Friday, December 28, 2007

Short and Sweet: a booklist

After struggling my way through Catch-22 recently, I needed to follow up with something shorter and easier, inspiring this booklist. It's nice to know that satisfying, enjoyable literature also comes in small packages.

Berg, Elizabeth. Joy School (208p)
12-year-old Katie moves to Missouri with her father and struggles to fit in, until she meets and falls in love with a 23-year-old married man.

Corriveau, Art. Housewrights (192p)
This New England love triangle features a town librarian caught between twin brothers in early 20th century Vermont.

Dai, Sijie. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (197p)
During Mao’s Cultural Revolution two boys, guilty only of being the sons of doctors, are sent to the countryside for re-education in the form of manual labor and Communist propaganda. The boys discover a stash of Western classics in Chinese translation which give their lives new meaning and provide a very different sort of education.

Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (244p)
In 2021, bounty hunter Rick Deckard works in a world almost destroyed by war, and from which most humans have emigrated to Mars. As incentive to emigrate, people receive androids so realistic only specialized tests can detect them. Deckard needs to use these tests to find and kill increasingly sophisticated androids that have returned to Earth where they are banned. Despite being the longest book on this list, it is a quick read.

Dunn, Mark. Ella Minnow Pea (205p)
An epistolary novel about a fictional island, the birthplace of the man who coined the phrase “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” Mysteriously, the letters of this phrase on the memorial statue begin to fall off one by one, and the government decides it is a message from beyond to grave that those letters should no longer be used. A few brave souls rush to try and find another, shorter phrase using all letters of the alphabet before their language is entirely lost.

Fitzgerald, Penelope. The Bookshop (123p)
In 1959, a widow decides to use her small inheritance to open a bookshop in a small seaside town that hasn’t had a bookstore in over 100 years. Despite some success, she has few allies and much resistance to her business.

Hansen, Ron. Isn’t it Romantic (198p)
Nathalie Clairvaux is twenty-six, French, and touring America by bus. She wanted some time away from Pierre, her playboy fiancée. But Pierre finds out where’s gone and soon catches up—just in time to get stranded with Nathalie in Seldom, Nebraska, population 395. Soon Nathalie is being wooed by local rancher Dick Tupper. Pierre falls for Iona, a waitress in the local café, who’s really in love with Dick. Then there’s Owen, local gas station owner and amateur wine maker, who needs help from the wine business owned by Pierre’s family to launch his Nebraska vintage….

Irving, John. The 158-Pound Marriage (154p)
Two couples become a foursome in this daring and thought-provoking story. This early and erotic Irving novel is not for the faint of heart, but those who have read The World According to Garp will not want to miss it.

McEwan, Ian. On Chesil Beach (203p)
In McEwan’s latest book, set in the early 60s, two virgins marry and are confronted with the anxiety of their wedding night. Edward fears failure on his part, while Florence is repulsed by the idea of physical contact. Beautifully written, the novel explores desire, repression, lost opportunities, and their effects on a fragile new relationship.

Perrotta, Tom. Election (200p)
Tracy Flick is the quintessential over-achiever at her high school, taking on everything she can, including an affair with her English teacher. When she runs for school President, an idealistic teacher convinces jock Paul Warren to run against her. Paul’s younger sister Tammy also throws her hat into the ring, and the competition gets ugly. This darkly comic political satire was also a great movie.

Savage, Sam. Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife (151p)
The title character is a rat living in a bookshop in Boston's Scollay Square just before it was demolished. He is isolated from his fellow rats by his ability to read and his resulting love of literature. Turning to humans for companionship, he eventually befriends a failed science fiction writer and they live together happily. Though filled with more than most rats get to experience, it was a small life of loneliness, isolation, and an inability to communicate with the only beings who would be able to understand him, if only they spoke the same language.

Sedaris, David. Holidays On Ice (123p)
A Christmas anthology of stories and essays, such darkly humorous pieces as “SantaLand Diaries,” “Dinah, the Christmas Whore,” and “Seasons greetings to our friends and family!!!” are sure to make your holiday season more festive.

Wharton, Edith. Ethan Frome (144p)
Set in the bleak, New England winter, a middle-aged man seeks help to care for his sick wife. Her cousin is hired to fill the position, and Frome finds himself falling in love with her. A tragic story of unrequited love, this short novel is a timeless classic.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Log Cabin Socks

The pattern is from Holiday Knitting by Melanie Falick, a book worth buying just to look at the gorgeous photos. I used Plymouth Tweed, which isn't as soft as I was hoping for, but apparently is pretty comfy. I do love the rustic tweediness of the yarn and would probably use it again. I actually found little bits of twig in it (which I have to assume was placed there intentionally for the effect, because doesn't yarn involve lots of processing?)

These were a Christmas present for Eric, so had to hold off posting a picture for obvious reasons. I'm glad to report that they fit!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Library holds - a black market?

The Librarian in Black has published a thought-provoking post called A Treatise on the Black Market of Holds. She says that the library hold system has created a two-class system in libraries: those who know about the system and are willing to pay fees to put items on hold, and those who don't know about it and just come into the library to browse the shelves, assuming that what they see is an accurate representation of what the library owns.

What first struck me about this post is that there are library systems that charge a fee to place holds. In Massachusetts, there is no charge to put an item on hold. This includes items at other libraries in our network. (Even an interlibrary loan coming from another state is free.) At my library, if a patron asks for a book that is currently checked out or not owned by my library, we immediately offer to put them on hold. It may not be publicized extensively, but the system is not a secret and not even close to the black market that LIB describes.

Sure, new items aren't on the shelves, but that's because of popularity, not the hold system itself. Without a hold system, those copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows would still have been gone immediately. At least this way, patrons know that they will get a copy at some point rather than having to drive to the library over and over again hoping a copy will be available when they get there, before finally finally giving up and buying the damn thing instead. Come to think of it, without the hold system maybe those copies of HP would have been there - people who really wanted it would just buy it rather than going through all the trouble. Think about what that would that do to our circulation numbers.

There is a lot more to say about this, but LIB's post touches on so many issues that it would take me a week to organize a post about it all, and then it would be so lengthy that none of my 8 readers would get through it. But I do recommend reading her post, as well as the informative and interesting comments. It is a lot of food for thought.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Life As We Knew It: A Review

I love post-apocalyptic novels. They generally fall into two camps: the totally hopeless, like The Road or On the Beach, and the somewhat hopeful like Cell or the book I just finished, Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. The general idea of these books is that some catastrophic thing happens - either a natural or human-sourced disaster - and those people who survive try to keep themselves alive and perhaps begin to rebuild society.

The narrator of Life As We Knew It is a teenage girl who lives with her mother and two brothers, one older and one younger than her. An asteroid is headed for the moon, and collides with such force the moon is knocked from its orbit and a ends up closer to Earth. The immediate result is a rash of severe tidal waves destroying and submerging coastal cities and islands around the world. This is followed by continuing weather disasters including volcanic eruptions (resulting from the stronger gravitational pull of the moon) which seriously affect air quality. When the asteroid first hit and it became obvious that something was really wrong, the mother had the foresight to immediately drive the kids to the supermarket to stock up on as much food and other supplies as possible. This, along with their woodstove, put the family at great advantage when food became scarce, electricity was lost, oil became unavailable, and the weather grew cold.

Many things went unexplained, such as what was actually going on around the world and if people would ultimately be able to survive. It did end on a message of hope which I like, but the bigger picture was still obscured. In a way it makes sense, as the family was so isolated they wouldn't necessarily know what was going on. Also, the story really was focused on the family and their survival and not the larger issues. Though I am tempted to think of this as a cop-out, I am reminded of the The Road, in which we have even less information about what happened to put the characters in their predicament.

What I especially liked about this book was the focus on everyday life under dire circumstances, and the relationship between the family members. Although much had changed, Miranda was still a teenage girl and still daydreamed about the boy she liked and the famous figure-skater she admired. Many worries were added to her life, of course, but she ultimately remained the same person. The diary format of the book gave it a personal feel, and it was a gripping story. Perfect for a wintery afternoon!

