Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On the Noodle Road -- a review

I am on a mailing list for advanced reader's copies of new books. Most of what I receive is fiction, but every once in a while another title slips in. This one really caught my interest:

    On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome, with Love and Pasta by Jen Lin-Liu
    (publication date is 7/23....publisher page is here)

The author is a Chinese-American, raised in California and who now owns a cooking school in Beijing. While at a dinner in Italy, she began to wonder about the "age-old question" on the origin of noodles. Did Marco Polo really introduce the noodle from China to Italy?

This work is a little cultural anthropology, a little cooking skills, a little travel guide, a little meditation on the role of women and feminism. It is a delightful, eclectic mix of all of the above. At the time of her trip, she had recently married, and that is part of the rumination on the role of women in society and feminism.

Her trip was by surface transportation (for the most part - there was one hiatus where she flew back to Beijing, and then flew back to where she left off). Some of the trip is by train and car, but she also did some hiking, and some of the penultimate legs were by boat (ferry). Her trip took her across China, through several of the "-stans" into Iran and Turkey, and then to Greece and Italy.

I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of this book. Especially at home, food is the province of women. In some of the countries she visited the role of women is strictly circumscribed. There are many societal implications. Several of the people she cooked with and learned from are women who do it because it is expected, not because they enjoy it. (I find that sad, but then again, I like to cook.) I gained insight that I did not expect about several of the areas she visited.

I did not cook any of the recipes, and even though I usually give away ARCs when I get them, I will keep this one for a bit to try some of the recipes.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What is my job? A question for Board members

I don't currently serve on a Board for any organizations, nor do I work for one. However, for much of adult life (certainly since 1985), I was intimately involved in Boards. I was both an employee for a Board, and in many cases served on Boards of other organizations either where I lived or in my professional life.

Actually, it was during that board service that I met Eli Mina. Eli is the current professional Parliamentarian employed by the the American Library Association. But, he is more than just a Parliamentarian. He helps groups to work effectively together, and is an insightful observer of organizational dynamics.

I subscribe to his e-newsletter, and would highly recommend it. There are also some great resources on his web site:

In the most recent newsletter he has this:
A corporate board member asked me this question: "Isn't my primary duty to the shareholders, to ensure their investments are protected and their dividends are maximized?" A similar question was raised by an elected municipal official: "Isn't my duty to vote as per the wishes of the citizens who elected me?" A third example is a Member of Parliament who, ahead of a vote on a contentious issue, said: "I have to go back to my riding [i.e. district] and find out how my constituents want me to vote."
I looked around on his web site and did not find this article (there is other great stuff...). The second paragraph is key. It is the concept that so many in governance on the larger scale seem to forget:
The above examples reflect a widespread misconception that the primary duty of elected officials is to please their constituents. In fact, the primary duty of elected officials is not to one constituency or another, but to the organization as a whole.
As a Board member, or representative, your job while acting on the Board is to consider the good of the organization as a whole. I just think what Congress could accomplish if they were to act this way. Now, this still let's people disagree about the idea, but would mean that the discourse would be different.

Here are a couple of the concluding paragraphs:
And what about that Member of Parliament? His/her duty is to the country as a whole and not exclusively to constituents back home. Basing one's vote solely on their preference would politicize the process (i.e.: develop perceptions that political leaders will do anything to appease voters in order to boost their re-election prospects). It may ultimately be unfair to the country as a whole.
The above comments mean that elected decision makers who perform their roles correctly (i.e.: placing the organization's interests ahead of narrow interests) can become targets of harsh criticisms by their constituents: "You did not keep your campaign promises" or "You capitulated and did not stand up for us" or "You can be sure we'll campaign against you at the next election." Being punished and chastised for doing your job correctly is not fun. This can make it feel very lonely in elected positions.

How can elected officials do their jobs correctly while coping with abuse and personal attacks? The typical advice is to develop a "thick skin" and not be swayed by criticism that may arise from widespread misconceptions about the roles of elected officials.
Can this problem be addressed differently? Yes, possibly by educating constituents, electors and shareholders, and by making them aware of the complexity of the work of elected officials and the fact that their duty to the organization as a whole must come first.
In an optimal setting, constituents will adjust their expectations and abandon the culture of personal entitlement. Given the prominence of the culture of entitlement, eradicating it would require sustained educational efforts by elected leaders. Such efforts would be a good investment that will strengthen the foundation and the backbone of your organization or community.
While ALA Council and the EB get bashed in some circles, I have seen much more of a move towards the healthier behavior of considering what is good for the organization rather than what helps the individual.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

ALA Elections - Part 4 aka Why no "parties" in Council

Ok, so sue me. I couldn't resist a subtitle on this post, and especially to talk about "parties."

You would think that ALA Council, with 190 or so members would have some sort of organizing mechanism or groups like other legislative bodies. But, there are no "parties" in Council.

Not that it hasn't been tried.

Back in the 1980s or 1990s there were a group of folks who campaigned together. They were all folks who agreed on some basic principles, and agreed to work together if they were elected. I.m not sure what happened. I think some were elected and some not. My memory is fuzzy enough to not even remember who was in that group. I vaguely recall that it included folks like Jim Rettig (former ALA President), the late ... from Georgia, and others who are very thoughtful reasonable people.

There is a group trying to do it again this year, they are theALA Think Tank Caucus for Council (a Facebook account will be needed to follow this link, I think). The members of this group are:
  • Erica Findley
  • Mel Gooch
  • John Jackson
  • Lynda Kellam
  • Kate Kosturski
  • Chris Kyauk
  • Coral Sheldon-Hess
  • Manya Shorr
  • Patrick Sweeney
They are a part of the ALA Think Tank which describes itself a:
facebook's largest active group of info-sharing for librarians. we #makeithappen and #partyhard TOGETHER.

