Libraries and fan-fiction

June 8, 2009 at 4:46 pm (1)

This is really just the beginning of a discussion.

What I know/suspect is that there are legal issues that could bog down any proposed program in this area in a mire so deep that it would never see the light of day.  However, I am fully open to the idea that many people follow that old adage “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission,” and so a program may simply arise, purely out of ignorance of the larger legal logisitics.

Also, people are writing large quantities of fan-fiction already, and it needs to be examined by an impartial third party for its historic, literary, and cultural merit – fan-fiction as a movement is as important to the history of literature and culture as the works that inspire it, simply because it exists and because it is massive.  That’s before any discussion of the merit of the content of any individual work.  As far as the merit of content goes, its not like libraries are critics who decide what should be read – our collections contain masses of books that I would never read because I think they’re garbage, but I’m not going to stop other people from reading them, and I’d be plenty ticked off if a library stopped collecting something the people like to read simply because the selectors don’t think it worthy.

Thoughts on history – A lot of legitimate fiction is ‘fan fiction’ in that fans of a work or genre write new works, and the inspiration is clear in the pages.  The Wheel Of Time draws deep from the well of The Lord Of The Rings and also I suspect, from Dune.  Rowling was hardly the first author to imagine a boy wizard going off to wizard school and fighting evil wizards.

I love the books on how to draw famous characters – how to draw Spiderman, how to draw Garfield, how to draw the Simpsons.  Here are books that encourage fans to mimic and recreate and make fan versions of their stories – and probably discourage them from letting those drawings and stories ever see the light of day, because the images are copyrighted and trademarked, etc.

Comics is a whole different area of fan fiction – i imagine, and i’d like to hear from comics artists, that most comics artists today started out drawing comics full of their favorite characters from their favorite comics.  Then they moved on to crafting stories inspired by their favorite stuff, and eventually came to “original” stories down the road a stretch.  The evolution might have taken one day, or ten years.

Lets not forget parody.

More than that, think about Star Wars and Star Trek – these have full-on publishing models dependant on fan fiction – dozens of books are published under these banners every year, written by different authors.  Did they write the books first and try to get them published afterwards?  If they wrote them first, would they be considered fan-fiction, and therefore in the grey area of the law, until the publisher and rights owner decided that it could be added to the canon?

An article that got me started thinking about this whole thing was written by Cory Doctorow about two years ago:

Also.  I was thinking about the espresso book machines, and the incredible possibility inherent in them. granted, the intent of this machine is to print on demand works from a subscribed database, but really its just a big, fancy printer, and it takes documents and prints them and binds them in a few minutes.  The intent is to provide a print version of a book the library does not have available in its collection, or of a book that is too rare or fragile to lend.  But what if it could print documents direct from the Net?  Fan-fic writers type up their stories and design a cool cover, convert it all to pdf, upload it to scribd or someplace, send it to the espresso book machine, and all of a sudden they’ve got a vanity press version of their book.  There have been vanity presses around for time immemorial, but the espresso book machine takes the cost way down, and reduces the minimum print run to 1.  Or even zero.  Because it draws from a digital database.  So a person could print out their own fan-fic, sure, and tell their friends where they can get their own copy.

This is all highly speculative.  I’ll let it go at that for now.  But trust me, it’s something I’m thinking about.


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June 8, 2009 at 3:56 pm (1) ()

Someday, maybe I can be a skybrarian. Although a quick Google of the word “skybrary” reveals that its the name is already taken for SKYbrary, a reference portal for aviation safety knowledge. And I can’t call it a skibrary, because that might imply its a single point of reference for skiing. Since all it is is an idea at this point, I’ll stick with “sky-brary” and no offense meant to aviation safety.

Alright – I figured I’d just start this here as a place to put it. I’ve heard the term “skybrary” tossed around a couple times, and I’m sure plenty of librarians have considered the possibilities and difficulties of libraries in airports. I figured I’d just add my thoughts to the mix.

