Monday, November 29, 2010

Maternity Leave Lessons

My maternity leave comes to an end tomorrow, so I just want to share a few of the things I learned:
  • How to darn a sock.
  • How to hide collard greens in a variety of dishes: lasagna, tacos, stir-fry. For Thanksgiving, Mark actually learned how to cook them in such a way that they are palatable on their own, but I think I'll need another spring/summer of CSA produce before I can say I've learned to "like" collards.
  • How to make gnocchi.
  • Baking really is worth the time invested.
  • The only way not to burn the bottoms of cookies in my oven is to put the top rack on the VERY top and bake them there.
  • My house is never going to be completely clean. I still have to keep trying, but I need to accept this fact.
  • Doing one or two loads of laundry every couple of days is more likely to keep the laundry mountain at bay than trying to do it all once a week. This also keeps bibs with baby food from developing mildew.
  • Washing diapers twice a week is better because you can talk yourself out of washing the covers by hand more often.
  • Every baby is different.
  • If your first child sleeps like a champ, don't expect the same with the second child!
  • The Durham County Public Library is awesome. So is the Durham Life and Science Museum and the free indoor playground at Southpoint Mall.
  • Checking out a book you didn't plan on is just as satisfying as buying a book you didn't plan to, and a lot cheaper!
  • Staying home with my kids is super fun and should be taken advantage of whenever possible!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My October Shannon Hale kick

I had read a couple books by Shannon Hale before now (Princess Academy and Austenland) and enjoyed them both, but didn't really think too much more about them. This month (party inspired by reading Shannon's amazing blog here), I went on a real Shannon Hale kick.

First, I reread Princess Academy.

Princess AcademyPrincess Academy by Shannon Hale

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Really liked the main character and enjoyed the book, but didn't find it to be life-changing.

Rereading 9/10--enjoying it more after reading some of the author's blog/online information about the writing of the book (and other books!)

10/8/10--Liked it a lot more this time--especially the idea of quarry speech, Miri learning her place in the village, and the relationship between Miri and Katar.


Then, I read The Actor and the Housewife.

The Actor and the HousewifeThe Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I went into The Actor and the Housewife expecting a fluffy read, and it took me a little while to connect with the characters (I've never been good at the kind of breezy banter that Becky and Felix excel at, so I was a little taken aback at first), but I was surprised by the depth of the book. I spent several days afterwards thinking about friendships, family, and how the two interplay. An excellent read, even if it's more likely to appeal to women than men.


Next up, Enna Burning. (Which should really be preceded by The Goose Girl, but this one was in at the library, and the other was not, c'est la vie.)

Enna Burning (The Books of Bayern #2)Enna Burning by Shannon Hale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a great book, but it took me awhile to get into. I didn't like Enna's brother from the first, so I had a hard time sympathizing with Enna when he started acting weird and then put himself in danger (yes, I know it was her brother, but still), plus I haven't yet read The Goose Girl, so I didn't have the background on Enna's friendship with Isi. I also found Isi's behavior vis-a-vis the wind a little strange and disturbing (wasn't she supposed to have been "happily-ever-after'd in the first book?). I was also prey to the outsider's trap where I could see danger that Enna could not (of COURSE you shouldn't read that parchment that tells you how to make fire, what are you THINKING?), so I was getting pretty annoyed with her by midway through the book.

Then she got captured by enemy forces and I really felt like the book picked up and got more interesting--and I could feel for Enna more. I am happy to say that the ending was more than satisfying and that it is well worth getting through the first part of the book. I also think the first part of the book would feel a little less slow if I had read the first book in the series first!


Now, I'm reading Calamity Jack, a graphic novel co-written by Hale's husband, Dean, and illustrated by Nathan Hale, who is of no relation, but it's fun to see "Hale - Hale - Hale" on the book spine. This one should actually be preceded by Rapunzel's Revenge, but I had the same issue at the library. (I should mention that libraries allow you to put books on hold so you can avoid this and read books in the correct order, but it didn't bother me too much in this case, and I was reveling in the spontaneity of finding something I wanted to read and taking it home then and there.)

Calamity Jack (Rapunzel's Revenge, #2)Calamity Jack by Shannon Hale

If you like YA books and fantasy (although Actor and the Housewife does not fall into this category), consider getting on your own Shannon Hale kick this month!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

POC Book #5: Children of the New World

There's no way I'm going to get to my goal of 10-15 books by the end of the year, but hopefully I'll get one or two more under my belt after this one...