DISCLAIMER: WHILE we love the American Library Association, we are IN NO WAY affiliated with them. ALA, in our case, stands for "Awesome Librarians Associated" because everyone here is awesome. You do NOT need to be an American Library Association member to be here. You don't even need to be American!"
So why are there no parties (well, organized blocks) in ALA Council? I think part of it is the way in which Council is constructed. Like Nebraska, the legislative body is unicameral, but unlike Nebraska, members are chosen by a variety of routes. First, there are 100 Councilors-at-Large. That is the largest single block, and approximately 1/3 are elected each year to serve a 3-year term.

Then there are Chapter Councilors. There are 54 Chapters covering the states and territories. After they pay dues (as a chapter), they are permitted to send a Councilor to represent that chapter. Those Chapters that are multi-state (New England Library Association, Mountain Plains Library Association, etc.) do not have a councilor since each of their constituent territories already does. That is the second largest group.

Then there are the Division and the Round Table Councilors. Each ALA Division has a Councilor (12) and the five largest Round Tables also each have a Councilor with the remaining Round Tables choosing a joint councilor (the "Small Round Table Councilor"). There are a total of 18.

All ALA Executive Board members are members of Council as is the Executive Director (who typically does not vote). The Executive Board consists of 8 members chosen by Council from its membership plus the Association-wide elected officers (4). The latter are the President-Elect, President, Past President, and Treasurer.

In my service on Council, and I started as a Chapter Councilor, the Chapter Councilors and the Division Councilors meet as groups to discuss issues which affect them in their roles. I believe that the Round Table Councilors meet along with the Round Table Coordinating Committee to talk about their issues.

My experience has been that as a Chapter Councilor, I was representing a group which was as diverse as ALA is as a whole. I reported back to the Chapter, at Chapter Board meetings, and received informal input regularly. Also as an Executive Board member, I received informal input from both Councilors and from ALA members.

In my service and memory, there has never been an issue facing ALA and ALA Council around which there would be polarizing and competing views to the extent that a "party" would form. There are often alliances. When I first joined Council there were a group of folks who generally agreed and sat together. (They sat in the back row or rows, in the middle.) It was more noticeable then because if it were not clear from a voice vote, we voted by standing rather than raising a hand. That group fairly uniformly voted as a block on some issues, the one I remember is that they would never vote in favor of closing debate.

That is my perspective. For what it is worth.

Monday, March 04, 2013

ALA Elections - Part 3

I was handed an unexpected gift this morning. I was actually going to make ALA Elections - Part 3 a different topic (now it will be Part 4), and will do a list of endorsements for Council once I review the final list of candidates. Here is some info about the process.

  • Elections open on Tuesday, March 19.  Between March 19 and March 21 all eligible members will be sent an email with voting instructions.  
  • This year ALA is offering members the option to access the ballot by using their individual credentials and URL that will be contained in the email, or by going to the ALA website and using their ALA member ID.  
  • When you have finished voting you will be able to download an “I Voted in the ALA Election” web badge that can then be affixed to your Facebook page, Twitter, email, or what have you!
  • The election closes on Friday, April 26 with the results being announced on Friday, May 3.
There is an election guide on the ALA web site. That page includes links to all the Association-wide candidate pages, plus a link to a document with the bios of Council candidates.

Among other gems on that page is a list of the 2014 Nominating Committee (on which you can serve only once in your life). If you want to run for something, they are the folks to ask!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Just for fun...

I found this from one of my Facebook Friends. I got three results, which do you think I really am? I kind of like the middle one, but I know some folks who would argue for the first or last one...after "unassigned" offers a lot of possibilities!!

Michael Golrick's Dewey Decimal Section:
803 Dictionaries & encyclopedias
Michael Golrick = 39381527528931 = 393+815+275+289+31 = 1803

800 Literature

Literature, criticism, analysis of classic writing and mythology.

What it says about you:
You're a global, worldly person who wants to make a big impact with your actions. You have a lot to tell people and you're good at making unique observations about everyday experiences. You can notice and remember details that other people think aren't important.
Find your Dewey Decimal Section at

Michael Golrick's Dewey Decimal Section:
877 Latin humor & satire
Michael Golrick's birthday: 9/24/1953 = 924+1953 = 2877

800 Literature

Literature, criticism, analysis of classic writing and mythology.

What it says about you:
You're a global, worldly person who wants to make a big impact with your actions. You have a lot to tell people and you're good at making unique observations about everyday experiences. You can notice and remember details that other people think aren't important.
Find your Dewey Decimal Section at

Michael Golrick's Dewey Decimal Section:
013 [Unassigned]

000 Computer Science, Information & General Works

Encyclopedias, magazines, journals and books with quotations.

What it says about you:
You are very informative and up to date. You're working on living in the here and now, not the past. You go through a lot of changes. When you make a decision you can be very sure of yourself, maybe even stubborn, but your friends appreciate your honesty and resolve.
Find your Dewey Decimal Section at

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

ALA Elections - Part 2 - President

Courtney for ALA PresidentI am enthusiastically supporting Courtney Young for ALA President in this election. I am excited about her candidacy. If elected she would become ALA's youngest President. Yet at the same time, she has built an incredible track record in the Association already.

Let me pause for a moment to talk about my history of public endorsements. For my first seven years of service on ALA Council I was the Connecticut Chapter Library Association. In that role, I worked to connect the state association with the national one, and worked to help the chapter members to become more active in their national association. In that role, I did not think it was appropriate to campaign for any candidate for ALA office (well, except when I was running). I then served three years on the ALA Executive Board. As one of those chosen from ALA Council to help govern the Association, it was not appropriate for me to choose one candidate over the other since I would be working with the winner, no matter who it was. Since then, I have actively worked for some ALA candidates.

As in many past years, there are two very good candidates for ALA President. My endorsement of Courtney does not diminish my respect (personal and professional) for her opponent.

