Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Our apologies to our legions of loyal fans, but things over here in Mantor are absolutely hectic right now. Between vacations, prepping for fall and moving about 50 computers (including reinstalling operating systems, programs and all that fun), we just are up to our eyeballs in Stuff To Do NOW. So after consulting with Bookjones, we've decided to take the next month or so off. Try not to cry too much in our absence. Parting is such sweet sorrow and all that jazz.

Look for us to return, triumphantly, around the last week of August. In the meantime, have a great summer!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Documentary Review: From the Earth to the Moon

I thought I'd switch things up for a week and review something non-bookish. This is one of my all time favorite documentaries. If you're a space junkie like myself, this is a cornucopia of fun. 720 minutes of pure bliss. (12 episodes at an hour each, for those of you mathematically challenged, like myself.) If you're not a space junkie, you will be after you watch this. Produced by Tom Hanks and Ron Howard after they collaborated on Apollo 13, the movie tells the entire story of the American effort to get to the moon. It's a remarkable series, fully realized and dramatized. In other words, you learn a lot about history, but it's not just some guy summarizing events the whole time. Better yet, they made an effort not to dwell on pieces of history that had already been well-documented in other films. You get a real appreciation for the herculean efforts scientists and astronauts went through to finally be able to have a man walk on the moon. I love love love this series, and when I was adding documentaries to the collection, it was right at the top of my list. I can't recommend it enough. Four stars, and I just got back from looking at it on the shelf. It's waiting for you.

Come check it out!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

That was then, this is now

Remember 2000?
Me neither. Here's a refresher for reference, just in case you want to brush up on the hits (Erin Brokovitch, Survivor, Tyrannosaurus Sue) and the misses (Y2K fizzle, Battlefield Earth).
Much has changed in the world since the turn of the milennium, especially in the world of technology. Even though part of my job involves computers and other "geek stuff" , it's still difficult to wrap my brain around how much things change in a decade - until someone comes up with a great infographic like this one, via The Centered Librarian: (click graphic to view full)

Amazing stuff, isn't it? I don't know about you, but I am shocked that clowns have more than doubled in the last decade. Did I mention I'm scared of clowns?
And speaking of geek stuff, forty-something new computers have arrived at Mantor, (Yay!) and are awaiting installation, so...time to put on my Techie hat, and get to work.
Until next week,

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ask a Librarian: What's Collection Development?

Collection development. What is it, and why do we do it? Libraries have lots of stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. We've got books, DVDs, CDs, journals, newspapers, online journals and more. I suppose it would be easy to assume the way we get more stuff is we go out and buy as much as we can of everything that's out there. Even assuming we had the money to buy everything, however, we still wouldn't. Why? It's all about collection development.

A library has to decide how best to serve the needs of its users. For example, if we went out and bought every graphic novel in print, we'd have a killer graphic novel collection as far as completeness goes. But what if our students really only need to have every *excellent* graphic novel that's been printed? What if they're more interested in quality, not quantity? And let's face it: we're under a tight budget. There are many resources in demand, and we have to weigh what to buy carefully. So collection development is the systematic expansion of the material a library owns.

Allow me to give an example.

When I first came to Mantor, they had decided to start collecting more films. To find out which films to purchase, librarians had contacted the film department, who had all sorts of good suggestions for films that fit their teaching and research interests. The result was a collection that was sort of all over the place. We had some good foreign films, puddles of good art films, but no real breadth. One of the first things I did was to look at the collection as a whole and decide it would be good to expand it. Thus, I added American classics, then world classics. I've branched out into Anime, documentaries, animation, horror, comedy--trying to get some strong titles in everything. As I continue to grow the collection, I'll start turning back to faculty for input. Now that we have the basics, we can expand the collection in areas most pertinent to our campus. For example, we have a class on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so we've added a fair bit of vampire films. We have another one coming up on films of the Coen Brothers, so those are getting added, as well.