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel, by a Francophone literary giant, describes a day in the Algerian war from the perspective of a number of women (and some men) in a small town that is not far from front-line fighting. I did read it in translation, so I probably missed some of the lyricism that characterizes Djebar's writing, but it was a very good translation. It read pretty quickly (it just took me awhile to finish because I kept getting distracted by other books!), and I thought Djebar did a good job of describing the point of view of different people without necessarily judging. (I say necessarily, because it's hard for me to conclude that Lila--until the very end--is anything but a self-centered ditz, Touma a self-centered jerk, and Hakim a man with a weak conscience, to name some of my least-favorite characters.)

The afterword made a big deal about Djebar adhering to all the Aristotelian unities (time, place, and action)--I could see place and action easily, but I found it hard to realize that the whole novel took place in one day--if, in fact, it did--because the characters reminisce and recount so much else. I don't think this at all takes away from the story, but it's something that struck me.

The Algerian war is often considered France's Vietnam, so reading about it from the point of view of Algerians (mostly--there are a few European characters, but certainly the author is Algerian, although she is now an exile) is definitely worthwhile. Djebar's storytelling, however, makes it an enjoyable as well as a worthwhile read.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Hunger Games Book #3

Finally finished one of my most anticipated books for this year:

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My first ever Amazon pre-order...can't wait!

9/1/10 FINALLY received it yesterday and am reading now!

9/13/10 I just finished reading it for the second time. I whipped right through it the first time, and really enjoyed it, but I realized that not taking the time to reread the first two had left me forgetting several details that became more important this time around (Buttercup, who Annie was, Johanna's relationship w/ Katniss in the second book). So I immediately went back and reread the first two Hunger Games books, then reread Mockingjay.

I think this book VERY nicely finishes up the trilogy and Collins continues her gift for showing how awful and heart-breaking war is. She also continues her flair for writing in verse--the songs in The Hunger Games and Mockingjay are as haunting as the riddles in her Underland Chronicles.

I felt the romance question ended the way I felt it should, but I was completely surprised by some of the other details of how the story ended.

Monday, August 30, 2010

An unexpected POC Book: #4

My POC reading has not kept pace as it should, both due to having several "fun" books I couldn't wait to read, and getting my husband to give me a "serious" summer reading assignment, separate from the POC challenge.

However, one of my "fun" books turned out to have two characters who are mixed-race teenagers. Now, the author Rick Riordan is white, so I feel like his portrayal of non-white characters should be viewed with that in mind, but I (who am also white, so take my opinion with the grain of salt it needs) think he did a pretty good job overall. He definitely knows middle school kids well, and some of the issues that Carter, in particular, encounters, ring true: his dad making him dress in button down shirts and khakis instead of jeans and sweatshirts because he can't just look normal, he needs to look better than normal; getting immediately followed by an airport guard, etc.

In any case, I think it's nice that a book that has gotten and will continue to get so much attention in YA circles featured mixed-race characters. Here's my Goodreads review of the book:

The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles, #1)The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was an excellent new work from Riordan. I have always found Egyptian mythology more confusing than Greco-Roman mythology (and I read The Egypt Game several times over as a kid), and I think Riordan did an admirable job of taking the many different stories about Egyptian gods and letting them work together.

I also liked both of the Kanes, although it took me time to get into the split-narration. (I was thankful that the publisher put the name of the narrator instead of the chapter title at the top of each page--once I got into the chapter, the voice of the character came through, but with some of the action and dialogue heavy openings, it took me a few minutes to tell who was telling the story at that point.

Overall, I'm looking forward to more of the Kane chronicles.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A few reviews

These days, I get online to

  1. Read/respond to e-mail.
  2. Briefly read snippets from my favorite blogs or the NY Times.
  3. Update books on Goodreads.
So, here are a few reviews from recently read books. First, though, if you like Robin McKinley (or would like to try her out), go to this post on her blog to see a contest to win a new copy of her novel Sunshine. I'm just now rereading this (I liked it but didn't love it the first time), and that I enjoy it much more on the reread, especially after all the Twilight books and look-alikes. Good luck, and you have to enter the contest by Saturday!

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thoughtful history of childbirth/obstetrics--organized by theme (where women give birth, pain management, doctors vs. midwives, etc.). Made good points about death rate for mothers not spiking until women started going to hospitals, but it's not a political treatise for natural birth advocates. Very interesting, but I would not recommend reading while pregnant (I waited until just after my second was born)!

