Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Library School: One Month In

As always there is about a month lag with these things. Basically I outline them, then get started drafting them, and then get distracted. So while I just finished this, I actually did the bulk of the writing in September.

I’ve been in library school for a month so far. Largely I’m caught up or ahead in all my classes. While I’ve learned a lot, I feel like a large portion of it is ephemeral, more theory and history than any sort of skills which will help me be a librarian. Not that I am complaining because I love thinking and talking about that stuff. What I've realized is that I pick that stuff up naturally, and what I need to focus on for my own professional development is the techne of my field of study. I though I would share some of the more practical lessons I've learned though my experiences so far. I've learned more from my extra circular activities so far than from my classes, but I chalk that up to my choice of reading materials and the fact that I extensively researched librarianship before deciding to embark on this career path.

Lesson 1: Schedule stuff
Your university will assign you an email address and route it through a vender. Most likely this will be either a Google or Outlook package. As part of this you will have the opportunity to use an integrated schedule. Use it and keep it updated, especially MS Outlook. Outlook has a meeting-scheduling tool that is wicked hot. It lets you see what other people you want to invite have available. This by in large makes the process of scheduling meetings extremely simple, and a good meeting is a simple meeting. If you have a Mac get the Mac version of office and route your account through that. There are third party options but they constitute extra steps and extra learning curves for other people, which make them by far less preferable.

Lesson 2: Nothing is political everything is political
I read this in an essay from Revolting Librarians Redux. What this means is that while nothing in the library is supposed to be political (i.e. Conservative v. Liberal) everything in the library is steeped in interpersonal politics. Most of this is standard fiefdom bullshit, but some of it is routed in the larger conflict between liberals and conservatives (in a Locke v. Burke sense).

As always, it’s good to avoid this if possible. However, it is a reality of any work place, so you should get used to the idea now. It is probably a good idea to start reading management oriented books and developing people skills if you have not started doing so already. Networking with your cohort is a great place to practice these skills. Also, remember that discretion is always the better part of valor, and the most essential part of politics.

Lesson 3: Library experience is king.
As soon as I read about this I realized how true it is. Then I got a job in a library and realized how much there is to learn that many of my classes won’t even hint at. Some of this is due prioritizing one thing over another academically and the fact that library school does not last forever. However, I do get to learn these skills on the job, which probably translates better to a resume than I read a book about cataloging.

Library experience has become even more important I started realizing how tough it is right now to get a job in a library. Many people I’ve met here have library degrees but were unable to find positions right out of library school despite having great resumes so they took lower paying, less secure, paraprofessional and staff positions instead.

You need library experience and to be a rock star in order to get a job in an academic library these days, and possibly in a public library as well. While the profession is graying, and thank god it is finally starting to lead to retirements, efficiency gains have meant that most of the times hiring is limited to filling positions as opposed to the creation of a new position. For example of how difficult getting a librarian position can be in King County, you have to all ready be in the system in order to apply for a position in the library pool. You have to enter the library at a lower position just that they will look at hiring you if there is a vacancy, there’s no guarantee that you’ll even get a full time or permanent position. That’s in the second busiest library system in the United States. So basically you need to work in a library while in library school, whether you’re able to do that or not you have to be a rock star. Here’s a great blog post that can show you how to rock out even if another job, or other situation prevents you from working in a library. Also worth checking out on this subject is this, blog post, by Heidi, a second year MLIS student at the University of Washington (I wish I was in Seattle right now), which distills many of the points for getting library experience while in school.

Lesson 4: Twitter is your friend.
I actually learned this before library school, but it’s become doubly as important since I started my MLIS program. Twitter is key for several reasons, the biggest one is networking. You get to meet a lot of cool people on twitter and even if you don’t have the opportunity to go to things like ALA twitter will help people find you. When you’re in library school, other librarians and library science students will seek you out. You’ll get great job hunting tips. Advanced postings on job openings, and when you do go to ALA you won’t have to be all awkward introducing yourself to people.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Reflecting on starting library school

I’m currently a Masters in Library and Information Science Candidate at University of South Carolina. In an effort to better understand my own personal growth I wrote what follows before the start of my classes. I’m posting it in the hopes that it; solicits responses that might further, inspires others to take up or rekindle their interest in librarianship, and makes critical self reflection more immediate, instructive, and accessible.

