Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Paragon Schnitzophonicia

For some reason i wasn't all that excited to start Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen after reading the reviews about it, because the subject matter didn't sound all that appealing: an old-man protagonist who used to be in the circus back in the depression days (thinking on that i'm not sure why that didn't appeal~i mean back in the day i was fascinated by the Discovery documentary P.T. Barnum: America's Greatest Showman and carried the companion volume around to all stations of the bookstore with me {i couldn't afford to buy it} surreptitiously reading it, until i had absorbed every word, so to say the subject wasn't interesting to me is probably is untrue). But the reviews i read were so positive that i did put it in my (very high) to-be-read pile, and when i finally picked it up, i found i couldn't put it down. I read this its three hundred odd pages in something like a day and a half (it would have been less but the annoyance of work and sleep and other little life details got in the way).
This not-so-pretty tale is told with complete unsentimentality and absolute profundity. As a young man who has just lost his parents to an automobile accident, twenty-three-year old Jacob Jankowski doesn't exactly run away to join the circus, but rather has a bit of a breakdown during his final exams at Cornell Veterinary School, runs from the room and stumbles onto the circus train without having a clue what's he's joined up with "The Flying Squadron" of The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth but of course. Before he knows it he is the circus veterinarian, and, it being the midst of The Great Depression, and him having no other options he decides to go with it.
No romanticism or nostalgiasizing here (which i consider a good thing~and if you really need to know about why elephants and other exotics don't belong in circuses this book might be a good start), but still a tale very well told. I'm still dreaming about these characters.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Where were you when the couch broke?

I was hanging out with all three of the kitties. It was New Year’s Day night, we were on the couch (which is a metal futon) which was out in its bed form (and had been that way for i don't know how long~i had pulled it out once when i was feeling WAY bad and i guess i just never got to feeling much better) when we heard a large clanging/banging sound and CRASH we all went B*O*O*M (and the cats all scattered.)
Now my couch did not look like the one in the picture because it was not all bent out of shape~it was just that many of the bolts had fallen out. It had been given me signals that such an event was imminent for quite some time~making certain creaking noises and such and i had half-heartedly tried tightening the bolts but apparently it did not do enough.
So the point is, that on New Year's my couch broke and at that time i gingerly climbed off of it and decided that it was time to move out of the living room because i didn't want to deal with it at the time. So i went down to the basement to watch the TV down there, and for the next week or so spent much more time in my bedroom and kitchen than i have for quite some time (it confused the cats mightily~"what, we're not living in the living room anymore?"). Things continued to pile up in the living room (and, even more importantly, programs continued to pile up on the living room dvr), my migraines continued to scream at me, i continued to ignore it all.
Last week i got the cover off of the futon to wash it. Today, my mom came over and fixed all the bolts under my (very helpful) supervision. It is very nice to have a couch and a living room again (and it hasn't been an entire month~yet).
Sometimes i really hate this feeling that i can't do much of anything and i wonder how much of it i put on myself, but then when i do try to do something and i am punished for it i know i don't really put it on myself.
oh well, baby steps, as they say (whoever "they" are).

Sunday, January 28, 2007

not for the faint of heart

Although the title might be give-away enough, Queer Fear: gay horror fiction edited and with an introduction by Michael Rowe is not for everyone. Like all short story collections the quality of the stories tends to be somewhat uneven, and some of them include graphic sex, violence, and horror (but what do you expect?). If you're willing to take it on, they make for nice little stories to read as breaks between the other books you may be reading (at least that's what i was doing this month.)
My favorites in the collection included Little Holocausts, a beautifully told tale, by Brian Hodge, The Sound of Weeping (set in a morgue) by Thomas S. Roche, Hey Fairy (about an actual fairy who has had enough) by Edo Van Belkom, Genius Loci (a ghost story) by Becky Southwell, and Nestle's Revenge by Ron Oliver (reminds me a little of David Sedaris if he decided to go the murderous route). Goodbye by Michael Thomas Ford was an absolutely wonderful and very touching story but i'm not sure why it was in this collection. Caitlin R. Kiernan's Spindleshanks (New Orleans, 1956) seemed to go nowhere, and David Quinn's The Perpetual was a bit too much (even for me) it seemed to be written to appeal to the prurient serial killer inside the reader and i don't think that's in me. And Nancy Kilpatrick's No Silent Scream was ALMOST like just another day in my life (now that's really scary!)
Just a thought i had as i was reading: if we heterosexuals choose not to expose ourselves to certain lifestyles that is certainly our prerogative, but where does that leave the other ten percent of the population who literally has our lifestyle flung in their faces on a daily basis?


Saturday, January 27, 2007

don't you wanna be a brainiac too?