My two favorite facts: first recorded woman to receive chloroform during labor was so thrilled when she woke up that she named her daughter Anesthesia, and wet nurses from one culture (I don't remember which) would suckle piglets in between having babies to nurse to keep their milk supply up!

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Told in alternating chapters by two high school guys from the Chicago area named Will Grayson. Follows the two as they have a chance meeting and then end up having more to do with each other over the course of the book. I liked both Wills, although it took me longer to like the second Will (once I realized that he was actually depressed and not just teenage-angsty, it was easier to give him more credit). Had some laugh-out-loud moments and at least one chapter that I read with a goofy grin on my face the whole time. I liked that the parents were good parents--not perfect, but good, and there when their kids needed them. The major (in several ways!) character of Tiny Cooper I liked less--I definitely feel like he was the most self-centered character in the book--but at the same time, I think the authors painted him in such a way that we could see he, too, was a person with his own problems who needed to be appreciated just like we all do.I could possibly give this a 4, but I feel like my reviews suffer from star inflation, so I'm trying to work on that. DEFINITELY need to find more John Green to read, possibly also more David Levithan.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Follows Miranda through both ordinary school and family issues (an old friend grows apart, new friends made, conflict with her mom, the difficulties of not being rich) and a mystery provoked by odd notes she begins receiving. Mostly realistic (set in 1970's New York), with a science fiction twist near the end--both Miranda and author love Madeleine L'Engle. Given this fact, I thought I would like the book more than I did. It's VERY well done, and I can understand why it won the Newbery, but I just don't feel like it's a book I will come back to again and again, which I do with the books I love most.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I heard about Owly from Unshelved's book club comic strips, so when I passed this at the library, I picked it up. Super cute! It takes me awhile to get into reading a graphic novel, but this one was great.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Great fun for toddlers but (sadly) easily ripped by same toddlers!

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good message, inelegant packaging, and I didn't like the main character. But it's won lots of awards, so what do I know? :-)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

June 2010

Phew, it's been awhile.

Our little girl arrived on June 5, so I've been out of the loop for awhile. We've had family visiting, a family wedding to attend, and just regular getting to know our new daughter and figuring out how to parent 2 children instead of one.

I've found it surprisingly easy to "unplug" most of the time, but this is mainly accomplished by not going on the computer at all when the kids are up--I'll check my e-mail once in the morning if I have a specific reason to, but I've been trying to confine my online time to naptime and after bedtime. Once I do sit down at the computer, it's very easy for me to be too distracted, as a recently destroyed library book can attest to.
(I was also inspired to try to be more unplugged by this article in the NY Times, which came out just after our daughter arrived.)

In any case, I will probably be on here a little less during the 5 months remaining in my leave (a month down already, ahh!). However, I will try to get some book reviews up, if nothing else.


Friday, May 28, 2010

POC Book #3: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Another book from my list that is not written by a person of color, although the protagonist is African American. Still, it was a great book and "easy" enough that I am ready to return to adult fiction (or nonfiction) for my next POC book.

Chains Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Very excellent.

Follows Isabel, a young slave girl, and her sister Ruth, from their home in Rhode Island just after the death of their mistress to New York City as the American Revolution is in the process of breaking out. Unashamedly shows the whims to which slaves were subjected, whether owned by rebels or Tories.

I liked Isabel, especially her concern for Ruth and her loyalty to those who were friendly to her, even when that loyalty involved risk to herself.

I enjoy historical novels, especially those aimed at young people, that talk about the "truth behind the story" at the end, which this one did, but I would have been interested to hear more about views on epilepsy at the time (Ruth seems to have this condition).

View all my reviews >>

Monday, May 10, 2010

POC Challenge Book #2.5: All Aunt Hagar's Children by Edward P. Jones

I realize that I haven't posted any book reviews in over a month, and definitely not a POC book. I really have been reading, but I gave up on the POC book I was currently working on (and it sure felt like work!). Still, I wanted to post what I thought of it so far. For the next POC book, I'm going to read one of the children's/YA books on my list (Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson), which should get me over my current reading hump.

All Aunt Hagar's Children: Stories All Aunt Hagar's Children: Stories by Edward P. Jones

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I want to go ahead and review this so I can post it, even though I'm not done--and won't be for awhile.

I just don't like this collection of stories very much. I feel bad about this, because it has gotten rave reviews and won awards, but it just doesn't appeal to me.

