Serendipity in the library environment?

The browsing experience deserves attention (and future posts here), especially as the way we browse has been changing so rapidly. When was the last time we lost ourselves in dusty stacks, stumbling upon serendipitous information that changed the course of our research or simply added to the awe we feel when in the presence of so much knowledge? This post from ACRLog captures today’s dilemma (about the stacks becoming more of a digital experience for today’s researchers–more convenient, yet less inspiring) very eloquently.

I recently discussed with a friend how the browsing experience changes when a public library changes from a stable collection to a floating collection (stay tuned). Does this increase serendipity or just change the definition of a branch library. I am used to a branch library reflecting the tastes of its particular patron population.

Enabling the Research ‘Flow’ and Serendipity in Today’s Digital Library Environment.


What can libraries learn from Yahoo’s new CEO?

In this interview, Marissa Meyer explains the thinking behind buying every Yahoo employee a smartphone of their choosing (Apple, Android, Windows). “You want the engineers, etc., to be able to create an amazing experience.” If the library was funded with an eye to the future, the equivalent action I would take would be to have every library staff member choose an e-reader, smartphone, or tablet. Everyone would become experts on their device, as far as downloading e-books and articles. The world is going mobile, and library patrons are no exceptions. Making sure that these devices interacted with the library effectively would become more of a priority. Another notable comment Meyer made was the observation that Yahoo has the content but lacks mobile hardware, browser, or social network, yet this very lack suggests that Yahoo is free to partner with the companies who do these things the best. It sounds like she wants to develop a unique Yahoo app for smartphone users. Libraries (queen of content) will develop their potential through partnerships. What are the most innovative partnerships happening right now, and what are some new ones that will create something equally exciting and create a turnaround in the library world?


Clara Breed: An Exemplary Librarian During World War II

The book I am reviewing  is Dear Miss Breed by Joanne Oppenheim which celebrates a remarkable librarian who is unknown to the American public at large, but is considered a hero by many Japanese-American survivors of internment.

Clara Breed was a children’s librarian in San Diego during WWII.  When her young Japanese-American patrons were interned at Santa Anita Racetrack in 1942, she did not turn her back on them. She wrote all her Japanese American patrons, and sent them books along with other items that they and their families needed.  A number of Japanese American artists sent Miss Breed art objects in thanks for the art supplies she sent them.  Author Joanne Oppenheim discovered Miss Breed when she was attempting to locate a Japanese- American schoolmate.  She read the story of this courageous librarian on the website of The National Japanese-American Museum at The Clara Breed Collection . This page is a finding aid for the digitized versions of letters that Clara Breed received from the interned children and young adults that she had served as a librarian.  Oppenheim hoped that a book about a librarian who assisted Japanese Americans during WWII would help to prevent the United States from ever interning American citizens again. Continue reading


Chojun: Okinawan Karate and the Real Mr. Miyagi

Like many people, I have seen The Karate Kid movies without realizing that there was a real Okinawan karate master named Miyagi.  I am also interested in the history and culture of Okinawa.   My copy of Chojun by Goran Powell is an ARC from Net Galley. Chojun will not be released until December 16.

Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953) was the founder of   Goju-ryu Karate .  He was born in Naha, the capital of Okinawa prefecture on the main island.   This book is largely the memories of his fictional student, Kenichi Ota.  There is an amazingly compelling description of  how Kenichi first encountered Miyagi practicing karate during a typhoon.  I was transfixed by the majesty of that moment. It was the point where this book grabbed me and didn’t let me go for an instant. Continue reading


The Silver Scorpion Challenges Biases and Bridges Cultures

I was delighted to download  the  graphic novel , Silver Scorpion, under the auspices of Net Galley. It was made available by Dynamite Entertainment which is the print publisher of the English version of this international superhero comic book. (It is also available in Arabic at Silver Scorpion–Arabic Edition .) I was a fan of  Dynamite’s Zorro. That comic book series focused on a multi-cultural incarnation of the masked hero along the lines of Isabel Allende’s novel in which the daring crusader for justice in early California is depicted as half Native American.  Given the success of their Zorro title, I thought they were a perfect home for the English print version of the equally multi-cultural Silver Scorpion.

