Tuesday, July 31, 2012

37. If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't) by Betty White

It-girl Betty White delivers a hilarious, slyly profound take on love, life, celebrity, and everything in between. 
Drawing from a lifetime of lessons learned, seven-time Emmy winner Betty White's wit and wisdom take center stage as she tackles topics like friendship, romantic love, aging, television, fans, love for animals, and the brave new world of celebrity. "If You Ask Me" mixes her thoughtful observations with humorous stories from a seven- decade career in Hollywood. Longtime fans and new fans alike will relish Betty's candid take on everything from her rumored crush on Robert Redford (true) to her beauty regimen ("I have no idea what color my hair is and I never intend to find out") to the Facebook campaign that helped persuade her to host "Saturday Night Live" despite her having declined the hosting job three times already. 

This was a perfect read after the heavily themed books I have been immersed in as of late.  Is it too stalker-ish to say...I LOVE BETTY!!!  I have been a fan of hers since the mid 70's.  Of course, back then she was simply known as the funny lady.  Through the decades she has become THAT funny lady, to Rose and finally to her own self...Ms. Betty White.
I simply adore how she carries herself, strong, unwavering in her beliefs and yet never seems to take life too seriously.  She looks like she enjoys life and the people she finds there. She also expresses her gratitude for the good fortune she has had during her career and for the opportunities this has allowed her to pursue.  Her love of animals and devotion to working with organizations for their protection and care is impressive and admirable. But it is the way that she speaks of her own pets over the years and her descriptions of her personal encounters with animals that tugs at my heartstrings and makes me want to adopt her.

This is a light read that I  finished in two hours. I found Ms. White's style soothing and reassuring.  I hope to have even one quarter of the goodness, understanding and graciousness that she displays.  If you are a fan of Betty White, from any generation, pick up this, or another of her books.  It is like having a conversation with her over tea or while sitting next to her on a plane ride - a momentary gift that will enhance your day.

Favourite quotes from If You Ask Me:
“Animals don’t lie. Animals don’t criticize. If animals have moody days, they handle them better than humans do.”
"Bets, you can lie to anyone in the world and even get away with it, perhaps, but when you are alone and look into your own eyes in the mirror, you can't sidestep the truth. Always be sure you can meet those eyes directly. Otherwise, it's big trouble, my girl."
Betty White is an entertainment icon who has playing starring roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls, and Hot in Cleveland, hosted Saturday Night Live (as the result of a fan-driven Facebook campaign), and spoken out on behalf of animals for many years.

Monday, July 30, 2012

36. The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide by Eva Talmadge

The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwideis a guide to the emerging subculture of literary tattoos?a collection of more than 150 full-color photographs of human epidermis indelibly adorned with quotations and illustrations from Dickinson to Pynchon, from Shakespeare to Plath. With beloved lines of verse, literary portraits, and illustrations?and statements from the bearers on their tattoos'' history and the personal significance of the chosen literary work?The Word Made Flesh is part collection of photographs and part literary anthology written on skin.

Fans of the written word are memorialising their favourite passages or sometimes just a phrase or even a single word in a different type of ink.  The book is a photo essay showing tattoos from literary sources: quotations, images of book art and illustrations, character and author portraits, even definitions and syntax marks.  And just like other tattoos, it's so interesting to see what words and images spoke to someone so profoundly that they felt the need to imprint them on themselves, sometimes as a badge, a memorial or perhaps as a personal mantra. Some of the stories behind their choices are fascinating and inspiring.

The concept of literary tattoos bring me to thoughts of Fahrenheit 451.  The ideas and words within books can change people, sometimes profoundly. Perhaps the literary tattoo is merely the physical evidence of that change, a reminder of our personal evolution. Books introduce us to new ideas, show us how do view life differently, examine the lives of characters and often, in turn, our own.  Literature judges, defends, convicts and frees us.  It educates and challenges and as a result of reading, we change.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

35. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“ I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

I adore the framing if this novel. I felt as though I had stumbled upon and old chest in the attic filled with the hearts and beings of a wonderful group of people.  Each member of the Society is a person unto themselves, not written to build up the main character or to simply convey a plot.  Amelia, Isola, Dawsey, Booker and Eben are fully their own.  Through their letters, Juliet and us readers become confidants to a dear little island community, are invited to witness the battery, survival and triumph of the human soul during wartime, and to feel that swelling of the heart at the very moment our heroine rushes out to claim her own personal hero.  This is more than the telling of history, more than a book club. My own hero in the book was the humanity and friendship of the characters.

The generosity of books to heal a broken spirit and the inspiration literature provides to the rebuilding and reclaiming of life is shared. That letters arranged just-so upon a page can bring light to ones being, a fact all readers are aware of at some level, is stated gently, as though reminding us that we are more than our daily tasks.
That's what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book.  It's geometrically progressive - all with no ending in sight, and all for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.
Original.  Charming.  Unflinching. Engaging.  Heartbreaking. Captivating. Uniquely lovely.  This book written in letters is high on the list of my top 5 books. My only regret occurred as I turned the last page.  I will just have to read it again!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

34. Savor the Danger by Lori Foster

Another caveman romance...

