RETRO: Catalogue Card Creator

14 March, 2007 at 5:24 pm (library, webjunk)

Cackles of Compassion catalogue card

Made with the Catalog Card Generator, and the assistance of the Library of Congress and the Library Corporation. In-jokes made incomprehensible without any assistance whatsoever.

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Central Dogma

4 March, 2006 at 11:00 pm (comics, library)

Lego Batman sculpture from NYCC.  Photo by No_Onions.Many, many, manymany people have written about the recent New York ComicCon. They were, mostly, people who were in attendance, and therefore had something interesting to say. I wasn’t, so I’ve waited for the furor to die down somewhat before I felt it was safe to comment upon something that I really don’t have much experience in. That and, well, I had already blogged this week, and I find it hard to break the habit of storing up entires for those long, cold stretches when one really doesn’t have much to add to the global commentary.

Publisher’s Weekly does a — shock! — weekly newsletter about the comic book scene, and they covered a conference of librarians at the NYCC to discuss the issues surrounding coded and overt depiction of sexuality in manga. Manga is hot in bookstores these days, and so it’s also hot in libraries. And because it’s hot. many publishers have jumped on the bandwagon and purchased the U.S. reprint rights to all sorts of speed-lined, zip-a-tone garbage that is well and truly thought of as ephemeral if not disposable in its country of origin. And librarians, despite the fact that they claim to be experts in evaluating sources and resources, are apparently all higglety-pigglety about being able to distinguish which manga is actually worth reading, and which manga might cause the average parent to transform into a short, stumpy, superdeformed caricature of steaming wrath.

TokyoPop's rating system for their manga albums.So, the article says, librarians would like ratings on manga. They acknowledge that some manga is rated already, but what they’d really prefer are the kind of ratings that the MPAA has been supplying recently — the kind where the reader is also provided with a laundry list of all the purile reasons why someone might want to go see this particular flick. (I’m being snide, of course, but mostly about the MPAA.) Certain librarians at this panel did feel like the ratings were insufficient in allowing them to anticipate content. And one interesting and accurate point was that even initial readings may not be an accurate gague of future content: “A manga series will start out clean and age-appropriate and later in the series will develop more mature themes.” Of course, due to the delay between domestic publication and U.S. publication, it shouldn’t be too difficult to see if a particular series has turned blue in Japan before volume one is printer over here.

But that’s not really the key point of why I bring up this whole sundry tale. Librarians aren’t supposed to want ratings. According to the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, “Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” This has, in fact, been specifically interpreted to indicate that it would be unethical for a librarian to not stock or to deny the circulation of Rated-R films to youth. “Policies that set minimum age limits for access to any nonprint materials or information technology, with or without parental permission, abridge library use for minors.” Whoops. Guess you weren’t supposed to ask for that. No wonder the PW article described her as “hesitant”. BURN THE HERETIC! BUUUURRRNNN HEEEERRRRR!!!

Of course, the real reason why this pinged my radar is because I think that particular proscription of the Library Bill of Rights is the best self-defeating statement since “All generalizations are false”. If the ALA make a dogmatic statement of doctrine stating that libraries aren’t allowed to follow dogma or doctrine, then they are obligated not to select or proscribe materials based upon the Library Bill of Rights. Whoops, again.

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Horn-Rimmed Spectacles

5 November, 2005 at 5:16 am (library)

There were a spate of articles in the recent past about Singles Supermarket shopping evenings, that would allow unattached foodees to scope each other out while simultaenously being able to check out what they were planning on carting to the check-out.

New ways of organizing the event of meeting people is apparently good business and therefore good news, and so we have also read articles about speed-dating, internet dating, singles nights at dog-walking parks, and the like. I’ve always felt that if there were enough single people to provide fodder for all these techniques and still keep both personals columns and bars populated, then there must be enough single people out there that it shouldn’t require vast machinations to meet them.

Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Informations SciencesSays the single thirty year-old man. Anyway…

The British Library has recently publicized their second library-based singles evening, an event that is taking place in conjunction with their “Beautiful Minds” exhibit. I very much enjoyed the sales pitch for the event — called a “mingle” — which mentioned that the exhibit is about “the history of the Nobel Prize, focusing specifically on 30 individual Prize-winners, over the whole range of six prizes — Peace, Physics, Chemistry, Economic Sciences, Physiology or Medicine, and Literature — from the past 100 years. What better backdrop for people who are bold, bright, bored and single to meet their match?”

Unfortunately, the event may pall next to the rather ordinary backdrop that the British Library provides for the passionate. Guardian writer Will Hodgkinson claims that one doesn’t need to get dolled up and go to a special exhibit at the library, when it is already teeming with sparks.

[S]exual tension… crackles like electricity throughout the building. In the old British Library, this tension exploded on to the toilet walls, where quivering dons would scrawl profanities too shocking to repeat here, but in the new building it is mostly confined to furtive eye contact and the occasional conquest. “I met my three last boyfriends in the British Library,” says Glaser. “You’re working in the abstract, sharing space with these people who you cannot imagine existing in the world outside, and the sexual and personal life is repressed for most of the day. But believe me, when it comes out, it comes out with a vengeance.”

None of the above should come as a surprise to the students and librarians closer to home. There was a minor flap in 2001, covered by the New York Times as well as Rolling Stone, I believe, when the Yale “Porn and Chicken Club” decided to make a student-produced and -performed blue movie about the not-uncommon phenomenon of students having sex in the aisles and shelves of the library. Apparently, the film was never completed, at least not for public release. And with the vast array of quote-unquote “amateur” pr0n out there, I’m sure that it’s not a great loss to the world. It certainly won’t have much affect on frantic fumblings between mutually beautiful minds in the stacks. One of the many reasons why high school librarians tend to prefer designing their demesnes with half-height, well-lit shelving.

And just because I fully expect this entry to be egregiously blogrolled by automated blogspot traffic aggregators because of my use of certain vocabulary, let’s go for broke: make sure you give a spin to The New Pornographers’ “Mass Romantic“.

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Oxford English-ish Dictionary

5 September, 2005 at 5:17 pm (library)

I understand that the Oxford English Dictionary does not consider itself to be a prescriptive dictionary. Their mission, to chronicle the important textual usage of words and how that contributes to a wealth of connotation, is a noble one and it provides an invaluable resource. However, the massive undertaking that used to be involved in the updating of a dictionary always made it a prescriptive tool, regardless of its intent. By detailing usage, the OED codified it and validated it, because people treat any dictionary as a usage guide, as opposed to a usage catalogue.

And now that chronicling usage has become simpler, words that are not so much “words” as they are sloppy reductions and adaptations of of established morphemes are being included in the Online Oxford English Dictionary. People worry about the effect instant messaging will have upon communication and upon the writing skills of the current generation of students. Worry more about the student that points with a stylus at the screen of a wireless ThinkPad and says, “Screw ‘formal writing’, granddad… Your precious OED says its a word right there. And if the OED lists it as a word, you can’t mark it wrong on my paper!”

Don’t get me wrong, I think a dictionary should enumerate slang, I just think it should be clearly marked as such. If you’re going to integrate entries, I at least want obvious indications of some sort of verbal caste system.

Usually there’s a minor media kerfuffle about new words included in the dictionary, but updated entries for an online dictionaries — even the OED — must be small potatoes these days when the New York Times (which, I feel I should point out, snooty word freaks would tell one should be properly called the “New York Times“, regardless of what appears on the banner) uses the opening sentence “When you sculpture heads…” instead of “sculpt heads”. Or perhaps I’m off base. Anyway, when the Times can’t be counted upon to fact-check stories, uphold its position as the fifth estate, or even maintain the standardization of the English language, then the following excerpted list shouldn’t seem too surprising:

The following completely new entries were added to OED Online on 9 June 2005:
abdominizer, n.
alley-oop, adv., int., a., and n.
arsey, a.
beered-up, a.
bogart, v.
boyf, n.
brown dwarf, n.
buttlegger, n.
buttlegging, n.
carb, n.2
clip art, n.
conspiracism, n.
co-pay, n.
dagnabbit, int.
deconflict, v.
dequeue, v.
derivatization, n.
derivatize, v.
derivatized, a.
dickwad, n.
disconnect, n.
downwinder, n.
dumpster-dive, v.
emo, n.
emo-core, n.
ergogenic, a.
fabbo, a. (and int.)
filmize, v.
FOAF, n.
foo fighter, n.
fubar, v.
girlf, n.
grammatology, n.
he-said-she-said, a. and n.
in-box, n. and a.
ka-ching, n. and int.
ka-ching, v.
skank, v.
techno-shaman, n.
tricknology, n.
versioning, n.
vidiot, n.
wuss, n.2
wussy, n. and a.
zombied, a.
zombification, n.
zombified, a.
zombify, v.

For a complete list of changes and updates, download this 12-page PDF (120 KB). It’s an interesting list: very British in places, and some of the new entries seem head-scratchingly late in coming. Why has “tikka masala” been absent all this time? Still, I wish that a great many of the brand-new entries had been included as variations and sub-entries instead of being given the full-word status of having their own little respective (and — to make my point again — inadvertantly prescriptive) articles.

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ALA Winter 05

17 January, 2005 at 11:01 pm (library)

Attended a day of the Winter 2005 conference of the American Library Association. But not really. My fellow library school students and I were encouraged to register with the ALA and attend the conference, so that we could go to the lectures and the roundtables and the discussion forums and absorb the issues that currently form the topics of professional conversation for contemporary librarians.

And when phrased like that, it sounds vaguely interesting (except to my bevy of non-LIS friends, who are starting to avoid asking me, “So, what’s going on with your life?” as they find my answers about my current course of study and it’s content to be intensely stultifying), but ALA membership and Conference registration didn’t strike a harmonic chord with the contents of my wallet. So I forgot about it, despite repeated e-mail messages from the college, attempting to convince me how much of an opportunity it was that the conference was so close by and so accessible.

Julie Hearn's THE MINISTER'S DAUGHTER and Christopher Bing's CASEY AT THE BATBut it turns out that I could get a free pass to the gig from my mother’s workplace, YBP, Inc. (formerly “Yankee Book Peddler” before they went international and discovered that “Yankee” has negative connotations in the rest of the world. Which shouldn’t have been too great a shock, as it’s not the most complimentary of terms in the majority of the States, either), which allowed me access to the Vendors’ Exhibition, but not any of the serious librarianing. Still, free is free, and I figured I could learn a lot about the “issues that currently form the topics of professional conversation for contemporary librarians”, sociologist-stylee, by observing what the vendors were trying to sell the contemporary librarian.

Which turned out to be a lot of fun, as the Vendors’ Exhibition contains the part of librarianing that my studies have so far scrupulously avoided: books. The vendors were almost overwhelmingly publishers, booksellers, and distributors, and so I got to wander past table after table of books, books, and books, all displayed with their glorious cover designs turned out to face the world. It was marvelous. I wish that more free Uncorrected Proofs of books that interested me had been available, or that the comics folk in the Viz, Tokyopop, and Diamond Distribution booths might have had anything for free. That’s not quite fair, as I did get a cool Batman pin and a useful guides to interpreting the manga boom. But actual comics would have been nice.

Actually, while I saw a great many people loading up on the freebies and discounted books available (“Complmentary shower curtain!”), lugging Baker & Taylor and BATMAN BEYOND bags full of loot, I emerged from the floor relatively free of free stuff. Three potentially good finds, though, the first being BWI Public Library Specialists guide to stocking quality and age-appropriate graphic novels in a library. I need to read this more carefully, but my first impressions is that it contains a staggering amount of useful information, but that their evaluation of what is age-appropriate is slightly off in places. JENNY SPARKS at ages 12+? POWERS and 100 BULLETS at ages 14+? TWO-FISTED SCIENCE as a “Graphic Novel For Girls”? Anyway… not a perfect publication, especially when they mention CALVIN AND HOBBS [sic] in the introduction.