So collection development isn't just about going out and buying stuff. It's about going out and buying the right stuff.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Behind the Scenes in Technology World

I came across a fascinating article in Wired today, detailing the behind the scenes shenanigans that have gone on between Apple and AT&T as they've bickered over how the iPhone should be used and deployed. Interesting stuff ranging from AT&T suggesting Steve Jobs ought to wear a suit to Steve Jobs denying AT&T the chance to use the iPhone in some of their ads. The bottom line of the article is that while the iPhone has been extremely profitable for both companies, the actual experience of creating it and getting it to the public has been a rocky one.

I think it's helpful to realize as end users that the products we see and use every day--even the wildly successful ones--have a lot of thought, argument, tinkering and change that goes on behind the scenes. As users of technology and information, it's easy to accept things at face value. All too often, a lot of work and effort goes into making things appear effortless. It's certainly the case at libraries. When we're doing our jobs right, people don't notice how useful we are, because it's all about not getting in the way between them and information. Ideally, we train everyone so well that they know just how and where to find what they need. (Lots of people already believe it, but there's a difference between believing you know how to do something, and knowing how to do something.)

Anyway--bottom line is that I think this adds further credence to the likelihood of the iPhone coming out here to Western Maine at some point. Hooray for that!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mantor Monday: Go out and play!

Look, don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't appreciate the fact that someone is actually reading this blog post. I do. Really. I do.
But it's summer time, people. And to me, summer time means outdoor time. The call of the wild, and all that jazz. So drag yourself away from your computer, and make time for some fun in the sun. If you need to brush up on a few skills before you hit the trail, Mantor has several titles on the New Acquisitions list to get you off on the right foot.

First up: The Essential Outdoor Gear Manual.

From the Back Cover:

"I could have used this book when I snapped my kayak in half descending the Niger River. I could have used this book when I busted my water filter bicycling across Siberia. I could have used this book on Mt. Everest when all ten of our stoves were either in flames or had already exploded. Save yourself crocodile attacks, dysentry, and singed eyebrows--read this book!"--Mark Jenkins, columnist, Outside, and author of Off the Map, To Timbuktu, and The Burma Road (forthcoming)

Considering the cost of outdoor equipment these days, it only makes sense to repair, rather than replace, your carefully chosen gear. Regular maintenance is the key to maximizing the performance of your investment.

Veteran outdoorsfolk Annie and Dave Getchell have bought, used, abused, worn out, and repaired tentfuls of outdoor equipment. This second edition of The Essential Outdoor Gear Manual combines their 35 years of experience to help you choose the right gear, use it wisely, and repair it in the field or home workshop. During countless adventures, Dave and Annie have accumulated an encyclopedic collection of cutting-edge care and repair tips from manufacturers, innovators, and outdoor gurus. The new edition adds time-tested guidance on how to choose exactly the right gear for your outdoor needs.

The Essential Outdoor Gear Manual is an abundantly illustrated, multisport reference that offers clear, concise suggestions to help you care for everything from tents, cross-country skis, and hiking boots to kayaks, canoes, climbing equipment, backpacks, stoves, and more. To handle those inevitable repair jobs, you'll learn--among other things--how to patch a canoe, clean a sputtering campstove, fix a busted zipper, sharpen ice-axe teeth, and mend a leaky rain jacket. Annie and Dave have packed The Essential Outdoor Gear Manual with advice on adhesives, environmentally friendly cleaning solutions, repair kits, specialized tools, and useful knots. An extensive appendix of repair services and resources will guide you to the nearest expert should your own repair skills come up short."

Once you know what backpack to choose, and what to put in it, we've got Wilderness Camping & Hiking, The Ultimate Outdoors Book, and if that's not ultimate enough for you - if you need something a little more extreme, try this one:Climbing :Expedition Planning.