She may be aloof, and more pretty than gorgeous, but Alani Rivers is the kind of woman a hot-blooded mercenary can't forget, no matter how hard he tries. So when Jackson Savor wakes up next to the naked, sleeping beauty—with no memory of what happened—he knows he's been drugged… even if Alani doesn't.
Okay.  I may need to vary my selection a bit more to avoid being hit over the head and dragged into yet another caveman romance.  While I love reading about a take charge hero with great one-liners, I think I need a break.  I didn't enjoy this instalment of the Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor series as much as the others and I think I know why.  Jackson was just to heavy handed for my liking, and Alani was too innocent and wide eyed.  If you can accept this dynamic a little better than I did, you are in for some great verbal comebacks and enjoyable banter.  Foster's heroes are definitely appealing and usually I would have devoured this  up.  This was the third in the series and the final volume will star two characters introduced via Jackson: Arizona and Spencer.  

Some of my favourite scenes / lines:

After a morning of shopping to ease the hurt of her first night with Jackson, Alani returns home to find him lounging on her front porch, seemingly unaware.  Watching him, she remembers their intimacy: 
Breathing fast, Alani studied him. His continued stillness suggested sleep. Even when she shifted her bags and inched closer  he didn't move....Even now, so tranquil, he looked impressive...Alani licked her lips and started to slowly, silently, retreat.
"Don't make me chase you darlin'!"
Jackson, desperate for more close contact with Alani, is trying his darnedest to pull her attention away from the dangerous situation they are in and towards him...all of him:
"We have to figure this out, Jackson, so leash the lust.”His chin went up as he stared down at her. “Woman, you ask the impossible.”“Do it anyway!" 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

33. Wicked Appetite. Janet Evanovich fans...right this way

Stephanie Plum Lizzy Tucker gets a superpower!

The first book of a new series centered on Diesel, a handsome, mysterious fellow with unusual talents, who is on a quest to find the Seven Stones of Power.

Life in Marblehead has had a pleasant predictability, until Diesel arrives. Rumor has it that a collection of priceless ancient relics representing the Seven Deadly Sins have made their way to Boston’s North Shore. Partnered with pastry chef Lizzy Tucker, Diesel bullies and charms his way through historic Salem to track them down—and his criminal mastermind cousin Gerewulf Grimorie. The black-haired, black-hearted Wulf is on the hunt for the relic representing gluttony. Caught in a race against time, Diesel and Lizzy soon find out that more isn’t always better, as they battle Wulf and the first of the deadly sins.

Giving it the benefit of the doubt due to my great enjoyment of the Stephanie Plum series, I found this first instalment of the Lizzy and Diesel series, well....okay.
Written with a  paranormal twist, it is very similar to the Stephanie Plum series.  The cast of characters includes Lizzy Tucker, a sometimes uncoordinated, unlucky in love, quirky pastry chef who finds herself out of her depth in a supernatural treasure hunt. Perhaps in an intentional bid to attract fans from that other series, Evanovich has written Lizzy to be not-so-different from the more well known Stephanie.  If the formula is working, why mess with it?
Cue the entrance of  a tall, built-like-a-tank sexy heartthrob with a killer smile, a doctorate in flirting and the less than subtle name of Diesel.  Diesel, as in strong, tough, and hot!  Add in the quirky, spell-casting sidekick, a mysterious pet cat and a town full of odd characters and you have successfully moved from Stephanie's 'the burb' to Lizzy's Salem, Mass.

art by Jesse Vital… V1TAL

Wulf turned his head toward Diesel and looked amused but didn't go so far as a smile. His features were sharper than Diesel's.  Diesel's eyebrows were fierce, and Wulf's eyebrows were raven wings.  Wulf's nose was straight, his mouth was not as wide as Diesel's but oddly sensuous, his skin was ghostly pale.
...Wulf glanced at my hand. "you're hanging out with a woman wearing my brand."
"Cows get branded," Diesel said. "Women, no. And she's with me."
"for now, cousin."
"We'll see," Wulf said.
His eyes locked onto mine, and for a long moment, I was held captive with no clue to his thoughts.What I knew for certain was that I saw power and passion.  I stepped back into Diesel, relieved when I felt him pressed into my back, his hand at my waist.
"I should be moving along," I said, making an effort not to gasp for air, praying that my voice wasn't shaking. "The monkey is waiting."
Omigod, I thought. Did I just say the monkey is waiting to the liege lord of evil? I'm such a dork!

Parallels to her earlier series aside - and there are many - I did enjoy Evanovich's Wicked Appetite.  She continues to deliver laugh out loud moments and a tasty mental image of the Diesel character.