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Have I mentioned that I can't crochet to save my life? Well my sister can, and she just mailed me this gorgeous afghan as a belated housewarming gift. It is stunning, no? The multitude of bright colors look great in every obnoxiously-painted room of this wacky house.

I once knit a small baby blanket for somebody, in a simple lace pattern of all one color. It was a fraction of the size of this afghan and it was enough to swear me off afghan-knitting forever. I think if I had the fortitude to make something of this size and complexity, I wouldn't give it to anyone. It would have to be ripped from my cold dead hands, as they say. I'm looking forward to spending my winter hibernating under this afghan with some hot chocolate, my cat, and a few good books.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Impermeable definition of the day

From Webster's Third New International Dictionary:

strobile n 1 [NL strobilus] : STROBILUS 2 : a spike with persistent overlapping bracts that resembles a cone and is the pistillate inflorescence of the hop

Uh, thanks for the clarification.

Friday, December 7, 2007


I can't decide whether or not I like how this is coming out.

It doesn't really look like the picture, but I knew it wouldn't because it's acrylic and just behaves differently. Do I keep going and hope that it will turn out fine and I will want to wear it? Do I rip it out and go with plan #2 which is the hoodie from Stitch n' Bitch, even though I don't need any more hoodies and don't look forward to miles of stockinette, but which looks like it will be snuggly enough to wear frequently? No magic answers are coming to me in dreams while I sleep.

So, I've done what any girl would do and started knitting myself a pair of socks.

I'm using the Monkey pattern from Knitty, just like every other sock knitter on the planet. I swapped something from my stash for this Tofutsies yarn. I believe the colorway is called "Those Drinks Tasted Festive Last Night." No, actually I like it, I really do. But I don't love it and I don't love the pattern, so somehow they seemed right for each other.

I'm not sure how I got so interested in socks. I think I may have inspired myself by composing this essay for my writing class. None of my other socks are so wonderful and luxurious though. I think the secret is the yarn. (If you are listening, Santa, Windsor Button sells Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn in a variety of variegated and solid colors for $20 a skein. It is expensive, but makes a fine pair of socks.)

Doctor Who Gloves non-update: the button-buying trip revealed that Eric and I have different ideas about how the mitten tops should be constructed and I don't know if what he wants is possible (at least by me), so that project is on hold pending an epiphany.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Book a Librarian

The San Francisco Public Library has recently started a great service which I hope will catch on in other libraries. Their new Book a Librarian project allows patrons to make an appointment with a librarian for in-depth help that can be difficult during a regular reference transaction. For example, this could benefit someone who is setting up their first email account and is unfamiliar with computers, or someone conducting extensive research who needs to learn how to make the most of the library's databases.

This could be especially useful in libraries like mine, which don't offer classes because there is no computer classroom. Also, now that some of us are concerned about the deprofessionalization of librarians I think this is a good way to lend more legitimacy to our positions while providing a very helpful service. We spend a lot of desk time dealing with non-reference issues like printer jams and computer sign-ups, so it would be great to spend some off-desk time offering such a personalized in-depth service.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Truth and Beauty

Thank you for the book suggestions in response to my very short list of memoirs I liked. I was reminded of one that I read but had somehow forgotten: Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy. Another excellent example of a memoir written by someone who is both a gifted writer and has a story worth telling.

Another suggestion I received was Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, the story of her friendship with Lucy Grealy, which I then had to immediately rush out and read. Grealy suffered from cancer as a child and had part of her jaw removed. As a result, she spent most of her adult life undergoing one surgery after another to try and rebuild her face. Although bright, popular, and talented, the failure of her numerous surgeries took their toll. She developed a heroin habit and was found dead in her apartment in 2002, apparently from an accidental overdose. Throughout her adult life, Ann stood by Lucy, offering support through unsuccessful surgeries and her struggles as a writer. Lucy's constant need for reassurance and to be the center of attention, not to mention her eventual drug habit, would strain any friendship. Indeed, Ann had moments where she wanted to step back for fear of being an enabler, but still they remained close friends.

I wish I had read the two books one after another to get a better sense of the disparity between the two views on this fascinating woman and her troubled life. Patchett is well-known as a writer and for good reason. Her memoir is just as compelling as her fiction, but of course is much more personal and painful. How do you write a book about your very best friend's self-destructive path to an early death? Patchett manages beautifully and creates depth to what I remember as just an over-simplified newspaper blurb after Grealy's death.

I found an odd article by Lucy Grealy's sister, Suellen, called "Hijacked by Grief." In the article, she is apparently saying that Patchett's book somehow robbed her of her grief, though she insists that Patchett didn't actually do anything wrong. She specifically says that signing an agreement to let Patchett use Lucy's letters was a "mistake" but doesn't say why. She mentions that many items were missing from Lucy's apartment after her death, but quickly says her friends deserved to take some of her things. A series of statements about how she was hurt followed by almost apologetic reasons as to why the people in question were justified in their actions made up the bulk of the article. Her point is lost to me and the whole thing left me a bit bewildered. Maybe you can make some sense of it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

An almost end and an uncertain beginning

The Doctor Who Fingerless Gloves are mostly done.

I still need to make the mitten caps, but can't start until buttons have been obtained so I know how big to make the button holes. But as you can see, the gloves have already been worn and gotten dirty which is a good sign of a well-loved gift.

In the meantime, I have started another project. In my quest to use up yarn in my stash, I chose this pattern from Rebecca magazine:

This is my first project from Rebecca, although I have enjoyed the photos of their sweaters as modeled by carefree youths holding hands and frolicking on beaches, rooftops, etc. So far, I'm finding the pattern instructions a little unclear. Also I've heard that the chart contains errors, and I'm nervous about the fact that I cannot find these errors. I'm sure they will be apparent the first time I wear the sweater.

Not a lot of progress so far:

The yarn is Caron Simply Soft, which in case you are wondering is 100% acrylic, but very soft as the name suggests. It was under $15 so if the sweater comes out terribly only my time has been wasted. Oh, did I mention I didn't swatch for this? I started to, but the chart is rather involved for a swatch, so I decided to just knit several inches and then measure gauge and hold it up to myself to see if the size looks feasible because I also wasn't sure which size to make.

Just to be clear, let's review the strikes already against this sweater:
1. Unsure of which size would be appropriate
2. Did not swatch
3. Chart may contain errors
4. Cheap acrylic yarn which cannot be blocked to hide aforementioned sins

I just want to document all of this so that when my sweater comes out fitting my cat - complete with 4 sleeves - I cannot act surprised. I'm going to go have a glass of wine now.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Rethinking Information Work

The deprofessionalization of librarianship - part 3

In part 2 I shared my outlook of the library profession which is admittedly grim but, I believe, realistic. Since it will do no good to leave you regretting your MLS and the money spent on it, I need to tell you that all is not lost. With some thought and planning you can create a more sustainable career and I know just the book to help you: Rethinking Information Work: A Career Guide for Librarians and Other Information Professionals by G. Kim Dority.

Similar to “What color is your parachute,” this career guide is specific to librarians, complete with exercises to help you determine career preferences. Dority acknowledges the changes in libraries and the bleak outlook for traditional library work, and her book is a guide to identifying your true value as a professional and finding the right fit for your skills in this changing landscape.

It begins with chapters about different types of library work. "The Traditional Path" covers public, school, and academic libraries, including user services, tech services, and administrative services. In "The Nontraditional Path" we learn about nontraditional jobs in traditional libraries, and traditional roles in nontraditional environments. Contracting and freelancing are discussed in "The Independent Path."

Once the different types of work are covered, Dority moves on to help you create a portfolio by focusing on accomplishments, projects, and skills rather than positions you have held. You can examine your transferable skills and reframe your work life to help you pursue a new career. She describes creating a “career map” to lay out goals and strategies to reach them, and an “education map” to plan needed training.

She encourages the reader to take advantage of change to create new opportunities, and to take responsibility to overcome obstacles to improving your work situation. Simple suggestions include writing down your obstacles and reframing them in a way that is internal rather than external, to pinpoint something you can do to improve the situation.

Each chapter has a bibliography of books, articles, and online sources to further explore the themes in each chapter. Appendices of special interest groups, employment resources, and current awareness resources are also included.

