Friday, October 30, 2009

International Children's Digital Library

I have my friend Juliana from Brazil to thank for providing me with this link for the International Children's Digital Library. As a bilingual librarian, this is just the sort of thing that excites me. This site features e-books for children in many languages. The "search by country" feature allows the user to turn a virtual globe in order to pick books from specific country or region. After books, and coffee, globes are one of my favorite things. See my husband James' Earth View blog for information about his gigantic globe project.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fun with catalog cards

Who remembers the card catalog? Once a staple of any library - public, school, academic, or other - almost all have given up the old drawer and file system now, in favor of an online catalog. The Library at the University of South Carolina is holding a contest to see who can come up with the most creative uses of the old catalog cards.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wrapping up the Miller Brothers

James and I finished Either You're In or You're In the Way yesterday. I think James was a little bit sad to see it end. He had mentioned at one point that he didn't know when he enjoyed a book so much, and he loves to read.

A quote from actor Ed Harris on the cover of the book says "What the Miller Brothers have accomplished is nothing short of miraculous. You've got to read it to believe it." Miraculous is not even a strong enough word for this. I told James at one point while reading that if this had been a fiction book I would have put it down a long time ago, probably snorting that it wasn't believable at all. One of the early chapters of the book is called "100 percent luck" and tells of finding out that a friend of theirs has just signed on with the Colorado Rockies baseball team and how many things fell into place because of it, including getting essential video footage for their trailer. Throughout the book one thing after another falls into place for them, even as they lose sleep worrying about getting funding for the movie, scheduling the filming, and hiring crew. One of the last pieces of good luck they have is ending up sitting with a friend of one of the Colorado Rockies managers at a wedding, as they worry about being sued by the ball club. When they tell the guy their tale of woe, it is fixed the next day.

I mentioned in an early post about this book that the brothers do everything together. The book itself is a team effort, and what I found remarkable was that it is seamless. The reader cannot tell where one voice stops and another starts. It is written mostly in the third person, as if there is a separate entity called "LoganNoah" doing the narrating. LoganNoah is very funny and had us breaking up over lines like "...Bao and trusty Claytus immediately jumped in Jeromiah's convertible Porshe and drove 120 mph back to the hotel... "When they returned , Bao and Claytus looked like they'd just had face-lifts. Their hair was iron straight and launched back. They've never looked so young." They make a play on the classic Pogo comic line "We have met the enemy and he is us" with "We needed a solution and the solution was us."

The final section of the book tells of filming in their hometown in Northern California, and the additional headaches it brings because all the friends and neighbors drive by and honk their horns, and then stop to eat all the catered food. My thought was that they probably should have filmed in Bridgewater. We had a film crew here in town last month for two days to shoot a scene from some secret project called "Witchita" with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. Not only were the streets leading up to the filming closed to anyone who didn't live on them, every phone in town (home, business, government) was called with a long recorded message explaining about the filming. The gist of the message can be boiled down to "there's a party in town, and you're not invited." If Touching Home turns out to be as great as the book, maybe they will have the clout to shoot here next time, and they can get the same treatment. By the way, I know of two other movies filmed in Bridgewater A Small Circle of Friends which actually takes place at Harvard, but the riot scene was filmed at Bridgewater State College. The other movie is the infamous documentary Titicut Follies which was filmed inside the state hospital in Bridgewater. It is a hard movie to watch, and was banned for years as a violation of the patients' rights.

