Archive for February, 2011

Chilling effect

February 20, 2011 4 comments

Cerquita in Durfort

This is a lovely cerquita in Durfort. It is a short walk from Gwen’s studio and home, La Cascade in France. It was peaceful walking along the footpaths. There was a sense of community and family that was comforting: notes and sentiments to loved ones graced many of the markers. There was also a sense of continuity; here were marked the accomplishments of the past-lives lived and appreciated. In the present, visitors respectfully tour the tiny cemetery and take their own thoughts away from the experience. Not creepy or morbid in the least.

What is chilling is this: although I have always believed libraries embody continuity, we are entering troubled times. The City of Camarillo has given the running of the public library to a private company. And so has the city of Santa Clarita. Troubling, yes. But what stung me, and continues to sting, are the remarks by chief executive, Frank Pezzanite of L.S.S.I., who believes the success of libraries is linked to a notion that they are “sacred,” despite librarian’s ability to “go to a library for 35 years and never have to do anything and then have your retirement.”  Pezzanite is out to trim the fat from libraries, and his company does this through cost cutting measures (so, just in case you are wondering, L.S.S.I. only contracts with cities for labor, so cost cutting measures = cutting employees – librarians, are you listening?)

Perhaps the good will of libraries (and librarans) is eroding. Many needs and not enough funding make for strident conversations about what is necessary, what is right. And while cost-cutting has become a familiar word, and might sound like sweet music to City Managers and Administrators, the overall goal of an educated populace, comprised of life-long learners poised to make decisions relevant and informed regarding their lives and the lives of others seems so . . .important, it just may be time for librarians to show others what they do. So, what’s an angst-ridden librarian to do? Two things: 1. Advocacy, and; 2. Visibility.

Categories: advocacy

“Papa! No working! No work!”

February 15, 2011 Leave a comment

“Papa! No working! No work!” an exasperated Zack exclaims.

His stuffed bear, dizzy from its recent shaking, refuses to produce technology.

Zack has expectations. And they’re based in technology. Deeply seated expectations: movement, light, sound, even voice recognition. He’s come to expect it. And this stuffed piece of quasi realistic bear is falling short of the mark. Patiently, his dad explains, “Zack, it’s a stuffed animal. It doesn’t do anything.” A pause. Then, “Papa – not working!”

What is the value of technology? Can we only assess value when the technology is missing (or not working properly)? I share Zack’s exasperation. There is a bit of Wi-Fi saturation at school, and at home. Devices that responded as quickly as I could type are now lagging.

It feels like the rapid expansion of technical complexity is folding in on itself – making mischief among the devices.

Complexity is wondrous. It can be as captivating as the patterning of a barrel cactus bloom. With layers of symmetry inviting your speculations about geometry.

And equally challenging.

I know one thing though: I want to go forward.

Like Zack, I have expectations.

Categories: technology

Missed the point…

February 14, 2011 Leave a comment

the reading garden

Unfortunately, there is still no worst book. Because the book I was certain was the worst, now has a different place in the ranking queue.

In the middle of explaining why I detested this book, I realized I had been blinded by my own prejudices and puritanical sensibilities. I missed appreciating the lyrical language of the book, the dimensionality of the characters and the exquisite timing of the action. I sought a conversation with one of our students, whose opinion I respect.

She gracefully recounted the reasons she valued the book. What struck me was the way she summarized the essence of the plot: “it is about what happens to people’s souls,” she remarked. Had we read the same book?

So I sat down and re-read the book.

And I discovered I had missed the point entirely. A precious gem had been cast aside for transgressions that I had imposed on it. It was good to get a second chance to appreciate this book.

I’ve enjoyed reading your posts about your worst book, talking with my co-librarians at school and to faculty, friends and family. We’ve wandered through quite a lot of territory; including psychology and philosophy. It’s been chewy, spicy, delicately fragile and richly textured. Listening to your explanations I’ve been invited into your world, and I’m grateful for your trust.