The history of the creation of  Silver Scorpion is an amazing one. The Open Hands Initiative  sponsored a Youth Ability Summit for American and Syrian differently abled teenagers which took place in Damascus in 2010.   These young people created a Middle Eastern protagonist in a wheelchair who undergoes a metamorphosis into a superhero. The Open Hands Initiative partnered with the digital publisher Liquid Comics and Dynamite Entertainment to realize their vision.   For a video about the origins of this project see The Making of the Silver Scorpion Comic Book .     Continue reading


A Mystery of Fatality During A Folk Practice

A mystery that focuses on an obscure folk practice in South Queensferry, Scotland sounds like it would probably be a cozy one.  Like most  cozies, there is a great deal of small town life with the usual sorts of characters.  I expected the folklore content to be the aspect of this novel that I would find most interesting. Yet there was more simmering beneath the surface of  South Queensferry than I had imagined.

Below is my review of The Burry Man’s Day by Catriona MacPherson.

The Burry Man is a man covered with burrs who walks about the town of South Queensferry once a year receiving offerings of money and whiskey.  This is an actual folk practice that is still alive in South Queensferry. Catriona McPherson portrays the Burry Man as a subject of controversy.  In her book, some citizens of South Queensferry disliked the Pagan nature of the practice.  Temperance advocates objected to all the quaffing of alcohol. In an author’s note McPherson states that this opposition to the Burry Man was her invention to add drama to her tale. Continue reading


Panache and Pathos in World War II France

Farewell Bergerac is the second in UK neurosurgeon Frederik Nath’s World War II trilogy that began with The Cyclist. Yet it stands on its own. It’s not necessary to have read The Cyclist beforehand. The book takes place in the Dordogne in France. As the narrative opens the protagonist, François Dufy, has submerged himself in grief and alcoholism due to the loss of both his wife and his only son. When the war comes to France, it alters his life in ways that are wonderful and terrible. Readers will come to care about François, and the remarkable individuals with which he surrounds himself. Due to the struggle of the French people against the German occupation, there is a strong thriller component to this book that involves a great deal of action and suspense. The plot is well-paced with a generous dollop of bittersweet character interaction and a surprising soupçon of humor that appears when you least expect it. Continue reading


Welcome to my new blog


thanks to

Collection of social media icons

23 Things was a campaign started by Helene Blowers that was intended to inspire librarians to get up to speed with Web 2.0 tools. In that spirit, this space is intended as a learning ground, and also gives me an opportunity to highlight and comment on the very best of the Library-World. I welcome discussion, as well as short pieces from contributors on books, libraries, and the world of information. Just email me to pitch your idea. My first contributor is Linda Frankel, with some new book reviews.

See discussion by Stephen Abrams and commenters on the relevance of the 23 Things campaign five years later. We can distill from this exchange the necessity for librarians of lifelong learning, learning by doing, and keeping up with what’s current on the Web.


How does a diverse group of librarians keep a collection in balance?

Collections do not just “happen.” Sure, they evolve, require maintenance, weeding, updating. But how, exactly? The library director and branch managers delegate selection to the librarians. But every librarian has his/her own passions, knowledge, prejudices, and agendas. What should such flawed and very human selectors keep in the upper tier of their minds when selecting? We hope they choose according to: relevancy, currency, balance, and authoritativeness. Continue reading


The unsuccessful reference transaction is a teachable moment

What didn’t work the last time a patron walked away unsatisfied? Did you analyze the transaction according to these five facets:  Approachability, Interest, Listening/Inquiring, Searching, and Follow Up?  The RUSA-approved guidelines reflect decades of experience and knowledge passed down through generations of librarians, and they have been adapted for the digital age.  Any one of these facets will affect the outcome, and satisfaction of the patron, although failures on one of these doesn’t mean the patron didn’t get what he or she came for. Standards are something to be striven for, but there are so many unpredictable elements at a public library (especially) that affect these. Giving patrons undivided attention and expressing great interest in what they are saying, while being interrupted by phone calls, other people waiting, patrons calling from across the room from a computer station, and patrons nervous about their parking meters–all these things affect your effectiveness. And, of course, if you look busy, that affects your approachability.