look in these guides  We currently do not have a Gender Studies nor a Women's Studies research guide in our library. I guess no one ever requested one. Something more to consider.
  • "Assign a selector for GLBT materials who is tasked to keep abreast of resources in the area of GLBT studies and purchase materials for the GLBT community on campus as budgets allow" (435). As I mentioned, I do this in an unofficial capacity. The literature selector here does purchase a thing or two, but GLBT is not a high priority overall. What I do select in large measure is part of my work and efforts for library outreach. It basically gets done as long as I do it. 
  • "Highlight GLBT related collections and resources on the library's Web site, newsletter, and other institution communications to the campus community at large" (435). We do some of this. As the Outreach Librarian, I handle the library's communications to the campus and community at large. We do blog content, which does get channeled into our social media, mainly Facebook page and Twitter. I have also used the internal campus bulletin board for some of this, usually to announce a book display or event (something I do for other observances and topics as well). 
  • "Perform an assessment of GLBT students, faculty, and staff information and resource needs and create a plan for meeting these needs" (435). Something I would like to do, but I may not be able to get to right away. In this regard, I would like to read a bit more on this assessment topic, and the article does provide some references I could use as a starting point. Then again, there are other areas where I would like to do needs assessment, if I can actually get the time instead of having to do a lot of busywork (but I will not go into that now). I am thinking a good place to start is with the local campus LGBTQA group. 
Here is one final point from the article that made me think a bit:
  • "Mehra and Bracquet argue that academic librarians should become 'change agents' by not only improving the library collections and services to GLBT persons but also by promoting the equality of these people in society and in the institutions where they work" (431). 
Why did that make me think? For one, I do wonder how one or two librarians can do such in an overall environment that is not very friendly to 'change agents' (related to LGBT or any other issue for that matter). I am not saying that librarians then in such a setting should not do anything; silence is worse, but to what extent do you put your neck on the line when repercussions can be a very real possibility? And I am thinking in general terms here.  For me, this goes along with the whole idea of library neutrality, an idea I have struggled with at times and pondered (see here, here, and here). Change agent to me is more than just some twopointopian "visionary" (to borrow the term from the Annoyed Librarian). I have no problem with the idea; it's the carrying it out that at times I ponder.

Anyhow, leave my musings aside. If this is a topic that interests you, you probably should read this article.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

My Reading List for 2011

I made it to the end of another year and to the beginning of another. It is a good time to look back at what I've read in the past year in terms of books. This is also a nice exercise I enjoy as it gives me a sense of what I've enjoyed and how my reading tastes and patterns may have changed or not. This past year I did not blog as much in the professional blog (this space) for various reasons; one of those reasons was lack of time, or as some other celebrity blogger once said, "life trumps blogging." I also felt a stronger urge to read more. Before I ran the tally, I had the feeling I had read less books this year. I did spend a lot more time reading, often turning off the television to do so. While I read a lot online, much of it via a feed reader, I still continue to read books. I still read books in print. I have not made the transition to an e-reader, nor do I have the desire to do so at this point. If any of my three readers are interested, here are some small thoughts on e-readers that I jotted down on the scratch pad, Alchemical Thoughts, a while back.

Allow me to make a small aside before I go on with the list and the rest of the commentary. When I say "books read," I mean exactly that. Recently, I saw some blogger out there getting picking over distinguishing "pages read" (what she prefers to measure) versus "books read" (what most people I know and I prefer to measure, which seems to be fairly common). That is just way too "OCD" and persnickety to me, and it sounds a bit snobbish to be honest because it implies some books are better than others, so if they have less pages, they count less. Hey, if it works for her, fine, but to me as a reader and librarian, that is just a bunch of hogwash (to be polite). Now, if I did a page count, I would likely get a pretty substantial number given the many articles I read (and I will note that while I did not blog article notes as often this year, I still read a lot of LIS articles, along with some others). Plus, how would one measure blogs, online articles, newspapers online or not, so on? In the end, I am interested in books, all books for purposes of this exercise, be they art books, graphic novels, manga, picture books, novels, anthologies, histories, etc. Saying some books are less valid because they have less pages, what that lady said, is just pretentious crap. As a librarian dedicated to encouraging others to read, I encourage all kinds of reading. Maybe part of why I do this is to show that reading can be done, that it can be enjoyed, and that you can read a variety of things. Reading books (and this certainly includes audiobooks-- hey, that is just someone reading to you-- and e-books) is reading. This caught my eye enough I felt a need to say something because I want people to read freely, to read what they want, when they want. And that's all I've to got to say about that.