My only real criticism is that it seems, overall, to be a weaker novel.  This may be due to how quickly Lizzy accepts what is happening around her: two strange men show up and start telling her what to do, they seem to have magical abilities, and she jumps right into following one of them around pursuing their, now mutual, quest for could-end-the-world-if-in-the-wrong-hands stones.  Oh there is plenty of protesting and thoughts filled with doubt, but it feels like obligatory posturing rather than a true WTF is happening reaction.  We readers know that Lizzy is going to join forces with Diesel and that her wacky entourage will be along for the ride.  I felt like I missed a chapter at the beginning of the novel, before all the spell casting, mystical abilities and poofing out of sight villains were accepted as part of everyday life.

That said, yes, I WILL be picking up the next in the series.  After all, I like a book that can make me laugh out loud and  has a six foot tall hero with a wry sense of humour.  Plus there's a one-eyed cat...although, I could do without the monkey.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

32. Obsession by John Douglas and Mark Olsaker

Published 1998
Special Agent John Douglas, a legendary figure in law enforcement and the model for the Scott Glenn character in The Silence of the Lambs. (He was also the original choice to play the role.) As chief of the FBI’s Investigative Support Unit — the team that tackles the most baffling and senseless of unsolved violent crimes — Douglas is the man who ushered in a new age in behavioral science and criminal profiling. Now, after 25 years of service, he has retired and can finally tell his unique and compelling story.
Offering insights into the minds of criminals and their prey, John Douglas focuses on sexual predators and their victims. Among others, he uses as horrifying examples the cases of Ronnie Shelton, the serial rapist who terrorized Cleveland, and New York's infamous Preppie Murder. Douglas’s commitment to and compassion for the victims of such crimes is evident throughout, as he teaches us how common these crimes are, why we should never blame the victim, and how we might protect ourselves from danger.

I started reading this not realizing how little the actual cases would be focused on.  As the subtitle states, the great focus is on  identifying types of offenders and offering advice for victims post-crime and tips on surviving these crimes and on how lessen the chances of becoming a victim.  Douglas conveys his advocacy for victims with a passion that hints at the heartbreak he has seen after contact with victims and the family of victims.  The  author talks about his opinions on victim advocacy and the need for 'others' to not judge how a victim chooses (in as much as they can given these dire circumstances) to react.  It's all about survival, as Douglas states, that is where the first victory lies.    Years ago  I had read Mindhunter, also written by this duo.  This time around I felt as though I had read parts of it before.  Perhaps there is some repetition from Mindhunter or the similarities in subject from the same authors simply felt that way.  Some of the sections felt odd next to the others, such as the one on how the Silence of the Lambs killer, Hannibal, came to be written.  
This book is focuses more on the theory and classification of offenders with brief examples from real cases.  As I read I found I had more questions about those cases than this book would answer.  

With the prevalence of books, films and TV shows about profilers, serial killers and rapists, forensics and the psychology of it all over the last 15 years, Obsession is still relevant but it's style feels a bit behind the times.


I HIGHLY recommend checking out A Librarian's Guide to Etiquette. [click that, do it!]
Here's why...it makes me smile and frequently validates those stray thoughts I have as being right on track.

what it's all about 
A Librarian's Guide to Etiquette is a virtual serialized reference e-monograph (i.e., a blog) for librarians. The Guide started as an anonymous joke among friends in January 2005 and has since grown into the number one, most-trusted source for authoritative tongue-in-cheek librarian etiquette tips on the Internet. It is written by J. Vance, a practicing polite librarian and faculty member at Middle Tennessee State University, and all entries are inspired by you, the lovably weird people in the library profession.
 Interested in inviting A Librarian's Guide to Etiquette to your library conference?  J. offers firm-handshake demonstrations, microwave wiping workshops, and the award-winning "Establishing Eye-Contact" webinar.  Other invitations will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Monday, July 23, 2012

50 Book Challenge update books # 30+

and we continue...in to week 40. 

30.  Charmed (paranormal romance collection)
31.  Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
32.  Obsession by John Douglas and Mark Olsaker
33.  Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich
34. Savor the Danger by Lori Foster

The Guersney Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman

Only 7 books behind schedule.  Good thing a week of vacation is coming up!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

31. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

The book the world is talking about.
I finally caved and read the book the world, it seems, is talking about.  At first there were whispered conversations: did you hear about, the BOOK? The there were furtive glances and the quick passing of a copy under the patio table at the coffee house. Soon it was mentioned on the radio, then on daytime talk shows, then, it was everywhere.
When literature student Anastasia Steele is drafted to interview the successful young entrepreneur Christian Grey for her campus magazine, she finds him attractive, enigmatic and intimidating. Convinced their meeting went badly, she tries to put Grey out of her mind - until he happens to turn up at the out-of-town hardware store where she works part-time. 
The unworldly, innocent Ana is shocked to realize she wants this man, and when he warns her to keep her distance it only makes her more desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her - but on his own terms. 
Shocked yet thrilled by Grey's singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success – his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving adoptive family – Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a passionate, physical and daring affair, Ana learns more about her own dark desires, as well as the Christian Grey hidden away from public scrutiny.
Why, oh why, is this book so popular? I can see how it became a trend, but the most amazing book ever?  no.  really, no. The writing was not exactly award winning and the "heroine" was a wee bit [read massivly] unreal. very Bella-ish.  ohh...a bad boy.  Her reactions were quite comical at times..at least the synopsis said it was amusing.  Not quite in the way they meant, I suspect.  if you have read the rest of the trilogy can you give me a BRIEF synopsos lol.  Like Twilight, I am embarrased to  to admit I want to know what happens once she graduates emotional middle school.

The eloquent ladies over at the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog answer this question the way I want to:
I have a few theories as to why this book is popular. It has a secrecy element, for example, similar to some paranormal romances and their avid fanbases. It's also not at all surprising that 50 Shades and Twilight share a few plot themes, specifically that secrecy and the temptation inherent in the world of both narratives, and the alpha male who is opulently, ridiculously wealthy, Volvos optional. Plus, Edward, as I wrote a few years ago, and in many similar ways (again, surprise surprise) Christian are both very much old-skool-style romance heroes. 50 Shades (and Twilight, obviously) are also told from the heroine's POV, a very deep, first person, detail-heavy point of view, and the narrative is also akin to reading a diary, adding to that sense of illicit secrecy.
Sparking so much attention, those creative types were sure to have some fun with this book. Check out these spoofs/tributes to 50 Shades!

Friday, July 20, 2012

30. Charmed, only not-so-much (paranormal romance collection)

A romance anthology of 4 stories:

1. Bridal Jitters by pseudonym for Jayne Ann Krentz)

2. Man in the Mirror by Julie Beard
3. Tangled Dreams by Lori Foster 
4. Pandora's Bottle by Eileen Wilks

A grouping of four short stories linked by a Halloween theme, or so it claimed. The concepts for all four stories sounded promising but I am not sure that the Halloween theme was the right link for this collection. In most of the stories, the inclusion of Halloween seemed forced and not at all necessary. 

The first story, Bridal Jitters, felt overly edited.  
 Virginia Burch, a psychic archaeologist, can't believe her luck when she meets Sam Gage, a ghost-hunter and owner of prime real estate. He offers her his space to live and start up her business. What follows is an even more intriguing proposal--to become his wife. Strictly for professional reasons, of course...Their marriage of convenience would lead to a very lucrative business partnership, Gage & Burch Consulting. Until something throws a wrench into the plan: the undeniably sensual energy that exists between them--and a love so strong it could wake the ghosts below...  
Well, this reader did not see much of that energy and felt lost throughout most of the book.  The setting was not explained very well and led to some confusion throughout the story. 1 star out of 5.

The Man In The Mirror by Julie Beard tells the tale of a shy young woman who finds her man and her destiny in the past! Through a bizarre series of events, Katie Montgomery is transported back to old England in the time of King Arthur and Merlin! She rescues and falls in love with Tristan of Ilchester. To her enormous surprise, Tristan tells her that Merlin foretold her arrival! What Katie learns about herself and her capacity to love stands her in good stead for her adventures in this far-off age; and when she finally returns through the mirror to her own time she brings with her knowledge that will enable her to change her life forever.
Man in the Mirror has been done before but this version felt rather thin. So far I was not at all impressed with this collection of stories. 1.5 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

29. Family Tree by Barbara Delinsky

When a white couple gives birth to a baby with distinctly black features, a family is thrown into turmoil. Hugh Clarke, born into a pedigreed New England family that can trace its roots to the Mayflower, devotes his professional life to championing minorities but is blindsided by his daughter’s color. He urges his wife Dana, whose heritage is unknown, to start digging for answers. Dana adores her baby and resents her husband’s demands. Unearthing her family’s past raises issues for her that go well beyond that of her daughter’s racial mix.
Hugh’s father, Eaton Clarke, a renowned writer, anxiously awaits the results of Dana’s search. Eaton is weeks away from releasing a book based on his well-documented family tree, and will be discredited as an historian if the very foundation of his book is undermined. To make matters worse, his wife, Dorothy, is taking an uncharacteristically independent stand with regard to their newest granddaughter.
Family Tree delves into issues of trust, honesty, privilege, and identity. It debates the way people define ourselves, and explores the duplicity of political correctness and personal prejudice.

The basis of the book has so much potential.  How would any of us react if our child was born looking so different from any of out family?  How would our friends and family react?  what hidden prejudices would we encounter?  