Here are some of the reasons why I am supporting Courtney:
  1. Courtney has vision and an understanding of where the Association needs to go.
  2. Courtney has had leadership experience, particularly through the New Members Round Table which is an important source of engaging new librarians.
  3. She has a great deal of background in the financial issues which will continue to be important in setting ALA's direction. (She has served on many of the same committees on which I have served.)
  4. She is very articulate. As ALA President you never know what external event will shape your ALA President, and I am sure that Courtney will handle whatever comes her way with complete confidence and aplomb.

Here is a link to the debate held at ALA Midwinter. (Fair warning that it automatically plays...) Courtney is the first of the two ALA Presidential candidates to speak.

Finally, for Facebook fans (yes, I am powerless over Facebook, and my life there has become unmanageable), Courtney's campaign has a Facebook page. That is in addition to the traditional web page.

I have one final observation about ALA Presidential candidates. Usually the candidates are chosen to give some choice. Rarely is it male versus female (although that does happen). More often it is an ALA insider versus an outsider. In this case the insider is Courtney. I am supporting her because of this. An ALA President realistically has only a little more than 2 years to accomplish any specific goals. The winner of the election has the two months (or so) between the results being announced and Conference to get up and running. There is one year as President-Elect to set the stage, and one year as President to get something done. I have seen enough to realize that once the spotlight is off (as immediate Past President), not much new is accomplished on any specific goals. Some ALA leaders have effectively worked with their predecessors and successors to accomplish more than would be expected. And Courtney is one of those who will be able to do this because she understands both how important it is, and how to actually do it. With a short window, the insider has a much better chance of achieving results.

Please vote for Courtney.

Friday, February 08, 2013

ALA's Core Values

Rick Anderson has a column/post on the Library Journal web site about the American Library Association's statement of Core Values. I thought about making a comment, but, especially after some comments from Facebook  friends (well, those who commented are all IRL [In Real Life] friends), I decided to write a longer piece.

What happened as part of the process for adopting Core Values for the association happened before the days of blogging. Therefore, I can't link back to contemporaneous posts about the whole process. The officially adopted statement of Core Values appears in the ALA Policy Manual as Section 40.1. Here is the full text:
Core Values of Librarianship
The foundation of modern librarianship rests on an essential set of core values, which define, inform, and guide all professional practice. These values reflect the history and ongoing development of the profession and have been advanced, expanded, and refined by numerous policy statements of the American Library Association. Among these are:
  • Access
  • Confidentiality/Privacy
  • Democracy
  • Diversity
  • Education and Lifelong Learning
  • Intellectual Freedom
  • Preservation
  • The Public Good
  • Professionalism
  • Service
  • Social Responsibility
It would be difficult, if not impossible, to express our values more eloquently than ALA already has in the Freedom to Read statement, the Library Bill of Rights, the ALA Mission Statement, Libraries: an American Value and other documents. These policies have been carefully thought out, articulated, debated, and approved by the ALA Council. They are interpreted, revised, or expanded when necessary. Over time, the values embodied in these statements have been embraced by the majority of librarians as the foundations of their practice. Adopted, 2004. ( See “Policy Reference File”: Core Values Task Force II Report: 2003-04, CD #7.2 - PDF, 5 pgs)
Note the link at the end. That will take you to the final report of the task force with excerpts from then current ALA policy and documents on each of the core values. (Note that there are 11 -- not 10 like the commandments nor 12 like for the Scout Law or recovery programs.)

In his analysis, Rick posits some interesting characterizations and groupings of the values. In the first Core Values Task Force, there had been discussion about making the core values statement short enough to fit on a poker chip. Rick groups Access, Intellectual Freedom, and Service as part of a group he calls "Fundamental Principals."

Let me digress for a moment to share some history (well, from my perspective) and thoughts on the process.

I first joined ALA Council, as the Connecticut Chapter Councilor with the adjournment of the Conference in 1996 (in New York). In the fall of that year, the state library in Hawaii, which runs the public library system for the state/islands, planned to outsource all collection development for the public libraries. There was much discussion. I (with much trepidation and hubris) drafted a resolution condemning the action, and asking ALA to take a stand. How naive I was! As part of the discussion of my resolution, I made the statement that this kind of action violated the core values of the profession. I was quickly corrected. In my memory it was Bernie Margolis who came to a microphone and pointedly noted that ALA did not have core values. After my motion was disposed of -- my recollection is hazy, and I think it was referred to ALCTS (the ALA Division dealing with technical services issues), a motion was made to appoint a task force to work on core values for the Association.

Minutes and actions of Council are not on the ALA web site that far back, so I have to rely on memory. I found one item which reminded me that Don Sager chaired the Task Force (CVTF) and I know that its membership included my friends Karen Schneider, GraceAnne deCandido, and Janet Swan Hill.

When  CVTF reported to ALA Council, there was much debate. While the debate and conversation was spirited and focused on content, it was not a shining hour for Council. The Task Force recommended wording was hashed and re-hashed, had several amendments made, and even a motion to amend by substitution (from Bernie Margolis). The final report was "received" by Council, and the President was asked to appoint a new task force with part of its charge to solicit input on values statements from across the Association.

Former ALA President Pat Schumann chaired the new task force (CVRF2). I was offered and accepted the opportunity to serve on the task force. From my perspective, one of the other propitious choices was to ask Maureen Sullivan to serve. Among her other skills, Maureen has had experience in managing discussions in large groups. I do remember working with her, and ALA Council to have a facilitated discussion at the conference before submitting the final report.

Let me also observe that the final report was the result of a wide-ranging consultative process. Many folks involved in the Association were "invested" in the statement as developed. As the result, the statement has a little something that bothers everyone. (But what bothers me, may not bother you, as well as the reverse.) It is kind of like a library collection -- with something to represent every viewpoint.

