Saturday, December 12, 2009

Challenger Comics

I've been noticing something recently. Every day I read articles about the death of the printed word and how books are disappearing. Yet, here in Chicago at least, I've noticed something strange. It seems that there are new comic books stores opening up all over town. Comic books at least seem more popular than ever. Maybe it's the recent slew of superhero movies?

I think the real reason is that right now there is somewhat of a comic "renaissance" going on. Comics are better drawn and better written now then perhaps at any time in history. The plots and stories are so much more interesting and well developed compared to the comics that were available with I was a kid in the 60's and 70's. There is perhaps a danger in that many comics are more "mature" now and feature more adult oriented plots. But both Marvel and DC use a rating system on their comics that is much like the rating systems kids are used to with video games. Comics are rated as E for everyone, T for teen, and T+ for more mature comics.

I've visited a number of the new comic book stores but there is one store in particular that stands out and that is Challenger Comics.

Challenger Comics Website

I think libraries and librarians can learn a lot from this site. It is very well designed and uses a number of Web 2.0 features.

The site features a web cam so you can see what's going on in the store while it's open.

The site also highly encourages customer interaction through the use of message boards and reviews. They've already started to develop a strong web based community that also goes into the store.

The site also features links to all of the most popular Web 2.0 sites such as Facebook and Twitter where Challenger Comics also has a presence.

There is an event calendar that is prominently displayed that is constantly updated with new events. At Challenger Comics they have weekly readings for both kids and adults and other special events as well. I've never seen a comic book store with so many events. They have several things going on every week.

There is a link to sign up for a weekly newsletter that arrives via email. An email then arrives each week with details of upcoming events and all the new releases for that week along with recommendations and reviews.

All in all a site that is very well designed, very user friendly, and obviously helps Challenger Comics do what they want to do, sell more comics.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Funny Library story

So I came into work today and got a doozy from the very first patron who walked up to the desk.

She handed me a piece of paper and said her son was looking for this book and could I help her find it for him. "The Game" by Neil Strauss.

I went to our catalog and did a search for the author as I thought there were probably too many titles out there with "The Game" in the title. I quickly got a list of the books by Neil Strauss in our system and saw the game.

One of the "habits" I've gotten into as a reference librarian is to always repeat the title when I find it to make sure I'm on the same page as the patron. When I see a full title that includes a colon I repeat the full title to make sure I'm getting the correct book for the patron.

So in this case, out of habit, I automatically started to say "The Game : Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists".

As the words slipped off my tongue, my brain started to catch up, and something seemed odd about this particular situation.

The woman in front of me blushed, gasped, and said, "Oh my God, is that what my 19 year old son wants to read?!"

I couldn't help but laugh and said, "well... if he was 13 you might have a problem on your hands! When I was 19 I might have wanted to check out this book myself. Luckily I'm very happily married so I don't think I need it at this point!"

She laughed as well and I asked her if she would like me to put a hold on it for her son as we didn't have a copy in our library. She said, "Certainly not! I'm not going to get this book for him." She left pretty quickly and seemed embarrassed about the whole thing. For me it was one the highlights of my week!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

First time for me... Kaballah conspiracy!

On the evenings that I work at the Library one of my responsibilities when closing up is to check and turn off the lights in the bathrooms.

I have no problem with the guys room but I must admit I always find it a little creepy to deal with the woman's room. For virtually my whole life this room has been forbidden to me. On a rational level I know it's not a big deal and I deal with it every day with no problem. But deep inside of me there's a little part of me that would really rather not deal with the woman's room. A guy can get cooties that way don't you know!

Well the other night I had a librarian first for me. While I was checking out the woman's room I discovered that someone had left a pile of Kabbalah literature above the sink. This was fascinating to me. First of all I had no idea that the Kabbalah were into proselytizing like that. I had never seen Kabbalah propaganda like that. It was pretty slick. Much nicer than a lot of the born again Christian stuff I'm more used to seeing. I can see how a Material Girl like Madonna could find an attraction.

I'm very curious who left this in the woman's bathroom. I'm going to be watching for more. Now I have something to look forward to when I check the woman's room. I wish I could spy a little better to try to figure out who left it there. :-)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Library Journal 2009 Placements & Salaries Survey

So now that I'm bitter I'm going to post twice in one day!

I participated in the annual Library Journal Placements & Salaries Survey.

Wow, the news is grim if you dig into the stats. Illinois seems to be one of the states that has been the hardest hit. Two library schools, a big city with a hiring freeze, and a bunch of librarians looking for jobs has made it really really tough.

According to the Library Journal there were 225 graduates who reported to the survey. 83 of these grads are "employed". This is about 37%. It doesn't break down if those employed are at full or part time. Given that it seems that at least half of the job postings are for part time jobs I think it's safe to assume that only about half of this 37% are for full time jobs. So around 18% have found full time jobs after a year. Wow... according to these stats that means without a doubt 63% of graduates have NO job at all after graduating and about 82% haven't found a full time job.

In a way this makes me feel a little better about not finding a full time job by this point but it also shows just how hard it's going to be.

I'm bitter damnit...

I haven't posted in a LONG time.

and I know the reason why. I'm bitter/pissed off right now and have been for a few months. I've always wanted to keep this blog positive. I try not to be a negative person. But it's been hard to be positive recently.

I graduated from library school in August of 2008 and I've been looking for a full time job since then. I'm lucky that I have a part time job at least but it's been hard to get by, I have no benefits as a part timer, and I'd like to start my career that I went to school for.

The student loan payments started up about six months ago. I haven't done the math but I'm guessing that given what I'm payed as a part timer and what I'm paying each month in student loans means I'm working for something like 25 cents an hour.