I found this book inspiring, helpful, and a refreshing change from most library career discussions. The author is realistic about the future of our work without being dismal, instead showing us how to innovate new and satisfying careers. I read a library copy, but will probably buy my own – I think it’s worth it just for the extensive bibliographies. The accompanying website is also filled with helpful information. So go ahead and get started!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Progress on Doctor Who gloves

This is my favorite kind of weekend. All I've done is laze about doing things I enjoy, and I have something to show for it.

The first Doctor Who fingerless glove is turning out well so far. I'm using the glove instructions from Ann Budd's Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns. I can't believe I haven't used this book more often (I also own Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns, which I now want to take another look at - I've never used it). The thumb will be completely enclosed, but all the other fingers will be open. I thought about doing a couple of rows of ribbing before binding off so it doesn't roll (I hate that about my Knucks) but for these, I like the ragamuffin effect.

As for the mitten flip tops, the plans have changed at Eric's request. Rather than being attached to the gloves, they are going to be separate pieces, held in place with a button on the back of the hand. They should be snug enough to stay on without additional buttons, and can be completely removed so that they won't get in the way when not being used. He expressed some concern about losing them, but I think they'll be easy enough to make that they can be replaced if needed. I like this idea as it will be simpler; I had dreaded trying to pick up stitches on the back of the hand because it's hard to know exactly where to do it, and I was worried about it being bulky or messy in that spot.

It's very satisfying to knit for someone who has active interest in how the final product turns out - he knows exactly what he wants and makes suggestions along the way to ensure the final product is satisfactory. True team work!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Doctor Who

Here's a scarf I made a year or two ago and has been much loved but not photographed until now. The pattern is here, but if you're thinking of making the scarf definitely check other parts of the site because there are different versions from different seasons of the show. I used the recommended yarn, Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport, because even though I had to order it online it was SO much easier than trying to match all those colors in another brand. It's great yarn, too. The knitting was mind-numbingly boring as it's just miles and miles of garter stitch on some crazy small size needles.

The scruffy gentleman modeling the scarf would now like matching fingerless gloves so I'm going to more or less use Knitty's pattern for the Broad Street Mittens. I can't use it exactly because a)it calls for sock yarn and I'm using sport weight, and b)it kind of sucks as a pattern. It includes instructions for the left mitten and then says to do it again reversing everything, which frankly is a recipe for either another left mitten, or a right mitten with the thumb next to the pinky or the flip-top over the wrist instead of the fingers. In addition, the materials list calls for two different sized needles but then doesn't tell you when to use each size. No wonder this pattern is rated "extraspicy."

A helpful soul on Ravelry says that she used the basic idea from this pattern along with the instructions from The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns to use sport weight yarn, and I think I will do the same. There don't seem to be many patterns for fingerless gloves with flip tops, so this may be all I have to work with. It involves math, but I knew I wouldn't be able to escape that forever if I want to call myself a decent knitter. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The future of librarianship

The deprofessionalization of librarianship - part 2

Ever since library catalogs were automated, librarians have speculated about the demise of librarianship as we know it. We're still here, but it's becoming clear that our roles are changing and continuing to become less professional as the public is able to meet more of its information needs without our help. Library 2.0 is all about the democratization of information, and the effect on libraries and librarians is telling. The fact is that a lot of what we do on the job no longer uses a high level of skill. Most cataloging is now done centrally by a library network rather than at each individual library. Many reference questions are being answer by Google, or through home access to library databases. Of course someone still needs to plan programs, hold story times for children, and show people how to sign up for computers, print, and find and request books, but you don't need an MLS for those jobs.

There was an article on Slashdot recently about IT people who feel like their job security is threatened by Web 2.0. Emily over at Library Revolution says that she sees this differently; her take is that Web 2.0 is empowering people to get many jobs done themselves without having to depend help from IT. This is how I feel about Library 2.0: people now have so much easy access to information that they don’t need a gatekeeper (i.e. librarian) to help them. How fantastic!

A second benefit to recent trends is that it will be cheaper for public libraries to operate without having to pay so many MLS salaries. No doubt libraries will continue to exist as long as people still want free books, magazines, dvds, and cds, but surely an advanced degree is not needed for these jobs. This is good news for libraries with funding issues, and surely better than closing down.

Like IT people, librarians can’t help but worry about job security. But in addition to wasteful spending that many municipalities can’t afford, it’s ridiculous to waste our skills by keeping positions professional when they shouldn’t be. Those of us with MLS degrees are bored in jobs where we aren’t working to our full potential. Furthermore, pretending that these positions still use high level skills is really doing us all a disservice. I wrote a little about that here – it doesn’t reflect well on the profession when we try to justify MLS salaries and all we can show them is that we are holding game nights. How does it help our reputation as a profession when we are being asked to justify our existence and that is all we can come up with? Pretending that these jobs require advanced degrees is just self-preservation, but we are supposed to exist for the good of our communities not for own personal gain.

Don’t just think you can switch to another type of library though, because these changes are happening everywhere. Corporate libraries are beginning to close or decentralize, and the librarian role is more aligned within departmental units if it continues to exist at all. Many companies such as the accounting firm where I used to work, are making research information available through robust intranets and training employees how to use them. Like with public libraries, this is good news for those who need information, but bad news for librarians.

So what does this mean for librarians? This free and easy access to information is what we have been advocating for, and ironically it will be our downfall. We need to define new roles for ourselves. If you enjoy traditional librarianship, this may not be pleasant to think about, but we need to face reality: the jobs we are used to will no longer exist. Sure, there are librarians who will be retiring, but their positions won’t be there waiting for us to seamlessly slip into, and the ALA needs to stop pretending otherwise.

The October 15th issue of Library Journal touched on these issues in its cover story "What's an MLIS Worth?" Here are some trends noted:

-a substantial leap in graduates reporting jobs outside of the library and information science (LIS) professions (up 43.7%)
-those reporting placements outside of library agencies increased by 37.4%
-more grads in nonprofessional jobs, rising temp positions, more graduates taking multiple part-time positions, and a longer average job search
-nonprofessional positions increased by almost 37.5% between 2005 and 2006
-2003-2006 28.5% growth in placement with vendors

It's becoming harder to find employment in the library field and many librarians are taking positions in non-library environments doing what most of us would think of as non-librarian work. This is where the profession is heading, and we better be ready. How do we prepare for the inevitable shifts in our careers? Funny that you ask - I just read a helpful book that addresses that very question. Next week I’ll post my review on Rethinking Information Work: A Career Guide for Librarians and Other Information Professionals by G. Kim Dority.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

FO: Spicy Fitted V-Neck Tee

Pattern: Spicy Fitted V-Neck Tee from Fitted Knits by Stefanie Japel
Yarn: Plymouth Encore Chunky
Needle size: 11

Modifications: I skipped the eyelets on the back, as I thought the ones on the front were enough. Also, knit the sleeves in the round.

Final verdict: I like it more than I thought I would. It's just gotten a little too cold to wear it (especially at work where my department has no heat). It's unblocked and you can tell, but honestly this yarn is so highly acrylic I'm not sure what effect blocking will have. But I love the color.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

It's only a game

The deprofessionalization of librarianship - part 1

You may have noticed recently that libraries have begun adding video games to their collections and hosting game nights, much like many libraries have film nights. While this is all well and good, some of the accompanying ideas in the library world are only serving to hasten the slide into deprofessionalism to which librarianship is destined.

There’s nothing wrong with libraries collecting video games and even having game nights, but please, stop pretending that this is an intellectual subject that we all need to study and is worthy of entire conferences. That is just embarrassing. It is embarrassing not because librarians are talking about video games – because we should be – but that some of us are trying to raise them to an intellectual level worthy of study. This may very well be justified in the education field, but not in libraries. You don’t need a library school class, a scholarly article, or a symposium to learn how to purchase video games and make them available to your patrons. How this bizarre intellectual leap occurred is beyond me, but it is a trend that is sure to make our already damaged image worse. Maybe these so-called gaming librarians think it makes us look cool and progressive, but in reality it makes us look foolish and desperate.