Categories: Books and Reading

A day in the life . . . well actually, an excellent day in the life

February 8, 2011 3 comments

farmer's market, Lautrec, Plum Cafe

Today was a magical day. Almost as good as the farmer’s market in Revel, finding ourselves in medieval Lautrec or dining al fresco at Le Cafe Plum.

Our school librarian’s blog was publicized (in a most amazing and professional manner) and received a flurry of comments. And we interviewed 7th grade teachers and learned about mouthwateringly beautiful assignments – from learning to sing and breathe around stress, to discovering how math works by measuring the wind – to clusters of students creating a video response to the parental query, “How was school today?” and more . . . history students  creating and curating an exhibit , “How it happened that we ended up in Los Angeles,” with maps, artifacts and oral histories of family members.

If I could run clips from the reel of today’s interviews, you’d see unabashed passion, unbridled enthusiasm and genuine affection for the students. It was immeasurably satisfying.

I learned that teachers are helping our students learn to make connections beyond themselves, in an engaging, unconstricted way. And that’s a pretty cool take-away from today.

Categories: Uncategorized

The worst book I ever read . . .

February 7, 2011 5 comments

bring it . .

On the best of days, Beatle sees about 4 hours of consciousness. On most days, he listens patiently to any rants I have brewing. Today he listened to me deconstruct the appeal of literature. The next book display at our library is going to have the tag line, “the worst book I ever read.” Our Middle School Advisors are going to write a sentence or two – a mini book review – to go with their personal worst book. A little fodder for conversation about books and book genres and what constitutes worst. And, by comparison: best.

So I thought about the book that made me the maddest. And why. I was incensed by the choices the main character made: bad choices. Bad after bad, after bad. And then some. No, that wasn’t the worst book.

What about that “memoir” of a famous chef, liberally peppered with words my mother wouldn’t say? Does that even count as literature? Yet, parts of that book made me laugh out loud. Was that the worst?

I decided to ask our resident English major about worst.  The measure of a book’s appeal is its ability to resonate with the reader, Joe responded. You can hate a book because its connection with you is disturbing or too emotional, but that doesn’t make it the worst book. You can love a book that is pure fluff, that wouldn’t even vaguely be considered good literature, but you wouldn’t count that as the worst book. For Joe, the measure of worst  is a book that doesn’t connect. 

Still, I haven’t settled on a worst book.  And,  I’m mighty interested to see what our group will select. And why.


February 2, 2011 2 comments

Processing with purpose. On the second morning of our blogging workshop, Andrew gave us a concept to process.

We wrote a word on a slip of paper: something that we would like to be surrounded by, or receive. Then we passed the slips of paper to our right. I received the word: wings.

perched on cactus

Monarch - still for only a moment

Physical, metaphorical, literal, lyrical, tangential: the process of interpretation is open.

All day I bustled about,  busy collecting wings. Wings on birds. On butterflies. Bees.

What I discovered: looking for wings wasn’t the answer. Wings appear. For the taking. For pure enjoyment.  And it is yours. To keep. To process. To contemplate. Some of the wings I discovered:

the charming Emma Bull

The wings on Emma Bull‘s earrings, punctuating the magical conversation we had with this generous and talented author.

Allison Shock’s owl, El Cono, delights my fingertips. What fine wings it has.

El Cono

On our trip to Sacred Machine, the presentation space of Daniel and Paula,  it is the Blatta Regina that captures my attention. Her beautiful wings resplendent with symbolism.

The Pipevine Swallowtail that zig-zagged around Ellen and me, never passing close enough to the shutter.

Processing a concept is a reflective endeavor. A little bit of making reality conform to theory (remember all those chemistry lab experiments?) a bit of conjuring – like seeing shapes in the clouds. It will be useful for composing blog entries around a theme, making connections between diverse subjects, and focusing creativity.