Category Archives: LIS bits

Morsels from my studying and surfing in Library and Information Sciences

Libraries in TV series: Da Vinci’s Demons

Da Vinci's LibraryI’ve been watching a fair amount of TV series and usually notice if there is a library or a librarian in it. So I decided to note them publicly too. For example I have’ve decided whether I like enough the new series, Da Vinci’s Demons, to keep watching it but I couldn’t help smiling at the depiction of a library at the Medici era’s Florence in episode 2. The hyperactive Da Vinci, with his genius mind did some quick investigating figuring out where to find a book hidden in the library. But my favorite line is the opening of the scene, “Where would one best hide a book.” Then comes the visual answer: the next image shows books in a library.

Watch the preview of the episode here or if you can here is the relevant clip, that may be blocked in your country.

CLA’08-6: Saturday evening

Technically my evenings did not belong to the conference, because I did not stay to socialize. But as I am trying to blog about the whole weekend experience I might as well write it down. So after the last session Saturday afternoon I drove over to Santa Cruz. I stopped by at my friend’s house who was kind of enough to put me up. He was not home, but I could get in to drop off my bag. After resting a little bit, I headed out. I had a burrito at my old favorite place, not too far from where I lived five years. Next, as the lights were on and people were gathering I stopped by at the Rio Theatre. I volunteered there for a few years, so it was great to see the owner, the house manager and the place doing well. I chatted with them for 15 minutes then headed to downtown. There I spent a comfortable half an hour browsing at my favorite bookstore: Logos. I bought a book for my wife (At Oma’s Table: More than 100 Recipes and Remembrances from a Jewish Family’s Kitchen) and one for myself: Dreams of Being Eaten Alive: The Literary Core of the Kabbalah by David Rosenberg. I already finished a third of the latter and it is great, thought provoking and informative. Both books were on the heavy discount shelves, got them for 4-5 dollars.

To finish off the evening I went to a dance show, where friends were involved with the sound and music. The show, put on by the Mir & A Company (aka Miranda), was titled Hands Left Behind. It was “a theatrical aerial dance production based on a true story of one persons’s journey into the desert. The character, Charles Bowden, encounters bewitching memories, strange entities and desert songs that help him navigate his psyche’s portrayal of himself and relationship to the land. Bowden’s journey takes an unexpected turn when he falls in love with the land.” I really enjoyed the aerial dance parts. Upon returning to my friend’s house we caught up, i.e. chatted till after midnight, when I practically collapsed of exhaustion.

CLA’08-5: Multiculture

For my second Saturday afternoon session I went to a room I was not planning to. But chatting with one of the exhibitors I learned that a Jewish author will be on a multicultural panel. As I realized my eyes glazed over this session description because it was focusing on children literature, which is not on the top of my personal interest list. The title and the description of the section is below:

Cultural Diversity on the Shelves: Authors’ Perspectives on Blending Latinos, Asians, and Others into Children’s Literature Five authors, five cultures, five different perspectives on weaving multiculturalism into children’s literature. These authors offer insight into how and why they chose to write about Latinos, Asians, African Americans, Jews, and American Indians, and show innovative ways for educators and librarians to use cultural diversity in today’s curriculums and programs.

This session (unplanned for me) ended up being one of the high points of the conference. The variety of stories, presentations styles, cultures and illustrations was a real treat. Together they sure were multicultural, but first I had a bit of a hard time understanding why they refer to a story set in any single culture as “multicultural.” Then I got it: if the heroes are not Caucasian children then the label can be applied to it. These were the authors (the first four shown on the picture in this order):

Stacy Nyikos is of Hungarian origin, whose last book Dragon Wishes, published this month, incorporates Chinese mythology. To go along with the story Nyikos created activities such as seal carving. She even brought along her own beautiful seals, made of jade.

Caryn Huberman Yacowitz the second speaker, also wrote a story based on a Chinese folktale, titled Jade Stone. But she mostly spoke of the seven books she wrote about various Native American tribes and the Pumpkin Fiesta, set in Mexico. Her Jewish origin might be the reason that her upcoming book’s title is “I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Menorah.”

Next, Linda Joy Singleton talked a little bit about her paranormal tween books and then read from the latest, Dead Girl Walking.

I went primarily to listen to the fourth, the Jewish participant, Susan Goldman Rubin. She authored many books for young people on arts and artists, such as Matisse, Warhol, Thiebaud, Hopper and Degas. She also wrote six books related to Jewish themes. I purchased one of them for the library I work at and asked her to sign it. “Fireflies in the Dark: The Story of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and the Children of Terezin” is a book about the Holocaust for children that is not as terrifying visually as most books with pictures on this topic. The book won eleven prizes including AJL’s “Honor Book in the 2000 Sydney Taylor Book Award for Older Readers.” I am hoping that this book will be borrowed by the children who visit my library.

