Monday, July 12, 2010

Cool news from Bloglines

Well, I just checked into Bloglines and there are a number of new posts. Out of all of the new posts, the one that has excited me the most has to do with Mark Twain. It seems that Mr. Twain did not want his autobiography published until he had been dead 100 years. Well, it has been 100 years and the autobiography will soon be out. I am sure you have already guessed that I will be reading that book as soon as I can put my hands on it.

I think too much has been made about the books written by this man - the banning because of slavery. But Samuel Clemens was of a different time - a different era. Why can't we remember that? Poet and philosopher George Santayana is credited with saying "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Slavery remains with us today - look at Haiti and so many other parts of the world. It hasn't disappeared so why do people get their feathers ruffled because of a book that was written so many years ago?

Ok, I got that out. Another interesting post (and these both are in the Book news, reviews and author interviews from the UK) is about ebook deals not fair to the authors. Apparently, Tom Holland who chairs the Society of Authors, has called on the authors to demand more in the way of royalties from publishers. Instead of the standard 25%, Mr. Holland believes the royalties should be split 50/50. The problem lies in the contract because it lasts the life of the copyright. The fight should begin now, says Mr. Holland, so that the present contract language does not become set in concrete. Well, like I've always heard, it's best to cut them off at the pass. Looks like this could get interesting.

Well, I'm signing off for now as there is another post I want to read. It has to do with whether the novel is or is not dead. As you already know from my past posts, I am not a fan of fiction. It's alright for those who like it. But I don't like science fiction, or hobgloblins, or vampires, or those historical fictions with the woman who simply cannot live without that man. I have read my share of fiction and there are some writers I like such as Toni Morrison, Elmer Kelton, John Jakes, Faulkner, Mark Twain, and Agatha Christie. But give me Shelby Foote (although he did write some fiction), David McCullough, along with others listed in my previous posts.

I don't think the novel is dead. My question is whether we have any real classics today.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Catching up with technology

I don't know if I'm showing my age or my lack of being absorbed by the computer or what, but I have just learned about bloglines. I have discovered that the experience is comparable to finding good websites, podcasts, or anything else to follow.

I originally selected five blogs, but narrowed down to four. The one I deleted was the Shifted Librarian as it was too busy with a good number of entries that didn't provide me with any good information. It seemed too much like a general conversation that didn't mean anything. However, I did add a podcast, The Genealogy Guys. I attempted to add a 2nd podcast, but even though I indicated to add it to my Genealogy Podcast folder, it didn't go there. I'm still working on that one.

I'm still going through Books news (, Library Stuff, Publishers Weekly and ResourceShelf and so far, I like what I'm seeing. I also like Clippings. This is, all in all, pretty cool.

I can breathe again!

I know some of you may not find that to be funny and I don't mean for it to be funny. But I have been wanting to read American history again for so long that I feel as though I am breathing again. Now, I have to confess that I did read more Elmer Kelton's westerns - even though they are fiction. But his accuracy, storylines, and writing are truly wonderful. For now, though, it's time to go back to my first love - American history.

My recent reading has included such books as The Children's Blizzard, The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War, both by David Laskin. Right now, the book of choice is The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan. I have my eye on Nathaniel Philbrick's The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Big Horn, John Barry's Rising Tide: The Mississippi Flood of 1927, and so many, many more.

Why? You know, that is a hard question to answer. I know that I enjoy learning about this country and its people. For me, it's not enough to know there was a Civil War. I want to know what those people experienced, what they thought, how they survived. It always amazes me when game show contestants cannot answer questions concerning this country's history. One of my favorite examples is Jay Leno asking a woman who lives at 1600 N. Pennsylvania Street and she doesn't know.

It's just something I love and we have some really great authors that relate these stories. And these stories were told by some pretty incredible people - the people who experienced these events. No, it's not Harry Potter or vampires, but there are mysteries, witchcraft, murder, wars, spacecraft, romance, monsters (a different kind), and ghosts. And just like fiction, you just have to find the writer that is right for you.

So long for now. I need to take another deep breath.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cemeteries - The Outdoor Musum

Before we get into the lab assignment, let me just preface it by saying that 10 minutes is not all that long. It certainly goes by quickly. I suppose that's why writing about the lab here in the blog makes sense.

As I stated in class this past Thursday, genealogy is the #1 hobby in America. Even though so much is on the internet, there is a great deal that isn't. Genealogy researchers are found everywhere - in public libraries, courthouses, land title companies, etc. One frequented place is the state library and because I volunteer there, it was the logical place to perform the lab.