I got through 5 and 1/2 of the 14 stories, and of those, the one I've only read half of is the one I liked the best (it was just so depressing that I didn't finish it). ALL of the stories have been depressing, and in most of them, I didn't like the characters very much. Finally, there is much more emphasis on characterization and description than on plot, and I still really like plot. I like characterization, but I have to like the characters to appreciate good characterization (what can I say, I have low brow tastes). Sigh.

I don't intend to give up on this book. It's still on my nightstand. However, I have found that pregnancy makes me even less tolerant of depressing books than I normally am, so I think I need to wait until the new baby arrives to try to finish.

Finally, one note about my use of the word "depressing." I don't necessarily mean books where bad things happen or that don't end happily (although I will admit to being partial to happy endings). I know that in real life, bad things happen and endings are not always happy, and it makes sense that literature often reflects this. However, that doesn't mean that people/characters can't and don't rise above the awful-ness that life often throws at them, and I just didn't feel like any of these characters did.

I'll revisit my opinion when I revisit the book.

View all my reviews >>

Monday, April 19, 2010

How to throw a surprise (library) baby shower

1. Hire a particularly gullible young librarian, and wait for her to get pregnant.

2. Make sure you schedule the shower during a week where the evening staff schedule is weird because of a state holiday the previous weekend.

3. Get the librarian to come in on what she's sure is a day off by asking her to come to an important (last minute) meeting--only after other staff attempts to get her in by more reasonable means fail due to stubbornness and third trimester fatigue.

4. Have her husband offer to accompany her to campus at the last minute on the day of the "meeting," then ask her to show him where she will be meeting.

5. Yell "Surprise!" and shower her with delicious food and thoughtful baby gifts.

6. NEVER let her forget how difficult it was to make her come to her own shower.

7. Using a book cart to store the gifts is optional.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Another book to reread (or read for the first time!)

Sometimes, I intentionally go to the shelf and pull off the book that I want to reread. Sometimes, I go and browse until a book that suits my mood pops out. And sometimes, a book that I didn't necessarily intend to reread gets into my thoughts and bugs me until I pick it up again (in this case, after having put it on hold at the library--I may have to buy my own copy after all!):

The Thief (The Queen's Thief, #1) The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Intriguing quest-story about a thief who's loud proclamation of his skills gets him in serious trouble. As his ticket out, he agrees to steal something for the King's Magus...

(March 2010) Need to reread...
(March 24, 2010) Rereading and remembering why I enjoyed it so much.
(March 28, 2010) Read it again (finished it Wednesday night, the 24th, before going to bed, which I definitely should NOT have done), loved it again.

More about why this book is great: there is a serious twist near the end of the story, but if you know to look for it (on a second reading), you can find clues of it. Also, all of the plot's loose ends tie up, and they MAKE sense in the world of the story.

There is an incursion of the supernatural, but again, it fits into the world of the book.

Gen is an awesome protagonist. He's even more awesome because he has no compunction about complaining when he's hungry, tired, hurt, or required to mount a horse. I also like the minor characters of Sophos and Pol--even the magus grows on me.

The setting is almost a character in itself.

Definitely one to read and reread. Now I've caught myself up to speed enough to read the second in the series (The Queen of Attolia).

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

POC challenge book #2: Zorro by Isabel Allende

Zorro Zorro by Isabel Allende

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was my first Isabel Allende novel (read in translation, as I sadly do not read Spanish), and I enjoyed it very much. It took me two tries to really get into it, but once Zorro (actually named Diego de la Vega) is born, the story picked up for me. The narrator (who we find out is one of the book's supporting characters) follows Diego and his "milk brother" (nursed together) Bernardo through childhood in Alta California, to Barcelona, Spain during the reign of Napoleon, and eventually back to California. The book is meant to examine Zorro before his legendary exploits truly take-off and show some of his formative experiences.

I liked that there was pretty constant action throughout the story, and that Diego could not carry out his adventures without the help of Bernardo and others. I also liked that the women in the story had more spine in them than "damsels in distress" (even Diego's principle love interest) and that Diego stayed connected to his Indian family (through his mother) while taking on the role of his Spanish father's heir.

I was sometimes surprised by events that were first mentioned briefly (for example, the pirate attack on the de la Vega hacienda) as if they were unimportant, then expounded on until we see that they were actually formative. I don't know if this story-telling style is relevant to it being told originally in Spanish, but it made for interesting reading.

I give it 4 stars instead of 5 only because I didn't feel it was a "life changing" book--I enjoyed it, and I felt that the historical details were well done, but I didn't feel when it was over that I needed to go convince everyone I know to read it immediately.

