My Bookshelf – Early Summer 2015

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Highly recommended. The setting is World War II Germany and the narrator is Death, an unusual setup but it made for a great read. In particular, reading about civilian life in Germany during this period (the main characters are reluctant conformers) was really interesting since most of what I’ve read/watched is from the Allied perspective.

Homeland by Cory Doctorow

I’d heard of Doctorow from his library advocacy, and so was interested to read one his novels. Homeland is about a group of hackers/techies in California, one of whom gets entrusted with a cache of secret government documents. The prose style was refreshingly down to earth and the themes are up to date addressing issues such as government surveillance, privacy and the impact of technologies on society. Some might think the material alarmist, but I found it a good opportunity to learn and form my own opinions. It was also very funny!

The Days of the Deer by Liliana Bodoc

I was rationing books before a recent holiday (save the short, lighter ones for the beach!) and randomly picked this up from my local library to fill the gap, based on the fact that I’d heard of one of the authors who had a blurb on the front. It turned out to be a lovely novel which one of the blurbs perfectly described as ‘meditative’. I don’t know if this is because it’s been translated from Spanish, but the style was sparse, simple and elegant. Set in a fictional land where an old prophecy about foreigners arriving from across the sea is looming. The catch is that the council gathered to prepare for this doesn’t know whether the foreigners are good or evil. It rather struck me as an allegory of the New World and European explorers.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Collins was a contemporary and friend of Dickens, and this novel is considered the forerunner of the mystery/crime novel. Much more readable than Dickens, I really enjoyed this and was very surprised by the ending!

Night’s Masque series by Anne Lyle

I’ve read the first two books in this series, The Alchemist of Souls and The Merchant of Dreams. The hook that got me in was the interesting genre mashup of historical fiction (it’s set in Elizabethan England) and sci-fi (features a magical alien race from the New World called skraylings). There’s a lot of swashbuckling and some romance, and it also is set within an alternative timeline where Elizabeth I marries Robert Dudley and has children. Despite valid critiques of weak characters and a heavy-handed focus on sexual politics/norms, it is an enjoyable if lighter read.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (pen name of J.K. Rowling)

After a bruising experience with J.K. Rowling’s previous fiction for grown-ups (The Casual Vacancy), I was more than a little hesitant to pick up any others. However I did and it was well worth it. This is a brilliant, gripping crime novel where the protagonist, Cormoran Strike, has a juicy back story that gradually unfolds over the course of the work. It’s also a nice portrayal of life in modern London.

Giordano Bruno series by S.J. Parris

I’ve read two of these so far, Heresy and Sacrilege, after avoiding them for awhile because I thought the cover art ripped off the excellent C.J. Sansom’s Shardlake series. Indeed they even have similar premises: both are set in Tudor England (Shardlake during Henry VIII’s reign and Bruno during Elizabeth’s); both protagonists are outcasts (Shardlake is a hunchback and Bruno an Italian ex-Catholic) and scholars (Shardlake is a lawyer and Bruno a philosopher); and both get caught up in plots involving the greatest personages in the land. Parris’ characterisation is not as developed as Sansom’s, but these are still worth a read. I also discovered that Bruno is based on a historical figure, and a theory that he was in fact a spy for Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s intelligencer.

Library Advocacy Unshushed MOOC wrap up

I recently completed another MOOC (massive, open online course) entitled ‘Library Advocacy: Unshushed’. It was run by the University of Toronto Faculty of Information on the EdX platform. While targeted at information professionals it really addressed basic principles of successful advocacy that would be applicable in other sectors. The quality of the material was good and was supported by research. Numerous experts from library world and beyond also had slots where they weighed in and gave practical advice.

The course ran over five weeks but I think it took me about twice as long to complete all the material. Content covered included defining advocacy, perceptions and reality of libraries today, and planning and implementing an advocacy plan.

Here are some of the main points I’ve taken away from the Mooc and that I actually remembered several weeks after finishing without looking at my notes.

  • Tell stories – people resonate with and remember stories much more than data and statistics. Libraries have so many great stories to tell so we need to share them in our advocacy and use stats to support when needed.
  • Craft your message – what are you trying to get across to decision makers? It needs to be concise, memorable and relevant to your audience. Think elevator speech.
  • Link your advocacy to wider institutional goals – The course repeatedly underlined the fact that your message and advocacy goals need to be explicitly linked to your wider institution’s goals, objectives and/or strategy. This makes sense because why would leaders pay attention or allocate funds if what you want to do doesn’t align with their goals? This approach also gets away from simplistic “save the library” type appeals which, let’s face it, probably translate to “save our jobs”.
  • Plan who to target with your advocacy – the course distinguished between decision makers (those who actually make the decisions), influencers (people who have influence with the decision makers) and stakeholders (people who have an interest in the outcome but not necessarily a decision maker). Successful advocates need to build relationships of trust and credibility with all three.
  • Advocacy is a responsibility for everyone, not just the chief librarian or head of department.

Some other points taken from my notes:

  • Defining advocacy – it is rooted in relationships of credibility, understanding and trust. It’s a long term commitment and requires communication, passion and courage.
  • Avoid jargon in your message, speak in terms your audience will be familiar with, and link back to wider institutional goals.
  • Essential concepts to tell decision makers in your communications- 1) What libraries and librarians do that’s valuable, 2) Why it matters in terms of their values and priorities, 3) Why it’s urgent.
  • Position your library as a ‘value add’ by thinking about how you can solve the problems of your community/institution.

For more information on this Mooc, here’s a link to the EdX page.

The Twitter hashtag for the ‘live’ portion of the course was #la101x

My Blog – 2014 in review

Well, this email has been sitting in my inbox for quite awhile….Wordpress prepared a 2014 annual report for my blog way back in December and I thought this might be an opportune moment to share it and to say a big “Thank you!” to you for reading! You can read the report by following the link below.

It’s been a very busy month or so with extra hours at my job, assignment deadlines for library school coming up and a trip to the US for our family reunion. However I have *quite* a few posts in the pipeline and I hope to get those published in the forthcoming weeks!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 660 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 11 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.