Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Getting busy -- the librarian way.

So, this is going to be a good but incredibly busy semester of classes for me. I'm on schedule to get my Master in Information and Library Science next May (woooot!), with a Graduate Academic Certificate in Youth Services. What does this mean? 

Well, when you come to visit me at the reference desk (because that's where I'll be working from now on, thank you very much, adding much to the busy-ness and possibly stress levels), I will be able to now officially give you and your little darling dears professional advice on what to read. But clearly, if you're reading this, you're taking (or at least patiently reading) my advice regardless, so professional advice doesn't really matter, does it?

Well, this semester is where you might notice a difference in my abilities to recommend books that you'll just love, and I'll tell you why: 

I'm taking 3 classes, and all of them are pretty much about finding out what readers like to read, and how to find it for you.  

First up on the menu is Literature for Youth (in which I will have to submit 20 book review posts about children's and teen literature, which the professor has happily agreed that I can post on here-- look out for the "SLIS 5420 Book Reviews" tag if you're interested). Next is Adult Reading Interests, which will force me to read outside my comfort zone, a book a week, with a book report on it. I think I'll also be posting these up here, because I'm reading it and writing it, so why not? Third up is Storytelling. Yes, storytelling. I'm not sure what that means for this blogger yet, but I'll tell you when I know. It may mean some YouTube videos of stories, but I'll keep you posted. Well... I'll be posting, but. Yeah, you know. 

So what else does this mean for the blog? I may be putting the CDP Project on hold for now, and the Poetry 101 spots, but it's all good. I'm betting on you liking the next few months of flurried blog post writings.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Deemed Appropriate

A preteen boy asked me today for the first of the Twilight books by Stephanie Meyer. He's already seen the first two movies, and his mom won't let him see the third.  His mom was pretty concerned about him reading this series, and questioned me about it's "appropriateness". Appropriate means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  I've seen moms that are ultra-protective over what their kids read, and some who let their kids pick without thinking much about it.

When a patron asks us as librarians "Is this book appropriate for my kid?", how are we supposed to answer? 

Here's the thing... parents are really the only ones who can say what is or isn't appropriate for their sons and daughters to read. Librarians can't do that for you. If you ask us our opinion, then we can give that-- but just know that it doesn't mean that you'll think it's appropriate for him/her.  

After this incident, a woman came into the library complaining about the overly-violent and sexual nature of some of the graphic novels from the teen section. She only noticed this once she had taken them home and looked through them that they were inappropriate for her son to read. She asked "Why would you let someone his age check them out? I thought it would be safe to let him take out stuff from the library." She proceeded to fill out forms asking the library to reconsider these items for our collection (read: she wants them withdrawn or moved to the adult section).

Some things to note for library users: librarians aren't there to monitor what you or your kids read. Any of you. The only materials we'll tell you you can't have are the ones that don't circulate, like reference books. But this also means that if your 5th grader decides to check out a book on how to make beer at home, we're not going to stop him. Minors need a parent's signature on their library card application, and after that, all the content checked out on their card becomes the responsibility of the parent and the minor. 

So how do you know whether or not materials are suitable for your kid (based on your own judgments)?  

First of all, monitor what your kids are selecting before letting them check out if you are concerned.

Second, there are plenty of websites out there that rate books and other materials to determine appropriateness. One example is Common Sense Media, a website that lets people (parents, kids, etc.) rate all sorts of materials -- books, video games, movies, etc. The site lists the age people have stated the material is most suited for, and rates it on key things like: 
  • educational value
  • positive message
  • positive role models
  • violence
  • sex
  • language
  • consumerism
  • and drinking, drugs, and smoking
It lets you search by title, author, etc. and you can also browse books or other content based on the age level you are looking for. It's a great way for parents to monitor what their kids are reading, and offer suggestions for appropriate materials to them. 