View all my reviews >>

Monday, March 15, 2010

Maternity leave, redux

I am happy to share that I have been given the ok to taken extended leave without pay after our new baby arrives! The due date is May 30th (and here's hoping baby is more patient than her older brother, who came 4 weeks early), and I will be out until December 1. I have sick and vacation leave saved up that will last for about the first 6 weeks, then I'll be on leave without pay--but I will be allowed to come back afterward. I should probably say that, until my last form is turned it, nothing is 100% certain. Still, I have an acknowledgment in writing, and my director announced how long I will be out to the rest of the staff, so my general feeling is: HOORAY!

A few more notes/observations about maternity leave:
  • I still need to figure out if I (and our kids) can stay on the state health insurance plan, even if we have to pay the full cost out of pocket. Health insurance adds an extra layer of complication to taking off time or staying home altogether, because you both aren't making money and have to pay for health insurance--ah, for a socialist health system!
  • A LOT of it has to do with your relationship with your supervisor(s). I have a good relationship with mine and I think they like my work, so I feel like they were more willing to make my case to the HR department.
  • In the public sector, at least, even supportive supervisors have to work within the framework of policy. I looked up information on extended leave without pay before I asked.
  • Family and Medical Leave has (in my opinion) some issues beyond lasting only 12 weeks. You have to get a doctor to sign off on your time--even though the "caring for a newborn child" provision of family and medical leave has nothing to do with a medical issue! I don't want to take time off to "recover" from giving birth (yes, that is necessary, but for a normal birth, 2-4 weeks would be plenty for that). I want to take time off to spend time with a new human being in my life!
  • There's something to "ask and you shall receive." Maybe not always. But when I dutifully followed "What to Expect's" guidelines and met with an HR rep to "find out my options" last fall, the option of taking 6 months off was definitely not presented. My husband and I figured it couldn't hurt to ask--the worst they could say was no.
  • It probably doesn't hurt that I work a shift that (most) people aren't dying to work. In some ways, this complicated things--the library had to present how they were going to cover those hours--but, on the other hand, my continued interest in working this shift probably contributed to my value as an employee.
There were some really interesting and helpful comments on my last post about maternity leave, so if you have more to share, please do!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Jonah's auction update

I've changed my button back to the regular "Jonah" button (for those of you who have been following)--his birthday auction ended last night at midnight. I didn't win any items (sigh), but at last count, they made over $6500 to go to EB research, which they probably wouldn't have done had bidding stayed within my price range!

Thanks to those of you who checked it out and/or bid on items!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

First POC challenge book: One Day the Soldiers Came

Finished just in time to link as a February read.

One Day the Soldiers Came: Voices of Children in War (P.S.) One Day the Soldiers Came: Voices of Children in War by Charles London

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The first book I'm reading for the 2010 "Person of Color Reading Challenge." The author is white, so I somewhat feel like I'm cheating, but most of the book is based on interviews with children and teens from Rwanda, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma/Myanmar, and the Balkans, so it gives voice to people from around the world.

I read it in ARC format, so I should allow some leniency in any critiques. I felt that it was very, very good, but a little jumpy--some children's stories were followed in some depth and returned to several times, while others were only mentioned once and briefly. This may be due to the reality of how interviewing and being able to keep up with subjects works. I also found it hard to remember who was who when stories were revisited.

Still, it does a powerful job of telling the stories of older children and adolescents who have been through war, and an especially good job of respecting these children--I think the author mentions several times that children are "the protagonists in their own stories," a fact that adults forget. So while these children have been caught in situations that render them powerless, they were still active agents in making their own decisions, figuring out how to survive etc.

Well done.

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Book notes

I don't have much to blog about right now, but here are some books worth sharing:

The Crochet Answer Book: Solutions to Every Problem You'll Ever Face; Answers to Every Question You'll Ever Ask The Crochet Answer Book: Solutions to Every Problem You'll Ever Face; Answers to Every Question You'll Ever Ask by Edie Eckman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Reading to help with the basics needed to make some crochet motifs...

I'm moving this to "read," even though I'll keep going back to it--it's a great reference book--small enough to fit in a work bag, and so far successful at answering several of my crochet questions!

I have successfully completed one "motif" from the other crochet book that I need to photograph and post here. I need to play with photographing it, and I also want to see if I can get a decent photo of the page example for comparison. Stay tuned...

The Third Day, The Frost (The Tomorrow Series, Book 3) The Third Day, The Frost by John Marsden

Already read the American paperback version (title changed to A Killing Frost) when I made my way through the series--purchased the audiobook from iTunes store as my first purchase for a Christmas iPod and am currently enjoying listening to it--the narrator is Australian, and I like hearing the flavor of the language!