I'm not so sure that i do, at least not if you're defining "brainiac" by the terms of the trivia-buffs encountered in Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs by Ken Jennings the greatest champion in Jeopardy! history (so far). Jennings, as you may or may not remember, spent six months in a 75-game winning streak on the game show Jeopardy!. Brainiac isn't so much a behind the scenes account of his Jeopardy! experience(s) (although there is a bit of that in here) as it is an exploration of the world of trivia.
Although i found the material somewhat interesting i found the author just the teensiest annoying and the book did drag somewhat toward the end. Jennings humor seemed to often miss his mark (though i'm not sure he knew it) and some of his objects were a bit too near to my heart, for instance:
when the Brooklyn public library system announced in 1946 that it would no longer help patrons answer radio quizzes (due to the success of such programs as Ask Me Another! and Break the Bank) "In some cases, [quiz questions] have resulted in actual impairment of morale," the head librarian sniffed."
"He then returned to his various important card-catalog-related duties.*"
"Salt Lake City's bar scene not being exactly what you would call "hopping."*
"Maybe now I can stop being Ken Jennings, nerd folk icon, and just be Ken Jennings, nerd, like I was before. I have finally, as they say in drama classes and twelve-step programs, achieved closure."*
*These are the direct Jennings quotes that for some reason or other hit a particular nerve with me, i'm not sure why, perhaps if he were funnier, perhaps if her were a little more familiar with his subject (for instance: we librarians do much more than card-cataloging~we do much in the service of trivia information~very little of which was mentioned here~ahem; i have lived in Salt Lake City and have spent a good deal of time in its bar/club scene as well as many other cities Mr. Mormon Boy, and though it may not be QUITE as hopping as some, it is not all that bad and since you self-confessedly have little experience in such areas i think you really should not base your opinion on the going urban legend; though i'm sure they speak of closure in twelve-step programs they never spoke of it in ANY of the MANY drama classes I attended (nor were any of my drama experiences similar to anything you describe~NOT that i'm taking anything in this book personally~REALLY. ☺
(boy that was a bit of a rant wasn't it?)
ANYWAY...
Sometimes i watch the trivia shows like Jeorpardy!, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, 1 vs. 100 and such, and think, oh i could totally do that (i totally need the money, i am so in debt, and that seems SO VERY APPEALING). After reading this book i realized i am really not a trivia buff, for the most part i do not enjoy reading lists of various facts and figures and memorizing them (although i do like leafing through the new Guinness Book of World Records when it comes in~i no longer read the whole thing obsessively like i did when i was a kid, and i also enjoy books of lists and the like) most of the reason that i can answer many of those questions (and certainly not all of them) comes from my actual READING background (why imagine that). Jennings had mentioned that many players of college quiz challenges would sometimes develop an interest in classical music or literature because of the facts they were memorizing about those subjects. I tend to remember the little factoids because of my wide and eclectic reading interests and having been blessed with the ability to retain minute details easily (especially now that i'm making myself blog about each book i read.) Jennings is quick to point out that there are many different kinds and levels of intelligence and that the ability to memorize trivia is not ALWAYS a good gauge of either of those, but that it can exercise those brain muscles.
Brainiac is an interesting read, and Jennings does have his moments (regardless of how i may sound here~i must admit he IS humble~and he even has his moments of witticism). The rest is just stuff and nonsense.

Friday, January 26, 2007

will this be on the test?

I was watching the Tyra show the other day (yes, okay, i admit it, sometimes i watch Tyra . . . and she was talking about taking tests~AIDS tests, drug screening tests, sobriety tests, etc. Now i, personally, have only taken one sobriety test (other than the ones i have witnessed as a passenger of "suspected" drunk drivers and the neurology tests i've been given which seem remarkably similar to field sobriety tests) but, anyway, the ONE sobriety test that i was subjected to ended in such a strange way that i will be haunted by it for the rest of my life...wondering exactly what happened (and also wondering if i actually passed that damn sobriety test...)
This was about twenty years ago, my friends and i had been pre-gaming (as it is so charmingly called today {we had no such names~we just did it)~tho we did it mostly because you couldn't drink in the repressive 18-and-over club we were going to} then drove to a dance club in the small college town about an hour outside of our city~of course with grain alcohol-spiked big gulps for the drive (don't ask me why we did that~we were just strange little drama college kids who liked to go to different clubs every now and again). So i had, i'm sure, mass quantities to drink over the course of the evening, tho i'm sure i also danced a great deal of it off (as well as vomiting a bit of it away), as well as letting quite a few hours pass. So my friends drove me back to their house, where, after a while, i convinced them, i was fine to drive (which i believed i was). And so i hopped in my car (it was probably about 3:00 a.m. and before heading home, decided to do my usual swing-by the sort-of-an-ex-but-i-was-still-carrying-a-torch-for-him-fling's house (this is a strange obsession that late-teen/twenty-something, sometimes even older, girls do~i've never managed to figure out why~i mean we'd just swing by with no real intention~not really full on stalking, and i speak in the plural because i had many friends who also did it at the time and have talked to others who used to do it, oh well~i AM past that now~REALLY).
This little detour was, of course, my fatal (or perhaps near-fatal, or perhaps just eternally-haunting) mistake. Just as i'm turning onto my once-favorite thorough-fair i see the rather familiar blue and red flashing lights in my rear view mirror. I can't remember what the stated offence was, perhaps i took the left turn a little too swiftly, when asked if i had been drinking i confessed to a few glasses of wine with dinner earlier that evening. When asked what i was doing out so late i said i was checking up on a boyfriend.
I was asked to step out of the car. I remember going through the expected tests. I remember being nervous but i felt like i was doing alright.
Then something unexpected happened.
The officer whipped his head around. Then he asked me, "Did you see that???"
I was at a complete loss. I hadn't seen ANYTHING. The four-lane street we were on was completely empty. I didn't know what the correct answer to this question was. Is this part of the test? I stood there looking at him for what seemed like a full five minutes (it was probably 30 seconds or so) and finally said, "I didn't see anything."
The officer starts running to his car, "Drive safely." he shouts to me, before he jumps in the car and takes off (no lights mind you).
I stood there, alone on the street, next to my car, for a while, wondering what the hell just happened.
I'm still wondering.
*Tyra didn't mention anything about any tests like this on her show.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

My name is YoSafBridg and i'm a . . .

. . . picture book addict. This problem seems to hit especially hard in winter, when all these cute little cuddly animals appear wanting to cozy up, calling out to me, with their seductive siren songs. I ask you, what's a weak little librarian, like me to do?
There i was today, innocently walking past the picture book display when this adorable little hedgehog (an animal i have always wanted to adopt by the by, unfortunately the cats will not allow me to do so) unavoidably beckons to me from the cover of One Winter's Day (a touch and feel book) by M. Christina Butler and illustrated by Tina Macnaughton.
This is an incredibly cute book as the little hedgehog makes his way through the woods once the wind blows his nest away, playing good Samaritan to every poor little creature he meets. Of course there is a moral (well not really a moral~but it does show that being kind and sweet and selfless and all that will reward you with good karma~maybe saying that life is fair even when we all know that it really isn't) at the end and again i question the wisdom of over-adorableness of wild animals in tales for children but this one just wins over that "awe" factor in me (and tells that cynic to go sulk in the corner for a while).
What can i say?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

