Thursday, September 30, 2010

Satisfying the Need to Read

Hello, I'm Bookjones. I'm a Book Addict. And if you're a fellow addict looking for a twelve step program, keep looking. I'm here today to be your enabler. That's right, co-dependents: if you've got a jones of your own, I'm going to show you where to go to feed that need to find something to read.
There are a lot of great book review sites out there, and I'm going to take you on a tour of some of my favorites. This is where I go to prowl for the next additions to my reading list. And the best thing: even though these places cater to book junkies, we won't be going to any bad neighborhoods.

First up, if you have access to the UMF databases, I recommend NoveList Plus . This database offers recommendations by genre: click on "hisorical fiction", for example, and a list of subheadings will appear. (Shady Ladies was a favorite of mine.) You can also search NoveList Plus by Author Read-alikes. Choose a favorite author to find out what other author's works you might enjoy. Advanced search features offer the capability to find that book you heard about, on a certain topic, but can't remember the title or author. Good news for those of us who lose the little scraps of paper we jot this stuff down on.

Next, Let's hop on over to Goodreads. Goodreads is sort of an online book club. (If you sign up, join our Mantor Library group!) You can post what you're reading, mark things "to read", read lots of reviews and post your own. You can see what your friends are reading, play literary trivia games, and browse the collection of author quotes.

Flashlight Worthy is a real favorite of mine. (Maybe it's the title. I was a diehard under-the-covers reader as a kid.) This site has great lists and forums for discussing books, and the ability to let you create "want to read" lists or contribute lists to help other readers find one of your favorites. is a really comprehensive site, and a good resource if you're browsing for suggestions, or if you're in a book group and looking for discussion guides. It has sister sites for teens, kids, and a very thorough site for graphic novel fans.

To be totally immersed in booky goodness, check out NPR's You Must Read This : authors talking about not only their own books, but what they like to read. Interesting and intelligent reading.

And the last stop on the book addict tour is a fun little gizmo called The Literature Map. Claiming to be a "tourist map of literature", this author advisory is kind of addictive in itself. Type in the name of a favorite author, hit continue, and POW! Like the big bang of books, your author is suddenly the center of a floating cloud of authors. Click on one of those authors, and BANG! A whole new universe of writers appears. I don't always understand the connection between my author and the authors who show up, but just tumbling down the literary rabbit hole is half the fun.

So, that's our tour. We're back at the Browsing Room. Please exit the bus, and don't forget to tip your tour guide. Until next time,

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ask a Librarian: What does a Cataloger Do?

So you want to know what a cataloger does, huh? And I'm assuming you don't want some snarky answer like, "catalogs stuff." Okay. Then I'll give you the long answer. The trick is, the long answer starts with the snarky answer, because catalogers really do just catalog stuff. But the trick is what does it mean to catalog stuff.

Essentially, cataloging is the way librarians make materials accessible to you, the patrons. The cataloger sits down with a book and identifies all relevant information about it: author, title, publication date, publication place, edition, ISBN number, illustrations, subject, size--you name it. And then the cataloger puts that information into a MAchine Readable Cataloging format (MARC format) that lets the library catalog find the book you're looking for when you perform a search.

That's just silly, you say. We live in the time of Google and Amazon. Can't the catalog just import that kind of stuff from someplace else? Well, in a word: no. For one thing, even among libraries, some librarians do a (gasp!) bad job of cataloging something. (Yes, there are resources where catalogers pool their knowledge and efforts, making it (theoretically) easier to catalog the same materials. (It's referred to as copy cataloging.)) For general sites like Amazon or Google, it's often a sort of wild west frontier, with who knows how many duplicates in existence, all with minor differences in the record but no real difference in the book. (If you want to see this principle in action, try doing a search on Amazon for an older book. You'll often get a slew of results, with no really easy way to determine which is the one you're looking for.)

The whole point of a catalog is to make things easy for you to find. To make things standardized. To eliminate duplicates. To assign subject headings. All of these rest on the abilities of the cataloger. Thus, a good, careful cataloger is essential to a healthy catalog, which in turn is essential to a healthy library. If the catalog gets messy, it can be a lot of hard work to whip it back into shape. Catalogers need to have an good eye for detail and be able to do similar jobs over and over. (Just ask our cataloger what she thinks about DVDs. Go ahead. Ask her.)

An even more difficult task: they need to be able to look at an item and decide what it's "about." Try summing up a novel in a sentence. Then try summing it up in two concepts. Ideally, each entry in a catalog doesn't have a slew of subjects--just three or four main ones, tops. What do you do if it's really complex, with shades of meaning and themes? Tough luck: you still have to reduce it down to its basic essence. Maybe easy with nonfiction, but it gets much more difficult with film or fiction.