That said, I am a firm believer in the freedom to read -- and the freedom to choose what you want to read. If you don't like something in the library, then don't read it. But don't try to take away someone else's choice to read it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Poetry 101: The Ode

For today's poetry lesson, I thought we'd cover the ode.
First off, here's how Google defines "ode": 

noun /ōd/ 
odes, plural
  1. A lyric poem in the form of an address to a particular subject, often elevated in style or manner and written in varied or irregular meter

  2. A poem meant to be sung
Odes actually originated in Greece as lyric poetry, and were performed out loud accompanied by music (often on the lyre, hence the word "lyrical"). They were often written to honor specific subjects or people, and could often be lighthearted in nature. I could, of course, list a poem by the Greek poet Pindar, or the Latin poet Horace, but I think they wouldn't quite relate the way that Pablo Neruda does.

Pablo Neruda is a powerful Chilean poet who is really well known for his odes.  He's great at taking ordinary, everyday things, and writing beautiful poetry in their honor. He is the one who truly introduced me to odes, and made me appreciate their power to make a big deal out of even mundane things.

For this post, I thought I would feature one of my favorite things about summer: tomatoes. In high school, I remember being particularly struck by his description of the tomato in all its glory. On top of that, I was taking Spanish at the time, and it's enormously fun to read it in the language it was written in even if you can't understand any or all of the words. Reading it out loud, regardless of how funny you think you'll sound, really does Neruda justice. So I've posted it here in both languages. Buen provecho [ = bon appetit] !

Oda al Tomate
by Pablo Neruda

La calle
se llenó de tomates,
la luz
se parte
en dos
de tomate,
por las calles
el jugo.
En diciembre
se desata
el tomate,
las cocinas,
entra por los almuerzos,
se sienta
en los aparadores,
entre los vasos,
las matequilleras,
los saleros azules.
luz propia,
majestad benigna.
Devemos, por desgracia,
se hunde
el cuchillo
en su pulpa viviente,
es una roja
un sol
llena las ensaladas
de Chile,
se casa alegremente
con la clara cebolla,
y para celebrarlo
se deja
esencial del olivo,
sobre sus hemisferios entreabiertos,
la pimienta
su fragancia,
la sal su magnetismo:
son las bodas
del día
el perejil
las papas
hierven vigorosamente,
el asado
con su aroma
en la puerta,
es hora!
y sobre
la mesa, en la cintura
del verano,
el tomate,
aastro de tierra,
y fecunda,
nos muestra
sus circunvoluciones,
sus canales,
la insigne plenitud
y la abundancia
sin hueso,
sin coraza,
sin escamas ni espinas,
nos entrega
el regalo
de su color fogoso
y la totalidad de su frescura.

Ode to Tomatoes

The street
filled with tomatoes
light is
its juice
through the streets.
In December,
the tomato
the kitchen,
it enters at lunchtime,
its ease
on countertops,
among glasses,
butter dishes,
blue saltcellars.
It sheds
its own light,
benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we must
murder it:
the knife
into living flesh,
a cool
populates the salads
of Chile,
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
its flag,
bubble vigorously,
the aroma
of the roast
at the door,
it's time!
come on!
and, on
the table, at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth,
and fertile
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.

This poem is from:

Neruda, Pablo. 1990. Selected odes of Pablo Neruda. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden.

Friday, August 19, 2011

This is Your Brain on Books: Books about the brain

I felt like it was time for another booklist-- these days I've been reading Brain Rules by John Medina. This book makes some sense of the human brain-- how it evolved, how it works, and what it needs to work-- and then he turns it into 12 rules that he calls (can you guess?) Brain Rules, which you can then keep in mind in order to make your life a little simpler and your brain a little happier.  I had started reading this a while back, but had to put it back down again because of school. I picked it back up because I remember the feeling of awe that I had in considering the lump of cells in my cranium. 

He touches on some of the topics I tend to think about on a daily basis (such as Getting 4 hours of sleep isn't really so bad, right?, or Okay, Hayley. Focus, there's a task at hand... ooh look, Glee is going to be on for TWO hours tonight, let's just watch a short preview...Wait what was I doing?). His rules discuss everything from short and long term memory to how male and female brains differ, and it's accessible. No highfalutin jibberjabber here! [*Is it ironic that those words sound like what they mean?]