Lest you think I have something against video games, please bear a few things in mind:
-a Wii lives at my house and I know how to use it (and have scored pretty high on Big Brain Academy)
-I have borrowed a video game from a library
-I attended a PLA session on gaming with John Beck, author of Got Game and it was very interesting and I’m totally convinced that people can develop problem-solving skills from playing video games.

But as the Annoyed Librarian said, "This stuff doesn't require a master's degree, or even a college degree." This is the problem when librarians are already trying so hard to justify our existences, and failing miserably: when we try to prove the value of our skills and convince our institutions that they need us, and they see shit like this, what do you think that says about us? No matter how much fun they are to play, or how educational they can be, or how successfully a library gaming night fosters a sense of community, they are still just games. And when our colleagues talk about gaming as though it's a large, vital part of our highly-skilled field, and an important trend in libraries, we need to stop wondering why we are paid so poorly.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Spicy Tee Progress

I must heretofore make a commitment to myself to only knit sweaters of worsted weight or lighter. Bulky is not becoming, no matter how nice it looks in the picture. There are professionals paid to make those sweaters look flattering, plus the models are skinnier, taller, and more long-waisted than I am.

Also, short-sleeved sweaters? Not so practical. Clearly, I am far too susceptible to lovely knitting photography that makes every garment look appealing and practical.

That being said, I think this is coming out pretty well. It was touch and go for a while as I wasn't sure whether it was coming out the right size, or if the fabric was too drapy, so I was debating ripping it out and reknitting on smaller needles. I put it aside for a while to distance myself (hence the lack of progress) and in the end I decided to just keep going. We'll see how it turns out. It should be finished soon!

Friday, October 26, 2007


I feel like I'm cheating a little in showing these off now, because I made them a year or so ago, but I just got around to taking pictures. They are a little baggy in places and I don't like how the ends of the fingers roll, but they do keep my hands warm and still allow me to type. I also really like the stitch pattern around the cuff. The Knucks pattern can be found here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Still Reading

Since A Thousand Splendid Suns I haven't posted any book reviews as I've realized that I don't like writing them. I have still been reading though, so here's a rundown on those books:

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
Very excellent true crime book about Ted Bundy. What makes this book unique is that the author was a friend of Bundy's, but when she signed the contract to write a book about the murders he was not yet a suspect. Contains insight and perspective missing from most crime stories.

Drunk, Divorced and Covered in Cat Hair by Laurie Perry
From the author of the Crazy Aunt Purl blog, the hilarious story about a woman pulling herself together after her husband leaves her. I know it doesn't sound funny, but trust me, you will totally want to invite her to a girls' night out after reading this book.

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
An epistolary novel about the fictional island home of the man who coined the phrase "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog." When letters from the phrase start falling from the island's memorial statue, authorities forbid islanders to use those letters. An underground movement is born to try and stop the madness before everyone is unable to communicate. A quick, fun read.

Every Visible Thing by Lisa Carey
A family fails to deal with the aftermath of their oldest son's disappearance, and the younger brother and sister are left to cope on their own. Engaging story - I didn't want to put it down.

Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald
Fluffy, chick lit type book about a woman from Iran on a 3-month visa in the US who needs to find a husband so she can stay. Writing left a little to be desired, but was still enjoyable and fun.

Slam by Nick Hornby
A 15-year-old boy seems to have everything going for him, until he gets into a bit of a pickle and the future no longer looks quite so rosy. It took me a couple of chapters to get into the story, but then I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Do you know that if you unearth all your yarn from the bags, baskets, and shoe boxes in which you have been storing it and then organize it and move it to a new spot, it's like having a whole supply of new yarn? I swear, I'm not making this up.

A very helpful person with whom I live jolted me from my yarn storage indecision by bringing home and installing two side-by-side sweater shelf hanger thingies, and then forcing me to put all my yarn on them immediately, even though it was 9:30 at night and I had just gotten home from work and was tired and cranky. But look- it's lovely and organized and fits behind a door!

There's a lot of guilt associated with one's stash, judging from yarn-related conversations in the world of knitters. Is my stash too big? Do I need to improve my stash management, or buy something in which to contain my stash? Oh, don't tell my husband/sister/boss/cat that I just bought more yarn! The "flash your stash" pics that people feel compelled to post (such as the one above) only add to the anxiety, as it inevitably results in comparisons, like so many teenage boys in a locker room. So-and-so has a bigger stash than mine, and her stash has gotten a lot bigger recently, does my stash look huge in this photo? and so on.

A while back, A Mingled Yarn published a post called "On Stash"
in which she listed some very helpful rules for keeping stash under control.

- Size restriction based on size of stash container. I can only now implement this, due the previously unorganized and uncontained nature of my yarn stash.

- Regularly prune stash. I have been heavily pruning (which in librarianship we call "weeding" - what is it with the gardening metaphors?) by giving away yarns that I have come to accept will remain unused as long as I own them. The drawback to this is that trading is a two-way street, but I am deliberately trading my yarns for more useful yarns or for knitting books.

- No unassigned yarns. My most important goal is to only own yarns which are meant for a particular project as I have always found having a stash stressful. When I have unused yarn sitting around I feel pressure to find a use for it, and one thing I have learned as a knitter is that I'm compelled to knit based on a pattern not on yarn. If I'm just trying to use up yarn, I most likely won't find a good pattern for it. I need to first figure out what I really want to make and THEN buy the yarn.

But what to do with leftovers from projects? I now have several partial balls of Reynolds Smile from my top-down raglan which I have no idea what to do with. And the Dr. Who Scarf resulted in many many balls of Nature Spun Sport sitting and waiting to be made into...what? An accompanying Dr. Who style hat? Dr. Who socks? There are entire books published containing patterns that use less than a ball of yarn, but most of those patterns don't appeal to me. Yet I can't just throw it in the trash. What do you all do with your odd amounts of leftover yarn? This mystery is the final barrier in my problem of stash control and I am determined to solve it!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Going nowhere fast

I forgot how long it takes to knit a scarf.

I don't even need a scarf. I just wanted to use this yarn, and found a pattern in Scarf Style that looked appropriate. Plus I've owned this copy of Scarf Style for at least two two years and have never made anything from it, so it seemed like kismet.

Of course my primary reason for starting this project is to avoid another project which is not going so well. My Spicy Fitted V-neck Tee is just sitting in my knitting basket refusing to knit itself. I need to make a decision about it, because I think it's coming out too big and I think the yarn is a little too drapy. My gauge is closest on the size 11 needles I've been using, but I'm thinking I should have gone with the 10.5. Like with so many things in my life I'm completely indecisive, so there it lies in its stagnant unfinished state.

There may be a new knitting group starting up at Bloc 11 in Union Square (being organized on Ravelry, how exciting!) which would be the perfect setting to work on my mind-numbingly boring scarf. I just need to find something more challenging to work on at home.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Thoughts on a recent AL post

The Annoyed Librarian has written another thought-provoking post. In a way, I take offense at the notion that librarians can demand higher pay, because in public libraries that doesn't seem possible. The city and the union decide on a pay scale and there is no salary negotiation. Someone else will take the job if the pay isn't enough for me. Of course, this is exactly the problem - the fact that *someone* will take the job, so there is no need to raise the pay. But the fact of the matter is that you can't always choose to go work at the higher paying libraries because job openings are so rare and field is so competitive. If you want to work in a public library, you don't have a hell of a lot of choice.

But AL is right - working in public library is a choice in itself. I could very well take my skills and go work for a company that will pay me more for those skills. I choose not to, at least not right now, because of various factors too numerous and boring to list here.

As for librarianship being a "calling," I'm not sure what that even means. I've always thought a calling is something spiritual and since I am about as spiritual as a baked potato, I'm probably not the best person to address this topic. But I think it implies that you have no choice, that it is your destiny, and it's a mystery to me why that means that you can't be paid fairly.

In my case it's definitely not a calling, it's an interest. I have a lot of interests, and maybe someday I'll get a job doing something else I am interested in such as petting cats or eating cheese. I have great skills in those areas, so I'm sure to command a large salary.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

FO: Baudelaire Socks

I don't know why I didn't start knitting socks sooner. Wool is perfect for my perpetually cold feet, and these are far more comfortable than any other socks I own (except possibly my Jaywalkers).