Again, in a small library, this duty may be done by a librarian covering several tasks. In a large one, whole departments handle the task.

So there you have it: catalogers. Did I miss anything? Any questions? Ask away.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Google Instant Search

So in the world of internet searching, big things happened a week or two ago when Google announced they were changing the way searches were performed on their site. This is something akin as to what would happen if KFC were to announce they were changing the Colonel's original recipe. Google has branched out over the years, gobbling up other business areas like YouTube and Picasa, but search remains their bread and butter. It's where they get a lot of their money (by selling ad space on search results), so they're very careful with how they make changes. (They've tweaked results lists in the past, including adding additional ways to filter out results, such as limiting it by date, source, etc. But this is actually changing the way the search looks on the screen and the speed the search takes, which seems more fundamental to me.)

What is this change?

They've added instant searching. So when you go to Google and start typing in a search, it automatically starts delivering results as you type. So you might put in "What is the date" and it shows up results for what the date is today. You keep typing "of the first astronaut" and it refines those results. You keep typing "to walk on the moon," the more specific results show up. This is all supposed to happen seamlessly, and it does--depending on your internet connection.

So does this make a big difference? Google estimates it saves 2-5 seconds per search. Big whoop, right? Well, supposedly all those seconds pay off. Google says that if everyone in the world used Google Instant Search, it would save 3.5 billion seconds a day, or 11 hours a second. (Of course, those numbers sound good, but I'm kind of doubting the world will suddenly seem to be a more productive place, just because we're all saving 2 seconds on each internet search. We'll see.)

I've used it now for a while, and I can't say that it's made the impact on me Google wants it to have. Yes, it seems to be faster, but I still find myself waiting to look at the results until I'm done typing them in. Then again, I'm a fast typer, so maybe I'd notice myself using this more if I typed more slowly.

In any case, interesting to see change happen, albeit seemingly glacial change at times. Any thoughts out there from you, faithful readers? Have you noticed the difference? Do you like it? Hate it? Do tell . . .

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mantor Monday: Subject Guide Edition

One of the really, really great things about librarians is that they like to make it as easy as possible for you to find the information you need. You might be thinking: but do they make it Easy Button easy? Hmmm? Do they?
Well, the answer is: if you are a student at UMF, yes. Almost that easy. Because the Mantor Library librarians do something awesome for the students and faculty here: they compile research guides for every subject - and a whole lot of course guides for individual classes.
These subject and course guides, accessible from the library home page under the heading "Research Tools", are loaded with tools and tips to make your research as pain-free as possible. Subject specific databases? Listed for you. How to find books on your topic? Covered. Need to know which citation style your professor requires, and a link to a tutorial with examples of proper form? You got it. Wondering what's out there for web resources? Check your course guide: it's in there.
Subject guides and course guides are developed with a tool called Libguides, which allows our librarians to arrange information in a user friendly format - tabs on top of each guide page help you navigate to the exact type of information you need.
We can't do your research for you - or at least, not without generous compensation. (Kidding! I'm kidding! We won't do it. Don't even ask.) But we can try to make it easier, because we're librarians. It's what we do.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Banned Books Week

What do these books have in common? There are people out there who don't think you should be allowed to read them; people who think these books are dangerous. Pornographic. Obscene. Immoral. Anti-family. These books are are only a few among the hundreds each year that are challenged and sometimes banned in schools and libraries nation wide. (Click here for an interactive google map of bans and challenges by state, 2007 -2010)

Since 1982, during the last week of September, the American Library Association has sponsored Banned Books Week to raise awareness that censorship is an ongoing threat to intellectual freedom. Banned Books Week is also a hat-tip to the librarians and teachers who are often on the front lines of battles to ban books: in a very real sense, they are the true guardians of free speech and free ideas in this country.

I'll be posting the top ten most challenged books of the year, as well as profiles of other famous banned books on our library facebook page every day next week. Friend us, and follow along. Got something to say about censorship or banned books? Comment here! You can also Tweet us, then give a shout on the Twitstream #SpeakLoudly , and if you're in our neck of the woods, visit our friends and neighbors at the Farmington Public Library. They are planning a front lobby display that will run through the week.

"Books won't stay banned. They won't burn. Ideas won't go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only weapon against bad ideas is better ideas." ~Alfred Whitney Griswold, New York Times, 24 February 1959

See you next week. And in the meantime, remember:

Now get out of here and go read something dangerous.

book banner image via

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ask a Librarian: What Does an Acquisitions Librarian Do?

