Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ain't we swell.....

Would you like to sell a lot of books? Well, here's a great strategy - write a book all about how wonderful librarians are, and how they are the last guardians of civilization, wisdom and intellectual freedom as we know it. According to the American Library Association, there are over 122,000 libraries in this country. So right away, you've sold 122,000 books to eager collection development librarians. And then, of course, there are Christmas and birthday gifts for the librarians in your life, as well as ardent bibliophiles.
But what to say in a book like that? Well, Marilyn Johnson found plenty to say in her new book This Book is Overdue: how librarians and cybrarians can save us all. She talks to librarian bloggers, who dish the real dirt on what it's like to work in a library (fortunately, I've never had to deal with patrons who deposit feces in the bookstacks). She looks at the repercussions of the Patriot Act, and the way librarians have tried to protect the privacy of their patrons while staying within the boundaries of the law. There are academic librarians whose new role is teaching students how to sift through a tidal wave of digital information, as well as assisting some students who have never used a computer before. Meet archivists who - literally - preserve and protect the intellectual history of mankind, as well as children's librarians who keep their tattoos covered during story hour.
Mostly, however, Johnson's book is a response to the oft-sounded death knell of librarians, the constant prediction that computers and ubiquitous digital information will eventually wipe libraries and librarians from the face of the Earth. Ever tried to do a Google search for information about vaccine safety? Or the name of an 18th-century Polish composer who is buried in Gdansk? Or a phone number for the VA office in Worcester, Mass.?
Yeah, I'm not worried.....

Friday, February 19, 2010

A fab new book

Austin Powers jokes aside, there is something so fun about the whole Mod scene from the 1960's. The rockin' music coming from bands with pencil-thin ties and cute little suits...the geometric fashions of Mary Quant and Dougie Millings...the pixie faces of Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton. The British Invasion was so darn light-hearted that even though it all looks a little silly now, you can't help but wish things were still so carefree.
You can relive those times (or learn more about them, if you were born after the baby-boomers had all their fun) in our new book The British Invasion: the music, the times, the era by Barry Miles. Full of photos, quotes and fan magazine excerpts, this book is an enjoyable browse. Miles deals mostly with the music - the Beatles, of course - and their numerous imitators. He also tracks the change from happy pop tunes to the edgier, more electric music of Led Zeppelin, Cream and Pink Floyd. It was the fashion section, however, that brought a little cluster of coworkers to my desk to reminisce about the dresses and miniskirts they had in high school. And just in case you doubt the lasting influence of the time, just look around town at number of miniskirts and leather boots women are sporting (the guys, thankfully, have left off the ruffles and brocades of the Edwardian Look).
A fun book for any age, and sure to get people digging out their old photo albums to show their kids.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

We are so far ahead of the curve!!

Thanks to the wonderful generosity of one of our devoted library patrons, we now have a copy of the final volume in Stieg Larsson's Millennium series: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. Why is that a big deal? you ask.....
Because this book is not being released in the United States until May 25th! The copy we now have in our collection is from the U.K., and now you can get a jump on all your friends and relatives down South. Seattle Public Library may have 82 copies on order - and 203 people waiting on the holds list - but they don't have a shiny new copy sitting in their hands (unless they have a Kindle, or they've ordered it online from, or bought it off E-Bay).
I prefer to take a more romantic view, picturing the book traveling across the Atlantic and the North American continent with some hardy traveler, being lovingly cared for along the thousands of miles until it arrived on our isolated little island, an out-of-place European expatriate amongst our boringly familiar American novels on the library shelves.
Apparently I need to get out more....

Friday, February 5, 2010

What about those e-books, huh?

I was in Seattle last week for a wonderful vacation (just long enough for me to want to head back home), and the new Apple iPad was all over the news down there. Riding the light rail in from SeaTac, everyone had their iPhone (or one of it's ilk), their Kindle, their iPod, or their cell phone. The computers at the Seattle Public Library were packed. We're a very digital society, and though we might not be as high-tech as Seattle, there are plenty of people here in Ketchikan packing PDAs, mp3 players and e-book readers. Borrowing activity during January on our ListenAlaska downloadable audiobooks was quadruple what it was a year ago. And people have started asking about e-books.
So here's where you can help: next to this posting, just below the lovely image of Deer Mountain, is a 2-question poll. Please take a second to let us know if downloading e-books onto a reader is something you're interested in; and if you already have a reader, please tell us what kind you own.
We conducted a similar survey before we became involved with the ListenAlaska audiobook system, and we're keen to know if there's a drive in Ketchikan to move into a new format for enjoying new works by favorite authors. So thanks for your time, and your input!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Classics Illustrated??

When I was in 5th grade, poking around my school library, I discovered a treasure trove: Classics Illustrated. These wonderful books took all that dry 18th & 19th century literature (from authors like Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James) and boiled it down to the basic storyline, and added so-so drawings. Some of those redone classics were so compelling that in later years I voluntarily read the originals (Moby Dick was forced upon me, tho).
Artist R. Sikoryak has taken that Classics Illustrated condensation approach and added a funny, grown-up twist to it in Masterpiece Comics. He has taken his world-renowned authors, such as Emily Bronte, Voltaire, Dante and Dostoyevsky and he has married them to more modern names: Garfield, Dagwood, Superman and Mary Worth. Beavis & Butthead are waiting for Godot, Ziggy is reassured that this is the best of all possible worlds, and Little Lulu asks her mother why she wears a scarlet letter A on her chest. Wuthering Heights is a much more lurid tale when redone in Tales From the Crypt style, but my favorite would have to be Dante's rings of Hell spelled out in individual Bazooka Joe comics (complete with fortune and dime-store-trinket advertisement!)
Sikoryak has drawn a bead on over a dozen classic works of literature, but has wisely kept it brief enough to keep from getting tiring or stale. If you're an English Lit major, you'll enjoy the stories. If you're a fan of the Comics section of the newspaper, you'll love the illustrations. And if you're under the age of 80, you'll have to use Google to find out more about the little boy who retells Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.