we should all aspire to such audacity

It's funny how when you read someone whose views are quite similar to your own they often seem to be so very wise (as opposed to someone whose views are so very contrary to your own.) So, admittedly biased, i suppose it is not all that surprising that i found Barack Obama inspiring and that he presented many good ideas in his new book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. Although it can sometimes read like his prologue for a presidential bid (and perhaps that is exactly what it is) i believe we end up with worse (and certainly have), i also sense sincerity, enthusiasm, and the hope of the title in his words. He discusses his views on partisan politics, constitutional law, games politicians play (the games they must play and those they might avoid), values, faith, race, opportunity (whether the American dream can still survive), and family. He seems to be a very engaging man. And the book and his ideas are definitely worth a read and deep consideration~i think by every American, regardless of political leaning.
While his constituents worried that he would go off to Washington, get caught up in politics, become jaded, and start acting like, well a politician~that doesn't seem to come across in his writing~or else he has mastered the art of diplomacy, like a true master in the art of politics (after all he was editor of the Harvard Law Review) but like i said, i sense sincerity in him. As for becoming jaded or losing his hope that the American dream is still possible, "I don't linger on such thoughts, though--they are the thoughts of an old man." He still seems to have a great deal of youthful energy to accomplish much.
As you may or may not or noticed, my primary vote lies with another democrat~i've been waiting for the John Edwards campaign since the 2004 election (and i wasn't a HUGE fan of Kerry's saw him as a better alternative). Edwards had somehow not been on my radar before the presidential campaign but as i watched the vice presidential debates i decided that i wanted him as MY presidential candidate because i want someone who can actually BE Elected (and after that terrible, terrible debacle of 2000 which i refuse to talk about because it is SO very depressing...)
Hillary's out, because although i personally don't mind her, and she was quite nice when i met her at that signing at my bookstore (right~the store was crawling with secret service she was actually still the First Lady~what a different world it was then), she is still hated by many, and, in a sense, an easterner. And Obama, i'd love to see it, i'm not sure the rest of America is ready yet...

"You mean it's been consensual all this time? Well, Damn, where's the fun in that?"

okay, this story is just all kinds of sick and wrong:
"12-year-old' is 29-year-old sex offender"
Story Highlights:
• Ex-convict tried to enroll in Arizona charter school, police say
• Man also cons sex partners into believing he's underage, police say
• Four charged with fraud, forgery, identity theft, failure to register
Neil H. Rodreick II fooled two men he was having sex with into believing he was 12 years old, police say.
But this particular part i found rather humorous, here are these two guys who have met a guy over the Internet they believe is twelve years old and they invite him to come into their home; live with them; have sex with them; register him for school so that he may lure and procure new boys for them, and then they find out he is actually 29 years old:
"(Lonnie) Stiffler (61~who had pretended to be Rodreick's grandfather when registering him for school) and Robert James Snow, 43, "were very upset when the detectives told them they had been having a sexual relationship with a 29-year-old man and not a pre-teen boy," Quayle said."
That's okay guys, you're still going to prison.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

teens aren't that stupid... or are they?

I came across this article in the current issue of School Library Journal (January 2007)
Adolescents Aren’t That Stupid After All
By Debra Lau Whelan -- 1/1/2007
Teens actually weigh the pros and cons of bad decisions and decide it’s worth the risk
The next time you hear about one of your students getting arrested, knocked up, or caught taking drugs, don’t just chalk it up to stupid teen behavior. Contrary to popular belief, most adolescents make unwise choices after heavily weighing the pros and cons, says a new study from Cornell University. They just engage in high-risk behavior because they think the benefits—such as immediate gratification or peer acceptance—outweigh the risks.
In fact, teens don’t think they’re invulnerable and take more time than adults pondering the risks—about 170 milliseconds longer. Most kids actually overestimate the important dangers of, say, smoking and having unprotected sex, says Valerie Reyna, professor of human development at Cornell and coauthor of the study with Professor Frank Farley of Temple University.
The short-term analysis often favors engaging in the risky behaviors with teens because they see the benefits as pretty high,” says Reyna. “Having sex outweighs the risk of, for example, getting pregnant or developing a sexually transmitted disease.”
Adults, on the other hand, don’t engage in much conscious deliberation about bad decisions because they “intuitively grasp the gists (the essence of their actions) of risky situations, retrieve appropriate risk-avoidant values, and never proceed down the slippery slope of actually contemplating trade-offs between risks and benefits,” says the report, recently published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest. In other words, more experienced decision makers “tend to rely more on fuzzy reasoning, processing situations and problems as gists rather than weighing multiple factors,” Reyna says.
Why is adolescent risky decision making important? Because, the study says, scientific literature confirms the commonsense belief that the teenage years are a period of inordinate risk taking. For example, three million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S. are identified in adolescents every year. And more than half of all new cases of HIV infection occur in people younger than 25, with an average of two new young people in the U.S. infected with HIV every hour, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study only proves that teens have developmental needs unique to their age group, says Beth Yoke, executive director of the Young Adult Library Services Association. “This means that it is critical for libraries to have young adult librarians on staff, as they’re specially trained to provide services tailored to the singular needs of this important and growing segment of the community,” Yoke adds.
After analyzing existing scientific literature and interviewing hundreds of kids over the last three years, the researchers say that although brain maturation in adolescence is incomplete, teens are “developmentally competent” to make decisions about risks. And that’s why certain interventions could help them do the right thing more often.
“It’s a rational decision from their point of view, but that doesn’t mean society shouldn’t discourage it because the long-term consequences are often unhealthy from, say, getting pregnant and not going on and getting a college education,” Reyna says.
Pointing out the dangers of doing something dumb—and other obvious ways that parents try to stop kids from engaging in risky behavior—is likely to be ineffective and could backfire because “young people already feel vulnerable and overestimate their risk.”
Instead, interventions should help young people develop “gist-based” thinking in which dangerous risks are categorically avoided rather than weighed in a rational, deliberative way.
Of course, growing up and maturing beyond the teenage years is the ultimate solution. For a full copy of the report, visit
www.psychologicalscience.org/journals/.
Just because they think about it doesn't mean they REALLY THINK about it. So they do consider the risks and decide the risk is worth it, but do they really understand what that consequence is? I think not.
So i get pregnant. Pregnancy lasts a hell of a lot longer than nine months. A baby isn't a sweet cuddly bundle of unconditional love. It's at least eighteen years of all kinds of expense (emotional, spiritual, fiscal, and physical).
AIDS isn't some romantic instant death. It's a long, long battle.
Considering risks doesn't always equal weighing consequences. (i know, i remember ;)

add two more books to my ...