Not a happy camper? How about water sports? We've got several new offerings if H2O is your element of choice. Two new titles for fisherfolk: Fishing Basics, and
L.L.Bean Ultimate Book of Fly Fishing.

And if fishing's not your angle, (Sorry. ) we've also got Whitewater Kayaking,
and Whitewater Paddling.

Whatever your outdoor flavor, we have (or we can get) a book to get you started on a new adventure. Enjoy what Maine (or wherever you are) has to offer. The Great Outdoors is calling, so get out there and make the most of it. Oh - and don't forget the bug spray.

Peace out, Cub Scouts.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Book Reviews and a Little Bit More: The Yiddish Policeman's Union, World War Z, and New Spice

Three things for you this fine day. The first two are reviews, and the third is a YouTube clip from one of my old places of employment: BYU's library. (Take Old Spice Towel guy, add some clothes, then stir in a healthy dose of "Why You Need to Use a Library," and you get the picture.) On to the reviews:

The Yiddish Policemen's UnionThe Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book, although it was (frankly) a much longer read than I would have liked. What if the state of Israel had never been formed, and the Jews ended up in Alaska, instead? There's your basic premise--add to that a murder mystery, a healthy dose of literary style and some fantasy elements, and you've got the book. The world is excellently drawn and presented, and the mystery aspect of the plot was well-handled. I think if I were more into literary fantasy, I would have given the book five stars. As it is, it's probably just a case of "not completely right for me." Recommended for others, though--obviously.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie WarWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What would the world be like if a zombie plague actually broke out on a global scale? Brooks answers this question in a novel that's essentially a collection of first hand accounts--a style that reminded me of Bram Stoker's Dracula in many ways. It's not for the faint of heart--very much an R-rated book, so to speak, but I for one would love to see it turned into a film. It had a District 9 sort of a flair to it that I haven't seen done in zombie-lit before. So often, zombie stories focus on the individual--how does one person or a small group of people cope with the chaos? Brooks went the other way, showing how the world could and would cope with it. If you're at all a horror or zombie fan, you should check this one out. Really fantastic.

View all my reviews

And now, on to the YouTube clip.

I was hesitant at first to watch it, thinking it would be a lame parody of the clever ads. But there isn't anything lame about it, in my opinion. Full of Win. I have to say I really enjoyed the two or three years I worked in the library there. (My department was periodicals--it's where he ends up when he gets out of the elevator.) BYU makes a lot of effort to keep its students involved in the library (as you can tell from the video production values).

What do you think? Am I just biased because I used to work there?

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Chances are, you're familiar with Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton. In fact, he may be one of the most famous authors you've never heard of. Bulwer-Lytton, to his lasting discredit, is the author of the much spoofed line: "It was a dark and stormy night." The unwitting father of a thousand parodies, Bulwer-Lytton even has a mock-prestigious award named after him: The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Award, where the yearly laurels are awarded to the worst ever first lines of fictitious fiction. Sponsored by the English Department at San Jose State University, the contest has several categories: Adventure, Detective, Fantasy, Romance, etc., so aspiring writers have the chance for an epic fail in their genre of choice. All it takes to win is a truly heinous sentence, and the desire to be awarded, if not the top prize ( A Pittance, according to the official website), at least "Dishonorable Mention".

And so, without further ado, allow me to introduce the 2010 winner of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction award - Molly Ringle, and her superbad sentence:

"For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss--a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil."

Ready? All together, now: aaaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuuugggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ask a Librarian: How Do You Weed?

First off, I suppose it's likely that many of you don't even know the term "weed" in the context of a library. I mean, it's not like we have a whole lot of vegetables over here, regardless of how awesome it would be if we did. But as my wife can attest to, weeding and I don't get along. And yet I do it professionally.

The answer, of course, is that it's library-speak for removing materials from a collection, and this is something that can be very upsetting for some people. But it's very necessary for a collection to thrive.