Basic impetus for a library presence in airports: People travel a lot. On airplanes. People sometimes read on airplanes – books, magazines, whatever. People who travel a lot are involved in business. Business people sometimes need up-to-date information, articles, reports, etc. Everyone who travels has the potential to need information at some point in their journey.

Problems with putting libraries in airports: Staffing – how much staffing, how many hours, at what level? Logistics – materials go out, but will they come back? Who’s in charge?

Ideas for solving problems:

You know those vending machines in mcdonalds with 1 dollar movie rentals? In China there’s a version of that type of setup that libraries use – the machines hold several hundred books that patrons can browse through and check out with their card. It also has the ability to hold books for people. People can return books to the machine also. Staff need only maintain the machine, restock it daily, put out holds, pick up returns. Article:

Put one of these in the 50 most trafficked airports in the US, ( ) staffed by local libraries, but funded through a national organization that organizes the whole thing. Books checked out from one machine could be turned in at another, or potentially at any public library, where they would be treated like an Interlibrary loan, and returned to the parent org. Holds would be more difficult to deal with, but at the start, holds would be fulfilled by the local library, treated like an ILL. Turned in anywhere, returned like an ILL, with the overarching national org as the authority if something comes back damaged, etc.

Next level: Start adding espresso book machines – two machines, side by side, would take up about as much space as a newspaper stand. Placed in a relatively centered location, it could be accessible to people on their way to their concourse, or to people with connecting flights. What’s the espresso book machine? Right – it’s a print on demand machine that prints and binds a book in several minutes. The books come from a database. Article:

Places like the Internet Archive have tons of scanned public domain books. has tons of plain text books, as well as audio recordings of books. Databases hold tons of articles, book chapters, etc. Materials under a certain page count would be printed from a normal computer printer. Over a page number, and they’re treated like books, and printed and bound for easier transport.

The Skybrary Card – people sign up for it just like a library card. Get access to services from all skybraries. Lost/damaged materials a billed in the normal way. Too many lost/damaged, and the card is blocked until they’re paid for, etc.

Upgrades to the system – databases, free wifi, timed internet access terminal separate from the catalog selection terminal. e-book downloads, audiobook downloads, music and movie downloads, or even add the 1 dollar movie rental machine to the mix, but free with their skybrary card.

Could some services be available to all for a fee, and free for skybrary card holders?

How would the skybrary be funded? Through a non-profit organization, or as a federal program?

That’s all I’ve got on this so far.

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kids and their crazy social sites

December 28, 2008 at 9:27 pm (1) (, , )

Over a year ago I wrote a post about Zwinky, and people still read it and leave comments on it – most of them either demanding some kind of cheat code, or offering up some kind of cheat code which others later comment back saying they don’t work. *sigh*

But I’ve been thinking about this latest development in online social networking and online worlds, and monetizing the Internet, and i think I see a pattern emerging, which will form a bubble, which will eventually pop, leaving many people devastated and a few companies stronger and wealthier for it.

So, Webkinz is one that I’m familiar with – it seems to be the MySpace of kids gaming networks, in that it really took off, and integrated realworld product placement in an effective way, etc. Basically, kids get stuffed animals called Webkinz. They can be any shape and type – think beanie babies. With each purchase, you get a code, which you take to the Webkinz site. You set up an account there, put in your codes, and get access to games, areas of the world, and new and interesting objects, which you use to populate your house. More than stuffed animals, there are clothes for your pets, charms, and cards. Each one has a code, and each code unlocks more stuff. So kids have a big incentive to want to buy these things that are already things that they might have wanted just for the cuteness factor, but which now have added value.

There are other familiar real-world orgs that are following suit, hoping to sell more product to our impressionable youth – Build-a-bear and Beanie Babies, Barbie and Disney all have online worlds where kids can play games and spend their valuable attention.

I keep waiting for a really valid adult model of the same type of system to pop up – us grownups spend our time on facebook and stuff like that, but there’s no tie-in to real world stuff.