One of the recurring conversations I have had over the years with my friend Janet Swan Hill has been about her statement (which she reiterated recently on my Facebook wall) "I thought we only had one overarching core value ......equity of access. and the first core values committee thought it had a brief set that could fit on a poker chip. I wish we could have stuck to the briefer more pithy fundamentals."

Which goes to my observation that getting anything adopted requires proceeding through the political process. In this case, many were involved and had sometimes competing opinions and values. Part of why some of the values are there have to do with that process. There is no way that a statement of values for the profession or association would have been passed without including some of the "subordinate principles" as identified by Rick. Among those are diversity, privacy, and preservation. I would make the argument that all three of those can be included under the concept of ACCESS

As to the "Questionable" ones, I can absolutely guarantee that no statement would pass ALA Council without some reference to Social Responsibility. Now, you can argue about the rightness or wrongness of that value, but the political process of ALA means that social responsibility will be included. Council includes a large number of members (and leaders - past and present) for whom social responsibility is critical. Education, democracy, and the public good are important to other parts of the association, and were therefore included as a part of the whole political process.

Would I support a re-examination of the statement? Absolutely. My hope would be that such an examination would result in a more succinct statement. We are getting to be close to a decade from its original adoption. That is not a bad time for such a reconsideration. Perhaps we can meet the goal of fitting the statement on a poker chip (i.e., a short, pithy, memorable statement). It would be my argument that the statement could be as simple as:
Equity of Access
Something to ponder.

Friday, January 25, 2013

ALA Elections - Part 1

ALA Midwinter is almost upon us. I will not be attending it this year. However, it is where a lot of the campaigning for ALA and Division offices takes place.

I'll be blogging about the candidates for ALA President in a separate post, as I have in past years. I'll also take a look at the Council candidates list.

I belong to several divisions, and recently received the issue of the newsletter listing the candidates. And, what a great crop of candidates! In this case the Division is the newest named division: United for Libraries.

First a bit of history. United for Libraries was formed by the merger of the ALA division ALTA -- Association for Library Trustees and Advocates which then became ALTAFF, Association for Library Trustees Advocates, Friends, and Foundations -- with the independent FOLUSA -- Friends of Libraries USA. Over the years I have belonged to one, the other, and occasionally both. The merger makes sense, but that is not the topic.

While on the ALA Executive Board, one of my liaison assignments was to what was then ALTA. I always enjoyed working with the wonderful folks who were working so hard to advocate for libraries.

This year, in addition to candidates for President and Secretary/Treasurer, UFL is electing a division councilor and board members. For the board positions, they are putting up only the number of candidates to fill the vacancies.

For what ALA Council does, see my (now old) post on ALA governance.

The candidates for Vice-President/President-Elect are both people I know and respect. It will be a hard choice for me. One candidate is Christine Hage who I know from activity on PUBLIB, ALA Council, and PLA. While it is not mentioned in the UFL write-up, my recollection is that she has served as PLA (Public Library Association) President. That experience would stand her in good stead in this position.The other candidate is someone whose skill I respect greatly. Peter Pearson is the President (i.e., "head honcho" or chief paid employee) for the Friends of the St. Paul (MN) Public Library. He has led the organization to be one of the premier public library support organizations. He was my inspiration when I was in Bridgeport (CT) and worked to help re-start the Friends group there. When I got to Eau Claire, I found that he had been very helpful in setting up and guiding that organization over the years.

The Division Councilor candidates include the incumbent, Susan Schmidt and Nann Blaine Hilyard. I can't claim to know Susan well, but I know that she has done a good job (based on electronic postings) in reporting to UFL. Nann is someone I know very well. She is very active on PUBLIB. That is where I first "met" her, and I think that we actually first met in person at a social event organized on that list. Since then, we both served on ALA Council together. We also served on the ALA Executive Board together.

For me, this will be a tough decision.

The other parts in this series, will include a discussion of ALA Council candidates as well as one posting about the ALA President campaign.

Monday, January 21, 2013

MBWA - Yes it works

Today is a day off, and I was indulging one of my newer guilty pleasures: reality television.

On our last trip to Panama, we found the UK version of Undercover Boss on the cable/dish TV one rainy afternoon in the mountains. The premise of the show is that the owner/CEO of a larger corporation goes "undercover" for a week (5 days) doing some of the front-line jobs in order to learn more about how the company is currently providing service. One of the shows from the UK that I remember was about a fish and chips chain, and some of the stores were in English resort towns. After the week undercover duty, the CEO does a reveal to the individual managers and then to all the folks at the facility.

Today, I was watching TLC and the US version of the show. Unfortunately, I could not find a list of the shows and a link to the one which impressed me.

That show was about Hooters, the restaurant chain. There is an article about the show, but it does not talk about what impressed me.

First of all, Hooters makes its own sauces. That plant was "the baby" of the founder of the company. When he died, one of his sons was suddenly, and unexpectedly, thrust into being in charge of the company. The CEO (son of the founder) made a visit to the plant as part of his undercover experience. What he heard from the employees there, including the plant manager who was a family friend, was that morale was not good. This was partly the result of the fact that folks from the management were no longer visiting the plant. The plant workers felt appreciated by the attention, limited as it was, by having the CEO publicly visit the plant and walk the floor.

This "management by wandering around" (MBWA) is what caught my attention. MBWA is a management practice that can be very important, not just in larger organizations. As a manager, even of a single location organization, I found that it was important to get out of the office and see what was really happening. I also found out things that I might not have heard otherwise. When I was in someone's regular workspace they would sometime tell me things that they thought were not important enough to bring up to my office. It also helped me to visually be able to understand the physical spaces or items involved.