Mockingjay (Hunger Games, #3) Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My first ever Amazon pre-order...can't wait!

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The thin blue line

"Librarians--the thin blue line between you and the FBI."

I have no idea where this quote comes from (a quick Google search didn't reveal it, and I am too lazy at this point in the evening--just after midnight--to do a more thorough search--I will put it on my homework list!), but I love it. This evening, however, I have another thin blue line in mind--between students and faculty.

I love working with students. But I don't love everything about it, and here are a few of those:
  • Trying to help a student with an assignment that is poorly designed.
  • Trying to help a student find information that we don't have in our collection.
  • Helping a student who only wants to blow off steam about the unfairness of their professors and hopes you will do their work for them.
All of these issues arise when librarians are caught between students and faculty. On the one hand, we want to show great customer service and send students away full of useful resources and knowledge about how to use them. On the other hand, our students aren't customers in the traditional sense--we are definitely not supposed to do everything for them. The same issue comes up with professors--we want to make it easier for them to teach, but we can't do that if they have unrealistic expectations.

Some of the burden of fixing these issues fall with librarians and the library: we need to make clear which services we do provide and which we don't. We also have to present this information to both students and faculty. Still, students and faculty need to take on some responsibility, too.

If you are a faculty member, here's what you can do:
  • Try out your assignments before you assign them! If you can't find the information needed, it may be that our collection doesn't have it--how successful do you think your students will be?
  • Talk to/e-mail your librarians. We want to hear from you! If you have a question about the library or our collection scope, ask us! And a heads' up when you are going to send 30 students looking for information on a Biblical parable would be a nice gesture, too.
  • Plan ahead. You tell your students this, and we would like to politely request it of you as well. If you need library instruction or collaboration, a 2-3 week notice is good. Letting us know at the beginning of the semester that you'd like to work with us is worth brownie points.
If you are a student, here's what you can do:
  • Get to know the library BEFORE the week your assignment is due. This will make your life easier, and it will also give you a better picture of how we can and can't help you. We don't have everything on a database, and we probably can't get a book we don't own by tomorrow.
  • Bring writing utensils to the library. We really can't afford to provide pens and pencils to the entire campus.
  • Ask your professor for details about the assignment if you don't understand it. Librarians are not omniscient, and your question may well be the first time we've heard about the assignment.
  • Be prepared to do the work yourself--we are here to help you and teach you--not to do your research for you.
Comments? Do you have requests you'd like to make of librarians in return? Please share!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Jonah's EB Auction

I've mentioned Jonah once before here, and you've probably grown accustomed to seeing a button about him on the sidebar.

I found out about Jonah through a mutual friend of his mom's. He was born with a rare genetic disease called Epidermolysis Bullosa or EB. EB causes his skin to blister very easily, and it also affects his mucous membranes (so, for example, swallowing can be hard and/or painful when his esophagus flares up). Most of his body has to be wrapped up in bandages all the time, and his parents have to change his bandages once a day (more often when normal baby things like spitting up or a crazy diaper interfere!). EB is not pleasant for any of the people who have it, and many babies die within their first year of life from it.

Jonah will turn one on February 27. Hooray!!

To celebrate, while also helping raise money to research and spread awareness about the disease, some friends of Jonah's family are holding an online auction (hence the new button that's been up recently). From February 23-27, the auction site will have around a hundred items to bid on, and all the money goes to DEBRA, which is an organization devoted to researching and raising awareness about EB. The auction-sponsors aren't even collecting the money themselves--you pay it directly to DEBRA if you win an item.

All the information can be found here.

Please consider bidding on an item, and please pass the information along to others you know who might be interested!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Maternity leave

My husband and I are expecting our second child (a girl!) at the end of May. We are very excited. I told my library director and immediate supervisor 2 weeks before our library closed for Christmas, when I had completely given up on my regular pants and had broken my maternity clothes out of the closet. So far, I've only heard supportive things from both of them.

I'm hoping to wait a few weeks before I officially request the amount of time I'm going to take for maternity leave, balancing the time I know I will need to do all the paperwork and learn all the ins and outs of benefits, etc. with the time needed to figure out what will be best for our family--financially, time-wise, and sanity-wise.