Let's get on with it. Starting with the basic numbers:


Number of books read in 2011: 119, with 3 re-reads.

Number of books read in 2010:  119, with 6 rereads (the 2010 list).
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

An interesting coincidence: I read the same exact number of books this year as I did last year. I was expecting a lower number considering that I picked up a few large omnibus editions that took me a long time to read through, but they were very enjoyable. Omnibus books are those that collect a series of works in one volume, usually (at least from the ones I've picked up) three to five novels, with a short story or two connecting the novels. They are usually advertised or labeled as "omnibus" (but not always). Anyhow, I count those as one book in the tally even though I am reading three or four books in one package. Also, as folks will note when they see the list, I did have some very low count months. In the end, it was nice to see things balanced out.

As I have done before, 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). Last year, I tracked how many books I borrowed, and I will continue this year as well.

The books I have read:

January:

  • Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, Book One (Hardcover compilation). 
  • Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, Book Two (Hardcover compilation). 
  • Frank Herbert, Dune
  • David Grann, The Lost City of Z
  • Hiroya Oku, Gantz, Vol. 3
  • Ha Jin, Facing Shadows
  • Charles Portis, True Grit
  • Tetsu Kariya, Oishinbo, Vol. 1: Japanese Cuisine
  • Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, et.al., Essential Captain America, Vol. 1
  • Ed Brubaker, Batman: The Man Who Laughs
  • Zhou Zuoren, Selected Essays of Zhou Zuoren (Chinese-English Bilingual Edition). 
  • Joe Schrieber, Death Troopers (Star Wars novel)
  • Neil Pasricha, The Book of Awesome
  • Tsutomu Nihei, Biomega, Vol. 1

February:

  • Jamie Oliver, Jamie's America: Easy Twists on Great American Classics, and More
  • Joe Schreiber, Red Harvest (Star Wars novel). 
  • Makoto Yukimura, Planetes, Book 1
  • Brad Warner, Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies & the Truth About Reality.
  • Bob Schreck, Jurassic Park, Vol. 1: Redemption
  • Ha-Joon Chang, 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism
  • Marc Guggenheim, Stephen King's N

March:

  • Mario Vargas Llosa, Los Cuadernos de Don Rigoberto
  • Hiroshi Hirata, Satsuma Gishiden, Vol. 1
  • Brian Michael Bendis, Elektra: The Scorpio Key
  • Tilar J. Mazzeo, The Secret of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History of the World's Most Famous Perfume
  • Robert B. Reich, Aftershock.
  • Mollie V. Blackburn, Acting Out: Combating Homophobia Through Teacher Activism
  • Rei Hiroe, Black Lagoon, Vol. 1

April: 

  • Jay Leno, Headlines.*
  • Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, Book 3 (Hardcover compilation).
  • Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, Book 4 (Hardcover compilation). 
  • R.A. Salvatore, Streams of Silver (The Legend of Drizzt #5, graphic novel adaptation).
  • Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, Book 5 (Hardcover compilation). 
  • R.A. Salvatore, The Halfling's Gem (The Legend of Drizzt #6, graphic novel adaptation).
  • Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, Book 6 (Hardcover compilation). 
  • Pete Jordan, Dishwasher: One Man's Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States
  • Samuel L. Jackson, Cold Space
  • Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian
  • Rei Hiroe, Black Lagoon, Vol. 2
  • Karen Valby, Welcome to Utopia: Notes from a Small Town
  • Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes, Unshelved, Vol. 1
  • Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes, What Would Dewey Do? An Unshelved Collection

May:

  • Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes, Library Mascot Cage Match: an Unshelved Collection
  • Geoff Johns, Green Lantern, Vol. 4: The Sinestro Corps War, Vol. 1
  • Agatha Christie, Poirot's Early Cases
  • Greg Grandin, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City

June:

  • Madeleine Rosca, Hollow Fields, Vol. 1
  • Gregory Dicum, The Coffee Book: Anatomy of an Industry from Crop to the Last Drop
  • Graham McNeill, The Ultramarines Omnibus (Warhammer 40K). 
  • Tsuneo Takano, Ral╬ęGrad. Vol. 1
July:

  • Geoff Johns, Green Lantern, Vol. 5: The Sinestro Corps War, Vol. 2.
  • Akihisa Ikeda, Rosario+Vampire, Vol. 1
  • Rei Hiroe, Black Lagoon, Vol. 3
  • Anthony Boucher, The Compleat Boucher: The Complete Short Science Fiction and Fantasy of Anthony Boucher
  • David Boaz, ed., The Libertarian Reader: Classic and Contemporary Readings from Lao Tzu to Milton Friedman
  • Yukio Takamura, Caged Slave
  • Bisco Hatori, Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 1
  • Justin Richardson, And Tango Makes Three
  • Sarah S. Brannen, Uncle Bobby's Wedding
  • Kurt Busiek, Conan, Volume 2: The God in the Bowl and Other Stories

August:

  • Noel Botham and The Useless Information Society, The World's Greatest Book of Useless Information
  • Garon Tsuchiya, Old Boy, Vol. 1
  • Kurt Busiek, et.al., Conan, Vol. 4: The Halls of the Dead and Other Stories
  • Arthur Conan Doyle, The Lost World and Other Stories
  • Maureen Stanton, Killer Stuff and Tons of Money
September:

  • Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan, eds., A Passion for Books.*
  • Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele, The Surrogates.
  • Paulo Freire, Teachers as Cultural Workers
  • Timothy Truman, Conan, Vol. 5: Rogues in the House and Other Stories
  • Daniel Chanan Matt, The Essential Kabbalah.
  • Jesse Ventura, 63 Documents the Government Doesn't Want You to Read
  • Joe Hill, Locke and Key, Vol. 4: Keys to the Kingdom
  • Joss Whedon, Astonishing X-Men Omnibus
  • Carl Zimmer, A Planet of Viruses
  • Mark Ovenden, Railway Maps of the World
  • Will Eisner, The Best of the Spirit

October:

  • Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween.* 
  • Kazuo Koike, Lone Wolf and Cub, Vol. 1: The Assassin's Road
  • John Ficarra et.al., 1001 MAD Pages You Must Read Before You Die
  • Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
  • Jeff VanderMeer, The Steampunk Bible
  • Brando Jerwa, Snake Eyes: Declassified (G.I. Joe graphic novel). 
  • G.B. Trudeau, Peace Out, Dawg! Tales from Ground Zero
  • Ann VanderMeer, The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities
  • Cassern S. Goto, Blood Ravens: The Dawn of War Omnibus (Warhammer 40K). 
  • Don Vorhees, The Perfectly Useless Book of Useless Information
  • Rob Kaplan and Harold Rabinowitz, Speaking of Books
  • The Tribute WTC Visitor Center, 9/11: The World Speaks
  • Hardy Green, The Company Town

November:

  • Benrik, Lose Weight! Get Laid! Find God! The All-in-One Life Planner.
  • Chris Claremont, X-Men: X-Tinction Agenda.
  • Joe Casey, G.I. Joe-America's Elite, Vol. 1: America's Newest War.
  • Brett Halliday, Murder is My Business
  • Nancy Pearl, Book Lust.*
  • Thomas F. Cleary, Zen Lessons
  • Joe Casey, G.I. Joe-America's Elite, Vol. 2: The Ties That Bind
  • Clifton Fadiman and John S. Major, The New Lifetime Reading Plan
  • Aloys Winterling, Caligula: A Biography
  • Paul Jenkins, G.I. Joe-Frontline, Vol.4: One Shots
  • Ennis Carter, Posters for the People: The Art of the WPA
  • Scott Snyder, American Vampire, Vol. 2
  • Bill Maher, Does Anybody Have a Problem With That?
  • Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, Lone Wolf and Cub, Vol. 2: The Gateless Barrier
  • Jimmy Palmiotti, The Punisher: Very Special Holidays.
  • Frank Tieri, Punisher Noir
  • Jimmy Palmiotti, Wolverine and Black Cat: Claws
  • John Wagner, Batman/Judge Dredd; Judgment on Gotham
  • Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, Lone Wolf and Cub, Vol. 3: The Flute of the Fallen Tiger

