Diverse reading

A number of authors and librarians began to advocate for more diverse books to be published and promoted last year through the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hash tag. You can learn more about this campaign by taking a look at the We Need Diverse Books website.  I admit that I didn’t do a whole lot of reflection or thinking at the time about my own personal reading habits. I have read a variety of authors over the years that reflect a wide spectrum of diversity. However, I could see that I was stuck in a post-apocalyptic and dystopian rut after reviewing my GoodReads read bookshelf. I decided that 2015 would be the year that I expand my reading universe.

BooksI discovered Janet Ursel’s post, We Read Diverse Books, over Christmas break. Janet does a nice summary of the need for more diverse books and takes the idea one step further by challenging her blog readers to start reading more diverse books themselves. She is posting a diverse reading challenge every month during 2015. Her first challenge is to read “one book…about or by someone of a race different than yours.”

My reading blind spot is African authors. I took the required and even a few elective English courses during my undergraduate studies at Ohio State. I don’t recall reading many (if any) African authors beyond those that were part of a course required anthology textbook. MPOW does not have a huge African literature collection. We did have a copy of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, which I finished last week. I am waiting for a copy of One Day I Will Write About This Place: A Memoir by Binyavanga Wainaina to arrive sometime this next week from another Ohio academic library.

Have you thought much about your reading habits? Are you reading a diverse set of authors? If not, I highly encourage you to join those of us who are intentionally diversifying the authors and topics read during 2015. Please share the books you are reading on Twitter by using the #WeReadDiverseBooks hash tag.

Everything is Miscellaneous…

and so is this post. I have had a copy of David Weinberger's new book, Everything is miscellaneous: the power of the new digital disorder, checked out from my local public library for six weeks. I finally made myself finish it this week. I know that David has something important to say. However, I could hardly get past the use of the card catalog and Dewey as examples of the second order of order that we must overcome in the age of the third order of order to get through the book.

Yeah, I know his point is that our old school ways of applying control over the ones and zeros zipping around on the series of tubes is in the best interest of no one. I agree that users should be able to tag their content and share their knowledge online. I am a user of Flickr, del.icio.us, Wikipedia, and many other digital disorder tools. I do my best to educate our students and faculty about these tools. However, I wish David would have thrown us a bone and commented somewhere in the book that librarians are finally getting on board. Most librarians will agree that our roles have evolved tremendously over the past few years. I know many are still focused on metadata, but that is a necessary evil when you are standing with one foot in the digital world and one foot in the print world. I would hazard to say that a fair number of academic librarians have embraced the new third order of order, okay maybe not everyone

David writes, "There's something comforting about the sight of cards spooning in a library card catalog. A world of ideas and knowledge, more than we could ever absorb, is waiting for us, carefully indexed in those neat rows of drawers. And yet the second order masks a complexity that the third order confronts head-on: We don't really know what a book is." (118-119) He continues, "card catalogs have value because of what they leave out. Melvil Dewey himself designed the current standard card in 1877…Because it's not very large, catalogers have to make tough decisions about what information to include." (119) David includes yet another reference to the card catalog used by Brown and Duguid in the Social Life of Information, "you can sometimes tell if a card has been heavily consulted by how dog-eared it is." (119)

Seriously, when was the last time you used a card catalog?  For me it was 1988 and it was my local public library in BFE northwest Ohio.  I would have been much happier to see David pick on the card catalog's progeny, the OPAC. Unfortunately, the OPAC is missing and the closest mention is a comment about the "OCLC database of books" (122) being much like a card catalog. I am at a loss as to why he didn't use the name WorldCat or even do some research to figure out the name and that a free version of it is on the web where users can be kind of social and share reviews of books. 

I know, I know…I need to move past the whole card catalog issue. I am sure that Michael Gorman had a hard time reading this book too, but it may not have passed the "scholarly enough" test to land on his desk. David has an entire chapter titled Social Knowing, where he argues that Wikipedia is better than Britannica and provides many reasons why he has taken this position. I can not say that I agree with him totally on this point either, but anything that ticks off the media identified library standard-bearer can't be too wrong.

Karen Schneider's excellent review is on the TechSource blog and additional reactions are available on the book's companion web site appropriately titled, Everything is Miscellaneous.

There’s a lot more to “Lucky” than one word

The Higher Power of Lucky I read the 2007 Newbery Medal winner, The Higher Power of Lucky, this weekend. I think the amount of press surrounding the controversy of a single "adult word" is unfortunate. It is a well written book. I hope parents take the time to read the book and decide if it is appropriate for their children.

The family currently has around 75 copies. Our copy came out of processing last week. Any of the sibs, cousins, or extended family members are more than welcome to borrow it.