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Thrilling Librarians Doing Thriller January 29, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Just for Fun.
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Wow! I just had to share this list of librarians doing the Thriller dance from Michael Jackson’s famous Thriller video! Thanks to Mental Floss! (Told ya we live double lives!)

Here’s one from the National Library of Australia, but click on the link above to see all of them! (Why are there so many??)

The Double Life of the (Academic) Librarian January 29, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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Libraries everywhere continue to adopt Web 2.0 technologies, embracing sites like Facebook and Twitter to assist in outreach. Often, librarians are asked to become an active part of this community, creating their own user pages. This is true in any kind of collaborative, wiki-type environment. Participants are prompted to create a profile in order to create a sense of community. In a single day, I am unable to avoid the proliferation of social media into my job as an academic librarian. And while this is a positive improvement for the library I find myself facing the same dilemmas that teachers face when they set up a Facebook account: what are my parameters for accepting friend requests; what should I/should I not post; what kind of privacy settings should I adopt?

From Jazz Modeus's Flickr Stream, Creative Commons licensed

Public libraries have certainly embraced the image of the hipster librarian, bespattered with tattoos, perhaps even a piercing, and carrying an organic tote bag displaying though-provoking literary quotes (excuse the stereotype). Not so for the academic librarian. Academia prefers a little more conformity. While our employers may want us to show our individualism and personalities in reference and information literacy sessions, it is not hard to forget that we are professionals working in a professional environment. Working so closely with college students is a sticky situation in itself, especially for those of us who are younger. What role do we adopt? While you may say – librarian and librarian alone, it is not always that easy. We work closely, on a daily basis, with student workers who are far closer in age to us than our co-workers. We share more in common with them as well. Facebook is not a foreign place for us – it has been our mode of communication for some time now. So when our colleagues decide that we should attach our Facebook page to the library’s Facebook page, what do we do? Create two pages – one for the public and one private? This is the exact scenario that my colleague faces.   And while we may not have pictures of us guzzling beers or setting fire to couches, don’t we have a right to keep pictures of our latest camping trip between friends? How do we keep our individuality and our privacy in a world that demands we share?

Niche Blog Friday: Totally Looks Like January 29, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Niche Blogs.
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From the makers of icanhascheezburger.com (which I will always hold dear to my heart), comes TotallyLooksLike – a blog dedicated to making funny picture comparisons. (I can’t vouch if any of these are NSFW, so view with care.) Here are a few of my favorites but make sure to check out the whole blog. You could spend hours on there!

iBooks: the Run Down January 28, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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Ever since watching Steve Jobs announce and describe Apple’s latest project yesterday- the iPad – a tablet computer, I felt compelled to talk about iBooks (an e-book reader app) and how it may affect the e-book market. But alas, 700,000 blogs and web sites (or somewhere around there) had already done it! So I am going to sum up Flavorwire’s “5 Ways the Apple iPad Could Change e-Books”.

From Engadget.com

1. iBooks will allow publishers more control over e-book pricing by creating a formidable opponent to Amazon.com (although there are some fears that iBooks will turn e-books into the market that iTunes turned music into).

2. The iPad will use a new format for e-books which could change the market by forcing competitors to adopt the same standards, thus creating a universal e-book format, or, iBooks could attempt to monopolize the market.

3. The iPad does not have an e-ink screen like Kindles which means, unfortunately, that it is hard on the eyes, but fortunately, that color is possible. (Maybe I don’t know enough about these e-ink screens but couldn’t turning down the brightness of the iPad have the same effect?)

4. Lots of major publishers have already signed on.

From Engadget.com

5. The iPad starts at $500, and while this is much more expensive than a Kindle, the iPad is, after all, a computer, and not just an e-book reader.

