Saturday, July 30, 2011


As a school librarian, this is my much-coveted summer break. I was at a board meeting years ago where there was some suggestion the librarians' contract be extended, so they could serve students all year. Those of us that were there bristled, and we still have our summers off.

What is typical for summer? Would that be traveling, or presenting at a conference, or leading a workshop? Well, for the purposes of #libday7, Monday, I was out of town, Tuesday I was in a meeting until the early afternoon, but Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were all more typical "summer vacation" days. I woke up after 6, about an hour later than I would for school.

I spend my morning reading. I received The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles the day before, and I was desperate to finish it. I'm very glad I got this one in print, I know I will pass it around. The voice is so incredibly convincing that I gasped at the author picture, determined it would be the product of a woman. I also made notes for an article I want to write intermittently, using a black flair pen and a legal pad.

By 8:00, I'm dressed "Portland-style," with a red ikat dress over one of my many pairs of white jeans. I add some sandals when I leave the house. I drink Antony and Cleopatra (a black fermented tea) from a big, Cath Kidston retro 1950s mug I bought in the Seven Dials. I wake up my husband.

I get to my current awareness later in the morning that usual because of the novel. I work creating on my to-list for the rest of the week (and the summer break) with some dissertation targets, a grant application, and some paperwork. I move through my email, my rss and twitter feeds. Everyone I know seems to be in Boston for #blc, which looks like a terrific time. I see that the Kindle terms-of-service have come back to haunt some of the school libraries using that hardware. This was something I've been worried about for a while. I mentioned it explicitly at Internet Librarian in March. It seems to have created a big ripple in the biblioblogosphere.

I switch from the iPad to an actual computer around 9:15. I write up the App of the Week for the YALSA blog, but have trouble with manipulating the images in WordPress. I send the screenshots from my iPad to flickr, and then capture them to the desktop. I have trouble uploading images, and I see multiple iterations of each screenshot but can't embed seem to them from that screen. I switch to the PC, which wants to update, then restart the Mac. At 10:15, I am still fighting with the Mac, and I reset the cable modem and wireless router. It's 10:45 before I'm done posting, which is ridiculous.

As far as the post itself, I had wanted to write about the new feature of the Kindle App ever since I heard about the new support for magazines, but of course it was an especially potent moment with all the anti-Amazon sentiment engendered by their terms-of-service. I bought Self, because I thought it would provide a digital conversion challenge that The Economist might not, but I was not one hundred percent about the admittedly superficial content. I compromised by NOT including the cover with the bikini pose...

Because of the computer woes, I know I will be spending time looking at hardware. Maybe I just need to upgrade!  I have trips to plan for fall break and New Year's. I spend a lot of time on this sort of thing during the summer, requiring some elaborate calculus like "x pairs of Frye shoes equal y tickets to Paris equals z iPads."

I pick up my husband for lunch, but we walk out of the first restaurant after a half hour and the wrong drink order. We end up having veggie burgers which are only so-so, but we are both feeling rushed and I am feeling poisoned from accidently drinking diet soda. I run errands after lunch, going to Starbucks, but it is too crowded, so I don't park. For dinner, I want to re-create an avocado, Brie and pear sandwich from Blackfin Bistro in Key West, and go to both the chi chi market and the bakery. I go to the pharmacy and pick up my prescriptions. I don't take a nap, but spend the afternoon down several online rabbit holes, shopping for airfare, setting up AASL blog logins for a couple of people, looking at some little-used email accounts, reading about Lucien Freud and adding titles to Shelfari. I watch an episode of Bewitched and a show called Nazi London on the military channel, which makes me all the more determined to visit again soon.

In later afternoon, the mailman brings a kaftan-top and shawl I ordered from Cath Kidston a couple of weeks before (and had completely forgotten about in the meantime). They are pink ikat, and the tunic sleeves are 3/4 length and the embroidery's not really my thing, but the shipping was astronomical. At one point, I rub what I think is Molton Brown lotion onto my arms only to discover it's really hair conditioner. Most of the afternoon is spent feeling vaguely guilty for not going to school, but my last trip out there was frustrated because everyone is away from campus, and I don't want to replay that.

Frankly, this summer hasn't reached the atelier-like levels of production I'd hoped. But there is another week to write and plan before we return to school,  and I still have a couple of personal days left to plot out.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I was working with a a group of teachers in our county, talking about the kick-backs from Google's digital bookstore to local bookstores yesterday when I realized we don't have any independent booksellers around here. Two Barnes and Noble, three Books-a-Million, a couple of remainder outlets and secondhand places. Then, just this morning, I saw Susan's excellent post about Borders closing, and it started me thinking about the strange relationship I have with big bookstores.

