State of the Blog Address

So, I’ve been plugging away at this blog for a month. I know, what a noob, right? Well, it’s not my first stab at blogging and I’ve maintained a personal journal over at LiveJournal for a couple of years now. I guess that’s technically a blog, but since it has the word “journal” in it, it gets me all caught up in semantics. At any rate, this is my second attempt at having a completely public blog (my LJ is private and limited to family and friends).

In looking back at the past month of entries, they started off very serious, very link laden, and a mix of fact and opinion. As time moved on, I got away from that format. As much as I like trying to provide a complete picture of some of the issues that I support, it can be very draining. More draining than I thought it would be since it doubles the writing time as I collect and paste links and edit heavily. Don’t get me wrong, I like being able to provide the whole picture and cite my sources; it’s the right way to present the underlying facts that support a position. But, as the month went on, I have found that my interest was waning due to the high standards I had set for myself.

And hell, this is not supposed to be work, this is supposed to be something that I want to contribute to on multiple levels. So, the course has now changed (or, as I like to imagine it, “I am not lost, it is that path that has wandered”). I’ve always had the impulse to write, but not always the willpower to follow through. Right now, I have the willpower so I might as well take it where it is going and not stifle it by setting an unreasonable standard. I like writing about library science, religion, politics, goofy stuff in my life, and stuff that just pops in my head and demands to be recorded online.

More importantly to me, I like telling a story. I come from a long line of storytellers who savor the experience (much to the chagrin of my wife who hates waiting for joke punchlines and/or anything long winded).  I have many happy family memories involving people gathered around a dining room table or scattered in the family room or patio telling tales of their life experiences. More often than not it was something funny, but there would be stories of the somber times of World War II, Depression, and the intervening years of personal tragedies and other close calls. I’ve always known I was a storyteller. And though I prefer the spoken word to the written one, this is as good a medium as any for sharing most stories.

And so, I will see in another few months whether or not I stuck with the current format. It’s nice to see how certain things evolve over time. I’m looking forward to where I’m going, wherever that may be.

Men are from 523.43, Women are from 523.42

On the way home from the NJLA conference today, my wife mentioned to me that she thought that this year’s conference had more young men than last year’s. I thought this was a strange observation since (1) it was confined to such a narrow band of crowd population and (2) what gauge was she using to measure the number from last year compared to this year. (I could toss in “why are you counting young men?” as a (3), but I think the first two get the job done objectively.) I remember writing something about gender in the NJLA Blog from last year’s conference. In looking back on that entry, it feels to me like I was more excited to contribute to the NJLA blog than I was at actually making a point that people wouldn’t simply scan over and move on the next entry. Ah, yes, it was during my rookie librarian year. I was all very new to the profession and full of optimism and ideas.

I was still full of optimism and ideas even before Karen Hyman’s keynote speech. Her speech almost compelled me to rise from my seat, get in my car, and head back to my branch to announce, “We are going to weed, redecorate, renovate, and improve staff morale today” while emphasizing each concept with a rev of a chainsaw. Perhaps it sounds a bit extreme, but my library could benefit from some new window holes, a noticeably smaller collection, and a suddenly cooperative and motivated staff. (Lest uninformed readers be shocked, it is a little known fact that the chainsaw is McGuyver’s army knife, duct tape, and chewing gum rolled up into one extremely delightful gas guzzling tool for all occasions. It is so good at solving problems that it can work by simply holding one in your hands while you talk.)

To be certain, if I had known that I would have gone into such a female dominated profession, I certainly would have tried to stay single longer than I did. (I’m sure I’ll get pinched in my sleep for that.) Sadly (that’s another pinch), I got married long before thoughts of library science danced across my mind like a tantalizing raven haired seductress (yet another pinch).