So I was thinking that this might be a way for the recording industry to adapt a bit – make a virtual world populated by their bands and artists. You buy cds, dvds, gear, cards, stickers, and assorted schwag, which have unique unlock codes in them. Fans plug in the codes to get free song downloads, more schwag, chances at tickets, autographed garbage, drawings for back stage passes, and all that jazz. Plus, they could play games and populate their virtual pad with virtual furniture and do all the things that adults already do on Webkinz, signed in as children. Oh, and whatever up and coming executive of musical mumbo jumbo who takes this idea and runs with it, I’ll take that first million in cash, thanks.

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Google Magazine Search

December 10, 2008 at 5:48 pm (1) ()

An interesting development, and one you’ve probably already heard about if you’re following libraryland blogs. In short – Google is adding magazine issues to their book search. This could prove helpful to libraries in several ways, because it gives access to magazines that might not be covered, or that might go back farther into the past than our subscription databases. For example, ProQuest has articles back to the early 1990’s, but not before. So that’s one cool thing. However, the service has a very long way to go – better search functions, for one thing, including a real publication title search and a title index. I did a title search for “Weird Tales” to see if they’d started scanning that gem of American history. I got some magazines, but none of them appeared to be weird tales. So I searched for “weird” in the title. This returned a bunch of issues of Popular Mechanics and Popular Science. See, somewhere on the cover of those magazine issues, an article with the word ‘weird’ had appeared. The same thing happened with a magazine title search for ‘tales.’ So it’s not terribly dynamic, flexible, or robust, yet. And for everyone that thinks it will somehow subvert the use of libraries – first of all, it’ll be a while before Google has enough magazines scanned to compete, and second of all, it’s not access to information that people lack, it’s the ability to locate specific information in the cloud. So even with all the information in the world on Google (their stated goal) librarians will still spend a lot of time helping people dig through it to get at what they want.

I wrote a note to Google with advice about magazine searching, and also suggested they scan the Readers Guide To Periodical Literature and acquire JSTOR, to make life easier for everyone.

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September 8, 2008 at 10:51 pm (1)

Well, I’m going to be doing a bit more work with podcasting over the next few months to prepare for a presentation.  So, I’ll be posting a few of my ongoing thoughts and notes here to keep organized.  All you 2.0ers out there feel free to comment and let me know of tools, sites, and tricks that work for you.   First off, I like to start things by watching the Common Craft video, if there is one.  In the case of Podcasting, here we are:

But that’s just to get the concept down.  Nuts and bolts, and the whole mechanics of actually doing it is another matter.  I’m a pretty practical person, and I know that when it comes to using new technology, simpler is better for most people.  So, the more equipment, software, and training needed to initiate a new technology, the less likely people will be to adopt it into their daily lives.  Therefore, I look for ways to do podcasting as simply as possible.

The easiest podcast ever:

Get a account.  Upload sound files to it.  Instruct people to subscribe to the URL in their RSS reader of choice.  No microphone?  Call the phone number for the drop, and leave a voice message.  The voice message is recorded at the drop, and will go to people’s RSS reader just like any other file.  Want to write people a note or send them a document, along with sound files?  That’s doable, too.  I like, but there are some limitations, like you can’t make it look all fancy nice and unique to your personality or library.  Also, if you want to record something other than your own voice, like a speech, an interview, or an event, you still need other equipment.

More control means not quite as easy, but maybe worth the effort:


Podbean is like a blog, with good audio capabilities.  You can write a post and add a sound file to it, or just post the sound file.  A little player appears in the post, which visitors can click on to hear the audio.  People can subscribe to it in their RSS readers, and keep track that way if they want to.


BlogTalkRadio is a bit different, in that you attempt to operate on a schedule, so that people can call you and become part of the podcast.  Instead of recording a short speech or interview, you go live, talking into a microphone that is connected to your computer.  Your voice is heard by your listeners, who have tuned in at that time to hear you speak.  They can call you, and you can answer the phone and talk with them, and have that part of the interview be added to the program in realtime.  This type of podcast is more like a radio show, and requires a lot more organization and scheduling – you have to let people know when you will be broadcasting, you have to start on time, you have to be prepared with 15-30 minutes of material, and (if you choose) you have to answer the phone and talk with callers live about your topic. Your shows are recorded and archived at the site, so people can hear them later if they missed the show.