Ms. Goldman Rubin’s other books include “Searching for Anne Frank: Letters from Amsterdam to Iowa,” L’Chaim! To Jewish Life in America! Celebrating from 1654 until Today,” “The Flag With Fifty-Six Stars: A Gift From The Survivors of Mauthausen,” “The Cat with the Yellow Star: Coming of Age in Terezin,” “Haym Salomon: American Patriot.” One of her upcoming books, “The Anne Frank Case: Simon Wiesenthal’s Search for the Truth” is about Simon Wiesenthal’s (successful) search for the Nazi officer responsible arresting Anne Frank. Currently she is working on a book about Mengele.

During her 15 minute talk I learned about how she grew up in the Bronx, where she thought that being Jewish is nothing spectacular, but later in life she learned to appreciate the uniqueness of her culture and background. She also shared the organic process how she got involved in writing about Jewish topics. She spoke about the importance of teaching the Holocaust to the younger generations, who have less and less chance to talk to survivors themselves.

The last speaker, Belle Yang, was the only author from the group who creates the illustrations for her own books. As a Chinese artists who lived in Japan she has a unique voice both in her text and her artwork.

CLA’08-4: Zotero

The first session I went after lunch (and checking my email) was on Zotero. It is a “free, easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources“. I heard about it in the past, but did not pay much attention to it, because I was out of school and did not work at an academic institution. But now I grabbed the chance to learn more. The session, lead by Marsha Schnirring, from the Occidental College in Los Angeles was basically a walkthrough on how to use it. It was splendid, I converted. If when I will need to work with citations this will be the tool I will use.

One of my questions after the session was whether Zotero support non-Latin languages. We could not find the answer quickly so checked it upon my return to home. The site states: “Because it relies on Unicode, Zotero can import, store, and cite items of any language.” My other question was based on my poor understanding of the new Google Chrome browser’s compatibility with FireFox/Mozilla. I thought that it is similarly built thus Chrome should have no problem supporting FireFox extension, such as Zotero. As it became clear on the Zotero forum it is not, so Zotero will not work on Chrome. For now?

CLA’08-3: Infopeople sessions

As by the time I got out of the native session it was too late to sneak in to any of the other sessions I headed to the exhibition floor again. I did not stay without intellectual stimulus there either. InfoPeople, the training arm of the California State Library had a huge booth, more like a series of booths. For example they had a few fullsize mascots made out of recycled materials. This was a photo opportunity as they had a number of costumes to put on and they made pictures and even printouts of the people who were brave enough to get into them. As you can see it brought the vampire out of me too.

InfoPeople also had open auditorium area, where they had 15 minutes long mini lectures and mini demos going on all day. In the next 2 hours I watched three of them. They were all fun and informative enough, although I was already familiar with some of the content. InfoPeople posted all the handouts of the presentation on this dedicated page on their website: So I do not have to share my notes from these events, because you can download the content directly. These are the mini-lectures I personally checked out:

Rochelle Carr: Be an Information Agent: 10 Easy Ways to Put Your Library Into the Center of Your Community
Below is the outline of Ms Carr’s presentation. Under each of these headings she had 5-10 subpoints, very helpful

  • Find a niche and fill it.
  • Become the expert
  • Offer resources
  • Go to your audience
  • Teach classes or booktalk at meetings
  • Offer to be a speaker at a service club.
  • Participate in parades
  • Write a local column
  • Write newspaper articles and submit
  • Be the location for local community events.
  • Spam patron email.

Eileen O’Shea: Picasa versus Flickr: Smackdown!
Good overview and comparative analysis of both picture hosting sites, including the statistics, basics, social networking options, and editing features.

Lori Ayre: Why My Library Should be Considering an Open Source ILS
She channeled Princess Leia from the future, where open source ILS is already common. Having studied the topic myself there were not too many surprises in her well-collected presentation. But her slides copied below, comparing libraries and open source was right on target.