What else I read

I recently finished reading Population: 485 by Michael Perry. The subtitle of the book is "Meeting your neighors one siren at a time" referring to his work as a volunteer firefighter and EMT. He works on a team with his mother and three brothers. I actually had Perry's book Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs and Parenting on my list of potential books to read for this project, and when I was visiting my cousin in Wisconsin (Perry's home state) I noticed the book at her house and asked if I could borrow it. She was still reading it, but offered Population: 485 instead, which she had already finished. I couldn't read it right away because as soon as I moved it near our luggage James picked it up and started reading it. Anyway, we both enjoyed the book. Perry grew up up on a farm in rural northwestern Wisconsin, moved away and then came back. His writing is both eloquent and funny, which mirrors his personality - split between the rugged farmer/EMT/deer hunter side and the sensitive writer/nurse side. The photograph included with the author biography in the book shows any character you might run into at a bar in Wisconsin - an unsmiling man in a hunting cap and flannel jacket. He seems to have created a real persona. I am looking forward to reading Coop, but it looks like I may not get to it this year. I think I will read it during my next "year of" project "Celebrating the States". I will read one book from each state as part of the 2010 project.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wrapping up The Addict

Michael Stein's book follows one patient's treatment for drug addiction for one year, starting with the day she came to his office asking to be prescribe buprenorphine. There is nothing magical that happens at the one year mark in this story. Lucy Fields has had some successes and failures during the previous 12 months, at the time the record ends she has been sober for some time without a relapse, but is not yet willing to go off the buprenorphine. She has had some breakthroughs, and there is definitely reason to be optimistic about her continued recovery. Stein mentions at the end that he continued to work with her for several more years, with language indicating that she was still his patient. Recovery for addicts is a relative term. Some say alcoholics and drug addicts are never completely recovered. Others would argue that after some extented period of sobriety they can be considered cured. I heard a story once about how alcoholics are treated in the UK and it did not require complete abstinence. Those in recovery were taught to become "social drinkers" again. They went to a pub or other public place and had one or two drinks with their sponsors. I don't remember what I heard about the success rate.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Drug Recovery in the NYT

Yesterday's New York Times featured this article about a new drug recovery treatment program in Philadelphia. Detox (short term hospitalization to get the drug out of the system) is a common treatment, with a very high recidivism rate (over 90%). The program in Phildephia emphasizes after care as well.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Author Hour

I just learned about the new program The Author Hour. It is a radio program of author interviews. It appears to be all fiction authors, mostly of the fantastic or science ficiton genre. I haven't listened to it myself yet, but perhaps since I've read some of the works mentioned on the homepage I will probably take some time this weekend to hear some of it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Oxycontin Express

The subject of The Addict, Lucy Fields, is addicted to Vicodin which is prescribed for pain relief. Oxycontin is a narcotic, also prescribed for pain relief, which is also highly addictive. It is the one I hear about in the news most frequently. There are stories about pharmacies that no longer carry it because they have been robbed by people desperate to get their hands on it. It is essentially legalized heroin. Yesterday I received this link from my friend Michael Lunquist at the Polus Center for Social and Economic Development about prescription drug addiction. The video is about 47 minutes long.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fair Bananas

I have mentioned my huband James' work with Fair Trade coffee on my blog. I learned more about Fair Trade recently when I read and reviewed the book Fair Bananas by Henry Frundt. You can read my review on the Internet Review of Books.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What's your addiction?

Michael Stein quotes a nutrition column in an unnamed women's magazine as saying "everyone's looking for a fix." He further states "Almost anything can be the object of addiction, and most people are addicted to something." Hmm...well, what I am addicted to? I had to stop reading and think about it for a while. I thought about the soap operas I used to watch (As the World Turns, and General Hospital) in the early 80s. Easy enough to give up once the plots got too outrageous even for melodramas (a weather machine?! c'mon!). My high school and college experiments with drugs didn't go very far. Alcohol? Wine with dinner hardly counts as an addiction. I imagine any regular reader to my blog figured it out before I did - Coffee it is. I will count this as an official addiction because if I miss my morning cups (usually 2-3) I experience withdrawl symptoms. I get jittery, and I get headaches. I must say, though, that since I will only drink good coffee that I prefer these discomforts to having a crappy cup 'o joe. What's your addiction?

