Friday, April 30, 2010

The Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Coward-McCann, 1954

243 pages

I read this book when I was in 9th grade, but it was an assigned reading. This means that I only read it because I had to, and I did not really get into it. I decided since I had to read an adventure (and fill a "classic" requirement) that I would re-read it. It's an amazing story of struggle in the wilderness and how humans react in desperation to maintain their own lives.

A group of schoolboys are on a plane, being evacuated from their home during a war. Their plane is shot down over a deserted island. Not fully knowing what to do, a couple of boys, Ralph and Piggy, grab a nearby conch shell to use as a horn to gather everyone from the plane who is still alive. After discussing what to do, they vote that Ralph should be their leader on the island until they are rescued. Another boy, Jack, is assigned to hunting for food. After exploring the island for a bit, Ralph decides they should light a fire to signal passing ships or planes for help. They use Piggy's glasses and the sun to heat up some dead wood. They are successful in starting a fire, but the fire soon gets out of control and engulfs the forest, as well as a young classmate.

The group of boys begin to enjoy life on their own- no grownups, no school, no responsibilities, just swimming and playing. However, Ralph sticks to his leader duties, and Jack becomes more and more occupied with hunting. They lose their chance of getting help after a ship passes by the island, and the fire is burned out due to the boys not paying attention. Tension begins to get stronger between Ralph and Jack, because Ralph believes Jack is not keeping up with his responsibilities. Many of the young boys are becoming increasingly afraid, believing there is a sea monster that will kill them all. Soon, the entire group of boys start believing there is a monster among them, so they organize a hunt.

During the hunt, Jack and Ralph begin to argue more, and many of the boys take Jack's side, leaving Ralph to fend for himself. Jack and his hunters successfully kill a pig, and violently ritualize their kill. One boy, Simon, has a vision while looking at the fly-covered head of the killed pig. During his vision, the pig head, which Simon believes is the Lord of the Flies, tells him no one will ever escape. Simon runs to the other boys to tell them what he has seen, but the other boys only see a shadow. Acting out of fear and impulse, the boys attack Simon, not knowing who he was, and kill him.

Piggy is also killed during an argument when one of Jack's followers pushes a boulder down a mountain. Piggy is crushed, but Ralph barely escapes. Ralph hides in the forest, knowing full well that if he encounters any of the other boys, he will be killed. The other boys light the forest on fire in hopes of pushing Ralph out. They succeed, but when Ralph runs out of the forest, he sees a naval officer standing on the beach. The boys will be rescued, and Ralph cries out of exhaustion, relief, and confusion, and the other boys follow suit.

I believe there was a movie made that was based on this book, and I would like to watch it to see how the movie portrays the detail that was in the book. I think this is a lasting story, since it shows the reader the lengths people will go to in order to survive. It's kind of like fight or flight... these boys decided to fight... for rescue, for survival, for each other. It also shows the reader how quickly people can turn against each other when faced with such struggle.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Doing our job

My coworker sent out an email about an interesting topic on NPR’s website. The topic at its base is customer service. More specifically, it’s about the terms we use in libraries and what our patrons understand or don’t understand. I shouldn’t have said “patrons” as more libraries are adopting the term “library users,” which brings me to a funny story.

Working at a public library always makes for good stories. Anyway, I work in Youth Services, but one night an adult woman came into the library. She was very polite at first, asking if she could use our phone. Carol, my coworker, told her “I’m sorry, but we don’t allow patrons to use our business lines. There’s a payphone by the entrance.” The woman said “You don’t allow what?!” Carol repeated what she had said, and the woman started yelling, saying she was not a patron; she is a United States citizen who has the right to use a phone. Obviously, she did not know what “patron” meant. Carol tried to explain further, but the woman was not listening to any of it. She really did believe Carol was insulting her.

I suppose that story is unnecessary, but it somewhat shows how our library users may not understand what we say. “Circulation,” “stacks,” “OPAC”… those are just a few that come across my mind. What about with Readers Advisory? A patron, or “library user” may not understand when you ask them about their favorite fiction genres. Some may not even know the difference between fiction and non-fiction (I’ve come across this plenty of times.) This ties into a lot of what I learned not only on the job but in my Reference class. It kills me when I see one of my coworkers give a person a slip of paper with the call number written on it, telling them “You can find it over there.” Does it really take that much more energy to get up and show the person where it is? Or simply telling them “Here’s the call number.” They might not even know what a “call number” is.
As I mentioned earlier, I work in Youth Services, which is on the first floor of the library building. Many people who walk in see us first. Plenty of adults come in and ask questions, and most of us do our best at answering them (even if we need to call back-up from Information Services upstairs.) However, I have one or two coworkers who automatically say “This is Youth Services…Information Services is upstairs” whenever they are asked a question by an adult. We are there for the patrons, to provide them materials and services. It shouldn’t matter what department we work in; we should always try to serve those patrons. At least that’s what I believe.