December:

  • Kevin Smith, Kevin Smith's Green Hornet, Vol. 2
  • Pat Willard, American Eats! On the Road with the WPA
  • Ferdinand Protzman, Wide Angle: National Geographic Greatest Places
  • Sandy Mitchell, Cain's Last Stand (Warhammer 40K).
  • Lisa Abend, The Sorcerer's Apprentices.
  • Quino, Mafalda 2
  • Quino, Mafalda 3.
  • Quino, Mafalda 4
  • Paul Collins, Sixpence House
  • Guy Fieri, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives
  • Ann Droyd, Goodnight iPad
Commentary and thoughts:
  • I continue using GoodReads to keep track of my reading. It works well to make brief comments on books, just enough to remember the book. I will share a review or note on a blog for books I consider really special, books that I think my three readers should look into or at least be aware of the books. 
  • Number of books in the best month: 19 in November. 
  • Number of books in the worst month: 4, with a tie for May and June with 4 each. 
  • Fiction: 76. Once again, the majority of stuff I read was fiction. Keep in mind that I include graphic novels and mangas in this category, unless those works are things like memoirs or other nonfiction adaptation. I also read 11 more books of fiction this year in comparison to last year. 
  • Nonfiction: 43. I read 6 less nonfiction books this year in comparison to last year. I did not read a single book related to library science this year. This may be a reflection that I am not pleased overall with LIS literature writing. Last year I noted that I read three books in that area, and they did not impress me in spite of the gushing that some celebrity librarians did. I think much of it also has to do with the fact I have been just wanting to read more for pleasure and to learn about things I am really interested in. Also, there has been a lot of drama in librarianship, which, to be honest, just turns me off overall. It is not that I am not in touch with the issues (I do quite a bit of keeping up); it is just that I prefer to spend my reading time on better things (it is also a big reason why I am not blogging on librarianship professional things as much, but let us leave that aside). Microhistories continue to be a popular genre for me because, in addition to learning about one subject, these books often give you a lot on general history and other topics. Excellent reading for a librarian and reader seeking to broaden his horizons.
  • Graphic novels and comics: 41. This is a genre/format that I enjoy very much. This is a favorite reading interest, and while I am not a geek per se, I am pretty knowledgeable in this area as well as mangas, which I enjoy as well. As usual, this includes traditional things, like Marvel and DC, as well as adaptations, so on. I had some pleasant discoveries this year, and I anticipate to keep reading more in the coming year. Once again, I did reread Batman: The Long Halloween in preparation for the Halloween holiday. A good tradition that sets up the mood nicely. If it's the end of October, you know what I will be reading. 
  • Mangas: 16. I read one more in comparison to last year. I got to try out some new series, and I continued reading some favorites. I had to give a talk on graphic novels and mangas last year, so I had an incentive to read some genres I do not usually read, which was a nice way to explore new things. Personally, I tend to prefer my mangas with more mature themes, but if it is entertaining, I will read a YA title now and then. This is another genre I will continue reading. Even with the closing of Tokyo Pop this past year, there were still good titles coming out. This is a format I do usually buy, since finding them in libraries seems a bit difficult; it is not something many libraries embrace just yet, so getting them via ILL is not easy, if at all possible. Buying them means I am fairly selective about what I pick up since funds are limited. This also applies to graphic novels since the good stuff tends not to be available in libraries, but graphic novels are often a bit easier to borrow (though not by much). 
  • My commentary in previous years regarding mangas and graphic novels in East Texas still applies, and it will likely remain in place for the future. Local selection is embarrassingly low, non-existent for some items. This is reflective of local culture, and I do not mean that in a good way. The trip out of town for book shopping continues to be a tradition, though a bit more difficult now that Borders closed down; we used to make Borders one of our stops as their selection in mangas and graphic novels was always better than the limited Barnes & Noble in Tyler. As reluctant as I am, the day may be drawing closer when I may have to purchase a book online here or there. This area of Texas is just bad for good book selection (not to mention lacking in any decent independent bookstores). 