I'm planning on doing an overview of the various types of librarians we have at our library for the next few Ask a Librarian columns. Why would I do this? Because I think it's interesting to see the variety of positions even a small academic library has available. Of course, I'm a librarian, so admittedly my interests might be skewed . . . :-)

So. Acquisitions librarian. The main responsibility of this position is to acquire new materials for the library. Seems straightforward, right? I mean, all you need to do is have someone know who to buy what from to make sure that everything's bought from the best source, that accounts are paid in full, that materials we receive are in good condition and that budgets balance. Oh yeah--and someone has to act as the shepherd for the purchases, ensuring faculty input has been received and considered, other librarians stay on budget, standing orders (orders for materials that stay the same year after year) stay on track and gift accounts are properly used. Plus quite a few other things I'm probably forgetting.

That means that a good acquisitions librarian will be very organized, able to keep track of a stack of separate orders that's measured in feet, not inches. Even at a small library, we'll have orders out at the same time to everyone from Amazon to Baker & Taylor to small independent publishing houses. Professors or students will request books and films no one's ever heard of, sometimes with very little information to go on. When orders don't go right, guess who has to fix them? Have you ever tried ordering something online, only to have to change the order, or return it, or exchange it, or . . . you get the picture. The acquisitions librarian has to deal with this all the time.

And once the materials arrive, they need to be properly cataloged. The actual cataloging isn't the responsibility of the acquisitions librarian, but making sure the items are ordered and in the library system in the first place is. That way, when the cataloger comes to a new book or DVD, the record's there waiting for her or him.

So there you have it: the basics of an acquisitions librarian. In a larger library, there will be an entire department devoted to this. In a smaller library, these duties will be assumed by another librarian. More than you thought it would be? I'd love to hear your comments.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Guide to Cell Phones

Believe it or not, I actually had a request for a topic this week. (I know--will wonders never cease?) Inquiring minds want to know about cell phones: specifically, what are smart phones, how to tell if a phone will work with your service if you don't buy the phone from your carrier, what's an android, and how much do these new phones cost?

Well, kind reader, wonder no longer. 1337 Librarian is here with your answers.

First of all: smart phones. No, that doesn't mean you have to be particularly smart to use them. It just means that the phones themselves can do more than regular phones. They don't just dial numbers, take messages and allow you to talk to someone who lives far away. They even do more than just text or take pictures and videos. These puppies go on the internet. They come with a slew of apps (Apps are programs designed specifically for those phones. They cost as little as nothing or as much as $10 or so (sometimes more). They're typically designed for specific uses--they do one thing, and do that one thing really well. So there might be a Facebook app for checking Facebook, a Google app for searching, etc.). Apps are key, because users of smart phones usually end up using apps more than anything else on those phones. (You search for, purchase and download the apps directly to your phone.)

Naturally, all of this smartness doesn't come for nothing. If you buy a smart phone, you're going to want to get a data plan to go with it. This is a monthly fee to use the internet (and access all those lovely apps) on your phone. It's typically in the realm of $30-$50 per month, or so I've been told. (1337 Librarian knows a lot about smart phones, but he's too cheap to buy one himself. More on that later.) That's a good chunk of change you'll be shelling out for these extra features, which is why many people try to finagle these phones through their work. Finagle away!

How do you tell if a phone will work with your carrier, if you don't buy it through your carrier? Most phones can be made to work with any carrier--but it takes a lot of work to get that magic to happen. I would advise against purchasing a phone separately from a phone contract. The thing is, when you go to buy a phone, your phone carrier will have all sorts of wonderful discounts on all sorts of wonderful phones. You can typically walk out of the store with a great phone, for half of what you'd pay normally (or less!). So getting your phone with your contract is the way to go.

But 1337 Librarian, you say. There are new phones coming out every week! What if I want to get the latest and greatest down the road? Not to worry.  Phone companies expect you to be getting a new phone every two years or so, and they offer the same deals when it's time to upgrade. If a particularly awesome phone has just been released, then often carriers will offer special discounts early, as well.

What's an Android? It's a type of smart phone. There are two huge gorillas in the smart phone arena these days: Google and Apple. Google has the Android phone (and a ton of similar phones with various names). Apple has the iPhone (iPhone 4 is the latest version). There are other, cheaper smart phones, but these are the big ones. Do you want a cheaper one? It depends on how many apps you want, and what you want to do with your phone.