I spoke with Rachael about this project and she was thrilled with my choice - cemeteries. I told her that this would not be an advisory or display about the cemetery transcription books located in the genealogy department. It would be one, hopefully, centered on their history, sculpture, research and such, hopefully with an Indiana focus. And maybe fiction as well. Since the library has had displays in the past that included Crown Hill Cemetery, I decided to leave it out. One of my goals was to include as many of the departments in the library as possible so that patrons would learn to use more of the library. And I wanted some humor. Cemeteries are sometimes considered dark, drab, and a place not to be visited. My hope was to change that view and realize that names and dates aren’t a complete picture – you need the culture, too.

So with these goals in mind, I began searching through the online catalogue. I learned quickly to be creative in my searches so as to not bring up the transcription books. It took a number of different searches – cemetery preservation, cemetery research, epitaphs, cemetery art, etc. So I paid attention to the subject headings listed with results. I even turned to and to get some other book ideas and see if they were in the library catalogue. Why? It was just another way to attack the issue for fiction books. If I researched from home, I input the ones worth considering in a Word document. If I was at the library, I wrote them on paper. Every item that made my lists was pulled and reviewed. Yes, I looked at a lot of books, but it was worth it. There were five items that couldn't be found, which meant 1 of 2 things - either they were misfiled or stolen. Not only was that disheartening for me, but also for the librarians.

When the review was finished and I made the final cuts, I separated the items by topic and ended up with two – epitaphs and other (research and art). After a few design changes, some recommendations, revisions, reconsiderations, we came up with the final products. There is one large flier (two-sided), one smaller flier (two-sided), and one bookmark. The bookmark is basically a repeat of the large flier. The two fliers contain some images of the books. And if there were no images, I inserted a quote from the book itself. I thought that be seeing a sample of what was inside, the patrons might be tempted to read.
I have attached them in the Forums of Oncourse. I hope you enjoy them. I have enjoyed putting them together. While the end result is for the benefit of the patrons, I have learned some things myself. It’s been an enjoyable, sometimes frustrating, but fun experience. Reader’s Advisory, anyone? Just ask me about cemeteries – I have some recommendations for you.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Reader's Advisory - You'll never guess what I did!!

April 16th and 17th found me at an Indiana Genealogical Society two-day seminar in Fort Wayne. Actually, the seminar was only one day, but there was a workshop on Friday for members of genealogical societies. FYI – librarians earn CEUs on both days. This year, the Friday workshop focus was preservation at the various levels – genealogical society, local (county) and state. And because I have a large interest in archiving, I just had to attend. Saturday offered various topics of interest to we who refer to ourselves as genealogists.

Anyway, because of the Friday seminar, Allen County Public Library remained opened for a late night genealogy research opportunity. I attended the late night with a friend of mine because I needed access to WIFI and my cheapy motel did not offer it (but what can you expect for $30/night?). Anyway, as I was working on an assignment for my other class, I noticed an older gentleman (in his 70s or so) reading a paperback called The Texan. I kept thinking about the body of work we have for this class, but also what I have taken upon myself to read on my own. You see, I have somehow read three Elmer Kelton westerns from his Texas Ranger series during this semester. And I have to admit that they are pretty darn good. So I got up from my seat and walked over to the gentleman and his wife. I introduced myself and stated I had noticed his book. I then proceeded to ask if he had read any of Kelton’s books. He had never heard of him. Bingo!!! Although unsolicited, I performed an act of Reader’s Advisory. One that I never thought I would do, but I bet neither did any of you! I wrote the author’s name on a slip of paper and handed it to the gentleman and he seemed appreciative. We talked for a little while and then I went on about my business.

Why did I do this? You know, I’m not really sure why. I didn’t know this man at all. But something inside me said to do this little act of kindness. Accidentally, I found Elmer Kelton and enjoyed his books. They are good westerns. I feel as though I am right there. Of course, having a passion for American history helps. But Kelton’s westerns aren’t sappy with romance like a good amount of historical fiction. Love is in the air with Kelton, but it is more reasonable, more down to earth, more pleasing (at least for me). Is the lack of sappy romance because the author is a man? I don’t know, but I get more landscape, more realism, less fantasy than historical fiction.