There are also numerous concerns about Jobs lack of showing textbooks on the iPad. The Kindle has been tested in many colleges and universities and students like it because it enables the taking of notes in the margins. Not so for the iPad (or at least not yet). ZDNet questions whether the iBooks will be able to get Apple back into education and raises some good questions of the limits of iBooks and the iPad.

What I was most excited about was the new New York Times app which makes the newspaper available in a format that looks once again like the paper you used to get thrown onto your front lawn.

From Engadget.com

What do you think about the iPad? Did it live up to the hype?

For more information on the iPad check out pictures and descriptions of the live event from Engadget here.

Latest Banned Book: the Dictionary January 27, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in InformationIssues.
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No, it’s not April Fool’s Day. I am serious. Southern California schools have banned Merriam Webster’s 10th edition dictionary for its “sexually graphic” description of oral sex. Last time I checked, it was the purpose of the dictionary to describe things as graphically as possible. And “sexually”, um…yeah…it’s a definition of oral sex. Can’t see how they could have gotten around that one…

Read the whole article from the Guardian here.

The (Possible) Effect of Social Media on Democracy January 27, 2010

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Read Write Web’s article on the superficiality of Obama accepting public questions via platforms like YouTube on today’s State of the Union address made me wonder, not for the first time, if technology will once and for all engender the birth of a true democracy. Semantically, America is not a democracy, it is a republic. We elect officials to speak for us. The opinion of each and every citizen is not taken into account. Logistically, a true democracy has always been impossible. Let’s pretend for a moment that the “digital divide” doesn’t exist; that each and every citizen has access to the internet (which hopefully most do in some form or another, via the public library).  Will the use of social media sites enable us to take a step closer to becoming a true democracy, to having the opinions of every single person heard? Is that something we would even want? Will social media really be able to accomplish such a feat?

Obama is notorious for using Web 2.0 technologies and the internet to gain popular support for his platforms (most notable now, health care reform). And today’s user-interaction with the State of the Union address is just another example of his innovation. Read Write Web asks if these attempts are mostly an illusion, as user questions can easily be ignored or filtered without the knowledge of the public (and within YouTube’s restrictions). Participants will also be using Google Moderator to vote which questions are most important to them. While I agree that this type of interaction is not the same as Obama “holding court”, it is important both in its symbolism and its utility.

From Vanity Fair, click on image for the full article.

It is symbolically important in that it shows the White House to be an entity that cares for the opinion of each and every citizen. It also shows that the White House is not a dinosaur and has embraced technological change. (But we already knew that with our young, charismatic Blackberry-addicted president, right?) And while queries can be easily ignored, if a topic comes up repeatedly enough and with enough force, the White House will become aware of it, whether they acknowledge it or not.

This method of communication is useful quite simply because it is easy and immediate. Using the web is clearly less time consuming than writing letters. The White House, with the help of YouTube and Google, can easily quantify the information, something that would be quite laborious with previous methods of data-mining. The novelty and possible anonymity of the platform will also likely involve citizens who might not otherwise be so vociferous.

Read Write Web further criticizes this method of interaction by arguing that large groups can come together to sway the numbers. But is this really a detriment? Isn’t this what groups have been doing for years in the form of petitions, walk-outs, strikes, and protests? While the concerns of a few may be buried by the concerns of larger, more organized groups, at least this platform will give them a reason, and a way to organize for such future occurrences.

What do you foresee as the possible implications of the confluence of social media and government?

Is reading a social or solitary experience? January 27, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in 2666, reading.
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This article from the New York Times last weekend includes a quote from none other than Matthew Bucher, organizer of the Spring 2666 group read of Roberto Bolano’s novel 2666 (which just started – there’s still time to catch up!). He said that he still reads, at night, at home and on his own, but the discussion of what he read the next day only enhances his experience.

I feel the same way – audiobooks notwithstanding (they have their own place) I don’t want to read in a group; I read by myself. However the article includes quotes from other readers who indicate they are somehow disappointed to know that anyone has ever read the same book as them. They feel that the world of the novel is their own secret place, and for someone else to read the book is like an unwelcome intruder in that world.

