Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It's Award Season!

Forget the SAG awards, the Oscars, and the People's Choice Awards.  The anticipation is really rising for Monday, January 18th, when the ALA Youth Media Awards announcements will take place.  The Newbery, the Caldecott, the Coretta Scott King-- just a few of the 17 awards given by the ALA to recognize the best in media for children and young adults.  If you feel like getting up early, 7:45 am EST-- that's 4:45 here-- you can watch the live webcast.  It's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!  Who wants to sleep in on a three-day weekend?  I wish I could pretend to be all authoritative about who I think will be the winner this year, but I have to admit to not reading a lot of new books this last year-- mostly older Newberys and a lot of PDFs about the definitions of information.  If I had to put in a guess, it would be for Charles and Emma: The Darwin's Leap of Faith, by Deborah Heiligman.  It's a non-fiction book, a genre that hasn't taken the Newbery in a while, but it's also a problematic book, which reflects some of the latest Newbery choices, like Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, last year's winner.  Like The Graveyard Book, the age boundaries for this book aren't really clear; the Newbery honors books for children up to age 14, but most libraries I have visited shelve this book in YA... of course, many libraries define YA as 12 and up.  The only thing I feel really pushes this book into the older student's category at all is the mention of sex and sexuality, important to Darwin in his studies of inherited traits... and important regarding his wife, Emma, with whom he had ten children.  Of course, given some of the difficulties with recent picks, the committee may choose something more traditional.  I have heard things about When You Reach Me over and over, and the Amazon review likens it to From the Mixed of Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and Harriet the Spy, two of my favorite books ever.  The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is another I have seen prominently displayed in my recent library forays.  
My Newbery frustration?  On Friday I read Olive's Ocean, by Kevin Henkes, which was an Honor winner for 2004.  

I could not figure out why this book hadn't won the Newbery-- I couldn't even remember the winner for 2004.  I looked it up: The Tale of Despereaux (which I thought was a 2005 winner).  Can you imagine the difficulty?  Despereaux is far and away one of the best books I've read in the last decade, though I feel for sure if Olive's Ocean had been published any other year, it would have been a winner for sure.  Newbery Winner or Honor aside, Olive's Ocean is an amazing book that deserves a read.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Field Trip: Li-Berrying

When I was younger, I would go on adventures.  I would pack my bag with books, drawing paper, pens and pencils, binoculars, and other necessary bits for excursions around our ranch, an adventure-appropriate snack, and set out.  I had a very vivid memory yesterday of a bag of leftover McDonald's Sausage McMuffins sitting on our kitchen counter, which I took apart, and put the biscuits in one bag, and the sausage patties in another, and then only allowing myself to eat one bite of one or another at a time.  I called it hard tack.  This is how I felt yesterday when my supplies bag and I set out with a map of the LAPL libraries, looking to check off as many as I felt like visiting.  Of course, I came back with a bag full of books, rather than setting out with one.  I got lost a few times-- a couple of times on purpose, a few times, on accident-- but visited one library on Friday, and four libraries yesterday.  
The "Library of the Day" award goes to the Los Feliz branch for this picture (and to the reference librarian who let me take it):

What a beautiful reading garden, right?  NOT!  This is their story reading room, inside the library.  Doesn't it just look like an image from Legends of Sleepy Hollow, or Harry Potter?  The "moon" is a skylight, and the branches edge the room, which is round, and painted a pale blue, with recessed lighting.  There are baskets of stuffed animals and board books everywhere.  Los Feliz also has beautiful wood paneling throughout the library, and large cork boards covering the walls, advertising their amazing programming: weekly Scrabble meetings; SAT
 tutoring; a quilting bee; infant, toddler, and pre-k storytimes; mother-daughter non-fiction craft book club; Beads and Feathers, a children's craft group.  They also have a "Twilight" READ poster prominently displayed, signed by the members of the Twilight cast, which is pretty cool.
The Cahuenga and Wilshire branches had my favorite exterior architecture.