CLA’08-2: Dynamic leadership

At 10:15 on Saturday I had 15 minute break so I did a quick round in the exhibition floor, which was next to the series of rooms where the conference lectures were held. Then I headed for my next session at 10:30, titled “How dynamic leadership can lead libraries into the future!“. Considering that I sometimes doubt my leadership abilities, capacity and aptitude I was looking forward to this lecture. I was hoping to gain some techniques ideas, practical tips how I can lead my library and let the library lead the patrons to a better future. This was the official description of the sessions:

This session will demonstrate what strategies are employed by strong role models to make librarianship work in different types of California libraries. Discussion on how positive and humanistic leadership can help struggling libraries in areas of fundraising, outreach, and staff development. Successful librarians will tell how they made a difference in their respective communities. Sponsored by: Native Libraries Round Table

Unfortunately I did not read carefully the last few words and I did not know what it meant. The session, or at least the first 40 minutes was all about Native American collections. I learned a lot about them and respect their work tremendously. However I was already having a hard time selecting which concurrent session to go to. Going to this one felt the wrong choice for me; not the best use of my time. I as embarrassed to stand up and leave, but when after 40 minutes there was still not a single word mentioned about the topic I was waiting for I left. I felt bad for the speakers and wanted to assure them that me leaving had nothing to do with the quality of their talks or the content of their message. I had no way of doing so, so I left as quietly as I could.

CLA’08-1: Opening: Chabon/Waldman

The conference was opened by CLA’s president Monique le Conge.


Then the keynote speakers Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman were introduced. The official title of their discussion was “On being writers“, but in reality they mostly talked about what it means being married to a writer. Chabon is the Pulitzer Prize winning of author of many novels including “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” and “The amazing adventures of Kavalier and Clay“. His wife, Ayelet Waldman, is an author on her own right, having written 9 novels so far.


They shared many stories on stage. The discussion was mostly built around the instances when crisis helped them, made their writing and cooperating skills stronger. Chabon shared how difficult it was for him to finish a novel, and how her relationships flourished together with the completion of the book. Ayelet talked about how her wedding promise to his husband and his family was that she would never become a writer. (Partially because Michael’s first wife was an author as well, and Ayelet was a corporate lawyer.) And how this promise unraveled and how she found her own voice. We learned

  • that Ayelet’s signature technique of conflict resolution is bursting into tears,
  • how many rewrites it requires to produce a movie script from your own book (15, but then it will not become a movie, like it happened with Kavalier and Clay)
  • how the cost of health insurance is Ayelet’s chief financial worry when contracts are getting towards the end of their life cycle (Michael does not worry about money),
  • how Ayelet’s essay on motherhood and sex became prominent piece she is identified by (when it was reprinted form an obscure anthology in the New Yorker),
  • how Oprah is your best friend for 48 minutes while you are on her show,
  • how to abandon a book idea on placing Madame Bovary I the Silicon Valley, when the editor tells you it cannot contain an affair,
  • how failure is more frightening the more children you have (they have four),
  • how “plotwalks” help to iron out difficult plot situations,
  • how royalty check have the amount in parentheses before you “earned out.”

For those of you who liked The Yiddish Policemen’s Union I have good news: The Coen brothers are planning turning it into a movie. Chabond and Waldman seemed passionate, knowledgeable and likable people. I enjoyed their conversation full of humor and the ease they behaved on stage with each other and with the audience.

John Ward was taking visual notes on all general sessions. He is a visual thinker, so his notes are visual representations of the talks. He posted on his website the charts/notes he made. Here is the one from the Chabon/Waldman session.

CLA’08-0: Getting there

Last weekend I attended my first professional librarian conference. It was the California Library Association’s 110th annual conference. I was planning start Friday afternoon with a visit to Adobe System, but I missed the deadline for signing up for that. Considering that on that day the only other program was the opening of the exhibition, which I was planning to check later and a gala dinner that I was not planning to attend I opted to start Saturday morning instead.

So I got up at five and started to drive from Santa Rosa to San Jose well before 6 AM. According to an email from the organizers the busiest period at the check-in table is usually Saturday morning. I wanted to beat the crowd, that’s why I went so early. I got to San Jose by 7:45 and although I even got lost a little bit after exiting the freeway I was in the convention center by 8. I was about the third conference attendee, so my goal to avoid staying in line was accomplished. I sat down in the room where the opening general session started an hour later. At 8 there were only 2 other people there besides some ushers, but by the real starting time the room was overflowing.

I estimate that there were between 1100 and 1400 people in the room. It was a weirdly titillating feeling. I haven’t been in the midst big crowds in the last few years. It reminded me how I felt at my first arena show (watching The Queen in 1985 with 50,000 people), at a huge political protest (being with over a million people in 1987 in East Berlin) at a school ceremony (my wife’s graduation at UCSB.) But here almost everybody was a librarian. I felt professional pride and personal curiosity at the diversity of the group. I could not avoid noticing though that only about every 15th-20th person was male.