While I have felt connected to some of my favorite books, even so much so with some of my favorites as to imagine they went on without me everytime I put them down, I have never felt the imaginary world to be mine exclusively. Rather, when I found a particularly special world, I was (am still) eager to share that world with friends who I know would also appreciate it. (Just ask any of the individuals I continually press my latest reads upon.)

So what do you think? Solitary or Social Activity? Do you like to share books?

Can You Judge a Book by Its Cover? January 26, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in Uncategorized.
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We have a friend, J.S. who works as a youth librarian at a Public Library. Recently, she brought to our attention the age old question of, “Can you judge a book by its cover?”

In her experience, kids seem to have no idea what kind of books they like. When asked outright, “what kind of books do you like”, some children will reply, “paperback” or “hardcover.” Many of them are more focused on what their friends will think if they are caught reading the book, than on what is inside. In part, this adds to the popularity of movie-tie-in versions of books, with famous actors on the covers. J.S. says the movie-cover versions of The Lord of The Rings are far more popular than the editions with the original artwork.

As a librarian, and perhaps as a reader, this is discouraging, especially in cases where the movie has been changed from the original story in the book. J.S. cites Cheaper By the Dozen as an example of this. The classic novel was turned into a cute movie, and children that enjoy the movie and then seek out the book with the picture from the movie on the cover are sure to be surprised since the story is quite different.

J.S. points us to an amusing post she found while looking into book covers, which collects a series of books that have been egregiously disadvantaged by someone’s apparent lack of any taste whatsoever.

What do you think? Can you judge a book by its cover? Would you ever pick up that Sherlock Holmes book above?

Monday Book Review: them January 25, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in Book Reviews.
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Last year when we posted about the 60th anniversary of the National Book Awards, I was surprised at how few of the winners I had read. Since then, I read and reviewed the novella The Robber Bridegroom by Eudora Welty, and now I have finally finished and will review them, by Joyce Carol Oates, National Book Award winner in 1970.

them (note: the title is intentionally not capitalized) is a novel about 3 main characters, a mother and 2 of her children during the 3 decades following World War II and their pursuit of the American Dream. Loretta, the mother, begins the novel as a beautiful young teenager, full of hope for a life of fortune, leisure and happiness. Of course, if that was how her life had turned out, the story would barely be worth writing, and so it’s no spoiler to tell you that instead, she ends up pregnant, married to a dirty cop and living in her in-laws house until her husband gets in trouble and they all move out to the country. The cop-husband leaves them all to fight in the war, leaving Loretta with 2 young children and another on the way. After some time of putting up with her in-laws, Loretta packs up all the kids and moves back to the city (Detroit) where her kids grow up as street urchins. She shuffles them from one dirty apartment to another, always trying to make a step up, but never quite making it. As the kids get older, their father returns, and both parents are unhappy drunks. The older 2 children, Jules and Maureen, take on more and more responsibility, while dreaming of how their futures will be so much better than their parents’. They will move out, make money, get married and have real lives. The novel continues as Jules and Maureen get older and follows their attempts to make it out of poverty, to escape their roots and to make something better of themselves. I can’t say whether or not they are successful, but when the novel ends, each of the characters is exactly where I would expect them to be.

I found this quote about Ms. Oates’ writing for this novel on the National Book Award Blog, and can’t say it better:

Her style allows the reader to focus on story without the intrusion of unfamiliar language, so artfully done, an exercise in event, an adventure in domestic darkness.

Augmented Reality: Enlightening or Aesthetic? January 25, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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Though I’ve been living an augmented reality most of my life, turns out you can download augmented reality apps for use on mobile devices as well. So what’s all the hype about? And are these apps really providing information that we couldn’t already obtain with other apps and reformatting them in more aesthetically pleasing ways? Tell me what you think after you watch the video below.

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