I enjoyed this book while I was reading but a few things stood out enough to bother me.  Hugh's initial reaction to the appearance of their child seemed understandable and the strength of his defence for his wife's faithfulness to his own parents was wonderful to see.  And yet, he doesn't seem to understand why Dana is upset when he continually insists on a paternity test to prove the truth to his parents.  His almost desperate need for Dana to track down her unknown father and find an explanation was relentless and didn't seem to match with who he was show to be elsewhere in the book. The issue of trust played a huge role in this novel.

Hugh's parents were unsympathetic and stereotypical as the stuck-up, social climbing rich couple whose main concern in life is what others would think of them. For such two dimensional characters, they had a huge influence over their son's actions.  There were several minor sub-plots that interwove throughout but most were not fleshed out and many were unresolved at novels end. While they were not essential to the main story, the failure to follow then to some end made the novel feel choppy at times. I think this story could have been told with more depth and focus on the underlying issues and motivations of the characters and less reliance on their initial reaction to the appearance of the child. Only Dana and Hugh seemed to evolve somewhat past the knee-jerk reactions they have. A good read as long as you don't think too much or expect much of the characters.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why do we need library technicians in our school libraries?

As a companion to my last post about what I do as a Library Technician, blogger Kerri Cicolan's post from 2010 brings it home. While I do have a 0.3 Teacher Librarian in each of my eight elementary [k-6] schools and this is from Australia while my schools are in Canada, this could have been a conversation heard at any one of my schools.

 [as posted on THE HUB under the title Why do we need library technicians in our school libraries]

 I’m often asked what I do for a living and see the puzzled look on people’s faces when I say I’m a library technician and I work for the Department of Education in Victoria, where I run 3 primary school libraries. The majority of people assume that I’m a “Librarian” or a “Teacher”, very few admit to not knowing what a library technician is and I often find myself explaining the differences.

I’m not a teacher (they assume this because I work in a primary school). I’m not a librarian as that involves the “Librarianship” qualifications. I’m a “technician,” I run the “technical” side of the library. Most still remain perplexed about the difference and that always entails more of an explanation!

 I started in the school library many years ago without “qualifications” with a teacher who did have library qualifications, but not the current “teacher-librarian” qualifications of today. When she went on to greener pastures l worked alongside another teacher who didn’t have any formal qualifications either, but we were both very passionate about the role of the library within the school and the services that we offered and the importance of the school library and its role in the curriculum.

Both my teacher librarian and I went on to gain more formal qualifications, and with learning became a different understanding about the differences in our roles and more importantly the services we could now offer our patrons. We can both undertake the administrative, clerical and budgetary running of the library; we are both able to assist our patrons with locating and retrieving information. We can create online web-based resources for classroom use, assist them in locating a book whether for project work or personal pleasure, produce displays; provide input into planning sessions and the hundreds of other day-to-day tasks that are involved in providing a viable library service.

 Whilst undertaking my study l focused most of my readings on the primary school library setting and was amazed at the research into the impact of school libraries and what suitably trained library staff could offer the school community. l begun to understand the differences in having some basic idea of my role to learning how l could enhance our library services with my new found training and with all that l was learning. At the same time my teacher-librarian was undertaking her library qualifications and our understanding about our differences were becoming vastly evident. She no longer saw herself as a “keeper” of the books as it were, but someone who is fundamental in the learning outcomes of our students whilst providing peer support to her teaching colleagues at the same time.

Our natural progression saw our roles change and evolve over time to where l undertook all the technical aspects of running the library, cataloguing, maintaining the automated systems in all areas etc. thus allowing the teacher librarian to concentrate on her dual roles, that of the teacher and the librarian. Her expertise as a teacher and a librarian provided us with the opportunity to offer information to our patrons with a school library webpage that expanded our library beyond its walls in that l had the expertise in web design, she had the curriculum knowledge and we both had the ability to select suitable web content for our patrons.

 I do not have a teaching qualification, nor do I have the desire to attain it. I love the technical aspects of my job. I love the cataloguing and revel in learning and teaching everything Web 2.0. l have a strong understanding of the Victorian Essential Learning Standards, but l lack the vital expertise of the teacher in a school library setting. I cannot offer my colleagues the specialised knowledge that comes from having that teaching training.

 Library staff work in isolation in a school setting, whether we are teacher librarians or library technicians. We all envisage a library service that includes digital content, a library programme rich in ICTs, web 2.0 capabilities, a library that allows our users to seek information from a wide variety of media sources, flexible timetabling, co-operative planning and most of all to not be seen as “time release” or “babysitting” for classroom teachers.

 Many library technicians are employed in primary school libraries due to budgetary decision-making in schools as I am and I’m certainly very thankful for that! l successfully run 3 school libraries single-handedly and do an excellent job in all 3 libraries. Why? Because I have trained alongside a teacher-librarian and have been given the opportunity to learn all the aspects required to confidently run them. But I reiterate I cannot fully offer my patrons that expert knowledge that a teacher librarian can.