. . . never-ending list of needed/wanted picture books:
Sometimes, when i show her a newly acquired picture book my mom will sometimes ask me "Oh, is that for (My Nephew) or (My Niece)?" and i, sometimes, rather sheepishly, say "No," or "Oh, . . . maybe . . ." (when really they are just for me.)
If you don't have kids, or nieces, or nephews, or grandchildren, or aren't a teacher, or librarian, or don't frequent bookstores or libraries, or, just whatever might make you pick up a children's book every now and then... you are really missing out on some wonderful art and prose.
Nicholas Brunelle is a graduate of the Visual Essay Graduate Program at the School of Visual Arts (now doesn't that sound like a cool and innovative program?) His book Snow Moon tells a tale in few words but with beautiful paintings of a wintry white owl who lands on a child's window and leads him to a wondrous place.
And then there is Lauren Stringer who seems to share my fondness for winter. In her Winter is the Warmest Season this Minnesota dweller tells us why her world is warmest in winter.
Things like:
"Hot soups, hot pies, and oven hot breads make winter the warmest for the inside of me.
* * * * *
When winter comes, cats sit on laps instead of windowsills.
(in my house they INSIST, quite persistently,upon it)
Even nights are warmer in winter. Fires burn in fireplaces. Candles burn in candleplaces.
I think parties are warmer in winter.
* * * * *
In winter, bodies sit closer, books last longer, and hugs squeeze the warmest."
Stringer's illustrations are absolutely charming and inviting, if you are not a winter person perhaps this book will convert you, or at least make you think about it. And if you are not a picture book person you really should reconsider that as well, in my, ever so humble opinion, v.b.g :)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

got a cold?

I do. Again (just got over my last one, so i guess it was time for a new one~sometimes it's hard to tell where one ends and the other begins...) Last week while driving to work i was listening to a story on NPR and whether or not Airborne® was really effective in keeping people from getting colds (or making them go away faster, or whatever). According to the NPR story Airborne® results are unproven at best, but people still swear by it (the first time i took it my cold did go away much faster than normal but it hasn't done much since though i still faithfully take it and now that they have come out with their Airborne® Nightime formula which has lemon balm, chamomile, and Valerian which supposedly helps you sleep and helps migraines i've added that to my regime and that seems to work little quicker/better than the tea~plus both formulas have ginger~good for stomach problems so i'll keep them for whatever they may be worth) Anyway, at the end of her report the commentator said "No matter what, if you've got a cold, you'll be feeling better soon," in a nice, reassuring tone.
Which elicited a huge, sarcastic "Ha" from me. Because that just is not my experience. My friend was telling me about another co-worker of ours who had gone into her doctor after her cold symptoms had gone on for much too long and the doctor discovered a sinus infection, he then informed her that a cold should never last more than two weeks. My colds usually last the entire season (i have my winter cold, my summer cold, my fall cold, my summer cold... well maybe not entirely but it seems that way between the year round allergies and all..) And i do go into the doctor and i am usually told this is a virus that will eventually pass, and it usually does pass, into the next virus, luckily i usually don't get sinus infections, sometimes i get lung infections but they are not too serious.
That's the thing, i can't decide if i have a weak immune system because i get every virus that comes within a 200 foot radius of me, or a strong immune system because my body seems to fight them all off without coming down with anything TOO serious (little trooper that immune system of mine~maybe we should send it off to Iraq to kick some ass {NOT}~or send it to some other place that will be sorely in need of troops once they are depleted due to our dear commander in chief's ill-conceived plans~but i need it too badly myself). Once upon a time, when i was working in The Pizza Joint, i would have sympathetic customers inquire at my sniffles if i had a cold, and my manager would burst into (not unsympathetic) laughter "like when DOESN'T she have a cold?"
I used to say i would die with a cold. Not OF a cold, mind you, but WITH a cold.
Now, i do do, perhaps unwise things, like going out into the cold without a coat (but often with big sweaters~i was raised in Alaska after all) and when you have naturally curly hair that you can't go near with a blow dryer or a brush (just very large tooth combs) and it takes at least eight hours to air dry (it is very sponge-like don't you know) which makes it quite difficult to go out without slightly damp hair, but i often try to keep it covered at least. But that is just all old wives tales, right? Or, maybe not...
Salud.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

what is it about sleep

that seems so appealing?
when it robs us of consciousness?
when we don't feel so well, and we have so very much to do and yet just a little nap sounds like a much better idea?
when it eludes us?
when we roll over to turn off the alarm clock and beg for just five minutes more?
and sometimes we just can't have any at all, and we lie in the dark, feeling the minutes crawl by, and all we want in the whole wide world, is just that little bit of
sleep?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"So you're dead, now what?"

Gabrielle Zevin seems to have some interesting views on life, or rather death in elsewhere. They say the eternal question is "What happens when we die?" well she answers that easily enough and that doesn't really seem to be the question after all, but what are you going to do with the life (or death, as the case may be) you've got and that Does seem to be a much better question doesn't it?
Fifteen-year-old Liz Hall, is looking forward to getting her driver's license, graduating from high school, going to college, maybe falling in love (pretty much the normal teenage stuff); she isn't really expecting to be hit by a taxi cab, dying and ending up Elsewhere (which, it seems is where we go when we die), but then, who does?
Elsewhere is actually very much like Earth, except that you age backwards so you know exactly how much time you have, the question is what do you do with the time you've got. All in all it makes for quite a thought provoking read.
The only quarrel i had with the book (and an admittedly tiny
one at that is the fact that the dogs spoke canine and the cats spoke catus~wouldn't a much more logical and reasonable language be feline???~i suppose it's not really a quarrel just a thought...)

curses on those children's librarians and their picture book displays

because i stumble across so many lovely books like Lucia and the Light by Phyllis Root (illustrated by the most talented Mary Grandpré) that i then simply must possess!
Lucia and the Light is inspired by Nordic lore and is set in the mountains of the Far North (and of course the cold, cold, dark, dark winter) which is made even darker and colder by the fact that the sun has gone away. Lucia can stand it no more and decides she will go in search of the sun though her grandmother warns of trolls.
When she opens the door to leave, her loyal (i stress this word, because yes, it is possible for creatures of the feline persuasion to possess this trait) and beautiful milk-white cat "jumped from the windowsill into her hood and went out into the swirling snow with her. Lucia was glad for the company and the warmth of the milk-white cat around her neck."
Lucia laboriously skied her way up the mountain and met the inevitable trolls who threatened to eat her up. But the beautiful and brave milk-white cat saves the day in the end. to learn how you must (absolutely must) pick up this enticing and oh-so-alluring book for yourself!