So, that’s the output end of things.  In the Information Transfer Cycle, that’s the dissemination part.  Probably before we get to that point, we should talk about Creation and Production – actually making the sound files.  How does that work?

Making a sound file:

Well, aside from the super easy ‘dial and record your voice’ most other methods require that you have a microphone that you can connect to your computer, and some type of sound recording software on your computer.  Microphones aren’t terribly expensive – 20 dollars can get you a basic mic.  Get one that plugs into a USB port – that way you know your computer can work with it.

As far as software goes, check to see if your computer has something on it already – if you have Windows XP or Vista, there’s a good chance that you’ve got something on there somewhere, though it might not be the greatest sound recorder ever.  But as far as starting out practical, cheap, and simple, it might be just right for some early experiments.


Audacity is an open source recorder, and it takes a little bit of practice to figure it out, but all in all it’s a pretty user-friendly program.  When it comes to saving your newly made sound file, you run into a little difficulty – if you simply save the file, you’re actually saving the project, meaning that you can’t listen to the file in some other audio player – you can just bring it back when you open Audacity later.  To actually make the sound file available for use, you have to Export it.  When you export it, you have the choice of several file types.  The best file type to choose will by mp3, unless you know for sure that another file type will work well with what you’ll be doing.  mp3’s are files that can go to a lot of different places, and most people’s computers can listen to them.  Plus, if you want to upload your file to Podbean, mp3 works best there too.

LAME encoder

Of course, when you try to export your file from Audacity as a mp3 file, you are stopped from doing so because… Audacity can’t make mp3’s!  There is light at the end of the tunnel.  Audacity will instruct you to download the LAME encoder.  The LAME encoder is more open source software that changes sound files into mp3 files.  When you download the LAME encoder, make sure you know where it is on your computer – on the desktop, or in the program files, or wherever.  Once you have LAME, you can export files to mp3 format, and then upload those files to places like podbean.

So, in brief, here’s 2 different step-by-step plans for your first podcast: model:

  • Go to
  • Set up a URL that you like.
  • Make yourself the administrator of the URL, and make it so that only you can upload to it, but that others can still see/hear the files that are there.
  • Dial the phone number for the URL.  It’s New York area code, so there might be a long distance charge.
  • Record your message and hang up.
  • After a few minutes reload the page you made, and there will be a new sound file there.  If people are subscribed to the URL, when you record your message it will show up in the RSS reader.

Podbean model:

  • Check for recording software on your computer.  If you need to, download Audacity and the LAME encoder.
  • Acquire a microphone with a USB connector.
  • Open Audacity and turn on your microphone, hit the record button and start recording your voice.  When you’re done, hit stop.
  • Highlight parts of your recording that you want to cut, and click on the little ‘scissors’ icon to cut it out.  Record more if you need to.  Cut more if you need to.
  • Export the finished product as a mp3 file via the LAME encoder.  This should happen automatically as part of exporting the file, provided you know where LAME is on your computer.
  • Get a podbean account.
  • Publish a podcast.
  • Upload your sound file.
  • Add the sound file to the podcast.
  • Publish the uploaded sound file as an episode of your podcast.

Now, of course this whole thing is starting to feel backwards, because now i want to talk about what podcasts are good for, and what kinds of projects librarians might be interested in pursuing with podcasts.  Really, that’s the first thing you should do who looking at a project – what do you want to do, and what is the best way to do it?

Podcasts seem to work best when recreating a radio environment.  Interviews are especially appropriate for podcasts, where video isn’t really needed and a written transcript doesn’t deliver the feeling or emotion of the speakers.  Program announcements, lists of community events, daily diversions, soundbites of speeches with commentary.  Something libraries and librarians might be able to have a lot of fun with might be reading a little of a book, play, or poem – something  to entice readers to find new and interesting things at the library.