When I was in my MBA program, we did talk about this as one part of a style of management. But many librarians do not get any formal management training, so perhaps this tip will help a new manager somewhere.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Read and Listened to 2012

Here is the list for the whole year of 2012. Note that since I moved to Baton Rouge in  July, and therefore stopped commuting such a long distance, I have taken out the sidebar for books listened to. While it seems like I should have more time, that does not seem so, for some reason. I also am now on a distribution list from major publisher, and am getting a fair number of ARC's (Advance Readers Copies) of books about to be published. That constitutes most of my hard copy reading.

So, here it goes! As in the past, there are in reverse chronological order (since that is how they appear on the sidebar).

Books 2012
    Naples Declared: A walk around the bay by Benjamin TaylorARC

    City of Women: A Novel by David R. Gillham ARC

    The Yard: A Novel by Alex Grecian ARC

    Grimus: a novel by Salman Rushdie

    A Good American by Alex George ARC

    No One Is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel ARC

    The Republic of Pirates: Being the true and surprising story of the Caribbean pirates and the man who brought them down by Collin Woodard

    Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha

    Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution by Charles Rappleye

    The Wednesday Letters: A Novel by Jason F. Wright

    The Invisible Ones: A Novel by Stef Penney ARC
The Nook 2012
    Fifty Shades Freed E L James

    Fifty Shades Darker E L James

    Fifty Shades of Grey E L James

    Impaired: A Nurse's Story of Addiction and Recovery by Patricia Holloran

    Tantrika : Traveling the Road of Divine Love by Asra Nomani

    Ninety Days: A Memoir of Recovery by Bill Clegg

    Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man: A Memoir by Bill Clegg

    Living Oprah : My One-Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk by Robyn Okrant

    Hunger Games (Trilogy) Suzanne Collins

    The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan
    We actually bought this by mistake, but I decided to read it anyway.

    The 100 Thing challenge : How I Got Rid of Almost Everything, Remade My Life, and Regained My Soul by Dave Bruno

    Riding in the shadows of saints : A Woman's Story of Motorcycling the Mormon Trail by Jana Richman

    I'm off then : Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago by Hape Kerkeling

    The Addict : One Patient, One Doctor, One Year by Michael Stein

    Whip smart : A Memoir by Melissa Febos

    My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir by Noelle Hancock
Recently Listened to
    Walt Disney: The triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler, read by Arthur Morey

    chapter and hearse by Catherine Aird, read by Bruce Montague

    Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, read by Simon Vance

    The Art of Presence by Eckhart Tolle

    Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich, read by C. J. Critts

    Lots of NPR on both WWNO and WRKF
    Neither station covers my whole trip. I also sometimes listen to NPR Now on Sirius XM

    The adventures of Sherlock Holmes [radio dramatization] by Arthur Conan Doyle, a BBC Radio 4 full cast dramatization
    [Vol. 1. A scandal in Bohemia -- The red-headed league -- A case of identity -- The Boscombe Valley mystery]

    The shack by William P. Young, read by Roger Mueller

    Secrets of the Great Investors: Money Managers and Mutual Funds read by Louis Rukeyser
    A patron complained that the title and description did not match the contents. He is right. This should be called "A Brief History of America's Banking System."

Monday, January 07, 2013

ALA's Motto

There has been a discussion lately about the ALA Motto on the Facebook group ALA Think Tank. The discussion of the motto is not new. It took me a bit to finally ask the ALA offices for information on our discussion, since it was long enough ago that it is not easily findable on the ALA web site with the ALA Council documents. The resolution to abandon the motto took place at the ALA Midwinter Meeting of 2004 in San Diego. (It was my first Midwinter on the ALA Executive Board.)

Below is from the transcript of the ALA Council meeting. It is taken from a DOS based system, so some of the spacing may be "funky" even though I tried to strip all the formatting......otherwise here is what Lois Ann Gregory-Wood sent me. [I did correct a couple of misspellings/transcription errors. MAG]

For me, re-reading the debate/comments, it is interesting to see the combinations of folks on the two sides. For many of us, it was an unusual occurrence to be in agreement.


2003-2004 CD#57, Rescinding the ALA Motto (discussion at 04 Midwinter)

Whereas, the motto of the American Library Association, “The best reading, for the largest number, at the least cost,” was originally formulated in 1892, and is no longer adequately reflective of the aims, mission, and activities of the association; now, therefore, be it

Resolved, that the current ALA motto be removed from the ALA Handbook of Organization and from any other print or electronic documents in which it may be used, when those documents are next revised or reprinted.

Moved by Janet Swan Hill, Councilor-at-Large

Seconded by Michael Golrick, Executive Board Member

Here the captioned text from that discussion:

     We will now take up new business, and they are taken in the order in which they were submitted.  So I now refer you to ALA Council Document number 57.  Resolution on rescinding the ALA motto.  And would Janet Swan Hill go to the microphone and read only the resolved clause of document number 57.

     Microphone number 3.

     >> JANET SWAN HILL:  Councilor-at-Large.  Be it resolved that the American Library Association rescind its current motto.  And be it further resolved that the current ALA motto be removed from the ALA handbook of organization and from any other print or electronic documents in which it may be used, when those documents are next revised or reprinted.

     I hasten to say that this is not something that I consider as a passionate burning issue.  I regard it more as housekeeping.  When we were in the midst of discussing core values at some point recently, I was looking through the handbook and lo, on page 10, in our ALA handbook appears a motto that I have never ever ever seen used anywhere.  Not only have I never seen it used anywhere, but the motto, "the best reading for the largest number at the least cost" seems to me to be not only seriously outdated and incomplete, but also paternalistic and condescending.  It's my belief that after we finally finish the core values 2 task force and we come up with a statement of core values, we will be able to see a motto, should we think that one is necessary for the association, will grow out of that effort.

And I would like to have an empty space in which we can put that motto.  And in the meantime.  Not have ALA believe that its primary vision in this century is the best reading for the largest number at the least cost.

