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RA FOR ALL...THE ROAD SHOW!

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

MP3 Mishap

Tonight my class will be discussing "Special Formats;" specifically, Graphic Novels, Audio Books and Bestsellers. I will be speaking to them about the appeal factors of these types of materials. It is one of the most interesting lectures for the students because many of them are fans on one of the three categories of books. Generally, the discussions are quite informative and interesting.

As you have seen in previous postings, I am a big proponent of audio books. Specifically, I am a huge fan of checking out books on CD from my local library, loading them onto my computer (each as one playlist), and then adding them to my i-Pod as I need them. This way I can load many books, but return the CDs to the library quickly (in a day or 2). I usually have about 8 books to choose from at any one time. I then delete them when I am through.

This solves the problem I have using my library's MP3 download service (which is still incompatible with i-Pods). Here you download the book and only have 3 weeks to listen to it before it disappears. With my preferred method, I still only listen to the audiobook once per checkout (therefore following copyright laws), but I can have the file for as long as I want. It is also a great way to keep a t0-read list. I can choose from pre-downloaded materials, books I was interested in reading at some point in the past. I can then pick the book I am in the mood for at that moment.

I have been doing this for about 18 months now and have never had a problem. Yesterday, however, I had my first (just in time to discuss it in class tonight). I was listening to Erik Larson's Thunderstruck and just as the murder part of the story was about to be revealed, I ran out of tracks. Of course I was at the gym, in the middle of a workout.

No big deal, I figured. I am sure I just didn't upload the entire book for some reason. But, nope, I only had up to Disc 6 on my computer. Last night I was at my local library for a meeting and luckily, the book was on the shelf. I have quite a bit left. So now I will read the last 100 pages.

This identified a large issue with my methodology. Since I loaded the CDs months ago, I no longer have the discs to rectify the problem. I would have to track down the audiobook again, or get the print (as I did).

Besides being very frustrated, there was no harm, but it will make for a good cautionary tale tonight.

Has anyone else had any Mp3 mishaps out there? Let me know.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Book Discussion: Digging to America

The third Monday of the month in February is President's Day, one of the few holidays the Berwyn Public Library closes for. So our group met yesterday, the second Monday, and had a very lively discussion of Anne Tyler's Digging to America. Our discussion was among the best we have ever had. I think I will add this novel to my collection of books I use in my "Book Disucssion Made Simple" classes.

Digging to America's plot is deceivingly simple. Two families are waiting at the Baltimore airport for the arrival of their adopted children from Korea (Jin-Ho and Sooki, renamed Susan). The families are very different, but forge a strong friendship from this shared experience.

I know I should not be surprised since this is Tyler's 17 novel, but the layers and nuances that accompany her set-up make the book remarkable. For example, the Yazduns (parents to Susan) are of Iranian descent, but they are not all immigrants. The father is American born, his mother came to America as a young bride, and his wife came over as a teenager. Even the 3 grandparents (all Iranian) have different customs and perspectives. These immigrant issues, especially as they pertain to Maryam are explored in detail througout the novel. Our discussion dealt with these issues a great deal. We talked about how families blend their ethnic traditions and create new ones and how immigrants in our own families chose to (or not to) "be American."

The Donaldsons (parents of Jin-Ho) appear to be your typical laid back, hippy, white suburban family, but they also are infused with contradictions and nuances. Bitsy's "binky party" late in the novel brought about much discussion in our group. Determined to rid her second daughter of her pacifier habit, Bitsy insisted on going through with a planned party to set each pacifier aloft on a balloon despite the arrival of a devastating hurricane and their lack of power. Needless to say, it is not a success, but this chapter (told from Jin-Ho's persepctive) led to much discussion.

This novel has a resolved but open ending. Over the years, Bitsy's Dad (Dave) and Maryam develop a relationship which leads to her acceptance and then refusal of his proposal of marriage. Obviously this causes some tension between the two families. The novel ends with a reconcilliation but no resolution as to Dave and Maryam's relationship. We all speculated as to whether or not they ended up together.