I don’t know why more librarians don’t take the time to provide good customer service. I don’t care if our patrons aren’t customers in the traditional sense (i.e. buying a product from us). They are still coming to us for help, whether it is to find a book, an answer, or to use a computer. When our patrons decide to go to a bookstore because they get better customer service, or turn to Wikipedia or Google for answers, not only are we no longer of good use to them, but we are letting down our profession.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Late, Lamented Molly Marx

The Late, Lamented Molly Marx by Sally Koslow
Ballantine Books, 2009, 320 pages
ISBN: 0345506200

Molly Marx, the wife of the successful plastic surgeon Barry, dies in a mysterious bicycle accident. She narrates this story from "The Duration," which is part of the afterlife in which a person can watch and listen in on the loved ones they left behind after their death. After Molly dies, she begins to only watch her daughter, Annabel, to make sure she is handling things well and is being taken care of. Slowly, though, Molly begins to watch the mystery of her death unravel by listening in on conversations with Detective Hicks, who has been assigned to solving Molly's... homicide? Suicide? No one quite knows. In "The Duration," people can also hear others' thoughts... while fully equipped with a BS detector. Through this capability, Molly soon finds out that Barry has been cheating on her for quite some time, and her mother-in-law has been very approving of his affair. Molly begins to have flashbacks of her own affair with her co-worker, Luke.

The story, while focusing on the complexity of a failing marriage, also focuses on Molly's relationships with her daughter, sister, and best friend. Molly pays a lot of attention to her sister, Lucy's life and thoughts while she's in "The Duration." This is mostly because Lucy becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Molly.

While I read this for my Women's Lives and Relationships genre pick, it fits into the Mystery genre as well. There are a lot of key players that could be Molly's killer, if, in fact, she was murdered. Did Barry do it so he could start a new life with his lover? Did his lover do it, so she could start a new life with Barry? Did Barry's mom kill Molly? She never really approved of their marriage in the first place, anyway. Did Luke do it? Molly broke things off with him because she couldn't handle the deception anymore. These different mysterious aspects of the story kept me engaged with the story. However, the ending left me wanting something more. I didn't feel satisfied after reading this book. It was a good story, humorous at times, touching, emotional, but the ending just didn't seal the deal.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lab - Graphic Novel Book List

At the library where I work, Hammond Public Library, we have a monthly "Staff Picks" display. I have been noticing more and more graphic novels displayed. I'm not the only staff member who likes to read graphic novels! That means that I'm not the only adult who likes to read them either. I asked our Reader's Advisory Librarian, Mary, if creating a list of graphic novels for adults would be a fruitful endeavor. She said that it would definitely be a great list, since we have so many graphic novels to choose from, and requests for them have been growing.

My coworker was listening to this exchange, and kept asking "Aren't they just like... comic books?" Mary and I explained to her that it's more than the "usual" comic books featuring super heroes and villains, and more than just funny-haha humor. There are several different genres displayed through the medium of graphics, so I kept that in mind while picking books to include in my list.

I used a few different tools to create this list. I skimmed through Graphic Novels: a guide to comic books, manga, and more by Michael Pawuk. This is a guide intended for librarians who are considering expanding their graphic novel collection. It has tons of graphic novels listed by genre. I thought this was a great tool, but since I only wanted ten books on my list to make it short and sweet, it was hard to find just ten. Luckily, the March 2010 Booklist came out, with a ten page spread all about graphic novels. I also reviewed the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenberg County's website, as they have a great Reader's Advisory section with all sorts of lists and reviews, including graphic novels for adults. I also took a look at the winners of the Eisner Award, which is an award given to quality graphic novels. Mix all this together, with my picking and choosing from different genres, and I got this, my completed book list.

I chose to include the images of the covers of each book, with a short annotation. I did not include the call number, because many of these are catalogued as "TEEN FICTION." Mary said that sometimes adults will not go any further if they see that. They're adults, you know, and won't want to read fiction for teens. However, many of these books are crossovers, and are pertinent to adult lives as well. By not including the call number, I am hoping to intrigue the patron enough with the covers and annotations to where they won't mind reading a "teen fiction."

If for some reason you cannot access my book list, let me know, and I will find another way to display it for you. The finished, printed product will be a tri-fold brochure.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Not what I was expecting..