I had a job interview in August. After sending out something like 50 resumes over the past year it's one of only 4 interviews I've gotten. I thought the interview went fantastic. All the stars seemed to have finally aligned. They were looking for someone with a lot of IT and AV experience. The person who was interviewing me was married to a fellow who went to college with me and had only good things to say. It seemed like I was finally going to get the job I had worked so hard for.

but NO. I was told I was #2. The person doing the hiring had to go for the person who had more real library experience than me. Someone who already had a full time job, had gotten some good experience under his belt, and was ready to move onto a better full time position.

The more I think about it the more pissed off I get. The person doing the hiring had the opportunity to allow a recent graduate their entry into the field. Instead she chose someone who already had a full time job.

I ended up calling the person doing the hiring and talking to her after I hadn't heard after a few weeks. We ended up talking for about a half an hour about the decision she made. She told me that my resume couldn't have been better. My interview was fantastic. I sent a great follow up letter. I couldn't have done anything better. I made no mistakes. But she had to go with the person with more experience. She got dozens of resumes from qualified people many of whom had more experience than me. She told me flat out that she thought it was going to be VERY hard for someone like me, fresh out of school, to get a job given the current economy.


and Mr. Daley's hiring freeze in the Chicago Public Libraries is on it's second year.

so I wanted this blog to be positive. I wanted to write book reviews, music reviews, talk about technology in library issues. but I'm more in the mood to vent these days.

Since the interview I've sent out about 10 more resumes. All for jobs that I'm completely qualified for. Not a single interview. Rejections from all of them. One of my coworkers also thinks there's an institutional age bias in many libraries. That's a topic for another posting...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Why I'm A Librarian

I am currently a part time librarian looking for a full time job. I graduated about a year ago with my MLS and have had an extremely difficult time finding a full time position doing adult reference in the Chicago area. I got straight A's in school and was always one of the "leaders" in my classes it seemed. My resume is full of a lifetime of experience in IT, and while I was in school my classmates and teachers told me I should have no problem finding a job once I graduated given my previous skills and experience.

I keep telling myself it's the economy. Chicago Public Libraries has had a hiring freeze for over a year now with no end in sight. When the largest employer of public librarians in the Chicago area isn't hiring it makes it that much harder to find a full time job in ANY library in the Chicago area. The competition is intense.

In the meantime I consider myself very lucky that I at least have a part time job working the adult reference desk at a public library.

I've been working at this library for almost two years now and the patrons have gotten to know me well. Many of them greet me by name and I know their names as well. Maybe I'm easy to talk to? Maybe I listen well? Maybe there are just a lot of lonely people out there that need a friend? But I'm amazed at how many patrons seem to go out of their way to spend the time to come in and talk to me. Many of them tell me that I'm the "nice" librarian at the library. It seems like almost once a week a get a comment like, "Wow, you really helped me out! The other librarians aren't as helpful as you."

I recently read the book "Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian" by Scott Douglas. I enjoyed the book, I found it a funny insider look at working in a library. But I couldn't identify with the writer of the book in the sense that he always seemed to be questioning why he was working in a library. He often doesn't seem very enthusiastic about it all. I on the other hand am only questioning why I can't get a full time job so I can contribute in an even more meaningful way to a library. I am extremely enthusiastic about the profession.

A few days ago I had an experience that put it all in perspective for me. One of our regular patrons came in like usual. He greeted each other by name as we know each other by this point. After he was on the computer for an hour or so he came up to my desk.

He told me that he was in serious trouble and was hoping I could help. He told me that he had a serious gambling addiction and was in bad straights. He called in sick to work and lost everything he had earlier that day and wasn't sure how he was even going to eat for the week. He was curious if I knew of a hypnotist in the area that could "cure" him. He was also curious if I knew anything about using a hypnotist for gambling addiction. I told him I would see what I could do, he asked me if I could send him an email with the information I found, and he walked out of the library with his head held down.

I think some people in a situation like this might be judgmental. The first thought that went through my mind was, "gee wiz, he was really brave to ask me that question. I could never do that." I can be stubborn. I like to figure things out myself. I can't imagine going into a public library and revealing my problems like that to the librarian.

I also did my best to help. I found several books about gambling addiction and passed on several recommendations. I also found information about using hypnosis to cure gambling addictions and pointed him to information that both supported the practice but also an article from a medical journal that said that hypnosis doesn't work. I then found information about state sponsored programs to help people with this problem that are free.

I saw the patron today like usual. He came up to me and thanked me so much for actually caring and finding him the information. He told me he had already called some of the numbers and had an appointment to see a counselor next week. I told him, "no problem, it's all part of the job" with a smile on my face.

This is why I became a librarian. To help people. I like to think that in small ways I can help people make their lives a little better by providing them the information they need.

Now, if I could only do this on a full time basis instead of just part time, life would be great!

Friday, June 19, 2009

A public librarian twitters

My father-in-law sent me a great link a couple of days ago to a funny librarian site. "Dispatches from a Public Librarian" by Scott Douglas. I really enjoyed his most recent post "The Librarian: A Twitter Story". It really struck a chord with me.

So I'm going to plagiarize it! Or more to the point do my own attempt at a day in the life of a public librarian. Just like Scott Douglas, all names have been changed, or never even mentioned, for the sake of privacy.


Lost and found:
1 - Everfresh juice bottle full of water. (I think)
2 - broken sets of headphones.

