Monday, March 31, 2014


I started spring break with comfort reads (Agatha Christie's A Murder is Announced and The Body in the Library), but was tripping back through Caitlin Moran's Moranthology when I re-read her interview with Keith Richards on the occasion of the publication of his memoir. I had Life languishing on my Kindle since 2011, so settled in, and was I ever rewarded!

I can't say enough about how fascinating this portrait of the Stones' guitarist happened to be. The Keith-and-Mick stuff, well, it's what you expect. But Keith is so bright! Of course, the passages about libraries particularly warmed my heart. As an arts student, he "would raid the public library for books about America." Now, he says he leads "a gentleman's life. Listen to Mozart, read many, many books. I'm a voracious reader. I'll read anything. And if I don't like it, I'll toss it."

Then I saw there was an audio, in part, by Johnny Depp. So I may just have to reimmerse myself in Keith's strange, compelling world.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What's happening at the core...

I was invited by School Library Journal to talk about action on the ground in one of their great free webcasts today. My slides:

Our state is in a weird place with CCSS, and I don't think we're the only ones. We have CCSS so integrated into our standards, pulling them out would be almost impossible. You can love or hate the standards -- I don't know that they vary wildly from what we have had in the past. But I don't think we've begun to really grapple with testing mandated by CCSS adoption. Our system has received all sort of awards for technology integration, but when it comes to CCSS-aligned testing, we have to revert to pencil and paper. Our network and hardware just aren't up to it. What does that forewarn about the allocation of scant education money in this time of scarcity?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

For the past year, I've been working on our state library association conference next month. If you're an Alabama librarian and you're not part of ALLA, now is wonderful time to join, but we'd love to see you in Huntsville regardless... and early bird registration ends this week.

Some things I am looking especially forward to:

The ticketed President’s Luncheon which will feature Julie Danielson, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blogger and picture book writer for Kirkus. Julie is co-author with NYPL's Betsy Bird and the late Peter Sieruta, of Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature.The much-anticipated book will be out in August, but Julie will be giving us a sneak preview, "taking us behind the scenes of many much-loved children’s books, promising secret lives, scandalous turns, and some very funny stories."

The Young Adult Services Round Table (YASRT) sessions at this year’s ALLA conference include lightning booktalks, regional authors including Beck McDowell, Irene Latham and Laurel Snyder, a CCRS update, and workshops on grant funding and planning computer animation programming for young people. A YASRT mixer will round out Thursday’s events, and feel free to pop by the VBC Ballroom 2 at 5:00 on Thursday the 24th for that if you can't make the conference.

In addition to those sessions, information literacy guru Esther Grassian will present the opening keynote on Wednesday, bestselling thriller writer J.T. Ellison will speak Thursday morning, and LibraryBox creator and technology innovator Jason Griffey will speak at Friday morning's closing event.

Join us and the exciting library world speakers coming to Alabama for the first time!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Broken discovery systems and hand-selling books

I have more than four hundred feeds in my RSS readers, an embarrassing number of them publishers, library, or book blogger sites, and I receive about a half-dozen subscriptions to print publications related to reviewing books, but I miss things.

At our last meeting of the Young Adult Services Round Table of the Alabama Library Association, talk turned, as it often does, to what we were reading, and the other three librarians there started talking about Wash, historical fiction by Birmingham native Margaret Wrinkle. It came out last February, but I hadn't even heard of it. As they sat bobbing their heads, I ordered it on the spot.

I can't believe it hasn't garnered more attention as a Twelve Years read-alike. And anyone buying Twelve Years? Crazy.

I mention this because it occurs to me that there will always be a place for personal recommendations, and for actual reading librarians to supply them. I often balk about how poor the mechanized recommender systems in place seem to be. I had ordered all the Susan Hill books from Amazon, but they didn't suggest her latest title?  Machine intelligence certainly can't predict what we will want, even based on what we've liked in the past.

Anyway, Wash was pretty incredible, with lots of evident research into the peculiar institution and the problem of bloodlines. And I'm still a little flummoxed that I never even ran across it. I have to thank those librarians for calling it to my attention.

Monday, March 3, 2014


Last summer, I found myself defending my affection for Zadie Smith. She seemed a bit "mainstream," my husband said, for me to be reading.

Multiculturalism in contemporary London? What's not to love? And if she was so "mainstream," why wasn't The Embassy of Cambodia published state-side? In a flat world, the peculiarities related to publishing remain conspicuously bordered. I gnashed my teeth for months until used copies started surfacing state-side. Only after I ordered did I notice the scant length: a mere 69 pages.

It may be diminutive, but the packaging is lovely -- a matte paper with strong graphics (and the whimsical, inexplicable shuttlecock! so perfect for this story). And it's a mere 6 and half inches tall. Utterly adorable.

Like Fatou, I am now wondering, am I really a slave?