Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Library Card as Token of Contract

In a good "feedback" letter in the March 1 Library Journal, Heather Holly-Hall writes about why most libraries ask for an ID when you apply for a card:

A library card is . . . a physical manifestation of the contract that exists
between the public library and the cardholder. When I sign up for a library
card, I understand that I am responsible for any materials checked out on that
card. I must return those items on time and in good condition to uphold my end of
the bargain.

Unfortunately, this sometimes means that our patrons must
pay overdue fines [or replacement fees]. . . . It is because of this potential
for financial liability that I [as a library staffer] must take care to ensure
to the best of my ability [the identity of] the person standing in front of me.
. . .

Physical manifestation of the contract! I love that.

I also may love Beeline TV -- for the vintage cartoons, if nothing else. Not finding a good "about us" statement makes me nervous, and I had trouble making the Al Jazeera link work, so that's two drawbacks. Such a resource -- and there seem to be others -- makes me wonder why our library system is looking at a cheesey paid resource for digital video for our patrons.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Trip to Capital City Library

Three local, independent booksellers teamed up to bring SF author China Mieville to Capital City last night. I had heard some good buzz about his new book UN LUN DUN and read somewhere an interview where he said that the reaction that people have to a phrase like "the fridge men are coming" is very telling. Did you picture delivery men or rectangular monsters with doors on their stomachs? He's in the latter group, and I think I am, too, often.

He read for about twenty minutes, then took questions, handling equally gracefully a kid's question about how he thinks up all those names, and an adult's question about writing for young people vs. for adults. Some names, he said, he took from people he's met, and sometimes he just plays with words and sounds. "No swearing" and less "baroque" (not simpler!) language, and more punning, are some techniques he used to make Un Lun Dun a book for YAs.

The talk was at Main RPL, where they seem to have the same problem my branch does with noisy teens killing time until their ride gets there. They need badly to weed non-fiction, which is not a problem in our system. Sure, they should keep period books on Richmond and Virgina, but 1980s books on great weekend trips and hiking the Old Dominion (two copies of each!) are DATED not Historically Important. Plus, there are other institutions charged with collecting Virginia's history. I want my city library to have current works that will help me become a stepmom or take a honeymoon in western Virginia.

Capital City weather: 60s, cloudy

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Professional Reading

Most of the blogs I read are fun. I might argue that reading others' stories about sticky situations makes me think about similar situations that could arise here and prepares me to handle them. I can certainly say that Tales from the Liberry, Miss Information and the like provide that "we're not alone in this" feeling that's so nice. (No one else's patrons bring their library cards to the library!)

This morning as I clicked around, I found blyberg.net. His items are morse learned than light, and he uses phrases like "the semantic library." A recent entry sums up business advice that libraries out to consider before wildly asserting that they will, say, compete with NetFlix:

"... some of the advice given by a Business Week article about the Eastman Kodak company:

* Watch for treacherous shifts
* Get your best people behind the program
* Give your new initiatives room to breathe
* Make painful breaks with the past
* Don’t confuse what your company does with how it does it."

Something to file away for a future when I lead change, not struggle to understand it all.

Capital City weather: mild -- getting into the 50s I think

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Dutch Gap Conservation Area List for GBBC

double-crested cormorant 30
great blue heron 4
canada goose 20
wood duck 98
mallard 12
gadwall 13
american wigeon 2
northern shoveler 14
blue-winged teal 2
ring-necked duck 33
buffle head 1
turkey vulture 2
american coot 15
killdeer 41
ring-billed gull 6
belted kingfisher 1
red-bellied woodpecker 1
northern flicker 1
pileated woodpecker 2
american crow 7
carolina chickadee 2
carolina wren 1
ruby-crowned kinglet 1
northern mockingbird 2
european starling 2
yellow-rumped warbler 2
northern cardinal 4
song sparrow 3
dark-eyed junco 6
red-winged blackbird 2

We got at out the car at about 8:20. It was cold, but clear, and not yet too windy. Perhaps because of the early hour, counting ducks on the first big pond wasn't as hard as I thought. I'd seen on a birding listserv that someone else had a good list of water birds to turn in, so I didn't feel pressed to be perfect. I just started at one end, named the first species I saw and counted until I got to a point out-of-range for my binoculars. I got an approximate number, of course, but I was less troubled by individuals swimming and flying in and out of view than I expected. The wood ducks, which the other fellow numbered at 178, mostly stood around at the back edge of the pond. He may well have used a scope to pick them out of the woods.