Amazing how quickly the crowd clears out and the library becomes an oasis of calm. Isn't it always supposed to be that way? (6:00)

I just turned off all of the monitors in the computer room. Time to say bye bye. (5:58)

I didn't get a single person asking me where the restrooms were today. This is unprecedented. (5:54)

I just straightened up the "quiet" room. (5:53)

Got a call from a man looking for a book that another library said we would have to order through OCLC. I found it at one of our affiliated libraries so the other library was wrong. (5:50)

20 minutes to go! (5:41)

I just placed a hold for a patron. She changed her password also, but she remembered it. (5:40)

A woman asks for a book on how to write a resume. I hear that a lot these days. (5:29)

One of our regulars keeps calling me "Tim". I wonder if I should correct him? I didn't notice for awhile. Now it's a habit. I kind of like Tim. (5:25)

Circ just called and offered me a piece of chocolate. I'm happy! (5:25)

While walking around the library I just realized that tech services just put out some more of the graphic novels I ordered for the library. cool! (5:21)

A patron wants to use the stand up computers and they're all being used. I ask biker guy and the twin if one of them can please get off. The twin goes quickly. Maybe he isn't a hacker. (5:08)

I check the schedule to make sure I'm not working this weekend. I'm glad I remember correctly that I'm not working. (5:05)

A couple comes in to use the computers. I remember that a few months ago I had to show them how to point and click. Now they surf on their own. (5:03)

I am now reading. It's a graphic novel so in a way I'm doing collection development. (4:55)

Someone just asked when we close tonight. I realize that nobody has asked where the bathrooms are yet today. weird... (4:53)

Time has slowed down to an imperceptible crawl. (4:30)

I'm reading Huffingtonpost to get the latest on what's going on in Iran. I feel like reading the latest news is part of my job. (4:15)

Just tried to place a hold for a book but the default password didn't work. The patron changed her password but can't remember what it is. (4:11)

Hmmm... it just hit me that I'm here alone tonight. The person who is usually here is on vacation. I could take a break but then I would leave the desk unattended. I'll just stay. Not a big deal. (4:03)

Talked about accessibility issues with the patron and thanked him for his great ideas. I'll send off an email to the powers that be after my break. (3:55)

A gentleman just asked if we had any plans to set up an ADA compliant computer station. I think he was surprised that I knew what he was talking about. (3:50)

The first article I found seems to be the best article I found. How often does that happen? (3:45)

A very large person comes to the desk and asks for a book about eating disorders. I actually think this is a brave act and admire the man. (3:40)

Still looking up articles that critique HIPAA laws. (3:35)

A father just came in with his son's 9th grade summer reading list. I chose "Stranger in a Strange Land" for the kid to read. It was on the list. Hope the kid has fun reading it! (3:25)

One of our other "regulars" is now at the third stand up computer. So all three may be busy for the rest of the evening. I may have to enforce the 15 minute time limit. (3:17)

I found my first good article already by using the ArticleFirst Database. (3:12)

I'm thinking of the best approach to this question. The patron would like a critique of current HIPAA laws and how they pertain to family counselling and therapy. (3:02)

Phone rings and the patron asks perhaps the most difficult question I've ever gotten at the reference desk. I tell him I'm going to have to do some research and get back to him. (3:01)

It looks like the sun has come out. All of a sudden the library doesn't seem as busy. hmmm... (2:47)

Contest man needed help printing out a form from a web site. I helped him print it out so he can try to win a new car. (2:45)

The lady on the computer just asked me what the date was next Wednesday. Couldn't she have found that on the computer?! Glad I'm here to help! (2:30)

One of the circulation staff just gave me her way of remembering what room is what. I don't think I'll ever forget now. (2:28)

I found the man and directed him to the right room. I was smiling and he was smiling so we're all good. (2:26)

A man just asked me where we were showing the film today. I told him the wrong place! (2:25)

A lady just came in and saw the twin on the computers and asked him for some computer help. That's my job! She said he was her "friend". Maybe my suspicions are wrong? (2:21)

Sometimes I wonder if the twin is doing packet sniffing and knows all my passwords already? The library would be a great place for that. Maybe he's reading this now? :-) (2:18)

Lady wants a book that she heard about on NPR this morning. I can't put a hold on it for her because it's so new. (2:14)

Phone rings. The man at the other end of the phone is hard of hearing. I have to yell for him to hear me. I hate it when that happens. (2:11)

Biker guy shows up. Two out of the three stand up machines will probably be used all night tonight. (2:10)

One of the twins is here on one of the three stand up machines. I know he'll probably be here till 6. I have fantasies that he's a hacker. (2:07)

I check my email. Looks like I handled the porn "incident" as well as I could have the other night. (2:05)

I log into the computer and bring up the important stuff. Excel, SirsiDynix, and Firefox. (2:03)

A woman with a thick Russian accent asks if she needs to register for the ESL class tomorrow. I tell her to just show up. We're mellow... (2:02)

Dark, cloudy, and thunderstorms outside, but the library is busy. (2:01)

Arrived at work just on time. (2:00 pm)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Julie/Julia Blog and book

One recent movie trailer that I found interesting was for the upcoming film, Julie & Julia. I started doing a little research and found that one of the film's claims is that it is the first film based on a blog. Diablo Cody was discovered through her blog, but the film Juno had nothing to do with the content in her blog. This appears to be the first film directly based on someone's day to day blog.

Here is a link to the original Julie/Julia Project blog.

Does this mean that suddenly every blogger is an aspiring screen writer? If nothing else it shows how the lines are becoming more and more blurred as to what "professional" content is.

If you haven't seen the trailer the premise is that Julie Powell, a 30 year old temp secretary, decided to make every recipe in the original "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Child, in one year. While she was doing this she created a blog to post daily updates on her progress. The blog caught on and she soon developed a legion of fans who would forward to her daily updates. The blog ended up generating so much interest that Julie Powell was eventually offered a book deal and wrote the book "Julie & Julia".

At this point I've read both the book and a great deal of the original blog itself. One of the things that struck me very quickly, and I found this very interesting, was that I enjoyed the blog itself much more that the actual book.