Because remember, dear reader, you don't have to get a smart phone. You can get a dumb phone and be perfectly happy. Right now in our neck of the woods, you're not exactly zipping along on the internet on these phones. Internet speed can be quite slow. Is it worth it to you to pay $40 extra for slow internet? That's a judgement call you're going to have to make on your own. Right now, I just have a regular cell phone. Word on the street is the iPhone will be coming to Verizon (my carrier) in January (as of now, it's always only been available on AT&T). If that indeed happens, I might well upgrade but not get the data plan, if that's possible. Why would I want to do that? Well, these smart phones can also work on wifi connections--and those are free. An iPhone has a killer digital camera, video camera, slew of apps, video conferencing . . . it's got a lot to offer, and I love me some Apple gadgetry. But I'm in a holding pattern while I see if the move really happens and how much it'll cost.

Anywho--that's about all that comes to mind about cell phones. Got any further questions? Go ahead and ask 'em!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mantor Monday

Hi, everyone, Happy Monday!

This week, I'd like to spread the word about the On Our Minds reading program. This is a library sponsored, campus-wide reading group. Our goal is to get the entire UMF community reading, discussing, learning, and reflecting on the themes presented in a book. This year: two for the price of one! We've chosen two Michael Pollan Books: In Defense of Food, and Food Rules. Our theme is Food for Thought, and all year long we'll be bringing you programming about the hottest topics in food and culture: sustainability, obesity, locavorism, community supported agriculture, and more. We have a comprehensive On Our Minds guide, available here, and it's just chock full of information about the author, the books, events we have planned for the year - even information about how to win prizes! Yes! Go see!
Did you come to the screening of "Killer at Large" last Tuedsay? It was our first On Our Minds event of the semester. We had a good turnout, and had quite a few people in the browsing room for our three encore showings in the browsing room on Wednesday. Our next Food for Thought film will be screened Oct. 19th, 7pm, Lincoln Auditorium, with encores here in the library the following day.
I'll be bringing you more news about OOM programming throughout the year, so stay tuned. In the meantime, if you haven't read the books, we have several copies of each available in the Mantor lobby. Bon appetit, book lovers.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Story Time with Bookjones - Five by Fredericks

When I was an early childhood educator, I was always on the lookout for curriculum materials that would help young children connect with the environment. Five books by Anthony D. Fredericks on the new materials shelf here at Mantor would have been welcome additions to my classroom.
The five books each feature a different habitat, and some of the creatures a young explorer finds there. I appreciate that the author has included both genders as the budding naturalists: kudos for recognizing that girls like bugs and beasties, too!
The series is written in cumulative rhyme (as in This is the House that Jack Built), so they are fun for group story times: by the end of the book, children will be able to chime in. The illustrations also lend themselves well to story time: large scale, colorful, and detailed without being fussy - perfect for grabbing the attention of a group of preschoolers. (Or just one, for that matter!) Recommended for ages 4-10, independent readers will also enjoy these stories.
Field notes in the end pages offer more information on the critters observed in each of the ecosystems, which is nice for older children or one-on-one reading with younger kids. An additional nice touch are "further resources", including contact information and websites for environmental groups such as the Nature Conservancy and the National Wildlife Federation.

Under One Rock: Bugs, Slugs, and other Ughs

What just crawled out from under this rock? This book examines earthworms, ants, spiders, beetles, crickets, millipedes, and slugs.

In One Tidepool: Crabs, Snails, and Salty Tails
Here, when the tide goes out, our explorer discovers barnacles, gobies, sponges, snails, anemones, limpets, and sea stars.

Around One Cactus: Owls, Bats, and Leaping Rats
To the desert this time, to observe life in and around a Saguaro cactus: Kangaroo Rat, Elf Owl, bats, Rattlesnakes, Scorpions, Kit Foxes and Gila Monsters.

Near One Cattail: Turtles, Logs, and Leaping Frogs

Life in a pond this time, featuring dragonflies, ducks, muskrats, and snakes in addition to the title creatures.

On One Flower: Butterflies, Ticks, and few more Icks
A spray of goldenrod in a sunny meadow is the scene for this one, with some familiar (to most) friends: butterflies, ladybugs, spiders and honey bees, among others.
If you have a young scientist in your life - or a classroom full - I recommend these five as worthwhile reading, guaranteed to please creepy-crawly lovers of all ages.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Now THAT'S an information desk...

Two years ago, a fire devastated the building that housed the architecture library at the Delft University of Technology.

This year, the school has risen from the ashes.(Click here for a story on the new building that looks like a giant halfpipe.) And they've done something amazing with repurposed books that were partially salvaged from the old library: used them to build a new circulation desk.