Anyway, I am proud of my unsolicited Reader’s Advisory advice performance and hope you are as well. I just had to tell someone. Well, I have to get back to my reading now. An archivist advised me to read as much history as possible since I don’t have a college history background. Sounds like a good excuse for me to continue hanging out in the non-fiction area.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The loss of libraries and access

As we all can attest, not having a library is very devastating. Here in Indiana, there are a number of communities where one cannot be found. But what about our state libraries? Are they any safer? The answer is no. In listening to The Genealogy Guys Podcast (yes, I said podcast), of March 26th (, I have learned some disquieting news from around the country.

If you take a look at the State of Michigan website ( you will see that there is no longer a Department of History, Arts, and Libraries. The Board of Trustees of the library and the Michigan Library itself now fall under the Department of Education. The position of State Librarian has been abolished. You can access and read the Executive Order by going to the state website, type 'Library of Michigan' in the search area, and then click on Michigan Department of History, Arts, and Libraries. You will see the link to the Order under "Michigan says farewell to the Department of History, Arts, and Libraries". For now, the collection will stay where it is, but there will be some losses of jobs and other things. And that is only the beginning.

In New Jersey, there is a possibility that the New Jersey State Library and the Thomas Edison State College will be merged under the New Jersey State Museum governed by Rutgers University beginning July 1, 2010. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg County (NC) Library system announced a closure of 13 branches. That is an awful lot of libraries in an awful lot of communities. Because of the community outcry, these branches will not be closed, but the hours will be cut as well as jobs. In Florida, the legislature is considering the elimination of more that $22 million in aid to libraries. And then in Massachusetts (this isn't about libraries but access to records) there is a senate bill recommending the closure of access to all vital records after 1841.

That is a lot to take in. And what makes it worse is that I know I am a part of the funding problem. Why? Well, I have not replaced the job I lost more than a year ago. I am working a temporary part-time job right now, but I am not paying the taxes I had been paying and I am not purchasing much of anything. And I am only one. I know it is not my fault, but it is still very difficult to read about these things. It is times like this that I wish I had millions to spend.

But what is also just as frustrating is that the government keeps telling us to volunteer. Now, I don't mind volunteering. FYI - I have been a volunteer at the Indiana State Library for a year now and truly enjoy it. But I can't make a living on volunteering. And if libraries need a lot of volunteers, what is that saying? There are a few of us SLIS students who are current volunteers in the Library Development Office of the State Library. We 'work' for a woman who is the Digital Initiatives Librarian for the entire state. Do you know the size of her staff? One. Just one person overseeing the entire state. Connie has more projects on her plate than the White House has eating utensils (and we all know how many people are invited to all those dinners). She travels the state and trains librarians on digitizing as well. I can't even do justice to all the things she has going on. I have yet to see her take a lunch break and from what I am told, she is the first one there (in that office) and the last one out the door. When I saw her Thursday, I learned she would most likely be working this weekend - a three day weekend for the state employees. And they haven't had a raise in three years!

What are we coming to? What does this say about our society? And where are we going? As Barbara Tuchman once said "Nothing sickens me more than the closed door of a library." Though nothing has happened yet with our own state library, there have been times when the hours were reduced to Monday-Friday, 8:00 - 4:30. And what makes things worse is that because it is a state library, foundations are not allowed. Yet, it is to offer services to the entire state, to every single one of us if we so choose.

Lady Bird Johnson once said, "Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest." But one of my favorite quotes is from John Bright 11/16/1811 - 3/27/1889, a British orator, Quaker, and statesman. Now before you read this, PLEASE understand that, 1) Bright was a product of his time, and 2) when he says 'men', I include women. So if you do those two things, you might like this quote: "What is a great love of books? It is something like a personal introduction to the great and good men of all past times. Books, it is true, are silent as you see them on the shelves; but, silent as they are, when I enter a library I feel as if almost the dead were present, and I know if I put questions to these books they will answer me with all the faithfulness and fullness which has been left in them by the great men who have left the books with us."

Well, I have rambled long enough about the sad news in the podcast. I suppose the question to be answered is if a library near any of us was proposed for closure, what would we be willing to do to stop it? To what lengths are we willing to travel and who we will take with us? And even if it isn't proposed for closure, what are we willing to do to make it the best? The funny thing about my volunteer experience is that I have been turned away by two libraries that keep saying they need volunteers. That is how I landed at the state library. But perhaps I need to go back and see if I can't convince them that they need me. Lord knows I haven't been able to land a library job, and trust me when I say I am better off in an Indiana Room, the state library, or the archives. Or should I say the patrons would be better off if I am in one of those places. Anyway, just food for thought.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Attack of 1918

Out of all the reading that has been assigned, now is my opportunity to shine. Right? It is nonfiction and that is my favorite area. But I have been subdued by my choice, something I did not expect. I have been touched by this selection and if that wasn't enough, I read a second nonfiction book. That will be a separate blog.