    I know most libraries have books. That’s about the only thing I know at this point. But I have ideas. Maybe some are right, maybe some are wrong, and maybe those wrong ideas are the right ones. The hope in those ideas is why I am writing this,. At some point in the future I want to be able to look back at this and reflect on what I’ve learned, what I’ve lost, and maybe draw some sort of brilliant idea out of my present naïveté.

    I believe that libraries are primarily cultural institutions. They house societies collected knowledge, societies potential knowledge, and the building blocks of societies future knowledge. Libraries house cultural artifacts, most importantly books, but also knowledge in other forms such as music on compact disc, hence the collected knowledge. At the same time libraries also have more information than any one person can possibly accumulate in a life time. Good librarians haven’t read everything in their collection, they just know what and where it is, and if they don’t they know how to find it. If a book is forgotten but still in the libraries collection, than I don’t think its information can be considered part of societies knowledge base. But the beautiful thing about preserving that knowledge is that it can be found again, hence the idea of potential knowledge. Libraries also contain the building blocks for future knowledge, businesses are started there, papers are researched there, the metaphors that inspire us to dream new dreams are found on its shelves. Increasingly but also traditionally, libraries provide secondary services that allow for knowledge to be created. Ray Bradbury wrote the Fahrenheit 451 in the basement of the Los Angeles Library on a public type writer. Who knows what books are being written on public computers today at your local library?

    I believe that libraries are important equalizers in our modern era. Andrew Carnigee, who could be considered the patron saint of public libraries in the US, built libraries across the country, so that every man could have access to the education that resided in its books. Today, information is more important, less centralized, and generated at an alarming rate. One of the most important services libraries give us is access to parts of this new infoscape that have been walled off. Even more important they give us access to professionals, the librarian, who understand the information ecology and can help people navigate to find the facts in the midst of an exponentially increasing mire of marketing, and opinion. Access, to this increasingly walled off set of hard information is one of the most important services libraries provide. I think it’s the real reason why libraries have computers, to facilitate fence hopping, helping not just information be free, but also letting people freely access it. The preservation of access to the closing fields of knowledge is arch stone for libraries. It’s followed on either side by access to producing content, and access to digital services.

    What about librarians, what are their role in libraries? I think librarians have a three fold role in the modern library: The first is preserving the knowledge of the past. Preserving this data requires both preservation of the actual artifacts as well as digitizing them, as able, to keep that knowledge active in an increasingly digital world. Second: A librarian must facilitate access to information. They do this in several ways:
-Traditional reference services.
-Computer education
-Information education

    The third point probably requires a brief explanation. Librarians are not merely the finders of information, or the curators, I believe librarians are the guides. Like any good guide, as they lead people to there quarry, they should educate about the information ecology, and teach others how to navigate information for themselves. This sort of knowledge and education is called information literacy, or information fluency. Librarians play an important role in our society in maintaining and spreading information literacy. This role is especially important in the face of fairly quality and easy to use services like Google. Finally, librarians have to facilitate the creation of new content. That means supporting authors, helping coordinate community activities, and directly creating content themselves (either as reviews of content, unique cultural artifacts, or new ways of accessing data, a sort of meta content). This focus must be rooted in the communities they serve. Libraries are increasingly becoming digital commons. By continuing and expanding their support for local libraries build communities out of suburbs, and maintain unique local identities. By popularizing the local they give it cultural value, which in turn creates a necessary base of originality in the new world of the global monoculture.

    I know that what I’ve written above may at time seem contrarian, ludicrous, and ignorant. The point in writing this is, as explained above, is to provide myself a control against which to measure bench marks. I’ve posted it in the hopes that it might inspire others to take the same fool hearted plunge I did; or for those who have come before, a spark to recapture their own youthful idealism. I’ll try and keep these posts coming throughout the school year, and a head as I learn about and engage more fully with Library and Information Sciences and librarianship. Classes have just started, and I feel like I’ve already learned so much.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

King Rolen's Kin: Rolen's Bastard Trailer

I found the link to this trailer through Locus's monitor section. If you like scifi, its great to troll through the list and see what new books are out. Its got pretty handy encapsulation of reactions to the books on the list, and notes on their extra features, marketing, ect.

