Monday, 26 September 2016

ORD--Success Story

ORD (On the Reference Desk)

There are quite a few websites, books and authors dedicated to the seeing the humorous aspects of working the reference desk.  Sometimes you have to poke fun at the ridiculous to maintain your sanity. But not everything that happens in the library is sarcasm-inducing.

Just recently, I had a regular patron let me know that he was unable to attend the monthly writer's group because he was meeting with the actresses for the play he wrote that is being performed in town the upcoming weekend!  How exciting! I wish him the best and hope that his writing is not only fulfilling personally but that it takes off and he finds success flowing from his pen.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Book Review--Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms

Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms by Lissa Evans is a fun children's book I have had the pleasure of reading.  It was a surprise gift from a friend that arrived in the mail one afternoon with the inscription, "This just seems like your kind of book".  It was (grin).  The main character is about 10 years old so the ages of interest would probably range a few years above and below that (quite a few years above, in my case) and I have passed it to my 11 year old daughter to enjoy.

This was a fun adventure, racing around town with Stuart Horten (a boy of small stature with the misfortune to have his name be S. Horten) as he discovers his great-uncle's legacy of mechanical magic-show mechanisms.

I loved April, May, and June... not the time span but the triplets who both vex and befriend our intrepid hero. I especially felt sympathetic with April and her fight with her vision and glasses--that's been a pain for me since I was 7!

There is a satisfying 'bad guy' who is actually a lady. And just enough action to keep the story moving along but not so scary that you don't want to read what's coming next.  I also think this would do well as a read-aloud for a wide variety of ages.  Super fun! Now I'm ready to read the next one, Horten's Incredible Illusions.

p.s. you know you've got the right kind of friends when a surprise book shows up just after you mailed one off to them for their birthday.  I got a book for my friend's birthday and that's just awesome!

Monday, 12 September 2016

Book Review--Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Lest you think I only review books I'm thrilled about...

My 13 year-old son put it perfectly when I was trying to describe how this book, a fantasy book, is still very ordinary and expected.  He asked, "Oh, it stayed within the parameters of every fantasy trope?"  Yes!  That's it!  (In explanation, E is a word-lover and began compiling his lexicon at a very early age)

It's not that the book was boring, exactly, it's just that it seemed to take every current trend in tween/teen pop culture and jam it into to the target time period.  I have dabbled in the steampunk fashion but not too much more into the realm.  I understand the pull I just think the characters and their attitudes were too anachronistic and too "teenage dream" to really consider this great writing.  I'll give the sequel series a try (The Mortal Instruments) and see if this latter-written prequel is just vying for more publicity and money and the original is more inspired.  But, it's not going to be too high on my reading priority list.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

New Book Review--Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I am... bipolar over this book. It took me awhile to get around to reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child because I am such a HP fan (see previous posts about the HP party we threw at the library this summer) that I didn't want to be disappointed.

My initial reaction as I read was that it was very well-written fan fiction.  Which it essentially is.

I started to get sucked in toward the middle and then... well, I vacillated between enjoying the plot (and trying to keep up with it) and being turned off because the characters seemed flat.

There were a few conversations that can only be described as "sappy" and some overlap with "out of character" and there was at least one instance of modern comedic one-liner-and-close-the-scene dialogue which was very out of the style of the original.

If this had been a stand-alone story with other characters and one not aligned with such a beloved icon of literature, I'd say it was pretty good.  As an attempt at an addition to the original canon, I say.


But, as always, you need to read it to decide for yourself!

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The digital divide is real

... and in your neighborhood

A woman hovers uncomfortably next to the reference desk.  "I need help printing something out but I don't know how to use a computer." While the request is quite common, the age of the questioner was a bit startling as she appeared to be in her mid-20's.

"I'm just down for my monthly visit and need to check my email.  There's no internet in the mountains where I live," says a gray-haired lady.

"I just got out of prison after 10 years; I'm not sure how the computers work anymore." A menacing, tattooed man says sheepishly.

"My grandkids got me this tablet-thing for Christmas but I don't know how to set it up and use it", a stoop-shouldered man complains.

"I need to apply for a job, I'm just back from the oil fields but I don't know how these online applications work." Says a despondent man in his 40's.

"I don't know how to get an email address."

"It's asking for a cell phone and I don't have one."

These are situations that happen daily at the public library. It may come as a shock to you, reading this as you are on the internet but, not everyone knows how to use a computer or even has access to one.

I have to admit... even though I keep a smile on my face, there are times when comments by some of my patrons, strangers who discover my profession, or even well-meaning friends offer this question (in some form or another) it makes me grit my teeth:

"How long do you think it will be until everything is digital?"

Other variations include
"Doesn't everybody have/know how to use a computer?"
"What are you going to do when there are no print books?"
"Why do you guys buy so many books anymore Nobody reads in print anymore"

I could go on but you get the point.