For more reading on the subject, here are some articles and other things you can find online:

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twitter issues and potential solutions

July 3, 2008 at 12:31 am (1)

I use twitter off and on – i post there more than i read, which i feel is kind of lame because i’m hoping other people will do what i can’t get myself to do, which is pay attention to the minute details of other people’s lives and follow random links that they micro out there for the world to love.  On the other hand, lots of people seem to like both reading and writing at twitter.  It’s really popular.  It’s popularity has been problematic because they can’t seem to keep things together when something big goes down, like a tech conference or some such thing, and there are suddenly 10,000 more tweets a second clogging the ol’ series of tubes.  Now, to my mind it seems like they should just get bigger tubes, but apparently that isn’t a good idea because if it were someone important would have thought of it and implemented it by now.  So, I figured I would try out a different microblogging tool, and see if it was better for everyone involved.  It’ll be better for me if i can cross post from all my other internet presences, like i can with Twitter.  Anyway, it’s called and you can follow me there if you so desire: I don’t know what I’ll be saying, but you can bet it’ll be short.

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Review of the first One Minute Critic event

June 29, 2008 at 11:23 pm (One Minute Critic)

Well, it’s been almost two weeks since the big One Minute Critic event, an evening program that i had been working on for almost an entire year. Not constantly, mind you, but the initial “hey Sam, you should put together a program about books for next summer,” was handed to me last summer, and I started brainstorming for ideas that would be interesting, fun, different, and appealing (hopefully) to adults in that tough library demographic of 25-45 years old or so – people who are out of college and working full time and either don’t usually come to the library or only come in for kids programs.

Early ideas involved bringing in a variety of speakers, like book reviewers from the area newspapers, bookstore people, local writers group people, etc. to talk about their favorite summer reads. But I had to ask myself – can I get these speakers to come and speak for free? And, even if i got them to come, who would attend the program – would it appeal to that tough demographic?

This got me thinking about the social activities of that age group. At the same time, i was working with the library on a Library 2.0 initiative to get our staff up to speed with Web 2.0 through one of the 23 Things programs. So what I thought was, there’s all this focus on social media – read/write culture, etc. A lot of that read/write culture is being propagated by adults in the age range I’m appealing to. So it started to make sense to design a program that worked in the same way that social media works – the audience is also the speaker. So, instead of bringing in experts to tell us what they think we should read, bring in people from the community to share what they actually read – whether it’s a best seller, an obscure gem, non-fiction, deep philosphical stuff, poetry, whatever. Because it’s not hard to find a list of critics picks, or best sellers, or top ten, or stuff like that.

Next came the part where I try to get people interested in taking part in the program. So, I started making these little short videos of myself talking about books. The first few videos i did in my living room, holding the book in front of me, with most of my head cut off by the frame, so i couldn’t be identified. I did a few serious reviews this way, but mostly goofy stuff, a kind of “what not to do,” of book reviews, like treating the book like a puppet and having it talk about what’s inside, or reading aloud out of “The Anatomy Of Melancholy,” or composing poetry about Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer books. It did what i needed it to do, however, in that it gave me some short video to experiment with online. I learned how to do some simple editing with the software on my computer, how to upload things to various locations on the internet. Because I had nine or ten of these things, i could experiment with various widgets and things to see how they worked in a variety of settings. What i ended up settling on was and youtube. YouTube is huge, and if you get lucky there, your video can get hundreds or thousands of views, which might lead a few interested viewers to the rest of the work. lets you cross-post your video to a wide variety of other sites, like a blog, twitter,, and more. So, by uploading the video twice, i put it in quite a few different online locations. I talked to some people at the library about what i was working on, and got the go ahead to keep up the work on it – but they wanted me to show my face and be a little more serious – like do real reviews and things like that. So, off I went to pursue that.

I realized at this point that in order to follow the rules of basic blogging (post regularly, often enough that people don’t forget about you but not so often that people don’t bother with half your posts), I would need help. I can read a book a week, when driven to do so by extraordinary circumstances, and I’ve read a few hundred memorable books, but if i wanted to get a better cross section of the wide variety of material available, I would have to get other people to do videos. That was harder than i thought it would be – what with the wide array and popularity of reality shows, i figured it would be a cinch to get people to go on camera for one minute. Slowly i found some people who didn’t mind and who would agree to do more than one.