My first thought, on seeing this, was: "How beautiful. How witty. I LOVE it." Then, my second thought was: "But how on earth will they keep it clean?" (My practical side is such a buzzkill. But seriously: people spill coffee. It happens. ) Nevertheless, I'm still in the "this is really cool" camp. Form and function and repurposing of materials combine here to create the embodiment of a favorite William Morris quote of mine: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
What do you think? Cheers or jeers for the recycled book desk? If you need to see more pictures before making up your mind, Inhabitat
has a slideshow, images by Ellen Forsyth.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ask a Librarian: Federated Searching

Now there's a phrase you probably have never heard before. Any guesses what it means? No worries--I'm about to tell you. Federated searching is when you use a search tool to search multiple databases at once. Say, searching Academic Search Premier and ERIC at the same time. On the surface, this is nothing but good news. I mean, you can do one search and get all your results at the same time, instead of having to run two searches. If you were planning on searching three or four databases, it just gets better, right?



Or at least, wrong some of the time. In an ideal world--one with lots of butterflies, unicorns and Puff the Magic Dragon--you could search all databases at once and find all the information you're looking for. But we don't live in that world (sorry, unicorn-lovers out there). We live in a world where databases have different capabilities and options.

To explain this, allow me to turn to math for a moment. Remember that thing called the "lowest common denominator"? It's the least common multiple shared between a number of fractions. When adding or subtracting fractions, you get everything into the essential same format, then run the process. That's what happens with federated searching. All those bells and whistles and tips and tricks that individual databases have are steamrolled out in the rush to make them all work together. Does the database have a cool thesaurus that suggests alternate search terms? Gone. Can it separate out peer reviewed journals? See ya. Narrow by subject? Buh-bye.

Please note that this sometimes isn't the case. If all databases being searched all share the same features, then nothing need be lost in the transition. And thankfully, database providers (and federated search providers) are working on this problem. I haven't checked recently, but I imagine it's much less of an issue today than when I was researching it in depth a few years ago, and I expect it will continue to improve as the years go by.

But now you know what's at stake when you're using a federated search, so please: search responsibly. :-)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How the Internet Uses You to Make Money

The NetI don't really have anything particular I want to blog about today, but this topic has been at the back of my mind for a while, so I thought I'd take the time on a slow news day to write about it.

The internet.

Well, not the internet in general, but more along the lines of "where the money comes from." Because right now, we all use the internet, pretty much for free. Yes, to get the service to your house costs money, but to use various sites online (Facebook, Youtube, Google, CNN, etc.) doesn't cost you a dime. Ever wondered why that is?

Well, wonder no more.

First off, let's make a distinction between people and corporations. People often do things for free. (This blog, for example, doesn't charge you to read it. Nice of me, huh?) Corporations, on the other hand, expect to be paid for what they do. When you buy a newspaper, the newspaper makes money. When you read one online, how does that work? It all comes down to advertising. Do a search in Google, and you see ads. Search in Youtube: you see ads. Check Facebook: ads. Read CNN: ads. Everywhere you go online, you see ads. Corporations charge companies for those ads, and that's what foots the bill of you seeing something for free.

It's not free--someone else just paid for it. Make sense?

Take my personal blog for example. When I used to be on Livejournal, Livejournal would put ads up. All my readers would be exposed to those ads, and Livejournal would make money off each exposure. That's one of the reasons I switched to Blogger. Yes, there are still ads on my site, but now when someone looks at them, I get the money, not some corporation. (No doubt Blogger takes a cut, too--but at least they're sending some of that cold hard cash my way.)

Of course, it's a bit more complicated than that. Advertisers are all for paying for ads, but they really want people to actually go to their site or view their full offerings. That's why they pay even more for people who click on their ads. You viewing an ad on my site might net me somewhere along the lines of $0.000001. You clicking on that same ad? That might give me $0.50 (maybe even more--I'm not sure. People don't often click on the ads on my site, so I don't know what the average range is).

Naturally, advertisers don't want to shell out money for random clicks. There's such a thing called "click fraud," where someone pays people to click on ads a ton, thus theoretically making someone somewhere a lot of money. Go figure. You're also not supposed to click on your own ad links.

I always see rumors swirling around Facebook or other current free sites, saying that soon the site will start to charge money. As long as the site can make money from advertisers, this won't be the case. But there's technology out there that blocks ads on your browser, making it so that you don't have to view them--but of course, the sites you go to don't get money, either.

The good news here is that if you want to help the sites you like, you don't even have to really donate to them or buy what they're selling. All you have to do is keep going to their site. If you see an ad that looks interesting, click it. You don't need to buy what you clicked on--the site you like will still get the moola.