Look at it like this. When you weed a garden, you're killing some plants so that other plants can grow. If you have some tomato plants that are wilting and dying, you sometimes have to yank them out to make room so other plants can succeed. (Okay--I'm going to end the gardening analogy now. I'm out of my league when it comes to the proper care of plant things.)

In a healthy library, books will come and go. Ideally, all our books would be loved, cherished, read and used. But that's not the way it plays out. Some books get scribbled in (not by you, surely!). Some books get taken to the bathtub for some light reading before taking a quick dip. Some books get gnawed on by beagles. In these cases, these books will typically just get replaced, after we charge whoever allowed such atrocities to happen.

But what happens when a book just sits there, year after year, unchecked out? What do you do with those books? Sometimes, you hang on to them. Just because people aren't with it enough to realize a classic should be read and checked out doesn't mean you throw that classic out. On the other end of the spectrum are books that clearly have outlived their usefulness. Books like Do It Yourself Coffins for Pets and People and Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child’s Book about Satanic Ritual Abuse. (These books, by the way, come to my attention from the often funny Awful Library Books blog, a blog I recommend.)

The trick is that some people view all books as inherently worthwhile. To make matters more difficult, they tend to believe books are like fine wines--they increase in value as they age. So while one person will look at an 1830s map book and see value, another will see it's molding, wormy, water damaged, brittle, and it hasn't checked out since 1831. Do you keep it, or weed it?

What a library needs to do is identify its purpose and then stick to it. Shelf space is limited, after all. If the library is focused on collecting complete map collections, maybe that book can be saved. If it's trying to give the public access to relevant timely information, it's probably time for that book to go. We librarians have to make these decisions all the time. Some decisions are hard, some are easy, but each one has the potential to turn into a public relations firestorm for the library. However, if we don't do it, the collection becomes difficult to use, irrelevant and eventually dies.

Just like a garden.

Or so I've been told. :-)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

To Pirate or Not to Pirate

CrunchGear (a blog I follow fairly closely, and which I recommend) had a post up the other day on the future of piracy. Basically, their argument is that sooner or later, quality material on the web will live behind a pay wall--you'll have to pay to view it. Not pay a ton, mind you, but pay something. On the other hand, Scott Adams (the guy who draws Dilbert) has another take. His argument is that there will always be someone talented out there willing to create something really good for free, and that as it becomes easier to search the internet to find that someone, the cost for good content will be eventually reduced to zero.

I've read both articles, and both make compelling arguments. However, they can't both be right. I mean, in the future, you will either pay for content, or you won't, right? Well, maybe not. Maybe the answer is that the future will look more like the present. You know, the one where some stuff is free (YouTube) and some stuff isn't (Netflix). I believe there will certainly always be a free option out there, some of it of dubious quality (most of YouTube), some of it great (Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog). (Actually, as I was trying to link to Dr. Horrible, I discovered that the once free internet sensation is now available on iTunes for $2.99 an episode (for a total of three episodes). I find that strangely illuminating when considering the current topic . . .)

The fact is that for most of the internet's brief lifespan, there has been free material all over the place. Indeed, many of the youth of today probably don't realize there was a time when you had to pay actual money to read something, and so when someone proposes an End to Free, they start complaining and calling names (you only have to look as far as the comments on CrunchGear's article--but be warned: they get trollish quite quickly). When print was still king, having free websites made sense: it drove people toward the print material, which they would then pay for.

But now that e-versions of everything are taking off, content creators can no longer make a living selling in print what they're giving away electronically. Yes, they can do something as a bit of a stunt--get traction and create a sensation by giving something away for free, but it appears that soon after that--once they have a following and can get away with it--they inevitably find a way to charge for that content. Again, I'm not saying all people do this, but I think it's safe to say that when faced between doing something professionally and doing it on the side, professionals will win out in the end. And they need to get paid to eat.