Monday, July 5, 2010

What is a public library?

A crazy spoof of the iPad commercials.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

50 Science Fiction Fantasy novels for socialists from China Mieville.

I just stumbled across this. It's a couple years old now. The link is to a list of fifty science fiction and fantasy works for socialists compiled by China Mieville. It was a refreshing find after spending the day in the splendor of selling Glenn Beck's latest literary abortion.

For those of you not in the know. China Mieville is an incredibly brilliant and innovative science fiction and fantasy writer. His work can best be categorized in the sub genera deemed by Jeff Vandermeer "the new weird," and contains elements of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. I highly recommend checking out his books, The Scar, and The City and The City. I know a lot of people liked King Rat as well, but I couldn't find any drum and bass mixes to read it to.

One of the thing, I like about Mieville is his politics, and how, while they inform his writings, he isn't heavy handed about it. Rather Mieville seemingly keeps them at arms length, slowly seeping in and tinging his worlds in their sepia tones. So, while his Baslag novels are shaded with all of the human tragedies imposed by a corrupt republic, in the name of mercantilism capitalism, there is always something twice as sinister threatening the city state. His heroes are also invested in that city and its culture even as they flee from, rebel against, or try to save its decedent and exploitative soul.

oh, and Mieville?!? The dude has a Ph.D in international law from the London School of Economics! How bad ass is that? Plus I think he'd beat most SF authors in an fight any day of the week.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Major Karnage Chapter 1. and other matters.

I was looking at the publisher Chizine's website, and found this. I haven't watched it yet, so it may be terrible, but felt obligated to post something on here. So...

I'm reading A Book Of Tongues right now, by Gemma Files, also out on Chizine. It is pretty good, despite bordering on gay erotica. When I picked it up I knew it featured a homosexual relationship, but it goes father than that. It's not the gay sex that's been problematic for me, its the presence of graphic sex as a major part of the narrative. If you have a kid under 18 it may not be appropriate. I probably would have put the book down if it was hetero sex, But my liberal sensibilities haven't let me act on any possible bias. I', glad I listened to them because the book has just gotten interesting again.

So far the book has been enjoyable, the weird west style is tight, the magic is dirty, multicultural, and dark. I see some problems with the end of the second act, but I'll save my judgment until I finish the book. I may or may not write a review, although given all I've read and not written about, I doubt this will be the book to change anything.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Copyright, Digital Media, and Ethics

Recently a storm has been brewin’ on the web over columnist Randy Cohen address of book piracy in his latest Ethicist spot, published in the New York Times. A reader wrties:
“I bought an e-reader for travel and was eager to begin “Under the Dome,” the new Stephen King novel. Unfortunately, the electronic version was not yet available. The publisher apparently withheld it to encourage people to buy the more expensive hardcover. So I did, all 1,074 pages, more than three and a half pounds. Then I found a pirated version online, downloaded it to my e-reader and took it on my trip. I generally disapprove of illegal downloads, but wasn’t this O.K.? C.D., BRIGHTWATERS, N.Y.”

Cohen approves morally saying that there is a disconnect between the law (downloading the book was clearly illegal) and the morality of the act (here Cohen approves). Cohen’s response has garnered varied responses. Paul Constant, the book critic at Seattle’s alt weekly The Stranger, agrees, while over at Moby Lives Megan Halpern writes a vitriolic rant against the column. Most importantly these responses and the original column itself raise an interesting point, what is ethical ownership of a book?

Obviously if you buy a hardcover book you own that hardcover book. You can read it any time you want, you can draw in it, you can lend it to your friends to read, and then not give back to you, and you can resell it. These are all accepted legal aspects of the book. But do those rights and ownership extend automatically to ownership of a digital edition of the book?

If you digitally copy the book yourself, you’re in the clear. Just like ripping a cd to your computer, or making a mix tape back in the day, you as the owner of the book have a certain purview called fair use. Fair use, legally and ethically, allows you to have some control over your copy of the book, or CD. It lets you have some control over how, when, and where you enjoy that piece of media. Fair use is less a moral dilemma of the public and more one for the artist and their artistic control, but its one that they give up to allow society to consume their work. They get fame and financial benefit and give up some control, and if they want more control, then they should be a performance artist and not an author.