All of this actually ads up to pretty big sums. For example, for a while Bing was trying to get a piece of the ad market, trying to persuade Google users to come to them. As part of their strategy, they offered the Cashback program. If you went to Bing to search for an item to buy, and you bought that item after finding it in Bing, Bing would give you a percent of the item's cost back to you--anywhere from 1-8%. Sometimes more. So you could buy a television for $500 and get a check for $40 mailed to you from Bing. Yeah, I don't get how that all plays out, but my point is that advertising can ad up. (And sadly, the Cashback program is no longer living. It didn't work well enough--people still preferred to search through Google. How sad is that, when not even bribes can keep people away from a competitor's site?)

And that's all I have to say about how the internet makes money. Any questions?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mantor Monday

There's a Killer on the loose!
The first movie in our "Food for Thought" film series will be screened Tuesday, Sept. 14th, in Lincoln Auditorium, at 7:00pm.
Killer at Large examines the catastrophic impact of obesity on American society. How did we get here? When did we become a culture that finds it acceptable for 12 year old girls to get liposuction? How is the food we eat changing our genetics - and possibly our evolutionary path?
If you liked "Super Size Me", or enjoy Michael Moore style investigative film-making, come view this flick, and stay for the discussion after. And don't forget to enter the drawing to win a prize!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Book Review: Mockingjay

Mockingjay (Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So I've now read Mockingjay, the finale to Suzanne Collin's Hunger Games series. What did I think? Well, I don't want to spoil any part of the book for those who haven't read it yet, but I think I'm safe saying this: I feel like the first book in the trilogy was jaw-droppingly fantastic. The concept is so easy to understand and so well executed. Young girl must kill other children in a fight to the death that's broadcast on national television. Oh yeah--and she doesn't want to kill anyone. The tension in that book is extreme, and it's a blast to read.

The other two books in the series are still good books, but they're just not at that same level. They start delving into other areas, areas where it's just not as believable to me that a young girl could make as big of a difference as Kat makes in these books. Plus, she starts turning into a pawn used by other people. Yes, she still sticks up for herself and makes her own decisions, but part of the greatness of the first book was that it was wholly believable to me that she'd be able to do what she did in that book. The "rules" were very clearly defined, and she played according to those rules, and won.

The rules in the second two books got much blurrier. "Winning" became much more relative. Does that make the books worse? Not on its own, but because those same rules were what made the first book so great, the loss of them removes that potential for greatness, in my opinion.

So the final two books are still very good, but they're just as good as other dystopian sci-fi YA novels. Not nearly as memorable as The Hunger Games. Would I recommend them? Certainly. I thoroughly enjoyed myself throughout them.

Just keep those expectations in check.

View all my reviews

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Move over, Shrek...

there's a new ogre in town. And he is, in the words of illustrator Jules Feiffer, “the biggest, meanest, filthiest ogre in the history of ogreship.” In fact, he is The Odious Ogre, and I for one can't wait to make his acquaintance. I'm even willing to overlook the fact that one of the the villagers he snacks on is the local librarian. For this ogre is the result of a new collaboration between Jules Feiffer and author Norton Juster, who fifty years ago created The Phantom Tollbooth. Yes, I know. I screamed with joy, too. Because The Phantom Tollbooth was one of my all-time favorite books as a kid. Quirky, playful, and oh-so-punny, The Phantom Tollbooth is a language-lover's dream, almost subversive in it's ability to transmit the message that learning is an adventure, and that bored people are boring people, without being the least little bit preachy. I mean, really, how could you NOT love a book sprinkled with quotes like these: "Why not? That's a good reason for just about anything - a bit used, perhaps, but still quite servicable." or "so many things are possible, just so long as you don't know they're impossible." Oh, Milo and Tock, how I loved you and your quest to save the Princesses Rhyme and Reason, as you travelled to places like the Island of Conclusions...which, of course, can only be reached by jumping to it. The Phantom Tollbooth is a classic, and Feiffer's whimsical yet sophisticated line drawings were the perfect counterpoint to the tale.

So, what have the now 81 year old duo cooked up this time? The story of an ogre: a rampaging, villager-eating, countryside-trashing bully of an ogre, who meets his match when he meets a kind and clever girl. Feiffer uses watercolors to flesh out his line drawings this time, and the samples I've seen online are wonderful.

Want to hear more from this creative pair, who joke that they'd love to collaborate again - in another 50 years? Go to this NPR page for a print and audio interview, and here for a great interview in Bookpage. And now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a fairy tale to order.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ask a Librarian: Why do/don't you have _________ database?