Recently, I lost my last teacher librarian due to retirement and I am now responsible for that third library. If both teacher-librarians and technicians were allowed to work as they should, staff, students and the wider community would enjoy the benefits of boosted literacy achievement, students who have a love of literature and who are confident in seeking information in an abundant and media rich environment, where the library equips its users with skills in their quest for life-long learning.

 A school library that is staffed by qualified teacher librarians and trained support staff is often the first step in helping students learn how to become ‘information literate’. A library program that is run in conjunction with an information literacy curriculum teaches students how to access and utilise relevant information, where and how to locate it and to be able to adapt it to suit their needs.

 How will we ever be able to provide a viable library service if the fundamental differences between teacher librarians and library technicians are not seen? It should not be an either or situation, adequately staffed school libraries MUST consist of qualified teacher librarians, library technicians and library support staff who all by their very nature undertake different roles to provide a library service that is central to the user’s education. School leadership must take the time to understand these fundamental differences and ensure adequate funding to service library programmes within schools in the same way that they fund the curriculum programmes elsewhere. This begins with qualified library staff, and the rest is just a natural progression.

Monday, July 16, 2012

28. This book is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson

What is it like to be a librarian in a world of too much information? Constant change, exploding technology, shrinking budgets, growing numbers of the baffled...could there be a better spot than behind the librarians' desk to watch the digital age unfold?

Marilyn Johnson dared to write  book about the library and the keepers of knowledge.  I say dared because I bet that if you asked the average person where librarian work rated in the importance of the world, most would respond with "huh?" Within the chapters, Johnson brings life to the 'unusual' librarian and lets readers know that if they paid a bit of attention, they could see how normal and commonplace these 'unusual' librarians are. The librarian stereotype is one who wears a long skirt and a blouse with black rimmed glasses and values quiet above all. Like a microcosm of the patrons they serve, they have tattoos, died hair, are expert gamers, history buffs, have avatars, are renegades and rebels, have families, wear stilettos to work, write blogs on virtually every topic, are funny and irreverent..and yes, sometimes they even swear.

The first half of the book gives a rich identity to those seemingly quiet library workers and reveals the passions, creativity and politics within.

Unfortunately, the second half of the book slows down and, unless you are a great fan of the New York Public library, becomes congested with all the research that happens there. I enjoyed the stories of various writers who conducted research there and the help they received from the staff, but it was bogged down by the salute (even if deserving) to the NY Public Library.

As a library worker, I found the anecdotes and humour refreshing and those parts were a joy to read.

Quotes from the book:

“In tight economic times, with libraries sliding farther and farther down the list of priorities, we risk the loss of their ideals, intelligence, and knowledge, not to mention their commitment to access for all—librarians consider free access to information the foundation of democracy, and they’re right. Librarians are essential players in the information revolution because they level that field. They enable those without money or education to read and learn the same things as the billionaire and the Ph.D…In tough times, a librarian is a terrible thing to waste. 

“Yes, librarians use punctuation marks to make little emoticons, smiley and frowny faces in their correspondence, but if there were one for an ironic wink, or a sarcastic lip curl, they'd wear it out.” 

“Bibliomancy: "Divination by jolly well Looking It Up.”

“Good librarians are natural intelligence operatives. They possess all of the skills and characteristics required for that work: curiosity, wide-ranging knowledge, good memories, organization and analytical aptitude, and discretion.” 

“We'll always need printed books that don't mutate the way digital books do; we'll always need places to display books, auditoriums for book talks, circles for story time; we'll always need brick-and-mortar libraries.” 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

So, you can fix the printer, right?

I often receive looks of confusion when I answer the "what do you do?" question. I am a Library Technician. Once I convince then that I am not a volunteer who visits eight schools several times a month, and that not only is it 'cool' that I bring a laptop to 'entertain' myself during these visits, that I actually WORK in the library, the question inevitably comes up: "so, you fix the library computer each time you are here?".

Well, yes and no. I 'fix the library computer' each visit in that I update the collection and patron databases and in that I provide the unofficial tech expertise of making sure the connections on the circulation computer are secure or that the monitor is actually turned on, making it 'work'. Perhaps it is the word 'tech' that makes them think I fix the computer, or that, at times, I seem to be the only one who can locate the paper jam in the printer, or shake the toner cartridge to squeeze out those last few prints.

I can understand the confusion, after all, I am only at each school every eight school days. I sit at a desk in the corner and type away furiously on a laptop I carry around with me. I am often surrounded by processing supplies, piles of books and frequently quote Dewey numbers at them when there is a long line at the library catalogue computer. I must seem a strange creature.

To many I am the 'girl' who knows where the books are and can suggest a title for that book with the blue cover they used last year. To most, I am the one who can make the check-in screen appear, make the printer work (have I mentioned that yet?), and who knows why The Diary of Anne Frank is not in the fiction section even though it is the same size as those books.