Publishers may disagree, because they want to sell you digital copies. However, Big Pub should take a lesson from the Big Music. In the 1990’s and early 2000’s the music industry attempted to block fair use of music by mandating heavy DRM on digital music software, and loading up their cd’s with all sorts of cleaver tricks to keep people from pirating music. They even created a draconian piece of legislation which even today stifles digital creativity and innovation in Business, the DMCA. The result of all this was that people got ticked off at the music industry and stopped buying music. The rise of digital piracy isn’t associated with the rise of Napster or BitTorrent, it started when the music business decided that they had to force their customers to buy their music twice.

Since then the music industry has learned its lesson and adopted a model of distribution that doesn’t involve shackling consumers. The book industry shouldn’t either. If I buy a book, I have every right to digitize it. If that book is digital, than I have every right to print it, and read it however I choose. I even have the right to bind it into a book, whether the law completely recognizes it or not.

However, I don’t have the right to distribute it. Nor do I have the right to illegally download them. The music and movie industries have realized this, allowing internet radio stations to broadcast more freely, and removing DRM from their downloadable products. The movie industry had begun to distribute movies and TV online through Netflix, and Hulu, while the music industry has, and Pandora. Publishing has the same thing, its called the library. Many of which have begun to offer Ebooks for loan.

With legal means available to get a digital copy distributing, and downloading pirated copies, is not ok. Even if you bought the hardback, however people who spend $30 on a novel will admittedly feel like they have rights beyond normal. Publishers are realizing this and a few are moving to sell eBooks bundled with their hardback counterparts. However, that’s not what was asked. In the particular case discussed above, Cohen clearly missed the mark. We just don’t need to insult the man to point out his errors.

Here is a link to the original Ethicist Column, Constant’s Slog Post, and Halpern’s Open Letter.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Brick and Mortar Giants rush into the digital arena, but can the dinosaurs compete with the deep efficiencies of their new competition?

Mobylives posts a link to a Publisher Weekly article that quotes Barnes and Noble's CEO Steve Ringo as saying that Barnes and Nobles will transition from a brick and mortar bookstore into an "E-commerce retailer," and that his booksellers will become "e-book evangelists."

I posted my thoughts on the possibility of this new Barnes and Nobles, as a comment on Mobylives, and now I am cross posting them here:

I think this is a really bad move for Barnes and Nobles. Not the selling of E-books, but making it the core of their business. They risk loosing focus on their brand and their key business of selling books. Such hubris can be dangerous.

There is also the question about their position as a stable player in the E-book market. There is a lawsuit over their vehicle for this transition, the Nook, by former partner Spring Design. This threatens to derail the Nook in its current incarnation. Spring Design has recently signed a deal with Barnes and Noble competitor Borders to release a more robust but similar e-reader, the Alex. Borders conservative attitude to moving into new forms of retail may have finally paid off.

The e-book market has a huge potential for retailers especially those with the market share to transition large portions of their paper book customers to new e-book readers. But I still wonder if its the right way for to go. I almost feel that moving towards a point of services printing model is the best direction for large chains to go. Training costumers to go online or electronic moves them away from the space of the store and the bookstore experience. That physical presence and experience is the one advantage that Barnes and Nobles and Borders have over established and upstart online sellers which can operate more efficiently, and at a lower cost in the internet and electronic markets then a company with split priorities. Borders and Barnes and Nobles could quickly find themselves flanked on both sides.

We could see a huge revival in independent stores. An Independent store rooted in the community and able to compete with title availability thanks to point of service printing technologies poses a real danger for a large big box retail chain struggling in two markets at once. Unlike the big 3 book retailers, Independent bookstores are already moving to adopt the point of service model with three stores in the Seattle area purchasing new machines. Xerox has also gotten in to the game, which means these machines will most likely get smaller, more reliable, and cheaper.

One thing is for sure, whether large or small the book stores of tomorrow are going to be radically different from the bookstores of today.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Book News Roundup Friday - Volume 1 Issue 3

- A library in New Jersey is setting up blind dates for patrons on valentines day... with books. This according to a North Jersey news site. In this programs librarians have wrapped books pulled from all over the collection, and patrons can pick one up. The magic is that it's a clever way to get people to read something they never would have before. Thanks to mobylives for digging this up!