Second, Julie Hearn’s THE MINISTER’S DAUGHTER was also picked up, for four reasons: 1) it was free, 2) it had a gorgeous cover, 3) interesting fonts, and 4) the promotional text featured the phrase “from a student of Philip Pullman”, which I find almost as amusing as the “suggested by” screenplay credit in the recent I, ROBOT.

And third, the best time I had at the conference was the twenty minutes I spent standing in line waiting to be able to chat for a minute with illustrator Christopher Bing, who was singing copies of his books, and selling out of every one. I hadn’t realized that last bit, and left the booth intending to return when there were lesser crowds and get a copy of his adaptation of CASEY AT THE BAT signed. Upon my return, all copies had flown out of the booth, which I should have anticipated. CASEY is a gorgeous book, by the way, with some of the most elegant, detailed, and magnificent verisimilitude I’ve laid eyes on, this side of the majestic Irene Marsh. And, of course, CASEY costs $20 for 32 pages of beauty, whereas a single painting by Ms. Marsh will run you upwards of £1000. Mr. Bing was extremely friendly and courteous, signing personal notes, getting a feel for the person for whom he was signing, open about himself and his art, and happy to talk technique. An extraoridnary gentleman.

Lastly, let me say that I truly believe that the people chosen to run these booths were at least partially selected on the basis of their attractiveness. It wouldn’t be a bad technique, after all, wouldn’t you be more likely to talk about check-out systems if an attractive young person caught your eye and greeted you warmly? Just on the off chance? Comic book conventions, of course, take this idea to a farcical extreme by hiring booth bunnies, and while I don’t think that sort of prostitution was in evidence here — everyone I spoke with was clearly good at his or her job and well-informed — the ALA vendors still employed a staggering variety of truly attractive people. All of which is to say that if the young woman from Hyperion Children dressed in slim black were to ever drop me a line, I could be in New York for a cup of coffee before you could say “Peter and the Starcatchers.”

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Janus & Juliet

3 January, 2005 at 10:10 pm (library, music)

Well, it’s January, and everyone is trotting out their Best Of lists for the previous year. I’m not much for lists myself (sorry, Kelly Sue), although I did finally get on board the YMDB.com train.

Two girls underwater.  Photo by Louise Dignand.Anyway, I was reading the Onion AV Club‘s round up of the best books of 2004, and was forced to come to the sad realization that I did very little pleasurable reading this past year, and, indeed, very little reading at all. 2004 for me was the year of television, as I embraced television on DVD and indulged in a fair degree of BitTorrenting. I was so engrossed in preparation for my class on Jehanne d’Arc and my production of The Philadelphia Story that I was frequently burned out on reading after having done so much research. Not that the reading wasn’t pleasurable, but it wasn’t what I normally read for pleasure.

All of which means nothing has yet to surpass the best new novel I read three years ago, Julian Gough’s Juno & Juliet. And was the best book I read in 2004, as I had to re-read it to prepare for a book discussion group filled with six nervous sophomores who were each wondering why on earth I had chosen this book to make people read over the summer (Answer: Depreciating remarks about John Barth, positive comments about Gregory McDonald, and the best Acid Trip Revelation put to pen — particularly because the insight evaporates with the high, as it should).

But thinking about J&J made me wonder what the author had been doing since 2001 and indeed what he might have done before. So I spent a few hours last night trying to track down the “satirical serial” he wrote, as well as the “successful stage play” he co-authored, according to the About The Author copy. No luck. Also no luck finding downloadable versions of songs Gough sung with Toasted Heretic, despite the fact that he expresses support of internet music distribution venues.