Wilshire was recently renovated, while maintaing the historical aspects of the architecture, including a beautiful fireplace and marble floors.  They also have a beautiful courtyard, but there doesn't seem to be any access to it other than gazing at it through their french doors.  Their layout is also impeccable, grouping popular materials such as fiction, DVDs, and CDs together, all the nonfiction in a second area, and children's books in a third, all triangulated around the reference and check-out desk.  Cahuenga, unfortunately, didn't have this going for them at all, but they have one of the most complete and well-thought out teen rooms I have seen outside of the Central Library downtown.  While I wouldn't have known that Cahuenga was the library, driving by (there is only one exterior sign, and it is obscured by bushes and missing several letters: Cahu n   Pub ic L br ry), their interior signage rocks the stacks-- large, neon, and zebra print in the teen room, green and jazzy-looking frogs in the kids room.  
The Atwater Village Branch has a very interesting way of arranging their adult fiction: there is the standard alphabetical by author's, but there is also a section labeled "Classics."  I think this works for teen sections, as they may be looking for book report books, but in the adult section, it felt a little arbitrary.  For example, I wanted a copy of Atlas Shugged.  Classic.  But Lolita was shelved with the regular books.  The House on Mango Street?  Classic.  Some books, like Willa Cather's (there must be a big demand for her books at this branch, because they had about thirty copies of different titles), were shelved in both.  So My Antonia was shelved both in "Classics," and under 'C' for Cather.  Who decides what a classic is, and isn't?  One thing I really like about their organization system, however, is the children's picture book section, which is separate from the children's chapter books.  A lot of libraries organize this section by chunking off Caldecotts, Concept books, bilingual or other language books.  They label them with stickers on the binding denoting this information, but they are all in one section.  Atwater includes them all together, which I think reflects the more organic way a kid might search for books, and also allows them to find something they didn't even know they were looking for-- a monolingual kid finding a bilingual book, for example.  How many kids that are age-appropriate for a Caldecott walk into a library saying, "My mind feels dull today.  I think I'd like a Caldecott to engage my intellect, and shake off this ennui."?  Not many, I think.  The former organization scheme only helps MLIS students like me, who have to find five Caldecotts to read for class.  
And of course, the final branch, Will and Ariel Durant, with the gigantic kid's novel section, and the sweet librarian who commented as I was paying my fine from the two years prior, "Just think of it this way: you're ensuring your future salary."  
The haul:

I was able to find Atlas Shrugged, which I've been looking for for awhile, and the sequel to The Higher Power of Lucky, Lucky Breaks, which has been checked out of every library for ages.  I did not, however, find The Magician's Elephant.  I have a sneaking feeling that every parent in the city who reads educational websites has checked it out for their child, and it won't be much easier to find after the Newbery announcements next Monday.  I think DiCamillo may get an honor for this one, though I don't think she'll win-- if she does, I think she'll be the only three time winner.  
Seven down, 65 to go!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Annoyed Librarian, Redux

I love a woman who can piss me off one day, and then make me do a fist pump the next: Protect Your Children from the Classics!
Annoyed Librarian, I think I'd like to have a martini with you.

In the spirit of the thing, a few of the books I was assigned at my small, conservative high school.  Never mind the Shakespeare; it's too easy:

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald: Infidelity (is anyone faithful in this book, except Gatsby?), murder (not just one, but TWO!  And that's those that are explicit...), flagrantly flaunting the articles of the U.S. Constitution (rum running, anyone?), animal abuse, domestic violence, organized crime, sexism

Lord of the Flies, William Golding: What isn't up with this book?

The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri: I suppose it's fair to say all of the deadly sins are represented?  I always felt like the way Dante handled Beatrice was also slightly blasphemous, given the contemporary climate.

Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck: Animal abuse, ableism, murder, lying, classism, sexism, violence, racist language, swearing

Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau: This book is down-right unpatriotic!  All citizens should stand behind their country during a time of war.

The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood: Menage a trois, sort of (and Gossip Girl thought they were being all revolutionary), sex slavery, sexism, terrorism, rape, homosexuality (not that I feel this belongs in a class with the former list, but this is the sort of thing conservative parents get all freaked out about), infanticide

Proof positive it doesn't matter what you say, but how you say it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Annoyed Librarian-- Right Back Atcha!

I recently discovered the Annoyed Librarian blog on Library Journal's website, through a link to her post regarding MLS/MLIS programs, and the lack of jobs due to ratio of graduates to available positions.  Not like the AL gives a hoot, but I found several posts very thought provoking, and wanted to respond to some points:

The AL positions herself as being critical of this particular trait in librarians.  Obviously-- she's the Annoyed Librarian.  While I value the position of someone within the field posting critical observations of the profession, like many Americans and the current political culture, don't talk smack if you aren't gonna act.  Of course, the anonymous nature of this blog makes it difficult to know if AL is doing just that.  In the librarians I have known, as an avid library user, and the librarians I am meeting through this program, this chirpiness comes from a genuine passion for the profession and the idea of libraries themselves, revealed in their acts locally and nationally, professionally and personally... of course, the AL also feels that--

I didn't realize once I became a librarian I would have to give up my right as a citizen to speak out on these things, such as the war in Iraq-- and now, the escalation in Afghanistan.  As a professional organization, the ALA should absolutely take a position on such things.  Thinking about my chosen track of children's librarianship, the above two current events and NCLB are three of the most relevant issues shaping the future of my profession.  With the money spent on two concurrent wars, education in all its manifestations (libraries) is again shortlisted, legislatively and financially, and this revelation of priorities devalues my profession and the quality of life for those living in the U.S.  I think the ALA would be negligent in not taking an issue on these things.

