Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How to Celebrate Democracy with Your eReader

It's time to do one of my favorite things: Summarize. Based on brief but frenzied experiments with my eReader, I've compiled a list of tips on enjoying ebooks, with a special emphasis on avoiding DRM:

1. Buy something other than a Kindle. (See my previous post or this article about Sony's "Open Kimono" policy.)

2. Download Calibre. You're going to need something to manage your ebooks--an iTunes for books, if you will. Calibre is a free, open-source ebook management software. Although it doesn't work with DRM-protected ebooks, you can avoid dealing with those except when you download library books. In that case, DRM is necessary to make sure the book gets "returned," a.k.a. deleted from your eReader. More about that in a minute.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

First, a rant about DRM

I got my eReader and it's splendid! But it's also true that DRM* is like an evil curse that has been cast on my device. This cartoon is my favorite depiction of how DRM can ruin your library experience (click to see it bigger):
The comic is about downloading audio books, but I had a similar experience downloading my first ebook. Not that I wasn't successful. I was just a little disappointed that I had to download the Sony Reader Software and the Adobe Digital Editions Software and register with Adobe as well as download the ebook to my computer and then upload it to my device in order to read the ebook on my Sony Reader. Phew!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Why I'm getting a Sony eReader and You Should, Too

Or at least, you shouldn't buy a Kindle.Now, I understand that plenty of people are happy with paper pages, but as a librarian, I feel it is my duty--my duty, I say!--to learn about these newfangled devices. And I believe that an eReader could complement someone's library use in two special ways:
1. eReaders give you significantly faster access to bestsellers at a reasonable price (Bestseller ebooks are $9.99 on Amazon and the Sony eReader store). You can get bestsellers through the library, but unless you predict that they will be bestsellers well in advance, you could be #241 on the hold list.*

I just noticed that bestseller is a word--as in, spell check accepts it. Yet, it does not accept Spellcheck. Weird.

2. eReaders allow you to download ebooks from libraries, Google Books, and other independent sites. The Kindle does not allow you to do this!

Kindle books are in another format, and the Kindle does not support the epub format used by libraries, Google books, etc. Nor does it support PDF files. So if you buy a Kindle, you can only buy books from Amazon. See? That is not in the spirit of democracy or public libraries.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Romance Novels are Seriously Complicated

Among the many things I didn't learn in graduate school, the intricacies of genre fiction is one I regret the least, because I enjoy teaching myself. (Perhaps there were classes on this, and I didn't take them because I was busy taking Multicultural Literature for Children and Teens. But I don't recall classes on selecting adult fiction.)

Anyway, we don't really collect romance novels at my library. But we've been branching into the genres lately (mostly urban fiction), so I was thinking maybe we should consider a romance novel collection--particularly because some of our English language learners ask for them. Well, and also, because I learned a lot of technical stuff about sex by reading them in my own public library as a teen. See how I just related that to YA services? Which is my actual job?

When haters talk about romance novels, they say the same thing haters say about rap: it all sounds the same. Haters think it's hilarious that there are very specific guidelines for writing romance novels; haters also think this means they're all the same. I kind of thought this too, until I read a blog post about werewolf sex.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Teen Space Distractions: Modern Furniture for Children

My library is full of these chairs.

Before I started researching furniture, I had no idea that these were examples of the Eames chair, a modern style of chair with a certain cachet. Of course, our chairs are badly scratched up, and I have never found them all that comfortable. You can't sit on the edge of them. It defies physics. You have to slide all the way into their contours.

Anyway, now I know that, along with Saarinen tulip tables
and Panton S chairs,these Eames chairs are iconic examples of modern furniture. And I'm starting to understand that the other teen furniture I so recently naysayed, like the mutant hand chair, are also examples of modern furniture, so clearly that's an aesthetic associated with young people.

Tabletop Sampler

I have reached a new phase in my teen space re-design: the phase in which I request samples of everything. Aren't these tabletop samples pretty?

They're from Hertz, which I think has remarkably inexpensive activity tables. (Activity tables are an important category of classroom furniture for me. I am mostly interested in "activity tables" rather than "library tables" because they come in pretty colors and shapes--like "kidney" and "clover." They are also cheaper because they're not solid wood, like "library tables.")

And when I finally decide on something, I can use the leftover samples for necklace or key chain craft programs! Almost makes me want to order more just to stock up.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Double, Double, Books, Boys and Trouble

I recently did a RILINK workshop on literacy programs for boys, and I'm linking to the handouts here, since a number of people who did not attend were curious.

I read (parts of) a lot of books on raising and teaching boys in order to prepare for the workshop, and I've been mulling over these books ever since. (I was going to write a brilliant literature review of all the books, and then I discovered it had already been done better than I could have done it. Le sigh. I will confine myself to informing you that Michael Sullivan's Connecting Boys with Books relies heavily on The Trouble with Boys and The War Against Boys, which reveals something about his perspective.)

Most of these books present similar evidence for the crisis in boys' literacy:
What's different about the books are the causes to which they attribute these worrisome statistics. I was interested to learn, in Raising Cain, that there are only two well documented differences between boys and girls that are caused by nature as opposed to nurture. One is that boys are more physically active. The other is that girls develop language skills earlier. (A lot of you are probably thinking, duh. But isn't it nice to have studies confirm our observations?)

This provides an interesting explanation for why elementary school boys are consistently behind girls in most indicators of reading ability: they naturally develop language skills later.

So here's my question: if it's biologically normal for boys to be behind girls in reading, then why are we freaking out about the reading gap and heaping pressure on boys?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

90s Werecreature Nostalgia

I am so annoyed that Kate Thompson's Switchers is not in print.