Hulu, the online place for free television (with ads in the middle of each episode) recently announced Hulu+, the online place for television (with ads in the middle of each episode) that costs $10 a month to view. Magazines and newspapers are moving behind the paywall bit by bit. I expect the future will have many more things that people pay money for--they just won't pay as much for it. Take the music model as an example--people no longer buy that many CDs for $15-$20, but they buy plenty of songs on iTunes for $0.99 a pop. Is that because these songs are no longer free on the internet somewhere? No--they're still there. But why bother risking a virus or a lawsuit (and the hassle of figuring out how to steal the music in the first place) when you can pay a buck and have it in a few seconds. Legally? TechCrunch makes a pretty good argument.

But like I said, so does Scott Adams. But speaking as a hopeful one-day author, it's much easier for someone who's already established and making money as a content creator to sit back and say that other people will do the same, for free. People will--in hopes of one day being able to make money off that. Maybe that money will be from advertising. Maybe it'll be from donations. Maybe it'll be from selling apps. But money will be made, one way or another. Jonathan Coulton did the same thing--he started by giving away something that he now charges for (Well, you can still listen for free to all, and download some free, but it costs to download all and listen at your leisure. Great songs, by the way! Especially Re: Your Brains and A Talk with George.)

This all just confirms what we librarians have been saying all along: quality information costs. We get it for you via databases or ebooks, and you download it and think it's no different than finding something on Google. It's different. Hundreds of thousands of dollars different for some of the big databases. The pay model is already very firmly entrenched in academia. I don't see it disappearing in a flash of goodwill any time soon.

(And yes, I note the irony of me writing this on a free blog, which gets mirrored on to free Facebook and free Twitter. I'm not saying I'm going to start charging--no fear! But Facebook and Twitter? If the ad money dries up, they'll coming looking for their money, too. Don't kid yourself.)

Anyway--there's still more to be said on the subject, but I'm out of time for now. I'm happy to take any follow up questions or comments--I'd love to hear what you all have to say on the matter.

*image courtesy of Pirates of the Caribbean, but you knew that already, didn't you?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mantor Monday: Mantor Sings the Blues

I love new books. I love new books like Scooby loves snacks. That's why I love it when the new acquisitions lists come out each month. It's like having my own personal shopper: the list arrives in my inbox, complete with pictures, and I can scout out the titles I've been waiting to read. (The list is also available from Mantor's home page. Click on "What's New?" in the left sidebar, then on "New Acquisitions".)
While scanning the most recent list, it struck me as kind of funny that there were three titles beginning with "Blue". (Yes, now that you mention it, I am easily amused. Your point?) So here they are, in no particular order:

Blue Gold: World Water Wars
This documentary film on is based on this book, an expose on the global water crisis, and the impact of the privatization of water supplies. In other words, water is one more thing largely owned by Big Corporations, and that's not a good thing. (Unless you're a Big Corporation, of course.)

Next up is Blue Bloods, by Melissa de la Cruz. This one reportedly combines chick lit, fashion, and Teenage Vampires into a new, hybrid genre. (The Undead Wear Prada? Bridget Jones's Vampire Diaries? Okay, I'll stop.)

Last, but not least, is Blue Noon, number three in the Midnighters Series by Scott Westerfield.

As I said, I love new books. I also love odd connections and synchronicities. Let's play Six Degrees of Blueness: other than the fact that they all start with Blue, can you find any connections between these three titles?

If you do, leave a comment...game on!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Window Gardens

Because the On Our Minds reading group here at Mantor chose Food Rules and In Defense of Food as our book selections for the coming year, I've been paying a lot of attention to sustainable food production.
I've been a fan of The Windowfarm Project for a while now, and constructing a window farm has been on my to-do list since I first discovered the site. Do you remember that great old computer game, The Incredible Machine, where you had to construct Rube Goldberg thingies out of bits and pieces? Well, window farms have that same sort of appeal for me: take a few plastic bottles, a pump, a bit of tubing, and a seedling or two, and Voila! A working, sustainable, food-producing machine from odds and ends. Throw in the fact that the bottles, at least, are recycled, and it's a can't miss project.

