Monday, 30 January 2012

#libday8 - Library Day in the Life Project #8

I'm going to do the #libday8 (Library Day in the Life Project) thing today, and blog it as I go. Despite not working in a library. As I'm mostly off most social media for a while for various reasons (overload, sorting out health stuff, trying to rearrange many years of digital content), I won't be publicising this entry so it'll probably never be read. What the heck.

7:19 Wake up early again; fifth day in a row. Inexplicable.

7:25 Resume trying to move blog from 2005-2009, which is now in a private account, into blogspot. Unfortunately the .xml isn't compatible. Is it ever? Damned if I'm going to cut and paste several hundred blog posts and nearly a thousand comments over. On the plus side, I've at least gotten all of the digital content out of Posterous (bad mistake putting it in there).

8:31 Give up for now. Coffee.

9:10 Bath, as medical appointment imminent.

10:43 Grrrr. Get to doctors surgery, in central Birmingham. Nurse is sick, so no blood test today. They'd been trying to phone me. On an old phone number I haven't used in three years. For the fourth time, updating my contact details with the NHS, which inevitably they'll ignore and use some historical information (as they've often done).

11:00 Meet doctor. No date yet for procedure. So, trip into the city today was a waste of time.

11:28 Renew books at Birmingham Central Library. Didn't see any National Libraries Day promo stuff, which is a bit disappointing. Have a quick peek at the new library, which is coming along nicely.

11:45 Opportunist coffee break with W. I've known him for nearly 20 years, during which time he's become a senior civil servant, and also a good friend. He taught me the (important) differences between the civil service, and the government (crucial to know, for work and advocacy). We swap notes and anecdotes; him on JISC and its likely future and funding; me on public libraries and their funding.

12:40 The upstairs of this bus smells overwhelmingly of cannabis. Then again, so does most of central Birmingham.

1:00 WTF? Annoyed that some douchebag editing Wikipedia (or a robot? this isn't clear on there) has marked the National Libraries Day page for deletion as it isn't 'notable'. Point this out to a couple of senior Wikipedia editors who have been trying to get librarians "on side" for a while.

1:08 Reminding self of the great selection of library advocacy posters Phil Bradley has made.

1:20 Continue working on next "Games in libraries" piece for a library magazine.

2:04 Reply to comment about 10 predictions concerning libraries. Wish could move the conversation on. On the plus side, it's not about librarian stereotypes, which (distressingly) is by the far the most viewed blog post.

2:31 Make a few observational comments about politician intimacy on the Facebook wall of a future library organisation president, that causes some of her followers to vomit, and earns me her enduring scorn.

Kindle and cover

2:55 Edit annoying National Libraries Day entry on Wikipedia. Deliberately not spending much time on this, as have found in the past that the more time you spend editing a Wikipedia page, the more chance some bellend called StarTrekFan51 or something will come along and delete what you've done.

3:05 According to Google, I'm a 21 year old cheerleader from Tallahassee who's battling an eating disorder. I think it's time to delete my online browsing history. Thoroughly.

3:17 Tea break. A quick read of "Travels with Charley" which I didn't finish and has been sitting here for a while.

3:21 No word from the person who is, or was, proofreading a report on virtual worlds in education that was expecting back over the weekend. I've been unlucky with proofers and editors over the last few years (possibly as I've gone to the cheap end of the market). Le sigh.

3:24 "Invite" to speak at a high attendee cost conference. No fee or expenses. And (and this is red rag to a bull) the pathetic excuse that it'll "increase my profile". In other words, they get a free speaker, make a larger profit, and I take time and expense out for nothing back. As usual, responding with "I will consider it" with no intention of going, to cause the organisers (profiteers) a small amount of logistical inconvenience.

4:03 Looking out of the window (aren't you glad you chose to read this exciting blog entry, eh?). There is still sun in the sky. Spring is nudging winter to one side. This is good.