I have never lived in a town with a Borders, except for the year we lived in Ann Arbor.  We were not far from Borders Number One at Liberty street. I found the Paperchase things I had only ever bought in the U.K., and the Post Secret books, and more of the graphic novels I needed for the English department class I was taking second semester than I would at the comic book shop, the Vault of Midnight.

Prior to Michigan, I'd always been a used bookstore kind of girl. I worked at one during high school and college, and it really fit my eclectic and generalist ethos, but the used stores in Ann Arbor were dreadful. There was one shop where all the stock was mildewed, just walking by gave me an asthma attack, and while I scooped up an Agatha Christie or two from the Dawn Treader, it was a rather miserable experience. By contrast, Borders with their weekly 20% off Internet coupons, was a clean, neat, and well-organized nirvana. Plus it was incredibly central, across the street from friends of ours' downtown apartment, a place I met my husband when either of us would need a ride back from campus.

It was so cold that all I did was huddle under the covers, fully dressed, for about seven months. and I did get the bulk of my reading that year from the Ann Arbor District Library. I would go multiple times a week, and it was really rare that they didn't own something I wanted. You could place holds against items on the shelf, too, and I don't think I ever waited more than a couple of weeks for anything.

So while this begun as a paean to a bookstore I am finding is really iconic for a lot of people in my generation, it ended as a celebration of libraries. I somehow always get there in the end.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What I've been up to...

Many of you know how much time I've been devoting to moving forward on my dissertation this summer. I really feel some momentum, and I am giddy with excitement. I know I still have many, many stages ahead, but I am moving, and that is almost entirely new.

Last week, I spent an inordinate amount starting at an Adobe Connect screen. I did a couple of Virtual ALA presentations based on actual ALA presentations from June. The first was Pecha Kucha, with my topic being "reading on the screen." Fun, I love the concept and hope to keep using it with my students this fall.

The second of my Virtual ALA presentations was my piece of "From Gutenberg to Google and Glogs, Books to Vooks," which was immediately afterwards. Beyond the simple, getting-connected issues that plagued the event, it was really fun, particularly the backchanneling. At one point, someone commented that they wanted less of a philosophy course and more practical ideas. I have actually been finding that I enjoy presentations that are more abstract and less proscriptive, so it was a grounding thing to hear. And some of their comments, especially in the social media panel before Pecha Kucha and danah boyd's keynote, really gave me some insight into the minimal level of technological comfort or understanding that some of our membership possess.

Then, last Thursday, also using Adobe Connect, I led a webinar on "eReaders and your Library" for YALSA. Earlier today, I was in a conference call with one of the YALSA members who had participated, and she really emphasized my discussion of low-cost ways to connect readers with ebooks in our later conversation. This was something it was really important for me to convey, so I was glad to know it came across and had obviously inspire her to think beyond paid models. That webinar, like all of those in YALSA's monthly professional development series, will be available to members in a couple of months. At one point, I polled the audience, and it did seem like most libraries were in the planning and research phases, figuring out how to serve their communities with ebooks.

I spent the past two days with teachers in my district, working through the Google Apps but also just talking about e-reading, augmented reality, html5, the stupidity of student response systems, the filter bubble, and playing with Google+. I let them see all my circle and experience the post-and-reply. I wish I could have coordinated a hang-out, but we didn't have a webcam, and most of them were pretty dazzled as it was...

I really enjoyed getting to work with a broad cross-section of teachers, and helping them set up feed readers to create their own PLNs was especially fun. I was so happy I could suggest someone in almost every content area and grade configuration, as well as a lot of general education and reading people, too.

Those were the last of my summer workshops...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why I don't follow you (or unfollowed you) or twitter

Perhaps it's the new Grace Dent book or the great migration to Google +, but I have been thinking about my own social media practice, what makes it fun and rewarding, and which elements are stressful and need to be minimized.