But here's the good news if your zeal to do good isn't quite matched by your zeal to do it yourself: I just got an email from the Windowfarm Project announcing the availability of the Windowfarm kit! Now, all you need is a sunny window and a few bucks, and you'll be on your way to having the the most eco-chic (and tasty) window treatments in town!

Here's Your Sign:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ask a Librarian: How to Get the Most Out of Your Library--Interlibrary Loan and Requests

Interlibrary loan is a wonderful service that not enough people use. One of the keys to successful library use is to give yourself plenty of time. So often, we have people come in looking for an immediate information need, or they want to read a certain book RIGHT NOW. In a larger library, those sort of needs can often be met (assuming you're not trying to waltz in and get the latest best seller the day it came out--there's gonna be a line for that one.) However in a smaller library, your approach needs to be different. Chances are, your library participates in interlibrary loan, and that is the road to every book you could imagine.

Think of your library as a single point on a huge global network. Most of the books of all of the libraries who participate in this network are available to the other libraries who participate. You go to your library, request the book, they find the book in the network, ask the library that owns the book to send it to your library, which then lends it to you. In some libraries, you pay the postage. In some, you don't. (You might be hit with some hefty fines if you return the book late--be careful of that! It all depends on the lending library's policies.) The only downside to this process is that it can take some time for it to happen. You can't walk out with your book the same day.

(On a side note, wouldn't it be great if you could? With ebooks, you really ought to be able to sit at home, go to your library's online site, request a book, be connected with a partnered library, download that book from their library, and be off and reading--without ever leaving your home. The technology is there--but the infrastructure to support this isn't. Publishers treat and sell ebooks very differently than they treat paper copies, and they're not above charging libraries more for ebooks than they charge your everyday person. This is (in my opinion) ridiculous. Libraries have been supporting books and reading for years. They've been lending books out for centuries. Why is it that a sudden change in format makes that model no longer sustainable? But I digress . . .)

So if you hear about a good book, but your library doesn't have it, you can have your hands on it in a week or so, through interlibrary loan. Nice, huh? And as many people take advantage of this service as you would think. (Here at Mantor, we have access to the whole UMaine system library holdings, meaning many books we can have in a couple of days. Nice!)

On the other hand, you can also explore an even less used alternative: suggest that your library purchase that book. We librarians actually want to help you get the information you need. If there's a book out there that you think your library should own, ask them to buy it. So many of the books we do buy end up not getting checked out--we're not buying them to hold the shelves down, people. We're buying them so people will use them. When we get requests from actual users--basically guarantees that a real person is interested in a certain book--we take those requests very seriously. Of course, sometimes students ask us to purchase their textbooks for them. We don't do that--textbooks get out of date too quickly, and people seem to have a tendency of walking off with them when we do order them. I wonder why . . . ) Mantor gets a handful of requests a year. It would be great if this changed.

In any case--Interlibrary Loan and Requests for Purchase. Two library services you should be aware of, and should take advantage of.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

All About Google

I was reading this chart earlier today, and I thought a lot of you might be interested in stopping for a moment and thinking about what search engines really are doing. Click on over and check it out, then come back here for some discussion.


Good. Searching online has become such an ingrained part of our lives these days. (At least, it's an ingrained part of my life, but maybe that's because I do it professionally.) But do we stop to think about who's controlling where we get what information? I mean, when I go to search for a product on Amazon, I recognize that it's a store, and they're trying to get me to buy something. That's where they make their money. Happily enough for both of us, I'm looking to spend money--and I'm often looking for the best deal on ______ possible--as long as ______ has some really good reviews. Our purposes align, money changes hands, and we're both happy. Everything's above board and straightforward.

