Yesterday I presented on social media, libraries, and librarians for the staff of the Prospect Heights Public Library District. This is my third time giving a version of this talk - first to the staff at Northwestern University Library, and then to the staff of Wauconda Area Library - and it's been absolutely fascinating to see how each talk takes a slightly different turn.
We often think that because most of our libraries have Facebook pages, this topic is worn out. We all know how to post a link to Facebook now, right? I actually struggled when I first created the presentation because I wasn't sure if this territory was...well...trite. Yet each time I give the talk, I feel even more strongly in the importance of continuing this conversation. Just because we're all on social networks doesn't mean we don't have a lot to learn from each other about optimizing our institutional accounts and managing our own personal accounts while maintaining a level of professionalism.
I learn a great deal every time I talk to people about social networks and librarians. My theory is that because library workers don't tend to "turn off" at the end of the day, our social media presence is completely intertwined with our careers. And this is both an awesome and precarious situation. On the awesome side, it makes our social networks a perfect place for collaboration and crowd sourcing ideas. On the precarious side, it directly ties our opinions to our work life. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - as anyone knows who follows me on Twitter or reads some of my articles, I'm full of opinions. But it certainly is a delicate thing and one that I think we all learn from every time we tap the word, "Tweet".
So while I present on the topic and seriously enjoy doing so, I'm also still learning. And I suppose that's the best thing about speaking professionally - there's just so much out there to take in. Thank you for the recent opportunity, Prospect Heights Library. It is always a pleasure.
If you're interested in having me speak for your staff day, please contact me. You can view the latest incarnation of my talk about libraries, librarians, and social media on Slideshare here.
Last week, Books on Tap, Northbrook Public Library's book club in a pub, met to discuss The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt.
The Sisters Brothers is a tale of two brothers, Eli and Charlie Sisters, who are infamous assassins hired to kill a man named Herman Kermit Warm, during the time-period of the Gold Rush. The book was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, and has won numerous literary awards.
I always begin my discussions by going around the group and having everyone introduce themselves and give a general impression of what they thought of the book - did they love it - did they hate it - and so on. This discussion, I tried something new, and asked members to select a word or phrase that they would use to describe the book. The outcome was very positive and a lot of these words and phrases help shape the rest of the discussion. Some of the words they used were:
The mention of Homeric was a great jumping off point to discuss all the characters and quirks of the story, such as the Crying Man, and the Intermissions that are placed throughout the story. One member compared the story to The Odyssey, and many agreed this was a good comparison. One person pointed out that these small, Homeric episodes humanized the brothers, specifically Eli.
We also talked about the Western genre and whether this book could be called a Western or not. One member pointed out that Westerns are usually about the heroes, but this book is about the guys who are hunting the hero. Another person pointed out how bleak the book feels, which is so different from the gaudy and flashy Westerns of the past, like Bonanza.
Humor was a big topic as well. Some saw the book very funny, while others only found the book disturbing. All agreed that the humor is very dark, and not going to make everyone laugh.
Finally I asked the group if this book reminded them of anything else. One person mentioned the television show Lockup, a documentary series about prison inmates. She found the two similar because the show humanizes a group of normally demonized individuals. I mentioned the book True Grit by Charles Portis because it seemed like a good read-alike for the book, especially in terms of writing style and time-period.
The Sisters Brothers was one of the best discussions of my career. It was just that perfect combination of the right book, the right people, and the right time. I would highly suggest considering this title for your library book discussion. You can access the questions that I used for our meeting here.
I wanted to point you to a couple places elsewhere on the internet that I have been lucky enough to write for or speak on.
First, on the blog Letters to a Young Librarian, I wrote a guest post called The Modern Book Club (meets in a bar). This is a quick, how-to guide on starting your own library-sponsored book club in a bar. A few other awesome posts written by great people on the blog are: A Letter to a New Branch Manager by Tara Kressler, Interview Red Flags by Joe Hardenbrook, and Ten Things I didn't Learn in Library School, Academic Edition by Jessica Olin (the creator of the blog). It's a great resource, and I'm happy to join the ranks of guest contributors.
Next, I am so pleased and honored to be back on the podcast Circulating Ideas to discuss my Best of 2012 list, along with several other amazing librarians. My interview is on Part 2 but I highly recommend check out Part 1 as well. Steve is a skilled interviewer and runs a great show. The library field is lucky to have such an engaging and entertaining resource. So if podcasts are your thing (and seriously, how could they not be? Podcasts are awesome!), then subscribe to Circulating Ideas.
I love best of lists. They are so much fun to work on and create. They just make me oh so happy. At my library, I am in charge of two Best of the Year lists - Adult Comics & Graphic Novels, and Science Fiction & Fantasy. 2012 had SO many wonderful books to choose from, so I wanted to share both lists here. I will highlight a few of my favorites, and then link you to a Goodreads list with all of the selections.
2012 was incredibly strong for the Fantasy and Science Fiction short story world. Kij Johnson really stands out among several outstanding options with her first collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees. Johnson has won numerous awards for her stories, including sweeping up the Hugo and Nebula for the story, "The Man Who Bridged The Mist". To put it simply, her writing is beautiful. The sentences are just gorgeous and each story seems to come back to the theme of loneliness. I adored this book. Definitely one of my favorites in total - not just in Science Fiction & Fantasy.
This book totally floored me for all the right reasons. John Scalzi's Redshirts manages to be action-packed, totally hilarious, and incredibly touching all at the same time. The plot is like the best episode of Star Trek ever. Andrew Dahl is on his first assignment in the Universal Union, kind of like the universal army or Starfleet in the Star Trek world, and he begins to realize that every time the crew goes on an away mission, Ensigns or newbies, die, while the upper level crew come away alive, despite sometimes receiving crippling injuries. So Dahl starts to dig and realizes that they may be actually be in a science fiction show...and the worst part is - it might not even be a good show. This is the first Scalzi book I have ever read, and let me tell you, I am ready to read his entire catalog. The man has some serious skills. Surprisingly it replaced Gone Girl as my all-time favorite book of the year. Added bonus: Wil Wheaton reads the audiobook.
As a newer comic book reader, I was incredibly excited when I found out about The New 52, and I would like to take a quick second to thank DC Comics for having the guts to re-launch their classic characters with new artists, authors, and story-lines. It allowed new readers, like myself, to find a starting place, and dive headfirst into the DC world. Of the re-launches there are a number of stars, but my personal favorite is Batwoman, Vol. 1: Hydrology by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman. To say the artwork is stunning is an understatement. It truly is a work of art. And Batwoman's storyline is so human and striking - she is flawed but still a hero that you can route for. I feel like they matured her character without resorting to trite violence and sex scenes. Bravo.
100 Months by John Hicklenton is tragic and so striking. Hicklenton was the comic book artist that penned Judge Dredd comics and he had a very distinct and, dare I say, metal style. Tragically he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the year 2000, and this graphic novel was his very last work - written just before he decided to take his own life by assisted suicide after living with the disease for 10 years. On it's surface this fable is about the final battle for Earth's survival but deeper down it is a tale of pain and death with brutal yet beautiful imagery. Incredibly powerful work.