Borrowing books in borrowed spaces

WBUR is the NPR affiliate in Boston. This morning WBUR reported on a group of innovators who are using an abandoned store front in Chinatown as a "fleeting" library branch. The library will be open for 3 months as an experiment. To find out more click here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pam in Bookforum

I was thrilled to find out that my essay "Rubbing Elbows with the Authors" was picked up by the Bookforum blog. Click on the words "write a note to the author."

A book a day for 365 days

Yesterday's New York Times featured this story about Nina Sankovitch who is about to wrap up her own "year of books" quest of reading one book a day for a year. She began on her last birthday, October 28. She blogs at Looking over her list I found five books that I have read.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz - This was listed as one of her favorites. Junot Diaz spoke here at Bridgewater State College last October.

A Hope in the Unseen by Ron Suskind - Also one of her favorites

Scat by Carl Hiaasen

Twilight by Stephanie Meyers - She has not read the others in this series because of her one-book-per-author rule.

When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris - She had a very different opinion of his book than I did. My review for the Internet Review of Books can be found here.

It does not appear that she has read any "year of" books, so none of her books overlap with anything on this blog.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Art in the Library

As public spaces, libraries can become much more than a places to read a book, or use a computer, they can become thriving community centers - places for lectures, meetings, poetry readings, or art exhibits. A few years ago The Clement C. Maxwell Library started making proactive efforts to have a series of art exhibits year round. Right now we have artwork from Professor John Hooker's study tour to Tanzania. Today I found out that The Howard County (Maryland) Public Library will be displaying sculpture by artist, and renaissance man, John Hayes (my father) through October 30. Read more about my father in the Laurel Gazette.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

October's theme - and a new book

I was starting to wonder if my next book would ever arrive. And it came today, just as I finished up with Sikes' book.

As our country engages in another health care debate (I have my doubts that there will be any significant change) I have chosen Health as my theme for October. My first book is The Addict: One Patient, One Doctor, One Year by Dr. Michael Stein. It is the story of a woman in treatment for addiction to prescription drugs. The copy I received came to me by way of the Waltham Public Library. The book just came out in March of this year.

I will begin blogging about this book soon. In the meantime, I recommend this Frontline series with T.R. Reid about healthcare around the world

Librarians Change Lives

Story Corps is a special program of National Public Radio in which people tape interviews their loved ones to be archived. Last Friday NPR ran this interview between a young woman and her father. The father relates a tale about how stealing a school library book changed his life.

Wrapping up Sikes

Yesterday, just before I finished reading Sikes' book I read this article in the New York Times about a new violence intervention program in Chicago which targets at risk children.

Sikes' book begins with a description of "TJ" getting ready for, and executing, her first revenge kill. The book then takes the reader into a world in which this kind of killing is normalized. Poverty, lack of education, or adequate health care, all contribute to creating this world, in which sexual abuse is also normalized. Children as young as ten or eleven are raped by stepfathers, boyfriends, or rival gang members, and accept it as a part of life. It is a world in which becoming a teenage mother actually may represent a chance for improvement in one's life. When the young women become mothers the responsibility they have for their child marginalizes them from their gang, and, in some cases, they eventually mature out of it all together. In TJ's case the church saved her.

The girls and young women whom Sikes interviewed often thought that their boyfriend's jealous rages were how they showed they cared for them. This, too, was all part of normal for them.

In her Afterword, Sikes compares the cost of imprisonment for a child ($32,000 in the early '9os) with the amount spent on education each year in California (about $4,000). She says "I believe society has an obligation to save its children, simply because they are children." Until we, as a society, are willing to throw enough money at education, health care and other programs for children and families, we are spouting only rhetoric. We like to say we care about children, but in many cases we have given up hope for the most vulnerable.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

October is National Information Literacy Awareness Month

I am pleased that President Barak Obama sees the value of the work that librarians do. He has proclaimed October National Information Literacy Awareness Month. Information Literacy is the bulk of my job at Bridgewater State College. BSC is a teaching college, and my job is to teach people to use the library effectively to become lifelong learners. Sometimes I do formal sessions for classes to demonstrate how to do research for a specific assignment, and other times the work is less formal and involves answering questions. It is rare that I will simply look up an answer for someone. I am more likely to show them how to find it themselves. To learn more about information literacy see the webpage from the Association of College and Research Libraries.