Databases. Those windows into the world of academia, where you can go to search through countless articles on countless topics. Those great repositories of knowledge, which are often turned to by students frantic to GET THAT ARTICLE NOW. We've come a long way since the days when you had to patiently wait to interlibrary loan every article you needed, or even when you had to go through CD after CD in search of that citation. No, these days, you can search through hundreds or thousands of journals at the same time, just as easily as searching Google (more or less). (Note: I did want to point out that when you search Google, you don't search databases. Google doesn't index them, because they cost money, and Google doesn't. Make sense?)

But where do databases come from? Why does a university have access to some but not access to others? And why in the world does Mantor now have a database devoted to hobbies like Disney memorabilia and knitting? Isn't that a waste of funds?

Well, dear reader, allow me to explain. First of all, databases cost money. Lots of money. Thousands, tens of thousands--even hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the database and the size of the institution that wants to use it. (Larger institution = more expensive, since they have more people using the database). Because they cost so much money, libraries have to be selective about where they get their databases, and which ones they subscribe to. We at Mantor have three main sources:
  1. The State of Maine--This is the source for many of our database subscriptions. Essentially, your tax dollars pay the bill that allows anyone in the state to have access to information. Why is that important? Because schools use it, public libraries use it, universities use it, private individuals use it. Information is power, and you want an informed populace. Trust me. Because the state has the entire state in mind (not just universities), they get a wider variety of databases. That's where things like the hobby database come from.
  2. The University System--For databases that all seven campuses want, we can band together and negotiate a lower price with the database provider. There's strength in numbers. Pool resources, and we end up with more than we could have otherwise.
  3. The University--For databases that no one else wants to team up to get, we get on our lonesome. In our case, JSTOR is an example of this. It's too expensive for some campuses to want, but our faculty and students really like it, so we pony up the money.
To further complicate things, database providers keep raising the price for the databases, so we're in a perpetual loop of deciding what to keep, what to add, and what to cut. It's all about usage and getting the most bang for the buck. Any questions?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Gmail Priority Inbox

1337 Librarian here, with your weekly technology fix. First of all, an update from my column last week. Apple did indeed have their press conference, and they announced new version of the iPod Touch, the Nano, the Shuffle and Apple TV. Of particular note was the iPod Touch, which is getting the higher quality screen of the iPhone, plus souped up cameras, video chat and a game center. Meanwhile, Apple TV launched another assault on mainstream television delivery services (like cable and satellite) by offering TV show rentals for 99 cents each. Amazon countered this by offering TV show purchases for 99 cents each. You have to love it when big corporations fight over pricing and products--a lot of the time, the end result is a win for consumers. Very nice.


My post this week is on Gmail's new Priority Inbox feature. What is this, you ask, and why should you care? You should care if you use Gmail (or the University of Maine's email service, which is now powered by Gmail). What it does is essentially analyze your email usage pattern and then sort your inbox for you, putting "important" emails first, allowing you to not miss anything vital. It's got the ability to take corrections, so if it labels something as unimportant, you can fix that.

I've been using it now for a few days, and I have to say that I'm pretty impressed. If you get a slew of emails, it does a good job of acting as a first filter of sorts for you. If you only get five emails a day, it's not going to make that big of a difference. (Do you really need to be organizing five emails, after all?) But if you're inundated, it can be a real help.

Better yet, you can enable it or disable it at will, so why not give it a shot? To activate it, look for the "Priority Inbox" link in the upper right hand screen of your Gmail account. Use it for a bit, then come back here to tell me how it goes. I'd love to get more opinions.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Night Movies

Friday is typically the day we review books and movies in our collection at Mantor. As I was surveying the recently added titles, trying to decide which one to review, I was having a really difficult time deciding which to go for. And then it hit me--why pick one? Why not give a brief rundown of some great films you could checkout and watch tonight? The past few years, we've really been trying hard to expand our film collection, cramming it full of quality cinema. I feel like we've done a pretty darn good job with that. (Of course, I selected most of the movies myself, so I'm admittedly a tad biased.) Practically any movie we have is a classic in one way or another. Most of them are older movies, many of which you might pass over because you weren't inundated with ads telling you to see them. Well, I'm here to tell you to go back and watch some of these gems.

To make things more interesting, I'll present it as a challenge. The following are movies I have seen that are included in this month's new acquisitions list. How many have you seen? Can anyone tie me? Or better yet--can anyone go on the list and beat my number? Here we go:
Adam's Rib--classic Spencer Tracy and Audrey Hepburn film

Airplane--one of the prime screwball spoof comedies from the 70s

An American in Paris--famous Gene Kelly musical

The Birds--Classic Hitchcock

Born Yesterday--One of my favorite overlooked classics. Hilarious.

