Monthly Archives: January 2007

Good Books

The preliminary judges for the Minnesota Book Awards met Saturday, and the list of finalists is up.  My group was genre fiction, and there were wonderful books from which to choose.

The finalists are three mysteries, any of which I highly recommend as terrific reads:

  • Brian Freeman, Stripped  (St. Martin’s Press)
  • William Kent Krueger, Copper River (Atria Books/Simon & Schuster)
  • Roger Stelljes, The St. Paul Conspiracy (North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc.)

Go grab one – or all three – today!

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Aha.

If you are feeling a little down then you can take solace in the thought that things are unlikely to get any worse.

Today, say experts, is the unhappiest day in the entire year.

Unpaid Christmas bills, nasty weather, and failed New Year’s resolutions combine to make January 22 the gloomiest in the calendar.

So there you go.  Chocolate, anyone?

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Filed under Me and mine, Things that make you go, "Hmmm..."

So many books…..

As the t-shirt reads, “so many books, so little time.”

Aurora and I both volunteered to be preliminary judges for the Minnesota Book Awards. My category is Genre Fiction, which is what I read most of the time. I figured it would be a lovely look at four or five fabulous books by Minnesota writers.

Wrong. We’re preliminary judges, which means we read all the books. I’ve got 23 books in my category, and I need to have them read and reviewed by January 27th. That’s a lot of reading, even for me.

So….please pardon the sparse blogging the last week or so, and the anticipated light blogging for the next week or so.

I’ve got reading to do.

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And don’t make us shush you, either.

This just in….

ANDERSON, S.C. (AP) – Police say a security guard at the Anderson County Library fired his gun at a car after the driver triggered a security alarm.

Police say security guard James Turner asked the woman to stop after the alarm went off as she left around 5 o’clock Saturday afternoon.

A police report states Turner chased the woman as she ran to her car and he said the bumper brushed his knee as she pulled away.

Police say the guard then fired into the driver’s door. Authorities say the woman kept going and they don’t know if she was hurt.

Library director Carl Stone says he’s asked Cherokee Security Systems not to send Turner back to the library. Stone says no one should be hurt over a missing library book.

Talk about people who take their jobs a bit too seriously…  Thank goodness the director is requesting a different guard.   Sheesh.

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Filed under Customer Service, Libraries and Librarianship

Great sites and stuff

The nifty site Kimbooktu reports on book-related stuff from all over the world.  Kim Heijdenrijk in The Hague, Netherlands authors the blog, and it’s filled with book bags, mugs, shelves….you name it.  If you haven’t checked out this site, you really must.  You’ll love it.

One of the posts this morning referenced a site called Book Baskets, with book and reader-related gift items.  As one of those people who not infrequently struggles with what to get someone, this is terrific!

On a vaguely related note, remember those jeans I ordered?  They’re great.  They actually fit.  Amazing.

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Filed under Me and mine, Miscellaneous

Faust and Collection Development

Many of you have, by now, read the editorial in the Wall Street Journal about the libraries who are ruthlessly weeding their collections of books that haven’t circulated in two years.

“For Whom the Bell Tolls” may be one of Ernest Hemingway’s best-known books, but it isn’t exactly flying off the shelves in northern Virginia these days. Precisely nobody has checked out a copy from the Fairfax County Public Library system in the past two years, according to a front-page story in yesterday’s Washington Post.

And now the bell may toll for Hemingway. A software program developed by SirsiDynix, an Alabama-based library-technology company, informs librarians of which books are circulating and which ones aren’t. If titles remain untouched for two years, they may be discarded–permanently. “We’re being very ruthless,” boasts library director Sam Clay.

OK. I understand having issues with find room for new books, and needing to weed the old ones. But aren’t some books just not weeded? The author, John Miller, goes on:

But this raises a fundamental question: What are libraries for? Are they cultural storehouses that contain the best that has been thought and said? Or are they more like actual stores, responding to whatever fickle taste or Mitch Albom tearjerker is all the rage at this very moment?

If the answer is the latter, then why must we have government-run libraries at all? There’s a fine line between an institution that aims to edify the public and one that merely uses tax dollars to subsidize the recreational habits of bookworms.

Right. There’s the crux of the matter. I agree that we should respond to patron wishes and stock our libraries with the books that our patrons want to read. However, I do not think this should be done to the exclusion of all else, for heaven’s sake. There are some books that libraries should have on their shelves.

Miller concludes with this wonderful insight (emphasis mine):

Instead of embracing this doomed model, libraries might seek to differentiate themselves among the many options readers now have, using a good dictionary as the model. Such a dictionary doesn’t merely describe the words of a language–it provides proper spelling, pronunciation and usage. New words come in and old ones go out, but a reliable lexicon becomes a foundation of linguistic stability and coherence. Likewise, libraries should seek to shore up the culture against the eroding force of trends.

The particulars of this task will fall upon the shoulders of individual librarians, who should welcome the opportunity to discriminate between the good and the bad, the timeless and the ephemeral, as librarians traditionally have done. They ought to regard themselves as not just experts in the arcane ways of the Dewey Decimal System, but as teachers, advisers and guardians of an intellectual inheritance.

The alternative is for them to morph into clerks who fill their shelves with whatever their “customers” want, much as stock boys at grocery stores do. Both libraries and the public, however, would be ill-served by such a Faustian bargain.

Yes. Amen. He notes, in closing, that you would have trouble determining what a Faustian bargain is at the Fairfax County Library, as Marlow’s play hasn’t circulated in over two years.

So…what are we? Are we the guardians and guides for information, knowledge, and literature? Or are we a repository for the lowest common denominator? I would dearly hope we’re the former. And if that’s the case, we need to consider our collection development carefully and with an eye to the future.

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