The book was an enjoyable read and provides much of the background story that I'm sure much of the film will be based on. But the blog for me was a much more interesting read and I'm asking myself why?

While I enjoyed the book I found it a bit repetitive. Julie works her day job, goes home to her "loft" apartment, some sort of catastrophe occurs, and she and her husband and friends end up having a great meal. The day to day catastrophes may change but the basic plot remains the same through most of the book.

The blog is different however. While the book concentrates on the background the blog concentrates on the recipes themselves with the background basically adding color to the daily entries. During the book I often found myself wondering more about the various recipes and their preparation. In the blog all of this is revealed in rich detail.

What I also found very interesting about the blog vs. the book is that the blog also includes the comments from her friends and fans. The book mentions these comments and some of the commentators become minor characters in the book. In the blog however you can read all of the comments and they add a whole other layer to the blog. It makes the blog more three dimensional in a way. It certainly adds more depth. It was a lot of fun to read some of the comments and threads that were mentioned in the book.

So we almost always say that the book was better than the movie but in this case I think I can say that the blog was better than the book. I wonder if the blog will be better than the movie?!

Iran, Revolution, and Proxy servers...

I've been following with great interest the recent developments in Iran.

The graphic novel "Persepolis" by Marjane Satrapi really opened my eyes about life in Iran and I've had a fascination with the country ever since.

Did Mir Hussein Moussavi win the recent election over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Moussavi's supporters claim? We may never know... but it seems like there is revolution in the streets of Iran. I always find it fascinating to watch history unfold before my eyes.

Ayatollah Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard are already fighting back and they have a history of quickly taking control in situations like this but it will be very interesting to see how this all plays out over the next few days.

For this techie guy one of the other very interesting things about this potential revolution has been the use of technology by the forces of reform. The opposition has been spreading the word through web pages and also by Twitter. Iranians are using Twitter to send constant, live, up to date, posts on what is happening before their eyes. They are making sure that the whole world is watching. They are also using these updates to send information out about marches and rallies.

Of course the government of Iran is doing as much as possible to disrupt this web activity and make things difficult for the opposition.

But you, yes you, can help if you have a spare PC around your house.

This site shows you how you can use a spare PC to set up a proxy server to help the opposition set up web pages that are harder for the Iranian government to track and take down. In many ways you are essentially opening up your machine to Iranian hackers. But in this case the hacking is done for a great cause. I'm planning on trying to set up a spare PC we have in the house this afternoon to help the cause.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Work, expression, manifestation, Star Trek!

One of the things that I found most interesting while I was in Library school was the concept of the work, expression, manifestation, and then item.

The example that was often used while I was in school was the Wizard of Oz. There is this "thing" we know of as the Wizard of Oz. This is the work. This work has taken the form of several different expressions. The book, the movie with Judy Garland, the musical with Diana Ross, and let's not forget the original stage musical written by Baum himself.

I couldn't help but think of this concept as I watched the latest Star Trek movie. I'm guessing this could be the new standard when budding young library school students discuss this concept.

In this case we have the work called Star Trek. We all understand what this means. The starship Enterprise with Capt. Kirk at the controls, Spock at his side, and Scotty down in the engine room. I think most people watching the new Star Trek movie had no problem accepting the new actors in their roles in some ways because of this concept. The characters acted the way we expected them to for the most part. (I'm still trying to get over the Spock/Uhuru kissy face stuff) When we see a frantic fellow with a scottish accent saying, "Captain, the engines can't take any more!" we instantly understand this is Scotty and we know his character already. When we see the grumpy doctor with the southern accent we know it's McCoy.

In other words the work we call Star Trek is well established at this point.

In this particular case the expression of the work is the script or perhaps J. J. Abram's vision for the new Star Trek movie. Fans are still debating its merit, (it's no Wrath of Khan in my book) but it's a fascinating example of the concept of how an expression relates to a work. We have had the original TV show, the movies, the spinoffs, the books, the fan fiction, and now we have this particular expression which is so much based on the original series.

The manifestation of this expression is the new Star Trek movie. The script and the ideas have been used to create a film. This manfestation is still very popular in the theatres and has been one of the top grossing films of the spring of 2009. In library school terms, "a manifestation is the physical embodiment of an expression of a work."

Finally we have the item. This is a single example of a manifestation. Each movie theatre that plays the film has as an item the reels of film they project. I suppose in the modern world the item is now some sort of digital content. Do modern movie theatres that show digital versions of movies even use reels of film anymore?

Ultimately the new Star Trek movie will be manifested in a DVD format and the item will be available at my local Target. This Star Trek geek will probably buy that item when it's available.

PS - Didja notice that when Kirk and Sulu did the free fall onto that platform it was the red shirt that died?!

Friday, May 22, 2009


Columbine by Dave Cullen is a fascinating look at the events of April 20th, 1999 and also a great read. The book takes a look at the tragedy, dispels many of the myths, and tries to answer the hard questions as to why Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold chose to kill that day.

Almost immediately when the shootings started several myths about the shooting developed. There was a "trench coat maffia" that Eric and Dylan were a part of and that other members of this group were involved in the shootings. Eric and Dylan were picked on and bullied by the jocks and deliberately targeted the popular kids that had teased them. Eric and Dylan were "goths" and Marylin Manson was to blame.

Other myths also developed such as the story of Cassie Bernall, who was said to have told one of the killers that she believed in God and was then shot. Because of this the evangelical movement tried to have Cassie turned into a marytr for her faith.

In Columbine we learn the truth and many of these myths are shattered. Because of this, the book has received some critisism. Many in the evangelical community still consider Cassie Bernall a marytr for her faith but the book seems to make it very clear that Cassie never had the conversation she was credited with. What is interesting in this particular case is that another student in the library did have such a conversation with the killers. But when she told her story several weeks after the event few people believed her. They thought she was trying to ride on Cassie Bernall's coattails and get some cheap publicity. It probably emotionally scared this young woman for life having to deal with knowing the truth and having nobody believe her.