  • Other categories: No poetry or plays this year. I did add a couple of art-type books, as in books where things like photography or images are the major focus. This includes at least the one cookbook. When I check a cookbook out, it is because the art, layout, the photography, and sometimes the small narratives in them interest me. A cookbook like this, say the Jamie Oliver one on my list, is read for the art, not so much to cook from it given the ingredients and procedures are not meant for amateurs like me (no matter what they claim. Oliver's book, for instance, pretty as it was, is not practical. I don't have a Whole Foods in town, nor a Whole Foods budget). Also the book on train maps was another interesting one. So, once in a while, I do pick up odds and ends like that where the visual is a big element. Just adds to my reading experience. 
  • Book written in Spanish: 1. And that book was read for a book challenge. I have a few books in Spanish on the shelf, so maybe I will get to a few next year. We'll see. A lot of it depends on my serendipitous reading nature. 
  • Books borrowed: 60. This means I borrowed pretty much as much as I owned or bought. In this category, I do include books borrowed from my library, books borrowed from the public library, and books borrowed from Interlibrary Loan via my library. I suppose if I wanted to that I could sort those three categories, but I am not feeling the need to. Most of what I borrow is in the nonfiction area, especially in the kind of books that are worth reading only once (current affairs books are an example of this). If I do not wish to own it or add to my collection, the book is borrowed. And yes, in some cases, I may borrow something and find I do want to buy it. So, make a note of that persnickety publishers who want to close down libraries. Libraries do encourage reading, and they often encourage you to buy books as well. My basic rule still applies here: if I do not wish to read it more than once, or it is something common, I will try to borrow it. 
  • Books and/or reading challenges: I completed the 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge in September.  I am currently not signed up for any new challenges, and I am not planning on any at the moment unless it is a really open or flexible one. While I do keep reading lists, I also read a lot by serendipity and by picking up things from browsing. Any challenge that makes me commit to a tight list or theme just does not really work for me because I like to read what I like when I want to read it. Now a challenge with a certain theme, say science fiction, might be appealing. Basically anything that would fall into what I do already. Anyhow, we'll see. I can always sign up for something during the year. 
  • This is not new, but serendipity is still my main reading approach. As I have mentioned, I do keep reading lists, some of which you can find over at Alchemical Thoughts (just click on the "books and reading" tag when you get there). I also browse a lot, and I make notes. I started carrying a pocket notebook last year, which is great for reminders, including jotting down books I want to read, which I then add to a list on the scratch pad, or borrow or buy depending on mood. This month, the public library had some new books I was interested in. I could not check them all out at once (I only check out what I think I can read within the lending period), so I jotted down the ones I was interested in so I can come check them out later. That sort of thing. Overall, I don't think I will ever run out of things to read, and that is a good thing. As always, I also take suggestions from people. By the way, if you have any suggestions for books you think I should read, feel free to leave them in the comments. 
And now, the part that my four readers are waiting for: my favorites of 2011, with some comments:
  • The Walking Dead series started out strong for me this year. I am up to the sixth hardcover compilation. These are volumes I borrow. The series, at least to the point I got to is starting to turn a bit more into soap opera, which is usually the point in a series when I lose interest. However, the author deserves credit for the ability to shake things up just when you think things are going to be comfortable. If you want a different take on the zombie apocalypse genre (a genre I do not particularly favor, and that, for me, is starting to get as overrated as vampires as of late; by the way, steampunk is starting to become the next overrated genre it seems), you should be reading this, at least the early volumes. By the way, if you watch the television adaptation, they have taken some key and interesting liberties with the source material. Overall, as usual, the books are a lot better. 
  • The Lost City of Z. This was a very interesting book that brings together the thrill of an explorer's tale with a historical mystery set in the Amazon. If you enjoy the science fiction genre of lost civilizations, you will probably enjoy this real life search for the mythical city of Z. This is one I recommend. 