- The founder of Second Life has decided to create an artificial intelligence on Second Life. The Link to the article is here, and I stole it from Boing Boing. This has huge implications for lots of stuff. I almost think that it would be an ideal environment for an AI though. With all the libraries and what not on there it could avoid some of the problems of AI. Specifically giving a new intelligence reference points that would make communicating with it possible. In Housuke Nojiri's Usuper of the Sun the AI has just that problem. With out a set of indexing experiences the moment of sentience leads to an existential feedback loop that makes AI functionally a vegetable. Its logical to assume that real AI might face the same problem. Second life could provide a sort of handy set of memories to make any future AI more stable. Then again, that could just be the crazy talking. Either way, really exciting!

-TOR.Com has a really interesting article on the nature of good and evil, and scifi. Really interesting and written by Jon Evans, check it out here.

- NYPL Blog has some really good detective fiction recommends.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

News Roundup - Vol. 1 Iss. 2

The news so far from Thursday, the 11th of February:

-Looks like the America's library is closed again. Why, snow why? Via Also, Mobylives is down today because of the snow. I'm a sad panda.

- The King County Library System takes a look at the portrait work of Jill Greenberg. The review of her newest book is here. Via KCLS Library Talk

- Author Jon Scalzi checks out some new arrivals on his blog. Via Whatever. Scalzi also recently published a book called Your Hate Mail will be Graded of hate mail from his blog. I am really excited to read it.

- The Wall Street Journal has a very interesting article about book selling and demographics. via Bookninja.

- In other news Shelf Talk has all the dirt on the latest about the final book in the Hunger Games Trilogy here.

- Some changes in the catalog. Digital records are being increasingly integrated into the general catalog search, in this case OAister. Check it out here!

- Sup

Book News Vol. 1 issue 1

I have decided to take a page from Bookninja and do a news roundup. The reason is quite simple, my Twitter account has become cluttered. It should supplement this blog, not subvert it. It must be really annoying to be in the middle of one of my twitter spews. So, hurray! New feature! This should be posted almost every weekday.

So, what was in the news yesterday?
Book News:
-Diary that inspired Go Down, Moses discovered. Via NY Times.

Library Stuff:
-Library of Congress is closed! Pesky Snow! Via LOC Twitter. gives you the power to make a list widget. Look for some here soon! Via's blog.

- NYPL book chats The Shadow of the Wind.

This is the industry:
-Its the market stupid! E-booksellers should think about E-book buyers. Via NY Times.

- An older Cory Doctorow piece on copyright.

- Canadian copyright group backtracks, result a more sane set of recommendations. Via Boing Boing.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Electric Church in One Minute

The Avery Cates books (The Electric church, The Digital Plague, and The Eternal Prinson) are among the best cyberpunk ever written, and certainly worth being ranked in top 3 best cyberpunk stories of last 5 years (as a trilogy). In this youtube video, Author Jeff Somers sums up his first book, The Electric Plague in under a minute. Warning: There are a few spoilers and loads of whit.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Books to film: The Lightning Thief Trailer

The first book in the Percy Jackson series is coming to film. Check out the trailer! It looks really cool!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How to read Science Fiction and Fantasy

Jo Walton has a tremendous essay at TOR.Com about how to read Science Fiction and Fantasy. Its an amazing peice of writing that looks at how we read. I love Scifi and its easy to see how my love of that genera has effected the way I read as a whole.

Here is a snippet:
"Samuel Delany suggested that rather than try to define science fiction it’s more interesting to describe it, and of describing it more interesting to draw a broad circle around what everyone agrees is SF than to quibble about the edge conditions. (Though arguing over the borders of science fiction and fantasy is a neverending and fun exercise.) He then went on to say that one of the ways of approaching SF is to look at the way people read it—that those of us who read it have built up a set of skills for reading SF which let us enjoy it, where people who don’t have this approach to reading are left confused.

If you’re reading this, the odds are overwhelming that you have that SF reading skillset.