4:06 Thankfully, most of the responses to the recent Games in Libraries piece were positive. But, some negative ones come in. The open-minded ones I don't mind, as there's a chance there for education and enlightenment. But, receive one from a closed mind, who believes that "only a few" libraries would ever put on "clicky button video game events". Briefly replied with this link and asking if this is how many he means by "only a few".

4:13 “Fuck me amidst the relics of a world that progress threw away.” Shaking my head and sighing.

4:41 For what feels like the millionth time, exasperated by library and librarian politics. Seeing an argument / whining develop online (another reason for a break from social media) and choosing to "do" instead of joining in. There. Done. So much quicker. And productive. And still, the arguing continues.

5:20 Looking at Flickr and deciding it's best to probably avoid my other half online for most of today.

6:29 Rewatching a video made by a librarian friend, of her cat. A few other people have watched it...

6.45 Updating my Wordshore tumblr with some more links to stuff out there am fond of. Am liking the plan for rearranging online digital content, of which I have a ridiculous amount scattered around the net in a disorganised manner. My Wordshore "hub of activity" is focusing on the themes of America, libraries, writing and publishing. There's a website (needs major work), twitter, and the tumblr for that, as well as some of the pictures on Flickr. To get all of the digital content ordered correctly (there are other hubs) is probably going to take several months. My own fault for not working to one, consistent, plan over time.

9:31 Recovering with a glass of something strong after (finally) watching Field of Dreams in one go. That's the most "American" American film I think I've ever seen. Something to muse on later. But, back to typing in library stuff.

Midnight Speak to my other half, a systems librarian, using the wonders of the Internet and video conferencing. After this, a short read, and then sleep. And that's my day...

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Writing when you're older

Browsing the Wikipedia list of great american novels turned up something perhaps unexpected; the youth(fulness) of most of the authors when they wrote their most acclaimed, well-known or respected work. For example, Moby Dick was published when Melville, the author, was 32, the Grapes of Wrath when Steinbeck was 37, the Catcher in the Rye when Salinger was 32, and To Kill a Mockingbird when Nelle Harper Lee was 34.

And even younger; Look Homeward, Angel when Wolfe was 29, and The Great Gatsby when Fitzgerald was 29. 29!

Indeed, looking at the writing output of most of the authors, their great novel or book is nearly always one of their first works, followed by several decades of "not quite as good" writing, in the eyes of reviewers (for whatever they count). And nearly all of the "Great American Novels" were written when the author was in their twenties or thirties.

As a budding, but 43 year old, writer who has more modest/realistic ambition, this is a bit dispiriting. Are your "best years" as a writer behind you once you enter the (contentious) period of middle age? Does classic writing come not from many years of experience and writing, but from a few years of youthful uninhibited craft? Is the research about cognitive decline starting in your forties perhaps right, and Malcolm Gladwell perhaps wrong about needing to clock up 10,000 hours to be seriously good at something?

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain - 1885

There is however, thankfully, some contradictory evidence. Mark Twain finished my favorite book, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, when he was 49. Cormac McCarthy published Blood Meridian when he was 52, William Gaddis published J R when he was 53, Wolfe finished The Bonfire of the Vanities when he was 56, Tolkien finished writing The Lord of the Rings when he was 57 (though he wrote it over 14 years) - which was the same age James Joyce finished Finnegans Wake - while Thomas Pynchon saw Mason & Dixon published when he was 60. And Wallace Stegner wrote the National Award winning Spectator Bird when he was 67, while Agatha Christie was still writing murder mysteries well into her 70s.

I've thrown the question on Twitter and Facebook, and more examples have come in. Updike had Gertrude and Claudius published when he was 68 (thanks, Jessica), Mary Wesley wrote the Camomile Lawn when she was 72 (thanks, Lucrezia, Sarah and DTurner), José Saramago wrote Blindness when he was 73 (thanks, Jan) and Stegner wrote Crossing to Safety when he was 78 (thanks, Laurel). Also, and here's a good one, Helen Hooven Santmyer saw And Ladies of the Club published when she was 88, after writing it on and off for half a century (thanks, Allison and Monique).