This is a reoccurring theme in the AL's posts.  My immediate response probably isn't appropriately chirpy, but wait for it-- I'll get there.  Of course these programs are a racket!  Aren't all forms of higher education?  I know right in the middle of that sick feeling behind my sternum and the stack of statements from Stafford and Sallie Mae how much of racket they are.  Now here's the chirpy part, succinctly expressed in a fluffy cliche-- a racket is what you make of it.  Most of the people I have met in my program are bright, articulate people, and could enter a racket of a program where the resulting income would be quite different from the path they have chosen.  Yet there we are, standing outside the Art Department on campus getting all excited about realia and non-conformity in library programs.  I could go through this program with the minimal effort, but I'm so damn excited about the whole thing I procrastinate writing about libraries by reading about libraries-- and then writing about it here.
Yesterday the department hosted a panel for those of us interested in following the thesis track, and the chair of our department mentioned something that really resonated with me.  The people admitted into this program aren't necessarily the brightest, but those that have a passion for libraries (I knew there had to be a reason there was no mention of my abysmally low GRE Math score).  Not a passion, like "I like to read," but a passion for an institution that provides access to information, takes steps towards an enlightened citizenry, and maintains social ownership of knowledge is more important than the commodification of it.  

Now let me keep this passion in mind while I write page after page for finals week. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Haute (Dog) Couture!

In general, I am against dogs in sweaters-- I mean, they're dogs!  They have fur coats already, right?  But this speshul snowflake (I named the second sweater this in homage to my hypocritical feelings on dogs in sweaters) is too cute to be shivering for the next three months.

This is an exact pattern (Little Black Dress with Pearls) from My Savannah Cottage.  Ms. Abby's momma loves those pearls, so I figured she probably does, too!

This is based on Need for Tweed from Lion Brand Yarn's free pattern database.  I had to adjust the size for Abby, as the smallest size was still too big, but it came up a little short.  By the time I knit her next sweater, I won't need to adjust the size at all-- she's growing like a weed!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Big Top, Big Time!

My mom and I bought this red and white striped fabric last weekend when I was home for Jessie's baby shower, because my mom wanted me to sew some valances for Ava's circus-themed nursery.  I haven't used my machine in a few years, doing more knitting than sewing, and I realized my machine's foot was missing!  After visiting several stores, I finally gave up and went to Wal-mart; since they sell the brand of machine I own, I figured they might have spare parts.  The following scene took place, after I walked up to a sales associate:

Me: Excuse me, but do you have any sewing machine feet?
SA: No.
Me: Really?  
SA: Well, we have some over here.

... and she led me over to several sewing machine feet, which all fit my machine.
The final result:

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Whose Campus? OUR Campus!

Screw this noise.

And screw the noise of four helicopters hovering in the airspace above UCLA, and police sirens across campus.  Take your para-military tactics and get the hell off our campus.

PO'ed? Take action:

(Sorry about the LA Times link above-- no indy media has posted the fee hike yet.  Here's a link to Democracy Now discussing what this fee hike means)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Knits and Wits...

... at least, I hope for wit!  There ought to be a law against mid-terms extending across more than two weeks.  My first mid-term was in class, on October 30th, and my last mid-term is due next Thursday, on the 19th!  I have to say, though, this paper I just finished, on Paul Otlet and the International Institute of Bibliography, is quite awesome-- toot, toot!  
I've been knitting like a crazy person to take a break (read: procrastinate) from all these mid-terms, but I can't post pictures of any of it, because they're all gifts... except for the lovely Star Crossed Slouchy Beret (you can click through this link if you're a Ravelry member-- and if you're not, get on it!), designed by Natalie Larson (all her patterns are adorable!).  My favorite part of this pattern, aside from the slouchyness, is that star spiral on the top-- of course, I was working on this pattern on the bus, and thought I knew how it should go, and ended up with something totally different.  I still love it, though.

Thanks to the Infamous Lady for posing for this shot-- it's incredibly difficult to take good pictures of yourself in a hat.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Library Pledge: Westwood Public Library

Library: Westwood Public Library
Date: Saturday, October 24th, 2009

I visited this library for a reading by Francesa Lia Block, pesky pixie author of Weetzie Bat.  
I have an author worship problem; whenever I meet a writer whose work I admire I tend to get a little spazzed out... When I met Jonathan Safran Foer way back in... 2006?  I got up to the book signing table, and handed him my book, the Post-it with my name on the title page, and I couldn't even talk.  Couldn't say a word.  I just handed him the book, gave him a wimpy little smile, and walked away.  He kind of looked at me funny... he will be at the Santa Monica Public Library tomorrow talking about Eating Animals.  Maybe I should go and try to not flip out.  But really, has anybody seen Mr. Foer?  I know he's married, but jeez louise.  Can you blame me for going silent? Also, I'm vaguely annoyed about Natalie Portman's recent article on Huffington Post regarding this book; is it really fair for someone to be gorgeous, have kissed Devendra Banhardt, be a genius, and be morally awesome, too?
Anyway, I had the exact opposite effect with Ms. Block when I met her (it was a very small, intimate kind of reading; quite lovely, actually).  I started talking a mile a minute about my niece, my sister, how only the very best boys we dated were Secret Agent Lover Men, a book report my sister did where we chopped all this cheapo doll's hair off so she would have a funky Weetzie-do... ridiculous.  
The library itself is very nice; I have it on good authority that when it rains, because the library has a metal roof, it's quite soothing.  Rainy-day ambiance is very important for libraries, in my mind; this library also has a back window that looks out over a tiny little cemetery.