Here's a shot of the lace pattern on the top of the foot.

And one more look, just because.

This yarn is really fantastic. I have a hard time finding sock yarn that I like, probably because I usually shop at Windsor Button and, much as I love that store, they don't have a great selection of sock yarn. In particular, I have a hard time finding appealing solid colors, which really are the best for intricate lace or cable patterns. Last winter I stopped by A Good Yarn in Brookline and found this yarn - beautiful, solid colors in a skein with more than enough yardage for two socks (very important!) I was so excited, I bought two skeins. The other one is a lovely, deep brown and I'm still looking for the perfect pattern for it.

Pattern: Baudelaire from Knitty, designed by Cookie A.
Yarn: ZwergerGarn Opal
Needles: Addi Turbos, size 2

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Memoirs I didn't hate: a booklist

It's a short list.

I don't like memoirs, not because of what they are by definition, but what they have become now that every person who can type has found it necessary to churn out a book of self-absorbed navel-gazing. Even more, I hate the fact that the American public eats them up like so many reality tv shows.

Writers of memoirs fall into two main camps: those who have a story to tell, but lack the writing skill to tell it, and those who are good writers but whose lives aren't interesting enough to merit books about them. On occasion however, I have read a memoir that surprises me by being what a memoir should be: interesting and well-written. Here are those few.

She's Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan. Jim Boylan was a professor at my alma mater, Colby College, and several years ago became a woman. This book was enjoyable as well as educational.*

Gone Boy by Gregory Gibson. After his son is killed by a student gunman at Simon's Rock College, Gibson begins a search for answers to how it could have happened. Amazingly, he manages to rise above his grief and rage to conduct an informative investigation of the circumstances surrounding the event and the shooter's life.

Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres. In the 80s, Julia and her adopted brother David are teenagers in rural Indiana. Because David is black, their racist community makes them both outcasts. Oh, but it can get worse: unwilling to deal with the two kids and their adolescent troubles, their parents ship them off to a Christian boot camp in the Dominican Republic.

Lucky by Alice Sebold. The Lovely Bones did nothing for me, as I couldn't buy the spiritual aspects, but Sebold's memoir was good. As a college freshman she was raped, and then told by police that she was lucky compared to the young woman who was murdered in the same spot previously. A well-written account of her attack and its aftermath.

*Boylan has another memoir coming out, about growing up in a haunted house and a haunted body. So not only was he born into a body of the wrong gender, but it was haunted as well? I wish I could say that I'm looking forward to this book, but the very thought of it makes me cringe. If only I could recapture some of my 14-year-old excitement about the supernatural...

Sunday, October 7, 2007

FO: Short-Sleeved Cardigan with Ribbing


The back looks quite nice though.

I had a hard time choosing buttons, but in the end I think I did good!

The pattern is from Fitted Knits by Stefanie Japel. It's the first item I've made from the book (though I'm working on another). I'll wear it, but I'm not completely happy with it. It's got weird bagginess under the arms which I think is a design flaw since I've heard that so many other people have had that problem as well. Also, using a smaller needle size for the ribbing only causes one to have to block super aggressively so the ribbing will fit around your waist and arms. (Though knitting this on size 10.5 needles means that I had to go down an extra half size. In retrospect I should have gone down a half size less than required, but how was I to know that then?) I also had to aggressively block the button band as I suck at picking up stitches evenly. I don't like how unstructured the button band looks, but to be fair the picture in the book looks the same way. I love the yarn, though - it is Cascade 128 Tweed in the most lovely shade of green with flecks of red, blue, and yellow.

Another thing which made this project frustrating is that there are a number of errors in this pattern which are not in the errata. For example, the horizontal ribbing on the front is written such that you end up making the ribs on the inside rather than the outside and it's difficult to know this before doing it, as the instructions are written in a confusing way. Also, the math on the sleeve decreases make no sense as written, so I just winged it.

I don't feel too bad about the project though, as it did come out well enough to wear and was very quick to make. I think it was a total of 3 weeks, not including the re-blocking and hunt for buttons, and I was also working on a sock at the same time. Not so bad!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Banned Blah Blah Week Blah

I am happy to say that my library is not celebrating Banned Books Week (or BBW as the ALA likes to call it). This is probably because most of my co-workers are so professionally out of the loop and uninvolved that they don't even know about it, but in my little fantasy world it's because they, too, feel only apathy and a bit of irritation at this time every year. I have to agree with the Annoyed Librarian - I see that these so-called banned books are widely available in libraries and bookstores and I just can't bring myself to care much.

Banned Books Week is, of course, a misnomer. None of these books are banned, they are just challenged by parents who don't want their children reading about gay penguins or dog scrotums. We all know that there are scary fundamentalist Christians and their ilk everywhere, just looking for things that upset their delicate moral sensabilities that they can complain about. Why do we need a special week to draw attention to them?

The ALA says that they will continue to use the word "banned" because "A successful challenge would result in materials being banned or restricted." But these are all local actions, and in reality a successful challenge would result in one book being removed from one library in, perhaps, a small town in Alabama. I can't accept that this really constitutes banning. After all, everyone in that town in Alabama can still go out to their nearest bookstore and buy a copy. And if enough people care, they can probably petition the library to return the book to the shelf.

In a way, it's more about taxpayers trying to shape their library's collection, which brings me to a point I mentioned in a previous post: most censorship is done by librarians during the collection development process. Librarians will fight to the death to make sure that Harry Potter stays on the shelves once it's there, but my library just came perilously close to not purchasing a copy of If I Did It because one person does all of our adult collection development and that one person happens to find the book offensive. But you don't see stories about that on the news, do you? If librarians are going to talk about banned books, I think we need to examine what we ourselves are doing that may constitute censorship because ultimately we are the ones who have the most control over library collections.

The ALA says that Banned Books Week "celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them." Well then, let those parents express their opinions on the inappropriateness of the Gossip Girls series because we know that nothing will come of their complaints anyhow. If it is intellectual freedom and access to information that we are so concerned about, perhaps we should turn our attention away from these small isolated incidents and spend a week promoting more timely and relevant issues such as library funding and net neutrality.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Khaled Hosseini's second novel did not disappoint me, despite the unfavorable comparisons with the Kite Runner. It is the story of two women who both end up, through very unfortunate circumstances, married to the same man. He is not a nice man. It was exhausting just reading about the women's lives and their losses and what they endured just to survive. Without giving away the ending, I'll just say that it is worth it to see the book through to it's conclusion.

I frequently had to remind myself that though it is fiction, the conditions are real and they are recent. Reading about this sort of oppression makes me feel grateful that I have such control over my life. I can work, and can pursue whatever career I want, can go where I want to go, and can marry (or in my case, live in delicious sin with) whomever I choose (even more so, since I live in Massachusetts). I'm not going to get all patriotic because I'm sure I'd be just as happy in, say, England or the Netherlands, but I feel lucky that I wasn't born in the Middle East.

Things are looking up for women in that part of the world though. Just a couple of days ago I learned that Afghan women are shedding their burqas for Kabul's version of America's Next Top Model. Progress at last!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Began the Spicy Fitted V-Neck Tee

I love this turquoise yarn, but am not so crazy about all the errors in this pattern. Luckily, it's easy enough for me (yes, even me!) to figure out. I've decided not to include the eyelet pattern on the back. You can see what it would look like here - I actually really like her finished version, but for mine I'd like a little less of the eyelets. I'm including the back shaping, but otherwise it will just look plain.

I've gotten a bit beyond where I was in the pic above, and because I was knitting while watching several episodes of The Simpsons, I managed to make a pretty egregious error in the front eyelet pattern. Also, I tried it on recently and it's not quite as fitted as I thought it would be. Both of these factors are causing me to reconsider needle size. I'm using 11, but may frog and re-knit using 10.5. The fabric is pretty loose and drapey and I think I could go down a needle size and still fit into the top. I have to be careful though, as this yarn is way more acrylic than wool, so blocking won't help if it does come out too tight.