But still; there's a rather disconcerting drop-off of "classic" novels written by people older than their thirties. Am not sure what this means, or whether this means anything at all. Are there any great examples out there that can disprove this?

Postscript: The Huff has a gallery of some novelists who produced well-known works after the age of 40. There is hope :-)

Friday, 13 January 2012

Bison roaming Iowa

Sadly, not as freely roaming as a few centuries ago. Nor in anything like the numbers; now, there's just a few left in reserves. An excellent picture of three in one such wildlife centre, in Iowa. Picture by Richard C. Hager:

Bison roam the fields at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge by Richard C. Hager

...which reminds of back in May 2009, seeing these beautiful animals up close and personal myself (albeit from the safety of the back of a reserve lorry), some 500 miles south east in Indiana. One of my pictures:

Feeding the bison

Along with the bald-headed eagle, it's difficult to think of animals more symbolic with the United States of America.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Librarian stereotypes

Update: As of January 16th at 6:54am, 168 librarians and information professionals have done the checklist. Their scores are tabulated at the end of this post.

Back in what seems a long time ago now - early December - seven librarians and information professionals met up in Birmingham (England) for an informal Christmas drink. The subject of what makes a stereotypical librarian came up. And being librarians, a list was quickly compiled and/or argued over, with the seven of us then determining if we each fitted each particular stereotype.
  1. Pedantic about definitions of what a librarian stereotype is.
  2. Owns a collection of cardigans, sweaters or jumpers.
  3. Wears glasses or contact lenses.
  4. Drinks wine.
  5. Set up a library as a child, or at school.
  6. Drinks gin.
  7. Arranges their CD collection in a particularly exact or OCD manner.
  8. Dating, or partner of, an IT professional (you can be flexible with this definition).
  9. Plays digital games.
  10. Watches Doctor Who.
  11. Likes and/or watches Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  12. Has grey or greying hair.
  13. Listens to Radio Four (or the national liberal radio station of your country) on a regular or frequent basis.
  14. Owns one or more cats.
  15. Listens to the Archers (or the national middle class faux-rural radio drama of your country).
  16. Wears their hair in a bun on a regular or frequent basis.
  17. Owns or collects bookplates.
  18. Owns or collects bookmarks.
  19. Has or had a parent who was a librarian.
  20. Has dated several other librarians (only 1 point maximum, not 1 point for each librarian).
  21. Owns one or more dogs.
  22. Named after a librarian.
  23. Member of CAMRA.
  24. Uses illicit substances.

Now ... your turn :)

Score just 1 point for each of the 24 attributes you can confidently say "yes" to, and score half a point if you aren't sure, a "maybe", "sort of" or "some of the time.

Add up your score and see which of these completely unscientific categories you fall into:

24: You are the uber-librarian. Your presence wards off illiteracy and library funding threats. We bow before you.
23: Dreams in Dewey.
21-22: Eagerly counts down the days till they can renew their national librarian membership.
18-20: Manually word counts each article in their national librarian magazine.
15-17: Spends all weekend, and the midweek nights, rebutting anti-librarian trolls on online forums.
12-14: Militant librarian. Carries a taser, mace and placard. Wears mittens.
10-11: Thinks for the rest of the day about how they disagree with the 24 attributes of being a librarian.
7-9: Checks twitter, adds up their score, and tweets it before doing anything else.
4-6: Quietly despairs that the net is full of pictures of cats.
1-3: Cultural nihilist.
0: You are the anti-librarian. Your mere presence closes libraries quicker than a conservative politician.

Librarians in smocks - Green sofa

And the scores (the ones that have been submitted or found, anyway). To get yours included, add as a comment, or tweet your score so I can find it.