I think every tweep has some twitter kryptonite -- that individual, esteemed in their field and a valuable contributor, who nonetheless cannot be followed. I am rethinking using twitter as an awareness technology, as its users real a critical mass and its norms shift and mature. There are lots of you I love in real life, ones whose blogs and articles I devour, but I might not be in step behind you on MY favorite social networking site. My kryptonite:

  • Twitter as self-promotion, number one: The person who uses tweetdeck or hootsuite or some other software to send the exact same tweet three dozen times. And you can assume they're not reading anyone else's tweets, or they would get how useless and annoying that is... 
  • Twitter as self-promotion, number two: The person who refers to their own projects using superlatives. You wouldn't describe your own work so enthusiastically if you were face-to-face, would you?
  • Twitter as private conversation: People using the @ when it should be a dm. I can see how this is an easy habit to slip into, but really -- do go private.
  • Over-tweeting, especially of non-original content. This is a sad one, because if those links or resources were packaged more judiciously -- perhaps as a blog entry-- you could scan it and pick up on the few new to you and feel gratified. Instead, you are forced to look at the same tweep again and again, for little reward.
  • Twitter as a means to save yourself a little money. Once in a while, I might be interested in a Groupon, but is it worth spamming all your followers for a $5 Amazon video credit? Also applies to the "retweet this to enter" contests.  At what cost?
  • Are more than half of your updates Foursquare checkins, dailies you have automated, or your auto-tweeted horoscope? So not interested. GoodReads I can just about bear...
  • People who re-tweet the things our thought leaders say. I really don't get this one, since it logically follows that we all pay attention some of the same people. I really don't feel you get a lot out of someone RTing some XX,000-follower tweep who everyone is following. Too many of these tweeps, who I have decided not to follow, make their way into my stream in this way. I think it's finding those gems from tweeps with single and double-digit followers that proves real twitter acumen.
With those thorny issues in mind, I think I will either have to create lists to manage my tweeps, something I swore I'd never do, or just unfollow a particular dozen or so, mostly people I know in real life, who don't use microblogging the same way I do. I feel both are losing propositions.

I don't think my way of using twitter is better, just different, but it is better for me.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I get tricked by the Internet...

Since the late 1990s, I have used as my homepage. It's a wonderfully curated collection of articles of political, literary, and academic interest. But just last week, the filter bubble caught me there, to a potentially ruinous degree.

I returned an email from my dissertation advisor, and when I relaunched my browser, I saw an ad for some scientific research at UNT, where I am working on that degree. OMG, I thought, UNT is really spending money on advertisitng (and I am a donor as well as a student), but given that aldaily is now under the auspices of the Chronicle of Higher Ed, it seemed an audacious move for what is essentially a normal school.

Well, I only realized my folly much later, when I saw the same ad, but where North Texas had been earlier, it read Vanderbilt University. Just before, I had been looking up directions to Nashville's Kidlit drink night, a stone's throw from the Vanderbilt campus. I have tried to replicate this, and I mostly end up with ads for Bryant in Smithfield, RI (yes, the one from the NPR ads).

I gave a keynote speech just last month warning of the dangers of the increasingly customized web experience, and here it bites me, and I am none the wiser. It didn't help that that the ad was green and white, UNT colors. But think about our students -- suddenly, they see ads from the school they were considering. How does that reinforce its primacy in the world of academe? It MUST appear to be the best school, given that it keeps appearing everywhere they go...if it gave me the warm fuzzies, how might they react?

And now we are all jumping on the Google+ bandwagon, giving marketers even more information about ourselves and our associations to better target their products and services. Scary stuff, be careful out there.

Monday, July 4, 2011

ALA wrap-up: The conference just isn't complete without a little longer-form reflection

I have spent the last week physically recovering from whatever I picked up at ALA. What can I say? The sessions were terrific, the author events unparalleled (the Printz speeches were in turn hysterical and distressing, the Newbery/Caldecott left me in a puddle of tears), and I attended new councilor orientation (convincing me I won't ever have a spare minute at Annual, not for the next three years -- I will have to sneak off to Youth Media Awards events from here on out). Except for the Out of Print Nancy Drew tee and a signed copy of One Crazy Summer, I didn't do very well on the exhibit floor, emerging without the few ARCs I particularly coveted, but I need to be working on my dissertation for the rest of the summer anyway....and it was my most favorite American city, which made the (surprise!) drive a little bit more bearable

What I noticed: there was palpable anxiety about e-reading, which I wrote about for the AASL blog. I think dedicated e-readers have gone from being a novelty to being a point of either pioneer-type pride or abject derision for school librarians. I don't know how this will all shake out, because the emerging models don't take libraries into account and the new K12 etextbook model is based on per-student licensing.  I don't want this to be the hill we school librarians die upon...

Most exciting: meeting new school and youth services librarians, full of energy and idealism. There is a new attitude there, and I find it quite invigorating, but it does make me feel a bit of an elderly stateswoman, if one from a very small and insignificant country.