     The reason I phrased the last resolved as I did was in order to decrease any financial impact this might possibly have.  I did ask Lois Ann if she could think of anywhere it ever had been used and she could not.  But on the possibility that it does appear somewhere on an ancient pile of stationery or something, that I wouldn't want us to go searching for it, but instead when we need to replenish that stationery or those cards or whatever, that at that point we make the revision to take the motto off.  And this is seconded by Michael Golrick.

     >> PRESIDENT CARLA HAYDEN:  Discussion?  Microphone number 1.

     >> MICHAEL GOLRICK:  Member of the Executive Board.

     And I agree with everything that Janet said.  I do want to point out a couple of historical tidbits of interest that were brought to my attention by ALA's newest honorary member, the esteemed Norman Horrocks, who noted that it was his action at the ALA Council in 1988 that restored its use, because it had disappeared even though it had never been officially undone.  So, I think that in the interest of, as a charter member of the grammar caucus, and in the interest of accuracy, I support everything that Janet said, which is why I was more than happy.

     As she noted, it appears on page 10 of your handbook.  So far that is the only discernible place that we have been able to locate it.  And I ask that you support this, with the idea that yes, when we get done with, and I dread mentioning those two words -- that two word phrase, core values, we will be able to write a motto that will be short, snappy, catchy and really reflect what the association stands for.

Thank you.

     >> PRESIDENT CARLA HAYDEN:  Microphone number 1.

     >> NANN BLAINE HILYARD:  Councilor-at-Large.  I do remember an ALA annual meeting in 1988 when this was brought up and I remember that Marvin Scilken spoke to this eloquently.  I don't know that ALA needs a motto.  We have lots of short Pithy statements for our myriad public relations campaigns.  I referred to one yesterday that you may or may not remember:  What in the world does a librarian do?  It's up to you.  We have a lot of great snappy things in our arsenal and probably we don't need to have an official motto, as nice as this old one might be.

     >> ELAINE HARGER:  Councilor-at-Large.  I also support this resolution.  However, I do think that it's very important and given that, you know, many of us here have a great deal of appreciation for history and for what it tells us, even though this is a very quaint, outdated motto, it still embodies something that is still very important to this association and to every library.  That we provide the best reading to the largest number of people at the least cost.  And I think that that is something that, if we get rid of the motto, you know, that is fine with me.  But I think that quaint and old as it is, it does remind us of something that we do value, that I think is still at the heart of our association.

     So, in one sense I almost would vote against this, but I also understand that, you know, it's an old motto.  We don't really need it.  But we need to remember that it came from people who were working at a time when, you know, maybe providing good reading for the largest number of people at the least cost was a debate that they had.  It was a debate that the association had.  And somebody had to argue for it.

     So, let's just remember that it is part of our core values.

     >> PRESIDENT CARLA HAYDEN:  Microphone number 6.

     >> LORIENE ROY:  Councilor-at-Large.  I speak as probably the only person in the world who uses this motto.

     ( Laughter)

     Which was written by Melville Dewey at the establishment of our association.  And I use it in the context of a fall public libraries class, where the students look at this motto and create mottoes that carry us into the future.  So...


     >> MICHAEL GORMAN:  Councilor-at-Large.  I'm probably the only person who is going to vote against this resolution.

     >> No

     >> No.

     >> MICHAEL GORMAN:  Because I don't mind who needs a motto, but the implied retreat from a commitment to reading and literacy, particularly following on a resolution which I had to hold my nose to vote for, because it contained a vial phrase "21st century literacy" you know, would that we had 19th century literacy.

     ( Laughter)

     I believe that this association should,  A, reinforce its standing commitment to true literacy; and, B, come up with another phrase entirely, not involving the use, the use of the word "Literacy" for competence in using computers.

     >> SUE KAMM:  Councilor-at-Large.  I'd like to quote my favorite author, me.  A number of years ago Pete Wilson, who was then the Governor of California, decided it would be fun to wire every single classroom in the state with Internet access.

     And I said then and will say now, Internet access or any other kind of access does no good unless people can read the screen.  So, I think that reading is -- that we need to keep promoting reading, and I urge the defeat of this resolution.  Thank you.


     >> DANIEL O'CONNOR:  Councilor-at-Large.  I, too, urge the defeat of this resolution.  I don't want to be so presumptive as to speak for Marvin Scilken, but he was an old friend of mine.  And if he were here, I know he would have reminded us that circulation continues to climb across the country in our libraries, that book sales and bookstores are still thriving, and that why would we want to abandon a statement, a motto, that began this association?  There is no reason to take action at this point in time.  There is no reason at all for this resolution to come before us.

     So I urge its defeat.

     ( Applause.)

     >> PRESIDENT CARLA HAYDEN:  Microphone number 3.

     >> ROBERTA STEVENS:  Councilor-at-Large.  I speak in support of rescinding the motto and remind everyone here that we just voted for programmatic priority on 21st century literacy.

     >> CAROLYN CAYWOOD:  IFRT Councilor.  I'm happy to keep the reading, it's the "least cost" that sticks in my craw.  I would like to see our salaries go up.

     >> I never noticed this motto before.  But I love it.

     >> PRESIDENT CARLA HAYDEN:  Identify yourself.

     >> ELLEN SLOTOROFF ZYROFF:  Councilor-at-Large. I never noticed that we had this motto.  I think it's great.  I think it was great then.  I think it's great now.  I think best reading does not necessarily just apply to books, if it's the implication here.  It can be taken as a metaphor for what we do today, including the electronic and all the values and efficiencies that we are looking for.  I think it's great.  It would be terrible to delete it now. 