16: Alison Messum
15: Siobhan B
14: James Beaton
13.5: Owen Smith
13.5: Ruan Peat
13: Mairin Holmes
12.5: Sarah Merry
12: Alison Harvey
12: Jessica Olin
12: Ciderlass
12: Stephanie Holt
11.5: Claire Joanne
11.5: Lynne Meehan
11.5: Schopflin
11: Nicky A.
11: Sara Batts
11: Sarah Barker
11: Lorna
11: Andrew Walsh
11: Neil Witt
11: Monika Bargmann
11: Liberry Tom
11: Katrina Dalziel
11: Corinne Mullins
11: Megan Wiley
11: Clare McCluskey
10.5: Shana L. McDanold
10.5: Thomas Brevik
10.5: Dave Pattern
10: Birgit Dahl
10: Emily Heath
10: Katie Ann Smith
10: Celine Carty
10: Suzan Griffiths
10: Douglas Guilfoyle
10: Helen Saunders
10: Sharon Lawler
10: Rachel P
10: The Librain
10: Georgina Carr
10: Heather Marshall
10: KJ
10: Jen Young
10: Deb DeGeorge
10: snail
9.5: Liz Chapman
9.5: Charles Oppenheim
9.5: StEvelin
9.5: Katherine Nagl
9.5: Em Johnson
9.5: Leesa Philip
9: Sarah Maule
9: Elisabeth Robinson
9: K Coles
9: Tina Reynolds
9: John Kirriemuir
9: Edith S
9: Sheila Thomas
9: Sonja Kujansuu
9: Anne Gambles
9: Lindsay Wallace
9: Francesca Redman
9: Scott Hibberson
9: Aimee Jones
9: Melanie
9: Constance Wiebrands
9: Scootes
8.5: Anabel Marsh
8.5: Pru
8: Katherine O'Neill
8: Katy Stoddard
8: Jo Alcock
8: Emma Davidson
8: Mike Taylor
8: Biddy Fisher
8: Helen Westmancoat
8: Marf Shopmyer
8: Suzanne Burge
8: Megan Roberts
8: Anne Bell
8: Katy Wrathall
8: Caroline Ramsden
8: JH
8: Sanita
7.5: Liz White
7.5: Louise Harrington
7: Janine
7: Laura Steel
7: Stuart Benjamin
7: Damyanti Patel
7: Jan Rivers
7: Owen Stephens
7: Orangeaurochs
7: Elizabeth Holmes
7: Karen Bates
7: Eleanor White
7: AdioPink
7: Terry Day
7: Sarah
7: Cara Clarke
7: Tracey Totty
7: Karina Forrest
7: Polly
7: Vassiliki Veros
6.5: Lyn Bailey
6.5: Katie Dunneback
6.5: Helen Bader
6.5: Cathie Jackson
6.5: Kath B
6.5: Leonie Bourke
6: Simon Barron
6: Jayne Kelly
6: Cathy Foster
6: David Hughes
6: Poll
6: Meg Westbury
6: Liz Mallett
6: Thomas Connelly
6: Clare Brown
6: Helen Matthews
6: Jaleh

6: Cat.

6: Nancy Kirkpatrick
6: Ruth Smalley
6: Jon 'Jim'll' Knight
6: Claire Back
6: Anne Holmes
6: Nathan Cobb
6: JamesAE
6: Donna
6: Ali
6: Lucile Desligneres
5.5: Emily Clasper
5: Christina Taylor
5: Sarah Wolfenden
5: Laurie Roberts
5: Kath Posner
5: Simon Ward
5: Katie Miller
5: Sarah Stamford
5: Mari Ferguson Cheney
5: Jackie Urwin
4.5: Helen Murphy
4.5: Niamh Page
4.5: Clare Aitkin
4.5: Jennifer Cyr
4: Ian Clark
4: Laura Williams
4: Kristine Chapman
4: Andrew Preater
4: Clare Bristow
4: Isla Kuhn
4: Ned Potter
4: Diane Kauppi
4: Sally Pewhairangi
4: splus3hs
4: Vanessa
4: Mal Booth
3.5: Gwyneth Price
3.5: Richard Hawkins
3.5: R Macrae-Gibson
3: Mike Stores
3: Emma Coonan
3: Katie Wiese
2.5: Owen Coxall
2: Ranti Junus
2: Sarah Nicholas
0: JoTheLibrarian (see here)

(btw that picture is of a group of librarians, but it wasn't us. Click on it to see who, and where it was taken...)