(As I’m using it here, “science fiction” means “science fiction” and “SF” means “the broad genre of science fiction and fantasy.”)

We’ve all probably had the experience of reading a great SF novel and lending it to a friend—a literate friend who adores A.S. Byatt and E.M. Forster. Sometimes our friend will turn their nose up at the cover, and we’ll say no, really, this is good, you’ll like it. Sometimes our friend does like it, but often we’ll find our friend returning the book with a puzzled grimace, having tried to read it but “just not been able to get into it.” That friend has approached science fiction without the necessary toolkit and has bounced off. It’s not that they’re stupid. It’s not that they can’t read sentences. It’s just that part of the fun of science fiction happens in your head, and their head isn’t having fun, it’s finding it hard work to keep up."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cory Doctorow - Makers Game

I'm working on a post about the top Sci-fi Fantasy book of 2009. While I haven't had a chance to read Makers yet, but I am looking forward too it. Here's a little game to keep you busy while I work on my net post, the Top Sci-Fi Novel of 2009.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Up in the Air - Walter Kirn

Up In the Air by Walter Kirn
Reviewed by Zack Frazier

Up in the Air by Walter Kirn is a frenetic novel, filled with all the “joys” of modern air travels. minus the thing the TSA makes you do with your shoes. It was published just months before September 11th, 2001. After that tragedy Kirn’s book was forgotten in the new anxiety over air travel. Year’s later director Jason Reitman has put Kirn’s narrator and hero Ryan Bingham back into the pseudo-friendly skys, and Kirn’s book is now back on the map.

On its face Up in the Air is about Bingham’s Quest for 1 million frequent flyer miles on the budget airline his company has forced him to travel on. The book begins with Bingham addressing you, his new single serving friend. Bingham begins telling his tale, and from the start things seem normal. The first chapters have a plucky, sane, and cheerful narrative that draw the reader into Kirn's novel.

A bit deeper is Bingham’s discontent for his job as a Career to Career Transitions Specialist, or a layoff consultant for executives. A large part of the book is focused on his quest to change his corporate destiny and work for Myth Tec, a marketing research company who’s work is never quite made clear, until the end of the book.

The real story though, and what makes this book incredible, is that Bingham is going mad. The steadiness of those chapter disappears gradually as Bingham opens up. With his admissions of sins and obsessions gaps begin to appear. The spreading gaps and erratic energy that grows in the narrative like a sting being pulled from a sweater. The question becomes not is Bingham sane, our his adventures normal, but how crazy is he?

In many ways we go mad with him, because while Bingham has a tragic excuse for his issues, we the reader don’t. Bingham is very much a cog in our society, a modern day corporate every man. When we pity him, when we hate him, when we are disgusted with him, we reflect that back on ourselves. Bingham like the nameless narrator in Fight Club, is un-located by the new modernity. Both Bingham, and the Fight Club narrator no longer have fathers, but more importantly both are employed for corporations doing work that demands detachment; personal, positional, and emotional. Both go mad slowly because of that detachment. Bingham is up in the air not only for us but with us. When we listen to his story we can come to realize what is un-situated with ourselves by society and modern capitalism. This ability to allow for meaningful reflection makes Up in the Air not just good art, but also art that is worth reading. Maybe understanding where we aren’t is as important as understanding where we are, or will be. Up in the Air provides the reader with a new perspective on all three.

Friday, January 1, 2010

This is Your Future!

Welcome to A Wild Book Chase. Wild Book Chase (WBC) is a blog about books, the search for books, and the joys that come from finding just the right book. WBC will do a few things:

1) Our goal is to be mobile. Literature is all over the place, you just have to look. WBC aims to be where the written word is alive. We'll be traveling to a variety of book related locations from libraries to publisher's offices, and we'll writing about what and who we find.

2) WBC has a Twitter presence with blips about the latest book read, breaking publishing news, or just re-tweets from some of our favorite authors. You can check the Twitter feed at

3) Book reviews providing a lens on literature. We'll be reviewing books with our own take. Book reviews should be about why a book is good, as well as about why you should read it. Too many book reviews just summarize the plot. We aim to go further then just posting what we read from book jacket. We'll let you know what books are worth a look.

Thanks for stopping by, enjoy your stay, and keep reading.