     >> IMMED. PAST PRES. MAURICE FREEDMAN:  I'm going to speak against it also.  And in response to the fifth priority, I think we can be for literacy, even if it's not 21st century literacy.  And we can be for reading books, even if it's not 21st century literacy.  Or if it is part of 21st century literacy.  And this is the kind of thing Marvin would have really crusaded for, because he liked the Ranganathan thing, for reading the right book.  I can't do it right. Michael Gorman I'm sure will do it better.  But I thank Councilor Gorman for turning the tide on this.  And I urge everybody to stick with something that we did in 18 -- we, Mr. Dewey, famous sexist, anti-Semite, racist, but he did something good for us.  I'd like to keep that part of Mr. Dewey's legacy.  But it's a good one and we should continue it.  Thank you.

     >> WYMA ROGERS:  Oregon Chapter Councilor.  I'm speaking in favor of this.  I'm just fascinated that there is such passionate support for a motto that people have forgotten all about twice.

     ( Laughter)

     That it had to be brought back in 1988,  to be forgotten again.

     ( Laughter)

     Clearly it doesn't do anything for us or our association.  So, I am in favor of rescinding it.

     >> CAROL BARTA:  Kansas Chapter Councilor.  I speak against the rescinding of the motion, for the very fact that the reason that so many of us forgot this existed is because it's embedded in the very marrow of your bones.  Do we not all do these exact things as we work in our libraries, promote reading, Wring that last penny out of our budgets so we can provide the best things for the patrons?  This is the deepest core value of our librarians than I can imagine.  And I think it's what most of us live for, whether we are conscious of it or not.

     ( Applause)

     >> JAMES CASEY:  Councilor-at-Large.  I move to end debate.

     >> PRESIDENT CARLA HAYDEN:  A second?

     >> Second.

     >> PRESIDENT CARLA HAYDEN:  Second over there.  All in favor of ending discussion and debate?  Please raise your hands.

     ( Showing of hands.)

     All opposed?

     (Showing of hands.)

     Continue.  Microphone number 3.

     >> MARIO GONZALEZ:  Councilor-at-Large.  My Board of trustees loves the third part.  My community loves the first part.  And the friends of my library who own our library loves the middle part.  So, I vote against this resolution.  If you do rescind it, then I'll take it for my library.  Thank you.

     >> NANCY BOLT:  I vote to support this motion.  I think we should label the current motto as the Marvin Scilken memorial motto and then rescind this one, with thanks to Marvin for his past comments.

     I think we need to in this day and age consider what we really want our motto and our image to be.  I certainly consider reading at the core of my existence.  However, I'm not sure for my association that is what I want to be the be all and end all of what we are about.

     And I would like us to really think about what a motto might be that says what we are.  Not only what we have been in the past, but also what we are now and what we hope to be in the future.  So I hope we will rescind this and try and come up with a different one.

     >> TIMOTHY GRIMES:  The Library Instruction Round Table Councilor.  I support this resolution.  I think because of the last, getting rid of the last phrase, I don't know about all of you, but it does cost a lot of money to run our library.  We have had to go to the voters before and discuss with them about the cost of purchasing books.  And it isn't a lot -- it isn't a less amount of money.  It's very expensive.  So I would like to rescind this.

     >> KAREN SCHNEIDER:  Councilor-at-Large.  I'm speaking in favor of this motion.  I'd like to suggest that some of our Councilors apparently need a bone marrow transplant.

     I'm a digital library manager, and we don't have any books, we don't have a building.  Last year we had over 33 million accesses for our library.  We serve hundreds of thousands of people every day.  And I -- the motto is old.  It is Stale.  Women couldn't vote when it was written.  I would propose a motto task force, except you know what the punishment for that is, you get to be on it.  But it's time for the motto to go and I think we do need a motto but this isn't it.  Thank you.

     >> MELORA RANNEY NORMAN:  Maine Chapter Councilor.  I'd like to keep the motto, because I think that uncensored Internet access is a big part of the best reading for the largest number at the least cost.

     >> BERNIE MARGOLIS:  Councilor-at-Large.  I oppose the resolution but do want to suggest that if we defeat it, and I hope we do, that we might consider just changing and calling it our historic motto.  So we keep it as part of the record.  We permit people to use it and refer to it as they see fit.  And then we also open the opportunity of a new, more modern motto, should we desire to use that as a promotional opportunity.

     >> KHAFRE ABIF:  Councilor-at-Large.  I would oppose this rescinding of this motto myself.  As a children's librarian, many of us do a lot of work with children that are sitting at computers that can't read.  We need to continue promoting books.

     I got to Columbus metropolitan and I'm a branch manager children's specialist.  I spoke to the staff saying that this library is not going to become Blockbuster, or an Internet place.  It's going to be a place where children can come and read.

     >> WILLIAM PAULLIN:  I'd like to see this retired and make it our founding motto.

     >> DANIEL O'CONNOR:  Councilor-at-Large.  I will work on the bone marrow transplant, I assure you.  But when Karen has these 33 million uses, Councilor Schneider, I'm sure that those people are required to read something in the process of doing whatever it is they do.

     At Rutgers I teach undergraduates courses in information visualization, MLS students and doctoral students.  And whatever it is that we do with the technology, we like it when our students can read.

     I want to address the comments made in regard to the facts that libraries are expensive.  If they were expensive, we would all make a lot more money.  The public libraries in this country consume about 3 percent of their town's budget.  And the academic libraries that used to get 7 percent of their institution's budget are now lucky to get 3 and a half percent of the institution's budget.  These are not expensive enterprises, but they are enterprises that have a tremendous return on their investment.  And that OCLC Rebsite and document that came out in November is a remarkable indication of just how cost effectstive libraries are.

     I urge that you defeat this motion, that we keep this motto, and that we wear it proudly and put it on buttons and wear it in Orlando.  Thank you.