  • Oishinbo. If you enjoy things like Iron Chef (the original Japanese version, not the new atrocity on Food Network), you will probably enjoy this. You will also enjoy it if you like learning about food in other cultures. The protagonist works for a newspaper where they are trying to compile the ultimate menu. Thus he goes out sampling and reviewing all sorts of foods and drink. He is quite the epicure, but he is one of those guys who likes to stay below the radar. There is humor, and there is some great art and explorations of Japanese cooking and techniques. Very good series, which I hope to continue reading. 
  • Gantz. I continue to enjoy this series. The Gantz orb brings various people back to life in order to play various deathly games. It is a bit like Battle Royale and other conspiracy tales.
  • Black Lagoon. Another very high energy manga. The crew of the Black Lagoon, a modified PT boat, will serve as couriers when no one else will, if the price is right. And in the high seas of Southeast Asia, there is always danger.
  • Letters to a Young Contrarian. This is a book that I think every teenager should read so they get a full rounded education, not to mention, learn how to think for themselves as well as counter a lot of the stupidity and conformity out there.
  • The Unshelved books. I definitely enjoyed these, and now I have to go find the rest. This is a humorous and very humane look at what really happens in libraries. Though it is set in a public library, a lot of what happens is also stuff we academic librarians can recognize. Every librarian and library supporter should read this. 
  • The Ultramarines Omnibus. I read quite a good amount of Warhammer 40K science fiction this year. I like the Blood Ravens Omnibus a bit better (I will comment on this shortly), but the adventures of Captain Uriel Ventris and the 4th Company of Ultramarines were a good entertainment that I am happy to list as one of my favorites for the year. Captain Ventris has some qualities I admire, plus the tales are just good escapist fun. 
  • The Conan series from Dark Horse. I read some more of this series, and I continue to enjoy them. The spirit of Howard's work is alive and well in this series. 
  • Old Boy. In this manga, a man who was imprisoned is suddenly freed after many years. He has one thing on his mind: finding out who put him there and revenge.
  • The Astonishing X-men omnibus. This collects all of Joss Whedon's run on X-Men. I borrowed this hefty volume, but it is one I would definitely love to add to my collection. Fans of the X-Men, as well as Whedon fans, will likely enjoy this.
  • Lone Wolf and Cub. A classic manga and an excellent series. I read the first three volumes in the series, and they were great. This is a series I will definitely seek out. Fans of the samurai epic genre will definitely enjoy this. It is the tale of the assassin with the child.
  • Blood Ravens: The Dawn of War Omnibus. Another WH40K selection. Though initially I was a bit leery, since it is based on a computer game, the book was excellent. The Blood Ravens are scholars in a time when scholarship is rare and arcane. Like other Space Marine regiments, they do have librarians, but Blood Ravens librarians are Space Marines librarians. If I could have a fantasy come true, I would want to be a Blood Ravens librarian-- scholars, archivists, preservers of knowledge, lethal soldiers, and usually have some additional powers as well. The books do an excellent job in displaying the lore and ways of the Space Marines. My other choice would be an inquisitor, if you must know. 
  • Posters for the People. This collection of posters from the WPA is a pleasure to look through. The posters related to reading and libraries are neat, but overall, the book is just very neat to look through.
  • American Vampire, Vol. 2. This series continues to be very good, a new take on the vampire genre. Fans of this genre need to be reading this, the tale of a new vampire born in the West. This is one of my favorites, and Skinner Sweet is certainly a vampire in the good tradition. And then there is Pearl.
  • Punisher Noir. The noir series in Marvel seems to be a pretty neat take on their superheroes. The Punisher fits very well into the noir setting. If you like stories like Road to Perdition, you will probably like this one even if you are not a comics book fan. I do have a couple other Marvel noir volumes in the cue, so I hope they are as good. 
  • Cain's Last Stand. I continue to enjoy the adventures of Regimental Commissar Ciaphas Cain. In this tale, he finally made it to retirement. What more could our easy life loving commissar want? A nice gig in a schola training new commissar cadets. What could possibly go wrong? How about a new dark crusade in the sector? Now the hero and his cadets have to rise to the defense of the planet, and Cain has to prove one more time that he is indeed the hero of so many legends. This series remains strong, and it is one of my favorite reads.