 I have been at my current complement of eight elementary schools for 4 years now. That is about 26 visits each year. I sign in when I arrive, greet the office and custodial staff(who are usually the only people in as early as I am), I reclaim my desk from the piles of stuff that migrates there during my absence. I eat lunch in the staff room, I greet classes as they come in,I post frequently to the staff and school on-line conference and I answers student and staff questions all day. So how is it that no one really knows what I do?

This school year my Library Technician colleagues and I are attempting an formal awareness and self-promotion campaign to remedy this. The timing works out well for me as I will have new principals at five of my eight schools and three new Teacher Librarians. We will be focusing on the services we can provide to all staff, not just those teachers that regularly bring their classes to the library. The hope is to make sure everyone knows we exist and that we can help. We are a resource - use us! I also hope to put to rest and traditional feelings of competition teaching staff may have with my role. I am not trying to 'out' the Teacher Librarian from the library. I am not trying to take her job. I have my own work, thank-you very much, that keeps me ridiculously busy.

 I love my job. I am surrounded by books, people, information and learning. I frequently have multiple labels and bits of booktape on my fingers. I know just how to wiggle the wires to make the internet work. I can tell you that we have a book of lions and tigers in 599.75 and that yes, it is at the perfect reading level for your grade 2 class. I can put the new 39 clues book to the front of the cataloguing pile so that Johnny, who refused to read anything else, will have a book for this weekend. I can locate that title you need tomorrow at 3 other schools and arrange to have one sent to you. I can connect the data projector, locate that streaming video you saw last month and I can work with the lights out while you show it to your class. I select and order books, sometimes with the Teacher Librarian and sometimes at her request because she has no time. I can incorporate programming and marketing ideas that have worked well at my other locations and give a heads up to problems that others have already encountered and solved. Yes, I can help you find your login, your password and I can direct you to the I.T. Department for computer fixes. I know a guy. Ask me a question. Finding the answer or showing you how to find it makes me happy. It's what I do. I am a Library Technician. I don't bite. And yes, I can usually make that printer work.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

27. Making It Big by Lyndsay Russell

Sad, lonely Sharon Plunkett is a size 18. She's tried every fad, every diet, every cream, but like a stain of grease on a pure silk blouse, her rolls of fat refuse to budge. The man of her dreams is not interested, and her slim friend Debbee uses her to look good. But all that changes when Sharon magically finds herself in a fantastic, reversed world where it's suddenly "in" to be fat, and "out" to be slim!Now feted and adored for her curvaceously large body and stunning face, she goes from being a newly discovered model to a Hollywood icon. Dating ever more glamorous men on the way, Sharon journeys to the top of the celebrity world as a magnificent example of womanhood. But then it all goes wrong—very wrong. This delicious, page-turning novel highlights press manipulation, and hits back at the "skinny insanity" currently gripping the western world.

The description sounded great but the idea is better than the execution. The character of Sharon was a very poor Bridget Jones. The expected self-deprecation at the beginning seemed to be setting Sharon up for some changes in life and in attitude. That was not the case. The self loathing continued from page to page, from the world where fat is bad and full on into the world where she was fat and therefore beautiful and desirable. Reading it, I started to feel beaten down by constant put-downs Sharon gives herself. Even when it seemed she would find some self acceptance when the world shift and fat is "in" , her life choices take her down the self destructive path. The message that size shouldn't matter or define who you are as a person was not a new message and was presented with the subtlety and finesse of a jack hammer. It was a lesson the reader picks up on quickly but the main character seems to have missed the memo. This book focused on the issue of size and the value of superficial appearance in the public eye. I mean, it really focused there, and wouldn't let go. This redundancy just about destroyed any enjoyment factor. The real issue Sharon needed to deal with, which was largely ignored, was her choice in relationships and confidence. The emotional abandonment by her father, bullying and unrelenting verbal abuse from her step family and shallow choices in romantic relationships surely warranted deeper attention. Her appearance was a symptom of much larger and more serious concerns left untouched by the author. For all the focus on size and how the world judges based on appearance, almost no redemption of the characters can be found. I kept waiting for an 'ah-ha' moment where the characters, any of them, would get a clue but it never happened. Written as a satire on what beauty means in the media, the message became singular, repetitive, and depressing. It could have been so much better, but it was a waste of a good idea. And a waste of time.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

26. Evermore by Alison Noel

Since a horrible accident claimed the lives of her family, Ever can see auras, hear people's thoughts, and know a person's entire life story by touch. Going out of her way to avoid human contact and suppress her abilities has branded her as a freak at her new high school—but everything changes when she meets Damen.
Damen Auguste is gorgeous, exotic and wealthy. He's the only one who can silence the noise and random energy in her head—wielding a magic so intense, it's as though he can see straight into her soul. As Ever is drawn deeper into his enticing world of secrets and mystery, she's left with more questions than answers. She has no idea just who he really is—or what he is. The only thing she knows to be true is she's falling deeply and helplessly in love with him.
Evermore, Book #1 in the Immortals series

My first impression of this book was that I was heading into a volume from a soap opera.  It may have been the names of the characters: Ever.  Damen Auguste. Haven. Riley.  My second impression was that I had picked up another book from the Twilight trend in YA Fiction.  Innocent girl, new in town meets mysterious hunk with a dark side. I like Noel's writing but I felt several times that I had been there, read that.  The absence of him actually being a vampire was a nice touch.  Ever grieved and grew during the course of the book and her reactions to her abilities felt honest.  