“Oh, I love Napster. I hate the music industry, I’d love to see it destroyed. Please feel free to download Toasted Heretic songs from Napster, Gnutella, AudioGalaxy, MP3.com…”

However, I was able to find a PDF file of a chapter from Gough’s upcoming work, as published in the British Council for the Arts’ anthology New Writing 12. Entitled “The Great Hargeisa Goat Bubble”, the anthology says that the excerpt is about “how a dead-goat-compensation scheme gets out of hand and the UN steps in”. How this will fit in with the entire novel, to be titled Jude O’Reilly, and which his CV describes as the opposite of “beautiful, realistic, psychologically acute, and narrated by an intelligent 18-year-old girl”, is yet unclear. Some more information is provided by the Arts Council by way of an MS Word document (55 Kb) interviewing Gough about the excerpt, and this wholly unrelated link to a RealAudio interview with the author is also quite fun.

However, none of that answered the question I’d originally hit the net to find out. So if anyone can let me know what the title of his play was, I’d be extremely grateful.

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Jacob Two-Two and the Missing Children’s Book

15 August, 2002 at 7:00 pm (library, literary)

In fourth or fifth grade, I was in the process of reading every book in the Maple Street School library. I was a nerd and had figured out how to avoid the torture of peer socialization each morning before classes started: I got a library pass. And so while other kids were fighting over dominance of the swing set, falling headlong from the cargo net, playing four-square, or generally freezing to death on a crisp New England morning, I was sitting cozily in the library working my way through the fiction section, book by book, alphabetically.

And I read a book about a young boy who was sent to an island run by a huge monstrous man who kept children as slaves, but secretly wanted to be loved by them. I liked that bit, but what I thought was the coolest was that the young boy was rescued from the island by two superheroes who resembled his older brother and sister — siblings who wouldn’t give him the time of day if they were all at home. I thought that was a piece of brilliant high-concept, even if the phrase “high-concept” wasn’t in my vocabulary at the time. As a child surrounded by siblings, I easily recognized the truth that while you hated them because of their proximity and very relation to you, brother and sisters were still be be protected.

And I could never find the book again. I had vague memories of whereabouts it fell on the shelf — I could remember about where I gotten up to in my alphabetical trudge through the fiction section — and had certain impressions about what color the spine was. But search though I might, I could not locate that book in that library and no children’s librarian was able to recognize the title from my fairly detailed plot description.

Last month, Tim Lehnerer was boasting in the Warren Ellis Forum chatroom that he could locate any half-remembered children’s book. He is a god, for when I mailed him my recollections of the plot he was able to send me back a title and author in four days. And when the book arrived two weeks later from InterLibrary Loan, I flipped it open to a random page and saw this illustration…

JACOB TWO-TWO MEETS THE HOODED FANG, illus. by Fritz Wegner

…and I knew that he’d hit the nail squarely on the head. After fifteen years, I’d found a book that I had convinced myself didn’t exist, that I’d dreamt. Tim Lehnerer is indeed mighty.

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Summer Librarian

2 July, 2002 at 6:14 pm (library)

My job description is varied and sprawling, as I have one of those catch-all professions. I’m only sort-of a teacher, ’cause I don’t teach full time. I write curriculum and train student teachers, but that’s not what I spend the majority of my time doing. Yes, I also do mailings and copy jobs and answer phones, but my boss is always vaguely offended when I describe myself as “a glorified secretary”.

THE DARK IS RISING by Susan CooperAt the moment, I am also a librarian. The full-time librarian at my host school has complimented me on my Info Sheet, and told me that she’d probably steal it. I gleamed for about an hour. My challenge-laden informational resource scavenger hunt has not driven anyone to tears, but frustration has been epic. Still, these are not the things of which I am most proud in my current role as program librarian.

Today I put a copy of The Westing Game into a child’s hands. I introduced kids to John Bellairs and William Sleator. A girl who declared that she’d read anything I handed her walked away with The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. The Golden Compass, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Fantastic Voyage, The Fellowship of The Ring, Redwall, A Bad Beginning, and The Book of Three have all be checked out in the last hour.

Not a bad day’s work.

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