So, I set a goal for 100 videos by May 2008, about six months after posting the first ‘real’ video in the series. I posted the 100th video in early June, so I just missed my mark, but i still feel like i had a successful first six months.

Some of the numbers as of today:

On YouTube, the OMC videos have had over 10,000 views. Most of the videos, after a month or so online, average about 30 views. About ten of the videos have had more than 200 views, and one video (One Minute Murakami) has had over 1,700 views.

On, the OMC videos have had almost 6,000 views. The view rates and averages are similar to YouTube, but (obviously) lower by about 40% all around. Interestingly enough, One Minute Murakami is not one of the top videos here. Instead, the top video is One Minute Murder Mysteries, with almost 800 views.

As far as comments and responses go, most comments seem to be for titles targeting younger audiences, like Generation Dead, Gregor The Overlander, and Lord Loss. A few authors seem to have their outspoken supporters and detractors among adults – Murakami and P.G. Wodehouse, for example.

Now back to the program overall – the videos were moving along, and quickly became an entity separate from the program. If the evening program failed to materialize, the videos were still an interesting and by all accounts successful project. Planning for the OMC continued right along, and I used a variety of methods to market it, including the old fashioned flyer/poster method, bookmarks to be handed out with every checkout, and packets of bookmarks and flyers sent to many different local book groups. I also spoke with a lot of my friends and fellow staff about coming to the event. My big ‘bribe’ for the event was that everyone who came and reviewed a book would get a free book to take home with them. These books were all different, and reflected a cross section of quality fiction and non-fiction literature. Titles ranged from classic to modern, represented authors from all over the world, male and female authors, etc.

I was able, with the funds I was given, to purchase 55 books as giveaways. At the event 25 books were given away, which leaves 30 leftovers – thus making the next installment of the program a lot cheaper.

Up until about two weeks before the program, I had no intention of videoing people at the event. That had never been part of the planning, and even though it turned out to be a great idea, it just wasn’t something i was thinking about. Strange, I know. A series of small misunderstandings (understandable, given the popularity and visibility of the videos) led some staff to believe that the program was specifically to gather more videos from the public. So, to accommodate that expectation, we gave people the option of being filmed or not – that way, people who are uncomfortable being filmed did not have to be filmed, and those who were expecting to be filmed would have their expectation fulfilled.

The night of the program:

We set up our library meeting hall in a slightly different way than for other programs, placing the equivalent of a stage in one corner of the hall, with a backdrop normally used for taking portrait photos as the background. For a set, we used a comfy chair, a bookcase full of books, and a coat rack with a coat on it. I like to think it made people feel a little more comfortable to be able to sit down and have some familiar and cozy elements around them while they talked.

As people entered, we greeted them and asked them to sign up for a time slot to review their book. Some people came only to watch, others planned on only watching and then decided at the last minute to review something. Consequently, not everyone had a book in hand to show while they did their review, but everyone was very supportive of each other, and it didn’t seem to be an issue. Some people came in and asked if they could go first, because they had to go, so we let them in near the top of the list – i don’t think anyone was put out by being moved a slot or two down the list to let someone else ahead. In the future, if we had a full roster, then we wouldn’t be able to do that.

Eventually, we had around 25 people signed up to talk, and just shy of 40 people total in the room. I started things off by introducing myself and my colleagues, the program and its general purpose – to introduce people in the community to books that other people in the community are reading – and then I did a review of a book I had read, to give people an idea of about how long the review should be. Then i sat with my camera and called people up as they were listed. On the list we had an option for people to decide if they wanted to be filmed or not, and over half the people said that filming was OK, so we were able to collect 14 videos of the event.

Most people were able to complete their review in around two minutes. One minute seemed like a tough mark for most folks to adhere to – at one minute, they were still just getting started. Because we weren’t crunched for time, I wasn’t a stickler about it, except in cases where it looked like the person was rambling a little to much, which only happened a couple times that night.