In the meantime, I'm going to get back up on my soapbox about U.S. family-friendly practices (or lack thereof). I do understand that a woman going out on maternity leave results in a gap in the employer's workforce. Still, I think that children are good for society as a whole and that it is also good for society when parents get to spend extended time raising their children. I don't think it's necessarily more important for a mother to stay home than a father, but if the couple chooses to breastfeed, it's a whole lot simpler! In any case, while I would argue for parental leave for either parent, there is the medical need for women have some time at home. Even for those women who would prefer to go back to work sooner rather than later, the childcare infrastructure in our country isn't great. It's really expensive for parents while still not being well-paying for most child-care workers. It's also not always easy to find.

I don't have a perfect solution to offer, but I do think it's an extension of our country prioritizing security (and all that money spent works so well, as this past Christmas shows) far above education--teachers and childcare workers are given lip-service, but not the pay to go with it. Sigh. If one of you has that perfect solution, please let your law-makers know, pronto!

I also want to take the chance to highlight Motherlode, which is the New York Times' parenting blog, run by Lisa Belkin. Ms. Belkin highlights issues such as this all the time (she recently featured a pair of posts about working w/ baby vs. quitting to be w/ baby), and the discussion gets quite vivid! She just had a post about maternity leave in the US, and touches on the topic with some regularity. If you are interested in this sort of thing (as well as a smorgasbord of other issues related to parenting), go visit!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

POC Reading Challenge

I found out about the POC (persons of color) reading challenge after recent Twitter/blogging furor over Bloomsbury's "whitewashing" of a character in a new YA/children's book. Between this and (looking over my Goodreads list from the last year) my own appalling lack of reading books featuring non-white protagonists lately, this seems like a good reading project for 2010.

I compiled a list of books I've been wanting to read that fit the category, and if I get to them all, I'll easily fulfill the requirements for Level 4 (10-15 books) this year. This is a bit ambitious for me, both because I know there are many other books I want to read and because many of these are (gasp) adult books, which take me longer to get through than kids'/YA books. Still, it's do-able and I intend to do it!

Here's my list, in no particular order:
  • Children of the New World by Assia Djebar
    • I translated part of a memoir/reflection on her writing for my honors French project in college, so I want to read some more by Djebar. This particular work was given to me by my sister-in-law and has been sitting on my nightstand for too long.
  • La femme sans s├ępulture by Assia Djebar
    • I bought this in France on our honeymoon--5 and a half years ago! Plus, I need to practice my French.
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
    • Seems to important not to have read.
  • Zorro by Isabel Allende
    • I hope this counts; I started reading it but have temporarily set it aside. From what I started, I believe that Zorro is going to be the son of a Spanish man and an American Indian woman.
  • The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation. Vol. I: The Pox Party and Vol. II: The Kingdom on the Waves by M. T. Anderson
    • YA historical fiction set in the American revolution period.
  • All Aunt Hagar's Children: Stories by Edward P. Jones
    • Probably bought this about two years ago--I was interested that it was stories set in Washington, D.C. Need to pick it up off the nightstand and read it!
  • Up at the College by Michele Andrea Bowen
    • A local Durham author who came to speak at our library (I missed it since it was at noon)--it sounds like a fun, light read.
  • A Mercy by Toni Morrison
    • I didn't really like the other Morrison books I've read--Sula and Beloved (I can never hear the hymn "Shall We Gather at the River" without thinking of National Suicide Day and consequently don't like that hymn!)--but I definitely found them interesting, and I'm curious as to how this one ties in with the story of Beloved.
  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
    • A story about slavery during the American revolution by a YA author I really like.
  • The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Che Guevara
    • I've wanted to read this since I saw the movie (yes, I saw the movie first!).
  • One Day the Soldiers Came: Voices of Children in War by Charles London
    • I don't know if the author is white or not, but my understanding is that the focus of this book is children in Africa, so I am still going to count it in my total. I'll be reading an ARC version that I got at the American Library Association annual conference in 2007, so I have to keep in mind that I have an unfinished version.
I think I'm actually going to start with the last book, once I finish the book I'm currently reading (Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott--a fascinating blend of historical fiction and fantasy, plus it's told in 2nd person!), and I will add updates as I proceed.

Monday, January 25, 2010

New book on my shelf...

I don't know if I'll really get any crocheting in this spring, but this book is full of tantalizing possibilities!

Beyond-the-Square Crochet Motifs Beyond-the-Square Crochet Motifs by Edie Eckman

A new book that I got with a Christmas gift card--so excited to have some quick/small crochet projects to try! Astra, this is all because of you!