"Why do most consumers...."

". . .purchase books only to read them once?
Because they could never
Rent them . . . until now!"

And i suppose most consumers have never, ever heard of libraries (where you can, gasp, check out books, and many other materials for, practically {there is that pesky little matter of taxes in most cases, and in my case, quite often, overdue fines, but that is an other matter entirely...} free) . . .imagine that!


*a semi Public Service Announcement brought to you by your semi-friendly but ever-sarcastic Rampaging Librarian

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

R.I.P

Ding Dong! The Witch is dead.
Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch! Ding Dong!
The Wicked Witch is dead.
Wake up - sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed.
Wake up, the Wicked Witch is dead.
She's gone where the goblins go,

DOPA is no more
or so it would seem
long may it rest (or at least if they try and resurrect it may they give it much more thought)

a $50,000.00 pack of gum

The New York Public Library has theirs (well, will have, by February) , do you have yours? Apparently it's set to debut in ten to twenty-five bookstores this year: you plop your money in it pops out a book.
"The machine can print, align, mill, glue and bind two books simultaneously in less than seven minutes, including full-color laminated covers. It prints in any language and will even accommodate right-to-left texts by putting the spine on the right. The upper page limit is 550 pages, though by tweaking the page thickness and type size, you could get a copy of War and Peace (albeit tough to read) if you wanted."
Currently there are about 2.5 million titles available, titles that are out of copyright. This thing brings two immediate questions to my mind. Who is footing the bill for the machine in the first place? And who really wants the books these machines print out?
*on second thought they *could be* kinda cool depending on the cost, the size, the look, yakna, hmmm...

"The trick of growing up is to remember to grow."

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue was inspired by the W. B. Yeats poem of the same name (which was also used in the wonderful film~in my ever so humble opinion A.I. {based on the short story Supertoys Last All Summer Long by Brian Aldiss})

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water-rats;
There we've hid our faery vats,
Full of berries
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim grey sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances,
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And is anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's morefully of weeping than you can understand.


Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,.
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For to world's morefully of weeping than you can understand.


Away with us he's going,
The solemn-eyed:
He'll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal-chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
from a world more full of weeping than you can understand.

The novel seems to be a metaphor for the strangeness of childhood; which is really the life of an outsider and growing up is learning to fit in, which some of never seem to do. I remember when i was a child i sometimes would feel like i was even outside myself looking in and wonder if i would ever feel like i was truly myself, like maybe when i grew up i would feel like myself. It's kind of funny to remember that now, because i don't ever feel that, even when i stop to observe my own life, does that mean that i've grown into myself now? That i've grown up (perish the thought~for to grow up is to let go of imagination).

A changeling is a member of the fay, a hobgoblin who steals a child and takes his place, the child then becomes a changeling himself until his (or her~don't want to be gender exclusive here) chance to kidnap/return to the human world presents itself. The Stolen Child is the story of both the changeling who steals a child's place, and the child who is then forced to become the changeling. Both feel out of place, and both must learn to find their place.

We all are strangers in this world, and we all wander. I know other adoptees who are convinced that the reason they feel out of place is because they were stolen from their true place, i think that must be too easy an answer. Don't we all need to make our own place in the world? (And what's in a name~to coin a phrase~i mean that's something~most of the time~given to us by parents who don't even know us~though most of us~me included cling to that identity with our very lives~funny really, if you think on it)

This book touched me, perhaps it will touch you, perhaps not. Donohue writes in an artful voice, a voice removed from his characters. It is a voice from another age; some may feel put off by it, but i believe it is appropriate, because his is a tale of days gone by. A tale told to explain away nameless dangers that no longer frighten us. We have new fears now.

*interestingly enough i stumbled on The Other on cable the other night, a movie i had never seen or heard of before, but also on the subject of changelings (why is it that things start popping up once the subject is on your mind~are they always there and you just don't notice them or are there other forces at work? I really had no idea what i was getting into when i clicked that particular OnDemand button...)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