After the final review was done, everyone was invited to take their free book, which was wrapped in paper to make it a mystery – and open it up to see what they got. Some people were really excited and happy with what they got, and others seemed a little mystified, miffed, or disappointed. One gentleman, who had received a collection of Alice Munro short stories, traded with an older woman who had received a copy of William Gibson’s “Neuromancer.”

There were two younger reviewers at the program, a middle-school aged boy and a 9 year old girl. All the book gifts were targeted to adult readers, so they each got a book that they might not have been ready for. I’m not sure what the boy got, but the girl ended up with a copy of “The Inimitable Jeeves,” by P.G. Wodehouse. Probably not a bad find for a kid, compared to something like “Bastard Out Of Carolina,” or “Killer Inside Me.”

In the future:

Possibly a small selection of books for younger readers – but I still want the focus to be on adults, so I think those will just be on hand, and not advertised.

Probably limit number of speakers to 45 max for the 2 hour program. The first 15 minutes of the program were spent signing people up, snacking, and chatting. Reviews took up 2-3 minutes each all in all, and the opening of the books afterward was a lot of fun and gave people a chance to talk and unwind. If we had a full roster of 45, that would be 90 minutes of the 2 hour program, at best. Plus, there were a lot of people who just came to watch, so 45 speakers would probably mean 60-75 attendees, maybe.

Maybe have a sign or something to wave at people who are going over 2 minutes, to let them know they need to wrap it up – What do you think, “Wrap it up,” or “10 Seconds” or something else?

Definitely keep the food – the fruit platter was a big hit, but the cheese platter not so much. Decaf coffee was a big hit, but soda pop not so much. I’m thinking fruit platter, cookies, coffee, water.

Other future developments:

Aside from doing a public invite program, the OMC will also move into some forms of outreach – in August we’ll be riding with the bookmobile to a variety of assisted living facilities. Through July, the bookmobile staff will be encouraging people there to think of a book they’d want to share with others. I’ll go in August with the camera and film interested parties, and in September the outreach staff will return with the videos on a disk to show them on a laptop.

Also, we’re looking at attending various teen book clubs and the young adult advisory board meetings, and having a time at the beginning of the meeting where teens can talk for a minute about the discussion book, or about a book of their choice.

A lot of people ask me if anyone has wanted to do a book that someone else has already done – this was a concern for the evening event, as well. But so far, out of almost 130 reviews, no one has even mentioned wanting to do a book that someone else has done. Most people choose books that they consider gems, things they want other people to know about that they might not hear about anywhere else.

If you have any questions about the event, or the videos, or the program in general, don’t hesitate to comment! Thanks.

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June 26, 2008 at 4:56 pm (1)

Wordle was a fun kind of thing that I found when someone sent me a link to their Wordle.  Thanks, whoever you are!  In Wordle, you either paste in a block of text, or insert your username, and Wordle will generate a text cloud which, like all text clouds, has the most used words large and the least used words smaller.  What’s neat about Wordle is that they make it aesthetically pleasing, like graphic design.  Check out the Wordle for my department’s account:

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Onion is awesome

June 11, 2008 at 2:02 am (1)

In a radio podcast, the newspaper The Onion perfectly described many patrons feelings about their ability to destroy computers because they don’t know what they’re doing. I teach a lot of beginning computer classes, and this seems to be a common fear – perhaps spurred on by early media perceptions of computers, where by pressing a single button, a user inadvertently wipes out all the information on their computer, or something like that.

Elderly Woman Destroys Internet

It’s a funny little podcast, but it’s a good reminder that many people just starting out with computers and the Internet have very real fears of destroying something, erasing everything, ‘breaking’ the computer, etc.  I do what I can to alleviate this fear, talking about the way computers have changed over the years to have back-ups and those pop-ups that warn you before you close an unsaved document, etc.

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Manga Discussion Groups

May 11, 2008 at 9:55 pm (1)

So, I had someone ask me the other day what some good manga would be for them to start out with, so they could get a sense of what manga is and start a manga discussion group.

Here are some thoughts on that topic – first, good manga for the noob.