Okay, so back to this entry. This book came into my life before I began this class. The Monday night of the first week of class, I parked myself in front of the TV at 9:00 pm to watch one of my favorite shows - "American Experience" on PBS. That night's episode was about the influenza epidemic of 1918. It was so well made I wanted to know more. So the next day, I went to the local library and found The Great Influenza by John M. Barry.

If you don't know anything about this time in our country's history, then you should read this book. If you do know, you should still read this book. Yes, it's thick - 546 pages. But if you subtract the 40 pages of notes, the 21-page bibliography, and an index of 18 pages, that makes it a little smaller. I cannot say how long it took me to read because 1) I'm a slow reader, 2) I had to reread some medical and scientific passages, and 3) there was fiction to be read. But I did manage to get back to it. I had to. It is compelling.

We start 30-35 years before the outbreak by taking a look at the medical training in America and Europe. Let's just say America is a little bit behind. To attend medical school, you don't need a college degree. You can fail a class numerous times and still earn your certificate. There are no hospital rounds, no live patients, no internships, no research, no lab work, no microscopes. Some training, don't you think? Europe required so much more. It was time for change. William Welch desired that through his efforts and a few friends, he was able to change the face of American medical schools. His efforts have given us John Hopkins Medical School and a new way of teaching the practice of medicine.

Then WWI broke out and we stayed out until April 1917. Men are drafted and sent to military camps, then sent overseas. All is well - for a while. Winter came and the so did the influenza, but it's the typical case. Some children die and some elders, but nothing that should worry anyone. The year goes by and there is talk that the war may be winding down. But we are still drafting, still training, still cramped. Parades, gatherings, shopping - all activity as usual - all feeding grounds for the flu. And then someone passes out on the street before your very eyes and is dead by nightfall.

While Barry's research is more than just thorough, it is the style that keeps calling, beckoning you. As in all historical nonfiction, the end is known. But it is how you get there that counts. A reviewer on Amazon stated that Barry includes unnecessary information, such as insight into the scientists' lives. I disagree. An epidemic affects people in many ways and it is this that Barry wants to show - at least that is my opinion. Scientists have given their lives to research - day in, day out - so we have a better life. Although they did not invent a vaccine then, their research has led to many other findings.

The pacing ebbed and flowed just like the flu epidemic. For a large part of the book, the pace kept moving rapidly accompanied with the writing style of panic and fear. I could feel every emotion, every pain, angst, fear. I was there on the streets, in the camps and hospitals, on the trains, in the labs. He plants the reader in the middle of it all. The characters? Ever heard the song "Getting to Know You" by Oscar Hammerstein from The King and I? Did I ever get to know them! It is almost like reading a biography at times. I became friends with a few of the scientists and doctors. And I learned so much about the flu, the main character, not only what it did in 1918, but how it has changed over and over. It is something that is still being studied today.

Anyone who loves American history should read this book. It reads like a horror book, a mystery, a biography, and a history book, all wrapped into one. It is good for those who want to learn what life was like for their ancestors, for those interested in science and medicine. The technical terms may make you look things up on the internet, and you may need to reread some passages, but it is well worth the time and effort. Just ask someone whose family member died from it. I have - two of them. Fascinating stuff. By the way, I am looking forward to reading another John M. Barry book very soon - Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America.

For read alikes, I went with related reads and fiction books on this topic (teens and adults). Teens may not want to read a 546 page nonfiction book, but they may need to learn about the epidemic.

Related reads (Reader's Advisory): Polio: An American Story (David Oshinsky); The Great Mortality: An Intimate History (John Kelly); Plague and Fire: Battling Black Death and the 1900 Burning of Honolulu's Chinatown (James Mohr).

Fiction reads on this topic: Adults: Kathy (Linda Sole-Adult); The Last Town on Earth: a novel (Thomas Mullen); This Time of Dying (Reina James); The Paradox Syndrome (Ken Hodgson).
Teens: Winnie’s War (Jenny Moss); The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 (Claire O’Neal; Blessings Bead (Debby Dahl Edwardson); The Goodbye Season (Marian Hale); The Flu Epidemic (JoAnn A. Grote); Fever Season (Eric Ziveig); Marvin of the Great North Woods; Kathryn Lasky.