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Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

It’s been over a week since I attended my alma mater’s Graduate School Alumni Day.   The theme for the event was “Community and Collaboration” and brought in students from all the graduate programs–including library and information science, social work, and management.   The talks focused on how collaboration in the community can help to develop meaningful positive change.

While the idea of going beyond my familiar area of expertise can sometimes  be uncomfortable, I also recognize that reaching out also holds the great potential for something incredible to occur.  Trying something different can both demonstrate and help to foster change in a community.  I saw a presentation about the D.C Public Library’s hiring of a social worker to work with the homeless population and library staff.   Alums for multiple programs (library science and social work were both strongly represented) attended, and we were invited to discuss these complicated issues in mixed groups.

While it was challenging at first to reach out across experiences and disciplines, it was exciting to be involved in the discussion.  I think it can be hard to find situations like the one described, but I believe it’s important to develop those relationships because they help to highlight challenges and begin the process of finding ways to address them. While the D.C. library’s still seeing where this initiative will take them, I think the decision to try this helps place the library in the community.  By being involved in the community, the library both demonstrates its worth and helps to strengthen the community.

This talk made me wonder about community collaboration from an academic library perspective.   As a new librarian, I have always been impressed with the outreach academic librarians do; I have read and heard about librarians seeking partnerships with academic departments as well  as the writing centers or sports departments ( the example here was help sessions for athletes).  It made me ask what else we could try to integrate the library into the community fabric.   How do we create forums for interdepartmental and interdisciplinary conversations?  How could we utilize our spaces and knowledge to form new partnerships?

What I’m trying to say that I’m impressed with what has come out of community connections, and I would like to see further explorations.  Information is such an essential part of the world, and libraries have a great potential to be right in the center of so many questions.   I can’t wait to see how libraries will continue to connect in their communities!

 

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Best Books of 2014

Well, another year has come and gone, and, according to my Goodreads account, I read 130 books in the year 2014.  As in years gone by, it was a great year for reading.  As we prepare to ring in 2015, I want to take this time to share the books that I especially enjoyed this year.   I have linked reviews when I wrote them.  Enjoy!

Literary Fiction: Newcomer Lauren Owen’s The Quick occupies this space.  Her vampires and use of historical detail made for an engaging read.

Science Fiction:  Elizabeth Bear’s Jacob’s Ladder trilogy (self-contained ecosystem in space is the setting for a power struggle as the ship sails to colonize) and M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All the Gifts (an interesting take on the apocalypse story) take this category.

Fantasy: This was a tough category because I read a lot of fantasy, but I am going to go with Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs.  The setting–a city ruined by the death of their gods–plus a compelling murder mystery made this a fantastic read.

Mystery:  Elizabeth Elo’s North of Boston takes this category.  Elo’s protagonist Pirio is a delightful spitfire, and I found the mystery and day-to-day challenges presented equally intriguing.

Nonfiction: I genuinely enjoyed Karen Abbotts’ Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy–a history of women who participated undercover in the Civil War.  You can read a review here.  I also found Julie Sondra Decker’s The Invisible Orientation to be an accessible and compassionate look at asexuality.

Manga/Graphic Novels: Again, this is a really tough category!   However, the one that stuck with me was Tony Cliff’s Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant (high-flying adventure centered around an awesome protagonist)

Young Adult: Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory (tells the story of a teenager with a father who has PTSD) takes this category.  Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S King also gets a nod (not going to explain this one–the amount of space I have will not do this fantastically weird plot justice.  Click on the link if you’re curious).

Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy: Pierce Brown’s gritty sci-fi story Red Rising and Jasper Fforde’s irreverent Chronicles of Kazaam take this category.  I loved Pierce’s incorporation of Graeco-Roman mythology, and Fforde’s protagonist Jennifer Strange tells a witty and thoughtful yarn.

Well, that’s that!  I hope reading this gave you an opportunity to relive your own favorites or pick something out to read in the future!  Happy 2015, all!

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Okay, how many of you have read CLAMP’s Magic Knight Rayearth? The story follows Hikaru, Fuu, and Umi, three Japanese schoolgirls who get transported to Cephiro in order to become the Magic Knights and save it. When I was in middle school, my babysitter–also an anime and manga fan–lent me her copy of the series. I absolutely loved it. I loved the fact that the heroines could fight; I loved the world concept and the artwork for the magic. Recently, I have been trying to read more graphic novels and manga. During my visit home, I decided to re-read the volumes I have.

First off, you definitely notice different things when you’re a kid versus when you are an adult. Although I admit to not have perfect recollection of my middle school mind, I remember being attracted to the more comical elements in the series. I also remember being more caught up in the plot and more accepting of some of the story writer’s decisions. I also remember being confused about some of the elements of the story, particularly the true reason for the Knights being summoned.