You know, knitting is far more complicated than I ever thought it was. I'm glad I didn't know this before, or I probably wouldn't have ever learned!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Progress on 4 (!) projects

Just to top off an already bad day, I came home and tried on my cardigan, which had been blocking. Lying there on the table it looks so cute, so comfy.

But guess what? It doesn't fricking fit. The armholes are too tight and then the parts just under the armholes are weirdly baggy. Why are armholes the bane of my existence? I got stitch gauge, row gauge- you name it, I got it. So why is this so wrong? Let me just say that I do love Stefanie Japel's designs, but I noticed that the schematics for this pattern don't include as many helpful measurements as it could. For example, the raglan seams: no measurements indicated. I did, of course, try the sweater on while it was in progress, but it was hard to tell anything about the sleeves as the ribbing was SO tight before I blocked it that I couldn't get it on anyhow. I don't think my shoulders are ridiculously large, but I haven't heard of other people having this problem.

So what do I do? Should I try to block it again? Do I just rip out the whole thing and start again? I wouldn't even know how to correct these mistakes though, because I'd want to knit longer before detaching the sleeves, but that would mean more increases, and I don't want more increases as the bust area is plenty big. Since the increases are decorative eyelets, wouldn't it look funny if I just left them out?

Oh also, the purple blob on the top left of that photo? It's Foliage from the new Knitty.

I knit it the other day to use up some stash yarn and it makes my head look like a grape. But don't let that deter you - I'm sure on a person with a normal-sized head it would look very cute. On those of us with child-size peaheads, not so much.

I do have some good news though. I'm making great progress on my second Baudelaire sock!

Dear, sweet sock! You will fit me perfectly, as does your sister, and will not plague me with weird problems that make me feel like my body is weird-shaped and out of proportion (when in fact it is you who are weird-shaped and out of proportion). No, you will keep my foot warm and look beautiful as a well-behaved sock should.

Last but not least, I have cast on for the Spicy Fitted V-Neck Tee. I showed you the yarn back here in June. I will be keeping a close eye on the armholes!

Oh, one more thing- if you are on Ravelry, I have finally posted most my projects there (my username is threegoodrats). If you are not on Ravelry, I have also posted these pictures on Flickr.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Continuing Education for Librarians

As information professionals, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves about current technologies and information trends so we can continue to be relevant to our patrons throughout our careers. (I touched on this subject a bit here) This sounds like common sense, but I think we can all use the reminder. I don't know how many libraries support continuing education, but from my limited public library experience it appears that it is not emphasized enough. Let me just say that I think most of us don't want to end up being this librarian. I'd like to think this situation is an anomaly, but the fact is that many librarians do not embrace change, nor do they think their skills need to be updated regularly. I don't know if it's ignorance, apathy, or some other factor, but it appears that many leave library school and think they know everything they will need to know for their whole career.

This is a subject which I feel strongly about and could expound on at length, but instead I will offer some suggestions for continued learning. There is no one-stop shopping center for library continuing education and sometimes you need to poke around a bit to find something more sophisticated than Email 101 or Introduction to MS Excel. Here are some of the education sources I've come up with:

-Library schools. Many have continuing education classes; many of those classes are online so you can take them no matter where you live!

-Your library's network may have classes for members.

-State library associations also may offer courses.

-Conferences are always good learning opportunities with sessions on the latest trends and technologies. In addition to ALA, PLA, SLA and the other big national conferences, state and regional associations have conferences that are much less expensive to attend.

-Adult education centers. Many will include technology classes.

-Informal learning. 23 Learning 2.0 Things, reading blogs on librarianship, identifying topics you are interested in and picking up a book or going online to learn about those topics.

Any more suggestions? Leave them in the comments!

Friday, September 21, 2007

On Chesil Beach

One of the reasons why I like Ian McEwan so much is his penchant for writing about uncomfortable subjects: obsessions, incest, and in his latest book, the wedding night of two virgins with sexual hang-ups. What could possibly be more awkward than that?

In the early 60s when sexual mores are about to change, Edward and Florence are still very much of the 50s. Rather repressed, neither knows a whole lot about sex and both are rather uncomfortable with the subject. Both are from dubious backgrounds as far as opennes and communication are concerned; Edwards mother was mentally ill and the family took great pains to pretend that she was not. Florence's mother was distant, and Florence was cold to her father.

Florence is absolutely repulsed by the idea of consummating the marriage and does not know how to tell Edward this, so she simply doesn't. Edward is eager, a bit too eager, resulting in...well, some disappointing and unsexy results. The situation is made far worse because they don't know how to talk about it, and just say whatever words comes to mind, which are of course the wrong ones. It is all the more unfortunate as they were quite in love and very much looking forward to spending their lives together.

Despite the awkwardness of the situation described, the prose is very pleasing and the characters endearing. Privy to what's going on inside their heads, the reader knows that their relationship could have worked, but is destroyed because they can't communicate. The story sadly illustrates that love alone is not enough, and lives can be changed simply by misunderstanding and stubbornness. Beautiful and tragic.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

To read: a list

Well, this should be amusing. Folks over at the Knittyboard have been posting their "to read" lists. It makes me chuckle, their four or five books each. But then again, they probably all don't spend their workdays reading book reviews either.

Now I'm not kidding myself that I'll actually read all of these. In fact, I'm pretty sure I was daunted enough by Gary Shteyngart's first book (which I couldn't finish) that I probably won't even attempt his latest. But this list is more of a memory aid than an assignment. If I didn't keep a list, I'd putting all these books on hold so I wouldn't forget about them and then would end up with 12 at a time (ask me how I know this). I do pare down this list now and then, but I also just recently read the new Library Journal AND Booklist, so it's a bit out of control again. Such is life.

In addition to the books below, I'm on hold for the new Ian McEwan book, On Chesil Beach, and A Thousand Splended Suns by Khaled Hosseini.


1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
2. The Sparrow. Mary Doria Russell
3. Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
4. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
5. Jinn by Matthew B.J. Delaney
6. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
7. A God Strolling in the Cool of the Evening
8. Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
9. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
10. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
11. Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart
12. Adverbs by Daniel Handler
13. A Disorder Peculiar to the Country by Ken Kalfus
14. Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o
15. Special Topics in Calamity Physics
16. Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald
17. The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
18. The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond
19. The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver
20. Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson
21. Life as we knew it. Pfeffer
22. Walden by Thoreau
23. The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies
24. More from the Thursday Next series
25. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
26. Timothy, or Notes of an Abject Reptile by Verlyn Klinkenborg
27. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
28. Every Visible Thing by Lisa Carey
29. Time Capsule: Short stories about teenagers through the 20th century
30. Little Stalker by Jennifer Belle
31. Peony in Love by Lisa See
32. Sheer Abandon by Penny Vincenzi
33. Mr. Dixon Disappears by Ian Sansom
34. Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney
35. The Worst Thing I’ve Done by Ursula Hegi
36. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
37. The Eight by Katherine Neville
38. We Go Liquid by Christian TeBordo
39. No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay
40. Not Yet Drown’d by Pet Kingman
41. The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold
42. Sammy's Hill by Kristin Gore


1. People’s History of the United States
2. The Fasting Girl 336p
3. The Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Carson 289p
4. Animals in Translation 356p
5. 1776 by David McCullough
6. Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick
7. The Family that Couldn’t Sleep by D.T. Max 299p
8. The Heartless stone: a journey through the world of diamonds, deceit and desire
9. Devil’s Picnic by Tara Grescoe
10. Better: a surgeon’s notes on performance by Atul Gawande
11. Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
12. Mindless Eating: why we eat more than we think
13. The End of the Line: How overfishing is changing the world and what we eat by Charles Clover
14. Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity
15. The Braindead Megaphone: Essays by George Saunders
16. The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
17. Lone Wolf: Eric Rudolph; Murder, Myth, and the Pursuit of an American Outlaw
18. Best American Crime Reporting 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

FO: Haiku Baby Sweater

This was a gift for a friend who is expecting a baby in October. I finished it about a week ago but couldn't post until after yesterday's baby shower. It was only one of several handmade gifts including an afghan and another two very adorable hand-knit sweaters.

Aren't those buttons adorable? Windsor Button had SO many fantastic kid-themed buttons, but most were too brightly colored and cartoonish to work with this pattern. But these were perfect!