Columbine also sheds light on one of the big questions about the massacre. Shouldn't someone have known and been able to prevent the tragedy from happening? It turns out that Eric Harris in particular sent out a number of warning signs. He had gotten so bold that he had even posted threats on a public website against another student. This student found out, told his parents, who then called in the police. A police detective started a file about Eric Harris and found evidence that he was building bombs as well. This detective went as far as asking for a warrent to search the Harris house, but the detective was called on some other cases, the file sat and was never reviewed by a judge. When the local police realized they had a smoking gun on their hands they did everything they could to deny this evidence ever existed. Their coverup could almost been scene as criminal.

What is the most interesting thing about this book is that it really seems to answer the questions as to why it happened. The answer being was that Eric Harris was a full blown psychopath and Dylan Klebold was a manic depressive who was easily manipulated by Eric. One of the most interesting characters in the book is an FBI agent who investigated the killings. This particular agent had a background in clinical psychology, and when he started to go through the video tapes and journals that the killers had left behind, he quickly started to see all of the signs. Many people wanted to blame the parents of the killers but it appears from the book that the parents tried to do all that they could. Eric Harris' father was deeply involved in his son's life and was a strict disiplinarian. Dylan Klebold's father considered his son his best friend. They had season's tickets to the Rockies and often went to games together. Eric Harris was so good at manipulating people however that both sets of parents had no idea how far their kids had gone and both sets of parents were devistated by what happened that day.

According to Dave Cullen it wasn't really the parents fault and this may be hard for many people to accept. If Eric Harris had made it out of high school he probably would have grown up to be a mass killer.

Columbine is a very interesting book that is obviously very well researched and while it is difficult to read in parts it is well worth getting through.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Netbooks and Libraries

There was a recent very interesting article in the New York Times about Netbooks.

According to the article Netbooks are going to be the next revolution in the computer industry. Soon Netbooks will be available for around $100. Because of the low cost it is predicted that Netbooks will soon be a common sight.

This could have a profound impact on the computer industry for several reasons. One, the Netbooks, don't use Intel processors which have dominated the chip market for the last decade. Secondly, and more importantly, most Netbooks run on Linux.

I recently had a patron come into the library I work at with a new Netbook. She wanted help downloading a electronic book from My Media Mall and she couldn't figure out what was wrong. I took one look at her Netbook and could see that it was running Linux. I had to explain to her that the Overdrive Media software used by My Media Mall isn't compatible with Linux.

This patron had no idea what I was talking about. She had never heard of Linux. She thought she was running Windows because that's what it looked like to her. I ended up taking awhile to explain to her what an Operating System was, licensing costs, and Microsoft vs. the Linux open source movement. I "think" she sort of understood what I was talking about by the time she left.

What I ask myself is this. What would most librarians do in this situation? How many librarians are out there that know how to support Linux? Or for that matter even recognize it when they see it? If the Netbook revolution is indeed coming I'm afraid a number of librarians are going to need to learn a little about Linux very quickly.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Watching the Watchmen - Graphic novels as movies

In the old days when Hollywood would base a movie on a book how often would people say, "the book was better than the movie"? It is the nature of a good book to make the reader imagine the scenes in their head. So often it seems movies would fail in recreating the fantastic images that people would create in their own heads.

Adaptations of graphic novels present a totally different and new challenge for movie makers. Readers of graphic novels form a connection with both the words and the images that the writer has created. So when a graphic novel is made into a movie, if you've read the graphic novel, you're going into the movie with an idea in your head about what the movie should "look" like.

I bring this up because I recently saw two different films in the theater that were based on graphic novels, and I had very different reaction to each one based on how they "looked".

Several months ago I read "Coraline: The Graphic Novel" written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by P. Craig Russell. It was fantastic. The story was compelling and the drawings were fantastic. The graphic novel took you to a fantastic world where reality was blurred with fantasy. The way that P. Craig Russell drew the world at the other end of the tunnel was subtle. Everything seemed the same but just a little better. My 11 year old daughter read the graphic novel as well and loved it.

Then I took the kids to see "Coraline" in 3D at the local theater. I've always been a big fan of Tim Burton but right from the start the movie just didn't look "right" to me. So many of the images that were in my mind from the graphic novel had been wildly reinterpreted by Burton. We all enjoyed the film but I was surprised that my daughter had the same reaction as me. She thought the film just didn't look right also. We both agreed that the way the world was drawn in the graphic novel was better.

I'm a huge fan of the graphic novel "Watchmen". I have a first edition of the paperback that I bought when it first came out in the mid-80's and I've read it at least ten times since then. Needless to say I was very interested in seeing the film when it came out. I was thrilled when I saw the first short trailers. So many of the characters seemed to be right out of the book.

I went to see "Watchmen" in the theater earlier this week and I loved it. While I had some issues with the way they changed the end of the story, and some of the acting, I felt it totally captured the look and the mood of the original graphic novel.

It was clear to me that the makers of the film were making an adaptation of the graphic novel itself. Many of the scenes in the film looked exactly as they were pictured in the graphic novel. It was like watching the pages of the book come to life.

In fact there was one particular scene that made me laugh because it deliberately went away from the look of the graphic novel and made a homage to one of my favorite films of all time. President Nixon doesn't go into a bunker inside of a mountain like in the graphic novel. He goes instead into the "War Room" from Dr. Strangelove. I wondered how many others would get this reference? I almost with they could have used CGI to put Gen. "Buck" Turgidson in the room.

One of my biggest "issues" with the film was that I felt they didn't do a good job of casting for the Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias character. In the graphic novel he's an older and also very buff man. In the film he appeared to be a skinny college age kid.