1.  Hikaru No Go – A nice series, with simple and straightforward layouts.  It hasn’t been flipped, so you have to learn how to read it in reverse.  This is the case with most manga nowadays, so you’ll have to develop that skill regardless – that’s where the simple layout comes in handy.  The characters and storyline are easy to access, and the sports-theme, with our hero facing a succession of contests against friend and foe, is easy to invest in.

2.  Azumanga Daioh! – Often, this one is more like a comic strip than a manga, but there are stories, themes, and situations that carry through.  Very funny reading, following the day-to-day lives of several high school girls and their teacher, a woman barely mature enough to distinguish herself from her students.   Each of the students is unique in their own way, and readers will likely latch on to one or two that they identify with most.  You still have to train yourself to read in reverse, but it’s not as hard here – everything is laid out like a comic strip, with four frames stacked on top of each other.  Start at the top and read down, then move to the next column, etc.

3.  Barefoot Gen – This one is a real departure from what you might think of as “manga.”  Barefoot Gen was written by a survivor of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, and centers around the life of a six-year old boy.  The series begins with the story of Gen’s life leading up to and including the day the bomb is dropped.  There are four volumes in the series, continuing the story through the aftermath and the life that followed for Gen.  The English translated volumes have been flipped, meaning you read them in our Western orientation.  This makes them easier to read in one way, but the books are tough to read in another way – the story is devastating.

Once you’ve introduced yourself to both the style and the spectrum of manga, it’s time to look at some of the popular series, and also to examine ‘shojo’ and ‘shonen’ style manga.

1.  Bleach, by Tite Kubo – A popular series that will run to over 30 volumes, Bleach has been a big hit in both Japan and the US.  The anime version of the manga is shown on “adult swim” on the cartoon network, which has helped drive interest in the manga amongst teens.  Bleach is a ‘shonen’ manga, meaning that it’s target audience is boys, but the series will appeal to both boys and girls, as well as adults.  The story follows the character of Ichigo Kurosaki, a 15 year old boy who has always been able to see ghosts.  He has a fateful encounter with a “soul reaper” – a person/entity that protects the world from bad ghosts, called “Hollows” – that imbues him with the powers of a Soul Reaper.  Now he must use these powers to help ghosts, destroy hollows, and protect people, and at the same time try to maintain his normal high-school life.

2.  Naruto, by Masashi Kishimoto – Another shonen manga experiencing tremendous popularity, Naruto follows the exploits of a hyperactive ninja-in-training, Naruto.  Naruto has the spirit of the nine-tailed-fox inside of him, giving him extra powers.  The manga series is very popular, as is the corresponding anime series.  Naruto is very popular with boys and girls alike.

3.  Kare Kano, by Masami Tsuda – This is a very popular romance series, and a ‘shojo’ manga.  An alternate title for Kare Kano is “His and Her Circumstances.”  The series generally follows the lives of two high school students, Yukino (a girl) and Soichiro (a boy).  Yukino is pretty, smart, and popular, and wants to keep it that way.  Soichiro is handsome, smart and popular, and seems to pull it off with less effort than Yukino.  This begins a great rivalry between the two that blooms into romance over time.  Every once in a while, one of the manga volumes will have an extra story in it dealing with the trials and tribulations of other students at the school as they find love in unlikely places.

4.  Vampire Knight, by Matsuri Hino.  This is a shojo manga, rated for Older Teens.  In Vampire Knight, there is a school, “The Cross Academy,” that has a day class and a night class.  The day class is all human, and the night class is all vampires.  The school was founded to help vampires and humans live in peace with each other.  Most humans don’t know that vampires exist, so there’s a lot of sneaking around and trying to figure out what’s going on, and because the vampires are all so beautiful, all the day class students want to know more about the night class students.  The main character is Yuki, the adopted daughter of the headmaster of Cross Academy.  She knows the secret of the night class, and is in love with one of the vampires there.  The series is full of danger and romance and so forth.

That’s about all I’ll say on this topic right now.  I’ll probably weigh in on manga topics again in the future, though.

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