The pattern for this sweater is here at Knitty. I used Bernat Cottontots, which is 100% cotton and is soft, lovely, and machine washable and dryable. I refuse to knit baby items out of yarns that must be hand washed and dried flat. I know a lot of people do, claiming that it will be an heirloom or whatnot, but really, isn't that a mean thing to do to a new mother? Give her baby clothes that need labor-intensive and time-consuming care?

Part of the reason I chose this pattern (aside from the cuteness) is that it is knit sideways, starting at a sleeve cuff and ending at the other sleeve cuff. I've seen adult sweaters knit this way but haven't really liked any of them enough to knit. This, though, was definitely worth the experiment. It was very easy. I finished the main part rather quickly, and was only held up by the buttonholes, which I reinforced - an easy enough job, but still a bit daunting as they had to end up the right size. Sewing on buttons is a pain too, as they have to match up with the holes. But all in all, it was a fun and easy project

Thursday, September 13, 2007

On patrons asking the right questions

I mentioned in this post about using Zamzar that I don't often apply my knowledge. It is true - most patron interactions on the Reference desk are of the "Can I use a computer?" variety, with a few "Do you have this book?" questions thrown in. It's difficult to keep one's reference skills sharp without practice, and it's also easy to just get lazy and Google everything. Throw in the fact that many patrons would rather have a less-than-authoritative quick answer than an authoritative but time-consuming answer, and you have an idea of what Reference service can be like.

On the other hand, there is ample opportunity to apply computer skills, which indicates a need to shift away from extensive and unapplied knowledge on using print reference resources and towards computer problem-solving and internet reference. Every librarian should have a thorough knowledge of good online information and tools, as well as a working knowledge of how to use anything on the library's computers.

One day a co-worker who was working on the Reference desk called me during my break in the staff room because a patron, who I had helped earlier with a Powerpoint problem, had another question. Although I haven't used Powerpoint in around 6 years, I can certainly find a book about it with which to answer questions, which is what I had done previously (and what any librarian should be able to do). When I firmly reminded my co-worker that I was on break, she said "Well, we don't have time for this stuff either!"

The beauty of reference, the reason why it is so interesting and exciting, is that pretty much any question is fair game (and certainly ones about programs installed on the library's computers!) After all, we are information professionals and computers have become the primary way of accessing, manipulating, and sharing information. How can we say "I'm sorry - we aren't computer experts" and just go back to surfing the web and waiting for "real" reference questions? We cannot tell patrons that we don't answer certain questions just because they aren't the questions that we want them to ask.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Short sleeved cardigan progress

Remember this project I mentioned a while back? I've started and have been making fantastic progress!

Isn't it cute? So far, I love it!

I cast on for this over Labor Day weekend, and in just over a week this is how far I've gotten. Pretty amazing, especially considering that I didn't just spend that weekend lounging around the house, but went outside and participated in activities with other humans.

I did not wash and block my gauge swatch (boo! hiss!) for the following reasons:

a) Laziness and impatience

b) I'm making a size equal to my bust size and may want to block it slightly larger depending on how the fit seems, which I can't really tell until it's finished. It seems to fit really well now, but I won't be able to tell for sure until I add the button bands.

c) Swatches lie. Don't gasp in horror - you know it's true.

The ribbing at the bottom seems to be taking forever, but I don't have far to go. Here's hoping this sweater will be done before that brief window of time in which it makes sense to wear a short-sleeved wool sweater. Mind you, I'm not sure when that time is - I'm hoping there IS such a time. But if so, I suspect it will be soon.

I'm off to wind more yarn!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

I'm sorry, Stargirl

Jerry Spinelli's new novel Love, Stargirl was a disappointing sequal to Stargirl. I've read the first book twice, and for someone with a "To Read" list as long as mine, that is a compliment. That combined with the fact that the cover of the new book is the same color as my living room, I had high hopes. Alas, the new novel didn't hold my interest enough to finish it. I stopped halfway through, frustrated by the plotlessness and the title character's new friend, the much younger and unfortunately named Dootsie.

The Stargirl of the original was an enigma, a delightfully eccentric high school student described in third person by that book's narrator. Here, Stargirl is the narrator, and either she has changed, or the magic is lost just because we are inside her head and can see that she's a pretty normal teenage girl. I like that this book featured Cinnamon the rat more prominently, but even that wasn't enough to hold my interest.

The old me would have plodded through anyhow, in the naive hope that something wonderful would suddenly happen to make the book worthwhile. The new me, who doesn't want to waste time reading books I don't enjoy, just flipped to the end and scanned through the last few pages to find that I didn't really miss much.

The aspect of this book that I disliked the most was Stargirl's friendship with Dootsie, which resulted in a great many childish conversations and adventures which made the book feel more appropriate for a younger audience than it is intended for. The friendship between Stargirl and Dootsie would probably be appealing to those who find children cute and amusing, but I do not find children particularly cute and amusing. (I know, some of you are snickering at that understatement.)

Sorry, Stargirl, but you were much more interesting before I got to know you.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Baudelaire socks: one down

I'm pleased with my sock. My plan was to immediately cast on for the second sock before losing momentum, but alas, Satan intervened and instead I cast on for a cardigan. Who knows when - or, I shudder to think, if - the second sock will materialize.

This is my first toe-up sock. I like to learn something new with most projects, and though I hate to admit it, it seems like this is how all the cool kids knit their socks. Thus, my toe-up sock.

I have discovered that I do not like knitting socks from the toe up. The figure eight cast-on is messy and imprecise, unlike the lovely neatness of the kitchener cast-off for cuff down socks. There are other ways to cast on for toe-ups of course, and perhaps I will try them, but this method has still another strike against it.

When beginning from the toe, you start with the toe shaping, then move on to the foot increases, then the always-interesting heel, after which - just when you are getting a little burned out with this tiny-needled project - you are faced with the straight, boring neverending leg of darkness and misery. I think I prefer the boring part at the beginning and more complicated parts later on to hold my interest.

I'm not sure how to reconcile this with my newfound love of the top-down sweater, however. Those also start with the more interesting parts, end with the long body and then the sleeves which are boring and unpleasant no matter when you make them. Why do I enjoy this method so much more than the traditional bottom up sweater? I just don't know. As the scientists are fond of saying, additional studies are needed.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Back to school: a sinister booklist

Because it's not just clean white notebooks and pep rallies.

Bray, Libba. A Great and Terrible Beauty.
After her mother's death, Gemma must leave India and the only home she's ever known to attend Spence Academy, a girls' boarding school in England. There she begins having strange visions and discovers a mysterious place known as the realms. She blackmails her way in a clique of friends and brings them with her to explore the realms, where they enjoy freedoms they will never have in their futures as Victorian wives. Meanwhile, they try to unlock the secrets of the burned-out East Wing of the school and the mysteries surrounding the class of 1871.

Handler, Daniel. The Basic Eight.
A group of eight surreally pretentious high school students are the focus of this satirical novel about dating, absinthe, murder, and the media. Written in the style of a highly-edited journal, the dark humor is reminiscent of the author's acclaimed children's series A Series of Unfortunate Events. But don't be fooled – this is definitely not a children's book.

Perrotta, Tom. Election.
Darkly comic satire about a high school election for student body president. Tracy Flick, popular, ambitious and hiding a scandalous secret, is the clear front-runner until an idealist teacher encourages jock Paul Warren to enter the race and give Tracy a run for her money.

Pullman, Phillip. His Dark Materials series.
Young, orphaned Lyra Belacqua lives among scholars at Oxford's Jordan College in a world just a little different from ours. Her sheltered life is abruptly changed when her uncle Lord Asriel arrives with news of mystery and danger in the far North, and soon Lyra is drawn into a search for her missing friend Roger, leading to even larger and more dangerous adventures.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter series.
Obviously. And let's skip the synopsis on this one, shall we?

Sittenfeld, Curtis. Prep.
Indiana student Lee Fiora wins a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school in New England, where she finds herself an outsider among the wealthy students. After carefully ascending the school's social ladder she learns how precarious popularity can be.