This time around, I was both nostalgic and more questioning of the series. I found myself puzzling over some of the story elements. Duty versus love was a huge theme. None of the main characters–Hikaru, Fuu, Umi, and Princess Emeraude (who summoned them)–were in a good position. I am not sure if they ultimately made the right choice; I am of the opinion that the Princess should have never summoned the Knights, yet her duty should not have prevented her from loving someone (although I question whether she should have fallen for that creep in the first place). As a middle schooler, the Knights’ realization of their true story was shocking and very confusing to me, and I’m not sure age (although I am not that much older) has made me any wiser. I guess that’s what I like about the story; things are not easy to categorize as good or evil, and I think being so quick to categorize gets one in trouble.

I guess the point of all this is that I now have different expectations when I read something. This sort of leads me into whether it’s more important to enjoy a story or to understand the message that is being sent. I am sure that different people are going to see different things though. However, I would be curious to know your thoughts.

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So, I watched two lovely documentries–PBS’ Growing Up Online and Digital Nation–and once again, the gears started turning.   I highly recommend that you all watch the videos if you haven’t (they take about two and a half hours all together), but basically Growing Up Online talks about teens who have had access to the Internet during the entirety of their teen years.   The video had a lot of implications about how dangerous it was (even though it tried to be impartial).   The video really emphasized this whole private life teens have and how potentially dangerous it was.    Digital Nation describes a broader demographic of users and discusses the effects it has on humans cognitively and socially.   I found Digital Nation to be a more positive and less about the dangers.    Of course, watching all of this stuff about technology got me to thinking, so here goes.

In my opinion, it is a little too early to fully understand what technology has done and is doing to us.   It may be nearly impossible to because, as one researcher from Digital Nation pointed out, the technology changes too quickly.    However, the researchers are making legtimate points: there are changes in the way we do things and it’s affecting human performance.  Therefore, I think we need to think and be aware of how we think and feel around these technologies.   I agree with Maryanne Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid when she emphasizes the importannce of trying to understand what we continue to want in the future.   Do we want critical thinking skills?   Do we want the ability to read a large amount of text?   We need to think about what we’re losing and whether it is possible to some way hold on to that we value and also embrace this technological change.

I don’t think technology is inherently bad or good, and we are in the process of understanding fully what this means.   I think it has a lot to do with how it’s used.  For instance, I have developed a very strong appreciation for the electronic bases and ability to instantly access research articles for papers.   I am impressed with the ability to get these thoughts to such a wide range of people, the majority of whom I will never meet in real life.   That last point is incredible and makes me feel powerful.  I am impressed with its ability to connect so many people; I love being able to keep in touch with my friends and family.   But there’s also the other side of the coin: presentation.  What of myself am I revealing?  I think understanding the consequences of one’s Internet use is very important, and will be significant in shaping the use of such technology in the future.

So, there’s my two cents.  Please comment if you have something to say–I would love to get a conversation going!

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In case you haven’t read my bio, I am currently in graduate school for library and information science.  Recently, I’ve visited my old high school.  Upon discovering that I am pursuing this degree, former teachers asked me to forecast the future of libraries.  With the rise of electronic information services combined with this charming economic recession, it’s a legitimate question.   So, here is the Sinistmer forecast on libraries: overall, I think libraries have a future, but how much of a future is tempered by how much people will value them.

People will ask me, “What about Google?  Won’t online search engines just knock out libraries because they have so much information?”  Hmm, well, I won’t deny that Google and other search engines do provide tons of information, and, yes, I do use it for a quick look-up on things.  However, I would argue that there are two things that happen with search engines.  First, there are too many results, and thus too much information.   This can lead to information overload, which means that people may not select the best sources.  Additionally, there is not a formal evaluation done by search engines, which can lead to results that are perhaps not as reliable or accurate.   Google and other search engines find articles by sending out electronic spiders, or crawlers, that look for certain key terms and tags.   While the search engine does provide results, they are not checked  for quality.    I am not saying that Google and other search engines don’t turn up good results, but there are more results that are perhaps of lower quality to sift through.  While libraries do perhaps provide fewer sources, these sources also have been evaluated and thus are more reliable than what might be found online.  Librarians are trained to evaluate sources and to teach patrons to evaluate the information found.  Additionally, librarians can contribute other services, such as help with information retrieval and organization.  Part of librarians’ responsibilities is to organize information that they have evaluated as being quality sources.   Nothing against Google, but that kind of evaluation simply does not happen on most electronic search engines.   These skill sets and services are perhaps the core of why libraries are valuable.

On a side note, I also think right now that technology does not have a strong of a foothold that people think it does.   Don’t misunderstand me–technology now plays a huge role in our society, but I think there are enough people who do not much care for technology.  Additionally, a large number of the population is not comfortable with technology, or prefers print materials for their free-reading or reasearch.   Libraries are still trying to figure out the incorporation of technology, and may also be trying to try to serve as many parts of their populations as possible.   As I see it, we are on the cusp of major changes.   I think  that, at some point, technology will change the definition of a library, but that change in definition does not make libraries any less valuable.

As you can probably tell, I think libraries are pretty awesome.  However, my cynical side does acknowledge that the extent that people value libraries is an important factor.   I hear all sorts of things about the value of libraries.  Some love them, others wonder why bother now that they’ve got Google.   I hope that some of what I’ve written here will give you pause to think about what libraries have to offer.

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