There are a lot of assumptions in that one statement. What makes me grit my teeth is the unintended insult buried in the thought.  It also shows a lack of understanding of the world outside one's comfortable little bubble.

Let's look at the reality of living in New Mexico.  We are ranked as one of the 10 poorest states in the U.S.. While the exact position varies depending on the source, the Land of Enchantment (a.k.a. the Land of Entrapment) measures high on the poverty scale and low on the average income scale.  Combine this with a wide geographical area with many topographical variations which make some areas almost inaccessible and you have a state where a few people in "big" cities ("big" is relative when you're talking about our population distribution) make a good living but many more are struggling to make ends meet.

If a single mother (all too often starting as a teenage mom) is struggling to provide food, housing and clothing for her children, what are the chances she is able to afford the luxury of internet at her house?

"But they have computers at the schools" is the argument I've most often heard.

Have you been in the schools lately?  Some lucky classrooms have 3-5 computers for 20-30 (or more) students have to share.  Computer labs provide about 30 computers for an entire slew of classes and scheduling is tight.  Teachers have to schedule their time with the computers accommodating the other hundreds of students who need time on the units.  And with the state-mandated testing schedule, much of that screen time is not used to provide instruction in basic computer skills and critical evaluation skills to teach students how to safely navigate the internet, it is used to teach the kids how to click the answer to take the test.  (This is another completely different issue--standardized tests and the instruction time they steal from teachers doing their best to teach in spite of the restrictive, unhelpful and onerous unprofessional restrictions placed upon them every year.)

Even when teachers fight to give their students enough educational screen time, they are doing so on computers that are out of date.

Which means, the kids aren't getting enough computer skills to teach them the current software much less the skills to keep up with the fast pace of the digital world.  Seniors citizens who may have started out trying to learn the ropes are often outstripped by the rapid changes and updates. I sat with a sweet older couple one day a week for almost 2 months to teach them how to access their Facebook from their iPad so when the day came, they could post a memorial picture and article to commemorate the anniversary of their grandson's death.

From devices to phones to the internet to basic computing skills and typing/keyboarding functions (yes, we've had to explain how to get the @ symbol, the difference between the delete and the backspace key, and to specify that you have to press the keys for anything to happen), the public library helps everyone.

As I've said before, the public library is a great equalizer.  Not bringing down the mighty to a lower level or vice versa but offering a level playing field for citizens of all ages to learn, increase and sharpen their skills so that they can become productive citizens.  Job applications are almost exclusively online for many businesses.  School research needs access to reputable resources that just aren't "on the internet".  Disenfranchised citizens of all walks of life can find a helping hand and training here.

In essence, the library is the bridge to cross the digital divide.

  Keep building the bridge and make it strong!

Monday, 29 August 2016

Book Review--Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

 Where has this story been all my life?  It's not new (1996), how have I never discovered it before now?

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is the most satisfying story I have read in a long time.  It so completely immerses in a world that melds seamlessly with reality that you're not sure where one begins and the other ends.

This feeling was absolutely reinforced by the fact that I listened to this story on audio (through OverDrive) and it was read by the author.  Fantastic!

I'm not even sure where to begin...

Just read it!

And now that I've discovered Neil Gaiman, I now have to read Good Omens as he has co-authored it with my favorite fantasy/satirical writer, the late and mourned Sir Terry Pratchett

Friday, 19 August 2016

Book Review--Just a Guy by Bill Engvall

I have always considered myself average.

Average height, average coloring, average upbringing... actually I'm probably the only "average" person on the bell curve which, in and of itself, makes me unique.

But I haven't achieved super stardom.  In fact, I get excited when one of my old students recognizes me in the store.  There's no way that someone with such a mundane existence could ever be a household name. It takes special circumstances from birth to achieve that... right?

Not according to Bill Engvall.  This fantastic comedian who has made so many people laugh and learn to take life as it comes and revel in the ridiculous, had just a childhood.  With just parents (and stepmom, who sounds great, by the way) and just sisters and was just a kid.  And a high school student and a "kind of" college student.  And, Just a Guy.

Just a Guy: Notes from a Blue Collar Life by [Engvall, Bill, Eisenstock, Alan]

I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to Mr. Engvall's routines over Pandora and on YouTube and through his DVD recordings but hearing this book (audio from OverDrive) I saw the stories behind those stories.  There are several incidents that I remember hearing from his show, embroidered for emphasis, but here is the backstory.  There are some episodes that he recounts from his childhood that make me laugh because I recognize things that my sons would do or have done.  There are some heart wrenching episodes such as his parents' divorce that hit home because of my own situation but gives me hope that my children can succeed even with that difficulty in their upbringing.  It really was a wonderful warm look at the real man behind the laughter.  I enjoyed it.

My only regret is that I wasn't able to see him when he came to the Inn of the Mountain Gods this summer.  The timing and finances weren't right but if he comes back, I'll be right up there, laughing and shaking my head and remembering that even though he's up on that stage he's still, just a guy.