Other than that, as I said, I loved "Watchmen". For this fan of the graphic novel it was like seeing the pages of one of my favorite books come to life. I think one of the reasons I liked it so much was that it was clear that the makers of the movie intended the film to "look" like the graphic novel. If the makers of "Watchmen" had made the same sort of changes to the "look" of the movie that Tim Burton did with "Coraline" I think it would have been a disaster. In the case of "Coraline" many people seeing the film have not read the graphic novel or may be more familiar with Neil Gaiman's written version of the work. But watching these two films after having read the graphic novels was a very interesting experience and made me think about how people view film versions of graphic novels.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I was wrong - Twitter is cool!

One of the things about being a tech type is constantly evaluating and re-evaluating the tools and resources that are available. At first some things look great but they either don't catch on or there are serious issues. Some other things don't look so great at first but catch on.

Twitter is becoming more and more popular every day. While it's still nowhere near as "big" as Facebook the number of people using Twitter growing quickly and it's becoming a part of the internet 2.0 scene.

What has been interesting to me is how recently Twitter has been used to provide very instant, real time reactions to events as they unfold. Because the length of Twitter messages are short it's perfect for these sorts of democratic, quick, voice of the people sort of applications. For instance, during Rod Blagojevitch's recent impeachment trial, people were able to post their Twitter responses and reactions to a web site while the trail was going on live.

So, several months ago I posted in one of my first blog entries that I didn't see many practical applications for Twitter in the library world. I was wrong and I'm fine with admitting it!

I can without a doubt see Twitter being used in a Teen library setting for instance. Perhaps you could have a web site with several possible events and the teen patrons could Twitter in their votes? During a summer reading program you could have kids Twitter in short thoughts about what they're reading. Perhaps short answers to specific questions to get them thinking about the books?

It turns out that there are a number of creative things that can be done with Twitter. It's a great application if you want a quick and easy way to interact with your patrons.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Some fun things Libraries are doing with Facebook

Here are some of the fun and neat things Chicago area library's are doing with their Facebook fan pages.

On the Chicago Public Library facebook fan page there is a,
• “Ask a Librarian” box with a link to live reference via chat
• “We Recommend” box with pictures of books with links to reviews
• “Free Media” box with links to audio books and movies

On the Skokie Public Library facebook fan page there is a,
• Link to the library’s RSS feeds using a built in facebook app.
• Box with a list of upcoming releases and bestsellers
• Box with a direct link to the catalog. Do searches through facebook.
• Video with instructions on how to use the “magazine and newspaper locator” electronic resource.
• Box with live chat reference using a Meebo application

On the Evanston Public Library facebook fan page there is a,
• Box with pix from the library’s Flickr account.

On the Morton Grove Public Library facebook page there is a,
• Note on the Wall from the “Friends of the Library” with instructions on how to become an active member and help contribute to the library.

On the Oak Park Public Library facebook page there is a,
• Box with a link for homework help that leads to the library’s electronic resources.

On the Northbrook Public Library facebook fan page there is a,
• Box with the iBistro logo and a direct link to the catalog
• Box with information on how to download books from My Media Mall
• Box with a link to email the reference librarian with questions
• Box with links to podcasts with library related materials
• Box with thumbnails of popular books with links to the catalog entry
• Box with info on recording video tributes to President Lincoln that will later be loaded onto the page.

It should be pointed out that many of these links and resources are provided by applications that are built into Facebook and are free of charge. There are more and more of these library focused applications being built all the time because Facebook is becoming so popular in the library community.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Adult Graphic Novels

I was recently given a special collection development project for the library I work at part time. For several reasons they decided to create an "adult" graphic novel collection. The head of adult services knew that I was somewhat of an expert in graphic novels and asked that I put together a list of classics of the genre as well as well reviewed current material. One very valuable source was Stephen Weiner who writes graphic novel reviews for "The Library Journal" and has also written a book called, "The 101 Best Graphic Novels".