So-- by reading this book, I noticed myself noticing other books about the brain, and thus this booklist was spawned.

General Brain Books 

  • Brain Rules: 12 rules principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school by John Medina
    • This book is also awesome because it has an online component. All of his brain rules are   online so you can peruse them now if you want to, and he has little power points for each one. Don't worry, he knows that brains don't pay attention to boring things, so they are short and interesting too! 
  • Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina
    • The second child to Medina's Brain Rules, this book exposes how children's minds develop in the first place, what parents can do to grow the best baby brains, as well as helping people get into the mind of a baby (you might think not much is going on up there, but I think you'd be wrong).
  • Memories Are Made of This: how memory works in humans and animals by Rusiko Bourtchouladze 
  • Incognito: the secret lives of the brain by David M. Eagleman   
  • An Alchemy of Mind: the marvel and mystery of the brain by Diane Ackerman  
  • The Brain that Changes: stories of personal triumph from the frontiers of brain science by Norman Doidge  
    • Focuses on the plasticity of the brain and the brain can heal itself. 
  • Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot by Richard Restak
    Sex on the Brain: 
    • Sex on the Brain: biological differences between men and women by Deborah Blum
      • Reviews on Amazon say that this book discusses a delicate issue with a dose of humor, with the author offering personal anecdote to slice the tension, while being simultaneously scientific.
    • The Essential Difference: the truth about the male and female brain by Simon Baron-Cohen
    • Sex on the Brain: 12 lessons to enhance your love life by Daniel G. Amen
      • From the same author as Change Your Brain, Change Your Life and The Brain in Love (curiously, with the same subtitle: 12 lessons to enhance your love life), this goes into how sex affects the brain (it likes it, btw), and discusses attraction in the human brain.
    Music and the Brain:

    • Musicophilia: tales of music and the brain by Oliver Sacks
      • Oliver Sacks is a well-known psychologist (see The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales and Awakenings, later a movie starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro)-- I'm listening to this on audiobook. A collection of studies of people who are deeply affected by music, how music helps cure some mental illnesses.  The first describes how a man struck by lightning suddenly gets the obsessive urge to play the piano. 
    • This is Your Brain on Music: the science of a human obsession by Daniel J. Levitin
    • The World in Six Songs: how the musical brain created human nature by Daniel J. Levitin
    Economics of the Brain: 
    • The Mind of the Market: compassionate apes, competitive humans, and other tales from evolutionary economics by Michael Shermer
      • What do brain scans reveal about economics?
    • Blink: the power of thinking without thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
      • Gladwell describes what goes on in our minds when we make split-section decisions, and reveals how advertisers use this in marketing
    • How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer 
      • Delves into the science of decision-making and how decision-making exists in the brain

    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    CPD23 Thing 3: A blog renovated and revealed!

    CPD23 THING 3: Consider Your Personal Brand

    So there CPD23 suggests that for your professional identity, esp. on your blog, you should consider a few things regarding your own personal "brand" which allow you to maintain a consistent image across various platforms (blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc), which are:

    • The name you use-- what you want to be referred to as:
      • This was already settled for me when I created my blog, and something that I feel is something you have to address really before you create a blog, and I picked this name out very deliberately. Sponge for Knowledge was actually born because a friend called me that once and it really stuck for me.
    • Photograph-- do you want people to recognize you when they meet you face to face? 
      • For me, I think yes, but I don't want my picture to BE my blog. I already included my face in my tiny profile pic, so I think this works.
    • Personal/professional identity-- Do you want to separate your personal and professional lives? 
      • No. I'm a nerd at heart, and this works well for me-- but I do try to maintain a professional-ness about the Sponge even if it is really very Me.
    • Visual brand-- Establishing a clear visual identity helps people automatically know it's you.
      • Advertisers use this ploy all the time-- esp. generics who copy name-brand products' style to fool people into buying their product. Shifty, but effective (read Malcolm Gladwell's Blink for more on this). This is where I think my blog could use some major improvement, and it's something that I've been thinking about for a long time-- so now that I'm diving in, here goes:

    So, My Visual Brand. Well, I've definitely thought about it before. I'm a doodler. I'm a scribbler. I'm a nerd and I love putting my personal stamp on things. I hadn't done this with my blog yet, and this CPD23 project finally kicked me into gear to do something about it.  It's been delayed for several reasons: (a) I'm in school, and the last thing I should be doing is drawing millions of owls in a notebook, scanning them into my computer, and then tinkering with fonts and colors endlessly until my perfectionist mind decides it's finally up to snuff, (b) the monumental task of displaying my personality through my blog was too daunting and too important to half-ass. But here on this lazy Sunday, I'm happy to unveil my new layout.