When I go to Wikipedia, I do so knowing that I might not get 100% all of the information on a topic, and that not all of it will be 100% accurate, but I can do a simple search there and find adequate information to fill most basic needs. I wouldn't go there to learn how to become a brain surgeon, but to find out the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow, it works pretty well. (Answer: about 24mph. First go here, which links to here--nifty!) Again, I realize I'm asking the masses a question, and the masses respond with their wisdom. Case closed. Wikipedia is non-profit, so no need to worry about who's making the money.

But what about Google? Everything seems okay at first. I go to Google, enter my search, and Google connects me with information. Find, right? Well, okay. But follow the money. Where does Google get it? From selling ads to companies. And what do companies get in return? Featured spots on Google's results pages, depending on the search terms. So someone can buy their way into your search results list. Hrm . . . Still feeling okay with Google? (And other search engines--I'm just using Google as an example.) What if we librarians did the same thing? What if we started offering authors and publishers the opportunity to buy placement on our shelves? We'd promote the paid material to users. Libraries get their funding, users get their information, and companies get people using their books. Everyone wins, right?


The thing is, we librarians believe information wants to be free. We try to give as much information as possible to as many people as possible. We also do our best not to filter that information. We emphasize accuracy of the information, but we shy away from promoting one source over another. We aim to add quality materials to our collections, but then promote them all equally. This isn't always what ends up happening, but it's our goal. We don't make money off information. (We make money off you returning that information late. Mwa ha ha ha! Just kidding.)

Seeing how much people do with information they find these days (research jobs, find medical and financial advice, etc.), isn't it important to be able to get unbiased information? I'm not saying we need to abandon Google--but we need to use it knowing what sort of a beast it is.

Make sense? What are your thoughts? Share share share!

Mantor Monday

It's a bit of a slow news week at the library. Summer doldrums have arrived with the high temperatures. So I thought I'd take an informal poll, see what staff here in the library are reading, and if they'd give a thumbs up or down so far. I'm including links to each book's Goodreads page. If you aren't a Goodreads member already, why not join Mantor's Goodreads Group?

Sarah is reading Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror, the current selection of the Young Adult Book Group at Devaney, Doak and Garret bookstore. Sarah hasn't made up her mind about this Potter-esque tale of not-so-ordinary kids enrolled in a school for monsters, but she wants everyone to know that the author, Jennifer Boylan, is going to be visiting Devaney, Doak and Garret on July 13th. Discussion session begins at 6:00pm if you've read the book, and at 7pm Boylan will do readings and book signing. If you're in the Farmington, Maine, area, check it out!

Janet is reading two books:

Sue Miller's For Love, which she described as "entertaining", and "better written than your typical beach read". She's also reading Partner to the Poor: A Paul Farmer Reader , an anthology of Farmer's writings about his experiences bringing medical care to the most impoverished of the world's places. People familiar with Janet's humanitarian work in Haiti, and her deep and obvious regard for the country and it's people, would not be surprised to see this book in her hands, or that she gives it "her highest recommendation".

Melissa is reading 1000 White Women, an "alternate history" account based on Cheyenne Chief Little Wolf's suggestion, in 1875, to President Ulysses S. Grant that he trade 1000 white women for Cheyenne horses. In author Jim Fergus' version, Grant takes Little Wolf up on his offer, and authorizes a clandestine program to provide "brides for Indians" to help assimilate the Cheyenne into white culture.
Melissa gives the story 3 out of 5 stars. She wishes the author had made it clear up front how much of the story he had fictionalized - just the characters, or part of the story, too?
Note: Other reviews on this book make it clear that other than Little Wolf's suggestion, the "brides" program was a product of Fergus's imagination.

Sharon is reading Night Sins. She claims that although this "abducted child"
mystery thriller is not her usual genre-of-choice, it was recommended by a friend, and she is really enjoying it.