October is also
National Book Month
National Medical Librarian Month
International School Library Month
National Reading Group Month
Vegetarian Month (My daughter is a vegetarian)
Adopt a Shelter Dog Month (our dog is a pound dog)
National Family Sexuality Education Month (especially interesting to me because my husband and I just attended the parents meeting for the Our Whole Lives course our daughter will be taking)

There are actually many, many more October celebrations.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Any mention of a library...

...warrants its own post!
Sikes, interviews a girl named Alicia who "absently picked up a library card off the end table. 'God', she whispered, tracing her sister's name in raised letters with her finger, 'I wish I had a library card." The former "Best Reader" from the third grade had "racked up so many fines for overdue library books that she was frightened to go back." Sikes offers to take her to a bookstore, and eventually, over a year later, she is taken up on the offer does buy some books for Alicia. If Sikes were planning on spending money anyway, I'm not sure why she just didn't take Alicia to the library and offer to pay any outstanding fines.

Getting a library card is like finding money, you can read all you want for free, as long as you return the books on time. I suspect Alicia could have made some sort of deal with the library to pay the fines over time, or even be granted amnesty. It is always good to ask.

The "safe" side of town

James and I are enjoying reading the Miller brothers book. Part III of their book "Desert Shoot-Out" takes place in Tucson, Arizona, where we lived for four year in the early 1990s. Reid Park is a municipal park where spring training takes place for the Colorado Rockies. (I think when we lived there it was the Cleveland Indians training camp). It is also home to the minor league team, the Tucson, Toros. Writing about filming the Rockies during their spring training gave James and me an opportunity to take a nostalgia trip. Their description of the "transitional housing" on East Twenty-Second street reminded us of a visit from my father. We told him we would make a reservation for him at a hotel, and he told us to make sure that it was not on the south of Twenty-second street, which he had heard was dangerous the dangerous part of town. We booked a room in an efficiency apartment that had weekly rates which was one block south of Twenty-second street. We assured my father that it was really on the East end of town (safe) and not the south side at all. After his first night there we went pick him up and found the parking lot full of police cars. He reported to us that there had been a shooting there. It turned out to be a suicide attempt, but it was no less distressing for my father who woke to find the hotel surrounded by police cars. I swear, it really was the safe side of town.

San Antonio

I found Sike's section on gangs in San Antonio much more shocking than the L.A. section. The violence took many forms, but one of the most common was gang rape, which neither the perpetrators or the victims saw as such. One reason for this is that, as one (male) gang member put it "the girls have a choice of initiations: (A) fighting one-on-one with a guy for two minutes, (B) get shot in the leg with a Glock, (C) get jumped in by six chicks for a minute and a half, or (D) they can roll the dice and hope that they get two at the most." Whatever number the girl rolls on the pair of dice is the number of boys she has to have sex with in order to join the gang. The male gang members then expect that the girls will have sex with them whenever they want. Even when the sex is coerced, violent, or drug induced it is not seen as rape. Girls rarely report being raped for fear of retaliation.

When asked why they go out with gangsters girls respond that there isn't anyone else to date. "Everywhere you go, guys are in go to school, gang members, you go to teen clubs, gang members. Our friend works at Pizza Hut on the South Side and all she sees are LA Boyz and Ambros...You don't have a choice about the guys you go out with." The boys believed the girls dated them for the thrill, and excitement which was the case for sisters Sandy and Barbara, two white girls from the city's affluent neighborhood who hung out with some gangster boys.

One of the most bizarre things I read in this chapter was the story of the 32 year old substitute teacher, a friend of Barbara's, who was waiting for her 15 year old boyfriend, father of her young son, to be released from jail so she could marry him.