Abel, Jessica - "La Perdida"
Abel, Jessica & Pleece, Warren - "Life Sucks"
Akino, Matsuri - "Pet Shop of Horrors: Toyko v.1"
Anderson, Ho Che - "King: A Comic Book Biography"
Arellano, Eddy - "Dead in Desemboque"
Auster, Paul - "City of Glass: The Graphic Novel"
B., David - "Epileptic"
Bagge, Peter - "The Bradleys"
Bagge, Peter - "Buddy Does Seattle"
Baker, Kyle - "Nat Turner: Encore Edition Vol 1."
Bechdel, Alison - "Fun home : a family tragicomic"
Bertozzi, Nick - "The Salon"
Brown, Chester - "I Never Liked You: The New Definitive Edition"
Brown, Jeffrey - "Clumsy"
Brown, Jeffrey - "Incredible Change-Bots"
Brunetti, Ivan - "Misery Loves Comedy"
Burns, Charles - "Black Hole"
Butcher, Jim - "Welcome to The Jungle"
Carey, Mike - "God Save the Queen"
Clowes, Daniel - "Ghost World"
Coe, Sue - "Dead Meat"
Cotter, Joshua W. - "Skyscrapers Of The Midwest"
Crumb, R., Kominsky-Crumb, Aline - "The Complete Dirty Laundry"
Crumb, R. - "The R. Crumb Handbook"
Daly, Paul - "Athena Voltaire: The Collected Webcomics"
Dick, Philip K. - "A scanner darkly"
Doucet, Julie - "My Most Secret Desire"
Dysart, Joshua - "Captain Gravity and the Power of the Vril"
Eisner, Will - "The plot : the secret story of The protocols of the Elders of Zion"
Giardino, Vittorio - "A Jew in Communist Prague Vol.1"
Guibert, Emmanuel - "Alan's War: The Memories of G.I. Alan Cope"
Hasiguchi, Takashi - "Yakitat!! Japan vol.1"
Hernandez, Gilbert - "Heartbreak Soup (Love & Rockets)"
Hernandez, Jamie - "Maggie the Mechanic (Love & Rockets)"
Hernandez, Jamie - "The Girl From Hoppers (Love & Rockets) v.2"
Hernandez, Jamie - "The Education of Hoppy Glass"
Hernandez, Jamie & Gilbert - "Love & Rockets: New Stories #1"
Hicks, Faith Erin - "Zombies Calling"
Higuri, You - "Cantarella Vol 1"
Jackson, Sherard - "Assembly"
Johnson, Mat & Pleece, Warren - "Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery"
Katchor, Ben - "The Jew of New York"
Kendall, David (editor) - "The Mammoth Book of Best War Comics"
Kominsky-Crumb, Aline - "Need More Love: A Graphic Memoir"
Max - "Bardin the Superrealist"
Modan, Rutu - "Exit Wounds"
Moore, Alan - "Watchmen"
Moore, Alan - "From Hell"
Morse, Scott - "Barefoot Serpent"
Muth, Jon - "M: A Graphic Novel"
Normanton, Peter (editor) - "The Mammoth Book of Best Horror Comics"
Nowak, Naomi - "House of Clay"
Ocha, Machiko - "Train Man: A Shojo Manga"
Oh, Se-Kwon - "Utopia's Avenger"
Panter, Gary - "Jimbo's Inferno"
Parks, Ande - "Capote in Kansas: A Drawn Novel"
Pekar, Harvey - "The New American Splendor Anthology"
Pekar, Harvey - "American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar"
Pekar, Harvey - "Our Cancer Year"
Pope, Paul - "Heavy Liquid"
Rodriguez, Spain - "Che: A Graphic Biography"
Rudahl, Sharon - "A Dangerous Woman: The Graphic Biography of Emma Goldman"
Sacco, Joe - "Palastine: The Special Edition"
Sacco, Joe - "Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995"
Satrapi, Marjane - "Persepolis"
Satrapi, Marjane - "Persepolis 2 : [the story of a return]"
Satrapi, Marjane - "Embroideries"
Shanower, Eric - "Age of Bronze"
Shanower, Eric - "Age Of Bronze Volume 2: Sacrifice"
Shanower, Eric - "Age Of Bronze Volume 3: Betrayal"
Shirow, Masamune - "Ghost in the Shell"
Simone, Gail - "Welcome to Tranquility"
Simone, Gail - "Birds of Prey: Dead of Winter"
Sizer, Paul - "Moped Army"
Spiegelman, Art - "Maus : a survivor's tale"
Spiegelman, Art - "Maus II : a survivor's tale : and here my troubles began"
Spiegelman, Art - "Breakdowns : portrait of the artist as a young %@[squiggle][star]!"
Stavans, Ilan - "Latino USA: A Cartoon History"
Sturm, James - "Jame's Sturm's America: God, Gold, and Golems"
Tatsumi, Yoshihiro - "Good-Bye"
Tezuka, Osamu - "Buddha Vol. 1 through 8"
Thompson, Craig - "Blankets : an illustrated novel"
Tomine, Adrian - "Shortcomings"
Trillo, Carlos & Risso, Eduardo - "Chicanos v.1"
Van Lente, Fred - "Action Philosophers!"
Van Lente, Fred - "Action Philosophers! #2"
Wantanabe, Taeko - "Kaze Hikarui"
Ware, Chris - "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth"
Willingham, Bill - "Robin/Batgirl: Fresh Blood"
Wilson, G. Willow - "Cairo : a graphic novel"
Winick, Judd - "Pedro and me : friendship, loss, and what I learned"
Wood, Brian & Kelly, Ryan - "Local"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More Facebook fan stuff for your library

So now that we've created a basic Facebook fan page for your library, let's talk a bit about all of the other options that Facebook offers.

First of all go back to your library's fan page that you created in Facebook. If you still need to do this you can look at my last entry for step by step instructions.

You should be in the admin/editing page so you can make changes.

On the left side of the page you should see several boxes; Information, The Wall, Discussion Board, and Mini-Feed.

These boxes can all be edited, deleted, and their order can be changed by clicking on the blue bar on the top of each box.

In the "Information" box click on either the "edit" link in the upper right hand corner of the box or the "Add Information" link in the middle of the box. Click on the "Detailed info" tab at the top of the box. If you haven't done so already type in the address of your library's web page in the "Website" field. You can put multiple websites in this field if you would like as well. Perhaps a link for your library's main page but also a link to your events calender? It's all up to you.

Below the Website field is a field called "General Information". This is where you can put in some general information about your library. It seems that most library's use this field as a place to put their mission statements. It can also be used to post contact information such as email addresses.

After you've updated these fields click on the "Save Changes" box at the bottom of the page.

In the upper right hand corner click on the "Back to editing "Your Libraries name"" link.

This will take you to a page that explains each of the possible fields and the types of information they can contain. You've entered the basic information about your library. Now you can enhance your fan site and start adding fun stuff!

Discussion Boards - are just what they seem. You can post various discussion board topics and patrons of your page can respond. "What are your favorite books?" "What are your favorite movies?" "What sort of events would you like to see at your library?" These discussion boards can be a great way to interact with your patrons.

Events - This is the area where you can post events for your library. This can be a little work intensive as each event needs to be posted individually. Fans of your page will be able to RSVP to events that you post.

Notes - Can be used in several ways or not at all. Some libraries use the Notes area to put up information about special events such as author visits or musical events. These notes are a little more open ended and can be used however you want. Some libraries don't use this field at all.