After the pond, we opted for the Lagoon Trail today, which always means fewer woodpeckers than the River Trail. We probably see the same number of songbirds in each area. The cormorants didn't swoop at us this time; they were diving in the lagoon. There were gulls there, too, that I didn't even pretend to identify.

The killdeer were the biggest surprise, especially since Sibley asserts that they don't flock (surely anything over a dozen makes a flock?). But they are unmistakable. We saw them on the mudflats (that have been water-covered every other time we've been there) adjacent to the old river channel. Phiance gets credit for counting them. I did identify a handful of ring-billed gulls, there.

The cypress knees path always holds a surprise. This time, I'd just begun the trail when I stopped short at the sight of black wings spread out in the trees. After a few fleeting thoughts of bizarre totems and a painting (is it a Roshemburg?) at the Virginia Museum with a wing stuck in it, I arrived at "cormorants" as an answer. "No they're not," P. said, "they're vultures." Sure enough, one vulture drying its wings in the morning sun and wind (the wind began back by the killdeer and hasn't let up since), and another keeping it company.

We swung around the small lake that looks like a triangle on the map, and headed back to the car, picking up the kingfisher, kinglet, and some song sparrows. There surely were more sparrows, I just couldn't be sure of them. Perhaps the wind kept down the number of individual songbird, though the number of species seems about average.

Reading: Blue Highways, Willam Least Heat-Moon (it's due tomorrow!)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Great Backyard Bird Count is this weekend! We're one of the red dots on that map! We've counted waxwings in the backyard and songbirds in the woods by the James. Tomorrow: on to Henricus?

Friday, February 16, 2007


Some readers may recall that while I was in grad school, "notes from I-95" was part of the title of this blog. As it happens, I do take 95 to work, but I am on it for maybe 8 minutes: not enough time for little things observed to stew into a story. Even on that short stretch, I still see a vehicle or two with a DVD player, and I note plenty of roadside trash -- two of my old, favorite topics.

Not unlike trash in appearance, snow litters the sides of the highway right now. As predicted the snow that fell on the "northeast" began falling as snow somewhere north of here (Ashland? Fredericksburg?) and Capital City got rain. It did turn cold after our winter showers, lingering in the teens for a couple of nights in a row and maybe hitting 40 during the day. In the sun. You know how when you don't knock the snow off your car roof it can stick up there for a long time, only to slosh off at the slightest curve (or a quick stop)? The effect is much more impressive when the ice and snow fly off and 18-wheeler (or even an SUV: one stuck in south-bound rush hour yesterday had a hood full) onto the side of the road. And in the shady places, these fallen sheets of snow are lingering, like bizarre flat rocks or rounded partial packs of copier paper. The most snow cover we'll see this year, it seems.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


cover story for the February 7th issue is on the problems of aging suburbia.

Many post 1950 houses were built for speed, not longevity. Run-down and inexpensive homes attract a high number of people who don't give a damn, and what used to be thought of as "urban blight" sets in, in neighborhoods with 1/4 acre lots and curving roads and cul-de-sacs that make routine police patrolling more challenging.

Meanwhile, the cost of fairly sturdy, often attractive city homes goes up and up. Style cites a recent Brookings Institution study of 100 metropolitan areas. Of Richmond, one of the areas studied, a co-author of the study (Elizabeth Kneebone) noted "'it's the only metropolitan area in the study where the poverty trends in the city and the counties moved in opposite directions.'" The number of poor people in Richmond went down; the number living in poverty in the counties went up.

The rest of the article considers the service needs of poor people and the readiness of local governments to ensure that the health, safety, and education needs of all area residents are met.

Also in Style, an editorial about Second Life. I mentioned to a co-worker that I was already sick of hearing about SL, and she didn't know about it. The back page piece gives a pretty good idea of what it's all about, yet in a way, it is what I am tired of hearing or reading: someone explaining this Cool New Thing to me, the Clueless, and exclaiming that it will change (or that it has changed) The World We Live In.

Capital City weather: the big snow storm making an east coast appearance this evening is scheduled to be rain, here.

Monday, February 12, 2007

New at the Feeder

brown creeper
house finch

Capital City weather: overcast, getting into the upper 40s

Friday, February 09, 2007

Google Books

The New Yorker may not be the first thing you think of when you think about keeping up with professional reading. But think again: nice long book reviews give me a good idea of what the book is about (not that a work reassessing the impact of Robert Moses on New York is really a good collection fit for my branch anyway); brief book blurbs serve as a good reminder of literary fiction about to be released; and finally its occasional pieces on technology are quite approachable (if longer than something from, say Library Journal or Wired).