There was a lot of good reading during 2011, and I hope to continue finding good things to read this year. To wrap up, here are the books I am currently reading:
  • Drew Karpyshyn, Dynasty of Evil (Star Wars: Darth Bane #3).
  • Veronica Alice Gunter, ed.,400 Wood Boxes: The Fine Art of Containment and Concealment
  • Paul R. Mullins, Glazed America: A Social History of the Doughnut.
  • Jose Marti, La Edad de Oro
  • Robert Block, et.al, Completely Doomed.
And these are the books I have coming up. These are books I recently borrowed from the library, which means I have to get on with them sooner:
  • Marc Lesser, Z.B.A.: Zen of Business Administration.
  • Anwer Bati and Simon Chase, The Cigar Companion: A Connoisseur's Guide
  • Henry Petroski, The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance.
I will say the only reason I picked up the cigar book is because it looks good. I am not a smoker, but I do like the artistry of cigars, brands, the boxes, so on. 

So, assuming the Maya prophecies do not come to pass, I hope to be publishing my 2012 list early next year. Happy reading to all. 

            Wednesday, January 04, 2012

            Webinar Notes: David Lee King on "Facebook in the Library"

            I am running a bit behind on putting notes up for things like this. Then again, my professional blogging has been running a bit slow, but I will not go into that now. At any rate, I had the chance to listen to this ALA sponsored webinar by David Lee King. The topic was "Facebook in the Library: Enhancing Library Services and Engaging Users." As my library's outreach librarian, which includes being the social media specialist, this certainly was something relevant to my work. These are my notes from the presentation which took place on November 2, 2011. My comments, if any, will be in parenthesis.

            * * * * 

            --Presentation began with a poll. Results of the survey of 220 participants on the question of whether their library has a Facebook page or not:
            • 145/220 Have it.
            • 28/220 Have it, but they do not do much with it. 
            • 31/220 Do not have a Facebook page for their library.

            --Question: How do we use Facebook in an organizational way?

            --Libraries need to be in Facebook given that our communities are there already.

            --51% of Americans 12 years old and up are on Facebook, according to Edison Research. 50% of those log in every day. This is an audience to reach via your Facebook organizational page.

            --Facebook pages are made for conversation and engagement. Think of turning strangers into friends. Get to know people as you do people in your buildings.

            --Some recent Facebook changes:
            • Profile page changes. This his more like a "start page" now. Timeline is more prominent (update note as of this writing: Facebook is definitely implementing their "Timeline" feature whether you want it or not. For me, the jury is still out on this, so to speak). Timeline, which pretty much shows everything you have ever done on Facebook as far back as possible does present privacy concerns (then again, when has Facebook really respected or even considered any privacy concerns of its users?). 
            • Status updates are becoming "stories." (And yet another annoyance since you are forced to choose between highlighted stories and recent. Either way, it boils down to what Facebook thinks you want to see. Personally, this is not very responsive to how I prefer to see the feed. For the library's page, it means having to work more on making stories "sticky" since they can get lost thanks to this new mess). 
            • The "like" feature can now be a verb (I have not seen this yet). So you can "[verb] any [noun]." Like "gestures." You could now say things like "I read X" instead of just "I like X."
            • Social viewing. 
            • Apps. you may be implementing/adding to Facebook (or just some pesky app. that wants a permission, say if you read Yahoo! news and want to share it on Facebook using the Facebook app. on Yahoo!) will ask permission only once. You need to watch out for this (often people click through without thinking it over. Once you do, you pretty much gave Facebook permission to sell you to the app. maker and pretty much anyone else out there connected to the app.). 
            • You can "subscribe" to people. This is different than "friending." A subscription allows you to select items to go to your wall without "friending." (This sounds basically like subscribing to someone's rss on a feed reader to me. Personally, if I already have someone on my feed reader, I am not duplicating them on my Facebook nor on my Twitter as a general rule. The reverse applies. If I follow someone on Twitter, I am not likely to add their blog to my rss or subscribe to them on Facebook. I don't need to see the same things over and over, and it is rare the folk who actually does anything substantially different from one platform to the next. However, for libraries, again, this boils to making good content that folks will want to read or see so they subscribe to you, since Facebook's new formula will bury you otherwise unless you get enough folks to like your content, etc.). 
            --Facebook pages are changing too:
            • You can comment as yourself or as your page/organization (this is in place already. I have not used the feature to comment someplace else "as the library."). 
            • As an organization, you can "friend" or "like" other pages, but not individuals. 
            • You can like a user and feature them on your page. You can do this instead of having a random list of people and pages displaying on your page. 
            • Facebook will be cutting out the ability to send messages to fans. 
            • Facebook places becomes "location." 
            • Pages will have a timeline as well. 
            • The feature of sending blog posts to Facebook notes automatically once you set it up vanishes. You now have to do it manually. 
            • The discussion tab in pages is gone. 
            -- King went over how to set up a page briefly.