Bryce is reading The Book Thief, and while he likes the book very much, he's having a hard time getting through it right now. Having read the book myself, I know just what he means. I also, would recommend it highly, but it's not exactly a light-hearted, reading-in-the-hammock-with-a-glass-of-something-frosty kind of book. It's more of a curl-up-under-a-comforter type of book, in my opinion, it's beautiful but somber story more suited for winter reading.

And me? Well, I was almost late to work this morning, because I only had a few more pages of Neil Gaiman's Stardust, and I refused to put it down. It required a bit of multitasking, but by reading while I ate my cereal, brushed my teeth, and found a matching pair of shoes, I was able to finish. Neil Gaiman can do no wrong in my book, so I give two big thumbs up to this fairy tale, sweet and sunny as a ripe strawberry, and equally perfect for beach, hammock, or winter fireside.

What about you? What are you reading?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Book Review: Wave and The Black Book of Colors

Wave, by Suzy Lee, is a wordless picture book that perfectly portrays a summer interlude on a beach. Using only charcoal pencil and blue acrylic, Lee deftly unfurls the interplay between a small girl, a big ocean, and five curious seagulls. By turns playful, taunting, intimidating and joyful, girl and wave chase each other back and forth between land on the left-hand page, and sea on the right. Lee's illustrations manage to capture both the motion and emotion of this lovely dance between a child and the natural world. Probably best enjoyed one-on-one or with a small group of young children, this book will generate LOTS of language - which is the beauty inherent in wordless books.

Another book sure to create language opportunities is The Black Book of Colors, by Menena Cottin, illustrations by Rosana Faria. First published in Mexico, this beautifully designed award-winning book was created with the intention of giving sighted children some insight into how people with blindness experience color. Told from the perspective of a child named Thomas, color is defined in sensory terms: "Thomas says that yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chick's feathers". Other colors are explored by the way they sound and smell. Embossed black-on-black illustrations accompany the text, inviting the reader to discover each color by sense of touch. Braille text runs along the top of each page of printed text, which leads to my only point of contention with this book: other reviewers, both parents and educators of the blind, have stated that the braille in this story is not raised enough to be authentically readable. I think that that was an unfortunate misstep on the part of the publisher. It's sadly ironic that this book about the experience of blindness can't be fully experienced by blind children.
Beyond that, I think very young children will enjoy this book for the tactile experience, while older children will better be able to understand and explore the underlying concept: in a world of blackness, color is more than shades of light.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Language Arts

Do you want to bring out my inner Ninja?
Well, do ya, punk?
Then show me a damaged library book. One your dog used as a chew toy. One you accidentally dropped in the bathtub. Or one you carried in your backpack for three miles before you realized your Arizona Tea was leaking all over it.
Show me, and then run. I'll even give you a small head start.

We library types don't cotton to book damage.

But what about damaging books in the name of art? Old, discarded, weeded, unloved...is it a shame to destroy them? Vandalism as transcendence: let's explore this idea a little.
In his series entitled "What Have We Become?" Nicholas Galanin carves ghostly portraits out of books.

Thomas Allen creates pieces with tongue-in-cheek noir by cutting up covers of pulp fiction:

While Brian Dettmer wields a scalpel to devastating effect to carve these intricate, incredible Book Autopsies:

Su Blackwell creates dioramic visions of pure fairy-tale magic.

Mike Stilkey began using books as an art medium by drawing and painting on old book pages. Eventually, he began to use the covers and spines, as well. Visit his site to be floored by his odd, dreamlike whimsy.
Cara Barer

and Jacqueline Rush Lee

are doing amazing sculptural work.

There are people who think it's a sin to destroy a book. But books, to me, are not sacred cows. While it steams me to see a book willfully or carelessly damaged, what these artists are doing is in a whole other league. Books aren't sacred, but Art is. Ideas are. Imagination is. These old books, in these loving hands, aren't being ruined. They are being reincarnated. They are evolving.
What do you think?