Del.icio.us

I have finally started a del.icio.us account for keeping track of library weblogs. I haven’t added any weblogs or sites yet. I’m also looking at Blog without a Library, which is doing the same thing I’m doing, but which has been doing it for two years now. I have to refine my focus so I’m not duplicating someone else’s work.

Edited 08-18-05 to update links.

Blog People Tri-Dux

Sigh. The dean of Indiana University’s School of Library and Information Science is at it again.

One of the hallmarks of blogging is the “ego-search.” That’s what it’s called when one searches for one’s own name (we used to use Blogger, but Google is so fast now you can practically search Google the day after you’ve posted something controversial to find out what others are saying.) One you’ve done your ego-search, you can either respond to the people who’ve responded to you, or you can ignore it and move on. Sometimes, this starts excellent conversations about important issues. This is not one of those times.

One of the most disturbing things about this series of criticisms of blog-people is the underlying belief behind the criticism that everyone is not entitled to speak in public. Anyone who has access to an Internet-enabled computer (meaning, just about anyone who has access to a public library) can start a blog instantly, and for free. There’s no need to even pony up 5 cents a page to photocopy your great words. What you do with your blog is completely up to you. You can talk about your pets, your pregnancy, your lack of pregnancy, what your shoes think, basically, whatever you want. This is part of the problem these critics have with blogs. There aren’t enough barriers to suit the elitists. They don’t have to read these blogs… but they’re upset that the blogs even exist, that someone can publish without having to go through the gatekeepers.

As Jessamyn at Librarian.net puts it, ” you call me crassly egotistical and then get huffy when I call you a fool?” Dr. Cronin’s writing indicates he thinks conversations flow one way… from him down. A lot of people were upset about what he wrote the first time. He was telling people they didn’t have the right to write. That upsets people.

The worst part about the response to the responses is the unwritten undercurrent that the people are being uncivil simply by disagreeing with him. Unfortunately, too many people believe that disagreeing with them is the same as being hateful to them… people are too used to surrounding themselves with people who agree with everything they believe and they don’t know how to react when someone says, “I disagree.” Sure, some people were rather rude in their responses, but not everyone was.

It concerns me that he says research into blogs has been underway at IU for years. Since he admits that in 1997 he wrote an editorial that bloggers would see as anti-blogging, it worries me that the research has been carried out in an environment that might fail to see what blogs are and what potential they have for libraries, librarianship, and free speech.

The Lethal Librarian also has some good words to say about the continuing saga.

I originally found the note about the current editorial at The Gypsy Librarian.

Summer Reading

The Gypsy Librarian posts about summer reading lists. This is one of those things I might have trouble with in my youth services future. I think it’s a great idea to recommend books for kids to read over the summer, but I have a problem with the relentless “reading as work.” I want to be a youth services librarian because I want to introduce kids to the joy and fun in books. I understand that reading is good for the brain and good for test scores and good for study skills, but reading is more than that, and I’m afraid a whole generation of kids is missing out.

My 16-year-old is an avid reader. However, there were a couple of middle school years when it was touch and go for him. The first shaky incident was when his teacher had the students read a favorite book. The catch was, they had to stop every page and write a post-it note about what they read. By the time he was on chapter five, he told me, “Mom, I don’t even know if I like Harry Potter any more!” The other incident happened two years later, with The Pigman. I love Paul Zindel and read The Pigman for fun, so I had no idea it was required reading in some classes. My son had to read it, but in that stilting 5-page-at-a-time don’t-dare-read-ahead way that will kill the joy in reading any book. (He did read ahead and was punished by missing trivial details on a pop quiz.)

So much about school kills the joy in reading. My favorite English teachers were the ones who said, “Pick a book from this pile, read it, and tell me about it.” (Two books I read that way are still favorites.) I was a rebel in the other type of class. If I liked a book, I would keep reading it. That’s what the author intended, after all. I doubt Paul Zindel meant for The Pigman to be read five pages a week for a semester.

Another problem with the summer reading is that kids are told NOT to read certain books. Angel has the same reaction I do to that: “God forbid a kid actually reads a book before the teacher has covered it in class.” I suspect I would have liked Lord of the Flies if I had read it before we covered it in class. (I never did read it.)

There’s also talk about writings connected to the summer readings. What I would like to see is a blog-type Web site format as an option. I’d like to see a school library provide the blog for students to note their reflections on the books– either in a way that makes them post theirs before they can read the others, or in a more open way. I suspect kids would take to that.

(An aside about actually getting a hold of these books: Angel notes a problem with collection development in school libraries, which he attributes to jumpy librarians and litigous parents, which could be true– but I think the new Information Power! type of school library philosophy contributes to the lame collections. For a class, I had to review four issues of a school library research journal. There were no articles about collection development or collection management… but plenty about curriculum and learning methods. The very foundations of librarianship are being ignored in the rush to turn school librarians into teachers with a lot of books in their classrooms.)

Review: Snake Hips

Snake Hips is Anne Thomas Soffee’s memoir of how bellydancing saved her after her world-ending break-up with the man she thought was it. I tread lightly when reviewing memoirs, and this one is no different. This memoir is hilarious, compelling, descriptive… yet it’s not what it could be. Perhaps it’s exactly what Soffee wanted, so I hesitate to point out what I consider its flaws. With a memoir, you’re never sure if it’s the writing or the author that bothers you, and to be sure, there were times I wanted to grab Soffee and say “Quit doing that! The guy’s a sleaze! You deserve better!” Other times, I wanted to ask her to tone down the brutal judgment she passes on herself and others. But that’s part of her voice and her personality, and it didn’t keep me from staying up late at night to read “just one more chapter.”

This book would be of special interest to people who like bellydancing, people who are interested in Arab-American issues, uber-hip people who are going through bad break-ups, and people from or in Richmond, Virginia.