airport follies

just spent two and one half hours waiting at the airport in the cold late night/early morning hours (at least i didn't stick my tongue to a metal pole this time~apparently that's the only wisdom i've managed to accumulate in the last 35 years) and it seems i'm much more like my mother than i generally like to admit...
first, some background info, my mother brilliant and wonderful as she is, is more than a bit absent minded (once when i was driving along with her and she was being distracted by every little thing and constantly forgetting her train of thought i observed that she could come down with Alzheimer's and i would never know the difference~in between peals of hysterical laughter she exclaimed "that's not funny!" "then why are you laughing," i asked. "Because it's so true!")
Anyway, the last time my mom went to visit my sister she forgot to take her cellphone charger and picked up a generic one at Wallmart. After a few days her cellphone went dead and she decided she had a bad cellphone; i suggested maybe the generic charger wasn't compatible with the phone like the brand name phones always tell you to always use ONLY their chargers (which i realize is only a marketing scheme but Maybe there is something to it.) Well anyway she gets back home and lo and behold her phone works with the regular charger.
This trip she decides the problem is she was probably plugging the charger into a wrong outlet (?) But i ask her if she was sure she took the RIGHT charger and she assured me she had. After a few days she calls me on my sister's phone to tell me that her cell phone has mysteriously died (even though she plugged it into the right outlet this time).
"Are you sure you brought the RIGHT cellphone charger???" i ask her one more time.
"Yes, I brought the one i bought here last time." she assures me.
"The ONE that DIDN'T work the last time you tried it. I asked you about that before, Remember...?"
"Oh, well I thought you just meant the one that went with the phone," (i suppose, as opposed to one that went with some other appliance) "well, I was lazy and didn't want to crawl under the desk to unplug it."
"I see." i am shaking my head at this point which she can hear through the phone.
"I know, I know" she says."
On New Year's Day (Monday) she was asking if i had been picking up her mail and i told her i hadn't been over to her house since Friday but that there should only be one day's worth of mail there since they hadn't delivered that day and they wouldn't be delivering Tuesday because of Ford (i must insert here that my mother is a news junkie, usually watching the news about three times a day, and when she is at home she seems to spend at least twelve hours on the Internet). She then preceded to tell me that my brother-in-law's, who is a federal employee, boss had wanted him to take the day after Christmas off and she was speculating that the day after New Year's was the day the post office needed to take off.
"No Mom, it's because of Ford."
"Ford. What did Ford do?"
"He died, Mom. I can't believe you didn't know that, haven't you been watching the news?"
"Oh they don't let the news in here. All they watch on t.v. is sports and kids' shows."
"What about the Internet or the radio?"
"The radio's in the other room and the Internet's difficult to get to."
"It sounds like you're being held prisoner, you need to make some demands!" (my mother is not a soft-spoken woman)
"I know, you know what a news-junkie i am..."
"That's what i'm saying..."
"And i'm getting tired of sleeping on the couch..."
Me, (what is going on at my sister's house) "hmmm..."
When i call my sister's house the next day and no one answers i call her cell phone.
"No one answered your phone."
"That's because (my-brother-in-law) is downloading songs from the Internet (on my mom's laptop mind you)"
"Oh, so you do get the Internet. Mom was saying it was hard to get the Internet, and the radio, and that you don't let the news in."
"She lies." (curious answer don't you think?)
then, when she puts my mom on the phone my mom claims she had been confused, curiouser and curiouser...
Anyway, at this point, i need flight information and what i get is that her flight arrives at 11:10 p.m. and that when she got to the Phoenix airport maybe she would try to find a kiosk where they would charge her phone and she could call me. Period. No flight number. No airline name (though i do know which airline i dropped her off at~i'm hoping it's the same). Now, of course, i could have asked, the fact that i didn't is perhaps equal parts that i'm her daughter and that i'm afraid i'll get her side-tracked, have her misplace her ticket and leave her stranded somewhere (it could happen).
So, after working at the library, and working up a tremendous migraine, i go home for a little while, drive to the airport, get there precisely at 11:11, circle the pick-up area a couple of times, then decide to ignore the threatening "NO PARKING, NO WAITING, VIOLATORS WILL BE TOWED" signs (just like everyone else) and wait at the curb. After about twenty minutes, to conserve my dwindling gas, i turn off the engine, but leave the radio going. After an hour, i call my sister, the second try wakes her up, and i ask her if she knows anything about mom.
"Who?" (she, after all is blessed with mom's genetics as well as her environmental upbringing.)
"Mom, i've been waiting an hour for her at the airport and there is no sign of her, and of course there is no answer on her cellphone. Do you know anything about her flight?"
"No, i think it went through Tuscon."
"Phoenix."
"Oh."
"She likes to meet at baggage"
"I never meet her there"
"Oh"
this is going swimmingly.
"Ok"
"Ok"
Maybe i'll go around again. Car doesn't start. Oh yeah, my battery isn't that strong, and when you sit there with the radio going, and the lights on in a no parking no waiting zone... I'm kind of fucked
I'm thinking i should go in and check the baggage claim area but i don't want to leave my car behind, because i know as soon as i do the tow truck will come along and take it away (even though i haven't seen the tow truck for about forty minutes) life is just that way. I gather up my keys and wallet and cellphone and get out of the car and walk around the car. It's damn cold. I get back in the car. I gather up my keys and wallet and cellphone and get out of the car and walk around the car. It's damn cold. I get back in the car. I gather up my keys and wallet and get out of the car and walk into the airport, there is NO ONE in there. Baggage claim is deserted. I look around for some other baggage claim but don't see where one could be. I walk back out to the car. It's still damn cold. I left the cellphone in the car. Of course mom called during the whole seven minutes i was gone. Voice mail says she will wait for a while longer then she'll call a cab (and leave me stranded at the cold airport with a dead car in a NO PARKING, NO WAITING ZONE!!!)
It is now almost 1:00a.m. I get on the cellphone and start calling any information, any number that might get me through to paging (damn any charges, i'm not being left in this car that's not going anywhere). I get through to her.
She "Where are you?"
Me "I'm outside."
"I'll be right there," click.
ARGH (well obviously i'm not where you thought i'd be or we'd have connected by now...)
I accost the cop-on-a-bike where the airline is.
"Down at the other end."
"Can i leave my dead car here while i go find my mom?"
"No, but we can call a tow truck to charge it for you."
"Okay, let's do that then."
and eventually all's well that ends well.
(My depression era mother did spend 50 whole cents on a payphone call to me from Phoenix to tell me her flight was delayed but when the operator got a message~which i don't think was even mine as i didn't even have any missed calls~she wouldn't allow her to leave a message~Mom didn't think of leaving a message with my sister~probably just as well since Sis never did bother to find out what happened to her...)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

what's a public library for anyway?

two recent articles have called attention (rather critically) to one library's weeding practices: one in the Washington Post and one in the Wall Street Journal. First the Washington Post came out with this:

Hello, Grisham -- So Long, Hemingway? With Shelf Space Prized, Fairfax Libraries Cull Collections
By Lisa Rein Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 2, 2007; A01

You can't find "Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings" at the Pohick Regional Library anymore. Or "The Education of Henry Adams" at Sherwood Regional. Want Emily Dickinson's "Final Harvest"? Don't look to the Kingstowne branch.

* * (snip) * *

Along with those classics, thousands of novels and nonfiction works have been eliminated from the Fairfax County collection after a new computer software program showed that no one had checked them out in at least 24 months.

Public libraries have always weeded out old or unpopular books to make way for newer titles. But the region's largest library system is taking turnover to a new level.