Tartt, Donna. The Secret History.
A small group of students in a strangely isolated Classical Greek program are involved in a murder. Richard Papen is the newcomer of this group and struggles to hide his humble origins while trying to understand the complex and secretive relationships between his classmates, including how they drew him in and involved him in a second murder.

Do you have anything to add to this list? Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I used a Thing in real life

Remember 23 Learning 2.0 Things? New Things are still being added on the Learning 2.1 blog so I've been keeping up, more or less. I'm not continuing to try everything out, but I'm at least reading the posts.

Earlier this week at work a patron was trying to open a .wps file and could not. I remembered seeing something on Learning 2.1 about file conversion and after a quick Google search I recognized Zamzar as the tool I read about. (dear Google, is there any problem you can't solve?) It worked fantastically and the patron was able to open and print the files she so desperately needed. Triumph!

It's really nice to be able to apply some knowledge for a change. Usually it just clunks around in my brain, forlorn and unused, until it eventually disappears. But using my knowledge on the job makes learning feel worthwhile! Now if only I could find a use for all that algebra...

Monday, August 27, 2007


Have you heard of qiviut? It is a fiber from the downy undercoat of musk oxen, and the Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers' Co-operative in Alaska uses it to create beautiful knitwear. Donna Druchunas visited Alaska and met some of these talented women and learned about the native cultures of Alaska as well as the Co-operative and their work. She has shared this knowledge in her book, Artic Lace: Knitting Projects and Stories Inspired by Alaska's Native Knitters.

The instructive part of the book contains a section on the qualities of qiviut, as compared with other yarns. It is finer than cashmere and, because so little is harvested each year, it is far more expensive.* The lace knitting workshop contains techniques, guidance on reading charts, and instructions for basic stitches, seaming, blocking, and fixing mistakes. She has included several projects inspired by the work of the collective, as well as instructions to design your own lace patterns and garments.

Based in Anchorage, items to be sold by the cooperative are knit by women in remote villages, so remote that the author was only able to visit one village. The only way to travel to these areas is by plane, and there is little or no guest lodging available once you get there. Still, she was able to put together a fascinating, informative work including many pictures of the villages and people of Alaska and recounted stories told by those she met and corresponded with.

One of those stories is of an Inuit woman in the 1920s who joined a team of Arctic explorers as seamstress and was the only member of the party to survive. Intrigued, I found a copy of the book Ada Blackjack: a true story of survival in the Arctic by Jennifer Niven. From the outset, the expedition to Wrangel Island was fraught with controversy, greed, and poor planning. The story continues long after the trip is over, with media distortion, accusations, lies, and scandal. A gripping story that I would highly recommend to anyone at all interested in Arctic exploration or women in history. An excellent read!

*as an approximate comparison, a skein of good quality wool is around $8; cashmere around $20; qiviut around $50.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Creating the Customer-Driven Library: a review

Jeannette Woodward begins her book by comparing libraries to bookstores and examining why people enjoy spending time at bookstores. She then makes suggestions for libraries based on these comparisons. She has some great points about making libraries more useful and relevant to patrons. Many of her suggestions are related to design (I'm glaring at you, Seattle Public Library) but she also makes a number of helpful suggestions that existing libraries could implement:

-expanding hours
-eliminating overdue fines
-including more information in library catalogs that is helpful to patrons, such as reviews, and excluding a lot of the MARC data which is not helpful
-having a cafe
-marketing the library
-creating effective displays
-when budgets are strained, taking resources from areas that are not visible to the public

Many libraries have had success with these innovations and have added cafes and comfortable furniture and increased displays and signage. At least one library has integrated their catalog with LibraryThing. When a patron searches for books at the Bedford Public Library in Texas the record contains recommendations for similar books, links to other editions of the title, links to reviews and excerpts, and tags which are more patron-friendly than LC subject headings. All of these make the library a more pleasant place to visit and more relevant to what the public wants.

Although this book is filled with some creative and helpful suggestions, it also contains some unfair generalizations about libraries and patrons.

For example, Woodward says that library patrons are middle-class white women over the age of fifty, and that patrons are homogenous. I think I actually laughed out loud at this. Is this based on actual data, or on her experience in libraries in her area? This doesn't come close to describing the patrons at my library, and I don't think we are an anomaly.

In addition - and this is my big gripe with this book - she has an unrealistically optimistic view of how much control librarians have over their libraries. She says that librarians "lay the blame on their city and county administrators" and "What they seem to forget is that they got themselves into these messes with their eyes wide open."

There is a reason why librarians lay the blame on the city - the city ultimately has control of hiring, budgets, and many other aspects of management. Woodward contrasts public libraries with college libraries by pointing out that public libraries are not beholden to a larger organization. In this way, she says, we can make changes to improve our libraries more easily than academic libraries. As far as I know, public libraries are ALL run by some governmental oversight, either the city or the county. Are there libraries who do have the freedom to do what she suggests without the bureaucracy?

My library can't make the decision to eliminate overdue fines because the city insists we collect them (because, of course, they get the money). We cannot buy anything without going through the city and having every charge scrutinized. Custodians are assigned from the city's Department of Public Works. Hiring part-time workers with benefits to fill expanded hours, as she suggests, would need to be approved by the city and probably the union. We can't hire without the city's input. (In fact, our new Director was just hired by the Trustees with absolutely no input from ANY of the library staff, but I hope that's not typical!)

She goes on to say that few librarians really try to improve the image of the library (which is probably true) and that "Few make sure that decision makers know how important the library is." But this responsibility lies with the community and libray patrons. Librarians can do everything in their power to tell city officials how important the library is, but we aren't the ones they are going to listen to. They want to hear this from voters and taxpayers.

Libraries who have a lot of community support and the freedom to be innovative and make big changes would probably find this book very useful. As for me, I will just fantasize about working at one of those libraries.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Baudelaire Sock Progress

Since I'm the only knitter in the world who doesn't bring projects on vacation I missed over a week of knitting, but I'm still happy with my progress. The end is in sight. Except for the second sock, but we shall not speak of that.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Quiz

Which of the following pictures were taken inside a giant model heart, and which were taken inside the Seattle Public Library?

You had to think about it didn't you? The implications are disturbing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What is this strange object?

Ah, a mystery! The secret will be revealed once the object is finished and has been presented to its intended recipient.

I will say that I'm quite enjoying the Bernat's Cottontots, which is machine washable AND dryable. Miraculous, wondrous yarn!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Three Good Things

I won a knitted-item naming contest! I suggested the name Gretel for this pattern, designed by the lovely Ysolda Teague and won a free copy of the pattern. This is exciting as I rarely win anything, especially anything that requires creativity. Let's hope this isn't as close as I get to designing knitwear. Be sure to check out Ysolda's other patterns, as she is quite talented. She is also possibly the cutest knitting designer ever.


Also, I just had a letter published in the Somerville News. The paper ran a rather insulting cartoon about a librarian from Tufts University who is running for mayor. My letter isn't on the paper's website, so here it is:

In his cartoon in the July 18 issue, Matt Stone asks "Does Somerville need a librarian as mayor?" The cartoon depicts the overdone stereotype of a librarian – a stern-looking bespectacled woman with her hair in a bun, surrounded by shelves of books, stamping a book with the word "LATE." I suspect that Stone is trying to imply that librarians are somehow antiquated and irrelevant to our modern lives. Instead he is only showing how uninformed he is, and that he clearly hasn't visited a library in a good long time.

Modern libraries are vital community centers, filled not only with books, but with computers, DVDs, CDs, and practically every format that can hold information. They provide meeting spaces, storytimes for children, movie nights, English classes, and workshops. Mr. Stone should visit his local library - he might be surprised at all it has to offer.

Librarians are educated, organized, detail-oriented and devoted to public service. We help people find what they need, learn new technologies, and try to squeeze necessary resources out of strained budgets. We welcome everyone who walks through our doors, regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, level of education, and socioeconomic background. I'll turn the question back to you, Mr. Stone: Aren't those qualities we want in a mayor?


The third good thing is that on Saturday I'm leaving for a 9-day vacation! So, no blog posts next week but I'll be sure to have something interesting when I return. Woohoo! Vacation!