Still Waters Run Deep

Libraries are never as placid as they appear.  They are often sources and centers of controversy and conflict.  The better they are, the more dangerous libraries can seem.”  –Siva Vaidhyanathan


As public institutions that strive to present a wide variety of materials on different experiences and perspectives, libraries often invite criticism and create controversy. This is particularly evident when books are banned, and the response is often unexpectedly strong but often quite effective.

In 2013 the Chicago Public School System banned the graphic novel “Persepolis” from all school classrooms and libraries due to a depiction of torture in revolutionary Iran. The teacher’s union called the move “Orwellian,” and pointed out that the only other place the book had been banned was in Iran. A student run book club, 451 Degrees, protested and CPS reversed its decision allowing the book to remain in classrooms and on library shelves.

Controversy continues to swirl around Marjane Satrapi’s novel. In 2013 it was banned in three more school districts and the following year it earned the #2 spot on the American Library Association Office of Intellectual Freedom’s Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books.  We should not be afraid of controversial and disruptive ideas, it is a far more dangerous omen when there is a lack of them.

*This was originally written for Library Week 2016.


Talking ’bout Thesauri

In March 2015 I gave a presentation to my Online Searching Class (244) where I describe my love of the reference tool known as The Thesaurus.

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The second one is the comments portion from the audience. I only have the embedded code and not a link like I do for the screenshot above.

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Why use print in a digital world?

Because we have the ability to navigate paper resources wordlessly. We engage with them sensorily, using touch and even smell to sort and track them. By connecting with books in this way, we can rapidly reference multiple works. The brain makes geospatial connections with the printed volume regarding progress and the location of memorable passages based on the feel of the book in the hand. We remember where something was in the book. Using this tactile information we can swiftly and deftly gain understanding of the architecture of any printed resource.

Having both print and digital at one’s disposal is a luxury that should be enjoyed as often as possible. While the mind is excellent at encoding sensory cues into our understanding of a printed book, the portability and searchable text of an electronic resource adds substantially to its overall usefulness. Not only can specific passages be found painlessly, but a meta analysis of key terms can lead to a better understanding of the scope of the work.

Interesting article on print vs. paper:



New things for my Blog



I think this is my new favorite thing! I made it at A big thanks to Vicki Steiner, one of my instructors at San Jose State University for telling me about this site. I had to download MS Silverlight, but it was very easy. If you look at the top right hand side of my site, you will see a cute pear tagxedo as well.

There is another new addition to the right sidebar. If you scroll down, you can see that I have added RSS feeds from everyone in my section of LIBR 203, plus the instructor and peer mentor. I figured it would be a great way to keep in touch with everyone from my first course at SJSU. I am planning on writing many blog articles about my studies, I hope my classmates will as well.

Catching Hold of the Day

“A net for catching days… A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living.”  – Annie Dillard


Certain things, like calendars and lists need to be written down on paper for me, I am beginning to understand why. I think it might be the way that my brain navigates the bridge between long and short-term memory. I do not always exhibit the most fabulous powers of short-term recall; this is most noticeable for me when I have to deal with a lot of math. But it also rears its ugly head when I have too many times and dates to remember.

However, I seem to have the ability to retain other types of information very well. Someone once explained this tendency to me in terms of my ability to store things in long-term memory in a quick and efficient manner. I also know that part of my success lies in frequently used, well-honed organizational skills or else my life would devolve into chaos. Chaos is fine, unless you’re planning on getting something done.

One tool I realize that I need to rely on extensively is my planner. Continue reading

Libraries are like Farms

I wrote most of this last September while riding my bike through town. Yes, there is an empty college in my town. Here is a wikipedia article: The property is being divided. This summer it was rented out as camp for Orthodox Jewish boys. At one point it probably could have been purchased, based on their debt and appraised values of some of the older houses, for right around $3 million. What kind of college would you start? Chester College was founded by a woman in 1965.

Sign for Chester College






I often bike ride through the campus of the now defunct Chester College. I always pause at the Wadleigh Library. On dry September days, if it is not too windy, the smell of books permeates the building and reaches the outside. It’s a dry sweet smell that I associate with gardens. Maybe because books are made from earthly things.

If a library is like a garden, I know that I’ll unearth many other scents there. Open  the pages of an old, bound periodical, or a glossy textbook, its pictures remaining bright while Its obsolescence grew, and your eyes and nose might wince when the acrid paper dust hits them. You might sneeze at dust mites, disturb mildewy spiders that have stitched book to shelf with their nests or find signs of old infestations. The library I worked in was home to a vast horde of ladybugs many, many years ago; it Is still possible to find little piles of speckled carcasses here in there among the stacks, often behind volumes that are seldom read. I know that like a garden, part of the sensuous perfume is that of decay.

A well-used library is like a garden in full bloom. Full of noise and life, well used stacks in the children’s room, books flopped over, discourages the dust from settling there, much like feet trampling out a path through grass. Beloved volumes poke from the shelves, spines like unpainted posts on a really simple, but important, fence, as humble testament to their grand utility and value. Like a garden there is ceaseless weeding and cultivation, a cycle that repeats as long as there are people there who tend to it.


Wadleigh Library

Wadleigh Library of CCNE looking rather forlorn. 

Library Perfume

Compositions sweetly decomposing,

Their yield to dust,

a feast for mites.

-Ellen Phillips