Braveheart--Remember when Mel Gibson wasn't a raving lunatic? No? Well, there was a time the man was known for film making, not insanity. Braveheart won him some major Oscars.

Chicago--Recent musical that helped put "musical" back in modern film making vocabularies.

Ghost--Never has making a pot seemed so sexy.

Raiders of the Lost Ark--Please tell me you've all seen this movie. Pretty please.

JFK--You can learn some pseudo-history, become a conspiracy theorist, and be entertained. All at the same time.

Kolya--Foreign films more your flavor? This Czech one's a goodie.

Million Dollar Baby--Who knew Clint Eastwood had such a great women's boxing movie inside him all those years he was Dirty Harry?

Moonstruck--Cher and Nicholas Cage, a realistic pair?

Papillon--Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen hellish prison goodness.

Pretty Woman--Julia Roberts is the only actress who could somehow create a reputation of wholesome goodness by breaking into the industry playing a hooker.

Rebecca--More Hitchcock goodness, just with less poultry.

Shakespeare in Love--The fictional true story of where Shakespeare got all his great ideas.

And there you have it--all the films I have seen of the ones we just added. I recommend any one of those. They're all great, in their own way. Sound like a lot to you? Maybe it does--until you consider we added 70 films. If any of you have seen all 70, I will buy you an imaginary pony. So don't anybody complain to me that they don't have anything to do tonight, or that nothing's on TV. Mantor's got you covered.
How many have you seen? Why not add one more to the list this weekend?

Thursday, September 2, 2010


One of the fun things about my job here at Mantor Library is that I get to design some of the educational displays featured around the library. September is National Honey Month, which sort of dovetails nicely with the themes we're building our programming around this year: food, environment, sustainability, and the global impact of the choices we all, as consumers, make every day. So doing a display about honey seemed like a no brainer. While setting up the display, I came across so many amazing facts about honey. I'm going to share some with you,
just in case you can't get in to see the display for yourself.
(And, frankly, because I've gotten out of the swing of posting, and I've got nothing else, inspiration-wise!)
So here we go: Amazing Factoids about honey & honey bees...
1. A bee must fly the equivalent of three times around the globe to gather the nectar to make a single teaspoon of honey.
2. A colony of bees flies approximately 55,000 miles - more than the distance to the moon and back - to make a pound of honey.
3. A worker bee will make about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. Consider THAT before you throw a honey spoon in the sink without first licking it clean!
4. A foraging bee will visit between 50 and 100 flowers per flight.
5. In order to produce a pound of honey, 2 million flowers will be visited.
6. A foraging bee will travel up to a three mile radius around the hive in search of nectar, pollen, and water.
7. There are three types of bees in a hive: a single queen, who is the only fertile bee in the hive: she lays all the eggs. The worker bees are female, do all of the work, and have a life span of 6-8 weeks during the foraging season. Male bees are called drones. They have no stingers, and do no work. Their sole job is to mate with virgin queens. In early autumn, their sisters drive them out of the hive and kill them rather than feed them all winter. Ouch.

Cool, huh? I thought you'd like that. And now, before I go, can I just say how nice it is to look around the library, and see students and faculty studying, browsing, using the computers and media rooms, making this place the hive of activity (Oh yes I did. I went there.) it should be? Welcome back, citizens of UMF. We missed you. Hope your summer was as sweet as....well, you know.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ask a Librarian: What's the First Week of Classes Like?

A lot of people ask me if my schedule and routine changes much during the summer compared with the fall. The answer for me is yes, but not for the reasons they assume. They seem to think the summer is this relaxing time, where I have the chance to recharge and approach the school year fresh. In actuality, the summer is usually my busiest time--mainly because I'm scrambling around trying to update and upgrade all the technology before classes start. For me, it's a relief when fall comes, because that means that I'm done with the upgrading, for better or worse.

Of course, if you asked my coworkers down in Access Services (where books get checked out) which is busier, I think you'd get a much different answer, as they scramble around trying to give out new bar codes and teach students how to use the library correctly. And in reference, things really kick up around the middle and end of each semester, as research papers come due. In acquisitions, April and May go crazy, as everyone tries to order books at once, before budgets disappear.

So the answer would be, "It depends." Many people just don't realize how many different things go on in a library, and how workload varies widely, depending on the task at hand. Even in a small academic library such as Mantor, we all have to specialize to make sure things run smoothly.