In his piece in the February 5th issue of the NYer, Jeffrey Toobin takes a look at Google Books, the project infamous for scanning library books. Copyright law includes protection for libraries buying print books to loan to many people. Libraries pay hefty subscriptions for electronic resources that many people can use at once. Fair use permits excerpting, quoting, etc., but many argue that scanning entire books for free posting on the internet violates copyright law. Librarians like to protect intellectual property; we respect copyright law.

Librarians also like for people to have easy access to information. Yet online catalogs are not as intuitive as they should be. So while Toobin notes that "the most volumes in any catalogue is thirty-two million, the number in WorldCat," you have to remember that to find what you want in WorldCat, you need an accurate title or a well-constructed subject search. To find what you want in Google Books, you can just try a sting of words: it's why people like Google. They want to look for "cookbooks" not "cookery." Users want to use a natural language search.

There's a possibility that Google Books could be a book selling tool: that publishers and authors could still get paid for works that people find with the search engine as they click elsewhere to purchase. In this way, Google can exploit the Long Tail. Toobin quotes book agent Laurence Kirshbaum: "'It makes perfect sense to use the specificity of a search engine as a tool for selling books.'" Because, as Google director of content partnerships Jim Gerber said, "'when there are a hundred and seventy-five thousand new books each year, you can't marked each one of those books in a mass market.'" It may be that writers win an audience this way, that intellectual property is not threatened.

Probably what is threatened is librarian-as-gatekeeper and old-fashioned circulation statistics. Gatekeepers aren't cool anyway: don't just make the information or item appear: teach the use so she can try herself, next time. But if a student can get all of Moby-Dick from Google books (pertinent quotations, correct citations), there's no need to check one out, and the library board measuring achivemement by those stats is going to be disappointed.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Valentine's Day

Some links to get you geared up for Valentine's Day:

"This Day in History" from the Library of Congress.

This Valentine Exhibition from the American Antiquarian Society features MHC grad Esther Howland.

NEW! Victorian comic Valentines.

For the past couple of weeks, notmartha has posted great DIY St. Val. links.

And from Steph S., a gift idea of library tattoos (Mongrel has/has had them, too, if you are reading from Capital City) for your sweetie.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

New Favorite Library Blog: The Well Dressed Librarian.
More Yard Birds

This morning:
american goldfinch
cedar waxwings
mourning doves
various sparrows. . .

Capital City weather: 33 degrees

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Ha. I was begining to compose an elegant response (er, rambling memoir about books used) to Spunky Primate's question about field guides, when I said to myself, What the heck is all that comotion out there? Oh, I see! The fishpond's little circulating pump keeps enough water liquid to appeal to:

cedar waxwings

They're all flitting and chortling and shooing each other out of the way. The yellow on the waxwings' tails is awesome in the bright sunshine, as they fly from the pond to the rose-of-sharon bush or power lines. It's hard to count them, though, because of peering around porch rails. If I go to the window over the pond, I'll scare them all, and the kitchen door screen is not much good for seeing through.

The mourning doves are hunched in the sun on my window ledge; the juncos are eating spilled seed on the ground. Some songsparrows and a pair of cardinals will eat at the feeder, but that's about it.
Birding at Dutch Gap on Saturday

wood duck
black duck
american wigeon
northern shoveler
ring-necked duck
canada goose
great blue heron
lesser scaup
turkey vulture
yellow-bellied sapsucker
red-bellied woodpecker
hairy woodpecker
pileated woodpecker
eastern phoebe *
blue jay
carolina chickadee
brown creeper
carolina wren
ruby-crowned kinglet
northern cardinal
song sparrow
white-throated sparrow

We went in the late morning, so the temperature was inching up to 40 or so, but it was pretty windy. Gloves helped, but it's so hard to turn field guide pages with them on! The bright winter sun shines behind birders IDing ducks on the pond in the morning; the male wood ducks looked especially handsome.

*At first I wrote "out of season," but Cornell says they're year-round here, which is why one consults several sources.

On the Musak at Ukrop's: a Squeeze Singles tune. Bother, I can't remember which one and I am not going out to my car to find the CD.
Capital City weather: 18 degrees
At the Byrd: Eragon

Friday, February 02, 2007


American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang's Printz-winning graphic novel. Fun and charming.