Photos - Is just what is seems. An area to post photos of your library, staff, and patrons. The photo upload on Facebook is very easy to use and your patrons can post photos as well.

Video - This is an area where you can easily post digital video content. Perhaps a virtual tour of your library? How about a video of a recent special event? What about a video walking patrons through the electronic resources of your library and how to use them? There are a lot of possibilities here.

The Wall - Is an area where the fans of your library's site can post comments or start discussions on their own. This area should be monitored and any inappropriate comments can be responded to or removed if needed. This is another area where library patrons can interact with the library.

There are other things you can do with your library fan page if you explore Facebook even more and learn how to enhance your site.

Other possibilities include setting up links to RSS feeds and real time IM chat. There are online tutorials available through Facebook to do these more advanced features. In the meantime you should be able to set up a great Facebook fan page for your library with all of the basic tools available. Good luck!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

How to create a Facebook fan page for your library

Since opening itself up in late 2006 to anyone with an email account over the age of 13, Facebook has exploded. 2008 seemed to be the year of Facebook with everyone setting up an account. The Facebook culture changed from college students sending pics back and forth of the party on Saturday night, to a bunch of parents trading kid pics. While this may be an oversimplification, the reality is that Facebook has turned into one of the most important social networking tools on the internet.

Because of this, 2008 was also a year when a number of libraries set up Facebook "fan" pages to create a presence in Facebook for their libraries. If your library hasn't set up a Facebook fan page you should consider doing so. It's easy, quick, and a great way to connect with your patrons in the Web 2.0 world.

Step 1: Create a Facebook account. If you haven't done so already you'll be amazed at how many of your friends and family are already on Facebook. You'll also need to do this so you can be the administrator of the fan page.

Step 2: Find another library's fan page. In the upper right hand corner of the Facebook page type, "Skokie Public Library" in the search box, and you'll see a link to their fan page.

Step 3: Scroll to the bottom of that page. You should see a link that says, "Create a Page for My Business". Click on this link.

Step 4: At this point you should see a page called, "Create New Facebook Page". The "local" category should be selected and highlighted in blue. There is a drop down menu. Click on this and you'll see that one of the options is "Library/Public Building" Select this option.

Step 5: Click on the box titled "Name of Library / Public Building" and put in the name of your library.

Step 6: Click on the "Create Page" button at the bottom of the page.

Step 7: At this point you should be presented with a new template page for your Facebook fan site. At the very top you should see a box that says, "Your Page has been created. To start, add information or upload a picture". Click on the "add information" link in this box.

Step 8: You should see a page where you can now input basic information about your library. Fill in the Address, City/Town, Zip, Phone, and Hours fields. There are also tabs for "Picture" and "Detailed Info". Click on the Picture tab and upload a picture of your library if you have one available. Clicking on the Detailed Info tab will bring up a page where you can put in your library's web address and field for any general information about your library.

Step 9: At this point you should get a message that your changes have been saved. Click on the link for your library's fan page that should appear in the upper left hand corner of the page. You should be back at your Facebook fan page template and you should see any information or pictures or links that you created in the previous step. At the top of this page you should see a message that says, "This Page has not been published. To make this Page public, publish this Page." Click on the "publish this Page" link.

Congratulations! You have just created a basic Facebook fan page for your library. In our next post we'll go into more details about other information and features you can add to your library's Facebook fan page.

Favorite books of 2008

While these may not be the best books of 2008 they are my personal favorites.

My favorite non-fiction book of 2008 was "Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets" by Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh.

This book is a sequel of sorts to one of the most popular chapters of the popular "Freakonomics" by Steven Levitt, called "Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live With Their Moms?" It tells the true tale of a University of Chicago grad student who goes into the housing projects of the south side of Chicago to try to learn more about the people that live there.

While the title of the book makes it seem like an examination of gang life in Chicago the book is much more than that. Ultimately the book is about life in the Robert Taylor homes and how the residents there survived. Things that we typically take for granted, such as calling 911 for an emergency and getting a response, are completely different in that world. This book shows how hard things were for the residents of the Robert Taylor homes but also how resourceful these residents were in overcoming the odds that they faced.

This book hit home with me on a personal level because I lived in the Hyde Park area of Chicago in the late 80's early 90's when the events in this book were taking place. I worked at the University of Chicago for a number of years during this period as well. I may have well bumped into the author on campus. I also can't imagine going to the Robert Taylor homes and hanging out with the people there. I often passed by the Robert Taylor homes on the way to White Sox games and a chill would go up my spine. To get an inside glimpse into the lives inside the buildings was an eye opening experience for me.

My favorite fiction book of 2008 was "The End of Baseball" by Peter Schilling Jr. In 1944 Bill Veeck tried to purchase the Philadelphia A's and integrate baseball by creating a team of stars from the Negro Leagues. In reality, when baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis found out about Veeck's plan he quickly put it to an end, and it wouldn't be until 1947 when Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers integrated baseball.

In "The End of Baseball" Peter Schilling imagines a different past were Bill Veeck was able to outsmart Landis and put his team of Negro League superstars on the field. The book imagines a team full of some of the greatest stars from the Negro League era, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, and Martin Dihigo, and gives them personality and life. For this fan of baseball history it was a great read.

Josh Gibson is the tired old gladiator, beaten down by his past, Satchel Paige is as colorful as always and easily dispatches American League hitters, and Martin Dihigo is portayed as a baseball superman, able to play any position better than anyone else. Bill Veeck starts a promotion where a random fan comes on to the field before the game to spin the Martin Dihigo wheel to see what position he'll play that day. One of the options is for Mr. Dihigo to play an inning at every position.

Basically I found this book to be a fun read and a good time. Any fan of baseball history and especially of the Negro Leagues would find this enjoyable as well.