     ( Applause)

     >> S. MICHAEL MALINCONICO:  Councilor-at-Large.  I speak against this resolution.  And I just want to point out that it's just another manifestation of an absurd trend in taking the word "Library" out of library schools, so that we can seem more au courant.  Where will this end?  Are we going to take library out of the ALA, because library derives from libros, meaning book?  I mean, this is just -- the illogical consequences of this are absurd.  So I strongly urge that we defeat this resolution and this absurd discussion.

     >> PRESIDENT CARLA HAYDEN:  Any other discussion?  Number 3?

     >> I get a second chance, now that nobody else has said anything.  Janet Swan Hill, Councilor-at-Large.  What I'm surprised at, frankly, in this discussion, is how few people see this as a terribly condescending motto.  That reflecting a history in which librarians regarded themselves as the social superiors of the poor, whom they were going to satisfy with reading, that's one of the reasons I object to this motto is I see it as seriously paternalistic and reflecting an aim of libraries that we have long since abandoned, and a vision of ourselves that we no longer hold.

     >> PRESIDENT CARLA HAYDEN:  It's time for the vote.  All those in favor of rescinding the ALA motto, please raise your hands.

     ( Showing of hands.)

     All those opposed?

     (Showing of hands.)

     The motion appears to be defeated.  And no one has asked for a -- microphone number 1.

     >> MICHAEL GOLRICK:  Member of the Executive Board.  Madam President, may I ask for a standing vote, please.

     >> PRESIDENT CARLA HAYDEN:  All those in favor of rescinding the ALA motto, please stand.

     ( Standing.)

     >> PRESIDENT CARLA HAYDEN:  Thank you.  All those opposed, please stand.

     ( Standing.)
     52 in favor and 98 opposed.  The motion fails.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Angola Prison

This past fall, I went to the Louisiana State Penitentiary (aka Angola). The bad news is that it is the largest prison in Louisiana, and a high security facility. The good news is that I was only there for the day.

I was there for the 48th Annual Angola Prison Rodeo.They have a web site which features tickets for the spring event.

First of all, getting in....there was a line of cars from US-61 which wound down the 20 or miles or so into what seemed like wilderness in the direction of the River. Then I had to go through the checkpoint. They gave us a list of what we were allowed to bring with us onto the rodeo grounds. Included in the "no" list were cameras as well as even cell phones and knives. There was a checkpoint at the pedestrian gate, and folks who had bags (like purses) had those searched.

I bought the program, and started by looking at the crafts. Part of the "rodeo event" is the arts and crafts market which accompanies it, and surrounds the rodeo arena. The craft sales are one of the ways that inmates can earn money. It is a massive exhibit, and includes many interesting items. (But no photos, no cameras or even cell phones allowed inside -- see above.)

The program has some interesting tidbits. The prison:
  • is one of only three accredited by the American Correctional Association (ACA)
  • is the largest in Louisiana -- 5,149
  • is on 18,000 acres 
  • grows enough fresh produce to feed 11,000 inmates in five prisons year around
  • has the only FCC licensed, prisoner run radio station (KLSP 97.1 FM)
  • is the only prison with its own zip code (70712)
  • has the highest percentage of its inmates serving life sentences (75%); 1.6% are under the death sentence
  • has been the setting for many movies (but not Cool Hand Luke).
The rodeo part is a combination of events from a professional rodeo circuit, entertainment, and events with inmates. For me, it was the first time I had ever sat through a "full" rodeo or even seen all of any one rodeo event. The entertainment is, well, just that. Most of the entertainment is built around horses and rodeo type events. The most interesting part are the events with the inmates. The web site describes the events. Words cannot do justice to these events. For instance Convict Poker. Four inmate cowboys sit at a table in the middle of the arena at a poker table.  Suddenly, a wild bull is released with the sole purpose of unseating the poker players.  The last man remaining seated is the winner. It takes a lot more than I have to sit there knowing that a a wild bull is about to be released. When the bull is released, the inmates stay seated, sometimes even as the bull -- encouraged by the rodeo riders and rodeo clowns -- heads straight at them.

If you ever have a chance, it is worth a visit.

For me, the added interest involves my job. One of the things that reference staff (small "r" since it is both Reference Staff and Louisiana Section Staff) answer questions mailed to us by inmates. Many, many of these letters come from Angola -- the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Reading and a Book Review: Hidden America

I don't often do book reviews. I have started receiving ARC's (Advance Readers Copies) in greater volume lately, and I don't know why. Because of what else is going on in my life, my reading time has been reduced. I have also been shifting between my e-reader and print.

However, I recently finished Hidden America: From Coal Miners to Cowboys... by Jeanne Marie Laskas. One of the blurbs on the back compares Ms. Laskas to Studs Terkel, in a positive way. That is high praise, indeed.

It is a well written book and each chapter tells a discrete story. The first chapter, on coal miners, appeared as a separate article, and the others are similarly able to stand independently. Each are the personal story of Ms. Laskas as she explores some of the jobs or people who are critical to the running of the country on a day to day basis. By exploring the personal stories, we get a glimpse behind the scenes. They are fascinating glimpses which put a personal face on what happens to make our lives so comfortable.

The first chapter explores coal mining in Ohio. (Yes, there are underground coal mines under parts of Ohio.) The subsequent chapters cover migrant workers (mostly in Maine for the blueberry harvest), the cheerleaders for the Cleveland Browns, air traffic controllers at LaGuardia, a gun store in Yuma (Arizona), a cattle ranch in Texas, an oil rig in the Arctic, a truck driver (from Ohio to Iowa and back), and the "sanitary landfill" outside Los Angeles.

It is an amazing journey to follow, and I even learned a little about the author along the way. For those who can extrapolate from the personal stories to the general, this can be a very instructive book. I actually read the chapter on the air traffic controllers while on a trip. There are some scary things going on behind the scenes. I read the story on the gun store after the incident in Newtown which added a poignancy to some of what was expressed in that story.