    So what have I incorporated? Well, as you can tell from my blog posts and profile, I'm a nerd for knowledge and a nerd for classical history. Owls are the birds of Athena (you know, Greek goddess of wisdom, crafts, and strategery and born from the head of Zeus, the head honcho himself), and were subsequently used on Athenian coins for centuries, as you can see here:

    I borrowed my feathered icon from  these coins because of my goddess-crush on Athena, and because I feel like it well represents my love of knowledge and my affection for Greek history.

    The icon over the owl's shoulder (do owls have real shoulders?) is my first name with all the letters piled on top of one another-- a symbol I've been using to sign my name off and on since elementary school. Back then, I thought I was very clever for this. Today, I still think it's pretty clever.

    [A small aside:  Personal advice for those thinking about creating a blog:
    • Really think about what you're wanting to write about and what you have to say. Stick to it--, be it a professional way to document what you've been up to ( which lets you keep track of your victories and accomplishments), or a way for you to tell stories to friends elsewhere in the world, or if you just have something to say. Additional personal advice: remember that it's online (read: public!), so save the stuff of diaries to your private diary.
    • Before you actually create your blog, pick a layout you want to stick with, and if you're really set with what you want your blog to be, personalize it to you. I wish I'd done this earlier so I didn't create any confusion for my readers.
    • Pick a name-- hopefully one that you can be proud of, and one that other people get. If it's too obscure, people might not remember it. This is one of the hardest parts I had coming up with my blog.
    • Photograph-- only put a photograph of yourself up if you feel comfortable!
    • Your blog is nothing without posts. I still remind myself of this constantly, because I desperately need to get back to this. ]

    Monday, August 1, 2011

    In an ideal world

    In an ideal world (without work, school, or celery) I'd require myself to draw for at least 1/2 hour each day and journal for at least 20 minutes. Who am I kidding, if this is my ideal AKA fantasy world-- bump that up to: 

    Art for an hour a day

    Journaling for 1/2 hour

    Writing or blogging, as in non-journaling for 1 to 2 hours

    Reading for as much time as needed, depending on my mood

    An hour for meditation and yoga (I'd be a yoga master)

    An hour for crafts of various natures, with a different one each day...
    ...One day I'd be making homemade paper -- the next I'd be marbling paper -- then I'd be making mosaics made out of old China I'd picked up at yard sales -- and after that making necklaces and earrings, the next day would be making huge amounts of cards -- thank yous, thinking of yous, birthdays, holidays, etc. for me to have on hand (and in all kinds of forms like pop-ups, 3D and beautiful paper cut outs) -- then making bizarre papier-mache sculptures -- handmaking soaps with lavender and basil oils -- making one-of-a-kind funky lampshades ... this list could go on forever. I tend to horde books on things like these, but never seem to have time to implement these. These are all on my list of things-to-do, which is so large it now has it's own filing system (no really).
    1 hour for bubble bath leisure time with maybe some time for painting my toes.


    In real world, filled with school, work, and celery, I'm lucky if I could get any one of these in a day. But I'm going to try to make it a point to get a little bit of these things in each day-- even 5 minutes of quick sketching would be uplifting, and probably 10 minutes of journaling would get out some frustrations of the day and provide stress relief. 10 minutes of yoga or basic stretching would be good. I wonder if I could count laying in bed in the mornings as I ignore my alarm as Savasana (corpse pose/meditative pose in yoga)? But then I guess that's not quite the point... 

    Until later--

    Sponge for Knowledge