I conducted my Secret Shopper experiment later than most of you. I will admit I was a little nervous, since many of you had not-so-good experiences. Well, I had the same kind of experience.

I went to a library a couple towns over from me. It is the central branch of a countywide library system that has ten other, smaller branches. I wasn’t sure which desk to approach, but the first desk I saw was the Reference Desk. I was politely acknowledged by the staff member (librarian or not, I did not know). I asked her if she could help me find a book to read. Maybe it was the way I phrased my question, but she responded with, “What’s the title?” I told her I didn’t know yet, and that I was asking for a recommendation. She then asked me if I had a library card. Since this library is under a reciprocal agreement with my library, I do. However, I wondered why she asked me this. Having a library card should not matter if a patron is just browsing for good titles, or if a patron wishes to read a book while in the library. Anyway, she asked what I liked to read. I told her that I like a little bit of everything, but I wanted something with romance in it. Nothing Harlequin Romance-ish, just a good story with a good romantic feel to it. She handed me a printed booklist of Romance Novels, suggested the library’s website section called “The Reader’s Place,” and made sure I was aware of the library’s subscription to NoveList.

Her suggestions were of RA tools, not actual books. The tools, though, are pretty good. I went to the website, and I took a look at “The Reader’s Place.” It is an extensive, well-organized portion of their website dedicated to the different fiction genres and subgenres. However, I left without a book. The staff member never left her desk. She never actually provided me with actual Reader’s Advisory. I left with a piece of paper telling me what Romance Novels I should read, and knowledge of a website that I may just use when I advise reader’s about what to read next.

I gained a little something, but not what I was hoping for.

I love libraries, do you?

I’m without a car for a few days :( so I thought it would be a fantastic time to catch up on my blogs. This is definitely better than unpacking from my move last week.

Since it is National Library Week, I thought I’d write about library advocacy and promotion. What does this mean to you? Do you think “the word” about libraries is getting out? I think so... to an extent.

In the past few years, I’ve noticed more and more people realizing the importance of libraries and what we offer. A friend of a friend just recently said how excited she was that she was able to rent movies for free from the library. My mom has started going to the library again for books because money is tight. A patron came in the other day and said he can no longer afford internet service at home, so he uses the library’s internet service. I’m very happy to see that more people are realizing what we offer, but should we be a “last resort” when money is tight? In my opinion, these people should have known all along that these services are here for them. Why didn’t they? Is there not enough promotion of libraries?

Over the past few years I’ve also noticed a bit more discussion of libraries and the danger that we’re in. The save-your-library attitude may not have to be so strong if we had a similar attitude all along. I’m kind of rambling here, I know. I guess what I’m saying is the appreciation of libraries should be continuous, whether money is tight or not, whether libraries are facing severe budget cuts or not. As future librarians, I think we have a big chance to change the way the public looks at libraries.

All I know is that I love my library, and have loved it since I was a kid. Everyone else should, too.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Laughter is the best medicine

I attended a rather interesting program at a public library a few towns over from me. The program was “Laughter Yoga.” I have heard about using laughing and breathing techniques for relieving stress, but I never actually did it. I learned that a doctor from India, Dr. Madan Kataria, developed Laughter Yoga as a wellbeing workout.

There were six of us in the program, plus the presenter. The presenter talked briefly about the premise of Laughter Yoga. Then, we got right to it. We began with a few laughter chants (“Ha Ha Ha, Hee Hee Hee, Ho Ho Ho”). Surprisingly, those simple chants turned into contagious laughter. Once we all settled down, we did more chants, more laughter, and so on. We were encouraged to make silly faces or movements to further our laughter. I laugh just thinking about my experience in this program. I did some more research on Laughter Yoga, and Dr. Kataria states that it is entirely possible to achieve the benefits from laughter just as much as when you are alone or in a group. So, I’m sitting here laughing. My dog is looking at me like I just got out of the loony bin, but it feels good. School, work, boyfriend problems, packing and moving are all stressful things in my life right now, but I’m laughing. All of my stress is on the back burner, even if it is just for a moment.

I highly suggest everyone take some time out during his or her days and laugh. You might feel like a weirdo at first, but it is very refreshing.

I think programs like these, which deviate from book groups, crafts, and other programs usually offered at a public library, are important for all patrons. Different programs offer a new and informative outlook for patrons. Librarians can also create booklists or pathfinders that relate to what is taught in a program, and reach out to their patrons. Reel them in with a fun program, and keep them coming back to the library for more information.

Here is Dr. Kataria's website about Laughter Yoga, and below is a video of Dr. Kataria explaining the premise of Laughter Yoga.