Like Borders and Barnes & Noble, Fairfax is responding aggressively to market preferences, calculating the system's return on its investment by each foot of space on the library shelves -- and figuring out which products will generate the biggest buzz. So books that people actually want are easy to find, but many books that no one is reading are gone -- even if they are classics.

"We're being very ruthless," said Sam Clay, director of the 21-branch system since 1982. "A book is not forever. If you have 40 feet of shelf space taken up by books on tulips and you find that only one is checked out, that's a cost."

* * (snip) * *

So librarians are making hard decisions and struggling with a new issue: whether the data-driven library of the future should cater to popular tastes or set a cultural standard, even as the demand for the classics wanes. Library officials say they will always stock Shakespeare's plays, "The Great Gatsby" and other venerable titles. And many of the books pulled from one Fairfax library can be found at another branch and delivered to a patron within a week.

But in the effort to stay relevant in an age in which reference materials and novels can be found on the Internet and Oprah's Book Club helps set standards of popularity, libraries are not the cultural repositories they once were.

"I think the days of libraries saying, 'We must have that, because it's good for people,' are beyond us," said Leslie Burger, president of the American Library Association and director of Princeton Public Library. "There is a sense in many public libraries that popular materials are what most of our communities desire. Everybody's got a favorite book they're trying to promote."

That leaves some books endangered. In Fairfax, thousands of titles have been pulled from the shelves and become eligible for book sales.

Weeding books used to be sporadic. Now it's strategic. Clay and his employees established the two-year threshold 18 months ago, driven, they say, by a $2 million cut to the budget for books and materials and the demand for space. More computers and growing demand in branches for meeting space, story hours and other gatherings have left less room for books.

And nowadays, library patrons don't like to sit at big tables with strangers as they read or study. They want to be alone, creating a need for individual carrels that take up even more space. And the popularity of audiovisual materials that must be housed in 50-year-old branches built for smaller collections only adds to the crunch.

To do more with less, Fairfax library officials have started running like businesses. Clay bought state-of-the art software that spits out data on each of the 3.1 million books in the county system -- including age, number of times checked out and when. There are also statistics on the percentages of shelf space taken up by mysteries, biographies and kids' books.

Every branch gets a printout of the data each month, including every title that hasn't circulated in the previous 24 months. It's up to librarians to decide whether a book stays. The librarians have discretion, but they also have targets, collection manager Julie Pringle said. "What comes in is based on what goes out," she said. Classics such as Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" are among the titles that haven't been checked out in two years and could be eliminated.

Librarians so far have decided to keep them. As libraries clear out titles, they sweep in new ones as fast as they can. A two-month-old program called "Hot Picks" is boosting copies of bestsellers by tracking the number of holds requested by patrons. This month, every Fairfax branch will display new books more prominently, leaving even less space for older ones.

"We don't want to keep what people don't use much of," Clay said. Circulation, a sign of prestige and a potential bargaining chip for new funding, is on pace to hit 11.6 million in the Fairfax system this year, art of a steady climb over the past three years.

No other system in the Washington area is tracking circulation as quickly -- or weeding so methodically. Montgomery County, a similar-size suburban system, has not emphasized weeding in several years, said Kay Ecelbarger, who retired last month as chief of collection management.

In the District, library director Ginnie Cooper said she has not tackled weeding and turnover policy in the system, which is struggling to increase circulation. She hopes to address those concerns with a recent infusion of cash from the D.C. Council.

There are no national standards on weeding public library collections.

As Fairfax bets its future on a retail model, some librarians say that the public library may be straying too far from its traditional role as an archive of literature and history.

Arlington County's library director, Diane Kresh, said she's "paying a lot of attention to what our customers want." But if they aren't checking out Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring," she's not only keeping it, she's promoting it through a new program that gives forgotten classics prominent display.

"Part of my philosophy is that you collect for the ages," Kresh said. "The library has a responsibility to provide a core collection for the cultural education of its community." She comes to this view from a career at the Library of Congress, where she was chief of public service collections for 30 years.

The weight of the new choices falls on the local librarian. That's especially hard at the Woodrow Wilson branch in Falls Church, one of the smallest in the Fairfax system. It's a vibrant place popular with Latino and Middle Eastern immigrants, the elderly and young professionals. Branch manager Linda Schlekau, who has 20 years of experience, says she discards about 700 books a month.

"Nine Plays by Eugene O'Neill" sat on the top shelf of a cart in the back room one day in late December, wedged between Voltaire's "Candide" and "Broke Heart Blues" by Joyce Carol Oates. The cart brimmed with books that someone on Schlekau's staff had pulled from the shelves. Sometimes she has time to give them another look before wheeling them to the book-sale pile. Sometimes she doesn't.

The Oates would return to the shelf, "because she's a real popular author at Woodrow Wilson," even if "Broke Heart Blues" isn't, Schlekau said. The Voltaire would go. An obscure Edgar Allan Poe volume called "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket" might be transferred to another branch.

Schlekau hesitated over the volume of O'Neill plays, which was in good condition but had been checked out only nine times in its lifespan at the library, falling short of the system's new goal of 20. She sighed. "The only time things like this are going out is if they're [performing the plays] at the Kennedy Center." But, she said, she's disinclined to throw O'Neill into the discard pile: "That's the English major in me."

Now, obviously, i have not been a librarian forever, nor have i been a librarian in all of the nation's libraries; however, i do have a MILS from a rather respected school and believe i have a fairly firm grounding in the principles of librarianship and i think that if, in the past weeding books had been sporadic then that was a fault in and individual library or system. Weeding is a painful but very necessary part of a healthy collection (just as the human body needs a healthy elimination system~just think where you'd be without yours). Which brings us to another point~the absolute necessity of a collection development policy (which includes weeding guidelines and a mission statement~which the collection development policy is a natural extension of.
If your mission statement says that you are to be a cultural repository and historical archive that is a very different role than a library whose mission statement says that it wants to serve the popular interests of the community and many communities have different resources for different needs (some don't). As far as keeping items whose circulation statistics don't justify it, Kresh has the right idea, if you have a personal commitment to it, you need to justify it yourself, by promotion, get those circulation statistics you need (and i have been known to sometimes weed a high circulating item to replace it with an item i think might be of higher quality in the same area~fiction area. And every good librarian knows that weeding increases circulation, you avoid it at your own peril.
Rein also seems to be blaming the technology (the computer printouts telling the librarians what hasn't circulated in 24 months~actually, i do 12 months at my branch though i make an exception for the classics). The technology is just a tool that is used to do what we had to do by looking at those little cards, or tic marks, or whatever annoying and tedious manual system we used before (and did you notice that the librarian WITH the brain, discretion, training, and judgement makes the final call?
At least the Post article was a little more objective than the Journal article that followed its lead:

WALL STREET JOURNAL Should Libraries' Target Audience Be Cheapskates With Mass-Market Tastes?
By JOHN J. MILLER January 3, 2007; Page D9

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

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

As it happens, the ruthlessness may not ultimately extend to Hemingway's classic. "For Whom the Bell Tolls" could win a special reprieve, and, in the future, copies might remain available at certain branches. Yet lots of other volumes may not fare as well. Books by Charlotte Bront√ę, William Faulkner,Thomas Hardy, Marcel Proust and Alexander Solzhenitsyn have recently been pulled.

Library officials explain, not unreasonably, that their shelf space is limited and that they want to satisfy the demands of the public. Every unpopular book that's removed from circulation, after all, creates room for a new page-turner by John Grisham, David Baldacci, or James Patterson -- the authors of the three most checked-out books in Fairfax County last month.

But this raises a fundamental question: What are libraries for? Are they cultural storehouses that contain the best that has been thought and said? Or are they more like actual stores, responding to whatever fickle taste or Mitch Albom tearjerker is all the rage at this very moment? If the answer is the latter, then why must we have government-run libraries at all? There's a fine line between an institution that aims to edify the public and one that merely uses tax dollars to subsidize the recreational habits of bookworms.

Fairfax County may think that condemning a few dusty old tomes allows it to keep up with the times. But perhaps it's inadvertently highlighting the fact that libraries themselves are becoming outmoded.

There was a time when virtually every library was a cultural repository holding priceless volumes. Imagine how much richer our historical and literary record would be if a single library full of unique volumes -- the fabled Royal Library of Alexandria, in Egypt -- had survived to the present day. As recently as a century ago, when Andrew Carnegie was opening thousands of libraries throughout the English-speaking world, books were considerably more expensive and harder to obtain than they are right now. Carnegie always credited his success in business to the fact that he could borrow books from private libraries while he was growing up. His philanthropy meant to provide similar opportunities to later generations.

* * (snip) * *

The bottom line is that it has never been easier or cheaper to read a book, and the costs of reading probably will do nothing but drop further.

If public libraries attempt to compete in this environment, they will increasingly be seen for what Fairfax County apparently envisions them to be: welfare programs for middle-class readers who would rather borrow Nelson DeMille's newest potboiler than spend a few dollars for it at their local Wal-Mart.

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

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

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

That's a reference, by the way, to one of literature's great antiheroes.Good luck finding Christopher Marlowe's play about him in a Fairfax County library: "Doctor Faustus" has survived for more than four centuries, but it apparently hasn't been checked out in the past 24 months.

Mr. Miller writes for National Review and is the author of "A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America" (Encounter Books).

Now, as you might expect, this librarian feels a bit of a rampage bubbling up on this particular subject (i start feeling especially rampagey when non-librarians start pontificating about subjects they seem to have very little knowledge about but that's probably just my taurean nature).

First off, Miller sounds like more than a bit of a elitist snob to me, speaking as a biblioaddict and as someone who has spent much too much on books, i can tell you, even if they are getting more affordable, they are still damn expensive (especially if you read three to five a week). And it really shouldn't matter what your tastes are, the libraries are there to serve everyone, especially the disenfranchised (and yes, Mr. Miller, there actually are some people out there who CANNOT afford to quench their reading thirst, there are even some people out there who don't have computers, or MP3 players) and not ALL of them have cheap mass market tastes~some of them actually DO read classics (and many of the books you refer to Hemingway, Lee, etc, WERE among the popular books of their day (as they say "the cream rises to the top"). Any book that is not available at your local library is often available through inter-library loan for free or a nominal charge (that is if it isn't available for transfer through another library branch~even those books that have been weeded for non-circulation so all is not lost).

As a librarian i was taught to be discriminating in the materials i chose to collect, but not judgemntal of my patrons taste; and i have ALWAYS thought of myself as much more than an expert "in the arcane ways of the Dewey Decimal System" (in fact i never learned the Dewey Decimal System in Library School~i did have a class called Organization of Information and learned basic cataloging rules but since not all libraries use the Dewey Decimal System that seems a silly thing to learn about unless it's actually the one you are using~and it is so disappointing that someone so obviously as learned as you would know so little about what librarians actually do~We ARE and ALWAYS HAVE BEEN and WILL continue to be "teachers, advisers and guardians of an intellectual inheritance").

There are many levels of government libraries but i'm sure you are refering to the public library which are funded by tax payer dollars (and aren't all government libraries funded by taxpayer dollars to when it comes right down to it?). Do we really want to say to the people who are paying for these materials we know what you want but we know what you need (that smacks just a little of authoritarianism to me)?

It is the dynamic library and the dynamic librarian that will move into the future; and the static library that refuses to change will be doomed to failure. I am curious about the time you refer to when "virtually every library was a cultural repository holding priceless volumes," was that in your personal memory? And are you sure those were libraries, or were they perhaps museums? There are such things as archival libraries, and special collections, and larger branches within systems, your classics are all available. And all of the bestsellers of today will be weeded soon enough (believe it or not there might even be a gem or two among them.) Also, did you actually hear Mr. Clay's bragging tone of voice when he said he was being ruthless or did you just assume it from the Post's article?

oh, and by the by, Faust was actually a well known character before Marlowe wrote about him~just so you know (and if you had checked the Fairfax catalog you would have found that there are four copies of Doctor Faustus available), ALSO stock boys at grocery stores don't so much fill their shelves with what customers want because most of the shelf space in grocery stores is bought up by advertisers and the companies who manufacture the goods put on those shelves~you only think you get to make those decisions (the same thing is happening in many of the big bookstore chains)~the last bastion of true choice is the independents and of course

your local library.