But in giving it actual serious thought, the gender imbalance is a complete non-issue for me. I wouldn’t exactly call myself progressive unless “I don’t care where the answer comes from so long as it is right” counts. When I’m reaching out to colleagues for answers to a question I can’t figure out, or share ideas for new programs or services, or to find out why my patron’s hold got sent to another branch, the gender of the person on the other end of the conversation is completely moot. I’m sure there are social scientists who could show me how different gender balance works environments perform but, honestly, unless there is some sort of earth shattering difference, it’s trivia that I would store away for the night I can shout it at the television during Jeopardy!.  It reminds me of a line by Admiral Percy Fitzwallace (played by John Amos) in the television series The West Wing when asked about having a young black man serve as the President’s body man:

I got some real honest-to-god battles to fight [...]. I don’t have time for the cosmetic ones.

Back to optimism and other things that spring eternal, I will say that loathsome, too oft repeated cliche that the best days of library science are still ahead. And while the phrase may be vile, the new information networks and communications are not. We stand at the frontier of complete information immersion where there are few actual limits to access and all forms of knowledge are now intertwined. For me, the future does not lay in creating a better library system, but in the empowerment of the end user. We can come up with as many features and tools as we want, we can create a big ole pile of features and tools that could be stacked end to end and reach from the Earth to the moon and back, but it will mean diddly squat if our patrons don’t know about it, don’t know how to use it, can’t figure out how to use it on their own, and/or don’t ask us about it. In my sophomore year of librarianship, I see the mission of the library is to educate and empower the patron with the access and tools to the resources they desire. Let us move from being gatekeepers to guides.

I’m sure I’ll look back in a year and snicker at my second attempt to figure out the big picture, but it’s nice set lofty goals and to have stars to reach for.

because i kenken can

In the last month, I have been rediscovering my love of games. I’ve constructed a wish list on Amazon to keep track of the games I would like to collect over time. Over the last couple of years, the major extent of my gaming has been on World of Warcraft. (I admit, I love me an MMO.) But there has been a hole in my recreation and that whole has been gaming.

There are a lot of good memories connected to games, mainly card ones. My mother’s side of the family is extremely big on card games. There wasn’t many a family gathering that went by in which some sort of game (board, card, or otherwise) was not played. Some of my best memories with my maternal grandparents were around the kitchen table with an after meal game of cards. It is one of those things that I miss more than anything about my time with them.

The wife and I had some friends over tonight and we ended up playing Phase 10. It’s a better card game for a rainy day at the beach house or lazy Sunday afternoon, but not on a work weekday night. We ended up stopping after 11 just to make certain people could get home for the work day tomorrow. Since my grandmother moved out of the house and into nursing care almost a year ago, I think this was the first time we’ve had friends over for such a purpose. It felt great, really, and certainly overdue. I need to arrange for more gaming nights, perhaps with different games or themes in mind.

At any rate, while I cannot indulge in these types of games all the time, I can always have a logic problem book on hand. A month or so ago, I purchased a couple of New York Times crossword books for the nightstand. It’s a nice way to relax and get into the sleeping comfort zone, especially since I’m doing the real easy ones (nothing past Monday, so far as I can tell). After reading about KenKen in Time, I had to give it a try. The sample puzzle I tried on the website was enough to have me jonzing for more. After work, I met the wife for grocery shopping and then made a b-line for Barnes & Noble. While I was there, I got a KenKen book, another crossword book, a Hidato book, and a Sudoku book (I have one for my work bag, but not for my nightstand).

Let me tell you, I think that KenKen will consume my brain. It really is that addictive. I’ve already gotten halfway through this book which means I will have to find a few more in the next week or so. It’s a dance of numbers and logic  that, while I make mistakes, I learn from them on the next puzzle. I’m hacking my way through the 5×5 puzzles at the moment, but they are things of beauty, I tell you.

There was an article on Will Shortz I read recently about why people are attracted to crossword puzzles. He talks about how it comes down to you versus the puzzle maker in a battle of wits where all the potential answers are known, but there is the element of deception, guile, humor, and subterfuge in constructing clues to mask the true answers. This may not exactly be the case with KenKen or Sudoku, but the battle remains.

I need to go now, the books are calling me again.