            --Went over some features. You can set up custom tabs (something I need to look into for our library page).

            --Reminder that page administrators do need to have their own Facebook profile in order to have a page.

            --You can use the page's status to post news, events, and ask questions (we do this already, so this was nothing new).

            --The "call to action" feature. You can use this to direct people to do something: register for an event, comment, read something. Ask people to like something and share it. Ask questions so your users will answer. Do thank people when folks comment and interact on your Facebook page. This shows you are alive and engaged.

            --Engagement is not so much about "likes" but about delivering content that persuades users to action and engagement. Need people to interact and comment so stories rise on the users' walls. This is trickier than before (due to Facebook changes, see my previous comment). You do get feedback on interactions from Facebook, including stats such likes, times shared, times seen.

            --Consider "friending/liking" other organizations. Your content can appear on their pages then depending on their set-up.

            --Host discussions. You can do this via your status updates.

            --Educate your users, show them how FB changes and how they can make better use of it (something we work on, but we could do more).

            --Post pictures and videos (we do post pictures. Videos may be coming soon now that we have a YouTube Channel).

            --On goals:
            • Planning is needed for a successful and active Facebook page. Who does the work? (Here, I do the work. However, getting the administration to accept and realize that planning is needed, and that managing the page is "real" work and not just I do on the side is a significant issue locally. It is part of my job, yet I often lack support for said part of the job. Yet, the administration does like to brag about the library's Facebook presence). 
            • Plan how often to post. You can survey the library page's friends to see how much you should be posting. 
            • Part of the planning should include how to answer any questions that come in to the page after hours as well as how to handle other "odd" questions. 
            • Set goals for a year. How many updates a week? Content. How many fans do we want? (Right now, I do a lot of this "by ear." I would like to plan for this a bit more consistently, but at the moment, the support is not there due to "other priorities," some valid, some less so. I would definitely like to plan content better. I do try at the least to put content for timely things). 
            • Check for Facebook plug-ins in Wordpress. 
            • Facebook Insights are the analytics. You can find good statistics here. (I need to explore this more as part of the planning process). You can even see things such as were "likes" are coming from and demographics.
            • A good goal can be to target audiences. This is where you use your demographic data, so you can target based on who you wish to target. 
            • Something to consider is creating an advertisement on Facebook; however, this does cost money (ads, that is). 
            Some questions from the audience:
            • In academic libraries, you can do all of the above. The main difference is in focus. We have a known audience in academia, which can be good. Ask students what the find useful, what can be helpful, then ask them to "like" the library page. Give them reasons to "like" the page. 
            • Use "hooks" in academic libraries such as freshman experience programs, etc. 
            • As an academic librarian, "friending" students can be good depending on comfort levels (I have done this to some extent).
            • City libraries often face bureaucratic administrations, various degrees of censorship, so on. (Actually, some academic libraries also have those types of bureaucratic administrations and degrees of censorship. I've had to deal with the campus news and information unit so they could be satisfied things would be "kosher" when I started out the library blog. More recently, they demanded to have a university representative of N&I be made an administrator in the library FB page; it's basically oversight). Tell them to see Facebook as a public conversation, like a town hall meeting. Pitch it as a public forum. Consider also having a social media policy, which can reassure the top folks (this is something I have wanted to do for a while, put something in writing in a formal way, but again, not a high priority to the top brass yet).
            • On work versus personal profiles. Some have one profile. Other folks have two profiles. Facebook does discourage multiple user accounts, so use FB lists and privacy settings heavily. 
            • Facebook is real work. It needs someone dedicated to it given it is a crucial communication tool (what I have been saying all along that I can't seem to get through to the powers that be). You make the connections to the users. This does include training the staff. The ROI (return on investment) is there. It is not easy to measure, but you can use Insights for some of it. 
            • Taking photos in public places is legal--usually does not require permission. For a specific individual, you may need to ask. This is like a reporter getting contact information from an interview that will go on the news. 
            • Set up multiple Facebook pages for library branches if branches have strong communities on their own. Setting up pages depending on services is also an option. 
            • A sample goal: grow the page interactions with patrons. Keep updated with new/fresh content. 
            • (For me, a sample goal would include writing a social media strategy document, also adding more staff. I would also like a goal dealing with specific community targeting).