I read Evermore in a single sitting.  It was an easy read and an enjoyable one.  I am curious about where this story will go in subsequent books but am not in any rush to run out and get them.  I also read the companion series written about Ever's sister, Riley. I may be more motivated to continue reading the Immortals series had I not just finished the fourth book in the Riley Bloom series.  I may just need a break from Noel for a while.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How to Save a Library

The city of Troy, Michigan was facing a budget shortfall, and was considering closing the Troy Public Library for lack of funds. Even though the necessary revenues could be raised through a miniscule tax increase, powerful anti-tax groups in the area were organized against it. A vote was scheduled amongst the city's residents, to shut the library or accept the tax increase, and Leo Burnett Detroit decided to support the library by creating a reverse psychology campaign.

Monday, July 9, 2012

19, 20, 24 & 25: Riley Bloom Series by Alyson Noel

I read the first book of the Riley Bloom series, Radiance and quickly decided I needed to pick up the next, then the next, and so on.  Easy to read, Noel has created a world beyond the living that is captivating.  An afterlife that is full of colour, growth and new experiences greats the reader, no static rainbow heaven here. Riley doesn't just die and go to heaven, she lingers a while on the Earth plane to look in on her sister who survived the accident.  Noel does not have Riley simply accepting what has happened, but rather gives her characters depth and tenacity while holding on to her pre-teen exuberance.  Riley is challenged to choose her future in "Here".  While her life is over, she is by no means finished living.  There are  And I personally love that her dog, Buttercup, gets to stay with her and still have his own afterlife.

Aimed at middle graders, readers who like the Riley Bloom books can grow into Noel's Immortals series, which follows the story of Riley's older sister, Ever.  The Bloom books can each be read as standalone but of course reading them in order will enhance the understanding of Riley and provide some continuity in the development of the evolving relationship between Riley and her guide/teacher, Bodhi.

Riley Bloom left her sister, Ever, in the world of the living and crossed the bridge into the afterlife—a place called Here, where time is always Now. Riley and her dog, Buttercup, have been reunited with her parents and are just settling into a nice, relaxing death when she's summoned before The Council. They let her in on a secret—the afterlife isn't just an eternity of leisure; Riley has to work. She's been assigned a job, Soul Catcher, and a teacher, Bodhi, a curious boy she can't quite figure out.
Riley, Bodhi, and Buttercup return to earth for her first assignment, a Radiant Boy who's been haunting a castle in England for centuries. Many Soul Catchers have tried to get him to cross the bridge and failed. But he's never met Riley...
Having solved the matter of the Radiant Boy, Riley, Buttercup, and Bodhi are enjoying a well-deserved vacation. When Riley comes across a young ghost named Rebecca, Riley soon learns Rebecca's not at all what she sees. The daughter of a former plantation owner, she is furious about being murdered during a slave revolt in 1733. Mired in her own anger, Rebecca is keeping the ghosts who died along with her trapped in their worst memories. Can Riley help Rebecca without losing herself to her own nightmarish memories?

Riley's finding that the afterlife can be a lonely place when all you do is focus on work. So she goes to the place where dreams happen, hoping to find a way to contact her sister, Ever. She meets the director, who tells her about the two ways to send dreams. As a Dream Jumper, a person can jump into a dreamer's dream, share a message, and participate. As a Dreamweaver, an entire dream can be created in a studio and sent to the dreamer. But Dreamweaving was outlawed decades ago, and the studio was boarded up. Thinking it's her only way to reach out to her sister, Riley goes in search of the old studio. There she finds a ghost boy, who's been creating and sending nightmares to people for years. In order to stop him and reach out to Ever, Riley is going to have to confront and overcome her own fears.

After the problems with her last mission, Riley practically begged the Council for a more challenging Soul Catch. She is determined to prove herself. But this time her challenge may be more than she can handle. Now she's been assigned to a real Roman gladiator. So fearsome he was named the Pillar of Doom. How is Riley, a scrawny twelve-year-old, supposed to get through to him?
When Riley stumbles upon Messalina, the beautiful girl who has been around for centuries, she may have found the answer. Messalina convinces Riley her only chance is to become a part of the gladiator world. To do this, Riley must go through a dramatic make-over and become the teenager she's always wanted to be. She's beautiful, she's mature, and she may even find her first boyfriend. But with a dream this enchanting, will Riley complete her mission and return to Bodhi and Buttercup, or will she stay in Messalina's world forever?