There are many directions one can go in order to locate readalikes for Digging to America, first, for those who like Anne Tyler's general themes and writing style should try Alice Hoffman. Her works are comparable but also include a touch of magical realism.

There are also many good fits for those who enjoyed the themes of the immigrant's struggle to assimilate while holding onto his or her past. Two of the best explorations of this theme can be seen in Zadie Smith's White Teeth and Monica Ali's Brick Lane; both also perennial book discussion favorites.

In terms of nonfiction readalikes, those who were intrigued by the detailed descriptions of Iranian culture and the circumstances surrounding the Iranian Revolution should try the graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Of course many may also be interested in International adoption. In fact, a regular member of our discussion group brought along a friend who had adopted 2 children from overseas. She shared her experiences and answered many of our questions. I found 10 Steps to Successful International Adoption: A Guided Workbook for Prospective Parents by Brenda Uekert for those who want to explore this topic further.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

BPL Display Lists: Women's Lives

Last March I did a display for Women's History month. As usual for the Berwyn Public Library, the display was accompanied by 2 annotated lists highlighting some of the offerings found on the approximately 75 book display. One is this one on books which highlight the lives of women today, and the other is this one which highlights the lives of female historical figures.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to pair your larger displays with ANNOTATED lists. The public library has even more books than the average book store because we also have many of the out of print books. Think of yourself as a reader. There are too many titles to choose from. Anything that breaks up the overwhelming offerings will be appealing to your patrons.

But go beyond just breaking things up for them. You are not simply at the desk to answer the questions that you are physically asked. You are there to help each and every reader who walks through the door whether or not they ever speak to you. Providing 2-3 sentences hinting at the plot and appeal of some of the books on the display will both help them know a bit more about a title in front of them, and, more importantly, illustrate that you care about finding them something to read. You have to be invested in their leisure reading. Annotated list are a way librarians can demonstrate this investment

There is another point I want to make about attaching annotated lists to your displays, which my experiences with creating these lists also proves. These lists can be used to highlight gems which have been lost in the stacks for years. As you can see on my Historical Lives of Women list above, I annotated the title Sally Hemmings. This novel came out many years before the sexual relationship between Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson was proven through DNA. When Barbara Chase-Ribould first published this novel, she was both highly praise and condemned. It has since gone out of print.

About 2 months after we had this display I asked my book club for their suggestions as to titles they would be interested in reading over the coming 6 months. 3 people mentioned "hearing about" Sally Hemmings and wanting to read it. There was proof that my lists piqued my patrons' interests. This past July (2007), we read and discussed the title with much success.

I know it is extra work to annotated your lists, but this little effort goes a long way toward patron satisfaction, and more importantly, toward matching readers with a great leisure read.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Me, Live in Wheeling, IL

A week from today, Tuesday, February 12 from 1-4 pm, I will be presenting my RA 201 lecture at the North Suburban Library System HQ in Wheeling, IL. They claim registration is full, but if you still want to come, click here and call to see if there are any cancellations.

Monday, February 4, 2008

No Country For Old Men

As advertised last week, I did go see the Coen Brothers' Oscar nominated film No Country for Old Men this weekend. I was blown away. It was amazing. But the difference here as opposed to seeing Atonement is that I did not read McCarthy's novel.

You can read reviews of the movie, but I want to give a Readers' Advisor tip here. We got home and I went right on the internet to pull up book discussion guides on the novel. I know this is not McCarthy's movie, but knowing his work, I could tell the movie stayed true to his vision. This really helped to answer a few questions my husband and I had about the overall themes of the movie and fueled an even longer discussion on the film.

No Country for Old Men has an apocalyptic theme which I think is nicely followed by McCarthy's latest novel The Road (which happens to be one of my recent favorites). I am excited to see the film version of The Road due this year.

So, I have seen 2 of the 5 Best Picture Nominees and it is hands down No Country for Old Men in the lead now. Oh, and Javier Bardem is that good. This week is Juno or There Will Be Blood.