That's a cranky way to start a post. Sorry.

But seriously, it's such a great tweeny supernatural love story. I read it when I was 12 and I died a little at the end. I want to re-read it to see how it holds up, but I have too many new things to read, so instead, I recommend it to anyone who is looking for a vampire book for a 9-year-old who asks you for Twilight. Not that I don't just give them Twilight, but I do have my concerns. And I finally found someone who shares some of them--namely the made-up Indian tribe--which inspired me to suggest some alternatives.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"You had me at Japanese"

That's what one of our teens said to me when I tried to talk him into reading the largest book in our library, Miyuki Miyabe's Brave Story. I was all, "There's an abandoned building that hides the pathway to another world populated by scary talking animals and controlled by video-game-like rule--," and the teen was just like, "stop talking and let me check it out."

My conclusion: teens are fascinated by books by modern Japanese writers. Unfortunately, I don't have too many books that meet that criteria. I'm tha-rilled that Viz Media is translating and publishing Japanese novels under the Haikasoru imprint. I will finally have a follow-up suggestion for the rabid fans of Battle Royale. But since it may take a while to get all of those books on my shelves, I went and raided the adult collection and I found this: Real World by Natsuo Kirino.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Libraries as Physical Places

I'm listening to a podcast about the Boston Public Library situation--they have a budget shortfall, so they're looking at closing some branches. Sound familiar? Oooooh, they just got to the part where they compare the situation to the Providence situation. Ann Robinson is on the line!

Anyway, I think what's at stake here is the library as physical place. Unless we get a lot more money, libraries can't be everything people want them to be: children's playroom, research institution, internet cafe, senior center, homeless shelter, continuing education extension, video store, after school program, etc. But one of the biggest either-or decisions we have to make is whether we're going to be a physical place or an online presence.

In Providence, we've already taken sides. PCL is keeping the physical spaces open--both in terms of locations and hours--and naturally that means other things have to take a hit--collections, staffing, building maintenance, etc. Dale Thompson has embraced the other path, where the assumption is that people have computers and can access your resources 24/7 from wherever.

Maybe another thing that's at stake is whether the library is a social service for people with lower incomes (and the homeless) or an institution that will compete with Netflix and Google to attract the middle to upper class. Maybe we don't have to choose between these two particular extremes, but I don't think we can be everything to everyone in this economy, so we need to commit. To something. Know who we are and be that.

Note: I'm not the first blogger to talk about this, obviously, although it's more often a discussion at University Libraries.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Teen Furniture: Post Revelation

I think I figured out why I was struggling so much! I want to do something that "brands" the teen area (and possibly even repels other age groups, but in a subtle way), but every time I pick something wild, I feel uncomfortable, because (here's the revelation): the library is one big room, and in order to look nice, I think it has to be kind of matchy.

Most of my library is brown and gray-blue. And by brown, I mean various shades of wood. So picking lime green rolly chairs and chrome tables would be jarring. And I decided I don't want the library to jar. I want it to gell. Ah, I can never resist an alliteration.

So my new idea is wooden benches and storage cubes with checkers and chess. I'm thinking clean and modern, geometrical, matchy, hopefully durable, and they can accommodate lots of seating arrangements. In fact, there is no wrong way to sit on them. The color scheme has splashes of brights, but mostly wood (and a little chrome).

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Teen Furniture

Why do companies like Brodart, Demco, and Gaylord think that teens want to sit in things like this:
That's just creepy.

I have been agonizing about teen furniture for weeks now. The move is basically done, but the teen area remains undecorated, because I can't decide what to do with my little budget. I may go to Ikea. My friend says that RISD has Ikea furniture in one of their lobbies. If it's good enough for RISD, right?

The problem is, I have this checklist: must be durable, easy to clean (probably not cloth or glass), attractive to teens, different from what we already have, appropriate for lounging or doing homework, not too expensive, small enough to suit the space, accommodating to groups or individuals, etc., etc. And all the sites recommend bean bag, butterfly, and gaming rocker chairs. All of which I think are more teeny-bopper than teen.

I wish some design TV show would come and remodel our teen area for free.

Oh, here's the other thing the catalogs recommend for teens: pub or bar height seating.
Why? Teens' #1 daily goal is not to look dumb, and everyone looks dumb trying to climb up onto bar height seating. In fact, my teens seem to gravitate to the kids' tables, which are about 2 feet high, either because they love to go where they are not supposed to or because the low seats maximize their ability to slouch.

Maybe I'm being unkind. Maybe they like the kids' seating because they're nostalgic, or because they're not used to their big bodies?

Maybe I will just buy them kids tables.

The Inspiration

I'm used to people approving of my name. Whenever I have to say it for someone who is going to write it down or look it up, they say something like, "That's an easy one." I think this is why, when we are ordering pizza and the cashier says, "Name please," my boyfriend looks at me and says, "Emily."

This was particularly true when I studied abroad in England. Not only were people thrilled by how easy my name was to spell, but they often said that it was, "a good English name." (Although sometimes they said it suspiciously. Like I was secretly English.) This, perhaps, explains why Cressida Crowell chose the name for her book, That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown!

If you have not read this book, please do. It is fantastic. I will say no more. And I know the author is English, because the sequel is available in England but not in America. At least not through Baker and Taylor. This will not stop me for long. But I digress.

Cressida Crowell's book is the inspiration behind the name of my blog. Cheers, Cressida. And welcome, world, to my third attempt to blog regularly. Ha!