Advanced Twitter

I am hoping to teach a workshop on using Twitter later this semester--which means I need to learn more about Twitter myself (my ulterior motive!).

I have a Twitter account and I have TwitterFox installed on the computer I use most at work so I can see pop-up updates throughout the evening. We just got a new computer at home, and I will be using Safari there (my husband and I have learned that one thing we can not share amicably is a web browser--I don't like that he never signs out of e-mail and he doesn't like my bookmarks!), so I will find a plug-in to install with Safari. I know how to tweet in the technical sense, although I certainly don't have the art of tweeting effectively down. I also tweet rarely, so I linked my GoodReads account up to make automatic updates when I review books.

I know how to find and follow people, and I've done a few trials with looking up a topic and reading tweets on it.

Here are some facets of Twitter that I'd love advice on, if you have it:
  • Lists--I have not explored these at all.
  • The art of tweeting--I've seen some tips on this that I will rely on, but feel free to give me more!
  • Monitoring Twitter in a way that's useful to you.
  • Using all those mobile/texting options. This is one area where I am sure to be behind the times for awhile--I don't think our (family) cell phone has a texting plan, and I'm too cheap to invest in one, especially since I don't see using it a lot except to play around with!
Your own experiences or great resources you've come across are all welcome!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


For a librarian, I read remarkably slowly, especially if the book doesn't jump up and grab me. This may be why I spend so much leisure time on kids' and YA books.

I also love to reread, which significantly limits the number of new books I read at any given time. Still, I think if a good book is a good friend, you need to keep up the relationship! I have favorites from elementary and middle school that I still go back and reread. In the interests of including pictures (because I like them!), here are my GoodReads links to a few:

Many Waters (Time, Book 4) Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Possibly my favorite book of all time.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wonderful book about a young woman who moves from Barbados to Puritan Connecticut after her Grandfather's death, the adjustments she has to make, the lessons she learns, and the friendships she creates. Includes themes of intolerance and understanding.

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast
Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
LOVED this book growing up and still love to reread it.

I've been doing a fair amount of rereading this fall, including:

Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was one of my three assigned books for my Jan Term course, junior year of college, called "Fantasy, Myth, and Spirit," about the Inklings. Probably most fun I've had in a college course. Reread several times, most recently December, 2009.

Miles in Love (Vorkosigan Omnibus, #6) Miles in Love by Lois McMaster Bujold

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Rereading some favs from the Vorkosigan series (Komarr, A Civil Campaign, and a novella). A Civil Campaign was the first one I read, back in June, 2004.

Just as much fun as the first time around!

and the Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor--I read many of these as a kid, but never straight through, as I'm trying to do now. The one I most recently finished is:

The Grooming of Alice The Grooming of Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Over the summer, Alice and her friends try to get in shape, Elizabeth takes losing weight a little too far, Lester gets a new girlfriend, Pamela has more trouble with her parents, and Alice's dad goes to visit Miss Summers in Englad. A bit more issue-packed than some previous, but still very enjoyable.

Do you like to reread (or rewatch movies--that could be another post, including the story of why Lilo and Stitch is now banned from our household), or do prefer something new each time? What type of book do you like to reread?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Effective Blog Reading

In December, I had a 2 week break from work (hooray!) which also meant a 2 week break from blogging (not that I am the most regular of bloggers during regular work days...). It also largely meant a break in blog reading. I checked up on some of my favorites, but I didn't read any professional blogs, and I didn't read most blogs that take longer than 5 minutes to read an entry. When I did dash online for a few minutes, I started thinking about being a good blog reader, which I think might be a prerequisite for being a good blog writer.

I'm not the most effective user of RSS or other blog feeds, because I get a little bit obsessed with "checking off" feeds as "already read" whether I read them or not. Also, most of my favorite blogs include pictures, which the feeds don't show, so I'd just as soon check the actual blog as read a feed. Still, I think a blog reader needs to be able to dip into and out of conversations, unless they are only going to focus on one or two blogs. Like the news, blogs change frequently, and it's not always worthwhile to go back and catch up on all missed entries (although sometimes it is; Doug Johnson published an excellent series on library budgeting that I missed during December).

What really baffles me is how to comment effectively. I often think of comments as I read a blog entry, but the best comments I've read are those that take part in the conversation of other commenters--which means you have to take the time to read those comments instead of just throwing your idea up on the wall and leaving. This significantly increases time needed to participate in a blog community, especially if there's a lot of conversation around a post.

Do any of you have suggestions on how you managing your blog reading and commenting time? How does it affect your own blogging?